Yakushimaru in Wonderland
December 17, 2013 § 3 Comments
“Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.”
-A poem from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” by Lewis Carroll
From the moment she barges in by force, in search of a rabbit, Koto is the standout character – our presumed Alice – in the wonderland of the Mirror Capital. She is loud, winsome, and charming, allowing us to discover the mysteries of the Mirror Capital alongside her. Koto is confused, attempting to grasp at any sort of explanation for her mother’s disappearance, and so are we as we attempt to digest the imagery and references that Kyousogiga throws our way.
For me, the crux of an “Alice story,” or a take on the Lewis Carroll “Alice books,” lies in placing the heroine or hero in a fantastic setting for an episode. As they make their way through the mysteries of the mirror world, or dream, that they have been placed in, they grow to have a better appreciation for their own life, or home. It is here that placing Koto in the role of Alice doesn’t fit. Koto has already, come to terms with her situation. She cried as a child, and then grew stronger, never looking back. Unlike her would-be siblings, she faces life with an admirable amount of determination and ambition, and as she tells Yakushimaru, she can only keep moving forward. Although she wants to go home, she has a sense of calm ownership about her. Koto’s demeanor is energetic, but she knows who she is and what she wants. If Koto is not our Alice, then it certainly isn’t Yase or Kurama, who both are well aware of what they desire. This leaves us with one remaining option.
What if our “Alice” is not Koto, but Yakushimaru?
Furthering this train of thought, what if this wonderland, the Mirror Capital, was created for Yakushimaru, aiding him in coming to terms with his own death, and the death of his biological parents? Pomegranate imagery has been prevalent in Kyousogiga, specifically around the character of Yakushimaru. In Greek mythology, Hades offered Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, pomegranate seeds to eat, thereby confining her to the underworld for a third of the year. At this time, every year, the land is barren due to Demeter’s grief at the loss of her daughter. This tale offers an explanation for the changing of the seasons: a cycle of death and rebirth.
Additionally, the Lady Koto had borrowed her body from a bodhisattva, one who wishes for all to achieve a state of enlightenment or Buddhahood. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, living is compared to being in a house that has caught on fire, with the house burning down, signifying death. Without realizing the peril that they are in, people continue to live pursuing earthly pleasures, unaware that there is a limited amount of time before the fire takes its toll. The role of a bodhisattva is to free others from the worldly cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) caused by ignorance and attachment to their own possessions or experiences, by guiding them down the Buddhist path of enlightenment.
“Don’t look down. Don’t be afraid, Myoue. The task you must do is not in the past. Look straight ahead. Go forward. Don’t worry. Your past won’t disappear. To long for a future doesn’t mean you betray the past, Yakushimaru.”
-Kurama, Kyousogiga, episode 9
Referring to the Mirror Capital as a hell, Yakushimaru, now Myoue, shirked any and all responsibility over the Mirror Capital and his own existence. Following the fire that killed his original family – in a large house that suspiciously resembles the Myoue Shrine – Yakushimaru attempted to kill himself before the elder Myoue intervened. He never asked for his new life, and further resents the elder Myoue for giving him one before taking it all away. The Mirror Capital itself is a strange place for a supposed wonderland. Nothing is born and nothing dies. The things that one chooses to throw away float up into the sky only to be loaded onto a train bound for an unknown place. The Mirror Capital takes much from “Through the Looking Glass” beginning with Yakushimaru’s death in the winter season and chessboard imagery in both the cityscape and the faceless crowds that also resemble mirror shards.
The pomegranate that the elder Myoue offers is not one that brings Yakushimaru back to life, at least, not in the so-called “real world.” Shortly after his resurrection by force, elder Myoue and Koto depart for the Mirror Capital with Yakushimaru and his false siblings in tow. Before leaving him alone in this world created for him – aside from Yase and Kurama, who were also created for him – Myoue gives Yakushimaru the remainder of his powers of creation, leaving him to guide the world as he sees fit. Due to Yakushimaru’s wish for death, and his preoccupation with the past, he did not choose to take control of this world through the looking glass until it, and additionally his siblings, were threatened with annihilation.
As Yakushimaru, now Myoue, chooses to save the Mirror Capital, it’s telling that his faithful golden retriever – presumably another gift from the elder Myoue – vanishes after leading him to Koto. He too, was created as a companion, first for the elder Myoue, and then for his progeny, but is no longer needed. Yakushimaru, thanks to his tailor-made wonderland, finally accepts himself, and those that he cares about. Now, like Alice, we watch for his return “home” wherever that may be.
As an aside, within anime, my favorite “Alice episode” was from Sengoku Collection, followed closely by Aikatsu!‘s offering.