Hi, everyone! It’s Charles, here, taking over JP’s Anime Today column. Just for one week, though, I promise!
When I think of villains, anime and otherwise, what usually comes to mind isn’t just the antagonist, but his or her goal. These aims are usually something that occupies, consumes, and transforms them. Aizen from Bleach is a good example – he transforms physically as he comes nearer his goal. A more recent example is of Sasuke Uchiha, whose entire demeanor and personality is created because of his goal, vengeance (which I would further argue remains his goal in some odd, tangential way, even when he’s somewhat reformed in the final few chapters of Naruto).
This season, I’m looking to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works for more of the same. Having forgotten (purposefully?) the first Fate/stay night television series, I’m being surprised by the reveals of the masters and heroes as we go along. I’m eager to see who they are and what their motivations are. If it’s anything like Fate/Zero, what drives each of these individuals is part of the fantastic, over-the-top fun part of the series.
But it’s not just antagonists that have some internal drive that we might consider wrong, sinful, or even just “off the mark.” In Unlimited Blade Works, we have two masters as protagonists, and neither are coming from some perfect place. Tohsaka seems confused – she’s clouded by her lifelong desire to honor her dad by making her entire identity hinge on being a mage, but she can’t shake her heart’s desire to do good. Emiya, on the other hand, as Kaze has pointed out to me, is blinded by what should be a good thing – his desire to help everyone.
As viewers, we probably better identify with these protagonist’s struggles than with the villains’. The good guys aren’t trying to destroy people or conquer the world – they’re dealing with modest stuff: Tohsaka is working through family and self issues and Emiya is naive and overly optimistic. In the middle of a fantastic war, these two characters feel like real people, and they have significant goals that they treasure.
All of us real people treasure something, too. In Fate/stay night, the physical treasure is the Holy Grail, but in reality, it’s just the conduit to open the treasure of each of the master’s desires. Their real treasures are what’s within. It’s what I’ve been speaking of – that which motivates, leads, and consumes each of the characters. We are no different – there’s something driving each of us, something that is at the top rung of our life ladders. It’s whatever we pursue with such single-mindedness that if need be, we’re willing to part with everything else to achieve it.
The problem is this – most treasure will end up destroying us.
Fate/stay night shows this principle very vividly. The masters are hunted as well as the heroes – even more so, actually. So as the masters attempt to gain their treasures, they are risking their lives. And if done properly, or in lines with mage mentality, all the masters will die except for one – they will all die in an attempt to achieve their ultimate aim.
For us, our treasure may appear golden and wonderful, like the Holy Grail, but it, too, destroys. It enslaves. Whether our treasure is money, power, acclaim, comfort, pleasure – in the end, it all leads to destruction. None of those things can save us when our lives go awry due to illness, death, and broken relationships. And none of those treasures matter, either, when it comes to our hearts and where we want them to be eternally.
To paraphrase Timothy Keller, all treasures insist you die to purchase them – Christ is the only treasure that died to purchase you.
We all pursue treasure in life. But all treasures but one lead us to that wide path that seems right, but eventually leads to destruction. There’s only one that is eternal, that leads to life, not death.
What treasure are you seeking?