Murasaki-iro no Qualia, Qualia the Purple (紫色のクオリア)
Ueo, Hisamitsu (Story), Tsunashima, Shirou (Art)
21 Chapters / 3 Volumes, Dengeki Daioh, Jan 2011 to Aug 2013
Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Shounen
I was reading Noah Smiths ruminations on Twitter as WMD: ‘Is Twitter a dystopian technology?‘ [http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.ca/2016/12/is-twitter-dystopian-technology.html] and what hits me in the first few paragraphs is that an essay on mass society and information technology is alluding to PyrE. (1)
HuH? Ok, you have to be of a certain age… I am. There is a reason that this blog is named the way it is and it ain’t because I have a thing for anonymous 17thC poetry (2)
Which leads me all over the place but since this is a 12 Days (of) Anime post, I must keep the obscure references within manageable limits. Time to use the Alfie Bester reference to commend the reader’s attention to a manga that was a big deal for me a couple of years ago but may have fallen off the cart and deserves to be considered and praised once more:
Murasaki-iro no Qualia is amazing grim fun and heroic – if not romantic in an obsessive way, yuri – especially if you are weak for driven heroines; though I would add that once again the girl-love struck young high school girl is at her core saddled with a ‘a guy wrote me” vibe. “Guy wrote me and turned me into a superhero” vibe in fact. If you want to feel what I am trying to get at, contrast Gaku with the hero (and story treatment) in the American web comic ‘Relativity‘ by Beck Kramer [http://relativitycomic.com/part-1-reentry/page.php?page=1]
Or not… It might be a bit unfair; they are two different kinds of stories, neh?
Qualia, which started as a single 3-section light novel (3) is amazingly fun and dire and also a series of hat tips to classic yankee scifi – with some pretty heavy-handed winks and nods in the memory of Isaac Asimov and Alfie Bester.
The Jaunt thing is obvious. So is Alice Foyle. (Terra is My Nation, Deep Space is my Dwelling Place…)
Less obvious is Marii Yukari’s characterization as “the purple qualia”; eye color and family name notwithstanding. One cannot forget that she can breathe life and super powers into her plasmo robots (as well as doing all manner of other causality and reality-bending tricks). Murasaki is not exactly what we know as the color purple; it is more AS A SHADE OF PURPLE – a horrible pun first used in a convention groaner novelette eventually published as The Flying Sorcerers.[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flying_Sorcerers]
After Marii saves Gaku from the psycho killer, Gaku will do ANYTHING to save Marii. Unfortunately, because of some flaw in the structure of the multiverse, Gaku will need to do everything to save her, as Marii has extremely bad luck, even for a godling. Fortunately Marii inadvertently gave Gaku the power to seriously fuck with probability, and so she does, repeatedly – even if it means that a lot of p-versions of herself end up in horrible shit. Or doing horrible shit. They are also all telepathically linked because they all are her (n’est pas?) and the Gaku hive-mind can pillage the fabric of all existence when she puts her nearly infinite capacities to work on a problem. Of course, there will be a price to pay for doing so.
Gaku is closer to Niven’s Jack Brennan than any “conventional” Japanese high school tomboy heroine with a nifty scifi power and a tragic girl-crush. There is more than a whiff of the guy-written BFG about her, especially her bull-headed determination to do everything by herselves. And she can, as she is legion.
“I move, once more in imitation of light”
The do-over-and-over-again-with-save-points tale is a uniquely modern conceit. Its attraction is immediately recognisable to anyone who has experienced an if-only personal tragedy; one that in the glare of hindsight appears as preventable, if only… Given that shitty things have been happening to people since people existed, you would think our mythologies and ancient lore would be jammed with such fables but strangely not.
Fate was, until recently like the passage of time and death, considered inexorable. After death, the hero might journey to the land of the dead to try to bring back their best bud or heart’s desire (or both) but the idea of a do-over must have seemed too wacky to a bard’s audience. We started to get them in vernacular fiction before vidja games, so we can’t exactly blame one on the other but since the latter are devilishly well-suited to such story mechanics we now are up to our ears in them. Isekai grinders like Re-zero prove that you don’t have to blah blah about Schrödinger’s Cat and quantum mechanics to pull one-off – you can also posit a wicked witch of the north and roll with it. Nothing prevented Odysseus from getting stuck in a temporal loop but he didn’t. Something about our modern frame of mind makes these stories not only acceptable but attractive.
Marii Yukari is for all purposes a godling, even if she is a cursed one. It is important that she grant her friend one small silly and inadvertent power and that is enough to re-write everything, save her ass and win a happy high school romance. Gaku will never let her go after all that. She did once and lookie what happened. Talk about clingy. Uhauls in every possible driveway, ever. Happily ever after everywhen, dammit. David Gerrold of Star Trek TOS scriptwriting fame once played around with something like this but not with a desperate, bloody minded high school heroine.
And that is why Relativity is so damn good and so useful, in obvious and not so obvious ways and for the purpose of this essay, in contrast. Gaku could have been a guy and/ or didn’t have to have a yuri crush but making her as she was gave her just enough exotic juice to let her fall down a very guy-written rabbit hole.
Fictional realistically butch lesbian astronauts stuck in probability paradoxes have adult worries. Steins Gatery won’t help with those. There’s this problem with other human beings and their feelings, you see.
Nawww, unfair comp. 2 diff stories.
(1) Interesting argument, Mr Smith but the reaver’s core and allied major GOP support block are not massive Twitter users. Much online sound and fury, signifying hmmmph? Now if you care to point phaser banks at Fox News and the way they bubble the olds? What else? Oh right: PyrE is a fictional near-nuclear level explosive that can be detonated by thought.
(2) Much later I read the whole poem and good grief! To top it off it reads like 17thC poverty fetish slash.. Gehhhh!
(3) I even bought the Light Novel, along with the original Japanese 3rd and last volume of the manga because I wanted to take up an offer to review it while honoring the in-house conventions of a senior blogger who frowns on -ahem- grey translations. In the end I could never get it together and perhaps I should just send the LN to that blog’s proprietor because I’ll never learn enuff japanese to read it. Then again everything yuri I rec in that direction is found problematic – I seem to have unerring LFB tastes, dare I risk jinxing it?