Now and Then, Here and There episodes 05 and 06 – Freedom and Captivity

As Shu and Sara continue in the roles forced upon them by Hamdo’s regime, they both come to face certain choices and make decisions in their own horrible situations. Nabuca is also brought to face certain realities and is given a decision to make that resonates with him in a very personal way. Hellywood continues to lack for manpower after their recent battle with their enemies, and after taking some time to reorganize their security Hamdo issues two orders to increase his forces: forcible recruitment and forcible breeding. Mixed in with all this are two different approaches to a difficult situation. Sara seeks freedom through violence, using it in a very close up and brutal way the same behavior as her captors. Meanwhile Shu doesn’t want to participate in Hamdo’s plans, but chooses to remain ‘captive’ in the child soldier troop while doing what he can and challenging the lies and mental conditioning forced on the others.

Dictators and their love of the ‘Mother of All Battles‘ delusions.

Hamdo is not pleased about his troops not finding the pendant, striking Abelia in his anger only to a moment later start crying and apologizing to her.

The specifics sound more like the appeals made by a state like North Korea or Zimbabwe than the more common insurgent or militia groups of the present, but if you changed it from ‘other countries’ to ‘the government’ or ‘other ethnic groups’ it would have the same effect.

Nabuca gets shown up by Shu in the practice fight with a headbutt to the face. Despite Tabool always giving Nabuca a hard time, he’s none too pleased to see the new kid best him in front of everyone.

A moment of realization flashes in Nabuca’s eyes when he realizes who Sara was and what he did to Shu’s friend.

Likely aided by the lapses in security after the battle, two assassins infiltrate the battleship Hellywood and make their way to Hamdo’s quarters. The two nearly succeed, except for their poor aim, Hamdo’s return fire, and the sounding of the alarm. One is hit by Hamdo while the other reluctantly makes a run for it as Abelia and the guard enter. Despite Abelia’s request to interrogate the wounded assassin, Hamdo empties a whole clip into him and then starts kicking him long after he’s dead, to a look of either worry or uneasiness from Abelia. Shu and Nabuca’s troop eventually run across the second assassin, who takes Boo hostage before Shu blindsides him and knocks him to the ground. Nabuca then shoots him once in the chest and Shu desperately tries to apply pressure to the gushing wound while screaming for him to hold on and for Nabuca not to kill the assassin. But a moment later he ends it with a shot to the head, as per his orders, while Shu stands shocked, angry, and blood-covered. The next morning, Sarah sees the troops assembling outside for a recruitment raid, and Shu and the others march off into a sandstorm.

The moon and moonlight is used as a recurring symbol of freedom in these two episodes, as we’ll see more later. Here the bars in front of it speak to Lala Ru’s condition. She also seems to have some sort of awareness of what’s going on elsewhere, as she starts cowering under a desk when the assassins begin infiltrating and kill the guard outside Hamdo’s quarters.

Whoever they were, the assassins didn’t do a terribly good job. Afterwards, Hamdo was more interested in immediately killing anyone who had made him fearful.

I could have resized these into a side-by-side like the last two, but the facial expressions really were the heart of the moment. Shu truly in a moment of panic and confusion over the violence of this world, and Nabuca both having pushed himself to kill and witnesses the reaction of someone who is, in contrast to most people around him, very upset about it.

Sara was brought to the quarters of another soldier the previous night, possibly the one who tried to hand her back her handkerchief when she was in her cell. He gave his name and asked hers and didn’t seem violent (on screen), but the result was the same. She watches the soldiers almost in a daze, until she spots the first rapist in the crowd and starts panicking.

After the group tasked with recruiting more soldiers leaves, Sara is shuffled around to another soldier’s quarters to be used as a sex slave. This one at first seems almost decent, and comments on Hamdo’s orders to breed strong children. But when he starts taking off his clothes and tells Sara to do the same, she quickly grabs a container of purified water (a reward given to him by Hamdo) and starts beating him in the head with it. In a desperate frenzy she beats him pretty badly and even grabs his rifle, but then he overpowers her. As she’s pressed to the floor she manages to beat him with the butt of the rifle and kills him. Almost as in bloody celebration she chugs down the purified water over his dead body and then starts gathering his uniform. She sneaks out in her disguise, making it to the open desert where she strips herself of all the Hellywood clothes. For a moment she holds the knife all Hamdo’s soldiers carry and uses it to cut off most of her hair, then leaves the blade stuck in the ground. Under the moonlight, now far from Hellywood, she runs off into the desert letting out both a yell and tears. THESE SCENES. Seriously. In all of the show I thought that these two scenes featuring Sara and her escape were some of the best in the entire show. In terms of character progression, visuals, symbols, and themes they just blew me away the first time I saw them and the second time around. An entire post could be made just discussing these two scenes. But I will limit myself to commenting on the following. The purified water was at first an instrument of violence and later chugged down by Sara with a vengeful ferocity. In a way it was vengeful, gulping down the rare and valuable water was a big ‘Fuck you!’ to the people that abused her. Ripping his heart out and eating it wouldn’t have been a more powerful display of vengeance. It was also victory and a show of power where the formerly powerless Sara killed her would-be rapist and then stole something precious from him. And then later, under the now ‘uncaged’ moonlight Sara throws away what was left of her Hellywood experiences by ditching the gear, and then cutting off her own hair in a sign of the changes she’s gone through. But instead of carrying on the angry, resentful feelings that could have led her to become very hardened and bitter, she runs off into the night letting her pain come out as tears and screams. She managed to flirt with the power of using violence to escape and seek some small form of vengeance, but she confirmed that she wasn’t consumed by it by leaving behind the tools of it (even if a knife and uniform would have been very useful in the desert) and letting out her emotions.

Bloody, satisfying vengeance.

Leaving behind Hellywood. And a nice contrast between the worn, industrial look of the gear and the cold, pure moonlight.

The moon as freedom again, giving Sara a moment of peace as she stands for a moment and lets her thoughts linger on it for a moment.

Letting it drift away, a simple but effective visual.

Shu, Nabuca, Boo, Tabool and a unit comprised of tracked transports, the snake-like mecha, and small humanoid mecha have left Hellywood in search of a suitable village to capture men for use in Hellywood’s armies. After at least a day spent outside their home city they come upon a village and prepare to attack. Tabool continues to give Shu a hard time before they commence the attack, stealing his water and remarking that nothing has gone right since he showed up. Nabuca puts him in his place in the strongest manner yet, saying that he’d prefer Shu’s odd mentality over Tabool’s bad attitude, a response that Tabool seems especially hurt by. The attack commences with some random rocket bombardment to terrorize the villages, who manage to get their women and some children out before the troops arrive. The assembled men are ‘asked’ to serve in Hamdo’s glorious army, and anyone who raises a voice is shot. The Hellywood troops then begin scouring the village for anyone hiding, finding many children inside and underneath houses. Nabuca then must confront a mix of his own past and the lies he’s able to see through but repeats nonetheless. He finds a child in a house, who hides under his blanket and asks Nabuca to forget that he saw him. Nabuca could potentially get away with this, he’s the only soldier there. But even as he realizes the falsity of the promises to return home, he repeats them to the child and takes him by the hand back to the transports. Nabuca knows he’s being lied to, and Shu’s questioning of things only highlights it more in his mind, he even recognizes it in the moment of repetition, but he leads the child out anyway. Shu, who earlier said he’d try to stay in line but wouldn’t fight, can’t keep neutral for long and tries to help some children escape, only to be shot in the leg by Nabuca, who takes responsibility for the incident. After their work is done, the troops leave and the village is bombed to prevent any hopes of returning home.

Lala Ru has a short moment with Abelia before the raid. Abelia confronts her about her belief that Lala Ru will destroy them, who replies that they will be the ones to destroy themselves.

Behold! One of the few instances in anime where a character doesn’t want to fight for legitimate reasons. What a concept!

Even the child soldiers are given rifles for this show of force, though I wish the weapons were fully automatic to display the damage that can be wreaked by one child armed with such a weapon. The choice of simpler weapons may be to serve the purpose of showing a decline in technology and manufacturing ability (not that an AK-47 is hard to build, but I’m probably just overthinking this.)

As the soldiers begin their search, the visuals turn to black and white with lots of still shots.

However Nabuca’s conversation with the child returns to full color….

Only to return in a grainy transition to black and white as he becomes the same kind of person who kidnapped him and Tabool.

Shu has a short-lived Moses moment, complete with staff.

Nabuca flashes back to his own abduction as he continues the cycle.

And the flashback transitions to Nabuca looking at what Tabool has become.

Final Thoughts: - I know I went off enough about the two scenes with Sara, but they were so well put together. The water! And the knife! And the hair! And the moon! THIS!

- The gradual transition towards more background and reactions from Nabuca has been really interesting. While we don’t get any internal monologue or long-duration flashbacks, the way he treats Boo, Tabool, and now Shu, in a concerned and protective way, combined with how he helps perpetuate the horrible system hes trapped in makes for a very interesting contrast. In his mind he seems to be trying to get by and create a little shelter from the storm for the people he cares about. He can see through most of the lies around him, kind of like Bean from Ender’s Game/Ender’s Shadow, but he goes along with them to keep his comrades safe. However he seems to cross the line from repeating the lines to letting them overcome who he is. For a moment when he’s talking to the child the realization makes him wince, but he still continues anyway.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted March 27, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Watching this show always makes me thirsty. At some point during each of the last few episodes, I’ve had to pause the video, run to the kitchen, and get a glass of water. None of this was really conscious on my part, so I guess I have to credit the staff for creating a thoroughly absorbing atmosphere.

    Sara’s escape…horrifying and liberating at the same time. Since I haven’t seen the show before, I have no idea what’ll happen to her, but walking into the desert with no supplies or weapons, and barely any clothes…well, that seems suicidal, at best. (Incidentally, the last soldier’s comment about making strong babies to help fight in the war gives the lie to Hamdo’s words that, as long as everyone obeys and the pendant is found, the war will end soon. Anyone trying to breed new soldiers is clearly looking at a long road ahead.)

    And then there’s the “recruitment.” I was totally unprepared for the bombing at the end (although I really shouldn’t have been). I’d LIKE to say that the abducted kids are the lucky ones, but really, no one’s lucky here. Just brutality for brutality’s sake. Anyway…yeah, that whole episode really made me angry.

    By the way (and forgive me if this is the wrong place to ask, or if the answers are found somewhere obvious that I haven’t stumbled across yet), but how much time do you spend on each one of these entries? I’m thinking of doing some retroblogging myself, but never having done any anime blogging, I don’t know how much time would generally be required to make a good, polished piece. And I’m not sure I’d have enough time for a blog AND the Macross translations (especially since the Misa novel is taking MUCH longer than I thought it would). I’d be grateful for any tips you might have.

    • ExecutiveOtaku
      Posted March 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      The bombing at the end of the raid was something I had forgotten about from the first time I watched it years ago, so it was a surprise all over again that it happened. It permanently seals off any chance of returning, but given real world cases of child soldiers I’m surprised that it wasn’t done in full view of the new recruits or made to be done by them. Granted the tactics will differ depending on the group that captures the children, but some groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army and some groups in the Liberian and Sierria Leonean civil wars would force and/or drug up the children and make them kill parents or villagers to guilt them into a sense of never being able to return. The commander of the raid might have wanted to punish the village for showing any signs of resistance, or just for the hell of it.

      As for blogging, I spend on average around 2 to 3 hours per post, though I tend to write longer posts than a lot of bloggers out there on other sites. Using a good bit of screencaps and then adding comments to all of them also adds a little time over other formats, but as someone who started reading THAT long before other blogs in large part because I liked the ‘THAT style’, it’s the format I like to use. Generally my procedure for writing a post goes in these phases:
      1) watch episode(s) and take screencaps while watching.
      2) look at the images in thumbnail, sort out the ones I want to use and try to keep the image count around 20-40 except for certain posts like the final episode of Macross post.
      3) arrange the thumbnails in the order in which I’ll use them. When I do a solo post like this I arrange them in groups, to create the paragraph-images sets that I write the post in.
      4) Any image resizing, combining, or editing.
      5) Choose opening image, pick title, write intro paragraph.
      6) Write text and then add images after it that relate to the paragraph. Repeat until done.
      7) Add final thoughts and proofread.

      If you’re thinking about blogging and want some more specific information, feel free to contact me (executiveotaku AT yahoo.com.) And that post I put together asking experienced bloggers for their advice might be useful to you too. Link.

  2. Posted March 28, 2010 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Sara’s situation was by far one of the most carved moments of anime into my thoughts. So intense I almost had to drop the series because I personally thought I could not handle continuing to watch because Sara is a huge reminder of personal experiences for me. Glad I continued on as the show is a masterpiece as a whole, but Sara will always remain the star of the show in my mind…

    Completely agree with you when you say how well these scenes were done. Moving, powerful, and determining. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better way.

    • ExecutiveOtaku
      Posted March 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      Even among some of the very powerful scenes to come, the two from this episode are still my favorites for how well everything came together. Viewing the series a second time around, I’m still impressed by the richness and intensity of Sara’s parts in these episodes, and by the pace of it. The first scene was quick and brutal in a way that impressed the feeling of the rapid-fire emotions on the viewer without giving enough time for the logical part of the mind to kick in (as the characters involved wouldn’t have had the time for it.) And the second had enough time for reflection, but not enough to feel dragged out. The careful use of timing was another element that made it so powerful.

  3. Posted March 29, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Sara’s scenes are definitely the most emotional and affecting in the series for me. What makes Sara’s escape more effective, I think, is how her actual rape is downplayed visually in the prior episode (while still remaining very strong emotionally). It forces the audience to conjure up that vision of what happens to Sara, which then makes the reaction that much stronger when it will happen again, just before Sara takes action and flees from Hellywood.

  4. Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I keep being marveled that Shu is still alive after all this. The guy breaks every protocal possible in the most hellish military around and he’s still alive. He gets tortured and hung from a rope for hours, gets shot and still survives. And even then he’s still the exact same person he was at the start. I feel like I should respect the guy for it but it still feels like he’s doing all this because he’s a total idiot. I’m waiting for it to rub off on Nabuca. Some of the looks he’s been given along with the realisation of some of the hypocritial statements he’s been making make me think it’s finally having an effect.

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