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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita  (Read 2661 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« on: 06 May 2016, 15:04:24 »
Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
Who: Takashi Kurita
What: Chu-i, Lance Commander, Second Sword of Light
   Sho-sa, Second Sword of Light, Heavy Assault Battalion
   Duke of Luthien
   Unifier of Worlds
Coordinator of the Draconis Combine
When: 18 August 2970 - 3054
Weapon of Choice: 1G BattleMaster
1N Dragon
         1G Grand Dragon
         ISF
         DCMS
         Politics
         Intimidation
         Swords
When BattleTech began it was an ostensibly balanced setting. There were five major powers, each with its own leader, each of whom had positive and negative traits. Some were a little more positive or negative, placing the leaders along a spectrum so that they were not simply palette swapped clones with the same number of pros and cons to represent a form of balance.

Of course the fiction came along and it had to portray at least some of these factions and leaders as more positive than others in order to function.

Time went on, the game and setting matured and now, while most of the villainous characters are still portrayed as villainous, they are necessarily so, and likewise the formerly heroic are shown to be a bit more callous than a few novel chapters can show.

One to ride out these changing tides with a surprising amount of consistency is Takashi Kurita.

To be certain in the beginning he was far more an antagonist of the setting at large, more than willing to settle matters with violence, quite frequently petty matters, and perfectly happy being an aggressor when need be.

Similarly he never balked at spending lives towards a goal, never once considering the human cost as Hanse did, not that it prevented the First Prince from doing any less, though Takashi considered it the right and honourable duty of soldiers and citizens to do so for the goals of the state. Compare Max Liao who spent lives for the same reasons without the slightest thought of the human cost. Or even the numbers, his eyes were on the goal only.

And yet we learn more about Takashi than we do about most of the other leaders. Sidebars and other sources detail his dining habits, his love of arts and hobbies such as kendo.

We have no idea if Janos Marik liked soccer, or called it football, fencing, hockey or foosball. It’s a personal touch that’s lacking in a lot of the leaders. Even Hanse and Katrina were given light touches in source materials, though they benefited from a much more generous treatment in novels.

So what sort of antagonist is Takashi? And don’t doubt that he is an antagonist. An omnidirectional antagonist. In novels he is foe to Hanse, Katrina, his own son Theodore, Jamie Wolf, bullies Janos Marik into a tree way alliance with Max Liao, and causes and nurses more grudges than the average Mafioso.

For now let’s say that if Max Liao is the Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain of 3025 then Takashi Kurita is that evening’s sci-fi drama antagonist.

He’s more capable, less comical, dangerous in an entirely different context but still hamstrung by who and what he is.

If anything, of the two Takashi is the deeper character, more complicated and less of a straight forward antagonist, despite the fact he appears to antagonise everyone.

While Max is a scheming, ambitious, amoral dastard Takashi has a code. It’s a code largely alien to most readers, and a lot of those within the setting, but that he has one and sticks to it makes it easier to understand.

That his code requires he makes war is a function of the setting, it’s a war game after all, and that aspect of Takashi is fairly straight forward, as it should be for all the faction heads in 3025. There’s a Succession War on, the notional goal is to win it.

The complications come from Takashi’s character. In one of the original books there was a sidebar that described his typical dining protocol, it showed a man who was very ascetic and stoic even in his casual lifestyle, but showed a certain artistry, the burning of a fir twig for example to help set the atmosphere.

It’s an extension of the Bushido code, it’s not simply a manner of conducing warfare, it’s a lifestyle, and Takashi sticks to it.

This is part of why he has so many antagonistic relationships, it’s his code, he sticks to it, everyone else be damned, there’s no compromise, no room for flexibility.

Naturally means his actions in a situation are easily predictable, and that gets used against him time and again.

Some might argue that this predictability, Takashi’s adherence to honour, bushido and generally saving face, is a critical weak point of the character, so much so that it’s a case of poor characterisation.

Whilst this can sometimes be the case, straightjacketing a character, it is not so with Takashi. Rather he is a very well defined character and acts in accordance with his characterisation and has, in his own mind, reason to do so. This creates limits, yes, but that is realistic, everyone has habits or character flaws and even if not blind to them may not necessarily change them.

Unrealistic or poor characterisation would have these flaws repeatedly foiling his every effort while he never learns to change or adapt and remains blind to them.

While it is true that Takashi never changes, indeed his inflexibility is why he commits seppuku because he must adhere to his code, he does adapt, the Ryuken are an example of that, as is the eventual rapprochement with his son.

Even considering this he is a rather successful Successor Lord, facing off repeatedly against Hanse Davion and managing a few wins.

Yet he was not always so ridged. Reportedly. This is who and what he is when the game opens in 3025 and going forward in the fiction. According to biographies until that point, when vendettas, foes, political and family pressures, medical ailments and just the plain stress and pressure of being Coordinator wrought changes upon his personality Takashi had been a dynamic, charismatic leader who forged great loyalty in the DCMS, meaning he had to have considerable interpersonal skills, and showed much greater strategic and tactical flexibility. Which to a degree did last in the long term, however he lost the edge he needed to be a truly competitive leader as he aged.

He is not alone in this, Janos Marik is depicted as a man a step or two ahead of Takashi along the same path, Katrina Steiner managed to change for the better before fading, Hanse Davion eventually found himself outdone by his own tactics and left the stage thanks to new foes with new ideas.

The plot related reason for this is to make the ascendency of Theodore more probable, and to give the Federated Commonwealth an opening against their strongest foe. It’s not unrealistic either, to borrow from Tyrion Lannister age beggars us all. Takashi suffered a series of mini-strokes, his mind was affected, paranoia set in, though not to Max Liao levels, and he was never quite the same.

Considering that his best friend turned against and tried to kill him in favour of Theodore, all for the good of the Combine of course, proves that this paranoia was not entirely unjustified.

So Takashi is consistent within a certain framework which dictates his behaviour, and while that does not soften him or his actions it softens the reader’s perspective of him. While we may not understand what motivates him we can understand that it motivates him.

Is this what is necessary to be a successful antagonist? No, that requires only that he drive conflict in some manner and we know he does that, drives it in every direction.

Although if any of the leaders of that era represent the true chivalric, noble side of conflict, in as much as BattleMechs are often considered to be sci-fi knights, then it is quite possibly Takashi.

Whilst prickly, to say the least, he is driven primarily by honour, and does respect his foes, his view of Hanse Davion proves that point, considering only Jamie Wolf to be a worthy foe remaining at the end of his life.

As a side note this means he does not consider the Clans to be worthy, honourable adversaries, ignoring the fact that they are the bigger threat to satiate this honour thing again.

This is something of a generational thing. The Clans are the new enemy, Takashi is an old leader, still sticking to the familiar old goals he has held for longer than most other significant characters have been alive. Indeed that’s another neat way his honour works, it prevents him from facing the new foe and removes him so that someone who does can take his place.

It’s an odd dichotomy, but generally managed well, the character of Takashi Kurita is clearly defined and behaves within those definitions, plot and character following and interweaving with each other to create situations and solutions or conflicts as the writers require.

Thus he serves as an antagonist, a character in his own right, as well as someone who helps define the setting as a sort of medieval sci-fi adventure series.

Scotty

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #1 on: 06 May 2016, 15:22:33 »
Takasgi Kurita is an excellent example of someone who commands an honor code, but not of one who follows one.  All of his vendettas center around him.  He's insulted, he's aggrieved, his enemies have visited upon him disrespect.  He uses his code as an excuse to pursue grudges.

Contrast with Minoru Kurita, whom we've recently learned much more about.  Takashi would launch an attack on order to salve his wounded pride and call it a matter of honor.  Minoru would refuse to launch an attack until he had cleared his mind to provide the best fight he could.

Takashi used honor for his own ends.  Minoru followed his code as an example to his people.  That's what makes Takashi a designated antagonist.
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nerd

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #2 on: 06 May 2016, 16:00:34 »
Also, to quote The Last Hero, you can't be a good Evil Overlord if you don't have a Code. See here:  Pyramid:  Call No Man Happy Until He is Dread

In some ways, Takashi is the Dark Lord of the setting. A real threat, but one who would much rather fight the old battle (Davion-Kurita battles complete with score cards), than the new one (Clans aren't worthy opponents)
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #3 on: 07 May 2016, 13:31:23 »
Scotty makes a very interesting point. In fact commanding an honour code like that is very much a part of a prickly antagonist, offering them a reason to be who they are, and an understanding to their enemies in much the same way as those who actually follow the code the way Minoru does.

In fact Takashi is very self absorbed. Not just from an honour perspective, but in everything. Aside from his younger brother I don't think he particularly cared about anyone aside from their usefulness. Perhaps a little tenderness for his wife, but she was more the proper vessel for producing an heir than anything. As for Theodore I don't think Takashi would have cared much more for him if he had been a carbon copy of his father, all Theodore was there to do was exist. It was all about Takashi.

Tai Dai Cultist

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #4 on: 07 May 2016, 14:39:32 »
Takashi Kurita and (tv) Tywin Lannister:  Spiritual Brothers from another Mother.

SCC

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #5 on: 10 May 2016, 06:42:51 »
Would it be fair to say that when Takashi uses the Royal We he's actually referring to himself rather then observing a legal reality?

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #6 on: 11 May 2016, 03:15:11 »
In Takashi's mind there's no difference.

Being the Coordinator automatically demands the Royal We, while being so self-absorbed means that he thinks of himself in those terms regardless.

Besides, with the combined, totaled ambitions of generations of Coordinators there can be no more important person in the Universe. To true Kurita thinking.

Elcor05

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #7 on: 27 May 2016, 15:40:52 »
I've never liked Takashi, since when I started I was a big fan of Theodore Kurita since Heir to the Dragon did not portray him in the best light.

Question though. Overall, did he make the DC better or worse? If he had just left a few years earlier, probably better. Theodore was the leader who would guide them into the future. Takashi was the one who kept them in the past, for better or worse.
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Tai Dai Cultist

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #8 on: 28 May 2016, 00:43:22 »
There's a dimension to Takashi that is often forgotten by the fanbase and I daresay, the writers and Powers That Be themselves.

What do the Legions of Vega, Altenmark Militia, Izanagi Warriors, Ryuken, Genyosha, Ghost Regiments, and Night Stalkers all have in common? They were created on Takashi's watch.  More than that, a few of them were his direct creations.  TPTB never saw fit to answer my question about whether this many new legions being created was an anomaly during Takashi's reign or not... but since we've been given looks at the DCMS in the 28th century it seems that the DCMS has been a comparatively homogenous force composed of very a very few legion-level formations during its existence outside Takashi's reign.

If it hadn't been for Takashi, the DCMS today would be far less colorful.  Despite being known as The face of a traditional Combine that resisted Theodore's reforms, he changed the DCMS as much as Teddy did.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #9 on: 18 July 2016, 06:26:12 »
I've never liked Takashi, since when I started I was a big fan of Theodore Kurita since Heir to the Dragon did not portray him in the best light.

Question though. Overall, did he make the DC better or worse? If he had just left a few years earlier, probably better. Theodore was the leader who would guide them into the future. Takashi was the one who kept them in the past, for better or worse.

You're right in that Theodore was the one to guide the Combine into the future, he was an element of change, an agent of movement, something that is natural and necessary to stave off death by stagnation, a very real thing, doubly so in fiction since a stagnating faction is a boring one.

However within the setting there has to be something said for an anchor, someone firmly planting the nation in place and declaring that there will be no going backwards. That's Takashi. He can't move forward or adapt because he's holding the thing together. Makes him a perfect foil for Theodore and destined to lose, unless the Combine is going to die by stagnation, but also necessary for the situation.

Darkwing

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Takashi Kurita
« Reply #10 on: 17 August 2016, 16:55:55 »
You could make that argument that Theodore brought them into the future, but his reforms also gave new strength and fueled the fire of the Black Dragon movement that would be disastrous during the end of his rule. From the instigation of the Ghost Bear Combine War, To the Draconis March War, the Jihad attacks instigated by WoB,  His salvation in the war of 3039 and against the Clans came at the expense of those that Takashi held in check by force of will and decorum. Takashi was a harsh task master, and a lousy father. I often wonder how different Theodore's rein would have been had He and Takashi met in the middle.
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