「 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.


  1. I’ve seen a post somewhere that this was suppossed to be a dark revenge story from the LN, I haven’t read it though so I’m not sure myself, but if that was true then Kyoani have turned it into completely different series while borrowing the characters and some story elements…

  2. I pretty much agree. The first episode or two I was curious about the presentation of this world and what it was all about, but after the last few episodes I am so bored with this anime. Even at bare minimum this show doesn’t even have a “fun” factor. There’s plenty of anime that have stupid rules, a stupid world, with stupid characters, but they either have a “charm” that keeps you watching or they don’t, and this doesn’t.

    I’m not sucked into this world like Harry Potter or other stories that are like this. The characters are also pretty generic and repeated from other shows as well. I was hoping for something like Ghostbusters the Anime, but it’s just not here.

  3. 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.

    I was half expecting to see official KyoAni characters in the Kitty Lingerie fashion trend…

    Guess fanarts will suffice.NSFW ?

  4. Remembers me the “Schrödinger’s Pantsu” from Denki-Gai no honya san and the “Schrödinger’s wife” from zetsubou sensei, but those are just two examples of the endless uses of the Schrödinger’s theory in japan…

  5. The more i watch phantom world the more i realize that 1. it is stupid and 2. it could have easily avoided being stupid by using it’s trippy presentation to develop interesting characters and provide commentary on the human condition and what it means to think……is that asking for too much. Musaigen could have tweek 2 or 3 things and would have easily become one of kyo ani’s best produced series. I mean look how great this ep looked from a visual standpoint. Lately it has only been the visuals that have been getting better. Sigh, what a waste of talent…what a waste of f-ing talent. There are small nuggets of things i can chew on but overall im really starting to wonder if its too late for phantom world

  6. You know, it’s worth it to slog through this show just to read your posts about it, Passerby.

    Because yeah, this show is just dumb as hell. This episode at least wasn’t as boring as the previous one, but I cringed at how much they stamped the whole Schrodinger’s cat angle down your throat, especially with how strained it was. It’s all so vapid too – the more science stuff and ancient authors the show namedrops, the more pretentious it seems. Especially as it then throws underwear jokes and catgirls at you right afterwards. It tries to have its cake and eat it, but instead chokes on it and dies.

    I mean really, what is this show going for anyways? Plotwise nothing happens, the comedy is lame and uninspired, the beautiful fantasy visuals are never used in a truly effective way and the characters are boring. It’s just a messy hodgepodge of different elements that tries to distract you from its myriad flaws by dangling something shiny in front of you and hoping you’ll be distracted enough. Well, it’s not working for me – I’m just more annoyed at the waste of talent at display.

    And I’m more of a dog person too, at least you can teach those to give you high fives (as mine does). Not to mention my allergy for cats is no doubt a nefarious plot from the little buggers to make me suffer miserably. Diabolical!

    1. I agree, it’s pure random at this point. The story hasn’t really moved forward in any meaningful way at all. No doubt soon, they’ll get serious in the final few episodes. I hope.

    2. in terms of Boring, and nothing really happen. i agree with you. So is this show just out there for the Jokes? What is it with this Device they found? Seems like they forgotten about it? Or did the secret get fast uncovered, that they are now try to came up with something new?

      1. my last Part. i give you an reminder… Mai Hime (yeah, that old one). Where some VA spoiled the ending, and they created an total different story line and ruined the show…. Well overreaction… are we getting her nearly the same?

    3. Well yeah, this show presents this world in an interesting way, but for what?? What purpose? They defeat the phantom when they solve why it’s restless and it goes away! Start back to the beginning of the story! What moral are they trying to write? What are they trying to get the characters to learn?? Where is this all headed??? Granted we still have the blurriest of ideas of Haruhiko’s parents’ story, and there’s still that plot coupon he got back in episode 1 which still has yet to be a pay off…

  7. At first, I thought “Hey! We’re gonna get an intellectual male protagonist – and one with powers!” Then it turns out, just like the Gatari series, it’s a pathetic bust. So another JBB sits back and the girls fight all the battle, but the one time he does something useful, they’re going to shower him with praise! I am done with this anime….there is, officially, no series this season I’m am following now.

  8. Uhm… At least it’s visually pretty, isn’t it? Am I the only one here who remains lukewarm (I don’t hate it) to Phantom World?

    This episode is just fine as long as you are not assuming it’s trying to be cool or something. It’s junk and it knows that it is a junk so it gets a pass for me. The tasteless ecchi has been toned down too so it is really watchable at the moment.

    1. Mirrors my own attitude towards this show. Musaigen’s essentially just all production value and no substance. It’s like carnival cotton candy with the pizzazz of its vibrant, kaleidoscopic colors belying a damning dearth of any significant nutritional value.

      Coincidentally, just what I need about once a week when I find myself bored enough to require the visually induced equivalent of a sugar rush…

      1. The problem for me is that it isn’t fun. Given the premise of the show there should be a lot of opportunity for it to be amusing and entertaining. For me, the attempts at humour all fall flat, the attempts at emotion ring hollow. I find myself pausing the show repeatedly because someone has posted a cat video on the internet somewhere that’s deeper and more interesting. It’s like the whole show is filler for KyoAni this season. We’re halfway through the season now and I still don’t care about any of the characters or what they’re doing.

      2. I’m not invested in it either. It’s just a time waster to me, much like a horrible mobile game that you know is awful but play to prevent boredom on a bus or train because it’s colorful art style is visually stimulating. As I said it’s my attitude towards this show that I’m describing above; the effect that it induces upon me personally when I watch it is analogous to colorful cotton candy, and it is therefore minimally stimulating and inoffensive enough to function as a time waster.

        Having said that, my critique of its objective quality in terms of the established critical conventions is something else entirely however and every bit as scathing as your perceptions…

  9. I love this post. Really that’s all I’m here for. I don’t really even follow this show.
    It’s sad that people misrepresent schrodinger’s cat thought experiment. The experiment was never a literal experiment but an analogy of what happens at the quantum level as you try to interact with the system to measure it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *