Three women, three modes of communication
Before I begin, I would just like to apologize. I have been missing out on blogging the show that I am now CONVINCED is the best show of the season, and instead devoting my energy to rants on Angel Beats. There’s far too much going on in each episode of this show that I just want to go back and start blogging from an earlier episode, but I decided to start from 8 as it is the end of the recent arc that this show went into. It touches on elements present in both 6 and 7, so those elements in those episodes will be discussed as well in this post.
So now onto the actual episode itself. I also get the feeling that I’m writing too much for each post, and that people’s eyes are possibly glazing over as they read more, so I’m going to write multiple posts on these series that will each cover a specific topic that I want to discuss.
I think it’s appropriate to begin with a discussion on communication between two people, because that’s definitely an element in these three episodes that just jumped out at me. The three females, Hanuki, Kaori, and Keiko, represent three different modes of communication (or lack thereof), that each demonstrates something about how Watashi interacts with the world. In fact, one has to even wonder whether he’s being affected by a phenomenon seen in Welcome to the NHK!, where he is so trapped in his own perceptions of the world, that he begins overthinking everything and fearing everything. Watashi’s problem seems to come from this fundamental disconnect he has with the world – what he thinks in his head is ultimately not what the world is. He recognizes this fact even, but consistently falls into the same trap. He is the eternal idealist. So trapped in his own mind that he can’t function with the world at all. Communication is the how humans interact with each other, so it’s extremely interesting to see just how Watashi treats each of these different forms.
Episode 6 features Watashi failing at expressing himself through the spoken word. The club featured in this episode is the English speaking club, which contrasts heavily with the spoken Japanese word. I started to write a post on episode 6, so I’ll just pull what I wrote from there it turned out to be too long, so here’s a condensed version:
There is a certain disconnect between Japanese and English. As represented in that episode, English is the language of emotion and sentimentality. It’s not bounded by any social constructs as Japanese is. Japanese on the other hand, is a language built around the idea of social class. Watashi finds himself consistently stuck in the rut of Japanese. He is unexpressive, unemotional, and cold. Just listen to the way he narrates the show. Rapid pace, with no regard to any sort of expressive emotion at all. While Watashi pines for his “raven haired maiden”, he lacks a certain human part to language. He’s extremely awkward when it comes to direct lingual communication with another human being.
Watashi fails at expressing himself through the spoken word. This most fundamental of human communication is a literal foreign aspect to him. The one time where he’s able to express himself is in his hatred for Ozu. While every other person in the class can consistently speak in English, there’s only one thing that Watashi can speak out. And in many regards, Ozu is a manifestation of Watashi’s own fear of and disconnect with society, or at least Watashi is projecting those problems onto Ozu’s character. That’s an issue that I’ll explore in another post though. Anyway, is Watashi any better at any other method of communication? The next two episodes tells us that he isn’t.
Episode 7 demonstrates just how Watashi is unable to even express himself through unspoken words (e.x. symbols, gestures, motions, etc). The focus of the episode is on Kaori, a doll, and the Mochiguman club. Watashi’s role as the white Mochiguman is a clear depiction of just how powerful a symbol or action is. Watashi’s means of saving Akashi in this episode is not through speaking to her, but by merely standing in front of her. His action becomes a powerful symbol for other people to rise up and take action themselves to drive off the bullies. Yet Watashi’s behavior throughout the rest of the episode and even throughout the entire series shows just how he has difficulty with the transition between thoughts and action. One of the most important and obvious symbols of the series is the White Mochiguman. It’s the final missing piece of Akashi’s own self, and it’s also a symbol of Watashi’s own obstacle. The most obvious piece of the puzzle is right in front of him. He comes to this realization multiple times during the series, but he can never actually give Akashi the missing Mochiguman. Just going back to the end of episode 1, Watashi was completely paralyzed by the vast difference between thought and action. He couldn’t hand the Mochiguman over to Akashi, and as a result he was unable to complete either her or himself.
And to think the show could have ended here if he gave her the Mochiguman…
Though I’ve digressed a bit on how this disconnect between thoughts and actions plays into the entire situation with Kaori. The primary means of communication that Watashi attempts to engage Kaori with is speech. For God’s sake it’s a doll. When Ozu talked about the “sophisticated kind of love”, Watashi just doesn’t understand. He’s socially awkward, and does the wrong thing at the wrong time. Indeed, Watashi is so unable to actually act on anything that he’s forced to fabricate a voice for Kaori to communicate with her. He’s so disillusioned by his own mental perceptions of the world around him that he can’t apply his thought process to reality. At the end of the episode, Johnny essentially takes over Watashi and forces him to apply an action to the world around him. Watashi’s own personality is divided up into his id (Johnny) his ego (himself), and his super ego (the entire view he has the world around him). Watashi’s ego as of now ONLY considers the super ego. He can’t mediate between the two. He locks the id, the drive for pleasure and action, inside. The super ego pines for “properness” and “morality”, and that’s what Watashi obeys.
Yesss dooo ittttt
Yet there’s one final method of communication that the show explores – the written word. Episode 8 explores the Reading club, and the focus is on Higuchi Keiko. The episode begins with a metaphor of the written word as the ocean. The ocean is a powerful metaphor, because it encompasses so much of the human imagination and its so diverse. As the episode emphasizes, literally anything can happen on the ocean. The thrill of exploration to new places, the turbulence and power of a storm, and the calm after the storm. Yet while Watashi imagines this metaphor in his head, he does not view reading like that. Instead, he is far too obsessed with the grandiose thought processes in his head that he can only pay attention to both his own and the “real world” conditions. Everyone is sitting in a room. It’s silent. No color on anything. I’m bored. Get me out of here. I don’t think he got the message about what reading is truly supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about the discovery of new things. The adding to new experiences and the questioning of your own beliefs. But no. Watashi can’t wrap his mind around such things. Kafka once said that books are supposed to be the ax that breaks the frozen sea within. Watashi views the sea inside of him as ever turning, but in reality it’s frozen. The ax that’s supposed to break it? It sits there. Unused.
Why aren’t you paying attention the book?
Yet there is a certain power about the written word that Watashi loves. It’s impersonal. There’s no need to confront reality at all when you’re using the written word. When he crafts written words, he can do anything he wants. His mind can literally be applied to a physical object. That’s the reason why Watashi embellishes beyond belief all the letters he’s written. His mind and perceptions of the world around him can take a physical form. The letters that Watashi writes and the exaggerations he makes get at the core of Watashi’s problem. He’s just far too disconnected with the world.
He’s clumsy in speech because his own mental state is so out of joint with the true world, he’s clumsy in action because he locks his id out, and he’s clumsy in the written word because he exaggerates everything he writes. Will the show end with Watashi finally earning proficiency in all these forms of communication? Somehow I doubt we’ll have an ending that fixes all of Watashi’s problems, but it’d be nice to see him take a step in the right direction. In other words, GIVE HER THE F**** MOCHIGUMAN DAMN IT!