Fair Warning: This article contains spoilers for Gurren Lagann, Fist of the North Star, Transformers: The Animated Movie and One Piece (Drum Island).
In light of Kamina’s abrupt demise, I can’t help but ponder how his influential example would fair in a list of the manliest death scenes EVER!
So what makes an every day murder-death-kill manly? Essentially, you must have the constitution to look the Grim Reaper bang in the eyes (of course, that’s assuming the Grim Reaper has eyes) and laugh; you do this despite having been impaled by arrows or stabbed by something sharp and pointy. Of course, your death must be a glorious moment of self-sacrifice too, with bonus points for heavy handed (crucifixion) religious symbolism.
If we’re talking MANLY, I would be condemned to Hell (featuring Shinji Ikari) for not mentioning the many compassionate hearts that shine in Fist of the North Star, and though each of them twinkle with pride and brute strength, no one has more honour than the mullet-king himself, Shu. Here are some facts:
- In life: Rather than follow brutal tournament rules and murder his brave opponent after victory is achieved, Shu goes ahead and rips out his own eyes instead, forever condemning himself to giant facial scars, and oh yeah, blindness too! What a sacrifice.
- In death: Having been easily defeated by the maniacal villain Souther, the heavily wounded blind man is forced to drag a giant rock to the very top of a newly built pyramid. Shu completes his journey (to the after life) when he receives several arrows to the chest and eventually, a spear to the heart. However, in his final moments, god has mercy and he is granted one last wish, to be allowed to look upon the heroic face of Kenshiro one more; yes, he was the opponent Shu saved all those years ago. The circle is complete.
THE MATRIX OF POWER
Often the most memorable deaths are delivered at the most unexpected moments. Transformers: The Animated Movie taught me a lot about life, like how to use curse words, but most of all; mine young self learnt that even the greatest of heroes can die.
Of course, I’m leading up to the demise of Optimum Prime; an indestructible icon to kids growing up in the 1980s, Prime and Megatron ended up killing each other in a take-no-prisoners fist fight to the death – Prime finishing the battle with his trademark two-handed uppercut only to later die from gun-shot wounds, but not without regaling his brave robotic comrades with one last emotional speech.
Try to imagine growing up believing in the power of good over evil, trusting in the knowledge that a good heart will always win, only to feel those beliefs crash down to reality as you look upon the lifeless corpse you once described as a hero. On that day I ceased being a boy and became a MAN.
"When does a man die? When he is hit by a bullet? No. When he suffers a disease? No. When he ate a soup made out of a poisonous mushroom? No. A man dies when he is forgotten!"
For all their glory, the impact of the above fatalities are lessened by their overall presentation; what I’m trying to say is, Fist of the North Star and Transformers aren’t exactly good, in fact, they are pretty bad. Sorry fan boys, it’s the truth.
The above rhetoric is quoted courtesy of the tragic Dr. Hiluruk, a character who lit up (quite literally, since he exploded himself!) One Piece for a short time during Chopper’s heart-breaking Drum Island arc. The thing about Dr. Hiluruk’s manly end is that it tremendously affected me; the Ave Maria song playing in the background, his romantic and philosophical dialogue, his good nature and most of all, what he meant to little Chopper. Hiluruk’s death was the ultimate; he died smiling, sacrificing himself for another and inspiring countless others to rebel against Drum Island’s fat slob of a King.
IN THE END"¦
Only time will tell whether Kamina’s concluding chapter will live on in the hearts of otaku. I was tempted to include more in this list; the likes of Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist and Last Exile contain their fair share of smiling tears, but I was looking for that rare epic quality in which one man’s demise inspires the ultimate victory of good over evil!
(Also, I feel bad for not seeing enough giant robot / mecha anime (recommendations of manly anime are welcome!))