Yesterday, my college anime club held a 12-hr marathon of anime, which always occurs on the last Saturday of classes. The event is often used to showcase anime that people haven’t heard about or aren’t likely to be shown at the club anytime soon. One of these this time was Shakugan no Shana, of which we saw the first two episodes. On first appearance, these episodes weren’t bad in introducing the series, although they could have been executed a little better. But what interested me from those two episodes was about the idea of existence for us humans. For a cursory glance into something that I probably wasn’t going to watch anytime soon, it left enough of an impact for me to write about it here (Note: obviously contains spoilers for the first two episodes if you care about that :P).
At the end of the first episode (despite all the narration already after the fact), our main male protagonist Yuji finds out that he’s for all intensive purposes dead, yet still exists. A flame placed in him by Shana acts as a temporary replacement, and he’s now known as a “torch”. Apparently the flame exists to keep balance of some sort of other in the world, and slowly burns down. When the flame finally goes out, the person is now dead to the world in all senses of the world, as their existence is completely erased from the world, any references to the person disappear and the impression is as if the person never existed in the world at all. Episode 2 showed a nice example of how the system worked, with another torch slowly being seen as an afterthought by others, then as someone who people don’t notice unless directly pointed out, then eventually that doesn’t even matter, and the person just disappears.
What made it interesting to me was that it was a nice way to show how Yuji was reacting to this new found situation that he was in. Realizing the situation he’s in, where in the end, he’ll have made no impact in the world around him if he just accepts his fate, it seems he will attempt to fight that. In the example with the torch from episode 2, Yuji attempts to make others remember the person about to fade away from existence, and while it doesn’t work for others, he still apparently manages to keep the memory of the person alive in him. It made me start to think about the will of us as humans in the real world and our efforts to keep our own “existence” alive.
I’d like to think that one of the things that drives humanity is the expressed desire to remain known to people after death. While the idea of passing on genes to the next generation is done in all organisms, I think we as humans take it to a new level. We want to be recognized for anything we do: becoming famous by doing something “good/bad/stupid”, being known for not wanting to be known, leaving behind a memento of some sort like a legacy at where they live or writing blogs like this one, e.g, and other things like that. It has gotten to the point where “15 minutes of fame” is what many people aspire for, and that life is worthless if you don’t attempt to make an impact on earth, to lose the chance to say “I was here on this strange world once.”
I get the feeling that most, if not all of this phenomenon is caused by a fear of some sort. I’m sure all of us have wondered if we’ve actually done something worthwhile in our life. Not leaving behind a physical memento risks an eventual complete erasure of the person’s existence, and not many of us wants that. Letting that happen seems to mean that all we’ve done in life has been a waste, and that there was no point in living their life in the first place. Who wants to find out that they’ve made no impact at all? No one wants to feel that all of their efforts made in life useless, as evidence by the many people who attempt to escape that “fate”, especially in anime. Why else is it devastating when people find out that their way of thinking it certified to be wrong? It’s almost never happy to realize that you’ve done stuff wrong. 😛
It can be seen that Yuji in trying to save the other torch was also trying to save himself. If he’s able to get someone else to remember the other torch, then maybe he has some hope for himself such that his influence was felt by someone else. And it might be why afterwards, he names Shana, who didn’t have a name beforehand. Naming provides an easier way to remember that someone has existed, one could say.
I might be tempted to continue watching Shana if they go more into that aspect, since it’s another example of anime relating to things we all think about at some point of another. It did make for an engaging two episodes at least. :3