Love ain’t a battlefield. It’s the tactical nuke one uses on the battlefield.
At least, that’s the gist I get from The Book of Bantorra.
Bantorra ended a few weeks ago with a thoroughly ridiculous and brilliant final arc. In said arc, the series’ themes all came to a head. Each arc dealt with some form of love, whether it was the romantic love between Colio and Calico, Mirepoc learning to love herself despite her inefficiencies, or Noloty’s child-like love of every damn thing in the world. With the finale, mass murdering madame Hamyuts Meseta came to the realization that love is a weapon that one needs to wield and manipulate in order to achieve one’s goals in life. With that realization she used the love that all of her former Bantorrans held for her and used that loyalty to literally overcome the apocalypse.
Love overcame adversity, not because love in and of itself has power, but because someone with enough tactical knowledge can use that love to manipulate people to do their bidding.
I really like this concept because it’s different from many other “love conquers all” resolutions. Look at Sailor Moon. Moon’s powers revolve around healing people’s hearts and making them see the errors of their ways. Yeah, it also involves blowing up monsters when they come to this realization, but love itself is made into an offensive weapon. The same goes for Macross. The whole “Minmay Attack” banks on the idea of the baddies being overwhelmed with emotion when they hear a cheesy pop song for the first time. Their emotions cause them to become ineffective fighters, allowing the inferior human forces to defeat them. In each situation, love is the thing that’s dealing the killing blow.
That isn’t the case with Bantorra. When Hamyuts calls forth everyone that’s been eaten by Ruruta, it isn’t their love that deals the killing blow. Nienniu doesn’t see the error of her ways when everyone uses their combined might to destroy her and her Beasts of the Final Chapter. Hamyuts uses their feelings to rally them forth, but it’s their combined martial might that defeats Nienniu. Love wasn’t the weapon being used, it was merely a tactical ploy to gather enough firepower to, quite literally, kill god.
In the end, Bantorra’s finale promotes manipulating people’s emotions in order to elicit a desired response. Without Hamyuts realizing the tactical importance of love as a motivating factor, the world would have literally ended. While Hamyuts has a Grinch-like “heart grew three sizes that day” resolution and genuinely feels affection for the people she rallies (Hell, she happily dies in the arms of Volken, a man that she ruthlessly ridiculed and murdered halfway through the series.), it wasn’t said love that won. It was her realization that said love could be put to use and turned against her adversary. Even if she didn’t have her epiphany at the end of the series, that manipulative use of their feelings still would have prevailed.
That’s what helps make The Book of Bantorra one of the best anime series I’ve ever seen. It has a happy ending, but said happy ending comes about by means of morally ambiguous means. Love, an emotion seen by many as pure and above reproach, is turned into a cynical item to be utilized for something as base and primal as survival. An ideal is corrupted to achieve something tactile and less than perfect. Even though there was genuine feeling behind the act, it was still far less pure-hearted and idealistic than similar anime endings.
I really like that balance between idealism and practicality.