Time and the Leijiverse Part II (Toki no Wa)
At the very end of Arcadia of my Youth, Captain Harlock commends his lover Maya’s dead body to the sea of stars with the words: “At the faraway point where the rings of time come together we shall meet again.” Matsumoto’s characters say this several times throughout his shows so the concept has attracted major attention. For example, the central forum for the Leiji fandom in France is called “Toki no wa”, i.e. “Ring of Time”.
Because the Japanese language doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural, Harlock’s actual quote could refer to one or more rings. The quote above uses “rings” but it is possible to translate it as: “Where [the two ends of] the ring of time come together we shall meet again”. So let’s start with just the one ring.
If time forms a ring, then there is at least one point at which the future “resets” to the past, I’m calling this point Alpha Omega. Imagine Alpha is a Big Bang: the universe grows, develops, collapses and explodes into a Big Bang (Omega point), then the cycle starts up again. Alpha and Omega are exactly the same.
F. Nietzsche picked up this theory in the 19th century (it was a minor semi-scientific view back then) and made it into the centerpiece of his worldview. To be a Superman, in his view, you had to be strong enough to accept that your life, exactly as you had lived with all its ups and downs, would be relived again and again eternally. Because Nietzsche himself had an extremely crappy life, it meant a great, heroic sacrifice to first accept, then actually relish in the thought of the Eternal Return of the Same (read for example Thus Spake Zarathustra).
Kevin Spacey played an alien spouting off the same thing (in K-PAX) so the concept is alive and well today. More curiously, in Einstein’s physics it is at least theoretically possible that such Rings of Time exist. The technical term is a closed timelike curve (CTC) and I don’t get it at all so I won’t go into it.
Under this scenario, Harlock and Maya will meet again, over and over and over, and in exactly the same circumstances. This might be good enough for both of them, but for those of us studying the strange contortions of the Leijiverse, the model stands short.
I wrote in my first post of this series about the clashes between the Mazone Invasion storyline and the Illumidas Invasion storyline. There’s also the fact that both of these invasions take place at the end of the 30th century, whereas the Galaxy Express 999 events occur in the 23rd (with Harlock popping up in both). It seems we need to come up with several Rings of Time. Thus:
One ring for the elven King the Galaxy Express, one ring for the Mazone, and if we wanted to another one for the Illumidas, then one for the Harlock Saga, etc.. Not only is this very untidy, but the notion of the looping of time becomes completely redundant… And in fact, it might as well be redundant, because as far as I know, Matsumoto doesn’t ever give us a hint or an example of an event that repeats itself in exactly the same fashion.
What drives the fans crazy is how certain events look similar but different at the same time. Sometimes this happens with whole characters: there are 3 “Mimay” characters in the Leijiverse: 1) the original Mimay, 2) the Arcadia movie La Mimay; 3) the Harlock Saga Mimay (for pics look here). They’re not just three people that share the same name, but there are odd details that connect them.
What we need is an elegant and efficient model of Time in the Leijiverse that consists of similar timelines, or maybe a timeline that repeats itself but with variations. and a simple Ring of Time, or a million for that matter, just won’t do it. Luckily, Matsumoto’s work shows us the way. Notice that the quote this post started with, as translated by most fans, refers to multiple Rings of Time that meet… but more on that next time…