[This week’s essay is part one of a two-parter covering first RAYEARTH OVA and then Puella Magic Madoka Magica; however, Part II will be posted in three weeks rather than the standard two due to the holiday season. I may or may not do a shorter essay about the film Arrival in the meantime, so be sure to follow the blog if you aren’t already, or send me an email and I’ll add you to a list.]
I’ve mentioned previously both my father and my upbringing, inundated as it was with Eastern cartoons, cinema and culture, but I don’t know if I have gotten the point across fully. To call my father a ‘weeaboo’, for lack of a better term, is maybe overstating it, but my stepmother, I am sure, has a basement still full of memorabilia enough to make the most rabid hug-pillow collector green with envy, and a collection of anime and movie series on DVD and VHS which ranges mostly from the late 90s to the late aughts and fills entirely at least one DVD stand. God knows, that’s not even considering all that he has pirated over the years; but regardless, from an early age, I was exposed to as much William S. Burroughs as I was Tenchi Muyo, as much H. P. Lovecraft as Ghost in the Shell. For me, personally, anime always greatly captured my imagination, and though I confess that, now in adulthood, my love is less passionate than it was, I am still always keeping my eyes peeled for the next series that will really wow me, and make me feel like I did when I was a child watching Boogiepop Phantom long before it was appropriate and Trigun before I could truly grasp the implications of its ending. More and more, as I delve further into my own writing work and alchemical research and begin to look back on my influences, I see with uncanny clarity the symbols filling the cartoons which so enthralled me when I was small.
Of all the series I watched—and there were very many—one of the earliest I can recall, and, still to my mind, one of the best, was the magical girl anime, Magic Knight Rayearth. Based on a manga which ran originally from 1993 to 1996, the show ran during a similar time frame and was quite swiftly licensed for English translation and release. The series is produced by a team of mangaka who call themselves CLAMP, and who I would like to take a moment to discuss.
An all-female group of artists who produce work with a very distinct style, CLAMP have been working since the late 1980s and have at least one series you’ve heard of, if not more. Whether it’s Tokyo Bablyon, X/1999, Cardcaptor Sakura or xxxHolic, their works are insanely popular with, among other people, middle and high school girls; they should be popular with anybody interested in artistic magic, because the team draws, very deliberately, it would seem, from alchemical and Jungian symbol sets. If it is not deliberate, it is certainly highly coincidental; and, of course, their plots tend to revolve very strongly around the idea of magic.
One particularly interesting habit of CLAMP is to present a story they have already presented in a different way— arguably, to use the same characters with a similar set-up to tell a new story or weave together existing stories. This is a common habit in anime, where one may have a full-run television show which looks vastly different from the OVA which in turn is an altered version of the manga. However, I can think of no clearer a difference between the television series and OVA than that present in CLAMP’s Rayearth series. We will today be studying the OVA, a three-part series which is in some ways the mirror opposite of its television variant, which we will discuss in brief when relevant.
It is important to note, however, that not all anime are so vastly different from appearance to appearance. Case in point, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, heavily influenced by CLAMP’s Rayearth along with everything else under the magical girl umbrella, is very much the same between its television series and three-part movie sequence, with only the final movie providing a story which is original when compared against the television series. It is a case similar to Rayearth, however, in that the shorter story is the better case both times. I would argue that the third film of Madoka is not wholly necessary to what we are trying to understand, and so we will touch on it but briefly in the next essay; we will, however, spend a great deal of time looking carefully at the first two films as pieces of art, and, by the end of both essays, we’ll come to understand what the Spirit Mercurius has to do, exactly, with these two fluffy bastards:
Before we go on I want to make a point for all artists, writers, magicians and so forth to keep in mind, and that is, there are two ways of looking at the psychological implications of a work: from the creator’s perspective, and from the main character’s perspective. (To understand what I mean, if we have a story written by a woman about a man in love with some girl, from the writer’s perspective the man would be her animus and the girl, presumably the woman’s shadow or Salt, depending on the context; but from the character’s perspective, the girl is the man’s anima. It is as if everything is bumped one step forward as a result of contemplating the two perspectives.) Both are worth considering as we observe the show.
1. Our Premise
Although it’s true that the OVA and television series of Rayearth are two vastly different beasts, certain things hold true across the board. In both variants, we follow the story of three girls, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, as they interact in some way with a magical world called Cephiro: the primary difference is that, in the television version and the manga, the girls are transported to Cephiro on the back of a giant flying fish; in the far darker OVA, the girls’ world is threatened by an apocalyptic scenario wherein Cephiro threatens to materialize in Tokyo and destroy it.
Thematically speaking, the difference between these two is downright shocking. The television show is brightly colored and happy-go-lucky; the OVA is dark, as dark from a color palette perspective as X/1999, another CLAMP story about Tokyo being threatened by the apocalypse. The story of the OVA is far tighter, however, and more dense with symbolism for it.
So: stop right there. Knowing what we know from previous essays, let’s take a look at the story being told and the symbols by which we navigate it.
The series’ main character, Hikaru is a little firebrand, and so is appropriately paired with the element of fire. This element, in alchemy related to sulphur, is in some senses a metaphor for creativity or passion. Her mecha, called in the series a ‘Rune God’, is symbolized by a wolf-lion named Rayearth in the series and Lexus in the OVA. Wolves and lions are both, in their turn, important alchemical symbols, but the lion above all, for it heralds the emergence of the King. Note that the Rune Gods are only called such in the American translations; in the Japanese originals, they are called ‘Mashin’, which is both katakana for the English ‘machine’ and a homonym for the Japanese word for ‘evil spirit’.
The beautiful but cold and arrogant Umi is associated with the element of water. Water is associated with alchemical salt, the unconscious, and the beast Leviathan, which is why it is appropriate that Umi’s Rune God is a blue dragon called Selece. Umi’s connection to salt is present, not only in her connection to water, but also her arrogance and prideful ego which must often be overcome. The connection of her dragon to the unconscious is one which runs deep— we need only consider the journey of many a fictional knight into a deep cave to slay a dragon and save a princess to understand that.
Bookish and polite, musical instrument-playing Fuu is associated with the element of air; air, in turn, is associated in alchemy with Mercury, both the alchemical element and the spirit of. Her Rune God, Windam, is a four-winged eagle. The eagle, and birds in general, tend to represent an evolution of consciousness— a ‘taking flight’ of the psyche, appropriate, because Fuu is closely related in the symbolism of the series to wisdom and understanding.
TOKYO AND CEPHIRO
The city of Tokyo, like so many externalized inner cities, represents the current conscious state of the Self. We see in the OVA that it is imperiled, whereas in the television series it is Cephiro which is imperiled— thus, in the television series we see a more conventional, Oz-esque trip into the unconscious from the starting point of the conscious, and we are at risk of losing meaning of and connection to the unconscious. In the OVA, however, we see a situation far worse: the unconscious, Cephiro, is already a bleak and terrible place, and is now threatening to overtake consciousness.
In the television show, the girls do not know one another and are swept to Cephiro when all three happen to be present in Tokyo Tower; in the OVA, where they know one another and apparently have a latent hand in attracting the chaos which rattles their city, Tokyo Tower is also a center of great power, and here risks being turned into the castle of Cephiro’s Princess Emeraude. It is worth noting as an interesting aside that, specifically speaking, the masculine phallic symbol of the tower, a symbol of the connection between above and below and of consciousness and the unconscious, risks being transformed into the feminine symbol of the castle, which no longer connects the above and below but rather encloses earthly principles without striving upward.
2. Our Plot
I want to note as a brief aside that everyone seems ‘aged up’ slightly in the OVA compared to their manga counterparts; the girls are in high school, Guru Clef who is both the story’s magician and its puer eternis appears physically older, and Princess Emeraude who seems physically younger in the television version, more of an imperiled puella than a proper ruler, has been aged up into a beautiful woman for the OVA.
What happens to cause the chaos of Cephiro emerging in earth? Well, we see a couple of things in the first episode of the OVA, first, before anything, we see the ruined landscape of Cephiro and the desolate sight of what we will learn is Princess Emeraude’s castle; we then see the magician, Clef, still a sort of puer eternis in comparison to the rest of the cast, and catch our first glimpse of blonde Emeraude, who swims naked in a pool of water to an apparently unconscious, dark-haired man waiting, throned, on an island in the center of the seemingly endless lake. (The symbol of the King and Queen dissolved together in a bath is a very common representation of the albedo.) We also catch glimpse of a cat-rabbit Mashin which will figure in later— a glimpse of the shadow.
After this starting point, this glimpse of what is happening in the unconscious, we are given an explanation of what is happening consciously, that is to say, on earth. The girls, who now all attend the same school, a high school with black, almost nun-like uniforms compared to their highly individual, colorful and stylized television show uniforms, are each in the midst of their own activities when a cherry blossom drifts into their path and they are reminded that graduation is in a week. Umi, specifically, describes it in the subtitled version as it being ‘almost time to leave this place’. We are then shown Hikaru resting under a massive cherry tree and her reminiscence of a conversation had between her, Umi and Fuu beneath it, describing the legend of the tree: a fairy lives inside of it, and if it overhears a wish, it will remove any obstacles standing in the way of that wish coming true. One can well guess what happens, then: the girls, having wished to be friends forever, no matter what happens, in front of the tree all that time ago, encounter a strange creature which only Hikaru initially sees, a big, fluffy white thing whose appearance is heralded by an earthquake. Umi and Fuu arrive to pick her up and go out into the city, and while the girls in a voiceover chide Hikaru for her childish beliefs, we see in the background people lining up to get into what one must assume is a club called DRAGON MAGIC, one of a thousand not-so-subtle visual cues which enrich the magical vibration of the cartoon. Downtown, after taking class photos and determining they are going separate ways, Hikaru spots Mokona across the street and runs to chase him before being dragged into a non-temporal conversation with what we will come to find is her Mashin.
Another pause, please. We’ve got a lot to take in already.
Any change could be said to be a form of death. When Lexus confronts Hikaru as she runs across a busy street in pursuit of Mokona, he asks her if she is running from a pain which breaks her heart. The growth and rebirth represented by graduation is a kind of death of life up until that point, a death of childhood, and a beginning of adulthood; there is no rebirth without death. The oppressive risks of graduation are a kind of nigredo, then, but represent something far more profound than mere emergence of adulthood. Rather, at its heart, Hikaru’s struggle is one against impermanence and death. This is emphasized because the girls’ families are moving apart; their change is inevitable.
THE CHERRY TREE
The fact that Mokona should be found in a cherry tree is of particular interest when we consider the close tie of the Spirit Mercurius to trees. In some fairy tales the spirit, like a genie trapped in a bottle, is found buried at the base of a tree and will grant wishes in exchange for freedom; there are many references in Jung which tie the Spirit to orchards and to trees in general, particularly oak trees, and it is never so much that the Spirit is the tree or originates from within the tree as it is that it is bound to the tree. That the cherry tree in this particular tale should contain a fairy which grants wishes in this capacity makes it unarguably parallel to the alchemical tree; and Mokona, then, we will know from the start and confirm far later in the series, is the manifestation of the Spirit Mercurius. We will discus him later, but it is worth noting that in this manifestation, the Spirit appears as not just an animal, but an undifferentiated animal; it is, in a way, a hyper-unconscious entity, which is appropriate, since viewers of the Magic Knight Rayearth television series may have never learned the (frankly quite surprising and delightful) in-universe explanation for what Mokona is if they only watched the first series or did not read the manga. What Mokona is, especially at the outset, is a mystery: if in Jungian terms an animal represents a principle which has not yet been made conscious, then an animal which is undifferentiated from other animals is, quite possibly, more unconscious than even that. Further fascinating mystical symbolism of the animal Mokona is its bindi dot and corresponding shut eyes; it is worth noting that, when the Spirit appears again in Madoka as the nefarious Kyubey, its eyes are now open and it lacks a marked third, but the open eyes are red as Mokona’s bindi dot.
During her brief inner conversation with Lexus, Hikaru is shown a vision of endangered earth and receives a red gem on the back of her left hand, which we are told to be granted to the person Mokona discovers as proof of the purity of their wish; if the gem glows for all eternity, Hikaru’s wish will be realized. Transported, then, Hikaru is shown a vision of Tokyo Tower, and sees the sorcerer Clef standing atop it; she learns he is trapped in her world and no one knows of his existence but her, and, furthermore, the future of their world rests on the results of a divine test which Clef undergoes. Clef is the one, we are told, who will ultimately be responsible for granting or not granting Hikaru’s wish.
In short, alchemists: Hikaru receives a stone from the Spirit Mercurius which has the propensity to grant her wish if she is able to use her willpower to help a magician, a gray-haired puer eternis, pass a divine test, and in so doing, pass it, herself. Following ‘as above, so below’, we could say in a sense that Clef is the personified whole of the psyche, a manifestation of the individual person who is at risk in the psychological dilemma being demonstrated. Specifically, he is the Wise Old Man or possibly the animus of the writer. Appropriately in the television series, Clef will, shortly after his introduction, be turned to stone, and must be revived by the girls, who represent inner principles as previously touched upon. However, as to not get ahead of ourselves, let us state for now that after her meeting with Lexus, Hikaru is able to show both the gem and Mokona to her friends, and Mokona is able to verify both his name and his status as the cherry tree fairy.
The chaos begins downtown and we learn immediately just how violent this series is compared to the television series. Alcyone is the first antagonist the girls will face and, we will find, the glimpse of the shadow which is available at the beginning of the first episode. A beautiful woman with long black hair and a propensity for ice magic, Alcyone begins to immediately wreak havoc on Tokyo with the help of her Mashin, which anthropomorphizes as a type of cat. Clef, in response, calls a beam of light down upon Tokyo Tower which then bursts across the face of the world and, essentially, moves the actual denizens of Tokyo to another dimension.
Next we are introduced to two figures of the unconscious, the black knight Lantis and the brother of Emeraude, a man named Eagle who, in the manga, was known as Eagle Vision and worked as an adviser for Cephiro’s neighboring nation, a technologically-based country which runs on its people’s mental energy. Lantis, we will learn, is also the brother of someone profoundly entangled in the web of madness in which Ciphero has been caught, a man named Zagato— the man to whom we have seen Emeraude swim and sing and caress, the man who seems to be unconscious. We learn in this scene that it was Emeraude’s wish to make the people of Cephiro love her, and it is her brother’ wish to fulfill her. Lantis threatens Eagle and leaves. Next, back in Tokyo, we meet the villainous puer, Ascot, and green-haired Ferio, who reminds Ascot that they have come to Tokyo to take the divine test and not to kill Clef. The girls, meanwhile, are able to meet up with the magician, who names Hikaru’s stone an ‘ovum gem’ and explains that he is from another world. They are then confronted by Alcyone, who fuses with her cat to manifest its Mashin, the monster we saw in the first minute of the episode. During their escape on the back of Clef’s gryphon, Hikaru falls and is rescued by Lexus when, in her moment of great despair and sure death, she realizes the selfishness of her wish and asks for forgiveness; her Mashin appears to her then in his animal form and explains to her that to fulfill her wish and protect her friends, she must become a deity—a Mashin—herself. That is, the archetypical nature of the ego must be consciously realized and manipulated from a higher circuit, in the Leary sense. This is further emphasized when Hiakru’s body becomes a direct controller for her Mashin, left floating in the void while her mecha fights in Tokyo— the ego relegates itself to an unconscious space and operates the will from a location which is not physically safe but is removed from the battle enough to allow for communication with Lexus, an undifferentiated symbol of will and/or intuition which does the actual fighting for her. In the battle, Lexus destroys Alcyone’s left hand, but it is not enough to prevent the arrival of Emeraude’s fortress, which replaces Tokyo Tower shortly after the end of the battle. Before Hikaru is able to take any action, Zagato’s Mashin arrives and obliterates Lexus, though Hikaru is discovered by Lantis and cloaked in his black cape before any harm can come to her.
More overtly sexualized than anyone else in the show and described by young Umi as an ‘old lady’, Alcyone is a sort of initial chthonic shadow—certainly the closest we will get to a same-gendered shadow in the show—and also the first villain to die, killed (rendered meaningless) by Eagle, Emeraude’s brother, after she fails to kill Hikaru. A testament to how quickly the shadow, an initial gateway into the psyche, can be overcome and absorbed by the rest of the unconscious once it is shown as not being so mighty and dark as one thought; the shadow here is adulthood, maturity and sexuality, doubly-reinforcing a kind of poisonous or dangerous element the show attaches to Eros, matter and physical propagation, which is, after all, the eventual cause of all death. It is interesting, then, that it is an ‘ovum gem’ which must be used to fulfill the wish of the girls and renew life with meaning: ultimately only matter can vivify matter, only by living may we imbue life with meaning. Alcyone’s Mashin is a cat, a feminine animal linked commonly to sexuality and less commonly to the alchemical element of sulphur; the shadow, in Jungian terms, is likewise tied to sulphur. This is further reinforced by the fight pairing of Hikaru and Alcyone.
I would take a moment now to consider the meaning of the figure of the animus to a woman and the manner in which it appears. Jung described four steps in the development of the animus, starting with the wild man of strength (Tarzan), moving on to the man of action (Zorro) then the scholarly man of the cloth or magician (Prospero) before finally working as a mediator for great spiritual profundity, as a manifestation of the Logos or Nous. Clef, as a member of the third stage, is, remember, not in this context the ‘Wise Old Man’ in so many words, although he is that, too; because CLAMP is run by a group of women, however, it is better to consider Clef to be as much Wise Old Man as he is Animus in its third, spiritual manifestation. This belief in mysticism and magic, this man who is responsible for maintaining the integrity of Cephiro along with a figure called the Pillar, is imperiled, and with it, our connection to the unconscious and the point of life itself. It is also notable that Clef’s Mashin is a gryphon, a mystical lion/eagle combination which, similar to the emergence of the lion, heralds the coming of a King. Clef, however, is helpless against Mashin, even with his gryphon, and must fight through the girls.
By the second episode of the three part OVA the destruction waged on Tokyo is already brutal, and we open on the dark knight Lantis, who observes unconscious Hikaru, her ovum gem faded, and thinks she must be the legendary martyr and that someone must change the course of history. This is a very important theme which we will see repeatedly with the shadow-anima or animus in these sorts of stories which we will discuss again after touching on Madoka, though we will engage in brief overview in the subheading ‘ON CYCLICAL REALITY’ at the end of this essay.
At any rate, we next see Fuu being contacted by Windam, her guardian who asks her if she has a dream so strong it could break her heart, and swiftly thereafter cut to Umi, who watches sleeping Clef. Note the Salt of our triad has a particular fondness, it would seem, for the Wise Old Man, our watery deity of the unconscious has a peculiar attraction to the one who is full of knowledge about it. Later, it is only by touching Fuu’s glove that she learns of Fuu’s ovum gem, her sign of her pact with Windam; Umi is just as worried as her friend knew she would be, since, as Umi points out to Clef, nothing which happened, including Hikaru’s apparent death, would have happened if not for the ovum gem. This, however, is not necessarily true; the drama of Ciphero is independent of Hikaru’s acquisition of her ovum gem, in that it is the cause of, but not caused by, the acquisition; the drama of the unconscious is going to happen regardless of whether or not consciousness chooses to observe and fight it. It just so happens that there are conscious figures who match the requirements of the unconscious— girls who fit the legend, in this case— and so they and the unconscious struggle are drawn together like magnets. It also gave Hikaru the chance to fight, even to apparent death which will soon be righted in a rebirth, since Hikaru, being paired with our lion, is our Christlike figure— though in this case the risen salvator is Rayearth, a combination of all three girls’ Mashin. All of this points to the idea of embodying the archetype one wishes to be or attract, and thus attracting it, making it conscious. We start being writers by pretending to be writers; we start being wives and husbands by playing house.
Clef emphasizes that the girls are missing something and then becomes concerned when he realizes that the green ovum in Fuu’s possession as the capacity to ‘uncover the truth’. We later see Fuu alone in Tokyo and Windam tells her his strength is beyond human knowledge and can defy destiny: she then is shown visions of people dying, going up in smoke before her, and Windam tells her that everything must die, that it is the destiny of all living things. He tells her to ‘visit the place of [his] long sleep’ and break down the walls around her heart; ‘Either change the course of destiny, or choose death,’ he has told her.
What is interesting is that Fuu and her mirror/primary opponent, Ferio, are both motivated by the pursuit of their trial: as Fuu asks her ovum gem to lead the way to the divine test, Ferio asks his army of beetles to lead the way to his trial; he appears and stops Fuu’s train, an automated method of transportation left running in the wake of humanity’s disappearance. Likewise, Ferio’s bugs could be said to be automated, operating as they do from a hivemind; bugs symbolically relate closely to robots and other efficiency-driven conglomerate of workers (the way Chief visualizes ‘The Combine’ in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, for instance). This is similar to the manner in which Ascot and Umi are both particularly motivated in relation to Clef; and of course, how Hikaru and Alcyone are both motivated by various forms of love, Hikaru’s pure love for her friends and earth and Alcyone’s selfish love for Esmeraude and herself.
Much as the fires of Hikaru’s passions once protects her friends, so too does Fuu’s (albeit delayed) increasing understanding of the situation allow her gem to take possession of the train-car in which she rides; there is a mastery of technology for the element associated with wisdom, or it is associated with it, at any rate. It does not do much to fix her bad situation, though, and things are not much better for Umi, who finds herself, along with clef, cornered by Ascot.
Hikaru, meanwhile, encounters Lantis— first his Mashin, the wolf/dog creature, and then as the man himself, emerging from the shadows. He asks her if she awoke Lexus because she wanted to protect her world even if it meant sacrificing herself, and when she insists she was chosen, and did not actively seek to awaken Lexus, Lantis tests her by putting her in an labyrinth.
Now, ha-ha, when we break down the archetypes there’s a funny pattern emerging here, because we take Hikaru, who has been stated at various times to be a martyr and willing to sacrifice herself, and who is thought by her friends to be dead, and find now that she is being tested by a portion of the shadow which, while a right hand of and a derivation of the ultimately maelific Saturnine aspect (Lantis is the brother of the dead/unconscious Zagato, for whose love Princess Emeraude has caused all of this to begin with) proves to be ultimately not only friendly and useful but a sort of love interest. Breaking them down to archetypes it really is rather like Christ wandering in the desert, is it not? Or perhaps his descent through Hell; at either rate, the symbolism in both cases is closely related, a symbol for plumbing the unconscious and, more importantly, navigating the traps and disasters lain out in the personal subconscious and conscious ego in order to embrace the unconscious.
Coing back to Fuu, she manages to find her way to her neighborhood when Ferio catches up to her and tells her she can’t possibly fight him. He accuses her of running from her destiny and emphasizes again that everyone has to die sometime. She, naturally, sees her neighborhood blown up and hears Windam repeat the motif of the episode, of the inevitability of death which can be overcome by the power of an understanding which is beyond the grip of even the greatest human comprehension—death, which can be transcended by consciousness. She stops resisting the urge to fight him, stops running, and decides to do battle with what seems to be inevitable; in the process, she hears the heartbeat of Windam, asleep under the stadium. She teleports to it to find it already covered in beetles but rushes inside anyway, pursuing Windam’s heartbeat; when she stands on the pitcher’s mound, he tells her she’s passed his test— astute readers will consider that she is standing in the center of a diamond. Her giant four-winged bird awakens, then, and announces his title as ruler of the skies, as Lexus was of fire and earth and Seles will be of wind. Fuu asks Windam to take her away from the city, notably, so as not to do further harm to it, and Ferio pursues her, perceiving her as running away. She will meet meet up with Umi after she has acquired her Mashin, briefly, before engaging in battle with Ferio.
Clef, meanwhile, barely able to protect Umi, has been severely weakened due to his putting the people of earth into a time warp so that the girls can accomplish their goals, and can only send Umi floating away to escape Ascot’s giant crawfish. Umi confronts him, shocked that he’s a child, and he says he tramples on the weak, whether young or old. As she runs away along the river’s edge, she asks herself why this is happening to her and a voice asks her if she is afraid to be alone, accusing her of hiding conceit and vanity because she had friends who tried to understand her. Umi, whose pride has lead to cowardice, did not have the courage to approach Hikaru when she was first a transfer student; her understanding of the consequences of her pride and her ‘revealing her true heart’ to her Mashin causes Seles to manifest from the river in the form of a great dragon, and she does almost immediate battle with Ascot and his crawfish. However, in order to do that, Umi has to truly open her heart to her Mashin, and to do that, she has to make a wish— in this case, she wishes to protect the people she loves, for the power to see herself so as to be a true friend. Notably, Clef, who is related to death/rebirth symbols, knocks out a bridge during their battle, barring human passage from one side to another, though of course this is not relevant to the giant Mashin. During battle, Umi learns Hikaru is still alive and Seles advises her to let her arrogant heart be washed away; she then blasts away Ascot. Fuu, having been on the brink of death, is also vivified by knowledge that Hikaru is alive.
Hikaru, wandering in the labyrinth, exhausted, can no longer contact Lexus although she calls out for him, and is instead shown visions of her friends fighting by Lantis; he asks her if her battle has meaning, and we pretty well imagine what the battle is a metaphor for, by now. Either way, she sees her friends fighting for her, sees the worth of her own life, and is brought back into contact with Lexus. The women overcome their enemies but singing fills the air and Fuu hears the quote “Faith lies in a person’s prayers being answered; that’s what it’s all about.” The crawfish monster is then revived and Ascot explains that those who have power over creation have everything.
By and large, Ferio represents the initial problem of death— that is to say, not death itself, but the knowledge of death, this knowledge being something which ceaselessly hounds the human being throughout the course of his life, which whispers in his ear and slowly destroys everything around them. We look at Ferio’s beetles and think of those employed to strip the flesh from skulls; with think also of cold, emotionless facts, such as the facts which we must confront when we confront the nature of our own mortality. He states his hobby is finding the defenseless and torturing them to death— depression, anyone? Also it is interesting to note, though it is not true in this version, in the original story he is Emeraude’s brother, and the Prince of Cephiro. At any rate, he can only be defeated, of course, once Fuu decides to fight him, and does not succumb to the inevitability of his pursuit.
As the true puer eternis compared to the Wise Old Man of Clef as marked by the guru’s gray hair, Ascot is a little shit who, nonetheless, is associated with symbols of rebirth, being as he is the puer and not the senex. A crawfish may seem weird, but, again, there is some interesting alchemical symbolism; one thinks of the crustacean on The Moon card in the Tarot. It is associated with death-rebirth, which is appropriate.
If Zagato represents the unconscious, possibly maelific or Saturnine manifestation of the animus, then his younger brother, Lantis, is by far the more positive and Mercurial manifestation which must be derived. Though this is exemplified quite literally in their mental states (Zagato is incapacitated and Lantis is an active player in the show) it is also notably displayed in their relationships: Emeraude’s love of Zagato, something which happens unconsciously and acts as a kind of Fall Event in terms of its symbolism of the adoration of feminine matter for masculine psyche, parallels Lantis’ semi-reciprocated love of Hikaru, which happens in a semi-conscious way. That is, it represents a cross-borders love of the unconscious animus for the conscious woman carrying that particular image; this, in turn, represents the desire of the unconscious to be known and observed by consciousness, and vice versa. We see a quaternity of pairings, then: first, we see the love of matter and consciousness, a love which causes the collapse of the world because it is inevitably the cause of death (for one cannot have life, cannot have psyche paired to matter, without facing down eventual death); then, we see the love of the conscious and the unconscious, which is a love which, while not wholly responsible for the restoration of meaning and the salvation of matter, is still pivotal in the doing of the thing, regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. While it is true that Hikaru, in varying versions of the story, either does or does not return Lantis’ affection, her love for him is less important than his love for her— though the more closely she works with him and the higher she holds him, the greater his capacity to help her. Lantis’ Mashin, a wolf or a dog, further reinforces his position as animus, with the wolf commonly being connected to the Spirit Mercurius, and the dog an associate of the moon. Thus, as Salt is also related to the moon, Lantis has a connection to both Mercury and Salt, but is not necessarily either, himself.
As our third episode opens we see a place that could only be Cephiro, an idyllic paradise full of fairies who, amid their flower-smelling, witness first the singing of Emeraude, and then her liaison with Zagato. We then see Zagato being forced to sacrifice himself to restore Cephiro in exchange for the breaking of an ancient covenant; Lantis, likewise witnesses it. Yes, that’s a corpse in that chair that Emeraude’s been mooning over two episodes, only further emphasizing our point of Zagato being at once a Saturnine figure of death and the consciousness which causes it.
Meanwhile, back in the present-day battle, wounded Ferio has a tense conversation with Lantis during Fuu and Umi’s battle with the Eagle-renewed by robotized Ascot, who Lantis explains to have been manipulated and to have gone over to the dark side. That is, a figure which was very close to being chthonic is now fully chthonic, and dangerous; Lexus and Hikaru, however, reemerge, lauding the virtue of hope, and between all three girls and their Mashin they are able to defeat their opponent. Eagle, then, with no options left, is shown approaching a white dragon for its assistance with his sister.
The girls, meanwhile, are on the hunt for Clef, and Hikaru eventually finds him in the rubble of the city; he expresses amazement that Lantis helped her because he is the best swordsman of all of Cephiro but mentions also that he never looks for a fight, and then explains more about the land, which received divine protections, was a kind of Eden, in essence, due to spirits which were chosen for their magical powers and were the foundation of the world. To restore life to the world, the high priest, Zagato, sacrificed himself and made a wish that could not be made true by sorcery, and his wish was ‘engraved on the hearts of the people’. Note that the qualities of the animus are reconciled between two brothers in this instance— Lantis, who is the ‘man of action’ and, though acts with his country’s interests in mind, is arguably ‘good’; and Zagato, who is the man of the cloth, and whose sacrifice then elevates him to the fourth animus state, embodying by his death a Saturnine aspect which puts him and his allegedly unstoppable Mashin into the walking role of Death. Indeed, Clef goes on to say that the people of Cephiro ‘made their wish in a cloud of darkness’ and turned their backs on their saviors (that is, Zagato and Princess Emeraude) and that, in the magician’s opinion, is the real reason the people were punished. The real truth of the matter was that Zagato and Princess Emeraude, the master of the spirits, had fallen in love, and love between humans and spirits was forbidden in Cephiro to keep balance in their world— because this love had to be kept secret, she was forced to allow Zagato’s sacrifice to occur, and in essence lost her mind to grief, unable to accept it.
In pausing, this is of course a reflection of what I have discussed previously as the true theme, the true problem at the heart of Rayearth, and that is the problem of death. Because the CLAMP mangaka are female, one could argue that, strictly speaking, the roles of consciousness and matter are flipped between male and female. Though this is not necessarily the case for every female author, a woman who identifies heavily with her ego may project femininity onto the arguably pure-masculine consciousness, and this may be in part a cause of the attachment to the idea of matter and fear of death which the story visits time and again; golden-haired Emeraude, master of spirits, the true director of the affairs, loves Zagato, the high priest of the material, fleshly humans, who is commonly decked in white and silver, moon-like colors, indicating his connection with matter but also his duty as a bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness in the feminine mind, much as Luna, whose material face captures the light of the sun, is a bridge for the man. This is yet another instance of splitting the archetype, however, or of archetypes possessing blurred traits, for Eagle vision, with his white hair and relation in this series as Emeraude’s brother, is likewise Lunar—and it is this Lunar brother which is responsible for the death of Zagato and the invasion of Cephiro upon Earth, usurping the true Lunar aspect and relegating it to a Saturnine one. This represents, by and large, the consumption of the Self and psyche by the unconscious, and should be avoided; it is the other side of ego inflation, a merciless crushing of unconsciousness, depression and death arising from an awareness of the unconscious without an ability to reconcile it with material impermanence. To follow through with this, it is Zagato who dies, and Emeraude who mourns— further, Emeraude, being a Princess, is royalty; but she is not fully-developed consciousness, being a Princess, rather than a Queen. Thus, she is still attached, not only to her femininity, but also to her dead lover, to the material world; this is true much as Hikaru, being the conscious expression of the problem, is attached to her friends and her time in high school. The true secret of the correlation of death and change is that change is only a kind of death, one that causes a rebirth; and when one is out of change-caused rebirths, like a cat living out its nine lives, one must shed one’s mortal coil in the upwards motion of consciousness, or perhaps, depending, select another mortal coil to be had. Consciousness of course will always select another mortal coil, eventually, because consciousness is eternal, nontemporal and has quite a lot of people to get to; thus, it is fitting that at the end of the Rayearth television series, we learn the reason Emeraude has summoned the girls to Cephiro is to ask them to kill her, that is, to kill their attachment to their current condition and their image of consciousness as a helpless girl. (Note also in the manga that Prince Ferio is Princess Emeraude’s replacement after the girls do the deed, meaning that consciousness has now used mind [Ferio’s massive sword] to accept a fear of death [Ferio] and made of it the motivating factor of consciousness, no longer a fear of death but a working with death, a balance of Emeraude and Zagato rather than one or the other.)
But again, I am getting ahead of myself. Hikaru, specifically, upon being told the basics of the situation with Emeraude, wants to go speak with her, believing that someone with such a beautiful voice could not be evil. Clef then notes however that Eagle’s— well, eagle— has been spying overhead, and announces in Eagle’s voice that his sister’s wish will be realized. Ferio, who has been listening in and reflecting on a conversation with Lantis wherein Lantis explained to Ferio that he and the other two unconscious principles were not brought to Rayearth (that is, Earth) for the divine test they believed, is the first to see, along with Umi, a Mashin emerging from the sky— the one from before which obliterated Hikaru, Zagato’s vaguely demonic one. Clef is shocked and horrified to see it, and declares its presence impossible, saying specifically that the deity is already dead, for it is Zagato’s, thus further linking the idea of a maelific dead god and the high priest of Cephiro. Clef begs them not to fight, for its powers are unstoppable, but the girls argue that as long as the deity is there the battle is not over—as long as the problem of Death is unresolved in the consciousness, the Self can have no peace. They insist they must make Emeraude see the hopelessness of the situation and run forward to try to fight the Mashin, but are transported by it into Emeraude’s fortress, leaving both Clef and Mokona behind.
Much as the labyrinth in which Lantis tested her acted as a symbol of Hikaru’s personal subconscious, the fortress of Cephiro is significant because it is the one portion of Cephiro which is physically accessible to the girls, thus making it their (specifically Hikaru’s) personal entrance into the universal unconscious. The human mind, being bound to matter and reality, can only tread so far into the unconscious from the vantage of the mortal coil; thus, in the OVA the girls are not able to physically access Cephiro, itself, only an individualized part of it which is related to Hikaru in that she is the psychonaut we have seen already exploring her psyche, she is the main character, and her problems are the conscious reflections of the unconscious problems of Emeraude. (This is further evidenced by the second television and manga series, where a primary antagonist is a part of Hikaru’s soul which was fractured by the death of Emeraude and took a life of her own.) The girls ask if the castle is inside of Cephiro and Eagle appears to answer them that yes, it is. With his previously-mentioned role as the Lunar usurper, it is appropriate that Eagle should be the first to appear on the threshold of the unconscious; however, it begs the question of what Eagle’s true role is. That is simple enough; we have seen, first in Mokona, then Clef, and now Eagle, the Mercurial Spirit in graduating levels of consciousness. A shared color palate (primarily white for all three) marks them as similar, much as Zagato and Lantis’ dark hair marks their similarity as dual aspects of Sulphur; further, all three, Mokona, Clef and Eagle, are ‘movers and shakers’, as it were, of the plot. Mokona is responsible for the inciting incident, for the initial connection of Hikaru to the idea of magic and the unconscious; Guru Clef (already described as the Wise Old Man of the series, one of the many guises of the Spirit Mercurius according to Jung) guides them and pushes the plot along as Tokyo is progressively destroyed and meaning is lost in life; and Eagle confronts them, has indeed been pulling the strings of his delirious sister’s mental state and proves to be responsible for the death of her brother, when they reach the unconscious. Thus, we are given two trinities more trinities which are more spiritual in nature than the psychological trinity represented by the girls: Mercury as Eagle, Sulphur as Zagato, and Salt as Emeraude on the unconscious, chthonic side; and on the conscious, ‘holy’ side we have Clef, Lantis and Hikaru.
Back to our plot, Lantis steals Seles, Lexus and Windam from the girls’ ovum gems, though Lexus, perhaps responding as usual to Hikaru’s hope, appears to resist; the three of them combine, then, and form a model of earth which then escapes the grasp of Eagle. This event causes a light to shine down upon Emeraude, who weaves a crown of flowers for her dead beloved and stops with a scream to see the power of the light above her; Hikaru then finds herself transported among the crystal shards where Emeraude now makes her home, mute and drained of all meaning outside of her love for Zagato, now just a corpse in a chair to which she can’t admit. The girls come back to themselves and find all three have seen the image of the princess, and Eagle explains he has chosen to protect her in a never-ending dream; Umi says all he has done is trap her in an endless nightmare. Much as the soul must break the attachment to matter represented by the cycle of samsara, so too do the girls realize they must free Emeraude from her brother’s enslavement. As Eagle sends spirits of dead citizens of Cephiro to attack the girls, Lantis appears, first his wolf, then him, to wrap the girls in his cloak and whisk them away to the top of the fortress. Lantis then asks them how they will keep the world from being taken over by the castle; Hikaru realizes that the light of Lantis’ sword is the same white light which blew her to bits, indicating the affinity between Lantis and Zagato; and Lantis is forced to attack the corrupted spirits of the people of Cephiro, then asks the girls if they will entrust their future to his sword. Again, the sword is a common symbol for mind, and this is where I would like to pause and make a key point.
I have discussed previously that there is a correlation with Sulphur and Logos as there is a correlation with Mercury and Nous, Salt, thus, playing the Sophia role, for as salt is indestructible so too is wisdom; however, I would posit that, when consciousness identifies first as feminine rather than identifying as a masculine consciousness with a feminine ego (at varying degrees of feminine based upon the person), the roles are flipped. Now we see Sulphur is associated by the woman with Nous, with mind, and Nous is, as Nous will be, trapped, killed and/or betrayed by the now-Mercurial Logos, along with Salt. It is in so many ways a reversal of a desirable layout because, rather than Salt being combined with Sulphur, Salt is now associated with Mercury, an inherently toxic substance which must be extracted and purified, much as the dragon must be slain, much as the white dragon that is Zagato’s mashin must be conquered—the fully-unconscious but living symbol of the unconscious, that which is both dead and alive, which must be integrated. Such an act will dissolve attachment to feminine materiality and allow for growth and expansion of consciousness, we will see in the end.
Lantis, using the light of his sword, conquers the spirits and causes Fuu’s ovum gem to glow again; he teleports Umi and Hikaru into the city, and says the girls can save the soul of his brother, who was ‘tricked by the hand of fate’. Fuu, having protected Lantis with the power of her renewed gem, says she had no choice but to stay behind, flirts a little with Lantis because she is the conscious, feminine iteration of Merury in our Earthly, psychological triad, remember; Umi and Hikaru, then, are forced to summon their deities to face down Zagato’s, which has appeared to strike them both down at once. As Eagle, who is described by Lantis as a deceiver, demands he stop tricking them and tell them his true wish for the people of Cephiro, we learn he has no wish but to destroy everything, “To live out a life of eternity. To carry out the fate of this world, and save everyone. That’s why I must put an end to everything. It’s that simple.”
Yet again, we see it is this idea of the shadow versus eternity. The shadow, it seems, wishes to maintain the integrity of life and death by engaging in life; it opposes something which could best be described as a kind of craving for eternity. The shadow helps in many ways to support life; after all, as the Devil says in Master and Margarita, what would our world be without shadows? Eternity, is what. Eternity is not always a bad thing— in fact it is often a good or beautiful thing, but to a consciousness which deems it unapproachable, which is attached deeply in one way or another to life and to its ego, eternity can be horrible. This is the kind of psyche, the kind of fear of death and change we are seeing in Rayearth, also. It begins with a girl’s wish that things could be unchanging and ends with the realization that in order for things to be unchanging, life must end and one’s world must become unconscious; it is, in many senses, the ultimate monkey’s paw exchange, and why? Because of this little shit.
Don’t ever forget who caused this, or what caused this— Hikaru, making her wish with her friends under the cherry tree. All three principles aligned to make a conscious wish come true, but the cost of that wish is astronomical and attracts an equal and opposite wish— equal because it is the same wish, a wish for the world to be unchanging, but it comes from the opposite direction, one which is not only unconscious because it is based in Cephiro, but intensely negative because it is rooted in death.
We come to understand that Lantis’ Mashin, his wolf, is actually his sword, which was given to him the same day Zgato received his deity; again, they are, in a sense, part of the same unit. Eagle reminisces on the day, and admits he has planned all along all of this. Ferio arrives to rescue Fuu and Lantis from the spirits of Cephiro and notably helps Lantis use his magic sword, first to transport Fuu and then to defend Lantis, himself— recall my offhand mention of Ferio’s magic sword in the television series, and further consider Ferio’s romantic affiliation with Fuu, as well as his nature as a former rival turned hero, and now we see our initial, unconscious Sulphur. Much as the graduation of Mercury is Mokona > Clef > Eagle, Sulphur’s route in the series is Ferio > Lantis > Zagato. Recall Ferio represented earlier a fear of death becomes useful; he is also educated on the nature of his being in Rayearth by Lantis, who is more advanced than him, and who in essence ‘extracts’ the positive Ferio from the negative one, leading to both of them using the same sword, thus being part of the same principle.
Fuu, meanwhile, arrives just in time to be blown to smithereens by Zagato, along with her friends, in an atom-bomb sized explosion. We then see the girls each saying variations of the same thing— not to lose hope, that to give up now would be the loss of everything, the futures they were given and the powers they hold. Lexus speaks up then and tells them that they can unite their hearts, for the girls remember the symbol of the three Mashin in the hand of Eagle, reduced to abstract colors, combined to form the Earth: Rayearth, that is, which is what the denizens of Cephiro call Earth, and which is also the name of the combined Mashin run by all three girls.
Let’s pause a moment again, folks, hopefully what’ll be one last time. Previously I have described the Sophia/Salt/Luna correlation in brief, but this can also be raised to a planetary scale. The Earth (think mother Earth) is a feminine symbol for the vessel in which the work is undergone, that which contains the three principles which form the initial bridge of the Earth into the unconscious, the creator into his imagination, Rayearth into Cephiro; the next feminine body, and that which is the gateway into the unconscious, is the moon, which being a combination of material and light, is an elegant symbol for the light of consciousness upon the face of Man: it is upon the light of this consciousness that one must travel outwards, or inwards. The path outwards, towards Saturn, is a path of ego, loss and ultimately blindness and death; but the path inwards, towards Sol, is purifying, a trip home accompanied by first Venus, then Mercury— the Hermaphrodite. Isn’t the Solar System fascinating? Or mankind’s propensity for projecting upon it, if nothing else? Either way, I digress— Earth is at once the vessel of the task, that which is imperiled, and the starting point of a tremendous voyage across the unconscious, no matter how you slice it.
The girls laud the virtue of hope and understand that so long as they do not get discouraged there is always a connection between them; Clef, Mokona, Lantis, Ferio and Eagle all witness Rayearth descend from the heavens and the girls watch, incredulous, seemingly not in control at all as they marvel, ‘It’s our earth…with all its powers.’ Thus, ultimately, the ‘ground’ being provided by Earth and its three principles is unconquerable, even by Zagato; not even death can render the psyche meaningless when there is light and hope.
Hikaru, then, begs the singing Emeraude to open her eyes, but Eagle appears to announce there is no end to his sister’s curse, and the broken, once-dead deity of Zagato rises up again, more horrific than before, on leathery bat wings; Lantis is shown giving his sword to Ferio and saying it should help the girls bury his brother; he then fades into light which is absorbed by the sword in Ferio’s hands, Ferio mourning the man’s subsumption but accepting the duty. During the battle of Rayearth against Zagato, then, the fight is interrupted by the voice of Lantis calling out to Hikaru and the appearance of his blade, thrown by Ferio, acting as a shield while Hikaru realizes he is dead and wills Rayearth to take up his blade. Again, death can only be conquered by death—specifically knowledge of death, understanding of death, understanding of eternity and what it really is, this understanding represented as the light of consciousness. A spell called ‘Helix of Light’ (the double helix of DNA anyone) erupts from the sword and smashes into Zagato, and at the same time light comes to Emeraude, which allows her to hear Hikaru’s words, Hikaru’s conscious understanding that Emeraude is trapped in a dream and her world is on the brink of sacrifice because of Emeraude’s wish and Eagle’s interference; she hears, also, the voice of Lantis talking about the soul of his brother, and speaks Zagato’s name at the instant he is destroyed by Rayearth. Lantis’ sword then dissolves— as does Rayearth, which leaves the girls, their gems broken, standing in the ruins of the city. Eagle, laughing arrives to tell them “If you look at it from the perspective of immortality, what people think means nothing.”
Eagle, then, blames his despair, the despair he has been clinging to, for what has happened, despair and grief being an important theme we will explore in the second part of this essay, about Madoka, where such themes are even more significant than in Rayearth, where we still see everything is motivated by grief: Hikaru for the drifting apart of her friends, Zagato for the plight of the world, Emeraude for the death of Zagato, but most of all, Eagle’s jealousy of his sister and her lover.
Eagle’s attempts to revive Zagato’s Mashin one more time is aborted;, though he says that the ‘nightmare will continue until everything is destroyed’–it is the singing of his now-awakened sister which does it, causing light to shine from the castle as her voice announces he must stop and they must begin over again. His brother asks how they can begin over again when he is the shadow she hated, and she simply says they had ought to believe in their hopes; she then says she won’t cause him to suffer any longer, and that happiness and sadness are as one, dissolving Eagle, and then Zagato, releasing her attachment and integrating the lessons of the archetypes much as Lantis’ sword and Rayearth were dissolved. Yet the girls still hear the voices of their Mashin, which speak to them to tell them they are blessed, and that their Mashin are always with them; their ovum gems float away, and Clef and Ferio, from atop the fortress, thank the girls and tell them they can only begin again. The girls say goodbye to those they love, and the fortress disappears, exchanged for Tokyo Tower, as the problem is resolved and the unconscious at least recedes, leaving the overwhelmed conscious Self to rebuild in the wake of the damage. Notably, the people of Tokyo are left to clean up after destruction and the news mentions many suggest a supernatural cause. We next see Hikaru at graduation, see the girls under the cherry tree, see them depart—and then, naturally, see Mokona fall into the space where they have been.
That’s right. Mokona. That brings us to a perfect place to end both this series, and the essay, before moving on to the essay due in two weeks, our exploration of Madoka.
Look at that fuzzy bastard. Such a big, bad, mover and shaker that he gets his own section. At the end of the second series of Magic Knight Rayearth, Mokona tells the girls that he and his Mashin are going to travel to other universes. Why? Because a team like CLAMP can’t let a treasure like Mokona go to waste—not that they really have a choice with a character so powerful. We’ll see him or duplicates of him again in Tsubasa River Chronicles, xxxHolic and Cardcaptor Sakura, for CLAMP fans in the audience. What is important to note also about Mokona is that he shares his name with the penname of the lead artist behind CLAMP: this is why it is of particular significance when, in the Rayearth manga’s second series, it admits it is responsible for the creation of Cephiro; there is a bit of meta-humor going on. CLAMP’s worlds are vast and interconnected, much as many realities could feasibly be bound by the same unconscious. He is also revealed as the creator of Earth and its laws. This relates back very much to the nature of Mokona as the unconscious, undifferentiated form of the Spirit Mercurius; and it also relates to the idea of the creator’s duty to not only shape their creative world, but also themselves as the vessel of their creative world.
THE FALL EVENT
I would like to point out briefly the parallels of Emeraude’s grief over Zagato as enacted by Eagle as resembling Eve’s eating of the Apple at the behest of the serpent, the descent of the Woman Clothed With the Sun pursued by the Dragon, and most particularly Sophia’s theft of light from Pleroma and/or her creation of the demiurge. There is involved yet again the victimization of the masculine principle, the punishment of the feminine principle for desire and the manipulation of it all by the mercurial principle. Of course, the mercurial principle is likewise punished.
You may or may not have noticed by now that many characters in the series are named after cars; this is worth touching on only because it marks their symbolic significance as vehicles of certain principles, such as Lexus being a vehicle for will, passion or hope.
CLEF, SECRET STAR OF THE DIVINE TEST
You may or may not have completely forgotten that in the first episode, Hikaru was shown Clef and told he was engaging in a divine test, and that the girls were to help him. As far as we know, Clef is responsible for the putting to sleep of the people of Earth, and for helping the girls here and there but what else does he represent, ultimately, as the Wise Old Man, in his capacity as a more-conscious but not-chthonic emergence of the Spirit Mercurius?
Well, remember— our writers, specifically head artist, Mokona, are female. We have to adjust some things, then, because though it’s true that in-universe, Alcyone is Hikaru’s shadow, Lantis her animus, and Clef her wise old man— but from the perspectives of the writer, Hikaru would be our Sulphurous gateway into the unconscious from the outset, thus Hikaru is the shadow, Clef becomes bumped up to animus because he is the one taking this test, the actor who must purify and rescue Cephiro by interfering with the conscious world, and Mokona (the mute rabbit, that is, and not the writer) is the Wise Old Man who silently facilitates and enacts the test upon Clef, serving as the entity which binds Clef’s problem to Hikaru’s problem. What even is the divine test? Why, whether or not Clef can provide Mokona (the writer, not the rabbit) with a good story, of course— and he certainly does.
ON CYCLICAL REALITY
Remember how Lantis is so helpful, right from the start? In-universe he’s got plenty of reasons, primarily grief of his brother and disdain for Eagle, but there is also a love of (or, better stated ‘affinity for’) Hikaru. He is very much her masculine shadow; her animus.
I will refer readers back to last week’s essay on Haruki Murakami’s HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD for a more recent specific example of the helpful (though often for selfish reasons) shadow’s efforts to break a cycle, a legend, an eternal state. We will see this motif repeated in Madoka and so it is worth remembering. Other anime reflective of this theme are Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni; in Western fiction we see it reflected in Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE V and my own DELILAH, MY WOMAN. The idea is that the material state is a cyclical state of perpetual creation-existence-destruction the same way every time because, if you could view the 4th dimension from a greater perspective, you would see the whole timeline as eternal, at once— however, because human beings are 5th dimensional beings which perceive in 4 dimensions, rather than 7th dimensional beings perceiving in 6 dimensions (the point, the x-axis, the y-axis, linear time, perception, eternity), being able to clearly see eternity eludes us in our current state. Perception, our individual perception, is the mechanism by which something higher consciously observes eternity, a light of pure consciousness like Indra, examining his net. Like a human being holding in their hands a book which they have read before, the reality of the thing is present in total but must be experienced in a linear fashion to make sense, to achieve pure pathos, this pure consciousness observes eternity and uses conscious creatures as its vehicle. Because eternity is eternal it is impossible to say that it is created or destroyed; it is only capable of being examined, one facet at a time. That is the nature of the cyclical state symbolized in so many time-loop stories, in the nature of art as a whole, that is, a pathos is frozen, encoded perpetually in the form of a painting or a story or a piece of music, so that at any time a human being may choose to experience it. These things are symbolic for the nature of human life, lived again and again and again. Westerners are taught by the Church that we send ourselves to heaven or hell based on our actions in life; this is by and large the meaning of that, but I should like to take time to describe something else.
The idea of ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ and alternate realities is one which can be a great psychological boon to anyone struggling to cultivate a self-image. Whenever you are feeling down and out, you would do well to remember that you are the only person capable of experiencing your life at any given moment, except for the infinity of alternate, failed ‘you’s out there, other choices made, some more or less successful than the achievements and failures you’ve surpassed, yourself; therefore, in reality, you are really only competing with yourself. You can choose at any moment to live in the best possible universe for you; the one where you are the most successful you possible. And what is it that wants you to be the most successful ‘you’ possible? That’s right— the shadow, your unconscious. It wants to break you out of an endless cycle of failure and elevate your consciousness to heights of nirvana, to awareness. Human understanding acts as a sort of antennae for the unconscious, which responds to understanding with great love— but that love is non-temporal, surpassing human understanding, reaching beyond and before it, so that when one does eventually reach one’s moment of understanding (one’s satori, say, or a moment of revelation akin to St. Teresa’s penetration by the spear of the angel) one sees a sublime cascade of all the ways one’s shadow, so tightly, divinely bounded, has always proved our helper.
Come back in three weeks for part two of our essay, in which we explore the themes of the Faustian magical girl anime, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a powerful companion to Rayearth in that it does away with everything Rayearth leaves unstated and displays it, full-tilt, for anybody willing to give it a second thought. If you haven’t seen it (or, for that matter, Rayearth OVA) I would recommend watching both, available free online, between now and December 9th. Meanwhile, read DELILAH, MY WOMAN and leave a review when you’re through. The psychedelic novel ALBEDO will begin editing in December, so keep checking in for progress, and thank you, as ever, for reading.
MF Sullivan is the author of DELILAH, MY WOMAN and the forthcoming ALBEDO, its meta-fictional successor. Click here to buy DELILAH, MY WOMAN and leave a review once you’ve finished.