(I recommend actually buying .hack//Sign since my words don't really do it justice. One can get either the DVD this episode is on, or the full series as a set.)
.hack//Sign, Episode 4: Wanted, 4:01-6:00
Tsukasa is back in the land of the floating sleeping girl (Aura), floating teadybear (name unknown so we'll say Pooky), and so forth (stuff). He's sitting on the edge of the bed she floats above and when I get my normal computer back I'll see if I can get a screenshot. Until then, I guess words will have to do. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees, the sky is gray, the weather looks depressing.
*shot of Aura*
Tsukasa: What happens if I dye her?
I'll pause for a moment to say that the dub (recall that when I quote I quote from subtitles) seems very much to say, “What happens if I die here,” which is a legitimate question which we'll get to in due time, but makes no sense in context.
Recall that Tsukasa reached out toward the girl before, which triggered a flashback to an unpleasant experience in his childhood involving a kitten and his father, and was then told “Go ahead,” when he asked for clarification he got it, “Imbue the girl with your own color.”
He has been told to dye her. He's looking straight at her. He's about to reach out toward her which seemed to be involved in the whole imbuing her with his color thing mentioned before.
As such, “What happens if I dye her?” makes perfect sense in context while, “What happens if I die here?” seems a non sequitur. Which is part of why I favor the subtitles over the dub.
Anyway, he does begin to reach out toward her, but then seems to decide against it, putting his hand back down.
A wind picks up and Tsukasa looks up as leaves, one in particular, blow over his head. Then DVL speaks. As she does some of the trees, bushes, and even grass take on a colorful hazy glow.
DVL: Something wonderful awaits you.
Tsukasa: Like what?
Is it cake? Because I heard that it was a lie. Actually, I want to take the question seriously here. No doubt lots of people have done things that they thought were good or even wonderful for Tsukasa and sometimes they were wrong, and sometimes they've doubtless hurt him severely.
When someone says something good for you is on the way it's good to find out if their idea of good for you and your idea of good for you are actually close to each other.
What if the wonderful thing that awaits you is being honored by being the main course at the insect overlord's big dinner party? As you try to fight your way out of that one you'll be wishing you said, “Like what?” well ahead of time.
This is a lesson that can be applied to politics as well. If someone tells you that they have a wonderful plan to make things better, you should, “Like what?” them and if they can't respond with a plan that could plausibly make things better, you should strongly consider that they might not be the best choice when you reach the voting booth.
Anyway, DVL does have an answer, though like a bad politician she has no plausible way to achieve that answer that she's willing to share with the person she's talking to:
You, I , and that child... the three of us will never be threatened by anyone. We will be able to live peacefully and happily in a place where pain and worry do not exist.
Vote for me and things will be great, not bad. Your fears will disappear and all will be good.
All that Tsukasa wants is to get away from those who might hurt him. Since the category “those who might hurt him” includes everyone, he just wants to be left alone by everyone and everything. He's said so.
As such, DVL just offered him basically everything he ever wanted. His response:
You're lying, there's no such world.
And then he hangs his head.
If there is a message to be had from .hack//Sign that may well be it. The idea that you can set out to completely avoid any chance of pain or worry and end up living happily doesn't add up. As the soundrack says (not the part playing in this scene) you've got to “open your heart to tears and rejection,” because without risk there can be no reward.
The only way you can't have the possibility of loss is if you have nothing to lose (thus the song goes: freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose) and that is not a recipe for living peacefully and happily. (Even in the song, the singer had a much easier time feeling good before letting Bobby slip away.)
Tsukasa... How can you say something so sad?
I don't know, maybe because it's true? Or, failing that, maybe because Tsukasa is a depressed individual. Or maybe he's used to broken promises.
Do you not believe me?
That's good, pile on the guilt. “Here I am trying to help you and you don't even trust me. Think about how hurt you've just made me.” Always a nice touch.
But Tsukasa has his reasons for doubt. Part of which is that Disembodied Voice Lady is, well, a disembodied voice. A disembodied voice whose name he does not even know:
Tsukasa: Well who are you? You never show yourself to me. I just hear your voice. How can I believe you?
On the one hand, I question whether he would really be that much more inclined to believe in the world without pain and worry but with happiness and a peacefully life never threatened by anyone or anything if he could see the person claiming it existed.
I also recognize that there are potential downsides to arguing with a disembodied voice.
Anyway, DVL goes low:
DVL: You should know who I am...
*Tsukasa looks up surprised*
DVL: ...and the reason I do not appear before you.
Now before we get to the flashback that shows exactly the level of emotional manipulation that she's inflicting on Tsukasa, let me start off by pausing to not how much I hate, “You should know...” things.
If there is a Gaslighting 101 handbook I bet that “You should know” is in there prominently featured because it hits on so many levels. First off, there's should itself. If you should do something, but you don't, that's a failure on your part. If you should be something but you are not, that's a deficiency on your part. When someone says, “You should know,” something you don't already know they're beginning from a position of saying that there's something wrong with you.
There's no way around that. It's not, “You should be able to figure this out,” which allows for the possibility that you will eventually figure it out and thus not have the should imply wrongness. No, it's present tense. You should right now, you don't, thus something is wrong with you.
About the future "should" can be about aspiration and hope and rightness, but when used regarding the present and the past any time what “should be” doesn't match what is, the should becomes a statement of wrongness.
Sometimes this is a good thing, “Your doctors should be treating you better,” isn't an attack on the person who is being spoken to, it is acknowledging that there is something wrong while placing it outside of the person being spoken to. Something is wrong here, and it's the doctors not the patient. Thus it isn't always an attack on the one being spoken to.
But here that doesn't apply. Tsukasa clearly doesn't know, but he's been told that he should. He's been told that his ignorance is his fault. That the thing wrong is not her lack of explanation but his lack of understanding in the absence of explanation. Thus he's already being told that his thinking here is wrong.
Now the flashback that's about to come does provide an answer, but since I'm tangenting on “You should know” I'm going to follow this line of reasoning a bit further before we return to the curve of the main topic of the post.
A lot of times “You should know,” isn't followed by an explanation, and the victim is left guessing at what they should know. When they learned it, why they forgot it, what it could be, why it is important, why the person who told them they should know didn't just tell them what it is, so on.
In effect, the, “You should know,” statement is a way to cause the victim to second guess themselves on various levels, memory, priority, reliability, and so forth not to mention second guess their understanding of the relationship they have with the “You should know,” person. Clearly they've failed in a way that that person finds unacceptable to the point of refusing to even help them recover. What other relationships might they be on the verge of likewise fucking up?
Depending on how long it takes the victim to figure out what it is that they should know, a significant amount of time may have been spent distracted. Time during which their perceptions might not be the most reliable (because they weren't focused) and they may have failed to pick up on other things they should know. The gaslighting opportunities are positioned to multiply.
This is not to say that every time someone asks you a question you think they should already know the answer to you're obligated to answer. But even, “That you don't know is not my problem,” is worlds better than, “You should know,” followed by no explanation. “You should know, so I'm not going to tell you,” is the asshole way out, only do it when the situation calls for you being an asshole. (Sometimes it does.)
Anyway, back to the show.
Tsukasa is thrown into flashback. A memorial to his mother when he was a child, tears dropping to his knees, where they pool some before flowing to the ground.
In present day Tsukasa's eyes open wide.
No. Because I spoil everything, no. Not his mother. An evil AI who decided to pretend to be the ghost of his mother so she'd have emotional leverage over him.