11 No Entry
After the last set of episodes that served as a series of interludes from the main plot, the series returns to the core events of Shonen Bat. Misae (Melodee Spevack), Ikari’s wife, faces Shonen Bat when she reaches the end of her rope. However, instead of becoming his victim, she spends the episode keeping him in check as she teeters on the edge of despair, recounting the events of her marriage and the growing sense of emptiness in the past few months.
So far, Shonen Bat has been attacked to certain kinds of people, those who want some kind of release, but this episode shows that the victim has some power over Shonen Bat. They must want to be a victim in order for Shonen Bat to be able to attack them. Here, Misae spend the episode frankly looking at her situation, but also finds a place for hope and strength that leads her slowly aware from despair. This takes away Shonen Bat’s power over her.
Hope becomes a core idea in this episode. Misae lectures him, saying that he isn’t truly helping these people. Instead, he’s doing something far worse: he’s giving people false hope. This drastic moment of trauma gives people a short delusion that their lives will be bettered for it. She makes a similar connection to the Maromi character, a soft, consoling voice that only offer fleeting, temporary hope that won’t last.
12 Radar Man
Maniwa concocts a skewed version of reality as he attempts to hunt down Shonen Bat on his own. He paints himself as a holy warrior, akin to Kozuka’s delusion, but more in an urban, post-apocalyptic setting. When he talks to Misae, he gets the breakthrough he needs: Shonen Bat and Maromi are one and the same. As he looks into Tsukiko’s past again, by jacking into the Internet, he discovers that she was assailed by a kid on roller-skates at a young age. Ikari and Tsukiko are assailed by Shonen Bat, but Maniwa staves him off. During the process Ikari and Tsukiko vanish into another world.
While this series has done some strange, unique things, I think this is the episode where it really sets the tone for the final arc. Maniwa’s journey is a post-apocalyptic quest through the urban jungle of Tokyo. While the line between the fragile mind and reality have been somewhat divided, here they converge and blend in a way that finally gives us the true identity of Shonen Bat. For some, this reveal might come across as unsatisfying, but I think it works as the potency of Shonen Bat as an idea.
13 The Final Episode
Ikara and Tsukiko find themselves in an old, idyllic version of Tokyo. First off, the animation for this world is gorgeous. Ikara and Tuskiko animate regularly, but everyone else has stick-puppet style movement and the centuries old Tokyo art style is magnificent. The world tempts both the characters to embrace the fantasy that they’ve wanted to live in for so long and it’s both beautiful and sad to see how that plays out. Throughout their ventures in this world, reality tries to reach out to them. Maniwa appears on a television relaying a message and Misae shows up as a waitress desperately calling for her husband to return.
In this world, the origins of Shonen Bat is fully developed. Tsukiko made up the assailant to explain the accidental death of her pet dog, Maromi, when she was a child. Ikari smashes this illusionary world and Tsukiko accepts the responsibility of her actions which is finally able to extinguish Shonen Bat from the world. However, during this process, Shonen Bat and Maromi battle in the city of Tokyo, ravaging most of the land. The show flashes two years forward as the damage is repaired, people go about living their lives. The final scene is Maniwa doing an equation in chalk, as he reaches the answer, he gasps.
This conclusion becomes a battleground over the illusions we make to comfort ourselves. As Shonen Bat and Maromi battle, they encapsulate two separately unhealthy approaches to how we deal with pain and trauma: we either temporarily comfort ourselves with shallow affirmations or we craft a monstrous antagonist that sadistically preys upon us. While there might be glimmers of truth in both, they’re taking to unhealthy extremes that prove not only destructive to ourselves, but potentially devastating to others as these ideas perpetuate and grow. It is only through the balance of accepting the reality of events and taking responsibility for our acts that we are able to reach reconciliation.
© 2014 James Blake Ewing