Heroes Or Anti-heroes?
Do you prefer heroes or anti-heroes in works of fiction?
In most Japanese anime/drama/manga, the good guys never kill. And the bad guys are those who do. Whatever their reasons may be. I just finished watching an episode of Kindaichi where the “villain”, and I am reluctant to call him one, killed off the people responsible for trapping his father and himself in a cave for 12 years. Of course, his elderly father died during the early days of their confinement and the boy had to live on rats and water. For 12 years.
I thought his revenge was well justified. And too tame since the culprits were killed rather quickly without time to truly repent for their past misdeed. But since this drama had to fit in with Japanese ideas about crime and punishment, the righteous avenger became the “villain” and quietly surrendered to the cops in order to repay his “debts” to society.
I couldn’t help wondering. What debts?
I like the way Kindaichi solves the crimes. Really entertaining to watch. But I don’t like that so many “villains” in the series had good reasons for doing what they did and were punished in the end for doing the right thing.
Then there are the countless anime and manga heroes who never kill their enemies, no matter how what acts of depravity were committed.
So I couldn’t help but think of another detective in American fiction. The anti-hero Jack Reacher (created by Lee Child). Make no mistake. Reacher IS an anti-hero. What else can you call a person who goes around killing criminals in order to uphold justice and help the weak? Once, he even considered killing the female secretary of a crime boss, a woman who by the way never participated in killings whatsoever. Reacher knew it but thought that those who willingly aided criminals were just as guilty.
I wondered, during the ending scene of that Kindaichi episode, what Reacher would have done if he were the hero detective in that episode. Yeah, we would have seen a real happy ending. The f**kers who happily sealed a father and his young son alive in a cave would have gotten their just desserts. They would have died and Reacher would have used his detective skills to cover up the killings and misdirect the civilian cops to a dead end or something. Which would have been easy since he had 13 years experience in the Military Police, where he specialized in homicide.
Not only would he have helped cover up the killings for the true victim of this story, he probably would have seen to it that the bastards who happily sealed a father and his young son alive in a cave paid for their crimes. In cold hard cash. Probably by forcing them to hand over their ill-gotten gains to the son before killing them. And the son would be able to live the rest of his life in freedom.
So what kind of hero do you prefer? A goody-2-shoes like Kindaichi or an anti-hero like Jack Reacher?
Teck Y. Loh