Being Bond is suffering.
Jasmine is so cute. What a miracle of the universe. Just like with Inoue, I think it’s such a pity that the visual novel never had a proper sprite for her. She’s not all that important for plot-related purposes, but you’d think being the one to out Gaia and Guardian to the rest of the world post-Terra would make her deserving enough for a sprite. At least the anime’s character designs did both her and Inoue justice. Seeing Midou, Tenma and Tenjin as sweet, innocent children was also quite a shock, even though I already knew that they were relatively cheerful and optimistic kids during this point in all the timelines.
Where did it all go wrong, I hear you ask? It must have been Jasmine’s death in all the other non-Bond routes, i.e. when Kotarou wasn’t around to stop the children from falling under Gaia’s influence. It’s why Midou aligns himself with Gaia and has such a hatred towards Guardian – because Gaia can give him the power he needs to change the world around him and kill off as many superhumans as he can. His backstory, one of suffering and injustice, actually makes him the perfect Gaian. There was actually a flashback near the end of the first season where Midou reminisced about crying over Jasmine’s dead body before dying himself after his life force was extinguished from controlling the Earth Dragon, which all but confirmed to the VN readers that the children Jasmine took care of were in fact Midou and the others. It was already widely suspected that that’s who they were, but as I recall the VN never explicitly mentioned Midou’s name and so we were left to infer who the children were. It’s a lot like how it was implied in the game that the shota whom Kotarou influenced to be a punk was actually Yoshino, but again we had no sprite for him when he was a kid, unlike for Kotori and Akane.
This episode was suffering for Kotarou. There’s not all that much difference between acting as a mercenary in a ‘private security firm’ from fighting a war, and in reality that’s basically what it was. It was a conflict between Guardian and Gaia, sometimes using proxies and intermediaries and set in an impoverished, already war-torn part of the Middle East instead of somewhere like Kazamatsuri with its afforestation and civilisation. I think Kotarou’s experiences during these years is one of the major differences between Bond and the standard Kotarou in the other character routes. The latter never truly understands how dark and grim human conflict can be to the extent that the former does. Because Bond has gone through all that, trained and forced himself to improve to keep staying alive, he returns to Kazamatsuri as a much stronger and much more capable person. Even though he’s left Kagari alone for over two years, his own mental and physical growth is exactly what he needs to properly protect her and carry out his triple agent duties.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that Luis volunteered to stay behind because he was the one who’d shot the kids. By accident, maybe, but he wanted to punish himself when he accidentally killed his best friend too, and I think Kotarou had a line in the VN where he wondered whether Luis chose to stay in the burning field on purpose to atone for his sins. That was such a painful scene to watch, not least of all because I really love lolis. I’ve never really spoken about why I do in much detail, but this episode helped to implicitly highlight the virtue of lolis (and children in general). The cuteness is only part of the reason. What’s important is what that cuteness represents – innocence, happiness and curiosity, amongst other things. Lolis haven’t been burdened with hardships or responsibilities, and innate in that comes a desire to preserve them that way. In other words, their smiles are worth protecting. To Kotarou and Luis, the children they visit and play with represent optimism, potential and hope for the future. They have nothing to do with the conflict, and Kotarou and Luis are fighting and killing Gaians every day so that they can continue to go to school and make the best of their lives within their limited means. Jasmine in fact saved Kotarou’s life on the night he killed his first enemy. You’d think Guardian would have some sort of welfare (or even someone who remotely cared) in place for newbies, but it ended up being a local loli who stopped Kotarou from committing suicide. To shoot lolis, even by accident, and even if they turned out to be the summoners controlling that large familiar, is a tragedy for those reasons. To end the lives of those who were wounded, after realising that they were just children who were manipulated by Gaia, is unforgivable.
This is also the point where you start to realise that Guardian may not be all they made themselves out to be in the character routes. It’s certainly the point when I started to think twice about them, especially as I was very pro-Guardian prior to playing Terra. I think that’s entirely on purpose, though. There were never really any situations in a setting like Kazamatsuri where Guardian ideology and methods ended up being portrayed as something negative, especially as they wanted to preserve even the short-term interests of humanity whereas Gaia was opting for imminent genocide. Even in Lucia’s route, Nishikujou was around. It’s only here, where human suffering and Kotarou’s own incapacity is a lot more obvious, that the way Guardian believes everyone is expendable really comes to light. The bootcamp and forest mission also made that very clear in the VN, although it was toned down a little for the adaptation. It just goes to show how, even in the character routes, Kotarou’s alignment to either side stemmed from his love for one of the girls, and not because of any sort of zealous faith in the ideology of the organisation they belonged to. Seen in that context, it’s not all that surprising that Kotarou ends up becoming a triple agent upon his return to Kazamatsuri. Bond is such a badass. Rescuer of lolis, founder of orphanages and saviour of the planet.