To be remembered may be the only way to achieve a sense of immortality. You might be rotting away, the very essence that made you you ceased to be when your brain stopped sending out electronic impulses, but those that survived you remember something about you. It may be an inaccurate take on you, for better or for worse, but something about you lingers on and possibly passed down to those who never knew you. If you buy into that lack of spiritual/whatever permanence, then Rat’s wish is kinda horrifying.
It makes sense from Rat’s perspective. He lived through 100 possible realities during the Taisen, and in only of those endings did he survive. He experienced more of the same during his post-Taisen “interview,” and he experienced many similar, if not nearly as lethal, chain of events before these events. He has to live with the weight of all of his potential deaths and failures, and he has to live with the consequences of his actions within those “paths” and in the ones that ultimately become reality. He may not have personally carried out the actions that killed the 11 other Taisen participants, but he allowed them to transpire because of his choice.
It’s a weird, existential thing that no one can really comprehend on a literal level, since it’s the sort of burden only someone with god-like abilities would ever possess, but at the same time it’s totally understandable. We all live with the what-ifs and regrets and all that. Those possible outcomes linger on in the imagination, and if you’re like me, thinking about what didn’t exist can get to you just as much as what actually does exist. And again, if you’re like me, those feelings can be a hindrance to varying degrees.
So what if you could forget all of your emotional baggage? You’ll be freed of all this garbage weighing you down mentally/spiritually/whatever, and you may be able to be at peace with yourself, do things you never thought you’d be able to pull off, and who knows what else. But what are you losing in the process? You’re just as much a product of your failures as you are of your successes. You still made choice A instead of B, but if you don’t remember screwing up because of A, does it really matter? Did it even happen? Are you losing something of meaning?
And all those memories of the people who were involved with your baggage are gone too, and they have no say in the matter. It’s not as if they cease to be or anything, but their impact upon you– some piece of their purpose in this existence– is rendered meaningless. They may remember, but if you don’t, why did they even engage with you if it doesn’t affect you regardless of its importance? Just like how we’re defined by our personal failures and successes, we’re also defined by how we fail, succeed, and simply interact with other people. Take away that lingering effect you have on someone and not only are they losing a piece of themselves, you’re losing a piece of yourself as well.
That’s what makes Rat’s power, and the choice he makes because of its “consequences,” really horrifying. 99 potential “paths” took place, and only Rat remembers them. As we see in this final episode, each of the other 11 participants share some piece of themselves with Rat in the process that no one else may ever experience. Snake and Dragon share aspects of themselves they don’t even really share with each other. Rabbit may be as unknowable as already demonstrated, but even he shares some glimpse into his alien mindset. All 11 Taisen participants showed some side of themselves in those 99 possibilities never seen in the 100th one that came to be, and the only person who can ever share that with anyone is Rat. But those personal, defining moments are also tied to a great deal of Rat’s personal anguish, and while he takes into consideration the feelings of the other Taisen participants when thinking of his wish, he ultimately makes a decision for himself.
We as the audience see all of this, but within the context of the Juni Taisen universe, all of these memories are permanently lost. Some of the wishes, personal anxieties, and such were blatant, like Boar’s desire for a harem or Sheep’s desire for eternal youth and health, but others will remain unknown now that Rat has chosen to forget. It’s already sad that many of these individuals had to die during the Taisen, but at least their hopes and dreams would live on to be shared with others. Not only is Dog’s ward lacking a caretaker with his death (and yay for finally showing Dog’s “thing”), but will anyone even know she’s there? Has Ox ever shared his personal philosophy with anyone else? Will anyone know of Tiger’s story and how she achieved her wish without technically winning? All of the characters could have lived on somehow through Rat, but he chose personal relief over carrying any of those memories.
And in the possibility that we’re nothing but memories after our deaths, I find it harrowing that “not remembering” snuffs you out more permanently than actually passing away. And in Rat’s relief, 11 other lives were lost twice over. That’s the real horror of Juni Taisen.