Anyone who reaches the end of this series and doesn't expect things to go badly wrong has probably been taking hard drugs or somehow otherwise distracting themselves. Episode 13 made it quite clear that a bleak future was in store for Ichise and by extention much of Lukuss. But the extent of that and the fact that it spells the end of the human race as it has been only really became clear last volume when finally the surface world was involved in the story.
Of course it can't really be a tragedy if the future is immutably decided, there has to be a hope of avoiding the impending storm, and the series has been at great pains to show us that despite Ran predicting an event that her predictions are fallible - they can be thwarted. The whole saving of the Sage of Gabe at the start of the series shows us this. We see, from Ran's subjective viewpoint, exactly what the vision reveals to her and thanks to Yoshi's actions it fails to come to pass. But at the same time the series is deeply mired in showing that human nature itself will cause the events to come crashing to an end no matter what you do.
This I think is one of the big things that I have been half right about. Texhnolyze has indeed been about how to live, but not so much in trying to show us the right way to live but to show us that every approach is flawed and ultimately doomed to fail. Perversely the very destruction wrought by all these competing ways of life brings with it the seeds of renewal and in classic Buddhist form is neither a bad or good thing. Merely an expression of change which is the cornerstone of Samsara.
Ultimately I think this absolves Ran of a lot of the blame of what transpires in Lukuss. While she has been pivotal in causing these final events to unfold it hasn't been because she wanted things to end this way. Far from it, her major wish was to avoid seeing the ghastly futures her precognition kept revealing to her. Ultimately it is the actions of everyone else around her that seal the fate of Lukuss and humanity in general. The violent and driven inhabitants of Lukuss each sucumb to a particular failing of their own ideology. Kimata is doomed by a refusal to change at all from human norms - he reviles even the attempt, the Gabe have surrendered their will entirely becoming profoundly fatalistic, the Raccan have rebelled against everything including functioning together as a team by taking individualism to such an extreme they almost aren't a social group at all and finaly the Organo have realised the benefit of coheisive action but are so powerfully driven by ego that they still connive & scheme against each other undermining their own efforts.
Even the surface dwellers, the Theonormal, have failed to appreciate life in balance. By curbing all their aggressive tendancies and indeed locking all those who display such underground they doom themselves to fatalistic irrelevance. They lacked the drive to perfect Texhnolyze to the degree that Doc had achieved, indeed everytime we see the Theonormal's attempts at mechanical supplementation of the human body it is clunky and decidely ungraceful in form. They have gone down the Orthotics route attempting to augment the human body without altering or interferring with it, effectively donning clunky powered exo-skeletons to compensate for their increasing frailty. Contrast that with the smoother curved lines of even the simplest Texhnolyzed limb. Instead the Theonormal seem to be leaving the realm of the earth bound and shifting to a celestial plane of existance. Doing that, of course, does require reincarnation and thus dieing so it is arguably not a positive solution to the problem humanity faces.
Yet in many ways I can't find it to be a bad thing either, the Theonormal are leaving a planet behind with a working biosphere that is pretty idylic in appearance. In terms of distopian futures it is a uniquely upbeat one where we as a race leave our affairs in order rather than a blasted wasteland as is often predicted. We just have lost our will to live by trying to exclude violence entirely by banishing the most wilful to Lukuss. Which is the Theonormal's mistake.
Which leaves us with Kano's madness. He takes the obsession with Texhnolyze to new levels as he performs whole body replacements to create the Shapes. One interesting touch with the Shapes is their resonance with the concept of the dead and their role in shaping the world. For starters we find that the key component in making Texhnolyze work is Raffia which the Sage of Gabe describes as the reincarnated form of the souls of the dead. This linkage is strengthened further with the description of the fourth stage in the process of being Texhnolyzed a stage that Doc herself calls 'black magic', or the magic involved with manipulating the negative plane of existance - the traditional realm of the dead.
We also have the physical styling of the Shapes whose form echoes strongly the description of pretas or 'hungry ghosts'. Described as being pale and teardrop shaped they have large distended stomachs but extremely thin throats that make the act of eating highly painful. Look at a Shape and you have that described bodyshape and indeed you have much the same observation about them being unable to satiate any physical desire they have. Shinji observes this about Hal while mourning his death (albeit rather directly about Hal's inability to satisfy any sexual desires in his new body). The Theonormal obliquely refer to it when talking about Ichise's new limbs and why they don't interest them in the slightest. Indeed the Theonormal have wholesale rejected the idea of prosthetic enhancement and instead tried the orthotics route of supplementing base function without replacement. Something that seems awfully like semantic quibbling, if you ask me, when you see the scale of orthotics work the Theonormal use.
This does leave a very awkward question - where and when did Yoshi get his more primitive prosthesis from? Clearly the surface world would now never perform such a procedure as they regard it as anathema. Indeed all the images we see of Yoshi in the surface world show him whole in body as of around ten years ago when Sakimura made his journey down to Lukuss. So what happened in the intervening ten years to Yoshii? Did he try to kill himself and was saved? Certainly its more primitive styling seems to suggest that isn't Texhnolyze like the Racan youths thought back in episode five of the series but rather perhaps a version of what the Theonormal had been working with maybe? Or possibly an illict version Yoshii had cobbled together specificly for his journey into Lukuss. The weapon modifications strongly suggest that Yoshii, perhaps not deliberately becoming so augmented for the trip, certainly aimed to take full advantage of it.
Anyway back to the main line of thinking. The linkage to the dead also makes the Shapes a very clever allusion to technological progress, because after all the knowledge base that makes advanced technology possible is all built on the hard won understandings gleaned by a multitude of predecessors each contributing to the total pool of knowledge. This contribution from the dead is given a more literal form in the Shapes with the dead themselves being integrated directly into the process. The Shapes then work on several layers of meaning to be the archetype of progress gone wildly too far. Yet, typical of a series like Texhnolyze, while these are the most destructive elements to come to Lukuss and spell the end of the city they contain the seeds of the next evolution of life. The now rooted forms of the shapes becoming one with the Earth fit with the general cyclic death and renewal theme of Buddhist thinking.
So what do we take from this series?
It is easy to see the tragic nature of the tale being told and find it moving yet also depressing. After all the story is literally about the absolute failiure of humanity to find a way to overcome it's own failings and thrive. But the stories core protagonist, Ichise, does exactly that. He changes from an entirely self absorbed and angry individual into someone who has selflessly tried to save another being's pain, namely Ran whom he wanted to bring to the surface world so that her precognative abilities wouldn't trouble her with such violent premonitions. Even at the end as he realises he has doomed himself while also being unable to help Ran at all he performs one last act of respect and gives Ran a proper burial - so that she might gain rest in the next life. He is a profoundly changed man from grief stricken individualist we saw at the start of the series.
Shame it took the end of the world to let him open up, but ya gotta take what comes I suppose...
I also grumped a bit last set of speculation notes about the unexpected importance of the obelisk appearing in the tale. It seems that I wasn't paying close enough attention as I found this little symbol occuring and re-occuring in the Texhnolyze. This appeared in episode 15 when Kano pops out to talk with Onishi and as a part of that jams the Texhnolyze system to let him get close without being obstructed. It re-occurs when Kano broadcasts his take-over message. And I suspect it probably appears in Ichise's field of vision when he is on the surface away from the obelisk. So the clues were there, guess I should stop watching these series last thing at night before going to sleep and pay more attention to the details.
One final detail that bugged me was the whole business over eye colour. While I was sure it was significant I couldn't find a linkage for quite a while. But it turns out that if I look at Buddhist colour symbology and meaning there. Blue has strong linkings with the sky, infinity and by extension ascension. Thus all of the characters that have the drive to continue forward and strive for life are the blue-eyed like Doc and Ichise. In their own way they each both wish to continue. Onishi is more a red/brown colour which links with red and is associated with a dualism in either being a lifesaver or a ravaging destroyer. This fits Onishi quite well who spends most of the series working hard to save lives and keep conflict to a minimum. Green is the most interesting in that it is considered the middle colour, one of balance and harmony. Composed of a blending of white, yellow and blue representing pacifying, increasing and destroying. Ran is an easy fit for this as she has been striving through the series to bring peace and order to Lukus but at the cost of trying to remove all destruction.
Kano, who has green eyes himself, is a harder fit. But given that Kano considers himself and Ran to brother and sister it perhaps could be easier to consider the both of them as representing the full gammut of symboloic behavioral meaning for green. Kano picks up the slack that Ran finds so difficult to deal with. He sees the value in destruction and the neccesary rebirth it brings. Of course, being half of the total coin that Ran and he represent, he doesn't temper his course with compassion or nurturing.
I think the colour linkage for Ran is very apt and almost certainly intentional. Similarly for Ichise and Doc. Onishi and Kano though I'll freely admit that while I suspect that is the right interpretation I am probably reaching a little there.
Anyway thus ends a very different and intrieguing series. I hope these notes have been of use to someone out there. If you do find them handy please drop me an email and let me know.