Extra: A new kind of heroine

[Spoiler alert for the ending of Gatchaman Crowds]

I really wasn’t expecting all that much from Gatchaman Crowds. All I really knew for sure was that I was liking the art style and color pallet. I certainly didn’t expect the story to rely more on showing than telling, a rarity in anime these days. Nor did I expect Hajime. I really and truly did not expect her at all.

Hajime is one of those characters I doubt anyone really expected to see. She’s endlessly cheerful, but unlike so many heroines in anime, her endless joy is not dependent on a male character (aka love connection) or her situation. She loves life itself, fully and without restraint. This isn’t to say she doesn’t feel anger or frustration, but those feelings never completely take over. Instead, even when faced with the worst possibilities, the darkest dangers, she smiles and looks on the bright side.

Before that sounds too forced, here’s a disclaimer: It doesn’t come without a price. At the very end, Hajime intentionally dodges Katze’s more violent and harsh comments and questions, changing the subject without even looking at him (it?) at first. Compared with her face-to-face interactions with Katze in the past, this is a subtle, though important difference. Hajime is upset. She’s upset so many people are scared. That so many are hurt. That anyone, anything, could possibly find joy in others’ pain. Yet she calms herself, focuses on something else, doing something no other Gatchaman was able to do. She seeks Katze’s redemption, wishing him to see joy in life itself and to seek others’ happiness as she does. Despite all his evil (and he is truly a work of twisted art, let me tell ya), she forces herself to look at him and say, “After all this, can we go on a date?”

I’ve talked about heroes before on this blog and for good reason. So often we get caught up in that idea where the hero is a hero simply because he beats up the villain. And while that can be entertaining to see when a villain gets on our last nerve one too many times, it’s not really what a hero truly is. Being a hero is overcoming fear, doubt and selfish desires to better the world around you. It means looking out for others before yourself. Even your enemies. In fact, in a true hero’s mind, an absolute enemy doesn’t really exist. Only lost, scared, sad people that need redemption. And while these people need to be held accountable for their actions, they aren’t monsters either. Understanding that the villain isn’t all that different from themselves is a strong quality in a hero and often overlooked these days.

Hajime was able to do something really amazing in Gatachman Crowds. She looked into an alien’s eyes, one that had murdered countless millions of lives throughout the galaxy, and she still saw it as a living creature in need of something, a thing needing salvation. She believed that fully. So much so that she even took his future in her hands, sealing it within the only safe prison she had: herself. She did not reject the enemy, the reality, before her in disgust, but accepted it with open arms and a smile. And while she does have a natural fear of her current situation (“No matter what happens, I’m just me”), she refuses to give up. She loves life. And she wants others to have that love, too. Even bloodthirsty aliens. She may not be the most popular heroine out there in anime, but she sure has earned a place in my list of heroes, right alongside Relena Darlian and the Elric brothers. Not a small feat, I assure you.

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Extra: Another look at Relena Darlian

relenaWhen talking with a friend of mine recently about heroes, I was reminded of one particular character that I didn’t really like all that much when I first met her, but who I grew to love and respect down the road.

Relena Darlian. A female character that seems rather typical, if a tad spacy, at first. When I watched Gundam Wing for the first time, her ability to ignore a gun pointed at her and address Heero on equal terms was interesting, but I didn’t put much stock in it at the time. And her statements in the movie, such as “hatred will only breed more hatred,” seemed hopelessly cliche to me. And, yes, it is cliche in a way. It seems overly simplistic. But having a few more years to my name I can say with confidence that it is also a hundred percent true.

As I’ve mentioned before, heroes need to be more than people with a mission statement. They need to be able to take all the consequences that come along with that stance. And, say what you will about her love of pink outfits, Relena does just that. Over and over she sticks by her resolve to not take up weapons (she only uses a weapon once near the beginning of the series, but once she decides to drop weapons she never picks them up again), often putting herself in harms way as a result. And she does not force others into her beliefs. Though she denies having weapons of her own in the Sanc kingdom, she allows others, such as the Gundams, to stick by their own methods. Even after her kingdom’s collapse, Relena refuses weapons. She doesn’t hide one on her person to kill the leader of the Romefeller Foundation (although she certainly had the chance to do so). In fact, she only joins the Foundation because her own people were suffering. In other words, she didn’t bat an eye when consequences for her decisions were upon only herself, but she refused to drag others with her uselessly. She later confronts her brother in space and faces the killer of her foster father, all without a single weapon. Again, she had chances to end things. Yet she knew killing was wrong and refused to give up what she thought was right. But even when negotiations failed, she stayed where she was, in harm’s way, doing what little she could.
And, if her character wasn’t clear already, Relena takes her beliefs one step further in the movie. She stands before a pointed gun and states bluntly “I am prepared to die.” Again, on the surface that seems cliche, but think about that. How easy would it have been to stay quiet and stay down? To not stand up? No one would blame her. She couldn’t fight in any normal way, after all. Yet, even though she had no chances to live through the event, she still stood for what she knew to be right. She knew what would likely happen and she had no regrets.

So while it may not have been as cool as piloting a Gundam or dropping a grenade in the middle of the room, Relena is by no means as “girly” as she first appears. In fact, one might even say she had more courage than any other character in the series. Heroism doesn’t always “look cool,” but it’s certainly something to respect and look up to.

Extra: Facing the facts

We’ve all encountered it. That moment when the hero declares that they refuse to take another life. That they will never kill because killing is wrong. And although I happen to agree with that, it’s not usually played out in a very realistic manor. Which is what made this same declaration in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood by the Elric brothers stand out. Because they were being realistic about it.

The thing about memorable heroes isn’t that they just say heroic stuff, but that they stick to their convictions no matter what. Edward readily admitted that his stance on killing was stupid considering their position. That he’d probably get killed himself because of it. But he also believed it was worth sticking to regardless. From the time he makes that promise onward, Edward and his brother keep it, which is no small feet. And not all the other “hero” characters agree with this idea, let alone follow it. Riza and Roy, for example, continue their jobs as soldiers and killing is something they don’t avoid.
This is refreshing because, realistically, not every person in a group would agree to one particular method. Especially when thousands of lives are on the line. As noble as the Elrics’ stance is, it’s also extremely dangerous (for enemies don’t follow any such rule). The Elrics knew full well the danger and accepted it, regardless of who agreed with them.

All considering, a few newer shows could benefit from this. Yes, there are naive people who makes commitments without thinking of the consequences. But I’d love to see more heroes like Ed and Al. Ones that know the dangers full well and accept them with confidence. Not because they know for sure they will win, or even because their allies agree with them, but because they know for sure what they’re doing is right.