Broken Blade 05 and The Broken Character

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Is crazy supposed to make sense? Girghe doesn’t seem to. He takes over this part of the nairrative. He steals the show in the fourth film and owns this one… all the way to his spectacular and perplexing death. It occurs to me that a character needs a clear and obvious explanation for any insanity exhibited. Is it really so?

Pierrot le Fou in Cowboy Bebop is stylishly insane, and we know why because we are told that he was messed around with in an attempt to create a super soldier. Four Murasame and Rosamia Badam are similar examples from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. In anime (I am not confident to comment on other media), the creation of the super soldier always means mental disorders to some degree or in some form for the soldier (see Gundam 00’s Soma Pieres and Doublellujah Haptism; also, Eureka SeveN’s Anemone).

These characters do ‘unpredictable’ things during combat that is explained by their mental instability, which was determined by a kind of back story that makes sense. Girghe’s behavior I find unpredictable, and ultimately nonsensical. Is he a credit to the show for being so? I don’t know yet, but let me think it through.

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Baldr told Rygart to never trust Girghe. He told Rygart to kill him when the time comes. He told Rygart about the murder of the single ally amidst the defeat of the rest of the platoon by Girghe’s hand. He told Rygart about how he turned himself in.

We saw Girghe ‘practice’ way too hard. We saw Girghe lose all his composure and refuse to fight during the battle on the plain. We saw Girghe perform a one-golem ambush on the entire Athenian army. We saw Girghe run away when his squad was ambushed in turn. He called himself a traitor, and saw Rygart as like himself. But this seeming self-hate is reversed, he actually saw himself (and Rygart) as superior, and the rest are pests. We see him goad Rygart to duel with him while the rest of the squad is ambushed. We hear him offer to kidnap the Queen for Rygart if he loses the duel. We see him lose the duel, and save Rygart, killing Nike. And with his final gesture, he ultimately saves Rygart by taking on the entire squad of Athenians and getting shot to pieces… he steps out of the cockpit, faces Rygart, and shoots at him with his pistol as he dies.

Nuts.

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If it seems that there is a symmetry between the binary presentation of apparently negative, then seemingly positive behaviors by Girghe, credit that to my predilection to symmetry than any accusation of symmetrical or sensible presentation/composition of his character as a work of fiction.

For one, his character doesn’t give an explanation of why he did these things, only a precedent. His was a character who just did things, and just didn’t do things. I recently came across this fascinating article on psychopaths and how to tell if someone is one. I just have to force a reading on Girghe.

The 20 point Hare PCL-R exam:

Items

Girghe

Item 1 Glibness/superficial charm Yes
Item 2 Grandiose sense of self-worth Yes
Item 3 Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom Yes
Item 4 Pathological lying Qualified yes
Item 5 Cunning/manipulative Qualified yes
Item 6 Lack of remorse or guilt Yes
Item 7 Shallow affect Yes
Item 8 Callous/lack of empathy Yes
Item 9 Parasitic lifestyle Yes
Item 10 Poor behavioural controls No
Item 11 Promiscuous sexual behaviour No data
Item 12 Early behaviour problems No data
Item 13 Lack of realistic long-term goals Yes
Item 14 Impulsivity Yes
Item 15 Irresponsibility Yes
Item 16 Failure to accept responsibility for own actions No data
Item 17 Many short-term marital relationships No
Item 18 Juvenile delinquency Yes
Item 19 Revocation of conditional release Yes
Item 20 Criminal versatility No

I don’t really have the technical expertise to score Girghe, but the “yes” instances seem indicative of mental instability indeed. I feel like it’s a shame we don’t get why Girghe is this way, but what about characters who were insane, and perhaps were even more over-the-top, and yet don’t present satisfying explanations for their insanity? I feel that there should be at least one.

image

I couldn’t come up with one in anime, but I distinctly remember the Joker from The Dark Knight film (2008). Never mind the comic book versions, this film’s Joker made his back story irrelevant by being a liar about it. He was just this dog who chases cars, not knowing what to do when he caught one. He was just someone “who does things.” He was the kind of person who didn’t have rational motivations, who just wanted to “watch the world burn.” And I think the Joker from this film is one of the most superb villains ever.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t think of Girghe as anywhere close the perfection of this version of the Joker. I only present the case for the kind of nonsensical insanity Girghe manifested. It isn’t categorically bad.

[gg]_Break_Blade_-_5_(1080p)_[48BAF4B4].mkv_snapshot_41.05_[2011.06.11_02.18.50]

Unless, we accept Rygart’s psychiatric work with Girghe near the end: He got Girghe to make a face when he dared him to apply himself and become a general and surpass his father. In the end, it’s daddy issues all over again isn’t it? If so, then there is an explanation, and as explanations go, this is as old and as boring as sanity itself.

P.S. It’s the Independence Day of the Republic of the Philippines, which is lulz because I really think that this so-called independence failed to account for the fact that our former colonizers Spain simply sold us to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris to conclude the Spanish vs. American War. But since the Americans “gave us our independence” on a 4th of July, June 12 seems more nationalistic and assertive of our freedom.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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28 Responses to Broken Blade 05 and The Broken Character

  1. hearthesea says:

    In regard to Anime/Manga, this topic makes me think of Johan Liebert from ‘Monster’. I have no idea what he would be medically classified as, but he feels like one of those characters who almost embody chaos, someone who seems to encourage self-destruction, manipulate people and twist things as an end in itself, all the while cloaked in mystery. (Although we do get a possible hint as to what contributed to his mentality at the very end of the series.)

    Also, thanks for that link on Psychopathy — very interesting stuff.

    • hearthesea says:

      Although I should note that I’m making no connection between Johan and the character featured in this post — I’m unfortunately not familiar with Girghe or the work he’s in. This discussion on mysterious, mentally unhinged characters just got me thinking about other possible examples in the Anime/Manga world.

    • I should’ve considered Johann, I’m slapping myself for overlooking this example…

      However, I find him thoroughly provided for — not so much as explanation, but rather context. The thing about Johann is that he truly is a monster, that the ‘reasons’ and ‘explanations’ one would normally draw as conclusions from Kinderheim, etc. are in fact red herrings. Those stops were enabling opportunities for his nascent monstrosity to manifest, rather than causal factors. But yes, he’s the perfect example in anime/manga.

  2. Myssa Rei says:

    I haven’t watched the movie yet (it’s on download as we speak), but there is a little encounter in the manga (which I’m not sure got transposed to the movie) that might shed light on his actions. It’s that one chapter where we see Bard and Girghe, still a child, happen upon a village being pretty much held hostage by brigands.

    The two set upon trying to liberate the village, but in one instance Bard was actually forced to *shoot* Girghe (to get to the brigand behind him). I need to double-check after I get back from work, but I *think* t is mentioned that while Girghe was distant before, he was never quite the same after that.

  3. WhatSht says:

    As Myssa Rei said, Girghe was pretty much scarred when he was young, that certainly did something to his mentality. Him taking down an entire army is amazing, he could literally beat General Borcuse, that was proven when Rygart “became” him in order to defeat Borcuse.

    On a side note, Girghe had a much more heroic death in the manga.

  4. miemsie says:

    So, what is the difference for the manga version of Girghe? Do we get his back story there?

    • Myssa Rei says:

      We definitely do. My previous post, the one mentioning the village raid, was about it actually.

      It might just be me, but I felt that, in the manga anyway, all of Girghe’s ‘insanity’ was just a front, and it was pretty much just a big cry for attention (to Bard). Kind of like, “See? SEE? This is what your way of thinking had forced me to become!”

  5. Reid says:

    A very interesting read, Mr. Lightning. Now that I’m mostly done with Macross and completely done with the short-but-terrific Yukikaze, my next viewing project is going to be Broken Blade. Well, it WILL be my next project…after I watch the Zeta Gundam Movies…lol I finally found them on DVD. I’m a “gundamfag” after all. I can’t be expected to branch out that much and when I do branch out it won’t be that quick in coming. I really liked what I saw of Broken Blade (ep. 1), though, strangely, I feel like it’s an idea I had before. When I was in…oh…late middle school I wrote up a draft of a Gundam storyline (never finished or published, so I guess it doesn’t technically count as a fanfic if nobody read it) about a far-distant Universal Century where most everyone was a Newtype (I guess Char’s plan succeeded in the end LAWL) except for our hero who was thought to be some kind of abomination by the theocratic society he lived in. It’s pretty cool to look back and see how other people (those with the power to actually MAKE an anime series) sometimes have the same basic ideas as a nerdy 13-year-old kid. In that way, Broken Blade sort of “feels” like what I might have made if I’d had the resources.

    • I feel that way about a lot of anime. It’s written by puerile minds for puerile viewers.

      • Reid says:

        Geez, ghost, way to break a brother’s balls ^.^ I never thought of the idea as especially puerile, considering, well, G Gundam. For that matter, pretty much any time you start talking about giant robots running around blasting each other, what you’re going to end up with will by rights be juvenile. However, I don’t necessarily believe that it’s a case of grown people being “childish” but rather that (primarily male) children oftentimes develop an affinity for machines at an early age (as for me it was with airplanes, trains, agricultural equipment, cars and motorcycles). Of course, whether by conscious or unconscious predeliction for sci-fi and general nerdiness, a great many of those kids (myself included) get into anime-style robots as well. The fact that I was not really exposed to robot anime in any meaningful way until age 12 (and that being real robot stuff) makes me tend to think, for myself anyway, that things considered extremely geeky (sci-fi, mecha, anime involving those things) by a lot of people are not really that different from the interest of people who did not have those predilictions toward “nerdiness.” All that is to say, in my mind there’s not much difference between someone who enjoys movies primarily about real-world mechanized combat and someone who enjoys giant robot anime, especially of the “real” tradition, which Broken Blade clearly falls under despite some fuzzy gray-area stuff with the “sorcerers” and such.

  6. Stormshrug says:

    I have to echo some of the above sentiments that the handling of Girghe was significantly better in the manga (more backstory, more consistent behavior, far better final battle, and a better death), but also add that everyone’s behavior, especially Rygart’s, seems a lot less… plot driven… in the manga. My biggest complaint about episode 5 was that, more often than not, people seemed to behave in ways that didn’t necessarily make sense (with past characterization and simple logic) but were necessary to push the plot forward quickly. Rygart in particular fell victim to this – no less than twice in episode 5, he rushed into stupid fights for no good reason, thus screwing over his allies. In the manga, he had tangible motivations beyond “hotheadedness” to fight both Borcuse and Girghe and not simply use his superior mobility to leave the battlefield, but these were cut for time (and because certain events were re-ordered in the anime).

    At the end of episode 5, I’m left with the the question: did Girghe have a positive or negative net impact on the war effort? At the end of the equivalent portion of the manga, I don’t have this question. His purpose in the story is much clearer. But the anime has to be able to stand alone, and so Girghe’s characterization was a casualty of trying to get too much content into too few episodes.

    It really sucks that they stopped officially translating the manga into English. It’s one of the few action-driven manga that holds up well compared to its anime adaptation, in my opinion (I’m not much one for action scenes in manga most of the time, though).

    • At the end of episode 5, I’m left with the the question: did Girghe have a positive or negative net impact on the war effort?

      Excellent question. For now my answer is yes… a very slight margin but indeed a margin. He basically made up for the casualties suffered from the Athenian elite fighters all by himself. So just on a material standpoint, he is a net positive.

      • Stormshrug says:

        Yeah, I think the deciding factor for me is going to be whether his sacrifice galvanizes Rygart into serious action or just plunges him into further indecision, since Rygart is such a key element in the Krishnan war effort. I’m curious to see how it plays out.

  7. MarigoldRan says:

    Whackos in anime? Too many to count. Heck, most of the protagonists are whackos. As are many of the antagonists. (Evangelion, NHK, Eden of the East, Madoka, various harem leads, Death Note, Mirai Nikki, AnoHana, etc.) Apparently the writers need crazy people to come up with an interesting plot.

    Psychopaths? Eh. Not as much. The difficulty in creating psychopaths is that they have to be made competent:

    1. Johann Liebert (Monster) and his employees.
    2. “Friend” from 20th Century Boys.
    3. Kefka (FF VI)
    4. Vicious (Cowboy Bebop)
    5. Frieza (DBZ)
    6. King Hamdo (Now and Then, Here and There)
    7. Death Note and Mirai Nikki
    8. Etc. Etc. You can always find more on TV tropes. They have several pages worth of examples.

    • Why do psychopaths need to be made competent? Is intelligence and ability requirements for being a psycho?

      • ToastCrust says:

        I think it may be a case of incompetent psychopaths not being as frightening. And when a character is made insane, it’s usually towards the end of making them frightening. The way they don’t work on the order of human logic makes the unpredictable and dangerous.

        Whereas a harmless person with little sanity? Well, in anime at least, they’re apparently just cute girls bundled up in futons.

      • MarigoldRan says:

        Most psychopaths in real life are pretty intelligent. In order to be manipulative and charismatic, you need a reasonably high level of smarts.

  8. flaser says:

    Actually Girghe is less a sociopath and more a blood knight without an agenda or ideal, so he drifts to and fro, sometimes helping “his” people, sometimes screwing them over. The only two consistent things in his life is he loves to battle and let loose. He also seems to take great pleasure in debasing himself, willingly playing the “villian” stereotypes and justifying their misgivings. This is probably because he’s become disillusioned with the ideals he was raised with.

    (The incident when his father had to shoot him may have planted the initial seed for this. What use is honor and duty when you can’t even be partial to your own son?)

    He’s naturally drawn toward Rygart, as the later is an outcast like him who was forced to become something that goes against his nature. When he calls out the unsorcerer on his hyporcisy – that of playing a hero, of being a patriot – he’s spot on, he’s *not* piloting because those meaningless things…

    However it’s Rygart who turns the table on him. If the unsorcerer is “playing at being a hero”, then Girghe is just playing another role… that of the “villian”. Rygart’s the only one who keeps insisting that he’s not what he seems to be… and acts with derision when people advise him, to treat the maniac as befitting his “role”.

    His final act of selflessness is what probably confirms that in spite of all his selfish actions and anti-social behaviour, Girghe was not a sociopath… but a bitter person, who decided he’s tired of playing the part other’s have assigned him. In the end he ends up playing that role anyway as a person does heroic deeds not out of doing the “proper thing”, but because he has the motivation to do so… and Rygart with his stupid insistence, that has gone in the face even of common sense, has provided one.

    PS.: I’m afraid that unless we get some more flashbacks, the anime will fail to give this character proper exposure. In the manga, he also sacrifices himself, but in a fashion that’s even more brutal and underlines that he’s making a conscious choice instead an act of whim.

    • Blood Knight… nothing about it suggests mental health, not that I agree with your diagnosis.

      However it’s Rygart who turns the table on him. If the unsorcerer is “playing at being a hero”, then Girghe is just playing another role… that of the “villian”. Rygart’s the only one who keeps insisting that he’s not what he seems to be… and acts with derision when people advise him, to treat the maniac as befitting his “role”.

      Do you suggest that the characters are self-aware in these roles you say they’re playing?

      • flaser says:

        People play roles all their life. (Quote Shakespeare, etc.) …and of course they’re aware of it. People also tend to see their own lives as part of a greater narrative, that’s why stories have such a captivating power over us, why we believe in fate and power greater than us.

        What I was referring to above was the two characters ability to perceive themselves in that light… and why I insist that Girghe is not a clearcut case of a “psychopath” (though *does* have strong marks toward that) is that his final sacrifice goes so against the selfishness that characterizes that ailment.

        People can be evil for various reasons and even an affably evil person is not necessarily a psychopath…. So far, the anime does not give this character enough screen-time, having cut out several chapters. Go read the manga, that’s the best I can recommend.

  9. Forbin says:

    What can I say??? In no sense do I find Girghe a psychopath.

    1. Not why did he kill his comrade. But why was he not a comrade? And don’t BS about being superior. (Do note that the passage of the Orlando? troops would have occurred at or near the same time when he destroyed his battalion.) Only one person was killed in the outcome.

    2. “Freaking out.” A genius fighter messes up when they cannot see the entire battle unfold. Unlike instinct/reflex; one needs data in order to land / perform the next correct sequence in a fight. What makes Girghe such a unique character is that he can calculate while in battle; which is such a rare trait.

    3. He wasn’t shooting his gun at Rygart. He was shooting his gun at the ground. Purposefully.

    One of the greatest privileges during practice is that you have a chance to learn. Changing your position for where you would normally attack and seeing the resultant changes to the flow of a fight can be quite drastic to all outcomes.

    • 1. Which is exactly why his behavior is so odd! He’s deliberate with this.
      2. Talent correlates with psychopathic behavior (read the linked article)
      3. Push.

      Your parting statement doesn’t contradict the thesis. It supports my response to 1.

  10. Pingback: The Relevant Brilliance of Broken Blade (Finale) | We Remember Love

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