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Half Nelson

Ryan Gosling is my favorite living actor. There, I said it. I love his performances in FractureBlue ValentineDriveOnly God Forgives (though I dislike the film immensely), and thought him the only actor worthy to fill Harrison Ford’s boots in Blade Runner 2049 (which I saw six times in theaters and wrote six different essays on this blogspace for). That said, when I went to a local Flea Market this past weekend with my father and found a copy of Half Nelson for a buck, I picked up immediately and watched it the very next day at home.

The film follows the life and hardships of an inner-city High-School History teacher in Brooklyn who advises his young, at-risk, impoverished charges in a dialectical view of history and of world events. He subscribes specifically to the Dialectic of Karl Marx’s famed intellectual partner and co-author of The Communist Manifesto: Friedrich Engels. The approach is built upon three laws, which are as follows: 1. The Law of Unity in Conflict of Oppositions. 2. The Law of passage from Quantitative Change toward Qualitative Change. 3. The Law of Negation of the Negation.

The first of these propositions he teaches in a manner consistent with Derridean Deconstruction in which all oppositions, specifically of a binary nature, can be demonstrated to rely upon one another definitionally and contain examples that break the opposition fundamentally and fit neither and/or both sides of the binary simultaneously. The approach helps to break apart essentialisms that have coloured and therefore tainted the study of history for centuries and tend toward creating analysis of events and or parties that are oversimplified. This first step helps the teacher, Dan Dunne (Gosling), to explain how one can both be held down by a system of social, economic, political, and cultural conditions whilst simultaneously being part of that system: a node that helps to ensure its solidity, its strength until the node realizes its culpability and can finally work to break away from the system, and hence break it down or reform it in some measure.

The second law is perfectly explained by Dunne in relation to the Civil Rights Movement in the Southern United States. There, the numbers of people who were culpable in the system of segregation and socially regulated racism far outnumbered those against the system. However, through public protests that helped to bring issues to wider attention, and to implicitly break down racially-based binaries, the quantity of those opposing segregation and racially-based social policies grew in number. As a result of this quantitative change, qualitative changes were made to society.

The third law of the negation of the negation functions in a paradoxical manner. As all large things are only concatenations, groupings, of small things into a larger structure, and all things in history have moved toward a greater synthesis in the creation of larger things (we can see this in a sort of biological manner metaphorically), all social forces push toward some greater force. In society, this means that the capitalist system, which had hitherto been the most equitable and fair form of economic system holds within itself the poisons that will negate itself as itself was a negation to the mercantilist and serf-based economies of yore. Thus, as more equitable systems arise economically, they will inevitably do so under the third law socially as well, meaning less prejudice and more freedom as history progresses toward some sort of end-point. This telos is patently false if we actually study history closely and find it a series of stumbling events and harsh breaks in which civilization itself is often destroyed or pushed ‘backward’, but the third law’s teleological positioning is nonetheless inspirational as a force and one that most people seem to hold implicitly: that society will continue to improve rather than degrade (but one must be careful as this also led to political theses like the End of Ideology and the inevitable triumph of Democracy and Capitalism ala Fukuyama, which is now pretty well debunked).

Aside from his novel approach to teaching history, which often gets him in trouble with his principal and with his girlfriend who questions whether or not he is a communist (and takes the term as derisive, as essentially pejorative), Dunne is also a drug addict who regularly freebases cocaine. Dunne is the school’s basketball coach, and one of his student’s who is also one of his athletes has a rough home life. The girl’s name is Drey and she lives with her single mother who works as an EMT and is thereby always on call, rarely around, and constantly working wild hours. Drey’s father lives nearby and is supposed to pick up the slack, attend some of her basketball games, occassionally pick her up from school, and try to give her some of the parental love and affection and guidance she needs as a young teenage girl. But he is absent and in fact, never seen even once during the entire film.

As such, Dunne often drives Drey back home from practice and from school when no one else is available. Dunne is seen as a cool teacher by his students, and through this public persona and his car rides with Drey, develops a mentor relationship to the girl, especially late after a game one night when Drey catches Dunne in the girl’s room freebasing and the two’s relationship contains the secret, and thereby, implicit trust. Drey has another father figure of sorts in Frank, a neighborhood friend of her incarcerated brother Mike. Frank mentors Drey in the rules of the street and even involves her in drug deals and other illicit activity. Once these events begin to transpire and Dunne realizes what’s going on, he tries to save Drey from what he sees as an unqualified life of crime and incarceration ahead for her, but ultimately fails as a moral authority, as a White Knight, due to his drug addiction and its culpability in the system of drug use and abuse, which Frank takes advantage of and is introducing Drey into.

The ending of the film is ambiguous, and I won’t spoil it here, but just know that if you’re a viewer who enjoys nice, packaged narratives with closure and a feel-good ending this is not the one for you. As for me, I’ve not had enough Gosling yet and will be on the lookout for The United States of LelandStayLars and the Real Girl, and The Place Beyond the Pines next time I’m out and about, though I just picked up the The Nice Guys and am pretty stoked to check that one out soon!

 

Cody Ward

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Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky. Unequivocally one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. My favorite filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, said of Tarkovsky that he ‘is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.’

Stalker. 1979. Tarkovsky’s final Soviet film before leaving the country for the freedoms of the West, the freedom to make films as he wanted, complete and total freed om that produced two more films before his untimely death in 1986 at the age of 1986, the result of exposure to noxious elements from chemical processing plants during his filming of Stalker. A film whose original first year of shots were destroyed by inept film developers unused to the new experimental film stock he used to capture his dreams. A film meant to be shot in the deserts of Central Asian Russia, but which was diverted away after a massive earthquake rendered the locations unusable, and was eventually moved to Estonia, to a lush, swampy area totally at odds with his original conception. A film on which two cinematographers were hired and fired before a third satisfactory figure was found. A film almost doomed from the start that somehow managed to be made nonetheless. A triumph of human will and of Tarkovsky’s tenacity and vision.

The film was an adaptation of a science fiction novel called Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, though the plot was narrowed significantly to involve primarily one arc of action, in one time and one place. The journey of three men to the center of the mythical Zone wherein a Room sits that grants the deepest desires of those who enter it. All previous Tarkovsky films had taken place over days, if not years, but finally in Stalker he managed to tackle the Aristotelian Unity. The end result is something one can only describe as sublime as Tarkovsky was able like never before or since to sculpt with time and guide our gaze into the realm of meditative act. 163 minutes and only 142 shots in the film.

Twenty years prior to the events of the film, an asteroid or meteor (or is as is hinted at in the film, and made apparent in the source novel, an alien arrival) landed on Earth and made a large area completely inhabitable. Those who lived near the area or those who illegally sneak in visitors for lucrative tours of the area, suffer from the effects of what appears to be radiation poisoning as they lose hair, gain skin blemishes, and bear or conceive children labelled ‘mutants’ who are born deformed. The region of exclusion is called the Zone and those who bring visitors to the Room at its core, are known as Stalkers. Seven years later, the Chernobyl incident occurred. The uninhabitable radioactive area around the reactor became known as the Zone of Alienation and those who continued to live in the surrounding area despite government warnings about negative health effects called themselves Stalkers. Stalker, a science fiction film with political, social and religious themes, is ultimately a piece of art, and potentially one with prophetic power.

The film opens outside of the Zone. The Stalker is at home in bed with his wife and daughter, a ‘mutant’ who cannot walk, and seems precocious, but is mute throughout the film. The world is sepia and high-contrast. The world outside the Zone, a secular, atheistic gulag archipelago. There is freedom in many regards, but the religious like Stalker are tormented by the flat affect of a world like this in which faith is dead, God is dead, and life is a prison with nothing to look forward to, no hope of advancement, few joys, and a palpable malaise apparent.

The men Stalker guides are The Writer and The Professor. The former wants to write works that will survive beyond his days, that will be read hundreds of years into the future. But he has sacrificed much of this by writing previously for popularity, writing for the average moron sitting on the beach, just looking for a timely story that isn’t too challenging or troubling or apt to make one think. In this way, the public have written him in their image, and he is no longer a writer at all, just a conduit for the desires and interests of the crowd, of the Them: inauthentic and not worth the paper he’s printed on.

The Professor is more secretive about his ends in going to the Zone. when pressed he relates that he wants to win the Nobel Prize for his research on the Zone, but his true purposes will be revealed as the destruction of the Zone in an attempt to prevent anyone from using it for evil ends in the future.

When the three begin their journey to the Zone, the entrance is guarded by armed men, tanks, attack dogs, and barbed wire. The world is sepia, brown like the muck of the world, like the dirt we all are and the consequent lack of importance we hold as individuals, as a species, from the secular standpoint. But the moment the men pass these barricades and enter the Zone proper, the world is shot using color photography. The images become saturated with color as the interior world of the film, of the dream, become saturated with mystery, with enigmatic connections to an unknown event, and to the miraculous nature of The Room. With meaning.

In the Zone, the world is devoid of industrial sounds and effluents, nature has returned to reclaim old buildings and tanks, and the most constant sound is complete and utter silence as not even birds or insects inhabit this place. The howling of beasts, seen not heard. The image of flowers in fields, without scent. And other fields in which no flowers are physically present, and yet their spectral presence appears through their absence (a key feature of the fields around the Room in which there are no flowers, but I swear every time I remember the film that they were there only to find, upon reviewing, that they are absent indeed). A path to the Room that always shifts, but is invisible and only makes itself apparent to the believer, to the Stalker. A path from which one could seemingly stray and very easily approach the Room with less hassle, but this operation would prove deadly as the Zone is a true mystical space, a true Labyrinth in which beautiful secrets are available to the careful, to the one respectful of its rules, but fatal to the foolhardy who become subject to its death traps.

Stalker’s teacher was a man named Porcupine who once led his own brother to the Room. But his brother was not wary and died along the way. When Porcupine entered the Room for the first time (an action not allowed for Stalkers) he had hoped that his desire for his brother to still be alive would come true. But the Room doesn’t work by granting mere wishes. No. It follows the deepest desire of the one who enters it and as such, it made Porcupine a rich man: a desire he unconsciously, subconsciously held more dear than the life of his own brother. Once this hidden desire was unveiled to Porcupine, once the true nature of who he really was became known to him, he killed himself .

Like the objet petit a, the object-cause of desire, once attained one’s life loses meaning. This object, this desire being the kernel, the core, the constituent unit tying together one’s Being, one’s reason for living, for struggling, call it one’s destiny or one’s goal or one’s dream or one’s hope. Once achieved, a new desire must manifest itself because the thing desired is now had and no longer desired. This is the logic of consumption. But the inmost desire is the one desire that once achieved or gained or held is the end-all be all, the thing that unveils one’s nature and what one truly strives for, what one wants above all else, and how one has constructed his or her self completely around this thing. Nothing can take the place of this objet-grand a. So once achieved, only the void is left, the primal Ground of Being, the precipice into one must look, into which if one looks, the abyss will stare back and in the staring will destroy all but the strongest, all but the Ubermensch. And very few of us have that resolve, that strength. Very few of us have not been conditioned by some form of herd mentality, be it christian morality, or any other religious morality, or some political ideology, or the belief in fairness or decency, or in a sociological necessity of morality and proper conduct, or what have you.

The men reach the room, but cannot venture past the threshold as this liminal step cannot be taken by anyone below the strength of a Hercules. They leave and the Stalker returns to his family, disgusted by the men he guided, by the lack of faith in the world, for lack of even a capacity for faith in the intelligentsia of the world today. And then another truth is revealed. The scene pans out and away from the stalker and his wife and we see his bookshelves. Thousands of texts. The Stalker is, in some way, a part of this intelligentsia, which prompts his greater disgust for their inability to believe, their inability to take the leap of faith and to step over the threshold in the Room, which will destroy them totally in the process, but could allow them to become one with the All. The Stalker has never brought anyone over the threshold and seems himself unable to cross as he has given himself the dictum and the moral call not to do so, like a Bodhisattva foregoing Nirvana and eternal nothingness in order to bring others through toward this truth.

When the daughter of the Stalker is shown, her world is not sepia like that of her father outside of the Zone. No, instead her world is shot realistically, with a color photography saturated with hues. Her very Being is a product of her father’s connection to the Zone, and she carries within herself the beauty of that place. Just as the children of the religious, the progeny of the believers whose belief the atheistic U.S.S.R. meant to stamp out carry the imprint of their secretly devout ancestors with them. And one day; Andrei Tarkovsky seems to say through his portrayal of the mute and lame telekinetic psionic Zone-child; when the world is different and the political units shift, the faithful will emerge once again from out of their hiding places into the fullness of the light and their belief will be akin to a breaking out of the enigmatic color of the Zone and an erasure of the sepia, of grayness, of the bleak reality of a life devoid of meaning brought on initially, and tragically, through state apparatuses and their power to withhold spiritual interpellation.

 

Cody Ward

It Came From The Other Side (Digimon Tamers- Episode 4)

(Check out the previous episode review HERE. To go back to the beginning of this series, click HERE)

The battle against Renamon is over. Renamon and Guilmon ended up working together to weaken the out of control Gargomon. Since then, Rika and Renamon departed the scene, as Takato and Henry left the parking garage in haste to ensure they would not be found out as the perpetrators whose Digimon destroyed many of the cars within. Now, Takato, Henry, and their Digimon partners are hanging out in the woods while Gargomon stands on his head, attempting to lose enough energy to de-Digivolve back to Terriermon and return home with Henry.

Henry falls asleep and dreams of a moment from his past, a moment when he played a popular online Digimon video game. Terriermon was his partner Digimon in that game and together they battled many a foe, including a particularly dangerous opponent in Gorillamon, a Champion-level Digimon. When Henry awakens, Gargomon has returned to his Rookie form as Terriermon and the two head home. Meanwhile, Takato is at home looking forward to the day when Guilmon Digivolves and imagining all of the interesting new forms and powers he might take on during this transformation. At Rika’s home, she chides Renamon for her inability to Digivolve to keep up appearances, even though internally she is scared of the prospect of Digivolution after seeing Gargomon lose control in the process.

The next day, Kazu, Kenta, and Takato are hanging out. Kazu shows off his new Modify cards and offers one he considers useless to Takato: a ‘Training Grips’ exercise power up with little practical use in battle that is only applicable to Rookie-level Digimon. Henry passes by and Takato takes his leave of his other friends to run off with him instead for the time being. At Hypnos, a new bio-emergence signature has been picked up on their radar: a Gorillamon in the Network ready to emerge into the real world and potentially cause some real havoc. In the sky above, Henry and Takato see this bio-emergence happening. Henry calls the white cloud of emergence a Digital Field. But this one is behaving unnaturally and following Henry as he and Takato run away through the streets. They decide to split up and Takato leaves to find Guilmon in the adjacent park while Henry and Terriermon retreat into an abandoned construction site to battle whatever exits from the field.

Gorillamon emerges from within and seems to have a past history with Henry and Terriermon. Although the Gorillamon from the video game years prior was defeated by Terriermon, this one seems to be the same individual, which leads one to believe that not all Digimon defeated in the Tamers universe are necessarily destroyed. Another interesting point to note here is that this Gorillamon has the same voice as Wendigomon from the Digimon Adventure 02 movie. Wendigomon also fought a Terriermon in that movie with whom he too had a long history. The parallel is interesting, though probably not on much of a thematic level so any philosophizing on the point would really be belaboring it beyond its intended dimensions.

As Guilmon arrives and he and Terriermon hold off Gorillamon, Henry begins to daydream and remember once again about the video game he played years prior. He received the game from his father as a present for some unnamed holiday and when he began the game, he passed over the much stronger Gorillamon starter for the smaller, more cute and more relatable Terriermon. One day, when he closed the system settings and tried to turn off the computer, it kept running, which led Henry to begin wondering about the ontology of Digimon. He reasoned that the Digital World and the Network may be worlds separate from the real world in some fundamental manner so that the individuals within those worlds might actually exist independently from the real world: ‘Maybe Digimon have a reality outside of the game…’

Henry remembers the event that prompted him to battle Gorillamon in the game. Gorillamon was an npc, but was destroying other npc Digimon like Numemon, Vegiemon, and Monochromon to absorb their data and grow stronger. If the Digimon were real beings, then Gorillamon’s actions led to their annihilation just for his own benefit. He spurred on Terriermon at that point using a series of Modify cards to increase his speed, power, and stamina, and eventually destroyed Gorillamon, who had become a murderer of sorts within the game. This was justice. But Gorillamon’s data was not absorbed at that time, meaning after his defeat, he probably came back as a DigiEgg, grew in strength once more by destroying other Digimon, and eventually became a powerful enough being with enough willpower to bio-emerge from the network to seek his revenge against Henry and Terriermon.

As the real world battle rages on and Takato and Henry find all of their Modify cards too weak to put in a dent in Gorillamon’s defenses, Henry still holds off on Digivolving his partner Digimon into Gargomon once again as he wants to avoid his partner going berserk, and even more importantly, he wants to avoid killing any more Digimon. His flashbacks continue to a conversation he held with his father some years prior in which he was told that Digimon are programmed to battle and destroy one another, but this should not be cause for concern as ‘they don’t really exist. It’s just a game.’

Henry, some time later, after the in-game battle against Gorillamon, saw that his digital partner Digimon Terriermon was wounded. To distance himself from the pain of his friend he told himself aloud that Digimon are ‘just a bunch of zeros and ones… Digimon don’t exist…. It’s only a game. It doesn’t matter if they get hurt, because they’re not real’, echoing his father’s words in the process. This callous display visibly affected Henry, who realized immediately the weakness of the argument as one’s behavior toward digital constructs generally treated as living is sure to weaken one’s moral faculties. And besides, if Digimon are artificial beings they may be artificial intelligences at a certain level of complexity at which they would take on human elements like consciousness, reasoning, emotions, and the ability to feel on the same level as the machines we call human beings.

Henry, at that time, called upon the better angel of his nature: ‘But it does matter!’. He apologized to his digital partner Digimon and one of his Modify cards transformed into a Blue Card, representing the power of the will over reality (in a manner analogous to the mind-over-matter ontological Berkelian position Tamer’s creator Chiaki J. Konaka developed in his prior landmark series Serial Experiments Lain). He scanned it through his Digimon video game card reader, which transformed into a D-Power, the power of which extracted the digital Terriermon from the game and translated his data, his zeros and ones, into the data of the real world: DNA and proteins. Henry realized at this point that all the Digimon he defeated and absorbed within the game prior to this moment were real creatures, every bit as real as Terriermon, that he resigned to destruction, completely and utterly. The moment led to a moral panic, to a dark night of the soul in which he had to re-think his past and come up with new moral categories based on his burgeoning awareness of ontological ones just revealed. Henry decided never again to destroy a Digimon, and never again to force his partner Terriermon to fight against other Digimon as this was cruel not only to his opponents, but to his partner who had to experience pain and suffering for no real purpose in the process.

In the real world, Henry finally comes back to his sense again and decides to use Takato’s ‘Training Grips’ Modify card on Terriermon. The training apparatus holds back Terriermon’s power and mobility, but he manages to shake them off and throw them toward Gorillamon, which immobilizes the beast momentarily. Guilmon and Terriermon attack and defeat Gorillamon, which turns him into data. Henry advises his friend not to absorb the data, which will hopefully return to the Digital World or the the Network where it can be reconfigured one day as a DigiEgg, and Gorillamon can return once again. But there’s one problem: he may return with a stronger grudge and taste for bloodshed and destruction than ever before. AT some point, Henry will have to learn that certain Digimon, especially Virus types, are inherently dangerous and probably should be destroyed for good when possible. But the absorption of their data by good Digimon could one day prove a problem as well. The moral and the practical don’t seem to align in this world, and there is no real ideal outcome besides learning to live with darkness or fighting against it only to become evil oneself, one day.

 

Au revoir,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

To Fight Or Not To Fight (Digimon Tamers- Episode 3)

(Episode 2 Review)

Renamon and Rika have followed Takato and Guilmon into the park and when their quarry enter a clearing, they pounce and Renamon begins to attack Guilmon. But unlike their previous victims, Guilmon proves to be extremely resilient and takes the full force of Renamon’s finishing move, the Diamond Storm attack, which merely glances off of Guilmon’s thick skin. As Guilmon’s safety is increasingly called into question, he reverts more and more back into his wild form  and begins to launch his own special attack (Pyro Sphere) back at Renamon, all the while his eyes changing aspect and his demeanor becoming more brutal, animal, primal, and ferocious.

As the battle commences, Rika tries to analyze Guilmon with her D-Power but is unable to find any anything on this saurian Digimon. Takato attempts to awaken Guilmon from his current berserk state, but to no avail. Rika counters Guilmon by Modifying Renamon with an Armor card, which transforms her hand into an air cannon. Just as Renamon looks set to blow out the brains of her opponent, Takato manages to bring his friend to his senses, and Guilmon’s erratic movement during this waking prevents Renamon from getting a read on him, which consequently leads to her attack missing him entirely.

Henry shows up once again and tells Rika that Digimon are not slaves, that they are here to be their friends. But for Rika and Renamon, their relationship is one of master-slave domination in which good relations ensue only when they battle and use Renamon’s strength and Rika’s skills as a tamer. The two depart the scene. Later, Henry and Takato are hanging out and developing a bond of friendship just as their Digimon partners do likewise.

When Takato returns home, his classmate Jeri (the odd girl with the dog puppet) is leaving Takato’s parents bakery. She ensures Takato that she didn’t tell his parents about him leaving school early that day and playing hooky from his duties. Back at Henry’s house, his sister Suzie is hanging out in his room playing with Terriermon as if a toy. Whenever she or Henry’s parents enter his room, Terriermon pretends to be a stuffed animal. Henry worries about what would become of his friend if he were to Digivolve, and hopes, for the sake of their anonymity and the continuance of their clandestine friendship, that Terriermon remains a Rookie-level Digimon forever. Rika is out walking the streets of Tokyo, where Renamon follows her in the shadows, making sure that no one sees her as she tails and protects her tamer. Renamon, speaking to herself (and implicitly to us, explains that Rika is a lonely person and that she has no real friends in this world.

As Rika walks these streets, a kid recognizes her as a figure he refers to as the ‘Digimon Queen’ of something called ‘synchronicity.’ Later, Rika appears overconfident in her abilities as she explains to Renamon, through apparent psychic link, that she is the best tamer around, and that therefore, the reason Renamon cannot Digivolve to the Champion-level must be the fault of Renamon. Renamon seems disturbed by this conversation and fearful about Rika’s state of mind and her inability to connect with anyone, including her own Digimon partner, on an emotional level. We know, from the Adventure Universe, that Digivolution of a partner Digimon requires one to have a close emotional connection to their partner human. As such, Rika’s approach of using brute strength and skill to win in battles will eventually come to a dead end when she and Renamon start punching above their weight class. That is, unless the two develop an emotional bond and learn to work together and care about one another as more than mere fighting partners.

Back at Takato’s hangout the next day, Kazu and Kenta duel it out in the Digimon card game and Kazu chides his friend that he will never be able to win a match if he doesn’t learn how to effectively use modify cards. Takato overhears this conversation and realizes, finally, that he too could use Digi-Modify cards on Guilmon through his D-Power just as Rika has done previously for Renamon.

At the site where Renamon and Guilmon sparred earlier, the Hypnos extended team is there investigating. The mysterious leader of the organization picks up the card Rika used to Digi-Modify Renamon’s hand into an air cannon weapon. The purpose of this organization still is unknown at this point in the anime, but seems to pertain tot he investigation of all bio-emergence events and any other events relating to Digimon in the real world.

At school, Takato talks with his friends Kazu and Kenta about the upcoming Digimon card game tournament. Kazu explains that although they aren’t the greatest card battlers, that last year some girl won the competition (who has come to be known as the ‘Digimon Queen’), and as such, Kazu’s youthful puellaphobia leads him to conclude that if some girl can win the competition, he could easily win too. Takato chimes in and says that he wants to find this girl, and that he needs to find her, but he slips up and says that he needs her instead of elongating the phrase. The slip is really less of an unconscious replacement of terminology like a Freudian slip, as Takato’s error relies more on omission of an important phrase, but it seems to relate the same information. Takato, who has been dreaming about this girl and has had a few run-ins with her to date, has developed some sort of unconscious hang-up on her and wants to see her again, wants to help her out of her apparent loneliness through friendship and, as is always implicit in these cases, potentially something more.

Jeri enters the room at this unfortunate moment and asks, ‘Takato needs a girl? What for? Will I do?’ This makes Takato immediately blush, betraying another interest Takato has been harboring. Jeri knows where he lives and seems comfortable around Takato and his friends. She is his friend and his classmate, and the two have a familiarity that makes them close, but at a time in life when boys and girls find too close of a relationship to be socially ostracizing and unacceptable by some of their peers. The development of a psychosexual theme begins at this early stage in the series and will continue to develop as the series continues.

When Takato leaves school for the day and heads toward the park where Guilmon is hidden away, he sees a line of federal vans nearby and assumes the worst: that his friend has been found and is being taken away by the government as he speaks. This imagined outcome is not akin to the relative governmental innocence portrayed by the Adventure cast in the original series, who attempt to hide their Digimon but often with no forethought of their discovery leading to their confiscation by the federal government. Konaka’s narrative in Tamers is much more nuanced in this regard and less innocent about what would happen if Digimon were found in the real world: confiscation, government cover-ups, possible dissection, etc. Luckily, Guilmon hasn’t been found by anyone. Takato’s D-Power scanner leads him to Guilmon, who is hiding in the bushes, thinking her has been playing hide ans seek with Takato.

The two leave the forest in order to prevent the feds from finding Guilmon therein, and they head into the city, all the while Guilmon pretending to be merely a boy in a Digimon suit (the trick works). Takato’s D-Power begins to glow red and Guilmon runs off toward a nearby parking garage wherein waits Rika and Renamon who begin to battle against Guilmon and Takato once more. Cars are destroyed, Guilmon goes berserk and wild once more, and Henry arrives, again, in the nick of time to stop the battle. He explains that Digimon do indeed fight one another in the Network, but that their arrival in the real world must hearken to some truth with which they are all currently unfamiliar. That the Digimon in the real world must have a different purpose than fighting one another.

Rika and Renamon are undeterred and continue their assault, but Terriermon moves into the way of Renamon’s Diamond Storm barrage. Instead of being destroyed, Terriermon Digivolves through Henry’s bond and his worry over the well-being of his partner Digimon. Gargomon appears, but like Guilmon, has no control over himself and becomes a fighting machine bent on destruction and death. Without any consciousness of his past identity, Gargomon begins to destroy almost every car in the garage and fling rounds of Gatling gun bullets towards everyone in the area. Guilmon and Renamon work together to take down Gargomon and weaken him enough for him to de-Digivolve into Terriermon once again, but not before Gargomon almost kills Rika. The encounter leaves Rika puzzled over whether this is the outcome of all Digivolutions to the Champion-level, and whether she should actually be prompting Renamon to move on to the next level when she too might become unruly and uncontrollable in the process. The encounter is an evental one in which Rika comes face to face with the prospect of her death, with the Real of the primality and alien nature of Digimon, as an existential event that makes her reevaluate everything she’s presumed about these creatures. And more than that, this event in the series is the most radical moment of the series hitherto. A tour de force of thought and expression meet in in one moment to bring something new and poignant to the Digimon fan.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Strangers on a Train

(Check out my previous film noir essay here: Beat The Devil. Or my previous Hitchcock essay here: Foreign Correspondent)

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 psychological thriller film noir Strangers on a Train really begins the classic period of American Hitchcock filmography from the early 50s to the mid-60s when he directed his greatest works. The transformative potential of this film in particular is notable due to Hitch’s cinematographic collaborator on the film, a Hollywood staple named Robert Burks. Strangers on a Train would be Burks’ first film for Hitchcock in what would become a 14-year working relationship during which Burks provided cinematography on I ConfessDial M for MurderRear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Birds, and finally, Marnie in 1964.

Their close working relationship during this time, which included every Hitchcock film from 1950-1964 except for Psycho, developed an iconography of signs and metaphors, of visual cues and expressions that produced Hitch’s most symbolically-laden imagery to date. And practically every film they worked on together are either classics of Hitch’s film output (e.g. Rear WindowThe Wrong ManVertigoNorth by Northwest, and The Birds) or critical classics that showed Hitch similarly at the height of his powers.

On the production end of things, Strangers on a Train is important for another interesting reason: it’s script process. The film is an adaptation of the first novel by Patricia Highsmith who was put on the map by it’s adaptation as a major film by Hitchcock and through the Hollywood system. She would later become known as something of a mistress of the dark for her ability to write great thrillers from existentialist and psychoanalytic angles, low-brow fiction from a high-brow perspective that was unafraid to broach the evil at the heart of all people and its latent potential for brimming over from the unconscious locus of possibility into the light of the day, into reality. She was later given the moniker of ‘the poet of apprehension’ by Graham Greene for her ability to construct a taut thriller akin to the level, at least, of Hitch’s own renowned ability in film, to create complex stories that could keep the average reader on the edge of his/her seat.

After acquiring rights to the book’s film adaptation (for a low-ball $7,500 USD, which Hitch managed to swing by keeping his name out of negotiations, as the knowledge of his attachment to the project would have run up the cost significantly), Hitch hired Whitfield Cook to create a treatment. Cook’s major contribution was the heightening of the latent homosexuality of the book’s protagonist Bruno Antony, which managed to make it into the film in a veiled manner. After Cook’s job was finished, the production began searching for a ‘name’ writer to attach to the project in the role of principal screenwriter.

An extensive search began in which the offer was flatly rejected by John Steinbeck and Thornton Wilder along with five others,. Dashiell Hammett was in talks for a time to do the job before he too pulled out. Finally, the acclaimed hard-boiled author Raymond Chandler was broached by the production and accepted their offer to adapt the screenplay alongside Hitchcock. But the two famously butted heads regarding method as Hitch enjoyed talking about themes and motifs ancillary to the job of actually writing the script, often taking hours to do so. Chandler was as hard-boiled and straight-forward as the protagonists in his own works and as such, rebelled openly against Hitch’s methods and wanted nothing more than to get down to the nitty gritty of writing, and of finishing the script. After making a crack about Hitch’s weight and spending some weeks unable to accomplish anything on the script, Chandler was fired from the production.

A search for a new screenwriter began and was quickly found as the studio recommended Czenzi Ormonde. She proved up to the task and began work on the script just at the same moment that Hitch began shooting scenes in Washington D.C. Alongside the associate producer Barbara Keon and Hitch’s wife Alma Reville, Ormond worked on the script, only finishing the final scenes days before they were shot. In the end, much of the film was shot off the cuff and the ending sequence wasn’t decided upon until the very last minute. All of which, I believe, adds a certain kinetic force to the filmmaking. Hitch couldn’t, as he was characteristically won’t to do, storyboard every last sequence, and as such, Robert Burks had more power of creative input. As a result, the film is more traditionally expressionist than the typical Hitchcock film and incorporates more techniques with experimental force than on almost anything since his breakthrough film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, in 1927.

The film is the story of a pair of men who are, in a sense, doubles or doppelgangers of one another. It opens with two men leaving two separate taxis, both men wear nice suits and carry briefcases, they both enter the same train, the same passenger car, and sit across from one another. The light character in this play of opposite doubles is Guy Haines, a rising tennis star (tennis being a common Hitchcockian trope) on the amateur circuit with designs on a new woman, a new wife named Anne Morton, the daughter of a Senator who could catapult the young man into a future career as a politician. His shadow, Bruno Antony, a psychotic man with a flamboyant demeanor who suffers from a complex derived, no doubt in large part, to an overbearing and overly protective mother (as is so common in the cast of characters within a Hitchcock film).

Bruno hates his rich father who, quite logically and rightly, wants his son to work to gain his keep and build his own fortune. The old man refuses to give Bruno a large stipend with which to while away his time and insists that the middle-aged man work for a living and develop himself in the process. Bruno wants to bump off the old man, but he wants to do so without being caught. So he has tracked down Haines in an attempt to make him an offer. Bruno will knock off Haines’ current wife if Haines kills Bruno’s father. This way, Bruno reasons, both of them will have an alibi as they can arrange to be elsewhere when the murders are committed. Second, since the two of them have no connection to one another, the real murderer in each case cannot be identified as the suspect by the police (unless someone makes a grave mistake in the process and leaves themselves open to being caught on grounds of some strong material evidence). In a few words: the perfect murder (another trope common to Hitchcock’s films).

Haines views the offer with suspicion and pegs Bruno from what he is: an insane man. He leaves the train and stops off in his hometown of Metcalf to arrange his divorce from his wife Miriam. We find that not only is she an extremely promiscuous harlot who has pushed Guy into moving on to Anne Morton by seeing another man and becoming pregnant by him, but Miriam has also found out about Guy’s D.C. aspirations (which hinge on his marriage to Anne) and has decided to make him into an even bigger cuckold. She blackmails Guy into not filing for a divorce with the information that she will claim the child is his and that he is unjustly leaving her, which will damage his reputation and his chances in Washington. She wants Guy to bring her to D.C. with her and continue their marriage, though she has no plans on aborting the child, or becoming faithful to him once they move.

Guy is incensed, as he should be. Miriam had been asking him for a divorce for months and finally, once he has gained the funds to go through with the paperwork to do so, she is now blackmailing him. Miriam deserves to die. Guy shows his anger in public against her, handling her physically and trying to coerce her into signing the divorce papers she had agreed upon, indeed insisted upon, mere days prior by telephone. Later, on the phone with Anne, he tells her that he could just strangle Miriam. So, when Bruno goes through with his side of what he thought was an agreement and strangles Miriam to death at a local fair in a secluded spot known as ‘Magic Isle’, Guy is an immediate suspect.

But he has an alibi, he thinks. When returning to D.C. from Metcalf, he met a man on the train who was a professor. The man spoke with Guy about mathematics and told him where he taught. However, the man was drunk and when called upon the next day for verification that he met Guy on the train at the time the murder took place elsewhere, he doesn’t remember Guy at all. Guy is under suspicion of the crime and will be followed by undercover officers for the remainder of the film as the psychotic Bruno increasingly impedes upon Guy’s private life and promises to ruin Guy if he doesn’t kill Bruno’s father.

We have here a classic Hitchcockian set-up with Guy as the Wrong Man (who also happens to be an ordinary person: another Hitchcockian trope), all evidence pointing to him as the murderer in a crime he didn’t commit, but is nevertheless ideologically guilty for as he would have committed it if he had a stronger will. The cultured villain appears as the upper-class, well-read, and eminently moral (though psychotic) Bruno. Bruno gains an item of Guy’s while on the train with him: Guy’s lighter, engraved From A to G (From Anne to Guy). Bruno also fits the trope of charming sociopath, which is connected to the concept of the cultured villain. This serves as a playing chip in Bruno’s leverage over Guy, but is also a MacGuffin that reappears throughout the film: first in Bruno’s lifting of the object, later in his dropping of the object at the crime scene and his return to grab it, and finally in his attempt to place it back at the place of the murder to incriminate Guy with hard evidence.

The Lighter MacGuffin functions to drive the plot forward as an item with power over circumstances, which incites desire in both Guy’s and the police department’s wish to acquire it within the right context (Guy’s context of owning it once again to prevent Bruno from incriminating him any further and the police’s context of finding it on ‘Magic Isle’ as a tool to incriminate Guy and call to a close the case). Also crucial to the definition of a MacGuffin is the innocuousness of the item and relative unimportance of its particular characteristics. The lighter could have been another existing object that linked the crime scene to Guy like a piece of identification in a wallet, or a piece of clothing belonging to Guy, for example.

In the novel, the parallel between Guy and Bruno as doubles, and of Bruno as Guy’s dark eternal opposite, is even stronger as Guy goes through on his end of the bargain. Hitchcock establishes them as doubles only through mutual guilt. Bruno has the guilt of killing Miriam, while Guy has a different guilt through his association with Bruno after the fact, their many back-alley dealings that make them, at least seemingly, accomplices, and Guy’s real desire to kill his wife. All of these things produce a guilt in Guy not associated with Christian morality (as is so often common in Hitch’s narratives), but more strongly with the Freudian psychoanalytic concept of transference of guilt that Guy gains through collaborating in the secret of how the murder was accomplished.

This secret is what draws the ordinary person qua wrong man into the domain of ideological collaboration with the cultured villain/charming sociopath, which illustrates the point of Highsmith’s original novel: that within each person lies the ability to become monstrous, to come to terms with the abyss that is the primal Ground of Being by accepting it. That anyone can become horrible through understanding the Real of traumatic experience always on the threshold, the Real of total freedom ceded us in the postmodern age through the death of god. The total freedom that at once opens up new vistas of action it calls upon moral creatures to recognize and respect. The domains of action today’s cultural conservatives believe each person too stupid and corrupt to properly negotiate. Except for themselves that is.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: The Chase]

Infornography (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 11)

(Layer 10)

Episode 11 is half-recap and half-narrative. Unlike the vast majority of anime recap episodes however, in Serial Experiments Lain, the recap assumes you have seen all of the past episodes already (as you really can’t recap the series’ first ten episodes in one episode anyway) and just throws images of the most important moments from the earlier episodes at the viewer. It achieves this in a novel way through the episode’s first half by showing Lain in her room as she wires more facial sensors and cranial sensors to the outside of her body creating a dense network of lines connecting her to her advanced Navi and to the Wired.

A white screen: ‘No, it’s nothing as ambiguous as “memory”.’ Lain’s home is shown as unkempt, clothes strewn upon the ground, the faucet dripping water onto dirty dishes from who knows how long ago. A soundtrack begins to play that will carry on through much of this opening section as Lain enters a hallucinogenic state, remembers her past memories, and slowly uploads Navi’s capabilities to her own brain, eventually making Navi and any port for the Wired unnecessary as Lain begins able to automatically connect to the cloud of the Wired with just her augmented brain.

In the sequence, flashbacks occur reminding us of the centrality of the Cyberia murder-suicide by the young Accela-freak and of Chisa killing herself to enter the Wired. Flashbacks to Mika disappearing, her father and mother figures ignoring her, Tachibana’s president, Professor Hodgeson, Taro and his friends. There are bits of information throughout like the fact that Tachibana Research Labs mapped the human genome. Lain sees the young girl killing herself once again, by walking in front of a train, and remembers Taro kissing her. She remembers her confrontations with the Lain of the Wired and with Eiri, and finally a message appears: ‘A loving heart is searching for you.’ And another, ‘alice, LOVE needs you…’

The sequence ends and Lain is shown in her room, awakening from her experience and coming to once again in the real world. As she lays down to sleep, Eiri appears and asks if she is tired from her herculean effort. He explains how incredible this undertaking truly was as she’s ‘loaded an emulator of that Navi into’ her own brain. He explains how dangerous the process was, that downloading that much content at once puts a strain on even the most resilient of bodies and that at her current capacity she should stop there or else overflow and destruction of her brain is a possibility.

Eiri may be right here, but his advice should be suspect to Lain who realizes by now that Eiri is definitely not a trustworthy figure, and worse, is certainly a figure with plans to manipulate her to his own ends. Lain responds to Eiri’s concerns: ‘Am I a machine? Don’t talk about me like I’m a machine.’ Eiri apologizes and explains that her’s is not a hardware problem, a machine problem. Rather, she is just a piece of software, albeit a rather complicated one, ‘an executable program with a body.’ The information isn’t exactly news to the attentive viewer, but may be so to Lain who seems confused. At any rate, the information isn’t any better than being a machine, as software is more malleable, but even less substantial than a machine. Amorphous and filled with latent potential at the cost of being on a lower order of reality ontologically speaking. Eiri disappears and Lain falls asleep.

Later that night, Lain awakens and begins to walk about the streets below her home. Still angry at Eiri’s proclamations, and thrashing about verbally, she screams to the sky: ‘Shut up!’ A form recognizes her call and gets up from the sidewalk nearby. A static man with an amorphous form, some kind of shade also betwixt and between the Wired and the real world. He moves to cross the street and as he passes Lain, the digital ghost of Chisa is revealed behind him. Lain is overjoyed to see her friend: the one who alerted her to the possibility of breaking the border between the real world of the Wired in the first place, the one who told her that having a body was unnecessary. However, Chisa is no longer so happy-go-lucky and appears sorrowful, mournful, a mere ghost of her once vibrant digital self (as in the days following her suicide in the real world).

A boy appears. The one at Cyberia who was hooked on Accela and shot up the club before he killed himself. ‘It’s easy to die, Lain. Right?’ Chisa combats the boy’s shade: ‘There’s nothing easy about dying.’ The boy talks over Chisa and explains that she’s wrong, that dying really is easy, and tells Lain that she already has the tool to get the job done. And in Lain’s hand is, indeed, a pistol. the boy tells her how to operate it and directs her to do so, but Lain is indecisive. He tells her that bodies are meaningless and needless, that she should escape her current body. But for this version of Lain, the version I have consistently referred to as the real Lain, and the one the series purports to be our protagonist throughout, the boy’s truth may not be her own.

This Lain is instantiated into a body. Her consciousness in this body is that of a young girl, which has modified how her software operates and is implemented. Without the body, this vagary of Lain may even be subject to warring with and against the other more powerful digital Lain’s like the Lain of the Wired, or the Social Lain. Furthermore, this Lain instantiated within a body has modified her body and brain to carry a Navi emulator. Her augmentation makes her more powerful than her digital selves in this current form, it makes her relatively invulnerable to their influence, and it may be the key to defeating Eiri whilst simultaneously not destroying herself in the process. Lain tells the boy that he is wrong and Chisa addresses Lain. When Lain turns in Chisa’s digital ghost’s direction, she sees a digital sky on the horizon: a mess of wires with free flowing electric currents running between them and giant telephone wire terminals beyond, looming like spectres of some great infrastructural force, some icon of domination and hegemony in this social-digital space in which Lain is one of the few real denizens (especially after the fall of the Knights of the Eastern Calculus).

The scene shifts to an apartment building. To Alice’s apartment building. Within, she is conversing over a video screen to one of her friends at school who assures her that if she finds a boyfriend, people at school will have to believe that the rumors about her and her teacher are false, a lie. Once the girl leaves the teleconference chat, Alice speaks to herself: ‘It’s not a lie.’ She really did have the fantasies about her teacher that were reported to the Wired by the Lain of the Wired, who Alice, understandably, mistook for the real Lain, the Lain that was her friend. Alice’s door cracks open and a figure is seen with a red-striped shirt (like the one mentioned time and again by the girl on the Wired who is being stalked by a young kid wearing one), but with grey legs and arms, elongated and distorted into abnormal shapes (like the grey alien that Lain ‘saw’ at her door a fe episodes previously).

Alice, terrified, asks who is at her door. The figure reveals its face as Lain. This new amorphous body has appeared in a horrendous form that would scare the hell out of anyone, and that’s just what it has done for Alice. Why Lain has chosen such a form is unknown. Alice asks Lain what has happened to her and Lain begins to explain that she wasn’t the one who leaked the information about Alice to the Wired. She tells her that she never could have done such a horrible thing, but Alice refuses to believe her as she saw Lain (actually the Lain of the Wired) in her room at the time when she was fantasizing about her teacher. Lain explains that she is not the only Lain and that Alice may not be the only Alice (as we saw previously when Lain went to school, was unseen and unremembered by anyone, but was addressed briefly by a form of Alice who rebuked her and told her she was no longer wanted and that her physical body was a hindrance).

Lain continues to explain that she knows Alice will never believe that she didn’t spread the rumors to the Wired. But she has been developing new strengths and abilities that will hopefully give her the power to really delete the past event. ‘I’ll make it so that it never happened. I’ve been working really hard to be able to do that.’ She explains that she is now has an augmented brain, can freely move between the realms of the Wired and the real world, and, as we know by her appearance in this room in an amorphous form, has broken the barrier between the worlds. This means that Lain can not only access the Wired from her own brain terminal at any time and has become fully cyborgified, but that within the context of the metaphysics of Serial Experiments Lain, she can code reality (as an extension of the coding of the Wired from which it is in some way connected either as a hologram or an extension of that coding) and change reality whilst being within it.

Lain ensures Alice that she should be able to delete the past event and make life bearable for her once more at school and in her social life. Lain then disappears, leaving Alice confused, concerned, and horrified. Scared at the prospect of what has happened to her friend, at the idea of life really being so malleable, and at the concept of a world in which things can be manipulated through coding. And she should be scared as her old friend Lain has become something horrible in the process of her awakening: a cyborg with the power of a god. Power on a level much higher than anything ever demonstrated by Masami Eiri, the so-called god of the Wired.

Finally, the next day, Alice heads to school. When she arrives, her thoughts are muddled and she’s in something of a fog as she walks with her head down and her pride and reputation all but destroyed. Julie and her other friend (whose name I keep forgetting, or perhaps, never learned, like Lain’s parents for instance) approach Alice and asks why she appears so depressed. From afar, they see the teacher Alice was known to have had fantasies about, and talk openly about how they find him attractive, and how there are rumors he is dating an 8th-grader. Eventually, Alice realizes that they have forgotten about the rumors about her. That everyone has forgotten and that Lain has succeeded in her stated mission of manipulating the past event and deleting it from reality.

The world turns white and Alice herself turns around to see Lain behind her, staring intently at her. She is awoken from this white haze by Julie who tells Lain hello, meaning that this Lain is not just a figment of Alice’s mind. Lain smiles in a grotesque, off-putting manner that signals this Lain one other than the real world Lain. This seems to be the Social Lain who split from the real world Lain after Lain initially tried to delete the memories of the past. And in fact, this scene may just be a flashback to that moment episodes ago when Lain deleted the past, but from Alice’s perspective. Or worse, and more confusingly, a mirror of that moment, which somehow initially worked, but only by splitting the worlds into one reality in which the event was forgotten and another in which it was not. If this is what occurred, then hopefully Lain’s new abilities gave her the strength to succeed in her second attempt in the real world. Or else, there is now an infinite series of world-splits and alternate universes in which Alice must continually experience pain and social alienation until some form of Lain, infinitely splitting off as well, saves her by erasing the past and then, splitting the world again.

This scenario could manifest in an infinite number of Lains who are disconnected, but once connected would be the collective god of multiverse, or the demigods all manifesting one true Lain, but ruling their own demi-worlds. Eventually, the universe multiplicity could become so high that, like the Wired (and the Internet) which has a minor mass, would eventually become supermassive and break down and back into itself, eating its own data in an ouroboros black hole fashion, ensuring the infinite loop never ends as information finds itself trapped and unable to escape (minus the evental surplus of two events which might escape as in Hawking Radiation and have an eventual effect on the external world. This external world’s conditions seem difficult to even determine at this point).

Infornography indeed.

 

[Layer 12: Landscape]

Rumors (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 08)

(Layer 07)

The episode opens in the series’ characteristic manner. Street lights, crosswalks, people, downtown life, movement through liminal spaces, way-places between work and home, life lived there though registered as non-life, as mere passing-time. A girl’s voice: ‘Do you want to be hurt, too? Do you want your heart to feel like it’s being scraped with a rasp? If you do, don’t look away, whatever you do.’

Next scene, a desolate desert wasteland. A young boy stands within this expanse of dust and mesas holding a large sword just as long as he is tall. Monsters generate and he destroys them in what is revealed to be a hack and slash virtual reality game on the Wired. He speaks about the existence of the god of the Wired and relates that no one knows if there is one or not, but that either way it doesn’t change the Wired’s functionality for users and makes little difference in the end analysis. Another monster appears and he asks Lain to give him a second while he fights the worm-demon enemy. The worm is apparently another player character in what we now find out is a multi-player game as Lain asks the boy what fun there is in beating other players in such a repetitive manner. The boy: ‘Nobody knows what’s fun and why.’ The boy appears to be the same kid who advised Lain on Psyche processors in Cyberia club in a previous episode.

Lain leaves and reflects on the door plate at the apartment complex last episode: ‘Tachibana General Laboratories.’ She goes elsewhere in the Wired and begins speaking with a knowledgeable individual about Tachibana. Lain seems to still be the same abrasive Lain from the end of Episode 7 in that she is flippant and sassy in how she delivers her remarks to both the boy and this new voice. The man’s voice explains that Tachibana is a huge corporation and probably wouldn’t do anything illegal, though he explains that he has heard some rumors. Lain asks for more information on this lead, but the voice changes topic and asks Lain, ‘Do you know how we’re able to exchange information in the Wired like this?’

Lain knows her stuff and chides the voice for testing her on such basic information. she explains that they can communicate effectively through IP addresses. The voice apologizes for underestimating Lain and explains that the current IPv6, instituted in 1995 to move IPv4 from 32-bits of information to the much more complex, and then necessary, 128-bits, was once a sufficient internet protocol to handle all devices connecting to the Wired. But now, even IPv6’s throughput has reached its limit and a move toward IPv7 is inevitable, meaning the bit information will need to be doubled to 256-bits (a doubling of bits is constant as IPv4=32, IPv5=64, IPv6=128, and so on. Note that in our real world, the one from which you, user, are reading these lines on this blog, IPv6 is still enough [in 2018] to handle all device IP’s and that IPv7 has not yet been instituted as the jump from IPv4 to IPv6 was enough to ensure plenty of IPs over the past twenty years). The man’s voice explains that large companies like Tachibana are the ones who are instituting the new IPv7, so far surreptitiously. They are battling over control of the new IPv7 infrastructure as control of this technology platform ensures control of the Wired’s economy. It seems that Tachibana is the main tech giant set to come out on top, and they’ve achieved this position through sabotage of other groups and companies.

Lain returns home from wherever she’s been to find her older sister Mika’s clone sitting in Lain’s room by her Navi. Mika isn’t disrupting anything, she just sits there mumbling, looking down at the ground, nearly catatonic. Lain leaves the room and goes into the kitchen to get a drink. Her parents are sitting at the dining room table, unusually stiff, not making a sound. She tries to gain their attention, bu they do not move a muscle or answer her. Lain relates how someone told her they were not her real parents, though she does so in a tentative manner, as the awkward and shy normal Lain we’ve grown accustomed to. They still don’t answer, but after Lain has finished drinking her green tea and washing out the glass, she turns to find them both staring at her intently with aggressive glares upon their faces. They still say nothing, Lain retreats.

Next, Lain is at school. Alice touches her shoulder as she enters the school gates. She turns to find them with angry looks on their faces. Alice asks if Lain really did it, to which Lain is confused and responds by asking what she is talking about. As Alice presses her and Reika exclaims that she of course had to have done it, tears well up in Lain’s eyes, Alice realizes that Lain has no clue what is going on, and decides to drop the whole thing. Alice: ‘I trust you, okay?’ She smiles at Lain, who begins to feel a little better about the situation but is still confused about what her Wired alter ego has done. Then a car drives by the school with a man inside that Alice recognizes before running off and into the school gates.

Lain goes to class and becomes consumed with her cell-Navi. She transports into the Wired mentally and passes rows of seated people, each with his or her own avatar of clothing without a body underneath or a head atop. Just clothing sitting on its own, and mouths appearing where they should be attached to absent heads. Each person spouts off different rumors they have heard on the Wired. Some speak of revealed sexual perversions in otherwise average people, others of the problems with protocol 6, others of some calamity that could come to the Wired as a result of the shift to protocol 7. Another woman speaks of a stalker who appears in her room as a small child, another of a hit and run confession from some pop star. Finally, a group relates rumors about The Knights and explains that they believe that the organization doesn’t actually exist and is merely an American hoax. Lain tells the voices to shut up and tells them that no one cares about any of this. The voices stop, but a new voice, the voice of a man, manifests itself above the others in importance.

The voice asks Lain why she doesn’t find their chatter interesting. Eventually, after some veiled references, Lain realizes who the voice is: ‘So God makes his grand appearance, huh?’ The voice asks how she defines “God”. If it is as creator of the world, then this figure is not god. It it is all an omnipotent ruler of the world, he is not god either. But if defined as plane-specific (in this case, the Wired) omnipresence, then he is god of the wired. Though he has admittedly a slight influence on the workings of that world. Lain presses the voice for more specific information on who he actually is, in the real world. He responds thus: ‘I am you. You must have realized that another you has always existed here in the Wired. You are merely a hologram of that other you. You are just a body.’

Lain refuses to believe this unsettling information and tells the voice that he is crazy to talk this way. He asks if she really believes that the her in the real world is the same as the Lain in the Wired. Lain merely responds that she is the only Lain, then the world around her fades and she begins to come to, once again, in the real world, in her classroom. If the God of the Wired really is an extension of Lain or another form of Lain, then the question of primacy becomes central. The god of the Wired has previously claimed that the Wired is the reality behind the real world of physical objects outside, that the data of the Wired is what generates the hologram existence of reality like a writer who creates a world in his fiction. As such, the Lain of the real world may in fact  be merely a hologram, a lesser level of reality ontologically speaking than the more sinister Lain of the Wired who is either coincident with, or another variation on, the God of the Wired.

In the classroom, Lain notices that all of her classmates are starting intently at her. No one is speaking, and when she looks up, she sees that even her teacher is staring at her. Lain closes out her cell-Navi apps and runs out of the classroom. But even there she finds no reprieve as all of the other students and teachers throughout the school seem to have stopped what they are doing to stare at Lain, to glare, and sneer, but never to speak to her. Even outside of the school, children in the playground or on the streets stare up at her through the windows of the school’s upper level and into the hallway where she walks. She receives an e-mail from an unknown sender: ‘Lain is a peeping tom.’ Then a message from Alice: ‘Don’t worry about the rumors! Don’t worry about it.’ A happy, chibi face of Alice is appended to the text. Lain leaves the school building and hides out by the sports equipment storage shed. The image of the Wired manifests itself for us, the viewers, as the Lain of the Wired turns. A portal opens behind Lain in the real world and the shed explodes. Lain is shown walking through the fire, unburned, unscathed, unaffected. A screen appears: ‘Searching…’

The scene shifts back to an earlier episode as Lain uses her power to search through yesterday’s events to find the instance in which the egregious event occurred. At an apartment complex, a girl’s room is shown. Alice sits within and her face is being touched by an older man, the man who she ran from at school on the following day when his car passed by. The scene is erotic, though only through description and not through visual elaboration. The man is a teacher and Alice is either enacting her fantasy for sexual pleasure with this man either in her mind or in some place on the Wired. As she touches herself and comes to climax, she opens her eyes and sees the Lain of the Wired on the bed adjacent to her. It is revealed that Lain of the Wired revealed Alice’s secret crush and the activities she performed in the room to the rest of the Wired, probably through video evidence, which destroyed Alice’s trust for a time. Ultimately, the event only made things awkward, though not unbearable, for Alice at school as everyone was sympathetic to her and chastised Lain for betraying Alice.

Back at home, the real Lain sits in bed tormented by this new revelation and by visions of telephone wires, of streetlights, of internet wiring, of crossing signs, and of the Wired. Then she enters that black space, the space of the Wired that is now so familiar to viewers. The real world Lain and the Lain of the Wired begin arguing. The real world Lain tries to choke the Lain of the Wired to death, but finds her data counterpart only laughs it off and exclaims, ‘I’m committing suicide!’ In the room, there are bodies seated all around. Each with the head of Lain, bobbling around, mumbling much as Lain’s older sister Mika.

Lain asks what the beings are only to be told that they are all her. The Lain of the Wired explains that Lain has always existed within the Wired, that she is omnipresent within it. Because she is everywhere, she is duty-bound to report all of the information she finds to the rest of the Wired. As such, the Lain of the Wired reveals that she was the one who hacked the Bureau of Information and also the one who told the rest of the Wired about Alice’s incident. If true, it appears that Lain is some form of artificial intelligence naturally generated by the Wired or coded into its creation by its programmers to keep the Wired open, to keep all events within it publicly available. whether it developed into its current complex form as the Wired developed and gained complexity, or if it arrived fully developed at birth, is a matter for further elaboration later. At any rate, the real world Lain seems to be a mere hologram, a second-order creation of the AI who exists in the real world as a way to extend the power of the Lain of the Wired into that plane of existence. She may be the force prompting the break between the real world and the Wired, a program or a drill or a hammer shattering the boundaries between levels of existence.

If so, she does so at the will of a large corporation or organization (not the Tachibana corporation who are competing with her parent company or organization, probably The Knights, to keep the boundaries between the world constant to solidify their own power base and control). If she is a creation of The Knights, then their attempt to destroy the real world Lain with the parasite bomb on her coolant system represents an attempt to silence an aberrant form of their Lain of the Wired who is moving beyond her programmed boundaries, Or, even more potentially problematic, an attempt to silence an aberrant form of the Lain of the Wired who has the power to stop the breaking of the boundaries between the worlds. Or even an attempt to stop this real world Lain before she becomes more powerful than they themselves.

Lain begins to act out in frustration against the dummy bobbleheaded Lains in the room as proxy for her feelings of violence toward the Lain of the Wired, which she cannot act out on directly as it would mean suicide in the process. Then she realizes something. She is not as helpless as she once thought and has power to manipulate the hologram of the real world through her will, through her very existence, through the light in her eyes, which is the power absent in her Wired counterpart. ‘If I’m really what you say I am, their memories of being seen by Lain…. I could delete that information.’ The Lain of the Wired confirms that this power is possible and prompts the real world Lain to try to delete their memories of the past day’s events. This should cause the real world Lain to pause momentarily, as it seems that by doing this she may be playing directly into the hand of the Lain of the Wired. However, the real world Lain does not think this through and instead goes forward with her attempt. A new screen: ‘Deleting…’

The next morning at school, Lain’s friends arrive and greet her warmly. When the real world Lain tries to join them, a different Lain emerges from her body and goes to her friends instead. They talk with this social Lain copy about going out together to Cyberia that night. The setting has turned into a white backdrop and a third Lain, the Lain of the Wired, appears and explains to the one-time real world Lain that ‘Lain is Lain, and I’m me.’ She smiles and disappears, then the real world Lain loses all color, becomes just the outline of Lain, and also disappears. But unlike her sister Mika who disappeared and was replaced by a clone, this Lain is resilient and reappears back at home, logs into her Navi and asks the machine: ‘I’m me, right? There’s no other me but me, right?’ Navi doesn’t respond.

Lain is split into three different aspects at this point. All three can seemingly manifest in the same spaces at once but is impossible to view as such by outside viewers. There is the real world Lain who still resides in the real world, but ventures within the Wired so often that she straddles a thin line of ontological presence and may in fact be the key to breaking down the barrier between the worlds. The Lain of the Wired seems like the original Lain manifestation who is the trickster, the shadow of Lain who commits evil deeds based on her coding and causes problems for the real world Lain. Now, there is a third Lain who represents the aspect of Lain as a social child of the real world. This Lain is, thus far, only a product of the real world, but her split from the real world Lain puts that Lain in real psychological trouble of succumbing to her feelings of inadequacy and shyness and depression and interiority, as without it, she is trapped as an emotionally troubled child. This final split could be what drives the real world Lain over the edge.

 

Cody Ward

[Layer 09: Protocol]

Weird (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 01)

Chiaki J. Konaka’s 1998 anime masterpiece is a 13-episode self-contained work of paranoia, techno-fetishism, and philosophical psychology whose aesthetics court everything from French New Wave cinema techniques and Le Corbusierian architecture to surrealism and Dada. It is quite possibly the only animated work to ever reference Proust. It is quite certainly one of the only animes to ever provide a robust examination of and philosophical anthropology for future technological society. It is prescient and condensed to such a degree that one might even call it a saturated phenomena in celluloid form.

The first episode opens with a coda. The city streets teem with night life, with ganguro socialites, preppy school girls, and tough guys. In a word, with idiots massed in the social squares, now near-defunct, where they pressed and pushed outsiders to conform through a thousand machinations both verbal and non-verbal, expressed and hinted. The death of those spaces today is a result of the pressing, a reaction by social dwarfs who moved en masse to the digital plane. But that’s now, Lain is 1998.

A girl walks in the street, hair in a ponytail , eyes magnified by horn-rimmed curiosities. She speaks, but her voice is unheard by both those around her as well as by us, the viewers, who are only privy to her words in intercards ala silent cinema.  ‘Why? Why won’t you come?’

She stands on the side of the street, breaking down in what appears to be a panic attack. ‘Why you should do that is something you should figure out for yourself.’

She stands atop a building, removes her glasses, pulls her hair out of the ponytail letting it blow and billow out freely in the night air. ‘I don’t need to stay in a place like this.’

She jumps and the blood runs free, inspiring excitation of horrified natures from the ones standing about, the ones below in the city who witnessed the impact. The coda ends. If only there were a better way. If only there were another place for her to go to, a place to escape from the real world.

Sometime in the following weeks. A neighborhood drenched in blinding white light with magnificent structures of complete simplicity and order. This is the Corbusierian neighborhood lit as if by the light of a thousand white dwarfs. Telephone poles and their wires line the streets, crisscrossing haphazardly in a maze of black lines signifying a deeper recess of more mystery, a place of grime, of dirt, of decay of the hidden subconscious darkness ready always to emerge from interiority: to exteriorize itself and engulf the light, the calm, the peaceful nature of the community. The structure is every bit as Lynchian as his Wilmington suburb concealing the sinister underground beneath 50s Americana: the ear in the field: nourishment for ants and for the paranoia of citizens.

And then, an unheard voice: ‘If you stay in a place like this you might not be able to connect.’ From out of a seemingly white expanse of nothingness, a door opens and a young girl, Lain, emerges from the total darkness within. Emerges from the subconscious of that city into the light that means to efface all individuality. The light that seems to denote something akin to the superego, to the collective conscious we all don when entering public space meant to homogenize, make palatable, and control idinal forces and the primal hominid whose existence is the kernel that remains despite otherwise successful attempts at domestication.

As Lain leaves this stronghold, she travels to the inner city on the local train. But the cacophony of voices and noises is a racket she detests and she finds closer identification with the telephone poles and wires she passes. She reaches her school and her vision begins to blur as everything is enveloped in white. ‘Everybody, hurry…’

Once in class, we find one of her peers is crying as other girls try and console her. The girl who killed herself in the episode’s coda, Yomoda Chisa, has supposedly been sending e-mails to her classmates from beyond the grave. Lain is asked if she too has received these messages, but not being very computer-savvy or interested she hasn’t even checked her inbox. As class begins, Lain’s vision blurs once more and the chalk-board dissolves into a fragmented indecipherable mess of code. A spectral sort of steam-like material emits from Lain’s fingertips- unbeknownst to her classmates- and circles about the room above their heads. ‘What’s it like when you die?’ ‘It really hurts :)’

Lain returns home at the end of the day to an empty house barely populated with sparse pieces of furniture. The sanitation of the outside world even reaches into the confines of this space, which is free when devoid of fellow travelers, but constricting when used as the way-station for sleep between days of monotonous work and schooling. Lain’s room is empty except for a small desk, a chair, a futon, and window lined with a row of stuffed animals. She has an old computer (which is quite modern by our own 2018 standards) that has a limited operating power, but functions through voice activation. Lain turns it on manually, then logs in through voice recognition software.

She has a message from Yomoda Chisa: ‘Hello, how are you?’ Lain answers and initiates an instantaneous conversation with Chisa who responds automatically through the computer’s voice software. She explains that she and Lain walked home together just once in their lives, that she has only given up her body to explain to others that she is really alive, and that she believes everyone will come to understand her more fully soon enough. Lain asks Chisa why she died, but receives no answer, only more cryptic messages. Chisa claims that she is not a prankster and that she is indeed the Chisa who Lain once knew. ‘God is here.’ ~Chisa. The conversation ends as Lain is visibly shaken from the dialogue.

At dinner that night with her family, everyone is relatively silent. Lain’s older sister leaves early and Lain tells her mother that she spoke to the dead girl online. Her mother doesn’t respond to this verbally or even with a minor physical tick. Lain eats and removes herself, returning back into her spacious den and donning her bear kigurumi. When her father returns home, she asks him if he will buy her a new Navi (the term for the advanced computers in Lain’s world). He pontificates about how the real world and the Wired are both domains in which people connect in powerful ways. Just as society functioned for millenia through connections in the real world, so too will society function through the Wired.

He stops here, but we can go further using his assumptions. The real world and the social world are truly demarcated by millions of structures existing in the one but not in the other. A grain of sand has significance to the real world but is no part of the social order just as logical axioms build the social realities assisted by language but are no part of the real order of things. Other elements like subways assist the social orders but are real phenomena made of concrete and mortar, while political units like States are illusory elements of social reality that have strong, sometimes catastrophic effects upon the real domain. The Wired is a new form of social reality created from the constituent elements of physical materials in the real world and symbolic orders associated with the social world. As such, it too can change reality one day in fundamental ways, just as social realities like laws, like gods, like nationalities change the world, mostly for the worst.

But in Lain’s world, mind is so great that it can generate non-mind. The hive mind and super-minds of the Wired one day have the creative potential to use their latent abilities, which have been magnified, to restructure the world. This will call into question the mind-body division and potentially stand things on their heads as mind dominates the division and George Berkeley is validated.

Lain’s father is totally obsessed with the Wired and barely registers his daughters words at all as he logs in and explores that new domain. His screens project images of numerous people, all headless as their real identities are obscured by their Wired alter-egos and digital signatures. As Lain tries to reach him from beyond the divide, her words lose sound. neither we, nor her father hear those words and we are given no intercards for elaboration. She is being neglected, and is shy and awkward. These problems will mount and eventually develop into full-blown psychiatric disorders.

The next day, as Lain ventures toward school, the train stops for an accident ahead on the tracks. The telephone wires in the distance are bleeding. She arrives at school by foot, admiring the telephone poles and wires along the way: a visual metaphor and instantiation of the Wired breaking out of the darkness and slowly creeping into the real world. A dense fog grows and settles around Lain as she approaches a train crossing. A young girl is standing near the tracks and moves out onto them as they begin to signal the approaching monstrosity of steel. Lain tries to yell out to the girl, but is again unheard.

Lain awakens in class, her head is down and she has been crying onto her notepad. The chalkboard blurs once more as her vision distorts itself and the message is revealed: ‘Come to the Wired as soon as you can.’ The exact same message that she will later find has been sent to her e-mail by Yomoda Chisa during the school day.

Finally, on Lain’s way back home, the apparition of Yomoda appears, passes Lain, and disappears behind her. Lain turns to see the girl, but finds nothing there. Then, she reappears. As Lain inquires as to where Yomoda is, and seems thereby to know she is speaking with an unusual being, the color fades from the apparition, leaving only a pure white outline, which subsequently dissolves into ribbons ala Salvador Dali. For this. I have no explanation.

 

Cody Ward

[Continued: Layer 02]

The Last Temptation of the Digidestined (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 49)

(Check out part 49 HERE. to go back to the beginning click HERE)

ExVeemon runs in head-first to fight MaloMyotismon and won’t give up until he either defeats his foe for dies trying. He punches MaloMyotismon in the face and seems to inflict some damage to the dark denizen, or at least to his pride, before MaloMyotismon releases a ray attack that envelopes everyone in the room in blinding white light.

In the following scenes, the Digidestined find themselves in ideal situations in a dream worlds of their imaginations fostered by the power of MaloMyotismon’s rays. T.K. imagines he is at home eating dinner with not only his mother, but his brother Matt and his father as well, meaning they are no longer separated by divorce and once again reunited as a family. Yolei imagines she is home as well, but without all of her siblings and huge portions of food and desserts for her alone. Cody is in the Digital World with his father Hiroki and is showing him the world that Hiroki and Oikawa wanted so much to see as children. Kari is in a park in the Real World where the Dark Spore children are all safe and happy with their own Baby and In-Training level partner Digimon. No one in that world messes with them or even bats an eye at the Digimon’s presence.

Their Digimon next appear one after another to help bring their Digidestined partners back to their senses. Patamon and Davis work to pull T.K. out of his illusion, as Hawkmon and ExVeemon call into question Yolei’s wish to be an only child, which she realizes is wrong both morally and emotionally as she loves her brothers and sisters. Armadillomon barely convinces Cody that his father is only an illusion as, surprisingly, Flamedramon appears in a hole in the whiteness surrounding the vision which leads them back to the odd realm in which MaloMyotismon is waiting. Gatomon and Raidramon (somehow there are three Champion forms of Veemon running around simultaneously) pull Kari back to her sense and out her daydream.

Meanwhile, Ken imagines that he is in the Digital World in a desert where the Digimon Emperor form of himself is tied to a pillar and is being tortured and beaten to death by a group of vengeful Digimon. Sam arrives and picks up the glasses from the Digimon Emperor and Ken calls out to him. Sam acknowledges Ken’s presence but doesn’t speak to him. Then Wormmon shows up and talks Ken down from his self-loathing once more, and potentially for the final time, as Ken next gives a powerful self-affirmative speech: “I’m tired of beating myself up for the past. I’m not the Digimon Emperor anymore. I’ve paid for my mistakes…. How dare he [MaloMyotismon] use my brother against me! I’m not a tool for darkness! And MaloMyotismon can’t change that!” The five other Digidestined, Armadillomon, Gatomon, Patamon, Hawkmon, and ExVeemon, Raidramon, and Flamedramon show up to pull Ken out of his alternate dimension.

Once back in the odd alternate surrealist reality room, ExVeemon, Raidramon, and Flamedramon all attack MaloMyotismon at once. Here, in this realm, emotions and hopes can become reality, and as such, all alternate forms of the Digidestined’s Digimon partners can manifest themselves simultaneously. All of the Digimon begin Digivolving and doubling until there are five Rookies (Veemon, Armadillomon, Hawkmon, Wormmon, and Patamon), six Champions (ExVeemon, Ankylomon, Aquilamon, Stingmon, Angemon, and Gatomon), eight Armor Digivolutions (Flamedramon, Raidramon, Digmon, Submarimon, Halsemon, Shurimon, Pegasusmon, and Nefertimon), two Ultimates (MagnaAngemon and Angewomon), three DNA Digivolved Ultimates (Paildramon, Shakkoumon, and Silphymon), and two Megas (Imperialdramon Dragon Mode and Imperialdramon Fighter Mode), that’s 26 Digimon, two of which are both on MaloMyotismon’s level vs. just him.

MaloMyotismon seems worried at the prospect, but even more so in the knowledge that his mind illusion attack was completely ineffective against one of the six children (Davis) who “had no fears or insecurities for it to feed off of.” Davis explains that he has no fears or consuming wishes or envy or jealousy and that he just lives his life and is happy to have what he does. And more importantly, that his only all-consuming interest at this moment is defeating MaloMyotismon, which would have been impossible in any world or frame of mind than the one he is now currently within in the first place. Both Imperialdramon’s attack MaloMyotismon with their Positron Laser attacks, which overwhelm him but also rip a hole in-between the worlds and pushes MaloMyotismon into the Digital World.

Once there, he begins to regain his strength by absorbing dark energy from throughout the realm and from the remaining Control Spires still standing. The Digidestined and their Digimon follow into the Digital World, but are now down to three Digimon (Imperialdramon, Shakkoumon, and Silphymon) in the battle against MaloMyotismon who has become stronger than ever before. As he grows not only in power, but in size, dark orbs are emitted from his body, which find their ways to the three Digimon and knock them all out for a short time. MaloMyotismon then rips open a portal to the Real World and begins to send his seemingly infinite spring of dark energy to that world in a bid to take over both worlds at once. And as darkness spreads over the home of the Digidestined at a rapid rate, and the Digidestined Digimon lie defeated on the ground before him, it looks like MaloMyotismon’s plans are about to come to fruition.

The episode ends here, but its time for a little bit more elaboration of the Realm of Emotions (a stand-in title as the place only appears in these few episodes and had no official name as far as I can find). The alternate realms in the Digimon Adventure Universe work like lines that stand in relation to one another in parallel structure when they are balanced. But when they come unbalanced for any reason, the lines, which are normally straight, become warped and bent and therefore closer to one another than ever before. As MaloMyotismon used Oikawa and he used Arukenimon, Mummymon, BlackWarGreymon, The Digimon Emperor, and The Dark Spore children to destabilize the Digital World through the creation of more tools for darkness, the planes were warped. In the Real World and the Digital World, physics applies relatively the same, but with some minute differences in ontic structures of beings (DNA being the basis in the former whilst Data is the basis in the latter). However, in the Dark Ocean, the dark dreams and hopelessness and self-loathing, in a word the dark inclination, of denizens therein make things real. Emotional and rational, that is to say cogitative or willed, forces are the constituent units of being, the ontic grounds of all things therein. In the Realm of Emotions, which is similar to the Dark Ocean, these same forces shape reality, but instead of fear and loathing and depression as the main forces, the forces of imagination, of creativity, of hope and dreams are the main forces. This is the shape of that world.

(Cinema, shot in the Real World but translated technologically through celluloid or digital data, captures the fears and the dreams, the anxieties and the imaginative creativities of its auteurs. It lies at a crossroads of all of these symbolic realms.)

 

One more to go,

The Digidestined Cody

[Concluded HERE]

His Master’s Voice (Digimon Adventure 02 Episode 13)

(If you missed the previous essay on Digimon Adventure 02, check it out HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Enter Chiaki J. Konaka. Along with Dai Sato, Konaka is widely revered as one of the two best screenwriters for anime in it’s modern epoch. And for the release of this Digimon Adventure 02 episode, released originally in Japan on June 25th, 2000, he was inexplicably called in to work.

Konaka’s works are generally psychological in thrust, with an intense focus on postmodern philosophical themes and techno-sociological analyses of possible future cultures. In this way, his interests align with writers like Manga artist Masamune Shirow (known for dense cyberpunk sci-fi works like Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell) and Dai Sato (known for his work on projects like Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Ergo Proxy, and Eureka Seven). In the same year that Mamoru Oshii released his classic anime film adaptation of Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell (1995), Konaka’s cyberpunk classic Armitage III was also released. In the following years up to the millennium, Konaka wrote scripts for numerous other classic work of dense, thought-provoking anime like Serial Experiments Lain (1998) and Big O (1999), both of which are among my personal favorites.

So why cast Konaka for an anime geared more towards children like Digimon? First off, Digimon by this point already had a history of interacting with auteur animators and creators through their work with Mamoru Hosada. That collaboration is somewhat legendary now, but ultimately involved Hosada created the pilot episode for the anime titled Digimon Adventure, the classic paranoid thriller of Episode 21 in Digimon Adventure 01 when Tai first returns home from a long sojourn in the Digital World, and finally creating the first movie for the series in the short film Our War Game!. The creative interplay continued in the future as Hosada eventually took ideas for Our War Game! and expanded them into his 2009 film Summer Wars. Later, in Digimon Fusion/Xros Wars the team would dedicate the third to Hosada by entitling it The Boy Hunters Who Leapt Through Time, referencing Hosada’s 2006 film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

Second off, Digimon Adventure 02 had been severely lacking in smart screenplays up this point in the series and the team drastically needed smarter content to catch a wider audience. This is where Konaka fit in and his contributions certainly helped to hold my attention upon rewatch of the series as it was a relative snore-fest before episode 13.

In the episode, Kari awakens from a disturbed sleep. She has been tossing and turning at night due to bad dreams. Waking in constant cold sweats and not getting enough sleep have led to much more stress for the student and Digidestined, and she seems to be developing something akin to an acute stress disorder that, if the root causes remain unaltered, could make her increasingly into a Lain-like figure, withdrawn, internal, not socially available or interested, anxious in social interactions, and prone to living a Puer Aeternus fantasy life within online culture.

While in her first period math class, she begins to feel extremely tired, the room around her fades away as a sea of fog encroaches and water ascends, reaching knee height. She feels all alone and within an odd existential void not quite within the human world and not quite within an internal world either. When T.K. looks over at Kari, she is shown blinking statically like a television set on a void channel. T.K. calls out to her and brings her out of her daze momentarily. Her teacher sends her to the nurse for a check-up to make sure she isn’t sick, but on the way there, the hallways darken and turn grey (not unlike the human world of Hosada’s Digimon Adventure 01 episode) and she imagines past times when she let others down, like her brother Tai. These feelings of insecurity and insufficiency continue to grow and then she sees it: a figure shadowing her down the hallway behind her, looking something like a spectral Goblinmon.

Later, T.K. searches for Kari and finds her sitting by herself on a bench outside of school. She claims that “they keep trying to take me to their world,” but is unable to explain who “they” are or make herself comprehensible to T.K. He tries to show his support and claims that he won’t let them take her away because he cares about her too much for that, but when Kari presses him and asks him what he means (hoping he will confess his feelings for her), he demures, becomes embarrassed, and promptly makes up an excuse to leave. This throws Kari into a deeper emotional spiral, which culminates in the other world taking her from her own. She blinks out and disappears from the Real World before Gatomon’s very eyes, leaving her backpack with her D-3 and D-Terminal behind in the process.

The world she arrives within is a deserted town by the beach. There is quai with a beautiful, but somber lighthouse emitting Dark Light out towards the sea. She has stepped over some liminal gate and been put into a state of Kamikakushi, or being Spirited Away, to a new world in-between the Digital World and the Real World that shows influence from both and has effects in both. In a dark tunnel, voices cry out for her help and when she goes therein she finds a group of Scubamon that are infested by Dark Rings. But they are not violent, they are weak and helpless and call for release from their pain by Kari who attempts to give them the release they call for, but finds herself incapable to tearing away the Dark Rings with her own measly human strength.

The tunnel begins to collapse as a group of Airdramon attack from above and Kari’s spirit cries out for assistance, resulting in the apparition of Kari appearing before T.K., Patamon, and Gatomon in the Real World. They pass through a liminal gate to her unique realm without going through the computer lab terminal, which later prompts Izzy to begin pondering metaphysics once more. Then the episode becomes straightforward once more as Pegasusmon destroys the Control Spire Lighthouse and Angewomon destroys the Airdramon (without freeing it from its Dark Ring mind you?!?!). They finally free the Scubamon with the power of the other Digimon, but the diminutive beings return to their ghastly spectral forms instead of their substantial forms, begin to recall some innate evil, and ask Kari to help them revolt against their undersea master and to become their new Queen.

The effective total of freed Digimon for the series would become 113, if the Airdramon had not been destroyed and if the Scubamon actually became good by being released from their Dark Rings. Instead, the total remains at 107. In the ending crawl, we see the outline of the Scubamon’s master in the mist: it is Cthulu! (Cthulumon?) This comes as no real surprise as Konaka is a writer for the extended Lovecraftian Cthulu Mythos and often incorporates elements of the mythos into his screenplays. Unfortunately, this story ends here as the plotline was not carried on into future episodes of Digimon Adventure 02, which is surely the series’ biggest creative sin (and there are many).

In the following years, Konaka would go on to write some of the darkest, most critically acclaimed anime of the 2000s like Hellsing (2001) and Texhnolyze (2003). All of these previously mentioned projects were ones on which he wrote the entirety of the script, but he would also go on to write one-off or short series of episodes for shows like Princess Tutu (2002) and Rehxephon (2002). And most importantly for the context of Digimon, he was the series creator and head writer for Digimon Tamers (2001), the third season of the Digimon anime franchise. This series would be acclaimed for its dark themes about the nature of neurosis, of technology, of demoralized societies, and of the dangers of postmodernity that we could one day face.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[P.S. In between each season on Digimon that I rewatch and review on this blog, I review other short anime series of twenty episodes or less. Because the next season of Digimon after Adventure 02 is Tamers, I will be reviewing a topical anime to get myself ready for Konaka’s Digimon series. This anime will be the classic Serial Experiments Lain. So look forward to that one in about two months from now!]

[Continued HERE]

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