In the middle of a discussion about what makes for “chuunibyou,” I thought about Nasu’s… Nasuverse. In that world, mages are people who take magecraft like a trade: you have teachers, craftsmen, unions and guilds, rivals, people who do it for fun, people who do it for profit, and people who do it for the hell of it. You have artists and salarymen, parents, children, and heroic spirits. Swords and sorcery? People who are dead because they are killed? People who are the bones of their swords? It’s, in a word, chuunibyou to a tee.
But in that silly world-creation exercise, Nasu laid down some foundations that I particularly like in this kind of setting. It’s a bit like Fuyumi Ono’s Twelve Kingdoms, where the laws of the world are absolute; Gods and emperors speak with not so much authority but with reality-bending, “let there be light” powers. I like that sort of thing.
The cool thing about Nasu’s magecraft is in its adherence and pursuit of the akasha, or the origin. In a way, the attempt to understand Nasuverse’s notion of origin is just like a mage’s pursuit of understanding of origin of humans and the world, existence in general. [Cynical: both are fraught with irregularities and illogical examples!] The cute thing (and adding to its middle-schooler-illness) is that the notion is not original. I just think it’s a beautiful parallel to the act of introspection: when we examine deep within ourselves, conflict invariably will emerge. When mages fight each other in Nasu’s universe, it is a clash of different origins, cloaked by the personalities, motives and external reasons (eg., fate) behind these conflicts. These conflicts are external manifestation of internal turmoil. These conflicts are thematic.
Because, after all, the darkness inside of ourselves is the one that brings about the most enduring and endearing conflicts. Tsundere, I’m looking at you.
The other neat thing is that this is a central concept that perpetrates consistently across all of Nasuverse. In a way it feels like those Tolkein-style students of arcane magic, living inside their towers, honing their art. It just has taken a 21st century turn of events. And of course, these Nasu-mages are hardly anything akin to a D&D mage in practice. It’s the thin veneer that keeps his works at least somewhat credible, sure, but I appreciate at least the consistency.
The way I model these things in my mind is kind of how I look at, say, how one could reconcile religion with anime. For example, Mike’s the real deal. And I find it an uplifting testimony to read. It’s more about us than the anime that we watch. It may be reasonable to say that Nasu’s writing is horrible (I don’t know, I can’t tell anyways), but it resounds with others, with a purpose, so it is fine. I see it specifically in pursuit of science. It, too, revolves around the notion that we are students of the world; we are learners, not teachers. Because we know we don’t know, it is why we do these things. It is why GlaDOS gets away with the things she does. It is why Academy City exists. It is why we pursuit the study of the world. Scientists are eternal newbies: that’s where the action is, that’s where the new revelation is, that is where the new science happens. It is driven by the same budding curiosity and imaginative power that makes Steins;Gate an amusing watch on principle. In other words, it is the same force which powers chuunibyou bubble. Scientists, too, are just human beings with all the contradictions humans have, seeking the origin of all things.