“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” —Margaret J. Wheatley
- The aim of this editorial is to provide a convincing counterargument to one Soulelle’s interpretation of Glasslip. I disagree with the prevailing sentiment that said interpretation is able to account for everything in Glasslip. My own analysis of Glasslip was provided in my final reflection and won’t be reiterated here: this post deals with flaws in Soulelle’s interpretation. For those seeking a more concise version of this post, “Soulelle is wrong about Glasslip“.
A lack of an easily-identifiable thematic element in Glasslip contributed to its poor reception upon its conclusion. Far from being thought-provoking, the anime suffered from ill development in aspects that were critical to the story, which meant that symbolism was not sufficiently effective to convey the anime’s main message. At its core, however, Glasslip is an anime about the uncertainty associated with the pursuit of relationships. Amongst a small group of friends, Hiro and Sachi express interest in starting a relationship, while a sort of love-triangle exists between Yannagi, Yukinari and Tōko. However, as the first episode demonstrates, this is a closely-knit group, and Tōko desires for things to always remain thus. Kakeru’s arrival is thus aimed at providing the catalyst to disrupt this equilibrium, and originally, inclusion of supernatural elements and purported symbols (especially regarding the chickens and Kakeru’s tent) provides the means to further demonstrate this point. Even with an execution that leaves said point unclear, things seem straightforward enough, at least until another explanation from one Soulelle enters the discussion, writing:
My goodness, people, I don’t understand what is so complicated about this show that everyone has troubles [sic] comprehending. Everything’s very, VERY simple.
There are two main characters in this show, around who evolves the main theme of the show: feeling oneself at home.
Jonathan is not a mere chicken! Learn your director already! Nishimura Junji uses chickens all the time in his shows! This is his freaking trope! Go watch True Tears if you don’t believe me. It also has snow and chickens. As for Glasslip, most of the times Jonathan represents Kakeru himself. To be more precise it represents the problems that Kakeru struggles with.
Remember the 1st episode? The scene where Kakeru meets Touko at school for the first time? The dialogue about free-range Jonathan vs living in a cell? Have you all forgotten about it? If yes, it’s now the best time to recall it! Kakeru, having no particular place where he feels at home, is the one who DOESN’T like the concept of free-range animals. Kakeru shows Touko how dangerous a life for Jonathan is if it’s up to go around wherever it wants. Kakeru is the one who says that he’d rather live in a cell – he’s tired to change his place of living all the time. He wants his home to be set in stone like a cell for an animal.
Why the heck do you think Kakeru lives in the tent? Have you ever even tried to think about it? It’s so freaking simple – because he changes houses all the time, because his family always moves from one city to another! So the only CONSTANT place for him where he can sleep and feel himself home is his freaking tent! This IS his cell that always stay the same, regardless where he is located geographically.
Do you understand why there’s always such an accent on the sea birds crying in the show? They DO as well [sic] represent Kakeru – they keep changing their home from season to season. They spend winter in one area and then move back to another area for summer. This is what brings Kakeru troubles and loneliness. This is what Touko felt and got scared of – Kakeru will “fly away to another place once the season changes”, e.g. when it gets too cold.
So Kakeru now faces a challenge. He has two options. Option 1 – he keeps “flying” with his mum, losing Touko, experiencing the loneliness he’s so tired of. Option 2 – he settles down to stay with Touko who makes him feel home here. But option 2 is also scary, because then he’s losing connection to his mother and has to actually start living his own life. Kakeru is obviously scared of this heavy responsibility – once he decides to stay, he won’t be able to quit if something goes wrong by moving to another place. So he’s frustrated in choosing between the two options.
And believe it or not, Touko is no less scared. Having lived in this one city for so long, she’s scared that her friends will leave and they will no longer meet to watch the fireworks together. Again, THIS is what the show has started with in the first episode! She wants the people dear to her to remain close and connected to each other. And what’s more, she’s now even more scared to lose the one who she fell in love with. Because unlike the chicken Jonathan, who can’t fly despite being a bird, Kakeru can actually fly away if he decides to go with his mother.
Because of their love, because of their fears, and because of their sensitive nature, Touko and Kakeru experience and share their emotions through imagination, otherwise known as “fragments of the future”. It has nothing to do with alternate worlds, fates, other dimensiona [sic], timelines, or other bullshit – it’s just their vivid imagination. They learn about each other and about each other’s feelings and emotions this way.
And THIS is what this show is about. Everything that happens around them is just a romantic slice of life setting that drives this dramatic world. People meet, fall in love, some have their feelings unrequited, some have to fight for and win their love, etc. The actual drama is however between the two main characters – will they stay together or not, will Kakeru find his home with Touko or will he leave till [sic] better times, will Touko find the way to see the fireworks all together or not? These are the questions raised by the anime.
As an opinion piece, Soulelle’s explanation miraculously managed to become widely accepted as the “correct” interpretation of Glasslip; this occurred entirely because of the passages’ length. If it’s detailed, readers reason, it must be correct. Naturally, this isn’t the case, as readers overlook the fact that the analysis itself is dependent on assumptions that must hold true. Soulelle’s interpretation is lacking because it completely ignores critical themes dealing with relationships: if Glasslip had intended to be about feeling at home, it would have focussed entirely on the dynamics between Kakeru and Tōko, giving the pair more time to converse with one another. Given that Hiro, Sachi, Yannagi and Yukinari are also present, and their interactions are explored with a much greater detail than would be appropriate for an anime about just Kakeru and Tōko, it’s clear that Glasslip cannot be about feeling at home. Instead, it’s the conflicting feelings between the characters that drive Glasslip forwards.
It turns out the reason that Soulelle’s passage was widely accepted is because of the first few paragraphs outlining the parallels between Kakeru and the chickens. The claim is that Kakeru, having so long moved between places, finds comfort in the stability associated with being a chicken who resides in an enclosed area. Soulelle reasons that, having moved between different places throughout his life, Kakeru views his tent as being the one place he’s most familiar with, accounting for why he refuses a room in his new home. This demonstrates Kakeru as a character who is longing for somewhere to settle down, but simultaneously is torn with the prospect of losing contact with his mother. This characterisation forms the crux of Soulelle’s argument. Here, Soulelle manages to provide a succinct account of Kakeru’s character, which would in turn yield more insight into the rationale behind his actions. While viewers may gain a modicum of understanding behind Kakeru’s decisions, the significance of this in Glasslip as a whole would depend on the assumption that the chickens alone play a significant role in illustrating Kakeru’s situation. This simply isn’t the case: compared to True Tears, where chickens played a much greater role in indicating Noe’s own internal state and therefore, had a correspondingly greater screentime, the chickens in Glasslip have a much smaller presence. The chickens simply were not sufficiently important as to warrant additional screentime, in turn showing that their significance is limited to only acting as a visual metaphor for Kakeru’s actions.
With the limited significance of the chickens in Glasslip accounted for, we turn to Soulelle’s next claim: that the so-called “fragments of the future” are merely figments of Kakeru and Tōko’s imaginations as they attempt to cope with their feelings. Soulelle provides no further justification for why this is the case, which makes it relatively easy to refute: suppose that Kakeru and Tōko’s imaginations are vivid enough to manifest as the phenomenon depicted in Glasslip. Then, said moments should be able to occur without the inclusion of glass as a catalyst. However, the fact remains is that Glasslip mentions glass beads frequently, and that these beads have properties that allow Tōko to glimpse the future. Were things left to her imagination, the emphasis would not be on the glass beads; it’s quite plausible that in-story, Tōko imagines the glass to have certain properties, but from a literary perspective, the writers would have to make this explicit; they’ve opted to portray glass at the forefront of things, rather than as a background element. From a certain perspective, it’s not difficult to view these glass beads as representing a unique, distorted view on the world that arises when one peers through them. The optical properties of said glass beads would thus make the world seem different, uncertain, and ultimately, these “fragments of the future” are probably feelings arising from an uncertainty for what the future holds, even if one might be able to anticipate a small amount of what might happen. The remainder of Glasslip was obscured by poor writing, so in the absence of official documentation, attempting to link this with the supernatural and continuing on the discussion in this direction is not particularly meaningful. Given the limited evidence, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that glass is intended to serve as the catalyst for Kakeru and Tōko’s glimpses of the “fragments of the future”; it is unreasonable to simply dismiss these elements altogether.
Taken together, Soulelle’s analysis of Glasslip represents a very narrow view of the anime as a whole: the chickens only play a minor role in helping characterise Kakeru, and omitting the presence of the supernatural aspect means that it becomes far easier to forcibly conclude that Glasslip is about finding a home. Therefore, Soulelle’s poorly-presented assessment becomes an excellent example of confirmation bias, in which information is sought or fitted in a manner as to agree with one’s interpretation. Soulelle chooses very specific, minor details and dismisses other details to fit with a personal opinion, and in doing so, produces a passage that inadequately represents Glasslip. As an anime, Glasslip attempted to portray the impact of relationships amongst a group of friends, and Kakeru’s background means that he is unable to properly express how he feels about Tōko: his interference also disrupts the group’s original status quo. Meanwhile, Sachi and Hiro go through some challenges associated with a relationship that’s just started, while Yannagi and Yukinari both deal with unrequited love. If Glasslip was truly about feeling at home, then one must wonder why a respectable amount of time in Glasslip was dedicated towards depicting aspects about relationships and dating.
- Occam’s Razor states that, given competing hypotheses for an answer, the one with the fewest assumptions should be chosen. Soulelle’s interpretation assumes that the chickens are important in the overall story, and that the “fragments of the future” can be accounted for by imagination, abandoning the bigger picture in favour of the minutiae . My analysis makes no assumptions: the conclusion, that Glasslip is a story making use of visual metaphors to depict a story surrounding the uncertainty about love and life, was drawn directly from what is explicit in the anime.