Apocalypse Now

November 13, 2008 at 6:49 am (Animanga) (, , )

Someone’s writing a–I hesitate to say fanfic, even if it’s technically true, but it’s more like a novel in scope, really. Anyway, it’s the plot of CLAMP’s X/1999, but set ten years later (so, er, x/2009?). The premise is: what if Kamui had been given an extra ten years to think over his decision before he had to pick a side?

It’s called Epic, and the first book Epoch is currently being posted here scene by scene, though you can also request the .pdf of the entire first book. I highly recommend it; it’s what I ended up doing and it was totally worth the wasted hours spent mailining Epoch rather than studying. *grins*

I wish I had a more coherent, more meaningful review to give, but I really don’t, unless “Seriously guys, this is really really really good, and also relevant to many current issues and you need to read it right fucking now” counts. Anyway, Epoch made me think, so here, have some thoughts. They’re all chock-full of spoilers for Epoch so er, behind the cut we go! Half of ’em were x-posted to the Epic comm, but the other half I didn’t get a chance too…kind of debating whether or not I should. I want to turn #4 into an actual, fullblown essay, when I have a little more free time.

Okay, enough blather! Here are the comments for real.

1. What really got to me was how certain everyone was that Kamui would choose the Dragons of Heaven. How there was doubt, but the other Seals and their allies had this sense of, “How could he pick anything else?” and when Kamui wasn’t fitting what they thought he was going to be like or pick, that’s when they started to get nervous. But they had so much faith, but not in a heartwarming way — more in a desperate way, like he had to pick the Seals or else — no, no thinking about the or else. Every time they asserted that Kamui was one of them, or would be soon, I had this awful sense of foreboding (okay, maybe the way Kamui was filed under Unaffiliated in the Dramatis Personae helped with that too).

Annnnd related to that, I keep wondering why the people who are supposed to be “in the know,” like Hinoto — and like Kanoe, and some of the other Angels — didn’t get that there would be two Kamui. I mean, yeah, I guess I can see why they’d assume that the Messiah would come in the singular, but it seems kind of — well, blind, to assume that the perfect symmetry of the Dragons of Earth and the Dragons of Heaven, wouldn’t be carried out in the symmetry of Kamui and his Twin Star, that the balance wouldn’t be maintained. Which is, in a sense, what their entire battle boils down to: the balance between humanity and the Earth, and how that balance has gone awry, and what is the appropriate way of fixing that balance; whether to muddle along and keep trying, or whether to simply wipe the slate clean and start again. It’s appropriate that a battle about balance should be balanced with its players — after all, if there was only one Kamui, and the side he would choose was a foregone conclusion, there wouldn’t need to be a battle in the first place.

In a way I guess what I’m trying to say — to tie the two points together — is that the Dragons of Heaven wanted a cut-and-dried battle, wanted the reassurance of Kamui on their side and hence victory. And they (or rather, Hinoto?) wanted it so much that they blinded themselves the possibility of anything else. They did the same assumption/blindness thing with regards to Subaru, too — Daisuke gave out his name, and Subaru was right, if he’d honestly believed Subaru was an enemy he wouldn’t’ve done it, which means that he must seriously believe that there’s no way a Seal might possibly choose neutrality. Maybe I’m just seeing the “maintain the balance of the Seals and Angels” thing because I’m the reader and as such looking at this from the outside rather than from the inside

The Dragons of Earth exhibit kind of the same blindness, I think — they don’t show up as much in Book One, so I can’t really expand my theory to them quite yet. Of the ones we do see, they seem to be ignorant of the Twin Star less from blindness and more from, well, actual ignorance.

2. So…as I was thinking over Kamui’s assertion that humanity has ceased to cohere and has become a society of individuals rather than a single group…I started looking at the Seals and Angels’ motivations for picking sides (or not, in Subaru’s case) in the conflict, and they do seem to carry out Kamui’s belief, on both sides. I mean —

Subaru opts to stay neutral, but is he really? I can’t help but think that his determination to stop onmyouji from fighing onmyouji is more borne out of a desire to stop the possibility of having to fight Seishirou. Because if he were to accept his involvement as a Dragon of Heaven, then Seishirou might become his opponent by virtue of being a Dragon of Earth (considering that now Seishirou has more or less decided to place his loyalties with Subaru, it does become uncertain whether or not he’d accept his own position as an Angel if it meant opposing him.) And…well…from where I’m standing, forcing all onmyouji to abide by his decision because he doesn’t want to fight his lover is really, well, selfish. And even if that’s not his motivation, even if he wants only to keep the people he’s in charge of safe, it’s still selfish — thinking of the individual (all the clans under his jurisdiction) rather than the group. I mean, I bet Seishirou is still scary, even in his old age (*cough*) but does Subaru honestly believe that’s going to be enough? Sooner or later, someone (or some clan) is going to decide that declaring a side is more important than abiding by Subaru’s decree and is worth risking the Sakurazukamori’s wrath. And then what? There will be bloodshed between onmyouji anyway.

And…uh…yeah, that wasn’t supposed to have gotten so long. Well, then you have Kakyou. What drives Kakyou to more or less accept his destiny as an Angel is hate: he hates Seishirou, and he hates Subaru, and he hates himself. He doesn’t care about the fate of the world; he just doesn’t want a world that needs Seishirou to be alive. He doesn’t care about what comes after, he just wants the end. I mean — at the end of the dream scene where he’s seeing Subaru’s history, his hatred is palpable even through the text, through the screen. But it’s still a selfish emotion, and a selfish motivation for, you know, damning the rest of humanity.

And…even Kamui’s decision is tainted with selfishness, too — I mean, he admits it himself, he could have changed his mind for Kotori and Fuuma. It’s the small scale thing again — it’s the little things that make it into his consideration, that help make up his mind.

3. the constant changes between and distinctness of each scene’s voice lend weight to Kamui’s assertion about people being selfish; the narrative is continuous but it’s not seen from a cohesive, group POV. Even when interacting with others, everyone’s stuck in their own head.

3a. Did I mention the voice? Because hot damn. The voices are seriously out of this world — each on is distinct from the other, and you can tell, with some of them, almost right off the bat. It’s amazing. My writer-self curls up on foetal position and weeps, because how can I ever write voice that well?

4. KOTORI AS AN ALLEGORY FOR HUMANITY. This totally occurred to me as a one-off from another person’s comment on Epoch; how the last two lines are ominous when “Kotori” is replaced with “humanity,” in light of Kamui’s choice. But then — it’s pretty much the same throughout Epoch. Kamui’s tirade about Kotori is pretty much applicable to what he sees in humanity — doing anything possible to stay alive, the selfish impulse for survival. And when Kamui asks whether it’s right to keep Kotori alive just for the sake of her being alive — he’s pretty much asking Fuuma the same of humanity. Is it right to allow humanity to live just for the sake of still living? For some people “at least we’re alive!” is enough. But is it really? What is the difference between living and surviving? Where do you draw the line — can you even draw a line? At what point does life become so devoid of anything other than survival that you might as well be dead — and what do you do then?

Kotori is humanity. Kotori is struggling to stay alive, even though her body is erupting with new problems all the time and the treatments she’s taking are working at crosspurposes; the solutions aren’t cooperating, they’re too busy in-fighting to be of any use. Eventually she’s so ill that the choice is between letting her go or forcing her to live. But if she lives, she’ll just be as ill as before, probably worse, and is that really, truly, living and is it right, in light of the fact that her body wants to die, to force it to keep living when it’s so tired, so weak, so ready to end.

In a sense Kotori also symbolizes all the things Kamui could have loved of humanity — trust, faith, hope, love, joy, beauty, art; all the ideals that, to him, are no longer enough. When he kills Kotori, he symbolically kills his own faith in those things; her death is the first knell of the apocalypse because her death is when Kamui symbolically kills humanity and declares his allegiance to the Dragons of Earth.

Even her death carries out this comparison. She’s semi-conscious, impotent, helpless before the forces that are about to ravage her; she can’t even speak to influence her own fate any more (her last work, Kamui lacks quotation marks for a reason). The way her hair tangles around Kamui’s legs almost invite death — or maybe try to ward it off. Either way, it no longer matters what humanity wants because the fate of the human race is not in humanity’s hands, but the hands of humans — of individuals. There is nothing Kotori can do in the face of her impending death,and there is nothing humanity can do in the face of the apocalypse.

Um. I had more to say, but I forgot it. *cough* TL;DR: I need Book Two, like, yesterday.

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