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This might not be a universal feeling, but I think there’s nothing quite like your first emotional and heartrending anime. It could be something as simple as Pokemon, or something more known for its sense of tragedy, such as Kanon. Perhaps it comes from Japan’s literary tradition of valuing the ephemeral, or maybe it’s something more modern, but as you watch more anime, you start to notice trends in how sadness is portrayed, how characters are used to facilitate this sorrow. Though you don’t necessarily get tired of these trends, after a while recognizing the trend can cause the sheen to come off the anime model.
Garakowa -Restore the World- is a recent film from A-1 Pictures that I’m compelled to describe as “a standard interesting anime.” It doesn’t quite do the movie justice, as I think it’s actually a solid piece with a strong story, characters, and lots of interesting ideas to chew on, but there’s an odd sense of familiarity I get from the work.
At the center of the future setting of Garokawa are two antivirus programs, visualized as teenage girls named Dual and Dorothy. Their sole task is to protect their computer world containing vast archives of human history, known as the “box of knowledge,” by deleting any memories that have been infected, at least when they aren’t butting heads with each other (it’s why you don’t install two different antivirus software!). During one virus-purging, they encounter a mysterious other program named Remo, who seems to possess all of the human traits that are simply absent in Dual and Dorothy, and the three form a bond that leads them to the truth of the world.
Garakowa‘s atmosphere is like a cross between Madoka Magica, Corrector Yui, Reboot, and She, the Ultimate Weapon, in that there are elements of magical girl anime mixed with the idea of a world inside a computer, a looming sense of tragedy, and a grand scale whose exact dimensions are intentionally ambiguous. This might be more obvious when looking at the Japanese title, Garasu no Hana to Kowasu Sekai, or “the Glass Flower and the Crumbling World.” The official translation, by the way, is the odd-sounding Vitreous & Destroy the World. However, what makes Garokawa simultaneously not the most daring and original work while also filled with material worth contemplating is the way it creatively utilizes its science fiction setting alongside its emotionally resonant moments.
The first element that really stood out to me about the film was the idea of personifying the conflict that occurs when multiple antivirus programs are installed. The way it’s presented here, with the anime trappings of magical girl accoutrements and cute girls, is to be expected to a certain extent. However, even as it’s reminiscent of the OS-tan craze of personifying computer operating systems in the early to mid-2000s and even as it draws upon the power of moe, yuri, and a kind of sensuality, the story of Garakowa also somewat implicitly justifies their human appearances.
From there, the part of the movie that really stays with me (outside of some spoilers I’m choosing not to divulge) is the idea that Dual and Dorothy cannot taste food or understand human behavior even as they’re modeled after humanity. In particular, in a scene straight of Urasawa Naoki’s Pluto, Dual contemplates Remo’s advice that, if you think that something is delicious, it feels like it will become delicious (Atom in Pluto says something similar). While it might all be in my head, I feel like that interaction sets up this idea that the antivirus programs are part of the greater presentation of humanity that is the box of knowledge. Even if they aren’t able to directly feel human emotions or sensation, they can at least exhibit a record of the ideas. If the box of knowledge is a kind of catalog of human history, then perhaps Dual and Dorothy are just as much a part of that purpose.
Overall, Garakowa is a very “anime” film in terms of its combination of science fiction, attractive female leads, and heart string-tugging narrative that contextualizes an everyday environment as something larger than life. It’s the kind of work where I feel someone who has less exposure to Japanese animation, or at least anime of this variety, could be strongly affected by its ideas, characters, world, and presentation, but it’s also enjoyable for long-time fans. Garakowa -Restore the World- is actually available for free on Crunchyroll, so it might be worth your while.