The Big O II: Act 17- Leviathan
The bulk of Act 17 of The Big O is taken up by Schwarzwald’s various narrations, typically heard in his own voice by the viewers of the show, but read out by characters in the series as they skim and scan his final tractatus on the Leviathan. This work is a one-page leaflet that summarizes Schwarzwald’s philosophical project and is delivered into Paradigm, mysteriously, upon the winds themselves. The recto is all sermon, all fire and fury, whilst the verso is a reproduction of the painting Behemoth and Leviathan by the British romantic poet, artist, and mystic William Blake (an author whose works are popping up again and again in my daily life and may ultimately serve as the rabbit hole toward my psyche’s undoing).
‘Even without the events of forty years ago, I think man would still be a creature that fears the dark. He doesn’t face that fear, he averts his eyes from it, and acts as if he never had any memories of his history.’ Schwarzwald began as a relentless newspaper reporter, hellbent on discovery of the truth of the city, and then turned philosophical warrior working to open the eyes of the denizens of Paradigm’s veritable ‘Cave’ toward the truth of their existence. Now his has become a prophetic voice with the strength of religious fervor behind it. It is not enough merely to report corruption in the daily paper, nor can he force people to turn their attentions toward the light as they have, and always have had, a natural aversion toward its brightness and the pain gazing too long upon God-qua-veritas ipso facto brings. His religious fervor would typically be the result of megalomania, but in the case of Paradigm, something isn’t quite right and it seems that Schwarzwald has flown closer to the sun, closer to enlightenment and awakening, and closer to obtaining the truth of the city than any other within it.
‘But forty years can be a both a brief time and yet a long time. Man’s fear has withered , and even time itself tries to wither the desire to know the truth. Is it a crime to try and learn the truth? Is it a sin to search for those things, which you fear?’ The city exists and society exists in Paradigm because no one searches for the truth, because everyone lives their lives as if nothing ever happened, as if they retained their memories of the past. Fear is an unconscious psychological tool that has helped the more curious of Paradigm’s citizens to forego looking any deeper into their pasts. And as the city is a Military Dictatorship ruled by a Corporate Autocracy in the form of Paradigm Corp., the search for the truth is further hindered by propaganda (such as the city’s denial of the existence of foreigners), by assassins (like R.D. who has was sent to kill all those who recovered memories of 40 years ago), and thereby through a de facto law and social norm that states: ‘When one goes searching for the past, only death and destruction, both personal and toward the city can result.’ Paradigm is the archetypal fascist city-state in which the ‘truth’ is manufactured and any authentic pursuit of real truth is outlawed.
As the leaflets of the Leviathan manifesto fall throughout the city, the verso’s art is displayed on numerous occasions. The chaos dragon of Jewish myth, Leviathan, fights against Yahweh, with Behemoth by his side. Yahweh seems to control them, to bind them, to restrain the chaotic potential and form a world out of their bodies. One might think that in this analogy, Schwarzwald’s search for the truth is analogous to Yahweh’s chaos-reducing battle. But no, in Schwarzwald’s path lies only more confusion, more chaos, but ultimately truth. He appears as the Leviathan or as the prophet of Leviathan who ascend from the depths like a forgotten memory of a traumatic event, like a nightmare forcing its way to the surface, like an ancient Indo-European myth of a world-forming conflict between the prideful, boastful Yahweh and his counterpart God, the Leviathan. As if awakening the ‘religious’ of the city to a deeper, more troubling, mystical truth behind their Evental past, which they have largely forgotten by merely chanting hymns and going through the motions of ritual in their Church-spaces. Like most all Christians today who would refuse the Chaos dragon’s existence within their mythological past, out of hand and without even bothering to research it.
We are shown visions of Schwarzwald in the desert wastes surrounding Paradigm like an Old Testament prophet or a Christian Desert Monk enduring a trial. He comes across Big Duo within a relatively intact Airplane Hangar. And later, we watch once more as the battle between this Big and Big O commences, and Big Duo is proven the weaker of the two. Like John the Baptist, Schwarzwald has philosophically communed with some great metaphysical truth about the world and has passed on his teachings to one who might prove to be the true savior of Paradigm: Roger Smith. ‘ My purpose in this world is knowledge, and the dissemination of it. It is I who is to the restore the fruits of my labor to the entire world.’ Not to change the world, but to inform the world, to inform Paradigm and those within its borders that there is something much more sinister going on that they are not aware of. And to cede his findings to a great liberator who might carry on his knowledge and begin the second phase of that knowledge: world-transformation.
‘Fear, it is something vital to us puny creatures…. The instant man stops fearing is the instant the species will reach a dead end. Only to sink to pitiable lows, only to sit and wait apathetically for extinction.’ This fear is different from the fear of the past and the fear of the truth, which are ultimately unhealthy fears. No, this third fear is a fear of pain, of death, of the death of one’s loved ones, a fear that was possibly lost in the world before The Event and which was returned to the world once its technological marvels were forgotten. The world formed by this lack of fear, itself formed through a technological society in which life is easy and thereby nothing substantial, is the world of top-siders that The Big O series writer Chiaki J. Konaka would later expand upon in his dystopian, nihilistic anime series Texhnolyze. Here, the rich live forever, or for as long as they wish to live, and as such, life has no meaning, everyone has already done all those things they wished they could do at an early age. They are the last men, anything but ubermensch, who rest on their laurels and make no effort to create of life something marvelous, something beautiful, something transcendent. And all they wait for is death. In this sense, we can imagine Texhnolyze as a retroactive prequel to the world of The Big O, after some terrible Event occurs and throws human civilization backward by more than a millenia.
‘Wake up! Don’t be afraid of knowledge!’ Angel reclines on a bench, recognizing the words of the in the leaflet at those of Schwarzwald. Another flashback and we view Schwarzwald himself, out in the desert wastes examining an old, abandoned amusement park. ‘Humans who lose the capacity to think become creatures whose existence has no value. ‘ And indeed, value, like morality, is merely a social construction. In the state of nature, there are no universal, ontologically-grounded morals, values, or rights. Schwarzwald, like philosophers of our modernity in the still relatively new millennium, understand that human beings are becoming satiated, uninspired, and thus have formed no new artistic movements, created no new great technological wonders that spur on the human spirit, and believe what they are told by their favorite figure heads and media outlets without question. The men and women who brought us to the Moon, brought us Avant-garde Jazz, Electronica, and Rock and Roll, and challenged all standards of convention throughout the 1960s and 70s were, in this analysis, citizens of a world with a greater culture, more individualistic, and thereby more valuable, socially, culturally, and morally, especially as compared to those herds who roam the social media landscape in this day and age, and back to Schwarzwald’s point: more valuable than those currently living in Paradigm City.
‘Think, you humans who are split into two worlds! Unless you want the gulf between humans to expand into oblivion, you must think! Signed, Schwarzwald.’ Thus ends the Leviathan leaflet. The two groups could mean those from Paradigm and the unrecognized foreigners from outside of its borders. It could refer to the rich Paradigm citizens within the domes and the poor stuck outside of them. But in either case, Schwarzwald is calling for solidarity lest the two groups rip their own world to pieces, as their ancestors almost seemed to do with whatever during The Event. Ultimately, the fan of The Big O knows that the people of Paradigm will fail to heed Schwarzwald’s warnings and that the world will be ripped asunder. They likely know as well, that upon its recurrence, it will take a much greater prophetic force to keep it from occurring once again: A force that seems impossible to generate given the nature of Paradigm’s recurrence as something of a game simulation meant to find a way to create the perfect world, outside of that simulation, which may itself by simulated by a vengeful God. And on and on the Sisyphean struggle will go, for all eternity, unless Roger Smith can muster up enough heroic energy to bring everything to its illogical conclusion, win the game, and extinguish the suffering of his virtual peoples.
During the final remarks of Schwarzwald’s narration, we watch as a beast tunnels toward him the sands of the desert, seemingly another Megadeus that has found its way to revered Dominus in search of the truth. Meanwhile, Paradigm Corp. hires Roger to once again try to complete his mission of tracking down Schwarzwald. He is to work alongside Dastun, though the latter, now obviously knowing about Roger’s identity as the Dominus merely mulls around and complains about his own ineffectiveness in protecting his city from the Megadeuses that continue to attack it. Roger begins his search for Schwarzwald rather enigmatically as he visits the mystic’s old apartment from when he was Michael Seebach, the Paradigm Press reporter. Roger hears an odd sound, a moan as if a primordial cry from out in the desert and then we hear Schwarzwald’s narration: ‘Don’t you find it odd that in this whole city there is only one man who has the desire to pursue the truth?’ This statement still holds true as Schwarzwald, the one man, has disappeared from the city, but left behind his own curiosity within Roger Smith.
Dorothy finishes a piano lesson with Instro in the Amadeus Bar and he explains that business in establishments selling alcoholic beverages has diminished. Instead, more and more people, sensing some perceived fate ahead have been taking to communing with their neighbors in churches. As such, Instro has secured a position as a Church organist to supplement his income.
‘You poor souls who fear the darkness and the deep, when you suppress that fear, you will be able to get closer to the truth.’ Roger has been following these orders like a good student and is now venturing beneath the city to where The Archetype was found. He muses on the fact that this Archetype City housed what appeared to be a primal Big O archetype Megadeus. If this is truly the nature of the beast he fought in this room, then what does this mean about the identity of Roger Smith, the Dominus of the Big O Megadeus? Is he too the final version of previously-existing archetype version of himself? He shakes off the question and eventually finds himself in another tunnel below Paradigm City, which leads him to a typewriter labelled ‘Another Light’ that contains one sheet of paper with the same lines written over and over along its recto side: ‘There is but one truth. If you avert your eyes from it, you will always remain nothing more than a puppet.’ It is as if Schwarzwald has reached into the very mind of Roger Smith and is taunting him, pushing him to draw out the full implications of the truths he has been investigating.
Roger next finds a large hangar housing a restored Big Duo as well as the three Foreign Megadeuses. After a brief confrontation with Alan Gabriel, Alex Rosewater appears and tells his attack dog android to retreat. Above ground, a Megadeus awakens after hearing Dorothy’s voice, Dastun readies to fight it with his Military Police forces and Norman tries to contact Roger whose communicator is out of commission on account of the signal-blocking technology within Rosewater’s Megadeus hangar. A ship sinks into the sand and once again Schwarzwald’s voice: ‘Imagination and memory are but one ting, which for diverse considerations have diverse names.’ And later, ‘Foolish denizens of Paradigm City, as long as you exist together, continue to live your lives together, and share in your mass illusion, a single dragon will be born there. ‘ The chaos dragon: Leviathan.
The beast emerges from the sands and destroys buildings, turning them into sand at the touch of his mechanical, oscillating claws. Dorothy seems to be speaking with Leviathan who believes that they are one and the same. She believes that Leviathan has become unhinged, has lost his conscience. As such, she refuses to join up with Leviathan, to become its Dominus or power cell, or what have you. Schwarzwald: ‘Yes, that ancient mechanical dragon is a mirror of none other than yourselves, you fools! The anxiety within you has no outlet. It has no past, and no future!’ The Leviathan itself seems confused about its rage and wishes to subsume its consciousness within that of another being of its ilk, like Dorothy, in order to forget itself and to feel at home with another person, in communion with another being.
After Rosewater tells Roger that he is also a Dominus, but instead of a manufactured one, he was born with the ability to harness the power of a God through a Megadeus. Roger cannot accept this news and denies what it implies about himself once more before running off to exit the hangar. Back in Paradigm, Leviathan swings toward Dorothy, enraged at her refusal to become one with him, but is blocked at the last moment by Big O who has seemingly arrived of his own will in an attempt to protect her. Roger arrives moments later and pilots Big O from there on, eventually overcoming the dragon of chaos and bringing back order and stability to the city, though the appearance of each new Megadeus must bring ever-increasing uncertainty and questioning into the minds of the average Paradigm citizen.
Schwarzwald’s final words: ‘Each person’s jealousies, their desires, their fears. Alone each may be a small part, but together they become an enormous whole that will take shape.’ The arrival of the Megadeuses, of Leviathan, of the satellite, and of a general feeling of malaise may yet unite the denizens of this dark city. But Schwarzwald will not be their prophet. Roger believes that Schwarzwald was finally killed in the previous confrontation when Big O evaporated Leviathan by its own hands. He believes that Schwarzwald piloted Leviathan as its Dominus. But Angel appears and reveals the truth: Schwarzwald’s body was found weeks earlier out in the desert wastes surrounding Paradigm. He has been dead for some time, which means the Leviathan, the chaos dragon was piloting itself and cuts a much more obscure figure for it.
Cast in the Name of God,