「学園の子供たち」 (Gakuen no Kodomo-tachi)
“Children of the Nursery”
I’ve been thinking about Yin and Yang a lot with this season’s twin pillars Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu and Tengoku Daimakyou. Which is sort of fitting, given how crucial gender is to everything Tengoku is about. I suppose if I were to pick I’d call BokuYaba the Yin and Tengoku the Yang, but – as most of us do – each embodies some of both. This series is very fixated on poles – male and female, Heaven and Hell – and how in reality distinctions may be as clear-cut as you think they are.
Broadly speaking this episode focuses much more on the walled school than recent ones, largely carrying Maru and Kiruko’s story forward. Specifically, Asura (Noto Mamiko) becomes a much more concrete figure. What did we already know about her? That she committed suicide. That Kona loved her, and that she had a very alien look to her. Now we also know that she had even more unusual powers than the other children, and that she was teaching Kona to use his. And that before she committed suicide she told him that she’d “found the reason why she was born”, and sprouted wings (hmmm) with eyes.
The mysteries are ever-unfolding with this show, and each answer only asks many more questions. I had some problems with spoilers in the comments last week (on RC) and that’s becoming a very tricky matter. Some things have become clear enough to my satisfaction to be called facts, but not literally verified by the narrative. Is that a spoiler? I don’t know – and I’m very wary of misdirection, Ishiguro already having shown with Heavenly Delusion that he’s very adept at it. I won’t be sharing my theories until they’re canon, even if I’m sure of them, and I’d ask others to do the same.
There’s still plenty of the manzai team (note that as foreshadowed, Maru’s tooth is growing back) this week, but their scenes feel more directly connected to the other thread than ever before. They decide to try and find the town Usami said he’d be going to, but not having expected him to take his life they never confirmed the location. In any case a large earthquake hits before they can depart, causing the collapse of one of the half-ruined buildings in the area. A collapsed building is an opportunity – to scavenge, but also in this case to find other hunters who might take them to the town they’re searching for.
Enter Juichi, a fellow scavenger (with a running van) who Maru discovers in the collapsed building. He immediately takes them for bandits (much to their indignation) but eventually agrees to share what he might now about the doctor, Robin, or the bird logo (for a price). He spins a couple of interesting yarns – first, about the three theories of the disaster (asteroid, aliens, war). Those seem like pretty much the three anyone would come up with if they didn’t know the real cause, so they don’t bolster his credibility much.
The second tale is much more interesting, one he claims to have lived first-hand. It’s the story of a “school surrounded by walls”. There, he says, Juichi lived as a “breeding pig” – the only males the matriarchal leaders allowed to survive. The mark on his arm is obviously a fake, and it’s tempting to dismiss his whole story as a fabrication – especially when he moved the van to cover a sign with the bird logo on it. But it’s asking a lot of coincidence to assume that a story which starts out that way has no connection to the events unfolding over the past nine episodes.
We certainly know there’s a school surrounded by walls. And it does seem somewhat matriarchal – were we shown Aoshima being promoted ahead of Sawatari by coincidence? One thing we know for sure at last is where that logo comes from – something called Takahara Academy, which had a branch in the building whose sign Juichi obstructed. It seems to be something between a cram school and an orphanage, but with some weird and vaguely cultish propaganda in which it refers to the world as a “Hell of Patience” (a very odd turn of phrase).
Whatever the connection to the Takahara Academy Maru and Kiruko find – and even Juichi’s tall tale – the walled school is clearly nearing a moment of great import. Toshio is pregnant, and everyone is seriously freaked out about it. The Director’s words – “we didn’t teach them the concept of sex, or the distinction between male and female” – make her surprise at this development seem laughably naive and frankly inane. How can anyone be so dim as to believe simply not teaching children about such things means they won’t teach themselves? One might start to draw the lines between the Tengoku’s two threads now – full circle, as it were – but for the moment almost any assumptions would be based on guesswork. This series guards its secrets, that’s for sure.