Saturday, 9 October 2010

Just finished: Atami no Sousakan

Somehow the word "finished" doesn't seem right.

Anyway – big spoilers up ahead (kind of)

The final scene shows Hoshizaki (Odagiri Joe) riding the fabled school bus into a tunnel with a bright light at the end, but with no further explanation. People all over the internet started going back through earlier episodes for clues. Myself included. However, it was clear to me that without a firm grasp of Japanese or of Japanese imagery, I was going to struggle. Additionally, I'm aware of the desire for people to read too much meaning into vague or random texts, which made me wonder if the things I'd found were genuinely placed there or just a coincidence.

In one scene, Mitsuko Katasura (Fuse Eri) uses Scotch tape on the floor to trip up Hoshizaki, leaving his shoes behind. Now, people take off their shoes before committing suicide, so is this a clue for something? Meanwhile, this site shows screen grabs from a passport issued in 2008, but has stamps in it from 2007. A nice find, but what does it mean?

Perhaps the smartest finding has been regarding some of the puns and meanings hidden away in the numbers throughout the show. Two commentators on d-addicts have posted their theories, and they make for interesting reading. Perhaps the most important refers to the registration plates of Hoshizaki's car and the bus. Clakaz wrote that the number plate of the bus is 4392, which can be read “Yomi no Kuni” (the world after death) while Hoshizaki's licence plate is 7292: “Nakatsu Kuni”or middle world.

Add to this the sign welcoming people to South Atami that reads “Almost Heaven” and Hoshizaki's description of the problem being that two worlds aren't mixing and it's pretty clear that the whole premise of the show is about the afterlife and the living world overlapping.

At least, I think it's clear... I could be wrong.

The other number puns all seem to refer to characteristics of the people they're attached to, so the number thing seems pretty solid.

But as I said, I'm mostly walking in other people's footprints here and I'm wary that any theories I come up with will be wishful thinking. The significance of the number two is so vague as to be everywhere and I do wonder how many theories based around it will be dead-ends.

The clock in that room in the police station was interesting, though. The hour hand always pointed to the "two" position, although the actual numbers were mixed up on the dial. I couldn't find a clear view of it, though.

A thorough knowledge of myths and lore around death in Japanese culture will help put together the pieces of the puzzle. One person on d-addicts noted that Hoshizaki's comment that he only smokes once a year is a reference to people visiting his grave once a year (to light incense, I suppose) which is something I would never had got. But, if Hoshizaki was already dead, what did it mean when he went through a tunnel to a bright light. Was he returning to life?

This show definitely needs a proper sit-down and viewing again which unfortunately I don't really have the time for. This evening, I just skimmed through, looking for screengrabs, and found this scene in the cable car, with this guy whose face we never see. I don't remember noticing him before. Who is he? Does he mean anything?

Maybe I should just hit "publish post" and move on to something else...


  1. Well, the ending left me WUTTTTTT Nani nani??? xD

    But that thing about the mixing of two worlds is pretty clear, and from the first two episodes (before they find 2), I spotted a couple. The series needs more than 2 views xD

    I liked the idea that when they arrived to South Atami, they crossed a tunnel. The fact that Hoshizaki left S.Atami crossing something else (was it a tunnel? or an opening with loads of trees?) felt like he was coming back to life. I mean, if people were "dying" to really die, they wouldn't come back. However, you can go in and out of consciousness while in a coma.

    I like how the theme by Tokyo Jihen ties in with the series. xD

  2. The idea of Atami being a kind of limbo full of people who are comatose makes the most sense. The only question is, are there people who are dead there too? Which means at the end there are two ways out - either come out of the coma, or die. So which was it at the end? Life or death?

  3. I'm trying to think of the characters that died. Didn't someone died from the hitohiki (or hitohikki?) the people puller fish?

    Maybe people who wake up get out of South Atami by transportation or "dying" some way, while people who died in the real world get pulled by the fish.

    I'm gonna need to watch the show again. LOL

  4. Hi guys,
    I think I'm a little bit late in the comments, no? Because I was veeery busy in the last four years, just now I could watch this show. I enjoyed it and I'd like to know IF a second part, or season, whatever, was released.

  5. No, there was no second series or anything like that which might have explained the story. But if you liked it and want more of the same, you might want to try watching Twin Peaks.

  6. Just finished it and I LOVED IT! Great article! Thanks for your insight! I would also like to add about the ending theme song, how it mentions wanting eternal life.