Hey David! No, that was just fine. Glad it was of use to you.
Meant to write this when #6 came out, but I've been busy on my own writing. The day job can be quite draining.
Kabuki: The Alchemy #6: "The Empiricist's New Clothes"... Aw, David. You had me at the title.
"Transmitting electrical energy through the natural mediums" indeed. I defy you to concoct a better description of what "The Alchemy" has been to date. A piece of sequential art that brings new legitimacy to the oft-used term "mixed media" (in an age of MULTImedia, it would almost seem archaic) in crafting its own metalanguage to deliver, in a sense, inspirational fragmentation grenades... the best art looks at art itself even as it causes us to look within ourselves.
From Wikipedia: "In the 19th century, as mainstream alchemy evolved into modern chemistry, its mystic and Hermetic aspects became the focus of a modern spiritual alchemy, where material manipulations are viewed as mere symbols of spiritual transformations." Akemi is a force that transcends what would appear to be her place within the concrete reality of oppressive, corrupt governments and media manipulation (there's that term again) in order to galvanize the slow-burning flames of artists around the world. "The war of art," she says at the end of the volume, and this has never been more true in our own world, as well as the fictional one that Mack portrays so vibrantly. With the advent of the latest net-borne generation, growing up in a world that has grown eerily close to the one Mack laid out back in "Circle of Blood" so long ago, art has swung back under the radar and serves equally to provide escape and to provoke political action.
(For more research fun, take a look at the "kappa," the Japanese mythical figure that Ukiko disguises herself as during her work at Nohland!)
Ukiko wonders again in this issue if Akemi really exists, or if the identity marked by that simply-drawn smiley face is just a superstructure, or a meme, that infects and provides transformation. In many ways, she is reacting from her own position as a woman who has lived behind and through masks, and struggles with it still. Because the answer to Akemi's identity really doesn't matter at all - if anything, it's both. The originator, the creator, is never as important as its creation, and "the Akemi energy," as Ukiko calls it, is bigger than any of them - but there is still the woman(?) whom Ukiko met face to face, the one with whom she shared "a kiss before dying."
In Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta," the most infamous scene is a familiar one to Kabuki readers. Evey Hammond is left to rot in a cell as they pump her for information; and a toilet paper message from a woman named Valerie, who loved her unconditionally without ever seeing her face, gives her the strength to survive. When the prison is revealed to be a fake, a lesson from V, they argue and V reveals that Valerie was real, but shows that the message, that hope and love, is beyond even the brave woman who died loving a cell mate she never met. The transformation that "Akemi" brings to each person is beyond any one person, but it does not negate the former Paper Tiger, the former Tigerlily, with whom Ukiko has bonded on a personal level.
(Alan Moore has also talked at length on the concept of "Idea Space" as mentioned in this issue, though from a different angle. Kabuki fans would definitely enjoy the recently collected "A Disease of Language," collecting interviews with Moore along with the mixed-media work of Eddie Campbell, collecting Moore's spoken-word pieces. It's probably the closest comic work, in style, to "Kabuki" itself.)
Akemi tells Ukiko that when they meet next issue, she will not show up "in the form that you are used to." Let the speculation begin: will she appear as the Noh agent she replaced? Will she validate the hints from "Metamorphosis" and appear as a man? Or will she appear as something - or someone - else entirely?
On a personal level, I was certainly happy to see one of my favorite supporting characters return this issue. Ukiko's new roommate is a great counterpoint, and the way their quests are so similar, despite the differences in their "art forms," makes for a great look into the creative process. After the previous issues and their prepping us to begin work, David now talks about how to KEEP working, and how to keep energy and ideas coming.
"The trick, of course, is to walk around accepted limitations." As always, Mack's opus does that with zeal.