Concrete Revolutio Ep. 22: Masks

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There seems to be this commonly held belief that we simply need to remove our masks in order to emancipate our true selves. I am not what you see on the surface. Rather, there’s an inner me beneath this mask that I wear — an inner story that you have not yet heard. What I show the world is merely a facade. And this belief is a comforting one, because we often use it to rationalize our actions, i.e. I wasn’t really being me, this is just the mask I wear, so on and so forth. What if, however, there is actually more truth to the fictional mask? What if we’ve simply conned ourselves into believing a beautiful lie? This is what Zizek would suggest. Let’s say I’m a horrible troll on the internet. I say racist and sexist remarks through social media, and I pride myself on making others feel bad about themselves. “Oh, but that’s just my internet persona,” I tell myself, “The real me is actually a shy and timid person who would never hurt a fly.” What if, however, it is the other way around? What if my “mask” is actually the shy and timid persona that I adopt in the real world? And online, unfettered by anonymity, I show the world who I really am. After all, there are consequences to being a real life troll. I can’t say racist and sexist remarks at work without losing my job. I can’t make people around me feel horrible without losing all my family and friends. Unable to show my true self to the world, I thus a adopt a shy and timid person.

Essentially, there’s more truth to the fictional mask than we realize, and Concrete Revolutio toys with this idea over and over. At first, Rainbow Knight was seen as the ideality of superhumans, but as it turned out, neither his suit nor Rainbow Knight himself had any actual powers. So he wasn’t a superhuman after all, right? His “true self” was just a regular human, right? Both Zizek and Concrete Revolutio would disagree. Rainbow Knight’s true identity was in the mask itself! It allowed him to be who he really wanted to be, which was an agent of justice. That’s why Jiro insisted at the end of the fifteenth episode that Rainbow Knight, despite his all-too-human physical status, was nevertheless a superhuman. So what are we to make of Claude and those helmets? Is Claude’s persona, as the characters suggest, really controlling these characters, and making them do things they don’t want to do? No, absolutely not. Again, there is more truth to the fictional mask than we are comfortable with. Over and over again, Claude has only shown people the truth. His truth may lead to violence, but Claude has never truly misled anyone. Even when Jin-as-Claude convinced Kikko that he was really Jiro, he wasn’t technically lying to her. In this week’s episode, Jiro learns from the helmet that Claude is a manifestation of his childish rage, a dissatisfaction stemming from his inability to protect superhumans and change the world for the better. So from a certain point of view, when Kikko allied herself with Jin-as-Claude, she was really helping Jiro. It just happened to be the a certain type of Jiro; it was the Jiro she had always wanted, the Jiro who would fight for his ideals no matter what.

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But even if Claude is really just Jiro’s “childish” grudge, you can’t say that others — namely Daitetsu, Michiko, and company — are being controlled by our hero’s rage. Rather, they all have the same frustrations as Jiro. Michiko said it herself. She thought that superhumans would be greater than they actually are. She wanted superhumans to show her what true justice is, not this moral relativism nonsense that’s been shoved down everyone’s throats. Over and over again, however, superhumans have failed her. Claude merely taps into this rage and frustration that has been building up inside of Michiko. In fact, you could argue that Claude simply enhances it, and as such, the helmet doesn’t just enhance superhuman abilities. Rather, it seems to sweep away our inhibitions, thereby unshackling our childish innocence or, in other words, our id. Yes, the helmet “makes” individuals like Michiko do things that they wouldn’t normally do, but is that not because we are bound by society’s rules and expectations? Is that not because we are prevented from fighting for our absolute justice? “You’ll hurt people,” they’ll protest, which is fair point, but others are not always harmed in the way that you’d expect. I still remember when Raito hilariously asserted that the Shinjuku riot was being a nuisance to commuters. Society is a facet of our superego, and our superego always makes these ridiculous, impossible demands of us. Demands such as, “Hey, look, don’t let your pursuit of happiness get in the way of commuters.”

Of course, I’m not arguing that it is better to don the helmet and listen to our “inner Claude:”

“The id in all its radical ambiguity… namely, what is so weird about [the id] is that [it is] childishly innocent, just striving for pleasure… But, at the same time, [it is] possessed by some kind of primordial evil, aggressive all the time. And this unique combination of utter corruption and innocence is what the id is all about.”

Doesn’t Claude personify this sort of radical ambiguity? He rants about justice in a very black-and-white manner, and this is only fitting. After all, he represents Jiro’s ideals, the very same ideals that the adults of the world have constantly derided as childish, naive, and foolish. On a similar vein, it makes sense that the younger, more immature Kikko was enamored by this side of Jiro, and thus allowed herself to be seduced by Claude. In this sense, there’s a certain immutable innocence to Claude that rarely exists in most adults. Cynicism has long eroded most of our idealism. At the same time, however, Claude will stop at nothing to pursue his vision of justice. He murdered those scientists who had performed inhuman experiments on superhumans. Were the scientists guilty of their crimes? Perhaps. But even if they were truly guilty, didn’t they nevertheless deserve a fair trial? Of course. We can’t just go around executing people for their alleged crimes, no matter how heinous these crimes may seem. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. Nobody will blame you for killing someone in self-defense before they can kill you, but we can’t say the same about those scientists, can we? But this is what Claude is all about. It’s about achieving a revolution at all costs. It’s also what the id is all about. Michiko, who has mostly schemed from the shadows, suddenly becomes violent when she wears the helmet, and takes actions into her own hands. This is not her typical modus operandi, but the helmet allows her to tap into that same rage that Jiro feels.

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Jiro’s hesitation in this week’s episode comes down to a problem of identity. In his dreams, Claude removed the helmet to reveal Jiro’s own face. So who is Jiro really? Is he the Jiro from the first season, i.e. the boy who claimed he was protecting superhumans, but in reality, he was just another extension of state power? Or does Claude, in all his childish rage for justice, truly represent Jiro? This is the conflict that our hero finds himself unable to resolve by himself, and as a result, he finds himself again unable to act decisively without Fuurouta’s words of encouragement. This is also the same inner conflict that we saw last week. If he had stopped Raito, he would’ve found himself back at square one, i.e. turning back into the Jiro from the first season. If he had instead joined Raito in destroying the NUTS robots, however, then he would’ve given in to his inner Claude — the inner desire for mayhem that Megasshin accused Jiro of secretly harboring. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to draw a false equivalency between these two opposing sides. I’m not the sort to say that there are many conceptions of justice, and that the truth lies somewhere in the murky middle. Rather, I truly believe — as most of us all believe — that the Japanese government in Concrete Revolutio is beyond corrupt, and furthermore, Jiro needs to do more to fix this problem. Nevertheless, what’s problematic about Claude isn’t his pursuit of justice, but rather, why he pursues it. You can’t pursue justice simply because it gives you pleasure. Otherwise, it becomes fetishistic. What’s ultimately childish about Claude is that it isn’t about making people’s lives better. And I know people will argue that justice is for justice’s sake, but I disagree. What is the point of justice if everyone ends up being worse off?

Again, the government is corrupt, Teito is evil, and something has to be done. No, I don’t agree with the Bureau, because I don’t agree with the idea that slow, incremental change by subverting the government from the inside is effective. But there has got to be a better way to effect change. There has got to be a better plan than destroying things and inciting a riot. Riots aren’t bad in themselves, but if the Occupy Wall Street movement has shown us anything, it’s that we need more than just a loud and attention-grabbing show. We need concrete plans for tomorrow, then the day after that, so on and so forth. This is something that Michiko hints at in this week’s episode: “If [superhumans] got together, they could get rid of wars, and save starving kids. Don’t you think?” Fuurouta thinks she’s being absurd, and in one sense, he’s right: you probably won’t end world hunger just because you have superpowers, unless, of course, you’re Jesus and can create an infinite amount of food out of nowhere. But what’s not absurd is the idea that the superhumans can and should be working together. They really haven’t. The Bureau registers superhumans, but only to keep track of them. And for the most part, superhumans appear to work alone, and this merely reflects the common superhero mythos. Yes, there are organizations such as the Justice League and whatnot, but the majority of superhero stories start off on rather lonely, don’t they? Through some sort of personal tragedy, you end up fighting crime by yourself in your own little corner of the world. But if superhumans are so great, imagine what they could do if they were united? Of course, this is not an original idea by any means, but it’s one that hasn’t really been explored in the Concrete Revolutio universe.

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And maybe that’s the revolution that Jiro desperately needs. More than ever, he needs to unite a broken nation of both superhumans and humans. Certainly, Jiro’s recruited allies to his cause, but for the most part, superhumans remain this fragmented group. They’re being persecuted as if they’re one and the same, but they’re not fighting back as if they’re one and the same. How can superhumans convince humans to understand them if they can’t even come to a mutual understanding among themselves? Someone has to change that. But for now, Jiro can do what he can: he stops Michiko’s rampaging id to prevent a larger disaster, but not before eight lives have already been lost. Blood is always going to be spilled in a true revolution, but there was no revolution here. Michiko wasn’t going to accomplish anything meaningful. That’s why I view it much more harshly than Raito’s actions in last week’s episode. If destroying a bridge had actually cost any lives, the anime wouldn’t have been coy about it. The story would’ve spoonfed the death count to us, so I think it’s reasonable to assume no lives were lost that night. As such, I don’t see anything wrong with him undermining the transportation of the NUTS robots, especially since we know how much damage those weapons can cause. On the other hand, Michiko is just going nuts (no pun intended) without any concrete plan in mind, so Jiro is completely in the right to stop her. The only question is if he’s found a clear path forward yet. With just two episodes left to go, he better think of something soon.


Everything Else

— I love the fictional counterparts in Teito’s movie. More specifically, why on earth does fictional Hyouma have a ‘fro?

— I also like the way the anime demonstrates the insidious power of propaganda. While watching the movie, a mother tells her kid that this is exactly what she saw when she was a child, but her son contends, “You said you couldn’t see anything.” This is how powerful narratives can shape our perceptions and make us believe truths we never really had.

— At first, Satomi tells Magotake that they can use Jiro’s power to create an advanced civilization. I imagine that this is accomplished through Jiro’s blood. Fast forward to the present day, and Satomi wants to get rid of superhumans completely. I wonder what’s changed.

— The animation this week was really, really disappointing. I’m not just talking about the ugly characters during the propaganda movie scenes. Just look at the way Earth-chan destroys the this helmet. C’mon, Bones, I know you guys can do better than this. Hell, you are doing better than this right now with two other shows!

— The transformed Equus is pretty underwhelming, but then again, I’m not expecting any sexy mecha action from Concrete Revolutio anyway, so nothing is lost.

— During the fight against the NUTS robots, Emi briefly considers restoring Kikko’s powers. I’m surprised she hasn’t destroyed that side of Kikko outright. I guess there’s always a possibility that you might need it, but still, crazy demon Kikko seems rather uncontrollable. Maybe Emi thinks she can just kill the girl if it ever comes to it. That’s what she wanted to do initially anyway.

— I wonder what Satomi was deliberating when he raised his cane up to Michiko’s forehead. Would he have really killed her in public like that? Besides, her actions ended up accomplishing his initial goal anyway, and that was to stage Japan’s “biggest terrorist attack ever.” So she’s still useful for now.

— I hoped they emptied those fuel tanks before dumping the NUTS robots into the ocean… probably not.

— I like how the film portrays it as though Jiro had turned into a beast and eaten Rainbow Knight. But that’s not too far off, is it? He’s certainly incorporated Rainbow Knight’s ideals and heroism into his own character, so in a way, he did consume his childhood idol.

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5 thoughts on “Concrete Revolutio Ep. 22: Masks

  1. kenshirojoestar

    “— I love the fictional counterparts in Teito’s movie. More specifically, why on earth does fictional Hyouma have a ‘fro?”

    That shot remember me of one episode of the third season of “Avatar the Legend of Aang”(episode 17 of that season). In that episode the fire nation(the antagonists) did something similar(theater plays instead of movies) to make the protagonist group to look like the bad guys.

    “— The animation this week was really, really disappointing. I’m not just talking about the ugly characters during the propaganda movie scenes. Just look at the way Earth-chan destroys the this helmet. C’mon, Bones, I know you guys can do better than this. Hell, you are doing better than this right now with two other shows!”

    True, the anime had been really bad in this episode. I may be wrong, because I watched the first season months ago, but I think that this season has worse animation than the first season. I know that Bones has 3 animes in this season, but the others 2 animes of Bones have better production values.

    “— The transformed Equus is pretty underwhelming, but then again, I’m not expecting any sexy mecha action from Concrete Revolutio anyway, so nothing is lost.”

    I liked its look in the second episode of this season, but it looked really underwhelming in this episode.

    Reply
      1. kenshirojoestar

        True. Boku no Hero is the most popular of the 3 and Bungou Stray Dogs is more mainstream than Conrevo.

        Reply
  2. DP

    I take a backseat to no one in my admiration for the guy behind Concrete Revolutio, and I liked (though didn’t love) the first season of the show. But this second season is just an utter trainwreck – at least to my mind – I know the critical consensus is still quite positive.

    The narrative has become impossibly convoluted, with too many underdeveloped characters flitting in and out of a story that just has altogether too many moving pieces; the dialogue is now about as subtle as a sledgehammer, constantly pounding home the author’s rage-filled themes; and the “one-off” stories have been horrendous, such as the Vietnam episode, which was just a lame, stereotypical anti-American smear, completely devoid of insight – amounting to little more than a bunch of absurdist, angry spittle.

    I’m starting to wonder if the critical hunger for substantive anime is such that even an unmitigated mess like this is good enough to draw plaudits. I understand the thinking – chutzpah and ambition are a lot better than lazy tropes – but even for all that it’s trying, Concrete Revolutio simply isn’t doing anywhere near a good enough job in its execution that we should be overlooking its pretty glaring flaws.

    Reply

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