Children of the Whales Ep. 5: Nothing to get too emotional about

In the middle of a speech that is meant to inspire hope, Suou breaks down and cries in front of the entire island. He has too many emotions, and at this point in time, he finds that he can no longer repress them any longer. Unlike the Council of Elders, he does not intend to die nor does he wish to drag everyone else with him. But he’s also an Unmarked, so he has little to offer on the battlefield. The best he can do is lift people’s spirits and lead them as their Chieftain, which is still more than respectable, but we tend to romanticize warriors. As a result, the guilt of being an Unmarked weighs deeply on his heart. Ouni thus seizes the moment to claim the spotlight. He emerges from the shadows — isn’t it cool he always finds the perfect stage for himself — and half-berates Suou for appearing weak and ineffectual. Step up and be a leader! Just command them to fight! Suou naturally wonders if Ouni is willing to fight alongside the rest of them. When the latter says yes, the crowd erupts in cheers. The music swells into an encore and… hope is restored?

The whole moment tickles me. Ouni butchered a score of enemy soldiers just a couple of weeks ago. Sure, sure, the enemy soldiers had just killed his friends, but it’s not the eye-for-an-eye retaliation that irks me. Rather, it’s the way Ouni was and continues to be portrayed as a badass warrior who must do what others can’t. Remember, he followed up his killing spree by capturing and torturing a soldier for precious intel. An act like this is really only possible by, well, shutting off your emotions. You can’t pretend to give a damn about the person you’re torturing. You have to regard them as the Other, and in doing so, you can inflict as much harm as you need in order to get what you want. I won’t condemn Ouni’s goals. Protecting your friends is a worthwhile goal. Protecting your home is a worthwhile goal. But it’s just deeply ironic that Falaina is half-represented by a character who has no emotional regard for the enemy. Falaina and its inhabitants supposedly represent hope, because unlike Lykos’s ancestors, they did not abandon their emotions. And yet, how quickly and easily we ignore the fact that Ouni’s heart went cold.

Oh yeah, daring to have emotions is the island’s oh-so-terrible sin. A long time ago, the island’s ancestors refused to give up their emotions like everyone else. As a result, they were exiled from their home country. Unfortunately, the Empire is now afraid that rival countries will get their hands on Falaina. Seeing as how they only have eight ships of their own, they don’t really want their enemies to match 12.5% of their navy in just one shot. Welp, I guess we have no other choice but to massacre an entire community, ‘cause, y’know, emotions are bad. It’s not actually that extreme, of course. When one of the enemy soldiers recognized Lykos, he seemed to take delight in his cruelty. That’s an emotion, so clearly, some emotions are okay. Just don’t expect any consistency on what is kosher and what is not. And even on Falaina, the inhabitants practice a tiny bit of repression. They always tell the kids not to cry whenever a funeral is held. Of course, you can cry anyway, and no one will kill you, but still… it’s a goddamn funeral.

Right now, I’m having a hard time seeing the need for Chakuro and Suou to be separate characters. Having two pure-hearted characters who are both hesitant to fight strikes me as kind of unnecessary. They also both seem to represent the show’s emotional core, which strikes me as equally redundant. Ouni is a foil for both characters? Oh well. I’m also dissatisfied with the show’s overall lack of character development. Chakuro tells everyone that Lykos has grown to love the Mud Whale and its people, so there’s hope that others could as well. But the girl has barely spent any time interacting with anyone besides Chakuro, so I find this sudden change in her character unconvincing. She also doesn’t really bring anything new or fresh to her bog standard anime archetype. In fact, she’s apparently not mysterious enough, so we should make Neri even more enigmatic and mystical. In this week’s episode alone, the little waif refers to Falaina as her mother, and sprouts ethereal wings. Hoo boy. Last but not least, Ouni is apparently not a big enough asshole, so let’s add a one-eyed nihilist for him to contend with. Children of the Whales has a lot of characters, but none of them stand out in anyway. They seem to just trip over each other, and at the moment, this results in a bland storytelling experience.

2 Replies to “Children of the Whales Ep. 5: Nothing to get too emotional about”

  1. I’m starting to think that this anime is created by some Japanese conservative hard-liners who try to criticize the pacifistic and non-confrontational (lol) attitude that is hold by the mainstream Japanese and the fact that Japan don’t have “proper” military. This anime is just like: “See! This is what happens if you have a pacifistic wuss as your leader and no military! We all should arm ourselves and vote for true warrior to be our leader! RRAAAWWWRR!!!

    I hope I’m wrong, though. Japanese right-wing stuff just make me queasy and my stomach crawl. If it’s not, then this anime is tone-deaf or just hypocritical on its approach to violence. Condemning it on one side while glorifying it on the other. Or the anime just condemn it as a mere lip service in order to avoid criticism. I guess it does not matter in the end, though. None of these speculations looks good for this anime no matter which one is true.

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