Today we get some much appreciated delves into the specific political psychology in our two main leads. It kind of reminds me of Fate/Zero and how the mages and servants were all different ideological opinions, fighting to prove that their way of thinking is the “correct” one. This show, though, provides a much broader scope of themes and opinions, not to mention that it did it 20 years before Fate/Zero.
But due to this, there is something I want to criticize about this show. It’s nothing that detriments it’s intended effect, but it is noticeable and it always reminds me that this was a novel first, adaption later. Well, it’s not much of a criticism other than a different point of view.
The show displays it’s dialogue and subtext with little to no subtlety. It is full-frontal in showing us exactly how the characters feel about the situation and in the way that they speak of it. Yang tends to go on tirades about the pointlessness of the war, lecturing Julian and Federica, perhaps as a way to vent about something he can’t do anything about. Reinhard will discuss the worth of human lives with Oberstein, and many other characters will also show no hesitation in talking about their views of the world and what should be done to fix it.
Of course, it’s easy to say this is blatant cheap exposition, but I’d like to prove otherwise.
You see, the exposition that is done in the show is not done for the sake of advancing the story. In a story where each person in it has a vastly distinct goal for human race, those goals need to be explained not only to us in the audience, but for the characters as well, and the way that they go around explaining how they feel is important to that character. Yang goes on rants because he needs to lay out some steam in order to not go crazy, and he gives this advice to those he believes will use it in the future, as a way to give himself hope that in the future, people might not become so royally screwed. Reinhard does this more to justify to himself the actions that have been done and to try to get rid of the moral conflict within him, due to those actions. The exposition is diegetic, it’s important for us in the audience to know the character’s mindsets, but it’s also important for the characters to talk about it with those close to them. Despite being exposition, it’s still necessary for the characters delivering it.
With that in mind, lest dissect some of the more nuanced quotes this time around, seeing as they do play a part in the development of potential events in the future, and also speak of the real world and it’s infinite problems.
– “Whether they steal it or build it, the first one there deserves the prize. That is only natural. However, for those who have come to power, wealth and glory not by their own strength and effort, but simply because of inheritance, what right do they have to complain? I think the very existence of such blood lineage dynasties is disgusting. Power is the property of one generation. It should not be transferred; it should be seized.“
– “So, Your Excellency, you will not pass on your position and power to your children?“
– “Children? My children, did you say? The person who succeeds me will have talent equal to or greater than my own. And, that does not have to be only after I am dead. Anyone who thinks they can take it by stabbing me in the back is welcome to try. However, what do you think will happen to them if they fail? I will let that give them pause.“
Here, Reinhard brings up a point that has remained untouched in the show: the nature of power being passed down through generations.
The argument that Rein is putting up for his attack on blood lineages is that those who have it have never had to search for it themselves, the power simply falling on their lap when they’re born. This goes well with Rein’s past, since he had to climb all the way to ruling the Empire out of pure determination. His experiences have been painful, but they’ve landed him with the power he sought for so long, so he has reason to believe that to be the way for power to be distributed.
The problem with this, which Hildegard touches on sub-textually, is that someone like Reinhard comes along once in a blue moon, and those with the grit and passion to seek power aren’t born in already favorable positions like him.
Reinhard was born to a noble family and had ties to the government from day one. If he had been born as a poor child in a slum, perhaps he wouldn’t’ve had the opportunity to reach the level of power he has now. It’s all circumstantial, and based on luck.
Which brings me to my next point. What Rein fails to see, though, it’s that it’s not the people themselves that are detrimental to the state of the hierarchy, it’s how those people are taught about how to use their power.
In fact, blood lineages are not important in this case. If those in power were simply aware of (or emotionally affected by) the damage that being megalomaniacal and self-important does to those under their control, then things might be better. It’s all a matter of knowledge and an open-mindedness. Anyone can be born with a closed mind, but being taught from a young age about proper ruling can have a massive effect on the actions those with power have.
So, in the end, Reinhard’s best choice, in my opinion, is to have children, and to teach them how to run a country properly. He thinks of power as a thing people only fight for, as he constantly spouts phrases that allude to violence, betrayal, and death. His logic is based on some level of evidence, but he needs to acknowledge the fact that people are born with malleable and sculpt-able brains, ready to gobble up all the knowledge of the world, and if that knowledge is a sound one, and it’s delivered with compassion, patience, and understanding, any child can become a wonderful ruler.
Next up is our boy Yang, with two quotes with Julian that drip with his humble righteousness.
– “An army is an institution for violence, and there are two kinds of violence.”
– “Good violence and bad violence?”
– “No, not quite. Violence to control and oppress, and violence as a means of liberation. You know what we call a national army is fundamentally the former example. It is a pity, but history does not lie. When those in power confront popular opposition, there are not many examples of the army siding with the people. Far from it, in the past in country after country, the army itself evolved into a power structure and came to control the people with violence.“
Here Yang is sinking his feet into the nature of the military, and how it acts more as a branch of the government than a completely separate entity. The biggest question here is why does the military side with the government in moments of public uproar or attempts at government takeover?
Could it be because of a secure future with money, safety, and freedom? It’s as simple as turning the guns on the other direction for the one thing the whole population wants out of the country to be gone. Is it then because those in the military fully trust in their government and their justification for their actions? Being myself experienced with these conflicts, and currently witnessing one where the military itself is at a tightrope of support, it’s difficult to say to what extent will people commit atrocities to maintain the power under the control of those proven to be ineffective at using it. What do the soldiers think when they hear of the hundreds of teenage deaths in protests, all of it staining their hands with blood, knowing they are responsible for it?
It’s a difficult question, knowing that you yourself might be killed or worse by putting up a fight against the orders, the mere hushing of conspiratorial words resulting in their outing as traitors.
– “The past? Listen, Julian, for as long as human history goes on, the past will continue to accumulate. History is not just records of the past. It is also proof that civilization has advanced to the present. Our present civilization is the result of our past. Understand?”
– “In the long flow of time, living things know nothing of their ancestors, except for the genes they have inherited. Only humans have history. Having a history differentiates humans from all other living species. That is why I wanted to be a historian. The only reason I am in this sad state is because I made the wrong first move.”
– “But if there were no people making history, there would be nothing for historians to study.“
Yang speaks of the nature of history, and how that serves as a proof of humanity’s existence.
A large theme in this story is how no matter what happens in the war, it’s all meaningless in the eternal ticking clock of the universe. This, though, does bring up an interesting counter-point for this argument. I’d say it’s another thematic paradox.
Let’s say that it’s the year 30,000 AD. Humans have become extinct, Earth now remaining as an an empty husk in the nothingness of space. Let’s say another civilization comes across our planet. Everything we made here on Earth will remain for eons after we are dead, regardless of it’s deemed importance or weight. Even existing changes the universe in some way or another. History is a proof of that, and even not everyone’s name will be recorded in the history books, there is a guarantee that you have made an impact in the universe in some way or another. History is that eternal watermark of humanity, one that will remain even when nothing is left of us in flesh and blood.
Many people disregard history, calling it “useless knowledge”. This, though, not only serves to learn of humanity’s mistakes, but also to learn from them so, as a species, we can progress ever forward.
Can this spiral ever end?