Now and Then, Here and There episode 09 – Zari-Bars

Shu and Lala Ru wander through the deserts and find their way to a large, deep canyon filled with people, agriculture, and evidently a large supply of water. They find out that this place is Zari-Bars, the main enemy of Hamdo and the place that, at least according to the dictator, send the land battleship and team of assassins after him. It appears as if the settlement offers some respite, and maybe even a home for the two escapees. But Zari-Bars exists only because Hamdo hasn’t found it yet, something he’s redoubling his efforts to do now that Battleship Hellywood is nearly operational again. And the citizens of the settlement are not all in agreement as to if or how they should try to stop the madman.

NOTE: Only one episode in this week’s post since I wanted to put episodes 12 and 13 into one post and this one had an ending best suited to a solo post.

Back in Hellywood the new child soldiers are being trained and seem to be getting into their fighting drills as if they were playing. The instructor overseeing them is particularly harsh though, and Nabuca and Tabool speculate that he’s edgy because of the impending ‘final battle’ now that Hellywood will be operational. A final battle and the defeat of Zari-Bars would mean that the soldiers could go home, but Nabucca rejects this idea. Tabool doesn’t want to return to their poor village when he can have power where he is now, and Nabuca takes this as a deep betrayal. It undermines everything Nabuca tells Boo and the others, and what he tells himself, even if deep down he knows there’s no going back. It’s a lie that he knows is a lie, but hearing out loud his childhood friend abandon that false promise is not something he can take without responding with an uncharacteristic emotional outburst. Elsewhere, Hamdo and Abelia are going over their plans to attack their enemies and he goes into another crazed fit when talking about crushing them. He mentions using Hellywood to “bring the world to its knees again,” so it might suggest that he in his younger, less unstable days may have been the one to bring so much devastation to the area.

Nabuca has always tried to keep some hope, even an illusory one, to at least maintain some prospect for returning to a normal life, to not succumb completely to what happens around them. Tabool isn’t unreasonable in concluding that he could possibly have a better life than back home, but giving in to this is the end of the last bit of decency and freedom from Hamdo’s will.

This might suggest that the current fighting is the last, barely sustained effort in a war that started years ago. Almost everything has broken down, and the means to wage an industrial, mechanized war have been lost. I imagine Hamdo’s sanity has declined with time and frustration as well.

The farmer in the field gave Shu a suspicious look and no response, but the next person he meets talks at least a little. She’s waiting for her father, but that’s about all she says.

A scuffle between a woman and three male residents brings Shu in to defend her when it gets violent, but it blows over before too long. The woman, Sis, is arguing for the men not to send out an expedition against Hamdo, but they appear dead set on it. After introducing themselves, Sis agrees to take in the escapees from Hellywood. She seems to run a sort of orphanage for children whose parents have been killed, and she lets Shu and Lala Ru stay in return for Shu helping work in the fields. The girl he talked with earlier, Soon, returns and sits down for dinner after letting Sis know that her father didn’t return that day. All throughout these events Lala Ru has been silent and has had a fairly indecipherable, though clearly somewhat puzzled, look on her face. Watching the sunset together, she tells Shu that the people here are strange, though to Shu they seem more like the normal people he’s used to from home. Later on that night Shu and Sis are cleaning dishes when Sis explains more of Zari-Bars’s situation. A faction led by Elamba wants to fight against Hellywood, while Sis wants them to have nothing to do with the world outside their settlement. Soon’s father was one of the assassins sent to Hellywood, and when she asks Shu if he’d seen him, Shu has some rather uncomfortable flashbacks and recalls the man Sis described as the assassin that had tried to escape by taking Boo hostage. Just then Soon shows up with her dishes, but Sis encourages her to wait for her father again tomorrow while Shu is silent.

Most if not all of the residents of Zari-Bars are people who escaped from Hamdo or survived his attacks and raids.

Bringing a bit of energy to the work, Shu’s kendo call is copied by the children working with him.

Lala Ru has previously talked about how she enjoys watching the sun set, and I liked how they used it again for this moment between her and Shu. Even though they’ve been pretty readily accepted into the community, they’re still outsiders, and I thought this moment between them was a rather intimate one between the two escapees.

Shu flashes back to the assassin Sis described, her description bringing back a flood of unpleasant memories. Even someone as stubbornly optimistic as Shu hasn’t escaped contact with Hellywood unscathed.

Just like the lies that leaders in Hellywood used, Sis keeps Soon going out every day expecting her father to return. Both use them as a sort of hope and motivation, but it’s manipulation in both cases. Shu’s silence here must have been a rather conflicting moment for him.

After Soon leaves Elamba shows up and wants to talk with Shu. He’s still very antagonistic towards Sis, but when he and Shu go to an open field on a cliff face to talk, he’s rather friendly. He wants Shu’s help as a guide for another assassination attempt on Hamdo, as Shu is the only one to have been inside Hellywood and made his way to Zari-Bars. All this sounds like more killing to Shu, and in his anger he tackles Elamba and yells at him asking why he can’t just stay and have a peaceful life. Turning the tables in both senses, Elamba flips him over, kicks him several times, and then explains that a raid by Hellywood troops took all the women from his village, left his sickly sister to die of dehydration in the desert, and burned down his house with his family inside. He has an intense personal reason to want to kill Hamdo, and on a larger level doesn’t want such atrocities to happen again. Shu stays laying on the ground after he leaves, and when Lala Ru comes by he admits to her that what Elamba said sounds right, even if it also sounds wrong. The two stand in the moonlight while Shu cries, though he denies it when Lala Ru asks.

The two characters get into a discussion about the use of violence vs the responsibility to intervene and stop further horrors. What does Shu, or others who deplore violence, have to say to respond to Elamba? It’s one of the major questions in humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping missions, and morality here in a much smaller form.

Elamba isn’t exactly a pure-hearted humanitarian either. VERY reminiscent of what Hamdo and others have done, he keeps kicking and stomping on Shu well after he’s responded to Shu’s tackle. His personal reasons also form a big part of his reasons for wanting to fight. Not that being compromised necessarily taints his actions, but how much will his emotions on the matter conflict with what’s best for Zari-Bars?

Shu just lays there after Elamba leaves. It’s a pretty heavy moment for him as he considers his aversion to killing and the crimes that Hamdo and his soldiers have committed.

Quite the beautiful shot as Lala Ru comes to check on Shu. Seeing her interact with Shu more is always interesting as she becomes more human-like but still maintains a large literal and figurative distance.

Final Thoughts: – The scene with Nabuca and Tabool was short but had a lot of emotional power in Nabuca’s reaction. And it’s an interesting situation as well. Tabool is really being honest about their chances in the world, but he’s also been taken in and transformed by Hellywood and would rather remain a violent part of the regime instead of returning home. Nabuca holds onto a lie, but one that he hopes will keep some starting point for leaving their current lives behind. Relating this to the real world, insurgents and bandits in many conflicts often have trouble dealing with a normal life of lower standards of living and little power or social status after conflicts. DDR (disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration) programs aim to address this, but they’re not always successful in countries where the choice is to become a poor farmer or to have loot, status and camaraderie as a fighter.

- Shu’s fight with Elamba was another one of those very real world moments that this show brings out so well. If Shu knows what Hamdo has done and will do, does he have a responsibility to do what he can to stop it even if that means aiding in killing? Or is Elamba’s willingness to resort to assassination or war just part of a never ending spiral of violence begetting violence? In terms of peacekeeping/peacemaking, it’s the seeming contradiction of increasing violence to stop violence. Personally I’m more sympathetic to the argument that Shu has a responsibility to act if he has the means to, but it can’t be overlooked that violence will be a part of stopping Hamdo. What makes the argument in the show even better is that neither side is free of being compromised in their arguments. Shu isn’t thinking about what might happen if Zari-Bars is located by Hamdo, and Elamba’s reasons for wanting to kill Hamdo are intensely personal to him, even if acting upon them would also benefit the greater good of the people of this world.

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  1. Posted April 7, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have much to add on this one. After the misstep of last episode, this one gets things back on track with two very well-presented moral dilemmas.

    It all makes me wonder, though…where’s Sara?

    Don’t answer that.

  2. cx
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Sara will be back i hope no one spoils the next episodes.

  3. MrTerrorist
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    You’ll have your answer when the next post comes.

  4. Marigold Ran
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Dum de dum. Sara. Dum de dum. Ho ho ho.

  5. Marigold Ran
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Actually, no, what am I doing? There’s almost nothing to laugh about in this series.

  6. Keith
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the pictures of Zari-Bars, it would appear that Shu and Lala Ru have wandered into a Studio Ghibli film. :D

    • ExecutiveOtaku
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, it reminded me of Nausicaa quite a bit.

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