The Big O: Final Act- The Show Must Go On

(Act 25: The War of Paradigm City)

The episode opens within the cafe-bar Roger once frequented whenever he was really down and out. Therein, The Big Ear reclines in his favorite seat, seemingly addressing Roger. As the man recites his oration, the camera pans out and we see that he has been injured, that most of his face has been seared off, revealing a metallic facade beneath the exterior. He is malfunctioning and by the end of his speech, the club will collapse around him and end his life indefinitely.

But first, his words: ‘Understand Roger, this city was created to be a stage with no memory of forty years ago. It’s nonsense to ask if memories exist. I just thought I would let you know. By the way, aren’t you going to be the knight in shining armor and rescue the maiden?’

The speech is addressed to Roger although he is absent. As The Big Ear is an android programmed to behave in certain ways, one can only properly surmise that he is reciting a piece of oration programmed into his memory circuits that would have, under different circumstances, have been delivered to a present Roger during these last moments of Paradigm City’s existence. However, something has gone awry in this simulation of the city and a choice was made that has led Roger to no longer seek out wisdom through The Big Ear, but through himself instead.

In The Big Ear’s hands is, as always, a newspaper. This time, however, we are privy to contents of this paper: An image of Big O and Big Fau fighting and a headline indicating that one of the two will win in the end (The headline is missing a ripped section indicating the victor of this battle). It seems that The Big Ear was given his information through these papers, which foretold future events. The rip in the paper serves as a narrative device to prevent the viewer from knowing the outcome of the battle, but may also serve as a symbolic cue signifying Big Ear’s current inability to divine future events.

As the final battle commences, Big O launches an all-out barrage of physical attacks and heavy artillery, none of which bypass Big Fau’s built-in force-field technology. Dan Dastun notices that Military Police have trained their howitzers and tanks onto Big O. And though he protests this action, he finds himself unable to sway the decision of his troops as he has been stripped of his command by higher ups in the administration acting on directives from Alex Rosewater himself to aid Big Fau in this battle. Dastun then decides to pilot a tank himself and direct its attacks towards Big Fau, which precipitates a mass-mutiny of his past troops from the Military Police’s command. They aid Dastun in his attempt to help Big O and roger, but don’t manage to put a single dent in Fau’s defenses, and eventually, all men are laid waste by a powerful barrage of laser attacks by Big Fau instead.

Events continue to unfold in quick succession as Big Fau grapples with Big O and eventually tosses him into the ocean. However, Big O latches onto Big Fau with a chain weapon and drags his enemy Megadeus below with him. Unfortunately, Big Fau can swim well and uses his own weapons to cut the chains and then cut and run out of there, leaving Roger a sitting duck within the rapidly flooding cockpit of Big O. Dorothy awakens at this moment and heads off toward the Ocean with Norman and a wt suit in order to save Roger’s life. Topside, Big Fau uses its cable tendrils to tap into the vital systems of Alex Rosewater and strengthen itself in the process, which somehow awakens the ‘memories’ of Angel. Her scars begin to glow as Gordon Rosewater advises her on her destiny and role as the coordinator who can destroy memories and reset the simulation at will.

Back to Roger. As he asphyxiates beneath the waves, he has a flashback to his time as a combat Dominus in a Big O in some past Paradigm City (perhaps the original in which the first Event took place?). Dorothy arrives and revives him with an oxygen tank, Big O awakens, and Dorothy hacks herself into the Megadeus’ operating system, thereby activating Big O’s Final Stage. The machine piston punches the ocean floor and propels itself out of the sea back into conflict with Big Fau just as Angel departs the world below Paradigm City, all of those things she passes dissolving and disappearing behind her in the process.

And then, the truly final confrontation begins as Big O uses all of his power to launch a powerful laser weapon that passes through Big Fau and destroys an entire Dome behind him. But the weapon only destroys half of big Fau, who manages to stay on his foot, standing. Just as Alex charges up his final barrage, Angel transmogrifies into the powerful Meta-Megadeus Big Venus. She passes through the city and the sky disappears. She passes Dastun and he fades into nothingness. Then, she passes Big Fau and Big O is no longer in mortal danger from that foe.

Roger reasons with Big Venus: ‘Angel! Memories are very important to people’s lives. They give us the opportunity to prove to ourselves that we exist. If we lose them, we have an unrelenting deep feeling of uncertainty…. But the humans that are living here and now in the present are made up of more than their memories of the past. I myself don’t even know who I am…. But I don’t believe anyone took my memories from me. I most likely erased them of my own free will. I was the one who made that choice so I could live in a present and in the future. I must go on believing there is a me! Angel. I know that I will never lose the you that is now a part of my memories…. You must stop denying your own existence. You have to live as a human being.’

Momentarily the illusion is broken. Angel, sitting in her operating booth in front of her master control panel, is visited by both Roger and Dorothy. Angel is crying, but Roger consoles her by putting his hand on her shoulder and Dorothy speaks in a manner affirming Roger’s existence as more than a simulation, more than a mere program in some computer: ‘Negotiator!’ A poster is visible on the wall in the room. It is a poster of the Big O series with a large shadowed Megadeus standing behind Roger.

And then the series begins anew. Roger rides through town in his Griffon. He is still a Negotiator. But this time, Angel and Dorothy are standing beside each other, signifying that they’re memories may remain intact (Otherwise how could Dorothy know Angel?). and more interesting yet: Roger’s wrist is bare. With no Megadeus communicator, is he still a Dominus? Do Megadeuses still exist in this simulation? How much has changed and how much has remained the same, and of the changes, what are their inherent qualities? None of this information is clear and none of it will probably ever be truly elucidated.

But I personally prefer The Big O remain an enigma, a mystery, a Gordian knot resistant to all critical blades. I revel the uncertainty for that uncertainty reflects that present in my own life and in the questions of metaphysics and ontology that remain quarries far outside my reach. The simulation theory says that one can imagine a computer advanced enough to simulate a world in perfect 1:1 correspondence to our own. In our own world, there are thousands of games. Given the proper technology, why not thousands of simulated reality games? And if this is possible, then there are many thousands more simulated realities than real, lived ones. Thus, it makes more sense to assume that we are in one of these abundance of simulated realities as simulated persons or as real persons hooked up to the simulated games than the perhaps 1 in 10,000 chance that we live in the real world, simulated.

Occam’s razor seems to lay waste to this theory. But it has been wrong before. Darwinian evolution certainly, on its face, its much more complex than the teleological Lamarckian viewpoint. That the sun orbits us is a simpler proposition than the more complex cosmology we accept today. The difference is in evidence. A simulated reality like The Big O is revealed as simulation through a glaring omittance: namely, the fact that one had memories before the simulation began. And like a video game wherein out of bounds play can reveal unmapped sectors, some theories in quantum mechanics point to fundamental incompleteness in our world as possible evidence of its simulated nature.

Roger serves as an archetype or a model for heroic action of individuals under similar circumstances. In the face of determinism, act. When facing nihilism, believe. And when approaching despotism, fight.

 

In the Name of God,

Ye Not Guilty

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WordPress Anniversary

Hey everyone,

Just got the internal message today and found out that this is my 6 year anniversary on the platform.

Not every year has been particularly productive on my end, but this last year has been. With over 400 blog posts in the past year, and nearly 40,000 views, this blogspace has grown tremendously and I want to thank each and every one of you for continued support and motivation to continue on.

I also want to use this post to update you on a important Film and Anime related pieces of news for the upcoming months. If you haven’t yet, check out NetFlix for the new Orson Welles picture The Other Side of the Wind and accompanying documentary They’ll Love Me when I’m Dead. On November 20th, the Criterion Collection is also releasing a number of Upcoming Titles including Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, a 100-year Birthday Retrospective Boxset of Ingmar Bergman’s films, and David Byrne (or The Talking Heads) sole feature film True Stories. 

As for Anime, Fathom Events is bringing a number of films to the big screen throughout the U.S. in the coming months. Studio Ghibli’s first official feature Castle in the Sky (Nov. 18th-20th), the new Pokemon feature (Nov. 24th, 26th, and 28th), Mamoru Hosoda’s most recent feature Mirai of the Future (Nov. 29th, Dec. 5 and 8th), and the Studio Ghibli documentary Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (Dec. 13th and 18th).

I don’t typically follow Manga releases, but Seven Seas Entertainment has been on point with retrospective classic collection releases this year. Already, they have released a one-volume Cutie Honey compendium and the 1st and 2nd of a projected 3-volume compendium of the Devilman the original manga. And in the upcoming months they plan on rounding out these Go Nagai releases with the final volume of Devilman. Seven Seas has also released the first two volumes of Space Captain Harlock and has plans to release the final compendium of this as well as a one-volume complete collection of Space Battleship Yamato to round out their new Leiji Matsumoto line. If these volumes are successful enough, they could even release manga like Galaxy Express 999, Gun Frontier, and Arcadia of My Youth (Matsumoto) or Mazinger Z and Getter Robo (Nagai) in the coming years.

As always, thanks for the support. And catch you next time when I finish up my long-running review series of Chiaki J. Konaka’s classic Mecha anime The Big O. As for now, I’m off to Oven’s Auditorium in my home-city of Charlotte, NC to see Bob Dylan in concert for the first time!

 

Smell ya later,

Cody

The Big O: Act 25- The War of Paradigm City

(Act 24: The Big Fight)

The structure of Paradigm City is beginning to unravel before its heroes very eyes. The center has begun to slacken  and can seemingly no longer hold together the tenuous reality of the world. Lieutenant Dan Dastun has ventured into an old movie theatre only to find a younger version of himself and the Winter Night Phantom sitting together enjoying a film that itself recounts the recent events of Dastun’s life. There is no explanation of these events that cohere without recourse to the simulation theory I’ve expounded upon previously within this series.

That is to say, the world is rebooting like some sort of complex simulated game. However, the events of the previous game (Dastun’s reality) have not yet reached their conclusion, and as such, end-game events are beginning to overlap with beginning game events from the newly booted game. This explains why a young Dastun has been booted up alongside a young Winter Night Phantom to begin anew their journey toward the Paradigm Corp. Police Department and The Union, respectively.

To make things weirder still, Big Duo reappears high above the city. Schwarzwald’s ghost still sends us orations from beyond the pale, but the meaning of these pronouncements have become more obscure than ever before, more disjointed and lacking in clear sense: ‘The giants who formed this world into its sensual existence and now seem to live in it in chains are in truth the causes of its life and the sources of all activity. But the chains are the cunning of the weak and tame minds, which have power to resist energy.’ My best guess here is that it is the power of the Megadeus’ themselves that brought this state of affairs into being, but in the process they intertwined their destinies with those of mere human beings who must sync together with a Megadeus as their Dominus to give the Megadeus the power to function. These are the chains that the Megadeus’ have become enslaved by and the weak and tame minds are the minds of those humans who have reigned in the gods, have cloned perfect Dominus subjects who have the willpower to control the machines and not vice versa as was originally intended.

Later, Big Duo and Schwarzwald will continue to ascend above the clouds of Paradigm City and will find a series of oversized rafters holding aloft the sky of their world. There they will also find a series of stage lights affixed to the rafters as illuminating points for the constructed reality of the world below. And like Icarus, when the Black Forest philosopher-journalist ascends to all-too lofty heights and approaches the ontological truth of his world and himself, that world reacts by scorching him and his Megadeus, causing them to explode in the process.

In the city itself, Big O is still being restored to fighting capacity by Norman’s mysterious cohort of old men, each with intimate knowledge regarding the repair of a Megadeus despite having no memories from before 40 years ago. Alex Goldwater, the Oedipus who razed his father’s farm to the ground in an attempt to silence the old man and to take his life, pilots Big Fau and targets, specifically, those within the city he deems undesirable: The poor. Dastun’s theatre is bombed in the process, injuring his younger self therein. He manages to get the young boy and girl to safety before approaching his troops and ordering them to cease firing artillery and bombardments of incendiary weapons on their own people. However, they have direct orders from Alex Goldwater himself and thereby refuse Dastun’s pleas.

Meanwhile, below the city, Angel has found the cabin wherein she was born and raised. But she finds that the room is a mere set complete with cameras and props outside of the open-faced room. Vera Ronstadt and Gordon Rosewater, once thought dead, are also within the room. Roger descends beneath the city to try to finally face his fears head on one last time. though he manages to leave exactly at the wrong time as Dorothy, reclining back at the mansion, awakens and calls out for Roger. This despite no longer having a core memory within her. What’s more unsettling is that Beck arrives on the scene to hear Dorothy’s words that were meant for Roger. Beck’s presence is not explained.

Angel questions Vera about her heritage and whether Vera is truly her mother or if the current situation is merely a convoluted joke. Gordon Rosewater breaks into the conversation and tells the girls that they are not related, that they are merely his ‘tomatoes’, or replicants who were created to serve some ulterior motive. However, both Angel and Vera are defective units, as are all Union members, all those who have been exiled to the wastes outside of Paradigm City. Vera Ronstadt knows this much already and has decided that the purpose of The Union will be to overthrow the genetic prejudice of the Goldwater-Paradigm cohort, rewrite the memories of the city’s people, and begin anew in a more just world.

Angel refuses to accept that she is a defective person and brandishes a pistol toward Vera, which is quickly repelled with Vera’s whip. As she lashes about Angel’s back, her shirt is torn revealing the scars on her back. Roger appears and binds Vera with a thin wire tool before knocking her unconscious with a well placed punch to the solar plexus. A move he performs with some reticence in lieu of his final rule: ‘Something else that goes against my policies– using violence against women.’ He has seen enough of Vera’s brutality, but has also heard enough of her fatalist philosophy of identity wherein one is supposedly caged and trapped forever by their social facticity (something that is probably true): ‘I am who I am. the way in which you were given life has nothing to do with the way you live your life as a human being.’ True enough too, and certainly a message emphasizing self-creation and self-responsibility that much of the modern political left ought to hear more often.

And then for the bombshell. As Vera awakens and begins to mouth off about making Paradigm’s denizens atone for their sins from before 40 years ago, Gordon Rosewater pipes up: ‘You’re wrong! Of all my cherished tomatoes, Negotiator, you aren’t one of my beloved ones. And neither is this young lady [Angel]. And the words in that book [Metropolis] don’t belong to me either. It’s a story that a dream commanded me to put down. No one ever had memories of the world prior to 40 years ago, including myself. but memories themselves have existed in unexpected forms…’

This means that out of all of the people in the world, Roger and Angel are aberrant forms in a sea of replicants. Constructs that exist outside of the parameters of this world and are uncreated and eternal. This is why Roger does not age whilst other androids and replicants do. This is why Angel has scars on her back despite there being no events before forty years ago that could have produced them. This all means that there was no world before forty years ago, except for the kind of world that will be revealed in the series’ denouement.

Rosewater continues on and claims that because of this truth, there never was any such thing as The Union. There are merely a small group of defective replicants who live in the wastes outside of Paradigm and just so happen to be good at tracking down Megadeuses and operating them. If this is all true, then another question arises with crazy implications: Who is attacking the city now, other than Alex Rosewater? Who is it that has apparently been dropping incendiary weapons into the center of the city from high above in the clouds?

As Gordon continues to explain that Angel is not a person at all, but merely a memory construct from a previous incarnation of this world, the roar of a great beast can be heard within the depths of the city. Roger calls Big O and minutes later, ascends to the city exterior with a massive Megadeus beast, known as Behemoth, held aloft by Big O’s relatively minuscule arms. Debris falls from the ceiling, lands on and crushes the Behemoth, which is good fortune as this beast would surely be indestructible even with the help of Big Fau. And now, face to face, Big O and Big Fau are set to begin one final confrontation on this eschatological plane.

 

Cast in the Name of God,

Ye Guilty

[Final Act: The Show Must Go On]

The Creation of Birds (La creation des oiseaux)

(Check out my review of Frederic Back’s previous film here: Abracadabra)

Frederic Back was a Quebecois animator whose career as an animator and as a graphic artist in the stained glass medium goes back to the late 1940s. That is, a full twenty years or more before he began directing his own animated short films in 1970 with his debut Abracadabra. That film was a paltry 9 minutes in length, despite taking Back many months to make. But those were the demands of the medium before digital assistance techniques and when one was producing works on a shoe-string budget with few fellow collaborators.

His second film, The Creation of Birds, would not be released on syndicated Canadian TV until 1972 though it only clocked in at 11 minutes. However, the film is interesting insofar as it continues to lay bare Back’s ideological commitment to ecology through its personification of nature as a mythic force to be revered and respected. The more central focus of the piece is to present a past narrative, however. In this case, a classic Native American tale about the cycle of the seasons. The short length of the animation, in addition to its nature as a mere recounting, means that Back relinquished any inclination toward didacticism and instead merely presented an interesting- albeit obviously pre-modern and pre-scientific myth- in order to entertain a young audience.

The story begins with a group of Native American (I use this term broadly here as the particular Nation or Tribe to which they belong is not made explicit in the text)  children as they romp about in an idyllic world. Here, the deer, the birds, and men roam together throughout the eternally virgin land wherein the cold of frost has never once killed off any living creature, and presumably, wherein no animal finds it necessary to consume one another for sustenance. A Chieftain smokes a pipe and sits happily upon a tree log in a small dell. The children approach and knock the man off of his seat, whereupon he drops his pipe and loses his composure momentarily. But these are good times and the man immediately forgives the children for their indiscretion just as they recognize the error in their tomfoolery and begin to help the man reclaim his pipe and reposition himself upon his perch.

However, this idyllic scene cannot remain eternally so after all. A large wolf spirit descends from the heavens and brings along with him a strong wind that transforms the foliage into a glorious assemblage warm colors. A cool breeze appears, which subsequently forces the people to retire beneath structures for warmth during the night. Later, a polar bear spirit appears and wards off the wolf. With the bear comes a blanket of white snow that covers the domiciles of the land, forces trees to become bare and lose their leaves, and drives off birds whilst killing other animals unaccustomed to the change in temperatures.

Just as the people begin to feel the pressure of the new state of things and begin to become malnourished, one of the girls breaks out in tears. The depth of her dread projects these tears toward the heavens wherein a god decides to send along a message to the sun using smoke signals from his pipe. Then, the sun awakens and thaws out the land. The god descends and breathes life back into the world. Birds lay eggs and chicks hatch and begin their incessant chirping as flowers bloom and new fawn and human children are born. The cycle of seasons becomes a yearly phenomena as this mythological procession of spirits and personified celestial objects giveth and then taketh away in equal measure.

The film is animated mostly through the use of cut-out animations on painted backdrops. The form is reminiscent of methods employed in the graphic works of French artist Henri Matisse augmented with a then-modern liberal application of color palette associated with the late-1960s counterculture. However, the animation lacks a fluidity that Back’s works would later gain and retains an amateurish, experimental quality one might expect of such a green director, though decidedly not of someone who had been working in the field for decades already.

I can’t really say that I recommend viewers watch these first two early Frederic Back animations. However, for the cineastes and cinephiles of this platform who find themselves studying animation history, these animations are a must-view. At very least insofar as they can help one better understand how an obscure Quebecois animator making shorts for TV syndication became the auteur of The Man Who Planted Tree/ L’Homme qui Plantait des Arbres, and eventually influenced figures as important as Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli.

 

Ciao,

Cody Ward

The Big O: Act 24- The Big Fight

(Act 23: Twisted Memories)

Toward the denouement of the previous outing, another Big Megadeus appeared from beneath the city to challenge Roger the Negotiator and Big O. As the titan ascends from the bowels of the city without toward the dome’s artificial light of day, its designation is revealed as Big Duo. However, this machine has been extensively modded with parts from destroyed Union Megadeuses and is now known as Big Duo Inferno.

Roger wonders aloud whether the machine might still be piloted by Schwarzwald from beyond the grave. This seems the only real possibility as Big Duo is a true Big, which means it can only be operated by its true Dominus (in this case, Schwarzwald). Roger imagines what Schwarzwald would say to him in this moment, or at least the show seems to present this interpretation. However, it’s also highly probable that the ensuing narration in Schwarzwald’s voice is a message from beyond the dead, addressed not to Roger, but directly toward the audience. If this latter possibility is the correct one, then we might do well to heed these words: words crafted expertly by the show’s creator Chiaki J. Konaka, a man intensely interested in understanding the human condition who has spent much of his life studying psychology, philosophy, evolutionary theory, religion, and sociology all toward this end.

‘Truth. Those who seek it out unknowingly become obsessed with this grand illusion that they are able to control this world…. The incomplete book of Gordon Rosewater’s, written in his younger days, depicts the final days of humanity. And the foolish humans who use the power of God.’

The claim seems inconsistent with the character of Schwarzwald, the archetypal Black Forest philosopher journalist who gave his very life to uncover the truths of this world. He became obsessed with the truth and with the thought that he could force a paradigm shift within Paradigm City. And in the end, what did his work accomplish? Few citizens took his pamphlets for little more than the ravings of a mad man and he was left dead, a corpse out in the wastes beyond the metropolis of Paradigm.

However, no fool to forsake knowledge totally, Schwarzwald includes in this narration a powerful invective against technocracy and its ability to lead toward techno-fascism. Against the hubris of humanity for charging heaven’s gates only to plunder her armaments for tools and weapons to kill and subjugate one another. No conservative, traditionalist, he understands how some social truths can be mutable and contradictory in nature, as well as how the search for truth at the expense of all else can lead one to ruin. But no postmodern, he rejects the logic of power dynamics and hegemonic social control as well. As these forces can also corrupt the soul and lead nations and peoples to ruin. As such, we can square Schwarzwald here, once again, as an intermediary figure, an iconoclastic outcast from all established doctrine whose neither A nor B analyses figure as the example that destroys the rule and deconstructs the binary in lieu of more balance in the world.

The fight commences as one might imagine. The two mechas crush each other handily. And just as Big Duo gets the drop on Big O, the machine revolts. We see that the operator of Big Duo is Alan Gabriel and not Schwarzwald after all. But the machine is haunted by a spectral presence, by the ghost of its one-time and true Dominus Schwarzwald. And as the machine surrounds Alan with its tendrils of cable, ensnaring and eventually crushing him in the process, Schwarzwald speaks once more: ‘The Megadeus chooses its Dominus…. You possess the foolishness of both man and machine. It chooses one who controls the power of God, created by man. One who is able to arrive at one truth. that’s not the case with you!’

The phrase, like much of Schwarzwald’s orations throughout the series, is intensely vague. If the Megadeus chooses its own Dominus, then how is it that men like Roger Smith were once programmed to operate these monolithic machines? Would that not be man choosing the Dominus for each Megadeus? Or do the specifications of each Megadeus warrant a particular makeup in each replicant, meaning scientists wishing to create a Dominus must do so according to the Megadeus’ implicit rules? Who is really in charge in this case? And this matter of one truth? Is this a specific truth one must discover or any sort of  over-arching monolithic worldview one accepts, generally speaking? We may never know as Big Duo immediately ascends toward the sky and flies off toward the wastes, never to return.

When the battle ends, Roger returns the heavily damaged Big O to its track beneath the city for return back to the Mansion. He searches the city in his black sedan, Griffon, and eventually finds Dorothy standing atop a building in a nearby sector of the city. But when he reaches the roof of the building, she falls into his arms, her eyes emotionless and cold, her body un-moving, and her forehead cd-rom memory core interface totally removed. Roger brings her back to the Mansion in the hopes that Norman can do something to fix her, but the old hand can do nothing without the core memory. He even believes its return would not necessarily awaken her. And if it did, the memories might be corrupted.

Norman gives Roger the option of installing a new core memory into Dorothy’s braincase, which would undoubtedly awaken her. However, with a clean slate and no past memories, would he really be awakening ‘her’, or just resetting her back to a time when she did not know Roger or Norman, before she began emoting and before her love for Roger began to flower?

In the meantime, a letter arrives to the Mansion, addressed to Roger from Michael Seebach (Schwarzwald) in the event of his death. Inside is the final page of Gordon Rosewater’s messianic tome Metropolis: ‘ The power of God, created by man…. Divine thunder raining down from the heavens…’ Along with this page is a torn photo of a young Gordon Rosewater shaking hands with a man whose white pale hands, white dress shirt, and black shoes, pants, and suit jacket are obliquely visible. The man is obviously Roger Smith, though only we know this intuitively. That Roger Smith has not aged in the more than forty years since the photo was taken is one more signifier that he is more than a mere mortal man.

As Roger leaves the Mansion for one final confrontation, he speaks with the unresponsive Dorothy: ‘Since you first came to live here, I felt like I knew you forever…. I never answered that question you asked a while ago, did I? You asked if you were human, instead of an android, would you and I have fallen in love?… Maybe we would have…. Please don’t tell me that I’m dodging the issue. Right now I can’t seem to commit to one truth. but I know I won’t waver in doing what needs to be done. Or in going down the path that I have to take. Wait for me.’

As Roger departs his sweetheart, and leaves her with that precious line, Angel approaches her final confrontation deep in the subway system of Paradigm City, below the areas that create panic and terror in all it’s denizens. She finds therein a television set of an old cabin, with an old kitchen whereupon something is cooking in a pot on the stove. She recalls her past and realizes that her childhood memories were forged in this place, and that either she contains false memories of another person and is merely a copy of the original, or worse, that the one real memory she has of her childhood is really only a memory of an acting gig she once held as some sort of child star. The latter meaning that she has no substantive memories whatsoever. What’s worse is that the ‘mother’ she remembered from her childhood was in fact Vera Ronstadt, a brutal, vicious leader who never treated Angel like her child later in life, but instead merely as a pawn for The Union.

Finally, out in the streets of Paradigm, the dejected Police Chief Dan Dastun wanders about feeling helpless to aid his friend Roger in his battles against The Union and Paradigm Corp. Two children flit across the screen and catch his eye as they enter a movie theater with the Marquee Winter Night Phantom. The stars of the picture featured on the theater’s large poster for the attraction: the Union girl from his dreams and himself. As he enters the place, the lights in the room dim and Dastun’s own memories begin to play out on the screen before him.

The stage is set, the players are in position, but before the climactic final battle could begin in earnest, they have all realized something horrible about their ontological states: That they are merely players in a program, in a large simulation. Programs with no virtuality, existing in a plane without imminence as mere bodies with organs. But can their self-knowledge of these roles affect the outcome and bring to them some semblance of free action, or are they destined, nay determined toward a specific end result in this play?

 

Cast in the Name of God,

Ye Guilty

[Act 25: The War of Paradigm City]

The Big O: Act 23- Twisted Memories

(Act 22: Hydra)

The central theme in Episode 23 (and arguably the rest of the series as well) of Chiaki Konaka’s classic The Big O is the interplay between programming and freedom, determinacy and action.

Many events unfold themselves within this episode, from the off-screen battle between Vera Ronstadt of The Union and the killer android (or is it cyborg?) Alan Gabriel, which results in no real damage done to the latter whilst the former is dealt a wound in the side. She is visibly in pain when, later in the episode, she turns up and delivers a message to Roger, one she wishes him to relay to Angel: ‘A bird whose wings have been plucked will shed all it’s feathers and will return into the beast it was before it evolved into a bird.’

The meaning of the statement is obscure and never quite spelled out through the context of the show. We know only that Angel, named after a celestial being donning wings, has large scars on her back, presumably where a set of wings once lie. Or is the visual merely a symbolic signifier of her role within the events of the story, of her role as a fallen being whose presence is more a portent of doom than divine care? And as the obscure quote alludes to, has she only become a portent of doom by virtue of losing her wings? Wings that once elevated her above the moral speciousness of human action and whose absence make her little more than another primitive homo sapien beast in comparison?

The strict, narrative purpose of Vera’s quote will later be revealed as a memory from Angel’s past, a memory of her mother and of the cabin she was presumably raised within as a young child. But when she finds the cabin… and in that place of all places…. Well, that’s a tale for next time.

Alan Gabriel escapes his battle with Vera, though not unscathed. He was previously playing both sides in the struggle for Paradigm City’s fate: fighting as a spy and counterspy for The Union and Paradigm Corp. Now, Alan Gabriel has to throw in all of his chips behind Paradigm to remain a player of import in the ongoing game. For the time, he raises the ante and heightens the tensions by freeing Beck from prison once more and, using an execution order, and the promise of freedom and money, Alan twists the inventor into working to restore Big Fau’s memory core. The plan? To once again abduct Dorothy using a horde of mechanical scorpion machines and then to use the power of her programming to rig Big Fau back into operation, thereby allowing Alex Rosewater to resume his helm as the Dominus of the Big Fau Megadeus.

The Dominus of Megadeus. A role one is destined for, a role none but a true Dominus can perform without being expelled from the machine, perhaps violently so. We know that Alex Rosewater is the son of Gordon Rosewater and the rightful heir as CEO of his father’s company Paradigm Corp. However, at the farm, before Alex Alex dispatches his father, we learn that Gordon considers Alex to be just like all those other people working on his farm. He considers Alex and these large, humanoid working machines to be his sons. The question becomes whether Alex is like them in other ways. Whether he too has been programmed for a job. In this case, the job of running the corporation and operating a Megadeus.

Unlike Alex Rosewater who has seemingly accepted his fate and his programming by deciding to follow his father’s wishes, Roger the Negotiator, also almost certainly a replicant-like being, a created, not born, human being complete with emotions and all, is grapples with his fate. He knows he has been programmed to fulfill a social role, but has a rebellious nature. In the past, he was a police officer, but he quit that job and moved on to become a Negotiator who could help the people without answering to the Police Department’s head company: Paradigm Corp.

He was programmed to pilot a Megadeus and has innate operating knowledge of its systems thereby. However, instead of merely protecting the city from The Union and supporting the goals of Paradigm Corp., he has been tempted by the Black Forest Philosopher-Dominus Schwarzwald and realizes now just how corrupt the city really is. Roger knows of the existence of peoples beyond the domes of the city, people who have been systematically discriminated against and marginalized until their kind were expelled from the city or killed. People whose memory in the minds of Paradigm’s denizens have eventually faded into obscurity. But Roger knows Angel, and he knows, deep down, that she is not wrong for wanting to live a peaceful life in the city, and that The Union is not totally evil for wanting to destroy Paradigm Corp. to install a more friendly regime that would allow their people access to the city’s comforts.

Roger now pilots the Big O Megadeus as a rogue Dominus who has abandoned his programming and fights both the terrorist activity of The Union and the hegemonic totalitarian regime of Paradigm Corp. Though, just like all anti-fascist in modern history, his work only heightens the tensions between the most extreme factions. He has only served to bring more turmoil to the city by exposing the city’s people to the existence of outsiders. And what’s worse, he may now be relatively free from the dictates of his programming, but he has not gone far enough beyond good and evil to recognize a need for a new system, let alone to begin formulating it as a positive force in opposition to The Union and to Paradigm Corp.

When Dorothy is taken by the scorpion machines, Roger makes it back home just in time to watch helplessly while his love is removed once more from his abode and turned over to Beck for use in his Megadeus modification experiments. As she departs, Dorothy stops fighting back and calls out to Roger: ‘I am what I am. I am not like you Roger. I will always have this same body and this same heart.’ Time and again, the reference to a Jewish mythos, to the Leviathan and the Behemoth, to Angels, and to an end-times prophecy of destruction is brought into discussion. Here, Dorothy defines herself as YHWH does: ‘I am what I am.’ The effect in this context is of an orthodoxy burrowed deep into her psyche. An orthodoxy of stasis, of oneself as what one is born into. A Socratic truth delivered upon pondering oneself and coming to know oneself and in contradistinction to a Nietzschian truth of self-creation and becoming.

Roger recognizes this orthodoxy as the false god it is, as he too once believed it and has managed to come toward the light of truth and shake off the shackles of his programming to become more human than human in the process of accepting his manufactured nature and denying its maxims. He tells Dorothy not to give up, tells her that she must take control of her own destiny rather than resigning herself. The meaning is twofold in that she must take control now and escape the clutches of her enemies no matter how much she feels she belongs with them, rather than with humans like roger and Norman. The second meaning, and I may be reaching a bit here, is that she ought to try and take hold of her destiny to also overthrow her mere programming: that she should try to love him and live alongside him despite their anatomical differences: Roger the organic android and Dorothy the mechanical being.

At the last moment, Dorothy’s eyes open wide and we realize that she has picked up on the latter message all too well, though she is now physically incapable of following the first. Before I get too sappy here, I’ll stop. Especially since the next episode is there waiting in the wings to swoop down and upend our expectations, just as the final two ring the death knell and put the nail in the coffin, respectively, regarding the philosophical dialogue between determinism and free action. The result? A stance staunchly astride the former.

 

Cast In the Name of God,

Ye Guilty

[Act 24: The Big Fight]

Ride Lonesome

(Catch my previous Western film review out here: Buchanan Rides Alone)

The fifth installment of director Budd Boetticher and actor Randolph Scott’s Ranown Cycle of Westerns, Ride Lonesome, is a return to form after two relatively low quality dramas immediately preceding it: Decision at Sundown and Buchanan Rides Alone. Although the film was scripted by Burt Kennedy (who scripted five out of seven of the films in the cycle) and was executive produced by Harry Joe Brown (who served in this role on a total of four out of the seven pictures), Ride Lonesome was the first move toward a producer credit for director Budd Boetticher who took this aforementioned credit presumably because he offered up some money toward the film’s budget or sacrificed some of his director’s fee to create it to his own artistic specifications. On future productions, Boetticher would realize he could retain more creative control in such a position and as such, Harry Joe Brown’s involvement would later be discarded in lieu of Boetticher producing and directing the remaining films in the cycle himself.

The film is also notable for the first reoccurring actor in the series besides the Ranown lead Randolph Scott. This actor was one Karen Steele who had previously played the character of damsel in distress and heroine Lucy Summerton in Decision at Sundown. Steele would later appear in one more film of the cycle, Westbound, before appearing in Budd Boetticher’s 1960 gangster film The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. 

Ride Lonesome begins as a bounty hunter named Ben Brigade (Scott) sulks through a deep rocky gorge looking for his quarry: a man named Billy John who killed someone in cold blood back in Santa Cruz. Billy John and his ilk represent unrepentant evil throughout the film and threaten, at the film’s opening coda, to make the picture into another stale classical Western exercise in form. Brigade tracks the young man down, but is surrounded immediately by Billy John’s brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) and posse who threaten to kill the ageing bounty hunter if he tries to take the youth in. Brigade is crazed, however, now a man seemingly with nothing left to lose. He tells the posse that if they shoot at him, Billy John will die immediately as well, and aims his rifle toward the boy’s head. They relent and Brigade’s long trip toward Santa Cruz begins.

Along the way, Brigade runs into a woman named Carrie Lane (Steele) whose husband has been missing for some time. As there are roving Mescalero Apache Indians about and out for blood in the territory, Brigade believes her husband has been killed, and his gut reactions are later vindicated when a group of Mescalero approach and try to trade a couple of horses to Brigade for the young woman, one of which belonged to her late husband.

In addition to angry Mescalero Indians and the nihilistic evils of Frank’s posse trying to kill Brigade and get their hands on Billy John, there is the duo of Sam Boone and Whit (James Coburn) who are old friends of Brigade’s, but are found in an abandoned stagecoach stop where they seemed to have set themselves up to rob the next unsuspecting passerby. Instead, they latch onto Brigade’s crew and offer their help in warding off Frank’s gang, with the implicit knowledge between the two parties that Sam and Whit will rebel and take Billy John for themselves when the opportunity comes. Sam and Whit own a large ranch out in the Western territories and wish to work the soil and live upright moral lives, but they both have committed crimes in their pasts and therefore must turn in a criminal of Billy John’s caliber to receive absolution in the name of the law, clear their names, and once again build their reputations as upstanding members of society.

By the film’s denouement, we learn the true reasoning behind Brigade’s quarrel with Billy John. We learn of the untimely, unnatural death of his late wife at the hands of Frank who killed her out of purely psychotic reasoning. But the two have their day in the sun, and the our hero barely scrapes by once again. Brigade’s methods are extra-judicial, and as a bounty hunter he is a figure both outside of civil society and necessary for its continuation in the Old West’s social system. He is a heroic figure who represents the forces of moral law whilst often breaking with the strict rules of legal dictum, and thereby he is an antihero. His foils are the unrepentant totally evil Frank who hung Brigade’s wife only to wound Brigade’s pride and emotional stability, as well as the upstanding and moral Sam Boone who is loyal to his friends and wishes to live a life of good moral virtue but has a dark past that he is always running away from: a dark past he may only be able to escape through one final, fatal confrontation with his friend Brigade. A confrontation against the basic tenets of Sam’s nature. But hell, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Ride Lonesome is a classic Revisionist Western before the term became vogue, and a refined Classical Western at a time when the genre was becoming stultified and stagnant. It is a very basic tale of one man’s justifications up against the justifications of numerous other actors, all with their ‘own reasons’ (to borrow a Jean Renoir-ian comment on the banality of evil and human action). It is a story told a hundred times made all the more potent and powerful through its broaching of postmodern morality, or anti-morality as it were, attendant within the post-World War II world wherein the bountiful fruits of human rationality gave way to the wasteland:

‘A heap of broken images, where the sun beats.                                                                              And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,                                                          And the dry stone no sound of water.’

A West with no moral sentiments recognized as anything greater than human invention. An innocence lost, squandered, needlessly slaughtered at the sacrificial table under the knife of a father working the miracles of man, for the sake of man, but in the name of his God. And only to one end: to leave the world ignoble, stripped of all honor, dignity, and fellow feeling. To leave behind a realm wherein there is surely no revelation at hand.

 

Cody Ward

Tokyo Godfathers

(Catch my previous Satoshi Kon film review here: Millennium Actress)

In 2003, Satoshi Kon released another one of his magnum opuses. This time a loose adaptation of a 1913 novel by Peter B. Kyne entitled 3 Godfathers that had previously been adapted for live-action cinema in the States on three different occassions (the most famous of which being John Ford’s 1948 version). Together with screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto (Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain), Satoshi Kon adapted the screenplay into an equally cinematic work par excellence and modified its characters and settings to a world more familiar and close to home for himself. The three men became a group of homeless people who happen upon a child that has seemingly been abandoned. Their world: modern-day Japan’s Megalopolis and Capitol city.

The three godfathers are interesting figures in Kon’s film that all have very unique, distinct personalities and identities. There is Hana, a transgender woman who once lived a life of elegance and camp as a singer in a bar for queens. She found love in a conventional manner with her husband Ken who unfortunately died in an accident. Distraught, Hana took to the streets and stopped finding joy in life. Together with her two friends, however, she has created a lifestyle on the streets as a homeless person with some semblance of a family.

Her counterpart, steadfast friend, and would-be emotional lover is Gin. A gruff man who enjoys ribbing Hana for her queerness, but does so in good fun typically. He took to the streets supposedly after his daughter died and he lost his career as a professional bike racer for purposely losing a match to make more money through a gambler friend of his. We later learn that his reasoning for leaving behind his family was much more banal, and thereby Gin loses much of his tragic quality over the course of the film, finally becoming an absurd figure of sorts. Luckily, he manages to reconnect with his daughter, who actually never died, as well as strengthening the ties between himself and Hana through their fleeting foster parent status of the young Kiyoko (the abandoned baby found at the film’s beginning).

Finally, the third of the ‘godfathers’ is Miyuki, a young girl who has run away from home and become a delinquent. She used to be an obese young girl when she lived at home, but has since lost a ton of weight due to the oft-time difficulty finding food and the constant need to move around to find trash to recycle for money throughout the city. She thinks of herself as an adult, as an equal in the ‘family’ she has established with Gin and Hana. However, it is clear that the others see her as a daughter figure, and for Gin in particular as a proxy for his own daughter. When the three find a baby in a pile of trash, they take her in and try to find her real parents, which serves as the plotline for the majority of the film and leads the trio into many interesting scenarios. Gin decides to call her Kiyoko, the name of his own real daughter, and thereby this new child becomes the new proxy for that lost child and Miyuki’s status is lowered somewhat.

After acquiring the child, the three godfathers follow up every lead they can to track down the real parents of the child rather than merely turning her in to the police or to a local hospital. This goes directly against the wishes of Gin initially to rid themselves of the child quickly, but Hana wants to feel motherly for a time and as such, the group goes along with her plan. They search the trash near where the child was found and collect a photo with a picture of a young couple and a card to a fancy club downtown. The picture also features the front of a house wherein the young couple pictured therein most likely lived, and locals in the area directly surrounding that house give more vital details.

In every new lead, the group find themselves in some form of mortal danger but always manage to escape harm (except for when Gin is attacked by a group of teenagers looking to ‘clean up’ the city). When their leads begin to dry up, they always spectacularly find a new one to continue the search. And when all looks hopeless, the miraculous occurs. This theme of miraculous events in their search during the Christmas season for Kiyoko’s parents is ubiquitous throughout the picture and lends to it an artful veracity that helps to raise the film above the level of your typical anime film fare. Though the story is particular, it reaches toward the universal through its themes and toward the timeless through its relation to cinema history and to a Western tradition of filmmaking that links it to one of America’s greatest auteurs in John Ford. All of these features of the film as well as the compelling visual style common to Satoshi Kon’s works make Tokyo Godfathers another classic work in Kon’s oeuvre. An oeuvre of only five anime works that unarguably contains five classic, top-form works that will remain seminal in Japanese animation history for decades and generations to come.

This film, like all of Kon’s anime works, was created through funding by Studio Madhouse. Like most of his works at the Studio, it was produced by the legendary co-founder of the Studio Masuo Maruyama. And again, like all of his films, this one received many accolades upon its premiere including Best Animation Film at the Mainichi Film Festival and the Excellence Prize from the Japan Media Arts Festival. But most importantly, it has a reputation as a great film that transcends the medium of animation and should be counted amongst the greatest films in any medium, or at least the top 1000 you should watch at some point before you die, leave this earth, and return back to the void of nothingness from whence you arose.

 

Cody Ward

Abracadabra

Frederic Back was one of the most important and acclaimed animators in Canada throughout his relatively short career in the 1970s through the early 1990s. Although born in The Territory of the Saar Basin (a dual-occupied U.K.-French territory that created from the acquisition of German holdings after WWI), he grew up in the cosmopolitan French-German town of Strasbourg. Many of his teenage and young adult years were spent in Paris before Back moved to Quebec in 1948 along with his family to take a job with Radio-Canada TV as an artist for TV show title sequences. During this period, he honed his minimalist skills as an animator, creating beautiful, albeit minor works, akin to those being developed simultaneously by Jean Giraud ‘Moebius’ back in France. After a dozen years in Canada working on title sequences as well as stained glass artistry, he was given the opportunity to direct his first work for Radio-Canada TV: 1970’s short film Abracadabra.

Directed, animated, and co-written by Back (alongside screenwriter Graeme Ross), this first work would lay out much of the groundwork for Back’s future projects. The artwork is very minimalistic, and his characters (four young children of different ethnicities) border on stereotype as Back works to develop a film about a subtext, about ideas rather than about characters. His bold line is reminiscent of Herge and other classic comic artists, and thereby openly at odds with the Disney Paradigm of animation, as well as the burgeoning Japanese animation styles popular at the time. Back’s art is staunchly within a European tradition of cartooning that was being lost to much of the world, and is today nearly completely absent except in the most underground of Underground Comix or Graphic Novels. It draws from deep wellsprings of tradition: from tribal and cave art, from traditional comics, from impressionism and pointillism, and overall from a rather effete artistic context.

However, the content of the film is itself quite banal. Abracadabra is a fairy tale of sorts recounting the children of the Earth living an idyllic life amongst the flowers and sunshine, innocents untarnished by the industrialization and commercialization of a post-WWII post-God post-modern world. A sorcerer enters the picture and decides to use his magic to steal the sun, to use his techno-fascist alchemy to claim total rights to a resource that ought to be open to all, part of the commons. He spirits away the sun, and total darkness descends upon the land. All plants begin to die, storms pour forth rain perpetually, and the joy of the our young Scandinavian blonde girl is destroyed. But she is no pushover. She decides to travel the world to find others like herself, ecological warriors who wish to fight back and return joy to their world by combating the exploitative forces whose wastefulness and capitalist evil threaten to make the world into a veritable hellhole.

The film is only nine minutes long and obviously serves as a pedagogical tool for the network Back was working for at the time. Its sentiments and approach are a bit obvious, but excusable in the context of a work broaching complex topics to a young audience. These ecological and socialist sentiments were very important to Back and to much of the world at this particular point in time, 1970, and would be topics that would only grow in prominence and import in the modern world to this day. Unfortunately, Back made the egregious mistake in his first film of portraying the polluters of the world as total, unrepentant evil fools. The realities of socio-economic forces that drive capitalists to make the world a worse place to live within, on occasion, are quite matter of fact, and those who engage in such activities are rarely as evil as represented in artistic works. And works like Abracadabra unfortunately perpetuate stereotypes that prevent the average person from better understanding such complex issues. Luckily, Back would become a more nuanced activist and artist in his future works that broach topics like environmentalism and animal rights.

Back in Japan, a young animator named Isao Takahata who had already directed his first feature film, Horus: Prince of the Sun in 1968, would come across the works of this middle-aged Frenchman Frederic Back and champion him as a cause celebre years later for his inspirational role in Takahata’s own works. Specifically, Takahata found that Back’s approach to filmmaking and animation was one of the first real, modern attempts to import meaningful issues into the medium and to create an animation for adults and children alike. He valued Back’s willingness to attack issues in the real world through his animation’s narratives rather than merely serving up facile surfaces for mass consumption, or worse yet, mere fables and banal morality tales ala Disney.

And most importantly, Takahata valued Back’s artistic proclivity and interest in making his films look great from a painterly perspective, his ability to condense and elongate time along with the best live-action directors, and the poetic pacing of his films. Although the 1960s were over and the hippie movement had been dealt a decisive death blow at Altamont, the ecological, social, and political consciousness of artists was still in vogue. And visual artists, above all others, were still producing highly ambitious works of an experimental nature that rejected brutal art in lieu of aesthetically pleasing works. Together, Back and Takahata, through their willingness to create conventionally beautiful art that tried its best never to talk down to an audience whilst essaying important topics and reflecting the real world, helped to promote a new artistic movement within animation that I refer to as Animated Poetic Realism (and discuss in more detail HERE) of which their later respective films L’homme qui plantait des arbres and Gauche the Cellist would serve as paramount examples.

But while Takahata was already well on his way to creating works in this vein, it would take a few more tries for Back to really crack the critical bubble and make himself well known. At least as well known as he would ever really become in a market wherein quality is always the first element discarded in favor of bullshit for the least common denominator.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: The Creation of Birds]

The Big O II: Act 22- Hydra

(Act 21: The Third Big)

It now appears that Alex Rosewater, and by extension Paradigm Corp., were aware of the existence of foreigners outside of Paradigm City, as well as foreign sleeper agents from The Union within the city, all along. Alex has made some sort of trade with The Union, which ceded the three foreign Megadeuses back to their own people, as well as some undisclosed further item, in exchange for the non-functional Big Megadeus known as Big Fau. However, after receiving the Megadeus, Alex Rosewater had everything he needed from The Union and instead of protecting their existence within the city any longer, he has alerted the Military Police and Lieutenant Dan Dastun to their existence, and tasked this group with tracking down the 24 Union Sleeper Agents in the city and arresting them. Dan Dastun hasn’t taken kindly to this turn of events, especially since Angel, or Agent 340, is one amongst the Union members he must arrest. He feels as if he is a mere lap dog for Paradigm, and further, that the rains pouring down on the city seemingly non-stop must be some sort of divine message that what they are doing is wrong.

At Paradigm, Alex Rosewater has set a meeting up between himself and Roger Smith. As the two are aware of each other’s true identities as Dominus of Megadeuses (Big Fau and Big O, respectively), Alex Rosewater wastes no time in their discussion before discussing the current attempts to bring power up Big Fau. He explains that the machine has no memory core, that he believes that he himself functions as the mecha’s memory core in lieu of one as his Dominus, and that no amount of electricity- currently being diverted from the city’s power grids every night- seems able to revive the machine. As mentioned previously, this notion of a great beast constructed out of the parts of numerous corpses of past organisms (or in this case, many Big Faus) is very similar to the concept of Frankenstein’s Monster who was revived through electricity, created from the bodies of dead men, and given a brain that retained little knowledge of life before its death. Likewise, Alex Rosewater is like Dr. Frankenstein: a figure who will eventually be usurped as a false master.

Alex also explains to Roger that ‘since the disaster forty years ago, this city has been the only stage where humanity can continue to preserve their civilization.’ The idea seems to be that although foreigners exist outside of Paradigm City, none of them have made any effort o create a city of their own, and largely live as nomads in the vast desert wastelands of the world. Alex continues, ‘ I have the utmost respect for my dad, he is the man who built this stage. However, my dear father had forced himself to lose his own memories before he was kind enough to pass them on to his son.’ If everyone in the city lost their memories forty years ago after the disaster, then this means that the civilization created by Gordon Rosewater was made sometime before this Event. That it managed to endure whatever the Event wrought, and that the remainder of the world did not, added to the fact that no one remembers much of a re-building of the city, means that something other than The Event was the cause of the world’s current state. An apocalyptic event visited upon the earth twice (first as a physical scourge and secondly as one removing the memories of this planet’s denizens?).

Something isn’t quite right here. The Event has always been a mythical sort of historical force that somehow wiped the memories of all people on Earth (save a few). That an event occurred before the Event is unexplained, does not compute. Alex: ‘Preserving human civilization is this city’s reason for existence.’ Roger, not knowing about how prescient his words really are, chimes in: ‘You mean their memories?’ Alex: That’s right. They exist in this city and in this city alone.’ The implication being, once one has finished viewing the series, that Paradigm City is a simulation of humanity, a storage unit for the collective memory of the human race who have presumably evolved beyond their current forms or been destroyed in the real world. And as we shall we in the series’ denouement, the simulation is set to run infinitely. That is, unless Roger Smith can somehow manage to prevent it from doing so, somehow manage to end the program and thereby, end the eternal sufferings of millions of Artificial Simulated Human Beings trapped within an infinite loop in this monstrous universe.

At Roger’s Mansion, Dorothy and Norman are alone once again for the evening. Angel, now the fugitive known as Agent 340, arrives to speak with Roger, but finds that he is not at home. She decides to deliver her message to Dorothy instead: ‘The memories that Alex is searching for, the memories of this whole world that have been left behind in Paradigm City alone, are vitally important to Roger as well. We mustn’t let Alex take them.’ At this point in the narrative, the viewer ought to no clue what these memories truly entail and should be more confounded than ever before at the notion that these memories have an existential importance to Roger and to the city. Angel also tells Dorothy that they must not let the memories fall into the hands of anyone who wishes to gain them as the result would be equally catastrophic. And before whiling away into the night and into the dense rain and fog of the city, Angel tells Dorothy that she is sorry for their past, and that despite the fact that Dorothy doesn’t like Angel, Angel likes Dorothy and wishes the best for her.

Later, Alex explains to Roger that only the two of them are valid players on the world stage, that only they two are true Dominuses of Megadeuses, wielding the power of the gods. Alex also professes to know what Roger truly is, though he won’t disclose the truth to him. As Roger leaves the meeting, focusing intently on trying to remain un-manipulated by Alex Rosewater, Alan Gabriel approaches Alex. The cyborg has proven himself to be a tricky character as he played both sides during the power play between Alex Rosewater and The Union previously. Now, he holds a blade to the neck of his current employer in the hopes of assassinating the man, presumably at the direction of Vera Ronstadt and The Union for no meager sum. But just at that very moment, Alex offers Alan the opportunity to own something ‘special’: a promise that piques his interest and prevents him from taking Alex’s life right there and then.

Alex’s assassination would have been the first event in a chain of actions that might have led to the downfall of Paradigm City as Vera Ronstadt appears within the underground of the city and calls upon a large three-headed Megadeus with regenerative powers called The Hydra, which has been created and modified from The Eel in Act 03. The being can harness electricity and begins to use its powers on the city, destroying anyone and anything in its path toward the Paradigm Corp. HQ, wherein Alex should have been dead if Alan had followed his orders.

Luckily, Roger Smith is out about town picking up a bouquet of flowers for his android love interest when he gets the call from Norman about the disruption in the city. He calls upon Big O and quickly rips apart two of the three heads of The Hydra, which regenerate instantly and prove to Roger that this will be a tough battle indeed. The Hydra directs its electric volley toward Big O, rendering the Big Megadeus immobile, and eventually reaching within its cockpit to electrocute Roger Smith himself. The jolts trigger a memory within Roger’s mind of a similar time somewhere in his deep past when he piloted the same Megadeus, and fought the same enemy, but alongside a platoon of Big O Megadeuses. He was clad in brown military fatigues and looked to be one amongst a group of soldiers. However, Roger Smith is in his thirties, surely not old enough to have lived before The Event that seemingly wiped out these memories. What’s more, in the flashback he appears to be the same age as is he is currently. Roger Smith seems to be an android trained for battle and for the complex operation of a Megadeus. One that does not age. So how does this relate back to the visions of Roger Smith as one of those genetically engineered children, the tomatoes of Gordon Rosewater? Could all of these memories be deja vu from experiences in past lives? Experiences in different simulations and timestreams wherein Roger Smith oscillates between different identities. Such a concept could at least make Gordon Rosewater’s claims that the events of his book Metropolis never happened, or at least not in the current simulation.

Roger’s memories alert him to the presence of a secret valve within Big O that activates his plasma weaponry and shields. These allow Roger to divert The Hydra’s electric attacks from himself and to consequently launch a powerful attack back at it that incinerates the beast-like Megadeus. But not before the electric volley is picked up by Alex Rosewater’s lab through a large lightning rod apparatus, an apparatus that feeds the energy back to Big Fau and gives him enough strength to rise once again.

 

Cast in the Name of God,

Cody Ward

[Act 23: Twisted Memories]

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