Archive for November 3rd, 2010

卯酉東海道 ~ Retrospective 53 minutes

The long-awaited! Ok, I really shouldn’t be kidding myself, I’m probably the only one that was looking forward to this wonderful work’s completion. *cries in a corner*

If the English subtitle is almost exactly the same as a translation of the above, I’ll leave it alone, but otherwise I’ll put a translation of the Japanese in parentheses on the right.

(Track 2):
For brevity, and because they really are names, after introducing the “Eastern Seaboard” and “East-To-West Eastern Seaboard” rails, they are written as Toukaidou and Bouyuu-Toukaidou respectively.
The Jinki Era is (724.2.4-729.8.5 CE) however, because this takes place in a slightly alternate reality/alternate future the exact dates aren’t important.

(Track 3):
As for “places like Shinjuku and Shibuya” which have nothing at all to do with a historical feel (trust me, I’ve been there) I think it’s safe to say that in Renko’s Japan the capital was moved from Tokyo to Kyoto rather than Kyoto to Tokyo and that you can view the cities as switched. Kyoto is the place with all the historical buildings. (Or from a futuristic perspective it moved from Kyoto to Tokyo and then back to Kyoto).

Higan-mairi, generally speaking, is visiting a temple during the vernal/autumnal equinox – related to Buddhism.

(Track 4):
Higan is again a period during the vernal/autumnal equinox where events are held related to Buddhism, usually you visit a temple.

(Track 5):
Aokigahara is the forest around Mount Fuji, a popular suicide spot, and strangely, eerily quiet – it gave me chills just looking down at it from above… So I can understand Merry here.

(Track 6):
Hachiman/Yawata-no-kami is a Shinto/Buddhist diety, with the second largest number of shrines dedicated to him (after Inari), the largest of which is the Usa Shrine, in Usa located in Kyushu (the song title uses Usa as a name, so it probably refers to Hachiman). Usa/Hachiman is somehow related to Tewi (this could be due to the fact that Usa starts “usagi” which is “rabbit” and the second symbol in “Hachiman” (幡) is part of Tewi’s surname (Inaba 因幡)), who lies a lot. Also, Usami Renko’s surname (宇佐見) uses the same characters used to write Usa (宇佐). “Most Famous Hero” would refer to Hachiman because he is the primary deity of the Minamoto Warrior Clan (who ruled from Kamakura), and because he was said to give guidance to warriors, etc.

Somehow the saying for “shelved” is almost identical in Japanese and English, so the pun stays mostly intact – however there’s another pun linking to it. Rather than “shelf” Japan uses “shed” and the name Kamakura means “shed of sickles/scythes”.

It probably doesn’t need much more of an explanation, but Hokusai and Hiroshige were both print makers famous for views of Mount Fuji among other things.

(Track 8):
“townies, militants, and firefighters” == merchants, samurai, lower-class-samurai. Though firefighter may seem strange and irrelevant, it was a common post for lower-class samurai, including Hiroshige for instance.

(Track 9):
“So the city still has those sorts of unrefined plebeian amusements?” Yeah, I wanted to punch Merry too – but I’ve always been on Renko’s side from page 1, so this only reinforces my opinion.

You don’t believe me, but they exist: [food-theme-parks-wiki-page (jpn)]

“long ago”←→”nowadays” disparity: I attribute it to a subtle narrator shift, on one hand addressing the time of Merry and Renko (in the alternate future) and another addressing the audience. Part of me felt like correcting it, but I decided to leave it.

If you have any questions about specific terms used just ask and I’ll add an explanation to the notes.

卯酉東海道 ~ Retrospective 53 minutes
 Bouyuu-Toukaidou ~ Retrospective 53 minutes
 East to West Eastern Seaboard Route ~ Retrospective 53 minutes

 1.ヒロシゲ36号 (Hiroshige, Rail-car #36)
    Neo Super-Express


The Hiroshige, carrying both girls, raced towards the east. It went forward without a sound, without swaying or shifting, directly east.


Looking down the aisle, you could see that a lot of the four seat boxes were empty, so no one would have minded if two took one to themselves. The morning train in the opposite direction was packed, but this one headed for Tokyo was nearly empty. They couldn’t have asked for better.


Sunlight was starting to creep in through the window. One of the selling points of this new model bullet train was that every car had a “half-panoramic view”. With the exception of the roof and floor, everything was window. In other words, most of the wall of the train was window, and it seemed like a giant glass test tube was racing along the track.

From the perspective of one blonde haired girl sitting in a seat facing the rear end of the train, there was a beautiful blue coastline extending as far as the eye could see on her left, with beautiful level plains and a pine forest spreading out on her right – not a building in sight.


It had been about twenty five minutes since their departure, and they could already see Mount Fuji breaking through the clouds far off in the distance. It had such a sublime, majestic shape that one couldn’t help but think it was inhabited by mystics.


Due to the efforts of the Mount Fuji Restoration Project, Mount Fuji had finally in recent years been designated as a “global heritage location”, but this view from the Hiroshige made it look many times more magnificent.
Perhaps one reason was that when you looked out from the Hiroshige’s panoramic view, you couldn’t find a single skyscraper, structured bridge, or even power line in the distance.


Even setting aside Mount Fuji, the coastline on the left was so beautiful, if it were specified for global heritage a dozen times it wouldn’t be enough. I didn’t imagine the eastern seaboard could be this beautiful.


However, to the blonde haired girl Merry, even this extremely beautiful Japanese landscape in view from the East-West “Hiroshige” Bullet train, was nothing more than a tiring picture show.

    Blue Sea for 53 minutes


“The Hiroshige has wide seats and it’s really fast and convenient, but… it’s boring that all you can see is this ‘fake’ kaleido-screen view.”


“Still, because of the tunnel projection it’s a lot brighter than the older subway systems you know. This way it’s like we’re riding above ground.”


“Even if the real Mount Fuji up above the ground isn’t as beautiful as this one, I’d still rather see the real thing. It would have been better if we had just taken the old eastern-seaboard bullet train.”


“Really! The old Toukaidou? What are you acting all extravagant for? The only people that use that nowadays are North-easterners, Indians, and celebrities you know? Well, I guess you do laze about like those North-easterners do.”


“No, I’m a celebrity.”


–The East-to-West Eastern-Seaboard Rail, the Bouyuu-Toukaidou, was completed before either of us were born.


Ever since the relocation of the capital during the Jinki Era, it became necessary for a large amount of people to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto. Very soon the older Toukaidou rail reached the limits of its original design and so the government pitched plans for a new bullet train.


The end result was this Bouyuu-Toukaidou “Hiroshige” that ran between Tokyo and Kyoto in just 53 minutes. With this new bullet train, Kyoto and Tokyo were within each others’ commuting range and the rail became an instant lifeline of Japan.


Surprisingly, all of the Bouyuu-Toukaidou line runs underground, forming a straight line from start to finish. There’s no place at all where you can see the sky or sea, mountains or forests, the sun or moon, or anything at all.

 3.竹取飛翔 (Bamboo Cutter’s Flight)
    Lunatic Princess


It’s fine that we’ll get there in no time, but don’t you find looking at this fake landscape boring Renko? If we were riding at night, there would have been a fake full moon floating up in the sky. That doesn’t bother you? There used to be fifty three inn towns along the old eastern seaboard for travelers and now it only takes fifty three minutes? Even though the actual route now from Kyoto, distance-wise, is longer than before. You can’t really call it a trip anymore.”


“Even if the way is short, a trip is still a trip you know. Sightseeing in Tokyo is fun you know? Unlike Kyoto, there are places like Shinjuku and Shibuya where there are a lot of buildings that have a real historical feel to them. If you think of it as having more time to sightsee then there’s no problem right?”


“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Ah, but I wonder if you’d be able to see the same ancient rabbit grinding medicine up on the fake moon as well…”


“Oh, did you know that if the Hiroshige were to go at full speed it would reach the end of the line in less than 53 minutes? It’s just set that way on purpose.”


“Oh right, one minute per night’s stay. Ugh, if it went that slow I wouldn’t have lasted more than three weeks. I guess it really is a short trip.”


Both Usami Renko and Maribel Hearn (Merry) took time out of one of their university breaks to go visit Renko’s parents’ house in Tokyo. That said, Merry, who had never been to Tokyo before, was really just tagging along with Renko who was going for Higan-mairi. Still, she was really looking forward the the trip.


She was also looking forward to the journey itself, but unfortunately the whole length of the Bouyuu-Tokaidou rail ran underground.


Still, It was bright as if it were noon, with light streaming through the windows, and you could see a beautiful Mount Fuji and Pacific Ocean.


That “kaleido-screen” was the number one selling point of the Bouyuu-Tokaido line.

 4.彼岸帰航 (Higan Retour – Return from the Further Shore)
    Riverside View


“Merry. You know there’s a strange custom we have for Higan in Tokyo – have you heard of it?”


“Huh? No I haven’t – what sort of custom?”


“Well it’s the same as a grave visit. You find frayed portions of barriers around grave sites and visit the world of the dead. You know how during the Bon festival your ancestors come back to visit? So in return, during Higan we go and visit them.”


“Really? Ahh… I’m not ready for something like that! Why didn’t you say so earlier?”


“Well, because I was just lying. But I mean, since we’re going all this way we might as well do it right?”


Since the Bouyuu-Tokaidou line was created for the sole purpose of being the most effective means to move people from Tokyo to Kyoto, there were only two stations built.


There were just the East-Tokyo Station and the West-Kyoto Station. In other words there were only stations at the start and end of the line. Since they had departed at the West-Kyoto Station, 36 minutes had already passed.


The landscape outside was that of the Utagawa Hiroshige once saw as he walked from Tokyo to Kyoto along the eastern seaboard. Everywhere you looked everything was beautiful. The sky and the sea, Mount Fuji, and each of the fifty three stops along the way.

 5.青木ヶ原の伝説 (The Legend of Aokigahara)
    Forbidden Forest


“Ah, Just now…”


“What’s wrong Merry? You looked frightened all of a sudden…”


“It’s just that I felt heavy all of a sudden… Don’t you feel it too Renko? Space here seems a bit different from everywhere else. I can also see breaks in the barrier… You don’t think it’s a bug in the screen control program?”


“Ah, that’s probably because we’re under Mount Fuji, a sacred mountain. The air here, no, even the time-space here is probably a bit different than in other places. You’re overly sensitive to things like that so I wouldn’t be surprised if it made you a bit nervous.”


“Under Mount Fuji huh.. Well I guess that makes sense. It’s been said that there’s an entrance to the world of the dead under Mount Fuji. But isn’t Mount Fuji a volcano? Is it safe to run a tunnel under something like that?”


“You really do get worried easily don’t you. Why don’t you just drink some sake or something and stop thinking about it? When Mount Fuji was designated as a global heritage location they determined it wasn’t a dormant volcano anymore, but an extinct one you know?”


At any rate, the Bouyuu-Toukaidou was constructed only with tying Tokyo and Kyoto together in mind, but even the government wasn’t about to do something as reckless as opening a hole under a spiritual mountain like Mount Fuji.


The Bouyuu-Toukaidou avoids Fuji, but runs right under the sea of trees that encircles it.


However, since ancient times there have been a lot of ill legends about the forest, so running right under it probably would have affected fares and the number of customers willing to ride.


So of course, the fact that the line runs right under such a forbidden forest was not released to the public.

 6.お宇佐さまの素い幡 (The White Flag of Usa)
    Most Famous Hero


“Ahaha, morning sake really is great! Anyway, did you know? Apparently this line originally wasn’t only planned to connect Kyoto and Tokyo but was going to have a station in Kamakura as well!”


“You sure do know a lot Renko.”


“Well I guess so. I heard they really wanted to name the line Keito, ‘connecting all three capitals’.”


“That has a nice ring to it doesn’t it.. wait, but Kamakura was never the capital was it? And besides, compared to the distance between Kyoto and Tokyo isn’t Kamakura really close to Tokyo?”


“Yeah, apparently that’s the reason that plan was shelved.”


“You’d think that’s something that would be obvious from the start…. Are you sure someone hasn’t been giving you false information? Someone who’s a big fan of Hachiouji?”


“You know, thinking about it – we say “shelved” but I wonder what sort of shelf those things are put away on…?”


When Fuji comes to mind, Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mount Fuji” is famous, but Hokusai was never satisfied when it came to drawing pictures of Fuji. In fact, 36 Views of Mount Fuji was originally supposed to have 46.


Then Hiroshige, someone less than half his age published “53 Stops Along The Eastern Seaboard” and gained fame. Even though Hokusai had already published 36, not wanting to lose to Hiroshige, he published “100 views of Mount Fuji”. To devote that much time to it, he really must have been taken with that mountain.


But then again, so was Hiroshige.

 7.月まで届け不死の煙 (Reach to the Moon, Immortal Smoke)
    Elixir of Life


At any rate, today’s Japan picked Hiroshige. The Hiroshige rushed underground along the Bouyuu-Toukaidou line. Now, they were probably somewhere near Kamakura.


“You know Renko, this Mount Fuji projected on the tunnel screen, don’t you think it’s a little too dynamic?”


“I don’t think so – I haven’t had much of a chance to take a serious look at the real thing so I can’t say for sure, but isn’t Fuji something like this? Well, since it’s not projecting anything man-made anywhere I guess the view isn’t quite the same…”


“This Fuji seems more like one of Hokusai’s rather than Hiroshige’s. With the scale and everything, it feels like there’s some sort of automatic video re-targeting process going on. Rather than reality I think they’re focusing more on impact.”


“Merry, did you know that Hiroshige, opposing Hokusai, published 36 views of Mount Fuji as well?”


“Really? was it plagiarism? inspiration?”


“Even the name was “36 Views of Mount Fuji”, just spelled differently, and it was published right after Hokusai’s death.”


“Oh wow…”


Within this kaleido-screen landscape with few buildings in sight, Mount Fuji showed itself as great, magnificent, miraculous, and intense.


The real Mount Fuji, due to the efforts of the Mount Fuji Restoration Project, is now beautiful as well. Naturally Fuji commands a great amount of intensity, but perhaps because of the stringent rules put forth by the restoration committee, you don’t see as many people climbing it, and ironically the sightseeing association has taken a big hit.


Japan selected Hiroshige because it couldn’t recognize Hokusai’s genius. After all, Japan has a fundamental problem with insanity.


However, if this bullet train was not called Hiroshige, but instead Hokusai, I wonder what sort of landscape the kaleido-screen would show?


Well there’s no question about it is there? Surely you would be rushing along toward the final destination even faster, enjoying a thirty six minute fantasy of insanity.

    Retrospective Kyoto


“I guess we’ll be reaching Tokyo soon. Still, this trip really feels like it’s missing something.”


“Yeah, but at least we won’t be tired out before we arrive.”


“Well, like you said, this way we’ll have more time to go sightseeing. So do you have planned for today?”


“Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. After we arrive at my parent’s house, first we’ll have to do a Higan grave visit. Once we’ve dropped off our luggage, why don’t we go and look around?”


“So, you mean we’re going to visit the world of the dead?”


“Tokyo is no less a spiritual capital than Kyoto is, so I’m sure it’ll be fun. Well, as long as we’re together, right?”


Though hardened with asphalt, having faced earthquakes and above all else the test of time, the streets of Tokyo were filled with cracks.


Part of the city’s encircling rail had become grassland, and mysterious leafless red petaled flowers were covering the roads. As the population had dwindled the number of outdated transportation devices called “automobiles” that used them had as well, so no one seemed to care about what happened to the roads anymore.


Tokyo had become a city where young flashy people lived according to their own rules. It has become a city of townies, militants, and firefighters running all over the place…


Tokyo was returning to the way it was long long ago.

 9.ラクトガール ~ 少女密室
    Locked Girl


“Tokyo is really rural, unlike Kyoto, so there are tons of nostalgic things about.”




“Like the theme parks and huge shopping malls squeezed between all the clustered tall buildings..”


“That sounds fun – So the city still has those sorts of unrefined plebeian amusements?”


“Well lately Kyoto’s been pretty uptight.
As for “amusements” all I can think of is that ‘new tea ceremony’.”


“Well I like tea you know?
And that locked up feel of the tea room is just right.”


Long ago in Tokyo there was a time when food theme parks were popular. There were shops boasting delicious food from all over the country, gathered all in one place. Maybe it lacked elegance, but it was really popular among the people living there.


Even as far back as the Edo period, there were great eating competitions with fearless participants undaunted even by death. If you think about it that way, food theme parks being popular in Tokyo nowadays just makes sense.


The blood of Edo surely runs through the streets of Tokyo.


Drawing closer to a city that had passed age upon age, one she hadn’t seen except for in pictures in books, Merry’s excitement rose.

10.千年幻想郷 (Gensoukyou of a Thousand Years)
    History of the Moon


“Fuji is getting smaller. You can already see Tokyo ahead.”


“After listening to you talk, I’ve really started to look forward to Tokyo.”


“Well, it’s coming from me after all. Even so, I can’t deny that looking at it from a psychological-emotional standpoint, compared to Kyoto, Tokyo’s still immature as a city.”


“Well it’s fine to be that way every once and a while.”


“The gaps in the boundary are all left as is around here. It’s a huge difference compared to Kyoto, which has been conducting spiritual research for over a thousand years.”


“Ah, here comes the staff roll.
So they’re claiming their rights even over a landscape like this.”


Outside the window letters started to appear. The 53 minute kaleido-screen was reaching its end.


Naturally, you wouldn’t think a landscape as someone’s work of art, and this was supposedly based off of what Hiroshige saw on his journey along the Toukaidou.


Even so, humans were trying to put their name on it. All of the passengers, looking out at the landscape they might have taken for the real thing, saw creators names appear and disappear, disappear and appear.

 風景の真ん中に「Designed by Utagawa Hiroshige」と言う文章が浮かんだのを最後に、

At the very end, right in the middle of the scene the sentence “Designed by Utagawa Hiroshige” appeared, and then the world closed unto darkness.

11.最も澄みわたる空と海 (A Perfectly Clear Sky and Sea)


Neither the high dynamic lens projection,
 Nor the penultimate Japanese landscape,
  Can match the true color of the sky.


There probably isn’t any one human left who holds such an outdated view.
 After all, virtual reality is more stimulating than actual reality.
  Just as dreams and reality cannot be differentiated,
   How humans and butterflies cannot be differentiated,
    It’s common sense that virtual reality and actual reality cannot be either.


And it goes with out saying, Humanity’s true nature is virtual.


  Though the body may flutter to the ground like a flower petal
  The soul floats up into the sky like an incense.



Continuing their trivial 53 minute conversation above ground, the two girls put Tokyo Station behind them.

あとがき / Afterword


Nice to meet you, (or something along those lines) this is ZUN.


This Retrospective 53 Minutes has no development, and no plot points. It’s basically a narration by someone eavesdropping on an ordinary conversation between the two members of the Sealing Club, wondering what they’re talking about. Still, it’s a “Happy Ending” of sorts.


The person sitting in the seat next to the girls listens and sort of acts the straight man to the girls based on what he’s thinking. That’s the narration. Yeah… really.
But those two really are sharp for their age. Smart girls are cool.


The theme of this story is the same as in Changeability of a Strange Dream: dreams and reality, virtual reality and actual reality. I would like you to imagine a more advanced form of virtual reality than is available today. This CD is one you can more comfortably listen to (or read) isn’t it?


Often, in anime or games whenever a bizarre crime occurs, there’s a victim. In this case someone high and mighty would probably say “Properly distinguish between actual reality and virtual reality!”, or “This is something that everyone can do!” etc. etc. But that’s pointless. You shouldn’t be able to in the first place.


It is said that geniuses excel in dreams. The soul abandons the body and you can call upon things outside the realm of reality. The knowledge and experiences gained in the process aren’t meaningless. The difference between virtual reality and actual reality is really like the difference between soft and hard. You can’t properly divide things between the two.


Don’t you think so too?


If that weren’t the case, music wouldn’t have any effect on people.
The virtual reality you experience when listening to music is the result of replaying something that didn’t necessarily exist in the first place.


Once you’ve experienced music, don’t say anything about differentiating between actual and virtual reality, but instead act with the knowledge that it can’t be done.

                     上海アリス幻樂団 ZUN(旅に出たい)
        Shanghai Alice Illusionary Orchestra ZUN (I want to go on a journey)


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