Editor’s Note

Beyond the Gaze

This shrine was a heavy birth. What I had considered the bulk of its content (all the parts directly related to the pilot) was written in September 2018, eight months after my first encounter with the story, and followed by one first draft of the header (Kevin’s profile forming an arc with Reed’s shredding of the photograph). Despite a clear vision for the elements the header should contain, and the mood to be conveyed, the struggle to execute it and to fill the empty space seemed unending, if not insoluble. In a way, I could empathize with Kevin, as I preferred for my thoughts and feelings to remain shut away rather than than to become tangible in a shape that did not match my vision, lest its beauty and my love be stained.

Over the course of the three and a half years that followed, the header would slowly, gradually take more shape, until it was, in a one-week creative marathon, finally finished in February 2022 along with all of the site’s design and code. The equally long and equally hard battle with the two pages on the themes of the series as a whole (5 and 6) — initially estimated to make up 10–20 % of the site, but ultimately amounting to 50 % of it — was fought out over the course of the next month, and found its conclusion by the end of the month at long last. The shrine was thus released in March 2022 — my birth month. I couldn’t ask for a better present for myself.

A full documentation of the shrine’s creation process can be found at Song Cradle, the network’s repository.


Refugium is a literary German word for “refuge”a place to retreat to, a safe haven, an oasis, sanctuary. What Kevin holds sacred are the freedoms to think and feel, and therefore the private space inside the mind, as well as his mother and the feelings he harbours for her. They are what he wishes to protect, and, as spaces of retreat, they are what give him comfort.

In The Top Secret as a whole, shelter, in a broader sense, comes in many — at times questionable — forms: drugs, sleep, denial, obsession, substitution, memory, but also oblivion. Most of the time, however, shelter is found in other people. In the bustle of everyday life and under the weight of their own past, burdens and hunger, humans need refuges to keep going. The series’ kindness lies in the fact that it does not begrudge them that solace, nor does it categorically condemn them for escaping into unhealthy things. This goes for persons that serve as shelters as much as any of the substances and states listed above. The crimes that are committed may be wrong, but how someone ended up the way they did, and what had kept them alive until that point, is always acknowledged as part of their story — a story that is theirs alone, no one else’s.

In that way, neither shelters nor the technology behind the MRI scanner are inherently good or bad, but double-sided auxiliaries whose impact and consequences depend on one’s own judgement.

There is an ironic double-sided quality in the choice for the shrine’s title as well. The Latin verb refugere that it is derived from can mean to seek or take refuge, to escape from something and thus to save oneself, yes. On the other side of that consequence is the act of getting away from something, however you want to name it depending on the context: to break away, run away, flee; to flinch, fear; to draw back, retreat, withdraw; to avoid, evade, elude; to depart from one’s course, to walk out — to pass from view. At the end of the story, Kevin’s judgement leads him to turn his back to (one of) his refuge(s) so as to preserve its sanctity. The action that he feels compelled to take, however— What expression would you use to qualify it?


The two final pages of the story have left a deep impression on me, and I find my mind returning to them often. They are to me akin to certain moods and sentiments that occasionally resurface on the shore of memory, the way a melody or verse may drift in and out of consciousness like a wave. The site’s header stitches them together along with another, and combines many elements that I strongly associate with the pilot: the scattering pieces of a photograph being drastically torn; the haunting waves of the silent sea; the rose-tinted vision born from affection; the presence of the media; rain (albeit only in colour and text); the elusive golden shimmer of memory, bygone days, and the precious; and Kevin’s melancholia that envelops all of it.

pg. 61
pg. 62 (end)

Multiple elements of the site’s design evoke the impression of print media, newspapers in particular, while others emulate code, as I wanted to stress the coexistence and conflict between the traditional (the world up to that point) and the digital (the new age of technology). The navigation in particular is inspired by and supposed to represent both, employing a monospace typeface (Source Code Pro) characteristic of code editors while mimicking the way code is displayed in these editors, as well as the table of contents in magazines.

pg. 37
pg. 38

One breakthrough moment (April 2021) in the creation of the header is the addition of Kevin’s mother as she appears in his mind’s eye, possibly from when she was younger, a vision represented in the header by a photograph, which in turn is a keeper of memory. Her prominent presence on the left reinforces, coincidentally so, the causal and thematic link between Kevin and Reed’s decisions: Reed’s hands and the torn-up photograph of Macaulay now appear as Kevin’s hands as they tear up a metaphorical photograph. As an extension of this idea, all images on page 4 that capture Reed’s and Kevin’s gaze are also presented as photographs.

Another lucky coincidence occured in the final breakthrough (February 2022) as I tried to fill the empty spaces of the header for a more balanced composition. Though I had initially intended to use unspecific newspaper fragments, I opted for verses of a poem I associate with the pilot instead. As by a miracle, their placement reflects their respective content.

Log: Trivia Some trivia on my beginnings with the series, purely for amusement:

Credits A list of resources used in making this shrine.

As for poetry, two poems are featured in the layout, followed by two more on page 5:

I heartily recommend reading them in full.

Special thanks to all the kind friends who cheered me on over the years, be it in my dormant phases or in states of creative frenzy, and who always lent me an ear or extended a hand when I had questions or hit roadblocks in my attempts to give shape to my vision. Thanks in particular to

I am forever grateful that, although we do not live the same life, nor look at the same things, we are facing in the same direction — and ever willing to divert our gaze to follow one another’s.

Linkage If you would like to link this shrine, feel free to use one of the following buttons and direct it to https://shimizu.six-chances.net/secret. Please do not direct link buttons.

The Top Secret A curated list of links related to The Top Secret that brought me joy.

Other The following links concern further works by Reiko Shimizu.

If you know of any other sites or articles, I would be very happy to receive a message!