Neon Dynasty Deep Dive Color Pie Analysis
At the heart of Kamigawa lies a turbulent conflict of ideologies. A push and pull which is felt across the Plane and interpreted by each of the five colors of the color pie. For one it is a struggle between pushing forward into progress and that of returning to the old ways, of tradition. Kamigawa is really two worlds in one and it's that dichotomy which drives much of the conflict, that of the mortal world and that of the Kami. There can never be peace or a settling down of ideas because each color has its own perspective on what Kamigawa should be. In this way the color pie is strongly felt across this Plane, from the cycles to the factions, we can see that there is a clear picture of how each color reacts and acts upon Kamigawa and even in this age of the Neon Dynasty, some things never change. That push and pull that is always felt and will continue on forever...
That's the fascinating thing about the color pie, it tells us everything we need to know just by asking some simple questions, and so that's what I want to do, let's take a closer look at each color found on the Plane and ask, how does it view the conflict of progress versus tradition and where does it stand in this battle of ideologies? Before we move on though, I just want to extend a special thank you to my Patrons for their support it truly means a lot. If you' not a Patron consider becoming one today. Alright, for this video I want to start with Blue, the color who stands on the furthest end of progress, the one who aims to push Kamigawa into the future.
“Knowledge is the universal currency of the Multiverse. It is power. It is freedom. It is possibility itself.”
In the eyes of Blue and to a further extent the Saiba futurists, dependence on the Kami and their magic is a shackle which the mortals of Kamigawa choose to bind themselves to. Blue believes that we should instead rely on our own ingenuity and in that way it's in their best interest to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible, and on Kamigawa it would seem that anything is possible. Of course magic still courses through that same technology but within blue it's an additional tool. There are those who experiment with with Kami Magic to bend reality, but Blue doesn't want to be reliant on something that it can't control and in this way technology is where we can carve our own path, as we see on the card Essence Capture which reads
“The Futurists regard the tradition of kami-bonding as anachronistic and inefficient, striving constantly to surpass spiritual power with technology”
This shows us that blue doesn't wish to rely on static outside sources and instead would rather carve out its own path through the power of mortal minds. This is the reasoning why Blue pushes against tradition so much, its a shackle that holds the future back. The futurists say plainly for all to here, think of where would we be if we abandoned tradition and pushed forward full force into the future, what kind of Place could Kamigawa become. On Kamigawa of the Neon Dynasty there are a cycle of Shrines which reveal a core ideology of the color they represent on that Plane. For Blue we have Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom which reads.
“It seeks those driven by curiosity and offers enlightenment.”
Simply put Blue is drawn to knowledge and is motivated by what can be learned, uncovered and utilized. Science in this way is the pursuit of what is hidden and engineering is the application of what is found. This is why technology pushes ever forward.
Now of course this is Blue in an ideal world, but on Kamigawa, much like the rest of the multiverse Blue must contend with the other colors to dictate what their home should be. Colors like Green or White aim to restrict what is possible, and so this has another interesting effect on the color. In this way it must be secretive, never playing its hand outright. They keep their clandestine efforts close to the chest, even if they sometimes hide it in plain site, as no one is more clever that the futurists, at least that's what they believe. Emire states this perfectly on the card Mnemonic Sphere.
“Let the Imperials search our laboratories. Will they think to look for secrets in a pretty bauble?”
In the end they don't care how they are viewed, they know what's best for Kamigawa, it's just they have to play within the rules, for now, even if they cross the line from time to time. The best course of action is to evade detection and work in secret. The futurists believe their time will come and one day Kamigawa will praise them and their innovations. Blue is the color pushing into the future but what about the color who aims to pull Kamigawa back to its routes, back into the past, well for that we will now look to Green.
“Though they razed the surrounding forest, the builders of Towashi left Boseju
unscathed, shaping the city around the ancient tree.”
The conflict between the old and the new is felt strongest in the dichotomy between Blue and Green. Such a stark comparison shows us the eternal turmoil of the Plane. Green on Kamigawa reject the modern for tradition and history. Favouring the magic of the Kami over any artificial enhancement. In a lot of ways it goes deeper than this though, through the Historians the past is kept alive and through the order of Jukai the old ways are not just preserved they are fought to be kept alive. The Historians don't want the past to be forgotten, of the victories of mortals, or of the aid of Kami, we must live out the stories that brought us to where we are, stated perfectly on the card Bearer of Memory
“Members of the Living Historians don't simply chronicle the past; they embody it”
For if we forget the past then we threaten to repeat its mistakes. The Order of Jukai believe wholeheartedly that the idea of progress at any cost is what is damaging the fabric of nature and of reality, in that it's causing the tear between the Kami world and the mortal one. What they firmly accept is that instead of technology we must ask the Kami for guidance as we see on the card Commune with spirits which reads.
“The Kami of Jukai Forest accept only the most respectful petitioners.”
This shows us that Kami are here to help its just the noise of the city and the falsehoods of progress push us away from the relationship we should have with them. In this way Green wishes to pull progress back before it is too late, before the vision much of green holds comes true, the vision that the spirit realm is shattering and we must be there to heal it and not reject it.
In this way the order despises the futurists, and will lash out at them whenever given a chance. Sabotaging the works of the futurists is a duty that is handed out not because they crave destruction but because if Green doesn't fight to preserve nature then who will. This idea in tandem with the Shrine of Green is a great way to understand the Green of Kamigawa. Go-Shintai of boundless Vigor says this.
“It seeks those with untamed spirits and offers wild strength”
This strength is something the Kami wish to pass down, its just that they feel Kamigawa has rejected them, or wish to move past them. Of course life is important and the taking of life should be abstained from when possible, instead they focus their efforts on sabotaging that technology which kills the land in hopes that Kamigawa can be set free. Just like the ancient tree Boseju which sits at the heart of Kamigawa they too desire to reclaim the land and rise above the city skyline which aims to choke it. With the two extremes explained I want to next discuss White the color caught in between its conflicting neighbors.
“The blades will have their say, but peace is built on words”
Ever since the end of the Kami war White has been tasked with holding both ends of the rope in this eternal tug of war. White and to a further extent the Imperial Court believe that a balance can be struck and order maintained. It all began with the first being to Bond with Kiodai, Michiko Konda bringing Kamigawa into an age of truth and harmony. Which we see discussed on the card Hand of enlightenment.
“We have endured lifetimes of war and carved our way to peace by blade and conquest. Now, united at last under Kyodai's guidance, we lay down our weapons and open our minds”
It is a task that White doesn't take lightly, one it devotes its life too, something we see time and time again across the multiverse with this color. I believe one of the aspects which makes their devotion such a key feature is the history and importance of Bonding with Kiodai. It gives White and the the Imperial Court a sense of purpose, a purpose which can justify their presence and actions, but can also blind them from seeing the perspectives of others. When you are caught in the middle of a conflict of ideologies and forced to rein in both Blue and Green, it can be a never ending struggle.
Once again we come back to the turmoil that sits at the heart of modern Kamigawa and Whites role as a mediator and peace keeper. Looking to the Shrine of White we can see this idea brought to light.
“It seeks those who act with kindness and offers friendship”
This is not to say that White is all talk, peaceful words, and kind negotiation. No there are times when law has to be upheld and peace achieved through force. This is where the military might of White shines through. Laws and order are nice concepts but they must be upheld and White in this way never has patience for those who step against them. Devotion then takes on traits, like dedication, loyalty and discipline. Which we see on the card Eiganjo Exemplar
“Imperial samurai undergo strict training, honing their skill and purifying their spirits in the hope that they will prove worthy of a Kami's blessing”
White on Kamigawa holds an interesting position. They must have an eye to the future as the Plane continues to evolve through mortal ingenuity, all while keeping a finger on the pulse of the past, aiming to never forget where they came from, and the Kami magic which shapes the reality around them. In this way White does hold onto the best of both worlds so to speak. Not only does it have access to the technology which drives the Plane forward, as we see with cards like Dragonfly suit and hotshot mechanic, they also have a great respect for tradition.
As everything about the Imperial court is designed to reflect where they came from and utilizes many feudal Japanese tropes in their design. It is balance through order and to me nothing is more White. The three colors at the top of the Color pie dictate much of Kamigawa in the age of Neon Dynasty and their relationship molds the Plane, but what about Red and Black, colors who carve their own path, how do they fair on this Plane, and what is their position in this endless struggle. Let's begin that discussion with Black a color who has a similar relationship with Kami and technology as white does, its just that Black is eager to simply use it for personal gain, balance be damned.
“It's not one or the other, Kami or technology. Both offer power. I will not limit myself”
Black is a color that does not hesitate to use any tool at its disposal, whether it be Kami magic or mortal technology. Now this does not mean they respect the past or have sights on the future, it instead means that nothing should be considered off limits if it has use. To this end the Reckoners, the Black faction of modern Kamigawa, make bargains with Kami of forbidden magic and use technology of combat rather than progress. They are proud of who they are and don't aim to be anything that they aren't. Unlike like the other colors who act to enforce their ideals upon the world around them, the Reckoners make their stand in the now and take any advantage afforded to them. I think the card Nezumi Road Captain explains this mentality best.
“United by defiant pride in their outsider status, the Nezumi of the Okiba Reckoners boast the most advanced cyberbikes and best riders of the Reckoner gangs.”
One thing I assume you noticed in this piece is the last line, where it explicitly tells us that the Reckoners are unlike the other factions, they are not so much united as one but rather loosely amalgamated in their defiance. When Black forms groups its usually on a smaller scale, as each group and person within those groups aims to have the power for themselves, if able. In this way the gangs of the Towashi Under city often find themselves in conflict with each other over territory, only banding together when the other colors attempt to enforce their laws onto them. Each gang imposes its own code of conduct dictated by its own perspectives and goals, which may seem counter intuitive to Black, but remember these are not strict laws, just ways of carrying oneself so that each member within a gang and of that gang within the Reckoners doesn't cannibalize itself.
In a lot of ways Black holds a similar position as White within this aforementioned tug of war, but instead of holding order between the conflicting ideologies it instead does away with any need to define either as right or wrong, simply finding itself in the middle out of necessity. Another key difference is in its willingness to seek out the Kami who hide in the shadows for guidance and power. While this is a dangerous endeavor I ask you to look to one of the great heroes of Kamagawa in times past, Toshiro, a samurai, who through the aid of a dark Kami, helped put an end to the greatest war of the Plane. Toshiro and to an extent Black, is explained with uncertain but effective words on the saga Memory of Toshiro.
“Some called him the hero of the Kami war, others a selfish thief. As ever, the truth is hidden somewhere in the middle.”
This is what I mean when I speak of Black, it may have ideals which you do not agree with and yet I would not define them as good or evil, they simple wish to thrive and on Kamigawa this is no different. I say again don't think of Black as an evil presence on Kamigawa, instead ask yourself what you would do to gain a life for yourself on a Plane like Kamigawa if you were born in its turbulent streets with the sun blotted out by both an ancient tree and the buildings reaching for the sky, both of which define who you should be. A place where conflict is ever present in the streets, a place where dark Kami of ill intent and demons lurk.
You would do what you had to do and you would reject those who say to do better for they don't know what its like in the Towashi under city... Before we move on I want to leave you with this idea and ask yourself if you were bread in these circumstances would you resist this offer from Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty
“It seeks those with hate in their hearts and offers vengeance”
I now want to move on to Red, and I saved it for last because I believe it holds an odd position on Kamigawa, making it a total outsider in all of this, as it is neither on one side or the other of the debate, nor is it in the middle. It simply wants to be free from the shackles that bind.
“Among the artisans of Sokenzan City, reusing every scrap of metal is a point of pride”
On Kamigawa Red finds itself in an auspicious position. They reject the rigid laws of White, the foolish reverse thinking of Green and the cold futurist outlook of Blue. It does not strive for balance or for power, it simply wishes to be free to act as it desires. Free from laws or traditions which restrict. Even though you will find goblins and humans working and living together within Sokensashi, I like to think of their outlook as the humanistic ideal of Kamigawa. They don't think so much about where the Plane should be headed or where its been, just that we should be free to make our own decisions about how we wish to carry out our lives and our work, and so it's no surprise that they hide deep in the mountains away from the noise of the city and its expectations. It is here that they craft their own place out of the scraps of the discarded machines, aiming to disrupt the the order which strangles the land. I want to once again refer to the shrine of this color to better define this idea, with the card Go-Shintai of Ancient war which reads
“It seeks those consumed with rage and offers burning blades”
While Green and Red are ally colors, they don't quite hold a similar relationship on Kamigawa, as gripping tightly onto the past is no way to live in the present. In a lot of ways they lean into their other neighbor Black a lot more, in that they reject the forces telling them how they should be. Some might think that Red brings chaos to the Plane, and it wouldn't be to much of a stretch to agree, I mean they don't call themselves the Asari up-risers for nothing. The difference is that it's not chaos for its own sake, its the fight for true freedom, and isn't freedom the lack of restrictive order thus some might define it as chaos. Even the construction of their society is far less rigid, with no true vertical structure or hierarchy, instead opting for horizontal leadership.
Their ranks are filled Samurai who have become disenfranchised with the Imperials and have become Ronin, soldiers who fight on the field for what they believe in and artillerists who are the pure explosive energy of Red and of those who hold the Kami fire in them. Everyone of them is supported by a thriving community of artisans and inventors. Sokenzashi is more like a commune for like minded individuals tired of the lavish streets of Kamigawa, of individuals who have carved their own home in the mountains among steel and snow. If one thing could be said about Red's place on Kamigawa it would be this line on the card Akki Ronin.
“Carry the heat of the furnace in your steel, and never let it fade.”
Kamigawa has always been a Plane where each of the five colors hold a strong identity, it may not be so obvious when you first look but the deeper you go the more you find. Its no coincidence that each of the five factions are so well defined and impact on the Plane so severely. Deeper still there is the abundance of cycles which spin their own tale when provided a similar concept. I urge you to take a second look at your collection cards from neon dynasty, you'll be surprised just how much you can learn about a Plane with the cards in hand and the color pie as your guide.
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