It seems to me that revenge plots in anime, as well as in other media like video games and movies, have become much more prominent in the mainstream. Of course, vengeance is something that’s been around for ages. It’s the urge to get back at someone whom had previously wronged you. Perhaps it’s a natural feeling, but often times it’s also a malicious one. Revenge tales have been passed down for generations, and many would come across with the same message.
Revenge is bad. Two wrongs do not make a right. Vengeance is self-destructive, and you should refrain from indulging in it. Folk wisdom is very clear on this issue so why is it, that modern stories are rewriting the tale? Every now and again I come across a story, a movie, a game, an anime that deals with the theme of revenge, but offers the exact opposite lesson to be learn from it. Plots where the protagonist has had their parents killed or their possessions taken, to be wronged in any way by the antagonist, therefore creating the inciting incident that becomes their motive for the story to move on through.
The introduction is anger and hatred, the climax is finally taking revenge, but what’s truly different about these modern tales is the falling action. They’re happy and fulfilled, acting as if vengeance was the answer and the story was resolved.
But is it? What does revenge solve? Is revenge self-destructive? Or is it justice? Is revenge natural? Is revenge wrong?
I’m not going to pretend like I know the answer to this, but I’d like to think that it is wrong. It’s wrong to inflict pain on others. But if someone inflicts pain onto you, does that give you the right to hurt them back? Even if it does, should you hurt them back?
There’s just so many questions when it comes to the ethics of revenge, so why not look to anime for the answer. My first pick, while still airing at the time of me posting this, deals with revenge in a very straightforward, aggressive assault. The plot is very similar to what I had just described moments ago, where the bad guys invade and the good guys retaliate. And the good guys retaliate, HARD.
I’m talking GATE, of course! But instead of getting into the politics of the separate worlds fighting, I want to skip right to the latest arc: Fighting the dragon. First Lieutenant Itama embarks on a quest to kill the dragon that caused massive amounts of death and destruction to peaceful villages. One village of elves in particular was left with only one survivor, Tuka. Itami takes it upon himself to avenge Tuka’s village, and more importantly, her father. So he, along with the girls, set out to destroy this fire-breathing menace.
*Spoilers* they succeed, with no casualties of main characters. Now this accomplishment can be taken in a lot of different ways. On one hand, they did the world a service by preventing any more damage this beast could have caused. That winged beast did do quite a number on those innocent villagers, any I’m sure many would argue that killing the beast was necessary for the safety of the people. On the other hand, it was an incredibly risky, albeit stupid decision to have a go at this dragon with just their small group and some weaponry that, at least to my knowledge, wasn’t truly proven to be effectual at that point in the story. Had it not been for the additional troops dispatched to rescue them from some unexpected complications, our heroes, and our lord and savior Rory Mercury-sama (all praise Lady Mercury) would’ve have been finished.
But aside from poking holes in logic, let’s just take a look at what was to gain, emotionally. Pro: People no longer had to live in fear of this particular monster. Con: The people the dragon killed, well, they’re not coming back. Yes, revenge has been taught to us as a shallow victory, but GATE seems to approach it as a victory nonetheless, and so the characters are all happy and all is well and good. At least, that’s how it seems so far, but I’ll save my final judgement for when the series comes to an end.
GATE uses vengeance as a theme and driving force for its protagonists, and it works out pretty well for them (so far). But as for antagonists, no better example comes to mind than Sasuke Uchiha, from the immensely popular series, Naruto.
While I do believe the show to do quite a few things inadequately, I think it does a great job at showcasing the self-destructive aspects of revenge. Sasuke really is a torn character, removing himself from his friends and his village in his pursuit for power. While he’s driven by hatred he does horrible, uncompassionate things, even to the people he once called friends. And the effect he has on other people only continues the cycle of hatred.
But what do you think about revenge plots? Is revenge good, bad, or dependent on circumstance? Is it better for our society to idolize vengeance or degrade it? And is Naruto still worth watching? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading!