Analysis: Suisei no Gargantia

Suisei no Gargantia

Suisei no Gargantia isn’t your run-of-the-mill mech anime. Sure, it looks nice with the polished chrome paint job and laser explosions, but what begins as yet another interstellar war quickly develops into something much more than just a fight for humanity’s survival. Instead, viewers get a rare glimpse of what happens when a soldier loses his purpose and is thrown into a completely new world: a world of peace. The thing is, you have to ask yourself which path, war or peace, is truly more humane.

The protagonist of this show is none other than a born soldier, trained from birth to fight off ‘alien’ invaders for the good of human kind. However, when both he and his AI-controlled humanoid mecha machine are thrown through a sort of wormhole, Ledo finds a new planet covered in water where humans survive only by connecting various old ships into fleets. These floating cities are a haven for symbiotic relationships between all people, where everyone has to work together for the good of them all. Ledo and his ship, aptly named Chamber, are forced to adapt to their new surroundings as escape from the planet is made fairly impossible for its various reasons. This planet holds pirates, free-thinking humans, and an ancient secret; one related to the soldier’s extraterrestrial foes. Things are never as simple as they seem.

From that general outline you might guess a few of the themes which the show touches upon. The tragic loss of humanity through warfare, the need for people to work together, etc; all feel-good thoughts which while nice, have been reiterated time and time again to little effect. Interestingly though, the series doesn’t deal with any sort of sensationalized PTSD, which would fit perfectly given the situation at hand. And from this last of obvious dramatic resonance, we can dig deeper into just what Suisei no Gargantia is truly saying.

You see, on this beautiful blue planet, it is true that life is ‘better’ than the military structure known by Ledo in space. For the soldier, everything should be prim, functional and efficient. Anything less than this is simply unnecessary, and thus discarded. It’s the over-used military ideal. On Gargantia (The floating colony Ledo joins), people are given free will, the old and sick aren’t discarded simply for being enfeebled, and there is a true sense of joy and living. The differences seem simple, with one far greater than the other. Why can’t people just get along in peace, one might say, or how could we ever let the military tear apart our humanity like such as Ledo’s old civilization embodies? Gargantia is the obvious choice of what is better. Even the occasional pirate attack is little more than bullying, with no real life lost. A cheap price to pay for what is otherwise a natural paradise.

Underneath the waves, however, lies the truth behind the peace. Years ago, peace had reigned on the blue planet, to the point that the world was overflowing with individuals. As such, the humans there had to develop a new method of colonizing, and their goal was the stars. Slowly, they adapted themselves into something which could more easily explore the emptiness of space, but not everyone condoned these changes. Some called the evolution a crime against humanity. Some called it making monsters. In the end the division became so extreme that outright war broke out, leading to the planets current state, where only a few live in a relatively rustic culture. This is the true origin of Ledo’s alien opposition, and the military force he was formerly a part of, and this is where Gargantia becomes exceptional.

Now, this shouldn’t be mistaken as a simple ‘Planet of the Apes’ conclusion. There are obvious similarities, but Gargantia delves much more deeply into the complex problem which is humanity. The idea which Gargantia tries to convey is not just that war is bad. It certainly advocates such an idea, but it doesn’t dwell on it too long. Rather, it further complicates the theme by adding in the seeming opposite of it: peace can be terrible as well. It is during peace, not war, that humanity developed into the divided race which led to total annihilation. It is during peace, not war, when cults and religious sects can grasp hold of the masses to perform horrific deeds. It is during peace, not war, when life, though calm, is wrought with limitations in both resources and advancements. The two ideas create a paradox to which there is no easy answer besides to ignore them and just live life, and the question is whether such an answer is acceptable.

So which is worse? A society where every person’s purpose is to fight, where the enemy is right ahead, and where brutal efficiency is the only way to victory? Or a society where people are free to both live or waste their existence, where religion and cultural beliefs create divides deeper than any trench, and where ignorance is bliss? There’s no real answer. Both prospects are horrific, and there is a similarity between the two which almost feels insurmountable. Suisei no Gargantia reveals a harshness which exists, but isn’t limited to simply one man shooting another. Conflict can take on many different forms besides war, and can be just as, if not more, terrible. It is a warning tale to those who live on either side of the fence; those who side with hostile action or idealistic pacifism. The final question then is: can humanity ever avoid a bad end?

Analysis: Aku no Hana

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Humans are hardly the pristine, good creatures which we sometimes try to make ourselves out to be, and I’m not just talking about those ‘bad’ people. Each and every person has their own agenda, own goals, own limitations, and own conscience. These traits in turn are displayed not only in those great do-or-die actions which make it into the news, but in everyday interactions and event. Every moment is filled with countless decisions, many of which will affect not only ourselves, but others as well. Needless to say then, not every one of those actions is going to work out perfectly for the entirety of mankind. Therefore, to one extent or another, evil lurks in every man, woman, and child, though it may only significantly bloom in some.

Aku no Hana focuses upon this idea of universal corruptibility. It takes a seemingly innocent child, and slowly but surely shapes him into something dark and twisted; hence the translated title of ‘Flower of Evil’. He supposedly ‘shows his true colors’ or some other inane simplification of metamorphosis which is designed to shock and horrify viewers. Yet, from the first actions of the mistaken youth, audience members are almost forced into the inevitability of the plotline. I mean, if the title itself weren’t blatant, the antagonists desire to literally ‘unleash’ the protagonist’s bestial nature is painfully obvious, as she uses those words and phrases herself. It’s a story about a man becoming what he always was: not something different, and not something wrong. A seed cannot bloom into anything other than the flower it was meant to be. Likewise, the protagonist is doomed before the series even begins, despite some half-hearted efforts to seemingly pull the hero back on the right track temporarily.

But is inevitable fallibility actually realistic? On one hand yes; as I’ve already mentioned, all human beings are bound to have some portion of the ‘dark side’ in them, no matter how hard they try to express otherwise. On the other hand though, an inverse of this situation is just as true. Even the most evil, detestable of beings could, if they wanted, to wake up one day decide to figuratively donate their life to charity. This then, means that the complications of corruption are far from the one-way street which Aku no Hana makes it out to be.

Yes, we all have desires, angst, fear; whatever you want to call it. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are just seeds waiting to hatch into our true form, things are nearly that simplistic. What this series fails to illustrate is the other side of the conversation in which one must ask themselves ‘why’. Why fall to such terrible things? Why perform a felony for no obvious gain? Why listen to a complete stranger trying to manipulate you down some dangerous path? The largest reason why human criminality against one another occurs is because of personal gain. One man seeks to either reinforce his own happiness, or else hinder someone else’s. If there’s no profit, then the action won’t be worth the effort. Even psychopaths do what they do because they feel some form of fulfillment by completing their horrible mistakes. So why does Aku no Hana’s protagonist go crazy? Social acceptance? An innate urge to just go crazy and tear the world apart? Not likely, and hardly believable given the young man’s upbringing. This is your everyday kid, raised in a decent environment with all the comforts of home. He isn’t going to just throw that all away for a girl. Well, at the very least, such a plotline isn’t worth watching. Perhaps Aku no Hana will truly complicate the situation should season 2 ever be made, but for now, it’s a bit too shallow for neither horror nor introspection.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take the mistakes of the show as yet another learning experience though. Sometimes in society, people believe that they ‘must’ do something or another. They ‘must’ be ‘true’ to themselves, and there’s not anything anyone can do about it. You just have to bloom into your fitted place. Unfortunately though, this is wrong. Mankind, and indeed, all sentient creatures have some level of control over their fates. That’s why everyone and everything is so different; even animals have different tendencies and personalities. Instead of a set course, good or bad, we are faced with a wide open plain, and where we go is pretty much up to us. No, we don’t get to choose the various obstacles in our way, or when/where/what kind of predators will come after us, but those things are just that: obstacles, not inescapable certainties. There’s no one right way for any of us, which means we each have the troublesome task of deciding where we want to go ourselves. Self-responsibility sucks, doesn’t it?

Analysis: Hataraku Maou-Sama!

Hataraku Maousama

The world’s a terrible place, isn’t it? I mean there are murders every day, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer; what good is there at all? If I were to take a stance and say whether the world was ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I definitely stand on the side of the line which thinks it’s horrible. But that would be foolish. The world is neither good nor bad, it’s a complex combination of rights and wrongs and everything in-between. This week’s analysis conveys this idea perfectly. Hataraku Maou-sama doesn’t take a solid argument and what is right and wrong. It simply shows the way things pretty much are.

Remember when you were a kid, and wanted to keep all of your toys to yourself? Your friends, parental attention, special toys; these were all things which you just really didn’t want to share. So, does that make you a devil child? Of course not. As children, individuals instinctually create attachment to certain things, and it’s only natural to not want to risk losing such a thing by giving it away. You hold what is dear to you close. So, what is it that changes when we all grow up? Do we develop some great ‘adult’ kindness that allows us to treat such things as trivialities? Nope, not at all. In fact, those same ‘selfish’ attachments are with us our entire lives. Human beings just gradually find ways to conceal or circumvent the desire to monopolize what makes us happy.

In Hataraku Maou, we see this complication in a none-too-subtle way. Enter a world where the lines of good and evil are plainly displayed. You have the demon lord and his monsters on one side, and the hero and humans on the other. It’s not too difficult to understand; typical genre scenario. What is a bit unusual however is in the next episode when we are forced into the mind of not the grand hero, but rather the demon lord. The audience is forces to realize just how normal the demon lord and his minion actually are. They aren’t giant menaces bound for death and slaughter. No, they are simply trying to live life with the means available to them. The show quickly takes the neat orderly line between good and evil, and blurs it beyond distinction.

Of course, it’s not exactly a perfect reversal of roles either though. The hero, while brash, violent, and destructive, is nonetheless trying to do what is right. The demon king, while power-hungry, competitive, and straightforward, is likewise trying to make his way in the world. What do we call normal human beings like the demon king? Hardworking. The demon kind is motivated, serious, and trying to reach for a goal. Is that wrongs? He doesn’t intentionally hurt others. Rather, he’s just doing what he thinks is best. So how exactly is that any different from what the hero does?

As the plot thickens, we are again and again reaffirmed with this idea that life isn’t clear-cut. The ‘good’ church turns out to be corrupt. The ‘evil’ demon becomes quickly rehabilitated and becomes a nice NEET citizen because he can find happiness in his new lifestyle. The executioner grows a conscience and defies orders that should have been absolute. No one in this show is perfect. Rather, they are all messed up in some way or the other. The only true determination between hero and antagonist then becomes the methods of one’s advancement. The good try to hurting the people around them. The bad couldn’t care less.

So, what does this mean? I can sum up the idea in one sentence: empathy is the only true statute of ‘goodness’. Let’s be frank for a minute. Everyone wants to be happy. It would be stupid to not. Sure, people can get joy by helping others, sacrificing themselves and whatnot, but it’s hard to argue that individuals would ever do that if somewhere deep down they didn’t think that such a service was self-rewarding in some way or another. So, it’s not really fair for individuals to judge others depending on just how they choose to pursuit this happiness. That is, unless said person is willing to hurt their fellow being to do so. This is the essence of what Hataraku Maou-sama! represents: do what doesn’t harm others. People are naturally selfish, self-righteous, prideful creatures, and we are all in the pursuit of happiness. We’re all equal, and equally muddled these innate motivations. Still, there is a line, though it is hardly clear in the sand. It is the line in which personal greed damages other creatures around you. That is the true sign of evil, wherever it may be, however it may be justified, and whatever form it appears in. Being good doesn’t mean being selfless. It means being as selfish as you could possibly want, but to also be courteous and empathetic to the people around you so as to not disrupt their happiness either.

Analysis: Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru

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Sometimes, stories can be almost painfully obvious to understand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the social-psychological theme is powerful to warrant such an overt criticism, but this doesn’t often happen. Instead, audience member are forced to sit through an experiment in patience, while the chosen piece further lays out its soapbox instruction. And that’s if they actually care. Still, it’s wise to not always jump to conclusions, even with art which at first seems to be obvious. Today’s subject of analysis Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru falls into just this category. Let me show you why.

Teenage angst isn’t anything new. Everyone’s dealt with it, and most of us will deal with it again when our own children reach that age of existence. Yahari doesn’t exactly blaze any trails by placing its protagonist at this stage, and then showing why life sucks around him. He has no friends, no prospective future, and in short, no hope. This is the outlying factors to examine, and most individuals will stop at this point, happy with their discovery. Yet, there is so much more to glean than simple high-school romance.

Each character in this series is onset with uniquely human attributes. One might be searching for social acceptance, another to appear most superior, and another just to have fun. They’re human beings, which makes the characters both entertaining and attractive. Unfortunately though, being human doesn’t mean all fun and games. Being human means having vulnerability, and one which is all too-often exploited in this anime. This is where the series truly grows into more than just the typical boy-meets-girl tale.

You see, each character might appear superficially happy, but underneath it all, the rough, jostling reality is leaving its mark. Characters come to resent and hate one another, try to escape their fears and responsibilities, or simply run themselves ragged. There’s no end to this negative spiraling, and no one seems to be trying to combat it. That is, except for our foremost protagonist, who, as it turns out, is a true hero.

While casually disguising himself as an anti-hero because of his depression and jaded nature, the main character is actually far more of a messiah figure than uncaring sadist. His solutions to other’s problems may at first seem harsh, yet their effectiveness can hardly be questioned, and more often than not all negative consequences fall back on our hero. He is, in a word, sacrificial. He sees all that is wrong in the world, and because of this he can help others. Yet at the same time, he cannot seem to help himself.

It is a vivid reality of depression victims that while they may be motivated to help others, finding self motivation is another matter entirely. It can feel far easier to lift up someone from the depth of despair than it is to pull yourself up. So, like the protagonist of Yahari, they wind up sinking lower rather than rising up. This is why social and community efforts are so necessary to combating mental illnesses. An individual alone feels safe within their darkness. They don’t want to escape, and will do everything they can do convince themselves that the pain will never end. At least then things are consistent. Only through outside forces can the realization come that life can become better, and there is indeed hope. This revelation doesn’t come easy, but it can come with efforts from both without and within those suffering from these kinds of struggles.

In the end, all of our lives are messed up. To think otherwise is giving the world way too little credit. Nothing goes perfectly, and frankly, we all have to struggle with something. It’ll take time. It’ll be hard. And boy oh boy will it hurt, some more than others. But we can get through it by helping one another. Giving yourself hope might be out of the question, but giving another person hope can always be a noble goal. Perhaps someday, someone else will return the favor.

Analysis: Red Data Girl

Red Data Girl

If you’re looking for anomalies from last season, there’s no better place to start than with Red Data Girl. Everything from the plot, name, and characters make you wonder what the crap this series is about, but the pieces fall into place eventually through the season. Kinda. The world in which the story is born is one where all types of conceivable magic are possible, but so far eastern religions hold the most precedence. It’s a show that screams high-class sophisticated supernatural, but restrains itself with what may or may not be discriminatory parameters.

So, to jump right in, what do you think a traditional fantasy/occult story is about? The strength of resolve manifesting into physical acts? Learning to accept one’s individualities, and finding one’s true place in the world? These are all themes which can be seen throughout magical tales, and the idea is fairly straightforward. Insert an individual, add a dash of destiny, and walla, we have a plotline of somewhat importance. So what are we to do with Red Data Girl, in which the world is full of people just like her, but also oh so different?

The protagonist is essentially an endangered species. The ‘red data book’ is the list of near-endangered animals, which is thereto where the show’s title is adapted from. Yet, at the same time, the protagonist is surrounded by not only the normal (these are hardly mentioned), but rather, by the supernatural. She goes to a school where sorcerers, priests, demons and gods at all normal. Yet, to this point, the girl herself has had no in-depth exposure to these elements, and so despite her personal powers, she is scared. Just as she had always to hide her abnormal side from her normal friends, so too at this new school must she hide her true self. In essence, she is perpetually an abnormal among abnormals: destined to always be an outsider.

So how does she adapt to this schism between her identity and the necessary reality? By changing, and somewhat unwillingly. She is constantly being possessed by her ‘other half’ under the oftimes deliberate manipulation by some, and then returned to ‘normal’ by those who prefer her this way. Both sides feature similarities far beyond appearance, but are also so strikingly different that she may very well be mistaken for a different character. This is the goal, the overriding social thinking which the show expresses through this medium.

Rather than entering a secondary world where all is as it should be, the protagonist is forced to find her own way in an in-between that all men must traverse. There is no ‘one self’, no more than there is a limitation between what choices one can make. Every individual makes complex decisions moment-by-moment, and while there may sometimes be a traversable statistical guideline to what types of options we lean towards, there are always outside forces in affect. At one point a man may take a right, while the next day, exact same situation, just different external forces, may cause the man to take a left. It’s the traditional mask trope, in which humans adapt to their circumstances, and despite how much you want to deny it, it does indeed exist.

So how does the protagonist of Red Data Girl fit in? She doesn’t. Like most of us, there is no ‘place’ where everything is roses. Instead, she must constantly strive to fit in, to stand out, to be happy, or sad, or whatever else she wants to be. Take away the trivial love affair and other supernatural elements, and all you have is a normal girl who can’t find herself in a confusing world. The hint then given by the work’s producers is this: balance. It’s a cliché theme, but alas, the cliché’s are made such for a reason. The only way to find your place in this world is to constantly dig it out yourself. Others can sometimes help, yes, but their efforts are often superficial at best, and false crutches at worst. Instead, you basically just have to deal with things as they come, and hope for the best. We’re all born as outsiders, whether you’re a normal teenager full of angst, or a young woman who just happens to be the reincarnation of an ancient power. The only difference is the taught ability some of us possess to fake our way into at least feeling accepted.

Analysis: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge

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What do you get when you combine genetic determinism, age-old blood-magic, and a cool pair of scissors? Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge of course! In case you are completely unaware of this snippet of anime from last season, here’s the gist. The protagonist inherits a pair of scissors from his great-dead-grandfather or whatnot, and then discovers that he is descended from a mass serial-killer reminiscent of Jack the Ripper, only with scissors. That’s all good and fine until the scissors start to semi-possess the kid, forcing him somewhat into a game where everyone with homicidal descendants are trying to kill a girl who’s hair cannot be cut because then any one wish of theirs will be granted. The ‘death game’ as it is called, has been going on for ages, since the original curse was placed in medieval times, which begs the question of why no one has not reported these supernatural occurrences before, but I regress. As you might notice, the whole plot and storyline is quite a mess, and frankly quite strange as it revolves around a pair of scissors. But who am I to judge? Here’s what the creators were really trying to say.

We’ve all heard of hereditary traits. Hair-color, facial structures, even alcoholism can be linked to what genes your parents put into you from their ancestors. Not only that, but what your parents did themselves can manipulate their own DNA, meaning that you have to potentially deal with their life decisions as well. Fun eh? Well, just imagine if instead of a drinking problem or a tendency to like cats, your great, great, grandparents were mass murderers. Those genes, that blood, is now in your veins, and as much as people like to argue, what you’re born with is in the end at least half of what makes you who you are.

Here’s where Dansai Bunri comes into play. Predictive criminality genetics is nothing new, but it has received a surprising amount of further study in recent years. As the genome sequences of humanity are being more and more examined, the idea of predicting whether someone will become a criminal using his DNA has become far more realistic, to the point of cases injecting the information into judicial trials. So, the idea that Dansai’s protagonist is being affected by his ancestor’s tendencies is far from complete fiction; it just probably doesn’t happen in quite the obvious way that the anime portrays.

Instead, the overwhelming forbearance of the characters predicament, as usual, reflects the controversial social debate explained above. Can humans truly be labeled and dissected into the sane and insane? How much control does one really have over whether one becomes a criminal or not? If prevention is possible by studying genetics, is it morally justified? Interestingly enough, we see both various sides of the picture by viewing the different characters of Dansai, and their unique reactions to the circumstances presented.

The ‘Hair Queen’, for instance, is just as much a victim of heredity as anyone else. Sure, she doesn’t wield some sort of strange weapon and get urges to murder those around her, but she is instead shackled with inability is two ways. One is that her hair can never be cut, making her a freak of society and social paradigm for the ‘different’. The other way is via the blood curse which she possesses, condemning her to a life of endless pursuit and danger. The girl did nothing wrong, but simply was born to the wrong parents. Even if she were a maniac, would society still have justification for putting her down, given her circumstances? The question is a contradiction in itself.

On the other hand, you have the murderers, who are indeed fairly insane, but walk unharmed from society for the most part. Instead, these powers of destruction are convenient, if not celebrated by those around them, and particularly the secret society which watches over the death games. Still, not everyone wants to become a murdered, and strongly resist the urges. Still, heredity wins out more often than not, which again begs the question of whether true heredity is all so controllable as some of us would wish to believe. For Dansai Bunri, I would argue the answer is almost certainly no.

So, we interact with one another, live our lives, and then end up giving a new generation the same fate as ourselves. Or do we really? Science is still only on the fringe of genetic examination, and thus we have barely a fraction of the information needed to create a decent answer, or even hypothesis concerning gauging the power of hereditary labeling. This is even more true for complex situations such as those concerning criminal activity, which are more likely than not linked to several different sub traits rather than a convenient but fictional ‘murder gene’. DNA is a world with mankind is still in the process of discovering, but it’s obvious that it plays a big part in life in one way or the other. Will we someday find that blood truly is thicker than water in the sense of influence, or will we always be left wondering whether the random actions of humanity are just that: random, unpredictable, and the choice of every man and woman, every moment, of every day?

Analysis: Robotics;Notes

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It’s not often that one is pleasantly surprised by a no-name anime series, but it does indeed happen, and Robotics;Notes falls precisely into this forlorn sub-category. What begins as a typical high school club drama develops not only into an intriguing mystery, but philosophical discussion piece and pretty solid action thriller as well. It probably won’t surprise you, however, that I will be focusing on the philosophical part of the piece, but I nevertheless feel inclined to recommend the series despite its slow start. Robotics;Notes certainly isn’t perfect, but it does bring out an enjoyable plotline as it continues along. Just don’t make the mistake of discarding the show early on.

The world is a complex network of eyes, ears, thoughts, and messages. Wires connect just about everything in modern society as one, and individuals spend debatably more time watching generated electronic images than physical realities. Fiction? Nope, it’s called the 21st century. If you don’t have internet in your house, you’re a caveman. If you don’t have TV, you’re living behind the times. It’s the truth, and there’s not much direction for it to go rather than forward. This is where Robotics;Notes starts it’s tale. The world hasn’t changed that much besides growing more technologically advanced. Virtual Reality Overlays, advanced AIs, and robots are all commonplace. The question then, is what this all does to our lazy Sunday afternoons.

It’s an old story with a new twist. Man makes machine, machine gains sentience, machine tries to rule man. In Robotics;Notes, there’s only one difference: man is the machine. The fact that the homicidal AI wreaking havoc is in fact the template of the human mind is debatably inconsequential. After all, if the machine is a machine, does it matter if it sounds and looks like a human being? For Robotics;Notes, the answer is absolutely yes. It is not the machine’s sophisticated hacking abilities that give it power. It’s not the ability to launch missiles, or lock doors; that only creates more destruction. No, the ability of antagonist is this anime is the power of perception, and this turns out to be a formidable power indeed.

Imagine if your sins were always around you. Those things, not necessarily “bad” as the world would define it, but anything that creates a resonance of guilt in your soul. These images would quickly become a torment, and then unbearable shackles that one might do anything to be relieved from. Such is how madness is often created. So, when the antagonist of this show does just that to the woman who ‘killed’ his body, the mental assault does just that. It drives the female character to utter madness, a hell which can only be relieved by listening to the voices which command her. By utilizing the image of not his newly digital mind, but his physical one, the antagonist takes control of the woman’s mind, to the point of utter subservience. It’s a spin on the ‘meeting your worst nightmare’ motif, but a potent interpretation none the less.

Still, the world cannot be rules by controlling a single woman, no matter how influential she is. So what does the evil do in Robitics;Notes? He creates a machine which ‘literally’ changes people’s perceptions. Because the world is so reliant on digital knowledge, it is child play to convince the masses that a fictional world is true. This brings him further control in a media-conspiracy -esque fashion, again through controlling the way people interpret the world around them. See how perception can be used to such an extent?

Technology does indeed play a major part of this piece, as it is the basis of the antagonist’s abilities. Nevertheless, the underlying methods and motivations which forward the plot are not mechanical, but rather psychological, and furthermore visual. In the end, the world would have likely ended if the protagonist and his friends had simply let the villain control what they thought and saw. Yet instead, they resist the temptations of complacency, and decide to explore and even reject the world that another man would have them believe. This is something which we can all take to heart. Life can be an extremely scary thing for us. There are countless choices, paths, and dangers always ahead. It can be much easier to let someone else carry the burden of responsibility and let others tell us who we are. They can tell us what is right, who to judge, what type of punishment is fitting, everything. In the end, by following we could always say that we were just helpless pawns. Sounds nice huh? Unfortunately though, our accountability doesn’t change the consequences of our actions. In the end, even if you listen to someone else, your actions still have reactions. Blindly following others can makes us feel secure, but it takes true courage to explore the world as your own rather than relying on someone else’s interpretations. Truly seeing, not just accepting, can mean the difference between allowing travesties and standing up for what you know is right.

Analysis: Zetsuen No Tempest

Zetsuen no Tempest

What do you get when you combine anime with Shakespeare? In some cases, a creation which is actually not so bad. Take Zetsuen no Tempest for example. By remolding the themes of Shakespeare’s work by a similar name, creators were able to combine the words of one of the greatest literary minds of history with modern-day suspense and action. Did they do it well? I would say so, to a limited extent. The work certainly isn’t anything as powerful as the original inspiration, but Zetsuen no Tempest does pick up a few fun ideas and toy with them in an entertaining way.

Say you’re reading a book, any book, and you come to passage where you don’t like what you think is going to happen. As a countermeasure, you insert your own words onto the page, only to find that the rest of the story has magically adapted your work into the literature. What do you think would then happen to the story? Would the ending change? The beginning? How much effort does it take to rapidly derail a formerly linear plot towards a different fulfillment? This is the idea of fate, and the difficulty behind the concept of ‘changing’ it. Are we all simply actors on a stage, or do we have significant choices of our own? Zetsuen takes a rather coy look at the idea, by offering both sides of the debate.

On one hand we have the early description of time travel. An idea that should be impossible is made real by magical forces; we see things like physical travel, as well as mental travel through the timeline. Some theorists would argue that the mere action of moving back through time would alter the universe, thus shifting the continuum in a different direction. The other body of thought however is that a somewhat preconceived time-‘loop’ of sorts would be automatically triggered by the action, thus making sure that the same person would travel back in time at the given time etc. Think of Harry Potter and the ‘I already did it’ idea. Zetsuen appears to be supporting the one idea in the first half of the series when the time-traveling instances have the inevitability factor to account for their future actions. The girl goes back only to do the thing which makes her go back in time and such. Yet, later in the show, sheer force allows humanity to go against its ‘fate’ of looping destruction. So, which is it, the later theory, or the former? Tempest can’t really say, but needless to point out, the ideas concerning the time/space continuum are overwhelmingly complicated: an idea which the anime has fun with.

With no prevalent overshadowing theme, the piece jumps from action idea to action idea, rarely actually linking to Shakespeare in more than lip service. Still, one of the more intriguing plot developments only occurs halfway through the series when the world is radically changed as a whole. It becomes a different plane of existence in effect, in which the giant tree of wisdom punishes all evil-doers, and creates freedom and liberty for all. Sound familiar to you? It should. Superheroes, higher beings, and the power of ‘good’: they are all often representations of a similar theme in human existence. They are God.

So, Zetsuen offers us a view at the world which is not necessarily unique, but certainly requires further prompting for inspection. What if God were to take control of the world, and force humanity to follow the rules? There’d be no more murder, stealing, criminality or pain at all. Law-enforcement, governments, just about everything that we use to protect ourselves would no longer be necessary. Yet, as seen in Zetsuen, this kind of world is hardly a paradise. Just because the laws are followed doesn’t mean humans aren’t still flawed. Just because a man can’t outwardly hurt those around him doesn’t mean he’s not a bad person. Or does it? If we truly don’t trust such preventative restrictions, wherein do those real-life agencies which ‘keep the law’ fit in? We argue about the injustice of a flawed system, and yet are equally appalled by that system being perfect? It’s a contradiction between desire and expectation, and is hardly limited to such enormous issues as war and homicide. Each of us can only see the world as a place for one person, us, and as such the world should be tailored to our personal needs. ‘Sure, for some people the speed limit might hold a purpose, but for me it means nothing’ and such ideas are rampant throughout society. Equality, though, requires that we all be treated the same under the laws, for our own safety as well as others’. This in turn means that only the ‘average’ is well-regulated (if even that). See how things can get messy when you incorporate individuality?

Which is worse then, a world without God, or a world with one? For Zetsuen no Tempest, their choice is one of freedom with restriction, at the cost of pain and inhumanity. Is this what you would choose as well? Someone who has been just victimized or permanently lost their life because of it might disagree. Or maybe not. Perhaps the choice outweighs the risk. Still, neither of these paths feels like paradise to me. In truth, the world of the individual must be compensated for, with every single person getting everything they could ever desire without ruining the joy for anyone else. It’s impossible. If there is a perfect plane, it cannot exist with others; at least not true others. If there is a paradise, it will be the world literally focusing around you and you alone, with everyone else just living life in extension. No human being though, would truly desire such a life. Perfection therefore can only be created for the individual in solitude. With crowded world then, how a benevolent being can account for this might be one the biggest questions for believers.

Analysis: Shin Sekai Yori

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Well, I might be a bit late this evening to the point of this article not appearing until technically tomorrow, but hey, that doesn’t mean I can’t have great thoughts at 1:00 in the morning right? My apologies. Anyways, this week’s analysis will be upon the fantastic dystopia future of Shin Sekai Yori, or from the new world. This one ought to be pretty fun.

Like Psycho-Pass and other future flics, Shin Sekai has a fairly simple pretense. Take a step a few hundred (or thousand) years into the future, and introduce a new social system designed for solve one of society’s current ailments. Shin Sekai doesn’t merely stop there though. Instead, it takes the idea further by introducing evolution into the equation, and using their ‘natural’ changes as the building blocks for all other systems. At first glance this might seem as a distracting complication to empathy with various characters and their lifestyles. Look closer though, and you’ll find that though their methods, abilities, and even genetics have changed, humanity remains the central trait in the world. The problems created then aren’t so very different from those which even today raise their ugly heads.

A system where mental power directly computes into physical ability is a simplification of the human mind in terms of potential. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if at a glance the most talented individuals could be discovered, simply because they can do things with their telekinetic powers which others cannot? These individuals could be given the attention and challenge that they need, and grow up to become the great leaders and heroes which society deserves! Our current system is far too lax in equality over opportunity, in that many of these great minds are left to decay in situations which simply don’t take full control of their potential. Even those who do make it to the elitist training systems don’t necessarily have the needed power to develop, and thus are often based upon the ability of their parents rather than their own. In this way, equality is left as simply a word which means that everything can be purchased, so long as you have enough money. If not, the ‘standard situation’ must be what you’re naturally destined for…

So you can see why the societal schooling system seen in Shin Sekai is so appealing. If mental capacity could be physically represented, then a simple display of this power could easily be the most straightforward and universally ‘just’ test ever devised by humanity. Todd could get the extra help he/she needs, whereas Suzy could be placed in the upper-division classes where a more challenging curriculum awaits. There needn’t be any parent politicking, biased favoritism, or otherwise unwise detriments for society. Things would be both efficient and fair, the touted desires of all human societies, right?

What if though, you start questioning whether you really need to waste the time and energy on those who are a bit less than great? After all, if you can judge them at a distance, then one could easily see that certain individuals would never grow to be anything worthwhile. Careful monitoring could even weed out dissenters and social radicals who might further disrupt a situation that thrives on peace and community. Why waste effort on rehabilitation, when the natural order has determined that they just aren’t fit for the world as it is? This isn’t a new idea. The cream rises to the top, so you skim it off for the best baking. The rest has its uses, but it’s hardly the same as the cream. Shouldn’t society naturally only retain the best, most loyal, most perfect individuals for further development? The truth of the matter is that this is the only path to lasting improvement of the human race. Anything else is simply inefficient.

So where to draw the line? Is there in fact a line to be drawn? At what point does it become insistent to cull the crop for the greater good of the whole, when a single seed can be the cause of so much more pain than good? If you could clearly see the demons walking among us, would you sit back knowing that they would inevitably seek to destroy everything you hoped and built? Shin Sekai Yori doesn’t offer any answers. In the future where everything is simplified, some might argue that the ‘right’ choice becomes more obvious to see. Some characters in the series certainly thought this way. Yet, with perfection comes a price; one which some might deem is even inhuman. The contradiction then is this: how can one exist if the only way to achieve the ideal human society is by discarding the very humanity which we claim is the cause for our desire for the ideal? If only we knew.

In the pursuit of everlasting peace, justice, and perfect happiness, just what are we willing to give away to progress? We live in a time where violence, crime, and injustice are commonplace in every day, and must be feared lest it approach uninhibited: is this the cost of being human? In Shin Sekai Yori, the world is a different place, yes, with different rules. Yet, for all that’s different, we can still see so many heralds of modern-day ‘innovations’ which are designed to make life better for all: standardized testing, government restrictions, motions for absolute equality. When we step into the future, what we find isn’t going to be anything stunning or unfamiliar. It’s going to be us. It’s going to be what decisions we have made and are making every day, which extend to our children and our children’s children. Different? Yes. But so much more the same. I have little doubt that in one way or another the human race will endure whatever comes our way. It is in the nature of life to adapt and survive. Whether this will mean a necessarily improvement however, is something far more uncertain. When we look at the past from the new world, will we like what we see? Or will our dreams of progress have led us down a path which no one could have ever truly desired?

Analysis: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

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Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo might have a strange name, but it’s definitely a show worth watching. The various plotlines, the necessary, everyday comedy, and moments of pure humanity made this series shine where so few can do so. I hesitate to call it a romance, or comedy, or slice of life anime because none of those labels really grasp what Sakurasou is about. It skirts with the happy and sad realities of all of these things, plus many more, and yet if I were to concentrate on a central theme, it would have to be the struggle against determinism.

The struggle against walls built by nature is nothing new. Last week it was a computerized society which deems your limitations; in Sakurasou, it is a more real-life approach. When you are born, you are immediately born with certain traits, certain skills, which set you apart from your fellow human being. For the most part, we are all of the average stock, which consists of a slight inclination here and there, but a general belief at least that we can shape our lives to a certain extent. How though, do we deal with those people who are born with skills which far surpass our own? Not through experience, pain, growth, nor even necessarily lineage are these individuals created, but simply as a seemingly paradox to a world where equality is touted as the win-all for humanity. This is the contradiction which Sakurasou explores in various forms, and nevertheless provides a human element to completely inhumane circumstances.

Work hard, follow the rules, and take every opportunity which comes your way: this is the path to success, happiness, and a future. So how do you reconcile these beliefs, the very framework of modern society, with the fact that the average individual will find it impossible to every surpass those with natural talent in a certain field or study? I use such a harsh word as ‘impossible’ with every intention of the perfective implications of it, despite what some may argue. It is only in fairy tales where the underdog with no natural aptitude for a subject will overcome someone who works just as hard, studies just as much, but also unfairly holds onto an advantage which has been there from birth. It’s as simple as mathematics, and while inevitable variables come into effect as they always do, the general pretense that 1 will always fall behind 10 should their increases remain relatively similar.

Sounds pretty depressing eh? It is. Imagine working so hard in your life to achieve just one thing. A novel, a painting, even a statue of some sort. You can feel accomplished by your creation, sure, but it is unrealistic to imagine that your work is going to the best. Nevertheless, when someone else, a prodigy, appears and creates a work far more magnificent than your own, human nature calls for a form of comparison, with you more likely than not inevitably ending up beneath. People will say ‘You did a good job’, and ‘I think it’s rather remarkable given your talent and abilities’, but these words are hardly consolation for the fact that your failure is exactly that when set beside the work of a genius. This is only made worse if in fact the talented person mentioned created their piece with seemingly ease as they often do.

Still, while Sakurasou vividly displays the unrestrained emotions which come with this natural inferiority, the show takes a step which most others don’t to offer a true answer to their dilemma. There’s no changing the way the world works, and even if there was it would be highly unethical, despite the irony of such a statement. It’s only natural that some excelled greater than others, as is the pretense for such pain. Instead, the only true answer, as Sakurasou gives it, is with acceptance, reconciliation, and perseverance toward an impossible goal which one must never lose hope of accomplishing. Such is the human dilemma of being normal. You can cry, you can get frustrated, and you can hurt those around you, but none of this will change reality as it is. The greaters’ will still exist, still awe the world, and you will be left with only your personal ambitions to keep you warm, so hold on to them like gold. Be proud of what you do, and be proud of what others can do as well. Resist comparisons whenever possible, and strive to find joy no matter the outcome of society’s contests. Life is going to hurt, it’s not going to always work out, and as cliché as it will always be, it is not fair. There can, however be a place for you, and happiness should you be lucky enough to find it.

Sakurasou offers this harsh advice to viewers: live with it. The world isn’t going to change. You are who you were born as, and there are other people who are your betters’. Yet, you must continue on. There’ll be laughs, there’ll be tears, and there’ll be a whole life of experiences ahead of you. No one is exempt from these. It might be hard to see your path as important while viewing the gold-paved stones of those born for greatness, but you don’t have any other choice. Strive for your own happiness and maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it to a place where nothing else but what is yours guides your sight.