Thursday, July 2, 2009

外 vs. 他 outside vs. other

There is an interesting kanji use within the Japanese version of the game that particularly comes out in Atlantica. 他 and 外 both refer to alterity in some way, but do so slightly differently. 他 means additional, other, more, but all of these refer to something outside what exists. 外 more directly means outside and other. Part of the play of words is the difference between '外の世界' (the outside world) as it is longed for by Ariel, and '他の世界' (another world) as it is known to the player, Triton and Ursula. While the latter must be read as 'hoka no sekai' the former can be read either as 'hoka no sekai' or soto no sekai.' Thus, they can be homonyms, but their meanings are strikingly different.

Within the story the switch from 外 to 他 makes sense along lines of increased knowledge. The Atlantica situation is played out between Ariel's dreams to get above/outside of the sea (her world) and the greater knowledge that there is no outside reality, but there are different realities (worlds).

This is, of course, the same difference that happens with Riku, Sora and the player at the beginning of the game between when they yearn to get off their island and when they learn to travel between worlds. In these terms 'knowledge' is of the existence of other worlds, and 'power' is the ability to travel between them.

The true transnational subject is knowing and individually able to move between locales without difficulty be it 20th/21st century business elite, the Kingdom Hearts trans-world elite (Sora, Goofy, Donald, Sid, Gepetto, Mickey), and illegal syndicates that disrupt the order (both inside and outside the game). There is no outside, no foreign, there are simply other places. This would reproduce a standard view of globalization.

However, the Atlantica world also offers a reading about protectionism. Triton plays the role of protectionist sovereign power seeking to keep out the interfering foreign influence, specifically of the Key Bearer. He pushes away Sora and interferes in the initial attempt to close the keyhole due to his fear of the ruin and destruction wrought by the Key Bearer. For Triton, even though he knows the difference between 他 and 外, it is the latter that he fears.

Within a late 20th century milieu this role reproduces non-interference debates between countries. However, as Triton is shown admitting his need for Sora's interference (meddling, but not muddling) this protectionist side is displayed to be innefective within the world. Worrying about the foreign cannot/shouldn't happen within a global world as long as the trans-world entity legitimately exists (again, meddling, not muddling).

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