Kyousogiga and What We Find There

kyousogiga, capital craze, lady koto, koto, black rabbit

“Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.”

-Lewis Carroll, from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There”

If you find yourself unable to process information, does it haunt you?

The first episode of Kyousogiga – formerly an original net animation before the more recent 13-episode series – opens with the above Lewis Carroll poem from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.” It’s an interesting choice when one considers the poem within the context of Charles “Lewis Carroll” Dodgson, and the woman who was presumably the “real-life” Alice, Alice Liddell. The entire poem itself is an acrostic, spelling out Alice Pleasance Liddell. Additionally, the poem is specifically placed at the end of “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” rather than its predecessor, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” It is rumored that Carroll had a falling out with the Liddell Family, to which Alice belonged, in between “Adventures” and “Looking Glass,” and the poem wistfully looks back on the days when Carroll would take Alice and her sisters on rowboat outings. On one such trip, the story of the “Alice” books was presumably conceived when Alice Liddell asked Carroll to entertain her and her two sisters.

kyoto, capital craze, kyousogiga 00, chessboard

There are a multitude of visual parallels between Kyousogiga and “Alice” beginning with the series’ focus on chessboard imagery, a nod to “Through the Looking Glass” where Alice finds that her garden has been transformed into a chessboard with bodies of water signifying the separation between squares. Alice is promised to be made a queen if she can progress a certain number of squares on the board. Additionally, the entirety of the “Alice” prose is arguably the most famous version of literary nonsense in existence. Literary nonsense plays on our natural human thirst for knowledge and to logically order things by placing words, images, and the like in a nonsensical presentation or order, leaving our poor minds hopelessly confused. We constantly desire to find meaning in all things, whether or not they mean anything at all.

Oddly enough, one would only know this while watching Kyousogiga if one had either studied Lewis Carroll and the “Alice” books at some point in their life, or been bothered enough following this episode to find the source of the poem. Both imply, at the very least, a thirst for knowledge outside of the hints that the series provides. Lewis Carroll is somewhat of a fascination for some – with entire societies dedicated to examining his life – as so many things about the man remain a mystery. The nature of his relationship with the aforementioned Alice Liddell, for example, and whether she was The Alice or simply an Alice, is a point that remains hotly debated among Carroll scholars. In an odd way, the contrary nature of the discourse surrounding Carroll’s personal life mirrors the discourse of his literature, with any and all parties desperately trying to make sense of it.

As previously mentioned, Kyousogiga contains direct references to “Alice;” however, the presentation of its imagery also mimics Carroll’s writing style through its nonstop assault on your senses. Colors, movement, use of negative space, positioning, and individual frames all rapidly assail the viewer, daring them to comprehend it. Additionally, there is the nature of any viewer who has read, or seen, any of “Alice” to make an attempt at finding direct references between Kyousogiga and Carroll’s tale. Who is the rabbit? Are the brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee? Is Kyousogiga’s heroine, Koto, also Lady Koto, goddess of Kyoto? These sentiments bring us back to the initial question posed at the beginning of this post: If you find yourself unable to process information, does it haunt you?

Fortunately, even if your answer to this question is, “Yes,” Kyousogiga offers, along with the “Alice” books, an answer: let the visuals and prose, respectively, wash over you, and then choose your own meaning.

“Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?”

-Lewis Carroll, from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There”

10 comments

  1. My relationship to Alice in Wonderland is somewhat interesting. It’s a bit weird, really. Not having actually read much of the original works, or even not remembering much of the finer details in any of its adaptations (the only one I ever watched was from the 1951 Disney film), I only remembered a few elements from it, which formed the various cues that I found in other media that referenced Carroll’s works:

    – a journey to another random world
    – random things happening
    – rabbits and nonsense
    – usually the protagonist is a girl

    It’s not a definitive list (and God so help me if anyone dares engage in debate with me with regards to what defines an Alice allusion), but it’s enough to have me recognize an “Alice episode” when I see one. The fact that there are just so many of them out there that it becomes a sort of iconography for me. Oh it’s Alice, that’s pretty neat.

    And really, that’s about it. It’s kind of strange to imagine how one would imagine analyzing a reference to something nonsensical. If you can’t make head or tales of the original, how could one possibly make heads or tales of the contemporary? From the view of a creator of fiction/art/etc., to go down the rabbit hole with media references is to simply let the creativity of Alice wash over and let the imagery come out.

    Alice has this wonderful effect of bringing out the most of our brains, whether it be from an analytical or creative standpoint. It’s amazing; Kyousougiga isn’t necessarily doing anything new, but oh my god is it full of life and creativity, just as this post (and the feature image! It’s amazing just by itself and essentially conveys the same message as this post!). Don’t you feel that you just wanted to create the entirety of this post (image et al) the way you did because of what Alice brings to the creative table? You don’t have to answer that, your post says it all. Great work as always, Em ^ ^

    1. I will engage in that debate with you (not really). ^ ^

      For me, what defines an “Alice episode” is the ability to pop its heroine (or hero) out of their comfort zone into a nonsensical world, therefore allowing that character to discover something about themselves that they perhaps hadn’t known, or appreciate their normal home life that much more, while trying to make sense of the nonsense. As an aside, this is actually why I dislike Ouran’s Alice episode, as Haruhi is already in a world of absurdity in the entirety of the series, it doesn’t change much when she’s placed into Alice’s world.

      Thanks for commenting. ^ ^

      1. Mmm, that’s understandable considering that you’ve actually read the books. I figure I don’t have much of a say in the matter since I haven’t done so yet. Am I right to comment, then? Don’t answer that.

  2. As chaotic as Kyousogiga may appear, the story is rather straightforward. But it’s presentation feels like a load of, for lack of a better word, red herrings. It begins in media res, which can leave the audience feeling a little lost. Koto is initially seen in an action chase scene. There’s the parade and festival. Characters like Inari appears out of nowhere. The politics of the city, led by the three children of Lady Koto are introduced. Then there’s also the observation lab – all of these I feel a product of starting in the middle of the story. Only in the middle are we told that Koto doesn’t necessarily belong to this world. Only in the middle do we understand (though that fairly entertaining interview sequence) of the importance of Lady Koto.

    Where I do find meaning, is in Koto’s last line: “I want to go home!” I don’t think there’s anything that could bring together everything shown, all the nonsense and colors and characters, better than that single line at the end. It’s cathartic.

    1. I definitely agree with what you said regarding Kyousogiga’s presentation, especially within the context of setting up “visual nonsense” of sorts. Items appear in a seemingly random order, confusing the viewer as they try to make sense of them.

      Stripped down to its barest, I think that the story of “Alice in Wonderland” is also very simple, relying on nuanced wordplay and prose to make the plot seem far more complex than it actually is. Much like Koto, Alice only wants to go home, and that, for me, is the most important part of the “Alice” story.

      Thank you so much for commenting and, additionally, for recommending this series to me. I absolutely love it so far.

  3. I’ve read the two Alices a long time ago. And since I can’t say I became particulary attached to them, I never searched more for the author. Reading Wiki’s entry about him kinda shocks me…

    On another note, I tried to watch the first few ONAs of the series but since I couldn’t understand them,I just abandoned them. For me pleasure comes from understanding and just visual or audial pleasure. I wonder if the series will be clearer by its end, so perhaps I can give it a 3rd chance. From the very little I’ve watched though the one character I liked and was intrigued by was Lady Koto. Very pretty illustration of yours!

    1. Lewis Carroll was certainly a controversial fellow, even in his own time. I suppose when there are entire societies dedicated to the study of one person’s specific life, that’s a tip-off that they’re a rather interesting character. ^ ^

      I haven’t watched the ONAs yet, but certainly plan to having watched this recap episode. I know for me personally, so much enjoyment was had watching this episode 00 simply from the amazing visuals.

      For some reason, I’m not surprised that you like Lady Koto. Her character design is very CLAMP. ^ ^

      Thanks for the comment!

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