The influence of William Shakespeare’s works on Blast of Tempest (or Zetsuen no Tempest) isn’t subtle in the least but what it helps form is something all the more unique and fascinating beneath its homages and references.
A Tale of Revenge, a Blast of Tempest
Blast of Tempest‘s classical revenge tale takes heavily from Hamlet and The Tempest (hence the title, as Blast of Hamlet just doesn’t have the same ring to it), both being stories about retribution but with entirely different outcomes. One of our protagonists, Mahiro Fuwa is out to kill the person responsible for the murder of his step-sister Aika. Much like how the lead of Hamlet wishes to kill his uncle Claudius as revenge for killing his father. Likewise both are also prone to abandoning all morals and reason for the sake of revenge.
As a result he feels that the whole situation is wrong and illogical. That Aika’s death should never have occurred and that the only thing he can do now is make things right no matter the cost.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
The words uttered by Mahiro at the end of Episode 1 of Blast of Tempest ‘The Mage in the Barrel’, taken from Hamlet, Act I, Scene V.
Along for the ride is his closest friend and confidant Yoshino Takigawa (much like Horatio in Hamlet). Who besides helping his friend out of general kindness and making sure he doesn’t go too far, also has a personal stake in this quest. This being the fact he was Aika’s boyfriend. A secret the two of them have kept from everyone, even long after her death.
Yoshino would even use this quote from Hamlet, Act V, Scene I to describe his love for Aika long after her death
I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers. Could not with all their quantity of love. Make up my sum.
Completing out the members in this quest of revenge is Hakaze Kusaribe, a mage who was the leader (and princess) of her clan. After objecting to clan member Samon’s decision to awaken the “Tree of Exodus”, whose power can bring ruin to the entire world. She is betrayed and exiled on a remote island, washing up inside a barrel of all things.
The Mage Trapped on an Island
While Mahiro’s quest to avenge Aika’s death in Blast of Tempest harkens to the revenge story of Hamlet, Hakaze’s situation references The Tempest. In that she and the play’s protagonist Prospero are sorcerers betrayed and exiled on a remote island. By luck or perhaps fate, Hakaze’s message in a bottle (a magical walkie-talkie doll) makes its way to Mahiro and the two agree to assist each other. Hakaze using her magic to find Aika’s killer while Mahiro will help to stop Hakaze’s clan from carrying out their plan.
While both Hamlet and The Tempest’s influence on the plot is so great that even the characters reference them. It’s The Tempest‘s story and its ending that holds the most weight on the characters themselves. Unlike Hamlet, The Tempest’s story ends happily for a revenge tale and Yoshino uses this fact to justify why he rescued Hakaze from the island.
Rather than let her continue to suffer more than she needs to in the situation she’s trapped in. He no longer wants such tragedy to take place, especially when it’s born from another tragedy (this being Aika’s death) and it’s something he’s determined to see through. It’s his personal conversations with Aika on a subject like Shakespeare that help to form this view.
The Influence of The Dead
Deceased characters whose presence and influence are always felt throughout is a common thread in both Hamlet and The Tempest. For Hamlet, it is the lead’s father whose murder kickstarts the plot and his ghost who visits him repeatedly. For The Tempest, it’s the character of Sycorax, the mother of the island’s beast Caliban who influences the plot and character relationships.
This all in turn takes the form of Aika for Blast of Tempest. The step-sister of Mahiro and girlfriend to Yoshino, whose relationship & influence on them is so heavy that their main motivation throughout the series always relates to her. As well, her character and personality forms through various flashbacks and Mahiro and Yoshino’s personal accounts of her.
Painting the picture of an elegant, well read lady who enjoys Shakespeare, but is also cold and playful in her banter. It’s clear she seems to understand and know the two boys better than they know themselves. But even with these facts, she emanates an air of mystery that even Mahiro and Yoshino wouldn’t know about.
A Tragic Love Story
Shakespeare plays have always had tragic romance and love, from the iconic star crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet to the complicated love dodecahedrons in Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s fairer to say the latter’s romantic entanglements fit better with Blast of Tempest above anything else. As the amount of unrequited love going around is equally as staggering.
For starters, there’s the already established relationship between Yoshino and Aika that continues to haunt him after her death. On the flipside, Mahiro is in love with Aika, as much as he can’t seem to accept it (after all they may be family, but they’re not blood related). Explaining why his over protective actions were enough for her and Yoshino to keep their relationship a secret from him.
Complicating things further is Hakaze, who builds up heavy feelings towards Yoshino over the first half of the series. Admiring him through the conversations they have, the kindness he shows her or how serious he can get. The final straw being when he fights tooth and nail to get her off the island.
After successfully getting off the island, she seems to have a hard time covering herself up around Yoshino. Having never fell for anyone before, everyone else is utterly puzzled at her behaviour too. The unrequited love coming in as she can’t act on her feelings, because Yoshino had lied about having a girlfriend. Said girlfriend already dead and he himself having kept his grief bottled up inside this whole time.
All leading up to the events of Episode 18 ‘The Dancing Princess’ where Hakaze confronts Yoshino and learns the truth. Seeing how Yoshino has so convincingly lied to everyone while still hiding his intense feelings of grief and anger. Hakaze is as surprised as she is distraught to learn what he’s been through all this time. Insisting that hiding his feelings away wont do any good and to let it all out. Which he does even after claiming that letting it all out wont accomplish or change anything.
What, exactly, would change if I wanted revenge, was consumed by hatred, or went insane with rage? Would any of that bring Aika back?
These romantic entanglements start to unravel themselves after this confrontation in Blast of Tempest. As Yoshino and Mahiro come to terms with their feelings for Aika and finally move on with their lives. Mahiro managing to accept her and Yoshino’s relationship with barely a bad or violent reaction. While Hakaze no longer needs to hold herself back around Yoshino as the two decide to make a new start.
Lastly, we have Aika, who through some time travel and other plot revelations accepts her fate and the future the men in her life have. Letting herself die to ensure a future where a happy ending can happen. Even if it is born from a tragedy.
The Tale of Tragedy Ends Happily in Blast of Tempest
Blast of Tempest is a show that takes influence from Shakespeare but ultimately uses him and his stories as stepping stones to form its own unique plot and characters. These elements of the plot all bear a resemblance to the characters and plot of Hamlet and The Tempest. But they remain superficial and are expanded upon in the anime’s universe in natural manner.
To top it all off, Mahiro states the following to Aika’s grave in Episode 24 ‘To Each, Their Own Tale’:
Aika, I’m not going to live my life by another person’s script, not by Hamlet and not by The Tempest either. I don’t know how many years it will take but no matter what, I’m going to create my own ending.
Presenting a story where tragedy happens but happiness still wins. Where these characters have fought for it and as a result earned that happy ending for their story themselves. Leaving Aika to end the entire story on this quote, made up by the series rather than taken from Shakespeare:
The beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning. Well then, let us begin again. And to each, their own tale.