“Mom, innocent people are dying in this cartoon!”

Sometimes, when it’s not busy showing the good stuff (i.e. whatever’s the fetish of the season), anime deigns to provide us with scenes of civilians being slaughtered due to an enemy threat. There’s the occasional creative death (Zambot 3), incredible displays of carnage that abruptly change the show’s mood (Eureka 7), and the blink-it-and-you’ll-miss-it (Macross: Do You Remember Love). But most often it’s just screams and stampedes, as if the display of dying cartoon characters is something creators would gladly wash their hands off from.

So while Symphogear doesn’t push all the right buttons for me, it earns my respect for actually showing civilians being slaughtered at the hands of the Noise. That shows us how much weight the heroines have on their backs, by making the audience see the horror for themselves.

It’s easy to be jaded by blood splatters and mutilation. God knows how that sort of thing gets overused in live-action media. But it’s the unnatural perversion and destruction of the human body that gets me. This is one of the strengths of animation, providing a medium in which something abstract (humans turning into a texture not unlike burnt paper, then peeling away in scraps) becomes something terrifying in context.

It also reminds us that not everyone could be saved. Some shows are too enamored with their own heroes to show us what could have happened without their intervention, and even despite it. Do you have a favorite show that drives this point home? I’d like to know.

But for me, nothing scares me more than the Festum from Soukyuu no Fafner. To just disappear along with the few square meters of space around you… I think I’ll go hide under the sheets for that one.

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10 Responses to “Mom, innocent people are dying in this cartoon!”

  1. TRazor says:

    Interesting. An anime that drove this point home for me was a single episode in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It was one of the very first episodes (3, I think), where a little girl is mutated into a chimera by her own father. It was one of the most powerful episodes which illustrates the point discussed in this post.

  2. Nope says:

    To be honest, for me Symphogear did it wrong because it felt totally gratuitous and pointless. It didn’t feel like a hopeless, inevitable situation… it felt like a totally contrived, convenient situataion.

    • schneider says:

      I found the concert scene to be contrived, but the bad outweighs the good (a decent concert in anime is a pretty uncommon thing). It did a great job of setting a gloomy mood, in my opinion.

  3. sadakups says:

    Oh yes, Festums are scary as hell. Heck, piloting a Fafner is scary enough. The fact that your body can get screwed while piloting it is the least of your problems when a Festum is busy assimilating your ass.

    And yeah, when you talk about people dying, Fafner is one of the best examples. Someone dies in a few episodes.

  4. R042 says:

    I thought the pacing of Fafner was a bit off; the first death had little impact but the guy put into a coma was a far more powerful sequence. Introducing the sickly girl and then killing her almost right away made the character seem a bit tokenish.

  5. A manga example, from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure part 5: The civilians of Rome physically melting into the ground.

  6. Pingback: Aniblog Stuff – Round 2 – Day 8

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  8. Ashley says:

    What anime is that picture from? (Sorry, I’m really curious lol)

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