The violence in this week’s episode is exactly what I was getting at in my Inuyashiki post. I hope the post I’m about to write isn’t controversial, but you never know. Before we get to my primary point, however, we need a little context. When we last left off, masked soldiers appeared out of nowhere to suddenly lay siege upon the peaceful, idyllic Falaina. What follows is an absolute slaughter. Not only that, it’s a bunch of children being slaughtered. The community is defenseless precisely because it’s assumed to be a paradise by its inhabitants. They live simple lives, and as a result, they have little weapons. They have neither a warning system nor even a plan for such extreme emergencies. The attackers probably know this, so they are seemingly lackadaisical in their mission. In other words, these are not even good soldiers. Anyone can shoot fish in a barrel.
Two of Ouni’s friends have already died, leaving the rest in complete panic. Ouni finally emerges from the bowels of Falaina all cool and collected. He’s had enough of this cruel world, and he’s here to save his friends… well, whatever’s left of them. Surely, the enemy soldiers will now turn and attack Ouni, right? No. Ouni gives a little speech. He’s always yearned for the outside world, and now he finds out it’s full of child murderers. Man, that sucks! Okay, now he’ll have to fight, right? No. Ouni still has time to close one of his dead friends’ eyes. In the distance, the attackers are only now slowly closing in. This sort of violence is infuriating to me. This whole set-up is nothing more than an excuse for Ouni to wield his rage as a blade of vengeance. Children are slaughtered just so we can cheer for his triumphant arrival.
Oh, the manipulative brutality of the violence doesn’t stop there. Lady Taisha is dead, and the Council of Elders have gone silent. The children are left to fend for themselves against faceless, heartless soldiers they can’t possibly hope to understand. Suou has no choice but take the reins. Someone has to do something. Someone has to protect the remaining survivors and lead them through this horrific predicament. Ginshu of the defense force has his back, and she vouches for retaliation. But no, Suou suggests, because we mustn’t kill our enemies. Otherwise, the cycle of violence will never end. Instead, we’ll try to parlay with the enemy. Parlay? Par-lay?! Are you kidding me, dude? But again, this is all by design. Even a pacifist like myself wouldn’t be all “Well, maybe there’s just a misunderstanding!” But Suou is rendered pathetic in order to — you guessed it — make Ouni look cool.
As Suou marches to presumably engage the enemy in a fruitful discussion about their cultural differences and how the two sides can peacefully coexist, blood falls from the sky and lands on his face. Hint: violence is inevitable, you peace-loving hippie. He looks up and what does he see? Why, it’s favorite anti-hero Ouni giving the child murderers their just desserts. With people like Suou around, someone’s gotta do the dirty work! Look, I can understand vengeance. I can understand retaliation. But the shot — I know it’s an anime, but just assume there’s a camera — lingers on Ouni. He’s literally posing for us. No one would awkwardly stand there and hold a skewered body in the air for any other reason but to look cool. Then he kicks the body to the ground, looks over shoulder all heroic like, and flicks the blood off his blade like a bad ass. Ugh. Gimme a break.
But let’s move on. Eventually, the enemy commander — who is apparently Lykos’s older brother — calls off the troops. They got what they came for, which is the ship that Lykos was found on. He didn’t even want the girl. Instead, she’s been left behind as a guinea pig No. 4. A guinea pig for what? We don’t know yet. What is her brother up to? We don’t know yet. All we know is that the attack is off for now, but don’t rest just yet. The soldiers will be back to finish off the rest of Falaina. How do we know this? Well, two enemy soldiers gave this information to Ouni. He didn’t parlay for it; he tortured them. Then afterwards, he killed them. The peace-loving inhabitants are shocked. You can’t do that! Torture is wrong! Here’s where you have the little girl stand in to admonish the peaceniks: “If Ouni hadn’t done it, we’d all be dead in a few days.” Sigh.
I haven’t even gotten to Chakuro, but he isn’t spared either. No, he doesn’t die. But like the rest of the children, he loses his innocence. At first, he tries to escape with Sami, but the girl is dead. The childhood friend doesn’t win here. In fact, she barely last two episodes. And like with Ouni, the soldiers could’ve easily started attacking Chakuro. It’s not easy for a kid to run away with a corpse in his arms. But they don’t. If you want to be charitable to the story, you can again assume that the bad guys are toying with their victims the same way a cat would toy with a mouse. Maybe this is why they’re being really slow and inefficient with executing Chakuro even though they had no issues gunning Sami down immediately. That’s one interpretation. Or you can see this as yet another manipulative scene wherein Chakuro’s despair is ridiculously drawn out in order to justifiably push the kid towards the edge.
Chakuro holds Sami’s lifeless body in his arms and closes his eyes. He’s more a scholar than a fighter. He’s ready to die. But for some fucking reason, three little kids — the same three kids that Chakuro lives with — come running at him, screaming for their brother. Oh ho, more defenseless children to slaughter! Well, why don’t we try parlaying? No? How ’bout getting on our knees and begging for mercy? Hmm, that doesn’t seem to work either. I guess our hero has no choice but to suddenly ignite this thymia and do battle. Here’s where some of you might misunderstand me. I don’t care that Chakuro is fighting back. Sometimes, you do have to fight back. What I hate is the way violence is being used. It’s not consistent in its portrayal. One minute, children are dying left and right without mercy. Another minute, it slows down so the heroes can look cool.
The world has good guys and it has bad guys. When bad guys do bad things, good guys have to stop them. Sometimes, good guys will have to regrettably take a life in order to really stop the bad guys. Sometimes, this is just unavoidable. We can all sensibly agree to that. What I don’t like is when violence is glorified. Children are butchered right before our eyes. Ugh, how horrific! How terrible! We must stop these guys! Ouni then guts a soldier, poses with the body, then goes on to torture two of them. Hey, he’s just doing the dirty work that nobody wants to do! Finally, someone is doing something! What I fear is that violence is being employed by this story as an ideological cudgel. People will go to great lengths when they think they’re doing the right thing. But don’t condemn murder, then turn around and look like a badass while killing someone.
At the very least, don’t hide behind a child’s tears.