「ガリバーを縛る雑兵たち アラスカ極寒環境雪上戦 II」 (Garibaa o Shibaru Zouhyou-tachi Arasuka Gokkan Kankyou Setsujou-sen II)
“The Little Soldiers Who Tie Down Gulliver The Snowy Deep Winter Battle of Alaska II”
Clean war is a lie. War never changes. War is hell.
What Heavy Object Does Well, and Not So Well
In this second week, Heavy Object’s strengths and weaknesses are being thrown into starker relief. Where it’s doing well: Characters and themes. Its main three characters have all already proven that they have some depth. Qwenthur by shaking as he held the gun, balking as he prepared to shoot—and then working himself into a frame of mine to do it anyway. Havia by saving Qwenthur, despite his clear desire to get the hell out of dodge. His mixture of bravery, loyalty, and entirely appropriate (albeit selfish) gut-clenching terror is easy to identify with. And Milinda, though her outburst about how she was looking down on people like Qwenthur and Havia was a notable case of telling instead of showing, is nothing like the emotionless girl I assumed she would be. She’s conflicted, but she’s a soldier, dammit. She keeps her head when it matters. (Though I do wish they had taken all their shouting angst conversations to safer places.)
The themes I’m going to chew on more in a moment, but like the characters, they’re usually good. They’re not always subtle in delivery, and the emotional resonance isn’t yet there, but I’m getting what they’re putting down. Heavy Object’s weaknesses, on the other hand, are in sci-fi elements and battle logic. Which should be its strengths, am I right? That’s kind of weird in a sci-fi series, right? Well, I partially agree. Objects are basically just a big-ass tank, and their design and technobabble are about thirty klicks distant from anything resembling logic. And tactically, the Object battle this episode was kind of thick. Great fictional battles often turn on great tactics or courageous moves, but here, Milinda just got out-spec’d, and then later made an excuse about it only happening because the self-destruct function was acting up.
But to be honest, I’m still enjoying the show. The sci-fi and battle logic are shifty, but I’m hoping at least the latter will improve. And even if what happened was logically suspect, both of the fights we saw this episode were thrilling to watch (especially the Object one, though I feel it would have been better if last episode ended with the Water Strider showing up without spoiling Milinda’s defeat). The sci-fi will likely remain shifty (and faction names like the Faith Organization and Legitimate Kingdom are just lazy), but if the battles improve, they could be damn cool.
Clean War is a Lie. War is Hell
“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” -William Tecumseh Sherman
I came across that quote in a recent Hardcore History (highly recommended, and I’m probably going to keep referring to it), and this episode immediately reminded me of it. It was the American Peril episode, dealing with America’s brief flirtation with colonialism, and how for a time, men like Teddy Roosevelt exalted war. They thought it was honorable to fight and kill (and even die) on the battlefield. This is something I think we can all understand, even if we would never form up our own private regiment to go fight Spaniards in Cuba. Every society on earth lionizes battle in some way—it seems so simple, so primal, so elemental. In combat, all the frustrating vagaries of modern society melt away, replaced with one simple directive—kill or be killed. Live, by whatever means necessary. Even I, who has never thrown a punch in his life, write stories about bloody action with explosions aplenty. Battle is fun!
In theory. Stories like Heavy Object—and yes, there are others who have done it better, but this is the second episode, so slow your roll yo—exist to disabuse us of this fallacy. From the first moment “clean war” was mentioned, I knew it was a lie ripe for some correcting, so when the enemy Object turned its guns on the base, I was not surprised. But it quite nicely punctuated the point. War is not pretty. It may sometimes be necessary, but it should never be confused for something other than what it is. War is hell.
Dehumanizing Your Enemies
Qwenthur’s rescue of Milinda (the knight rescuing the princess, natch) reminded me of yet another Hardcore History series. This time it was Wrath of the Khans, and how the Mongol hordes killed millions of people—by hand. No gas chambers for them! They assigned a certain number of heads to each Mongol warrior, and told them to bring back an ear from each victim to prove they had hit their quota. And the Mongol warriors did it. In city, after city, after city.
Imagining that is mind-boggling to me. I can’t imagine taking life so casually. But I can imagine swatting a fly without feeling anything, and therein lies how the Mongol hordes were able to do this—and how Qwenthur was able to pull the trigger here. They didn’t consider their victims human.
Once again, Heavy Object wasn’t exactly subtle with its point. The soldiers start talking about torturing, raping, and killing Milinda while Qwenthur listens in. But the point was received. Once he no longer considers them humans, and thinks of them instead as monsters, he can pull the trigger. Because it’s okay to slay monsters, right? Which is a dangerous road to travel down—and one I hope this series explores more—because every single human contains both a monster and an angel. I could sit here and recount all the times the people of good, honorable, “civilized” nations have done horrifying, evil things. Chances are your country has stains of its own. And if it ever engaged in the jolly fun of colonialism or counterinsurgency warfare, I can damn near ensure that some of your countrymen—hopefully well in the past—have done something unforgivable, and quite probably on an institutional scale. I know that’s true of my own. None of us, as a society, are above such actions, even if many of us as individuals are. And it all starts with what Qwenthur just did.
People as things. That’s the start. It gets too easy when we stop thinking of people as human beings like ourselves. Even if the trigger must be pulled, we ought to always remember that the person on the other side is a human being, no matter the terrible things they’ve done. I hope Heavy Object delves into this more. Or if not, I hope Qwenthur avoids this trap. I’d hate to see him become a monster himself.
Looking Ahead – Are They Going To Steal A Friggin’ Object?
Phew! Sorry about that. Got pretty deep into the philosophical weeds there. I give credit to Heavy Object on tickling such important themes, though it once again could be that it just so happens to be tickling ones that interest me. Regardless, from the sounds of it, our three misfits are about to try to hijack a godsdamned Object. Which I heartily endorse! Desperate times call for crazy-ass measures.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – War is hell, but dehumanizing your enemy makes it frighteningly easier. The sci-fi is still shifty, though #heavyobject 02
- There were some odd production flaws this episode. At one point, the commander was talking to them out of nowhere—which I think was a flashback, but that wasn’t made clear. Then later on, when they were arguing in the ruins of the base, it wasn’t always clear whether the characters were thinking or talking. It’s strange. It almost came across like a book that hadn’t been proofread.
- Wear a damn mask and hat, you bakas! Alaska in winter is not the kind of place you can afford to let your heat escape willy nilly.
- At least this time, when the unnecessary boob trip grope happened, there was a damn good reason for him to trip, and the whole thing didn’t last long. Plus I can never hear “raki sukebei” without thinking of Princess Lover, which makes me smile.
- I really like the ED. The song has serious feeling to it.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: The best content is in email, My morning routine, True Ends, and Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals
Full-length images: 24.
ED: 「ディアブレイブ」 (Dear Brave) by Kano