Can’t you see, this is all part of Tylor’s plan? – Captain Don, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, episode 23.
“Tylor, what is your plan!?”(angry) Captain Don
“Do your best and believe in your destiny.” – Tylor
“It was fun”- The Empress to Tylor
A lot of truth is said in jest in this show. I like to see it as a parody of Legend of Galactic Heroes, I mean what if the genius tactician was just a lucky idiot who was irresponsible enough to do his best and believe in his destiny. It’s as happy go lucky as Gunbuster though it doesn’t quite catch There isch Gunbuster’s scale. There is too much irresponsibility and too much luck to take the show seriously but the show is self-conscious of that, to the point where characters themselves point how much dumb-luck they have had. And the fact that it does so in my opinion places it a bit higher than Great Teacher Onizuka in the scale of honesty, in that it doesn’t pretend that what happens in the show is plausible in any way and so doesn’t become what it makes fun of.
So what was Tylor’s plan? Tylor often confidently says that he has no plan. Was he deceiving everyone while secretly being a genius? Unlikely. I don’t think the point of the show was that stupidity is a virtue. The protagonist reminded me a lot of Onizuka from Great Teacher Onizuka. Onizuka and Tylor do not try to hatch little plans to get near to other people, they wear their emotions on their sleeves and honestly pursue their desires. Tylor’s actions do not have negative consequences and neither do Onizuka’s however The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is more honest than the Great Teacher Onizuka because Tylor is not presented as a saint while Onizuka most certainly is. GTO preaches responsibility but doesn’t practice it. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor doesn’t preach responsibility and doesn’t practice it.
What if Tylor is deceiving everyone including the audience? However unlikely this may seem it is worth considering. The whole point of the show seems to be honest expression of one’s feelings is more effective to touch people’s hearts than hatching plans and playing by all the unwritten rules of social ascension. One of my favourite moments in the show was when Tylor looked disappointed about the medal he was awarded by the military for destroying an enemy fleet but exalted about the hot nurse that became part of the crew. Tylor could see the medal for the chunk of metal that it was. I confess I know little about Diogenes beyond what I read on reddit on a thread about “Who is the Greatest Troll in History” and some articles I read on Wikipedia. Tylor doesn’t care about rank, he only cares about substance.
“What is the captain thinking?”- Mr. Yamamoto. The captain thinks about what he wants and tries to get it, the plot works so that he will get it, that is all there is to it.
Tylor’s first order to his crew is “Do whatever you want” shows just how irresponsible he is. But is he really wrong? There is a basic principle that Tylor follows which goes along the lines of, people should be free to do what they want: Even an enemy Empress who has been captured should be allowed to go if she wants. Tylor seems to believe that people will act reasonably morally if only there wasn’t any overarching authority to dictate to them how to act and live. It is a principle worth defending at least some of the time.
“You only live once, so live the way you want to.” I think that the aim of this series is two-fold: make the viewer more proactive and warn them about the danger of living vicariously to someone else and their rules, “life will seep through your fingers” is Tylor’s warning. What I don’t find convincing however is the assurance implied by the improbable events in the plot that things will be all right if you do what you think is right, isn’t the whole reason that we tend to depend on other people’s morals as a reference for our own because that is the most convenient and risk-free? “When it’s time to lose, you will lose no matter what” is Tylor’s answer to that.
“Do your best and believe in your destiny” It is because of simple certainties like this that make The Irresponsible Captain Tylor easy to be dismissed as blindly optimistic and indeed this is where the show lacks substance, it doesn’t show the grimy parts of life enough, if it did so the show would suffer from some kind of personality disorder (which is what happens in the sequel OVAs). However many of these phrases are platitudes and since we live in a world of platitudes they will seem right at least some of the time. Take Rudyard Kipling’s “If” poem for an example of this.
“Rules are not everything” Freedom is, for Tylor. Ultimately there is something that makes the show feel very human, even when it’s characters are borrowed from many other sci-fi anime. It resonates a lot with me and I think it will resonate with other young people too. It’s a masterpiece to me, and Taylor did not “fool us all” we did that to ourselves. As Taylor told his crew “snap out of it life is seeping through your fingers.” Plans are useful but at some point someone has to do something, Taylor took the initiative and as he would say- everything else followed. I think that people are too obsessed with tactics and trinkets when it comes to human relationships, too obsessed with the strategies and rules to follow which they believe will get them to their desired outcome, human relationships are not IKEA furniture that you can build by following an instruction manual and IKEA furniture is never as good as it looks in advertisements. The trinkets they are too obsessed bring no pleasure in and of themselves and therefore have utility or substance in and of themselves, they are merely symbolic like the military medals Tylor couldn’t give two shits about.
In episode 25 and 26 when Tylor leaves the military, Tylor’s first order as Captain’s final order “Do what you want, the way you want to.” echoes his first his first order, actually it is pretty much the same.
The direct lesson of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is “Don’t live according to someone else’s rules” but the indirect one is not to live vicariously through someone else’s life. I think this was also the point of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the mood in both series is very different because while in Eva everything that can go wrong goes wrong, in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor everything goes right. Tylor claims that once he has abandoned something(or someone) he will have no regrets whatsoever, when commander Yuriko questions his decision to leave his crew, this is not due to a lack of attachment, after all Tylor came back to his ship the Soyokaze whilst having this conversation, it is a lack of neediness that underpins Tylor’s behaviour, he loves himself already so he has no need to put down, or to put anyone up on a pedestal in order to worship himself. When people worship someone else- the military in Mr. Yamamoto’s case, the Empress in the Ralgan Empire’s case- they are really just worshipping themselves, when the object of their adoration is respected by others it brings them prestige. However this has as much to do with the plot as it has to do with the characters, just try imagining the characters in Eva being replaced by those in TICT the whole mood of the series would be inversed. The same goes if the characters in TICT were to be replaced by those of Eva, just imagine Tylor piloting Test-type Unit-01. One of the good things about TICT over Eva is that it is devoid of the constant whining of characters. At some point the characters must realize that their whining is useless and annoying but instead the whining intensifies as the life of the characters lives seep through their fingers. Tylor is not afraid of rejection and he is not afraid of love though I am not sure he is not afraid of death, he just goes for what he wants believing truly that “things will work out” somehow. There is certainly a lot contrived in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor but so it is in Evangelion. They are two extremes, most people’s fortune lies in between. Sometimes more towards one side than the other and at other times… so it is is possible to accept both.
The opposite of a Tylor would be a Tobe (from Oregairu) – A loud mouthed moron whose only talent is to make noise in the hopes it may get him some attention. Tobe is a failed Tylor. He acts like he is a fun-loving, social person because he thinks this will get him some social currency. Tylor doesn’t care about any kind of social currency, he just does what he thinks is right and what he wants to. Another failed Tylor is the protagonist of American Beauty, life had already seeped through his fingers.
Yang-Wenli from Legend of Galactic Heroes is the first character that comes to mind when I watch TICT. Yang-Wenli is just more responsible than Tylor but their belief in human liberty and trust in the individual over authority makes them virtually indistinguishable at heart. I think that Tylor’s existence begs a very important question: What is the point of living a responsible life? Yang Wenli is correct on many of the political points he made, but in the words he himself considers to be the most powerful in the universe and history, “So, what?” I am not complaining about there not being a reward for doing good, this is clearly not always the case, the right thing is often though not always done in informed self-interest. I am not saying that good things ought to be done because they are self-serving rather than because they are good (although good deeds are often done because they are self-serving and there is nothing wrong with this as long as people are honest about their motives). What I am trying to point out is that once people have done what is right there needs to be something else for people to live for, or in one word their needs to be pleasure, fun and happiness. Doing what is right will not always stove away pain, boredom and sadness and this is why people ought to have something to live for beyond doing what is right. Of course what is right comes first because it is what ought to be done but their needs to be something that comes second and that thing is what people want. Otherwise you will get sad people whose only pleasure is to convince themselves that they are always correct, self-righteous, illiberal saints who cannot see any value in Liberty. After all if man is a fallen creature, if this world is nothing but a vale of tears, if man is not a noble creature neither are any of his wants good or worthy of consideration. If this is so, then the only thing that would make sense would be to create a totalitarian theocracy where everything is prohibited unless it is mandatory. The only way to make sense of a need for human freedom is to accept that his pursuits can be neither evil nor good but merely for his own satisfaction. Anything less than this will negate human freedom and remove any moral agency by removing choice.
This something that we must want has to come from within ourselves and not from other people’s fickle approval. Or in other words this thing must not be other people. Other people include women too obviously. Tylor is a case in point, he didn’t hesitate or have any regrets about leaving his crew, his ship, the women who were fawning on him and all of the status he had gained within the military. The only thing that can come true trying to live vicariously through other people is that you will treat them like objects or put them up on a pedestal or worship them or all these things at once and maybe even hate them for not granting your wish. Tylor is vulgar and materialistic and greedy but not as much as those who present themselves as the opposite; just like people every material in this world is temporal, every talent, everything that is pure and lovely, therefore it is those who are not satisfied with this and seek and hunger for something that is not there and therefore settle for nothing who are the ones who more self-indulgent, more greedy and more vulgar. Irony abounds when it is those behaviours of those who seek and hatch plans to gain others approvals that make them nay, us, shifty, dishonest, manipulative and ultimately as Mark Manson is so fond of saying in his book Models, “unattractive” and boring. There needs to be something else, not an obsession, but an easy going, irresponsible, natural, active, honest and therefore healthy willingness to fall into decadence. Decadence in itself is an evil thing. The platitude that it is always easier to do evil than to do good can be easily disproved by looking at the lives of the most infamous tyrants in history but I shall not go into that. Evil is a petty ambition (and so are happiness and pleasure) but the loneliness it brings to its pursuers is a symptom of the sad truth, the sad but alas true condition of all of us – we each and one of us are alone. So what does this mean in practice? Well it means giving up on all those little schemes at appearing good, cultural customs and rehearsed propriety both in our personal and political lives.
Most of the other characters are passive and only the villains and Tylor seem to be doing something, though Tylor’s unusual reaction to everything is the attraction to the show, just like many find Diogenes reactions to everything hilarious. The luck that Tylor has on the battlefield is a breath of fresh air from the simple military tactics in LOGH where everyone’s intelligence needs to be lowered in order for the genius main characters to show off their brilliance and the seriousness of Battle Ship Yamato (I wonder whether I have done too much name dropping in this essay but they are all relevant points). Captain Tylor An Exceptional Episode is an excpetion because it contains the necessary cynicism which if it wasn’t there, then sooner or later the viewers will infuse it into the series in excess. It’s true if there was too much cynicism in the series it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the series but given that the series is over and that An Exceptional Episode is as long as a full feature film it worked. It was not nice not to see Tylor succeed through sheer luck but some suffering too and a lot patience. My favourite scene in this OVA was when Tylor showed that he is self-conscious about his personality by demonstrating how out of character he would be if he had been angry at his crew. He may have fooled us all after all. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is first and foremost a comedy that makes fun of Japan’s values before and after the war but it has also got an anarchist/libertarian strain that I wouldn’t trust any person if they did not have it. It isn’t an ode to hedonism because it assumes that most individuals will act morally when left to their own devices because they care about another and that authority is sadistic, hypocritical, hedonistic in its enforcement of kindness and therefore finally unnecessary. Tylor’s western name (well ostensibly American) is essentially an individualistic simple-minded American stereotype set against the Japanese Empire inspired social order. Most of the other human characters are Japanese. If you are going to watch this, do yourself a favour and watch the English dubbed version.