Ichise has been changing.
The first two episodes this volume show us in stark relief exactly how much as he now dutifully does as Onishi requests and finds Doc, bringing her back to help Onishi despite it appearing that the entire effort is futile. Certainly Doc seems to feel so, her despair is palpable as she watches the Class seemingly go crazy and subvert everything she seeks to accomplish. To then have not only the Class ignore her work but the surface world as well be quite indifferent to what she was trying to do must be devestating for such a driven individual - she has now seen everything she has been trying to do for the last ten or twenty years completely undone. For someone whose work has consumed her life the question now becomes, what does she live for? Certainly her life has been out of balance and as I have ennuciated before I suspect that to be the purpose of the story being told. That doesn't bode well for her future unless she manages to use her work with Ichise to find new meaning and purpose.
But I digress, Ichise is the key here. He now knows what it is to be part of something and seems to find the dissolution of the Organo, especially by Toyama - someone he considered almost a friend, to be upsetting much as he tries to hide it. Having now understood that being a part of something can be a good thing, remember the only examples he has seen before have been the uglier side of it in the form of organised lynch mobs at various points in his life, he seems to be struggling to come to terms with the neccesary fact that even organisations need to come and go. The Organo is at such a point, it's very purpose has been destroyed with overtaking of the city by Kano's forces. Onishi once again surprises us with his less than doctrinarial approach of understanding that now is not the time to adhere to the forms he used before. He sensibly retreats, allows the organisation to dissolve and begins the process of reforming it into something that might be able to save the city from the madness now consuming it.
Which gives me a tangental thought, I wonder if Kano's eye colour has changed recently?
Anyhoo much as Onishi is adapting he is unable to convince Kimata to not waste his life and the Salvation Union self destructs in an ultimately futile charge. To my surprise Ichise never gets to talk directly with Kimata instead we get shown from our observers perspective precisely why Kimata reviles Texhnolyzation so much. He isn't entirely wrong to fear the technology but rather than tempering that fear with the knowledge that it has practical benefits he has chosen to wholesale reject it. Something that I suspect dooms any resistance from being able to fight the Shapes in anything approaching a conventional fashion. The superior firepower and cybernetic strength the Texhnolyzation process has granted the Shapes makes it almost impossible to fight them directly, not to mention Kimata has become so obessed with showing his spirit has been untainted that he has brainwashed his followers into ultimately a pointless act. For all the care and concern Kimata has shown about the eroding effects Texhnolyzation has he let his hatred of it over-ride his concern for life itself to the point of being foolish. Clearly the stage has been set for the need to exploit the Shapes' big weakness. Yet it isn't quite what I had expected, while the Shapes are indeed made of spare parts including their choice of inductees who are unwilling - this isn't their key weakness. Instead something which has been shown to us a lot but not directly talked about becomes important.
I must admit to being a little frustrated by this. Yes they have been showing the obelisk central to the city and it quietly observing all that goes on within the city. But no hints that I can recall have been dropped that it is anything but a ceremonial object rather than the central nexus of a control system for Texhnolyzation. This revealation does answer a few questions though in particular about Lukuss. It wasn't just designed for the extraction of Rafia but was always intended to be a testbed for the process of Texhnolyzation itself. This explains not only the remote location but the somewhat extreme social structure that the Class have fostered to grow in Lukuss. Kano himself comments that the city was designed to encourage dominant egos to come to the fore generally by force and it strikes me this served the Class' ends in two ways.
Firstly it kept everyone a little misdirected, while the Raffia is important and part of the reason for the city's existance it isn't the whole of it. But it did serve as a convenient lever for the citizens of Lukuss to grab onto and feel they had some power and control to exert back on the Class. It brought the element of self destiny to the otherwise powerless citizens of Lukuss. After all consider that they are locked into a deep cavern that could easily be sealed preventing them from reaching the surface. Indeed it would not have been hard to wipe Lukuss out if the surface world chose by poisoning the air supply or simply blocking all the tunnels to the surface trapping them down there. So Raffia became a method of direct and indirect control over the citizens.
Secondly it encouraged exactly the kind of bloody conflict that makes the technology of Texhnolyzation so important. Yoshi himself comments early on that the city and it's social structure seems designed to produce cripples. Given his own crippled status and way it seems to have embittered him he would be someone particularly attuned to noticing this. I think he is entirely right, the city as a whole has been purpose built to be an experiment on it's citizens. Easily self contained so that if the experiment goes beserk you can stop it and self producing a ready supply of test subjects, it fits the bill of being an experimental city alright.
But every experiment needs it's experimentalist. The Class were supposed to monitor Lukuss and keep it on an even keel. But with the increasing indifference from the surface and indeed the loss of direct physical contact via train with the surface (remember Yoshi had to walk down and Sakimura commented that it was inconvenient not being able to ride to the surface world and back.) they too have lost their way. It is my speculation that Kano was well aware of what the surface world thought now of the process of Texhnolyzation. As a result of him rejecting the chance to have grown with Onishi's legs he has condemed himself in the eyes of the surface world. Consequently he seems determined to force his will on the surface using the very process and technology they revile.
Kano seems to represent the archetype of progress being used to dominate the natural world rather than live with it. His preoccupation with reordering and tinkering with everything has now entered into full blown obsession as he tinkers madly with everything heedless of the cost. He has become the archetype of progress for progress' sake and shows that while Doc was equally as driven she at least had a tempering goal in that while she sought to improve on nature she didn't want to do at the expense of human nature itself. Watch her instructions to Ichise to hold her and she tells you point blank that her technology was never meant to be used purely for destructive or overpowering ends - rather it was meant to be a supplement to life enabling the formerly disabled to not only overcome their disability but to infact extend themselves in new ways whilst still being quite human.
Kano has completely lost sight of that now. His madness is going to be the catalyst that forces Ichise to fulfill the predictions Ran has made for him. He will be forced to destroy the Obelisk knowing full well that this will doom anyone who is Texhnolyzed like himself to prevent Kano's mad schemes. The signs augur that events have gone badly in Lukuss while Ichise and the Doc have been on the surface.
The surface world itself is interesting. Any doubts I had about the theological juxtaposition of Buddhist thought into the tale vanish with the revealtion of the final episode of this volume. Even the title itself gives the game away 'Heavenward'. One of the key concepts is samsara, the wheel of life with it's divisions into realms and the progression of life after reincarnations around this wheel into various realms. Lukuss seems to directly be the first layer of Hell, the Hell of Repetition and the surface world has become something the characters themselves refer to - a celestial realm.
The impression you garner from the experiences related to us is one of a surreal realm that appears more to be the memory of humanity than the actuality of it. There is a mingling of the old and the new with the advanced scanner system in use at the train terminal yet people dress in attire more suited to the 1940's with Fedora hats and suits. Even the cars are at odds with the clothes by harking back to 1920's and early Ford designs. The stores are a curious mix too, a habadashery next to a tailor which itself is not far from a more modern cinema. Combine it with the only half seen nature of the people whose faces you never really quite see and the impression I get is of a world remembering what it once was. It becomes a jumble of impressions that strictly speaking don't make sense in any literal fashion. Effectively Ichise and Doc stumble through the sleeping gods dreams of what they were like when once they were human.
What becomes important is that this transformation and in fact extinction of humanity isn't a bad thing. Far from it, while humanity itself is gone the remaining humans themselves have become something new and godlike. Their puzzlement over Texhnolyzation and why anyone would choose to be Texhnolyzed exemplifies why this isn't a bad thing - while humanity itself is gone we have become something so much more and so much attuned to our place and existance in the universe at large. Kano potentially threatens that progression and I can't help but wonder if the surface dwellers, confident in their new evolution, haven't become a touch complacent thinking themselves beyond such issues. This may well be the mitigating factor that while Ichise seems to be about to do such a ghastly thing it is actually for the best.
It will be interesting to find out.