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Living between Infrastructures:


Commuter Networks, Broadcast TV, and Mobile Phones

Thomas Lamarre

On the evening of August 2, 2013, from nine to eleven thirty, NTV


(Nippon terebi hōsōmō kabushikigaisha) broadcast Miyazaki Hayao’s ani-
mated film, Tenkū no shiro Rapyuta (1986), or Castle in the Sky in English.
At about eleven twenty, the film reached the climactic scene in which the
heroes, Sheeta and Pazu, together intone “Barusu” (transliterated as
“Balse” or “Balsus” in English), which triggers the destruction of Rapyuta,
the castle in the sky, to prevent the villain Mooska from utilizing it for military
domination. At that moment, an unprecedented surge of tweets occurred,
143,199 within a single second, or twenty-­five times the usual volume. As
the Economist noted, because Twitter successfully dealt with the spike,
the event not only served to confirm its technological robustness but also
helped Dick Costolo, its chief executive, to further his promotion of tweeting
while watching TV, styling Twitter as a “second screen.”1
Costolo had already given a talk in Tokyo on Twitter usage in Japan,

Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.


1. “How Did a Japanese Anime Film Set a Twitter Record,” August 20, 2013, www.economist
.com/blogs/economist-­explains/2013/08/economist-­explains-­14.

boundary 2 42:3 (2015) DOI 10.1215/01903659-­2919558 © 2015 by Duke University Press

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on April 16, 2012, in which he called attention to the current record for tweets
per second (11,349), also during a television broadcast of Rapyuta, in 2011.2
Generally speaking, tweets hit new peaks during big TV events, such as
the Super Bowl, or in response to mass media events (the announcement
of Beyoncé’s pregnancy).3 The surges associated with Miyazaki’s animated
film are more pronounced and concentrated due to the practice among
fans of responding to a specific moment in a film. As such, they imply a
specific kind of connection between television audiences and social media,
between the small screen and a smaller mobile phone screen, which is
increasingly pitched as a second screen, or a companion screen, to the
television screen.
The blogger Mizuiro Ahiru describes the connection between the
two screens in this way: “Rapyuta is a wonderful film but surely we’ve all
seen it enough. And yet this year, the audience ratings went way up. The
motivation behind ‘tweeting Barusu’ is less one of ‘watching TV and shout-
ing Barusu’ and more one of ‘watching Rapyuta to participate in the fes-
tive event (matsuri ) of shouting Barusu with everybody.’ Even if people are
watching it alone in their houses, Barusu lets them ‘be with everybody.’”4
Such a festive event, as this blogger and others were quick to note in
the wake of a report by Twitter Japan, entailed a very close, even intimate
relation (missetsu) between broadcast ratings and tweeting.5 Tweeting had
dramatically improved television ratings for Rapyuta: audience ratings had
dropped to 15.9 percent at the time of the Rapyuta tweet surge in 2011,
while the 2013 broadcast culled an impressive 18.5 percent. It is not surpris-
ing that the term matsuri (festival or celebration) appears to describe fan-­
created connections between the small screen and the smaller screen: the
term often arises in the context of fan interactions with media beyond one-­
time consumption of a product (for instance, the manga market Comiket
and anime-­related tourism). What demands further consideration, however,
is the aura of success and happy synergy that surrounds the responses
2. See the report by Kubo Yasusuke, “Nihon no besuto purakutisu kara manabu Twitter no
kore kara” [Learning from Japan’s top practices: Twitter from here on], accessed Novem-
ber 26, 2013, www.mdn.co.jp/di/newstopics/22861/.
3. The Economist offers these comparisons in “How Did a Japanese Anime Film Set a
Twitter Record.”
4. See “mizuiro_ahiru no nikki: 2013-­ 09-­28” [Mizuiro Ahiru’s journal: September 28,
2013], d.hatena.ne.jp/mizuiro_ahiru/20130928/p1.
5. See, for instance, “TV-­shichōritsu to tsuīto no missetsu na kankei” [The close connec-
tion of tweets with TV audience ratings], accessed November 26, 2013, buzzoo.jp/social
/article/1262.

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to the tweet surge. Everyone appears delighted. Technicians responded


beautifully, assuring that the surge did not affect Twitter service negatively.
Television broadcasters garnered higher ratings, which translates into
advertising revenues. Twitter’s CEO saw his promotional strategy perfectly
realized: the smaller second screen acted synergistically with the television
screen, compounding the success of both. Fans found new recognition of
their collective force. Media remediation here appears as a mode of recip-
rocal intensification, of synergy, convergence, and resonance rather than
rivalry, divergence, or interference. What’s not to celebrate?
Interesting enough, Rapyuta tells a very different story about net-
works, calling for the destruction of the castle in the sky, and not only
because it operates as a weapon of mass destruction but also because
it is part of a highly advanced telecommunications system that works at a
distance from the earth, thus distancing human experience from the earth.
The threat of the castle in the sky is at once technological (capable of
destroying cities from the air) and perceptual or aesthetic (capable of pro-
ducing an image of the world and thus reducing the world to its picture).6
Ironically, however, at the moment when, in the animated film, Sheeta and
Pazu intone the word that destroys this militarized telecommunications
satellite, fans are bouncing electronic signals off satellites and communi-
cations towers in celebration. Are they celebrating the destruction of big
media or its ascendency?
Fans, and indeed people in general, probably do not think of mobile
phones as big media or mass media, despite the increased construction of
large-­scale infrastructures to support service. The notion of the horizontal,
leveling force of telecommunications and televisual media, first associated
with television (as with Marshall McLuhan’s global village) and then with
Internet and wireless networks, so dominates the contemporary imagina-
tion that television and social media are commonly assumed to present a
force that acts in opposition to the threats embodied in Miyazaki’s castle in
the sky, that is, techno-­aesthetic “massification” as a prelude to mass mobi-
lization and destruction. We tend to think that television and social media
have already brought mass media down to earth. Consequently, vertical or
hierarchical integration does not come under much scrutiny in the context of
the Rapyuta tweet surge. Nonetheless, there are signs of one kind of hierar-

6. Miyazaki’s approach recalls that of Martin Heidegger in this respect, as I have argued
at length in The Anime Machine. See also Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Pic-
ture,” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (New York: Garland
Publishing, 1977), 115–53.

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chical integration at work in the reporting of the event: somehow the collec-
tive force of fans (their little village, as it were) has been equated with Japan,
with the masses of people living in the nation. The synergy of the smaller
companion screen with the bigger television screen encourages a confla-
tion of subculture with national culture, erasing any tension between them.
This synergy is precisely what I wish to contest. Such synergy does
occur, and yet it is not all that happens between television and mobile
phones. As accounts of glitches in online networks suggest, it is when
smooth functioning breaks down that we become aware of underlying
operations. “Error,” writes Mark Nunes, “reveals not only a system’s failure
but also its operational logic.”7 The same is true of the relationship between
different media platforms or between infrastructures. The excitement sur-
rounding the Rapyuta tweet surge came from the fact that it almost toppled
Twitter and thus partially exposed its operational logic, including its relation
to broadcast television. As such, in order to explore the relation between
these media platforms (mobile phone and television) and infrastructures
(broadcast and Internet service), I propose to increase the gap between
them, looking at mobile phones in the context of commuter networks. My
goal is not, however, to provide a full sociological account of commuter net-
works or mobile phones, or rather, as they are called in Japanese, keitai,
a term that Mizuko Ito glosses as “something you carry with,” a connota-
tion implicit in my use of “companion screen.” Because the experiences of
mobile phones and broadcast television can no longer be confined to dis-
crete places and times, I am interested in the strategies that arise in every-
day life to smooth over the differences between them, to ignore or suppress
the gaps and glitches, so to speak. Yet, in filling the gaps, people also start
to incorporate those gaps into their habits, to embody them. Everyday life
becomes the site of forced assemblage.
Alongside an account of the experience of commuter networks and
mobile phones, I will also draw upon Japanese animation, or anime, for, as
the example of the Rapyuta tweet surges attests, anime also finds itself in
the gaps between infrastructures. It doesn’t stand at a distance and rep-
resent them. Its materials and functions are entangled with the everyday
experience of media platforms and infrastructures. Yet, insofar as it tends
to intensify daily experiences, anime provides a point of entry for an imma-
nent critique of them.

7. Mark Nunes, “Error, Noise, and the Potential: The Outside of Purpose,” in Glitch, Noise,
and Jam in New Media Cultures (London: Continuum, 2010), 3.

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Infrastructural Tendencies

Mobile phones appear everywhere in Tokyo, but their presence


seems especially palpable on commuter trains, with commuters thumbing
out messages, scrolling through web pages, lingering on images, reading,
watching, sending messages, or dashing through wickets. The dominant
company in Japan’s keitai market is Docomo, formed in 1991 as a subsid-
iary of the telecommunications company NTT, which launched its mobile
Internet service in 1999, and whose rapid and widespread adoption inaugu-
rated a mobile revolution. The name Docomo, derived from the phrase “do
communications over the mobile network,” also means “everywhere,” which
aptly captures the ubiquity of keitai. In addition, Mizuko Ito notes, “in con-
trast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by technical infra-
structure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the untether-
ing from fixed location), the Japanese term keitai . . . is not so much about a
new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate
technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that
are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life.”8 Still,
the distinction between keitai, mobile phone, and cell phone is not categori-
cal. It is a matter of contextual emphasis. As Rapyuta attests, when anime
stages a relation between television and keitai, it shifts easily from every-
dayness to technological infrastructures and to a sense of mobility and dis-
location. Such media objects can encourage the overall impression of a
decentralized and dehierarchized participatory media world, in which flows
are entirely horizontal, and the agency and productivity of media users or
consumers are on par with that of media owners and producers.
In many areas of Tokyo, when you exit the maze of the metro, you
will see looming on the horizon the very embodiment of another dimension
of media happening alongside the increased flattening and decentralizing
associated with mobile phones and social media: Tokyo Sky Tree, at 634
meters the world’s tallest broadcast tower, completed in 2012, with a com-
plex of services woven into it, including observation decks, restaurants,
train lines, and stores. Built as part of a major initiative to phase out ana-
log broadcasting by providing complete digital terrestrial television (DTT),
Tokyo Sky Tree is the very symbol and enactment of vertical media integra-

8. Mizuko Ito, “Introduction: Personal, Portable, Pedestrian,” in Personal, Portable, Pedes-


trian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, ed. Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 1.

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tion, initiated and founded by the most powerful television broadcasters,


with Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) in the lead, working with corporate inter-
ests (Tobu Railway Company, Ltd.). As such, it is an integral part of the bid
to assure the continued ascendency of NHK and other major media pro-
ducers, owners, and distributors, while appealing to national values, unity,
and identity.
The contrast between Tokyo Sky Tree and use of mobile media on
commuter trains and in the streets implies a distinction between tendencies
toward what might be called vertical or hierarchical media integration (a
tendency more pronounced in broadcast TV) and horizontal or heterarchi-
cal media differentiation (a tendency more pronounced in mobile social
media).
The contrast between the Tokyo commuter network and the Tokyo
Sky Tree also calls to mind a now familiar distinction made by Michel de
Certeau between the tower and labyrinth. The Sky Tree fairly exemplifies
Certeau’s characterization of the tower’s tendency toward panorama and
spectacle: not only does it offer the ultimate panoramic views of the city
but it also includes a variety of high-­end shops and restaurants, providing
a combination of tourist destination, shopping mall, and consumer spec-
tacle. In contrast, even a glance at the map of the Tokyo commuter network
attests to its labyrinthine qualities. As Michael Fisch writes, “To live in Tokyo
is to live on and by the commuter train network. Its web of interconnect-
ing commuter and subway lines dominates the urban topography, providing
the primary means of transportation for upward of 20 million commuters a
day.”9 Because train lines must run at overcapacity, with cars overcrowded
and timetables tightly compressed, their operation builds in a margin of
indeterminacy for quick responses to disturbances, including suicides,
euphemistically glossed as “human accidents.” Fisch thus calls attention
to “a shift from thinking the commuter train network as an active or deter-
minate apparatus to perceiving it as a responsive, interactive technology.”10
The labyrinthine quality of the commuter network thus differs from
the illegible compositions of everyday life that Certeau wished to valorize
in contrast to the tower: “The ordinary practitioners of the city live ‘down
below,’ below the threshold at which visibility begins. . . . The networks of
these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold history that has

9. Michael Fisch, “Tokyo’s Commuter Train Suicides and the Society of Emergence,” Cul-
tural Anthropology 28, no. 2 (2013): 321.
10. Fisch, “Tokyo’s Commuter Train Suicides,” 326.

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neither author nor spectator.”11 As Fisch shows, the labyrinth becomes


a source of legible fluctuations, which register as signatures of nervous
energy that fuel an infrastructural system of modulation.
The Tokyo commuter network puts a quintessentially modern distinc-
tion in crisis, for the tower and the labyrinth cannot be held apart.12 That dis-
tinction is everywhere in crisis: every labyrinth becomes somehow legible,
and conversely, every spectacle seems to afford a labyrinthine structure
with wandering, intersecting, manifold iterations, which nonetheless lead
back to a commodity world—as in the case of convergence culture. Never-
theless, even if the tower and labyrinth no longer appear to stand apart
as they once did, they do not hold together through some preestablished
urban or postmodern harmony. They still afford distinctive experiences,
which happen within and through different infrastructures, and which must
be forcibly assembled. Rather than a rupture between a modern condition
and a postmodern condition, the example of the commuter network implies
intensification in the forced assemblage of different infrastructural dimen-
sions of daily life.
The commuter network serves primarily to get workers from home
to their place of work, and, by extension, to get students from home to their
schools and consumers to sites of consumption. While commuter networks
entail a physical link between home and work, they afford an experience
of something that is neither work nor home, yet at the same time, feels
like both. Commuting time is not recompensed, yet it may feel like work,
and, in fact, however long or short your commute, you calculate it into your
workday or school day. Commuting time is, however, less structured and
disciplined than work or school, and even if it is not exactly leisure, there
is a sense of proximity to leisure, echoed in the advertisements colorfully
announcing events, products, and opportunities at every platform, train,
and station, and in the ubiquitous kiosks selling magazines, candy, snacks,
tea, coffee, and other sundries. It’s time to relax, and it also is not. Every-
thing conspires to assure that, even if commuters are not at work, they are
not at home, either.
Commuter trains generally operate at overcapacity, and schedules

11. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1984), 93.
12. Thomas Looser makes this point in “Superflat and the Layers of Image and History
in 1990s Japan,” in Mechademia 1: Emerging Worlds of Anime and Manga (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 92–101.

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tend to be highly routine, with commuters using the same train at the same
time each day, usually encountering the same people. The dictates of cour-
tesy are such that you do not address those whom you see on your train
day after day: you acknowledge their presence by not acknowledging it.
Similarly, while overcrowding means you may be pressed tightly, uncom-
fortably, against other commuters, the general comportment assures a
sense of contact without contact. Commuting demands, above all, tact—
ways of touching without contacting, seeing without recognizing, communi-
cating without speaking.
Tact might be described as an experience of distance in proximity. It
is not exactly that you ignore your body or retreat into it. There is a sense
of “mineness,” or self (not selfhood), that derives from your sense of bal-
ance and proprioception, of holding yourself together under conditions of
tilting, jostling, swaying, and moving, while becoming impervious to exter-
nal tactile cues. What is very close is placed at a distance, for touch has
been transformed: it comes to operate not as sensation or affection, which
places you in direct material contact with your surroundings, but as per-
ception, which constructs an experience of distance between you and what
lies at hand. The insignificant distances between bodies become experi-
enced as significant distances by turning sensation into perception, con-
tact into tact, skin into eyes and ears. What arises, then, at the level of sen-
sation and affect is an internal proprioceptive sense of selfness, attuned
to its world at the level of fine corporeal adjustments. Such a “molecular”
experience of the body also responds to the “molar” level of experience: to
repeat, this is not exactly leisure, not exactly work, which results in a mix-
ture of physical tension and relaxation. You may relax only insofar as you
sustain a certain degree of tension, of self-­vigilance. In effect, the molecu-
lar experience holds the molar experience of the subject in suspense.
The overall effect of these regimens of tact, then, is not generalized
politeness to others (courtesy is but one practical register) but a trans-
formed sense of self, in which the commuting body “reads” or “feels” the
train, its passengers, its stops and starts, its pressures and gaps: they are at
once out there in the world and in here, in the body. This molecular sense of
self brings into play a sense of distance-­in-­proximity, which might be reduc-
tively described as a protective bubble, formed through affective feedback.
This is why commuting, at a subjective level, often becomes construed in
such varied terms as loneliness and alienation, as well as autonomy and
freedom, but precisely under conditions of exposure to crowds, to urban
masses, in which what is at hand also feels to be at a great distance. While

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the bubble effect implies certain tendencies, it can lead in any number of
directions.

Doppler “Affect”

Signs asking commuters to switch their keitai to “manner mode”


(sometimes also called “public mode”) often appear in commuter trains.
Commuters are enjoined not to make or receive calls inside the train, to
avoid disturbing other commuters.13 Such manners reinforce the experi-
ence of contact without contact. Even speech is construed as a breach in
the regimen of tact, as if the voice would collapse the sense of distance
between passengers, physically contacting them. In the late 1990s, con-
cern also arose that electromagnetic waves from keitai could affect pace-
makers.14 In sum, the regimen of tact even extends to the molecular level.
With the use of mobile phones to make calls thus doubly conflated
with adverse physical contact (vocal and electromagnetic), texting becomes
all the more desirable. Not only is texting a sort of communicating with-
out speaking, and thus communicating without direct contact, but also, as
Jared Spool’s discussion of user interfaces reminds us, the touch screens
of mobile phones are not at all about touch, in the strong sense of actually
grasping things, feeling a contact, or using the finely tuned abilities of the
hand.15 It is digital “not in the sense of the manual, but in the sense of the
finger that counts. . . . The hand is reduced to a finger that presses on an
internal optical keyboard,” as Gilles Deleuze puts it.16 While the drumming
of thumbs on keitai to text messages may appear somewhat less austerely
digital than a single finger on a keyboard, there is also the delicate swipe of
a finger as it scrolls pages and hovers expectantly.
Keitai also provides a sense of disconnecting from your surround-
ings and operating in a personal space at the level of attention. Such atten-
tion is sustained or underwritten by the molecular commuter experience of
proprioceptive, internal “self-­touching” under conditions of oscillating ten-

13. Daisuke Okabe and Mizuko Ito, “Keitai in Public Transportation,” in Personal, Portable,
Pedestrian, 111–16.
14. Misa Matsuda, “Discourses of Keitai in Japan,” in Personal, Portable, Pedestrian,
25–26.
15. See Nora Spark’s CBC interview with usability expert Jared M. Spool, “Hands-­on Inter-
action,” accessed January 3, 2014, www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Spark/ID/2424372278/.
16. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith (Min-
neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 84–85.

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sion and relaxation coursing through the body, jostling, jolting, adjusting,
falling, catching oneself. This nervously energized, jittery, even irritable cor-
poreality appears as the dark precursor for an attention economy, like a
stream of bodily thought underlying the stream of consciousness. Yet the
tactful impulse to shrink from contact also finds an outlet: tactility is con-
densed and abstracted into a point, the tip of the restless digit that scrolls,
points, taps, and clinks.
The molecular commuter self can be intensified or amplified, raised
to another level, via keitai. A possibility appears: rather than subsume the
part within the whole, keitai amplification of commuting experience can also
make the part into a whole. An analogous effect often occurs in animation:
when the experience of commuting appears in animation, a sense of the
movement of the train is generated through an audiovisual stream. Lights,
and sometimes images, flash by the windows, their frequency shortening
as the train gathers speed, lengthening as it slows. Similarly, frequencies of
sound shorten and lengthen, producing a Doppler effect.
The zipping lights and images, together with the surging and pass-
ing sounds, impart a sense of the world pressing in yet not touching. The
Doppler effect thus inscribes effects of tactfulness in another register,
because it assures that whatever is approaching will soon be receding. It is
strange in that it places you in a ballistic, seemingly perilous environment
of things rushing at you, and yet you do not feel at risk, precisely because
as soon as you detect the lengthening of frequency, you know that what is
approaching will zip past you. In other words, if you hear the Doppler effect,
you are already safe.
Train scenes in animation play with audiovisual Doppler effects to
assure a sensation of safety amid the rush and roar of moving at speed
through the world. From the side of experience, then, it might be called
“Doppler affect,” for such effects carve out an experiential perspective (not
a subject position) in a world of movement, via an experience of the body
folded back on itself, as if in a sensory bubble. Indeed the “substance”
of the bubble is nothing but sensations. Doppler affect can thus amplify
the experience of the body tensed on the train to hold itself at a distance
from what touches it, generating an experience of the world deflecting and
inflecting around an audiovisual perspective.
Animation generally tends to enhance such effects, working with a
separate image layer for the visual stream that courses past the window,
as well as adding Doppler sound effects. Because commuter trains usually
run underground through tunnels, the visual stream consists of lights or

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luminous bands, rather than landscapes, which dance across the dark-
ened windows. The visual stream outside the window takes on an inten-
sity of light and color, which heightens the sense of its proximity, even as it
moves past the train. The result is an amplification of distance-­in-­proximity.
The first episode of RahXephon (dir. Izubuchi Yutaka, 2002) offers a prime
example.
The episode follows a young man, Kamina Ayato, as he begins his
day, setting out to meet a friend, taking the train to Ikebukuro to meet two
friends, and the three of them continuing on together. There are already
signs of something unusual afoot behind the scenes: people in dark suits
and dark glasses are trailing him. But the real twist occurs when the com-
muter train jumps the rails in a tunnel, screeching and grinding to a metallic
halt. As the three friends in a daze pull themselves to their feet, it seems
that the other commuters are all dead, the car littered with limp bodies.
Kamina forces open the door of the car, heads for the light and the end
of the tunnel, and as he steps into the world, discovers that it is a world
destroyed: Tokyo lies in ruins, and war is being waged. Nothing about such
a scenario is particularly surprising. In fact, the basic elements are so famil-
iar as to be cliché: an outing with friends, a shadowy organization trailing
the hero, and the abrupt transition to a highly militarized postapocalyptic
world in which aliens with comprehensible powers and motivations appear.
Precisely because this setup is a common one in anime, it provides insight
into how, in a general way, anime tends to amplify and extend the sensory
effects of commuting time.
The “luck” of the protagonist Kamina may seem to imply an implau-
sibly invulnerable position: those in pursuit do not catch him, he and his
friends emerge unharmed from a major train accident that kills hundreds,
and then he steps into a battlefield, yet none of the bombs or missiles or
explosions touch him. His invulnerability also sets up a familiar, entirely
impossible and ethically dubious situation: you can experience war and
apocalypse at close range and remain safe, miraculously unharmed. Yet
it is clear that showing the realities of war is not the central concern of this
anime series. In fact, as the setup of RahXephon indicates, the ballistic
sensory experience of the battlefield, with missiles screaming past the pro-
tagonist and explosions rocking the ground beneath his feet, is an ampli-
fication and extension of everyday commuter experience. As such, what
might appear initially to be exceptional (total war) is in fact the rule of daily
routine, and battlefield experience is not about a transition from peace to
war but about the “police”—in Jacques Rancière’s sense, a distribution of

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the sensible that regulates bodies without any need for police forces to
intervene with enforcement.17 If the ordinariness of war is a common trope
in anime, it is designed not to naturalize or glorify war (even if such a read-
ing is not ruled out) but to expose and explore the sensory police of urban
life. When Kamina exits the commuter train network, he now sees the world
as it really was all along, for its underlying reality is now revealed. In sum,
the apocalyptic scenario follows from and heightens sensory experience of
commuting time, at a couple of levels.
In a city like Tokyo, prone to earthquakes, fears of being crushed
or trapped underground are not surprising. A large number of anime and
manga imagine such scenarios. The reality of earthquakes in combination
with Tokyo’s extensive underground has made the experience of under-
going (and surviving) a citywide disaster (from earthquake to alien invasion)
within the commuter network a powerful scenario.
At another level, the sensory experience of commuting, if sustained,
introduces a sense of continuity, which allows the apocalypse to function as
revelation amid destruction. Again, the example of RahXephon is instructive:
as the three friends chatter happily in the train, a series of lights zip past the
windows, as part of the audiovisual Doppler effect associated with commut-
ing, at once imparting a sense of movement and enhancing the aura of the
safety and security of everyday life. As such, the points of light streaming
by feel like guardian spirits. They are not merely indicators of movement;
they are protectors of movement. They feel like entities in their own right,
counteracting the insinuation of threat embodied in the shadowy track-
ers. These streaming lights do not actually become characters, of course.
Instead, they serve to indicate an energized field around the protagonists,
revealed under conditions of movement. Similarly, after the war between
humans and the aliens (called Mū) escalates to nuclear warfare, the aliens
place the entire city and suburbs of Tokyo under a dome, called Jupiter
because its diaphanous swirling surface resembles the planet Jupiter. The
polis becomes conterminous with its police. Moreover, in keeping with the
experience of the temporality of commuting as different from both leisure
and work or school, time inside Tokyo Jupiter is dilated, which adds to the
temporal anomalies informing the central romance between Kamina and
a childhood friend Haruka, whom he does not recognize because she has
grown up outside the dome and has aged more rapidly.

17. Jacques Rancière develops this notion of the police across his works, but a good intro-
duction can be found in Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of
the Sensible (New York: Continuum, 2004).

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Lamarre / Japan Dossier / Living between Infrastructures 169

The Doppler affect that intensifies the affective bubble around the
pressured commuter is thus amplified and extended to other levels of experi-
ence. Yet the affective feedback turns out to be not so much a protective
bubble as a strange new kind of interface that situates the self and urban
life within the cosmic, transforming the urban into the planetary.18 Oddly
enough, then, the intensification of the commuting experience functions to
disconnect the self from the urban and to connect it to the planetary, to cos-
mic dimensions of experience. It is, above all, music that conveys this trans-
formation: the Mū attack with mecha called Dolem. Pilots control Dolems
by vocalizing with musical inflections, and the Dolems in turn attack with
songs that generate force waves capable of leveling large areas of the city.
This is sensory war, with cosmological overtones. Commuting time thus
turns out to entail exposure to the planetary, to cosmological dimensions
that already surge through daily life, in the form of energies, both electro-
magnetic and nervous, that sustain the network yet entail risk—reminiscent
of the waves from mobile phones reputed to affect pacemakers.
In RahXephon, the experience of commuting time is amplified
through recourse to another infrastructure: while this other infrastruc-
ture remains unidentified, the references to music and force waves evoke
broadcast, both radio and television. It does not evoke broadcast as pub-
lic sphere, however, but as energetic attacks, wavelike mobilization, and
sensory enclosure. In other words, the commuter experience in RahXe-
phon serves as a springboard for articulating an experience of the inten-
sive life happening between infrastructures, between commuter network
and broadcast system. RahXephon thus shifts attention to technological
others and media entities, and to forms of mass mobilization that entail
at once a politics of countermobilization (destroy the trains, destroy the
broadcast) and fascination. Its ethical trajectory neither addresses nor sup-
presses normativity and marginalization, but lingers instead on the forces
of destruction and creation that arise in the gaps between infrastructures,
between everyday modes of sensory mobilization. On the one hand, the
gaps between infrastructural existences take a toll on the human body,
for humans are forced, through sensory mobilization, to create new life
in those inhabitable, unbearable intervals. On the other hand, the affec-
tive powers of the human body, forced into existence through mobilization,
promise to provide a source for creative countermobilization, which RahXe-

18. I am indebted here to Christophe Thouny’s discussion of Henri Lefebvre’s notion of


the planetary in his dissertation, “‘Dwelling in Passing’: A Genealogy of Kon Wajirō’s 1929
New Guidebook to Greater Tōkyō” (New York University, August 2011).

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170 boundary 2 / August 2015

phon strives to locate through a tortuous story about the biotechnological


construction of human saviors.
Such a scenario invites a tentative thesis about what is happening
in the molecular experiences arising between media infrastructures: not
the destruction of everyday life but its ongoing transformation into what
Deleuze and Félix Guattari call anti-­production, entailing desire for the
maximum dissipation or expenditure of energies. They contend that it is
not capitalist production that serves as the primarily attractor for desire but
capitalist anti-­production, which is not opposed to production but rather
operates alongside it as its surface, offering a map of potentialities yet to
open, with experiences blocking the emergence of subjective processes.19
While it is tempting to think that a powerful new subject position might
appear to overthrow our insanely destructive capitalist regimes, the field
of anti-­production, so enlarged from living between infrastructures, churns
forth saviors and redeemers on a daily basis, forcing us to pose anew the
question of how we are to believe in this media world.

19. Félix Guattari, Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, trans. Rosemary Sheed
(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), 19.

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