When children tell stories, they’re often stymied by an inability to communicate. Adults are frequently too far removed from their own childhood to understand, or the child is unable to make adults comprehend – much like the narrator of The Little Prince who, as a young boy, draws an elephant inside of a snake which is then interpreted as a hat. Additionally, when adults look back on their youth, they look at it from the eyes of an adult, reframing their experiences in a different context.
This makes portraying children in fiction and varying forms of media incredibly difficult. All too often a creator will underestimate a child’s intelligence and show them doing unnecessarily stupid things rather than a more nuanced display of ignorance. It’s remarkable when a director or creator gets children right.
With that being said, I’d like to draw your attention to Rie Matsumoto, director of Kyousogiga and Blood Blockade Battlefront.
The eleventh episode of Blood Blockade Battlefront eschews its episodic romp through Leonardo Watch’s present and delves into the childhood of Mary and William Macbeth – better known as White and Black respectively. Mary is a precocious kid with a yawing maw of an inferiority complex thanks to her talented caster parents and prodigious brother. As the only person in her family without psychic powers, she puts herself on trial to the amusement of her loving mother and father.
This scene strikes a perfect balance between childish precociousness and Mary’s genuine insecurities. It never writes her emotions off as insignificant, and showcases both her intelligence and the disconnect in her understanding of why her parents would love her. To Mary – in contrast to her mother and father as well as brother William – her lack of psychic prowess makes her useless, a sentiment that her parents naturally disagree with. For them, Mary’s existence is enough for them to love her.
Additionally, Mary grows up watching her parents be shepherds by day and powerful psychic casters by night. In spite of the fact that they obviously dote on her and Will when able, they aren’t always present in her life. This, combined with her lack of powers gives Mary a believably pragmatic outlook, even as a child. Will is often a crybaby, leaving Mary as the “strong child” to step up in her parents absence. Mary puts on a brave front while inwardly struggling with how to leave her personal mark on the world.
Will and Mary bidding their parents goodbye at an airport in Blood Blockade Battlefront calls to mind a similar scene from Kyousogiga, also directed by Rie Matsumoto (and not simply because all three share the same voice actress: Rie Kugimiya).
Like Mary, Koto is precocious and pragmatic, albeit with a different disposition. Thanks to encouragement from her father – who is hardly doting and often distant – Koto is told to toughen up repeatedly, and often uses violence to express herself or solve her issues rather than speaking. Where Mary acquiesces to her bullies, adopting an air of indifference that’s half-genuine, Koto immediately responds with force. Naturally, this often lands both her and Inari in hot water, making them more of a dynamic duo rather than a parent and child.
Yet, Koto is genuine and emotionally resonant. She lacks an understanding of familial relationships, but her innocence is never portrayed as stupidity. Forced to grow up quickly, her disposition is is incredibly educated at times and completely ignorant at others. When faced with the fact that her father wishes to disappear and die, it is Koto who bludgeons her way into her father’s heart, shattering his own personal inferiority complex. In spite of the myriad of ways that Inari failed in raising her, Koto still chooses her family above all else.
While we don’t yet know the anime ending of Blood Blockade Battlefront, both Mary and Will have already put their family first, regardless of the consequences.
In both series, Kyousogiga and Blood Blockade Battlefront, it’s remarkable how believable Koto, Mary, and Will all are. They’re intelligent, but don’t speak like miniature adults in the bodies of children, and have their own individual hangups that come part and parcel with their respective upbringings. Mary is intelligent with understandable self-esteem issues. Will is afraid of his own power and additionally feels inferior to Mary because of the way she projects an attitude of strength. Koto is required to act first and save her questions for later because no adults will answer her questions. All of these emotions are relatable to any viewer and beautifully replicated within their respective series without ever looking down on the three for being children.