Monday, October 18, 2010

Pleading My Case for Alcyone

WARNING: This blog post contains a metric fuck-ton of spoilers for CLAMP's "Magic Knight Rayearth". This series is 15 years old, so I don't feel bad spoiling it, but I figure a warning is only fair.

So, a while ago I found out that there's going to be a Dark Horse re-release of the Magic Knight Rayearth manga this December. Being a long time fan of the series, I was excited to hear this. I have their omnibus for CLAMP's "Clover" and it's nice to hear they've gotten another of CLAMP's titles from the declining TokyoPop. In honor of this, I've decided to write another opinion piece, regardless of how unpopular this opinion may be.

It's time for an article about my love of Alcyone.

About ten or twelve years ago my cousin bought the fourth VHS tape in the MKR series. It took me a little while to get into, but then I fell head over heels for it. I still own the entire series on VHS, and own both of the original memorial box sets, then followed up in getting the manga and making my way into the fandom. There were a handful of fan-sites and a small but active community on that I'm proud to have been a part of since back then it actually meant something.

But back then, Alcyone was not a well liked character. Even the fan-sites that praised the rest of the antagonist cast showed a strong distaste for her. I don't know if this has changed, since in the middle of my high school career I sort of fell away from being active in fandoms to deal with my own life. But back then she was sort of the black sheep of the Rayearth cast. I liked her, but even in fandoms there was peer pressuer and I never really expressed it. I had started a fanfiction about her early life that was going to go up until she began fighting for Zagato, but I never finished it or made any of it public. This isprobably for the best since, at age 12, I was a terrible writer.

Honstly, the only other Alcyone fans I've ever met are the Super Cosplay Kazoku group when I ran into them at Otakon '10. This is really hard for me to understand, since I think Alcyone is one of the most sympathetic, tragic, and amazing characters in the series. She does things and has ideals that are't far off from lead heros and heroines in other series. But for some reason, coming from her, these traits are bad. I see her modern equvalant to be, hoenstly, Adiane the Elegant from "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann" and even she is looked on more favorably than Alcyone.

So here me out on this one, and let me plead my case for one of my favorite characters of all time.

I want to start with the fact that not only does Alcyone have the best intentions, she is also more honest with the Magic Knights than any other character in this series. I can (and probably will) write an entirely separate post on how Clef spent this whole seires lying through his teeth to everyone and he's supposed to be the mentor/guide/all-around good helpful guy. Emeraude also ies to the girls about what she needs them for, and Zagato never really explains to them what's going on when they fight him. Mokona obviously knows but doesn't try to alert them. Even the mashin, who must have known what purpose they were created for, didn't bother to tell the Magic Knights that they were on a fantastic epic journey to commit a murder.

Of course, Alcyone doesn't fill them in on this either, but she doesn't need to. Any time the Magic Knights ask her a question she answers them honestly. Why is she fighting them when they are "saving" her world? Because she loves Zagato and he wants them dead. She is blindly fighting in the honor of the man she loves. Shonen and shojo protagonists do this all the time. Hell, the second half of Gurren Lagann awas about Simon disregarding the laws of time and space to save his girlfriend who was trying to end the world at the time. So why, coming from Alcyone, is this trait viewed so negatively?

Can we stop for a second and break down exactly what Alcyone is doing? Because I think when you strip it down to bare bones it says a lot for her character.

Emeraude is, essentially, trying to kill herself by summoning the Magic Knights because she can't be in love with Zagato and also support Cephiro. Zagato is trying to kill the Magic Knights because he loves Emeraude and he doesn't think it's fair that she has to sacrifice herself jsut because she wants to love someone. Alcyone, because she loves Zagato, threw away her ties to Clef and her career as an Ile (a magic user) for the royal family and attendant to Emeraude, to serve the man she loved knowing that he loved someone else. Okay lets strip this down. Alcyone is fighting for the man show loves who is fighting for the woman he loves.

Alcyone is fighting to protect the woman who took the man she loves.

She loves Zagato so much that she will fight for what he wants, even if it means she'll be unhappy in the end. She wants his happiness above all else, even her own life and the lives of every single other person in the world. Guys, that is a beautiful beautiful thing. I don't know many people, real or fictional, who have it in themselves to make that choice. Certainly no one else in the cast has that level of devotion.

Another thing about Alcyone that I think made her unpopular is the fact that she fails multiple times and then begs Zagato to let her try again. On the count of her failings, let me point out that no one the girls fought actually succeeded against them and got no closer to it than Alcyone did. She had the girls on he ropes several times before they would power up and defeat her, just like any of the others Zagato sent after the Magic Knights.

As for her going back to Zagato begging for another chance... I find that far more appealing than Ascot and Caldina turning tail and defecting to the other side. Lafarga is an exception in that he was brainwashed. This also says nothing of Inouva (who is an anime-only character) who died when he fought the Magic Knights and therfore didn't get to choose what he did after he failed. But getting back to the point, Alcyone stuck to her cause. She devoted herself to Zagato and fighting for his happiness. Even if she knew he wouldn't love her, she still hoped to earn his respect.

In the manga she goes, literally, crawling back to him after her second fight to ask for his forgiveness. A lot of people might look down on her for this, even though she lost her life (to Zagato) trying to earn his respect. This is, I guess, another problem people have with her. First of all, she was set on fire and then nearly drowned in quick successon. I'd love to see anyone else walk around unscathed after that.

In the anime, Alcyone survives into the second season where she's corrupted by Debonair and, for a while, goes completely bat-shit mother fucking insane. Pardon my language, but that's really the only proper way to describe it. The female cast briefly sits and discusses her in a group-bath segment though they don't discuss more than her chest size. Otherwise she spends the maority of the season trying to kill everyone and mistaking Lantis for Zagato.

But in the last episode, Slcyone makes the choice to sacrifice her own life in order to try and help the Magic Knights locate Debonair. She does not claim she made the wrong decisions (which earns her my admiration in even THEN sticking by her ideals and her love for Zagato), but does express regret that she had to hurt people for those choices. She repents, and suffers what seems like a very painful death while trying to give Umi, Fuu, and Presea's sister the information they need. Again, how many would do that without hesitation instead of having to hide, consider it, and then maybe sacrifice themselves?

I know this was a long one to get through, but I hope that if you had a low opinion of Alcyone I've managed to raise it a bit. And if you didn't have an opinion yet, I hope that when Dark Horse's release of "Magic Knight Rayearth" is released you'll read it and take what I've said into consideration when judging Alcyone.

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