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You Hate Grey Don't You? (Spoilers)
Posted 9/12/14

xxJing wrote:


TrialError wrote:

Eren Jager killed two men. Mikasa killed a man. Hell, Kirito killed three men.


They were all in self defense / defense of another. They all killed murderers / rapists. They were morally justified in doing it.

If you look at Akame Ga Kill. Even Nightraid aren't morally grey. They all kill murderers. What is their alternative after all? Send them to jail? From the country's point of view they aren't criminals.

It's when you do something that can't be justified, like killing an innocent / irrelevant person for your own goals, that you become morally grey. If those goals are righteous, then you are grey. If they are selfish / malicious, then you are morally evil. I am trying not to use the terms white or black, because they may offend some people.


They said killing is never justified, and I find it debatable, since they all kill douchebags in Akame Ga Kill. As for justification or lack thereof in order to become gray, I contest this. Light was more or less gray in killing criminal in the earlier stages of Deathnote. Remember, despite killing murderers and rapists, he evaded the law and acted on his own, even killing those ALREADY IMPRISONED. Vigilantism usually invokes shades of gray. (Ex. Batman is pretty much the grayest superhero in history.)

In other words, I think gray is doing bad stuff for the right reasons, because it is simply more practical to be bad. Just my opinion.
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Posted 9/12/14
To riff a bit on the idea of well-written characters—

I think (maybe) the reason that people dislike morally grey characters is because they really are harder to write than the poles are. If done badly, morally grey characters just come off as poorly written, choosing one side or another on a seeming whim.


re: Shana specifically—

My problem with the shift in Yuuji's character is that the choice wasn't a logical outgrowth of his character, but rather an outside force placed on him. So when he came back in the third season, he was literally a different character, but be portrayed as if he were the same. The third season has some other problems (focus is a major one), but Yuuji suddenly appearing as a guy who had made a monumental decision about the FATE OF THE UNIVERSE when he couldn't even make the obvious choice (Shana) between two girls was an unsubstantiated shift.


Personal Proof:

Mahiro Fuwa from Blast of Tempest. He's pretty grey. Violent, hell-bent on revenge no matter what, but also kind of saving the world in the process. I wouldn't say he's a good guy, but rather kind of a bad person with decent tendencies at times.
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Posted 9/12/14

PeripheralVisionary wrote:


xxJing wrote:


TrialError wrote:

Eren Jager killed two men. Mikasa killed a man. Hell, Kirito killed three men.


They were all in self defense / defense of another. They all killed murderers / rapists. They were morally justified in doing it.

If you look at Akame Ga Kill. Even Nightraid aren't morally grey. They all kill murderers. What is their alternative after all? Send them to jail? From the country's point of view they aren't criminals.

It's when you do something that can't be justified, like killing an innocent / irrelevant person for your own goals, that you become morally grey. If those goals are righteous, then you are grey. If they are selfish / malicious, then you are morally evil. I am trying not to use the terms white or black, because they may offend some people.


They said killing is never justified, and I find it debatable, since they all kill douchebags in Akame Ga Kill. As for justification or lack thereof in order to become gray, I contest this. Light was more or less gray in killing criminal in the earlier stages of Deathnote. Remember, despite killing murderers and rapists, he evaded the law and acted on his own, even killing those ALREADY IMPRISONED. Vigilantism usually invokes shades of gray. (Ex. Batman is pretty much the grayest superhero in history.)

In other words, I think gray is doing bad stuff for the right reasons, because it is simply more practical to be bad. Just my opinion.


I agree with you, and this is a highly subjective discussion. After all who is to say what is moral and what isn't?

Although I think the general set of rules that most people will agree with are:

Morally Grey :
Intentionally hurting others for selfless reasons (wanting to help other people).

Morally Good:
Never causing harm to another, no matter the reason.

Morally Evil:
Intentionally harming others for selfish reasons (things that benefit yourself)

The caveat here is, you are justified in harming another person if that person is posing a threat to your life or to someone else's life. Basically in self defense or in defense of another.



As for Light, yeah he started out as morally grey, but by episode like 3 or 4 he had the god complex. It didn't take long.


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Posted 9/12/14 , edited 9/13/14
I love morally grey characters. One of my favourite things is when a villain and a hero shows down, and you don't want either one to die.

Interesting to see how our views contrast on Shakugan no Shana, though. I think Season 3 was completely unnecessary. Everything Yuji did in that was so he could get together with Shana in a peaceful world, only for her to, at the end, say if he wanted to get together with her all he had to do was ask. The entire thing was rendered completely pointless by that line. While it did do a good job of playing the the whole 'grey area' card, it was an incredibly sudden and weird 180 change of personality for Yuji to just think 'I need to change the entire world for Shana by becoming an emperor and temporarily being their enemy now' and of course, there's the end bit I mentioned which just ruined it. The middle bit was good, but the setup and ending were crap.
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Posted 9/12/14
It completely depends on the tone of the story.
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Posted 9/12/14
i was about to throw shit at you because gray is one of the best developed characters in fairy tail
but then i read the rest
Posted 9/12/14 , edited 9/12/14

xxJing wrote:

...I just thought it was badly written...


Yes, exactly. Just a badly executed plot contrivance.

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Posted 9/12/14
Hahahaha... haaaa... Well I was one of the people who did drop Shangaku No Shana at season 3 Just didn't like the turn of events. I'm normally fine with characters in the grey as long as I feel like it logically makes sense to me. Plus I had previously watched the other 48 episodes in a day and I was enjoying it, so the shock was a tad bit bigger.
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Posted 9/12/14 , edited 9/13/14
If anyone's played Dungeons and Dragons, they're probably familiar with the alignment system, which is a pair of axes on which characters are placed. One is good vs evil, which is defined generally as we tend to see it: good is selfless, whereas evil is callously selfish. The other is law vs chaos, which tends to be a bit more difficult to grasp, but which basically boils down to this: lawful characters think societally, whereas chaotic characters think individualistically.

Much of the first world has chaotic leanings. The fact that we're generally well-off and don't need to worry so much about the day-to-day nuts and bolts of our society means that we have time to focus on who we are as individuals and how we differ from one another. We value freedom of expression, tolerance, and an individual's right to choose their own path in life. It's this set of values that makes these "morally grey" characters grate on so many of us.

The "end justifies the means" mentality is one of the hallmarks of the "law" extreme of the ethical alignment axis. Law wants to act in accordance to society as a whole, and is willing to make sacrifices if it means that society is led down a desirable path. Characters like those discussed here, who are willing to sacrifice others or use other unsavory means for the sake of their cause, are lawful. They are not necessarily evil (though they can be: ahemLightahem), but because we as westerners are inclined towards the "chaos" side of the ethical axis (moreso even than we're inclined to the "good" side of the moral axis), we see their lawfulness as worse than evil.

We tend to like some evil characters more than we sometimes like to admit. Personally, I love characters that are unrepentantly evil, know they're evil, and have a purely selfish, personal, or even nonsensical reason for doing that evil (Fate/Zero's Caster is a prime example of such a character). Why? Because I can understand them more easily. A serial killer who commits murder because he's curious about what happens to people when they die is, to me, a great character: he's motivated by a goal that matters to him, and each victim is unique and often gets screen time of their own (which is paramount). A commander who intentionally leads soldiers to their deaths for the sake of a greater victory for his nation in the future is abhorrent to me, because I don't consider the goal worthy of the lives he's impersonally thrown away. As a chaotically-inclined person, I can't help but think "every one of those soldiers had loved ones and personal aspirations, and this guy took advantage of their trust." Worse yet, our desire to know these sacrifices, to empathize with them, is often neglected: they might even die offscreen. The serial killer is obviously evil, while the commander likely isn't, but I definitely like the killer more as a character.

At least part of it stems from the very fact that these characters aren't evil. We all can't help but think that yes, changing the world for the better is an admirable thing to strive towards. But as soon as a character begins to obstruct someone else's freedom, they're despicable. Never mind that they're doing it for the sake of a noble cause: to someone who leans towards chaos more than they do good, it is worse to bend another person to your will than it is to victimize them outright. Chaos says that every person should be able to do what they want to do, unhindered by the coercion or manipulation of others.

Chaotic-thinkers are then shocked when those who are more lawful-aligned support the actions of these characters. While the lawfuls see a cause worth getting one's hands dirty for, the chaotics see an unforgiveable act of hubris - and an excuse. To a person with a more lawful nature, the fact that something that will improve many lives was accomplished is the main point. To a person on the other end of the spectrum, the main point is that the character did something they shouldn't. A lawful person often measures good in terms of doing good deeds, as that will benefit society. A chaotic person, conversely, often measures it in terms of not doing bad ones, as that would limit the choices of others.

Take the other type of "morally grey" character: the "onlooker". A character who abstains from the major events of the plot, does not take sides, tries to be on good terms (or at least, not bad terms) with everyone, and is essentially characterized through passivity, ambivalence or apathy. This is the other type of character who some people love and others detest, only with this archetype, it's the other way around. The lawful viewer thinks "This character is worthless because he refuses to take affirmative action and stand up for what he believes in.", whereas the chaotic viewer thinks "This character is admirable because he does what's important to him, and allows others to freely do the same." Such a character is, like our "end justifies the means" discussion subjects, usually not evil, but a viewer with strong leanings towards law will consider him worse than evil, because he's not trying, and considers his own tangential interests or goals more important than doing good.

Basically, these "grey" characters, in terms of good and evil, are usually just that. The reason they are celebrated or reviled as they are does not stem from a moral source, but rather an ethical one. To many individualistically-minded people, it's deplorable to justify harmful actions through greater beneficial actions, because it's impossible to forgive the fact that you've victimized or used somebody. To many societally-minded people, it's deplorable to avoid taking action altogether, because it means ignoring those who are being victimized by those who do evil. What makes us hate these characters is when they are presented as sympathetic or heroic. We love to hate villains who exemplify not only evil, but the ethical extreme opposite to ours. For example, I consider myself chaotic-leaning. I am annoyed by Code Geass' Lelouch, because he's portrayed as the protagonist throughout, and I find his behaviour generally more in line with what I consider villainous. However, I can tolerate Death Note's Light, because while he's presented as sympathetic at first, it soon becomes clear that he is the villain, which is where I want to see him. I'm disturbed by the fact that a character who uses others can be seen as virtuous; I want such a character to be the bad guy.

To illustrate my point: If you read this post, saw my DnD terminology, and immediately thought "Tch, what's this idiot thinking? This is about anime, not DND.", that was you, as an individual, resisting my attempt to pull you into my own reasoning on the matter. In my eyes, the parallel is important to my argument, and following with it is crucial to understanding these characters, but maybe you don't want to understand them my way, you want to understand them your way. That kind of reaction comes from the same place that all the hate for Lelouch and co. comes from: we don't like it when people try to get others to do things their way, and we hate it when they force them to do so. Making a decision that shouldn't be yours to make is, to a lot of us (me included), one of the worst things you can do.
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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14
This was a really neat read.

(Just posting since I don't think the thumbs-up button actually does a thing.)
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Posted 9/13/14

Bavalt wrote:

A pretty damn good post


That's basically the gist of what I think, except you probably put it more eloquently than I would have.

Personally, I love seeing that grey area being explored in fiction. Most children are raised with movies or shows with clear Black and White morality; good vs evil.

However, like you described, a story that focuses instead on Order vs Chaos with neither side being fully good nor fully evil makes for a more interesting story and more complex characters.

I'll make a tangent with a video game franchise that uses this trope as well: Shin Megami Tensei. In those games (and arguably many of its spin-offs) the main character (that's you) has to pick an alignment at some point: Law, Neutral or Chaos.

A world dominated by law would be a world of peace with no conflict. However, that also means that freedom is compromised and that whoever leads such a world will make sure the status quo remains, by any means necessary.

A world dominated by chaos would be a world in which everyone has the freedom to do as they wish and seek knowledge without being restricted. However, survival of the fittest is the main rule and you can only live if you're strong enough to survive.

Neutral is, to put it simply, the balance of both. Naturally, most players would prefer to strive for the neutral path as it doesn't follow either extremes and offers the best compromise and is in accordance to the interest of the people, not of the angels or demons.

For example, in SMT4:

You have the kingdom of Mikado a peaceful nation with no conflict in which samurais hunt for demons in a dungeon called Naraku. Underneath you have Tokyo, and possibly the rest of the world. Oh did I forget to mention? A tradition with the SMT series is that the setting is a post-apocalyptic world. So Tokyo is populated by both demons who feed on humans, and humans striving to survive. Although it's worth mentionning that just like we humans who may follow different beliefs, not all demons are blood thirsty killers; you'll often find pacifists who actually wish to protect the weak or side with humans. At the end of the game, should you chose the law path,


By following the chaos side,


Of the two, the law spectrum disgusts me more for one reason: people on the chaos side realize that they aren't exactly morally just. They are honest about themselves. However, law followers are convinced that they are righteous despite the fact they are commiting tyranny. As mentionned above, the popular opinion is that neutral is the way to go, but out of those who prefer to side with either extremes, you'd be more likely to find chaos sympathizers.

And that is the beauty of the grey area; ambiguosity leaves more room for discussion about different ideals.
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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14

Bavalt wrote:



Very nice. I actually didn't dismiss your D&D terminology because I did know where you were coming from.

I am not sure whether I would say I am leaning toward chaotic or lawful. I think that everyone has the rights granted to them by nature. The full potential that is held within their wits and their muscles. In that potential resides doing what you want, including forcing others to do what you want if you are so inclined.

My main problem is that the types of characters portrayed in stories are usually extremely individualistic on the protagonist side and extremely 'lawful' on the antagonist's side. It's become pretty much a theme used over and over again throughout every anime and story, the protagonist fights for freedom, and the antagonist fights for enslavement. That really bores me though. I like it when moral and ethical lines are blurred in a story.

I guess this may put me over to the lawful side, but I also like logically sound and almost mathematical solutions over emotional ones. Going back to the Shakugan no Shana example I originally presented.



Overall, ethically, I think that if someone has personal stake in something, then he also has the right to make sure that something goes the way he wants. So I suppose I may be a bit more on the lawful side. I am for making sure others don't make mistakes that will be a detriment to me, whether they like it or not. I am also always open to criticism though, so it is a two way road.


I do think you are right though. I think that the way most people feel, and the way that current beliefs in the first world work, is that a person would rather make a catastrophic mistake of their own accord, rather than achieve something great under someone else's guidance. And though I am not a religious person, I do agree with Christianity about one thing, that pride is the most dangerous sin, or in more practical terms the most dangerous personality trait to possess.
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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14

xxJing wrote:



---As an example of a complex character that people seem to hate the guts of, take Flay Allster from Gundam Seed.


So what do you think? Am I right, or am I just imagining things? Do anime fans tend to like clear cut moral boundaries where good and evil are easily understood at a glance, or do they in fact enjoy moral ambiguity and I am just talking out of my ass? I want to hear some opinions on this matter.


Flay Allster <3


Shakugan no Shana.


Overall I think most people want clear cut boundaries between good and evil. They generally don't want to have to question the antagonists or protagonists reasons for doing what they are doing and then have to actually think upon them. It's much easier for many to just have it spelled out right before them without having to use their own reasoning. A good person is 100% good and a bad person is 100% bad and there is no mixing of the two. I remember Amber from Darker Than Black getting a very similar reaction from fans of the series to that of Flay for Gundam. Many people hated Amber even though she was not "bad." Amber was an anti-heroine and a tragic heroine and she's another character who I greatly appreciate and love on a literary level. Hei did far worse things than Amber ever did.
xxJing 
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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14

AliceLilit_ wrote:
I also find it fascinating how almost no one has issues with Lacus


I won't argue Shana anymore, I have posted my thoughts on that.

As far as Lacus goes. Lacus is a character that I liked the first time through, and then after watching the series again I didn't necessarily hate her, but I thought there was something very wrong about how her character was written.

Lacus was Athrun's fiance originally, Siegel Clyne's daughter, and an idol among the coordinators. At the same time though she originally showed neither support nor opposition to the war, and she wasn't necessarily opposed to being engaged to Athrun but she wasn't really for it either. She was a happy character with no actual effect on the plot. Then after spending time with Kira, she quietly becomes Kira's girlfriend, as if the whole engagement to Athrun was never even a thing. She starts opposing the war, for the simple reason that Kira was opposing the war...

Lacus was a very badly written non-abrasive character. There is nothing to hate about her, and the things to like are completely superficial (she's cute and she's nice). She really has no personality though and no real reason to even be a part of the plot. She is a pointless main heroine.
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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14

xxJing wrote:


AliceLilit_ wrote:
I also find it fascinating how almost no one has issues with Lacus


I won't argue Shana anymore, I have posted my thoughts on that.

As far as Lacus goes. Lacus is a character that I liked the first time through, and then after watching the series again I didn't necessarily hate her, but I thought there was something very wrong about how her character was written.

Lacus was Athrun's fiance originally, Siegel Clyne's daughter, and an idol among the coordinators. At the same time though she originally showed neither support nor opposition to the war, and she wasn't necessarily opposed to being engaged to Athrun but she wasn't really for it either. She was a happy character with no actual effect on the plot. Then after spending time with Kira, she quietly becomes Kira's girlfriend, as if the whole engagement to Athrun was never even a thing. She starts opposing the war, for the simple reason that Kira was opposing the war...

Lacus was a very badly written non-abrasive character. There is nothing to hate about her, and the things to like are completely superficial (she's cute and she's nice). She really has no personality though and no real reason to even be a part of the plot. She is a pointless main heroine.


I was just sharing my take on Shana. You asked for peoples thoughts and mine just happen to disagree with yours.

I don't hate Lacus nor do I really like her either and I agree that she her character wasn't written all that well. I still think she was a little bit more developed than how you put it but that's just a matter of opinion. The transition between Kira x Flay and Kira x Lacus was also written poorly. The only thing I didn't like about Lacus was her interactions with Flay and really not caring that Kira loved her. If Flay lived I could have seen Lacus killing her with her own hands at some point just to have Kira. I don't really understand how Lacus is one of the most beloved anime characters ever.






I also wanted to add that the characters gender or sex also matter greatly in how their "bad" behavior is viewed. A woman who sleeps with a man to get what she wants is automatically labeled a whore while a promiscuous womanizing male protagonist has his actions mostly ignored. Male fans also seem harder on female characters in grey areas as they generally don't act submissive to their male counterparts. Many male viewers don't want to see consistently strong female characters and if they do exist, they generally must be paired with a male character and at some point in the story she becomes submissive to him or he surpasses her, she can never remain the strongest character. Since this is the case female characters will always be under higher scrutiny because male viewers must find a fault in them, and exploit that fault, so that the female character is no longer the top character, an important character, or their reputation must be tarnished and their actions condemned. "Good" female characters are often forced to be angels and submissive in anime, when that doesn't happen they are in danger of becoming hated.
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