Ahoy and welcome to Anime Parlay. I’m The Captain and today I wanted to look a very fine set of uniformed, beardless hotties from the bravest reaches of the galaxy. With anime having a healthy serving of mecha and sci-fi titles, it’s almost as if you can toss a dart into the aether of Japanese animation and be just as likely to peg someone in a military uniform as you are a high school uniform. Let’s say that dart DOES hit a character in the military. Who are they? Chances are they’re loyal for the cause they fight for, they take the orders they’re giving, and do their job to the best of their ability. Soldiers, through and through, just like the indoctrination of basic training should lead to. However, every rule has an exception and every organization has someone ready to challenge it to its very foundation.
I like to affectionately call these un-soldierly soldiers “Heretic Monkeys” in refrence to an analogy given at the end of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. It’s at the end of this amazing old-school show that the two leaders of the United Planets Space Force are walking along a cloudy beach speaking of Captain Tylor’s accomplishments over the course of the show. The two admirals commiserate in one another that Tylor was meant, with every preparation, to fail in his endevors. Tylor did not, he EXCEEDS them! It’s here that Admiral Mifune tells the story of the Heretic Monkey.
Basically, the Admiral describes Tylor as a Heretic Monkey. He talks about tribes of monkeys and how every once in awhile, a monkey from one tribe will leave to become a member of another tribe. However, this outsider will often be met with hostility and be beaten within an inch of it’s life. However, time after time, these Heretic Monkeys continue to show up as if nature is telling them to go and shake up the status quo. They keep the bloodlines from bottle-necking and stop the inbreeding taking place in the new tribe. With that in mind, Mifune says that these Heretic Monkeys are necessary for survival. Heretics = survival.
In a more approachable sense, someone who qualifies as a Heretic Monkey, to me, is someone who is serving in the military who doesn’t necessarily share that soldier mindset. Often time, these characters are cogs in the machine that perform expertly while challenging everyone else around them to think outside the box. A good soldier will fight to the end for their cause or beliefs. A Heretic Monkey wants the best outcome for everyone, even if that means going outside of the guidelines of a season veteran. They’re quicker to want to have a conversation about ethics with their foes than engaging in bloodshed they know will lead no where. I considered myself a Heretic Monkey while I served and might be why it wasn’t good fit. That, and I served my contractual obligation in order to qualify for higher education. Academics can serve too!
With everything said, I wanted to do a psudo-list of some of my favorite characters that fit into this vein. As always, these are my opinions but I am not opposed to expanding the conversation. Please accept the “LeVar Burton Promise”; You don’t have to take my word for it. Watch for yourself and come up with your own opinions. Just bring them back to we can converse!
Justy Ueki Tylor
Captain Tylor is the NAMESAKE Heretic Monkey. Tylor came from nothing. He simply joined the military to live the “easy life”. I mean, your food is always made, they clothe you, and even give you a bed to sleep on. I get it. Unfortunately for Tylor, one happenstance after another thrust him into a position of ultimate leadership; Captain of the spaceship Soyokaze. It’s here we see the character of Tylor in full swing.
Tylor wouldn’t survive one day in the US Navy but damn it if he doesn’t make it work in the United Planets Space Force. Effortlessly, Tylor manages to turn a crew of non-believers into a loyal crew hellbent on ending all hostilities between them and their rivals, the Ralgon Empire. For Tylor, having a military forces doesn’t mean having a sword to fight with, it’s a shield. Sure, it can be used to deal damage but it’s easier to be diplomatic behind a shield vice a sword.
In one of the most character defining moments of the show, The Soyokaze followed by the Space Force fleet advances toward the entirety of the Ralgon Empire fleet. Slowly, the ships advance tensely waiting for the order to open fire. Tylor, leading the fleet, remains resolute at the helm. The tension becomes heavy as the mighty warships get into firing range. However, no one opens fire despite the opportunity presenting itself. Looking like Tylor is about to give the order to commence attack, the Ralgon fleet prepares to counter. It’s here that as Tylor sails close enough to see the enemies on their respective bridges and renders nothing but a salute to his opponents. Respectful, unexpected, and completely against what a military force is meant to be used for. Needless to say, peace is achieved. Holy crap, what a scene and characters!
Mwu La Flagga
The Hawk of Endymion and self-proclaimed man who can make the impossible possible. It’s hard for me to think of a character that influenced the teenage version of The Captain more than Mwu. When I watched Gundam Seed for the first time, I knew I wanted to be just like Mwu. He was confident, wore his uniform very relaxed compared to his compatriots, and I can easily say that my laid back attitude while I served was because of him. His leadership was also one that commended a lot of my respect. Mwu is the type of person who knows all the rules, how and why they exist, and how to bend them to best take care of his people.
Another thing that really stood out to me was his ability to lead without being in front. At the beginning of the show, Mwu ends up being one of a few officers to survive the attack on the space colony Heliopolis. Rather than take command of the Archangel warship because of his rank, he gives it to Murrue Ramias, one of the ship’s engineers. Mwu would rather see someone in power who understands what they’re doing and utilize their strengths rather than try and take the glory for himself. Mwu instead seeks his glory while piloting something. Manly-ish!
What’s more is that “Mwu” got another opportunity to shine in the sequal series, Gundam Seed Destiny, but that’s another story for another day since Mwu doesn’t feel too much like his old self in the second show. Still, season 1 Mwu will be one of my anime heroes I to aspire to become like. We’ll say nothing about the fact that Mwu might also be a Slegar Law knock-off. Deep cut for my Gundam nerds!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the OG Galactic Heroes but the new iteration of Wen-Li Yang in Die Neue These is my perfect Heretic Monkey. In the most recent episode (that I caught on Funimation Now), he meets with group known as the Rosen Ritter, made up of refugees and escapees of the Galactic Empire. Despite his higher-ups telling him it’s a waste of time, Yang goes to interview them for possible help in a future battle. The Rosen Ritter is up for it but are obviously curious why a Rear Admiral is asking the “traitors” for help. Rather than a short-sighted victory, Yang has this to say.
“Permanent peace has never existed in all of mankind’s history. So I’m not hoping for that. But a few decades of peace gave us an era of prosperity. If we must leave something behind for the next generation, I would like it to be peace. And maintaining the peace handed to them by the previous generation would then be their responsibility. If each generation can remember their responsibility to future generations, perhaps we can have long-term peace as a result. In short, my hope is for a few decades of peace, at most. But even that would be tens of thousands of times better than an era of war lasting a tenth that long.”
Can you imagine if our own military leaders here in the states had that mindset? Our current orange incarnation of people would shit on the notion of peace. But seriously, Yang knows that peace is fickle, if not impossible to gain. Still, his reason is to secure something for the next generation. I thought that’s what I would be doing ten years ago when I enlisted. Not the case, obviously, and that wears on me daily. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t see eye-to-eye with Yang and want that same peace and prosperity. If only we could all think like heretic monkeys.
I consider each of these characters a hero of mine. Something I wanted to keep in mind when I served was that I was human at the end of the day. I am not a machine, I can’t just turn off my humanity. I’ve tried. These Heretic Monkeys remind me, and all soldiers, that we are more than the sum of our parts. While we may be governed by a larger body that oversees our actions, it doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our ideals to do our job. We just get to carry those reservations with us and hope that we can secure a better future if we work at it.
Although Tylor, Mwu, and Yang will adamantly tell you they are not heroes, there is something in their earnestness to want to make people’s lives better that makes them irresistible to like. These guys choose to shake up the system rather than co-exist with it. I’d be lying if I also didn’t want to make changes like that happen but I am just a humble blogger. However, all I need is these characters to inspire me to stay true to myself, even if it goes against the grain. Thanks for reading today! Aloha!