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Slayers - Filia ul Copt 
15th-Oct-2005 10:36 pm
Heart of glass
Title: Pure Gold : Filia ul Copt
Author: kuchenhexe
Character: Filia ul Copt
Fandom: Slayers
Word Count: 4,748
Spoilers: All of Slayers TRY.
Teaser: At that moment, she moved beyond her selfishness and her own wishes, and broke her own heart to do what was right.

Pure Gold : Filia ul Copt

Introduction


"There shall come a controller of a dark star
who shall call forth the light,
and the world shall be flooded with darkness.
Dragon's blood shall spread,
and following the power between light and darkness,
a single star shall be awakened.
Around the star shall spin five lights,
and the power shall be a darkness beyond twilight,
a brilliance beyond the dawn.
When the power is loosed, we shall fall to an arrow
which will split the heavens apart."


First, since Slayers has such... interesting... pairing wars, I'm going to get an issue out of the way: I'll try to keep myself from turning this into a 'ship manifesto, but I will discuss how I view interactions with Filia. Whether you are a Valgaav/Filia 'shipper or a Xellos/Filia 'shipper, you will find something in here to suit you, more than not. See, I 'ship both pairings with equal gusto and I'm not adverse to Zelgadis/Filia even if I prefer Zelgadis/Amelia. So don't worry about this being either anti-X/F or anti-V/F.

I did not get into Slayers until the summer of 2001, when my fiance convinced me to give it a chance (a hard job to be sure, since at the time I held an incredibly low and easily-irritated opinion of anything anime/manga, thanks to Sailor Moon.) It was not until January of 2002 before I saw TRY. I enjoyed Slayers quite a lot, but like everything else, it did nothing to revive fannish plotbunnies that died out along with my interest in Marvel. When my fiance acquired Slayers TRY, he informed me that I was going to like Filia. I said something noncommittal, and forgot about it until he flew out to visit me in January.

I did not enter the series expecting to like Filia. I didn't make up my mind to hate her either. I was enjoying Slayers thus far, but had encountered characters which set my teeth on edge. At the time, I could not stand the exaggerated expressions or chibi forms, and tolerated for the sake of a story through the first two seasons which was genuinely fascinating. I was going to let Filia prove whether or not J was right.

A Broken Jewel-Box Dancer
First Impressions


Filia's first appearanceMy first impression of her was ambivalent. The very first impression of a cool, collected dragon lady was enjoyable, but unfortunately, that proved to be an illusion. I could barely restrain myself from rolling my eyes in annoyance at the hijinks which ensued, or her rabid love for her mace.

I think I'm just going to skip over my reaction upon first seeing her dragon form, because it contained several colorful words not fit for polite mixed company. That opinion, unfortunately, still holds true, but it's a problem with the animators, not the character herself.

Miss Better-Than-ThouThat first impression quickly disintegrated faster than a ship with a ruptured warp core over the next few episodes. She was haughty, irritating, catty, childish, and bossy. She seemed like a holier-than-thou fundamentalist type that made my hand itch to smack her, and blindly stupid and hypocritical. She seemed to be some bitchy slapstick foil for Lina and Company, and a cosmic joke. I wanted to ask J what in sam hill he'd been thinking when he said I would like her.

Little did I know those initial impressions of her were the very point, and that's exactly how I was supposed to feel about her. Those impressions were critical moments to build a foundation for a character who became larger than life with incredible, sympathetic depth by the time twenty six episodes were complete.

The Dark Clouds Forming Behind Her Silver Lines
History and Motives


To understand Filia, it is first necessary to understand her environment and circumstances. To do that, one has to step back and look at the history, the bigger picture, and quiet clues woven in between the lines.

A thousand years ago, long before Filia was hatched, a war between the dragons and Mazoku took place. While the Golden Dragons were not the largest or most powerful, they more or less ruled the entire dragon race. Their numbers suffered losses in the war, and their strength weakened.

The Massacre of AncientsAnother color of dragon, known as Ancients, dark and feathered, were larger and more powerful, but chose to sit out the war. They guarded a dangerous weapon, the most powerful one in the known world. The Goldens did not take their refusal to use the weapon or get involved in the war very well at all, and were fearful of losing their place among dragonkind. To avoid this, they launched an attack on their unsuspecting cousins, and wiped the race from existence. The weapon remained sealed behind a barrier, and their dirty deeds were covered up with lies and excuses. (It is not clear if the guilty were solely from Filia's temple, or if it involved the entire race of Goldens.)

It became accepted that the Goldens did something unfortunately necessary, that the Ancients were too violent and dangerous to be allowed to remain a threat. Whether they believed that at the time or not became moot over the years, as lies were repeated often enough to become fact in their hearts and minds.

The dragons at the Temple of the Fire Dragon King may be considered "good" for who they serve, but their own personal conduct is deplorable, as we come to witness. There are many clues, most of which are visible in hindsight on rewatching the anime, that this is not a healthy environment, emotionally speaking.

First, let's look at the situation. The prophesy of the dark star indicates that world's survival is in danger, and it seems that a human is the key for saving the world. They send someone forth to seek out someone capable of doing so, namely Luna Inverse, Knight of Ceiphied. But for a mission so important, who do they choose to send? A young, immature priestess who admits that she doesn't know very much about what's going on beyond what she shares with the others, and is just there to find the Knight of Ceiphied and take her to the temple.

Luna refuses to go, which is why Filia winds up with Lina instead. Her attitude is condescending and overbearing, and she treats humans as mere fodder for a strength test on Lina and her friends. She quickly establishes herself as an extremely insufferable character within a few short episodes. By episode five, we find her refusing a suggested route just on the sheer principle of disagreeing with Xellos, even when she admits she doesn't know which road to take.

The road she insists on taking, opposite of Xellos' recommended route, leads them straight into a town where dragons are taboo. Filia is held prisoner, and placed on trial, and only after Xellos angers her to the point of rage is she able to escape and the group can continue on their way.

Filia - episode 6In the next episode for the first time, we start seeing the haughty, holier-than-thou demeanor she kept putting forth before start to melt. Her actions and behavior had led them into trouble, and she's been humbled a bit. But it is in the events of episodes 7 and 8 that her true nature becomes evident, and her previous conduct begins to fall into focus.

We see Filia's home and those that run the temple, and their own conduct makes her earlier behavior seem like a parody, an effort to be like them, to live up to what she sees as their expectations. And we see Filia in contrast, and her true nature becomes more evident. Here is where we start to see a crucial shift toward a truly sympathetic character.

In Filia's interactions with other characters, when she allows herself to behave how she normally is without the pretenses, she is a follower. She tries to be a leader because of her sense of duty and responsibility, but she lacks both the knowledge and experience needed to be a leader. Although this is indicative of a submissive trait in her nature, she is far from a pushover. It takes a solid spine and courage to stand up to the Supreme Elder the way she does in Episode 8.

What's also noteworthy about that episode is Filia's readiness to believe Valgaav's claims regarding what took place with the Ancients' demise. She believes it, and on a level deep down inside, knows it's the truth. Knowing and being willing to admit to it are two different things, but in Episode 8, she is essentially renouncing the temple's claims regarding the events, and walking away from the only home she'd ever known just on the word of one dragon-mazoku crossbreed who's trying to kill Lina. And she had enough conviction to stand against the Supreme Elder.

She began to defy the Supreme Elder when Almayce arrived at the temple. He was going to take Gorun Nova -- Gourry's famous Sword of Light -- and give it to the Overworlder under the condition his people fought with Dark Star elsewhere, showing little regard what happened to other worlds. Filia tries to argue,and is ordered into silence. Then the Supreme Elder casts a spell to freeze Lina and the others into place. When Valgaav arrives, Filia breaks the spell the Supreme Elder placed on them.

The revelations from Valgaav and the conversation about the Gorun Nova and its four sibling weapons, and the dark lord Dark Star leaves Filia wondering if the interpretation of the prophesy is correct, and she departs from the temple with Lina to find out the answers for herself. The Supreme Elder may have chosen a submissive, inexperienced, immature priestess to spearhead the mission thinking she would be easy to manipulate. If so, then he sorely underestimated whatever control he believed he may have held over her.

The fact that she does make a move to find out the truth on her own says a lot toward the possibility that there were things very wrong behind those walls, and she was finally given strength and a recourse to break away. It was not a complete break, and her questions up until the encounter in the Ancients' temple were worded in ways that indicated she hoped the claims were wrong. Very understandable, and a very normal reaction.

Reluctantly Releases the Last of What was Her Past
Weaknesses


Filia and mace-samaAs wonderful as Filia is, she is far from perfect. She is still young and immature. As a dragon, she does have a violent, easily-triggered temper. She also likely does not quite perceive her own strength correctly, especially compared to a human's, and her physical reactions seem all the more extreme. She is stubborn and childish at times, and certainly selfish.

Filia hoards guilt the way other dragons hoard treasure. She takes the misdeeds and mistakes of her people on as her own burden to atone.

She still has plenty of moments throughout the series where she is convinced she knows the right thing to do, and behaves in a haughty manner. Filia is not an innocent, pure-hearted perfect angel by any stretch of the imagination. She still has hundreds of years of doctrine and upbringing ingrained in her, and that alone is a powerful force to deny. It still shows through, as she blunders her way through the series trying to find the right way. It shows through in episode 14, when she attempts to stop Valgaav from summoning Dark Star.
Filia: My name is Filia ul Copt, daughter of High Priest Bazaard ul Copt, and priestess of the first Holy Order.
Valgaav: Ah. You're quite an important person, aren't you? [dangerous, smiling glint to his eyes]
Filia: In the name of Valla Bazaard, the Fire Dragon King, I pass down judgement upon you! [dramatic pointing] Abandon your mad desires and repent your sins! If you don't...!
Valgaav: [narrows his eyes] If I don't..? Go on and say it, you naïve little girl. [starts walking toward her]

Valgaav's word choices are interesting, for someone who loathes the Golden Dragons as much as he does.

Filia's still the product of her upbringing. Although her motivations may be right, her ideas how to approach and handle things quite often are wrong. There is no malice nor intent of deception and harm in her efforts, but she doesn't know any better how to go about things. She's exactly what Valgaav recognized her to be: a naïve little girl.

She's far from perfect. She has personality quirks and drawbacks like anyone else. Her stubbornness gets her into trouble more often than not, and so does her temper. Her guilt hinders her, as does her determination to cling to it, even when the very fate of the world hinges on her decisions. On top of everything else, she has a problematic upbringing that she blunders and stumbles her way through in her efforts to find life beyond that.

She's Alive, But Can She Survive the Storm?
Strengths


Quiet courageOne of Filia's most visible traits of strength is her courage. It takes a great deal of that to be willing to accept truths you don't necessarily want to hear or believe, and she was willing. She wanted to hear that it wasn't, but who would not, in her position? The temple was the only home, the only life she knew. She was going against everything in her upbringing. I found her reluctance to accept the truth even as she asked the questions made her courage all the more believable. That would not be an easy path for anyone, and there have been plenty more in the history of time who have buckled under the threat of losing familiar security, even if it is a wrong familiarity.

Her other most noteworthy trait of strength is her heart. She is a genuinely caring character. Yes, she has selfish moments, but that is what makes her all the more real. She is a compassionate dragon who wants to improve things and make a difference, she just doesn't often know how to go about it correctly.

She tried to save Valgaav and turn him from the path he was on, even after it was already far too late. She did not want to give up on him. She saw the hurt inflicted, and it was in her nature to want to try and heal that and help him instead of fighting him. She felt a tremendous amount of guilt for the damages her people had done, and that guilt almost crippled her at a crucial moment. In the end, she did what she needed to do because it was the truly right and merciful thing.

At that moment, she moved beyond her selfishness and her own wishes, and broke her own heart to do what was right.

She put aside her own ingrained hatred for Mazoku to aid Xellos when he was wounded in a battle with Valgaav. Yes, Lina told her to do so, but we have also seen Filia, in previous episodes, prove she was quite willing to refuse on principle. And to aid a Mazoku who was on their side, but more than willing to kill the dragon she felt compelled to save? Her heart was big enough to be willing to extend that mercy, regardless of what her own feelings may have been. She displayed enough wisdom to realize that he saved her life (even if he did use her as a distraction immediately thereafter) earlier when she got caught in the crossfire of that battle.

Her stubbornness is a weakness, but it also a strength. It gave her the endurance she needed to see what ultimately became a very difficult, painful path to its conclusion, and face what it showed her head-on.

The Warnings From Her Family Whirl Like a Hurricane
Relationships


One of the problems with twenty-six thirty-minute episodes of what is, for the most part, a very serious and intense plot is that there is rarely room to focus on things which do not involve the situation at hand. In many ways, TRY is more the story of Xellos, Filia, and Valgaav than it is for the traditional four, and TRY is far darker a season than the previous two. We do not see any real noteworthy interaction between Filia with either Amelia or Gourry. The vast majority of Gourry's interaction with Filia dealt with her tail or her mace, and nothing to establish actual interaction with the characters. Filia and Amelia likewise did not have enough interaction for me to have anything to say about how they did or didn't get along.

The Supreme ElderSupreme Elder: The fandom is full of rumors - some true, many more which are not. I've heard it reported that it was once on a now defunct Japanese fansite that the Supreme Elder was actually Filia's father. Whether or not this is true, I don't know. But he is certainly the head authority figure in the temple. He demonstrates a marked lack of concern for her time and again. I believe that she was just a tool for him, when it was all said and done. I find it especially interesting that toward the very end of the season, when Valgaav fatally wounds the Supreme Elder, it is Lina and Amelia who run to the old dragon's aid. Filia barely pays him any attention.

Lina InverseLina: Filia and Lina butted heads frequently, especially in the beginning when Filia still felt she had to be in charge and be the leader. Once the plot began to move and things went beyond Filia's realm of control, the dynamics shifted. Filia became the follower to Lina's more natural leadership. They still conflicted frequently -- face it, Lina is not easy to get along with, and Filia did have plenty of personality quirks of her own -- but by and large, they began to work together reasonably well. It was Lina, after some backup from Xellos, that gave Filia the strength she needed to stop Valgaav once and for all. I think that in some ways, Filia looks up to Lina, and sees some traits in her that she wishes for herself. (Some, mind you. Not all.)

Zelgadis GraywordsZelgadis: He was certainly not unaware of Filia's beauty, remarking on it after their first meeting. He had little patience for her attempts at manipulation, but in episode 6, there is something which I noticed that makes me realize she had begun shedding that act she displayed before. Zelgadis is not typically someone to make a move to extend kindness or inclusion, yet he did here, with Filia. After Lina, Gourry, and Amelia tore off to a town on the horizon intent on getting food, Filia was left standing behind in the dust trails with a confused, and slightly lost expression. She was startled when Zelgadis stepped up beside her, quite possibly assuming he was far ahead with the others.

He walked with her after them, and later sat with her at the table while the others dined. He had his own questions for information about his never-ending quest, but this is Mr. Hi-I'm-Antisocial-And-Full-Of-Angst. Yet, he was the one who made the first move to socialize and include Filia, displaying kindness. (This is also a subtle demonstration of his own growth as a character. People who complain about the lack of development for the traditional four in TRY have missed the quiet details.) There is not much more shown for them overall beyond the beginning, but in that group, Zelgadis was the first one, possibly only, who she could perhaps consider as a friend.

Summoning the Dark StarValgaav: Earlier, I touched briefly on Valgaav's interactions with a member of a people he despised, and had every reason to hate them. He had no reason to not hate Filia, and initially, he saw her on the same level as everyone else. There is plenty of evidence in later episodes that this changed. (I could go into all the evidence that points to pre-massacre Val very likely being a kind-hearted, gentle dragon, but this is Filia's essay.) Yes, there were plenty of times he was cruel to her. Valgaav is not going to be the poster child for The Organization of Well-Adjusted Characters anytime soon (or even a member.) He's half-dragon and half-Mazoku and has seen levels of trauma which have left lesser people in gibbering puddles.

Filia and ValgaavBut, Valgaav had plenty of chances to kill her, or even inflict harm on her, be it physical or mental, and he did not. Episode 14 gives a heavy clue to why in what he calls her. Even as she condemned him, he saw her for what she was, just a naïve child who did not know any better, fumbling around in the dark trying to find her way.

In the previous episode, he defended Filia against Xellos when Xellos reaffirmed the truth of what happened to the Ancients in a brutal fashion, telling him to shut up, that Xellos had no right to 'smugly lecture her' about what happened to his people. There was still enough of his heart left to see what I've already pointed out before: that she believed him, and was willing to stake everything she had ever known on that. She was interested in what was right, not what made her people look the best.The gentle smile

Valgaav was too far gone to be saved. But there was never personal hatred there, once she stood out from among the rest. He had every reason to despise her, but instead gave her as much mercy as he was capable of. He was not capable of much, but there were moments. The aforementioned defense in episode 13 and the final confrontation in the last two episodes are the most memorable.

Xellos: There is a very thin blurry line sometimes between love and hate, and there is no truly neutral ground on which to stand in regard to Xellos' interactions with Filia. Almost everything they do together can be read as either he hates her, or he doesn't. The problem is, Xellos is an extremely secretive character (his catchphrase is "that is a secret") and what he shows and does often has hidden motives. He is extremely manipulative with centuries of practice, and when someone thinks he is a horrible sonuvabitch, more often than not, it is because that's exactly what he wants them to think. I will admit I'm a very staunch X/F 'shipper, and I do think that Xellos does not hate her. Filia does hate him initially, but that can be largely attributed to her upbringing and learned prejudices.Filia and Xellos

It is said that talk is cheap, and actions speak louder, and in Xellos' case, talk is quite often worth a dollar... in Monopoly™ money. So let's look at some of his actions on three separate occasions instead. Episode eight is interesting, especially if you consider the hinted darkness of the temple.
Filia: Miss Lina... I'm with you all the way.
Supreme Elder: Filia! You...?!
Filia: Forgive me, Supreme Elder! In this case, I believe Miss Lina and the others are correct!
[The sound of applause draws her attention, and she looks up to see Xellos seated on a roof.]
Xellos: Oh, my! Miss Filia, the straight-arrow, turning against the Supreme Elder? I never saw that coming!
Supreme Elder: Xellos! The detested Xellos?! Filia! Have you...?!
Filia: No, I haven't!
Xellos: [suddenly leaps down and appears right next to her] Allow me to help you, Miss Filia!

Granted, she then asked if he was trying to ruin her, but Xellos did provide a very important distraction for the dragons when Filia made her first real move to stand against them. When the Supreme Elder began to accuse Filia of something regarding Xellos, he -- the one who they dared not attack, knowing full well he could destroy them easily -- appeared beside her. That's potentially protective move number one.

During the battle with Valgaav in episode 13, Xellos stops in his torturing of Valgaav to save Filia from being crushed by falling rocks. Of course, he then drops her on Valgaav afterwards, but a Mazoku has a reputation to keep up. Not only that, Xellos does not like weakness. If Filia were to be seen as a way to get to him... why not try to conceal saving her as merely being a guise to further the torment? Potentially protective move number two.Hostage? Xellos, what are you up to now?

Much farther down the road in episode 21, Xellos apparently takes Filia hostage as a tool against the same Supreme Elder he just might have been protecting her from back in episode 8 to try and force him to remove the magic ward over the final Dark Star weapon. Remember, Xellos is manipulative, and he does have his own objectives to be taken into consideration here as well.

Supreme Elder...!If Xellos was indeed protecting Filia back in episode 8, this is a scene to watch for the body language and where attention gets focused. Filia's reaction to the Supreme Elder is more a display of fear than her reaction to Xellos taking her hostage.

You're lying!Xellos does not attempt to restrain Filia except with a mere warning, but holds his staff in both hands in front of her, very similar to a posture we so often see him take as a defensive stance in preparation to fight. The ensuing conversation gained a confession from the Supreme Elder that he knew where the final weapon had been all along, and why the Ancients were killed. Filia's attention was not on the deadly Mazoku at her back, but fixed on the dragon in front of her. For the first time, Filia admits to herself that the Supreme Elder has lied, and is still lying. Xellos has a very smug smile watching the Elder when Filia accuses him of lying, and makes no effort to carry through on his "one move and you're dead" threat from earlier in regard to her. He releases her, and attacks the Elder.

A broken world.Filia does attempt to stop him, but there are numerous reasons why she could have been motivated to do so. She's not a murderer. She might no longer trust him, it doesn't mean she wanted to see him dead. She has been dealt some very heavy emotional shocks in over the last few episodes, and she may not be ready to fully face losing the last of her past just yet (although she does renounce her home before leaving the Ancients' temple and leaves no longer a priestess.) And above all, she could still have far too many questions left to ask him, too many "whys" to be ready for his death.

This scene was brutal and harsh, but it got Filia to hear the truth in a way she would believe once and for all. She never gave an indication that she was genuinely afraid of Xellos, with her shock and horror fixed on the Elder nearly the entire time. Xellos does not make idle threats, but he did nothing to harm her. Was that his way of getting her to face the full truth, while covertly positioning himself to defend her in case the old dragon attacked? Perhaps. Xellos seems to so often say one thing, but in his actions appear to suggest at least some sort of reason or motive to watch after her. Protective scene number three.

Does she hate him? I believe that by the end of TRY, she does not know what to make of him. She was taught from day one that Mazoku are horrible monsters. She had deep-rooted learned prejudices. She also learned that her own people who had given her those prejudices lied about a great many things. She has to sort out for herself among everything she has been told which were the lies, and which was truth.

He's Gone, She's Got to Move On
Enduring Interest


It is the incredible character growth, courage, and heart that keeps me fascinated in Filia. There is so much potential here beyond the end of TRY, so many new roads to explore with her as she starts to come into her own. Her internal struggles of morality as she attempts to begin anew virtually on her own, with Valgaav's two servants, and the reborn Val for company. There's daily mundane hardships which would be difficult for anyone in that time period to overcome without outside help.
She's got to move on.
The fact she went into the season with all the answers, and very few questions, and walked out with very few answers, and far too many questions which will never be answered. And she has to learn to move on from there.

The cold reality of her facing a world which no longer makes sense, where every single thing she ever knew and trusted in could very well be deception, and dealing with the realization that she may not be able to discern truth from lie. She has lost her entire world and walked out with damaged trust.

It is a long hard road to rebuild.

And that is a fanficcer's wonderland playground.

Links:

Golden Dragon - a Filia shrine.
Masked Love - a Xellos/Filia shrine.
Destined Dragons - a Valgaav/Filia shrine.
Pure Gold : the Filia ul Copt fanlisting

Bonus Links:
filia_love
valfilia
xellosfilia
Garth Brooks' The Storm - lyrics used in section headers. -
Comments 
15th-Oct-2005 10:39 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful essay about Filia! I think you've done a fantastic job at showing all sides of her very well.

When I look at the interaction between Gourry and Filia, mainly in the early episodes, I see Gourry representing the POV of the viewer. The questions that he ask are the obvious ones, and the one that the viewer may have been thinking themselves - like in episode 5 when he asks why Filia and Xelloss are at such odds with each other.

With Amelia, I wish there had been more interaction in the series between them. You could detect the note of jealously in Amelia's voice when she reveals that Filia knows Holy Magic - a branch of white magic that died off long-ago in the barrier lands and she'll possibly never learn.
15th-Oct-2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Gourry's interaction is mainly to draw the viewer into what's going on, so there's not much there to analyze.

And I never picked up on the jealousy. There was nothing in text or actions, and while I've had tone of voice for various scenes analyzed, no one's ever pointed out the jealousy note there before to me. (I can't hear it myself - I'm deaf. ^_^)

But yeah, neither of them have a whole lot to point out and work with. I wonder if Zel being friendly doesn't have anything to do with that little trace of jealousy there. Hmmm...
16th-Oct-2005 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh poo. I spoiled it for myself. :) I'm actually still watching the first set of episodes. I don't remember which one that is. The last episode I saw was...the second time Rezo appears. They went to his lab or something. Sylphiel's in these episodes. I love the anime so far though. Hopefully they'll keep showing new episodes until I can afford the dvds.
17th-Oct-2005 02:45 am (UTC)
Great job, as expected! You're always someone to count on to give Filia some justice. ^_^
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