4 CommentsTwelve Days / By Shinmaru /

12 Days of Anime: 1 Battle in the Hot Springs

sekai-seifuku-grandpa-vs-grandmaThere are certain ideas I harp on about a lot because I have a limited pool of things to actually write about. One of these is the world that is centered around a certain theme, whether that’s puzzles (Phi Brain), Gunpla Battles (Gundam Build Fighters), or teenagers dying in shitty, hilarious ways (Another). The main reason I enjoy this is that it gives creators an opportunity to consider traditional ideas in different ways. Like, we have schools … but if we had schools dedicated solely to producing people who were really good at puzzles or battling with toy robots? That kind of thing — pushing a weird idea to its logical conclusion and seeing how it turns out. It can be funny, and maybe it can reflect back on us in unexpected ways.

One of my favorite series of the year, Sekai Seifuku, does something like this.

There are several odd themes and tics to this world, but what this particular world revolves around is a conflict between two groups: Zvezda (which wishes to conquer the world) and White Light (which wishes to prevent this). The timeline for their battle is fuzzy; however, it is set up like one of those conflicts that has been raging since time immemorial. It certainly seems as if it has been going on longer than Zvezda’s young leader, Kate Hoshimiya, has been alive. By episode 9, a lot of shit has gone down — so much, in fact, that both groups independently decide it’s time for a break. That means it’s time for a hot springs episode! Both groups hit the springs without knowing the other is there. Eventually, they clue onto this and, of course, start fighting, because that’s what these groups do.

But the best part …

sekai-seifuku-grandpa-lets-do-this

sekai-seifuku-come-at-me-grandpa

The proprietors of this establishment are an old married couple. The husband is secretly a member of Zvezda; the wife is secretly a member of White Light. Have they been this way their entire lives? I’m not sure. When the big battle breaks out, it’s inevitable that these two also discover their hidden identities and throw down.

“I was hoping to take this secret to the grave …” the old woman says before she and her husband attack each other.

On the face of it, it’s just a silly joke, a ridiculous scenario that nobody would expect to occur unless you’re like me and actively searching for weird scenarios to potentially happen once you lock onto a key idea in a show. But it’s the type of joke that leaves just enough room for you to dig into it if you want. It adheres perfectly to another of Sekai Seifuku‘s themes: masks and layers of identity. What most people in Zvezda have in common is that they’re running away from something in their past and taking on a new life. In White Light, the power dynamics are powered by Dramatic Irony.

With all these masks, secrets, and identity issues, it makes sense that eventually we’d get a couple on opposite sides of the conflict. Even the most loving couples have their little secrets, yeah? It’s the perfect demonstration of how beautifully absurd this overarching conflict is. These two presumably get along great, but they fight because They’re On Opposite Sides And They Have To. There’s even the slightest hint that they actually knew of their hidden identities in the woman’s hope that her secret would die with her. Why would the old man have an issue with her being in White Light if he weren’t in Zvezda? We all have a dumb things that we nonetheless have some attachment to and take way too seriously even if deep down we know how silly they are.

But even more than that, this moment strikes me because it does so much with so little. The couple is introduced as a pair that have run this hot spring for a long time. We get the reveal of their Zvezda and White Light memberships — first to us, then to each other. Then they fight. It’s so basic, but this premise has the weight of an entire life holding it up. Has the old man been hiding something his whole life like those Zvezda folks? Does the old woman have the unwavering adherence to her idea of justice that White Light has? How did they meet? How did they grow old together? For me, one of the most powerful things about fiction is not what it lays out, but rather, what it suggests between the crevices of words and images. We’re shown one thing and left to ponder the rest at our leisure.

sekai-seifuku-masksThe only hint about how the fight turned out is a pair of masks on a bed. If you’re a pessimist, they killed each other; if you’re an optimist, they realized how dumb this is and decided to kick it in the hot springs because DAMN is that comfortable. These two are such a blatant analogue of Asuta (in Zvezda) and Renge (in White Light) that I assume the latter. In fact, my head canon now is that this old couple is Asuta and Renge FROM THE FUTURE SOMEHOW and they’ve grown so old together that their memories aren’t quite what they used to be, and they’ve forgotten all about their significant others’ affiliation with their group of choice.

The cycle will continue forever! It could happen!

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4 Comments

  1. Posted December 25, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Once again this year, I tried to heed the call of Scamp to make 12 entries about my anime moments this year. Sadly, even though I already had all of the topics I wanted to write about already prepared, I was never able to even start one. I still didn’t give up on it though, and I just chose the most memorable moment for me this year.

    July 8, 2014. 9pm. I was about to go to bed, thinking about how I needed to get up early the next day. The day before, I went to an interview for my first job, I got accepted and was slated to start on July 9. I felt that I was not that sleepy yet so I browsed through my hard drive looking for something to watch. I was thinking that I didn’t want to start a new series, and didn’t want to watch something too “energetic” (I was trying to lull myself to sleep after all) so I settled on a movie called 5 centimeters per second by Makoto Shinkai.

    I’ve watched The Place Promised in our Early Days before, so I kind of knew what to expect with this movie. It’s been sitting on my hard drive for months, and I was trying to find a good opportunity to watch it. I figured that I might as well watch it that night, there’s no harm in watching “a tale of short stories about their distance” right? Boy was I ever wrong.

    The movie started out normally like any other. The visuals are stunning to say the least, and the music added greatly to the overall feel of the movie. I assume the reader would’ve already seen the movie, so there might be some spoilers ahead. I started sensing something special from this when the scene where the two were talking on the phone started, with Akari telling Takaki she’s going to move. Little by little after that scene everything added up in me, I can’t really describe it, until those magical sequences from when Takaki arrives at train station up until Takaki leaves in the morning forced me to stop the movie. I was not able to continue watching it because I needed to wipe my tears away.

    At that point I thought to myself “Wow, this is a really good movie, them feels man” or something along those lines, so I continued watching. I genuinely felt that I didn’t want the first part to end; I would’ve still enjoyed the movie if it was just a few hours more of Akari and Takaki catching up on life inside a shed somewhere. Part 2 came and went, I dried my tears, and then part 3 started.

    Once One More Time, One More Chance started playing, I lost it. The rush of mixed emotions filled me up and overflowed. One moment I was thinking “Is that it?” and the rage of not having a proper ending grew in me, the next I would be sobbing uncontrollably thinking about how those two might reunite and see each other again to watch the cherry blossoms. When that effing train that separated them finally left, I felt tired and defeated while still crying. I effing hated Takaki for smiling when a very sad thing just happened to him. Bittersweet is too tame a word to describe what I felt, I literally felt pain on my chest when I realize they won’t see each other again. I looked at the clock and it was already 1 am, I slept with dried tears on my cheeks.

    I woke up later than I had planned to (obviously) so I wasn’t able to really dwell on what I watched last night. I thought that was the end of it, until when I was working and my thoughts would always drift towards certain scenes from the movie. I would shed a tear involuntarily and people would ask me what was wrong, I told them that the tear was a result of yawning. Needless to say, I was in a stupor the entire day. I guess everyone at work thought that it was because it was my first day so they didn’t think anything of it.

    I was puzzled at the effect the movie had on me. Sure, I thought it was a great movie, but I did not expect that the recollection of particular scenes from it would make me tear up. I then sought to find out what exactly about the story made me react that way so I tried to re-watch it. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept re-watching a 5 minute video of One More Chance, One More Time which was included with my copy, and I cannot watch it in full without tearing up. Weeks and months pass, and it’s still the same. I am still thinking “This can’t be how their story ends, this isn’t right.” And yet, I know that the story really ends there.

    I won’t tell you how many times I had to stop to finish this, once in a while I remember certain scenes and tears start welling up in my eyes and I can’t type. Honestly though, this is one of those moments that reminds me why I still watch “Chinese cartoons”, even if I’m waay past the target demographic of these things. The movie may have just caught me at a bad time, when I was vulnerable to its charms, I don’t know, but still, it’s a great movie, anyone else who hasn’t seen it should watch it.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to confront this once and for all and re-watch the entire thing. Happy Holidays everyone!

    • Desi
      Posted December 26, 2014 at 5:29 am | Permalink

      I kept expecting this to turn into a horror story..

  2. Gan_HOPE326
    Posted December 26, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I would not call myself an optimist, but I still enjoy too much the thought of the two old timers saying “fuck this shit!” and then getting it on to interpret that image in any other way.
    “Enjoy” of course in a purely abstract way, I absolutely wouldn’t want to witness the deed.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted December 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      That would be an acceptable conclusion.

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