Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou – 07

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Of all the series I’m blogging this season, this one is the most resistant to brevity.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-1This was an episode of Concrete Revoutio that a lot (relatively speaking – generally, not many folks seem to be watching this show) of viewers were really looking forward to.  That’s because it was written by Urobuchi Gen (if he’s not the biggest name writing for anime today, he’s certainly in the top two).  And interestingly, it was the first episode this season that I had significant issues with.  Again, that’s relatively speaking – Concrete Revolutio is never less than the most intellectually challenging series on the schedule, even if it’s not firing on all cylinders.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-2My personal history with Urobuchi is somewhat checkered.  I admire his talent, and whatever issues I have with his choices and ability to write an ending, it’s easy to see how much better it is to have him writing than the alternative in shows like Suisei no Gargantia and Aldnoah.Zero (not to mention Psycho Pass).  But to be blunt, I found his work with ConRevo pretty heavy-handed – and heavy-handed is not a good fit with this series. Concrete Revolutio thrives on its complexity, subtlety and nuance – it’s a far better show when it doesn’t hit you over the head with the point it’s trying to make.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-3Let me state for the record than in the broad sense, I mostly agree with the perspective Urobuchi is taking here.  But if you want to know why I have a problem with his simplistic, high-handed moralism, I suggest you Google one word: “Ainu”.  Some of you know it, some of you don’t – but I can tell you from experience that a lot of Japanese people know it and pretend they don’t.  It’s easy to take potshots at the United States, because when they screw up they do it in front of the world, and the consequences are often very high.  Let’s be honest – those potshots are often deserved.  But there are definitely times when a mirror would be more useful than a bully pulpit.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-4What we have here, then, is a pretty ringing condemnation of U.S. foreign policy during the Vietnam War, one that slowly expands to a condemnation of U.S. foreign policy in general and (what Urobuchi sees as) the raison d’être of the country itself.  If you believe America is nothing more than an imperialist bully trying to impose its will on the world in the name of manifest destiny, this episode is right up your street.  And if one wanted to make that case they could hardly look for a better straw man than the unmitigated fiasco that was the Vietnam War.  Urobuchi’s screed takes place mostly in Shinka Year 49 (1974), with a brief flashback to Year 43, when the war was at its height.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-6Fortunately there’s more to this episode that the heavy-handed America bashing – a good chunk of it focuses on the PTSD that afflicted many veterans of this and every war.  A lot of young Americans saw and did terrible things in the Mekong Delta, and Uribuchi illustrates this using the canvas of a superhuman soldier named Jonathan Morrell.  He and the other superhuman soldiers who were part of Sam’s “J.O.E.” (oh, Gen-san – you really are shameless) program are now prisoners at Sasebo (a real U.S. airbase in Nagasaki Prefecture), unable to return home.  Jirou takes it upon himself to free Jonathan, although he doesn’t know exactly what Jonathan did to put himself in the state he’s in, and that puts him once again at odds with the Bureau, who’ve been retained by the U.S. Army to try and recapture Morrell.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-7Several developments here are interesting.  Fuurouta seems to have teamed up with Jirou for now (after he brings Kikko to Jirou at his request, he later brings Emi so as not to “play favorites”), though he’s clearly still distraught and bitter.  Jirou himself seems to be exposed more and more as an extremist – an idealistic one, no doubt, but an extremist just the same.  He’s becoming less and less concerned with the consequences of his actions and more and more obsessed with subjecting every situation to some sort of absolutist moral litmus test – the morality, of course, being measured by his own narrow perspective.  There are times when I wonder if Aikawa Shou’s intent here isn’t to muse on whether it’s worse for people to do bad things in the name of good, or good things in the name of evil.

Concrete Revolutio - 20-5One last little Easter egg here is the tidbit that comes from the man pulling the strings with J.O.E. and the U.S. Military – Jirou is somehow the “key to solving the world’s energy problems”.  If that’s been explicitly explained already I confess I’ve forgotten, though there’s certainly plenty one could speculate on based on what we know.  Concrete Revolutio was probably always destined to come down to Jirou being a prize fought over by the various factions fighting for power in this world – it’s the one scenario that seems most suited to bringing all the themes Aikawa and his team of writers have raised over the course of 20 episodes.

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9 comments

  1. ” Jirou is somehow the “key to solving the world’s energy problems”.” Since Jiro is more or less a literal nuclear bomb (“little boy”) and this is the nuclear age I figured that’s what they were referencing.

  2. Maybe that’s all it is, but I got the sense there was more to it than that. We’ll see.

  3. D

    “There are times when I wonder if Aikawa Shou’s intent here isn’t to muse on whether it’s worse for people to do bad things in the name of good, or good things in the name of evil.”

    Great observation!

    Isn’t that exactly what Aikawa’s UN-GO was about? It’s clearly a question he’s been wrestling with in his writing going all the way back to the vastly underrated Neo Ranga.

  4. g

    Yeah, it was heavy-handed, indeed. When they dropped a bomb about Native Americans I was like “Uhh… Oh.. They went there, actually…”. I didn’t like how the American general spelled the philosophy and American side behaved very unambiguously. It’s not like the show didn’t criticised American policies before or there weren’t any references to Ainu but there were much more finesse and subtlety in it.

    Well I guess the one thing I liked was how Americans (in the show, of course), who wants to lead mankind to the bright future by eradicating old goods, because they know better, take orders (albeit the general wasn’t happy about it) from the Master Ultima, who is from fumes race, who want to do exactly the same with us. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

    And I reaaaaly don’t like what they did in this season with Kikko. Yeah, both her and Emi are somewhat reduced only to being in love with Jirou (and I’m sad because of this) but Emi has come off beneficiary somehow – still, I guess her power and being unapologetically evil in some ways and doing things in her way works in her favour but Kikko has gotten the short end of the stick. She’s obsessive, doesn’t have any other agenda, only reacts to things around her and her lines are reduced only to shouting Jirou’s name in different ways every time. I had a hope she would call out Jirou for using her feelings for him when it’s convenient for him, but doesn’t give a single fuck any other time. Justice and righteousness, my ass.

  5. Hasn’t Kikko always been the shallowest person in the cast? She joined the bureau because of Jirou too at the start of the show.

  6. I don’t think think the first cour (specifically, the last few episodes) was very subtle about it. This episode’s was blatant in its criticism of America, but I didn’t find it as jarring as most people seemed to, partly because I’d done all my eyebrow-raising back then.

    I don’t think they’ve ever actually referenced the Ainu people, either, but I could be forgetting something.

  7. *most people did.

    Aargh.

  8. F

    Subtlety was really nowhere to be seen in this episode and the pretty wide gaps in the reasoning of the American general didn’t help either. While watching the episode I thought that the cardboard worldview of the general was just an indirect mistake from the writers, but after thinking it through it seems that the creators deliberately used the simplistic ideals – so well, the result is heavy-handed and kind of negates the thought-provoking atmosphere of the series.

  9. k

    I felt this episode had an “Apocalypse Now” vibe.

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