Speed Grapher - Various Episodes

As with all posts, our goal here is not to document the complete series because that has already been done in many places across the web. Our goal is simply to document sections of the series that relate to the meaning of life.

Speed Grapher was an anime series that consisted of 24 episodes and came out in 2005. The series was directed by Kunihisa Sugishima. The main character Tatsumi Saiga was a former war photographer who happens to stumble upon a secret club for the ultra-rich, politicians, etc. in Tokyo, Japan. In the club, select members are graced by the "Goddess" named Kagura Tennōzu. If kissed by Kagura, the person either dies or becomes a Euphoric. A Euphoric is a person who develops super-powers of what they most desire. For Saiga, he gains the ability to blow things up through his camera. For others, it may include having the body of a diamond or changing into a monster. For most characters, becoming a Euphoric amplifies their darkest fetishes. Thus, they become monsters.

In many ways, this series highlights and magnifies societies darkest desires. At the same time, continuously throughout the show, we see that fame, fortune, and money are not the answers to life. In fact, quite the opposite. These desires when amplified are often what leads to the demise of most of the characters.

In the first episode called Depravity City, the main antagonist Chōji Suitengu states the following slightly twisted view on purpose:

Pleasure is the only true, the driving force from which all life derives. Without it, we have no purpose and can only wait for death.

This rather extreme version of Hedonism would set the tone for the rest of the series. Crave legs? No problem, the chief of police has a room full of them... detached from their owners. Want to be a mermaid, not a problem. Got those too, just have to kill a few people in the process. Or maybe your tastes are more mundane; perhaps you're just a foodie. Eat all you like, if you survive Kagura's kiss you may just end up like the prime minister below; who by the way relishes being a connoisseur of sorts.

Chōji Suitengu at times diverts into discussing with cynicism the state of affairs and the lack of freedom in society. Philosophically, according to his beliefs, although people feel they are free to pursue their purposes, in most cases, they are"prisoners of a society built to massage the rich." The quote below is found in episode two, titled Goddess of Greed.

Unfortunately people must pay for their freedom here and usually it comes rented on a short term lease. With mortgages, taxes, the cost of living the poor are never free. They suffer with meager scraps of money their whole lives miserable prisoners of a society built to massage the rich.

Another villain named Kaoru Koganei in episode five—Best Friend of Diamonds, ends up saying the following to Kagura:

Men exist to make women sparkle, that's their purpose. They are meant to give up their lives for us. That is how they show their love.

Kaoru is explaining to Kagura how her husband spent all his money to give her diamonds, and when he ran out of money, he took out a life insurance policy on himself and then committed suicide—so that Kaoru could buy more diamonds. Thus, fulfilling his purpose as a man. Diamonds were worth more to her than her husband's life. As such, her most celebrated desire becomes her, and she can transform her body into a diamond. Yet, another "evil" view of the purpose of life.

Shortly after, Kagura responds to Kauru, and they have the following conversation:

Kagura: Your husband may have thought that he was dying for love. But wasn't it your own greed that made him do it? Obviously he was willing to do anything for your sake. Why didn't you tell him that diamonds weren't as important as he was? Why didn't he realize that you can't buy someone's heart?

Kaoru: For a child so young you certainly act like you have all the answers. It's easy for you to say that money doesn't matter. You've had the world at your fingers tips since you could crawl.

Kagura: It's true that my mother's powerful and I have been privileged my whole life. But that is how I know I'm right, because I have all those things and I'm still not happy. There has to be something valuable in this life than money or big mansions or stupid stones.

Kaoru: There isn't. You can talk all you want about your high ideals, but the truth is that diamonds have never betrayed me.

In the final episode called The Roppongi Crises, Hibari Ginza, a policewoman in love with Saiga reflects on the messed up world—but realizes she is just the same as the elite, only on a smaller scale.

This county's elite only care about excess and they are fucked beyond belief. But I am the same, just on a smaller scale. Playing the system to grab whatever I can, doing it all for the money or a good piece of ass. To tell you the truth I am sick of this, disgusted by the things I've done, and I am tired of living on empty. I want to do something that means a shit.

Shortly after, Suitengu and Saiga come face to face in the final battle. They exchange the following words:

Suitengu: You see Saiga, on the battlefield I realized the true object of my vengeance. The one that orphaned me and my sister. It was society itself, a culture if greed but on the souls of mankind.

Saiga: You're talking about fighting a system, an idea. But it's people, human beings you're making pay the price.

Suitengu: I should have died on that battlefield with the rest of my squad. Then I wouldn't of have had to experience any of the suffering that greeted me when I returned to Japan. But now this life, the life my sister willed me to lead can finally reach its end.

Saiga: If you believe that, then what the hell was my purpose for surviving? When I was trapped in that rubble, hearing that music was the reason I held on. If you think you were held alive for your sister's revenge than in a way she saved me too. Then why, maybe I am here to keep you and Kagura from being destroyed by all this shit.

You see, Suitengu and Saiga many years ago were the only survivors on a battlefield. Suitengu developed a twisted sense of purpose—revenge, while Saiga continued to struggle to find his purpose, that is until he met Kagura who eventually became his purpose for living (briefly mentioned in episode 23).

In the end, the world plunges into financial despair. Kagura finds her freedom she so desperately sought, Saiga finds his purpose, and Ginza does something that means a "shit". Overall, there is a lot more that could be said about this series and how it portrays the fallacy of Hedonism as an end to all means. But a further examination of this concept goes a bit beyond this brief outline.

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