Monday, April 14, 2008

Why not s-CRY-ed?

To be honest I've liked s-CRY-ed since I first watched it when it was coming out on DVD out here.

I mean plot-wise, it really isn't that different from most shounen style fighting shows. You have two guys, who don't like each other; both of them are trying to get strong enough to challenge the other one in an all-out mano y mano fight. But honestly, if you watch shounen fighting shows for the plot, then you're going to be sadly disappointed almost every time.

Because it's the characters themselves that drew me into this show. In fact, it was how the characters were considered equally important (much like Yan Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm), given equal screen time and both had compelling back stories and conflicts.

Oh yeah, and the fights were awesome.

But I never could really connect with it and it's taken me a really long time to figure out why.

The metaphor of s-CRY-ed

The second part of the series always bugged me. You know, the part where suddenly Kazuma and Ryuho get sucked into Never Never Land and then the wacko guy from the Mainland shows up. It just seemed too inconsistent of a break in the plot. He'd spent a good fourteen episodes building this tension between these two worlds, why go and ruin it by switching up the story on the viewer?

And then I realized it. s-CRY-ed is a parable.

On the one hand, you have Kazuma, who represents the ideal of Freedom. On the other hand, you have Ryuho who represents the ideal of Security. (Now some person might say that he represents "Order" but I don't think order and security are two different things.) Then you have Ryuho's setting which is the reality of Security and then on the other hand you have Kazuma's setting which is the reality of Freedom.

So the first part of the series is basically saying that: A truly free society will become an anarchic state where the strong pray on the weak. And a totally secure society will become a totalitarian state where no one can make their own decisions (and if they do then they get kicked out.) Now, I could spent a lot of time going into what each of the characters mean in this debate, but I don't think it's really necessary.

Because I've got to talk about Kyoji Mujo, the guy from the Mainland. The thing is that the first part of s-CRY-ed is really clear about what the metaphor is. I mean it's even in the ads for the show. But the second half threw me. He didn't have a clear-cut metaphor. And then it hit me: He's Tyranny. Essentially he comes along takes the worst parts of Freedom and Security warps them to meet his own personal ends and then throws them back at the heroes. He differs from Freedom and Security because he only wants those things for himself and uses other people to get what he wants.

Okay, so there'll probably be some spoilers here, so if you haven't seen the series, go watch it. And really why are you still reading this anyway if you haven't seen the series?

So how does it all play out? Well Freedom and Security get together and kick Tyranny's ass and the world is a safe happy place for everyone else. Why? Because Freedom and Security still don't like each other and they have to spend the rest of eternity pounding each other into the ground. But neither of them can win because they are equally important.

So the moral of the story is, "Both Freedom and Security are necessary to keep a check on tyranny and provide a safe and free environment for the rest of the human race."

Sounds good, right?

Except if you're me.

On the nature of the Freedom vs. Security debate and why I think s-CRY-ed is so messed up.

I think George Orwell said it best when O'Brien was talking to Winston Smith. People don't want freedom. They want security. In fact, human history is littered with cases of people wanting to feel safe and willingly giving up their rights to do just that. All you need to do is look at the rise of Manorialism after the fall of Rome to see that people will sell themselves into slavery so that they know that those pesky Vikings aren't going to come in and raid their land and take their stuff. In a straight fight between those two values: security wins.

But freedom is the higher value. In so many ways, freedom allows people to do things, to follow their goals, to become participants in society rather than slaves to it. But the only time people chase after freedom is when they're afraid of losing it. And then only if they don't have any fear that someone might do something bad to them. Because if their security gets threatened they'll give up freedom without a second thought and they'll even defend giving it away.

So while, I agree with the basic idea of s-CRY-ed, Goro Taniguchi misses the point. Security and freedom aren't equal values. Freedom is the higher value. It's what should be preserved, both because it allows people the choice to do what they want, and because it's so unnatural for humanity. Security is a vice. It should only be indulged when it's necessary to preserve the safety and well-being of the society.

And that's what bothers me about s-CRY-ed.

1 comment:

Vallen Chaos Valiant said...

Well, if you see the final episode, you will notice that the winner formed a fist. Thus Kazuma, hence Freedom, was the stronger of the two. But the fight was close enough that neither killed the other, because the fight was about superiority, not annihilation.
Hence Freedom WAS prized above Security in Scryed. Just not by too much.