YKK Forum

The Vending Machines

As we all know, there are many unresolved mysteries in YKK. But what's really giving me a headache are the vending machines.

I think it's safe to say that I'm living in a "hotspot of civilization", but when I want to use a vending machine in the city, most of them are empty, broken, victims of vandalism etc...

But have you ever seen a broken vending machine in YKK? They were used several times (esp. on trips) and even in this run down world and out in the middle of nowhere they are always working. Who refills them? Who maintains them? Where do they get their power from?

The best example is the last chapter of volume 10. Alpha is "raiding" an abandoned village and even there she finds a working one. (Well, even she is surprised about it.) And the last page shows clearly that the vending machine is the only light source in the whole area...


- Tobias Rieper
Saturday, March 13, 2004

Japan is wonderful when it comes to vending machines. 120 yen gets you a hot can of coffee, a cold bottle of tea. So many flavors. It's really a civilized world.

- steven austin
Saturday, March 13, 2004

The mystery of the power source, maintenance and stocking of the vending machines seems linked, in my mind, to the same technical problems with the streetlights underwater. If we solve the mystery of one, it will solve the other.

But here's a thought: by what mysterious organic power are the streetlight trees giving so much light? (Keep in mind that for plants and fungi, a *glow* like some cave varieties is a long way from actually shining.) Could it be that the underwater lights and the vending machines are now recieving power from one of these mysterious organic "mimics"?

I mean, if nature is miming lights, buildings, stone walls and even brainwaves, then perhaps they are generating power as well.

Boggles the mind...

- Ian Darrow
Saturday, March 13, 2004

Taapon, that big white "spaceship?" bugs me. How did it get up there? Why is it up there? Currently, we have trouble lifting objects into space. About 100tons is Saturn V's limit to low level orbits. I'm assuming Taapon is really really heavy, based on the few scenes of it. Also assuming that it was built after some disaster, how did we find the resources to build it? Won't resources of such great magnitude be difficult, specially after a disaster?

Can they, people on Taapon and people on the ground, not communicate to each other since they both have radio technology?

- royalfool
Monday, March 15, 2004

Tapon (or maybe Tarpon) is an *aircraft*. Much better lift/weight ratio than a rocket. Consider that the big russian heavy-lift planes can carry 3-4 Main Battle Tanks (~300-400T total) and can do so for up to 8 hours.
Compare that with the Tarpon, which appears to be mostly empty space - albeit with a large water supply.
The Tarpon is capable of communicating with the ground - they announce their decision to head south, for example. They are like most research craft - they are not given to frequent general chatter. Doubly so, given that the crew are, somehow, unable to leave. (Although Alpha-san seems to have a final 'out'.)
The two *real* mysteries are why can't they get down, and what were they doing?
As for staying up there, that's simple (if out of our reach). Any one of: Solar, fusion, atomic (clean) ramscoop. In fact, the last one might be why they cannot land...

- Rob Masters
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

>>The Tarpon is capable of communicating with the ground - they announce their decision to head south, for example.

IMHO the radio moderator in chapter 104 http://ykk.misago.org/Afternoon2003/49 just guesses that - the Tarpoon (Typhoon?) seems to have cycled before. "It is said that there are still people trapped on board" sounds more like gossip than hard facts, and in the early Director Alpha sequences it is clear that she has no contact to Earth but must guess whether mankind does better down there now than earlier.

>> They are like most research craft - they are not given to frequent general chatter. Doubly so, given that the crew are, somehow, unable to leave. (Although Alpha-san seems to have a final 'out'.)
The two *real* mysteries are why can't they get down, and what were they doing?

They have a single small escape pod, probably "single shot" now (no gas station down below;-) and not big enough for all of them.

>>As for staying up there, that's simple (if out of our reach). Any one of: Solar, fusion, atomic (clean) ramscoop. In fact, the last one might be why they cannot land...

I think the Tarpoon isn't designed to land at all, it looks to fragil, maybe partial assembled in orbit? But it cruises the upper stratosphere (-50-70 km) or even tropossphere, if that's feasible - IANA plane designer;-)
As for the drive, I think that highly efficient solar power might work - it's wings a big enough and it seems to glide most of the time anyway. By ramscoop you mean something like the "Bussard Ramjet", yes? http://www.itsf.org/brochure/ramscoop.html
I don't think it will work in the outer athmosphere without creating a fantastic tempest of ionized gas in front of the Tarpoon, and I can't see a muzzle inthe tip that would sup up the stuff.

- Rainer
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Darn spelling errors, I hit the "confirm" button to early;-/

- Rainer
Tuesday, March 16, 2004


I think that the folks on Taapon *can* communicate via radio, but they simply choose not to. The whole vibe on board the ship (Director alpha excluded) seems to be one of resigned withdrawal. The technical capacity to communicate must certainly be there - they have enough instrumentation to monitor the weather after all.



- dDave
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Maybe the people who were involved in the development of the Alpha project were evacuated with Director Alpha in the Taapon?

It might be that they saw the need to escape the big event, and left with the only finished Alpha, the Director. And maybe the "Director" is merely that...the Taapon pilot.

What if the Alpha-series robot-persons on the ground were rescued after the big event, after the project team was evacuated? Maybe by lesser team members, or associated vendors, who did what they could to protect them and raise them (who created the delivery service, Owner?) Maybe this could explain their lack of understanding about their history...their programming wasn't complete when the team had to leave.

And maybe the folks in the Taapon don't return because 1) they're implicated in the big event and risk some repercussion, or 2) the only landing facility suitable for them has been innundated, making a landing impossible except by the lifeboat.

Lots of "maybes."

- steven austin
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I've always had the impression that the crew aboard the Taapon thought that they were the last remains of a "true civilization", and that they had fallen into a role of observers of the fall of mankind.

At a couple different points through the series they mention how the signs of life were shrinking, but then we flash down to the surface and find that people are thriving quite well. The lack of communication has always puzzled me, but there are a ton of reasons as to why that communication isn't present. Maybe the Taapon uses more sophisticated communication methods that aren't in use anymore? Heck, maybe they stay quiet due to simple fear of attack? One impression I got was that the people onboard weren't plugged into "ground traffic" at all... possibly a lack of contact on both ends with the crew of the Taapon thinking that *whatever* had happened years ago was still in progress, when in fact it isn't.

Without a big picture setup it's hard to tell, however.

- Tabyk
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I get the feeling that the level of technology in Alpha's world, while superficially looking much like todays, contains relics of a much higher level. Like the low level AIs in in the aircraft and WIG craft that Alpha interfaces with, and the eternally operating streetlights and vending machines. It's stretching it to think that the machines are self stocking though (shades of "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.").

As for the Taapon. Well, if it is, as I've theorised, a last-ditch flying archive, it's intended to be up there until civilisation has rebuilt itself. The crew obviously expect to die up there. There may be a psychological reason that the crew is barred from communicating with the ground, they have to cut themselves off from the world below emotionally as well as physically. Listening to cries for assistance from below may inspire desperate attempts to help, that may endanger the Taapon and it's mission. Perhaps the Taapon was intended to be unmanned (apart from the A7M1) in any case and the crew got stranded when the shuttle (which would have the com gear, was unable to take off again).

Anyway, that scene of an evening wilderness, softly illuminated by the gentle glow from the vending machine was a lovely one.

- Andy Tucker
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"Anyway, that scene of an evening wilderness, softly illuminated by the gentle glow from the vending machine was a lovely one."

As was Alpha's expression when she found it. And it worked. I think she was just as amazed as we were.

- martialstax
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

More about vending machines:

Kempis Curious wrote (in a discussion about mushrooms, etc.):

>>That's an interesting idea, that the mushrooms are mimicking the form and some of the function of things they are coming in contact with. That would explain the building, streetlights, and water god.

It may not be a discovery, but consider this:
The "vending machines" - or at least some of them - may be something similair - some kind of life form resembling real ones. If this (somewhat risky) theory is true, it will give answers to some of the questions above. First of all - how do they work? The vending machines are lighted and are fully operational even without the signs of power supply or maintenance, in the middle of nowhere. IF they ARE alive they may be like other plants - produce power from sunlight. Then they don't need cables and may be found everywhere (like the one in chapter 100). The problem of refilling is also solved - the drinks are either like fruit or serve as the "nectar" (with humans being "insects"). The plant simply produces new can when someone "buys" one.
Anyway, I don't want to get into technical details - how do they produce cans and drinks, for example. Let's treat them as more complex versions of streetlights.

- Cornel
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hmm, that would be an intresting way for a plant to "drop its fruit". but that would be a lot of very mechanical parts for a plant to grow. and even the building type plants still have a plant like quality, even at that scale.

and why would a plant want money?

- Canti-sama
Saturday, May 1, 2004

The plant could want money as a raw material to "create" the new can when someone buys one.

- Michael Kao
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Or despite it all, it could just be a very old vending machine that got left behind. Lucky that the power line it feeds from is still live. And once it does get emptied, there're be nothing left for it to dispense.

Though, on the same sort of thought-lines, I know a few people that would maintain a vending machine out in the middle of nowhere if there was a power line. Just for the irony that it would provide.

- tadpol
Monday, May 3, 2004


- Canti-sama
Monday, May 3, 2004

Re-reading that particular chapter, you do get the impression that the machine is rather empty and that it operates with a particularly laboured "ka-chunk!". Alpha's certainly giving it a very suspicious look as she cautiously samples the drink.

- Andy Tucker
Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Here's my theory on power and tappon.

In case any of you missed it, YKK is a story of human exinction. Human fertitily rate has gone down with each generation, and population is getting smaller and smaller, thus to survive human beings has to abandon the country side and migrate to larger cities. Thus you see reference from the Tappon that they see less towns every year.

Base on this background, here's what I think happened. Some major event trigged this extinction; maybe nuclear war; maybe melting of the ice cap. My guess is the level of radiation on earth's surface increased, causing infertility in mammals (at least). Major mammal life has already been decimated, but human being, being the smartest ape on the planet, came up with 2 strategies for the survival of mankind:

1. Build a large, perpetual fly ship that circles the Earth without ever landing. This way the people on board can hopefully escape the radiation on the ground level and become furtile again in this ship. As long as they never land, human being will continue on. This self-sustaining ship is called the Tappon. According to YKK, this experiement has failed, and the robot Director Alpha will soon be the only living being on the Tappon, as all original inhabitants will die of old age, but they did not bore any children.

2. Since it's appearant that human being will be extinct, some scientists like Sensei and Master decided to devote their energy to create human replacements who can continue to live on this planets. These created biological humaniods are called Robots. They are to learn everything they can about being human, take over the human civilization, and continue our culture after we're all dead. Some Robots, like Kokone, came to resent this great responsibility and wanted their own identity, but I believe the majority of the sentient robots like Alpha knew it's their job to replace human beings (thus the dedication to their "jobs") and the preserve human memory and existance. So even thought one day Sensei, Makki, and all the other real human beings are dead, Alpha will always preserve their memory.

Now with these info, we can tackle the mysteries of the power and the psudo "industries" of this world. We know there's still power and water provided somehow. Some places even vending machines still work. I theorized this: Since there are so less people around, it make sense to concentrate key industries to one or two cities, where the qualified people can live and be productive. This is probably the city Taka went to work. These cities produce eletricity, water, and probably most of other essentials of life for the rest of humanity in their localized region (in this case, Japan), but they don't have enough people to maintain everything; thus although there's power and water, as we can know there are no telecomm systems and gas and cars are increasingly rare. I guess when you only have limited resources, you have to pick what's more important for society to continue.

I don't really understand why vending machines would be selected as an infrastructure to maintain, but perhaps vending machines are an easy way to distribute food and some other essentials to other people without the use of manpower. A vending machine is essnetially a store without people, which fits the theme of the story well.

I also believe that robots, being the future of the world, are doing most of the work now. Like Nai being a pilot and Kokone being a delivery person, the robots are maintaining the infrastrucure of this world. It won't surprise me that the power and water plants in these major cities are mostly staffed by robots as well.

- JC
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

To me the Tappon seems more like a recorder than anything else. A noted by by several other people, it's probably there to witness the extinction of the Human race. As to the robots, most likely they were created before the catastrophe and after the castatrophe, scientists regeared their efforts on making robots capable of taking over the duty as a race after the Humans are extinct.

As to the question of power, it seems to me that much of the world's infrastructure is still intact, because their is still electricity provided to many places and gas is still available, even to where Alpha lives (from volume one). Who operates and keeps the machinery/infrastructure intact is a mystery.

- Roy Zhou
Sunday, May 23, 2004

..and if the human race somehow survives, the robot people could teach them if knowledge is lost. I wonder if that is why the taapon doesn't land?

- Brad
Sunday, May 23, 2004

One picture from Tapon makes it look like a library so my guess is that its mission is to keep human civilisation and culture safe from whatever upheavals took or may still take place at the surface.

Libraries as cultural safekeeping is not new and can be seen in human history (Classical texts kept safe and away during mideaval ages) and science fiction literature (library at Trantor and encyclopedia at Terminus). Libraries can also fail as the Alexandrian library will forever remind us of.

- C_P
Monday, May 24, 2004

That's probably why the Tapoon cannot land. To kept the "library" safe from past instances, one of the greatest in the past was the burning of the Arabic libraries when the Mongols took over the Islamic empire.

- Roy Zhou
Monday, May 24, 2004

You keep talking about a word which sounds like tampon!

- Cat Taylor
Thursday, May 27, 2004

You keep talking about a word which sounds like tampon!

- Cat Taylor
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Uh... The word in translation is "Taapon", the name of the huge stratospheric aircraft we see in the manga. My guess it that it's actually "Tarpon", which is a smegging big fish and in keeping with the piscophile tendancies of the series.

- Andy Tucker
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Yes, sorry about my miss spellings

- Roy Zhou
Thursday, May 27, 2004

piscophile... lol!

- Brad
Thursday, May 27, 2004

i also like the word piscophile ;-)

- anitra
Saturday, August 6, 2005

I think you guys are going a little over-the-top with the vending machine speculations. It's not like organized society in YKK has completely crumbled, there are still electrical lines and gas supply working, and there are still bills to be paid for these services, as Alpha mentioned. Some roads have high vehicle traffic, and every once in while a gasoline truck comes to repplenish Oji-san's station. So, there's nothing amazing or mysterious about a vending machine in a somewhat lonely place, there should be a electric line going nearby it and from time to time a truck from Yokohama or Musahino would come to gather the money and restock it. (and I very much doubt the folks from the "relaxed" world of YKK would be into vandalizing vending machines)

Also keep in mind that Mr. Ashihano is more interested in conveying feelings and mood trough his manga than writing science fiction and explaining everything. He though that a underwater town with lit lamposts would be an amazing view (and I agree), even it doesn't seems believable. If he thinks a lonely vending machine, or a shop in the middle of a giant dark tunnel are nice touches to his story, he would just use it. I'm sure he has explanations for some things like the Taapon, the Watergod, the buildings and lamptrees, etc. But explaining their origins is far less important to the story than the simple fact that they "are" there.
Remember folks, YKK is not meant to be explained, it's all about experiencing it.

- Nietz
Sunday, August 7, 2005

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