「わたしたちは」 (Watashi-tachi wa)
Here’s something you’d see a lot in anime, and in movies, and basically in all popular media: people falling from great heights only to survive by landing in water. In reality, water only breaks your fall in the way that it breaks your bones, and falling back-first onto it at high velocity will result in catastrophic spinal injury or, more likely, death. This is because water is actually rather dense. When you fall onto, say, a cushion, it is filled with air, and gas compresses. That compression absorbs some of the force of your fall. Water, though, does not compress, and falling onto water is like falling onto a brick wall. And then F = ma and that’s all she wrote.
Fussing over these details may seem obtuse, especially when we’re talking about how much damage a cartoon should sustain. And, indeed, it’s not really a big deal, but I bring it up to preface a point about suspension of disbelief. Even in a show where magical girls fight on a surreal stage to appeal to a talking giraffe it’s important that we respect logic. This because even the best written fiction is but a set of well-crafted lies and even the smallest inconsistencies can unravel it. And suspension of disbelief is about maintaining the sway of that lie over the audience. It is, fundamentally, a compact between the author and the audience. We, the audience, promise to engage in the author’s fiction, to actively buy into their lie — suspending our disbelief. In return the author promises to do their best to maintain it. Unfortunately, we’re surprisingly sharp at times and it’s difficult to fool us even when we’re willing to be fooled. Care must be given to every detail. I assure you, the artists who drew the cakes absolutely had references to make their animated versions convincing. And so too does care need to be given to the story convincing.
Notice that the standard is ‘convincing’, not realistic. Total realism is, of course, quite convincing, but also usually unnecessary. We assume that the story follows the rules of reality when it looks like it’s set in reality, but otherwise reality can be discarded readily. More important than a story’s consistency with reality is its consistency with itself, its internal logic. Even in pure fantasy the story will give us some rules about how the world operates and we expect it to follow those rules. And of course we expect the characters to remember the rules as well, and be able to interact intelligently with them, if only because relying on your characters to be stupid to advance the plot is frustratingly bad storytelling.
Which brings us to time travel.
It’s always very dangerous introducing time travel into a story, because it is both an incredibly powerful and incredibly complicated device. Time travel can solve basically any problem and completely negate the conflict in a story — which means you have no story. So restrictions need to be put on the time travelling, which usually requires unwieldy mechanics and increases exposition bloat. And when time travel is freely available to be used and a character doesn’t use it, the audience’s immediate reaction is, ‘Why didn’t they use time travel?’. Chekov’s Gun is waiting there to be fired. This episode, Hikari has her triumph and we find out what she does with it. Nothing good, apparently. In Catholic fashion she’s sent herself to Hell for the sin of her ambition. Presumably, it’s because she refuses to steal away Karen’s soul (but is fine with taking from the others, I guess?), but we’ve already seen a way to avoid that. Nana had been winning revue after revue and simply went back to the past each time. Can’t Hikari do that to? Go back to the start of the revue, warn Karen about it, Karen doesn’t enter, problem solved? Even better, go back to the time she was in London, don’t join that revue, problem extra solved? On the one hand, perhaps it’s good that Hikari doesn’t go full Madoka, because we don’t have a lot of episode time left. On the other hand, there’s a very obvious solution to a manufactured problem so either it’s an oversight by the characters or there’s something lacking explanation, which is a plot hole either way.
Mind you, this was till a good episode, full of dramatic and emotional impact. I appreciated the irony of Hikari’s absence taking away Karen’s spirit even though that was the one thing Hikari wanted to avoid (though, eh, lean in, girlfriend). Each member of the party having their scene in front of their set to a nifty insert song is just the thing for an episode 11 (though perhaps a bit too ‘JRPG’). I enjoyed it, but I wish I could have enjoyed it more without these details nagging at me. We’ll get a chance to wrap everything up next week, and I hope it’ll all be settled. I definitely want Revue Starlight to go out with a blast.
ED8: 「Fly Me to the Star」by everyone sans Hikari and Karen