Author Topic: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights  (Read 12719 times)

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Online Walter

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Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« on: August 16, 2015, 02:17:32 AM »
What do we know about Ubik?

As one of the five members of the God Hand, he's one of the most important characters in the series, and yet he remains quite a mystery. We even have more grounds to speak about Void and his abilities than Ubik.

If we had to nail him down to a particular characteristic, it would be the delight he exhibits in observing and dissecting human memories. After all, it’s Ubik who opens portals into human minds during ceremonies to show a human's “true self.” In Volume 12, Ubik calls these "windows into the reality within your conscious realm."







Beyond these clues, we haven’t been shown any explicit affinities. He seems to have a fascination with the human mind. I think that's probably his territory, among the God Hand. But I think recently, readers were given what could end up being a rather insightful look into Ubik's nature:



Of course, it's long been known that the enigmatic two-page spread in Episode 306 of Ubik's "arrival" following the birth of Fantasia was a reference to Hieronymus Bosch's surreal painting, "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Miura has professed to being a fan of Bosch's work, so it's no big surprise to see his most famous piece become an homage.

But recently, I began wondering about Miura's intentions with choosing such an striking painting, loaded with various symbology, as the setting for Ubik, a character we know next to nothing about.

So I looked into the painting a bit, and discovered some pretty cool stuff.



Bosch's painting is a triptych — a work of three panels. His intentions with the painting are not known, however as with many of his other works, the religious overtones are apparent. Among the popular interpretations is that it depicts a sequence of consequences of humanity indulging in sin, and the gradual separation of man from God and divinity.

When the panels are closed, there is an additional panel, that depicts what some believe to be the creation of the world (or the flooding of the world). Rather fitting for the timing of this reference by Miura.

When opened, the left panel depicts the Garden of Eden, and the introduction of Adam and Eve by God.

The middle and largest panel is where the painting's name is derived, depicting nude humans frolicking wildly with hybrid beasts and indulging in sensual pleasures.

Finally, the right and final panel depicts a fusion of aspects of hell and earth, repeating motifs from the first panels, but in a twisted setting. Men are being tortured by hybrid beasts, eaten and excreted, prodded driven and speared by musical instruments, having lost the freedom and pleasures of the previous panels. Unlike the other panels, this one is not in sunlight, but in darkness. The religious reading here is that this represents the ultimate consequence of man's transgressions into the sinful pleasures and opulence of the middle panel. That's quite a foreboding notion when you consider what Falconia represents.



But that's all merely the preface, because the portion referenced by Miura is largely the center of this third panel — the man with tree limbs for legs, with his broken eggshell ass housing people sitting at a table.

While Miura borrows the central elements here quite directly (note the figures circling the hat, almost perfectly represented), it's notable that it's not merely a carbon copy of the work, but a kind of animated interpretation of the scene being brought to his world. Contrasting the two, you can see the level of care and creativity he employed in unifying the scattered elements of Bosch's work, for his own purposes.

For example, he moves characters to the foreground that are elsewhere in Bosch's painting (creatures waving flags, blaring on horns and carrying weapons). And instead of the chaotic positioning of figures in the triptych, the creatures all move in unison toward the left, continuing the previous pages' visual narrative of the astral world's inhabitants coming into the physical world. The figures also don't retain the same expressions or articulations.

So in Miura's depiction, it is as if the creatures in Bosch's painting were suddenly brought to life and were urged in a direction.

Can we learn anything about this particular painting, when it comes to Ubik? I think so, because of the precedence established in other, similar scenes with the God Hand members and their surroundings.

The scenery where Conrad and Slan are depicted during this sequence complements their affinities. Slan is surrounded by a conglomeration of lustful bodies, in an almost vaginal cavern. Conrad’s face emerges from a multitude of rats, within which are skeletons, repeating the death and pestilence motif from his appearance in Volume 17. But what was so special about Episode 306 is that prior to then, Ubik had never received this kind of special spotlight in the series before.

While bereft of text, two passages in Volume 26 shed some light on these scenarios, and what we can learn from them.

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Schierke: Qliphoth creatures gravitate to similar od

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Slan: They're likely floating in their preferred sephira

This explains a bit of the creatures we see gathered in the scene Miura is depicting, and by reflection, a bit about Ubik himself.

Miura's panel shows surreal creatures marching — some solemn, some cheerful — carrying musical instruments, weapons, and tortured humans, which is of course largely the theme of the right panel of the triptych, the counterstroke to the indulgence of the middle panel. These creatures are hybrids of human faces and various animals, and their exaggerated shapes evoke a kind of madness.

So to me, Miura's interpretation of this historic painting serves a number of purposes. It connects Ubik with creatures from the human mind dedicated to torture, and it was a way for Miura to pay homage to Bosch — an artist he clearly respected and likely one of his chief inspirations for the hybrid concepts in Miura's prolific, bizarre, apostle and astral creature designs.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline ixupi

Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2015, 02:55:38 AM »
Interesting write up.  Though I interpreted Miura's choice of using the painting as Ubik's introduction to the world as indicative of his root meaning.  As you brought up and mentioned, his powers showcase his ability to be everywhere and all knowing, just like the derivative Latin word.  Ubik is everywhere and placing him in such a tucked away location (in a panel that represents Bosch's hell, fittingly) further emphasizes the all seeing eye vibe.  Even when you think he isn't watching, he is.  So far I've yet to see anything about the God Hand (save for Femto naturally) that helps me understand anything human about them.  But in a way, that is what makes them so interesting and maybe we will never know? 

Offline hearTes

Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2015, 02:58:40 AM »
Incredible interpretation.
Could you do something similar for Void?:void: Miura once gave us a hint while talking about the God Hand's plan in an interview and I believe it was 'Void', although I'm not sure whether he was referring to the character.

Online Walter

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2015, 12:10:31 PM »
As you brought up and mentioned, his powers showcase his ability to be everywhere and all knowing, just like the derivative Latin word.

Hm, that's interesting. But I don't think that's what his powers do. They simply allow him to show off fragments of time. It doesn't mean that Ubik is always watching everything. However, we do know the God Hand, by their nonphysical nature, and "existing everywhere and nowhere" (volume 18), they're afforded a kind of limited omniscience that we can't really explain, other than they are super powerful beings.

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  Ubik is everywhere and placing him in such a tucked away location (in a panel that represents Bosch's hell, fittingly) further emphasizes the all seeing eye vibe.  Even when you think he isn't watching, he is.

Really? I don't get that implication at all. Just because his name is likely derived from the Philip K. Dick novel doesn't mean that the character is intended to be ubiquitous.

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So far I've yet to see anything about the God Hand (save for Femto naturally) that helps me understand anything human about them.  But in a way, that is what makes them so interesting and maybe we will never know?

I think that makes sense, though. They gave up everything to become who they are now, and transcended humanity. They're basically aliens at this point.

Incredible interpretation.
Could you do something similar for Void?:void: Miura once gave us a hint while talking about the God Hand's plan in an interview and I believe it was 'Void', although I'm not sure whether he was referring to the character.


You mean the interview that was recently translated by Puella. He just implies Void is key to the God Hand's plans, but I can't exactly unpack that. Void's a pretty closed book, as he's supposed to be for now. There are already many threads connecting Void to the tortured wise man in Gaiseric's time (referenced in Volume 18 by Mozgus), so unfortunately, I don't have anything unique to bring to the table that hasn't already been talked about for the past 10+ years.

However, while working on this I did have an idea about the God Hand in general that I might develop over time.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline JMP

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2015, 03:26:28 PM »
Great thread! I really enjoyed reading it, thanks!  :guts:

If we had to nail him down to a particular characteristic, it would be the delight he exhibits in observing and dissecting human memories. After all, it’s Ubik who opens portals into human minds during ceremonies to show a human's “true self.” In Volume 12, Ubik calls these "windows into the reality within your conscious realm."
Good observations! Makes sense. Ubik knows what memories to exploit in order to push people over the brink into sacrificing. I hadn't really thought about that in conjunction with what it means about Ubik, though.

Beyond these clues, we haven’t been shown any explicit affinities. He seems to have a fascination with the human mind. I think that's probably his territory, among the God Hand. But I think recently, readers were given what could end up being a rather insightful look into Ubik's nature:
I didn't know that the two page spread of Ubik in his happy place was based on a painting, so I found all this really interesting. When I saw the picture in the manga it reminded me of something indicative of the sometimes bizarre realm of the subconscious, but I wasn't sure what to make of that exactly. It makes a lot more sense now and it's pretty cool that it may also have to do with the fate of Falconia, as you mentioned.

I feel like I got to understand Ubik a lot better now!  :ubik:
A good sword, even if it rusts and dulls, has good steel that never rusts left over in the wick. That steel's the ultimate steel. Even if it cracks, if you return it to the fire, it's sure to be reborn. - Godot

Offline Tripas

Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2015, 09:50:40 PM »
Finally, the right and final panel depicts a fusion of aspects of hell and earth, repeating motifs from the first panels, but in a twisted setting. Men are being tortured by hybrid beasts, eaten and excreted, prodded driven and speared by musical instruments, having lost the freedom and pleasures of the previous panels. Unlike the other panels, this one is not in sunlight, but in darkness. The religious reading here is that this represents the ultimate consequence of man's transgressions into the sinful pleasures and opulence of the middle panel. That's quite a foreboding notion when you consider what Falconia represents.

So Miura could be implying mankind's future in this sequence? It's a very interesting reading. I actually understood this scene as merely the representation of Ubik's nature, of what we got hints in the past: Mind/Imagination.

Indeed, it's obvious that Miura is a fan of Bosch's work, since this painting is really inspired and my favorite God Hand entrance after the arrival of Fantasia.

Offline ixupi

Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2015, 09:55:29 PM »
Hm, that's interesting. But I don't think that's what his powers do. They simply allow him to show off fragments of time. It doesn't mean that Ubik is always watching everything. However, we do know the God Hand, by their nonphysical nature, and "existing everywhere and nowhere" (volume 18), they're afforded a kind of limited omniscience that we can't really explain, other than they are super powerful beings.

Really? I don't get that implication at all. Just because his name is likely derived from the Philip K. Dick novel doesn't mean that the character is intended to be ubiquitous.

I think that makes sense, though. They gave up everything to become who they are now, and transcended humanity. They're basically aliens at this point.

I mean, it's entirely possible he just liked the name/novel, but I'd like to think Miura used the name Ubik because it conveyed something about the character but I suppose only he knows.  To me, his ability to show those memories, to pull things from a different time sort of solidifies his ability to "exist everywhere" which is very befitting of the name.  In the same way I think specifically using the Hell panel of Bosch's work was no coincidence.   

Agreed with the transcending humanity thing, though I think the nature of what actually defines a Godhand is still a very ambiguous thing.  Because Femto's rebirth into what is "Griffith" has seemed to show faint glimmers of humanity.  I would say despite his undeniable changes, it's not unlike how he was portrayed pre-eclipse.  You had chapter after chapter of what was an emotional void from him only to have these moments sneak in where he was very human.  I see a glimmer of that in the darkness when Rickert had his encounter.  I would either love Miura to retain their mysteriousness or dive into their origins.  These demons consist of warriors, nobility, hermits, etc. and I would love to see what potential was seen in the others to warrant them becoming a member of Godhand. 

I think the Godhand still probably have crumbs of humanity to show us, they just haven't had the proper showcasing yet due to plot demands.

Edit: By the way, thanks for the effort put into the write up, I enjoy reading these things to a great degree.

Online Walter

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2015, 12:40:08 AM »
So Miura could be implying mankind's future in this sequence? It's a very interesting reading.

There's not much doubt in my mind that somewhere out there in the wilderness of Fantasia that there are humans being tortured by these goofballs right now.  :ubik:

I mean, it's entirely possible he just liked the name/novel, but I'd like to think Miura used the name Ubik because it conveyed something about the character but I suppose only he knows.

We've already been given an indication of the God Hand's semi-omniscient knowledge, and it's related to the nature of their existence, not an explicit power only possessed by Ubik. Slan comments on this knowledge in the Qliphoth: "I felt you at all times... in the cave, at the tower, throughout countless nights, I felt all your passions."

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To me, his ability to show those memories, to pull things from a different time sort of solidifies his ability to "exist everywhere" which is very befitting of the name.

Again, Ubik himself doesn't have to exist everywhere at once to have knowledge that's greater than his personal experience with things. He's a demi-god, likely with many sources of information. That doesn't make him ubiquitous, merely very well informed. Also, he calls this "a portal in time and space," but what he's really doing is pulling from the memories of a specific person (The Count, Griffith) and sort of editing things together like a director's cut of people's worst days ever.

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  In the same way I think specifically using the Hell panel of Bosch's work was no coincidence.

Not sure I follow, but I'm interested  :daiba:

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Because Femto's rebirth into what is "Griffith" has seemed to show faint glimmers of humanity.  I would say despite his undeniable changes, it's not unlike how he was portrayed pre-eclipse.

I don't think he's shown anything genuinely human. He's feigned being a human while around humans many times, but when it comes right down to it, he's still got that dead-eyed Femto stare. I think that's the real him, and everything else is an act.

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  You had chapter* after chapter* of what was an emotional void from him only to have these moments sneak in where he was very human.

(*Episode) Plural moments? When...? Eating cake?  :griffnotevil:

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  I see a glimmer of that in the darkness when Rickert had his encounter.

Well, that's one. And it's pretty debatable what he was experiencing. Although I do think the slap provided an interesting stage for potentially catching a member of the God Hand "off guard," and we'd see what's at the core of their being through a reaction. But... Griffith's reaction was quite ambiguous.

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I would either love Miura to retain their mysteriousness or dive into their origins.

I think it would be unbalanced for us to get origin stories for apostles like the Count, Rochine and Ganishka, but not for characters as important as the God Hand.

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Edit: By the way, thanks for the effort put into the write up, I enjoy reading these things to a great degree.

Of course. Glad you enjoyed reading it. It's something I kept adding to over time. The trouble was in making it all make sense as one post.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline Delta Phi

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2015, 03:10:27 AM »
This is really fascinating, Walter. Something just sprung to mind while reading through the thread, and hopefully I'm not way off base here:

As you stated, the paintings show a sequence of events; a journey into sin, essentially. My proposed interpretation doesn't look at the application of "The Garden of Earthly Delights" as an analogy to Falconia's future (I realize you're not exactly justifying/defending this interpretation), but rather to the transformation of humans into apostles/god hand members, in which Ubik's plays a most important role. Just as Bosch's work shows the perversion of humanity, Ubik facilitates a ceremony that perverts humans into creatures of evil. In this shot of Ubik's "arrival", as you've denoted it, we are only shown elements of the third painting, which, to me, suggests it is the end destination of Ubik's goals, and his preferred state of being.

Hope I am communicating clearly. I'm kind of winging this and it's late.  :ganishka:

Offline ApostleBob

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2015, 02:23:35 PM »
I love these type of posts Walter!  Great analysis!

Offline DarkAdin

Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2015, 05:25:37 PM »
A really interesting post and a nice dissection. :ubik: I think that's pretty much all there is to get about Ubik, yet it's not much. After reading this I searched for some information about Hieronymus Bosch (in this land he's known as 'El Bosco'). His paintings are something else indeed in the realms of Heaven/Hell/Humanity, only close for me to the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri in the terms of representing those.
I agree with everything said here. It seems that Ubik's preferred scenario is one imbued with human suffering, looking at it as that moment when emotions like agony, pain, anger, etc are truly expressed. All your information explains why he's the one who shows humans their true self, their memories, carefully chosen to be the ones that awaken in their minds the strongest emotions, pushing the individual to the limit so they make the sacrifice. I think I'm not wrong if I call him the God Hand's manipulator.
Knowing this we could even debate about what was his role back when he was on the physical world, as a mere human... Maybe a torturer?...
After failure, even the best plan seems stupid.

Online Walter

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2015, 05:46:16 PM »
I think that's pretty much all there is to get about Ubik, yet it's not much.

Well, it's not much for now. But I feel confident we'll learn quite a bit more about each member.

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It seems that Ubik's preferred scenario is one imbued with human suffering, looking at it as that moment when emotions like agony, pain, anger, etc are truly expressed. All your information explains why he's the one who shows humans their true self, their memories, carefully chosen to be the ones that awaken in their minds the strongest emotions, pushing the individual to the limit so they make the sacrifice.

Damned good insight.

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I think I'm not wrong if I call him the God Hand's manipulator.

I don't know. Every God Hand participated a bit in bringing both the Count and Griffith to the point of sacrifice.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline Arvin

Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2015, 08:36:14 PM »
I think I may have found something that sheds additional light into Ubik's design and nature too, although perhaps not directly related to how it connects into this depiction of Ubik in the Bosch inspired page spread.
The other day, while surfing through various things I found myself in a youkai wikia. Among many of these curious creatures that figure in japanese folklore, there is this one called the Amanojaku.

When I read the desciption I became excited because the similarities in concept appear close if not obvious enough I'd say: the Amanojaku is an Oni, a demon-like creature, in this case often depicted having a small size or being small bodied; and as the various wikias tell, having the trait of provoking a person's 'darkest desire' in order to instigate them into perpetrating wicked deeds. This second trait in particular is uncannily similar to what seems to be Ubik's role in the occultation ceremonies we have seen, through his particular ability to peek into the 'reality within  one's consciousness'.

More than that, in some tales like the one in Urikohime (瓜子姫?, "melon princess" quoted from the wiki)  the Amanojaku is also told to impersonate other people, sometimes wearing their flayed skin. This also bears similarity to how Ubik disguised himself as the old lady in Griffith's 'conscious reality', while pointing to the castle of Griffith's dream and all the evil deeds necessary in order to reach that castle, like mounting a 'pathway of corpses' to it with the people who followed him.

Here's some pictures of stone statues of the Amanojaku:


Noma-taibo Amanojaku.

A link to another statue, this time from a garden in Okayama it seems (the pic was a bit too big).

Although not always being portrayed with the same appearance, it's interesting how some of these depictions point to a demon-like figure of diminutive stature and somewhat similar posture or mannerism, much like our Godhand Ubik.

There's also this portrait which I couldn't trace the origin so far (might be from another manga), which reminds me in particular of Ubik's and Conrad's disguise as the old lady in Griffith's vision during the Eclipse.





Also something I found quite interesting is that in buddhist statues and depictions the Amanojaku is also often shown being trampled or subdued by the Shitennō or Four Heavenly Kings. Well... we also do have our own version of the four kings in the 'Four Kings of the World' in the Berserk universe, namely the elemental kings summoned by Schierke and Farnese for protection. Could this perhaps point and illustrate to the fate or future of Ubik's demise, being subdued by the 'Four Kings of the World' to mirror the buddhist image?



--

If the Amanojaku is indeed one of the source inspirations to Ubik's design or concept (among with other sources like the clear Hellraiser's facial look), I think it could help us approach a bit more to Ubik's nature. I had a couple theories myself, but if the folklore and mythology cues are to be more reliable, I'd presently say that Ubik's affinity would lie in trickery, sin (or the sin that comes with tricking or being tricked) and the realization of self darkness after the sin is commited. Actually more than reaching to something new, it seems to reinforce what some probably already believed or observed from Ubik's actions in the story.

I think these premises seem to relate well with the religious themes of Hieronymus Bosch's painting, as Walter competently brings and points out in this topic. Now to try and make further connections, one thought that occurred to me is that like in the fairytale of the "Melon Princess" where the Amanojaku manages to enter the house of the girl who was being sheltered from the outside world (which could bear resemblance to the use of the house-egg for the people inside in Miura's use of Bosch's imagery), Ubik is similarly shown within, or rather, infiltrated in the egg-house among its residents.

One possible reading on the context of Fantasia and the flooding on episode 306 with this possible allegory, to complement what was already brought by Walter is that not only will the evil flood towards the world when Fantasia occurs, but nowhere will be safe from evil's reach.

I'm kinda being florished with theories and ideas right now, and I'm finding there might be other leads from stories relating to Amanojaku and its possible connection to Ubik. I will let these sink in too and hopefully post what else I find later.

Online Walter

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2015, 02:32:23 AM »
having the trait of provoking a person's 'darkest desire' in order to instigate them into perpetrating wicked deeds.
...
 the Amanojaku is also told to impersonate other people, sometimes wearing their flayed skin. This also bears similarity to how Ubik disguised himself as the old lady in Griffith's 'conscious reality', while pointing to the castle of Griffith's dream and all the evil deeds necessary in order to reach that castle, like mounting a 'pathway of corpses' to it with the people who followed him.


Wow! Very cool find. I'm always a little skeptical of tying ancient cultural mythology to Berserk because the older the legends go, the more fragmented their actual meaning is. The centuries have piled all sorts of traits and beliefs onto these kinds of demons / gods. And these all get threaded into a single entry on sites like wikipedia, so it's easy to see connections when there may not be any.

All that being said, it sounds feasible!

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Although not always being portrayed with the same appearance,

They never are  :guts:

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There's also this portrait which I couldn't trace the origin so far (might be from another manga), which reminds me in particular of Ubik's and Conrad's disguise as the old lady in Griffith's vision during the Eclipse.

Just to clarify, was this an image of a "amanojaku" or just a disguise in general?

Quote
Also something I found quite interesting is that in buddhist statues and depictions the Amanojaku is also often shown being trampled or subdued by the Shitennō or Four Heavenly Kings. Well... we also do have our own version of the four kings in the 'Four Kings of the World' in the Berserk universe, namely the elemental kings summoned by Schierke and Farnese for protection. Could this perhaps point and illustrate to the fate or future of Ubik's demise, being subdued by the 'Four Kings of the World' to mirror the buddhist image?

Probably not  :ubik:

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One possible reading on the context of Fantasia and the flooding on episode 306 with this possible allegory, to complement what was already brought by Walter is that not only will the evil flood towards the world when Fantasia occurs, but nowhere will be safe from evil's reach.

I like it.

:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline N7Paladin

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2015, 06:37:19 AM »
Wow, I never even noticed Ubik in that picture when I was reading through Volume 34. I come into this thread to find a whole wealth of information I was previously ignorant to, thanks for the info and insight into all this everyone.  :ubik:

Offline JMP

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Re: Ubik and the Garden of Earthly Delights
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2015, 02:41:37 PM »
Interesting, Arvin!  :guts:
A good sword, even if it rusts and dulls, has good steel that never rusts left over in the wick. That steel's the ultimate steel. Even if it cracks, if you return it to the fire, it's sure to be reborn. - Godot