A Story About Stories

Spoiler Warning: Reconguista in G 1-26

Mask leaps out of the Capital Army’s newest weapon, the Elf Bullock, in his first appearance, showy and determined. It’s plainly obvious this is Luin Lee from previous episodes, but he’s seemingly completely different now – soon enough he’s out there trading blows with the other boys in a series of weird robots, confident and gloating. Wasn’t this Bellri’s super chill pal, who was complimenting him for being a “grade skipper”? It didn’t seem like there was much that got to him. Well, mostly…

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There’s a good article by Gen Urobochi (writer of Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero) in an issue of TYPE-MOON Ace, on the role of stories in Reconguista in G. It’s worth reading, but for now there’s a particular passage I’d like to reference (a big thanks to wotn for these translations):

The easiest example of someone fooled by the danger of stories is Mask. As a passionate revolutionary who seeks to free the oppressed caste of the Kuntala, he at first seems to be more of a hero than Belri, who just wanders around with no clear goal.  However, in the show itself, discrimination against the Kuntala is only mentioned, and not once seen. In other words, in the world of G-Reco, discrimination against the Kuntala exists only in Mask’s imagination, and this is his “story”. And in order to complete said story, he forces onto Belri the roleplaying of the villain. This is solely because Belri’s lineage and surroundings contain elements that would make him a good villain for Mask.

Kuntala descendants are no longer used as food, so there’s no blaringly obvious signs of ongoing abuse. It may be because of that (or perhaps simply forgetting), but there’s a detail here that’s a bit off: We DO see Kuntala discriminated against…in a few off-hand insults by other cast members, which don’t concern most everyone else. They do concern Luin Lee, though. Those are the constant reminders that there are people who still think he’s a second-class citizen. That’s his world.

That’s the only time we see him lose it before he takes up the role of super hero as Mask: when a “friend” insults him as a Kuntala to get under his skin for ticking him off. This is after Luin stopped him from picking on – guess who? – Bellri. Bellri, who never disrespected him and certainly never insulted him like that, who becomes his prime enemy by the end of the show.

How’d that happen? Simply put, because of Cumpa Rusita, who recruited and guided Luin Lee as he became Mask, and who the whole time actually stereotyped him negatively as well – not as a Kuntala, but as a “violent Earthnoid”.

So was Luin, Mask, wrong? No, not really, not entirely. But he bought into a storyline that made him a masked avenger who could sweep in and right the wrongs in the lives of Kuntala – and he fought the enemies of the person who wrote that story, who cared little which of the two ended up dead in the end.

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There’s an important turning point about half way through the series, where the previously unheard of Dorette Fleet (from the moooOOOOoon!!) shows up, and negotiations start as the sides try to figure out each other’s intentions. It’s obvious to Aida they’re never going to get the full picture from this, and so she makes the call to go directly to Towasanga, around the moon, to see exactly what the deal is. This leads to a clearer series structure, where the Megafauna is (and has been) undergoing a grand tour where they gather folks from the various sides jockeying for influence in this conflict: from Ameria, from the Capital Territory, from Towasanga, from Venus Globe…and they witness directly how people live in those distant space colonies, otherwise never heard from.

The SU-Cord religion – with the Ag-Tech taboo preventing technological development, while energy is supplied without question from unknown sources – is a particular story put together to prevent conflict, and has, clearly, worked out pretty OK on Earth for a long time. That it would unravel eventually is obviously inevitable as we watch it play out in the show, with the strain it has put on the distant, neglected Towasanga and Venus Globe, and the conflict (referenced, but never seen) between Ameria and Gondwan over expanding influence.

“The world is not square!!”, Aida declared all the back in episode one during her attempt to capture to Capital Tower – “things are not so simple”, in other words. She ends up getting a taste of her own medicine during the adventure she kicked off, though, as she gets a reminder on their contact with the crew of the Crescent Ship from Venus Globe that there’s stories she’s bought into as well (namely, one focused entirely on the concerns of Amerian energy freedom). This is followed immediately by metaphor with their guided tour of the ship, where the Megafauna gang gets a lecture on how the Crescent Ship is so huge, even from the center of it, the distance to its individual parts is much greater than it seems. That distance is effectively invisible.

objectsmayappearcloseretcetc

“When you understand something through numbers, it’s just numbers.” It’s not that those numbers are inaccurate in this case, just that they do not give the full picture of what that scale is like when you’re actually there.

She confides in Bellri on this, over her (adoptive) father, who she picked up her views from. Is everything he taught her wrong? Bell reminds her that her dad really isn’t a bad guy, not at all. He’s a good man just doing his best with what he’s got. Just like his (adoptive) mother.

Aida’s worldview up to then (and her father’s) wasn’t necessarily entirely wrong. But knowing that it’s a story, only one perspective, and seeking out the perspective of everyone else to get the big picture is what makes the difference. Her instinct to go out and see what’s up with her own senses was good, and she faces the reality that her story of righteous rebellion in the face of a technological monopoly isn’t quite so straight forward either – and, as things go along, that it’s a story with multiple writers, some with particular ambition (Zucchini. The President, not the food).

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Distance can be a weird thing.

Earth, Towasanga, and Venus Globe are all tied together through the transportation and distribution of resources, but their actual awareness of each other is uneven – the former having had their information intentionally obscured, and the latter two just kinda having to deal with it the whole time. As we see, there are various opinions on the situation and how to navigate it from those living there, but in particular with the Dorette Fleet and the G-IT Corps, once again, there’s a story of heroism through war and conquest with their “Reconguista” plots. It’s simple enough: Earthnoids are violent and stupid resource hogs, so let’s just kick ‘em out and take over!

That’s another element shared among all, regardless of where they are – a distance from war. Times haven’t been equally great to everyone, but if nothing else, they’ve lived in peace. Those idiots way back in the UC times nearly destroyed themselves…that certainly can’t happen again, right? And if it does, WE’RE certainly not the ones making it bad!

None of them have any idea what war looks like. They don’t know how it works. They certainly don’t know the consequences. They’ve even got armies of toy robots that dilute the idea of killing another human being further. And when contemplating how some people far off out there are the source of their problems, it’s easy to imagine they’re the demons who have to be conquered, the true Idiot Era Repeats. A lot easier, and sexier, than “a whole lot of different people with different opinions and varying levels of power in society, not unlike us”.

Captain Donyell casually mentions how the Megafauna itself was thrown together exactly as the Rose of Hermes Blueprints specified, but none of the engineers fully understand how it works. No idea!

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Mask teams up with the G-IT Corps from Venus Globe. Isn’t it something he finds the most in common with those furthest away?

“Detached realities” is a term appearing in another analysis of G-Reco (you may have spotted previously) by Tsunehiro Uno that appeared in Asahi Shinbun Digital – this is in describing the many clashing and undulating world perceptions we see from the large cast and how it is all thrown at us. It’s a term especially applicable to the G-IT Corps, distant and divorced as they are from Earth and the Capital Tower even as their livelihood depends on them. And it’s just as much the case for Mask, who even being in the epicenter of the wealth the tower brought, was alienated by the treatment he and his fellow Kuntala received, those little day-to-day indignities distant, invisible, to the others around him.

They end up following the same story, by the same architect (who, again, is an old man who could give a shit about them), which maintains its appeal for similar reasons.

Things go pretty badly for the conquering heroes of the G-IT Corps, losing most of their numbers in an atmospheric battle far, far from home. It almost seems obvious after it happens. “Why didn’t they just try to talk to them?” – that particular story didn’t have much room for such things, and certainly made it seem less than appealing.

“Why didn’t he just talk to Bellri?” – his friend not long ago at all, who never treated him poorly. At worst, he’s guilty of being seemingly oblivious to the plight of the Kuntala from what we’re shown…but again, would he of all people not be understanding towards his pal? Manny, longtime wannabe lover, urges him to do so, having travelled with Bellri and the Megafauna crew for a portion of the big space journey, and knowing just how decent they are. Mask doesn’t have it, declaring angrily that someone of his background is sure to become a dictator. A dictator! Ridiculous, knowing him, right? But his story needs a bad guy, and he fits the bill…one who is, wouldn’t you know it, a prime enemy in the way of Cumpa Rusita’s goals. Sadly, Manny allows herself to get sucked into this plot right along with him.

BELLLLLRIIIIII

Mask and Kun Soon, the last of the G-IT Corps, survive. They were going to kill Bellri or die trying, but Bellri doesn’t kill them, even though he had the power to. He spends most of the last episode anguishing over what to do, with his enemies right before him, and he sacrifices the G-Self to avoid killing Mask.

And a certain old man, watching his story play out, is tripped over by happenstance and ends up under a paper plane at the bottom of a ravine.

Bellri followed Aida, and Aida ultimately sought awareness and acknowledgement of the people who played into the many stories they kept running into. This culminates in standing up to her own people, in their fancy warships they didn’t completely understand, to prevent things from getting worse. It took things going bad right in front of their eyes to know how bad things could get – and while Pandora’s Box was already open, here too came the opportunity, with new knowledge, to figure out something better. All these problems don’t just go away with this temporary resolution, but it’s a start.

There is no shortage of bloodshed in this last battle either way, but Bellri has an especially stark choice before him: given this practically godly machine, and an arch enemy apparent breathing down his neck, he could very obviously kill him. It’d be easy, even. He dithers on what to do, without Aida to guide him. What he does is reject Mask’s narrative that makes them blood enemies, and perilous as it is, disables Mask’s machine and exits the battle, leaving him to stew.

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The Crescent Ship makes a world tour, Luin and Manny venture off together, and Bellri too embarks on a little trek of his own. A whole bunch of stories have come and gone, and there’s still plenty out there. Underneath them all is the world as it is, its people and places, and as they saw firsthand, you need more than just the stories given to you to make any sense of it and where you stand in it – you need to interact with it. With other people, and other places.

Bellri travels to Japan. He asks for directions.

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Here’s a place. Go.

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