I guess some of you may have noticed but I have a weakness for tragic characters that can accept their fate gracefully or fight against it until the last second. Once in a very long while, you can find those that do both.
One of the most frequent searches on my blog is for the ill-fated and occasionally under-appreciated Sushei Kagari. Considering how strong the cast of Psycho Pass is, it’s impressive that he managed to distinguish himself enough to still be so popular. It also makes me very happy. As far as tragic antiheros go, you can hardly ask for more.
More recently, I attempted a character study of Ruler, a fairly minor character in Magical Girl Raising Project. I doubt this will get anywhere close to the same attention, but I still enjoyed her agonizingly futile refusal to go gently into that good night. She has been maligned by both narrative and fans alike. I think she’s wonderful.
It seems I’m slowly making a little niche for myself, exploring doomed supporting characters, treated harshly by their respective plots. In both of the cases above, they were even robbed of any type of mourning as Kagari is forever considered missing while Ruler’s life was splintered in such a way that no one knew the real her at all. But at least, they had names….
If you have no clue what Time of Eve, I reviewed it some time ago (spoilers – I LIKED IT) and Takuto explored it much more deftly and poignantly here. Basically, it’s a slow and emotional speculative sci fi on the theme of rights and equality using emerging robotic sentience as a catalyst.
A mere 6 short 15-minute episodes, it made an impact on me that has rarely been matched by considerably lengthier series. But of all the fascinating elements within, nothing was so devastatingly visceral than the brief and almost entirely silent presence of nameless.
Nameless is an older model who looks very obviously inhuman. There’s no need for any brand or halo here. He’s also visibly on his last leg. Falling apart, barely being able to speak or move. We see that his memory seems to have degraded as well. He is able to remember apparently happier times, surrounded by a family, possibly even loved but the details are missing. Not unclear, just not there. When he tries to introduce himself, he finds that hie name data is missing as well, causing an internal processing error. It’s simultaneously silly and heartbreaking.
As the two main characters desperately try to have a normal conversation with this robot for a few brief moments in a cafe, it becomes increasingly clear that there will be no going back for nameless. It’s an eerie scene. Two teenage boys, desperately, even comically, fumbling with a situation that amounts to giving comfort to a complete stranger in the last few moments of his life. There’s an almost infinite melancholy resonating behind every action as your mind tries to reconcile the painful reality of the solitude of death with the blinding beauty of the kindness of the human spirit.
After a very bittersweet farewell, it’s revealed that in order to properly deal with disposal, there are substantial fees associated with replacing an android. As such, some people will opt to instead erase any identifying information from the android’s memory, scratch out their serial number and simply abandon them somewhere. It becomes clear that those people who were happily interacting with nameless in his memories, eventually just threw him out, not even leaving him the dignity of his own name.
Nameless is a masterpiece of a character. His mere existence in the narrative brings to light so many questions, opens up so many discussions. Within a few minutes, he changes the bearing of the entire story, adds an impressive amount of both emotional and intellectual weight to the narrative and changes every character he comes into contact with. Such wide-ranging influence, seemingly instantly materialized, is not to be scoffed at. If this was live action, his performance would certainly have been Oscar worthy.
I cried quite bit during this episode. But still, in the end, he didn’t seem that sad. He wanted to make a mark, to have someone remember him even if he couldn’t remember himself. He didn’t want to be unloved, unmounred and forgotten. Those boys will remember him. Forever. And so will I.