*Major spoilers are included*
Hate. I hate this; I hate that; I hate him; I hate her.
What does hatred really mean? What does it imply? It’s a word we all have used at one, or many, points in our lives to describe a feeling of dislike regarding a person or object. The extent of those feelings, though, is usually pretty tame. Sure we may say we hate something or someone, but are we really wishing for their utter destruction? Do we get any pleasure from seeing them broken and beaten, in pain? For most of us, the answer is no. Pure hatred is something one experiences rarely, if ever really at all. Personally, I’ve never truly hated anything. Sure, I say I hate vegetables and I dislike certain people, but I would never wish harm on anyone. I have, however, seen about as pure a form a hatred as I think I’ll ever seen in my life (and I promise I’m getting to Pluto).
My mother is a woman who has a lot of traits I admire. She’s sure of herself, speaks with confidence among her peers despite her lingering accent from learning English as a second language, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to her opinions. She’s also an incredibly spiteful person who is quick to anger and, if you push her too far, unlikely to forgive. That saying “Forgive and forget” is more like “Never forget and never, ever forgive” in my mother’s case. My aunts on my dad’s side, his mother, and my half-sister have, as my mother is fond of saying, turned her into the person she is now with their bullying and bad-mouthing. She hates them with every fiber of her being and, though she claims neutrality (sometimes), wishes nothing good for them. I’ve never quite understood her hatred because the idea of pure hatred itself is something hard to grasp for me, who has never been pushed into feeling it. I do know, though, that hatred is an unwelcome guest bringing nothing but bitterness, contempt, terse silences, and pain.
In Pluto Naoki Urasawa, in his continuing quest to portray human emotions at their grittiest (and truest), explores the emotion of hatred over the course of his manga’s eight volumes. His picture isn’t pretty, or kind, or gentle. He shows us how hatred hurts and how it destroys. Although his cast is mainly comprised of robots, Urasawa endows them with strikingly human emotions like compassion, love, sadness, and, of course, hatred. Through his frighteningly human characters, Urasawa shows us the havoc and pain destruction wreaks on those it touches.
The most obvious example of hatred we are presented with is the robot Pluto. With a name ominously alluding to the ruler of the underworld, he starts out as the symbol for destruction as he stays true to his name, leading most of our cast into the underworld. He is a robot created to destroy and despite the kinder, more peaceful robot that resides beneath the frightening exterior, carries out his duty with diligence throughout the course of the manga. His more malevolent existence is steeped in the malicious feelings of his creator, and in a few ways, Pluto is a manifestation of the destruction emotion Urasawa constantly warns against.
Pluto’s destruction touches every robot in the manga, wreaking havoc on the lives of each. From the compassionate Epsilon to the burly Hercules and the stoic North No. 2, none escaped the destruction of Pluto. Ironically, each robot was living, or starting to live, a life they were content with. North No. 2 was finally escaping the horrors of the war through his music. Gesicht only wanted to take a vacation with his wife and get away. Brando only wanted to live for his children and Hercules took joy in his matches with his friend. Epsilon was happy raising his war orphans and wanted nothing but to avoid conflict. Yet the fragile happiness each was reaching for and grasping onto was shattered by the destructive power of Pluto, a being born of hatred. In the end, even Pluto, or Sahad as he becomes known later on, is destroyed by the hatred that had started in his creator and manifested itself in the creation of Bora, a robot more powerful than Pluto and wielding a much, much greater destructive power. His death, though, serves as a redemption of sorts as he stops the cycle from going too far and prevents what could be essentially considered the destruction of the world.Another one of Urasawa’s more distinctive instances involving hatred revolves around the emotion as a device that ultimately helps to give birth to two very different kinds of robots, with several key differences between the two. As Tenma explains at one point in the manga, a biased emotion, such as hatred, needs to be introduced into a robot’s system to help him pick a personality out of the billions of choices that would otherwise leave him in a permanent sleep state. It’s this theory that gives birth to the robot Goji who believes he is his creator Abullah, and reawakens Atom after he has been killed by Pluto. Both are awakened by the emotion of hatred and both have the capacity for it. Whereas Goji goes on to create Pluto, the robot that is responsible for the destruction of many a robot in Pluto, and Bora, a robot armed with a proton bomb intended to destroy most of the planet, Atom is a different story.
Although he now has the capacity for hatred and is briefly consumed by it, Atom manages to control it. This is the key difference between Atom and Goji’s situations. Whereas Goji let his hatred consume his work, Atom controlled his, not allowing it to completely consume him, at which point he would have stopped being Atom and become something else. His hatred would have destroyed him again had he not remembered the final words of the robot whose hatred and anger had brought Atom back to life.
Gesicht’s last words are, “Nothing comes of this…Nothing comes of hatred.” Atom admits to these words and stops his violent assault on Pluto. He calms down and realizes the truth in these simple words that provide a message Urasawa has been pushing since the beginning. I remember how struck I was by these words when they first appeared and then thinking back to them after the manga had ended. Gesicht, who had been constantly haunted by a memory he couldn’t remember, finally remembered his child, as well as the dismal fate of the poor thing. His hatred had lead him to kill a human, taboo for a robot, as well as the subsequent memory wipes of his wife and himself which left him with harrowing dreams of the lingering covered up memories. After these words are spoken and Gesicht frees himself from his own hatred, it’s significant that flashbacks following this scene involve only Gesicht’s unbelievable joy at finding his child in the unlikeliest of places and bringing it home to his wife, planning a bright future where the three would live together in happiness for the rest of their lives. “Nothing comes of hatred.” Though he only realized this in his final moments, Gesicht saw that there is far more to gain in the pursuit of happiness and love than hatred.
So, where does hatred lead? As Urasawa has shown us, and my mother shown me, no where. It can only kill, damaging all it touches and destroying those it consumes. Did any of the robots who died really deserve to meet their untimely demise in such a way, cruelly ripped from their families and the happiness they were finally attaining? They didn’t, yet they were. That’s not what matters though. What matters is the capacity of those left behind to contain their anger and their hatred. As we saw in Atom, hatred can rise to the surface and rear its ugly head, but it can also be contained. Sure we all have the capacity for hatred, but that doesn’t mean we should let it control our actions and hold sway over our emotions. That’s why Atom’s words, despite coming in the aftermath of a conflict born and fueled by hatred, manage to have such a sense of hope in them, no matter how idealistic they may have been. And that’s what I’ve grown to love about Urasawa’s manga. Although hatred will always be present and always create conflict, we can always hope, with our childish idealism, for that future free of the ails that the hated emotion brings. Though we all have the capacity for hatred, we must also remember that we have the capacity for love and compassion.
Have a nice day, all.