Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Hero... Just Because!

Recently I picked up Gyrozetter for the Nintendo 3DS, which is a multi-media project from Square-Enix that has, alongside the 3DS title, an arcade game, an anime, and a manga series. I chose Gyrozetter solely because of it being multi-media. As someone who is constantly playing games in a language I don't understand, I thought it'd be nice to actually be able to know the story for a change. And so, prior to starting the game, I've begun watching the anime series--- which has resurfaced a doubt I've still yet to answer.
"I'm the Hero! ---Just because!"
In the first episode, protagonist Kakeru Todoroki performs two actions that are applicable to the beginning of many Japanese videogames. In Gyrozetter, the theme is cars; it takes place in a futuristic city built around advanced roadway systems, and here children are also allowed to drive cars (for some reason or another). The series opens up with all the children practicing parallel parking; one girl does it properly, and another girl botches it. When Kakeru's turn comes up, he boosts his car to max speed, spins the car multiple times, and lands in the specified spot perfectly; for whatever reason, this boy is supernaturally skilled at stunt-driving. He then gets out of the car and says, for the first of many times to come, "I'm the hero!"
It's later revealed that he really is the hero. The school is also a secret military base that is looking to pick out super drivers to pilot cars that also morph into combat-robots. There's a token prophecy behind all of this as well that literally spells out that this fifth-grade boy is "the one" and that he is destined to become the bees-knees and set forth on a life of adventure, excitement, and everything that normal people might just end up killing themselves over because they'll never have such experiences.
--and I believe it. No matter how many times I've come across this in anime and videogames, the sudden "Hero-Because" set-up always wraps me in. And while I don't think there's anything wrong with this design, what bothers me is that each time I've tried to analyze this set-up critically, or to study the way it is implemented in media, it appears both extremely transparent and utterly void of character. What bothers me is that there is nothing less interesting than a character who is simply handed fate and excitement on a silver platter--- except there is so much material in the form of successful videogames and anime that proves this wrong that I'm not quite sure what to believe in terms of what is quality, and what is negligent, story-telling.
How Fortunate for You...
To be fair, this form of story-telling is not exclusive to Japanese videogames. As pictured above, the propulsion of Secret of Mana's beginning is of course rooted in King Arthur legend, and the story of "Alice in Wonderland" uses the very same Hero-Because set-up as well; she is sitting on a bank, sees something fantastical, follows it into a hole, and begins her adventure (all on a single page). But whether it's King Arthur, Alice, or Kakeru, what is apparent is that these people have not really earned anything that justifies their glorious adventure. They are people who just so happen to have a skill, whether it's royal bloodline, otherworldly imagination, or a keen understanding of how to drift properly; it's something beyond learning. These are abilities and talents that are outside of reach for a normal human-being, an innate understanding bestowed by lineage, genealogy, or, most damning of all, fate.
What I wonder is: Why on Earth do we root for these fortunate do-gooders? What exactly is it that makes so borderline supernaturally-gifted people the hero? Is it truly because they are moral, that they reflect what is the established good? Rather, how can something so simple as being moral, something that most of us strive to achieve in some fashion or another anyway, be the sole conduit of making a person that is, quite simply, better than you and me, a person to admire and respect? Perhaps my own vision of humanity is skewed, but from what I've gathered is that man's goal, outside of his biological ticks like survival and reproduction, is to achieve greatness. As man being conscious is the catalyst for his utmost fear of dying, is not the most consistent feature amongst human-beings the desire to be great, to achieve something that will ensure memory of one's own legacy and actions long after their death?
But if the hero is someone who doesn't need to do anything but continue to exist and receive the bounties that come their way, to be entitled immortality solely for following the path so favorably bestowed them, isn't that the very antithesis of being an admirable human-being? Is not real greatness the struggle to reach the point of success? To dictate and command one's own journey, and to battle against the fates and societal pressures prescribed them? Why then do these characters, who have never considered the pursuit of greatness but instead were simply delivered the end-result in form of their adventure begun, receive our attention and love?
Vaati is compelled by both personality and reasoning. Link--- just because.
As is often the case, a well-handled villain embodies far more human and intriguing characteristics than the hero, namely in flaws and inventiveness. In the case of Vaati in "The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap" there is delivered probable reason in the form of his motivating history. Vaati's own pursuit of wisdom leads him to recognize the darkness in humanity, and how it is not monsters that are the greatest evil, but human-beings. By setting out to obtain greatest power so that he may cleanse the world of its true darkness, Vaati upholds a far more sturdy rationale than the hero Link, who sets out to stop Vaati because--- well, just because.
The obvious reason why villains are not the protagonist is that they must express a bias that will ultimately alienate their audience, be them readers, gamers, etc:. Even in the case of Vaati, a fan-favorite amongst Zelda fans, the idea of having him as the "hero," with the goal of achieving supreme power so that you may eventually commit mass-genocide, doesn't necessarily sit too comfortable as motivation to "win."
Amnesia: Formula for Moral Perfection
But is the alternative truly the plain-faced moralist who hasn't any reasoning? Rather, that isn't allowed reasoning? As is expressed with villains, it takes only a single bias, a subtle crook in the way one views the world, to obtain a direction that, while intrinsically human and probable, is also skewed and therefore dirtied, unfitting the golden-clad adventurer who strides solely ahead, never doubting nor faltering as his pursuit is at all times obliging the conduct of "goodness," the ideal of conventional structuring and societal order. No matter his manner-less disposition, the moral hero bathes in the support and favoritism by the many who fail to recognize his innate, real structure. While goodness, and reward for being good, may enlist some idea of reasoning, one need only look at the very heroes they are supporting more closely to see how false this truly is; dullards, the creatively drained, automatons in military-step painted the shade of a nation's flag, a religious cult, a consumer trend, etc:. The moral hero is a psychological trigger, a propaganda tool that obliges the same group-think idiocy that propels conventional morality to this very day.
Is not the established good questionable? In the famous quote "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," is not the same paradox applicable here? How are we, the audience, to understand that the moral hero is truly moral without greater recognition of the many universal elements surrounding their world? Rather, why do we accept the moral hero as being the paragon of justice? Perhaps the world has earned its apocalypse, or perhaps the comfortable kingdoms and societies within that world do deserve destruction. Hasn't the growth of societies throughout all time come by revolution and dismantling of the prior-established good over and over again? Why do we ignore these realities repeatedly just to follow a faceless dunce who hasn't even the ability to contemplate their own actions and the results that follow? There is no greater coward than the moral hero; they are the disease of reactionary thought.
---so why the heck do we, I, love them?

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