Concrete Revolutio Episode 7: The Power of Perception

November 27, 2015

Go Beyond the Sky and Stars,” the fourth episode of Concrete Revolutio, gives us another hint about why Jirou Hitoyoshi’s split from the Superhuman Bureau — but only a hint. Oh, and we see he has other allies in the future, too.

Amazon has a CD of this anime’s opening theme song. You can buy it here!

What Happened

This post has a higher than usual chance of revealing spoilers. Be warned!

Ullr and Emi Kino are talking in a bar. Ullr has been trying to prepare Kikko Hoshino to rule in another dimension (as in ascend to a throne — being a princess and all), and he’s trying to enlist Kino’s help disengaging Hoshino from the man she has a crush on, Jirou Hitoyoshi. Of course, since Hitoyoshi is Kino’s boyfriend, Ullr’s finds a ready ally. While they’re talking, they see the machine-doll Earth-chan, who protects humans, fly past.

In other part of town (in the same timeline — staying in the same timeline for more than a scene is a welcome change!), Hoshino meets Judas so she can escort him to the Superhuman Bureau. He had helped Hoshino and her friends defeat the Diamond Eaters a year ago, but then he had disappeared until now. Earth-chan arrives and says that since he just got out of prison, she’s going to defeat him before he can do evil again. A very confused Hoshino defends Judas, and they escape.

Earth-chan is determined to stop Judas -- even though he hasn't done anything. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Earth-chan is determined to stop Judas — even though he hasn’t done anything. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Back at headquarters, they meet with Hitoyoshi, Daishi Akita, and Hyouma Yoshimura. Judas confirms that for the past year, he was in a jail for superhumans. He had used his electrical powers to help the Diamond Eaters before he turned against them.* Back then, during a robbery, Earth-chan arrived to defeat the Diamond Eaters and Judas. Her monologue convinced him that he was in the wrong, and that’s why he allowed himself to go to jail. Now, he wants to work with the Superhuman Bureau to help other superhumans like himself.

Akita asks Hoshino to get in touch with Earth-chan. Hoshino, ever the optimist, thinks it’s to clear up the misunderstanding about Judas. That’s not what Akita has in mind. Hoshino visits the machine doll in orbit, but their introduction is cut short when Earth-chan receives a request for help. A law-breaking financial company bilked a man not only out of his money, but out of part of his humanity — one arm is now a mini-gun. He takes a hostage because he can’t get justice any other way. When Earth-chan arrives and says he’s the evil one, he denies it and tries to explain the situation to her. She won’t listen to him. The people watching the situation conclude that if Earth-chan said the man was in the wrong, he was in the wrong and was therefore evil. After he’s apprehended, Earth-Chan flies off to save a baby bird falling from its nest. She also responds to a boy who’s coughing due to the soot and smog in the air. When she ties up industrial smoke stacks to help him breath, she appears troubled.

Hoshino tries to visit Earth-chan in orbit agin — this time without interruption — and gives her some candy that will supposedly help her dream.

That night, Hitoyoshi visits Hoshino to tell her that the Japanese Prime Minister’s about to join the Defense Force of Earth, which will protect men against “evil” spacemen. Hoshino thinks Earth-chan will help protect the Prime Minister. Fuurouta thinks that she’ll support the student protesters, many of whom are superhumans. Hitoyoshi is severely conflicted because he doesn’t want to exploit Earth-chan to make the Prime Minister appear to be in the right.

In a bar that’s a free-zone for all kinds of beings, Judas announces that he wants to join the protests. He objects to painting all spacemen as evil without proof. The patrons think the same, some for different reasons: the beasts are afraid humans will try to use them as cannon fodder again; some of the superhumans are concerned they’ll lose their jobs. Earth-chan, hearing that Judas wants to join the protests, arrives and says that he’s about to do something that’ll get him arrested, so he must be in the wrong again. In an effort to prove his good faith, he promises her that he won’t use his powers at the protest. After Hoshino, Hitoyoshi, and Judas leave, a shady character tells Earth-chan that Hoshino is actually a witch. After that, Earth-chan suspects the dream candy is likely a poison designed to weaken her.

The main characters are all at the protest. Some musical superhumans on the side of the protesters urge the crowd to move against the police. Hoshino wonders which side Earth-chan will take, and Hitoyoshi reminds her that Earth-chan’ll help anyone unless they ask for her help from the bottom of their hearts. It’s not really an indication of good or evil; just ultimate need.

The crowd surges and pushes a water truck onto its side. From her vantage point above, Earth-chan sees Judas use his power to pick up the truck, and she concludes he lied to her. She swoops down to confront him. Hoshino tries to deescalate the situation, but Earth-chan interprets the attempt as proof the witch is evil.

Hoshino tries to deescalate the situation. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Hoshino tries to deescalate the situation. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Judas, having ducked into the water truck’s cab, emerges carrying a wounded protester. Judas’ power had kept the truck from crushing him. He tells Earth-chan that he appreciates her helping him get away from the Diamond Eaters. After explaining he only used his power to save the protester, he apologizes to her for lying and says he accepts that he’ll never be a superhuman of justice like she is. Blank faced, she takes the wounded man to the hospital.

The Prime Minster and his entourage use the distraction to take off and head for conference to join the Defense Force of Earth.

Later that night, a troubled Earth-chan visits Hoshino and asks her to remove the spell that lets her dream. She hasn’t been able to sleep since eating the first candy. Hoshino says the candy was just candy. It had no magical powers; only the power of suggestion. Back in orbit, Earth-chan dreams of being a little girl having a picnic with her mom, dad, little brothers, and baby sister.

After the end credits, the episode jumps ahead in time. Hitoyoshi breaks into a vault and walks up to a crystal coffin whose occupant has blood-covered fingers. Judas, apparently having joined with Hitoyoshi, says that he will restore the occupant — who is the deactivated Earth-chan.

 

* It’s hard to be sure, but I really think that Mikoto Misaka and her electrical powers could defeat him and his electrical powers. No doubt Shirai Kuroko would misunderstand, feel jealous, and intervene. So I guess we’ll never know the outcome of the electrical battle.

What I Liked

Hoshino delivering a telephone to Earth-chan was funny. The phone even had a cord! Not practical at all, but funny. It shows Hoshino still has so much to learn.

Judas’ story — someone who wanted to do good but could only find respect and camaraderie among others doing “evil,” resonates today. Especially today. I’m reminded of a quote from the Christian scriptures (Luke 11:46): “And he said, ‘Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.'” How often do we see society impose such burdens on people? How often do we see individuals marginalized and stranded without support — only to be mercilessly thrown into jail or cast out of society? I wonder if that’s the best we can do.

Hoshino had to protect Judas from Earth-chan even though he was trying to join the Superhuman Bureau. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Hoshino had to protect Judas from Earth-chan even though he was trying to join the Superhuman Bureau. Capture from the Funimation stream.

I liked how the episode showed how gray areas around telling the truth and lies play out. Even the best intentions can be overwhelmed by necessity. It’s not a particularly deep philosophical discussion, but having the discussion at all is something I found hugely interesting. Ethics in action can be fun!

This episode showed how perspective can warp perception, even if all parties are anting in good faith. Judas intended to keep his word — until he saw someone crushed by a water truck. Was he a liar? Did he choose a greater good? Or is the discussion framed incorrectly? Did he act on a moral imperative (saving a human) while the concept of lying necessitates intent — which he did not have?

I enjoyed the multiple layers of dramatization of the gulf between right and wrong as seen from the individual, organizations, and the state, even if those involved process to be part pf the forces of justice. Just a little extra information here, or a little less information there, can make 180 degrees of difference. Yet, if the state is wrong, the outcome to an individual can be cataclysmic. That effect can extend to whole swaths of the population.

During the protest, I saw Earth-chan’s hesitancy. She was looking for some semblance of her previous certainty. That’s why she only acted when she saw Judas’ lie. It was the only concept she could process at that time. I had to admire her courage to not strike. And yet, I yearned for her to develop the wisdom to understand better when to strike. It’s been a long time since a show made me consider an issue like this!

What I Liked Less

I think I get what the writers are trying to do with the multiple timelines. I think they’re trying to group past, present, and future events to show clearly which past events drove decisions in the present and future. At this stage of the series, though, I’m almost exhausted trying to keep it all straight! In particular, I find that writing the episode summary takes about three times longer than any other show I’ve reviewed. Now, that might be due to my near lead intellectual density. Or, maybe, just maybe, the plot too convoluted!

I really wish they’d find a way to make these interesting philosophical and ethical discussions more accessible!

Thoughts

Concrete Revolutio continues to be a challenge to comment on. The complexity of how the show expresses its timeline makes the show less accessible. But the concepts it presents and lets play out are engrossing. This episode’s reflections of today’s western world bordered on scathing.

Judas' character is one of the most realistic I've seen in a long time. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Judas’ character is one of the most realistic I’ve seen in a long time. Capture from the Funimation stream.

Yet because they were presented realistically, I found them easy to accept.

What role do those of us in “normal” society play when those on the “fringes” slide away? Do we have any responsibility? Should we simply delight in their willingness to provide a good moral example?** This episode asked the question from a personal, organizational, and governmental perspective. The farther away the discussion got from the individual, the higher the probability that those on the fringes were marginalized.

All this discussion from an episode of Concrete Revolutio! How cool is that?

 

** I’m reminded of a line from the musical Wicked: “Through their lives our children learn.” In this context, the singers were pointing out that the social costs levied on the “wicked” helped their children learn to avoid wickedness. If that were a formula in a spreadsheet, I’m pretty sure I’d see a CIRC indicator.

Reviews of Other Season 1 Episodes

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