“So this is hell?”
“Nobody told you?”
-A conversation between Koto and the monk Myoue (Yakushimaru), Kyousogiga, episode 6
Previously, I wrote of the folly in dissecting Kyousogiga. This is hardly to say that there is no meaning to be found in the series, but rather that one would be better off attempting to find their own meaning based on personal reaction, rather than allowing it – and the myriad of information, both visual and otherwise, that it throws at you – to dictate your consumption.
Thus far, this is what I have discovered about myself through my personal consumption of this series.
Prior to Koto’s arrival, there were three: the eldest Kurama with his cheerful and nerdy bunch, the middle child Yase and her wonderful demons, and the youngest Yakushimaru, now called Myoue, and the promise his father left him, to return with “a beginning and an end.” Together, they lived each day in the mirror capital, their futures stretching out eternally. In spite of the fact that the sun did set, days began, and colorful seasons were ushered through by events such as the station opening and various festivals, their lives were an unchanging, never ending cycle. Devoid of ever-burning fires, mountains of knives, or murky rivers to cross, the mirror capital is a hell for these three due to their individual circumstances. It is Kurama’s hell as he cannot leave. It is Yase’s hell without her mother, Lady Koto. It is Yakushimaru’s hell because he cannot die.
One of my favorite plays – and texts in general – is Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, which features the well-known line, “Hell is other people.” While one interpretation digests this on a base level – the three main characters of No Exit are trapped in hell with only each other for company, and a ceaseless cycle of loathing and attraction – another places this within the context of one’s self and how they relate to others. That is, the hell that they are trapped in is one of each others’ subjectivity. They are unable to separate another person from their perceived experiences and this affects the way that they view themselves in turn: as objects to be viewed or interacted with by another. Kyousogiga offers three beings, like No Exit, but instead of contextualizing their relationships with one another, focuses on their individual selves in relation to their absent parents.
“The love you bear is the very thing that can save him.”
-The bodhisattva to the black rabbit Koto, Kyousogiga, episode 1
Two of the children, Kurama and Yase, were brought to life from ink drawings, and the third, Yakushimaru, was resurrected from the dead thanks to a pomegranate and the mystical powers of Myoue. However, the family originally began with Myoue’s sketch of a black rabbit, Koto, brought to life by a bodhisattva so that she could express her love to Myoue, her creator, in person. All four of them – including Yakushimaru as he had died, and began a completely different life with Myoue and Koto – become sums of their experiences with each other. When Kurama suggests that it would be easier on them if he and Yase went back to being drawings, Myoue immediately shoots down this idea, saying that he will not do it. In spite of the fact that Kurama began as a drawing, he is now a sum of social experiences, as are Yase and Yakushimaru.
The key player in all of this, however, is Koto herself. While it’s easier to see the transformation from drawing to a being with subjectivity in Kurama, Myoue is a bit more complicated. Isolated from others by his mysterious power, he had holed up in the mountains with only his dog for company until Koto came along. It was Koto whose love slowly began to change Myoue into the person who escapes twice: once with his entire family from the real world into the mirror capital, and once with only Koto, to prevent her being taken from him. Upon their departure, things begin to fall apart for Kurama, Yase, and Yakushimaru. The mirror capital, which was once their heaven, now becomes their hell.
Kyousogiga presents me with additional ties to ideas of hell in the form of the aforementioned pomegranates – Greek god of the underworld, Hades, tricked the goddess Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds, necessitating her stay in the underworld for a third of the year – used to bring Yakushimaru back to life and additionally sprinkled throughout the series. These are juicy tidbits I can easily latch on to and digest, organizing them in my mind. The nonsense and constant barrage of visual and auditory information feed directly into my love of organization.
Why does watching Kyousogiga return me specifically to No Exit? It certainly wasn’t a direct reference, like the pomegranates. Is that play the framework that I have chosen to view not only this series but others through? Was it simply the presence of three individuals stuck in limbo with only each other for companionship? I seem to be inordinately fascinated not only with narrative structure, but the effect that beings have on each other. My subjectivity, in returning to this text time and again, peeks through more and more with each passing episode.
Koto’s appearance in the mirror capital both calls back the beginning and heralds the end that Yakushimaru had been promised. I look forward to soaking it all in, arriving at whatever meaning I choose to find.