About seven years ago, I stumbled upon a fringe anime series that I almost immediately loved. It’s called Bokurano (Ours) and I still enjoy re-watching it every year or two. I’d like to give you some introductory information about the anime and then dive in to an important theme in the story: empathy, and how critically important it is for children and adults alike to develop this. The last we will do is look at scene from the last episode which makes a strong impression.
The Dark Story of Bokurano
Bokurano is a psychological sci-fi and drama anime that aired in 2007. It is sometimes described as the love child of Madoka Magica and Neon Genenis Evangelion. Like Madoka Magica, Bokurano is about children who are suddenly and traumatically disillusioned with the world, as they become entangled in a cruel system outside of their control. Like Neon Genesis Evangelion, there is a lot of character psychology, dark twists, and obvious similarities about piloting a giant robot. Bokurano is a mecha anime, so it takes after NGE a little more than Madoka.
The story is about fifteen children who are tricked into a contract that forces them to pilot a giant mech called Zearth. Their task is to defeat fifteen enemies that appear to be alien machines of some kind. The dark twists start when, after the first battle, the first pilot child suddenly dies. It turns out that the energy required to pilot Zearth is the life force of its pilot. In every battle, one child will die. But if they win the fight, they will die knowing they saved their world from invaders. That’s not very comforting for the fifteen children, who seek a way to free themselves from their contract. Meanwhile, their battles wreak havoc in the cities, and their lives spiral out of control. More dark twists are revealed as the anime progresses, including the fact that those “alien machines” are fellow mechs piloted by children trying to save their own worlds.
Empathy in Bokurano
The show is riddled with grim and sometimes disturbing details from the lives of the kids, and it’s largely focused on the darkness of humanity. Even the “aliens” in charge of everything are pretty much fellow humans who believe separate worlds need to be pitted against each other in battles for superiority. They are the ultimate darkness, but it exists in everyone, right down to Jun the angsty boy who bullies his little sister and ends up as one of the last few survivors. But as grim as Bokurano is, it also heavily emphasizes the importance of humanity’s good traits– most of all, empathy for others.
The need for considering others is a pervasive theme throughout Bokurano. We see it in many of the episodic installments focused on individual children leading up to their battles. For example, Kako lacked the human empathy to see Chizu as anything more than a sex object for him to use to satisfy himself before his death. Conversely, Tanaka’s empathy leads her being an important support figure for the children, including her estranged son Jun. There are numerous other examples of the lack of empathy causing problems and the presence of empathy creating small but powerful moments of beauty. The strongest example comes at the end, when Jun gives his life to be last pilot and save the life of his sister.
The Boy and The Bird
In the final episode, after all the harsh battles are over, the only survivor is Kana, Jun’s little sister. She has a relatively happy life, but can’t get past the feeling that the battle isn’t over yet. At school one day, Kana meets a new friend named Futaba. It turns out that she and her little sister and brother are all Daichi’s younger siblings. (Daichi was one of the earlier pilots, who died fighting to protect his family.) Trouble starts when Daichi’s little brother, Santa, is found roughly holding an injured bird. It was already injured, but Santa was not taking care of it. He planned to hurt it more and kill it.
Instilling the need for compassion and empathy. This, as Kana’s narration said, was the continuation of the battles. It’s the only real battle, in the sense that it’s the one we deal with in real life. Kana’s job now is to help these kids develop empathy and appreciation for life. She tells them the story of how Daichi helped save the world, and how he didn’t abandon them. This information is sure to start helping the kids, even if they will still have a long way to go.
The example of the boy and the bird is a striking one in my opinion. It’s a thing that can and does happen in real life. While animal cruelty can be an early sign of psychopathic tendencies, it also happens a lot in cases of kids who grow out of it naturally. Santa probably won’t become a psychopath. I think he will be able to learn some empathy and respect for life, especially when he learns that his big brother died trying to save this world of living things. It’s also important to note that Kana did not judge Santa harshly, or treat him like a monster. She was shocked, but she understood he was just a troubled kid who hadn’t learned to be considerate. Kana is becoming a very graceful and beautiful person.
Bokurano is an unusual anime and certainly isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy it are sure to find the theme of empathy within. I hope you enjoyed this brief discussion of the bird scene and how it stresses the importance of empathy and compassion. Thank you for reading, and as you take care of yourself, remember to think of others, too.