Anime analysis & review: [C]: Control – The Money of Soul and Possibility
With the collapse of the revered 158-year-old financial firm Lehman Brothers in 2008, the entire globe was sent plunging into what many considered to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Ripples, or rather tsunamis, were sent flying across economic oceans from the States to all over the planet, reviving fears of a major economic meltdown similar to those of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Plunging stocks, declining investments, sluggish economic growth, depreciating currencies and soaring inflation rates coloured the economy of the United States and her many economic dependencies in the years that followed.
It was against such a backdrop in reality that Tatsunoko Production produced a somewhat related storyline in fantasy, in the form of [C]: Control – The Money of Soul and Possibility, or [C] in short.
Against a background of an economically collapsing Japan and a deteriorating global economy, the anime revolves around the life of Yoga Kimimaro, a young economics student who yearns for nothing but sufficient financial stability to lead a simple, normal life. Against his will, and especially his disinterest in money, Yoga is one day unexpectedly scouted by a mysterious figure who goes by the name of Masakaki, subsequently dragging him forcibly into the Financial District, an alternate dimension where individuals recruited as Entrés (short for Entrepreneurs) fight each other alongside physical manifestations of their futures called Assets. In this mysterious dimension, money is earned and spent in battles, and any money earned or lost reflects directly in an Entré’s bank account in the real world. Entrés who lose all their money in battle will be declared “bankrupt,” be expelled from the Financial District and consequently experience significant losses with regards to their present life circumstances and futures in the real world.
Economics in anime
Economics in anime – now that’s not something you get to see every day, although such a thing isn’t new either. To put economics into anime isn’t an easy feat, especially when it comes to crafting a plot that incorporates the right economic concepts at the right time and place in the storyline, not to mention the need to explain those obscure economic terminologies for the general understanding of the economic layman. Spice and Wolf (狼と香辛料, Ōkami to Kōshinryō) has done this pretty well, in which its characters discuss many real-life economic/financial terms such as speculation, currency devaluation, target price oriented commodity trading and the supply-demand model. One is made to understand how these stuffs play a role in the running of medieval economics in the world of Spice and Wolf, and how one can take advantage of current economic circumstances to steer profit. It’s like a mini Economics class in its own, with Holo The Wise Wolf and Co. as your teachers and events in the story as hypothetical scenarios to illustrate the workings of economics.
[C] pales in comparison when it comes to “teaching” you economics. Concepts such as the stock market, sovereign debt, inflation, currency depreciation and the spillover effect are introduced and illustrated, but mind you, they only seem to be touched on the surface. At the conclusion of the story, one is still left wondering how sovereign debts can affect inflation rates and currency values, and what effects replacing the Japanese yen with the US dollar will have on both the Japanese and American economies as a whole. No doubt, such things may seem simple to an economics student or a financial analyst, but let me assure you that a rocket scientist who can’t tell a stock from a bond apart will find this more perplexing than flying a rocket itself.
Reflections in real life
Notwithstanding its lack of in-story economic explanations, [C] wakes us to the not-so-nice reality of a current gloomy economic outlook. Since the 2008 financial crisis, many major economic superpowers of the 20th century have been showing sluggish economic growth and depreciating currencies. Japan, in particular, has had to grapple with its dismal economic growth and rising inflation rates since the 1990s, in addition to the loss of employment for many in more recent years. [C] attempts to portray these realities, further elaborating in its plot how plunging stock markets and dismal economic growths indirectly affect the society and an individual’s quality of daily living. It also subtly incorporates a general Japanese hope for a brighter economic future and a recovery of Japan’s whopping sovereign debt, especially in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that coincidentally occurred just about a month before the anime’s release on Japanese television.
[C] also opens our eyes to the fact that one’s future can have many possibilities, and that our actions largely determine the course of our future. Of course, there is no such thing as taking our futures as collaterals for our loans in the real world, but the anime serves as a reminder that our actions today undeniably influence our lives tomorrow. It also serves as a timely reminder amidst economic gloom that economic mismanagement, ballooning sovereign debts and poor lending practices can have far-reaching repercussions, although undoubtedly not as far as the Caribbean islands or Singapore disappearing.
“Which is more important, the present or the future?”
On top of that, the anime raises a very important question often considered in financial risk-taking, “Which is more important: the present or the future?” In many economic decisions that the powers-that-be in this world make, a question that very often comes to light concerns the fact as to whether the present or the future holds more importance. Should a country in debt borrow more money to develop itself, or should it withhold further development until it can stabilize its own financial position? Reflecting on our daily economic decisions, we too have to often make the difficult decision as to whether we should prioritize the present over the future, or vice versa. A simple example would be this: If you were to come across your dream home one day, but you currently do not have the financial capacity to purchase it, would you be willing to take a loan to purchase it, or would you prefer to work hard, earn enough and save up before you purchase it? To sum it up, would it be better to use the future as one’s “collateral” for immediate gratification i.e. risking the future for a better present, or would it be better to delay gratification until one can be sure of enjoying it with minimal risk i.e. saving the future at the expense of a possibly better present?
Comments on the anime
The graphics of the anime are uniquely bright and colourful, incorporating a style that I would like to describe as “sharp.” Some of the characters are portrayed as tall, thin and slender beings, but not like those characteristic of some of CLAMP’s works, where characters have exaggeratingly long limbs and thin waists. I wouldn’t say that the character designs are aesthetically appealing, but they are passably acceptable for an average anime. The background design of the Financial District was, however, breathtaking, giving off an impression of a surreal world revolving around financial systems.
Nonetheless, [C]’s plot leaves much to be desired. The anime presents a theme and a plot that is very relevant to the economic realities of today’s world, but for such a complex plot with its many intricacies, [C] deserves more than 11 episodes, especially when it comes to dealing with the economic and financial concepts that it attempts to present. The plot progresses in a good way, but it lacks character development and adequate explanation of most of the characters’ pasts and backgrounds, although this is understandable due to the anime’s limited length. The “battle for money” concept is quite typical of your average RPG as well, but what put me off was the battle design that seemed somewhat primitive and, to put it in the words of an anime commentary that I came across before, very Digimon-styled with characters shouting aloud the names of their attacks before launching them.
The anime’s ending somewhat left me a whole bunch of unanswered questions e.g. “What is the true nature of the Financial District?”, “What does Msyu truly represent in Yoga’s future?”, “Where did Mikuni get his other Assets?”, “In what way did the reverse of the Midas Money press cause the disappearance of some of the anime’s characters such as Jennifer, as well as major changes such as the replacement of the Japanese yen with the US dollar?”, “What happened to Mikuni after the reverse of the Midas Money press?” etc. And romance with your Asset? Unless she is a definite representation of my love interest whom I may be expected to marry in the future, and not my daughter……
If anyone were to remake this anime, they should seriously consider giving it more airtime and perhaps, things may then improve.