Gods and Monsters in Campione
August 19, 2012 3 Comments
Campione is a series with two distinct elements, exploring the nature of gods and monsters as a destructive and intangible force, while also demonstrating that it is those humans who have gained the power of the gods who are the most dangerous. The gods in Campione are shown as fickle beings, they bring destruction and in some cases death, but they are not evil, instead these ethereal beings and following their desires. Godou has to navigate the maze of mythology and meaning that has been presented to him, discovering what it means to be a Campione, along with finding out how the world views these god-slayers. It is ultimately the humans in the series, and specifically those who wish to gain the powers of a god who bring about the most destruction and cause the most harm. It is hardly surprising then that the Campione are also described as being demon-lords, they are humans with the powers of a god, but with the feelings, emotions and thirst for power that many humans posses.
Godou’s journey up until this point has been one of discovery, but also of revelation. Initially he is a normal human being, someone who only wanted to deliver the stone grimoire and then return to Japan, however, there was clearly more in store for him than he could ever imagine. As a character he remains ‘normal’ (for lack of a better word), and while he holds the power of Verethragna, what the audience are presented with is a relatively ordinary high school boy. What his fight with Verethragna demonstrates though is the tenacity of human beings in all situations, and how they strive to survive regardless of the circumstances. It also helps to reveal the fickle nature of ancient gods, clearly showing they playful and child-like attitude towards the mortals that they once governed. Verethragna is portrayed as taking the form of a child, and while he may talk in a very archaic or old-fashioned manner, his attitudes and response are as dangerous as they are petty.
Verethragna wishes to be entertained, suggesting that as the Zoroastrian hypostasis (foundation) of victory, he has never had the opportunity to taste defeat and as such does not understand it. By summoning other rogue gods he is attempting to find someone capable demonstrating to him what it means to be defeated. Such an attitude is petty and strange, only a being without fear and with no knowledge of death or destruction could think of such a thing. Furthermore, he does not believe in defeat and therefore views himself as being indestructible and perhaps perfect, thus demonstrating how the ancient gods were childish, viewing the most important aspects of human life as trivial or inconsequential. But, it is this attitude of infallibility that leads to his downfall. Verethragna in his hubris presents Godou with the tools to defeat him, but because such gods view humans as inconsequential cannot take a mere mortal as a serious enemy.
Athena in a similar fashion to Verethragna does not consider Godou or any human to be a worthy opponent, suggesting that if she wished she could kill him at any time. However, while Verethragna is looking for a worthy opponent, Athena wishes to regain her true form and power, thus fulfilling a prophecy and plunging the world into chaos. But, she is not doing this out of spite or because she is evil, rather it is another example of the intransigence of the gods and their inability to understand or even acknowledge human emotions and feelings. In Greek mythology Athena was a wise and powerful goddess, the guardian deity of Athens, and a deity of crafts, however, she was also a capricious figure, and like all Greek gods was easily angered and petty. While Athena helped many Greek heroes such as Perseus and his Argonauts, along with Odysseus during his long Odyssey home, she was also a goddess who would punish those who transgressed. The fall of Troy started because of an argument between Athena, Hera and Aphrodite over a golden apple (this is a very basic description of the story), demonstrating that such a simple, and arguably petty squabbled between these Greek deities could result in the destruction of an entire people.
But, as mentioned, regardless of the numerous tragedies that befall those who transgress them, along with the wanton destruction that such deities brought with them, these gods are not evil. Unlike the Christian, Muslim or Jewish god, these ancient deities, be they Greek, Persian, Babylonian or Roman are not beneficent or all encompassing (although if we look at ancient roman texts we can see that the Christian god during its early stages as a pagan cult of the roman empire was not entirely beneficent). It is more accurate to view these deities as children, with their squabbles, disagreements and selfish natures having a tremendous and lasting impact on the mortal realm. Campione mirrors this by presenting us these gods as taking the form of children rather than adults. Athena’s attempt at Godou’s life looks almost half-hearted, implying that she, like Verethragna is looking for a worthy opponent. It is clear that she views Godou as a threat due to his powers as a Campione, however, if she had truly wished it, he could have been dead far sooner. By paralysing Godou instead of killing him out right Athena demonstrates the cruelty exhibited in many Greek myths while simultaneously indicating that she does not perceive Erica as a threat.
But, these gods are not the true antagonists, instead, they provide the backdrop to the destructive nature of humanity, and how a select few people who gain the power of a god can become more dangerous and fearsome that these deities could imagine. There are numerous ways with which to describe the Campione; God-slayer and demon-lord the most readily used, but if we look at the attitudes of those who have encountered these beings it becomes clear that the Campione are feared far more than rogue gods. Mariya’s initial reaction to Godou suggests that to many the Campione are the devil, beings with immense power who control and subjugate humanity. She fears him, worrying that her attitude or appearance may anger Godou and cause him to devastate the area. Campione are not perceived as human beings, but instead appear to be viewed as weapons of immense destructive capability. To Touma Amakasu the presence of Erica around Godou suggests that she is attempting to manipulate this newest Campione in order to use his new talents for the good of the ‘Copper Black Cross’.
Such an attitude seems perfectly natural when one of the oldest Campione Sasha Dejanstahl Voban is introduced. His appearance and attitude towards humanity suggests that Godou is unique when it comes to Campione. Voban is someone who chases after power, and is willing to sacrifice any number of bystanders in order to attain what he desires. This attitude along with his connection to Mariya helps to explain why she was so desperate to keep Godou happy and not to anger him. Voban is the very essence of a despotic ruler, and with the power that he acquired from Osiris he has enslaved those who fought him over the years and lost. Campione are described as those who enjoy and search out confrontation, with Athena suggesting that Godou could not have become a Campione if he did not enjoy battle. At a basic level then, both Godou and Voban are the same, they are Campione who seek out battle and search for strong opponents. However, there are always different reasons behind those who look for a fight, and while Voban like Verethragna appears to bathe in the joy of battle, Godou is different. Voban thirsts for power and strong opponents, whereas Godou fights for those around him, and while he is not selfless, his reasons for fighting are not as despotic as those of Voban.
But, Voban is not alone in his manipulation of human beings, and while he may do it in a very specific, and often destructive manner, he is not unique. Erica, while an ally of Godou demonstrates that she is capable of manipulating those around her, along with her willingness to put many in harms way to bring her plan to fruition. By manipulating those around Godou so that he can fight Athena in Japan away from the eyes of other Campione and societies, Erica demonstrates that she is as manipulative and devious as anyone else. Her plan is to give Godou the opportunity to gain even more power, something that he invariably refuses to do. However, by bringing an object that could destroy the world to Japan, Erica shows her willingness to act on her master’s behalf regardless of who might get hurt. It is safe to assume that she truly loves Godou, however, her ability and willingness to vput others in danger for the one she loves also demonstrates the fearsome and destructive nature of humanity. She is not alone in this matter though, with other Campione and other humans willing to use all the tools at their disposal in order to gain power, wealth, status and prestige.
The gods in Campione are incapable of manipulating others; they cannot be devious or plan behind each other’s backs. The gods and monsters that Campione introduces are simple-minded and perhaps naïve, although in order to be naïve they would first have to understand the human realm. They do not care about stabbing each other in the back, each has a single-minded quest or wish to fulfil, and while they may bring death and destruction, it is in a sense innocent. The gods are not the antagonists, and while they cause destruction it is the humans that have summoned or control them that are to blame. Athena truly believes in her powers and ability to destroy Godou and bring about the prophecy, she underestimates Godou as a ‘mere mortal’, and despite being a god slayer never truly sees him as a threat or an equal. By underestimating his power and those that are gradually gathering around him we see Athena’s eventual defeat. What is fascinating is her inability to understand why Godou does not finish her off as is his right as the victor, she cannot fathom why a mortal, one with the abilities and power to defeat and thus destroy a god would allow her to walk away.
By allowing humans the powers of a god something new and perhaps frightening is born, an existence that is both, but also neither. Those who thirst for power may become a demon-lord, an evil being who like Voban uses their power to enslave and subdue those around them. However, Godou also demonstrates that there is still the possibility of someone who the powers of a god acting in a far more just manner. But, in Greek mythology and tragedy, those who continue to wish for the power of the gods, and strive to be better than their deities are inevitably struck down. By claiming the power or magnificence of a god the Greek tragedians are thus struck down in their hubris, angering the heavens and falling from grace. Such an example raises questions about the place of Campione in the human realm, along with how much can be tolerated before their fall from grace and are destroyed by their own quest for power. While Godou may act on behalf of those he loves, Voban’s thirst for power and conflict may ultimately lead to his downfall. In the end, while Campione may involve the gods, it is the monsters known as Campione who pose the most significant threat to the world and humanity.