October 19, 2014

MANGA MONDAYS | Gen Urobuchi Anime

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After a week long, prelim induced hiatus, I’m back. And today I’m going to do what I love most: Analyze. And I’m going to do it on the thing I love most: Gen Urobuchi anime.

Specifically, I’m going to address Aldnoah.Zero’s ambiguous and tragic ending. As such, there will be spoilers. Do not be spoiled about this anime. Go watch it now, if you haven’t already. If you have, I recommend watching it again. Nevertheless, let us begin.

The ambiguous and tragic ending is a hallmark of Urobuchi’s plot lines. He has a delightful habit of letting the protagonist succeed, while simultaneously crushing them in the process. See, for example, every twisted ending to his brilliant visual novel Song of Saya, and Akane’s bitter acceptance of dystopia in Psycho Pass.

Aldnoah.Zero maintains this tradition to the fullest. The final episode is nothing short of a massacre. Earth was, indeed, saved. However, almost every relevant character ends up dead. It got to a point where forced to wonder if Urobuchi was actually just attempting to match Hamlet’s final scene body count.

Jokes aside, I’d like to suggest that this style of ending does, in fact serve a purpose other than shock value. Notice that it does not have the hints of optimism shared by the likes of Psycho Pass, Suisei no Gargantia, and Fate/Zero. It is, instead, a complete tragedy. The viewer is left empty and confused with the sudden end of their protagonist. The supposed “good guy” is shot and killed right along with the “bad guy.” And the story suggests no resolution for us. Slaine exits stage left and that’s it. Credit’s roll. “Deal with the trauma yourself,” Urobuchi seems to suggest.

But why create such a complete emptiness with this particular story? Even in the likes of Madoka Magica, the final quote is nothing short of uplifting. “You are not alone,” it tells us. Yet Aldnoah implies that “Yes, you are alone. And your dreams are all dead.” The reason lies in Inaho himself.

While most Urobuchi anime feature a utilitarian anti-villain (Kyubey, Sibyl, Striker), Aldnoah takes a much different approach. Inaho, the protagonist, is the most similar character to Urobuchi’s famous anti-villains. For example, he coldly disposes of Slaine once their budding bromance (and inevitable yaoi fan fiction) become inconvenient. Perhaps he’s more of a genius dandere type, but his attitude towards other characters seems downright cold. For example, he has no qualm with using friends as bait. The important issue to Inaho is the ends, not the means.

In the end, this attitude is what kills him. Because he used Slaine as a tool, Inaho ends up killed by the very person whom he threw away instead of befriending. Thus, Urobuchi gives us a more personal connection to the emptiness that perspectives like Inaho’s create. We thought we were rooting for the good guy, but he ended up no better than any other villain.

Michael Mauer is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences He may be reached at mrm355. Manga Mondays appears Mondays this semester.