Mon. Jan 17th, 2022


Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be journeying back to Paradigm, as Roger continues to uncover the secrets of his amnesiac city. That process has actually been going quite smoothly lately; this season has already offered new context for the histories of Roger and Dorothy, and the last episode even saw Roger trading barbs with Rosewater directly. Explaining that his plans are predicated on the “memories of the future” extracted from his stolen data disc, Rosewater seemed almost eager to reveal his grand designs. As we move further into what was always intended as Big O’s second half, it seems the series is gearing up for both a physical and metaphorical paradigm shift.

I apologize for that awful play on words, but seriously, Paradigm’s name is feeling more appropriate all the time. The city of Paradigm is not a stable reality – it is one way of seeing reality, a specific set of assumptions underpinning an artificially conjured present. Paradigm is a state of mind, a world that could only be created through cultural manipulation on a mass scale: the great wave of amnesia. Now, Rosewater holds the blueprints of a new Paradigm, and intends to use that knowledge to remake the city in his image. Whether he succeeds or fails, the dream that is Paradigm is sure to dissipate in the harsh morning light. Let’s get to it!

Episode 17

Damn, powerful imagery right out the gate. We open with Seebach (“Schwarzwald”) climbing up a dune in a vast wasteland. His feet pressing against the sand present a natural connotation of hopeless struggle, as his legs sink down almost as far as they rise with each new step

This wasteland was once inhabited; railings and clock towers rise out of the dunes, offering a fractured reprise of this show’s regular clock tower establishing shot

“Even without the events of forty years ago, I think that man would still be a creature that fears the dark. He doesn’t face that fear. He averts his eyes from it, and acts as if he never had any memories of his history.”

For Seebach, the amnesia of Paradigm is just one more expression of mankind’s general unwillingness to face ugly truths. This makes perfect sense for his character; he was a reporter driven to isolation and madness by his pursuit of the truth, so he’s naturally inclined to believe humanity in general is similarly, willfully oblivious

It also appears like he’s currently outside the domes. Our first image of the wider world is apocalyptic

“Leviathan”

These establishing shots of the city are gorgeous, prompting me to immediately check and confirm that this is another episode directed by Ikuro Sato, one of The Big O’s most reliably impressive directors, who also handled the first two episodes of both the first and second seasons. And with no storyboarder listed, I presume Sato handled both boards and direction for this one, resulting in all the quintessentially Big O compositions like these faceless strangers staring from a news stand. Some directors have differing interpretations of character design within a single franchise; in Big O, it’s frequently Paradigm itself that bears the mark of individual episode directors

Papers shower down on the city, bearing a digitally transposed image of some kind of beastly statue. The Big O putting its freshly digital production line to work

“Is it a crime to try and learn the truth? Is it a sin to search for those things which you fear?”

“My purpose in this world is knowledge, and the dissemination of it. And it is I who is to restore the fruits of my labors to the entire world.” The first half of this statement paints him as a comparable figure to Roger, while the second reveals his motive is more personal vindication than societal illumination

Rising over the dune at last, Seebach witnesses the ruins of an amusement park, half-buried in the sand. Amusement parks popped up all over Japan during the nation’s late-’80s economic heyday, only to fall into disrepair throughout the subsequent decades. The image of an abandoned amusement park thus has a unique resonance for Japanese audiences, serving as a symbol of a lost golden age

Love the ironic contrast of this lighthouse being washed over with waves of sand

The board of directors call Roger in, saying Rosewater wants him to deal with the returned Schwarzwald

As ever, this board of directors delight with their angular profiles. The Big O’s designs are distinctive and unusual without just feeling randomly exaggerated, and it’s because they all fit within the sleek art deco/retro-futurist aesthetic of Paradigm itself. Yet another way The Big O triumphs by drawing from influences outside anime specifically: just as its narrative echoes many film classics, so does its art design evoke a broader spectrum of art history than most anime

After the meeting, Dastun admits that he’s been feeling a bit useless lately, what with all of his assignments ultimately being solved by the Big O

“Schwarzwald… he’s attempting to spread terror in the city again.” Roger seems to disregard Schwarzwald’s stated intentions from the start, assuming he’s just promoting terrorism for terror’s sake

Another neat composition as Roger takes the elevator in this half-destroyed building. As Ikuhara well knows, elevators offer a natural opportunity to “cage” characters in complex background and foreground linework

“Don’t you find it odd that there is only one man in this city who has the desire to pursue the truth?” Now that you mention it, Schwarzwald, that is kinda weird. I’d sorta been extending Roger the “protagonist’s privilege” of being the only person with any curiosity, but if Schwarzwald’s going to bring it up himself, then yes, this does seem like a remarkably incurious populace

Aw, Instro’s been giving Dorothy piano lessons, and she’s actually learned to add some variations in tempo to her playing. As he says, this development is essential; it is not in our adherence to the sheet music, but in how we vary it and make it our own, that we express our humanity through music. Dorothy is becoming a better pianist and a more expressive person at the same time

The clock motif again, as Instro says they’ve run out of time

Instro plays organ for the local church. “More and more, people have been going to church lately. They believe that by singing there, they’ll be saved from some fate.” In times of uncertainty and hopelessness, people cling to their gods. The wave of amnesia certainly dampened this city’s Christian fervor, but it seems like the resultant age of chaos has brought it back in force

“The truth you’re looking for is all in your head. That’s what I keep telling myself, at least. These days, it keeps my mind calmer.” Roger has learned too much to dismiss Seebach as a lunatic, and is mostly just trying to avoid breaking down himself

The Megadeus that Seebach activated before, which Roger now realizes to be a Big O prototype, has disappeared from the underground

I’m beginning to suspect a second reason for this episode’s lack of a dedicated storyboarder: it’s basically half flashbacks, so it wasn’t that much added labor for Sato to do it himself

He finds a typewriter with one statement repeated: “There is but one truth. If you avert your eyes from it, you will always remain nothing more than a puppet.” What will you choose, Roger Smith: peace of mind, or intellectual freedom? Surely you don’t want to remain Rosewater’s begrudging guard dog for the rest of your life

“They tell me not to make any moves until something happens. How the hell are we to protect the city, when it keeps coming under attack from things with such incredible powers!?” Dastun is officially Sick Of It, and he has every right to be. His work is a hopeless sham

It seems like Seebach’s fliers might have some influence over Dorothy’s programming

While Dastun mans the city defenses, Rosewater shows Roger his neat megadeus collection

The resolution of these episodic mysteries is frequently one place where Big O’s disparate genre influences tend to chafe against each other. Roger is always on the hunt for answers to ominous mysteries, but those answers invariably resolve into “oh no, he’s got a giant robot!” Giant robots don’t really embody the creeping subtlety of evil you’d expect from noir

The giant sand serpent seems capable of dismantling buildings into sand. Love this shot of it lit up by the army’s spotlights

Rosewater claims he is somewhat unique, in that he was “born with the qualifications to use a megadeus property.” Rosewater sees himself as a god, or at least as the representative of them, and the megadeus as his rightful chariot

They’re constructing an interesting dichotomy here, between Seebach’s interpretation of this wild mechanical dragon as a purposeless creature that is thus reminiscent of Paradigm’s directionless populace, versus Rosewater’s belief in the megadeus as an embodiment of godly righteousness and purpose. No surprise that Rosewater believes power is its own justification

With Roger preoccupied, Norman pilots the Big O against the serpent

“That dragon is a ghost from long ago,” Dorothy states. Roger also refers to it as “another potential archetype” – presumably from when men worshipped dragon-like beasts, rather than their own image. I can see now why Rosewater seeks to stamp out Christianity – he wishes to become God via the crown of the megadeus, and does not want competition for his throne

“Imagination and memory are but one thing, which for diverse considerations hath diverse names.” A line from Hobbes’ Leviathan, which also provided this episode’s title and antagonist. However framed, Seebach speaks of the capacity for imagining a world other than what is, as the only potential route to intellectual and physical freedom

Angel provides the stinger: in truth, Seebach has been dead for some time

And Done

Oh boy, what a dense episode that was! After a series of episodes that all provided some clear, tangible insight into the history of Paradigm, this episode instead relished in exploring the ambiguous thematic significance of the megadeus, through the contrast of Seebach and Rosewater’s perspectives. It seemed that, through the rise of the Leviathan, Seebach sought to instill in Paradigm’s people a curiosity for the world beyond their stasis, and perhaps even the desire for an alternate god.

Meanwhile, Rosewater continues his journey to personal godhood, through a combined program of seizing the “gods’ chariots” while dulling his population’s imagination and memory, such that they cannot dream of any master beyond him. And even beyond that, we’ve got Roger and Dorothy’s parallel journey, as Roger seeks the comforting mental oblivion of a robot, while Dorothy embraces the flexibility and imagination of humanity. Providing Rosewater with a genuine challenger in Seebach ultimately served to demonstrate just how little Roger has accomplished, as well as clarify the stakes of the battle for Paradigm. In a city with no past, one man could very well become a god.

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By admin