The aquatope on white sand – 10 – You can’t go home

Only a damn week left in August. A week of Summer Break. Until reopens, the aquarium closes, and Fuuka goes back to Iwate, among other things. After staring at the downtown monstrosity that reminded me of the Olympic Stadium in AKIRA, Kukuru is staring at that damn calendar with only seven days left.

Kai, whose first memory of Kukuru is watching her back tremble as she wept in her front yard, sees that back again. It’s not trembling, but he knows it’s troubled. But he can’t, because he’s just a little too slow and Kukuru is so distracted by her problems she doesn’t even notice Kai is there, and certainly doesn’t see him as a potential source of healing.

Kukuru isn’t really seeing Fuuka either. Fuuka did commit to supporting Kukuru’s dream when her own dream ended, but thanks to the call from Ruka, that dream is suddenly alive again if she wants it: a goddamn starring movie role. Of course she can’t share this news with Kukuru, who has no time or headspace for anything but her beloved Gama Gama. Seeing how Kukuru flails near the finish line really accentuates just how grown up and mature Chiyu was by comparison last week.

Chiyu can see her future and she’s lunging forward and grasping at it with everything she has. Kukuru is trying to keep her past her present and future. She’s so desperate, she resorts to asking Udon-chan’s mom to see if there’s a way to exploit the inscrutable magical realism moments she, Fuuka, and others have experienced. She thinks if she can put it out there on social media that Gama Gama is a “place of miracles” and a “healing power spot”, she can save it.

But just look at everyone’s faces. Kukuru’s desperation is clear to see. Udon-chan is the only one humoring her with a half-hearted, almost patronizing smile. Fuuka is quietly neutral. Karin is like this girl is going off the deep end.

During what was without doubt the most depressing watermelon-eating scene I’ve ever seen committed to the screen, Fuuka can’t hold in what’s bothering her anymore, even if it only adds to Kukuru’s problems. When Fuuka doesn’t enthusiastically say she’ll turning the movie role down, Kukuru cant stomach any more watermelon, or Fuuka’s presence.

In a way, it’s not fair. Fuuka has pretty much had to couch all of her issues while August has worn on and Kukuru’s various ideas to save Gama Gama have come and gone with the same middling success. But Fuuka isn’t sure what she’s doing anymore, which means she’s not committed to helping Kukuru salvage her dream. There’s no point in lying, and I’m glad Fuuka doesn’t, nor does Kukuru hide her disappointment.

Kai, who it’s clear has been working himself way too hard just so Kukuru has an extra strong back at the aquarium, finally gets a chance to spend some time alone with Kukuru, but it’s strictly business: she needs him to be her guinea pig to see if the “illusions” will occur for him. Kukuru’s obsession with saving Gama Gama is flattening all of her relationships. She only noticed Kai when she needed him.

Why she thinks sitting three feet away and leaning towards him with a notebook will put him in the right state to see said illusions…but like I said, Kukuru is desperate…almost as desperate as Kai is to help and console and comfort her. But once again, he’s a little to slow to call her name and reach out, as she buzzes off on her motorbike after their failed illusion session. He keeps getting so close! 

Back home, Kukuru’s Gramps gives her a talking-to about how it was wrong to try to lure supernatural otaku to the aquarium with promises of miracles and illusions. In effect, this week is when Kukuru’s illusory world finally comes into focus. Everyone but her isn’t saying Gama Gama is doomed because they’re being assholes. It’s because Gama Gama is doomed. Barring some serious Kijimunaa divine intervention, of course.

I don’t know of Kijimunaa is directly responsible for the illusions, but the reason for them is made plain (if it wasn’t already) when Kai, distraught over his inability to reach present-day Kukuru, finds himself behind the shoulder of his younger self when he first met her. Audio is added to this scene and it’s brought into context as one of countless times young Kukuru ran out of her grandparents’ house declaring through tears that she’s going home to “mommy and daddy.”

This was, predictably, the point at which I broke down in tears, and basically unconditionally forgave Kukuru for all of her transgressions both this week and in previous episodes. Kukuru lost her parents at a tender age, but not so tender that she was shielded from the weight of the loss. She was old enough to know, but wasn’t ready to accept, that they were gone. The home she knew and loved was gone too.

Past Kai hesitates just like Present Kai did three times prior, but Present Kai is there to give Past Kai a push towards Kukuru. He whips out a big, gorgeous fish he just caught, and Kukuru’s tears stop almost immediately.

Kai comes out of his illusion to a Kukuru hopeful she just witnessed him experiencing what she experienced. But to both her dejection and my own, Kai softly shakes his head. It was a beautiful memory, but just a memory. It was the past, and just the illusion of it. He doesn’t want to feed her any more illusions. Instead, rather than gathering her into a big hug, he puts up his hands so she can punch them and yells “Come!”

Kukuru cries as she punches, but Kai tells her to keep punching, as hard as she can, into his palms. I’m sure if he had a big beautiful freshly caught fish, he’d give her one to cheer her up. We later see that Kukuru posted a retraction on social media, so even that last-ditch plan ended in failure.

If I were her, I’d also be grateful for a friend willing to absorb my punches, my failures, my despair—all of it, for my sake. And when my fists (and their palms) were sufficiently red and stinging, I’d feel better, and maybe even be ready to take a step forward.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 23

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While it felt like momentum-killing padding at the time, in hindsight it was a good idea to expose Shinichi to Mitsuyo’s worldview and advice before seeking out Gotou for a rematch. She instilled in him the idea of not simply rushing to his death half-cocked, but rather constantly using the noggin in his skull to think of ways, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous, to keep living. In other words, to trust his instincts; the same instincts that drive all other living things on Earth to survive.

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It isn’t all that unfair a fight. Sure, Gotou is nigh invincible and far stronger and faster than Shinichi, (I even felt that mega-punch) but he can’t kill him if he can’t find him. This was one somewhat glaring flaw, however; it seems odd that Gotou has virtually no idea where Shinichi is. For one thing, he’s human, which is Gotou’s food…why wouldn’t he be able to smell out a meal? For another thing, there are still Migi cells in Shinichi’s body, which you’d think Gotou would be able to at least detect a little.

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Another glaring flaw is that Shinichi survives the fight early on mostly because Gotou takes his sweet old time killing him, because he doesn’t consider a human to be any threat. Shinichi could have possibly even talked him into letting him live, or at least run far enough away that Gotou wouldn’t bother fighting him. Of course, that means putting more innocent people at risk.

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And that’s primarily why Shinichi confronted Gotou; not out of anger, or for revenge, or because he wants to be the hero, but to prevent others from dying because of him. With poise that would make Mitsuyo proud, just moments before Gotou skewers him, Shinichi remembers Gotou bleeding in a specific location. Lying in a pile of garbage, he picks up a rusty pipe and stabs the lunging Gotou with it. It turns out to be a vulnerable area, and it pisses Gotou off even more.

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But stabbing him there also broke the link between the “head” and the “rest”, and as I had suspected after the uncertain fate of Migi last week, Migi himself became part of that “rest” and is freed when the rusty pipe introduces life-threatening toxins that make the other “rest” parasytes wake up and resist the “head’s” orders.

For the second time in just a couple of minutes, Shinichi is about to face his death, but this time all he can do is sit there and wait for the blow to come. That’s when the Migi in Gotou’s swinging killing arm meets with the Migi in Shinichi’s stump and BOOM, Migi transfers back to Shinichi right then and there, nullifying the attack. Shinichi’s so damn happy he’s back his eyes glint!

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From there, the duo of Shinichi and Migi is more than enough against the severely weakened and uncoordinated Gotou. It’s very satisfying when Migi goes through him like a wire through clay and he explodes, bringing about the dawn.

Upon inspecting the garbage pile, Migi deduces that the toxins on the pipe that proved fatal to Gotou were proof that “there’s no beating humans,” especially if you corner them atop a garbage pile they made that they can use the contents of to kill you!

It raises questions in Shinichi’s head about whether parasytes came to be to reduce the population of humans, who have spread across the earth and ravaged the environment. Those toxins are representative of human’s status as Earth’s wasting disease…and parasytes could be deemed the cure.

That’s one way to look at things, anyway. So when Migi declines to finish off a member of his kind (to do so would be murder in his eye/s) and leaves Shinichi to decide, Shinichi initially hesitates to finish killing the slowly reconstructing Gotou. When taking enough steps back, Gotou, or what’s left of him, has as much right to exist and survive as Shinichi does.

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Shinichi changes his mind again when he realizes that he can’t live his life all those steps back; not as long as there are people at risk, or people he wants to protect. If Gotounator re-coalesces, he’s not going to stop killing humans; it’s what he exists for. That makes him, in the arena of protecting one’s own small band of humans, not all of humanity, an enemy whose existence is intolerable.

Shinichi sheds a tear before finishin Gotou, and in the brief cuts to the writhing, reconstructing corpse, it does indeed engender a kind of primal human sympathy for the weak and struggling, even if we know full well the monster it will become if allowed to reconstruct.

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Shinichi goes home, having done what was necessary to protect Mitsuyo’s village, along with ensuring he himself will be safe for the time being, along with his father and his beloved Satomi. Gotou is by no means the last parasyte, but he was certainly the toughest. I doubt anything tougher will show up in the finale, which I hope will focus on where Shinichi and Migi go from here, and in particular whether he plans to finally inform Satomi about his deep, battle-tested friendship with the little monster in his right arm.

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