(Note: All of this is probably going to sound pretentious. And arguably it is. But, I’m going to write it anyway, and this is actually going somewhere, but not necessarily in this post.)
Adam’s epiphany and how it applies
When I started thinking about this subject, which I’ve been doing off an on for about the past couple months, I had a hard time coming up with a framework to look at the different types of mecha pilots. (Incidentally, my thoughts started on the last post in this series and worked backwards from there.) And like I said, Adam’s epiphany isn’t exactly uncommon. I mean you have this character going along and boom suddenly they’re seeing that the world is pretty dark and scary where it wasn’t before.
The thing about any epiphany is that it’s largely internal. It ushers in a new way of seeing the world. But if you take a look back then I’ve said that both the citizen soldiers and Arthurian heroes are largely external archetypes. In particular, they generally relate to how the character relates to the world. To plunge into that further, they specifically deal with how the character relates to the government.
Which leads me to question, how do you internalize what is arguably an external archetype? What exactly are the thoughts and values that both of the character types that make them who they are?
On the citizen solider
So I started with LoGH, which is the longest treatise on the interaction of the military and the government that I’ve ever seen in anime. Now I do think that it’s important to compare Yan Wen-li to Rheinhard. Like I argued before, Yan is the prototypical citizen solider. He may disagree with some of his governments actions (or all of them), but he argues that the military should be a branch of the government, under the control of the people. And that if the government is corrupt (which it is), it’s not his job to fix it. That has to be left up to the people themselves. That’s not to say he doesn’t see the problems with the current administration, just that his ideals don’t allow him to act.
When this is compared to Rheinhard, we get a pretty striking distinction. Here he sees the problems with the current system and is compelled to act. In his mind, he has a vision of what society should be like and works to carry out that vision. (On a side note, I don’t think Rheinhard is an example of an Arthurian type character. In fact, I’d draw a closer parallel to Julius or Augustus Caesar or a much more value laden name that I won’t repeat.)
So I would say that a citizen solider at his core is a man of ideals. He believes for whatever reason that the government serves those ideals and so he serves the government. Essentially the central question for a citizen solider is “What type of government do I want to serve?”
Because the citizen solider generally has some kind of experience with life already, Adam’s epiphany has already come and gone. At the very least, in cases like Starship Operators and Infinite Ryvius the epiphany occurs early in the story. The thing is that question is rarely explored at any length. Instead most creators tend to grab a macro concept like “a free one” or “a secure one” or “a just one”. (Although all of this reminds me that I need to watch Infinite Ryvius again.)
In general, Adam’s epiphany doesn’t affect the citizen solider much because usually those ideals are pretty firmly cemented by the time the show opens. But when it does show up, the central question it raises is, “Do the ideals of the government I’m serving match up with my ideals?”
When the answer is no, the citizen solider will turn on his government. A case in point on this one is Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist. Once Fuhrer King Bradley orders him to kill civilians, he decides that the government isn’t worth serving. Arguably, he becomes a man of vision at least for a short time, but he does turn down the crown.
On the Arthur-like hero
Now one of the reasons I wouldn’t argue that Rheinhard is an Arthur-like hero is that he isn’t morally just. In my mind, the function of Arthur is to help create a government. And because of that reason, he usually starts the story as a champion for justice. He acts as a moral compass for the rest of the story to revolve around.
Camille Bidan does make a really good example of this. He starts off wanting to liberate the colonies from the oppression of Earth. He, much like Rheinhard, has a goal of creating a brighter and safer tomorrow (although Rheinhard is more realistic in his approach.) I would argue that the Arthurian hero is a man of vision. Essentially making his central question, “What type of government do I want to create?”
In the purest form of the archetype, he may have ideals, but they’re rarely tempered with experience. Essentially at the beginning of the story he (or she) knows what right and wrong is and is bound and determined to make sure that things go for the right.
Where Adam’s epiphany comes up is when it challenges the hero’s vision of what right and wrong is and by extension challenges his vision of the government he wants to create. Generally this occurs when either his allies or enemies do something despicable, or if the hero does something despicable.
The traditional reaction to this is to incorporate a wider array of values into his vision. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the character does not become more morally gray, but ends up staying fairly pure. Now if he committed the act, then he might end up regretting it, but he also will try not to commit the act again.
Because of the plethora of Arthur-like heroes (especially in mecha shows), Adam’s epiphany can get a bit hard to spot. What’s important to note is that the epiphany has to change how the character sees the world. For example, Camille Bidan knows that the Earth government is oppressive, but he doesn’t know that they’re creating Newtypes, who are people too.
And there are some variations on this theme as well, Roger Smith from Big O comes to mind. He is a rake, but he also has a vision of justice. His epiphany comes when he learns that there may be other countries outside of Paradigm city.
A Final Note
Again, I haven’t watched Code Geass or TTGL, so I’m not sure how they fit into all of this. But I still have to say the citizen soldier’s internal question has the potential to be more interesting because of the division between the ideals and the reality of the government offers more of a chance of potential conflict. Granted, this rarely happens because the ideal is generally too vague. Either a government serves freedom or it doesn’t, etc. And the potential for conflict between the ideas of security and freedom are generally ignored.
Whereas the Arthur-like hero doesn’t provide that same type of conflict. In fact, you could argue that the Arthur-like hero is trying to come up with a utopia. Now that in and of itself can be an interesting question (because I know I’m the only one who’s seen Land of the Blind I won’t bring it up), but again it’s a question that’s largely ignored.