Saturday, December 19, 2009

riese: the steampunk series

It's funny what one finds on YouTube.  A steampunk action series called Riese, for one:

I have watched all four of the episodes posted online thus far, which you can find on the series' YouTube channel or official website.

So far the series has partially impressed me.  I think the costumes are great and the settings terrific.  I love the steampunk feel of the series.  But the story is, so far, about as ambiguous as the series.  It took me until I looked at the official website for the series and the official website for The Sect to get an inkling of the significance of anything I had watched in those four episodes.
image source: Pink Ray Gun
From the official website:

Riese is a world of moral ambiguity and political intrigue. A decimated land populated by characters from dreams and nightmares. Loyalties are ever in question, suspicion in the minds of all. The realm, however, was not always so cruel. Everything began with a peaceful nation called Eleysia.

The Kingdom of the Wolf, Eleysia was once prosperous due largely to the influence of Empress Kara and Emperor Ulric. This all changed when a coup d’etat, orchestrated from the shadows by a religious cult, brought about a total regime change.

Taking the throne was Amara, the Empress’s cousin. A power-hungry tyrant, Amara immediately utilized Eleysia’s wealth and power to begin colonizing the world, crushing nation after nation in order to unite the people under one banner. Even as she assaulted the world, an ominous, enigmatic group clearly wielded power over her. Called The Sect, they purported themselves to be the official religion of Eleysia, and began to spread alongside Eleysia’s borders.

Since the coup, the land has begun to die, resources are dwindling and compassion is fading. Humanity itself is seen as impure. People have grown restless, almost feral. Rituals and mythology have resurged, and the darker side of mankind has begun to reveal itself.

The true horror of the world is not in how it ends, but what will become of mankind as it fractures.And yet, despite the impending doom, a single beacon of light shines in Riese. A mysterious wanderer, she travels with her wolf Fenrir across this barren land. Branded as heretics by The Sect, Riese and Fenrir will pause to aid those in need as they travel, but they must evade capture at all costs. As she flees, she’ll piece together her past and her destiny, in a conflict that will hold the fate of this world in the balance - and the once peaceful kingdom of Eleysia will be the battlefield.

This is the world of Riese.
So far, though, simply watching the episodes gives you none of that information.  Of course that is hard to do when the series creators are only putting out seven minute episodes.  But that's why the episodes should be longer- I've watched about half an hour of the series so far and only managed to gather, before reading the companion websites, that Riese is pursued by some faceless villains who injured her, she has a wolf as a companion, her past is hazy, and the scary ankh/cross tattoo everyone belonging to The Sect wears is associated with something she does not like.  There is no solid explanation of who The Sect are.

Which is why looking at The Sect's website is vital to understanding the story.  Obviously they are a fundamentalist organization thrusting religion down people's throats.  The website's focus on indoctrination reminded me of the steampunkish attraction Rampage! this past Halloween at Pittsburgh's ScareHouse (which I discussed in this post), the Norsefire party from V for Vendetta (2006), and the Party (Ingsoc) from George Orwell's novel 1984.  The indoctrination is obvious in all of these examples, and in Riese, Rampage!, and V for Vendetta, the colors of the indoctrinating party are all red and black. 

So obviously the story of Riese takes place in a dystopian world where she must fight the indoctrinating power to free the people.  It seems to be a stab at organized religion, though.  While The Sect's website gives you the impression that they are not to be trusted and are blinded by faith, my question is... aren't most "religious" people?  Didn't I believe for years that I was going to go to hell for letting my mind wander in church, and try to "witness" to unbelieving friends so they wouldn't go to hell because they didn't believe what I believe?  So did many of my high school acquaintances.  I was taught that was what you were supposed to do, and when I began to question that five years ago, I was told that I had little faith and needed to pray to God for more faith, rather than gain knowledge (or a different interpretation) of the aspects of religion I was questioning.  The Sect appears to be no different.

I think the difference between The Sect and my religion, however, is that The Sect punishes heretics and forces everyone to think what they think.  I am always free to leave my religion with little social consequence.  The citizens of Eleysia are not.  And that is why Riese is on the run.

The series may not make a whole lot of sense in its current format, but it is a good seven-minute break from working on that school paper or paying the bills.  Watch the episodes here.

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