Elfen Lied

I just finished watching the DVD for Elfen Lied. This was soon after seeing the two endings for Fate:Stay Night (3 different endings)

Hollywood has sappy happy endings. Japanese artistic work normally has tragedy and stuff where good people suffer and bad people are left alive. Actually, you got that in Hollywood stuff too, but you usually have a Deus Ex Machina moment where the heroes use some super speed or power to save the day. In the real world, that’s not the case, and the Japanese aren’t afraid to show it the way it is.

Thus these sad ends are like the Fall of Saigon. Good people end up being executed after watching their families killed. Bad people end up in power, with riches, and even with moral superiority, like Edward Kennedy. They die natural deaths and live out their lifespans, while the dead have nothing but unmarked graves to attend them. That’s pretty sad. It’s not tragedy, for it was always the hero’s arrogance and flaws that did them in for Greek tragedies. Here, there is no flaw in the heroes, except a simple lack of power. A simple power disparity is what leads to the triumph of evil over good.

I can name 5 original works in Japan that have such endings. Chrno Crusade, Heart of the Shinobi, Air, one story arc from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Fate:Stay Night Ending 1, and now Elfen Lied. The Japanese, for various cultural, historical, and religious reasons, are able to portray what is called the Beautiful Death. If the Klingons had gotten a better socio-political-historical background, you would have seen something connected to it with their ‘it is a good day to die’. But you didn’t, so that’s that.

The ending hits the heart hard like a hammer. And the repeated blows are a result of another emotion: love of the characters. They are noble characters: good people. Their suffering is not a tragedy but a crime against humanity. But their death comes with grace and dignity, because of who they are.

People who have seen too much of this stuff tend to believe in things like peace through superior firepower. There’s an intellectual explanation, of course, but there’s also an emotional drive. Maybe the emotions hit first and the intellect only figured out a way to resolve the conflict later on as an application of rationality.

Power is pointless if you cannot use it to save those you care about. See enough suffering, and care enough about the good things in humanity, and inevitably you’ll come to a choice. Which path you choose determines whether you side with good or whether you side with evil.

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