「 シュレーディンガーの猫屋敷」 (Shurēdingā no Neko Yashiki)
“Schrödinger’s Cat Mansion”
I mentioned Japan’s fondness of Alice in Wonderland last week, and now here’s another one: the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment. It has almost become a bit of a narrative device in anime, much like Carroll’s work, and any number of even tangentially sci-fi series seem very willing to cite Schrödinger (some more accurately than others). I can sort of understand why; there is nothing like working quantum physics into your story to make it sound smarter, even if it’s high school quantum physics. In fact, ‘quantum’ is an adjective that makes any boring thing immediately more interesting, even though as a word it’s not really an adjective and is not really interesting. ‘Quantum celery’ is appetising in ways that a bundle of celery can never be.
To be fair, Schrödinger’s cat is actually rather fascinating stuff for a lot of sci-fi nerds, and not just because it lets one dream about torturing kittens and still pretend to be intellectual. They say that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but as far as murdering them goes, use of a radioactive isotope is as needlessly science-y as it gets, at least compared to the old fashioned way i.e. stuff them into a bag and throw them into the river (half the time they drown, half the time they float and were therefore witches). And the quest to solve Schrödinger’s cat paradox is arguably what required the formulation of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics which in turn lead to every single stupid Infinite Crisis comic book storyline. Schrödinger unwittingly inspired an entire sub-genre of science fiction. But I’m afraid that his thought experiment has been much abused. Too often it is thrown into a story as if to say, ‘look, science!’. These days, like Stephen Hawking, when I hear of Schrödinger’s cat, I reach for my gun—or I assume an alternate version of myself who actually has a gun does. Fortunately, this episode is not really about quantum physics at all.
I can imagine how this episode was written. The question is asked, ‘What’s popular?’. The internet is queried for the answer. And of course, the internet has decreed that the only thing anyone really cares about is cats. 95% of the internet is cats, porn, or spam—sometimes all three at once (don’t google that). And so the decision is made, following the footsteps of Sir Andrew Loyd Webber: let’s just make people act like cats for 20 minutes. But the internet only knows of two kinds of cats: silly ones that make good gifs, and those owned by the neighbourhood crazy cat lady. Japan itself supplies catgirls with two anatomically uncomfortable pairs of ears, and those are all the demographics that are covered. Real cats, though, are not all playful kittens. You know why it seems like cats sleep a lot? Because they’re nocturnal hunters. Real cats see no problem with dragging possum carcasses over your clean carpet. They’re not even eating that; they just think your upholstery look better covered in gore. You know what real cats eat? Never what you actually buy them. That high-grade stuff that you think all cats will love? Oh, they love it too—up until you spend money on it. Then they’ll turn their nose at whatever your human peasant hands prepare. Real cats would hunger strike just to spite you.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m more of a dog person.
Can you tell by now that I don’t really have much to say about this episode? Yeah, sure the short avant garde segment was fun, and actually pretty well done. I could talk about how everyone should relax because film-strip-flashbacks were being done long before Boku Dake ga Inai Machi was doing it. I could wonder whether Koito could always breathe fire. But serious discussion of anything in Musaigen no Phantom World would require serious thought, and every time I do that it feels like I’ve lost. Let’s not mince words, this show is stupid. Your school’s going mad? Don’t worry about it, it’s just the season. And that’s okay. Embrace the stupid. Revel in it. Ah, but at the same time, Phantom World tries to entrap me. Sometimes with, say, honestly fascinating imagery. Or maybe a potentially fascinating ghost story angle. Or even a potential parody of a ghost story. But then, in a puff of lucidity, it is gone. Consider the Schrödinger’s cat metaphor. Consider how Phantom World contorts and twists itself into metaphysical knots to try to justify it. But no, you’re just tripping over your strained logic. It doesn’t work. Of course it didn’t work.
Ever been disappointed by the internet? In your most intellectually pretentious moments, have you not deluded yourself into thinking that it was a worldwide hub of information that will enrich mankind? Nope. All anybody cares about here are funny pictures of cats. That’s exactly this episode in a nutshell. And this episode is Phantom World in a nutshell. Are you fighting this, Phantom World? Do you sometimes feel the urge to use long words and correct punctuation? Too bad. Stop trying, Phantom World. Just follow my example, and give yourself the full lobotomy. You’ll be happier for it. Or at least, you won’t know to be sad.