The Source of all Evil in the Leijiverse??
Over two years ago (how time flies!) I started speculating whether Leiji had a final battle in mind and what it would be like [here]. I thought he did, and I believed that it would be against the Metanoids. It looks like I was more or less on the right track.
While I got the enemy right, I underestimated just how much the Metanoid menace would rally others to unite against them. I did not envision at all Mazone and Gamilas fighting alongside Harlock’s pirates and the Yamato, for example. Then again, already in the classic Yamato TV series and films we saw the development of Gamilas leader Dessler from villain to friend. If the Leijiverse can find sympathy for a man who destroyed countless human lives and drove them to a forsaken, underground existence, then one wonders who can qualify as truly evil!
The Galaxy Express 999 constellation of series and films has classically portrayed mechanization as something like the ultimate evil. However, since the 1990s Leiji has told us the planet Dai Technologia, where flesh and blood humans and Machiners coexist peacefully. And one of the more sympathetic characters in Space Symphony Maetel is a Machiner etc etc. In Ultimate Journey, the novelization of Leiji’s upcoming “final battle” Mahoroba film, the Machine Empire allies itself with the Metanoids, true, but they do so out of a survival instinct as their people are being systematically killed all over the galaxy by humans taking advantage of Promethium’s fall. Mechanization itself is not the source of evil.
So that leaves us with the Metanoids. Surely, if everyone is fighting them, then they must be pure evil, right? Wrong. Virtually the first Metanoid that Tetsuro runs into, Helmazaria, turns out to be a noble being, who once defeated by Tetsuro and about to self-destruct, flees the scene so as to spare her vanquisher. In the Ring of the Nibelung manga, Harlock has the same exact kind of respectful chats with Helmazaria that he has with Zero in Cosmo Warrior Zero and Lafresia in Space Pirate Captain Harlock. She follows the code of honor, she might be evil to those who fight her, but she is worthy of respect and cannot be the abysmal fount of evil we are looking for.
If anything, the Metanoids would seem to have less of a claim of being purely evil than the Machiners. The latter turned to mechanization as a way to live forever and lord it over others, but Metanoid bodies are naturally inorganic. They are simply who they are, they did not choose to have Helium-3 hearts etc.
Moreover, it is made patently clear in the newer Galaxy Express 999 stories that the Metanoids are led by one who is not a Metanoid. There are even hints here and there that these masters of deceit are themselves being deceived. The force behind them is the Darqueen. Everyone but her Metanoid minions is fighting the Darqueen, so only by looking at what she wants (there are a few scenes where she comes off as sympathetic in the Eternal Fantasy manga, for example [here], so her aim must be where evil resides, and not in her entire character) where we can find this pure evil of the Leijiverse.
The Darqueen rides machines that eat up what is. They are literally propelled by existence as a fuel, and they emit nothingness. These Phantasmas are figures of the Darqueen’s own heart. In short, she would have nothing take the place of what is.
We learn in Ultimate Journey some important things about Loge/Loki’s role in facilitating the Darqueen’s plans. Somehow, Loge long ago saw a vision of Ragnarok, of the destruction of everything that is. Now, Loge had a tough childhood. As a half-breed (part-god, part-giant) he didn’t fit well anywhere and finally was able to find a rather precarious position within Asgard through the usefulness to the gods of his arts of deceit. Loge is angsty. Nietzsche would say he is full of ressentiment. So, as soon as he sees that the universe may end in nothingness, he sets out to make sure it happens. If anyone else prophesizes about Ragnarok, he discredits them. If he sees that anything or anyone (enter: Darqueen) can help bring the prophecy about, he does all he can to support this, and so forth. [Leiji is not creating this tendency in Loge out of thin air, Wagner already brought it out: a consuming desire to burn everything and destroy the gods out of a fundamental sense of insecurity or being on the outside of things.]
So in the end, maybe we can start thinking that pure evil in the Leijiverse stems from this will to nothingness, to put it crassly and almost childishly: from the wish to never have been born when one is faced with difficulty, and since one is already born, then the wish that everything and everyone might perish rather than to have to live another day or die and let everyone else live on happily without oneself. It might not seem so much evil as pathetic, but everything bad comes out of it. Otoko Oidon, which is partly autobiographical, deals with a young man coping with these wishes as they continuously try to rise to the surface. I wrote about this [here]. The great Captain Harlock himself struggles against something like this feeling, when he almost wishes that Earth would just disappear during Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and one of his manga “ancestors” was riddled with nihilism and practically lost the battle in the story I discussed [here].