When I got the first disc of Texhnolyze I contemplated doing, as I had done for the RahXephon series, an indepth analysis for each volume along with trying to guess what the plot structure was designed to show us. However much as I love volume one, complete with it's David Lynch style visual & audio narrative, it simply didn't give enough detail to do that. Well I should say more that it didn't give enough context for us to sort out the important detail from mood setting ambience. However with volume two enough of the story setup is in place for me to start sorting through the wealth of symbology the series gives us.
So lets begin.
Chiaki Konaka it seems does an exquisite amount of research that then gets poured into the backstory of the anime being worked on. Serial Experiments Lain was filled with explicit linkages to real people and real concepts they had been working on which are then used as the basis for the theme the particular anime aims to explore. Chiaki collaborated with Yutaka Izubuchi on RahXephon and you can see in that series the careful linkage to the source material the series used along with the dropping of appropriate names to let the viewers catch on. So going in to Texhnolyze my hunch was that names would be significant in decyphering plot intent and not merely made up to sound good, as some writers are fond of doing. In Texhnolyze's case it strikes me that two names in particular are key ones.......
Ran being the more obvious one. Ran has two interesting points to note, first is that the name itself means 'Chaos' - we can all thank an Akira Kurosawa film for making that connection. In this Ran with her uniquely limited ability fits quite nicely. While she can see the future she only sees one possible future and it might be an unpleasant future but she has no way of knowing if it really is the worst outcome or whether by her attempts to prevent that future coming true she isn't creating a worse one. As such Ran I suspect has no great overall plan of her own, she is simply trying to fight the more horrific short-term changes she can see coming. But such actions, constantly tweaking people to try and achieve short term goals, must cause her to be somewhat erattic as by preventing one future from coming to pass neccessarily places another person in a position for them to create a new bad future. That she seems to have taken to following Ichise around over Yoshi seems to bear this out that Ichise is now the focal point for creating some bad future outcome. Is this why she is so pleased when Ichise rejects using his Texhnolyzed limb to beat the Organo representative to a bloody pulp and just uses his normal arm? Aside from her conversations with Yoshi it is the most she has said as a character pretty much to or about anyone.
Symbolicly Ran is interesting too, constantly with her Fox mask. Foxes are associated with the Shinto God Inari, God of the Rice Harvest and are generally regarded as messengers from the god and a portent of good omens. Ran fits this dual role of messenger from the gods with her precognative ability and her will to also try and change things for the better. After all the biggest definitive example we have to date of her ability working is when she warns Yoshi and the Gabe Elder that an attack is imminent. She certainly seems to be trying to shape events to avoid the more evil ends and as such can be regarded as a positive portent. If she tells you something, it is to prevent something terrible from occuring.
There is another other side effect of this short-term policy she is persuing. After all sometimes disastrous events have to occur to let people learn from the event. Ran, to my mind, would do something like prevent the Titanic sinking from occuring - despite the fact that this disaster was the catalyst for improving naval safety regulations to higher levels which in the long run has saved many more lives. In keeping with the carefully grey shaded characterisations we have seen thus, Onishi being a fine example, I expect the series will show that Ran's actions while well intentioned are also the agent of considerable harm and trouble in their own right. Much like the well intentioned fire fighters of a national park that vigorously stomp out any fire that occurs they end up creating a situation where there is so much prime flamable material that when a really large fire starts it becomes a devestating conflagration beyond the ability of anyone to stop and usually causing far more damage than letting the smaller fires burn out would have caused. Ran unwittingly seems to be helping Lukuss build to a pressure point, after all if she hadn't warned Yoshi and he had been shot as part of the attack on the Gabe Elder wouldn't much of the series' events be prevented?
My suspicion is that Ran will be shown to be just as much, if not more than, responsible for the state of Lukuss as Onishi, Ichise, Kimata and the others are. It is this delicate balance of characterisation that is one of the series' strongest points. Characters twist in our estimation as we learn about them and they are carefully presented to us to give us an initially flawed impression. I talked of Onishi being a prime example - see how he was initially shown to us. A mafia like leader who enforces his will brutally upon Ichise. He doesn't he begin to entertain the possibility that Ichise might well be being falsely punished, he just meets out what he considers to be a fit and merciful punishment - shooting Ichise to kill him quickly rather than the lingering disabled life his punishers are intent upon. Yet as those first four episodes play out we find not a brutish authoritarian but more someone who almost seems to have taken the mantle of leader on because he fears what the alternative candidates will do. He is personally quite brave, facing both the attempted asassination on him and meetings with his opposite in the Salvation Union directly - not by proxy. Further he is quite intent on avoiding bloodshed where he can, even to the point of appearing weak to his sub-ordinates by his refusal to use any pretext to have an all out war with the Salvation Union. No - Onishi is an interesting mix, brutally ruthless when he needs to be but an intelligent and almost noble man who is an excellent leader. One can't characterise him as fully noble because he is engaging in a few bad habits of his own like having an affair with his secretary.
All this points to interesting revelations to come regarding Kimata. Thus far he has been largely painted as a religious fanatic. But Texhnolyze has been careful with it's characters to show multiple facets so that while Kimata is a religious zealot he also, like Onishi, is not stupid and there are hints that he may well have good reasons for his hatred of Texhnolyze. Firstly we know he has direct experience with the technology because part of him is Texhnolyzed, something he has been keeping from his followers in the Salvation Union. Secondly one has to consider the Union slogan of "Soul! Body! Truth! Salvation! Vengance!". The hint is there in the order of the slogan that the redemption of the soul is tied into redemption of the body - that Texhnolyze is viewed as a corruption of the body. Notice that immediately after the body comes the truth - is that a hint that the Union views Texhnolyze as something that not only corrupts the body but also lies? Thus far besides establishing that Kimata is no fool we haven't had the needed exposition and character time with him to understand him much. Hopefully volume three will bring him into the limelight more.
Racan is I think the key name used in Texhnolyze and a huge clue to understanding what is going on in the series. But not with that spelling - interestingly enough listening to the Japanese audio track Racan comes across phoneticly as 'Lakan'. Factoring in the confusion of the l and r sound you end up with the name Rakan, which is indeed how it is spelt in the subtitles for Volume 1 Episode 4 when Yoshi meets Shinji for the first time. However checking further I found the official English website for the series translates the name as Racan and querying Jonathan Klein directly he was able to confirm the subtitle stream in that episode was a mistake but not why Racan is the preferred spelling.
But while the official spelling is Racan my sneaking suspicion
is that this is simply a phonetic best fit and both Rakan/Racan
are acceptable translations for the name. Why? Well because
following Rakan leads to this URL :-
By reading the page you can see that Buddhism suffered a schism evolving into two main schools of thought. Theravada ("Lesser Vehicle") and Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle") both of which concerned how to pass the teachings of Buddha on to the rest of the world. Theravada believes in enlightening yourself and by example alone this will teach others how to become enlightened - your main energy should be expended in self-enlightenment. Mahayana is more inclusive and wants to enlighten all by passing the teachings as widely as possible. Indeed they further believe that it is only through helping others that one can enlighten oneself so it becomes a matter of primary importance to teach others.
In these two groups you can see the fundamental schism between the Organo and the Salvation Union. The Organo are concerned primarily with the self. Texhnolyization is an accepted practice to provide personal completeness and it can be argued power. See the way Texhnolyzed people are feared by the regular populace as exemplified by the Racan thugs who jumped Yoshi in episode four. You can also see it expressed in the politics of the group too, already underlings are showing signs of conspiring for personal power and are unable to see the greater good that Onishi is trying to work towards. (In particular his refusal to start a 'spectacle' needlessly.)
Contrast this with the Salvation Union. To date what we have seen is a group who employs brainwashing techniques, or perhaps more accurately confirmist thinking reinforcement techniques, to provide a group teaching. The very name itself implies it - union or a combining of elements to make a whole. The second word, Salvation, is simply icing on the cake as it reinforces the goal of the group - through unity of teaching purpose salvation can be achieved. Sounds very like Mahayana thinking, does it not?
Of course the fact that the two groups have paralells with Buddhist doctrinal thinking is only partly persuasive in making the linkage. What for me pushes it beyond doubt is the Rakan statues at Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto. Like a monestary or temple Lukuss is secluded from the world. Like Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple nature has taken hold and both the temple and Lukuss have a somewhat run down feeling as the trappings of mankind are being reclaimed. The most interesting extra feature at the Temple is the dominance of moss growing on the statues - it is remarked as being a dominant feature of the temple as whole. In volume two what do we discover was the key element that Lukuss was formed to recover? Rafia - the moss that only grows in Lukuss. I can imagine that the series writer may well have spent time idly walking the grounds of this temple thinking about the next story to tell...
How such friendly and funny statues became the sullen and violent inhabitants of Lukuss is an interesting question. But perhaps a hint is given to us in the form of the history Yoshi tells us where the city was initially run by a benevolent leadership in the form of the Gabe. The upheaval, possibly caused when the lighting system failed as observed in episode five by the older worker, of the Organo coming to power changed the nature of the city. Shifting it from a friendly place into the bitter city we see in the series.
If I am right, and the series is a transliteration of Buddhist thinking and doctrinal struggle, the final question has to be - what constitutes enlightenment in series terms? I think given the hints Yoshi has been dropping when chatting to others about the surface world conveys it - salvation is going to the continutation of the human species. For reasons not yet explained humanity as a whole has lost the will or drive to live. Only down in Lukuss does there still seem to be the will, as Ichise exmplifies, to fight to survive. Each group seems to be an example of that will expressing itself. The Organo have turned to self improvement via Texhnolyzation to survive. However that seems to be flawed for reasons we haven't been told yet so I suspect it is a dead end and not a solution. Probably because being Texhnolyzed demands a higher price than is known by the Organo. Conversely the Salvation Union is similarly flawed by totally rejecting Texhnolyzation. Humanity in it's natural state is finding it impossible to continue, some aid or change is required.
The closest to the correct solution seem to be Shinji's group the Racan. However they too are flawed and have gone the path of enlightened self interest too far to unify as a group and achieve much. Worse yet they have become ensared, as Yoshi observes, by Lukuss itself becoming comfortable in their niche role as the marginal third power group in Lukuss. Perhaps the correct way to express the Racan's failiure is that they lack animus and ambition, they are too accepting and too focused on short term goals.
The correct solution would seem to be a fusion of the three approaches. Take the Organo's ambition and self interest, but temper it with the needs of the group and finaly spice it with the Rakan's flexibility. Of course the chances of that actually happening with Yoshi stirring the pot to put the three groups at each others throat is pretty slim. We also have the vexing riddle of The Class. The lais-sez faire ruling class of Lukuss who have secluded themselves from the city and seem content to let the violent squabbling destroy it. The hints are that there is another layer to come overlaying the initial structure of doctrinal squabbling. No doubt volume three will begin to bring this into play.