lady koto

Rie Matsumoto at the End of All Things

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“Myoue, I’ve been wondering, can we stay together a little longer? We’ve come all this way, and even came back to life and all. I can promise I’ll finish everything off. Let’s stay together just a little longer.”

-Koto to Myoue, Kyousougiga, Episode 10

A common thread in Rie Matsumoto’s directorial work is the inevitable destruction of whatever world she has spent the majority of the series or movie building. There is a ruined garden, structures flying everywhere, and an overall sense of disorientation in the face of the work’s respective protagonist coming to terms with what is most important to them.

As it turns out, what is most important is also wholly mundane and unquantifiable.

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The Children of Rie Matsumoto: Mary Macbeth and Koto

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When children tell stories, they’re often stymied by an inability to communicate. Adults are frequently too far removed from their own childhood to understand, or the child is unable to make adults comprehend – much like the narrator of The Little Prince who, as a young boy, draws an elephant inside of a snake which is then interpreted as a hat. Additionally, when adults look back on their youth, they look at it from the eyes of an adult, reframing their experiences in a different context.

This makes portraying children in fiction and varying forms of media incredibly difficult. All too often a creator will underestimate a child’s intelligence and show them doing unnecessarily stupid things rather than a more nuanced display of ignorance. It’s remarkable when a director or creator gets children right.

With that being said, I’d like to draw your attention to Rie Matsumoto, director of Kyousogiga and Blood Blockade Battlefront.

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On Lesser and Stray Gods

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Exchanges between humanity and gods in anime have always fascinated me. Perhaps it is due to my Catholic upbringing – where the primary relationship between man and god is built with the former firmly in awe of the latter, and a very rigid process of human life to afterlife – however, Shinto gods and humans have always appeared to have a fairly equal relationship. The beliefs of Shinto are that spiritual essences reside in all things, creating a collective known as yaoyorozu no kami or “eighty millions of kami” with the boundary between spiritual and natural  left undefined. This isn’t to say that these gods (for lack of a better term, I’m using “kami” as synonymous with “god”) are without organization as there is a hierarchy within the multitudes. Primary gods are enshrined at specific locations, naturally garnering more attendance from worshipers. 

Which leads us to the following question: would you trust the young man pictured above, of all gods, with your wish?

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Needing to Know in Kyousogiga

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“I only have a future. I can only keep going if I want to understand anything.”

-Koto, Kyousogiga, episode 7

When Koto breaks into the Shrine sanctuary that houses her mother, she is confident and does not flinch, even in the face of what appears to be a sticky situation. Koto reunites with her mother straightforwardly, with little excess emotion in spite of the fact that she is beaming with excitement. When the two are targeted shortly thereafter, Koto reacts instinctively. She grabs her mother, holding her closely, and proceeds to put personal questions, and feelings, aside in order to safely deliver her mother to her waiting siblings in the Mirror Capital.

The entirety of Koto’s life has been a maze of questions and answers with no context. As a child, Koto learned not to hide her tears, but to move forward following an outburst. She is far from emotionless, and vigorously expresses herself before moving on with her life – shown beautifully in the “rescue” of her mother, Lady Koto – to further seek out her own answers. This is the only way that she knows how to live, and her process of finding these answers is often driven by force. She forces her way because she knows no other and, as a consequence of her ignorance regarding her own personal situation, this leads to inevitable chaos or destruction.

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I can accept this place as my home like any other: Kyousogiga and me.

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“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.

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