Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m eager to dive back into The Big O, and perhaps uncover a few more secrets regarding Paradigm’s strange history. The Big O’s last episode was actually brimming with information regarding the world of Paradigm, though in classic Big O fashion, all of that information was gracefully woven into the course of one more episodic investigation.
As Dastun sought answers regarding the identity of his destined woman, we in the audience learned a great deal about Paradigm, and the world around it. For one thing, it seems like Paradigm’s government is a sham. In spite of the city theoretically possessing a full board of representatives, all of those representatives in turn answer to the city’s true boss, with Angel at his side. Additionally, it appears that the show’s claim that the outside world has been destroyed is just another form of population control, as the episode culminated in outside forces sending a giant robot stomping through the city. Rather than the final holdout of a dying humanity, Paradigm is looking more and more like an isolated dictatorship, raising the question of whether even the mass amnesia was intentionally provoked in order to better control the populace.
But questions like that seem a little outside of Roger’s pay grade, at least while we’re still halfway through the first season. Whatever perils may come, I’m sure The Big O will convey them with genre-savvy finesse and plenty of style. Let’s get to it!
We open on a tree decorated like it’s Christmas, accompanied by the politely non-denominational slogan “Merry Heaven’s Day”
I love how the inherent gaiety of that opening shot is immediately undercut by the ominous title drop, “Daemonseed”
Aww, Dorothy is buying Roger a tie for not-Christmas. “If it must be in black, it’ll have to be a funeral tie.” “That’s fine. I’m buying it for someone with very lousy taste.”
It strikes me what a big deal an action like this would be in your garden variety anime. It’s always refreshing to watch an anime about adults, who aren’t mired in adolescent insecurity
Roger’s presumed disinterest in Heaven’s Day is conveyed without a word. We get a terrific shot of his expression reflected in a coffee cup, as if only in reflection can we see the sulking beneath his guarded exterior
“I don’t care much for the scenery around town.” Of course Roger would be the kind of person to get irrationally mad about cheerful holidays. They’re really built him into a charming curmudgeon
“There’s no logic to my behavior. It comes from emotions you wouldn’t understand.” One of Roger’s worst qualities – when he’s in a bad mood, he tends to lash out at Dorothy, by framing her as a robot who can’t understand him
As a beginning writer, it can be tough to illustrate nuances like that – to write with an understanding that no person is a stable collection of quirks and opinions, and how dramatically circumstances can shift our personalities. Focusing on archetype undersells the flexibility of human behavior, and the ways our current mood or ongoing experiences can shift our “default” reactions
Roger goes the further inconsiderate step of essentially shaming Dorothy for her unorthodox weight, when she pushes an elevator over the weight limit
Though she accepts his apology, the framing of this shot on the escalator emphasizes the emotional distance between them
Apparently Paradigm itself distributes presents on Heaven’s Day. Presumably whoever provoked the amnesia did so in order to assume control over the city – and at that point, they were free to crib from old traditions in order to embellish their new world order
I assume Dorothy sees celebrating Heaven’s Day as a way of further integrating herself into humanity, and into Roger’s family in particular. But the perpetually self-absorbed Roger can only consider his own petty grudge against the holiday, and isn’t taking Dorothy’s feelings into account
We return to Oliver, a saxophonist
He’s eating his favorite meal, a single slice of ham
Ah, it turns out Heaven’s Day is actually just Dorothy’s birthday
Oliver wants to buy a dress for his lover Laura, but can’t afford it, and thus Roger purchases it. What sort of Gift of the Magi nonsense are we up to with this guy?
Roger gets a job offer from Alex Rosewater, the president of the Paradigm corporation himself. Things are moving!
An incredibly creepy Santa gives Oliver a strange gem, which is presumably some giant robot’s activation key. It feels like Paradigm is decaying by the day at this point; the moment we learned this place is a sham, cracks started appearing all along the walls
Rosewater was sent a holiday card with a warning: “In seven days, the world will be reborn”
Our crazed Santa was actually a mad scientist, who claimed to have regained his memories, and promoted nature restoration
It’s fun seeing the contrast in Roger and Dastun’s approach to this investigation. As usual, Dastun is the reliable company man, using his intelligence within the confines provided by his assignment. In contrast, Roger is more interesting in investigating the assignment itself – why his protection mandate is limited to inside the dome, and why Rosewater chose this of all cases to involve Roger in
Roger’s probing prompts Dastun to mention the existence of a second letter, one which talks about the end of the world, and mentions the “Book of Revelation.” If Rosewater is truly the mastermind behind Paradigm’s current state, then it makes sense that he’d conceal this letter; his truest form of control is information control, ensuring that all values and culture remain within the confines of pro-Paradigm sentiment. One of the most effective ways to ensure permanent control is keeping your populace from even imagining an alternative, and introducing an irritant like an alternate, ancient theology would severely undercut that strategy
I really like how the further we get into this series, the weirder Paradigm becomes. The show starts off by focusing on cases that are fully self-contained, and thus tell us little about Paradigm’s wider world. As the show continues, we see more and more just how alien this culture is
Roger and Dorothy at last find Oliver, after Dorothy notes he has a card that matches Rosewater’s
Oliver chastises Roger for being mean to Dorothy, which she answers with a cold “I’m used to it.” Stop being such a dick, Roger!
“Sometimes the elderly gather over there and sing.” Dang, so we’re really going into this! It actually does seem like the threat Rosewater recognizes is the resurgence of an alternative religion, beyond just state-sanctioned belief in Paradigm itself. But embers of Christianity still linger in this world. Heaven’s Day itself carries many of Christmas’ touchstones (much like how Christianity drew on paganism to build its version of Christmas in the first place), and the old folks still gather in a church to sing holiday hymns. Damaged but unbroken; the crooked cross over this church exemplifies the lingering presence of old faiths in Paradigm
“If you want to live a happy life in this city, you’re better off leaving memories alone.” True both in a personal, emotional sense, and also in a “don’t speak about the past if you don’t want a visit from the secret police” way
The meeting with Oliver has Roger feeling particularly sentimental. He rambles about his rules for living as Dorothy plays, and sighs at the wild energy of youth
Dorothy visits Laura alone, and asks why Oliver loves her
What an interesting response – “I think he loves me because I’m easy to fool.” Oliver’s truest love is the saxophone, but Laura actually respects that
Oh god. That green gem was actually a seed of some kind, and now it’s erupting into a wild tangle of vines, and taking Oliver with it. This is exactly why you don’t accept strange artifacts from santas you meet on the street
This explains why our true culprit gave the seed to Oliver; he wanted to ensure it went off at the center of the Heaven’s Day celebration
Ooh, I love this soft focus shot of the Big O emerging, with Dastun in the foreground. Dastun’s figure really pins down the sense of scale here, and I like how his billowing coat enhances the drama
Oh my god Roger, you overconfident son of a bitch. While fighting this giant tentacle monster, he rings up Norman to make sure someone gets his coat from the tailors
This episode has been a bit more reserved visually, but these cuts of vines crashing through the city are terrific. Unusually strong effects and debris animation for a TV series
Roger can’t even begin to fight this thing; the fight only ends when it stops growing, because it’s risen into the Christmas tree it was always intended to become
“Do you know the real meaning behind Heaven’s Day? It’s the day God’s son was born.” Yeah, Rosewater knows it all
God, Roger and Dorothy are so awkward in their gift exchange, it’s perfect. Love these two
Well, that was a strange one! It really did feel like an unabashed Christmas episode, complete with the heavy dollop of sentimentality you expect from such stories. There wasn’t really a noir narrative at all this time – instead, the actual “plot” here was mostly about Oliver and Laura, while the rest of the episode served as an exploration of Roger and Dorothy’s relationship, as well as the lingering traces of religiosity in Paradigm. Paradigm’s amnesia is no longer some fanciful worldbuilding conceit; it’s a tangible calamity that was presumably executed to take command of the city, using wiped memories as the ultimate form of information control. Paradigm’s story actually mirrors a great number of historical empires, and I’d love to see the show dive more deeply into how Paradigm’s culture was built on the bones of its predecessors. Even in the grips of a maudlin Christmas episode, The Big O remains a fascinating production.