Concrete Revolutio Ep. 21: Ideological clarity

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What an odd assertion from Jiro. Didn’t he help Grosse Augen escape from the Bureau? Was that not a crime? Didn’t he aid and abet Aki, who was and still is wanted for murder? Was that not a crime? Wasn’t he trying to smuggle Jonathan back into America, thereby pitting himself against both the Bureau and the US Army? Look, buddy, you’re already breaking the law. You’re already a criminal. And furthermore, what has this struggle been all about? What is the endgame? We can’t just fight forever. This conflict eventually has to end. After all, doesn’t Jiro want a world in which superhumans can freely coexist with humanity? Doesn’t he want a world in which superhumans are treated justly? So if you want freedom, if you want justice, how can you allow a petty thing like the destruction of government property stand in your way? If the system is corrupt, why hesitate to destroy it? But therein lies the problem. Jiro wants to be a hero, but he isn’t brave enough to be a true revolutionary.

During the Occupy Wall Street movement, a protester once said, “They are asking us what is our program. We have no program. We are here to have a good time.” Unsurprisingly, the movement led to nothing. The authentic rage everyone felt ultimately amounted to no actual, effective change. It was a revolt without revolution. People came for the cheap carnival. They were attracted to the ideas of a revolution, but not the revolution itself. We’ll come together in the name of solidarity, we’ll sing, we’ll cheer, we’ll yell, we’ll demand to be heard. But then what? What happens tomorrow? Nobody knew, because nobody actually sat down to actually think about the future. The protesters were too busy falling in love with themselves, falling in love with the narcissistic belief that, unlike the rest of masses, they were standing for something greater. But revolutions are not easy. They are often bloody and violent. Revolutions are a struggle. Revolutions require hard work. This is the problem that Jiro is currently facing.

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Jiro’s going around Japan, and he’s protecting superhumans left and right. That’s great. With the government cracking down on superhumans, and with public perception at an all time low, these individuals could definitely use his help. But then what? What happens when there’s no one to protect? What happens when these superhumans, tired of being treated so poorly, decide to fight back? Jiro has no answers. Similar to the OWS protesters, he’s in love with the idea of being a hero, but he isn’t prepared to truly get his hands dirty. He waffles on the sidelines, he tells Aki there’s no justice in fighting the government. That’s hilarious. The government oppresses superhumans, but apparently, there’s no justice in it. But Jiro knows this. Kaoru is right: in his heart, Jiro wanted to join in the NUTS attack. But like Hyouma suggests, our boy is still too scared, still too cowardly to truly pick a side. He’s still that idealistic boy that was saved by Rainbow Knight.

We’ve come a long way from the start of the series, so I don’t want to pretend as though Jiro hasn’t truly changed. The fight against Claude at the end of the first season wasn’t all for naught. Through it, Jiro was able to free himself from the Bureau, and thus free himself from his father’s lies. From that day on, he was able to go out on his own and protect superhumans like he wanted to. But as I’ve suggested at the start of this post, we can’t keep fighting forever. Superhumans are persecuted, so Jiro shows up and tries to help. Rinse and repeat. But what happens when he gets too old to fight? Or even worse, what happens if his spirit fails him? Last week’s episode should serve as a stark reminder that our demons will eventually catch up to us, so Jiro can’t afford to just resist. Rather, he needs to effect radical change. It’s even got to the point where Hyouma just wants the kid to do something. Destroy Teito’s machine or stop Raito, it doesn’t matter. Just do something! Stand for something! Then bear the responsibilities that result from it! Stop being afraid!

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Fittingly enough, this is where Claude comes in. Or rather, the spectre of Claude. After all, Jin is dead. Unable to control his own powers, he turned himself into iron. Nevertheless, Claude continues to persist not only as a disembodied voice that everyone hears when they don the superhuman ability enhancer. Hearing this, one naturally assumes that the helmet literally enhances your abilities. But don’t forget that Rainbow Knight was never actually a superhuman. He was just a regular human who wanted to be a hero, so he put on a costume, and fought for what he believed was right. At the time, Jiro couldn’t help but ask, “Then how are humans and superhumans different?” So again, superhuman ability enhancer probably does augment your superhuman abilities, but it does more than that. It gives you clarity. After all, who or what did Claude represent? He was supposed to be the ideal Jiro, the Jiro that was willing to fight for justice, freedom, and peace. So when people put this helmet on, they gain a sort of inner clarity: “Come, let’s resume the fight.”

Lost and confused, unsure of what he should do, Jiro seeks out Michiko with Fuurouta’s assistance. Our hero organized this clandestine meeting in order to try the helmet out for himself. But what will he even see with it on, especially when Claude is supposed to be the ideal version of himself? Not surprisingly, he neither hears Claude’s voice nor does he see a ghost of Claude before him. Instead, Jiro goes back in time. He sees himself as a young boy. He sees the power in his own blood. He also sees a conversation between his father and Satomi, one that reveals Jiro’s true nature. He was the bomb that the US had dropped on Hiroshima. But this bomb failed, resulting in what looks like a human baby. But as we all know, just because a bomb hasn’t gone off doesn’t mean it is now safe. There’s a great, destructive power hidden in Jiro that he can barely articulate into words. He simply accepts that there is a beast within him. But more importantly, why does he see these scenes? What purpose do they serve beyond, of course, moving the plot along?

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Like others, Jiro does gain clarity when he dons the helmet, but he gains a sort of inner clarity. It’s as if Jiro always knew the truth, but he was unwilling to confront it. He is, after all, shocked and shaken to hear what his blood is capable of. Apparently, it not only heals superhumans at an incredible rate, but it gives you gigantism as well. But what if Jiro’s blood does more than that? What if, as Mieko suggests, it is the reason Aki became violent (I don’t actually believe this yet)? What if it was also the reason Giganto Gon went mad? It would appear that this blood can help breed powerful soldiers, and considering the recent oil crisis, this might explain why Master Ultima sees our hero as the solution to the world’s energy problems. In any case, these are truths that Jiro needs to know. Jiro needs to know that he is originally a weapon created by America. He needs to know what his blood is capable of. Only with this knowledge can Jiro decide what he needs to do next if he truly wants to be superhuman. This is the sort of clarity that he gets from the helmet. It enhances your ability to be superhuman in more ways than one.


Everything Else

— Satomi wanting to rid the world of superhumans actually makes some sense when you think about it from his perspective. From our vantage point — and the vantage point of Jiro — this is a story about superhuman oppression. At the same time, the people in charge are actually superhumans themselves. The prime minister’s powers aren’t flashy, but very effective and powerful nonetheless. And of course, we already know what Master Ultima is capable of. We already know that this America, like our America, likes to throw its weight around and meddle in numerous international affairs. In last week’s episode, we even saw how the US Army wants to force the entire world to accept its vision of transhumanism. So taking all of these things into consideration, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Satomi is sick of superhumans and how they appear to adverse affect the world. We talk about superhuman rights and freedom for all, but in his mind, certain superhumans are already free, and look what they’re doing with their freedom. It’s even more concerning because superhumans have so much power at their fingertips. After all, he was the one who warned Magotake about Jiro and the potential threat that the kid represents. In the end, everyone wants to protect themselves. Satomi just goes about it in a very conservative way.

— Yeah, destroying government property would be a crime, but I’m pretty sure revolutions are also technically illegal.

— Seeing the brief glimpse of the Middle Eastern conflict in this week’s episode, I really wish we could see more of the superhuman conflicts in other areas of the world. Maybe there could be a Concrete Revolutio spinoff. Well, not likely, but one can dream.

— I rather like Hyouma’s character. Like Emi, you get the sense that he still supports Jiro even if they disagree. Even now, he’s still trying to get Jiro to grow up, to take a real stand, so on and so forth. Though between Emi and Kikko, I guess I’d have to lean towards the latter.

— According to Kaoru, “[n]either violent demolition nor anarchism will change anything.” Raito isn’t the bad guy here. Everyone acts horrified, but what did he do that is actually so wrong? He destroyed a goddamn bridge. Boo-hoo. Across the entire series, Concrete Revolutio is very careful in its portrayal of violence. Superhumans are killed and tortured, but you rarely ever see the loss of regular human lives. You thus can’t help but wonder, “What are they getting so worked up about?” But that’s the point, isn’t it? The point is to get the audience outraged: “Yo, we haven’t actually done anything wrong, and you guys are mad at us. That’s ridiculous!” Why is this response important? Because we have to be mindful of Japan’s history.

Like in Concrete Revolutio, public perception turned against student activism and the youth when violence broke out in the protests of the 50s and 60s. Since then, any sort of anti-government spirit has been muted to the point that protesters have to be always be mindful of their behavior despite the righteousness of their cause. The result is that, like with Occupy Wall Street, nobody can effect any meaningful change. And ultimately, this is what the established powers want. Fine, get mad and vent. Whatever. We can even milk your rage for views and thus money. We might even throw you an incremental change or two. But at the end of the day, things are just going to back to normal because protesters are willing to behave. And if they’re not, the rest of society will pressure them to behave. We’re going to have a revolution! But, y’know, don’t disrupt the social order or anything. We don’t want to be criminals. Don’t forget that it’s not justice to go against the government!

— Mieko contends that Raito’s actions “just stir up hate for superhumans.” But people already fear and hate superhumans. That’s why superhumans are being oppressed in the first place. If you behave, it’s not like people are just gonna wake up one day and say, “Oh hey, they’ve been good boys and girls. Let’s give them some rights back.” When has that ever happened?

— The purple wound patterns on Aki’s legs look kinda pretty. Too bad they’re corrosive and she’s in pain.

— Say what?

— I feel for Yumihiko. All this talk about the world not being black and white, that it’s okay to be grey, so on and so on. It’s just a way to desensitize us. Like he says, it’s just a way for us to overlook our leaders’ unethical behavior. It’s not unique to Japan by any means. US politicians are bought and sold to the highest bidder, and if we complain about it, we are told to grow up. This is how the world works. What a joke.


Final Word

I’ve been waiting for this moment. This is the sort of tension and energy that I had wanted the second season to carry over from the first. Understandably, it would’ve been difficult to maintain this level of urgency over the course of an entire season. This likely explains why we got some of the slower, more episodic episodes. And again, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy those stories. But what we’re seeing here is what got me hooked in the first place. Show me the revolution. After all, the word is in the series’ own name. Let me see what Jiro and company are truly capable of precisely because this is fantasy. Here, we are able to confront certain dimensions that we are not ready to approach in the real world. Don’t be afraid to burn a few bridges. Don’t freak out if you break a law or two. Is Japan ready for an actual revolution? Nobody is. So more than ever, we need fiction.

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4 thoughts on “Concrete Revolutio Ep. 21: Ideological clarity

  1. fgfdfh

    There are only 3 episode left, isn’t it? The show has tried to stay close to history, so I’m sure there won’t be any revolution. But what will happen to Jiro? Will he accept there’s nothing he can do(at least the way he’s doing things now), or will he act in vain?

    Honestly, everyone criticizes Jiro too much. His power is great, but he is not ambitious or exceptional in any meaningful way. Why do they need to pressure him to do something?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      You’re focusing too much on his physical capabilities. He may not be the strongest individual in this universe, but so what? He just stood there and did nothing in this week’s episode. Acting “in vain” is not as bad as you make it out to be. Even if you fail, at least you tried something, and someone else can pick up the pieces at a later date. The revolution may fail, but its spirit lives on. But you gotta at least try. I like the guy, but claiming that going against the government isn’t justice is pretty pathetic.

      Reply
      1. fgfdfh

        On the bigger context, I agree :Jiro must decide what he need to do. Right now, he hasn’t got any plausible plan. However, in the episodic plot ONLY, I’d argue that not doing anything is the best choice. Otherwise, he will have to help his friend in what basically a meaningless terrorist attack. Or worse, help the government to crush his allies. In the end, he help his friend escape, and that should be enough.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Why would it be a meaningless terrorist attack? Those robots cost 13 billion yen. Moreover, there’s a very fine line between freedom fighter and terrorist. I don’t see any civilian casualties. Just because characters like Megasshin call it terrorism doesn’t mean that it is.

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