About brotherly love and genres
I rewatched Dragons for the umpteenth time, and I honestly can’t understand how people can watch it and think that Hanzo didn’t/doesn’t love Genji.
The Dragon of the South Wind had triumphed, but as time passed and he realized his solitude. The sweetness of victory turned to ash.
For years the bereft Dragon’s grief threw the world into discord and he knew only bitterness and sorrow.
They had a bloody falling out because of the clan and family traditions, but Hanzo regretted and grieved so much all he had gained and had turned meaningless. He had been wandering aimlessly, fallen from grace and power into endless grieving.
“Seeking power I killed my brother, but without him, I am lost." This is from the framing story, but a direct quote from the Dragon of the South-Wind, Hanzo’s avatar. These are his honest feelings.
And from Hanzo’s own mouth about Genji to the “Assassin”: “You are not worthy to say his name!”
I have to geek out a bit now because this short is a brilliant mix of textual genres: There is the direct presentations of Hanzo’s annual prayers for Genji, and then there’s the “Legend of Two Dragons” told by the narrators, a fairy tale.
The genres are told apart in the visual media through different animation style, and the fairy tale is told through the narrator while the 3D animated presentation is showed to us via visuals and dialogue from the characters.
What I find interesting is what the fairy tale as a genre gives us thematically. Fairy tales are simple, moralistic stories with archetypal characters that have little depth. We know the story isn’t random because it’s there together with the rest of the short and thus gives us a different perspective to the Shimada brothers and their relationship. Symbolically it’s their backstory as an “ancient legend”, but told as such maybe also because it’s a distant memory, a youthful mistake or just something that is so full of emotion that the genre of a fairy tale can communicate those emotions in an almost naivistic way. This also allows us to take the story and the lines from the avatar dragon as clear and truthful representations of Hanzo’s feelings, even those he himself seems to be unwilling to face (Genji accuses him of “telling himself that it was your duty”, and both the story and Hanzo’s situation are of someone stuck in the past and unwilling to heal.)
Questions that the Legend of Two Dragons leave us is how is it the one their Father supposedly told them if it’s what happened to Hanzo and Genji in their youth later. Is it about the same story at all? Or is the narrator just lying about that in order to tell his story like this, and the bed-time story is just a meaningless framing device? Or is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, a true legend that their Father told them in warning but Hanzo and Genji ended up not learning the moral of the story?
Go and figure.
In conclusion, Shimada brothers have conflicted, difficult and bloody history, but they loved each other, and killing Genji destroyed Hanzo mentally. Their falling out was clearly a tragedy, one that has set them both in disarray and only mending their bond and accepting themselves as they are will bring them peace.
And since we have talked about fairy tales, the moral of the story is brought on by the following notion: “ You have inflicted wounds upon yourself, but now you must heal.“ Self-acceptance and healing are a matter of choice. You just have to get to work.