Landscape of Alienation
Story & themes
Lovely Strange Dark Shuhei Kurata is stuck. Going to a new school where he doesn’t fit in, standing still as his old friends leave him behind. Watching silently as the woman he loves slips further and further away. He feels detached and out of place, as if maybe it all might be a dream. Perhaps it is…
Chikyuu wa Boku ga Mawasu is a very quiet coming of age story. As is typical of those, the protagonist struggles with a changing world wherein he has to redefine himself: Just as his relationships and environment cannot forever remain as they were, so does he have to adapt to a continuously evolving reality. Failing to do so results in a standstill, which, in this story, means reliving the same dream over and over, doomed to repeat the few days that make up the time loop.
While the manga has its shortcomings and its emotional moments remain subdued throughout, its themes and mood do speak to me: The clean art style — the pure black and white aesthetics, the scarce use of backgrounds — goes well with Shuhei’s emotional detachment and bleak outlook; the dream setting and the disorientation that comes with not knowing what’s happening underline his physical and mental isolation. Running away from a reality where you lack control and feel left behind, desperately trying to avoid pain, creating a parallel world where you can give shape to your desires: These are all things associated with adolescence and narratives thereof. In that context, the dream setting gives literal meaning to retreating to your innermost in order to confront your flaws and self-doubts, and waking up to pursue a new path in your growth.
Shuhei The town as I knew it has changed— All the familiar sights, gone. This is not the same town where I told her I loved her.
Change can be so immensely hard and painful. It makes you question the structures and bonds that were, doubt their sincerity; it forcefully ejects you from the world you thought you knew; it robs you of all that was once certain, and makes you hesitant to place your trust in anything new (why bother if nothing is designed to last?); it isolates you because you feel all alone with your struggles; it strips you of any power you thought you had as you realize that you can’t make things go back to how they were.
I think that the manga beautifully captures the desolateness of that state. Perhaps it is its unexpected quietness that drew me in (ending spoilers ahead!): Shuhei feels lost and drained, struggling with his own indecisiveness to the very end, but the end of the story doesn’t come with any big revelations. Shuhei doesn’t find a miraculous solution to his emotional entanglements, and there is no external impetus or internal ambition that makes him decide to wake up. No, he decides to leave the dream because he understands that he can’t run away forever — it’s as simple and as monumental as that. And that, I think, says a whole lot about the strength that goes into the act of living on, facing a reality that doesn’t wait for you.