I’ve never needed much sleep. Even as a child, sleep was an obnoxious fact of life that stopped me from doing things. However, as a child, I was unable to choose when I was supposed to sleep, and spent hours staring at my ceiling mind racing.
One of the many habits developed from this was placing life events into timelines. I would choose an event, say a family vacation I had specifically enjoyed, and count the days backwards to it.
“Sixty-three days ago, at this exact moment, I was at a sleepover at Diana’s house.”
With a starting point in mind, I then filled in the blanks from that point until the present day and organize my thoughts. This automatic filing of my own activities persists to this day. Even now, I sometimes wonder what watershed of events led to the particular moment that I’m living in right now.
Time is a weird, slippery thing that we attempt to define and quantify, but thinking about it from a personal perspective is horrifying enough to cause heart palpitations. The tiny decisions to do or not to do something add up, and it’s all too often only later down the road that we bother to look back and attempt to piece together how things happened.
Concrete Revolutio is a series commenting on, among other things, the passage of time. This is partially due to its oft-maligned design, where the story skips forward to the future and then back to the present or past. However, it eschews the common time-travel – or time-focused – narrative where ramifications of one’s actions are explicit, choosing instead to highlight the gap between past and future. No butterfly will pop up in these characters’ periphery, telling them that their actions have consequences. Instead, the result is shown alongside the initial action, leaving both the viewer and the in-universe characters themselves wondering how point A led to point B.
While others have denounced Concrete Revolutio for needless complication – deeming time skips completely irrelevant I see it as the series’ equivalent of organizing thoughts. Each episode shows a different character musing on how things have changed. Within the various looks at the future that the series reveals, some characters frame their lives with events that they deem beyond their own control, while others stew on how their own actions changed everything.
The boy ghost Fuurouta is Concrete Revolutio‘s most obvious example as his future self anguishes over when things became complicated. Being a ghost, Fuurouta will never truly age, but his later words show both confusion and introspection, as even one who is physically incapable of growing is mentally affected by the consequences of his own actions.
In contrast to characters like Fuurouta, or the magical girl Kikko Hoshino – who are shown at different time periods contemplating or trying to fix what their actions have caused – we are also given Emi Kino. A self-proclaimed youkai, Emi seems all too aware of her own actions, and is willing to accept any harm that happens to her or others as a result, regardless of intention. Emi won’t likely be given an episode contemplating the “hows” and “whys” of points between her decisions and the aftermath because she’s already accepted her role in whatever eventually comes to fruition.
Naturally, Concrete Revolutio is concerned with many things other than time. Fans of the series – of which there are few, but said few are passionate – will cite a myriad of reasons when asked why they love it, ranging from the overall aesthetic to jabs at Japanese history and broader philosophical questions about what it means to be human. However, for me personally, time is what Concrete Revolutio does best. It’s the anime equivalent of walking to my apartment balcony, looking out at the city skyline, and wondering how I am standing at this place in this exact moment.