(Saber Marionette J’s major theme seems to be sacrifice for the greater good. As such it is very emotional material, and at the end of Episode 26 - the six OVAs - I felt compelled to write this. It is likely that most people have not seen up to that point, so I have to warn you that there are spoilers in the story below; though only for the OVAs, as I did not touch on the TV Series, and all events occur in OVA 6 of SMJ. Nevertheless, I feel that the story stands on its own merit, and I hope that people will give it due consideration. C&C is, as always, very welcome - especially for a story like this one.
Disclaimer: Saber Marionette J belongs to Akahori Satoru, Negishi Hiroshi, Kotobuki Tsukasa, Kadokawa Shoten, TV Tokyo, Bandai Visual and Movic. However, the concept of plasma ghosts is entirely mine.
Warning: SPOILERS Ahead!)
To a plasma ghost, sight is everything.
That is a truth that you will learn, young ghost. No, it is not because we lose our other senses. Once you have ridden the magnetic fields of Terra Two, surfed the great plasma conduits of the underground and dived with the behemoths of the ocean depths, you will realize that we have lost little and gained much with our passing.
No, the reason is much simpler. Sight is the only remaining sense that we share with our human siblings. The only sense that bridges the gulf of death that separates us from our living brothers.
Is that important, you ask? Do we not venture into a new realm after all? Why should the antics of living humans be of any concern to us ghosts?
Pertinent questions. Shall I then tell you of the sights that I have seen? The visions of wonder, the magnificent acts and the marvelous heroism? All that is lost to us now. Without fear of death, what meaning has our lives?
Better to forget, you say? Perhaps, young ghost. In that, you may be far wiser than I. But first let me tell you of one such story. It occurred when I was a young ghost, much as you are now.
My vision is fragmented, the story marred as I am carried hither and thither by the random diversion of the plasma flow. And yet, perhaps it is made more poignant even so.
My first sight is of a man. Blond and blue-eyed. A Gartlander, but no ordinary one. I recognize his face. It is Gerhard von Faust, absolute ruler of Gartland. He stands in front of a computer projection speaking to ... a woman! No, not a marionette, not even a Saber, but a real, live woman!
I see that you do not understand my surprise. Perhaps women are commonplace on Terra Two now? They are? I thank you for that information, young ghost. Let me explain myself then.
In those days, lost among the countless turnings of Terra Two around its sun, women did not exist on this planet. All we had were the marionettes, false replicas of the other sex. Only one woman remained among the descendants of the six men who colonized this planet. She was Lorelei, as you surely know since all women are descended from her clones, who was rescued from the colony ship, Mesopotamia, in a great endeavor by ... ah, but I perceive that you know of this tale already. I shall not digress further.
Since only one woman exists, it took only the smallest conjecture to realize that it is indeed Lorelei who stands there speaking with Gerhard von Faust.
They converse in low tones. Alas, for I cannot hear any of their speech. The loss of hearing bites deep, but their faces are admirably grave. Faust gestures toward the computer projection. My gaze follows. The projection is of a marionette’s specifications. But certainly, of no ordinary marionette. Not one, but three Virgin Circuits! And more still. My gaze is drawn to a particular heading. It reads Plasma Control System. For a marionette! How incredible!
The marionette series number reads as NSM-X1. Apparently, she is designed to control the living flow of plasma. The specifications are so fascinating that my gaze remains locked upon the projection screen, devouring the shifting information.
Then, the currents in the room shift, and I am made aware that another watches both Lorelei and Faust as I watch them. It is a marionette. One with long blue hair and eyes that glitter with emotion and intelligence. Perhaps a Saber, but undoubtedly, one with a Virgin Circuit.
For the longest of moments, I stare at her as she, in turn, stares at the two humans and the computer. Then, incredibly, she seems to become aware of my gaze upon her. Her eyes search the room before coming to rest in my direction with a faint air of puzzlement. Could she see me? A ghost? Could I communicate with her?
Alas, the flow in the room sees fit to revive in that moment and I am drawn away. Only the memory of deep blue eyes that appear to speak of the ocean depths remains with me.
The plasma currents are disturbed; the flow dangerously unstable. Pictures of the world appear as frozen moments, followed by a blurring rush of jumbled visions. All is chaos. Time passes. How much I cannot be sure. I try to focus on the people that I have seen.
I glimpse Faust working on a strange device, Lorelei working equations on a computer, and more, much more. Images. The blue-haired marionette walks with others of her kind. She is speaking with a young man. Her eyes strangely fearful, yet calm.
She laughs, face aglow with joy and happiness, at a drawing of a large cetacean. Salt water spumes from a spout on the creature’s head and her marionette friend, the artist, gleefully points this out.
A single stray scene of perfect wonder. Then, it all fades into a distressing jumble of images. I cannot make further sense of what I see.
The flow has strengthened. It draws me from Japoness, whirling me towards the peak known as Fuji-san. I cannot resist it. I meet with other ghosts. No one can tell me what is wrong with the plasma flow. They all share my worry.
Our conversations break up as the flow grips us. We are pulled towards the ground. Plasma is gathering beneath Fuji-san and it is drawing us along. It is the only explanation.
The peak approaches. For a moment, the world steadies and I catch a glimpse of the blue-haired marionette. She stands on the edge of the crater. Her eyes, ever I am drawn to those eyes, are windows to her soul. Their dark, purple depths show her fear and nervousness, yet they calm and become peaceful, filled with resolve. She leaps, dives into the vent. She vanishes from sight.
I am sucked down, and the ground absorbs me.
The plasma conduits are violent. Full of turmoil. For the first time since I died, I am frightened. The carefree existence of a ghost no longer seems so protecting, so invulnerable.
Plasma discharges explode against the rocky walls of the vent. Their violence and volume increase as I am drawn deeper. And yet deeper, until the light and heat seem to beat against my existence. Until I reach the main flow, the vast and awesome stream of plasma tunneling beneath Fuji-san, stressing and straining the surrounding strata until our poor planet tears asunder.
The radiant energy tears at my being, seeking to absorb me, to dissolve my core. Pain, so recently unknown, wracks my ephemeron. I look desperately for escape, for sanctuary, and for a mind-wrenching instant, I cannot find any.
Then, I see it.
A crowd of ghosts huddle in a meager shelter formed by a rocky outcropping. One waves me over with a frantic motion. I struggle against the draw of the flow, slipping and sliding until I reach the outcropping. Darting into the fragmenting shelter with the last of my energy.
The pounding pulse of the plasma flow beats a numbing rhythm upon the sheltering wall. The other ghosts look as dispirited as I feel, crushed down by the raging energy torrent. How long would our small sanctuary last? How long before it was swept away?
Not long at all seemed to be the cruel answer. The wall began to crumble, pieces of bedrock pulling away to be shredded in the current. In that moment, I made peace with myself, fully expecting to lose even my tenuous existence as a ghost.
A final and permanent death.
It was then that I saw her. In that moment of death. In that moment of triumph. An angel with wings of light.
Her wings blaze with reflected energy, burnished white in radiant coruscation. Light shimmers in her eyes, deep pools of ocean-blue. I recognize her then, even without looking for the confirming blue hair.
Somehow, the flow is calm around her. Like the eye within a tornado. The plasma recognizing its mistress. I finally realize who she must be. NSM-X1. The marionette with the prototype Plasma Control System.
A marionette with three Virgin Circuits. Each the equivalent of a human heart. A human soul. She was planning to channel the plasma energy, diffusing the stream and preventing it from tearing Terra Two apart. But, she would never survive acting as a conduit for the energy discharge. It would destroy those delicate circuits. Destroy her soul. A sacrifice then, for the saving of Terra Two.
How poor in spirit we must be, both mortal and immortal inhabitants of this planet, to accept such a living sacrifice. I would call her attention, refute her deed, but I fear and she cannot hear me. Or so I tell myself.
A sharp twist in the flow distracts me from my agonized thoughts. Something approaches from above. A second marionette, riding upon the strange machine which I saw Faust working on.
I have seen her before.
A glimpse somewhere.
Yes, she drew the picture of the cetacean spouting salt water. She had been happy then. Smiling as she showed her blue-haired friend the picture. But, not now. Instead, her face is marked with worry, etched with fear and concern. She seems desperately determined to reach her fellow marionette, to the point of pushing her machine beyond its limits. Indeed, the machine is vibrating badly. Plasma discharges have damaged it and it cannot last much longer. The second marionette leaps off the machine as it begins to tumble and disintegrate, shredded by overload.
She converts her leap into a dive, hand outstretched and screaming out a call of denial. The first marionette turns and looks up towards her diving companion, and speaks. I cannot hear what she says, but she is smiling. A soft and gentle smile. They are words of farewell and of thanks. Of that I am certain. She turns back, and begins to glow as she gathers the plasma.
Bright, brighter, brightest.
In mere seconds, she shines so fiercely that it hurts to look, like the heart of a newborn star. The furnace of radiant energy being focused and released is so great that it impacts upon the localized fields serving as ghost visual receptors, to the point that a being without eyes can barely stand to watch. She shines until she becomes pure white, a being of utter light.
Then, her wings shatter.
The second marionette screams something. A name, I guess. She drops down beside the fallen angel and gathers her into a desperate embrace, weeping tears of loss.
Pillars of plasma erupt around the pair. I believe, no, I know she has completed her task. I have to believe so. Such sacrifice should be rewarded with success. Anything less would be a mockery.
The swirling plasma erupts up the vent of Fuji-san, drawing all the ghosts with it. The two marionettes remain below on the crumbling cavern floor with the second marionette attempting to protect her friend amidst the roiling turbulence. I am carried along despite all my struggles. The flow breaches the craterous peak of Fuji-san in seconds, piercing the overhanging clouds with a column of energy, expelling plasma into the safe cocoon of space. For a moment, I fear that all of us ghosts would be carried along into space but luckily, the column spits us out, scattering us in all directions.
She is lost to my sight.
When the plasma winds die down, I find myself free to move along the planetary magnetic fields. Under my own power. I am free. Free from the flow which had dominated all plasma ghost travel. Free for thousands of years, I realize, before the plasma builds up to a similar level again.
I want to thank her. For this great gift. But, I don’t even know if she is alive. I decide to search.
I find her lying upon a bier. She is silent, her circuits dead. I cannot cry but I mourn. For her passing. For her sacrifice. For the loss of the world in losing her. For my loss.
Other people stand by, about to leave. It seems to be the end of a ceremony of farewell. The second marionette is here, saying farewell to her friend. Lorelei is here as well. I hope Lorelei can repair the Virgin Circuits someday and return her soul. I have to believe that it is possible.
The others leave. But at the doorway, the second marionette turns to face the bier.
She says a name. A short name.
I cannot hear it.
For a long time, I wonder who she was. The blue-haired, ocean-eyed angel who saved Terra Two for humans and plasma ghosts alike. Destiny seemed determined not to tell me, until one day, the flow draws me to Japones.
Seemingly at a whimsy of fate, the flow leaves me before a large statue. It is a statue of her. Hair, eyes, and form are all crafted to perfection. She stands poised in the stance that I had seen beneath Fuji-san, wings extended and ablaze. The artist must have been told by the second marionette or perhaps the artist was the second marionette. I do not know, but whoever it was had captured the splendor of the moment perfectly.
I read the brief inscription.
‘Dedicated to Marine.’
‘Who saved this planet from destruction.’
‘The citizens of Japones and Terra Two salute your courage. We are ever grateful for our redemption and we shall never forget your sacrifice.’
At last, I know.
That seems like a good place to finish the story, does it not? What happened to her, you ask? Did Dr. Lorelei manage to repair her? Ah, well, let us leave that story for another time.
But perhaps now, you understand why I say what I said.
To a plasma ghost, sight is everything.
NAI NO OWARI/Not the End
(1) Plasma ghost deafness - Technically, sound is a wave, so ghosts should be able to detect sound. Well, yes. The plasma fields convert all energy into a form of visual perception so the ghosts do detect sound. Unfortunately, they lack the ability to convert visual sound waves into meaningful language. So the ghosts do not actually hear anything when people speak. There are probably a hundred reasons why energy fields don’t work this way, but well, it’s just a story and SMJ science certainly isn’t technically sound anyway. :)
(2) Origin of the ghosts - Well, they were essentially a story-telling tool but the idea came up while I watched the SMJ Series. At one point, I thought - wouldn’t it be cool if things like plasma ghosts existed and why not make them dead people, somehow transformed into a plasma existential state. It’s not too original an idea, it’s been done before in novels but this is a first for SMJ, I think.
(3) Virgin Circuit - Otome kairo in Japanese; can also be translated as maiden circuit but I’ve gone with the Hecto and Shinsen Gumi fansubs and used Virgin Circuit as the translation.
(4) Eye Colour - Marine’s eyes are actually purple in colour, but the ocean can certainly stain that colour in stormy weather so I find the description ‘ocean-coloured’ fairly well-fitting.)