Contrary to the above positive posts and feelings about this chapter, I personally found it a very lukewarm and superficial chapter. In my view, it’s the worst ‘substantive’ chapter in all the chapters till now primarily because Ryushiki, through its characters explores the important musing of the meaning of life, yet never properly address the issue of ‘why’.
Let’s just start with this quote:
"However, I’ve realized my mistake.
I was being absurd.
One’s own meaning of life? Or value?
If you have the time to worry about that,
_then there’s so many other things in the world that you should be doing instead.
Like studying, exerising and laughing with friends at school."
What does it actually says? Well, simply put, the proposition is that you should study, exercise and laugh with friends (or basically do what is socially encouraged). It also suggests that thinking about your meaning of life is ‘absurd’.
Now, that’s fine and all, but the biggest issue I have is that Izanami/Aya/Ryushiki does not put forward the ‘why’.
Instead, throughout the entire chapter, Izanami keeps repeating to Aya to “clear her mind and just focus on running”.
Taken to the extreme, you can say that Izanami is suggesting Aya to “just focus on studying” and “just focus on laughing with your friends”. Don’t think about anything else. This is one way to live your life, and I would say it probably is a good way because you are supposingly living each moment yet feel like you have several short term goals. But then again, you are assuming that there is inherent value is the things you study, or in laughing with your friends.
After going through schooling, you guys/girls can probably understand what I mean when I say that many things studied during schooling was not worth it, and instead that time could have been used to pursue other more interesting things that you care about. Also, “laughing with friends” - for the sake of it because you want to live in the moment? Don’t you feel hollow when you laugh but don’t find the triggering event/joke humerous?
Anyways, Ryushiki elaborated a bit more in the marathon part:
I think I finally understand. The meaning of life.
‘Living because you don’t want to die.’ That’s enough of a meaning.
People, just by living, already have a wonderful meaning and worth in life.
And if you find yourself wanting more meaning to life… then you should try living each moment to its fullest.
Learn. Play. Laugh. Be angry. Cry. Anything is fine. Just live life with all your might.
To be able to put your heart into something, and do it until you’re literally too exhausted to continue.
That is the value of human life.
“‘Living because you don’t want to die.’ That’s enough of a meaning” - for Aya. That’s right, for Aya. It would be presumptous to generalise that to the rest of the world.
“if you find yourself wanting more meaning to life… then you should try living each moment to its fullest.” but again Ryushiki left out the most important ‘why’.
You may say the use of ‘running’ is just one example. But know this: running causes adrenaline to go through your body. There is something called a “runner’s high” (triggered by endorphins), which makes athletes push themselves. That partly explains why Aya was feeling what she was feeling at the end of the marathon. In other words, there is inherent neural reward in this activity. Therefore, in my view, to use the concept of running to put forward the message of ‘living each moment to its fullest’ is fallicious. That is because, it’s no different from taking an illicit drug, though it requires the person’s effort to initiate and maintain that process.
Personally, I don’t mind Ryushiki putting forward propositions about what he consider is the meaning of life or what should satisfy that concept. In fact, I hope he does so because it help us all to think about it. What I really don’t like is what he did here, by putting forward propositions without addressing ‘why’. I don’t think I can agree to the meaning of life of another person or be convinced of any important proposition unless I can understand the process of how they got to that proposition.
Let us just consider the last chapter of Higanbana 1 - the proposition being that bullying nourishes people (and sets the hierarchy due to uncertainty of ranking) and that is why they do it. In that chapter, the ‘why’ and the process to reaching that conclusion was fleshed out by the dialogue just before the youkai revealed herself. It is an anomaly that the message in this chapter was just put forward without any proper justification.
Also, in this chapter, Higanbana essentially overtly helps Aya in understanding the rostering system. Taken in conjunction with the ending dialogue of the ‘One Day Girl’ chapter, I can no longer believe she is malevolent. Though whether she is inherently not malevolent or that she has changed after the past few chapters - I don’t know.
Izanami is clearly portrayed as a benevolent youkai, but yet it is true that the upperclass student did disappear. Though whether the demise was through the belly digestive system or just a quick disappearance I don’t know.
Anyways, Izanami is a liar. He said he would never run. But he did in the marathon part. Therefore, we can no longer be certain that he can provide a ‘quick’ disappearance to Aya as he claims.