Concrete Revolutio Episode 9: Holy Mackerel! The Show Went There!
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Just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in what our calendar would call December 7, 1941, a Japanese submarine washes up on a Hawaiian beach. An American patrol finds it just in time for a Japanese officer to open the hatch. They immediately fire, but he survives the barrage. So they try again.
The narrative switches to a middle school classroom that is in what I think of as the show’s present. The teacher is talking about the origins of life. Morino, a student, thinks the teacher has it completely wrong. After school, Fuurouta in butterfly form tries to follow Morino as he walks home with his sister Wakaba*. Unfortunately for him, Wakaba captures and tethers him. Kikko Hoshino can’t rescue him because she’s supposed to under cover (like he’s supposed to be).
When they get home, their grandmother, grandfather, and Magotake Hitoyoshi greet them. The latter two are playing shogi. Their older sister and baby sister Megumi are also there. The older sister mentions that they haven’t heard from their brother yet even though it has been 2 years since they sent the signal.
What signal? The scene shifts to two years ago when an ether factory in Kawasaki exploded and destroyed the surrounding houses. The Superhuman Bureau, thinking some evil organization might be at work, sends Jirou Hitoyoshi to the scene. When he arrives, he sees a family of six taken away in an ambulance. They were not even injured; the baby even laughed!
They commandeer the ambulance and disappear. Hyouma Yoshimura remembered them from his time travels, but he can’t tell the rest of the Bureau about that. So he simply says he saw them a long time ago when they numbered seven — but now there’re only six. The Bureau realizes that the publicity surrounding the six’s survival was a message to the seventh. Daishi Akita remembers a rumor that the United States’ version of the Bureau had captured a Japanese immortal superhuman just around 30 years ago in 1941 (our calendar).
Later, Magotake reveals the results of his research. The immortal Japanese superhuman was the first Prisoner of War (POW) that the Americans captured. They tried many times to kill him — shooting him, hanging him, electrocuting him — even feeding him to army ants. As the torture progressed, they tried to understand what made him immortal, but they failed. Magotake contacted the United States and told them the rest of the family was still missing, though of course the Bureau knew where they were. The US said they would release the POW to the Japanese so the two governments could conduct joint testing.
That brings us back to the scene where Magotake was playing shogi with the grandfather. The family receives a phone call that the father is in Japan now and wants to reunite. As Magotake slips out, he sees his adopted son Jirou, who, by this time in the timeline, has left the Bureau, though he’s not yet acting against them. As Jirou tries to piece together what’s going on, the Americans smuggle components of a giant robot into Japan.
Yoshimura and Jirou arrive at the family’s meeting place. The grandmother chides them for trying to interrupt a family reunion thirty years in the making. Yoshimura protests that the family needs the Bureau’s protection; Jirou asks if it’s for protection for military exploitation. Then the American robot attacks.
The team tries to beat back the threat, but the robot is too strong. It even destroys Kino’s magical beast attack with the Bio Destroyer, a new American chemical weapon that they learn destroys all organic molecules. The father now understands that the Americans never intended to conduct joint research, or even to abduct the family. Having failed to understand his immortality, the American government decided to destroy them once and for all. The grandfather concludes that since the Americans can’t risk a huge international incident, the robot must be set to self-destruct when it completes its mission. So, to protect the surrounding city from devastation, the family thanks the Bureau for trying to help and marches to the robot and their doom. The robot dumps Bio Destroyer on them, confirms they are completely dissolved, then destroys itself.
Fortunately for my heart, disintegration is not enough to destroy the family. They begin to reconstitute shortly after the robot is gone. Their are completely unhurt. The baby even yawns as it reawakens. They depart into the mists created by the Bio Destroyer.
Having been ripped apart by the tidal forces of his emotions, Jirou asks if the team if they still think the Bureau and its “arrogant” attempt to control superhumans is needed. Magotake protests that no beings should exist beyond the control or governments or humanity in general. Jirou counters that the immortal family does not hurt humans, nor can they be killed by humans. He thinks that they have surpassed humans.
* Am I the only one who thinks Wakaba looks like a younger Mayoi Hachikuji from several of the Monogatari series (like Nisemonogatari, available on Crunchyroll and for purchase from Amazon)? With slightly less sharp teeth, of course…
What I Liked
Hoshino realizes the father is the one missing because the baby needed a father. Kino’s surprised Hoshino knew about that biological necessity; Ullr comments that he doesn’t remember teaching her that. Of course, Hoshino’s blushing the whole time.
I enjoyed the dismayed/creeped out look on the grandmother’s face when Magotake says he’d love to see how Wakaba looks in a few years. Gotta admit I found the statement a bit creepy as well!
I’m not sure this qualifies as a like, but the immortal family humming a sad tune as they marched to the robot was really effective. It reminded me of the Tachikomas sacrificing themselves at the end of Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig. I’d love to know more about that family. Why did they care if the surrounding city was destroyed? Was that altruism baked into their genes? Was it something they learned by experience, and if so, what was that experience? The show (wisely, I think) kept them and their motivations mysterious, but I’d still love to know.
We get to see Jirou’s transitionary stage in this episode. Having recently left the Bureau, he was not yet at war with them and still tried to interact with them. The Bureau’s inability to protect the immortal family, and their general attitude of trying to help a government that clearly didn’t have the family’s best interests at heart, seemed to confirm his decision to leave — and to further distant him from them.
What I Liked Less
At the beginning of the episode, when the American patrol opened fire on the Japanese officer for the second time, it sounded like they were using Thompson submachine guns. However, the animation made it look like they were using the M1 Garand rifle, and that’s what the first barrage sounded like. It’s a minor detail, but it bothered me.
On a more serious note, I didn’t like how America was portrayed. Don’t get me wrong: I do not fault this episode. I fault the United States for engaging in torture as a tool of state craft, for conducting experiments on its own military personnel, and for trying to re-enact the events that led up to Kristallnacht, including calls for labeling and de-humanizing members of the Islamic faith in the United States. I wish I lived in a country whose behavior was beyond such accusations — but when they become less accusations and more matters of fact, I have to say that I don’t like that one bit.
This review was personally difficult to write. Its themes hit too close to home — right in the heart, in fact. Many of the factors fueling Jirou’s trajectory out of the Bureau are the same facing the Western world today. From my perspective, they reflect America in particular (America here meaning the United States). Jirou wants to protect the superhumans from harm and exploitation. The governments, on the other hand, want to leverage them for war and/or experiment on them. Whether this be out of fear, greed, lust for power, or some other motivation is not relevant to me. A government’s job is to ensure the rights of its citizens. Otherwise, what right does a government have to exist?
In a sense, the immortal family in this episode is fortunate. They have evolved beyond the ability for humanity to hurt them. They are isolated, a single family traveling together through the stream of time, but they have evolved beyond the need for a government. Jirou — and us — aren’t that lucky. We have to deal with the intersecting projections of political and financial power. Jirou seems to be asking himself what one person can do against such might. We see that he tries to gather like-minded individuals to his side. But even then, they will constitute a small band, perhaps powerful in their own right, but limited by their lack of political and financial power to effect real and lasting change.
That sounds way too familiar to me.
If art is a mirror held up to real life, then I think Concrete Revolutio qualifies as art.
Reviews of Other Season 1 Episodes
- Episode 1: The Witch Girl of Tokyo
- Episode 2: Inside the Black Fog
- Episode 3: An Iron Couple
- Episodes 4-6: Missing due to a mysterious calamity
- Episode 7: Go Beyond the Sky and Stars
- Episode 8: Nobody Knows about the Rainbow Knight
- Episode 10: Mirage of Destiny
- Episode 11: Justice / Freedom / Peace
- Episode 12: Hakko Superhuman Crash Incident
- Episode 13: Riots in Shinjuku