On March 20, 1995, the Takakura twin brothers and Ringo were born. The day of the Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway (地下鉄サリン事件). Yes, 3/20 was the first terrorist attack using gas in the world. Just like 9/11 in America, 3/20 was an apocalyptic day in Japan.
It brought me back the memory. I still remember vividly that 1995 was an apocalyptic year. In America, it was the year of the Unabomber’s Manifesto, and the Oklahoma City Bombing. In Japan, the Great Hanshin earthquake destroyed the entire city of Kobe. I couldn’t believe the horrific scene on TV. The city was literally burned to ashes. And the 27 years long Tora-san series ended. Tora-san ends his journey in decimated Kobe.
Aum Shinrikyo (オウム真理教) gained popularity during the bubble economy, when Japan’s material wealth was reaching its peak, and material saturation was making people look for a spiritual alternative. During that time, the Aum charismatic leader Asahara Shoko was bragging to the media that he was spiritually approved by Dalai Lama, and then he formed his own political party to run for office. But all his party members including Asahara lost the election. So, he planned to take over Japan by terrorism. So, it was a reverse of Nazi. Hitler failed coup, so he changed his plan to take over Germany with a legit method. Asahara failed the legit way, so he resorted to terrorism.
A jargon Asahara used for ordering murder was phowa. The word phowa is a Tibetan Buddhism term. But in this anime, instead of phowa, “peace” was used. Orwellian doublespeak. It was taught by Asahara that his disciples could build up the merits with “phowa” since it would bring salvation to souls.
The episode revealed that the father of the Takakuras (Kanba, Shouma, Himari) was a high ranking official of the doomsday cult (the anime didn’t reveal the name, but it’s clearly Aum). He was in the South pole expedition team, probably inspired by Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods (1995), which hypothesizes that Antarctica once had the highly advanced civilization. So, I assume he was a scientist. In fact many of the Aum top officials were rokudaigaku (Japan’s Ivy League) science students. Yes, science geeks. They would have been leading Japan’s technological field right now.
So, the same day Takakura twins and Ringo were born and Ringo’s elder sister was killed by the terror attack, so it was revealed that Ringo’s sister was killed by Shoma’s father. Ironically Shoma is now Ringo’s new crush. It was the terror attack binding these characters predestinedly. Asahara’s terrorism was the origin of madness!
But still, a lot of things are unclear; where’s their father now? Why Himari has to be a sacrificial lamb to pay for her father’s crime = Asahara’s crime. Asahara was already condemned to death. But Kanba has still been giving his life force to Himari to keep her alive, just to postpone her execution. The most absurd punishment. The reason was partially explained in Mary’s lamb allegory. I have to watch more episodes to figure it out. It reminds me of Princess Tutu and Shojo Revolution Utena, each episode starts with an allegory, and then moves to the main story.
And the terrorist group’s logo wasn’t Aum’s. It was penguin. Why penguin? Antarctica? It’s well known that Hitler sent his expedition team to Antarctica. Is that related also?
Anyway, the incident had a huge impact on me. I lived far from the heart of Tokyo, but still it was terrifying. Natural disaster and terrorism surely made me more escapist. And coincidentally the same year, I traveled to Hiroshima and visited the A-bomb dome. After 3/20, religion-bashing became intense, and the spirituality boom came to end. This was the year that spirituality lost credibility among the new generation. Spirituality was our last hope since the end of Cold War, the bubble collapse, and the Lost Decade, but it crumbled. It made me realize that we didn’t actually have utopia. So, we had nothing to cling and nothing to strive for. The first generation that became lethargic. Yes, nihilistic indeed.
And so nihilistic that school girls were stalking Joyu Fumihiro, Asahara’s top disciple. There were even okkake (groupies), i.e., Joyu fan club, and these girls were called Joyu-gyaru. It was surrealistically weird and decadent. My classmate was also a Joyu-gyaru. And what’s more, she was really pretty, actually the prettiest one in my class, which was one of the most shocking events in my life. “How can she go crazy over a criminal?” That made me utterly nihilistic more than anything else. Probably that was the root of Otaku’s disbelief in 3-D girls.
Therefore, 1995 was the turning point. And prophetically Neon Genesis Eva came out that year. Wow, 16 years since 3/20… Surely laid the ground for Otaku zeitgeist to come.