The comfort of friends
For us, memory can be a fickle thing. As we grow older, it feels like our brains fill up until there’s no more room, and older things are pushed out. And then there are the ravages of time and even the horrors of diseases that can disconnect our memories from ourselves. But absent those things, we tend to remember much of our experiences. Maybe not the day to day things, but who we do things with, the general things we do, the feelings and faces with us. We hold those things dear, they are important to us, they are what makes us who we are. It’s been asked “Without our memories are we the same person?” And to at least some extent, it’s easy to say that we would not be.
Just the impermanence of memory, or actively changed?
What then of a society that denies, blurs, shades, changes, and even erases memories? Societies that do such things are a frequent staple of dystopic stories: “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” And the thought of losing our own memories is nigh unto horrific to us. So we look in growing horror at the malleability of the memories displayed by the children in this episode. We had wondered earlier why the disappearance of Amano Reiko, Manobu, and countless others seemed to not be a concern for the children. Now we know that there is some mechanism by way memory is faded, deemed unimportant, even overwritten. Ryou is moved from Group 2 to Group 1 because there were only 4 in Group 1 and 6 in Group 2. Ok, Ryou’s been with us the whole time, we think. Why did we only have 4? Who knows? We have 5. But for Saki, the memories still exist. She just can’t pull up the face. You wonder, would she even recognize Shun if his face were to appear in front of her. It seems likely, given that she remembers Yoshimi after being triggered. But for how long? How long has Yoshimi been gone? And how does Saki know to go find the mirror?
Discussing without Ryou
Saki’s insistence that Ryou is not the person that was with them resonates with Satoru. The amount of replacement in memory is actually pretty staggering: Satoru and the others were convinced that Ryou and Satoru had dated, even though Satoru can’t remember why, what he liked about him, and even acknowledges that he’s not his type. And even Maria feels a wrongness in the memories. And the support of the memory changing is prodigious: The whole village of Pinewind, the survivors at least, have been moved, and the village renamed Whithertree. The children go to look, and see the crater of Shun’s house, but cannot remember whose house it was, or why it’s important, or even that it was a house. It’s just a lake now. And this searching, this probing of memories, becomes too much for Mamoru. He implores them to stop, that they are pushing outside the Code of Ethics. Is the questioning of memories, fuzzy and even missing, forbidden? So many things are, it’s easy to believe this is.
Mamoru doesn’t want to think about uncomfortable things.
And they do stop, and get Mamoru on his way home, only to immediately continue when he’s gone. Maria understands Mamoru’s inability to deal with that, and worries that his entire world could collapse if he faces too many contradictions, and as such, she asks Saki to stop. And Saki agrees – She will not let Mamoru hear about any more of this. And while I thought that Maria was asking her to stop altogether, it’s obvious that they are on the same page, and will continue this investigation, just without Mamoru.
Would you come along with us, please?
But all is not clear sailing. As they are going to go home, they’re approached by two friendly-seeming adults. Reassured that they aren’t the school board, they are relaxing when they find out that they are assistants to Asahina Tomiko-san, who happens to be Asahina Satoru’s grandmother… and the head of the Ethics Committee, and could they all come talk to them? Phrased as a request, it’s definitely something they can’t turn down. Are the chickens come home to roost for the rest of the group?
Maria breaks all the boys hearts… except Mamoru’s
The other significant thing that happened this episode was the pairing of the students. Called Work Duty Pairs, it’s the first time the children have been encouraged to become close with opposite sex teens their age. And because the pairs have to be mutually selected, it’s nothing less than an overt declaration of love for the other. Everyone had thought Saki would pick Ryou, but that’s what triggers her memory questions. She (and Satoru) can’t figure out why Ryou just doesn’t seem right, but the bottom line is that he doesn’t seem right no matter what the reason. After asking him about her memories and finding out he doesn’t share them, she turns him down and picks Satoru (who picked her as well). And rewarding him for all his time doting on her, Maria picks Mamoru. But given that this event is officially set up this way, the suggestion that same-sex pairs are encouraged earlier becomes more likely. Trying to prevent underage pregnancies? And how much free reign do they give these pairs?
Saki tries to determine what’s real
The memory shenanigans make me wonder a bit more. Is it an effort on the part of the adults using their Cantus to actively modify the children’s memories? Is it something that is genetically selected for? And do the children grow out of it? We’ve seen that Saki’s parents remember things like the loss of their daughter, which Saki had completely let go out of her mind. But those memories are there, just not easily recallable. In the instance of Shun, it seems like it’s been no more than a few months, and Saki’s memories of their summer activities, and Satoru’s memories of time spent, are still there, including important things that happened. Even the body of Shun is there, but Saki just cannot recall his face. To me, this really indicates active effort to blur Shun out. And it’s not that they replaced his face with Ryou’s, just blurred him out. I find the possibility of the mechanisms to be fascinating, and somewhat ominous.