The Power of Hope in Shinji Ishii’s “Lulu”: Optimism’s Influence on a Dejected Reality

Optimism has an enduring and lasting power over the shape and course of reality. Shinjii Ishii’s heartwarming “Lulu” not only bolsters this idea, but composes a conviction that the power of hope and positivity can materialize not only metaphorically but also to change the concreteness of the order of things. Lulu is thus a manifestation of the hopes and dreams of the 32 children in the ward, but she is also used as a coping mechanism in order to form a barrier between the disastrous events and the very souls and innocence of the children. Her existence is irrelevant, yet her presence within the hearts and minds of the children “is ringing true only to themselves” which in turn gives her significance. In essence, the overarching theme of the story remains that optimism is a much needed resource to overcome adversity and can materialize with the aid of imagination, yet this is not true to all as some which are deeply affected might need this manifestation to continue their lives. This is exhibited by the eccentric and ambiguous imagery displayed throughout the story, the fact that the first part of the story is written from Lulu’s point of view, and her relationship with the lunch lady.

Shinji’s imagery of Lulu’s plunging into the darkness to pull the children out is indicative of an optimism produced to uplift morale by absorbing the horrid physical and emotional pain they experienced. These “pits” signify the affliction and sorrow, and even post-traumatic depression the children were pushed into, especially because of the rather macabre way they are described as holes filled with pure nothingness.Lulu willingly throws herself into the void of the children’s souls, yet she no longer exists but rather an “effigy of her body” remains in her place. In fact, her body becomes hideously morphed in taking on the pain from the children., only to imply that the constant changes in their imagination and their own soul are having an affect unto their imagination and their positive outlook. Thus, she becomes a “translucent” figure , similar to the women she observe carefully in the beginning of the story. Also, she becomes an angelic ghost, similar to the women, through the molding of her body due to the fact that she threw herself in the pernicious memories of the children. In two particular instances, at the end of both parts, the beautiful imagery of the meadow is shown as a heavenly sanctuary for Lulu as imagined by all 32 children and later adults. This is a rather idealized form of purity which is meant to imply simple imagination and its power over the children’s livelihood. In fact, this is the other end of the spectrum, the exact polar opposites of Shinjii’s hellish descriptions of the children’ “darkness”. This contrast promotes the idea that Lulu’s role for the children is in fact a binary one, not only to keep positive thoughts but also to keep negativity away. Yet her role, took on a form of itself, exhibiting its own life and continuity.

The fact that the story is written from Lulu’s point of view implies quite boldly that the children’s optimism and imagination materialized Lulu to give her a soul, a presence and even consciousness, which gave her the power to mold reality from the collective of the children. This is best exhibited by the fact that she had the physical ability to lick and touch the children, which was remembered quite distinctly by the five special cases. The fact that they were the only ones to feel this shows that their great need for optimism became so fierce that it manifested itself upon them physically to quench their thirst for it. On the other hand, the other children only remember the idea of Lulu, but did not see Lulu as an important aspect of their stay at the ward. Shinji’s reason for this type narration remains ambiguous, but it is obvious that by doing so he gives Lulu some sort of metaphoric existence, which promotes the thematic aspect of optimism and imagination. More precisely, the way by which Lulu sees the world is just as limited as the children’s, yet interestingly she seems to have a mature thought process. For instance, Lulu’s world seem to revolve around the ward and the lunch lady, thus nothing else seems important except in that momentary presence, in the same way the children probably felt. All she was aware of, is what the children were aware of ­their surroundings and their own emotions. This is probably best shown by the way the children’s own relationship with the ward lunch lady, which is described as kind, is brought to light through the presence of Lulu.

Lulu’s relationship with the lunch lady, although odd, promotes the idea that charitable function is the most important aspect of imagination, but also denotes the childrens’ relationship with the lunch lady as one of cogent kindness. Lulu herself, mentions that she wanted to be like the lunch lady, and the fact that she was saving the children would make the lunch lady rejoice and “laugh from the deep of her heart”. Thus, Lulu wants to reciprocate the love and care she received from the lunch lady, and pass it on to the children. It would not be wrong to argue that perhaps Lulu acts as a medium between the kindness of the lunch lady and the children, which put a stamp on the hearts of the children. Lulu’s “flow” and “warmth” of the food in the aluminum bowl and the descriptive imagery that followed was all imagined by Lulu while she was saving a child from the pain of the darkness. This is evidence that Lulu might be an extension of the lunch lady unto the children’s own imagination. If this may be the case, the important thing remains that it shows the manner in which the children’s imagination materialized this relationship to mirror their relationship to the one adult in the ward which is actually described in detail. All in all, this implies that a materialization of optimism does not have to by necessarily physical but can also be one of abstractions such as love and kindness. For example, Lulu’s presence is a denotation both of the physical, the emotional, and the abstractions in life­ which is why her actual existence is not important to the story.

Overall, “Lulu” displays a theme which endeavors to promote the power of optimism and imagination on the soul of human beings, not to physically change the manner of things, but be able to alter the way they view their own reality, in a more positive light. Primarily, Lulu is not only manifestation of this idealized positivism but she is also the agent of its advancement, as perceived by the children. Yet, her overwhelming power becomes the only coping mechanism for the 5 children, which instills an instance of tragedy. It is for this reason why Lulu was only ringing true to themselves”.



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