The immolated shed their light upon the world

You could say that this is the spoiler-filled part on FLAG, so reader discretion is advised.

Episode 1: Cel on CG

But that’s not the reason why it was split out: there are enough themes in FLAG such that even a cursory overview should receive its own entry. I claimed that FLAG can be a lot of things, and you can take issue over whether they’re there or not, but the one thing which you absolutely cannot argue about is that it is about one man’s quest for closure.

And yet, that is not at all apparent. But the clues are there, paraded around in plain view:

  • Narration in the past tense
  • Non-linear editing, and the frequent returns to the laptop
  • An overriding atmosphere of futility sprinkled with regret
  • The ED’s setting, from which the narrator speaks
  • The last shot in the ED

In a twist of storytelling, everything comes together in the final episode, and it’s driven home by an extension of the last point above.

Throughout the series, Keiichi wrestles with his responsibility in Saeko’s death, real or perceived, even as he tells us the meaning of being a photographer and cameraman. The two are not exactly related, but they’re close enough that it’s evident he dislikes having those close to him adopt the stance that he himself has taken.

With all the military operations taking place under the cover of night, FLAG is a predominantly dark experience, but that’s deceptive. Battles may be fought in the pitch black but the exploding missiles, grenades, and vehicles are anything but. To go into battle is to go into the light.

That’s not what we normally associate with the word “light,” though. Light is benevolent; it cuts a path through the shadows, gives us direction. But isn’t that the express purpose of tracers, as well?

Episode 5: Moth spray

It was the assertion of Lt. Ichiyanagi that moths know that they will be burned by the light, and so they must be idiots. Unspoken was the implication that he also felt that he was like a moth, but Keiichi has no problem in spelling out for us that his peers in foreign correspondence are very much the same animal: foolhardy men and women who gleefully run towards what could kill them.

But when the world is blanketed in darkness, there is no other option but to seize the light and spread it from bare and burnt hands, despite the knowledge that the light may deny you, or even consume you on contact. And so to grasp at the torch is to pray; a prayer to be allowed to hold it at all, and a prayer that it not destroy you in the process.

Saeko was inspired by prayer. It was the subject of the photo that she latched onto at Keiichi’s exhibition. It was what she was originally trying to capture when she accidentally took the Flag Photo. Without the Flag, the photo would likely have had value only to Saeko herself.

Soldiers fight because they believe that they can create a better outcome than could be had without fighting. Journalists are ready for the next story, for the next piece of truth, and with cameras ready they believe that it must come.

To Saeko, the act of prayer, in any form, was a belief in the future. Perhaps the future can only be a brighter place. That’s certainly something worth believing in.

Episode 12: Flag recovered

Being a former band geek, I am going to put in a small word for And the Multitude with One Voice Spoke, by James L. Hosay. In it, you can clearly hear the spirit of the March on Washington and I Have a Dream. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that it had no effect on the writing of this.