(Major spoilers about some of my favourite games and mangas but written vaguely. If you get them you probably have played/read them so I don’t think it matters.)
I have been thinking a lot about favourite characters from games, books, films, dramas and animes recently, on the topic of ‘what makes a character relatable?’ I have no doubt that different people relate to fictional characters via different emotional connections, but for me and I believe for many others, it is fear and weakness that connects one human to another. In other words, humanity’s greatest trait is its ability to feel and express weakness.
That is why death is always used as a tear-jerker in most forms of literature. Those that best capture it, are often those that capture the weakness in the dying character, and the people around them. A certain manga’s sentient ship character ’s final words began with ‘I’m sorry’, as it went on to apologise for not being able to carry its crew any further. It relishes its own weakness as a being that has a limited time shorter than humans in this world because of how fast it wears and tears, and understands the seas beyond this island may indeed be beyond its capabilities. It expresses its fears that it would not be able to sail that one last time when it emerged from the seas to save its crew from a dire moment, and expresses relief that they have survived and will carry its dreams to the ends of the world too. In a certain video game that I cannot stop talking about a woman approaches you to let her pass a country’s borders although she does not have the required documents. She is the girlfriend of one of your colleagues, Sergiu, and he would be delighted to see her. But it is not the drive of reunion that drives you to pardon her. The game gives you a good 15 hours to immerse in this devastated war-torn world before leading to this climax, where she only says one thing and it immediately broke my heart. ‘I only have Sergiu left.’ Her family, dead. Her life, in shambles. And in the face of all her fears and weaknesses, there was no way I could deny her entrance.
And then there are those that overcome their weakness, although momentarily, and those are always the greatest moments to watch. A surge of strength, fueled by anger and willpower, draws out the meek, young boy’s strength to recite a powerful spell from his partner’s spellbook to ensure his friends are not harmed any further. The spell, that sent him straight into a state of shock again, saved the life of another that has been protecting the boy all this while. And at the end of the battle, the young boy faints from the stress of his battle, his weakness returns to the view of the audience, he is back being scared again but now that makes us smile because we understand that one is only weak when they have nothing to fight for. In another series, two men who loved the same woman, one embraces her as he passes because he was glad to realise she was well and alive after all this while, while the other resists her embrace because touching her will cause a temporal fault and he spends the next 50 years guarding her grave and all her secrets without moving an inch. Both express the fear of loss, one with the joy of realisation that the loss he believed in was not real, while the other overcomes that fear by using his life to safeguard the one he was afraid to lose.
There is this overused quote on what we fear is but the unknown – which is rightfully overused because the moment we can pinpoint our fear is the first step towards going beyond it. The fear drives away otherwise friendly creatures that do not really mean any harm, and the act of killing them is a method video games have taught us to do repeatedly over the years. A game I am writing currently, which inspired by another of my favourite game, explores this idea of how the world slowly degrades to hell the more you resist, resent, fear and misunderstand the world around you. But if you listen to the clues, read into the words that others say, and learn how to do the things you have to do without hurting others, then you have overcome your fear of the unknown, and a True Pacifist Ending is there waiting for you.
I was just inspired to write this while reading a chapter of Kingdom, where a badass infantry commander talks about his past as a foot soldier who peed his pants during his first battle. That moment just felt so human and real and I just had to write something about it. Now back to the manga.