Ciconia When They Cry is a story that invites criticism. It engages and provokes. It challenges the reader to disagree with its narration, to question its inevitable outcome, and to feel for the loss of humanity—to feel for characters you don’t even know.
Ryukishi has set the stage for World War IV.
However, there are no actors on this stage. Only soldiers nodding their heads—just following orders. Walk in their shoes towards the next “great” war. Tread the path ahead as history repeats what it did before.
The Lost Generation: Children with No Future
Now that readers understand Ciconia’s technology and global landscape, we can discuss how the setting influences the youngest generation of soldiers and the “guardians” of the new world.
Initially, Ciconia masks its setting in hyperbole, a sci-fi world that seems far removed from our own. The setting takes place roughly 100 years after World War III (the A3W era) where a new military power is on the rise. Gauntlet Knights, infantry soldiers that command the skies with advanced technology, fly like superheroes.
Mirroring comic book visuals, Ciconia makes it apparent how Gauntlet Knights appeal to a younger generation. Frequently, the reason kids join the military is an innocent wish: to fly. At first, this desire is presented as simple-minded, but as readers gain context, the desire to fly becomes rooted, so much that it feels no child has “wings.”
In Ciconia, there is a deep animosity towards the youth. Within the first 15 minutes of the story, the audience watches a video about Gauntlet Knights. In it, the video shamelessly advertises their power. They can accelerate through the skies and make sharp turns. They can repel bullets and explosions. To an innocent kid, the Gauntlet Knights are truly superheroes.
However, after the video ends, we learn that all the Gauntlet Knights in the video have died. Brushing it off, a military official commends the youths for obeying orders and dedicates a medal, an insulting “compensation” for their deaths.
To the military, the youth are expendable. The constant “prey” of the older generation. Military officials literally beat their values into children, mocking them for their softness and innocence.
In a later scene, it’s revealed that children are recruited as young as elementary school. These kids are then analyzed for their “potential.” Any that are worthy are “blue” and everyone else is “green.” Blues are kids determined as having “natural talent” or literally bred (through experimentation) to have “talent.” There is no euphemism here—this is literally eugenics.
They are then separated into groups where blues can succeed amongst the greens. By giving rewards to those who succeed and harshly punishing those that don’t (physically beating them), the military officials hope to give blues “self-empowerment,” the confidence to use their “talents” at birth.
Greens are never considered; they’re meant to be food for the blues and discarded after use. The military is teaching kids how to “eat the youth,” just as they have always done in a “dog-eat-dog” world. The military of this world is undoubtedly nationalistic, practicing beliefs from Social Darwinism.
In the AOU, children are born from factories and live life without parents or role models. Computers analyze their genetics, pushing children into certain fields. While exceptions have been shown, the truth is bleak. For the children of this era, there is no real future except the one decided for them.
The clock ticks closer towards the end.
History Repeats: Ciconia Earns Its Name
Human life has no weight in Ciconia’s world. In some ways, it seems illogical, improbable even that a war that engulfed the entire world—that nearly wiped out humanity—could be forgotten. That the lessons of history were ignored, leaving a generation less empathetic, less caring for human life.
But that’s exactly what happens.
Ciconia borrows from its predecessors, forming a mystery and a horror around its lore. Despite how influential World War III was to shaping the world, the characters are oblivious about its events.
Despite advances in technology, despite how the youth can simply search for information using their minds, despite how the very borders of each country are defined by this global conflict, no information exists about World War III.
As the story continues, we learn snippets on why. In the B3W era, humanity begins to demilitarize, praising the era as an era without war. To further humanity’s bond, people eventually digitize information from books to the eventual human mind. In trying to record history, the hope was to prevent future conflict.
However, complications occurred. Countries disputed real events, arguing about their authenticity. One country’s history was another country’s lies. Each country wanted their version of the story. This mentality persisted until after World War III. In the A3W era, peace is maintained by a “healthy military.” To uphold the “walls of peace,” countries point their weapons at each other.
Ryukishi does very little to hide his opinion. Not only does humanity repeat a world war by ignoring the previous, but they also repeat events from our reality. This “healthy military balance” reeks of a Cold War mentality. In school, teachers instill this belief by explaining it through a visual: Kerry’s Powder Keg.
Kerry’s Powder Keg is a metaphor for humanity’s beliefs. To contain the powder inside, each country must become a “wooden board.” By pressing against each other as hard as possible, each country can prevent the powder from escaping. However, if one country fails to uphold its duty, then the powder will escape, resulting in an explosion.
The wooden boards are a metaphor for the “walls of peace,” which in turn represents a nation’s borders. The force exerted on these boards is a metaphor for the military of each country. If the powder escapes, instability occurs. If the powder ignites, conflict erupts.
Ryukishi models his conflict with very real events. Thus, if this sounds familiar, perhaps you’re recalling a certain 20th-century war. One that lead to yet another global war. One whose living memory will soon fade from our world.
History is repeating itself.
Even with two articles, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Ciconia. While I’m unsure if I’ll cover Ciconia’s sequel (Phase 2), I hope my readers are inspired to read the visual novel. It’s a work that I feel is massively relevant for our times.