「オルタスII」 (Orutasu II)
Ortus: a powerhouse of order in a world filled with chaos. The city is so orderly and the lifestyle is so appealing that even the living admit that life would probably be better as a dead person. As such they surrender themselves to the city’s queen and give up their old life in search of a renewed one, renouncing life and accepting death. However, in the land of Ortus, the dead simply don’t seem to have differed at all when they were living. Oh yes, everyone wears masks to conceal their harder-to-maintain bodies, but aside from that, the people of Ortus are just like any other nation. They have pride in who they are, they laugh, play, buy, have emotions, and live just as any other living city would.
Thus, from a purely sociological standpoint, the initiates of Ortus must die as a symbol of their oath of loyalty, of their commitment to the ideal of the undead city. It’s not for any actual benefit other than preserving the nationalistic feelings born from a conflicted age. It’s very much like when immigrants finally naturalize in their target country–one must first renounce their citizenship before taking on a new one for the sake of national identity. As such, while it does horrify Ai that Ortus asks these people to renounce their lives for the state, the actual matter of “switching sides” is not a big deal. Life will go on as normal, and while the initiated can never go back to being human, the current situation indicates that such a tradeoff would be unfavorable anyways. This thought process of course is based on the knowledge we have right now, and it very well could be (and most likely is) that Ai will find an even darker side to Ortus that’s completely disagreeable. However, as it stands now, the distinction between life and death has been blurred by Ortus, where each side can be just as human or inhumane as the other.
I look forward to seeing how the show will continue to explore these issues of the living vs. non-living in an ambiguous manner, for that’s what has been carrying this show so far. I’ve been less interested about Ai as a character (though her ability to get in ANYWHERE is remarkable), or how gravekeepers are mysterious beings, or even how people can go through fake pregnancies, than I have with asking the question, “What is human?” No longer can we view Ortus as an enemy of humankind, but rather as a fellow race of mankind that has differing views on the world, just like every other race. God may have abandoned the world, but it sure seems like some groups are doing just fine, where the undead can even enjoy a better life than those whose hearts are still beating. Along with continuing to illustrate beautiful backdrops that are more pleasant to gaze at than the animation, I hope that Madhouse continues to push forward this focus on the gray area, rather than some fantastical plot that’ll solve everything.
Side-note time! With the revelation of how Kiriko came about in this world, one has to wonder…why did they choose to stitch up Kiriko’s “parents” like that? Wouldn’t it be infinitely easier to stitch them up as their proper matches? However, I suppose one benefit does come out of being split–when one half knows about something, the other half knows immediately. Unless the two halves did physically communicate between last episode and this episode, Pox’s halves (her other half was featured this episode) may be able to telepathically communicate. Interesting power to have, though two heads controlling one body never ends up well.