The greatest of pauses. It occurred to me late that “chance” also can mean opportunity.
This post is the ninth of my entries into 2016’s rendition of the 12 Days of Anime aniblogger project. For more about the project, read appropriant’s introductory post. For a spreadsheet containing the work of all the bloggers participating, go here. For my previous 12 Days posts, go here.
The second Mardock Scramble film is a weird movie. Fairly evenly bisected into a smattering of scenes set in a florid scientific paradise with a talking dolphin and long sequences of various casino games, the whole affair is conducted with relative (I said relative, mind you!) restraint. Thanks to this treatment of Rune Balot’s wanderings between these two different but similarly surreal experience, the whole film feels like the interlude it is, except for that in this case the interlude is not merely a moment for the audience to catch their breath—it’s a pause in Rune’s life, a pivot between the life of death and despair she’s departing from into a life of hope.
As happy as that sounds, the world of Mardock Scramble isn’t so gentle as to allow Rune to drop softly into a new life and fall asleep without another worry. I don’t believe in fate, but I like shows that engage with the concept—and Mardock Scramble‘s dirty take on the theme, although couched in the concept of “chance,” is no exception.
The Second Combustion spends a lot of time directly musing on this idea, what Rune’s quest for justice taking her in the jaws of a casino—a land of theoretical chance, although the supposed randomness of it is, as we all know, an illusion. As the saying goes, “the house always wins.” As a microcosm of the world, the casino is reasonably representative: a idealized place where even the poorest man can become a millionaire. Yet, as the films point out quite explicitly through the personas of the casino employees like Bell Wing (something that’s continued in the third movie), the deck is stacked against those without preexisting power. Rune, certainly, is one of the powerless.
This second film is sublime because, through the lens of chance, the pivot in Rune’s life is exposed, like a coin flip suspended, like the moment before the die settles. It is a moment normally so brief, the instant of decision, that we normally cannot see it. But, for Rune Balot, chance itself freezes for her to grip it for herself. The aimless conversation of Paradise gives way to her successful discovery of Shell’s memories. The calmness of the repeated spinnings of the roulette ball rolls idly on as it settles according to her will. Chance is no longer an existential whim. It becomes something that can be held on to, a fantastic as the idea may be.
Of everything that occurs in The Second Combustion, I like best the way it’s all delivered. There’s an almost dreamy sensibility to it all, something that makes sense in Paradise but continues to engrossing effect once Rune enters the casino. It’s as if the otherwordly suspension of being lifted out the grime of the first film found in the absurd science of Paradise continues to cling to her, the drifting from one side of the coin of life to the other elongated until it the moment breaks with the film’s conclusion and the beginning of Rune’s final battles. To extend such a small thing as the finger snap shift of fate into an ethereal breath… I found it stunning.