The Choices of Commander Rossiu

There’s this thing in storytelling called the problem of evil. Why is it a problem? It’s nearly impossible to have a good narrative without it. It is a convenient color in the spectrum of conflict.

It’s almost always someone A vs someone/thing B; and it’s easier for most of us to root against someone if that
someone/thing is evil.

My fascination with this brings me to Kamina City. The Anti-Spirals have just announced that the extinction of our species is at hand, and the heroes of old are blamed for this current turn. The great hero Simon is headed for his execution even after saving the city yet again. The citizens now await who first gets permission to board Commander Rossiu’s Arc-Gurren. The dark and apocalyptic mood seems an interesting destination for ghostlightning, anime blogger. I make friends easy enough, and let me tell you of this conversation I had with one of them.

kamina-city-turns-on-kamina

I flick the night light switch on and Kinon stirs, looking younger without her glasses. She lights one of my cigarettes, coughing immediately. Actions out of character always pique my interest.

More interesting than Kinon, however, is the master she serves. It’s been whispered in the dark corners of Kamina City that Rossiu has been the pilot of Simon for some time now, who’s become a mediocrity as a leader, as obsolete as the ganmen he dug out of Jeeha Village’s dirt. The trial and upcoming execution of Simon is but a rubber stamp that finalizes the coup.

She turns to me and asks.”How did I get you here?”

The moon is falling. We’re living in interesting times. I say.

“Interesting isn’t a word my brother would use right now.”

You stand against him.

“Yes. He chose the lesser of the two goods.”

kinon-slap

Sorry?

“He blames Rossiu of treachery, but my brother can’t appreciate the ethical fitness required to make a call on an authentic ethical dilemma.”

What do you mean?

“Do you have the time to listen?”

As much time there is before the moon falls and kills us all, sweetheart.

rossiu-makes-tough-calls

“Moral problems are easy. You know you’re facing one because it’s identifiable by the right vs. wrong tag. Let’s say deceit is wrong, that it’s bad to lie. In a vacuum, telling the truth vs. lying is an easy decision to make. It’s right vs. wrong.” She drags on my cigarette, getting more comfortable now. “An authentic ethical dilemma is a choice between two rights, but you cannot choose both.”

And Rossiu was in a quandary over what exactly?

“Kittan sees it simply it as Rossiu betraying Simon and the Dai Gurren Brigade. But it’s more than that. We both see it as a truth vs. loyalty dilemma. Rossiu, while loyal to his friends, cannot choose to save Simon without acknowledging he is the key to the satisfaction of the populace. He chose not to let loyalty get in the way of acknowledging the
truth that Simon must take responsibility in an age of laws, doing otherwise undermines everything all of us have worked for – including Simon.”

rossiu-simon-estranged

It seems a little more complicated than a mere privileging of truth over loyalty, lady. I don’t see Rossiu getting off the hook on that alone.

Kinon tips her cigarette on the edge of an ashtray. “Indeed, there’s more: in this matter Rossiu also had to decide between the needs of an individual vs. those of the community, as well as between those of the long term vs. those of the short term. Both are archetypal ethical dilemmas too.”

Okay, I can understand why Rossiu can see it as an individual (Simon) vs. community (the rest of us) dilemma. But I’d sure like to hear how he put this in the long term vs. short term dilemma’s parameters.

“We can look at not executing Simon as a short-term solution. He’ll feel good for a while. Us friends will be comforted by the perceived return of loyalty. We can hope for a few victories, maybe even stop the moon from falling. Maybe.”

“Stay with me here.” Kinon had noticed my brows furrowed in incredulity. She takes another drag and talks in a puff of smoke.

“Think far enough until the likes of Simon and Rossiu are gone, people who are obvious outliers in terms of talent and ability, within the range of possible human beings. Who’s going to save us then? Can we reasonably predict the periodic and guaranteed arrival of saviors?

What we can forecast is a sustainable population-cap solution, as we’ve succeeded with it for a long time.”

kinon-in-green

I can’t say I’m sold. It’s not my place to judge Rossiu on behalf of everyone, but he’s still an ass in my book.

Kinon put out her cigarette, wrapped herself in the covers, and put on her glasses. I thought, she must mean business now.

“So you’d have Rossiu serve the virtue of Mercy, over that of Justice?” Her eyes narrowing behind her spectacles.

Why does it have to be one over the other anyway?

“You fail to appreciate the fourth and final archetypal ethical dilemma. It may be good to bestow mercy to someone who saved us all. Simon obviously deserves it more than anyone. But is it just? Is it fair for humanity to bear his penance instead? “

Rossiu claimed that to the citizens, Simon is no different than Lord Genome, and that is why he won’t hold back on punishing him the way they punished Genome. Is that necessarily justice?

“I didn’t say the decision is obvious, but it takes a Rossiu, who has the courage make it.”

kinon-making-eyes-at-rossiu

I’m less impressed with your version of Rossiu’s considerations than by the ferocity with which you issue it. So my dear, if you believe in him so much, why are you
here, right now?

Off comes the glasses, and I find myself under the covers.

“It’s not him I’m cheating on, you see.”

I don’t respond. The less I say at this point, the better.

“He wasn’t the first great man to pilot the Gurren you see…”

I allow myself a laugh. So all this talk about ethics and dillemmas…

“The moon is falling, darling. We’re living in interesting times…”

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.
This entry was posted in analysis, Dialogues, showing a bit of character and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Choices of Commander Rossiu

  1. schneider says:

    This is an awesome post, from concept to presentation. I hope you write more posts like this.

    Interestingly enough, I remembered a recent book I had just finished reading: The Once and Future King, which is a reimagination of the Arthurian legends. Going to the relevant part: King Arthur is already old, and decides to codify Civil Law in order to keep society running smoothly. All goes well, until he is forced to acknowledge the adultery of his wife as well as the treachery of his best friend Lancelot (which he had been ignoring up until then because he did not wish to destroy the people closest to him and instead willed to suffer in silence). Like Rossiu, he chose to punish both to the full extent of the law (which he had just set up), even if it was killing him inside. What could he do, anyway? If he acquitted Guinevere and Lancelot, the whole Civil Law business would be a sham. Arthur would lose everything he had built up since succeeding the throne. Justice over mercy.

    It’s hard being in a position of power, period.

  2. coburn says:

    Well played sir.
    In b4 ‘Kinon is a slut’.

    As I recall the long-term/short-term thing was complicated by the fact that Rossiu sought short-term crowd control as well as long-term justice by sacrificing Simon. But then I guess that’s Rossiu’s thinking, not Kinon’s – he didn’t believe in the arrival of saviours, which is different from choosing not to rely on them.

    I guess the thing is whether it’s then OK for him to take a position of glory as the great leader of the people/inspiration for a new generation. Though that gets to one of the things I like about dekosuke – that when he takes the mantle of saviour in hos way, it’s somehow self-destructive.

  3. lolikitsune says:

    Just to be an ass, I’m not going to comment here with my long and perfectly-thought-out explanation of why this post fails hard.

  4. TheBigN says:

    “Rossiu claimed that to the citizens, Simon is no different than Lord Genome”

    When it was actually he himself that was more like Lord Genome, so it would have been interesting if you continued along that vein. 😛

  5. 21stcenturydigitalboy says:

    This is, by far, THE SEXIEST FUCKING POST EVER WRITTEN.

    I feel like I’m watching a Noir film with blues jazz playing in the background set to Gurrel Lagann’s world. Nothing is more awesome than a steamy affair laced with philosophical conversation.

    Your points, however good they were, are of no consequence – this post is unilaterally fuckwin. I will document this son of a bitch.

  6. picchar says:

    I really like reading your articles. I haven’t completed Gurren Lagann yet so I don’t get the reference, but nevertheless, I think I understood the point.

    It’s hard being in a position of power[…]

    I agree.

    Then again, we all have to make tough choices. The difference is that decisions made by those in a position of power affect a wider range of people. It takes courage, self-confidence and decisiveness for someone to make such decisions that affect many.

    Or stupidity and a big ego.

  7. lolikitsune says:

    Because TheBigN so astutely said:

    When it was actually [Rossiu] himself that was more like Lord Genome, so it would have been interesting if you continued along that vein. 😛

    I will have mercy on ghostlighting and post my thoughts on the post.

    The Failures of Commander Rossiu

    Rossiu doesn’t really have anything going for him. Examine again some of his dialogue you yourself quoted:

    All of this happened becaused we defeated Lord Genome.The Moon falling is the Dai-Gurren Brigade’s fault.

    Followed by:

    To the citizens, you are no different from Lord Genome. That is why your punishment should be no different. Just like how we could not hold back from punishing him.

    Rossiu says to Simon: “You are guilty of treating x in y way, so we must treat you in y way because you are the same as to x.” In other words, he’s saying “You are guilty of something that must be punished by the someone else committing same crime you committed.”

    Were Rossiu to succeed in judging and persecuting Simon, he would be in the position he’s pigeon-holing Simon into of “killing a ‘Lord Genome type’ and becoming a ‘Lord Genome type’” (and would be sentenced to death under his own laws). That’s one moron killing another moron killing another moron, if any of those morons actually believe the shit they’re spewing and act on it.

    So actually, Rossiu is just an idiot, and there’s no real “ethical dilemma.”

    P.S. Not trolling here. Rossiu’s shittiness is actually something I only noticed on my third watching of this show, and it stands as a major non-sequitur/failing on TTGL’s part imho.

    P.P.S. the “killing Lord Genome and becoming Lord Genome” thing I refer to as “the Quandary of the Black Knight” in reference to old-school black and white computer game Dark Castle. You play as a peasant who busts into the Black Knight’s castle and ultimately overthrow him, only to become the Black Knight yourself. And then the next peasant bursts into the castle.

    Either:

    A. Rossiu thinks he’ll be a better Black Knight than Simon (who became Black Knight after Lord Genome), which is dumb because the Black Knight is the Black Knight and they’re always evil, or:

    B. Rossiu doesn’t see himself as becoming a Black Knight, in which case he doesn’t really have any moral justification for killing Simon (if Rossiu isn’t becoming a Black Knight, Simon didn’t become one either), and is just dumb regardless.

    Incidentally, the entire point is moot because Rossiu is just as responsible in the overthrow of the last Black Knight as Simon is—essentially, the entire Dai Gurren-dan, Rossiu included, would be the new Black Knight.

    Spoilers: as we learn later on, Lord Genome wasn’t even a Black Knight. SO LOL IT REALLY DIDN’T MATTER.

  8. ghostlightning says:

    @ schneider

    Thanks for referring that book. It’s been on my radar for years but I’ve never bought it. I think you got the ‘justice vs. mercy’ dilemma down. The Arthurian choice seems a solid ethical dilemma.

    @ coburn

    I wrote this with you playing Rossiu in my head. It was hard writing about a character I wasn’t a fan of, so I cast him in a role of a blogger that I was. I first learned about OH! from Claiming Ground anyway. This post is also a reaction to the exchange of comments you and I had when I wrote about Gendo.

    @ TheBigN

    See Dr. lolikit’s comment 🙂

    @ digiboy

    Thanks. I really, really tried.

    @ picchar

    You see the terrible choices facing leadership. In the past I’ve made decisions affecting thousands of employees (having practiced Human Resource Management), specifically where it hurts: career development and compensation. I had to be prepared to be hated, and I’m sure I was.

    @ Dr. lolikit

    I agree that Rossiu was full of shit. I just wasn’t going to stop Kinon from lionizing him. I really was interested to hear her whole spin on his actions.

    Re: comparing Simon to Lord Genome

    It’s a weak comparison on his part. Rossiu wanted to cast Simon as a villain, and he could think of no bigger villain than Lord Genome. He never did substantiate his claim:

    Simon: Rossiu, Why?
    Rossiu: All of this happened becaused we defeated Lord Genome.The Moon falling is the Dai-Gurren Brigade’s fault.The public’s anger is being directed towards the government.The conversation between you and Nia was broadcasted everywhere. Now all of the citizens know that the Moon will fall in three weeks. That, and they also witnessed your careless battle just a moment ago. I can’t cover things up for you at this point.
    Simon: Cover for me?
    Rossiu: To the citizens, you are no different from Lord Genome. That is why your punishment should be no different. Just like how we could not hold back from punishing him.

    That’s the whole exchange. I can’t think of any other reference to back up Simon : Lord Genome.

    But I think your point is that Rossiu had no real solid ground to stand on, as a leader, and perhaps even as a character.

    This to me, adds to his ‘charm’ (as it were) rather than detracts from it. If he were genuinely justified (as I was arguing with Rossiu/coburn in my head as I wrote this) he’d be less interesting to me, as opposed to this flawed and pointless existence you’ve pointed out. It’s akin to why Starscream is my favorite Decepticon, nay, Transformers character: a misplaced self-belief, with the capacity for harming many.

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  10. Baka-Raptor says:

    Sexy post (especially the end).

    @lolikitsune: Why must you bitch about everything? Why can’t you learn to enjoy life?

  11. lolikitsune says:

    @Baka-Raptor

    I enjoy life more than you do; bitching is not a sign of discontentment.

  12. Omisyth says:

    Reminds me of Plato’s Socratic dialogue, The Republic. In an awesome way 😛

  13. @ Baka-Raptor

    Thanks man, the philosophical conceit was really just the excuse for the se—-

    Thanks!

    @ lolikit

    Your bitching, too, is love.

    @ Omisyth

    The Socratic dialogues in The Republic is a tour-de-force of discussion. I sometimes dream of comments sections in blog posts can assume a similar kind of gravitas, if not reach similar levels of depth of thinking and genuine effort to communicate.

    The comparison you make is much too generous, thank you.

  14. D.J says:

    Starscream transforms into a jet and is therefore the coolest of the Decepticons for that alone.

    Beautifully written as always ghostlightning.

    I actually haven’t watched this show yet but you make it sound very interesting.

  15. ghostlightning says:

    @ D. J.

    Thanks ^_^ It’s very interesting, and the best part is that it’s really a humongous robot anime. HUMONGOUS.

    P. S. I actually have a decent Starscream collection, my prize toy being the Masterpiece Edition designed by Shoji Kawamori ^_^

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  21. 0rion says:

    What a great post; it seems to have aged extremely well and is still fun to read even almost a full year later. I really hope you’re able to write more like this one. It may be a lot of work, but I think the end result speaks for itself. 🙂

    Rossiu is a fascinating character and one who doesn’t get nearly as much consideration as he deserves, so I always enjoy reading different perspectives on his attitudes and his role in the story.

    • Thank you! I wanted to give an editorial feature a different look, and now I want to write a new one. It’s just a matter of finding a show where I can mess around a little. May start working on one tonight ^_^

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