(Note: This essay concerns the ending of the Armitage III movie, Poly-Matrix, not the ending of the four-part Armitage OAV series. Although the endings are similar in most respects, the tone is significantly changed in the movie.)
The other night, as I lay staring at the ceiling in the dark, I was listening to the soundtrack of an anime called Armitage III: Poly-Matrix, in particular one track that appears at the end of the movie, "Silent War".
At that point in the movie, a cyborg cop named Ross and his Third-type partner, Armitage, are preparing to fight a battalion of automated and mechanized infantry and tanks. Armitage is a "Third", a sentient, emotional android built of organic parts, and is technically "human" enough to actually become pregnant and have a human child. But, for all the wrong reasons, the government had declared war on the Thirds and killed off all of them except her. At the time, the battalion has just finished destroying the place where Armitage was originally "built".
Armitage and Ross pull out some heavy artillery to do battle with the military, but at the same time, they know it's a hopeless crusade. The Thirds are effectively extinct, Armitage and Ross are hopelessly outnumbered, and she'll still be persecuted even if she survives. It doesn't matter, though, because at the time, it looks like they're out for revenge, and thinking considerations don't really apply. Armitage and Ross go out to fight, and "Silent War" begins to play.
The track is instrumental and mostly soft keyboard music, with some drums, guitar, and a few sound effects thrown in. It's the kind of piece you hear in your mind as you're slowly walking through a heavy snowstorm to a warm and dry place. It is, without a doubt, a very sorrowful piece of music. It's even more sorrowful as you watch the events unfold on the screen.
Part of the battle is caught on camera and beamed into the nearby city of St. Lowel, where the whole adventure began. Clips of the hopeless fight appear on various screens throughout the city, and many "Seconds" become entranced by the visual. Seconds are inorganic, somewhat sentient robots who are pretty much slaves. But they watch the battle and understand that Armitage is not fighting for revenge. She's fighting for the right to live and live free, and in some way, she is fighting for the Seconds' rights as well. But the movie bounces back and forth, and the track plays on, and when Armitage and Ross are both hit, you have the terrible feeling that they're both going to die. Whether they do or not, though, they fought, outnumbered and outgunned, for something very important, and they knew what they were getting into in the first place. There may be some kind of fatalistic majesty there.
"Silent War" effectively carries the scene. Though the fight is non-stop explosive action, the music is slow and tuneful, effectively conveying both a feeling of lost causes and awful dread. It does not encourage hope, especially not as the fight takes a turn for the worse and you begin to sense that what you are watching is a funeral procession. It is powerful, sad, and resolute all in one track.
Somehow, though, Ross and Armitage survive. It's nighttime, and Ross stands on a hill, carrying a wounded Armitage, looking down at the lights of St. Lowel. Behind them are the burned and blackened shells of the military division. Ross begins to talk about his childhood with a large family in a cramped house and that his life then was a struggle for a small corner of space to call his own. When he was older, he thought he'd move out to a spacious place like Arizona, but he realized that he was destined to live in the cities, where all the people are, where all the life is. Armitage wakes up, and Ross tells her that he'll figure something out, that he'll find a way for them to live. And so he begins to walk down the hill toward the city, and even though it's dark and the feeling is one of inutterable sadness, you know that somehow, they will find a way to make a new life for themselves.
I wrote something earlier, an exchange of lines between two other people facing a hopeless battle that seemed appropriate for Ross and Armitage to say before the fight:
"An impossible fight against impossible odds. We will not win, you
The point, I think, is that ultimately, it's most important for a person to live. Whatever battles and challenges a person faces, it's easy to go down in front of them valiantly and such, but it's more difficult to be able to fight and walk away, victor or not. I don't mean that "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day," but I do mean that to die for a cause is one thing, but to live for a cause is another completely. Only by living the difficult life does a person learn and experience and understand, and grow. All people have the capability of making a better life for themselves instead of giving in to meaninglessness. And that's what's important.
Ross and Armitage understood this. If they had walked into battle with a blind lust for meaningless revenge, they would have died meaningless deaths. But knowing that in order for them to accomplish something greater than a last valiant stand, they would have to live on, even though it was far more difficult to do so. And they did.
Most movie boxes pretty much lie outright, but the one for Armitage III: Poly-Matrix was accurate. In particular:
"This is a story about technology and emotion. About hatred and love.
About a human on the verge of becoming a machine and a machine on the verge
of becoming a human.
For now, everyone, it is important to live.