Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Coin - Chapter Seven notes

The feelings of shame and guilt that result from having lost faith in Kyon, even for a moment, are where we begin this chapter, and it gives an immediate opportunity to confront the lowest point in Haruhi’s depiction over the course of the series. I felt more comfortable doing this after revisiting Melancholy in chapter five. The thing that can be a bit fridge-logic-inducing from canon is that we never get the impression that Haruhi realizes she was wrong. Kyon just forgives her when he realizes he was being a negative Nancy, and it’s done. From Haruhi’s perspective, that can’t be enough. Hence, she has to confront the part where her expectations of reality and reality itself aren’t the same.

But what Haruhi is feeling gives her a sort of nearsightedness. She alone knows what she’s feeling. That doesn’t mean anyone else can. Kyon can tell something’s amiss, but it’s not going to bother him that Haruhi went alone, nor does it really occur to him. The act doesn’t have the same significance to him as it does to Haruhi.

For these criticial opening scenes, I iterated a lot, both before and after sending this chapter out for feedback. It’s difficult to capture Haruhi’s thought processes as they were back then without making it seem like that that’s still her thought process now. I’ve tried to strike a balance, but I won’t say it’s entirely perfect. For the purposes of emphasizing Haruhi’s growth, Haruhi does realize she has to apologize for what she thinks she’s done.

It’s about this point that we have to get to Koizumi. Initially, I wanted to have this scene before school, so Haruhi would be thinking about it until lunch. I moved it back because Haruhi being avoidant and not coming to class until the very last minute made a lot of sense. Koizumi’s desperation is set up last chapter, and at first, it all sounds reasonable. Koizumi has valid concerns, and Haruhi does the gracious thing to try to fix her past mistakes.

But valid concerns aren’t what really bother Koizumi. At long last, the mask of Koizumi slips off, even if only for a moment. I admit, I was tempted to expand on this here, but part of Koizumi is that he’s mysterious. He really is. All along, you don’t get a good sense of how the man really ticks and how much of his behavior is put-on. To me, it’s very unappetizing if all his mannerisms are an act. The easiest fiction is one close to the truth, after all. I think Koizumi must be very fond of philosophizing and games and mysteries, but as an esper, he’s not wholly free to indulge those pursuits. Koizumi, in my mind, is very admiring of Haruhi, and hence he feels like his dedication hasn’t been rewarded. At the same time, he knows he’s been privy to a wonderful experience and feels like he shouldn’t refuse that.

Having gained insight into three members of the brigade out of four, only Asahina is left. The question is simple: does she want to be there? And to Asahina, that’s a question she’s never been asked. How she feels about being so far from home is irrelevant. She doesn’t have an option, and talking about these issues only puts her in an unbearable position. She’d rather run than anger Haruhi. It could even be standard operating procedure, so to speak.

Haruhi doesn’t get the chance to stew on this conversation, though. The old woman is here. Remember her from chapter three? Her appearance at this juncture is a bit of a hit-and-run, but it seeds the idea that the time-travelers are more concerned with preserving the timeline than exploration.

Kyon’s attitude toward the older Asahina stems largely from the spot of resentment he feels toward her at the end of book 7, the need to “play a prank” from time to time and spoil the otherwise deterministic interactions of closed time loops. To some extent, Asahina’s manipulations are necessary and justified from her perspective. Still, leading Kyon and herself around on vague hints and implicit coercion are something Haruhi can’t fathom Asahina of being capable of.

With this training facility, I wanted to avoid wanton conjecture about what the future would actually be like. I’d known since this project’s inception I wanted a passage where Haruhi visited the future, and I briefly considered how that future could be different from our time, but I realized that that wouldn’t engage Haruhi’s emotions—only, maybe, her enthusiasm for the unusual, but that’s not what’s in focus here. Having such a massive training facility plays on Haruhi’s aversion of undue attention: she can’t view herself as being unusual or special, and so it bothers her.

Now, we have the old woman, who makes a couple appearances in this chapter. Her goals are explicitly counter to those of other time-travelers, and I think she fancies herself as a guide for Haruhi toward something, as she says, less constrained by the demands of causality and time. She’ll be back, one or two more times, before all this is over.

At last, Haruhi gets to meet the older Asahina, and there are a lot of clues and hints here that one should think about. Why is Asahina wearing that hat, for instance? Let me not tease too much, but there’s a definite answer to that question, at least. Recognizing the changes in Asahina’s personality and behavior is something that emphasizes how Haruhi doesn’t know her friends as well as she thought. That applies to Koizumi; that applies to Asahina, too. When Asahina takes Haruhi back home and so easily convinces her to do what’s needed to protect the future, she realizes Haruhi was right—she has become manipulative, she has used her position and friendships to push people in the direction she wanted. She’s deprived her friends of happiness, of choice.

This is a long chapter, and a lot of stuff has happened, but the end is in sight. Only two more chapters and an epilogue to go.

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