Nagaru Tanigawa Time Travel Thought Piece translation

In the October 2009 edition of “The Sneaker” magazine, Haruhi Suzumiya author Nagaru Tanigawa wrote a piece called “A Study in August” which related to the time loop arc known as “Endless Eight” which was ongoing in the 2009 anime edition of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It was later re-printed in the Haruhi novel fanbook in June 2011. Here is a translation of that piece.

We should start with a definition of a “Time loop.” Time, as well as space, has looped around, or in other words “gone on a rampage and returned back to a starting point.” This work contains that story element inside of it. Let’s be even more direct: time begins at a point we’ll call A and moves towards the future to a point that we’ll call B. Instead of moving to B, the entire world itself in the story moves back towards A.

However, I must confess that there are some serious contradictions in this “time loop” definition.

First and foremost, we have to figure out if this is a “phenomenon limited only to our characters in the world” or is it that “everyone in the world is forcibly looped between the same time and space”. They’re somewhat similar, yet different in execution.

In regards to the looping stories and how it affects the world, the difference between the two can be summed up in one sentence. However, it’s a bit difficult to understand, so we’ll talk about that later.

So when one uses this theme of time, more specifically a time loop, we on the outside look at it as more like a science-fiction phenomenon that we’ve seen before.

Either one of the two definitions that I mentioned can be summed in a phrase that is easy to understand. What’s called a removal from time can easily be thought of as “time travelling.”

When one person time travels (and only that one) to a time in the past, then perhaps we can say that, with the exception of that person, time itself has looped. As soon as that person arrives, then time should move according to that person’s memories. Of course, if time doesn’t move according to that person’s memories, then we should be able to assume that the act of time travelling changed history. That would bring up a different theme: the one we call a time paradox.

Therefore we should begin to think of a time loop story as simply time travelling. However, there aren’t many stories that involve time looping. But we all should have experienced something along those lines. Think about hitting the reset button on a console or computer game. It’s not quite the same since life doesn’t contain a reset button that anyone could hit, but it’s an apt comparison.

Needless to say, all of our playing time erases when we hit the reset button. Thus we have to continue playing from where we left off after triggering a save point. Thus, to our player character, it won’t appear as if time has looped. As we reset, the memories of that character disappear and again they encounter points for the first time. Conversely, we control that character through events that we’ve seen before, thus we see the loop while our character can’t.

However if we reset and load and our character retains those memories, then it is as if that character has time traveled and is puzzled as to why they have done so. Thus while they are confused, it is we, the player, who know the reality of the resetting.

So I bring this up because unless we have an observer’s point-of-view, there is no way for us to tell if time has looped or not. In short, the game (or world) can loop and we will never know if it happened. Excluding rare cases of course.

“What about in those rare cases you mentioned?”

“Let’s think of an example. Let’s say we are in a virtual reality that is different than our own. As an inhabitant of that world, our senses are limited to that world. Even though it is a reality that we have created, we are still no more than one part of that world. Thusly, it’s not out of the possibilities to think that one would think of that as a real world.  They wouldn’t think that world has been reset at all.”

“In that situation, how would they perceive the true reality?”

“It’s simple: they can’t. It’s just their lives there.”

“What about our lives?”

“That should go without saying. Only if we remove ourselves from this world will we know the truth. Take a look here.”

We’ll continue with our game example, but this time a lot of people know that time is looping. They’ll continue their scenario again and again as time permits until one time it’s different and they reach the conclusion. Our player characters don’t know how many times it took until we reach the true ending, except in rare cases as I mentioned before. Even though all of the characters in the world reach that ending, we only play as one character, thus we can believe that there is only one true ending. The only reason we know that is true is by staying by our person. We simply know that we’ll repeat that same procedure again and again. But that one ending may not be true in life or stories. There are multiple versions and as such, different player characters may not all end the same.

That is the biggest question in a world with a time loop. It’s the real question.

For inhabitants of a time looping world, they will cease to be at every loop minus the last one. So which direction do they go in?

Let us think about time travelling again. First it is necessary that we state the specifics of what type of time travel we talk about. Let’s set up the three different types of time travel that we can broadly define. In our story, Person A will travel back around three days. The first type of travel:

A travels back three days and meets that time period’s version of themselves.

This isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Considering that A would typically follow their typical routine, it’d be natural for them to meet somewhere. Our question would be if history is changed due to the two As meeting. The A from three days ago didn’t meet a version of themselves and thus history becomes changed due that simple action. Unfortunately going further down that line of thought brings about time paradoxes.

And such the second type:

A travels back three days and replaces that time period’s version of themselves.

This has to be under special conditions. For that to happen, the three day old version of A has to disappear somehow we won’t know about. A would be acting as usual and then at a point in time the three day old version of A would be erased. After that, our version of A would be the only A in existence. Using this in a story has no problems with consistency or time paradoxes.

The third type has some special characteristics:

A travels back three days and merges bodies with that time period’s version of themselves.

Somewhat similar to the second type mentioned, but unlike that type, only the mind of A is sent backwards.  The mind of Past A and Future A meet and at that time they unite in Past A’s head.  Regardless of whichever one is stronger, both form in one whole because until three days ago, they were the same exact person. This becomes unrelated to any time paradoxes now. Three days is a long span, but this method could be used for a story when A (16) wants to redo their life and travels back to A (infant).

And so those are the three types of traveling that we can recognize. Type one is the only one that we can say triggers a time paradox as the point in time for two and three is instantly changed when the time travel occurs.

There’s no problem with the world moving forward in the second type. With the exception of A, the world is the exact same as it was three days ago and thus can slowly progress forward (though not to the exact same point as in the original world). Thus there are no contradictions. The only differences are dependent upon what the different A chooses to do.

The third type is a perfect “reset and loop.” Once A moves backwards the entire world is liable to change as if it is reset; yet A’s memories may be the only thing not reset as a condition of the time travel theme.  If that is the case, then it wouldn’t be too much to say that this is a normal time looping pattern. Outside of A’s memories being present or not, the world would not be affected by the time travel and thus continue to loop.

Thus we can see that time travelling isn’t individualistic; it goes around and can affect the whole world. So we can conclude from that theory that time travel isn’t always equal to time looping.

Again, let’s refer back to the game example.

In a game it is possible to reset, especially when the game has multiple endings and different scenarios. In that case, every time a character changes paths, then the world branches off.  In those situations, the other characters may not be relevant anymore.  That’s due to their world being erased every time the world is rest and replayed again.

When thinking about these situations, quantum physics may be the best thing to use since this reality is full of variables we know nothing about. That is why those theories came about. Quantum physics should have an explanation for these situations, but because the details are so varied, it may be best for someone to first Google the basics.

Light and wave in the form of particles have many special properties. In addition, there is a strange occurrence when you remove wave forms. You’ll get a strange duality where you have removed particles, yet you can still bump into something. And so we observe that light operates like waves sometimes just like particles can act like waves.

Then in what state is there light when nothing else is observed? That answer depends when you ask it like that. It’s difficult to say exactly where waves and particles are exactly. In other words, only when we steady either of those, we can determine if they are light, elements, atoms, electrons, or any other micro molecule. We ourselves can be condensed down into gatherings of small particles. Thus we too share that uncertainty that light has.

I won’t go into the rest of the details, but let’s move forward to that famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment. First he prepared a box where light could not shine through and installed poison gas equipment inside of it as well as three cats to place inside. He found that after thirty seconds of poison gas being pumped inside, anything had a 50% chance of living. So he tossed a cat inside and let thirty seconds pass by. At that time, was the cat alive or dead?

Unless we open the box, we’re not able to say if the cat is alive or dead. The cat is in a big state of uncertainty where there’s a 50% chance of the cat living or dying. One could say the cat is half dead. However, if we could have light pass through and move any subatomic particles away with some force, we’d still see that the cat isn’t moving and is still in a life-or-death situation because the box hasn’t opened. It’s somewhat amusing to think about it. This situation requires quantum physics to theorize and as such I ask that you please look up the basics before going into further details.

Forcibly, I have to move onward.

Neither life or death can be decided until we open the lid. Both outcomes are still linked. This poor cat should be in a reality like our game we talked about earlier.

“In a case where characters are in a fictional world that is looping, outside of the final loop, will they live or will they die?”

For that question here is my answer: “They will continue to live on, but when the final loop is decided, they will disappear.”

I would explain it as though until the final loop occurs in a world that has looped however many times, the current state simply superimposes itself over past loops and thus everything is still moving about like waves. Once the final loop occurs, the particles become fixed and stable. This is related to the “Copenhagen interpretation” in quantum physics. As for what that interpretation means..(rest omitted)

So for the world’s potential to have a choice only occurs when there is someone watching is somewhat beautiful. Think about it; in nature, we only know things occur because someone took the task of observing it to happen. Everyone is speculating as to what happens in life, particularly authors and similar roles who are already processing information through their cranium. Inside their heads are waves flowing with the possibilities of stories that may never exist until they are down as letters or images.

But this is naturally good for us. Out of infinite choices, only the best come out. Anyone would guess that this is far from being a mistake, but…

But the characters in a story world are simply waves. Their intentions as well, regardless of the character, are actually manipulated by outside observers and their own intentions.

For them, in their world that is looping, there is only one reality each time it loops. There are parallel timeline that span throughout the same time-space yet they are not aware nor perceive them. It’s just like how we cannot perceive a parallel world to ours.

For example, let us say that we reset that world. The people inside it see no changes to their unique reality.  In order to solve that situation, we must become the player, or in other words, press the reset button. Then all of that world can start over again without any mistakes. But if we make a mistake, we can leave the characters in that world behind forever and move on. If we don’t assume that the world diverges from that point and a new world superimposes on that one, then the world that contains those mistakes is still a reality. Perhaps the characters in that world may feel as though they were miserably cursed by God as they say farewell to their lives.

Worlds remaining separate and not coming together is part of the multiple worlds portion of quantum physics. It’s the kind of logic that assumes that after every choice we make another world and another timeline is split off. The explanation behind multiple worlds is (excluded) but can be explained by an example of playing the lottery. The possibility of winning is quite low, but the chances can be infinite. Among the worlds that diverge from your choice, in one you must have the winning ticket. However, you miss in the remaining worlds. While it’s disconnected, you may be able to experience going to that diverged world and as such you play with those happy feelings in mind.

Incidentally, I’ve not won the lottery. Or rather I should say that this version of myself only remembers the discomfort of losing. Somewhere there may be a parallel world where I am not remembering that discomfort and am living peacefully, yet I don’t antagonize over it. Though there remains a possibility that the me now and the me in that world may replace each other, it would only be a story.

And so it has become necessary for me to slowly conclude this inquiry on the remaining pieces of paper I have left. I think I’ll make a list of points I’ve made in this long thought experiment and then conclude.

  • Time loops cannot break out of a time paradox
  • Only an observer can tell the difference between time travel and time loops.
  • Rather than narrative demands, the destiny of characters depends on the creator or player. In that scenario, the characters have the right to rebel against those beings.
  • Einstein and quantum physics weren’t able to hit it off (For details Google EPR paradox)
  • This inquiry is simply myself raising questions and should in no means be seen as the conclusion. This is only my own neural discharges and as such I am happy if anyone points out differences or where I have made mistakes.

Finally, the majority of people think that the diverging worlds reality question is not true and can only be in fiction or some other literary work. To be frank, I agree with that assumption from what I have researched under the multiple worlds theory unless we have made a mistake in our methods.

As for the cat placed in a box experiment, both possibilities exist for a living cat or a dead cat. The fact is that we cannot observe a living cat and a dead cat at the same time.  Or shall I say that we cannot see a cat that is 50% alive.

The reply is simple from the multiple worlds theory. The worlds have split and we are not observers able to see the cat. At the very moment we open the box and see a living cat or a dead cat, the divergence has finished. Therefore we can say that in order to see the cat’s actual state, we diverge the world itself. It’s not possible for us to see both a living cat and a dead cat, so at that point in time the world moves down a particular route. We are not able to observe the state of the cat outside of that point in time in this world.

If you have come to a crossroads before and chosen one path, it is not possible for you to return to those crossroads in the past and choose a different path. That is because a different you has already gone down that path.

As humans, we forget things frequently. Therefore if you remember one thing in this story, remember to swim. Those who swim and enjoy it tend to win. So thank you all for reading these poor sentences and becoming confused. See you again.

One thought on “Nagaru Tanigawa Time Travel Thought Piece translation

  1. Hey, did you hear the news? There’s a new haruhi novel announced. I still remember reading your translations as they came out, back in… God knows when lol

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