Bokurano: Life and Death
Manga: Bokurano (2003-2011)
Written by: Mohiro Kitoh
Original Language: Japanese (read in English)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Death. We are all going to die. I know that is a dark way to start this post, but that is the uncomfortable and inevitable truth. Very few works put death at the forefront without resorting to superficial plot device tricks and gratuitous shock factors. It is a cheap way to shock the audience and isn’t used in a way to make the viewer think. When I watched Bokurano the first time, it’s cynical and almost sadistic approach to storytelling left me disturbed…and refreshed at the same time. Such brutal, unflinching honest about the depths of human cruelty left me in awe and in a perpetual state of rumination.
Imagine you are a 13 year old kid who is placed in a game where you are forced to pilot a giant robot to save the world for utter annihilation. But after you win a battle against the enemy robot, you die. How would you react? What would go through your head?
Bokurano takes you deep into the mind of the cast of a bunch of 13 year olds who have seen their share of tragedy. Some of them have been raped, brutalized and betrayed and bullied, yet they still choose to fight. Such inexcusable actions caused me to question it all, including my own paralleling reality. Why would they? What is the true value of life? In the world where people are forced to suffer and the good die, why should you risk your life?
While sitting in my chair, hunched over, reading this manga, I came to contemplate my life. I am going to die one day. I will be among a billion other corpses. I realized that, and so did the kids in bokurano. So I started thinking, if I were in that situation, would I fight? My life isn’t much better than the kids in the manga. I have had my fair share of heartache, disappointment, and betrayal. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I disappeared, along with the rest of this forsaken planet. It was one of the reasons I identified with one of the main characters, Jun, who was essentially just as nihilistic and vile as me. But at the end, all of these kids, including Jun, decided to fight to save this ball of mud we call Earth. And another thing to consider is when the enemy pilot dies, their world is destroyed as well.
Why? What is the point? Most of these kids have been through hell and worse. What is the point? If you are going to die, might as well enjoy yourself before you go. And what makes our lives so much more valuable than the others? Why should we live and other people die?
And then something surfaced from the depths of my consciousness:
Maybe it isn’t about just one person; maybe it isn’t about happiness or sadness. We all suffer and go through moments of despair. Is it fair to make others suffer at your expense because of your misfortune? That is when I realized, these kids in Bokurano where much better than I am. They were willing to sacrifice their time on Earth just to give not only their loved ones but the rest of Earth a chance to live. Even though they knew that billions of others would die due to their selfishness.
Maybe life isn’t just about you or I; it is about us. It is about the collective threads that tie each life to one another. Maybe it isn’t wrong to be selfish in this case. Just because life was hard for you, doesn’t mean you should spread misfortune to others. Maybe this is just inane rambling from some fool who knows virtually nothing. When I pilot a 400 foot robot, maybe my feelings will change. However, this is what I took away from reading bokurano and how it impacted me on an intimate level.
This isn’t a recommendation or a review; it is a personal reaction. Bokurano is one of the few manga that made me think about the value of human existence. Hopefully, you weren’t depressed by this post and maybe one day check out the manga if I haven’t scared you all away from it.