Sorry for the late post this week! Overall, a nice episode this week; I just want to point out that this episode is the first one that plays out quite differently from the manga. (For the curious, chapter 6 is the one you’re looking for.) Well, it gave them a reason to have lots of girls in swimsuits. Just another part of understanding the differences between media! After the break, more on bikinis:
So, this week, Akira and Mikoto have their first date at the beach, and of course, the first thing Akira notices are these:
More specifically, Akira notes, “Wow, they’re all wearing revealing swimsuits.” And that’s a telling statement in itself.
Let’s go over some brief history first. Although there are depictions of similar two-piece outfits dating back to ancient times, it was Louis Réard who invented (and named) the modern bikini in 1946. By the 1950s, bikinis had been imported into Japan, but it wasn’t until the 70s that bikinis became common.
However, there was a reversal around the mid-80s, and beaches and poolsides throughout Japan saw the reemergence of the one-piece swimsuit. Of course, since then, bikinis have become popular again.
I’ve talked about the old-fashioned feel of the series back in my post for episode 1, and the author, Riichi Ueshiba, has even touched on the issue. Shortly put, the issue of just when Mysterious Girlfriend X takes place is, well, a mystery. These bikinis are just one more example of this. Having all of these girls dressed in bikinis is clearly a more modern development. However, I can’t help but feel that Akira’s reaction is closer to treading that delicate line between the 80s and the present, how a boy must have felt just around the time when bikinis had just become popular again in Japan.
This is something that I missed from the OP in my earlier discussion of its visuals (or rather, it didn’t really fit in with my talk of lemons that week). Its appearance is brief, a second if that, but it’s quite the image:
This is the bhavacakra, a traditional Tibetan Buddhist diagram of transmigration throughout the six domains of the desire realm in Buddhism, here rendered in a very Japanese style (Don’t ask me to identify what era of Japanese art history the picture is supposed to be borrowing its aesthetics from, though). It features many of the elements common to bhavacakra, the most striking of which is its depiction of Yama, the god of death, representing the impermanence of life.
However, what’s more interesting are the parts from the traditional bhavacakra that are missing. Gone is the traditional depiction of karma (two half-circles of light and dark color surrounding the three animals in the middle), along with the outer rim, which usually depicts representations of the Twelve Nidānas.
Of course, what all of this means for Mysterious Girlfriend X is all very unclear as of now. Is it just a throwaway image, or is it hinting at something more? Emptiness or form? I leave you this week with the opening page from chapter 66, originally from the Heart Sūtra:
And, of course, emptiness itself is form. See you next week!