Intro

Your last memory before going to sleep is a small feast with the family, organized for no apparent reason, with your mom cooking all your favourite dishes.

You wake up suddenly. There's a thunderstorm outside. Despite the darkness, you realize you're in unfamiliar environment. You stumble, trying to get up, as the room you're inside rocks around. A boat? Suddenly a door opens and a stranger, a woman, all but orders you to make haste if you don't want to drown. Still stumbling, you emerge out in the thunderstorm, as more unfamiliar people help you onto a lifeboat, saving you from drowning when you slip and fall into the waves. The inflatable lifeboat has a small tent that protects the group form the thunderstorm. Inside, you find your backpack, and the other strangers, none of whom seems to know what exactly happened, and why they're finding themselves in such a situation. A kidnapping maybe?

As the weather calms down, the priority becomes finding a safe place to land, and then finding food and water in an unfamiliar environment. Doubts and suspicion split the group, leading to the finding of more castaways in the unknown island inhabited by weird plants and animals. And when the group is finally complete, the woman that has more or less directed the initial group finally presents an incredible explanation: you are a unwitting member of the “7 seeds” project, a desperate last-resort attempt at the survival of the human species after a predicted natural apocalypse. Five teams, each composed of 7 young people (school-age boys and girls) and an adult (the guide), have been hibernated before the cataclysm, to be thawed when the system determined the environment to be capable of supporting human life again.

There's no help coming. Civilization has collapsed. Everyone you knew —in fact, probably everyone, outside of your group and maybe the other teams— is dead. The environment is still hostile, and survival is your priority.

What would you do now?


7 SEEDS

This is essentially the premise (and the first chapter, in a very tight synthesis) for 7SEEDS, a polyphonic post-apocalyptic speculative fiction manga (I would go as far as calling it a graphic novel) with strong psychological underpinnings, written and illustrated by Yumi Tamura. Its publication spanned 16 years (from 2001 to 2017), and the work has also been collected in 35 volumes of about 190 pages each (around 6500 pages total), followed shortly after by a 4-chapter spin-off “epilogue” (7SEEDS Gaiden).

The manga is apparently only officially available in Japanese, with an official French translation covering only the first 10 volumes, although there is a complete (but unofficial) scanlation available in English, which is how I was able to enjoy the manga. (Of course, this also means that the quality of my analysis below also depends on how close to the source the translation is.)

(An alternative would be to watch the anime, distributed on Netflix, that is available with dubbing and subtitles in a wide variety of languages, but I would actually recommend against it, since the anime has managed to butcher one of the strongest point of the manga: the depth and pacing of the story. The third season of the anime having been cancelled, it also doesn't cover the whole story anyway.)

Art

I'll talk about the art first mostly because to me it is the only aspect with a significant negative: on a personal level, I'm not a big fan of the art style due to its heavy reliance on traditional shōjo stylistic choices, such as unrealistically large eyes with ridiculous detail inside and airy hair.

Despite my dislike for this stylistic choice, though, I acknowledge that the art is very good: the pages are rich and detailed, with consistent and expressive features (despite the coarseness of Tamura's trait), carrying the story with the appropriate emotional and psychological appeal over the full length of the work.

(I was actually looking forward to the anime in the hopes that it could “patch up” the stylistic choices I dislike in the manga art, only to be disappointed by the massive use of cheap CGI and sub-par animation that complemented the butchering of the pacing of the story.)

Story

Beware: spoilers ahead

Scientists predict a meteorite impact that will cause an extinction level cataclysm. On the quiet (to avoid spreading panic in the population) all nations on Earth work secretly on several projects to ensure the survival of the human species, from attempts at destroying the meteors to the design of long-term underground shelters to allow (parts of) the population to “ride the wave” until the surface is inhabitable again.

In Japan, the “last hope”, in case everything else fails, is the titular «7 seeds» project1: leveraging the progress in cryonics to put in cryogenic sleep small teams of young people (7 “seeds” per team, plus one guide), stored in safe houses able to survive the cataclysm, and to be automatically released when the surrounding environmental conditions would be deemed able to sustain human life again.

Despite the government of Japan ultimately deciding to not sponsor it, deeming it unrealistic, the project was realized anyway thanks to several contributions from private investors and the embezzlement of welfare money by some government officials (among which the father of one of the protagonists) that were involved in the project itself.

The original plan was to have four teams with season themes (summer, autumn, winter, spring). The first team (summer) was composed of children raised from birth specifically to survive in the post-apocalyptic world, but during their training it was decided that, for the other teams, members would be picked from the general population, selecting healthy teenagers (and a couple of younger children) coming from families with good track records both in health (no known hereditary health issues) and sociality (no crime history, solid social standing, good education and healthy habits).

Finally, to maximize the opportunities of survival, a second summer team (Team Summer B) was created, picking people that, while still in good health and without a family history of disease, didn't fit well in society for any number of reasons: troublesome kids, lonesome kids, kids that had ran out of home, single-parent kids, kids that were bullied or otherwise isolated at school.

To assist the teams in their future survival, aside from the excellent training given to the Team Summer A members, the project also created seven storage shelters where seeds, tools and manuals were stockpiled.

While the members of Team Summer A were raised, trained and selected with the specific objective to be sent to the future, the members of the other teams were completely unaware of their destination: they woke up unexpectedly in a foreign world, with their last memory before that being the last night with their parents.

The manga follows, in non-linear order, the story of the teams as they get thawed and learn to cope with the realization of their present condition, and as they lose and then regain hope and the will to live in the new reality they have been thrown in against their will and without forewarning or preparation, into a hostile future where everything and everyone they knew are no more.

Unprepared, most of the “seeds” are forced to learn ex abrupto essential wilderness survival skills, finding day after day not only the physical strength, but also the willpower to not give in to the animal and geophysical threats that constantly put their lives at risk, and the constant reminder of the possibility of being the last small group of humans on the face of the planet.

Tossed around from place to place across the now broken and unrecognizable geography of Japan, looking for water, food and shelter, escaping torrential rains, landslides and volcanic eruptions, much of the strength they find is in the discovery of the hints of the existence of the other teams, even when they fail to actually come across each other. And when they finally meet, they face the hurdle of trust, to be both given and deserved, leading to the first human crises since their emergence into the future: with each team having adopted a different attitude due to both mindset and circumstances, conflict is unavoidable, despite (and yet also because of) the critical situations in which these young men and women find themselves in.

Team Summer A, the only team trained and prepared for the survival in the future, has to face different daemons than the other teams: the memory of the gruesome selection process through which the seven to be sent to the future were picked among the hundreds trained from birth. The “final test”, after 17 years spent learning and going through exams in more traditional form, comes unexpected in time, nature and scope: several incidents start weeding out the less attentive among the candidates, until in the fatal day (and night) they end up scattered throughout the land hosting the facilities they've been living in since birth, haunted by dangers both natural and artificial in nature. As more and more of the candidates fail to recognize the threats and end up maimed or even killed, the cries of request for assistance by the drop-outs fall on deaf ears, as the teachers are nowhere to be found, until the pool of candidates shrinks down to the final seven.

The trauma of the test marks the survivors (the final members of Team Summer A) with deep psychological repercussions, that manifest differently from person to person: a visceral hatred for the teachers, the lingering memory of their comrades left behind, and even, in some cases, the conscience of having been responsible for their death. Thus the team that should have led the others comes to the future fully prepared, yet mentally broken. Unsurprisingly, their first act on emerging from the cryogenic sleep is to kill the teacher that has come with them as a guide. Yet the worst comes with the discovery that the members of the other teams did not have to undergo any test. Finding out that one of the teachers has actually sent his own daughter to the future becomes the trigger of one of the main human crises in the story, that will only find its resolution in the final chapters of the manga.

Convergence (starting around volume 24 of the manga) leads all of the teams towards the connected islands of Kagijima and Sado. The former is found to have hosted a team of researchers leading the «Open Sado Project» (OSP), a project complementing «7 seeds» to preserve as much as possible of humanity and its compatible ecosystem on the island of Sado (connected to the Kagijima facilities through a set of underground tunnels), including an Ark, a cryogenic pod holding over a hundred frozen humans, most of which infants.

The island of Sado itself is found to be also the one where the members of Team Summer A had been trained and sifted out from the rest of the candidates. The teams' coming together through their confused wandering across the OSP and Sado facilities leads to the final confrontation with Kaname Mozumoto, former assistant teacher of Team Summer A sent to the future as a member of Team Summer B and incarnating «Death», «The Reaper» (the ultimate judge for the actual possibility of survival for the teams and the fitness of the Team Summer A members in their role in support for the other teams), an encounter that finally brings closure both to the members of Team Summer A, and to Kaname himself, whose troubled history had led him to be one of the masterminds behind the «7 seeds» project itself and some of the most disturbing choices in the selection methods for the first team. His departure from the reuniting groups marks the end of the tethering of the future to the past, a symbolic cut of the umbilical cord that is concurrent with the actual first birth of a child into the new world.

Alternate tales

Daniel Pennac recalls that he was inspired to read War and peace by his brother describing it as «the story of a girl who loves a boy but marries another one». I wish I had Pennac's brother's gift of synthesis, but the best I can do for «7 Seeds» are the following.

It's the story of a boy and a girl who get sent to the future separately, and have to find each other in a destroyed world.

It's the story of a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to save humanity —including sacrificing his own humanity.

It's the story of a man who discovers the emotional and psychological cost of his own trauma after inflicting much worse to his cherished ones.

Characters

What characterizes 7SEEDS as a polyphonic manga is the abundance of “main” characters (“heroes” and “heroines”) and the emergence of the story from their coordinated (although sometimes discordant) actions and interactions.

It's commendable how the author manages to balance the story of the five teams. While not all of the “seeds” and guides are given the same weight or amount of space, every one of the 30 survivors (and even some of the characters that died before the awakening of the seeds) has a story to tell —even if a small one— with individual backgrounds, perspectives, objectives, crises, personality, growth.

I'll leave the introduction to the complete list of 7 Seeds characters to Wikipedia, to focus here on their relative importance in the development of the story, at least by my (purely subjective) analysis.

We can classify the characters as protagonist when the story dedicates a sizable part of the timeline to their arc, deuteragonist when they have a prominent (yet smaller) personal arc that isn't directly associated with the protagonists, and supporting characters anyone else whose story is largely perfunctory to the progress of the protagonists' arcs. This simplified classification, however, leaves out much of the ambiguity in the roles of the characters, and their perception by the characters themselves and their travel companions, which is one of the more realistic aspects of the story, and one where the polyphonic nature of the narration shines the most.

Protagonists

Arguably, the most prominent protagonists in the manga are 末黒野 花 (SUGURONO Hana) from Team Spring, daughter of one of the project leaders, and her boyfriend 青田 嵐 (AOTA Arashi) from Team Summer B. In fact, the manga's entire story can be reframed in terms of their efforts to meet again after being sent to the future in separate teams.

Despite their indisputable importance in the story, however, I find Hana and Arashi to be among the least interesting characters. Much of their struggles are the same as those of the other “seeds”: reconciling the violence of the abduction with the opportunity to survive the cataclysm, developing and making use of physical survival skills, finding a purpose and the will to live in face of the possible extinction of humanity and the loss of the dearest ones (until they discover traces of each other's presence).

In the first half of the manga, one might even be tempted to go as far as saying that Hana and Arashi, as protagonists, are such mostly because of their “representativeness” of the challenges and hopes faced by all the characters. However, this is unfair to the unique traits and stories of these characters. This is particularly the case for Hana, whose arc follows a dramatic downturn in the second half of the story, when the role of his father in the project is revealed, and with that his true (?) nature, leading (for both her and Arashi, in different ways) to the conflict with Team Summer A. In a sense, this is both the strongest point and the biggest limitation of Hana and Arashi as protagonists: their story gets truly interesting only in relation to the story of the two other main protagonists, Aramaki from Team Winter and Ango from Team Summer A.

新巻 鷹弘 (ARAMAKI Takahiro) is the only survivor of Team Winter. His dramatic experience in the new world, with half of the team lost during the thawing process, and the remaining members dying out shortly thereafter due to encounters with ferocious wild animals and harsh seasons, sets him clearly apart from all of the other “seeds”. Coming into the new world 15 years before the other teams, he gains significant survival experience, while only managing to preserve his sanity thanks to the companionship of the large dogs he befriended in his early days as a survivor.

The loss of his teammates and the years of aging without the possibility to really mature in a psychoemotional sense give him a unique perspective on death, but also an exceptional fragility towards loss: while the obsession with saving everyone is a common trope in action manga, its development in Aramaki rings deeper, more real than in any other manga I've read2: it's not just him being the “good guy”, it's not the byproduct of a villainous plot, it's not his duty as a (super)hero, but the raw offspring of the abandonment syndrome he developed, and the need to give back the (undeserved, in his own perception) life and joy he has been gifted by others.

Quite different is the development for 安吾 (Ango), the protagonist from Team Summer A and the main character in their background story. The traumatic experience of the gruesome test by which the members of the team were selected, and in particular the death of the companion he most doted on, for which he feels responsible, feed him with a desperate, blind, raging hatred for the teachers; amplified by the realization that none of the other teams had to undergo a similar selection, this leads to an initial profound contempt for the “civilians” who got to the future without deserving it, much less so in comparison to the Summer A candidates who failed the test. While most if not all of his team members largely share his feelings, Ango is the only one who aggressively and impulsively acts on them3: his lack of control is what leads to the death of Team Autumn's guide on the first meeting with the team mix emerging from Ryūgū shelter, and to his attempted rape on Hana in an insane attempt to find closure for his obsession against his teachers, actions that ultimately result in him getting ostracized by the other survivors, including most of his own team members, and in Kaname's “judgement” against him.

There is a strong duality between the characters of Aramaki and Ango: not in a “good vs evil” sense, but in the (anti)symmetry of their experiences and how they affected their growth. While much of the duality is common to the antithetic experience of the members of Team Summer A and that of the “civilian” teams, there are specific aspects that are unique to this pair of protagonists.

Aramaki is a young man filled with self-doubt, transplanted without warning or personal intent into a hostile future where he remains alone for 15 years, psychoemotionally “frozen” into a state that doesn't match his physical growth. His “anchors” to reality are his wavering hope to meet other survivors, and most importantly the dogs that accompany him and eventually help him find and connect with other people, giving meaning to his life again.

Ango is a confident young man with a well-established objective, the achievement of which crosses a threshold that shatters some of the most important emotional connections he had with other people, leaving him psychoemotionally “frozen” into that same threshold, and largely unable to connect to the new people he meets. His “anchor” to reality is his teammate Ryō, who is however no less psychoemotionally stunned than he is, and whose strategy to “protect” Ango's psyche is actually counterproductive, eventually acting as the wedge that drives him irremediably apart from his objective.

Aramaki is first shunned by Arashi, who meets him at his lowest moment of desperation, and is later “thawed” by finding new teammates in Hana and her group, which restarts not only his psychoemotional growth that had been stunned in his years of solitude, but also that of the members of Team Summer A (minus Ango and Ryō), who arguably never had the opportunity for “normal” human relations.

Ango first enters in conflict with Hana and her group, ending up shunned by them and his own teammates, and is later “thawed” by the meeting with Team Summer B, that makes him regain his purpose (despite Ryō's well-intended but misplaced interference), and in particular with Arashi, that helps him achieve the necessary introspection on the repressive nature of his past even before the deadly test, and on the need to come to terms with it in a non-aggressive way.

The duality finds its synthesis in the final chapters, when Ango finds himself face-to-face with Kaname and the corpse-waxed body of Shigeru at the bottom of that same pit that was the scene of the last traumatic selection, his explosive desperation frozen in-place by Aramaki's seemingly insulting remark («You should be glad») with the final opportunity for Ango to find closure in the subversion of Kaname's judgement by the other teams, and in the chance he gets to finally bring Shigeru's body outside, counterbalanced by Aramaki's willingness to sacrifice himself to give Hana the opportunity to escape with the Ark, and the enlightenment he receives on the selfishness of his sacrifice when rescued (and scolded) by Arashi and members of Team Summer A.

The other seeds: deuteragonists or supporting characters?

As mentioned, it can be argued that all of the (surviving) “seeds” are heroes and heroines of the story. It's however just as clear that we don't see as much of their story as we do for the protagonists. This creates some ambiguity in their characterization, because for the most part we see them in action in the same context as the protagonists, or in storylines that ultimately connect to theirs.

Consider for example the case of 岩清水 ナツ (IWASHIMIZU Natsu). She is the first character we meet, and the closest thing to a narrator we have in 7SEEDS4. The arcs where she is involved are the only ones where we see a significant use of the character's introspection and “inner voice”, whereas for all other characters the same role is for the most part taken over by either purely visual representations, or over-/undertone comments from the spectators.

Natsu has her own character story (like every other “seed”), finding the strength to mole her way out of the awkward shyness that made her “fit” for Team Summer B, and getting appreciated for her keen, if untrained, observation skills and meticulousness (an exceptional progress that helps her break out of the spider-induced dream, as she is one of the few who has found more meaning in her future life than in the one she had before), yet it's easy to disregard much of it as perfunctory to the protagonists' stories, from her interaction with Arashi helping delineate his character just as much as hers, to her decisive contribution to the Ark's unlocking and ejection (thus helping to save Hana), passing through her unintentionally crucial contribution5 to solving the Fuji ship crisis, and her interactions with Ango as a mirror for the difference in attitude between him and Arashi, especially towards people perceived as less capable.

Such a superficial analysis however completely misses the growth of the character, her gaining confidence in her own capabilities even while still unable to completely get rid of the shroud of clumsy shyness that she started with (which is, after all, consistent with the relatively short timespan covered by the story from her thawing to the end of the manga). One could even subvert the analysis by looking at all other characters in relation to her: Arashi as the helper and initial love interest, Hana as the presumed challenger for her sentiment towards Arashi, Ango as the would-be protector who however ends up antagonizing her growth, Semimaru as the tsundere, etc.

Similar arguments can be made for many of the other “seeds”, with the possible exception of the younger ones (Hotaru, Hibari and Sakuya), even though for most of them their personal stories are even less prominent.

Special mentions are most definitely due for Kaname (who deserves his own section), and 涼 (Ryō). In contrast to the others, it could be argued that Ryō's story wouldn't even exist without Ango as protagonist, as in both the Team Summer A history arc and in their adventures in the future, Ryō is essentially defined in relationship to Ango, both as a supporting character and as a counterweight. This characterization, however, dismisses the value of Ryō's own story, and that Ryō's siding with Ango is a personal, character-driven choice rather than just a narrative stratagem.

Ryō's independence is very clear in the history arc, where his lucidity and cold blood are already contrasted with Ango's passionate but less acute involvement (Ryō himself will define Ango as “dense and oversensitive” in the «7SEEDS Gaiden» epilogue). Ryō is the first among the candidates (possibly together with the accompanying Nijiko) to realize that the selection will not be anything like the typical exams used to weed out the less competent candidates in the preceding 17 years. He understands pretty early the value given to independent thinking and action (to the point of frequently countering the mandates of the teachers, even when this leads to various form of punishment —but never expulsion). He and Nijiko are also the first to isolate themselves from the others when the “accidents” that are later revealed to be the start of the final test begin happening.

At the same time, Ryō is well aware of his inadequacy as leader to other people, but also of the need for someone like that (given the purported Team Summer role to also guide the other teams); he understands that Ango, with his competence, passion and charisma, is bound to be the “natural leader” of the group in the future, but also reaches the conclusion that due to his “denseness” and emotivity, Ango will need someone to help him remove possible obstacles to the fulfillment of his role. The final test in the cave where only two between him, Ango and Shigeru can come out alive is the moment where Ryō really starts down the path of “Ango supporter” (literally in that case, even), accepting that this may involve killing people6, as he does by cutting off Shigeru from the belay to save Ango.

This is also the point where Ryō's ambiguous characterization fully develops: from his own perspective, he's the helper, assisting the hero (Ango) in fulfilling his role, by committing what he deems necessary evils to put the hero's mind at ease (eliminate Haru so that Ango doesn't worry about Koruri, eliminate Hana to release Ango from his obsession about Takashi, “test” Team Summer B putting them in danger of death); in practice, however, his actions and how they reflect on Ango have the opposite effect, alienating from him not only the other teams, but even the other members of Team Summer A: in Ango's story, Ryō is one of the closest thing to a villain one could find, albeit an unintentional (or well-intentioned) one.

In fact, it's not even clear if Ryō sees his own actions as evil at all. Despite his lucidity, the lack of remorse show that Ryō came out of the test even more broken than Ango, possibly a full-fledged psychopath, not even capable of seeing what is wrong in his modus operandi. Where Ango is affected by the test to the point of taking actions completely counter to his normally helpful, even affectionate nature, but beyond his impulsiveness remains aware that his actions were wrong7, Ryō instead finds in the test a justification for his course of action (“this is what we learned from our teachers”), remaining essentially convinced of its opportunity.

And yet, it could be argued that some part of Ryō is in fact aware of the error in his ways, which is what triggers his unusually aggressive reaction to Matsuri's “scolding”, and that his use of the test as a justification is largely intended as a form of childish “revenge” towards the teachers.

Ambiguous characterization: Takashi Sugurono

Ryō is only one example of the ambiguous characterization in 7SEEDS, most of which are however found outside of the main roster.

Consider now the case of 末黒野 貴士 (SUGURONO Takashi). As the technical and executive leader of the «7 Seeds» project, he covers several of Propp's functional abstractions. He is undoubtedly the dispatcher, since he is responsible for sending off the heroes and heroines (the “seeds” and their guides) to the future. He is also partially responsible for the equipment the teams start with, and for directing the preparations of the storage shelters left to assist the teams in their survival, making him the donor and possibly also the helper.

Yet his behavior can be considered nothing short of “villainous”: most8 of the “seeds” are forced into their roles, selected against their will, bought off from their parents when not straightforwardly abducted. Takashi's role as the villain is even better-defined in the eyes of the members of Team Summer A, since together with the other teachers of the training facility, he is responsible for setting up the deadly challenges the candidates had to face in the gruesome selection that only left the final members standing.

(Although the design of the final test is largely Kaname's proposal, Takashi is one of the executors, and most likely the one responsible for other aspects of the facility design, such as the idea of recycling the “expelled” students as fodder —as Ango is made to find out to “enlighten” him— and looking at the analogous situation in Ryūgū.)

Even outside's of Propp's formalism, the figure of Takashi Sugurono is extremely controversial. His behavior can be considered nothing short of psychopathic: in both Team Summer A's background story arc and in the Ryūgū shelter arc he shows a complete lack of empathy, disposing of human lives (including his own, in the end) with no outward display of emotions.

And yet, even to his own daughter, at least until she is made aware of his actions, he is nothing more than a serious man, fully dedicated to his work. And in many ways, this is exactly what he is, even though his actual work lies outside of Hana's perception: Takashi's work is to save humanity, and he carries the weight imposed on him by his role in the project «to the bitter end» (an expression he himself uses when recruiting the personnel for the Ryūgū shelter), surviving even when others were crushed simply by the knowledge of the impending apocalypse9.

The question remains if (or to what measure) the brutal and emotionless attitude taken by Takashi was essential to the completion of his task and ultimately the success of the project, or if a different, softer approach would have been as good if not better. Would Team Summer A have emerged just as strong, but less broken, with a less severe selection? Could the X Mites (or Acari X, depending on translation) infection that caused Ryūgū's shelter demise have been avoided without the culling of residents and their recycling as fodder for the plants and animals10?

Would humanity (or at least Japan's population) have survived without a psychopath leading the «7 seeds» project?

In fact, is Takashi actually a psychopath? There's little doubt that he is able to maintain composure even in the face of the brutality he (by his own perspective) has to inflict on others for the sake of the project, but at the same time he reveals an excellent capability to judge people, understand their emotions, and give them the appropriate value, as shown throughout several flashbacks in the manga: he is aware of Kaname's infatuation over his (Takashi's) wife Miho, and his influence on the selection of the “seeds” allow him to carry over a few couples (his daughter Hana and her boyfriend Arashi, as well as Chisa and Akiwo) even if scattered through the teams, and to include artists such as the pianist Haru and the painter Chimaki among the “seeds”.

It could even be argued that the choice to extend the roster by including a second Team Summer, while rationally justified on the basis that it's impossible to know what skills will be most important for survival in the future (so much so that a ragtag assembly of misfits might be better than specially trained individuals), was mainly intended to make sure that the humanity sent into the future was “complete”: Team Summer B could be a testament to Takashi's emotional side.

Leaving aside how both Haru's and Chimaki's skills turn out to be actually useful for survival, I believe the key to Takashi's decision can be found in «The nameless skill», the last chapter of the epilogue spin-off «7SEEDS Gaiden» four-chapter series, where it is revealed that the Buddha statues signaling the presence of a storage shelters were carved by Chimaki's father. When he is informed that the son will be sent into the future, the sculptor asks:

«It'll be a struggle just to find food, right? Will there be any reason to have an artist in that world?»

«That world» is Takashi's reply «is exactly where I think they'll need art the most.» In his cold demeanor, Hana's father manifests a profound understanding of the importance of art for the emotional and psychological well-being of the survivors.

(Of course, none of this actually contradicts the hypothesis that Takashi is a psychopath, since psychopaths are well known for their ability to understand and manipulate emotions. But would a psychopath go to the length Takashi goes to, for no personal gain, just to save humanity?)

Just like with Aramaki and Ango, there are some clear parallels between Ryō and Takashi, this time particularly in their willingness to take extreme measures to achieve their goals. And while this is something that Ryō is well-aware of, he ascribes it to his being Takashi's student, even though none of the other members of Team Summer B, despite being in the same situation as him, have internalized or normalized the same psychopathic attitude.

Ambiguous characterization: Kaname Mozunoto

Possibly even more ambiguous is the character of 百舌戸 要 (MOZUNOTO Kaname). Sent to the future as a member of Team Summer B, a “seed” despite his (unspecified) older age11, he is later revealed to be a key member of the project, and in fact the one who designed the selection test for Team Summer A, inspired by his own survival experience when kidnapped as a young boy.

In his own perception, Kaname is almost like a father figure for the teams, especially Team Summer A. He spends his time roving around all of Japan, watching over the survivors and often helping them, directly (especially his team members from Summer B) or indirectly (e.g., while not specified, it's likely that the trekking signs found by Hana to direct them away from Mt Fuji were placed by Kaname). Yet, he is also “death”, the “reaper”, the “final solution” sent to the future to kill the “seeds” if the need arises, a role that he ponders over in at least one occasion with Hana (when at her lowest she is considering suicide), but most importantly in relation to Team Summer A, and in particular towards Ango.

Him being “death” is not necessarily contradictory with his feelings towards Team Summer A: in a sense, it's also his way of taking full responsibility for their behavior, which would be commendable, if not for the way he approaches the matter: as an extension of the macabre test for the Team Summer A selection, disposing of the lives of the unworthy members.

There is an interesting write-up about the possible reasons why Kaname, an otherwise brilliant and capable mind, could miscalculate so badly in the design of the test, even in face of the subtle hints from his relatives that the idea might not have been as wise as he believed12.

In the above-mentioned write-up, the key to the interpretation of Kaname's choices about Team Summer A is his being in denial about the emotional scarring that his own experiences left him with. I believe however that there's something more to it, something that also explains his general attitude in the project: Kaname's biggest issue is an overinflated ego.

On the one hand, he has good reasons to consider himself superior to others. He is a brilliant young man, who from the youngest age manifested excellent strength (both physical and mental) and capabilities. As a child, he underwent the traumatic (although he refuses to admit so) experience of being kidnapped, and then of surviving for two weeks alone in the wilderness. His involvement with the project, after his father's suicide, started when he was still a child. Growing up, his brilliant mind allowed him to skip classes, becoming Takashi's younger colleague in the research surrounding the cryogenic system when most people would still be in high school.

What he failed to develop, however, is a corresponding level of empathy to complement his intelligence. Even worse, he even lacks the sensitivity to understand his own response to trauma, despite the hints dropped by his uncle about it, and possibly in general his emotions in the general sense (if his denial of being infatuated with Takashi's wife Miho isn't just pro forma).

This gives him an excessive sense of self-importance, a deep mistrust for the capability of “common folks” to even look after themselves, and a certain disregard for the lives of the unworthy, (possibly cultivated during the “farming” of the Team Summer A candidates13). Hence the mission he gives himself to watch over them in the future (traveling throughout Japan on his own) and to look after them in his own fashion, as well as the readiness to dispose of the lives of the members of Team Summer A that he considers a threat to the others.

While there's no doubt that his watching over the other teams is sometimes key to their survival (particularly for his own Team Summer B in the beginning, and to the mixed groups in the prelude to the Kagijima/Sado arc), it's also true that the lack of trust is often misplaced, and the decisions he takes are at the very least excessive, as the final confrontation with Ango and the judgement from the other teams (of all three of them: Kaname, Ango and Ryō) manifests in particular.

Now, Kaname's readiness to eliminate the unworthy and the dangerous (that so inappropriately imprinted on Ryō) isn't explained simply by his being in denial of his own trauma. It does however line up with him considering Team Summer A as the results, and a mirror, of his own efforts: the unworthy, the dangerous, are mistakes, and as such they must be eliminated, because a brilliant mind like himself cannot let his mistakes wander around freely. This isn't of course a conscious decision (and it is, obviously, just my own interpretation), but the way in which, during the judgment, he describes his feelings during the final test clearly indicates that he is still his own center of attention: his biggest issues with the dropouts or with Ango's fragility isn't that they failed, it's that he (Kaname) himself failed (in teaching them properly, in helping them grow strong, in picking his favourite, etc).

I would argue that in contrast to Takashi, Kaname is an actual psychopath. Hana's father is pragmatic and acts cold and emotionless, but he is perfectly capable of relating to other people, understanding their emotions. He is however a “true professional”, someone who does not let emotions and feelings get in the way of his work, and he expects the same from the others (as seen in the Ryūgū shelter episodes, starting from the selection of the actors and entertainers hired to help lift the spirit of the shelter population after the cataclysm). And still we get brief glimpses of his emotional side in his interactions with his family, and particular at his wife's death.

Kaname, on the other hand, shows no sign of being actually able to relate to anybody else, or to feel any emotion outside of disappointment (for himself) in front of (his own) failures. Even the Team Summer A candidates, and the selected members in particular, seem only to exist to accomplish his goal, and he judges them exclusively by how well they seem to achieve what he intended for them. Kaname doesn't simply keep his emotions in check: he doesn't appear to have any at all, or at least he appears unable to perceive them; but most importantly, he does not understand that others may have them —hence his failure to understand e.g. the feelings of the Team Summer A members at the end of test, which he assumed should have been of satisfaction for achieving their goal of being selected to go into the future.

It's possible, as hypothesized in the aforementioned review, that his psychopathy is rooted essentially in his unprocessed trauma from the kidnapping, a trauma that he refuses to acknowledge («it wasn't a trauma for me, it was a lesson») to the point of deciding to ignore his uncle's hint («it's difficult to overcome that and remain mentally sound») since it would mean admitting the possibility that he himself is broken. And it's also true that he obviously never had the kind of support that e.g. the members of Team Summer A ultimately found interacting with the other teams: not from his family (possibly fearing that he could commit suicide like his father did), nor from his colleagues14 (as e.g. Ango finds in Arashi) nor from a possible love prospect (as e.g. Ryō probably finds in Matsuri).

However, just like Ryō is the only one among Team Summer A to have absorbed the cold and actively cruel imprinting from the teachers, there's definitely a personal component to the outcome: the experience may have been the seed to his psychopathy, but it likely found fertile ground in Kaname's natural inclinations and massive ego. And yes, we do have to take into account the fact that Kaname was only a young child at the time, so this may ultimately just depend on one's perception of the relative weight of nature versus nurture.

Themes

One of the fascinating things about 7SEEDS is the wealth of psychological and ethical themes touched by the narration (as might have been obvious by now from the descriptions of the characters). Let's see briefly some of the highlights.

Freedom

One of the key themes is the ethical debate about free will, coercion and choice.

Right from the first pages, it's clear that the characters aren't in the situation they are in by chance or by choice. Indeed, until the guide finally gathers the entire Team Summer B and explains the situation to them, their predominant hypothesis is that they've been kidnapped —which in a sense isn't even that far from the truth, except that the kidnappers (arguably, the Japanese government, or the part of it that —officially or not— operated the project) aren't after a ransom from their parents, and in fact essentially bought the children off from them, to give them an opportunity in the future. And the situation is largely the same for the other teams, with the possible exception of Summer A.

But was Team Summer A really an exception? Its members would say that they wanted to be sent into the future. They wanted to improve their survival skills and show that they were the best and deserved to go into the future —although possibly not tested in the way there were. And yet, they weren't really free to choose either, as Arashi tries (unconvincingly) to explain to Ango: they were brainwashed into that desire from the youngest age. Did they ever have a choice? Were they ever aware of it?

And yet, sent there be it by physical or psychological coercion, in the future the “seeds” experience freedom like they never could have in the old world: there is no State, no society; there are no laws, no enforcers15. Against their will, they have been given a freedom that almost no human has experienced since prehistory, the freedom where the only real obligations are to themselves, for their own survival. And each of them reacts to this in its own way, by prioritizing the loss of the familiar environment or sentimental affections, the sudden lack of external pressures directing their actions, the missed opportunities, or even a more dramatic loss of purpose —and with it, sometimes, the loss of the will to live.

And more: had they been given the choice, would they have agreed to leave everything behind to go to the future as the only survivors? Are they better off as they are now than they would have been if they had refused?

The Summer (both A and B) and Winter teams have particularly strong connection with this topic, each in their own way.

The members of Team Summer A are the unaware, prisoners of their conditioning, blind to the possibility to reject authority. The members of Team Summer B are the irresponsible ones, unshackled even by any sense of commitment to their future, taking things in stride as they come. And finally Aramaki, the only survivor of Team Winter, is the incarnation of absolute freedom, in the 15 years that he travels Japan as the only living human there.

(It's fascinating in this sense the first meeting between the Summer B trio of Arashi, Natsu and Semimaru with Team Autumn, whose village has been holding for three years under the strict and sometimes violent guidance of Akio and Ran, and in fact thanks to it, as the other members reveal to the surprised trio.)

Justice, punishment, repentance and forgiveness

Without an inherited structure, “seeds” set up their own rules. In the evolving situation, as groups split up, reform and mix up, nothing is settled, everything is improvised. There are no laws, but there is still a sense of morality, and the “seeds” need to find their own way to handle violations,

Even with Sakuya's eidetic memory and his ability to recall the entire civil and penal codes of Japan, it becomes clear pretty quickly that neither the laws nor the punishments of the old world make sense in the post-cataclysm future, leading to a rediscovery of the fundamental principles of justice. What is a crime? How should it be dealt with? Who has a right to enforce the punishment? What is even the purpose of justice?

While a preliminary “scrape” with justice is illustrated in the meeting between the Summer B trio (Arashi, Natsu, Semimaru) and Team Autumn, when Semimaru's attempted theft is dealt with quickly and harshly, the first key moment is after the presumed murder of Hana: this is the first time the “seeds” realize that, as survival needs become less pressing, the development of a functional society will require a (new) justice system, something that will further mature during the “trial” in Sado, where the “final judgement” on Ango, Ryō and Kaname is exacted, and the possibly extenuating circumstances for Ango's and Ryō's behavior emerge16.

The discussions by the “seeds” on the topic are understandably far from the philosophical meditations of Beccaria or Foucalt, and in both instances, the only intent of the agreed-upon punishment is to remove the “disturbing” elements from the society with as little violence as possible, by ostracizing them.

It is interesting to note that while there is no reforming intent in the decision, it does lead to Ango regaining composure and awareness of the insanity of his actions, and ultimately to his repentance, arguably despite Ryō's interference with the maturing process, and in a deeper and more thorough way than Akio's naive interpretation of it.

Trauma and loss

A major theme throughout the manga is coping with trauma and loss. This is eminently the case for the members of Team Summer A and the only survivor of Team Winter given their exceptional history and circumstances (as we've discussed in the presentation of the story and the characters), but all “seeds” have to find their way out of the traumatic experience of waking up in an unknown world in the future, centuries after the death and destruction of everything and everyone they knew.

We see this in Matsuri's realization of the difference between running away from home and not being able to return anymore. We see this in Arashi's desperation at the thought of the loss of Hana. We see this in Haru's conflicting realization that he missed the last opportunity for the great concert, but also that it's all meaningless now. We see this in Ran's and Akio's management of Team Autumn, and the prohibition of sexual relations to spite the project creators by refusing to have children. We keep seeing it throughout the manga, down to the spider/fungus-induced daydreams in Sado, or Tsunomata's discovery of his lost lover's remains.

It goes beyond this, for many characters. Aramaki has to recover from what seems like a never-ending stream of companion losses, from the other members of Team Winter to the dogs that have helped ensure his survival for 15 years. Hana has to cope with the realization of his father's true nature, and the attempted rape at Ango's hands. Momotaro has to face the mistreatment from his alleged saviors (Team Summer A, and Ayu in particular). Among the Team Summer A members, while the selection test was traumatic for all, for two of them in particular (Ango and Koruri), the trauma is compounded by a sense of personal responsibility towards the death of their companions. On top of this, Ango in particular finds himself having to deal with the price paid for his and Ryō's actions, the realization that he has burned any possibility to join the others when they finally settle on Sado.

Trauma and loss are so pervasive in the manga, that we are exposed to those from the old world as well: Botan's loss of child, Kaname's kidnapping and survival experience, Takashi losing his wife Miho —and, of course, the Ryūgū shelter survivors during the cataclysm.

Religion, spirituality and the supernatural

While rarely with a prominent role, religion and spirituality are also present throughout the manga, almost in an undertone, largely due to the founders of the project imbuing it with deep symbolism (sometimes to the point of bordering into the superstitious) that takes largely from Buddhism (from the choice of the number of seeds to the statues of Buddha placed as indicator —and protectors?— of the storage shelters), with arguably some Shintoist influence, albeit essentially stripped of its supernatural character, and thus mostly in connection to the relationship between human and nature, in what could be considered an animistic perspective.

The “seeds” survival is tied to their rediscovery of a “sense of nature”, learning not only the properties of the new plants and animals, but most importantly learning to read nature itself, understanding the signs of its safety and dangers (where and when is it safe to settle and build? what is safe to eat? what kind of dangers can be expected, from wild animals to the weather?)

With survival being such a prominent aspect of the life of the “seeds” in the new world, it's no surprise that more formal aspects of religion tend to be left in the background, with the most notable exceptions being the respect in the face of death (especially the deaths of the people long gone due to the cataclysm), and the character of Tsunomata, arguably chosen because of his heritage, whose main story arc traces the path from an almost nihilistic attitude towards death to the discovery of the true importance of burials and funeral rites17 (not for those who die, but for those who remain).

On the other hand, that same rediscovery of the “sense of nature”, and with it of the respect for both the sustenance it gives and threat it poses, is a spiritual message in itself, exemplified by the telling tale of the imbalance brought by human intervention, and nature's ability to rebalance itself, with no particular regard for the lives (and feelings) of any individual plant or animal (or human).

Beyond the religious symbolism and its value for the living, however, the supernatural doesn't seem to have much room in 7SEEDS. Takashi himself, during the Ryūgū shelter arc, even gives a (partial) explanation in-story for this: cultures with a different religious background, particularly the monotheistic religions, would have turned to God for consolation and hope after the meteor strike, «but the Japanese really don't have anything like that to hold on to […] because we're a nation that sees all of their gods in nature»18.

And yet Nature is seen as a powerful entity in itself, capable of self regulation, with little care for the lives and pains of specific individuals, as the “seeds” (and especially some of them, such as Aramaki) learn the hard way.

Nature versus nurture

It should be clear from the description of the characters how important the theme of “what makes us what we are” is in the manga. How much of our course of action is determine by our nature, and how much by our experiences?

The mangaka puts a lot of stress on the nature of the characters (strong-willed or submissive, extrovert or shy, aggressive or peaceful, empathic or detached), and Team Summer A is arguably a poster child of the importance of genetic traits in determining how, and how strongly, similar experiences result in completely different outcomes: despite the communal system employed to educate them all together from the earliest infancy, each of the candidates develops its own personality, through which they filter the common experiences into distinct opportunity for growth, along different paths.

Yet it's undeniable that all of the characters undergo a personal growth stimulated by their experiences, that their full realization comes from their interaction with the others, and that even though the way they are affected by their experiences changes from person to person according to their nature, each of them learns to step beyond. This is particularly evident in some characters (such as Natsu overcoming her passive shyness, Nijiko discovering attachment and cooperation, Ryō feeling he is being “affected” by Team Summer B's openness, or Semimaru learning to live less in the moment) and is one of the central themes of the last volumes.

Suspension of disbelief

It should be clear by now that my opinion on 7SEEDS is enthusiastically positive. That being said, I'll have to admit to myself that it's not perfect. Aside from the graphic style (which is largely a matter of taste, so could actually be a positive to others), there are a few small flaws, mostly pertaining to suspension of disbelief.

We'll start with some of the least important, and leave the biggest for last.

Consistency

Take Kaname's parents suicide, for example. On the one hand, they are said to have been forced to commit suicide; on the other, it is hinted that the father committed suicide simply for being unable to carry the weight that came with the knowledge of the incoming disaster and having to take all the necessary decisions without being able to consult with anyone but the small circle of people behind the project. And what about the mother?

I'm also a bit skeptical about Ango's attempted rape of Hana: the scene isn't forced, but presents several points of perplexity. It's unclear where he would draw the “pay with your body” line from, given the rather sheltered upbringing the team had, and while it's clarified by his memories and discussions with Ryō that his feverish mind essentially associates sex to pain for the female, the attempted rape itself is completely out of character (something that even Ayu points out in-story), although it could still be explained by Ango being really “out of his mind”.

Timing issue #1: the X Mites

Most other issues are about timing.

The first concerns the lack of clarity about the origin, evolution and spread of the X Mites in the Ryūgū shelter story arc. The data points we have from the comic are that the aggressive infection only happened after humans were used as fodder for the animals, that the mites don't survive for long in open air, that the spread was probably in a single burst rather than the typical contagion pattern, and that Maria was an asymptomatic carrier.

One possible route could be from normal mites (external parasites) being ingested by animals (due to humans being served as fodder) and there being selected for internal parasitism, then spreading to other animals and to humans through a combination of animal products (e.g. milk or meat19) and short-range coexistence or contact. Maria could have been infected via this route, and then helped spread the contagion through her concerts and jogging routine.

The problem with this timeline is the short span available for the selection of the internal parasitism trait for the mites, even accounting for multiple iterations through the human/fodder/animal/food cycle before the first symptoms manifest. An alternative route could be that Maria was actually infected with parasitic mites before getting into the shelter (by whatever means), spreading them via her singing, and that the fodder cycle simply resulted in the more aggressive variant. This is however inconsistent with Maria's lack of sleep and hunger, that would be consistent with the infection taking control of her body, as Hana remarks by observing the parallel with the behavior of Team Spring's guide (Yanagi) when the giant praying mantis larvae take control of his body. So the first timeline is probably the correct one, but it stretches the limits of the suspension of disbelief about the speed of evolution of the mites. Moreover, in both timelines the idea of Maria being a “super-spreader” remains a stretch, as it would imply air transmission for the mites across relatively longish distances (even if an enclosed space like the shelter's main hall) which is hard to believe not only give the weight the droplets would have (but then again, we're talking about mites small enough to dwell in the blood vessels of the host) but also because the mites are said to not survive long in the open air.

(By the way, while we're still talking about the Ryūgū shelter: the collapse doesn't necessarily eliminate the threat posed by the frozen mites, does it? Should the seeds discuss about the opportunity to take care of the threat once before it gets forgotten across generations? Or can they be content with it being buried under tons of rock, possibly to be unearthed by some excavation for any reason hundreds of years down the line? Or can the mites be expected to not be able to survive that long, assuming the collapse has destroyed the refrigeration system, and the thawing of the dead people would result in the mites quickly finding themselves without food anyway?)

Timing issue #2: the mushrooms

Consider now the Great Tree arc, when Hana reunites with Fujiko and Chisa around the “Great Tree” and the surrounding ecosystem, only to trigger a new crisis when they open the “mushroom shelter”, and the spores spread across the small forest colonizing all living things, both vegetal and animal.

Even if we accept the speed at which the spores spread, and that they somehow evolved to implant on both vegetable and animals of the new world20, the resolution of the crisis presents a serious challenge to the reader's suspension of disbelief: going by the in-comic explanation, the lightning strikes and the adult's dogs decision to spread the ensuing fire to purge the invasive species of mushroom would have to be read as a sort of “natural response” of Nature towards a new balance, taking at once care of the excessive proliferation of both the dogs and the mushrooms.

Ironically, the entire arc would be less incredible without the framing as a natural rebalancing, simply as a matter of chance, leveraged by the adult dogs with a self-sacrifice to eliminate a threat to their own offspring, and nothing more.

(To clarify, I love the scene. It's powerful and moving, in addition to being a brilliant tie-in for the reunion of the scattered teams. I do however find the timing of the whole sequence to be unnaturally fast, which I only accept for the narrative constraints that it satisfies.)

Timing issue #3 (the big one): How much time passed?

The last, but definitely not least issue, the “big question”, is again a question about the passage of time.

What is the time gap between the apocalypse and the main story? How much time has passed from the cryogenic conservation to the thawing of the teams?

On the one hand, the state of preservation of the relics of the old world, especially major ones such as the Fuji ship and the OSP facilities, would indicate that “not too much” time has gone by, possibly within a thousand of years at most, or in that order of timespan: even taking into account the effort of the mangaka to show how dilapidated things are, and how fragile they turn out to be once activated again, and even conceding that these structures were “built to last” with fantascientific progress in material science, there is only so much that could be achieved when periodic maintenance cannot be provided. (The state of the Fuji ship is particularly surprising in this sense.)

On the other hand, the state of evolution of plants and animals would suggest much more time has passed, possibly in the tens if not hundreds of thousands of years, particularly considering the number of species that turned into gigantic forms of old-world equivalents: as evolutionary pressure in times of crisis (harsher climates, less food, etc) tends to push towards smaller rather than larger sizes, the development of the giant insect species found throughout the land would require enough time to have passed to at least locally stabilize the climate, possibly eliminate the predators while providing a sufficiently rich environment for food, and ensure the survival for a sufficient number of generations (living longer, as it's generally the case for larger life-forms) to select for the “gigantic” trait.

Arguably, the stretch to the suspension of disbelief required by the fast evolution of the X Mites in Ryūgū matches the one observed for the plants and animals outside of the shelter in the time preceding the thawing of the teams. This is compounded by the successful preservation of many (but not all!) “old-world” life forms on Kagijima and Sado, that are found to have evolved “along the original path”, as remarked by the teams on their arrival in the island,

A possible explanation for the evolutionary acceleration might be given by a combination of extreme environmental changes and an increase of some other contributing factor such as cosmic rays reaching the planet or higher exposure to radioactivity21 (either from the meteors themselves, or from the ground upheaved by the impact), with Sado being largely unaffected due to the OSP facilities being built explicitly for preservation, and thus probably taking measures against the accelerating factors that would have come with the cataclysm.

Such an explanation not only remain still a bit of a stretch, but leaves the open issue on the “exceptional efficiency” of the energy bars in making the ants (and their predators: spiders and earthworms) grow in size so much.

(And here I'll confess to my ignorance of the geography of Japan: could the giant insects met by Team Spring at the beginning be somehow connected to the giant ants and spiders and earthworms in Kagijima?)

Conclusions

My only real issue with 7SEEDS is that it's only available (in full) in Japanese. And I can't read Japanese. Should I buy the volumes anyway, as an incentive to learn Japanese?


  1. it's actually revealed in the last volume that the «7 seeds» project had chapters in other nations too, at least USA and probably Europe as well. ↩

  2. 7SEEDS is not unique in giving the character a backstory that justifies their “Samaritan Syndrome”, as opposed to it being just a character trait because of how much of a “good guy” he is; however, in my reading experience, the narrative style in 7SEEDS make it feel more natural than the flashbacks frequently adopted elsewhere to shoehorn the explanation as needed. ↩

  3. arguably, Ayu's (ab)use of Momotaro as a guinea pig for testing the edibility of food and usefulness of ointments is no less violent than Ango's behavior, even though premeditated and not overtly aggressive. ↩

  4. if anyone is, Natsu is most likely to be the alter ego of the author Yumi Tamura, much more so than the protagonist Hana. ↩

  5. to be fair, 7SEEDS does not really fall into the “No Periods, Period” and related tropes, since there are tangential mentions of bodily functions (including periods) throughout the manga, in relation to both wilderness survival (how to take care of it) and interpersonal relationship (dramatic in this sense is the warning Hana gives Ryusei to watch over the pregnant Kurumi, after getting almost raped herself). ↩

  6. others have argued that the last nail in his conversion into a cold-blooded murdered is instead Takashi's reminder that he should have killed him when he last had the opportunity. ↩

  7. this is made particularly evident in the 7SEEDS Gaiden epilogue, where Ango is given the opportunity to sincerely apologize to Hana (again thanks to one of Ryō's debatable interventions). ↩

  8. one could argue that all of them (not counting the guides) were forced into their roles as “seeds”, given that the Team Summer A were essentially brainwashed into not considering any alternative to going into the future. ↩

  9. it is hinted that this was at least one of the reasons for the suicide of Kaname's father, although this is actually uncertain. ↩

  10. Maria's discovery that she is the asymptomatic carrier for the mites, and essentially their “control center”, seems to indicate that Ryūgū's shelter was condemned either way; on the other hand, the mites are said to die quickly when exposed to open air, which makes the claim that she was responsible for infecting everyone with her concerts dubious at best: the human-to-animal-to-human path remains more credible. ↩

  11. he is said to be some 6 years older than Ango, and got frozen a few years after Hana was born (since Hana got to know him, and she went trekking in the mountains with him and her father); considering that Hana was born when Team Summer A was frozen, and that the team members where 17 at the time, this would make Kaname around 23 years old when Hana was born, and thus put his cryo age around 30. ↩

  12. we are shown one of his discussions with a paternal figure, most likely his uncle, that passively remarks on his kidnapping experience and whether it really made him stronger. ↩

  13. it could be argued that the need to physically eliminated the dropouts from the candidates for Team Summer A, rather than releasing them back into the “civilian” world, was a necessity for the project, due to the need to preserve absolute secrecy, the possibly unethical means by which the foeti themselves were created, and the difficulty in justifying the trickling of “orphans” that would have to be reinserted into the general population after having been raised for years with nothing but the “future survival” objective in sight and mind. In this sense, it's possible that this wasn't necessarily Kaname's idea, but Takashi's, or simply an agreed one, that however contributed to amplifying Kaname's attitude. ↩

  14. with Takashi in particular: it's quite possible Kaname found in Takashi a presumed kindred spirit, misinterpreting his cold demeanor for his own rejection of emotions, and conversely that Takashi failed to understand Kaname's stunted emotional capability (preferring to interpret it as professionalism), or decided to ignore it (as acknowledging it would have impacted the project even more negatively), preferring to work around it with the selection of the other teams. ↩

  15. there is Kaname, there are the guides, and while their presence does have a regulatory effect, it's still far from being the constricting presence that societies can be. ↩

  16. Volume 31, “Mountains” Chapter 25. ↩

  17. including, possibly, the closest thing to the recite of a prayer for one's own benefit, when Tsunmata recites the Buddhist “Heart Sutra” after discovering Rikako's remains (Volume 32, “Mountains” Chapter 27, page 35). ↩

  18. Volume 10, “Ashes” Chapter 5, page 121 ↩

  19. although the Mites were never found in the muscles (meat), they could still end up in the ingested products due to the presence of traces of contaminated blood from neighboring blood vessels during processing. ↩

  20. considering they had remained sealed into the shelter for the undefined but long lapse of time between the cataclysm and the shelter being opened, that the were essentially dried out and dead when the shelter was opened, it's unclear how exactly they would have evolved at all, since that requires generation after generation of living individuals; an in-comic explanation by the change in behavior is given with the hypothesis that the mushrooms did not evolve, but rather the plants and animals in the “new world” had changed to the point of losing whatever prevented the spores from attaching to living matter in the “old world” (and that the team members are actually safe, because they are still “old world” animals). ↩

  21. would this imply that Ryūgū shelter would have died out from radioactive poisoning anyway? ↩