Sunday, July 25, 2010

Toru Souma

So, this tiny series of four episodes (Baldr Force Exe) is one of those rare gems you only find once every several years. This little mini-series is also so incredible because the animators have put in the effort, the background, and the special effects for a series that isn't any longer than four episodes. In those four episodes though, the main character was properly introduced, the plot moved into full swing, and an attempt to destroy the world was foiled. I personally think, even after this, the series had enough momentum to continue. I was actually totally surprised out of my wits that it was only four episodes long when I went to find the second dvd.

But enough about the series. Toru (not to be confused with Tohru from Fruits basket) is a guy. He and three of his buddies formed a hacker group call Steppin Wolf. Now, we don't know exactly how the other two go to know our main character, but Toru's best friend Yuya was someone he met when he got trapped while trying to hack something as an amateur. What we do know about Toru's past is that he had a sister who died. Her consciousness assimilated with the "wire" or the net and her mind (or at least a form of it) has been stuck there, bodiless, ever since. This was an accident that occurred during an experiment conducted at a lab of VSS (a company perhaps linked with the supposed ideal of defending the wire?). Toru was also a test subject in this same lab, but was rescued by one of the lab workers when VSS attempted to terminate the remaining children. This entire experience isn't something Toru remembers until he meets the man who saved him quite some time later.

But what triggers this series is a hacking job gone awry. Steppin wolf is about to disband, but they decide to do one last job before its all over. What they don't know is that they got in way over their heads. The data they got a hold of was classified by the (wire military) known as Flak. As a result, Yuya was killed and Toru, along with the two remaining members of the team, were arrested. He was given the choice to serve a ten year sentence in prison, along with his entire team, or to join Flak. Toru reluctantly agreed to join, under the condition that his team members be set free without consequence. Now, after that, the remaining male member of his team joined up with the cyber terrorist group known as Fadou. The female member joined up (probably against her will) with VSS.

That left Toru in Flak to find Yuya's killer. His skills make him formidable in the wire. That much is clear, especially when he comes to Ione's (the least talkative member of his Flak team, and also a traitor who has been leaking information about Flak to the enemy... and which he later found out, killed Yuya as well) rescue.

Toru is often quite calm when he isn't bothered by something or someone. His behavior in his own encrypted program made that easy to see. There are plenty of times when he understands the risks in a situation, but still does what he wants anyway based on either his own moral code or his craving for a life more real. He goes in after Ione, after having been exposed to the wire for his full allotted time, and he enters the wire to help save it when all hell is breaking loose and everyone is dying. This and other example of reckless behavior also expose a dare in his personality. He dares to hack into systems, he dares to go against orders, he dares to bring members of Fadou into Flak HQ, and he dares to join Flak to get revenge for Yuya.

Perhaps its rare to see in anime, but Toru grieves normally. The sight of his sister's deteriorating corpse made him double over and sink to the ground. The initial shock in the English version even made him give off a sound like perhaps someone had physically shot or stabbed him.

This also causes him to battle out his feelings of grief in the real world and overwhelming joy for his sister (still alive) stuck in the wire (while she destroys seemingly everything within the wire world). Although its really quite barely... in the end, he's able to make the tough decisions. He ends her reign of terror by stabbing her wire form with a dagger (a virus in a tangible form).

Though Toru's real horrors are things that he had forgotten for a long time, his pain from the incident probably never truly faded entirely. This was all the more true when he connected to the wire. He perhaps always meant well, but his boredom and impulsive nature got him into a lot more trouble than he probably thought was possible. He's mostly peaceful, but explosive when provoked. This is perhaps even a result of past events. He gives great care to those close to him, but hardly lets anyone else into his world. His personality closes him off to the majority, but he has a charisma that names him a natural leader. In the end, when push comes to shove, his pain motivates him to move in the right direction... a trait unseen by many characters. All in all, Toru is a very interesting and complex character.

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