ANIME & MANGA - Article
10:00 - 18th January 2014, by David West

Pilots With PTSD

In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Earth is under attack by strange alien beings called Angels. Mankind responds by constructing towering mecha called Evas. The big shift this time around was that the pilots of the Eva mecha were not dashing and daring. They were a bunch of neurotic, insecure, unstable teenagers. They didn't face danger with a stiff upper lip, but were much more likely to have a complete nervous breakdown in the heat of battle and experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder afterwards. The series has been revisited and reworked in numerous different permutations, most recently as a series of feature films directed by Hideako Anno. The protagonist of the story is Shinji Ikari, a nervous wreck who completely contradicts everything expected of the pilot in a mecha story.

The success of the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise inspired other creators to follow in Hideako Anno's footsteps, spawning an ever-growing army of anti-hero mecha pilots. In Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny the relationships between the Gundam pilots are fractious at best, and many of them teeter on the brink of emotional implosion, notably Stella, who is a ticking time bomb of issues.

Linebarrels Of Iron takes the anti-hero concept out for a long walk around the block and back again. At the centre of the story is Kouichi Hayase, a teenager who has been bullied and kicked around his whole life. When Kouichi comes into control of the massive mecha called Linebarrel, he does not instantly become a paragon of virtue. Rather than following Spider-man's creed of 'With great power, comes great responsibility,' Kouichi takes the path of 'With great power, comes a colossal attitude problem.' He might save the world, but he'll make you feel like a jerk while doing so.

Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion features an anti-hero in the form of Lelouch Lamperouge, who is arrogant, self-righteous and overbearing. But he's never dull. Code Geass is cut from a similar cloth to Guilty Crown. Both shows concern unlikely heroes given fantastic powers that they use in the service of a rebellion against the foreign forces occupying Japan. In Code Geass, the occupiers are the forces of the Britannia Empire who use mecha called Knightmare Frames to keep the rebels in check, where in Guilty Crown it is GHQ, the leaders of which seem to be American, judging by their names and appearance. This sense of a country being persecuted by outside forces parallels the nature of the protagonists of these shows. Whoever thought that playing around with cool giant robots would be such a downer?

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