[Villain's Week is where we celebrate the evils of the world...And Tyler Humphrey's birthday.]
Everybody loves a good villain. Somebody that we can all rally against. A person that defines everything you believe is wrong.
Sadly, many good villains are being spoiled by forgiveness. Often times offering up a sense of humanity to an evil person’s evil deed is a great way of defining who this character is and offers us a means of justifying these acts through the examples shown. It is an offering to showcase that evil is not always born, but often made.
This showcase is not a get out of jail free card. Sometimes the bad guy doesn’t deserve a break.
I say all this after watching Sankarea. The series focuses on Rea Sanka’s escape of her father’s unforgivable crimes against her. Danichiro Sanka is a villain. His actions towards Rea are criminal, and often times he shows no remorse for them.
His primary motivation throughout the beginning of the story is to use Rea as a replacement for her mother that died during child birth. To do so, he monitors and restricts her actions as Rea is forced to live her life according to him. That’s normal overprotective dad stuff though. Where he tips it over to villainy is the fact that every year on her birthday (which is the anniversary of his wife’s death), he forces her to strip completely naked while he photographs her. Creep. Let’s also factor in that Rea’s mother was very young compared to Danichiro when they conceived her and it gets to be a pattern of creepy.
When Rea was young and first tells her first real friend of this, her somewhat affluent family is forced out of town. When she finally can’t take it anymore, she attempts to kill herself by taking a poisonous potion that she and her new friend Chihiro created. Seeing that this didn’t work she tried to flee the Sanka house. Her father catches up to her and kills her accidentally. The poison takes effect and she is transformed into the zombie formerly known as Rea Sanka.
So here we have grounds for an evil guy with evil intentions doing creepy things without a shred of remorse. Rea has an escape route from her father now that she’s dead and has Chihiro to take care of her. No villain truly stays down however as Danichiro then attempts to kidnap her and imprison her again as a means of taking care of her situation. This doesn’t work, so they kidnap Chihiro instead.
Cue tragic back story of germaphobe Danichiro finding and losing the only woman he chose to love and how this destroyed his mind and body, and now we have understanding of how he’s always been a creep, yet still has emotions and can feel love and pain. Next scene, a duel to the death where he stabs Chihiro straight through the gut.
So here we have the crimes of manslaughter, kidnapping, first degree murder, child pornography, and corruption of a minor. That’s a lot of crimes on a persons checklist. Sure it’s not as bad as many villains, but a few of them are creepy crimes. Creepy criminals aren’t supposed to have happy endings.
Danichiro? He gets acceptance after Chihiro knocks a bit of sense into him. Now Danichiro can take off on a trip around the world to find a cure for Rea of her Zombisim before she rots. He has to show he can be a good dad, right?
This is probably one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. Here is a man who has contributed nothing to any character in this story other than pain. Why is it that villains now are allowed a get out of jail free card if they show some sort of epiphany. Reformation is a noble belief and I do think people can atone for their sins. I am all out of sympathy cards for characters that have shown no remorse in the crimes they have achieved.
It is bad storytelling and I can’t even wrap my head around this sudden heel face turn.
Turning evil people into simply people isn’t new and it’s laziness is long form. My personal favorite being the transformation of Edea from one of the greatest female villains ever created to a caretaker.
Edea was a villain that was arguably on par with Sephiroth when she burst on to the scene. The first time we really get a good look at her, she tosses the princess of the group around like a rag doll. She then kills the President and follows that up by stabbing the main character straight through the chest. The entire introduction of Edea is a scene of madness and was so different from anything one could expect from the game.
It was brilliant. She was brilliant.
So what happens to this awesome villain? Well apparently, this was all just a ruse and the real villain possessed this child care worker from the far flung future.
Most of Final Fantasy VIII past the 2nd disc is a huge stretch for most people to come to terms with. Amnesia, crazy settings and time compression are just the start of an overcomplicated story. It was in the way she stood away from everything that made Edea’s character so interesting. Here we had the beginning of something simple. This was a simple villain with a simple goal. World domination.
There is that big moment where she could have moved forward after defeating Squall. Instead all we have is a convoluted story of how a simple matron raised 5 people and created an army and flying barracks with her husband in an attempt to stop herself once Ultimecia controls her. How different could Final Fantasy VIII have been if they stuck with Edea instead of changing her into something weird?
No matter the situation, you can’t showcase a sadistic act and attempt to reform it. You can always build a fantastic story around how this came to pass, but selling it proves that much harder.
How about a different approach? Applying depth to bad people shouldn’t be too hard. Villains do things that destroy people’s lives. M. Bison is a character that is the epitome of evil in the gaming industry. He took great pleasure in the deaths of Charlie and Chun-Li’s father. This was forever immortalized in the portrayal by Raul Julia.
“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me? It was Tuesday.”
When offered a chance to present a backstory through the Alpha series, instead of making him a more relatable and better character, he was turned into something worse. He perverted and warped Ryu into Evil Ryu. He kills Rose like 3 times. He is actually shown to kill Charlie. He is given ample time to gloat over the death of Chun-Li’s father while beating her down at every turn. He is altogether more evil than he was in prior games making it that much more satisfying to finish him off in Alpha 3.
Redemption is a hard pill to swallow. Villainy is so much simpler.
There are a million great villains out there just waiting to be given some story to justify their crimes. That’s fine, but I ask for someone to think about the payoff. If their crimes are inhuman, can’t we all just leave them as villains? I know that Naruto is supposed to be able to turn any character in the story (no matter the crime) into lovable teddy bears, but can we draw the line somewhere? Turning mass murderers into sympathetic allies is killing that franchise and so many other good pieces of entertainment.
Crimes of passion are times to show regret. Cold calculated crimes are not. You can write as many stories as you want, but it should end when a character goes too far. Edea knew what her actions were going to be from the start, her penance shouldn’t be living life out with her husband on a beach. Danichiro knew what his perversion was, he doesn’t deserve acceptance from anybody.
Real men carry through with their plans and accept the consequences. I’m not saying M. Bison is a better developed character, but he’s had a far better impact on me than so many of these reformed villains. It is not ok to have the hero forgive the villain for his crimes just because he’s not so bad now. This weakens your hero and it weakens the villain. Some times even the best people hold a grudge.
Content creators should really look towards defining a villain’s repercussions more than asking us to simply forgive. Forcing humanity on inhuman people seems almost silly. I have no sympathy for devils.
They don’t deserve forgiveness.