Thursday, March 6, 2008

Shigofumi 3

A schoolboy stands on a train platform, ostensibly waiting for that train, whilst listening to his mp3 player, playing a game on his cell phone. He’s piloting a little ship around, shooting stuff, looks like he reaches the next level, and the screen says, “YOU ARE ALIVE.” Telling, no?

The train approaches. Wind flips his hair around, and he takes a step toward the edge of the platform. His eyes become glassy; he takes another step to the edge. He’s pretty close. Suddenly, the train roars by, and he yelps and jumps back, away to safety. Cue intro! This episode is sponsored by Bandai, MediaWorks, and Lantis.

We rejoin the show on a roof. Some students are sitting there and talking. Kotake is the kid we saw on the train station. Sen is the hip-looking one. Kaname wears glasses and looks smart. Kotake asks the others if they’ve ever thought about jumping in front of the train. Kaname is incredulous. You’d die, of course. Kotake says that it’s not about dying, it’s about making the jump. There’s no difference, Kaname says. Sen seems to get it, though. Kaname says that he’s never thought about dying. Kotake asks Sen if he’s ever thought about it. The hip guy thinks for a bit, and then answers, no! He looks strange though, and when a hot girl comes to get him for lunch duty or something, he looks at Kotake for a few moments, and it’s maybe a little uncomfortable. He goes down with the hot girl. Kaname chides Sen for being so forgetful. Kotake says that humans manage because we can forget sadness and pain. Kaname points out that’s from a game he’s been playing.

Cut scene, to Sen with the girl. They’re talking and joking in a science lab. There is no audio, and we focus in on Sen.

Later, Kotake is at home playing a video game. Looks like it’s on that fancy new Wii. Lots of hand being moved around. His cell phone rings and he, still playing, answers it. Kaname asks if he’s heard the news. No. Sen is dead.

The scene abruptly changes. A couple of guys in an alley are beating and kicking another guy. Apparently, they’re pimps, and he got their prostitute pregnant. Sure, she aborted the baby, but she’s still ruined, in the eyes of all prostitute-dom. Someone suddenly says “Wait” and we all turn around to see our most favorite-est little shigofumi deliverer, Fumika. She tells everyone that her job comes first. The pimps tell her to scram, and move to toss her out away. She easily flips two out of her way, uses her staff to knock the gun out of the hand of the third, and delivers the shigofumi, that letter from the dead, to the guy on the ground. He accepts in, taking everything in good fun, and grateful to not be dead yet. He takes the letter out of the envelope and sees a piece of paper with a bloody red handprint on it.

He’s confused. Fumika repeats that it’s a letter from the dead. The staff leans in and says, “Right, father?” Fumika leaves, as her job is done. “You’re not here to save me?” the guy asks. No, her job is just to deliver letters. She walks away and the pimps move in to finish off the dude. He screams in agony. Fumika and her staff talk a little bit about how he had it coming, but she gets a notice that another shigofumi needs to be delivered.

(As an aside, letting aborted babies write shigofumis seems pretty twisted. I bet the Christianists would love that.)

The next morning Kotoka stands on the train platform and listens to two girls talk about Sen. There was no suicide note. They can’t understand why someone would want to die. Kotoke arrives at school and it’s besieged by reporters. They’re asking students if Sen was being bullied. Some moronic kid says that he has to tell his mom to tape the news for him tonight because, you know, he might be on it. Kotoke enters the classroom, and there’s a little stand of flowers and some more girls are saying that they were Sen’s friends. They would have helped him. Kaname tells Kotake that the principal wants to talk to him.

He sits in a room facing a line of teachers and administrators and stuff. The school’s reputation will be affected. They demand to know why Sen committed suicide, but Kotake has nothing to say. Later, he’s on the roof with Kaname and watching a news report where Sen’s father is being interviewed. The man insists that nothing was wrong at home, and that the cause of Sen’s death must have been some problem at school. Kotake turns the screen off, and he and Kaname wonder if they were ever really friends with Sen. Seems like they didn’t really know that much about him, and Kaname wonders if maybe it’s natural to just not know that much about a person. He talks about a girl he knew in middle school, who one day shot her father. He and girl were…pretty close, but he doesn’t understand what happened. “What others are thinking is beyond the scope of our understanding,” he says. The show then devolves into an extended discussion on the problem of other minds, with the boys arguing about McDowell’s reductionist viewpoints.

Okay, so that actually doesn’t happen. Instead, Fumika floats down from the heavens. Her staff, in pendant form around her neck, wonders why people commit suicide. Fumika says that it’s because humans are broken. They just have too many flaws. The pendant laughs and we watch as a feather drift into the air, like so many broken people.

Next we see Kaname (remember, he's the smart guy with glasses), looking dour, in his room. Kotake lies on the floor in his own room. He’s watching the news. One woman says that Sen must have been bullied at school. A guy says, no, he must have been abused at home by his father. Someone else says it’s the “Boredom Syndrome.” Kotake turns them all off. They’re all wrong. Just…fade to black now.

The next day Kotake is still wondering why Sen killed himself. Even if it’s impossible to know what others are thinking, he still wants to know. We're given a lot of internal monologues in this episode, which goes to show that we can indeed know what an animated person is pondering, if not a real one. The door to the classroom opens, and in walks Sen’s father. The classroom, he declares, is now a court. Everyone starts screaming.

Of course, the news crews arrive quickly. Mr. Sen has barricaded the room pretty well, by stacking desks against the doors (no one has ever defeated desks stacked against a door), and he says that he just wants to know why Sen died. It’s a natural feeling. You can sympathize with the man, and maybe under the same conditions you might do the same. A girl says that Sen was always cheerful. She doesn’t know what happened.

Outside, the old cop from the last episode (remember, the one who didn’t shoot Asuna) shows up. Noji is his name, but he’s here because his son is in the classroom too. He looks to the side and sees Fumika, and he calls out to her, but she disappears. It was nothing, he tells someone.

Back in the classroom, Kotake is thinking (flashbacking) about the phone call from Kaname, the one where he learned that Sen died. “You’re joking,” Kotake says, and the conversation is juxtaposed with the screen of his computer game, where is character is stuck against the wall and losing life. His little fox creature dies, and the game asks, “CONTINUE?” Cruel. In the here and now, Mr. Sen asks Kotake is he was close with Sen. Kotake says yes, and Mr. Sen asks if he knows what happened, if someone was bullying Sen, if Kotake is covering for someone. A real friend would want whoever is responsible for Sen’s death to be found.

Kotake gets angry, and asks Mr. Sen why doesn’t he know why Sen died, since he’s his father. Mr. Sen says that he never abused Sen. He didn’t do anything wrong. He doesn’t get the chance to say anything more, because just then the barricaded door flies open, and all the desks get shoved out of the way for little Fumika.

Outside again, the cops are sitting in their big van. Noji worries about his son, Kaname. The SWAT team arrives.

Kaname gapes at Fumika. She’s here to deliver a shigofumi, for Kotake, from Sen. Kotake takes the letter. Mr. Sen comes in to grab it instead, but Fumika gets in the way and gives him a nasty look. As Kotake starts to open the shigofumi, Mr. Sen tries to take it again. Fumika takes out her huge gun and holds it against the man’s head, which seems pretty amazing, considering how short she is.

Kaname’s eyes narrow and he has a vision of that girl from middle school with her gun. “Could she be…?”

Fumika tells Mr. Sen not to interfere. She’s really dedicated to her job, although at this point I don’t see the point, because she’s already delivered the letter. Does she really care what happens after that?

In the hallway, the SWAT guys move into position.

Kotake starts to read the letter, but Mr. Sens asks him to read it aloud, and the boy agrees. Dear dead Sen talks about their rooftop conversation. He admits that sometimes he’s wondered, what will happen if I jump? It’s not about dying, it’s not about wanting to live. Kotake has a vision of standing on the train platform and standing next to Sen, who smiles at him and jumps. Then he jumps, and then everyone jumps. It’s about the jump.

The letter ends. There wasn’t a reason, Sen says. Just like taking a different route home. He was just in the mood. Finis, and I stop to think about that. Is suicide really sometimes about the jump, and not the dying? Perhaps, or are we glossing over the pain and agony that can drive men and women to take their own lives? I’m sure that there are those who know people who have committed suicide without any apparent reason (maybe you’re reading this right now), and there’s just an ache inside because you want to know why but you can’t, for there is an impenetrable barrier between life and death. I hope that sometimes it is about the jump, and that maybe someone can find some solace in that.

Mr. Sen doesn’t believe it. Kotake tells him that Sen really did write that, but he doesn’t get to say why, for at that moment the SWAT team tosses in a flash grenade and it explodes with a blinding light and Mr. Sen is apprehended.

Mr. Sen gets dragged away. Kotake stands up and says because he and Sen were friends.

Meanwhile, Kamame runs up some stairs. We flip outside, to where Fumika is standing on a roof watching the entire scene. She mutters something about how death doesn’t save humans; they just disappear. The staff asks what she means, and Fumika says that those are words from a writer, Mikawa Kirameki.

“Mikawa!” Kaname shouts from behind her. At least, he asks if she’s Mikawa. He’s the guy from middle school, he tells her. Fumika stares at him, and he asks why she shot her father. The staff gasps. We suddenly see a girl lying in a bed, I’m assuming that she’s in a coma or something, and the book on the table next to her is by Mikawa Kirameki.

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