When I was watching Banner of the Stars I, I couldn’t help but notice how special Lafiel’s predicament in the show was. Indeed, the Abh have a special way of doing things, and will only let you in the accolades after you earn them. Even if you could have died hundreds of times before that, you know.
It’s markedly different from that other epic space opera, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, in which the nobility of the Goldenbaum Dynasty treated the business of war as their playground, wherein only they are the masters. In Banner, nobles engage in military service with all their faculties. This anime doesn’t show Lafiel lazily waving her hand around to signify a fleet-wide charge. She’s put in an attack ship, a little vessel with the smallest strategic value, and very vulnerable to space mines, which are soulless, but brutally effective weapons.
It’s like the 08th MS Team of starship battles, except that our dear captain here is an heir to the throne. Anyone can die. Even if I know that Lafiel appears in Banner II and III, even with all that plot armor, it’s frightening how close she brushes with death. Especially in that episode where they are stranded in planar space.
Maybe I should watch more western sci-fi.
So Banner of the Stars is a show that isn’t afraid to put its main characters in real danger. I’m relieved that it doesn’t quite go all the way and murder a well-liked character horribly, but the overall mood is delightfully dreadful.
How about something that’s even more merciless?
One of my favorite fantasy series ever, A Song of Ice and Fire, invokes the Anyone Can Die trope to maximum effect. You think you’ve seen them all, but trust me, you haven’t. My favorite character in the novels is the exiled princess, Daenerys Targaryen. I’ll call her Dany.
Dany’s got a harder life than Lafiel. Prior to the events in the first book, her entire family, the royal family, was murdered in a bloody civil war. She survives by running away with her brother Viserys and seeking exile in another continent. Being the only surviving heir, Viserys wants his throne back, despite being leagues away from home, impoverished, and without an army.
(It is also worth mentioning that Dany’s family aren’t even the good guys, and her father was a mad king who torched people. But again, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad ones in A Song of Ice and Fire.)
So he marries his sister off to a barbarian lord, in exchange for an army. Soon Dany is thrown into her husband’s strange and frightening way of life, and all seems well. And then stuff happens. Without going into details, Dany is forced to make a decision that could spell doom for all of her people, and chooses the hardest path to take, risking it all for that faraway dream of retaking her throne.
Dany is 14 at the start of the book. She is forced into maturity, and forced to learn unsavory things, things that would make a girl of her age retch and curl into a ball. She’s not the tough-as-nails action girl, or the stone-faced queen. She’s vulnerable, and therein lies her strength.
Why did I bring Dany up? She’s got a lot in common with Lafiel. Both feel displaced one way or another, and struggle to secure their positions in life as princesses. Both are no strangers to war, and have actively participated in it. But most importantly, both are in a state of becoming. They are being forged in a manner that would demand only the best from them.
They may have a lot to go, but I believe that Lafiel and Dany will become great rulers. But that is still up to task–their stories haven’t finished writing themselves. And when they do, I’ll be there with them.
PS: GRRM, please don’t kill Dany off, ok? Ok?