I’m used to a bit of mental fatigue at the end of Concrete Revolutio episodes – they almost always deliver a lot of stuff that needs time to process. But this was a pretty intense episode even by ConRevo standards. This is a show that’s always been more about the brain than the heart – the characters are interesting, but it’s a plot-driven exercise in a good way. No that we’re this close to the end (more on that shortly), the emotional side of things is starting to pack a lot more of a wallop. And that makes watching an episode an even more draining experience.
I’ve said it repeatedly so my apologies for doing so once again, but the intellectual ambition of Concrete Revolutio really is staggering. This show tries more shit in an episode than most do in a cour. The story here is so intricately plotted, but as confusing as it once seemed it’s all coming together with elegance. But in addition to that it’s an exhilarating and heady testing ground for philosophical debate, a biting commentary on real world politics and a loving testimonial to the joys of animation generally and anime specifically. This is one of those series that makes me say “thank goodness anime exists”, because there’s really no way we’d see anything like it anywhere else.
There were multiple headlines coming out of this episode, which starts off in October of Shinka 50 (1975) with things in a hell of a state. Satomi’s propaganda film seems largely to have won the day in terms of public opinion, with a schism having developed between good “human type” superheroes and evil “beast type”. Included in that latter group of course is youkai, and while I may be reading too much into it I think there’s a certain commentary on the eternal tension in Japan between embracing its past and embracing everything modern at all costs. Emi has turned ever-more militant, as these are her people that are being targeted for hate (and worse).
The fulcrum of this conflict is Master Ultima, who’s “Ultimapolis” is a kind of floating (or submerging) marine city that’s powered by the “bio-destroyer” using superhuman- I don’t know, essence? Whatever you call it, Ultima sees no moral issue with using beast-type superhuman cells in this fashion – they represent a kind of perfect energy source because (as we saw with the immortal family) those cells regenerate -and the Japanese public largely agrees. This is wholly unacceptable for Emi, of course, and she takes matters into her own hands in violent fashion and puts an end to Master Ultima, taking over Ultimapolis and beginning negotiations with the powers of the human world to get it recognized as a nation for youkai and beasts.
The big bombshell (no pun intended) this week, though, concerns Jirou. The fascinating hard sci-fi concept introduced is that Jirou exists at the nexus point between the Concrete Revolutio universe and another (ours, presumably) where the atomic bomb worked and Hiroshima was destroyed. How exactly it happened is nebulous – “someone wished for it” – but it connects a lot of dots for ConRevo. Where all that energy was dispersed by Little Boy in our world – and literally led to new forms of peacetime energy – in this universe it had to somewhere else. It was concentrated in Jirou, then slowly seeped out through the superhuman culture that grew from Jirou’s blood and being. What a fascinating twist for Concrete Revolutio, another big idea to wrap our brains around, and one full of plot implications. If nothing else this world is one where energy is a much bigger problem than ours, and it’s that tension that’s driving a lot of what we’re seeing this season.
There’s so much more going on here: Emi’s extracted promise from Jirou that he would never see Kikko again – one of the drivers for his leaving the Superhuman Bureau. The death of the cyborg detective Shiba Raita, and his final message to Jirou. The seeming demise of Earth-chan, who needs the distress calls of humans in agony in order to give her power, the ultimate contradiction of her sad existence. Michiko‘s coded message in song to Fuurouta and Kikko (and earlier Jirou) to let them know what the true power source of Ultimapolis was.
In the end it was always going to come down to a war, even if the shape of that war is a little different than what we might have initially expected. I actually hadn’t realized until the preview that there was only one episode of Concrete Revolutio left, and that does worry me some – Aikawa and Mizushima have left themselves an awfully large pile of loose ends to try and resolve in a single week. ConRevo‘s absence is going to leave an awfully large hole in the schedule because not only is there nothing else like it, there almost never is – we do get series with this kind of ambition once in a while (often from Bones) but they’re a rare thing. As I’ve said before, while this series is vastly under-appreciated in its own time, history is likely to more than give it its due.