Is that why I understand these people when no one else wants to take the time? I have to wonder. In no way do I put myself on the same level as Tohru (NO ONE can be on her level, she's such a madonna!), but I know how much it hurts to be hated and how painful it is to try to hold yourself together when your world is on the verge of collapse. I've been there, so I know what they're going through. And it's like I can't do anything but love them. Their circumstances and their hidden emotions are so clear to me it's like I'm shouldering part of their pain. I want to help them, in any small way I can. Even if all I can do is love them. Because if even one person loves you... if even one person understands... that makes it all so much easier to bear. I know...
"Our souls may remain distant for eternity... But your heart, which beat so strong as to crush us... That, we will never forget..."
Since Gulcasa is a more prominent character in the storyline than Nessiah, we'll start with him.
At first glance, we see all that is of importance about him: Guy in command of opposing army who killed the heroine's parents. Most obviously, he's pure evil. Which is proved when he kidnaps said heroine and prepares to sacrifice her for nefarious unknown purposes. Right? Sadly, people who think like that could not possibly be further off.
To really get into Gulcasa's head, we have to start by not looking at him at all, but rather at Emilia. In the character information unlocked in the extra contents, it's stated that she's actually his half-sister. We, the audience, would never be able to figure that out on our own, because nowhere is it stated by either of them or anyone in the Imperial or Royal armies that they're not full blood siblings. Gulcasa and Emilia treat each other as blood kin and have very obvious affection for each other--Emilia is trusted enough to be one of Gulcasa's top generals and handles a lot of missions, she comes tearing off to save him even after she's been injured when she gets the feeling that he's in danger (and winds up arriving just in time to save him from being slaughtered by Milanor and his troops!), and most poignantly of all on Gulcasa's part, there's the scene at the very beginning of Chapter 8 where an Imperial messenger arrives to tell him that Emilia was killed in battle.
Gulcasa's first action is to kick everyone out of the room, and then we see something downright heartbreaking: For a few minutes, Gulcasa isn't the proud and dignified Emperor of Bronquia at all, just a grieving brother who blames himself for not being able to get the news in time to rush out and protect Emilia. Because he is the Emperor, once he realizes that Yggdra and the Royal Army have arrived at Flarewerk, he readies his troops and meets Yggdra's request for his surrender and promise that she won't harm his people with a blistering and furious "I don't believe you!". He then proceeds to state adamantly that there's no turning back now, since she's done pretty much the same thing he did to her, and killed those he loves. Gulcasa and his people will fight to the death.
As a rule, the truly evil don't have families, and even if they do, they don't give half a shit about them (see Leon the Black Knight as an example; he's perfectly willing to kill Elena even though she's his little sister). So this alone proves that Gulcasa is more than meets the eye.
Let's look even deeper. Emilia is Gulcasa's half-sister. Considering that divorce is a more modern attribute of society and that Yggdra Union is set in a medieval age, this means that Gulcasa lost one of his parents when he was very young; the absence of his remaining parent and step-parent in the story, when logically as the Emperor's family they should receive a lot of special attention, points to them being dead as well. Emilia is the only family Gulcasa has left.
As another rule, the truly evil don't have tragic backstories.
Historically, Bronquia's rulers have been associated with Brongaa, the Dragon of Purgatory (that's where the name of the country comes from, duh), and are apparently directly descended from it as well. Gulcasa is most obviously descended from Brongaa, and yet he had to assume the throne through a coup d'etat. This implies that his family were fallen nobility, victims of a previous uprising that may or may not have had to do with a previous war. (All I have to say about that is that there had to be some reason Gulcasa went after Fantasinia first...) So, all along, Gulcasa was the rightful heir to the Empire.
The people of Fantasinia hate Gulcasa and branded him with the cheerful moniker "Emperor of Carnage". Because they're so darn rebellious and troublemaking, he put the Fantasinian territories he conquered under martial law, which just made them hate him more. But how do the people of Bronquia feel about him? Quiiiiiite differently. Whenever Royal soldiers enter Bronquian towns, the citizens all call to Gulcasa for help or spew patriotically hateful stuff that usually has something to do with "Our Emperor is gonna beat the shit out of you now go away!" There's got to be some reason why he's inspired their loyalty; they all damn well adore him. And the civilians aren't the only ones; everyone in the Imperial military (aside from maybe Leon, but we don't care about him, he's an annoying asshole) takes pride in their leader and is more than happy to sacrifice him- or herself in attempts to protect Gulcasa and Bronquia from the Royal Army. (Which has to be painful for Gulcasa, since Baldus, Eudy, Luciana, Aegina, and Zilva are all his devout supporters and, in some cases, close friends.)
Gulcasa's the Emperor for a reason; he's almost always able to pull himself together and keep fighting, but every time something like that happens, he grows visibly more and more desperate.
But then, if he's a good person, then why would he want to summon Brongaa anyway?
Why, indeed? We hear nothing about Gulcasa planning to revive Brongaa until the Imperials are routed from Paltina by the Royal Army. But afterwards, Gulcasa makes off with Yggdra to Lost Aries, where he begins the ritual to unbind Brongaa's soul with plans to use her as the sacrifice to the dragon. He never says why he does this, but it's fairly easy to guess: The Royal Army has just become a much greater threat than Gulcasa anticipated, and he probably decided that they might not be able to win the war on their own. So, since he knows how to call Brongaa (Nessiah's doing, maybe? Our little Ness-chan is so helpful, it just boggles the mind. *rolls eyes and thwacks Ness*), he decides, well, I can always get my illustrious ancestor to destroy Fantasinia, and proceeds to try to do so.
Of course, Yggdra escapes; however, the shrine to Brongaa in the middle of Castle Bronquia would also suffice to make the sacrifice. After the Imperial Army fails to stop Yggdra from being coronated, Gulcasa withdraws his forces to his own lands and marshalls basically the entire country to fight a defensive war. If it looks like they're going to lose, he can always try to summon Brongaa again. However, since Yggdra is no longer available, a new sacrifice has to be found.
Gulcasa has to be the one to kill the sacrifice after awakening his dragon blood. There are plenty of people in the castle who, based on their loyalty to their Emperor and their country, would be happy to volunteer, but Gulcasa amazes those who think he's evil by selflessly deciding that he'll be the sacrifice instead.
Of course, things don't go quite as planned: When Gulcasa fully awakens his dragon blood, he starts to lose his mind and Brongaa itself begins to possess him; if he manages to kill himself to summon Brongaa, the dragon destroys all the humans' settlements instead of just Fantasinia, not even sparing Bronquia. If Gulcasa had known that would happen, he probably wouldn't have tried to summon Brongaa--he seemed to be under the impression that if Yggdra was the sacrifice instead of him, he would be able to influence Brongaa's actions, and that if he died, the dragon would respect its own land.
It's impossible to save Gulcasa. (Even though Yggdra tries.) No matter how he dies--as a sacrifice or slain by the Royal Army--his end is horrible. But if Yggdra defeats him, she doesn't just win the battle to save Fantasinia, she wins Gulcasa's respect. His last words (shown above) not only touch our hearts, but show that something of Yggdra's resolve has, in turn, touched him. They are words that those who love him can never forget.
Perhaps the greatest indication that we are brought to understand Gulcasa's innate goodness comes with the first thing Yggdra says after leaving the burning Castle Bronquia. She's come a long way from hating him and considering him evil for the deaths of her parents if she can say, "Forgive me, Gulcasa... I wanted a peaceful solution, but I couldn't stop you."
Gulcasa has suffered. Maybe more so than most of the cast of Yggdra Union. It takes a little looking and a little intuition to fully understand just how much.
(But after so much experience with that type, you just know without having to analyze anything at all. Even from first hearing that he was supposed to be the "villain", I could just tell: You're not as bad as you might seem. You're a good person. I'll take you into my heart, wounded as you are; there's always a place for you there. And no matter what, you'll always, always have my love.)
PS: Nessiah is next.