A Response to Some of the Many Criticisms Ozma is Receiving of Late
The series has received a lot of flak from viewers this month. A lot. Even Leiji fans have decried the series and stated it would have been better for it not to air at all. I’ve decided to write this post not to defend the show (defending a show is meaningless, you either like it or not, what’s the point of defending it?) but to explain the rationale behind a lot of things in the show that viewers have found unreasonable. I have consumed enough Matsumoto media to have earned a decent grasp of the man’s mind, and so there are a lot of things that make sense to me that probably don’t to you.
There is something we can call the Logic of Leiji. You might think it’s ridiculous, you might think it’s illogical or outdated, but my point is that it exists, and it guides everything that he does. What happened in Ozma was not unplanned, done on the spur of the moment, or randomly put together. It is logical, albeit according to Leiji’s logic.
Q: Why does Sam suck so much?
A: I wrote about this elsewhere but let me post this again:
Here’s the deal with Sam. Leiji likes to have a character who represents us viewers. And Leiji is logical enough to realize that most of us aren’t very heroic, and that we would actually suck if we were in an anime. So this character which shares our perspective sucks a lot.
Now, this kind of character is not really the protagonist at all!! The protagonists are the heroes (Bainas, Dick), and you’re supposed to realize that gradually as your eyes go from Sam (who is you) to the heroic people around him.
The problem of course is that in a 6 episode show this strategy is bound to fail, because you don’t have time to make the switch. In Space Pirate Captain Harlock, however, Tadashi Daiba plays the Sam role and it plays beautifully, as gradually your focus shifts from him to Harlock himself. But that’s a 42 episode series…
Q: But why does Leiji do this in the first place? Why not have us share the perspective of a cool character?
Because Leiji is an activist. He believes the world is going to hell in a hand basket, he’s believed this ever since he was very young. As such, he wants to motivate us to make our way from being regular people to being heroes that can save the world. And rather than just have us fantasize we are heroes, fantasize that we are already awesome, he wants us to realize that there is gap between where we are and where we want to go.
Q: Why did Dick set up the Monokeros so that nobody else could fire it? Why did he want to beat Ozma? Why was he so confident the Monokeros would succeed in beating Ozma?
A: The short answer is that he wanted all the glory to himself. Besides, if the weapon is as powerful as believed, then it would have been terrible if it had fallen in Theseus hands, so this could also be seen as a security measure.
Dick’s intention was to destroy Ozma altogether. To ask why takes us to the old question of climbing Everest. Ozma is the big monster on this world, and Dick wanted to hunt it down. There likely is a thematic reference to Moby Dick here as well.
As I see it, Dick didn’t know that the Monokeros would succeed, he simply believed it would. This is how heroes feel, they are sure they will win (Japanese heroes especially). Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong, but their attitude already makes them heroes. Yukio Mishima wrote a book on Action for young people where he said that the important thing was to fire the gun at the target. The bullet, he taught, had its goal and was already in that sense triumphant. It didn’t even matter if it was aimed correctly at the target or if the target moved or had some sort of protection. The bullet had already won.
By the way, it would seem that the Monokeros did not destroy Ozma as Dick expected long ago. It just knocked it off and brought it to its senses.
Q: Why did Bainas want to destroy Ozma, when Maya had revealed it was a force for good?
Bainas didn’t want to destroy Ozma. The beast was enraged at the Theseus attack and threatened to destroy the entire Zone. Bainas’ goal was to hit Ozma hard enough to stun the beast. The Monokeros seemed like the best shot. At the same time, Bainas still hoped to see Dick again, and he knew Dick wanted to be the one to fire the Monokeros. For Bainas to fire the Monokeros would imply that she accepted Dick was gone forever, and this is why it was such a painful decision. But she did it anyway.
Things would have gone horribly if the Monokeros had actually annihilated Ozma, or just as bad, if it had made Ozma turn against the Bardanos and attack the pirates as well as the Theseus. I guess we’re expected to believe that in some way Ozma knew that Maya was behind the Monokeros attack and that it knew enough to come to its senses when it was hit.
Q: How come the Ozma project and the Ideal Children project were diametrically opposite?
The Ozma project is a wise and humanistic enterprise to preserve the environment and support all life on Earth. The Ideal Children project is an imperialistic, elitist project to create a master race to abuse the planet.
I think the key here is to look at the world of Ozma in a more realistic way. Think about our world today. If I told you that humans developed the nuclear bomb, as well as penicillin, as well as Harry Potter, would that shock you in any way? Of course not. You’d just chalk it up to the fact that there are billions of human beings and 200 countries give and take and there is no “unified human endeavor”.
When dealing with fiction we tend to unify stuff and think in simpler terms, but we don’t have too. I don’t see the contradiction in humans coming up with an Ozma project as well as an imperialist genetic engineering program. Heck, I could come up with examples of contradictions like that within a single country itself (U.S., Japan, etc.)
It’d be far more fantastic if all humans had agreed to and supported both plans. Humans do not have a unified will. Not even a single human being does!!!
Q: What’s the deal with Maya? Why isn’t she an Ideal Child?
A: The data we have on these human types gets rather confusing, though I reckon we have enough to figure it out.
The confusion that viewers have stems from the issue of cloning. Ideal Children are not necessarily clones. They probably have children just like regular people (the so-called Natura) have. The difference is that the ICs practice genetic engineering to improve their race. Each generation is “superior” to the one before it. By the time Ozma begins, however, the ICs’ messing with nature has resulted in a decay of their bodies. Some of them start to transfer their minds to healthy Natura bodies (by the way, this is a very recent development).
Maya is something else altogether. She hasn’t manipulated her genes at all. What she has done is clone her body generation after generation and transferred her mind each time. We can suspect that this mind-transfer technology was held as a secret by Maya until very recently, when she allowed the ICs to employ it because otherwise they would all deteriorate and die.
Circumstantial evidence for this suspicion is in the way Maya will sometimes speak to Sam, as if she is guilty of a great crime against the Natura. Well, that’s because she is guilty, she’s letting the ICs under her guidance take over Natura bodies.
Q: But why is Maya hanging out for a thousand years to make her decision?
A: Aha, well, we’re not really given a reason for that, but one idea comes immediately to mind: she’s a millennial queen. The concept of millennial queen is all over the Leijiverse (Millennial Queen, of course, but also Diver Zero and even Leiji’s latest version of Space Battleship Yamato, where Yo Haguro watches over Earth for a thousand years before the Yamato resurfaces). Millennial queens are women ordained to supervise a planet for a thousand years, after which they’re supposed to leave, or die, or something. Part of a millennial queen’s job is to effect a transition to the next queen, and this involves assessing the situation of the planet.
Again, I’m not saying that this is awesome stuff and you should love the show for it. I’m just explaining the rationale.
Q: What’s up with Danga?
Danga was an Ideal Child of the purist sort. He didn’t believe in the Natura-body-snatching technology that Gido used, not because he pitied the Natura but because he was disgusted by them. He believed that the Ideal Children should find a way to maintain their existence through genetic engineering as they always did, or perish in the attempt.
Danga’s romanticism in the face of death might sound strange to a lot of us, but it is a very important strain in Japanese culture, especially for people of Matsumoto’s generation and before.
It’s clear that Danga knew all along that Maya was about to make her decision. If Maya chose the Ideal Children, he would support her and continue to oppose the new body-snatching plan. If she chose to unleash Ozma, then he would do his best to take her out.
Q: What will happen after?
Once Ozma is released, the Ideal Children are doomed. Remember that they have undergone years and years of genetic engineering to adapt uniquely, perfectly, to current conditions. On top of this, they are starting to deteriorate. When the environment changes radically they will be caught unawares and die by the droves. Besides, apturing and using Natura will be that much tougher when there is a variation in the landscape and not just sand!
Sam will probably settle down and marry Mimei. Bainas will take to the stars etc etc 😀