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El's Portrait and its Implications on the 4th Horizon

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Ghostie

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PostSubject: El's Portrait and its Implications on the 4th Horizon Thu Jan 29, 2015 11:13 pm#1

After making some very long posts covering a broad scope, I'd like to make shorter, more focused posts from now on. Keeping each post focused on one topic is probably a better idea, after all. However, I'm still going to attempt to be as clear as possible and be very detailed throughout!

This piece is going to focus primarily on the 4th Horizon, Elysion. I wrote a good deal about Elysion in my last post, and I will reference/build on it, but I also plan on reiterating the main ideas to be a bit more reader-friendly. In particular, this post is going to be about El's Portrait and how it furthers our understanding of Elysion and perhaps the very nature of Sound Horizon itself. As this is a pretty narrow focus, I can pinpoint the songs that will be analyzed in this post: Yaneura no Shoujo from Pico Magic Reloaded and Eru no Shouzou from Elysion.

Let's start with looking at the lyrics of both. From Yaneura no Shoujo (translations by Defade):

Quote :
The clock tells of midnight
The closed world of the girl eventually
Harbored god in left hand…the devil in right hand….
The madman who noticed a change
Tightened his grip on the girl’s neck as if his life depended upon it
“You’re making such a sad face…what’s wrong, papa?
I know…I’ll paint your happiness for you, papa.”
Within a dimly lit room, in a dust-covered attic is…
…a red canvas and empty paint tubes…

Yaneura no Shoujo, in many ways, can be seen as the "starting point" of Sound Horizon. After all, it is described as a song woven in the "horizon of zero" in ...Reloaded, a reference to how it was one of Revo's first works for his website. It is the original "attic girl" story in Sound Horizon, which is something to keep in mind. It tells the story of young Michele Malebranche who is locked in the attic with a white canvas and three colors of paint and minimal food for survival. It is the song where Michele Malebranche's "godlike" powers can first be seen, as it mentions how the girl can "go anywhere within the white canvas" and how she "harbored god in the left hand and the devil in the right hand". These are key lines that shape my understanding of Michele's role, which I detail more in other posts. Note that I'm not one of those who think Michele is everything and everyone ever and that's all there is to Sound Horizon, not at all. It's very easy to point to a character like Michele as the one true cause of everything ever, but there's a lot more to Sound Horizon than that and nothing should be ignored.

In the end of the song, the madman who locks up Michele (Joseph Malebranche, her father) notices a change in her and attempts to strangle her. Out of self-defense, Michele ends up killing her father. In a delirious state, Michele draws a portrait of "Papa's Happiness".

Now let's look at Eru no Shouzou:

Quote :
A boy with black eyes pass by, brushing against the wind
The road lined with icy trees; an abandoned mansion deep within the forest
The boy found a portrait of a girl
『He』fell in love with the white『her』to a morbid extent...
A signature in childish handwriting, the strangely twisted title was
【On the 8th birthday of my most beloved daughter, Elys...】

A boy stumbles on a portrait in an abandoned mansion titled "On the 8th birthday of my most beloved daughter, Elys". It is implied that the boy becomes Abyss, the character who is obsessed with the idea of El and searches for El throughout the album. Now, the point of this post might be obvious: to give evidence as to why the painting drawn by Michele at the end of Yaneura no Shoujo is El's Portrait from Elysion. This connection has been made before by others, however. I want to analyze the importance of this and the meaning behind it all from an angle that may not have necessarily been looked at before.

First of all, the portrait is found in an abandoned mansion. Michele is locked in an attic, and it's not much of a stretch to say this is also in a mansion considering we have other songs with the "locked in room of mansion" motif. It is signed off by childish handwriting, inferring that a child drew it. The song kind of deceives you into thinking otherwise, however, by its title--it seems to be made in the perspective of a father. When I first listened to Eru no Shouzou, I likened it to some sort of paradox--a boy sees a portrait, becomes obsessed with the idea of El, and then draws a portrait later on in some sort of paradoxical cycle. However, the fact that it's written in childish handwriting with a strangely twisted headline leads me to think otherwise now.

We have more evidence. If you look at the dates listed in Ori no Naka no Hana, there is an eight-year gap between "stage 1" and "stage 2", which you can interpret as meaning Michele is 8 years old when she kills her biological father. Even if you don't interpret this, Michele's age is commented on as an unusual case ("Many questioned how a girl of her age could kill"). It seems believable that she would be a girl of around 8 in the events of Yaneura no Shoujo. Lastly, let's take a look at a theoretical possibility of what El's Portrait would look like. I realize that this is from the live of Eru no Shouzou--not a canon source.



Although this isn't necessarily a canon depiction of El's portrait, you can easily see an important characteristic that doesn't depend on the live at all: it's made in three colors. A portrait of El would only require three colors to paint, and how many colors does Michele have in the attic? Three. Two big questions remain: the how and the why. It might seem a bit confusing as to how this shows up in Elysion, which seems to have no other connection to Michele's setting in Reloaded. It's said that in Ori no Naka no Hana that Michele's actions have the power to breach the boundary between reality and fantasy and this is a point repeated in several other songs. El's Portrait is an item that breaks the boundary between reality and fantasy and thus appears in the 4th Horizon Elysion. So far, all this evidence has been pointed out before and people have speculated that Michele's drawing is El's Portrait, but the most important questions remain: why does it matter, and what does it mean?

This is the part of the debate that is naturally more open-ended. How I interpret El's Portrait ties very closely to how I see Elysion as a whole: a huge escapist fantasy. I wrote a lot about this in my last post, so I will talk about how El's Portrait reaffirms my view of the release as a whole. In a delusional state, Michele draws the portrait under the motive of "Let me draw Papa's Happiness". Using this knowledge as well as how El's Portrait is described in Elysion, we can say that El, or Elys, is Michele's idea of her father's happiness: an 8 year old child who exemplifies idyllic innocence and purity--the part of Michele that is lost when she kills Joseph Malebranche. The rest of Elysion follows this idea.

It can be a bit complex to wrap your head around it. Basically, I see the character of El as a projection of Michele; in particular, an unconscious projection based on what she thinks would make her father happy--an ideal version of herself. This is why she draws El's Portrait, and how it satisfies her idea of "I'll draw Papa's Happiness". It becomes clear how Elysion, in its entirety, is a fantasy based on this premise. Instead of Michele's harsh reality of being locked in an attic by a cruel madman of a father, she now envisions a father in the form of Abyss who truly loves her, searches for her, even going to such lengths of becoming an assassin to get enough money to buy her a picture book for her birthday.

Elysion is such a complex work because of how twisted it is. Someone as fundamentally messed up and insane as Abyss is actually Michele's idea of an ideal father. However, this makes sense because these are ideas based on her own experiences and reality and her ego. She doesn't exactly have a "normal" idea of what a father should be like. We know that El is Abyss' ideal as well seeing how he searches for El through all the ABYSS songs (and you can make the argument that all of the ABYSS girls have different aspects of Michele/El, even). Ultimately, a key theme in Elysion is the loss of innocence due to sin. This is something that is an overarching element through all the ABYSS songs, as well as Majo to Lafrenze. It just all sort of fits together that El is a perfect version of Michele; a version that doesn't exist after she loses her innocence by killing her father. It parallels the location of Elysion, a paradise lost due to sin and becomes a wasteland where sin is essentially celebrated by the metaphorical Paradise Parade. El no Rakuen [Side: A] supports these ideas heavily.

In the end, we can make the argument that the entire idea of Elysion actually started off with El's Portrait, which was first introduced in Yaneura no Shoujo, the "starting point" of Sound Horizon. Its implications give us additional insight as to what Elysion is all about: a fantasy of endless escapism, a cycle of chasing ideals and falling short time and again, with the eventual coming to terms of its true name and nature--Abyss.

Thanks for reading, big credit to Maman once again for giving me the idea of how the Cage Trilogy connects with Elysion, and everyone who read my last post and liked the part about Elysion which motivated me to write all this. Thank you all!
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