They’re close to home. The surroundings are familiar. The shelter they’re headed to is none other than Mirai’s middle school, The Rikka School for Girls. The buildings are low, and the area doesn’t seem as ruined as those they passed by. Nonetheless an 8.0 magnitude quake doesn’t fale to leave its mark. The clock face is intact but it’s glass surface is lined with cracks.
Mirai recounts the memory of her welcome in the somewhat prestigious school, a moment of pride for her mother who falls down in an awkward moment of triumph (and redemption, as it’s said that she wasn’t able to go to this school as a girl). The Mirai in the memory is the Mirai we’ve come to know. Embarrassed and perturbed, seemingly incapable of handling any kind of attention, lashing out in her small and bratty manner.
But there are indomitable people by her side, who want no part in her self-indulgent negativity. Mari gives perspective on Mirai’s privilege to attend this school. Yuuki is excited to enter the forbidden: it is an all girls school after all. Mirai tells him he’d be allowed to visit during the school festival, but it’s not like she’d invite him anyway. This is the Mirai we know.
But episode 04 did happen; and all the indignities Mirai suffered — perhaps the shittiest day of her life, were rendered meaningless by how close she was to losing not only her own life, but also Yuuki — in all the ways and possible senses of loss. There is something she can show Yuuki though. There is something she can share, something all her own and only she can make happen for him.
She wanted to show Yuuki how beautiful the stained glass in the church of Rikka School for Girls looked like, but the church was instead filled with the injured and their forlorn loved ones. This drives home how the world is now broken: the familiar is changed. It’s the same place but if feels like something else altogether. And to take this further, Mirai recognizes her first familiar face, that of a classmate: Megu, the girl who’s taking it easy this year by going on a trip to the Caribbean with her folks during summer break.
Mirai didn’t like her that much, and isn’t really friends with her; but she was rather affected seeing this classmate sad, for having lost her mother. Mirai remembered enough to note how Megu invited another classmate over to share the soufflés her mother baked.
They catch each other’s gaze, but there was no further communication. What does one say from 15 feet away? How does one barely familiar approach the intimacy of loss at a time like this? Megu inconsiderate to other people’s means, could only act considerately in her way back in school: to advise Mirai to take a trip somewhere cool, because Tokyo will be hot. I don’t know if it’s merely Mirai’s social incompetence, but there was little by way of consolation to be given. They leave the church, the stained glass has no light shining behind it. The candles on the floor don’t illuminate very high up. And even if there was beauty in the glass, it would be cruel to enjoy it amongst the wounded and the dead.
Now, is this the same Mirai we know?
I would’ve expected defeatist behavior. Her one good thing to share with Yuuki is now taken away from her. But the encounter with Megu stirred something. Someone she knows is suffering. Despite not being her friend, or not liking her that much. She is saddened, as if she felt someone else’s pain. In human development terms, empathetic thinking is a milestone in growing children. It happens at around Yuuki’s age, when the child begins to see things from the point of view of another. There is no real graduation from this class. We never master it as human beings. So for Mirai to begin having empathy at this point is an event both big and small, but is something worth appreciating in the narrative.
There is a reward to this growth. It manifests later on she noted how the lights on the pool looked, and how it reminded her of how beautiful the stained glass in the church once was. This was the beauty she wanted Yuuki to see. In the contingency of her situation she found a way to share what she was prevented from doing, even if it was by a power that can topple the Tokyo Tower itself.
The changed world makes for references and memories intsead of the subjects. There is a pervasive, threatening thought; that there will be but memories. What was once beautiful is no more. The shimmering lights of the illumination in the school that contingent as a matter of necessity, of emergency. The school that keeps the unworthy away, is now a shelter for whomever who needs it; now lined with cracks all over its stonework. This is what Mirai has to make do with. A representation of the memory of stained glass.
Our attention shifts to an old man, one half of a kind old couple making themselves useful in the calamity; sometimes to offer kind words, sometimes to deliver water and other necessities, sometimes just to lead the tired to a cooler place to rest.
Being among the familiar, if not the intimately so, allows Mirai to experience the sorrow of others. I don’t know if enough is going on behind her eyes to appreciate the loss of old Furuichi who lost his grandchildren in the quake; but she does break down: seeing how indomitable the old man is, doing so much for so many despite his loss. There he is, congratulating the survivors for their fortune without bitterness. When he says how it should have been him who died in the earthquake, that life belongs to the young; he does not speak out of self-pity, but rather from a compassion for the injured and the dead.
In the face of this example, Mirai says to herself,
There are things I can do now.
The episode ends in a moment of discovery so carefully constructed by the narrative, so patiently laid. There was no rush at all, although the episode seemed to end when I half-expected the midpoint eye-catch to appear. If felt both like two episodes in terms of progress, but only half an episode in duration. I find this tremendously good. When I say how the narrative carefully constructs this moment of discovery, I mean that they could easily have brought this upon her after her near-death experience in the tower, after being so close to losing Yuuki again for reasons of anger and not just irresponsibility. She could have been given her ‘eureka’ moment there.
Yeah people change, but not by much, and not that fast. This not quite gradual, and yet carefully told change through both big frights and the accrual of smaller indignities and sorrows, is something good. It pleases me how a show named with so much bombast: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 can be so quietly moving.
The answer to the question is yes.
Last week it was okay to hate her, if you’re so inclined [->]
We’ve always found it fair to have sympathy for the little devil (otou-san 2009/07/29)
If you haven’t made up your mind about this show, let Mike convince you (Mike 2009/08/05)
Useless trivium: The 3 links lead to 3 Mikes. Shhh.