And thus the series has reached its climax. And what a brilliant climax it is. The episode isn’t action packed – rather it has a lot of tension and a sense of surrealism running throughout. It’s certainly an interesting episode, and it sets out telling its story in an extremely chilling way, even making reference to a Kafka work Metamorphosis, which I thought was extremely appropriate given the situation of the main character.
This episode features Watashi rejecting every single club as the end of the previous episode indicated. Instead, Watashi devotes himself to being the “4.5 Tatami Ideologue”, living solely in his 4.5 Tatami room. For Watashi, the 4.5 Tatami room literally becomes his world. The reference to the 20000 Leagues Under the Sea novel in the previous episode is expanded upon and actually physically represented. Unlike Higuchi, who as we know has read the novel and has decided to go on a journey of the world like Captain Nemo, Watashi instead attempts to superimpose the world into his 4.5 Tatami room. The detailed description of Watashi’s room only serves to further convince us that this is his world. A lonely world, one where he has no body around him. A world that’s fundamentally incompatible with human existence, as he is forced to put on a diving suit in order to exist in that dank underwater world of his. It’s certainly a new metaphor to me, but extremely appropriate.
Vendredi brought up an interesting comparison to Captain Nemo in his blog post, and I think that the comparison is appropriate, at least to the extent that both Captain Nemo and Watashi have escaped from society as a whole. Yet their rationales are different. Captain Nemo escaped from society and its rules, bindings, and order. However, Watashi has escaped from society because he believes that his “rose colored campus life” can never exist. I feel that the two are fundamentally different in that regard.
But pretty soon something goes terribly wrong in Watashi’s life. Somehow, through one way or another, he enters into a world of 4.5 Tatami rooms. The Tatami rooms aren’t the same mind you, but they differ primarily in color, and as we find out later, in content as well. There’s certainly something dream-like about this world, or at least different than the normal world. This difference is made all too obvious by the transition from the cel backgrounds to realistic backgrounds.
Yet it is also at this point that Watashi brings up a rather interesting connection. He likens his situation to that of Gregor Samsa from Kafka’s short story Metamorphosis. It’s a remarkably apt comparison for two reasons. First because I believe that both Watashi and Gregor are both extremely inauthentic. Gregor refuses to give up his job, and even though he’s locked into doing the job, he refuses to tell his real feelings to his manager and he refuses to confront his father for forcing him to pay his father’s debts. Watashi is just so locked into his own imaginary world and so dishonest with what he really wants, that he’s a completely fake human being. I think his statement immediately after is really revealing as to why he is completely inauthentic: “But as I had not had much enthusiasm for going outside previously, wouldn’t going crazy trying to get out make me quite shallow as a human?”
The second reason is because both realize that even if you’re free from all obligations, it’s all worthless without human connections. It’s impossible to live any sort of life if you’re sequestered from the rest of society. That’s one of the fundamental lessons that Watashi learns throughout his travels in this endless world of Tatami rooms, and hopefully in the last episode he’ll actually apply an action to this lesson.
I do find it curious that even at a time like this, Watashi is still rather superficial. After all, he leaves his room not because he wants to escape, but because he’s driven away by the smell in that room since he had been using it as a lavatory. Even though he even said himself that he wants to escape this place, he doesn’t apply any action to his thoughts. As he travels through the rooms, he eventually finds money. Even at a time like this, Watashi’s own greed takes him over. He’s obsessed with this pursuit of money when he doesn’t even have a way to escape this strange world.
Watashi soon realizes that the world that he lives in is a world representing what could have been. Every possibility that could have existed, every choice that he could have made, they’re all contained in this world. Earlier in the episode, Watashi made a statement that I interpreted as him realizing the root of all of his problems: “It was because I could always go out that I confined myself to the 4.5 Tatami Room.” His realization was essentially the same thing that Higuchi said the previous episode: “The root of all your evil is in always relying on one of your other possibilities to get your wish.” Watashi’s problem is in always looking for a way out and not confronting his problems. At the start (or somewhere) in each episode, he always asks the question: “Who is to blame?” He can’t seem to accept the fact that perhaps there is no external force to blame. The blame rests on you, and only you.
Yet another core realization that Watashi makes in this episode is that throughout each possibility, he always seemed to be having fun. It’s not until we’re deprived of the everyday that we realize the value of those simple things. Watashi discovered that simple fact – that he doesn’t need to pine for the ideal campus life. Perhaps any other color will do. Each room that he traveled through has its own personality – its own color. Watashi never found that rose colored room, but isn’t any other color much better than the room that he started in that looked completely black, gray, and dull? Clearly the answer is an unequivocal yes.
The final interesting point about this episode is that at the end, the events at the end of episode 5 and episode 10 don’t exactly match up. There are some small discrepancies between the two events that should be the same. I’m probably just nitpicking here, but given the attention to detail present in this series thus far, I feel compelled to find some reason behind the difference, but I can’t so I’ll just leave that point open.
Overall a wonderful episode, and one that makes me hopeful that in the end, Watashi will realize his mistakes and finally come to accept who he is, not who he could be. But on a final note: