Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Heart of the Storm

There's something about the misinterpreted villain that's fascinating.

Moriya (Last Blade) is a samurai who trained with his best friend, Kaede. When his master is murdered, Kaede returns to find Moriya standing over his lifeless corpse. Realizing that he's been framed, Moriya leaves without a word, allowing his lifelong friend to think that he's a murderer. He dedicates the rest of his life to finding the real killer, and avoiding confrontation with Kaede. Rather than defend himself, he took the fall to avoid conflict, and was fully willing to let himself be seen as a monster.

Itachi (Naruto) is seen as a villain for most of the series. He killed his entire clan, and his brother, Sasuke - the sole survivor - had dedicated his life to taking revenge. There's a flashback sequence where it shows Itachi murdering his clan, and his family. He tells Sasuke to hate him before leaving. He then joins a criminal organization. It's hard to interpret his actions as any other way than sinister and evil.

However, we find out later in the series that his father, the head of the clan, was planning a coup d'etat, and it would have likely ended up in many casualties on both sides. Rather than risk an all out war, Itachi sided with his village rather his clan, and undertook a secret mission to wipe out the clan during the night, while they slept. He was unable to kill his brother, who he loved, so he asked him to hate him - partially because of guilt, and partially to help Sasuke deal with what he had done. The reason he joined the organization is to make sure they didn't hurt his loved ones. He never defends himself, and we discover that he even went to extreme lengths to hide the truth from everyone. Most of the world sees him as a monster, and he is described by the author as living in "Hell." He chose the innocent masses over his family, despite loving them very much.

Both characters eventually reconcile with their loved ones, but there's something about the way that they so willingly jump into darkness, without showing even a hint of a desire to defend themselves, that is much more noble than any story of heroism or valor. The truest hero doesn't do it for the reward, or for themselves, but to protect others or a higher cause. Being seen as a villain was a side effect of how these people chose to follow goodness. Even while in darkness, both characters upheld their virtue.

I think that's far more admirable than those who do good for glory. It's ironic that by getting so close to darkness, you can sometimes find the purest form of light.

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