Edit: I just found out that the last episode of this show is now out. I will submit my final review tomorrow.
What is it with this ilk of anime and the fascination with Human Instrumentality grand, individuality-erasing unification, anyway?
I refer to Popo’s stated plan, of course, of having everyone swallowed by the big Kaiba plant so that all memories can become one. This makes a lot of sense if we see this as a continuation of the images of Marxism and collectivism–think of the name of the group Popo heads, Issoudan (“one thought group”). But experienced anime watchers know that this kind of thing has shown up in lots of other shows, too, and alas, this was exactly the thing I was fearing might happen at the end of last episode’s review. If I had to take a wild stab at the reason for the repeated use of this theme, it has to do with the influence of the idea that we all individuals originally came from the One and our goal is to be reunited and absorbed with the One, an idea found in one form in Hinduism, another in Buddhism (“nirvana”), and yet another in Gnosticism. In no show, of course, does the main character ever choose or succumb to the temptation of submitting to the Great Collective of souls/time dimensions/memories. Individuality is always upheld. I wonder if this is partly because the Japanese tendency is generally inclined against individualism and the people who make these anime (and the people who watch them) sense a need to affirm themselves in the face of conformism; it’s also possible to conjecture that many who watch anime feel alienated from society, and the idea of a grand unification that eliminates alienation would be tempting.
In this case, though, Popo’s plan is rapidly thwarted. They don’t waste any time with metaphysical hooha to get to that point, at least–though what the (real) Warp/Kaiba really intends is still somewhat murky. The fake Warp destroys the memory tanks at the end probably trying to cover his tracks by eliminating history down the ‘memory hole,’ to borrow a phrase from Orwell. Is he interested in “Instrumentality” as well? implying that he does in fact want to restore some normalcy to the world and end the tyranny of the computer that rules in Warp’s stead. The title of the next and final episode, “Everyone in the Cloud,” makes it sound like the whole Grand Unification Project theme is going to get continued. I really, really hope they do something different here than in previous shows of this sort.
Popo’s last moments are interesting in that they seal both his essential humanness (his losing of his mother’s memories, his objection and anguish at Cheki’s subduing), and his essential hypocrisy. For he has done in full what his organization preaches against. The three old Warps see through this and recognize his basic hunger for power, and eliminate him with some help with no trouble; Popo in the end is someone for whom justice or right was never as important as getting what he wanted. Not that the old Warps are necessarily better, as they seem to share the same power lust; it is only when the real, memory-restored Warp returns that he begins to make drastic changes.
I still think that the duality of Warp/Kaiba’s name is going to be key to “solving” this show. The central dilemma is in the realm of memory: whether it is worth keeping, even beyond a body, or not. Whether memories, swallowed by the Kaiba plant or perhaps floating in the clouds, are synonymous with consciousness and life itself. Whether such things as love and happiness, which every character in most episodes longs and searches for, are really possible in such a world.
The OP credits show two hands whose bodies keep changing but which keep reaching for one another until, their fingers interlocked, they at last take hold of each other. “Each other,” those words; “each” and “other” as if those concepts still meant something in this universe. They are what make love stories, which Kaiba proclaimed itself to be from the start, possible. St. Augustine was right when he said that love requires an other, because it gives by nature; he used this to explain the nature of the Trinity (the Father and Son share the bond of love that is the Holy Spirit), but it applies just as much to humans. The attempt by an early character to fill herself into Kaiba’s body in order to have sex with herself is readily shown as unappealing and unfulfilling. All anime villains’ schemes to join everyone into one indistinguishable mass make love impossible, and are consistently portrayed as wrong for that and other reasons.
Who knows what Warp’s last act will be, though. The next review will be the series review, and will help determine whether this most unique of anime shows really is one of the greats.