Shiina Studies 101 – Fourth Lecture
Here I will continue and finish my presentation of Shunichi Asai’s essay On Tadashi Machi. For more information please refer to the third lecture. As always, what follows is Asai’s analysis. My own comments are in brackets .
(4) You lost your surroundings
and I ignored that.
This sentence is stuck in between two time periods: the one year ago when the couple were still together and the present time with its huge distance between them. A tentative interpretation is that the “surroundings” were lost with the woman’s departure for Tokyo. Thus, in a way, the man has lost that “big city” that the woman has come to represent, and she’s ignoring it.
When the woman comes back, she expects the <complex You = this town = Fukuoka> to stay in place. But the man “rubs his forehead against the cold asphalt”, “attacks” her and begins to melt into her as it were. For the first time the woman begins to wonder about the man’s own feelings [instead of selfishly focusing on herself] and thus we get the lines:
(5) The lips who said “goodbye” on that day, after one year
(6) what did they feel
when they kissed me, I wonder?
With this question, all of a sudden her affection and her feelings break through to the surface and all of that negation and skepticism she declared at the beginning of the song, not to mention Tokyo itself, get overturned and painted over by “this town”. If only for an instant, “the right town” penetrates straight through to the heart of the structure of the ego and its opaque psychology. The woman drops her attitude of detachment and egotism. On the surface, of course, she ignores “that”, where the “that” will probably be taken to mean “you”, but as suggested above might actually be taken for “Tokyo” instead.
(7) I strung short lies until they became a red* one [red lie = big lie in Japanese]
and concealed my alienated real intentions.
The real intentions (“I must meet you”) are concealed by an attitude that can be described as “we don’t have to meet”. This alienation is related to the notion of the woman being alienated from her home in the big city. She is in the position where she must somehow hold two clashing emotions together: 1) absolute denial of the Provinces and 2) love for the Provinces, and what’s worse, she has to conceal the fact that this clash is going on inside of her. The “short lies” likely express the sorrow behind the mask [or masks] she is forced to wear.
At this point in the song Ringo inserts a number of”ah”s into the song as a form of background noise. [pump up the music and have a listen, they’re there indeed]
(7) Mijikai uso o tsunge, akai mono ni kaete
sogai sareyuku honne o fuseta.
(8) Taranai kotoba yori mo chikai kyori o konomi
rikai dekite ita yo ni omou ga
There are 6 ah’s that can be heard clearly in the background [one each behind the words I’ve marked in red above] This is significant, because even though lines (2) and (3) have the same –ai rhyme discussed earlier, they are lacking these cries in the background.
(8) Preferring a short distance to words that cannot suffice
I think it was understood
When it comes to understanding someone, using words to communicate without any contact is inferior to simply not speaking and touching each other. And this skin to skin contact was probably initiated by that “rubbing against the cold asphalt” earlier.
This section of the song flows as follows: the color “red” in line (7) is opposed by the “coldness” that the woman is trying to keep up. The redness is welling up inside of her, her true feelings are coming out. She expresses this, not without words, but with tears [referring to line (9), and hinging on the fact that “kimi ni namida o oshieta” can be taken to mean “I taught you tears” (as I translated it) or “I showed you tears” (as Asai reads it) because the verb “oshieru” means show/teach] The ah’s in this section of the song play the role of vocalizing that true feeling that she can’t put into proper words. Ringo’s singing expands the meaning of the song beyond what the lyrics present on paper.
(10) Even though you say “As for cute people,
there are enough to throw away”
(11) why until this point
there is still no one beside you, I wonder?
Throughout this song there is an opposition between “you” and I”, and in these lines the opposition becomes universal: between the “countless women who you say are like myself” and the “you who in saying so denies those women”. This opposition is brief and melts away when the two come together.
(12) How outrageous was the dream
I ended up having.
If we divide Love into eternal love and instant love, Ringo Shiina seems to lean to the instant variety. In this song, though, it would seem that the woman starts to dream of a Love that can last longer than the instant. It could be that the “dream” is marriage, but regardless, she thinks of it as outrageous and out of keeping with her character.
[To understand this section it’s best to make clear that Asai apparently thinks that the woman in the song is departing from Fukuoka again, not to return to Tokyo, but to go abroad. In fact, Ringo went to England in 1997]
In the last few lines, the woman in the song is about to go to the airport and travel abroad. Maybe this is an echo of her trip to England. One year ago, she equated or assimilated the man with the town and left both of them. She then tried to assimilate herself to Tokyo but she ended up abandoning that city too. The woman’s inner drive to action as described in the song makes us expect that the process will repeat itself again abroad. This might sound negative, but one can’t help but see this drive to interrupt the process of assimilation when it’s about to occur as a part of the Aesthetics of Ringo Shiina.
So we have that “ne” with a twisted bad intention and the “ah” with its noise of pleasure and trance-like forgetting of the self. Negation and affirmation clash in the song and they are not ordered neatly in any way. But the fact is that the song ends with an “ah” that recapitulates and returns to the “ah” with which the song began. [this “ah” is almost a breath, but if you listen to the song carefully it’s very soon after the last “ne”]
Ishikawa gave up on interpreting line (4). Asai comes up with an interpretation that is extremely difficult and, as I see it, unconvincing. Also, I don’t think his view of lines (11) and (12) is effective.
The opposition between “ne” and “ah” is fascinating. The importance of the “ah” in particular is undeniable IMHO. Couple this with the “ai” motif that Ishikawa points out and I at least find myself in awe of this song and its rich content, especially considering it was penned by an 18 year old trying to come up with her first album!!