when that which I cannot touch touches me

September 4, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment
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In 2026, eleven years after the introduction of internet-connected augmented reality eyeglasses and visors, Yūko Okonogi moves with her family to the city of Daikoku, the technological center of the emerging half-virtual world. Yūko joins her grandmother’s “investigation agency” made up of children equipped with virtual tools and metatags. As their research turns up mounting evidence of children who have been whisked away to the mysterious “other side” of reality, they find themselves entangled in a conspiracy to cover up the dangerous true nature and history of the new technology.

So says wiki. I plunged into the show without knowing anything about it, and being more accustomed to more seemingly mature and serious anime I first found myself wondering, as I watched episode 1, ‘why am I watching a show about kids?’ Well. As of xx/xx/2008 (seriously, I forgot when- probably in June), I had finished the show, and decided that it’s good enough for a review.

It started out slow and nice, with quite a lot of seemingly stand-alone chapters. Think Fruits Basket minus most of the angst and romance (it’s a show about um, twelve year old kids, after all- so there’s no adultery or what-have-you).

Then came the action- almost every episode had some. The concept was fresh- the kids use dennō eyeglasses to see virtual reality superimposed on objective reality. To visually confirm something as virtual, the children often lift their glasses from their eyes. The visors also work in conjunction with futuristic ear monitors placed behind the ear, which allows them to hear sounds from the virtual environment. There you go. I’m too lazy to rephrase that in my own words. Pretty much the only problem I had with this bit is the Searchmaton, the maintenance and antivirus program that wanders around the city- not only does it have an irritating name (Sacchi), it looks like a giant red bean with a smiley face painted on, with two white fish hands… plus it always announces itself in a supposedly cute way, “boku Sacchi!” *resisting urge to strangle imaginary bean*

The characters are pretty good, and they evolved (not the amoeba to human theory, mind you) pretty well, with the exception of one annoying fella who I couldn’t help but be irritated with- this kid who blames himself for the death of his friend, bla x 3, although he started out as quite an interesting character. The lead character, Okonogi Yūko started out as a dull older sister character with a slightly annoying “let’s be friends” complex, but grew up as time (episodes) passed. The first major antagonist, Amasawa Yūko, managed to maintain my interest till the end. Okonogi’s kid sister Kyok… well, she goes around pointing at things and shouting ‘unchi’, which is kiddie talk for shit(=.=)\

The script is excellent. Only towards the end did I start to wonder ‘oh crap, is this turning into yet another conspiracy theory thing?’. Not that I don’t like conspiracies (they make for good entertainment), it’s just that I need something different, and that somehow… having twelve year old kids face up to such things just isn’t fair. You hear me? It’s NOT fair! Watching little kids having to take on cold, merciless corporations with no chance of expert backup or unforeseen economic turmoil just doesn’t sound very fun. Good thing it turned out alright in the end- twas corporate sabotage, not a conspiracy ala Ghost in the Shell. Simple stuff.

Having said all that, the biggest problem faced by these kids is that they really live in two worlds at once. Just exactly what is illusion and what is reality? Here’s what Okonogi’s mom told her after one particularly terrible situation, when the kids parents confiscated their kid’s glasses- it’s pretty much a one-way conversation, however, since she was rather depressed and only nodded “un” (yes)repeatedly:

“Is my body warm? Is it soft? Does it hurt a little? Do you understand, Yu-chan? Things you can touch like this, warm things, are the things you can believe in. Things that tickle a little when you hug them, or hurt a bit. This is what it means to be alive. There’s nothing like this in the world of glasses, is there, Yu-chan? Please come back- to the world of the living. To a warm world.”

Well, I did my best- it sounds more natural and less tacky in the original language. Quite an emotional scene, considering the circumstances, but back to the point. In such a world, what are the parameters for illusion and reality? Okonogi’s mom’s view (as of most other parents, in film or real-life) is the above, meaning that she completely disregards the virtual world. But is that fair? Could you seriously tell these kids not to be sad for whatever has happened in that world, when one girl’s consciousness was spirited away, another killed in an accident, Kyoko’s (Okonogi’s kid sis) soul nearly kidnapped, and Densuke, Okonogi’s virtual pet dog, sacrificing his life for them? Should they just pretend nothing ever happened? I suppose this applies to our lives as well- reality isn’t something for linguists or lawmakers to define. Reality is, I suppose, anything that gives us memories, be they sweet or bitter.

Philip K. Dick: “”Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

…close enough.

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