I wouldn’t want to make the argument that Concrete Revolutio is the best show of the season – it sports too many flaws for that to be the case. But it may just be the most consistently interesting show of the season. It’s dense, intellectually ambitious and visually bizarre – a heady if exhausting combination. It is a mess, even above and beyond intentionally being a mess (which I think is about 80% of the messiness, to be honest), but it’s hard for me not to be swept up by it.
I’m reminded of something the 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater said – “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” At the time that statement was highly controversial and helped lead to one of the most lopsided defeats in U.S. Presidential election history, but there’s an element of that view that’s always survived within a segment of the populace in America and elsewhere. And it seems to me that one of the messages of Concrete Revolutio (among many) is that extremism in the defense of anything is a vice – indeed, perhaps the root of most of the problems troubling the world.
Extremism is very much a theme of this episode, which as expected focuses on Hyouma – or “Super Jaguar” as he was known in the future. It doesn’t escape me that it’s almost comical for a series that plays around with its timelines as mystifyingly as Concrete Revolutio does to add time travel to the mix too – as if things weren’t confusing enough. But somehow, it’s very much in character – this is a series that leaves no stone in the garden of speculative fiction unturned, and doubling down seems to be the only betting style it knows.
For sure, the episode embraces all of the confusing aspects of time travel enthusiastically – the Grandfather Paradox, the Butterfly Effect, et al. The fact is all any of us are doing is speculating on how this shit works, because no one has invented time travel yet. Revolutio stays more or less within established sci-fi precedent in how it tells the story of Jaguar, who apparently hails from the 25th Century – where he was (will be?) a member of the Time Police. But he grew disillusioned with their approach to fighting evil (uh oh) and decided to take matters into his own hands, forming “I.Q.” (Infernal Queen) – a sort of temporal Shinsengumi who aims to eradicate all evil by shooting first and asking questions later, in the process changing history itself.
Ryouma was a fascinating guy even before there were three of him running around, messing with his own history and everyone else’s. He built Equis for Jirou, for example – which sparks a very interesting sidebar about the difference between children and adults (another one of the overarching themes of this show). In the end Jaguar decides that the version of himself that’s with I.Q. is doing more harm than good, and decides to fix his own mistakes by killing him – and erasing his own existence in the process. According to Ryouma when presented with a paradox big enough time just overlooks it, but his small existence isn’t important enough to trigger than clause – so he fully expects to disappear from existence altogether when he kills his younger self.
Except that doesn’t happen, and the reason is a very clever bit of writing. Kikko, knowing what Jaguar is about to try, steals the I.Q. Jaguar’s (who’s been captured and restrained by the “present” Jaguar) time travel watch and shows it to Hitoyoshi-sensei. In the process she seemingly fixes it so that it’s Ryouma’s watch that leads to the discovery of time travel – thus making his existence crucial enough to evoke the exception clause in the time paradox. Hey, it’s just spitballing – no one knows how any of this would really work – but in the context of established temporal mythology it’s an extremely good solution.
Kikko speculates that Jaguar was important enough for it not to have mattered, but who knows if that’s true (if she was confident she wouldn’t have don what she did). Maybe history really is a paper written in ink that can’t be erased, only stacked with more paper. It makes an interesting additional later for this already complex narrative structure and provides the chance for further musing on the myriad ethical and moral questions Concrete Revolutio is interested in exploring.