Friday’s Feature: Avoiding the Paradoxes of Time Travel or Plunging Headlong Into Them with Sagrada Reset

This post was written after watching the first three episodes of Sagrada Reset and while it discusses those episodes everything in this feature will be pure speculation and opinion. Keep in mind this post is not trying to tell you that Sagrada is an amazing, must watch anime given there are a lot of issues so far with it as an anime. It is however, looking at the premise of the show and how it is dealing with, or not dealing with, time travel.

And then episode 4 came out and a lot of my speculation has already been tossed out the window. On to the next lot of theories then, still, this was where I was after episode 3.

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Previously I wrote a feature article focussing on the use of time travel in Orange and essentially the fact that no matter how I looked at it, even if the mechanism they used for time travel worked, it made no sense that the future versions of a person would actually take the actions they took. As a result of how time travel played out I essentially found the basic premise of the show flawed because the character in the future assumed that changing the past would create a parallel timeline where her past self could experience the different version of her life while future self continued to live her current existence. There was no evidence to give the character confidence this was how time travel would work other than one off hand spur of the moment discussion by a science teacher back when she was in high school For all she knew she was undoing her entire future life and the life of her child.

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Essentially, while I like science fiction, and quite enjoy stories that use time travel as a mechanism, I find these stories tend to by and large fall apart once you step back and actually question the internal logic of them. Even Terminator makes very little sense given the AI has figured out how to travel through time and sends only one machine with a specific target rather than sending an army to hit multiple targets simultaneously. Assuming there’s an energy consumption reason behind that decision, taking out Sarah Connor is still a really pointless move. Even assuming John Connor never exists it is highly unlikely that no human would stand up in his absence. John Connor became the leader of the resistance, but if he hadn’t been there, someone else would have become the leader and maybe they would be more effective. Let’s be honest, if no one had ever tried to kill Sarah and then John, his childhood (assuming he existed at all given his father is technically also from the future) would have been completely useless at preparing him for the end of the world. Surely the AI is smart enough to draw these conclusions and to realise that given the machines seem to be winning in the future anyway, messing with that timeline is unlikely to tip things in the machines favour.

But none of that has anything to do with Sagrada Reset.

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To start with, Sagrada Reset is not using time travel. Nobody moves through time, the world is reset to a particular point (literally to a save point predetermined by Haruki). In the first episode she tells us that it changes nothing and no one can be saved because even she does not remember the reset until she tries to reset again to the same point (because clearly the same events would occur uninterrupted leading to the trigger that makes her want to reset) and she realises she can’t because each save point can only be used once and she can’t set a new save point within 24 hours of the old.

This made me interested in how this show would deal with time because it seemed like a neat way to avoid the usual time travel paradox  discussion without creating parallel worlds because she was literally destroying everything that had come after the save point and starting over to admittedly let events repeat themselves unhindered. This was more or less confirmed in episode three when we got this line from Kei who is the only character we know of who can remember events that have happened during the days that were reset:

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It’s an ugly way to put it but if the reset works the way Haruki has described then it is rather accurate. Meaning you are giving up the three days that have existed, erasing them from everyone’s memory, and starting over.

But then we have Kei who does remember what has happened and who shares that knowledge with Haruki in order to change events (although far more cautiously after the events of episode 2). All of this leaves the story open to be a fairly basic protagonist goes back three days to solve the mystery of the week kind of story without any further issues of concerns about the mechanism that allows that story to operate. This, by itself, would still be a fairly watchable premise and could even be entertaining if done well (though not particularly original – hardly a sin in the entertainment industry these days).

What got this show stuck in my head were the other complications and mysteries that have crept into the story or been hinted at. We’re only three episodes in and yet there’s an almost endless stream of questions and possibilities.

Episode 2 saw Kei use a reset for an almost trivial reason. I guess from his emotionally stunted point of view it made sense to approach the situation that way but from anyone else’s point of view it was a lame reason to ask the girl you just kissed to reset the entire world. As interesting a discussion as that might make as to the true nature of Kei’s character, what makes this moment more than just a minor blip in the story is that after the reset one major thing has changed and that leads to a character’s death (at least she’s reported as dead – let’s be honest, this is clearly setting up a mystery and the girl died off screen so there is every chance for a return later in the series with a faked her own death story). Putting aside conspiracy, she’s not dead, for just a short moment, this made me draw the conclusion that someone other than Kei must remember the reset and have intervened to change events.

However, another blogger (Marthaurion from Marth’s Anime Blog) had this to say in his review of episode 2:

It seems like the reset changed the timeline, but it also seems like…it didn’t?

Which of course made me question the original conclusion I’d drawn and I realised that both options were possible and weren’t actually mutually exclusive which raised even more possibilities further down the track, and none of that addressed the potential of the character not even being dead.

So let’s go back to how the reset works, or at least how it is explained which could be highly suspect anyway given if it worked the way Haruki describes why on earth would she even know she had the power because technically any memory of it should be wiped from her own mind.

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Now this is where I wish my Japanese was better to know how accurate a translation those subs are but the implication here is that if things are being rearranged to a past state there’s no guarantee that some mistakes won’t creep in to the reconstructed version of the world. Particularly when literally everyone and everything is being rearranged. It would seem very unnatural for it to fall perfectly back the way it started.

If we then assume the robot or android analogy they made in episode 1 was meant to be something more than a throw away thought bubble then we could see Haruki and her power essentially like the save function in a computer game. Save before you face the boss and should the battle go south reload and try again. In some games the boss will always repeat the same attack patterns allowing you to learn how to overcome it. This would be the way she describes her power working. However, in other games, while the boss will still attack you the sequence of attacks may not be exactly the same each time and you may even have a random encounter before you get to the boss fight that didn’t show up in the previous iteration.

So I guess that leads me to wonder if this story is leading us down the path of discussion about whether events are preordained (in which case they would repeat identically without interference) or whether they are more random (in which case even if the reset was perfect anything after the reset could potentially change though most people would be inclined to repeat their actions simply because without any change in the stimulus provided there would be little reason for them to react differently).

Meanwhile, none of this gets us any closer to knowing if there is another person who remembers the loops and is interfering or whether the power itself is something else altogether.

Now let’s go full conspiracy theory on this show just for the fun of it.

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My current working theory is that after the Bureau was confronted by Kei and forced to give up on securing Mari because the mother stayed behind, they somehow realised that Haruki and Kei were messing with time but weren’t sure exactly how, or maybe the figured it out but wanted some more details. The next time Kei and Haruki reset, the Bureau used its influence to make one critical change and removed Soma from the picture (either by killing her, convincing her to leave town and then faking the news story as her memory would be gone anyway, or because she was already working for them in her capacity as class rep – which incidentally explains how the Bureau knew about the power in the first place given Soma was the one who put Kei and Haruki together – they simply asked her to disappear). Possibly this was a field test to determine whether or not Haruki really was unable to reset the same period of time.

We then get a two year time leap where it is strongly implied that Kei and Haruki have used the reset and developed a working relationship, though Kei apparently isn’t keen on using the reset easily anymore, and now the Bureau is directly monitoring them through the creation of a club at their highschool and the known Bureau representative being the club advisor.

This time they seem to be testing the three days and the save points by setting up the ridiculous scenario with the run-over/kidnapped cat. Evidence for this includes the advisor knowing when the save points are and Kei reporting the use of a reset to him, the timeline for the cat getting killed and the request that Kei and Haruki help, the suspicious actions of the girl who requested help in the first time line where she’s following their investigation and then in the second where she’s clearly waiting for them to show up (thus confirming they travelled through time and thought something would happen at the bakery), and the advisor’s strange request that Kei not reset time until three days had passed even though they had a new save point.

And that’s a lovely theory that essentially the Bureau are orchestrating the whole thing in order to find a practical way they can utilise this combination ability of Kei and Haruki. The only issue is the hole in the wall thing that showed up in episode 3 at the moment won’t slot into that theory at all.

Basically, more information is needed. To be honest, I’m kind of going to have to finish this show at this point, no matter how bland the characters may be at times or how dialogue heavy the episodes may get while pacing continues to be hit and miss. I may end up really hating this story by the end, but right now I just need to know. Time travel without time travel. What kind of narrative paradox can you create?

If you’ve been watching Sagrada Reset, what do you think?


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14 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: Avoiding the Paradoxes of Time Travel or Plunging Headlong Into Them with Sagrada Reset

  1. After watching the first four episodes, I’m just down-right confused at this point. More things pop and tangle up my theories and concepts when it comes to everybody’s abilities.

    As far as I’ve understood, Sagrada Reset is basically just a wipe of all actions, events done in the three days. If you’ve watched the Disappearance of the Haruhi Suzumiya film, Kei Asai is in a similar situation with Kyon.

    Let’s say that Haruki takes the role of Nagato in this scenario. She has the power to wipe every action, event done – but in this case, only up to three days prior. This includes altering herself by wiping her memories of those three said days. Now Kei Asai can assume the role of Kyon, he still retains memory of the things he’s done during those three said days which gives him power to alter things.

    But then again, in the basic definitions of time, different actions trigger different things. Which explains why some things are different when Kei asked Haruki to reset and Kei tries to do some actions differently.

    Now on to Murase’s case: I really don’t understand her ability. She can somehow retain her previous position and not be affected by the resets? Somewhat similar to Kei but it’s more of a physical position rather than memory?

    Confusing. I’ve decided to drop it since I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to agree that the enjoyment in watching the show doesn’t come from watching, it comes from the discussion after watching which means as a show it has a few major issues. Still, curiosity is going to get the better of me for awhile yet so unless it becomes unwatchable I’m sticking it out just to see if they can actually answer anything in a satisfying manner.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really good post. I hadn’t checked it out yet but I knew I would at some point. I love time travel shows. Im currently keeping up with 3 of them. lol You have made me really curious to give this one a try so I’m gonna do my best to start it this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a really odd anime because there’s so many questionable choices with the delivery and yet there’s something about the concept that makes me unable to stop watching, or even consider stopping.

      Like

  3. phew, this is a monster of a post. thanks for the mention, though. i was actually considering writing on this topic myself (which probably isnt a surprise). the determinism conundrum is something i considered too when i first watched episode 2. i considered the possibility that the ending of episode 2 was meant to show us that the world wasn’t deterministic. it’s a theory that’s not totally far-fetched given the nature of Misora’s powers.

    if we accept that subatomic particles are capable of “random” states, then rebuilding a world in a previous state doesnt force the same events to happen. in fact, i would argue that it would almost require that different events happen. and it’s for that reason that i dont think that’s what is happening. resets are too clean, so im guessing the series is going with a more deterministic view. as such, im pretty sure that the events of episode 2 are meant to indicate that someone else, potentially Sumire herself, can interfere with the reset. the bureau may be involved, but it’s heavily implied that Sumire is the girl on the bridge in the first episode, which would suggest that it was her decision.

    and while it’s true that Misora’s power avoids the “paradox” problem of time travel by destroying the alternate world, it introduces a new problem entirely. how much of the universe does she reset? i could reasonably accept that she’s capable of resetting the planet, maybe even the solar system, but we don’t even know if the universe is necessarily finite. even if it is, it’s massive and the series expects me to believe she can perfectly recreate it in an instant? as ive said in my own posts on the show, i dont see any difference between “reverting” the world and “recreating” it other than the maybe giving yourself a philosophical “out” with Kei’s power.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to see you write a post on this. I had to after episode 3 because my review of that episode just grew out of control so I decided to move a lot of the speculation into this, even though after watching episode 4, I’m not having second thoughts (or third or fourth thoughts, maybe tenth, not sure where I’m up to on this).
      I was wondering if the reset affected the whole planet or just the town (given powers don’t seem to exist outside the town as far as the characters seem to know, but is that actually true given we as the audience have yet to have any actual proof of that shown). And then I started thinking if only the town kept getting reset what if Kei’s parents, who left, ever came back (you know, to see the son they left behind)? Would Kei be the right age or because he keeps getting reset would he be like 5 years younger than he should be?
      This show does my head in, but I’m still enjoying it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it’s hard to say, but they use a lot of world-specific terminology. i thought the same thing, but i find it hard to believe that it’s restricted to the town. mostly because it would mean that there have to be two copies of mari’s mother if that were the case (since she left in the first episode).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Now that’s a creepy thought.
          Still, its kind of convenient that these kids are told that if they leave they will forget all about their power. It kind of keeps them contained and unwilling to leave the Bureaus area of influence.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Me neither, it would be unnecessarily messy for the plot. The issue I’m having with this show is they haven’t really ruled anything out because at this point and time everything has been told to us rather than confirmed by any actual action. This kind of makes me want to start poking holes in everything.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve not seen any of Sagrada Reset, but i’m happy to recommend Primer as a time travel film. One of the things I liked about it was that the lead was so scared of changing anything after he travelled back that he went to great lengths to ensure that he didn’t make even the smallest change. You may find that one stands up a little better from a logic standpoint.

    Liked by 1 person

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