Densetsu No Yuusha no Densetsu: A Rant

There Be Opinions Here

So, let’s leave the one-time, original purpose of this blog behind. Let’s not focus on language or education. Instead, let’s look at, not culture in abstract, but some very specific things about culture.

Namely, the anime “Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu” (yes, it sounds redundant), “Legend of the Legendary Heroes.”

The basic idea is simple: the Relics of the Legendary Heroes are this sword & sorcery world’s version of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), which the cursed main character, Ryner Lute, seeks for his peace loving, world reform aspirer Sion Astari, himself known as “the Hero King” but in truth, under siege by his own nobles after his rise to “power” in events that very much involved Ryner and his special curse: demon-possessed eyes that can instantly analyze/ copy/ acquire magic spells cast within their line of sight, an effect known and feared as “Alpha Stigma.”

The beautiful, hardcore swordswoman Feris Eris becomes Ryner’s partner in adventure as the two search for relics while… well, a lot of stuff is going on around them and back home. Seemingly almost emotionless from her lack of facial expression, Feris is a very mischievous girl at heart under a very stern exterior, with her own demons to fight well in the past and an older brother whose name of Lucille does nothing to diminish how this “guardian of the King” is… well, a monster. A flat-out monster of immense power. He’s not the only one in this show, either.

Good People, Bad World

This is not the only anime that does this, but it and the novels that spawned it are very… far out in this regard:

These are wonderful characters. Wonderful characters.

Yet the world they live in is plagued by inhuman humans, and not the “cursed” ones, no, it’s everyone else. They’re not subtle about it, either

It’s just incredible. It’s flat out cruel to see the world and specific people in it making these souls suffer, making the world, which is fundamentally populated by ordinary people, a dark and forbidding place under a thin veneer of respectability.

Put simply, the real problem is that a Ghandi cannot reform a world like this without taking up the mantle of a Genghis Khan. Therein lies the problem.

Sion has a very dark – in appearance and in heart – retainer who is, unlike the rest of his staff, pushing him to be the king that he “needs” to be, a king to make the kingdom the greatest in the world. This requires eliminating domestic opposition and creating war to then stop war and look like an even bigger hero. This is work too dirty for Sion to do by his lonesome, and it’d take the shine off him, so Milan Froward is quite happy to do the dirty work – and the dirty scheming – on Sion’s behalf. So, while his best friend Ryner is away hunting artifacts, the kingdom faces various crises and so forth.

World’s Greatest Slacker

Ryner is fundamentally likable for one simple reason: he is a triple-A class slacker, someone who hates to be bothered by things. He hates to be bothered by death and killing and war. He hates to be bothered by the whole business of saving the world. Yet he has a heart of gold under that ボケ (“boke,” glazed look) exterior. He seems like a dolt, but he really is a magical genius who is not nearly the woman-craving beast that Feris makes him out to be (for her own extensive amusement).

World’s Greatest Dango Addict

Speaking of Feris, she is not only a swordswoman of great skill in a nice light purple themed armor (and an alluring blonde, though a dangerously violent one). She is also a complete dango addict, someone who will literally partner with a triple-A class slacker and parade around the known world hunting for artifacts just because her king threatens to eliminate her favorite dango shop.

No, really, that’s why she agreed to this. As soon as she realized he was quite serious, she dragged Ryner off. Again, literally.

Very amusing scene.

Her defining character is really quite simple. She is the one who tells Ryner, at the moment that it really matters, “You are not a monster.” She really believes it, and without a doubt, this saves him from giving in to the possession that usually destroys the minds of Alpha Stigma bearers completely.

Though, Ryner is different/ special. If he wasn’t, it wouldn’t be much of a show.

World’s Most Bleeding Heart Royal

Sion is a sympathetic figure. It’s not that he asked to be king; he was at a royal magical academy because it was a great place to get rid of him when war with a nearby nation broke out. A classmate of his and Ryner’s betrayed the class to the enemy, though she wasn’t a bad person, either, and just wanted to escape from everything. Let’s not focus on her right now. The point is, Ryner’s powers went berserk and he nearly killed Sion and the girl also but found the strength of will to close the cursed eyes even after they had awakened.

So all of a sudden, Sion was a hero who’d defeated (?) the feared (for good reason) Magic Knights of the enemy nation and, due to a… vacancy that developed, he became king, and got Ryner sprung out of death row.

As of the middle of the anime, he stands atop a shaky throne. He has extremely good and loyal subordinates, people who really want to help him in his self-appointed mission to create a kingdom, and a world, where people can enjoy peace and happiness.

This is not going to end well.

The Real Problem

The real problem is… look, I love these characters. Most of the secondary leading characters are also great in various ways. Wonderful character designs. Even Milan, well, I can excuse the fact he exists because without darkness, there would be no plot. That’s not really the point, though.

The real problem is that it’s not a matter of orcs, or Sith, or ancient demons.

It’s the humans who are the vilest, evilest, darkest beings as far as the eye can see.

It’s more than this. It’s the common acceptance of the rightness of evil, of how it is natural, unquestionably practical, and how even casual, smiling cruelty is like having a drink of water. It makes actually trying to good seem like a crazy, foolish, exceptional thing.

I mean, yes, that’s the point I suppose, but when the darkness infects the good characters too, it’s particularly hard to watch. You want to see these things be overcome, but you know that it’s not going to be that simple.

A Love-Hate Relationship

So I love the characters, and I deeply appreciate what they’re trying to do, but it’s just really hard to get past the truly dismal version of humanity that we are shown. Every act of goodness seems drowned out by a thousand evils.

Culture Point: Militarists Are Evil

In terms of Japanese culture, the overall point is that people who warmonger must be really evil because the consequences are so bad for people.

Yet you cannot defeat evil people by pacifism.

This paradox is thought to turn good people bad. Or more to the point:

When faced with impossible choices, we make impossible choices, not necessarily because we ourselves are evil, but because we want to do good.

Yet that is the path to darkness, is it not?

Theme: Friendship

Friendship is something that can get very, very tested, but true friendship rises to overcome well, the sheer awfulness of the world, among other things.

It is this that this series – and the existing line of novels – explores, ultimately.

Conclusion: It’s Not “Average”

I’ve heard people say, “Well this looks like a Slayers ripoff.” I think that’s two things.

A) Art style. Specifically, outfit design style. There is a point here.

B) Feris is basically a Gourry who is female, smarter than a jellyfish, and who has her own very large set of quirks, but well, she’s likable, and she’s pretty good.

The rest is as you see above. The content is a lot different – especially because in Slayers, the worst enemies are, well, demons and stuff.

Here, it’s people, which is compelling – very compelling – but a hell of a lot darker, plot-wise.

In the end, compelling is good.

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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