Alright, this is the last of my Moments Twelve about death giving meaning to life, or allowing life to mean, or what have you. I’ve just been into that as a theme lately, I guess. And you may know that I can’t put said theme to rest without bringing Bokurano into it.
I mentioned Bokurano during a panel at a convention recently (not my panel — they rejected my panel idea, actually), and got a roomful of blank stares for my trouble. But I suppose that’s not surprising; its American print run doesn’t begin until February of next year. It may also have what OGT identified recently as a tendency toward the “centripetal:”
…[T]here are some works that are more amenable to the vagaries of an individual fan than fandom at large. Again, regardless of the relative quality or popularity of works that possess this trait, they tend to be complex and focused in their appeal. They are the works that are difficult to like or dislike, and more likely to leave a strong, positive impression on the viewer; they are our Serial Experiments: Lains, our Kaibas, our Sky Crawlers-s, our The Girl Who Leapt Through Times. For whatever reason, the centripetal response that manifests as a personal response to the work comes naturally, leaving them to be more subdued when discussed in a social context.
At any rate I have difficulty talking (or writing) about Bokurano for the reason OGT identifies here. Structurally it’s not so complex — it’s structurally interesting, mind you, but not difficult to follow — and so my difficulties with it are not those I have when I throw my patchwork critical theory knowledge at, say, Ulysses. It’s just that Bokurano is so damn personal that it’s difficult to share the experience you’ve had with it with anyone else. I wrote a brief post about it a few months ago, but I didn’t say much beyond “I liked it.” How can I? You have to feel it, and I can’t really convey that adequately, barring simply telling you that you have to feel it.
I suppose you should take all that as a disclaimer. I can’t promise you that I’m skilled enough with words to make you get why this moment hit me so hard (I can’t promise you that I even know for certain). But I think you’ll know where I’m coming from if you’ve read Bokurano. (By the way, if you do indeed get nothing else out of this post, get this: read Bokurano.)
Of all the children chosen to pilot the Zearth, Takami Komoda may be the plainest. She doesn’t seem to have any major complexes. Her dad isn’t so good at expressing affection, but he tries, at least; compared to the parents of some of the other kids, he’s veritably saintly. In fact, her plainness seems to be her biggest problem in life: she’s downright boring.
More than that, she has no passion for life. Or, rather, she has no interest in having a passion for life. Life is unreliable. She prefers the dependable world of literature to human interaction — which would have made a lot of sense to me when I was her age, I must admit. Growing up, she’s had a grand total of one good friend.
But by now, Maki’s turn at the controls of the Zearth has come and gone. Maki is dead. Komoda knows she’s next, and she knows acutely what that means.
And yet she doesn’t fight it. She’s afraid of death, but she’s prepared to die, and to die well, so the sacrifices of those who piloted the life-stealing, world-saving machine before her aren’t rendered meaningless.
And from within the very depths of tragedy, the beauty of the world is made evident. This, to me, is what Bokurano is all about. This is perhaps what tragedy itself is all about. Tragedy invokes catharsis, that emotional blank slate — but how does that work, exactly? I suspect catharsis is little more complicated than the realization that, if such a thing as “bad” exists, so must such a thing as “good.” Catharsis is perhaps less of a wiping-clean than a balancing, a realignment of something within us, some obscure worldview-related cog that we tend not to think about much of the time. Bokurano scrutinizes this balancing process, going so far as to counter its own bad with good, its ugliness with beauty. And, in the end, it manages to be a very hopeful and even happy story.
This is only the first chapter of the Komoda arc, covering the time between Komoda’s designation as the next pilot and her being whisked away to sacrifice herself for the continued survival of the Earth. But to me it’s easily the most memorable; somehow it manages to affect me more profoundly than even the arc’s conclusion, which is itself rather intense. It’s the simplicity of it, I think, the simplicity of a girl faced with death who finally understands her place in the world. She achieves this understanding without congratulations and without fanfare. And yet it’s such a monumental achievement that, for me, this simple chapter is the emotional high point of a profoundly emotional story.