Last episode of Dimension W wasn’t very good. I wrote some words about it here. The biggest problem beyond last week’s apparent lack of energy and care by the creators was how little sense the mystery made, who were the other collectors, what was going on, why, etc. But while this episode had some thematic depth which I’d get to in a moment, it utterly failed as a mystery, because it was built on such shaky and uncertain footing.
“Who? What? Why?” We got some of it this episode, but other revelations such as Marisa being Enamori sort of came out of nowhere, the opposition collectors came and went with nary a whoosh. Sure, later they explained some things, such as how the author was the person who got it all starting, but it was more like an infodump at the end, rather than a mystery. A proper mystery requires you to have enough information to follow what is going on, even if you don’t have the answers. This would be as if we were watching Inception, or Vanilla Sky, but they just removed half of the opening act, and most of the mid-section. So it fell flat.
We also had more sexualized and in-chains Mira, and the shot where Elizabeth was on the ground being choked also got some love (and literal “screenshake”, what the hell), cause this is the sort of thing the show cares about, but that’s “colour” that I barely see anymore, but this tendency of “Bad Animanga Writing” also manifested in a few other spots: “crazy villains“, yes, this bit at least with her made sense, as these ghosts are literally someone’s nightmare, so them coming off as crazy caricatures is somewhat the point, but it all adds up. But, what about this fella? Here we have someone cackling with glee over how he’s going to disrupt progress for the world because of people’s greed, and if that’s not enough, he’s also sexually assaulting Enamori, and then moving to film his own snuff film as he tries to choke her to death. This is terrible writing. Give us villains that aren’t caricatures, and even if they’re caricatures, you don’t have to keep pushing to make them worse on every possible vector, damn.
Now, once we’re past the downsides of this episode, which are its plot and storytelling, culminating in Mira flat outtelling us what we still don’t know of Kyouma, ever since the first episode, let’s talk about what it did do right, which was its theme and sci-fi ideas, even if it still didn’t do them as much justice, because they were rushed as everything else.
So, themes. The themes I hoped for ever since the show was announced, finally tackled. We first had Mira wondering whether she’ll still be herself if she’s “restarted”. Since she’ll go off of the same set of memories, and same set of preset personality modules, so she’d still be “herself”, right? But there’d be a gap, and she won’t be able to tell she’sreally herself. And this is a metaphor for every single one of us. We keep thinking of ourselves as “ourselves” because we have an uninterrupted chain of remembering we’re ourselves, but do we not “reset” ourselves every single night? And can we truly hold in our memories an uninterrupted chain going back a year or more? We can’t. But we choose to think of ourselves as still ourselves, as the same selves we used to be. But this is a decision we make, and not necessarily a truth. And sci-fi, and this talk of “resets” should make us perhaps question how we operate. But here the answer was a bit shouneny, rather than discussing the idea, but it wasn’t the episode’s focus.
What was the focus in this episode was the concept of past versus present, of how your past self comes back to kill your present self, which does tie to the above question, showing that we’re not the same people before and after being “reset”, and as time takes its toll on us. About how we change. It’s also the story of all stories, of our past mistakes coming to haunt us, or growing past our past.
This was also tied to the whole notion of the “fake world”, which Mira overcame, but this was a segment much hampered by this episode’s storytelling and rushed nature. People make up worlds in their minds, and they let the worlds they constructed control them, worlds where they can’t save the people they care for, so will turn about and save others, or murder passersby. Worlds where they can’t save themselves and thus will let others walk all over them, toy with them, and they’d take it, whether because they think they “deserve” it, or because they think they are helpless to avert the disaster. And those were the shackles Mira was held by, the shackles we are all held by, the ones inside our mind, that whisper to us that we are weak and powerless.
Until she decided to free herself, that she will not go quietly, by another’s decree, by her own fears, by imagining a new future with Kyouma, as a collector. And the writer managed to imagine a new world for himself, so he managed to keep on living, leaving behind his ghost.
But the show’s final notes aren’t all hopeful, because even as it tells us we can leave the fake world behind us, we end the episode with knowing that clinging to the fakeness might be a sweeter lie than truth, and that the past can never be simply abandoned, and we all need to pay our outstanding debts. And thus the cycle of revenge continues. Even if it took the form of messy storytelling.