The book would have benefited from some introspection into one’s complicity in participating in the dominant order and entering the circle of mess. As Abidin Kusno writes, messiness is a perception as well as a product of knowledge (41). Who will identify and write about the mess? Is there a conundrum about self-representation here, akin to the lack of voice for the subaltern to speak? Those who live within the mess and navigate its channels, like fish in water, do not theorize about it. Is then the theorizing of messiness a prerogative of those who are outside the fish tank, so to speak, or sitting on its rim, one leg in the water?
If the modernist city—the antagonist in this narrative—has arrived in Asia, it is in bits and pieces, contentiously and reluctantly, and in the historic horizon of each city. Messy urbanism in Asia is the failure of the modernist city to find a home; in that sense, the city is perpetually under construction. Messy urbanism is Asia’s aspiration for the contours of a new city that is inclusive and evolutionary, although each city is evolving according to its own trajectory. Whether it is Neo-Tokyo in the manga-inspired film Akira (1988), or whether the mess is a post-apocalyptic nightmare or a bundle of atomic fire, there is still redemption and reconciliation. In three separate movies, the monster Godzilla arrives to terrorize Tokyo and destroy Shinjuku. In 2015, the Shinjuku Ward awarded residency to Godzilla and made him a special ambassador for tourism. No matter how big the mess is, or in whatever form it comes, there is hope after all.