「オーバードライブ 歪曲王 4」 (Oobaadoraibu waikyokuou 4)
“Overdrive: King of Distortion 4″
One of the benchmarks I use to define a series is how my opinion of an episode changes after the fact. I’m not falling back on the appeal to authority fallacy here, because anyone who wanted to could do it, but writing about a show changes the way we think about it. A very interesting question for me is this: after I’ve written an analysis of an episode, do I like it more or less than I did when I finished watching the episode? Some of it is just the passage of time, true, but the act of writing forces me to think about a series in a more analytical and critical way. Some shows tend to rise in my esteem in this fashion, and some fall.
After that buildup, it won’t surprise anyone to know that Boogiepop wa Warawanai is a series than tends to fall into the former camp. It demands both introspection and retrospection from the viewer (which may be one reason why it’s flopping among a modern anime audience unused to such things), and mostly denies us the gratifications we would normally expect from the viewing experience. I would go so far as to say there are lots of things in Boogiepop that only make sense after you step back and ponder them (and not always even then, at least not right away).
As usual, “Warawanai” tends to make me think in metaphor, and this episode was certainly no exception. I wonder if, in a sense, we the viewers are not the people trapped inside the Moon Temple, and Teratsuki-san isn’t Kadono Kouhei. He’s effectively lured us into this story and then intentionally confused us, trying to get us to think about things he wants us to think about. Is it really so different? Hell, they both even use rock music to help get their message across…
For all the obfuscation, we certainly do seem to know a lot more than we did when this episode started. Teratsuki finally speaks – once Shirou and Kentarou find the hidden bonus level beneath the hatch – and among the bombs he drops is that he’s closed the air ducts, cutting off the oxygen supply to those trapped inside the temple. Shirou immediately sees this as BS (he seems to have a lot of insight) and he and Kentarou-kun have no choice but to keep moving forward after Sakiko locks the hatch behind them, determined to go back to her distortion and set things right.
The episode is framed around a couple of set pieces, the first being the meeting between Sakiko and Boogiepop. Sakiko, it’s clear, has determined that she deserves to die for what she did to Hinako, and perhaps even convinced herself that the distortion can allow them to switch fates. There’s a lot of fairly heavy philosophical stuff in this conversation, mostly from Boogiepop’s side. Can you die unless you’ve truly lived? Does being a bad person make it justifiable for someone to kill you? Sakiko sees this quite simplistically – less bad people = better world – but Boogiepop puts the lie to that quickly enough. He notes quite rightly that the kind Hinako she saw in her distortion was a fragment of Sakiko herself, which mean’s she’s kind. One thing that’s notable here is just how little Boogiepop really seems to understand about who and what he is. He just reacts and does what he’s programmed to do, more or less (I could have said “designed” too, but either one is a loaded word).
The main event, though, comes when Kentarou and Shirou trigger Teratsuki’s message, because it finally gets us a nugget of what seems like the truth. Some of this is more or less as expected – Teratsuki was an artificial human, and was killed by the Touwa organization. He lured everyone to the Moon Temple intentionally. We get into some pretty deep navel-gazing here again – the matter of evolution having a “flow”, and the seemingly paradoxical notion of man becoming so evolved that he’s able to directly influence evolution itself, the existence of God. We also get the way to unlock the temple and free the trapped – type “Stairway to Heaven” into the console.
The really important part of this, though, is Teratsuki sharing the reason why he’s done this – to “mess with” the Touwa group. To identify someone who’s a potential enemy to them, and both clue them in and warn them. He does all this in the video he records, seemingly, in the moments just before he’s eliminated by “Eugene”. And it seems as if Tanaka Shirou is the one Teratsuki is most directly speaking to. Not only does Shirou appear to be the King of Distortion, I’m not even sure the whole King of Distortion event was part of Teratsuki’s plans at all. It may be that he simply wanted to lure a super-evolved human in, and Shirou is the one who ended up fitting the bill.
As usual, it’s no easy task to make sense of all this – and I’m not sure we’re supposed to, yet. I’m interested in the idea of Shirou and his relationship to the KoD, which seems to have some parallels to Miyashita Touka’s with Boogiepop. If indeed the King exists either as a second personality or as in the case of Boogiepop someone “possessing” Shirou, is he – rather than a product of Shirou being super-evolved – some sort of “external” being, like Boogiepop? And if so, what is his purpose here? As always with Boogiepop wa Warawanai every question answered raises new questions, but with only one episode left in this edition I have to think we’re going to get some at least nominally definitive resolutions next week.