「さいごの青空」 (Saigo no Aozora)
“The Last Blue Sky”
What does it mean to be human? Is humanity a way of life or is it an attitude? When Nakajima commands Maeda to ingest Ascra, Yamagami and Kurusu protest the inhumanity of this. Yamagami’s comment that as vampires, they are struggling to retain their own humanity is significant, because in the eyes of Maeda and Nakajima, they are no longer human.
If humanity is a way of life-of freewill, working, dreaming, feeling, and reasoning, then vampires can retain it (while also being undead blood-drinkers). Even though the military insists vampires are creatures lurking in darkness destined to obey their masters, vampires can freely feel, think, and act (although doing so may defy orders). If humanity is an attitude-of treating other people with dignity, then vampires might not qualify. Drinking human blood for survival reduces people to a food source (in addition to the ethical issues of cannibalism). If humanity is how one treats people, then Nakajima would also be inhuman in how he ignores the dignity of his daughter and his men in using them as tools for his warped vision.
If there is an answer, it might be a mixture of those things and more. The philosophical question of humanity is complex, so this doesn’t scratch the surface, but is interesting to ponder. A problem with viewing vampires as completely inhuman, is that it allows those in command to distance themselves from the responsibility of how they treat individuals such as, Yamagami and Kurusu.
Shirase, always on the trail of a story, reports on the Imperial Hotel, which has a historical connection with the earthquake. The remodeled hotel opened on September 1st, 1923, when the Kanto Earthquake happened. The hotel was unhurt by the earthquake, so if Shirase was there covering the opening, then hopefully she survived. Yokohama, where one of the vampire incidents occurred, was an area that was hard hit by the earthquake. In the ensuing devastation, anti-foreigner sentiment ran high, culminating in violence. Perhaps they will touch on this and the vampires may play a role, either in inciting slaughter or attempting to quell it.
We learn that the purpose of Ascra was to create vampires from humans with greater success than normal vampire blood. Unit 16 currently has a commander position available-will it go to Maeda (should he become a vampire) or to Glenn who is angling for the role? Nakajima mentions nothing about what will happen to the Code Zero crew, especially Yamagami who does not have any special vampire rankings to make him a valuable asset. This certainly doesn’t bode well.
There is a chasm between Nakajima’s intention to save young lives and how he carries out that intent. He reasons that creating immortal soldiers will solve the problem of casualties in war. To that end, he uses Ascra to turn his unit into vampires. He imagines he is offering them the glory of immortality and heroics, distancing himself from their fate of eternal servitude. Nakajima is the only one exempt from becoming a vampire- falling into the mold he criticized of using young innocents to do the elders’ dirty work.
Maeda appears swayed by Nakajima’s arguments for duty and turns on his own men. In a symbolic move after being stabbed, Yamagami slips the glove off Maeda’s hand- exposing his artificial hand. Duty to the man who saved his life covers Maeda’s sympathies for his own men and feelings for Misaki (and the fate she suffered at her father’s hands). I was surprised that Maeda stabbed Yamagami-I expected him to show solidarity with his own men and to not support the root of his fiancée’s fate. At the same time, in Japanese culture, there is a strong sense of fulfilling duty and debts of gratitude. This could make Maeda obligated to work with Nakajima even if he wishes to do otherwise.
Just as trust in Maeda and Nakajima collapses, the Kanto earthquake hits– adding physical destruction to the emotional devastation. Even though Maeda turned on him, Yamagami remembers Maeda as his comrade in arms and sacrifices his life to rescue Maeda from the rubble. I am sad to see Yamagami die-I liked his down to earth character and his less than average vampire abilities were a nice contrast to the others. Plus, he made a good team with Kurusu. Losing his partner will hit Kurusu hard, especially since he is still grappling with losing his old way of life. No doubt, Maeda will feel some guilt over Yamagami’s death. Whether he suppresses this in the name of duty or allows it to motivate him to turn against Nakajima will remain to be seen.