Valkyria Chronicles: Maidens of an Atomic Bomb

Valkyria Chronicles is a Japanese RPG/Strategy Hybrid whose story and setting is based on Europe during World War 2. It addresses World War 2 themes such as fascism, concentration camps, and atomic weapons. In the game, atomic weapons take the form of Valkyrur, a race of beings that disappeared long ago. However, once in a while a descendant of the bloodline will appear. Women of this bloodline can be “activated” to use the power of Valkuryr, which were seen as gods.

Selvaria Bles and Alicia Melchiott are the two Valkyrur in the game and represent two approaches to the use of atomic weapons. Selvaria Bles fights for the Eastern Empire and its Emperor Maximillian. The Eastern Empire represents the axis powers. Alicia Melchiott is from Gallia, which loosely represents Switzerland.

Selvaria Bles – Hunger

valkyria chronicles - selvaria bles

Selvaria Bles

Selvaria Bles is the Valkyrur that fights for the Eastern Empire. In her youth, she was the subject of numerous tests because she was of the Valkyrur bloodline. Treated as subhuman and studied by scientists, she did not have a happy life until she was saved by Maximilian. She didn’t know though, that he was partially responsible for the testing done to her. This gives her an unwavering sense of loyalty to the Emperor, because she seems him as her saviour. It is not until halfway through the game that Maximillian orders her to use her powers as a Valkyrur, because the Gallians have proven to be much harder to beat than first expected. Selvaria uses her power under Maximilian’s direction. She is eventually confronted by Gallia’s Valkyrur, Alicia, in battle and is beaten

To redeem herself after her defeat, she decides to face the Gallian militia once again but this time as a human, refusing to use her powers. She wants to prove to herself that she is more than what her powers make her to be. Unfortunately for her, she loses anyway and then Maximilian orders her to sacrifice herself. She realizes he does not value her as a person but decides to sacrifice herself anyway. The sacrifice, which is resembles an atomic bomb explosion, eliminates most of Gallia’s command structure.

Selvaria’s experience as an atomic bomb says a few things about the inhumanity of atomic weapons. She was treated as an abomination despite the power she carried. A human treated as something inhuman. Atomic weapons are human made yet there entire purpose is inhuman. She turns to sacrifice as a way to appease Maximillian, even in death. His disappointment in her power, not in her person, manipulated her to act against her own interests.  It brought to my mind the argument that the atomic bombings on Japan were horrible but justified. The idea that it was acceptable to do something terrible to gain a slight advantage. The problem with that is Selvaria would never win back any respect from Maximillian for her sacrifice. She wouldn’t be around to enjoy it anyway. Decimating two civilian cities would never have won a war that was already won at that point. Dropping the bombs most likely had no affect on the outcome of war. But like Selvaria, when we define who we are solely by the power we possess, if we do not use that power, then who are we?

The Atomic Bomb

This was the general public opinion of the American people directly after the dropping of the bombs (85% approved) and almost fifty years later, the majority of Americans felt that the dropping of the bombs was justified.

attitudes towards dropping of atomic bombs

While Maximillian and the Eastern Empire is based on the Wehrmacht in attitude and imagery, Selvaria Bles and Maximillain’s use of her powers is based on American foreign policy. A brutal, unemphatic view of great power, where all that matters is the power itself. In the game, Maximillian is consumed by the desire for power and he even builds an artificial Valkyrur suit for him to wear. There are parallels between Maximillian’s thirst for military power and America’s use of the atomic bomb.

President Truman’s said that dropping the bomb ended the war and saved a million American lives (a part of the American Exceptionalism Myth taught as history in American public schools). This is most likely not true. Japan was basically beaten, they were trying to negotiate a peace, and the blockade of their ports would eventually force them to surrender. Some selected quotes from his military advisers at the time:

[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. . . .

-Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s Chief of Staff

 

The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war.

The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan. . . .

-Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet

 

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

Going through other thoughts and statements by other military personnel (Source for the above) show similar misgivings, doubts, and grief that the bomb was used. There are also plenty of high ranking officials that claim it never needed to be used int he first place.  J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Los Alamos Laboratory and one of the heads of the Manhattan Project, famously interpreted a line from the Bhagavad Gita. When testing the bomb for the first time, he reportedly said “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. The dropping of the bombs created guilt, fear, and horror in the melding of science and human self interest. Being part of the Manhattan Project, much like possessing Valkyrian power, comes at a cost of your own humanity and identity.

In the game, the inhumanity of Selvaria and Maximillian which eventually lead to their downfall. If you have Valkyrur blood and power but using it will harm you, what is the other option?

Well, it is to not use the power at all. And by not using it, it is not used to define us.

Alicia Melchiott – Restraint

Valkyria Chronicles - Alicia Melchiottt

Alicia Melchiottt

Alicia only uses her powers twice. Once when Faldio shoots her to unlock her powers and the second when the Marmota (the Eastern Empire’s super weapon) is crawling towards the capital and she is really depressed and upset.  Compared to Selvaria, who stabbed herself to awaken her power, Alicia doesn’t seem to want to use or even possess this power. Despite these feelings, when the Marmota appears, a deep hopelessness makes her want to use her powers.Welkin, the second main character of the game, persuades Alicia not to even though it would make sense strategically to do so.

In contrast to Selvaria, who lost her humanity and failed to regain it, Alicia never gives in and maintains hers.

The casualties of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were was almost overwhelmingly civilian. The horror does not come from the numbers, as there were more casualties in other bombing campaigns in the war. The horror is that this comes from one single bomb and the radiation that affected the areas around Hiroshima and Nagasaki for years after. It’s not surprising that the people connected to it had a feeling of guilt and shame for their involvement. Today, I do not think most Americans really think about what their country did. But as Valkyria Chronicles tells us, to use such power comes at a cost.

The story arc of the two Valkyrurs show us what happens when we lose our humanity for the sake of power. Atomic weapons have not brought the world closer to peace as some predicted, but maybe we can still retain our humanity by never using them again.

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