Lets review Kami no Caveira, a story about Tobias, a police officer in a crime ridden Brazilian town who is disgusted by the precinct’s violent methods of ‘punishment.’
Shiori Amase is a relatively unknown mangaka whose most famous works are We Shall Now Begin Ethics (Koko wa Ima Kara Rinri Desu) and All-Out!!. Despite her lack of popularity, however, I personally am intrigued beyond belief with her work. I’ll leave her personal life out of this review for the most part and save it for when I review We Shall Now Begin Ethics, because it’s relevant to that manga moreso than Kami no Caveira — however, keep in mind, I love this author and I’m in love with her art style, so I’m a bit biased.
Kami no Caveira was released in Fall of 2020, and currently has less than 300 members on its MyAnimeList page.
Here’s its synopsis:
Tobias is a recruit from BOPE who has his ideals put to the test when he sees his Captain, Shindo, doing everything to accomplish his missions.
Warning: This section reveals major spoilers and serves only to analyze the content in Amase’s One-shot. It’s a short manga, so I highly recommend you read it yourself if you are even slightly interested. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.
We meet Tobias, who feels as though his ‘beautiful eyes’ have been sullied by the town he lives in. He lives near the Redeemer Christ Statue in Brazil.
We see that Tobias is a member of what’s called the BOPE, a small fraction of the police that focus solely on quelling the gang violence. They serve solely to combat the gang violence, however, Tobias is extremely unhappy with the methods used to gather information. He notes that all he wanted was to protect his city and make it better. He’s always had a sense of justice, which is why this doesn’t feel necessarily right.
Not only is BOPE extremely violent, but they also harbor deep feelings against the gang members. Take a look at this panel where Tobias overhears members of the force casually saying really awful things about them:
(Remember that with manga, you read right to left, and top-to-bottom. So start with “She came by again” and end with “and his mom’s fault”.)
What’s extremely fascinating is that the other members of BOPE don’t seem to care at all about the lives of the gang members. In fact, they see these gang members as less than human — vermin to be exterminated (or “purged”, according to this random BOPE member). Based on Tobias’ face in the bottom-left corner, he doesn’t agree with what is being said, or at least has second thoughts about it.
Tobias doesn’t speak up against his other members.
In this panel we see how Tobias has grown to stay silent against things he disagrees with; both in this bigotry against gang members presented during dinnertime, and with the members BOPE uses against civilians.
Tobias’ Internal Struggle
Tobias’ wife/girlfriend Jaddi is extremely worried for him as a member of BOPE. He has been having nightmares recently about the job and wakes up in a sweat.
In one specific job a few days later, BOPE is called in because two rival gangs were having a dispute against one another. The team leader, Shindou, seems to have a view of gang members that simply only sees them as targets. He doesn’t even care about the civilians’ lives in danger, in fact, he probably sees it as their fault for being there or associated with gangs in the first place. In this sense, he is incapable of seeing how what he’s doing is wrong, because his view of human life is so drastically warped.
Tobias asks himself; “What should I believe in to keep going like this?”
He knows this is against his morals. He knows that he doesn’t believe in this cause. But at this point, Tobias is so desperate for relief from this dissonance in his heart that he’s susceptible to other forms of thinking or rationale so long as it makes him feel better.
Tobias then recalls an instance where a gang member killed a member of BOPE, and the force went back to “get revenge.” Revenge is not always justice. By “getting revenge,” they killed many more people than the one officer was killed. Gang members who grew up in this horrible society, in this place with twisted morals. Tobias grows weary of Shindou, his boss, and brings it up to Jaddi.
I’m sure Jaddi thinks that what she’s saying is morally just, but I don’t think she understands exactly what Tobias means by how brutal he is. In fact, she’s sort of correct here; everybody has positive things about them. Does that mean, however, that Tobias should overlook the horrible things Shindou has done? Personally, I don’t think so. But the story shows us what actually ends up happening.
Tobias, Shindou, and other members of BOPE are called in once again, this time to eliminate a specific target. Tobias spots a young child and panics, worried that the child will die, as he’s seen before. He tries to signal to the child to run away, but the child runs directly out in the open. Gang members open fire, and Tobias sprints from his position with BOPE to grab the child and save him.
However, Tobias stares at the child and looks at his eyes; and notices that the child is on some sort of drug. Just as he notices this, however, the child points a gun to Tobias’ head.
I’ll move past this section for now, and simply summarize what occurs, but I have a lot to say about this part. We’ll review it more in-depth in my Analysis section below.
Shindou immediately comes up behind Tobias and kicks the child in the head away from Tobias, saving Tobias’ life. Tobias screams, completely in shock about what’s just occurred. The gang members notice the commotion and open fire. Shindou and Tobias take cover. Shindou grabs the gun the child had and points it at the child’s head. Tobias interjects, begging the boss not to do it — the child then runs away.
After eliminating their target and withdrawing, Shindou drags Tobias by the hair and scolds him in an alleyway. He says he doesn’t care if Tobias hates him, but that if Tobias continues to act on his own like that, he’ll die. He states that people “nobody will miss” die all the time, and that’s why Tobias, a member of BOPE, can’t die, because its his duty to cleanse the world of violence. He gasses up the BOPE a bit, calling them people with strong morals, who’s sense of justice and protection are strong.
Shindou states one line that sticks out to me: “You have no reason to die.” As opposed to… the gang members? Who deserve to die? What is their reason to die? Because you simply decide that because they are ‘evil’ — because they are subhuman — that that’s simply their reason to die.
After a long and bloody battle, Tobias asks one question of Shindou, who he is grateful towards for saving his life, no longer thinking Shindou is a machine. In this way, Tobias is opening himself up to the only other person who could possibly understand his grief, his desperation, or his way of thinking:
Opinions / Analysis
This story is about Tobias, but in a sense, it’s not really a story about Tobias. Shiori Amase has crafted us a story about how people fall victim to systems and false ideals.
Tobias’ morals in the beginning of the story were what any normal person would also believe. That violence and cruelty should be avoided at all costs. And yet, by the end of the story, Tobias is now fully compliant and complicit in these methods.
What happened? Why did Tobias’ morals shift so drastically in such a short time?
Well, Shindou. By Tobias acting on his righteous sense of self, and it being the wrong decision in that moment — in fact, almost getting him killed — Tobias is left scrambling on what to believe. Shindou, in the alleyway, gifts him an ideology. That what the BOPE does is true, just, and necessary, and those who follow the BOPE are also pursuers of justice.
Tobias, who prides himself on having a sense of justice — that’s why he joined the BOPE in the first place — wants to be someone who pursues justice. That’s why he’s so ready, in his state of delirium and desperation, after almost losing his life, to cast away his old ideals.
It didn’t take a few days. It really wasn’t a short time at all for Tobias to give up his morals. From the moment he joined BOPE, he’s been worn down by the murder and the killing of the job, even having nightmares at night. All this served to wear down his mental state, making him fallible to this false ideology that the BOPE has.
In this way, Kami no Caveira isn’t a story about Tobias. It’s a story about systems. Whether you’re looking at horrible moments in history like World War 2, one question sticks out: Why did nobody stand up the oppressed? Surely somebody’s morals were being questioned in his moment.
Well, now you’ve heard Tobias’ story — and now you know how these people are forced into silence and compliance.
What do you all think of Kami no Caveira? It’s a short manga but I personally believe it holds an extremely powerful message, although the ending is bitter. I love Shiori Amase, and I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future. In addition, I love her artstyle; the sheer panic on Tobias’ face elicits a real emotional reaction from me.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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