The Let's Play Archive

.hack (Series)

by DoubleNegative

Part 37: .hack Outbreak - //Liminality Vol. 3 - In the Case of Kyoko Tohno (ANIME WARNING)

//Liminality Vol. 3 "In the Case of Kyoko Tohno"

Hello everyone, I'm back from my trip. We're not quite ready to dive into Quarantine territory, but we've already covered everything in Outbreak. You might say we're in a state of liminality.

Or, more appropriately, Liminality. Specifically Liminality Vol. 3 - In The Case of Kyoko Tohno.

You could be forgiven for skipping this one. Or just watching the anime version. Ultimately this is just half an hour of Tokuoka and Kyo being led around a tourist spot to look at the scenery and talk. So expect lots of shots of cool historical things in the background.

My commentary is probably gonna be a bit sparse as a result.

If you want to watch the anime version, I found someone on youtube who uploaded it. So, have at it:

Opening Theme: Kimi Ga Ita Monogatari

Like the last volume, someone was kind enough to add subtitles in a hideous font to the Japanese text.

Tokuoka is sitting and smoking. Kyo is leaning on a fence nearby, as we will see in a minute.

: So why did they come to Takayama of all places?

: My parents said they could work anywhere, as long as there's Internet access.

: Oh, I see. SOHO? (Small Office Home Office)

: The so-called literary profession. The depth of culture is amazing here! It is so rich in folklore. A real goldmine, but...

: Yeah, but what?

The cameraman just filmed a couple (not Kyo and Tokuoka) buying a pamphlet. Sure, why not?

: I don't know, maybe it's just me, but sometimes it feels like this place is... too "inside."

: Inside? How do you mean, inside?

: Was there some reason you wanted to meet out here, in Hida?

: Ah, well if I'm gonna come all the way out to Takayama, I might as well see the sights!

: Not exactly mild weather though, is it?

: This is mid-winter! Besides...

: Huh? Ah, you mean this.

A phone starts ringing.

: *gasp*

: Helba!

: "I would like to discuss some matters concerning recent incidents which have occurred in "The World." I apologize in advance for any inconvenience, but if you are interested meet me at the place where the Carpenter's Daughter sleeps" - Helba.

: Helba? Is that a character in the Epitaph?

: Helba is the Queen of Darkness.

: Really? That's not what I heard.

: What did you hear?

: That she's a legendary, notorious hacker.

: Interesting. But I don't like it!

: You wanna expand on that a little for me?

: In the Epitaph, Helba is a strategist. She has lots of information and knowledge. She's much more ingenious than Apeiron, King of the Light. And now this hacker's using her name for some reason. Very interesting.

: And that's what you don't like?

: Look at the timing of this message. It means this Helba knew exactly when you and I were planning to meet.

: Well, I suppose it could just be a coincidence. But then again, you may be right. Someone could have hacked into my mail. Or yours.

: There's something else. They say that if you delve too deeply into the Epitaph of Twilight, strange things begin to happen. Very strange things, it's like the Hundredth Tale in "The Hundred Stories." You understand?

I did a quick Google search for "The Hundred Stories" and all it turned up was an anime called "Requiem from the Darkness." If someone has any idea what Kyo's talking about here, I'd love to know. EagerSleeper came through with an explanation of what the Hundred Stories refers to!

EagerSleeper posted:

I'm usually a lurker on this thread, but yay, I'm glad I can help out on at least one thing! The '100 tales' that they're referring to in Liminality is the Hyakumonogatari, an old form of storytelling tradition where people would gather up a hundred candles, and a hundred scary stories and set out to have a terrifying night.

For each story that's told, a candle would be put out, darkening the room as the night went on. It's said that a terrible thing will happen once you get to the 100th story, and I'm pretty sure that's probably what trying to dig deeper into the series of events behind The World must feel like.

: Mr. Tokuoka from Tokyo. You have a telephone call. Mr. Tokuoka from Tokyo you have a telephone call. If you are in the building, please come to the front desk.

: Did you tell someone you were here?

: No. Kinda eerie, isn't it?

: What happened?

: The bastard. He had the nerve to ask me how committed and dedicated I am.

: It was a man?

: Yeah. Said he was speaking for Helba. Said his name was Bith the Black. Another character from the Epitaph?

: That's Helba's retainer. That means they're active, that they're not just watching inside the net. I don't like this. I mean I really don't like it, and that's why I'm going to pursue it.

That's a pretty cool statue. It stands to reason that something that awesome-looking would be found in the local hotel's lobby!

: The place where the Carpenter's Daughter sleeps. Here?

: They say that when this three-tiered pagoda was built, the palace carpenter killed his daughter and buried her underneath it.

: Well that's rather, uh...

: It doesn't seem like anyone's around this place now.

Another phone ringing! This time it's Tokuoka's.

: Oh, hey Mai. What's up?

: Nothing. I just didn't understand the e-mail you sent me.

: E-mail?

: Please go to the place closely related to Sadako. What's that mean?

: Wait a sec. When did you get that e-mail?

: A minute ago.

: Okay, don't worry about it. I'll call you back later, Mai.

: You know, this could be a big problem for us.

Not gonna lie, I have no idea what this statue is, but it's ugly as sin.

: It's some kind of threat. Is that what you think?

: It's probably to demonstrate that Mai and possibly even Yuki are both under surveillance.

: What if Helba's a cover? Someone from CC Corp. could be using it as a warning.

: I don't really think it's them.

: They don't want us sniffing around. What if they're saying that CC Corp. is off limits?

: It's not their style. They wouldn't beat around the bush. If they ever want to threaten us, it'll be direct... and very ugly.

I would contend that some form of beating would definitely be involved in CC Corp's threat. The kind where one security guard kicks you repeatedly while the other smacks you in the head with his baton. Kinda like this:

: Hmm, I guess you've got a point. But why then? Is there a reason we're being led from place to place?

: To find that out I guess we're going to have to keep following this Helba and her friend, Bith the Black or whatever his name is. Which leads us to that Sadako thing. What is that?

: I have no idea. I've never heard of Sadako.

: Well of course I know there's a character named Sadako in that horror movie. But I'm sure that's not nothing to do with it.

Anyone who knows even the slightest bit about popular horror movies knows who Sadako is.

: Horror movie?

: Yeah, she's some kind of psychic.

: I get it! Then it's over here.

: What? Wait a minute! Hey! You know where it is just from that?

Someone in the back seat of a car is looking at Kyo and Tokuoka.

: This is professor Tomokichi Fukurai of Tokyo Imperial University. When he researched clairvoyance and spirit photography, he became so passionate that he was ordered to take a leave of absence because it was inappropriate to conduct research of that nature. He was originally from right here in Takayama.

: Hmm. A local boy, huh?

: Hida is a mysterious place, isn't it? It's inconveniently located in the middle of the mountains, but people have lived here since the Jomon era. And the other day some school kid told me the story of the Okame Stone beneath the Ebizaka streetlight.

According to Mysterious Subtitle Person, the Jomon era is circa 400 BC.

: What about it?

: That's all there is to it.

A Google search turned up someone on "" asking for clarification on what Kyo said. Apparently an Okame Stone is just an oddly shaped stone.

: Huh? No, no. What do you mean "that's the end"?

: I'm afraid that's all there is to it! But you see, after enough time has passed, even something like that can become a legend here.

: I'm referring to the power of this place. This land. This is where Dr. Fukurai was born. Growing up here may have given him a different perspective, a different paradigm than other people.

: So you think there's some connection between that and the Epitaph of Twilight?

: Oh, you're right. A paradigm shift. I see, I never really thought of it like that.

This seemingly-pointless cut away will make sense in a minute. This old woman is obviously walking from the direction of that parked taxi, though.

: I think you need to fill me in. What is the Epitaph of Twilight all about, anyway?

: It's about a race of sprites. They cast no shadows and are unlike anything you've known before. But this race is being devoured by a woe known as the "cursed wave." They are in despair, and on the verge of extinction, and the wave is advancing closer and closer. It's relentless, nothing can stop it. Then when there's no other hope Apeiron, the King of the Light, and Helba, Queen of Darkness join forces, forging an alliance to strike back against it.

: Yeah, but they have no way to fight it, right?

: There's a legend. It says that when the wave emerges, three beings with shadows will set out in search of the Twilight Dragon.

: So these beings can't fight the wave, but the dragon can.

: The beings are one human and two half-sprites who cast shadows. They set out on a journey to the wavering peninsula at the edge of the world. Halfway through the journey, they are assisted by two allies: Fili the White and Bith the Black.

I'm not good at dealing with metaphors and reading deeply into things, but let's try and sort this out for a moment.

Kite in all likelihood is the human in this tale. Blackrose would be one of the half-sprites. I'm not sure who the other would be. Maybe Orca?

Helba is Helba, naturally. Lios is another name for Apeiron the King of Light.

Given that we know that Bith the Black is Helba's retainer, we could reasonably assume that means Wiseman is Bith the Black. This logically means that Fili the White is Apeiron's retainer. Given how Balmung worked with Lios in Mutation, that means that he would be Fili.

I guess that means Aura is the Twilight Dragon? Another possible interpretation is that Kite is the dragon, but it makes more sense for him to be the human.

It's not a perfect reading, but it was a fun thought experiment at least! Feel free to post your own interpretations. I'm curious to see what you all come up with! I also know that Wiseman is not the Bith we're dealing with here.

: That's Bith. Got it.

: But why did he send us here?

: Hey mister. Are you Mr. Tokuoka? I don't think I'm mistaken.

: And ma'am, you are?

: That doesn't matter. I've been sent to give this message to Mr. Tokuoka.

: Dual-sided demon?

: Victory wish? Lady where'd you get this?

: Fearful. So fearful...

: Wait! Who asked you to give this to me? Ma'am! Hey!

: Fearful. So fearful...

: She's afraid.

: What's she scared of?

: *shrugs*

: Hey, wait! Hold on! Gah!

: What was it?

: Dual-sided demon leads us to Senko Temple. But victory wish?

: Hey, don't look at me. I don't even know what the dual-sided demon thing is about.

: It refers to a powerful man from Hida in the mythical age. This warrior had two heads, four arms, and four legs, representing good and evil coexisting in one body.

: Jekyll and Hyde with no on/off switch.

: So if you put it all together, you think there's some significance to all this?

: How do you mean?

: I mean following all these clues around Takayama. What's the whole point of it?

: Like I said before, I don't know. But, think about it. We solve a small puzzle piece which leads us to a new location, where we find some kind of clue that points us to the next location. Now doesn't that remind you of something?

: An RPG?

: The truth is we don't know what the rules are, or who we're going to run into at the end of this thing. But, if that's the way they want to play it, then I'll take it as far as it goes. What the hell, I'm thinking we should just fasten our seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

: Well if that's the case, we'll have to call on our strategist for inside information.

: Huh?

: My mother is the editor of a local magazine. You'd be surprised how much she knows about this town.

: That's Sakuayama Hachiman Temple. That's the shrine where it originated, yes. Lord Takefurukuma who came to exorcise the dual-sided demon built it for his victory wish. Shall I send you some documents? Okay. By the way, I got a call from Mr. Hokiguchi in Koufu a moment ago. He said he saw you walking with some middle-aged man. Who are you with, Kyoko?

: He's a guest from Tokyo. I'm just showing him around!

: He's middle-aged?

: Mom, does that bother you?

I mean what's wrong with meeting a middle-aged guy you know from the Internet? Kidnappings certainly don't start that way or anything! Also a car drives up and honks its horn.

& : Huh?

: What is it?

: It's dad.

Tokuoka hears this and swallows the smoke he was about to blow out.

: I'm on my way home from a meeting. You two want a ride?

: You came all the way from Tokyo about the Epitaph of Twilight? That's a strange coincidence. You're the second person today who's into that!

: There was someone else here?

: He was from out of town. I just had a meeting with him. He wanted me to translate the whole thing.

: Really? So did you take the job?

: No, I don't wanna get involved in all that.

: Do you mean because it's the 100th Tale of The Hundred Stories?

: Not just that. There's also the problem with the original text.

: That's right. I forgot all about it. You never heard the story of how the Epitaph became public.

: Huh?

: It first appeared on the personal website of a writer named Emma Wielant. It was only online for a very brief period of time. Hardly anyone saw it. Eventually, some high-profile fantasy researchers and occultists became aware of the work. But by that time, Emma had died tragically and the original version was lost.

: She died at the age of 28 in an automobile accident.

: Yeah, that's right. Some of her most dedicated followers pieced together sections of the text, restoring about 70% of it.

: But then came the release of "The World." Shortly after its release, someone posted that its prototype, Fragment, was modeled after her work by the genius programmer, Harald Hoerwick. Of course, that changed everything.

: Oh, I get it!

: You understand?

: Fakes and alterations. That's it, right?

: Mm-hmm. You got it. Since it was first published in plain text format, anybody could easily alter the content. So her work was butchered and everything after "The World" is atrocious. You can't even bear to look at it. Even if the missing portions of text were found, it would be extremely difficult to separate the original sections from the fakes.

: That's why the full scope of the story, the true story, is still unknown.

: That's it, the Epitaph of Twilight.

: So, uh, this guy who asked you to do the translation. What was he like? I mean, if you don't mind my asking.

: He was very well-dressed, but he had a strange attitude. He was kinda gloomy.

Sounds like our mystery friend from earlier.

: Do you have his business card?

: Ichiro Sato.

: Talk about a fake name. Ugh.

: Thanks.

: Thank you!

: You think Ichiro Sato and Bith are the same person?

: Maybe. Well, since we're here let's take a look around before we go to the next spot.

: So, were Emma and Harald acquaintances?

: To Emma? Yes. But to Harald, she was much more.

: Unrequited love?

: It probably was. I don't have many details about Harald's life, but I have the impression that Emma loved his talent, but not him. When they first met, Emma already had a lover. He was 20 years older than her.

: What?

: It seems that she was very beautiful, but also very high maintenance.

: A rich girl?

: Her family ran an old winery.

: Really? So how does the winery girl meet up with Harald, the computer genius?

: There was more to Emma than a girl from a rich family. She lost her mother at an early age, and her father died when she was 18. According to the will, her uncle was appointed as her guardian. But the uncle decided that he wanted to get his hands on her inheritance. So he "kindly" offered to adopt Emma as his own child.

: What a lowlife.

: Yeah, but Emma was too smart for him.

: She refused?

: Mm-hmm. But the inheritance was in a trust. It was set up so she couldn't access it until she turned 20. So she decided to go to nursing school to support herself until then.

: Ahh, good going Emma. I'd fall in love with a girl like that too.

: Unfortunately, on the morning of her 20th birthday, overwork and stress finally caught up with her. She started coughing up blood.

: Blood in her lungs...

: She was lucky. It didn't get out of control, and the coughing stopped pretty quickly. But on the advice of her physician, she checked into a health resort in southern France. That's where she had a supernatural experience that would influence her entire life from that time forward.

Tokuoka thinks back to one of the first stops they made, the one associated with clairvoyance and spirit photography and realizes that's what Emma was studying.

: That's it! And soon after that, she moved on to Rudolph Steiner's work.

: Anthroposophy.

: Yes. It's all coming together, right?

: If I remember this correctly, Harald was trying to forge a relationship between humans and computers and he used anthroposophy as a starting point.

: Meanwhile Emma was immersed in the same philosophy, trying to understand the meaning of existence. That was when she started writing the Epitaph of Twilight.

: As Harald was developing his own design, Fragment. I still don't get it, though.

: Yeah, something is missing. It still doesn't explain the things that are happening in "The World."

: Is there anything else?

: Well, yes. But I can't really say how much of it is true. It's impossible to verify the story.

: Go on. I'm all ears!

: When Emma had the auto accident, apparently she had called Harald and she was on her way to meet him. Of course he had no way of knowing she died. They say he waited for her under a large ginkgo tree on top of a hill.

: Hmm...

Someone's phone rings again! This time it's Kyo's.

: Yes?

: Kyo? What's this about?

: You mean the e-mail?

: Yeah, it doesn't make any sense.

: Sorry, it's for me but I had them forward it to you. Uh, would you mind reading it to me, Yuki?

: You're being weird. Okay, here it is. "The cross of smoke rises, lake of water sprites." I think that was it.

: I got it.

: Hey, is Mr. Tokuoka with you? He may not look like it, but he's pretty rich y'know. Make him buy you dinner!

: I'll take it under advisement. See you later, Yuki. *hangs up* New location.

: We have to go all the way back down, huh?

Oh come on, everyone knows that climbing the stairs is the hard part. Going back down is cake!

: This place has caught fire several times over the centuries. But one time, the rising smoke formed the shape of a cross.

: A cross over a temple?

: That's why it became an urban legend. Oh?

: Looks like this is the final confrontation.

: Past here, there's a lake where water sprites appear.

: This is very well thought-out.

& : *gasp*

: Pleased to meet you.

: Bith the Black!

: Ichiro Sato!

: Ah, you already know my other name. That makes things simpler.

: How so? It's a fake name, isn't it?

: Of course.

: You're getting on my nerves.

: Names are just symbols. I'm sure you're aware of that. For example Kyo... Kyoko Tohno. And Sieg... and Tomonari Kasumi. Though they're different names, they all stand for the same thing.

I'm fairly certain that names don't all stand for the same thing. That's kind of the whole point of naming something. To, y'know, differentiate it.

: What do you stand for? What is it that you actually do?

: I'm a representative. I told you that in the beginning when we spoke on the telephone. Of course, Queen Helba has many clients.

: Hmph. Hackers have clients?

: Now, now. That isn't like you Mr. Tokuoka. Hackers also make excellent security analysts and cyber investigators. Isn't that right? Why don't we sit down and talk? Perhaps over lunch? We can try the local cuisine.

I'm pretty sure that a national fast food chain isn't local cuisine. It reminds me of when my dad went on vacation to Oahu a few years back. Instead of eating at any number of potentially awesome local restaurants, he ate every night at Subway and every morning at McDonalds.

: They don't have Hida beef in this town? Or Hoba miso? No, we have to come here of all places.

: Please, feel free to have your favorite dishes later. Together.

: I'm fine here.

: The portions are skimpy, and I can't even taste the meat. Can you?

: Let's talk about that later. I was saying that when Harald designed Fragment, he based it on the Epitaph of Twilight. But if he had merely modeled Fragment on the worldview found in the Epitaph, then that would not have caused the chaos that is now occurring in "The World." Do you get it?

: We're with you. So what did create the problem, Einstein?

: Simply this. To put it in a nutshell, Harald brought the "outside" into the "inside." That's what we presume, so the boundary is wavering. Severely. Of course, you understand that if the wavering were to increase, the results could be devastating.

: Can you simplify that so that I can swallow it?

: Ugh. You're doing that to make a point?

: Inside and outside, religious and secular, divine and worldly, they go together. Every society places the world in order through the concept of opposites. But these elements can never be separated into two wholly distinct parts. There's always a gray area where distinctions blur into ambiguity.

: Tomonari Kasumi was also known as Sieg. Physically he was in Kanazawa when he lost consciousness. That occurred inside the game, though of course he exists outside the game.

Tokuoka has had enough of this shit.

: So then we must ask the question where was his consciousness at, the inside or the outside?

: Do you see now? It's possible to explain it either way, from inside or outside.

: Uh-huh. They say reason and plaster stick to anything.

: Exactly. However to make it stick you have to use force, and you have to control that force. That's the true nature of boundaries. In anthropology they have a name for this, liminality.

Maybe it's because this is the third time I've heard it in the past 6 hours, but the inside and outside stuff makes some sense sense. But what the fuck is he talking about otherwise? Why does force enter into the equation? Why does force mean boundaries?

Ugh, is this more anime bullshit where characters spout complete nonsense and act smug about it in the hopes that they sound deep and meaningful?

: So, you still with me?

: Liminality?

: Well, um this is slightly different, but can I try?

: Sure.

: When my family moved here from Suginami we were new here, so we were "outsiders" that came to the "inside" of Hida. My parents chose to assimilate, to get "inside" the community by working at it for two years. Although, I'm still on the outside somewhere.

: So your boundaries are wavering as well, is that it Kyoko?

: Perhaps, but this isn't where I belong. My heart isn't here.

: So the answer is simpler than you think.

: What do you mean?

: You merely separate the "outside" from the "inside" isn't that right? You're autonomous. An outsider who will leave this city in time. Fortunately, the "outside" that Harald brought inside the game also seems to be autonomous. Like you, it hasn't fully assimilated. You see, if that turns out to be true, then all we have to do is help it along.

: Yeah, how?

: If you want to know that, you'll need to make a commitment. No more wavering. Worst case scenario, we'll be identified as criminals and they'll come hunting for us. So, you still wanna know how?

: Yes. Tell us everything.

: What if I asked you to pretend we never had this conversation, make it a blank slate?

: Ultimately, we'd lose our ability to fight back and CC Corp. would win, destroying the servers and burying the whole thing in total obscurity.

: You're kidding.

: That's what CC Corp. intends to do. If they aren't stopped, the clues to saving the coma victims will be lost forever.

: Our next contact will be on Christmas Eve in Urayasu.

With that, Bith drives off. Also no points for guessing when the main plot for this series comes to a head.

: This has gotten totally out of hand.

: Even if we never face the worst case scenario, we are still committing a crime.

: You still wanna do it?

: I know where I'm going now. This is my game.

This took an excruciatingly long time to type up and I'm kind of doubting it was ultimately worth doing. Absolutely nothing at all happened except for a lot of lore being filled in.

See you next time guys. We'll be doing something much more exciting then!