It has been a long time since I watched any Captain Harlock media, but the recent announcement of Super Robot Wars T, featuring Harlock SSX: My Youth in Arcadia, drove me to give the series another go. I love its aesthetic, and it is iconic enough to be notably parodied in various things (perhaps most broadly by the latter half of Goldran featuring Walter disguised as a bad parody of Harlock piloting a giant robot shark), but I did not recall particularly gelling with the original series, dated as it is, when I first watched it.
As mentioned in the previous article in this series, Kill la Kill draws in some ways on the aesthetic and ethos of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a long-running manga series that recently received an animé adaptation. What defines Jojo within a crowded martial-arts genre is its combination of incredibly potent superheroes and villains and somewhat restrained fights; there is a theatricality to the action which eschews widespread, apocalyptic carnage in favour of a much more strategic and methodical choreography. From the earliest episodes, in which the first hero to bear the name “Jojo” learns his powers from the mysterious Zeppeli in order to fight childhood bully turned vampire lord Dio, there is a refreshing focus on responsibility in the use of power that remains important throughout.
In previous articles on the subject of evil in fiction, and its many manifestations, I have considered how the best depictions of evil show not that society is consistently active in it as a whole, or that people are frequently complicit in it, but that instead often there is a pervasive attitude of tolerance that manifests as a failure to condemn evil acts committed by others – the effect of societal prejudice is normalisation of evil, not necessarily increased participation in it. Indeed, my ultimate conclusion is that the most unsettling and unpleasant depictions show worlds where evil has “won” – that people have sleepwalked into a dystopic stasis as in Gormenghast or that inherently unfair systems have become widely accepted as in Under Heaven.
This series of articles will explore presentations of evil in genre fiction.
Recently, I was discussing dystopian fiction and the “evil empire” archetype, and began to wonder about what could really be considered evil yet also avoid being simply parodic. Outward acts of brutality are in themselves unsatisfying signifiers of evil; they can even be considered unconvincing. A society based on mass executions and physical punishments and easily-understood savagery supposes that all involved in it are mindless savages who take pleasure in this – and is thus reductive as a setting.