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Too many words about Bottle Fairy
When I got to the last episode of Bottle Fairy things changed completely. The fairies received a magic star from the fairy world and were told that they could become human if they cast magic on the star.
They debate it; once the chips are down they're not all really sure they want to. But they finally decide to do it. They bid Sensei-san goodbye, because they expect to be separated from him once they change, and then as he watches they cast their spell.
And the transformation works! Well, sort of. "But there's only one!" says Sensei-san, and the girl looks around in surprise. Turns out that this one human body has the personalities of all four of the fairies inside.
And she's lost the ability to do magic. She can't convert back, for instance.
At different times, different ones of the fairies take over driving the body, and when they do her eyes change color to red, blue, yellow, or green. Their personalities come out very clearly. However, sometimes her eyes are gray.
Sensei-san tells her she can't go out, and then leaves for school. But in a classic (one might even say moldy) plot twist she notices that he forgot his lunch, so she decides she has to take it to him. She figures out how to get to his school on the train, and starts to look around for him. Because she's cute, various people take an interest in her and she gets invited to join various activities -- digging up dinosaur bones, playing baseball, and ultimately performing on stage in front of a crowd of young men -- and then finally gets back to her search for him. But she's pursued by lots of those men, who were taken with her, and gets frightened. Fortunately, she finds Sensei-san just in the nick of time and leaps on him for a big hug.
He thanks her for delivering his lunch to him, and invites her to join him. But when he opens it, it's ruined.
That's the last straw for her; she leans her head back and starts to cry inconsolably, and as she does she's engulfed in a magical glow. After it fades, she's gone.
Sensei-san sees that the fairies are back. The magic has been undone.
And they sneak out of the school, hidden in his book bag, as all the young men search for their idol-chan who no longer exists. The fairies muse that it's hard being a human, but it's also good. They'd like to try it again some time. Maybe later.
So what's wrong with this?
Because it suggests an entirely different way to look at the story. There's a young man we end up knowing as Sensei-san who has a younger sister who is crazy. He loves her and tries to care for her as best he can, in hopes that loving care will help her to get her act together.
Among her other problems: She seems to have lost her memory. She's delusional. She may be suffering from multiple personality disorder. She's a very sick girl.
There are four fairies, and they did come in bottles. But they came from a toy store, not from the fairy world. The girl plays with them and uses them as avatars to express different aspects of her personalities. Sensei-san tolerates this and talks to the fairies as a way of communicating to his sister when he's home. She wiggles them like puppets and talks through them, with a different voice for each, saying things she herself cannot say.
Tama-chan, the girl next door, may not really understand what's going on. She probably knows that the girl next door is a bit strange, but kids that age go with the flow, and playing with dolls that way is fun for a 7 year old girl. So she talks to the fairies and doesn't talk directly to the onee-chan who carries them around. They play together. (In the last episode, Tama-chan actually gets a little freaked out talking directly to the onee-chan.)
The room the fairies live in isn't Sensei-san's room, it's his sister's room. And the fairies' quest to become human is in fact her quest to try to regain her sanity, to reintegrate and to learn to deal with the human world in her own person. Sensei-san knows this; he's probably been briefed by her therapist about it, and that's why he gently encourages "the fairies" in their quest to "become human". It's the only hopeful sign in the midst of what is otherwise a terrible human tragedy.
In the last episode she actually comes close. She tries to reintegrate, but it isn't totally successful. And unfortunately, she tries to go out and interact with the human world without him or anyone else accompanying her. It's too much for her; she gives up and retreats back into her comfortable delusion. But she's willing to try again, some day; the "fairies" are still interested in becoming human -- though they'd rather become four humans instead of one, which is not a good sign.
The events of the series are shown to us through her eyes. What we are shown is how she sees things. That's why so much of it seems to be hallucinatory. When she is the fairies, we see the fairies but not her. When she finally becomes herself in the last episode, we finally get a look at her. But in reality she's always been there, and Sensei-san, her older brother, has always been able to see her. He's been playing along because he's trying, lovingly and gently, to help her to get better.
In the end it didn't work. She wasn't ready. She tried to do too much, too soon. But she'll probably make another try at it. I sure hope so; if she doesn't she's going to have to be institutionalized. Her brother can't take care of her forever.
That is the story I suddenly saw after I watched the last episode, and it's not as nice as the one I thought I was watching.
Not everyone is going to see it this way, and of those that do, many won't find it a particularly compelling explanation of the events in the series. But once I watched the last episode, everything that happened in the other 12 episodes changed completely for me. Instead of being a light, fluffy man-from-mars story making fun of modern Japanese society, it became a dark exploration of insanity. Instead of it being the story of four fairies trying to understand the human world, it became the story of a deeply disturbed girl trying to find herself, and of the older brother that loves her and is doing his best to help her and to care for her.
And because of that it stopped being fun.
UPDATE 20060406: Fledgling Otaku suggests that she's autistic. I can believe that. Of course, that interpretation doesn't make things any better.