Last episode was pretty great. I had quite a bit to say, check out that lengthy post-episode write-up. Mayu made a declaration, that she’d make the decision, she’d sacrifice herself for what she loves, and so long she deems something as meaningful in her life, it all that matters. On the other spectrum we had Chiyuki, who deemed her own life meaningless, and gave us a beautiful ice skating and memory-montage sequence.
And now we need to see how it all shakes down, judging others, understanding them, and the “plot”, which had thankfully not been the focus of the show, leaving the stage for vignettes about humanity.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) The Dolls’ Heart-Strings:
1) So, Arbiters don’t have emotions (obviously a lie, though I guess they do lack empathy), so who is pulling Nona’s strings? Is everything done according to some God’s will? Is she defying the will of the one who created her? Not too unlike parents and children, who become their own adults.
2) Oh man, Oculus’s words to Nona, how could this be the finale? There’s enough material for an entire new show hidden behind those words, stretching both into the past and into the future. Nona is a doll, set to overlook other dolls, but who set her on her position? Yet another doll. And who set him? There’s the hint here that Oculus is as Nona is, or he at least was, perhaps a never-ending string of puppets, long-lost from its original goal. His message is one of hopes turned to ashes, speaking of what Nona will find, and the existence and malaise it may yet bring her.
But it’s not over here. What are the dolls made of? What is this whole tower erected upon? Turns out it’s erected on the souls cast to the void. Empty husks of people left after their souls depart. Empty husks, incapable of change, incapable of thinking of life and making the right call. Why only those sent to the Void? Is there truly reincarnation, or is it all just a lie? Is it because most Arbiters, like Ginti, send everyone to the abyss?
And there’s another option, arbiters can’t change not because they’re built on the ground of people who can’t change and thus were sent to the void, or of dead people who thus can’t change, but arbiters are built on people, and people can’t change, period. It’s not necessarily true (we certainly wouldn’t want to think so!), but it might very much be in line with what a doll like Ginti would think, centuries (or millennias) later, after becoming Oculus.
3) Nona sees her kind as people, who can change. This is the war to assert individuality, to assert that arbiters must not be arbiters. That arbiters can feel, that arbiters can change. That arbiters can be “not-dolls”, not arbiters.
2) Death in the Land of the Living:
2) I thought they went to the bottom level of the tower, where all the dolls’ remains were left, but is it possible they went down to Earth? Then again, who knows. Decim said, “This is reality,” but he might have simply meant, “This is not a dream,” as opposed to “This is the land of the living.” More likely, even.
Well, guess it’s “our reality” reality. “Suicide Tour” seems to be very much inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life. The question is why Decim is doing it, to understand Chiyuki for the sake of understanding her? To help him judge her? Or just for her sake?
3) Chiyuki is now being given the same question, the same test as Mayu was. Will she give up someone else’s life in order for the life she holds most dear? The judgment is usually simple, as people choose their lives over others’, and the judgment is there to make sure of it. Mayu was given the same test, but with someone else’s life instead of her own. Chiyuki committed suicide, which makes her problematic, because she’s willing to surrender her life away, but that does not mean there isn’t darkness within.
Meaning, this test Decim is giving her now isn’t going to change anything, unless she was given a renewed taste for life in Quindecim, and now in her home, seeing her mother again. Regardless, that he and Ginti provide the same “ultimate test” shows that they’re cut from the same cloth. Well, dolls on a manufacturing line.
4) Ah ha, before she thought humans can’t understand one another, but her time in Quindecim taught her, humans really are just that easy to understand, to relate to, and you don’t need to dig deeper. She told Decim as much after the two-parter with the killers.
Hm, but now mother says the same, that people can’t understand one another. Is it possible that this is the message, and somehow it’d mean what Decim and the others do isn’t entirely misguided? Well, at least not attempting to understand others, if not their goal. Perhaps Chiyuki only meant “People aren’t that complicated” in the sense that if you tug on their strings, they will move. The final “statement” on understanding others that’d be given between Chiyuki and Decim will be quite meaningful, to the show’s message.
3) The Sympathy of a Saint; The Sympathy of a Human:
1) Chiyuki had gained empathy, and sympathy, for the entire human race, by seeing a few in front of her face, she now feels it for every single member, even those she doesn’t know. She understood them. She understood them because it was her job as an assistant arbiter. She understood them, because as a fellow human, she could do naught else.
Chiyuki understood those humans, and now understands those who live, and she cannot take from them. She knows they’ll only wish for what she wishes, and she had already made her decision.
Decim is so surprised. Chiyuki doesn’t care just about those who will die in her place, but those who will remain behind the one who died. Chiyuki’s compassion isn’t just for the one she kills, and those who die, but for every life affected by death, meaning every single life there is. It is beyond him. Ginti would just not judge her, but is this not exactly what being “rewarded” should be about? Or perhaps Decim is just overcome with grief, because his judgments only revolve around those who die, missing the bigger tapestry of those left behind, which also impacts the actions of those who try to go back.
2) Chiyuki’s sorrow over others not understanding her, something she may not have had control over, transformed into sorrow over not trying to understand others’ feelings, something she did. How can you accuse others of not understanding you, not even trying, when you’re guilty of the same? That’s a big part of what being a human, of being a hedgehog, is about.
3) A lie. Decim cried, and his “Arbiter Eye” became “real”, because he stopped being an Arbiter? Doesn’t matter. What matters is Decim felt grief, over the grief he caused. He finally felt sympathy, even if not to Chiyuki’s situation, then to her sorrow. No, I think it’s incorrect. Decim truly did feel sympathy to Chiyuki, he felt the wish he could trade his life for hers. He felt sympathy because he felt pain over causing others pain, by not considering their feelings, just as Chiyuki did over her mother’s feelings.
4) Humans are but Dolls with Cut Strings:
1) Ok, Decim crying, admitting his wish to understand Chiyuki, that’s where my own eyes really got moist, not just a thin and ultra-momentary glimmer.
2) So, there’s an equal measure of suffering to go around. Either you make the arbiters into humans, and then they suffer because they must judge their fellow humans, or they’re unfeeling dummies, which cause more suffering to the humans whom they judge. But will humans judging humans lead to less pain, or will those judged perhaps feel even more pain, including to those who judge them? Oculus presents what seems to be a very humane approach – they keep the dummies as unfeeling to protect them from feeling. Nona’s answer is that being a doll is hurtful as well.
Also, a fascination with death requires a fascination with life. Thus, the arbiters cannot help but wish to live.
3) See, he smiled!
4) Memine doesn’t come back, she doesn’t agree with Mayu’s judgment. And like Decim, seems Ginti creates mementos for guests who left a mark on him, via his own brand of dolls.
Post Episode / Show Thoughts:
This episode, this series ended leaving the room for a continuation. This seems to be a trivial thing, but in the case of this show, it’s not. There are more cases to be judged. There’s the changed Decim. There’s the eternity of the dolls who live in the present and who try to get freedom, the freedom to feel, the freedom to live, and the freedom to die. There is Oculus, who does not feel as if he’s malignant, but playful, to alleviate his boredom, and also feels incrediblysad, in that he’s just trying to save Nona and the rest from false hopes, because he’s already seen where this road leads, which is nowhere. He’s trying to protect his precious dolls, his precious children, from being broken.
But being broken isn’t the “meaning” of life. He’s told us. To live is to die, to die is to be judged, to judge is to judge. There is no meaning here. He’s trying to protect his dolls from being broken, and that’s all there is to it.
Did Chiyuki get reincarnated? Where did her doll go? What happened with Mayu and Harada, because if they’re together, it’s not really the void, is it? The point of all these questions is that they don’t matter, just like it never mattered where each of the people we’ve seen judged were sent. Those are entirely the wrong sort of questions, but the show fed them to us to keep us guessing. So, what are the right questions? As always, they revolve around why. Why do the arbiters send each people to where they’ve sent them, why do the people judged act the way they do? And the answer is always the same – empathy and sympathy, and lack thereof.
It doesn’t matter whether Ginti sends people to the Void or to be Reincarnated, and it doesn’t matter what each means. What it matters is what sort of mentality it is that believes everyone should go to the Void, and what it means of the situations that leads to these judgments?
This show had masterfully woven an ongoing series of “Tiger or the Princess?” series of questions, ever since the OVA – where do people get sent? Did the arbiter make the right call? Is the situation workable? Did Chiyuki think you can understand others or not?
And while the answer to this question doesn’t matter, almost by definition, it’s the journey to discover the answer that matters, a journey revolving around empathy and sympathy, a journey not about whether we can understand other people, but about attempting to. A journey of humanity.
I’ll give this show 8.8/10. It always surprised me, it had given me beautiful vignettes, it’s made me emotional, and it made me thoughtful. There’s not a lot more one can ask for. It even did not overuse its “backdrop mystery plot”, which often is quite weak. Why not higher than 8.8? Why not 10? Because. That is always the answer in these lives of ours, better get used to it.