Why not s-CRY-ed?

To be honest I’ve liked s-CRY-ed since I first watched it when it was coming out on DVD out here.

I mean plot-wise, it really isn’t that different from most shounen style fighting shows. You have two guys, who don’t like each other; both of them are trying to get strong enough to challenge the other one in an all-out mano y mano fight. But honestly, if you watch shounen fighting shows for the plot, then you’re going to be sadly disappointed almost every time.

Because it’s the characters themselves that drew me into this show. In fact, it was how the characters were considered equally important (much like Yan Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm), given equal screen time and both had compelling back stories and conflicts.

Oh yeah, and the fights were awesome.

But I never could really connect with it and it’s taken me a really long time to figure out why.

The metaphor of s-CRY-ed

The second part of the series always bugged me. You know, the part where suddenly Kazuma and Ryuho get sucked into Never Never Land and then the wacko guy from the Mainland shows up. It just seemed too inconsistent of a break in the plot. He’d spent a good fourteen episodes building this tension between these two worlds, why go and ruin it by switching up the story on the viewer?

And then I realized it. s-CRY-ed is a parable.

On the one hand, you have Kazuma, who represents the ideal of Freedom. On the other hand, you have Ryuho who represents the ideal of Security. (Now some person might say that he represents “Order” but I don’t think order and security are two different things.) Then you have Ryuho’s setting which is the reality of Security and then on the other hand you have Kazuma’s setting which is the reality of Freedom.

So the first part of the series is basically saying that: A truly free society will become an anarchic state where the strong pray on the weak. And a totally secure society will become a totalitarian state where no one can make their own decisions (and if they do then they get kicked out.) Now, I could spent a lot of time going into what each of the characters mean in this debate, but I don’t think it’s really necessary.

Because I’ve got to talk about Kyoji Mujo, the guy from the Mainland. The thing is that the first part of s-CRY-ed is really clear about what the metaphor is. I mean it’s even in the ads for the show. But the second half threw me. He didn’t have a clear-cut metaphor. And then it hit me: He’s Tyranny. Essentially he comes along takes the worst parts of Freedom and Security warps them to meet his own personal ends and then throws them back at the heroes. He differs from Freedom and Security because he only wants those things for himself and uses other people to get what he wants.

Okay, so there’ll probably be some spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen the series, go watch it. And really why are you still reading this anyway if you haven’t seen the series?

So how does it all play out? Well Freedom and Security get together and kick Tyranny’s ass and the world is a safe happy place for everyone else. Why? Because Freedom and Security still don’t like each other and they have to spend the rest of eternity pounding each other into the ground. But neither of them can win because they are equally important.

So the moral of the story is, “Both Freedom and Security are necessary to keep a check on tyranny and provide a safe and free environment for the rest of the human race.”

Sounds good, right?

Except if you’re me.

On the nature of the Freedom vs. Security debate and why I think s-CRY-ed is so messed up.

I think George Orwell said it best when O’Brien was talking to Winston Smith. People don’t want freedom. They want security. In fact, human history is littered with cases of people wanting to feel safe and willingly giving up their rights to do just that. All you need to do is look at the rise of Manorialism after the fall of Rome to see that people will sell themselves into slavery so that they know that those pesky Vikings aren’t going to come in and raid their land and take their stuff. In a straight fight between those two values: security wins.

But freedom is the higher value. In so many ways, freedom allows people to do things, to follow their goals, to become participants in society rather than slaves to it. But the only time people chase after freedom is when they’re afraid of losing it. And then only if they don’t have any fear that someone might do something bad to them. Because if their security gets threatened they’ll give up freedom without a second thought and they’ll even defend giving it away.

So while, I agree with the basic idea of s-CRY-ed, Goro Taniguchi misses the point. Security and freedom aren’t equal values. Freedom is the higher value. It’s what should be preserved, both because it allows people the choice to do what they want, and because it’s so unnatural for humanity. Security is a vice. It should only be indulged when it’s necessary to preserve the safety and well-being of the society.

And that’s what bothers me about s-CRY-ed.

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13 Comments

  1. Nice analysis! It’s rare to see a nice article on sCRYed.

    I don’t think Goro Taniguchi misses the point of freedom being higher since the story does focus more on Kazuma than Ryuhou (in the early eps at least, not so much in the later).

    It’s sad really to see that people in general are inherently lazy – they want others to do things for them. That way, when something goes wrong, they just blame others instead of taking responsibility. With freedom comes resonsibility for yourself and your own actions. Helping others comes along with that too. Those who uphold Security have rules and laws governing them – Those who uphold Freedom have morals to guide their behavior – and for some reason, this escapes most people 0_o.
    For Kazuma, who had morals, rules and laws were just nitpicks to him. If someone did bad, he jumped down their throat until they apologized and could set it right.
    For Ryuhou, he found that when he no longer had the rules and laws to uphold, the moral code stamped inside his heart is what guided him, even when he did not know who he was.

    It’s up for us to decide which type of society works for us but personally, I’ll choose the way of Freedom. ^_^

  2. Shell-Bullet mergers and acquisitions ^^ Interesting take, I never had one on the series, but was mostly drawn in by the BGM. Personally, I think there were some untied points in the story, but it was a fun watch.

  3. Interesting take, Scryed is one of my more favored animes and I had the same thoughts on the equal but opposite roles of Kazuma and Ryuho.

    I do agree about your thoughts on people’s natural reaction to seek security before freedom. But beyond all of that have you actually read the manga? It’s a steaming pile of crud filled with emo heroes and bad cliches.

    The anime was actually a decent rewrite

  4. Kazuma did win, though.

  5. I concur. You also forgot to point out the part where scryed is essentially one huge Les Miserables reference with the epic parts gutted out.

  6. C’mon, this show is patently about kicking ass. Whatcha gonna analyze next, Drastic my Soul? The guy’s clearly talking about his soul, which is named Drastic.

  7. I tried to wonder why the show was praised very highly in Japan, and the way you put it makes this make more sense now. And as said before by Anon, in the end Freedom did win out over Security. I believe in Drastic My Soul indeed. 😛

  8. @arakan7 – I always thought the fact that the story focused more on Kazuma was more a nod to the growing importance of freedom in a “secure” world.

    And I don’t necessarily blame people. There are a lot of security arguments that are really appealing. I mean “hate speech” laws for instance. No sane person really wants to hear that stuff. But picking on one group of people just because you don’t like them or because you think they’re a threat to order, isn’t a reason to silence them. At least not in my opinion. But I’m a radical on the subject.

    @RyanA – I agree that there are some loose ends that I wanted to see closed up. But I’m getting pretty used to that from watching anime.

    @Square – I’ve thought about picking up the manga, but I’ve never really gotten around to it. I still have the first volume of Paradise Kiss to get through. And the sixth volume of Blame! and the second volume of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order.

    @Anon – Someone did mention that. I always thought the ending was a bit more ambigious than all of that. But I can see your point.

    @Owen S – I’m not sure about the comparision between sCRYed and Les Mis. I’m curious about how you get there.

    @bakaraptor – I will eat your cake.

    @TheBigN – Yeah, I kind of wished I knew more about Japanese culture, because I think there’s probably more hiding in there. I really do like the politics Tanaguchi slips into his shows.

  9. Now you’re speaking my language.

  10. Slowpoke on this, because I only finished the show last night. I think you’re spot-on with the idea of a conflict betwen Freedom and Security. It sounds like this is a good example of extracting a fairly clear message from a story, with which the reader can then agree or (as in your case) disagree. We have to decide whether having a message which is wrong disqualifies a show from greatness. And quite how this works when you get other people who agree with the message (like my contention that the good guys in TTGL may have been the bad guys).

    I think there are some respects in which the show priveleges Kazuma, though – by the end of the story, Ryuho seems to have been won over to the idea of taking personal action based on his own ideals, like Kazuma does. Maybe.

  11. @The Animanachronism – That’s okay, I’ve been a slowpoke responding to comments lately. See I don’t think that a message that is wrong disqualifies a show from greatness. I mean I still think s-CRY-ed is a good show. But I think that there does have to be something personal about the show that connects with the viewer (in this case me) for someone to call it an all-time favorite show. Honestly there are a lot of shows that I like, but very few that I would say, “This is a show that you have to see or else your life is not complete.”

    In fact, I’ve been playing around with the idea of making a post about that, mostly because I think it’s an interesting if slightly disturbing phenomena that somehow people can’t “like” anything anymore. It’s either great or it’s mediocre. Or to flip it around, “just because something’s great, doesn’t mean I’m going to like it.”

  12. It’s a good point – sticking with s-CRY-ed as an example, I heartily enjoyed it and am very glad I bought it, but I’d hesitate to say it was a favourite.

    Interesting that we frame favourites in terms of recommendations (‘You have to see this show’) so often, too.

  13. That’s true. I hadn’t really thought of it like that, but maybe it’s because something moved/intrigued/excited us so much that we feel like we have to share it. I think that all media has a kind of communal atmosphere to it.


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