THE SILVER CASE: What Is Uehara Kamui?

Liberation Maiden – This counts

Screenshot from Liberation Maiden. The top screen shows the winged humanoid mecha Kamui, captioned in Japanese. A translation is on the bottom screen: "The Liberator, Kamui."

(Liberation Maiden screenshots come from Kate Goldfarb’s footage.)

In 2012, as part of the Guild01 series, Level-5 published Grasshopper Manufacture’s Liberation Maiden on Nintendo 3DS, with Suda as “Creative Director,” Chida Makoto as director, and Matchmaker author Yuki Masahiro as producer and, apparently, writer. In 2013, a sequel, the adventure game/“visual novel” Liberation Maiden SIN, came out on PS3. To free her country from the Dominion conquerors, the teen girl president of New Japan, Ozora Shoko, guns down enemies while straddling a flying mecha called the Liberator Kamui. As though to emphasize the optimistic nature of this Kamui, when levels begin, Shoko says bland affirmations of hope and patriotism as something like catch phrases: “We can’t give up. There’s always tomorrow.”

The dialogue and narrative emphasize that Shoko is fighting not only for the freedom of her people. There is also an ecological concern to this liberation. As in the Ainu conception on which I have drawn kamuy narratives, but also as in the animism of the majority Japanese religion, the land is a spiritual as well as physical landscape full of “Guardian Spirits.” The Dominion specifically destroys beautiful natural vistas and attacks the Guardian Spirits to drain the “Spirit Energy” undergirding “nature,” i.e. the natural environment.

Screenshot from Liberation Maiden. It shows gameplay. On the top screen, in the lower left, text reads, "MISSION: Destroy the source of the smog." The player is targeting and destroying what appear to be warehouses. Trees and grass form where the previous warehouses were destroyed.

The attacks the player wields are at least sometimes fueled by this spiritual power: “One of the Liberator’s [Kamui’s] most devastating weapons, this blade takes the natural energy of the earth’s magnetic field and amplifies it by harmonizing with the energy of the Guardian Spirits in order to unleash a swath of destructive power.” The Liberator Kamui has a role in issuing liberatory violence like the Savior Kamui using the power of beings analogous to kamuy fighting against a rampaging industrialism. (Sentences like these are how Shiroyabu ends up sputtering “Kamui Kamui Kamui…”) Kamui continues to wield the power of destruction that also creates: Shoko blasts through city-like Dominion military infrastructure, causing trees and grass to spring up in its place. When she destroys the Conduit Spikes that siphon the spiritual energy, huge trees appear bearing spiritual blossoms.