「誰かの為の物語 ナーサリー・ライム」 (Dareka no Tame no Monogatari -Naasarii Raimu-)
“A Story for Someone -Nursery Rhyme-“
I’ve come to understand why the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things ‘genre’ of anime is a thing, now. For generations, anime built a tradition of abusing its little girls. They’re stricken by incurable diseases. They get murdered violently. They’re used to power superweapons. They get turned into witches. Being a little girl in anime is suffering. What choice did they have? As I talked about last week, their only role in the story is to suffer. But perhaps anime became over-reliant on the tears of little girls to fuel their drama engines and cause some sort of subconscious backlash. Or perhaps it’s simply a supply and demand thing; with an abundance of miserable little girls, the market for cheerful little girls boomed. Give them their happy ending, and let them be.
But this arc about Alice and Nursery Rhyme is not exactly a lighthearted story with a happy ending. For one, this is Nasu, who saves his richest sadism to unleash on innocent children. But evidently he also wished to make a point about the obsession with happy endings, such is the nature of Nursery Rhyme. In the iteration of the Moon Cell Holy Grail War that was the original Fate/EXTRA, Alice was yet another opponent you had to defeat on your way to the top. She was no less an unfortunate little thing, but there was no alternative to fighting her in the game. So you kill her. Re-kill her. Whatever. It’s all very sad, and she symbolised the innocent you had to trample to survive in this barbaric battle royale. In the Last Encore continuity, Past!Hakuno did not have to fight Alice, but that doesn’t exactly end well for anyone. The promise that he’d win the war and come back down for Alice is well intentioned, but not one he could reasonably keep. And indeed, he goes and dies. But Alice’s obsession with sticking around to see Hakuno again — the happy ending — drives her to extremes. Indeed, fairy tales are only associated with happy endings thanks to the works of Disney — they even gave The Hunchback of Notre Dame a happy ending, for crying out loud. Instead, fairy tales were allegories for children, cautionary in nature. They were harsh, sometimes even morbid. But like all stories, happy or otherwise they end. Alice turning back the pages every time means she never gets to the resolution. For a thousand years, she hangs on, devouring her own dream to survive. And for what? She finds her happy ending, but cannot keep it. She is put down. It’s as if Nasu is arguing that what she needed was catharsis, and that’s not the same thing as happiness. Her dream should have ended long ago. To continue the heaven metaphor, in Dant’s Paradiso the third sphere of heaven was Venus, named for the Roman goddess of love, and housed those lovers with a deficiency in the virtue of temperance. Alice held on for a thousand years out of love, which is a positive thing. But being able to let go is important too.
The high concept aside, there’s also this and that about the living dead (yada yada obsession), something about magical girl Rin, bits and pieces of the pink alcoholic. I could try speculating or putting the pieces together now, but they’re no doubt hooks for future episodes and we can wait until more pieces fall into place. And despite all the weirdness of Last Encore we are getting pieces. I appreciate that, and can see things coming together, which is heartening. Nursery Rhyme is about as abstract as Nasu gets, which isn’t a bad thing because SHAFT is strongest in the abstract, but we’ll probably get something relatively (relatively) more down to earth next arc. There’ll be questions yet, sure, but we’re getting answers.