Translation: Two Japanese critics on the politics of GATE

Gate_00

Last week, Frog-kun combed a range of Japanese sites to bring you some Japanese reactions to the GATE anime. However, the most loudly-expressed opinions even amongst domestic fans just barely skim the surface of the political maelstrom that lies beneath. That intense domestic debate over Japan’s security policy was alluded to in the major article he linked, just beyond the part that he translated. In order to provide a bit more insight into that debate, I decided to translate the remainder of the article, so that English-speaking anime fans might have a better idea of what the fuss is all about.

Many, many thanks are due to Frog-kun, who generously let me use the part that he originally translated and checked my translation of the rest. Any mistakes or misinterpretations that remain are my own.
—karice

Is the JSDF anime GATE right-wing?

They smite their enemies with weapons and get the good-looking girls

Is GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There!, a web novel that has been turned into an anime, a right-leaning piece of entertainment that tickles one’s patriotism? Writer and editor Iida Ichishi and sci-fi literary critic Fujita Naoya shrewdly tackle this question.

(This article/conversation was published online on August 20, 2015, after 7 episodes of the first series had aired.)

The original story began online 9 years ago.

Iida: Well then, on the topic of GATE. As an anime about the JSDF going to and fighting in another world, it’s become a huge subject of debate—as was expected even before it aired.

Fujita: Even though there are a lot of parts that would inevitably be criticized as “right-leaning entertainment,” I find it very interesting to watch. It’s directed by Kyogoku Takahiko, who also directed Love Live!. Whilst it’s a childish idea have a game world—a fantasy world that you’d find in something like Dragon Quest—connected to present day Japan, it’s interesting to see adults use their skills to bring it to the screen.

There’s just something fascinating about the notion of using modern weaponry to trample upon others with inferior technology. It reminded me of Hanmura Ryou’s G.I Samurai and Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness.1 Fighting an army of the dead with chainsaws. There’s something of a superiority complex, of narcissism, in it.

However, if you were to depict modern warfare as it actually exists today, you’d be dealing with things such as drones, nuclear weapons and aerial bombing. In order to depict something akin to a pretend battle involving an army—i.e. tanks and soldiers—you probably need this kind of ‘imaginary enemy’.

To have the dead piling up like that makes for thrilling viewing. It’s also interesting that the main character, who’s a member of the JSDF, is an otaku. This might even be what it’s like if the otaku generation were to go to the battlefield. The protagonists sing magical girl anime theme songs as they are driving along, but in Full Metal Jacket, American soldiers were singing The Mickey Mouse (Club) March in Vietnam. I really felt the generation gap and irony inherent in that middle-aged soldier coming to understand that situation through the notion of a monster movie.

Iida: Well, the original story was began on the Internet 9 years ago, so it was probably written with the author never imagining that the world would turn out the way it has. I think it’s best to remember that.

Fujita: The anime adaptation was probably planned because of the current debates around the right to collective self-defense.

Iida: No, plans for the anime adaptation were probably underway three or four years ago, and while the Abe administration was talking about Abenomics back then, they were barely saying anything about reforming the right to collective self-defense in the Constitution, so I think it was a coincidence. The airing schedule wouldn’t have been decided right until the very last moment.

On a fundamental level, I don’t think GATE has a net uyo(Internet rightwing)-ish message. Even in the web novel, the protagonist Itami, a JSDF official, was non-political. He declared that he had never been to Yasukuni Shrine.2

Fujita: On that topic, though, the first Abe Cabinet (2006) upgraded the Japanese Defense Agency—formerly a bureau subordinate to the Cabinet—into a full Ministry.3 Abe also enacted the National Referendum Law, which paves the way for constitutional reform.4

Iida: During Abe’s first cabinet, the novel hadn’t even been published in tankobon format yet.

Fujita: The web novel is a product of its time. From the time of the first Abe administration, it was evident that he was trying to work towards reforming the constitution and reducing the restrictions on the JSDF.5 There are parts in the web novel that definitely resonate with the time it was made. In 2007, the Abe Cabinet declared an intention to seek constitutional reform.

Iida: I suspect the anime staff would not be pleased if people thought they were connected to the Abe administration. But then again, they probably want to avoid criticism just for including the JSDF. No matter how you handle the subject, you’d be criticised by both the left and the right.

Abe-Yasukuni
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo at Yasukuni in December 2013.

Fujita: I’d argue that the creators must have known that depicting the JSDF at this time would have created a certain impression for those watching it, so they must have been prepared.

Iida: The other day, I had the chance to interview Yanai Takumi, the original author, and since the anime staff was nearby at the time, I asked, “Doing the series at this time will definitely be taken a certain way, right?” and he said, “No it’s just simple entertainment; I never thought about it at all.” It was just something he said while we were chatting, though. That the series doesn’t have a political motive.

Fujita: Yeah, right! lol. You can’t say it has no political element or that you can ignore it all just because it’s “simple entertainment.”

Be that as it may, what are your views on the show?

Making the JSDF personnel deployed to the other world such over-the-top characters is…

Iida: I’d already read the original novel—purely as a piece of entertainment—before all the hoohah. Take for example the earthquake that Yanai-san depicted in the story; that happened just before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake triple disaster. Yanai-san had originally planned to finish that part of the story and move on, but then judged that “It’s not good to run away from this,” and so proceeded to cover the characters trying to figure out what they should do after the in-story quake. These kinds of things make me think that the novel is quite sincere.

In the anime, I feel…that the girls, the weapons and the action are made too prominent. Because of the controversial set-up, the LN goes about creating some sort of ‘justification’ for it. But it seems like it’s been cut from the anime, whether for lack of time to cover it or various other reasons.

For example, the protagonist Itami comes across as someone who’s one minute wondering why there are so many casualties on the other world’s side, but then going “Woohoo! An elf!” the next. People have commented on how weird that is. But Itami’s background is something that is eventually covered in the novel, and before that, the anime versions of Itami and his colleague Kurata, who’s also an otaku, come across as being even more over-the-top. Especially Kurata.

Kurata

Fujita: It’s like their guilt for killing their opponents has been diluted, huh? Real soldiers would find that to be a pretty traumatic experience. That’s one of the things that also drew my attention.

Iida: For me, when reading the novel, it feels like ‘the JSDF’ is just a series of characters on the page, as in “Oh? So that’s the setting/set-up”? But when I watch the animated version, it feels like there’s a message I’m meant to be receiving. The effect is completely different. I don’t really get much of a fetish for military weapons in the novel, but it feels like its front-and-centre with the anime version.

Where is the line between fiction and reality?

Iida: Compared to the novel, the depiction of the SDF in the anime was definitely closer to their current state in the real world. As a result, the show makes you envision the real JSDF whether you want to or not. Apparently, someone who used to be in the JSDF is involved in checking the military settings material. If this really was just “simple entertainment,” then they could have made it something of a phony JSDF that would have come across as “pure fantasy.” Instead, they went for the real thing, though they also made the “I love bishōjo!” characteristics of the show’s JSDF personnel even more prominent. Given these two opposing directions, where should viewers draw the line between fiction and reality?

Fujita: I see. I’m the kind of person who enjoys it when stories mix reality and fiction together, so I find GATE interesting for that very reason. Of course, depending where fiction and reality overlap, there’s a high possibility that criticism will be severe. After all, they are using real-world politics in fiction.

Iida: Even in the novel, there’s stuff about loving bishōjo, and the JSDF plays a very active role. It’s fiction that’s obviously fictional, so it’s fun to read. But at the same time, with regards to questions such as “how should JSDF personnel behave in this situation?,” the super-fictional presentation itself justifies it. In the anime, it feels completely unrestrained. The story originally appeared as a web-novel, and such stories have a tendency to be about wish fulfillment. So when you cut out the justifications, wish fulfillment is all that remains.

Gate_01

Fujita: Speaking in terms of political correctness, this is a work that will inevitably been seen as projecting onto another world one’s desire to invade other countries in the real world. In fact, that’s what I think GATE is all about.

Iida: No, I disagree with that interpretation. If that were indeed the case, then the enemies in the other world would be fashioned more like China or some other real country in our own world.

Is it better to have ‘justification’ or not?

Fujita: However, I think that leaving out those justifications (in the setting) allow you to extract more pleasure from the wish fulfillment aspects of the story, making it more interesting.

Iida: When a former JSDF member depicts the JSDF, I don’t think they’d do it without justifications…or rather, without thinking about things like its raison d’être or what kind of organization it should be. In fact, someone who doesn’t know about that reality would be more likely to just lay all of his/her desires straight out on the page.

Fujita: But anime is anime—it’s a part of the entertainment industry. Isn’t it inevitable for this to happen, all for the sake of increasing the pleasure and enjoyment that viewers get from the show?

Iida: How does that fit with what you were saying before? Do you mean “Well, then it’s fine for them to do whatever they want?”

Fujita: Even if it’s inevitable because that’s the way things are done within the industry, I believe that anime have an influence on the way people think and feel. I want to analyse that effect. I want to know the context of the eras in which these kinds of works become acceptable, or in which their creators think they’ve become acceptable. And if I think there are problems with it, I’ll criticise it.

Iida-san, where do you stand?

Iida: Rather than running away from it, I think they should face those difficult and troubling issues head on, presenting them to the viewers. Questions like “what would happen when the other world’s forces clash with the JSDF?” “How would surrounding countries act?” and “In an emergency, on what basis should the JSDF act?” The show would have been deeper than the original novel if they’d managed to do that—I’d have liked to have seen that.

Fujita: That’s a surprise. I didn’t expect to be the one defending what the anime creators did, lol.

Iida: I think GATE could have been a work that generated some good debates, whilst also succeeding as entertainment. Of course, this comes down to different interpretations of “what do you hope to see in GATE?” I wanted to see the show present the question “What is the JSDF?” to viewers, making them think about it not from the left or the right, but rather front on. That said, no matter what they do, just being an anime about the JSDF means that they can’t avoid being the object of controversy. I admire their guts for putting hand up in the midst of controversy, and I wouldn’t say I don’t commend their efforts.

GATE_recruitment
GATE is actually being used in recruiting material for the real JSDF…

How is GATE different from other ‘military fetish’ series?

Fujita: This sense of “a lack of restraint” is also apparent in series such as Strike Witches and Kantai Collection.6 It’s a trend that’s escalated in recent times. It’s very different from the 1990s, when this country had something of an allergy towards the JSDF. It’s like “the times have changed.” On the one hand, there is a glamourous appeal in running wild (the pleasure gained from breaching ethical and other sorts of restraints); on the other hand, I do feel that it is dangerous for us to be heading down this path.

Iida: I don’t agree with that (interpretation). In the 1990s, no one got really angry about The Idol Defense Force Hummingbird, and few people tried to compare it to the real JSDF at the time. Going further back, we find the same thing for G.I. Samurai.7 In many ways, it’s a far more sensitive topic these days.

Fujita: However, I feel like the number of these kinds of series has increased.

Iida: But that’s only because it’s been a while since we’re seen the JSDF in an anime, right? There have been lots of ‘military fetish’ series. Library War also wasn’t about the JSDF.

Fujita: Perhaps there just aren’t many anime where the JSDF appear. Putting anime aside, when we consider the entire entertainment industry as a whole, I think that they’ve appeared more often. For example, in the drama Public Affairs Office in the Sky. The Idol Defense Force Hummingbird was an OVA, after all—it wasn’t made for the general public.

Iida: But OVAs back then are basically like late-night anime today. The latter aren’t made for the general public either.

Take Miyazaki Hayao as an example: to those who like weapons but dislike war, envisioning today’s JSDF fighting another country in order to depict those weapons and military forces is something they generally wouldn’t do. They wouldn’t want to connect an imaginary war with a real war. Even KanColle has a basis in historical fact, but the enemy is an unfamiliar entity, and the characters are warships that have been personified as bishōjo. But GATE uses present-day Japan as its stage, upon which the JSDF conducts operations of war. It thus comes a lot closer to reality, when compared with other ‘military fetish’ works. And that’s why the debate is so much fiercer.

Kantai-Collection

Iida: This contradicts what I said before, but half of me feels like “I wanted something that I could enjoy quietly, without all this fuss!”

Fujita: Personally, I think the show’s quite accomplished. It provides a fine taste of ‘the pleasure of invasion’, encompassing the notions of trampling upon a country with inferior technology, collecting bishōjo along the way, whilst also providing a reasonable alibi in that they’re ‘protecting (Japan)!’ To me, satisfying desires that aren’t acceptable in the real world through fiction is something that we do everyday anyway, but the way the “desires” are in GATE has a unique twist. I’ll be paying close attention to how and where this “twist” lands.

Imperial Japan’s invasion of other countries during Second World War, too, was premised on ‘lofty ideals’ such as ‘freeing them from the yoke of the West’. I think that boasting of one’s faults through a work about this kind of sadistic pleasure is, paradoxically, rather ethical. It’s a show that makes you aware that this kind of cruelty and pleasure can be found within yourself, and it makes you reflect upon it.

Disclaimer: None of the views expressed in this article are mine. I dropped GATE after just three episodes, so I won’t be able to answer questions about the show or the source novel. On the other hand, if you have any queries about Japan’s security policy, what the Abe administration is trying to do, or how the broader Japanese public has reacted, then I’ll try my best to share what I know. Alternatively, you can just follow some of the links below.
–karice

Notes

1. Army of Darkness has the ridiculous Japanese title of Captain Supermarket 「キャプテン・スーパーマーケット」.

2. Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto Shrine in Tokyo that has been used since the Meiji Era to house the souls who have died in the service of the Emperor and thus the Japanese nation. In the latter sense, it’s similar to Arlington National Cemetery in the US. What’s controversial about Yasukuni, however, is that it also houses the souls of 1,068 war criminals, including 14 A-Class ones. The grounds also host a museum with a revisionist view of the Pacific War (WW2). Abe and many other Japanese politicians often visit the Shrine to pay their respects to the dead; this inevitably sparks backlash from Korea and China. However, it’s important to note that many Japanese people have complex feelings about the shrine—a branch of the group that supports visits to the Shrine has even passed a resolution asking the priests at Yasukuni to remove the souls of the 14. (Further reading, if anyone’s interested.)

3. The Japanese Defense Agency (JDA), first established in 1954, was unlike the Defense Ministries or Defense Departments in other sovereign states like the US, Australia etc. As an agency subordinate to the Cabinet (= the Japanese Prime Minister and the individuals that he has chosen to head the various Japanese Ministries), it did not have much of a say in shaping Japanese security policy. It was effectively relegated to managing policies determined by the Foreign Ministry and the PM’s office. The first Abe administration (2006-7) proposed a revision of the original 1954 law to upgrade the JDA to a Ministry, establishing the position of the Minister of Defense and thus giving it a bigger say in Japan’s national security policy. (Further reading.)

4. Article 96 of The Constitution of Japan allows for revision following a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of its parliament (which is known as the Diet) followed by a national referendum. The Constitution specified that the Diet should set the conditions for the referendum, and the National Referendum Law was passed in 2007 stating that only a simple majority would be required for the public vote. Given this rather late development, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Japan’s Constitution has never been modified since it was promulgated in 1946 (c.f. the 33 amendments of the US Constitution). Of course, what’s controversial is that the main aim of Japan’s conservatives has long been to revise Article 9, the (in)famous peace clause that appears to bar Japan from having a military… (Further reading.)

5. Because of Article 9, there has been much debate over what Japan’s Self-Defense Forces should actually be allowed to do ‘in self-defense’. As a concrete example of what this has entailed, when Japanese SDF engineers were deployed to Iraq to help in reconstruction efforts in 2004, there was a debate over whether they were allowed to defend themselves against attack. As such, they had to be protected by another military force (Australia’s). More recently, the debate has been about whether the JSDF should be allowed to participate in ‘collective self-defense’. That is to say: whether it can defend another country or its people, by, for example, shooting down intercontinental missiles that have been launched at the US etc etc.

6. I assume most of you will have heard of Strike Witches and Kantai Collection, since they’re pretty recent titles. The article points Japanese readers to further discussion in a book titled Bunka Boukoku-ron (A Theory of Destructive Culture—thanks, Frog-kun!), where Fujita and Kasai Kiyoshi devote one chapter to the topic of ‘right-wing entertainment’.

7. The Idol Defense Force Hummingbird consisted of four OVAs released between 1993-1995. The G.I. Samurai novel was published in 1974, and a film based on it was released in 1979. The Japanese title is Sengoku SDF 「戦国自衛隊」.

And for even further reading

If you’re interested in making your own informed conclusions about Abe and his intentions with regards to Japanese security policy—that is to say, if these extensive notes have not actually bored you to death—these two articles present quite a comprehensive and nuanced view of many of the debates you’ll need to know. I’d also suggest following some of their links.

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist in training. I also love musicals, photography, travel and believe it or not, the game of cricket. よろしく!

20 Responses to Translation: Two Japanese critics on the politics of GATE

  1. Frog-kun says:

    Thanks for this! The links you provided have been really informative and helpful, especially Wakefield and Martin’s article on the Asia-Pacific Journal. In my own article, I avoided delving into the Article 9 debate because I thought it would take focus away from the raw reactions, but also because I foolishly assumed that the debate is “common knowledge”. However, I learned some new things from your notes, which made me realise that perhaps the nuances in the debate are not “common knowledge” after all.

    There’s a certain danger inherent in showing others polarising rhetoric without the proper context. While it’s certainly true that a lot of those Japanese internet commenters only scratch the surface of these issues – especially in their casual dismissals of “the other side” – to an outsider it would simply look like everyone is getting worked up over a whole lot of nothing. Or, worse yet, a one-sided argument may even seem persuasive to the uninformed. That’s why it’s not enough to simply translate what people are saying, not without letting readers know exactly what’s at stake. I think that your post is a valuable contribution to the debate. So thank you once again!

    Like

    • karice says:

      And thank you for highlighting the article in the first place! It would have completely slipped me by otherwise.

      Going over it again, I realised that the Wakefield and Martin article was predominantly on the progressive side, so I’ve just added another article from the conservative side. Admittedly, this commentator had the advantage of writing after the security bills were actually passed, and some of the criticisms that progressives had are actually incorporated into the CSD law.

      In my experience in the anime fandom, most fans don’t really understand what’s going on with Japan’s security policy. But it doesn’t really surprise me given how the media covers just the extreme views, leaving out all the nuances. I’d probably be little wiser if I hadn’t been studying and teaching about Japanese and East-Asian security over the last few years. Even now, I still find things that surprise me–e.g. right-wing mangaka Kobayashi Yoshinori and anti-base politicians and scholars in Okinawa being on the same side of a debate!

      That said, when I saw how long my notes were getting, I started wondering if this really had been such a good idea…so I’m glad you found them useful and informative! I’m not sure how useful it’ll be to the debate in the fandom, though, as I doubt too many of the people still watching GATE will read it (^^;;

      And thanks for the follow! ^^

      Like

  2. Frog-kun says:

    Reblogged this on Fantastic Memes and commented:

    A useful companion to my last post about Japanese reactions to the Gate anime. Karice has kindly translated Iida and Fujita’s entire discussion. She has also included some in-depth notes explaining the context behind the debate. Please give it a read!

    Like

  3. Frog-kun sent me here and I echo his thanks for some more insight into this topic. In fact, I’m more interested about this vacuum of the ‘midpoint’ of sorts…the lack of sound acknowledgement of differing sides of the political spectrum. Against the backdrop of US elections and its resulting drama; an ordeal that I can’t begin to understand, despite the amount of reading I attempted to consume during the last few weeks (…ok, maybe 90% were Trump-related)…I still struggle to understand this societal construct in its countless forms (among others), as evidenced by my experiences in the past week.

    Also, it was cool to see some brief insights on Japan’s thought-process during WWII…kinda a touchy subject within my very much Chinese family.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

      Yeah, the way so many of these debates don’t seem to have a midpoint is interesting. Perhaps that’s where ‘the silent majority’ sits, but they don’t want to say anything because they’ll only be lambasted by voices from the two extremes? Social media seems to have made it worse–as evidenced by research in recent years about the social media echo chamber–but it begins and ends with individuals and groups who aren’t willing to try and look at things from a different point of view. It’s happened in my own family, a number of years ago, and even now, we’ve only papered over cracks that will probably always be there. It’s a bit like threading on eggshells sometimes… I hope the frustrations you’ve been having will meet a better outcome!

      Also, it was cool to see some brief insights on Japan’s thought-process during WWII…

      That line…when I first read it, I really didn’t want to translate it because it’s potentially the most controversial statement in the entire article. I put it in quotation marks because it seemed like Fujita was being slightly sarcastic about the “lofty ideal.” If you’re interested, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy goes into it in a lot more detail, as do some of John Dower’s historical accounts of Japan during that time.

      Like

  4. sikvod00 says:

    Thanks for the translation. So in Japanese politics, conservatives generally believe in the right to collective self-defense and progressives do not? Here in the states, the right and left have mountains of disagreements over war and security, but we typically all agree on that one point.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Hm…no, that’s a bit too much of a simplification. The conservatives generally do believe in it, yes, but they’re split on how Japan should act on that right (i.e. on the extent to which Japan should ‘contribute to international security’, and whether by mere funding contributions, middling logistical support, or actually further developing the JSDF and its defense industry). Included in this mix is the question of what form the US-Japan alliance should take.

      Progressives can also be divided into a number of groups. The anti-military group that would advocate complete abolishment of the JSDF etc is a pretty small minority, and the rest take a range of positions on what ‘collective self-defense’ should entail. Most, however, probably agree more-or-less with the conditions as outlined in the law passed last year:

      Japan, or a close ally, must be attacked with a result threatening Japan’s survival and posing a clear danger to people; force must be the only appropriate means available to repel the attack; and the force is the necessary minimum to negate the aforementioned threat.

      What this side is more concerned with seems to be the practice of democracy in Japan. A lot of the criticism was focused on how the Abe administration was going about it, i.e. ‘trying to push the law(s) through without sufficient debate’. There are also many who distrust Abe and the revisionist LDP faction that he is part of. They’ve been in power since 2000, but the faction has existed since the 1950s, and they’re known to largely believe that ‘Japan was only doing what it thought was right (in WW2)’ etc.

      That’s just a very brief overview, though… Japanese security politics is pretty complicated (^^;;

      Like

      • Sikvod00 says:

        LOL. Yeah, I should have figured it wouldn’t be that straightforward. Politics is a complicated beast. But then I come from a place that’s getting closer and closer to electing somebody like Trump. Maybe the whole situation is making me think in more simplistic, black and white terms. -____-

        Sounds like Abe would have an easier time on this particular issue if he weren’t tied to the LDP faction then. These kinds of blog posts and the articles you share related to the lasting impact of Japan’s “loser” status in WW2 are really educational. It helps to also explains things I see in the anime fandom that I would consider more right wing.

        I’m trying to learn how to better understand people by putting myself in their shoes (also thanks to you).

        Like

        • karice says:

          If I may say so…the presidential campaign in your country is really scaring me!

          Abe is one of the core members of that revisionist faction, and many scholars and observers expect that it’s primarily because of his grandfather on his mother’s side. Kishi Nobusuke was one of the key officials in Manchuria during the Pacific War, and was on the Class A war criminal suspect list before the Americans released him without charge during what is known as the “reverse course.” A number of American officials had apparently argued that he would be the best man to lead Japan, in terms of US interests in the region. It worked–Kishi is responsible for the 1960 Security Treaty that continues to underwrite the US-Japan alliance today. But Kishi is also well known for “rejecting the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials,” and for some other…unsavoury personal characteristics, if that paragraph is historically accurate. No one really knows what Abe thinks of his grandfather and his legacy, but it’s likely that that’s where his own views come from…

          Hm…? What have you seen in the anime fandom that you would consider more right wing?

          And sorry for the TL;DRs! I don’t normally comment on contemporary Japanese politics in the anime community, so it tends to pour out when I do!

          Like

  5. Pingback: Japanese Perspectives on the Politics of GATE | Pirates of the Burley Griffin

  6. Loony says:

    When carefully planned and executed a story about the JSDF can be something great.

    While not entirely politically correct by any standards, Zipang is one such story. In it, the defensive attitude of the crew of the JSDF Aegis Cruiser Mirai and modern day ideology of the Japanese military is well exemplified through their actions. They hesitate to use lethal force at the beginning to the point where some of the crew members end up killed while refusing to engage. The crew is inexperienced and panics when thrown into real combat scenarios at first. PTSD is shown and real rage when one member is forced to finally use lethal weapons. Throughout the series the main ideology of the JSDF stands true for most of the time, they are there to protect, not destroy. Interesting that neither of the two Japanese engaged in the debate mentioned it, despite their extensive knowledge of military themed anime.

    Gate lacks such finesse. It has no ideology of defense, just offence. Its characters aren’t humanized, unless they’re all psychopaths. I couldn’t even relate to the protagonist and his squad after seeing them walk through a field of mangled corpses following the initial engagement without batting an eye… The sight and stench alone would make even the strongest of men puke or shudder. This is where A1 had the chance to intervene and change the story, or at least alter it to an extent. If it was indeed in planning for 3-4 years, they had enough time to sit down and discuss important matters, like at least humanizing the characters.

    It’s wish fulfillment. It’s the plain delusions of a former JSDF otaku who has not seen real combat even once. It’s a studio and a military organization who saw the potential to exploit that for monetary gain and recruitment. It’s terrible and yet… it’s not unique. We see this sort of stories all the time. There are reality TV shows set during military training in Korea, there are the hundreds of recent US movies. There is something similar in almost every country throughout many mediums. Yet it being in anime upsets us and you know what? It should. Because simple-minded shows like this may prove damaging for the young watchers mentality and for the medium as a whole.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Thank you for a really interesting and informative comment! I must admit, I’d never heard of Zipang myself–with sales having averaged less than 1,500 units per volume, I’m not surprised that it’s largely fallen under the radar now. But as you’ve said, it’s weird that these two critics don’t mention it. The most obvious place would have been when Iida was talking about how GATE could have raised some of those important questions, of the sort that Zipang actually addressed.

      I can’t really comment on what the anime staff of GATE were trying to do, though I probably share a similar sentiment to yourself and Iida–I dropped the show largely because I didn’t like how lightly the SDF seemed to be presented. But whether that was the original intent of the author is another question. From what I understand, the original novel that Yanai uploaded online is no longer available. The contents are rumoured to have been edited, though having read neither version, I don’t know which direction the changes broadly went. Iida points out, however, that Yanai seems to have quite sincere about depicting the SDF in how it deals with things like disaster relief. I find it difficult to marry that with the implication that he didn’t and doesn’t think about the raison d’être of the organisation he was in. That said, I do agree that they should have been more careful about humanising the characters, instead of making them seem immune to death and destruction.

      With regards to this, however:

      Because simple-minded shows like this may prove damaging for the young watchers mentality and for the medium as a whole.

      I don’t think it’s the entertainment itself that is the problem. Mindless entertainment exists in many societies, and it, at least, is better than entertainment that is clearly cultivated to induce hatred of real world others. In that sense, I think that GATE is less of a problem than stories like Mahouka, a lot of Western film and TV, and–dare I say it–a lot of South Korean and Chinese TV as well, which often have real world others as the main villains. The real problem in Japan is that young people aren’t taught how to critically evaluate the things they read and watch. Every society I’ve studied or taught in has this problem to some extent, but Japan is one of the worse cases in my experience. And this isn’t just because the Japanese government wants to present a certain image of Japan’s history: a deeper issue is the learning tradition, which has far too much route-learning and not enough creativity or critical thinking. If young people were encouraged to think more for themselves, then I suspect that shows like GATE could be beneficial instead of damaging, because they can be used for critical analysis. The fact that the Yanai, his editors and the anime creators have chosen to try to avoid the controversy altogether seems to be a symptom of a deeper problem, rather than being the problem itself.

      p.s. I wouldn’t be so quick to lambast A1-Pictures as a whole, as they are merely a subsidiary of Aniplex. The production committee–and thus the people / companies who would have had a say in the tone of the series–were apparently

      - Warner Brothers Entertainment
      - Alphapolis
      - Bandai Namco Entertainment
      - Showgate, and
      - Genco
      

      Even the JSDF doesn’t seem to have had a real say in any of the important decisions, though I guess they could have refused cooperation anyway.

      Like

  7. sikvod00 says:

    If I may say so…the presidential campaign in your country is really scaring me!

    No, you’re right to be scared. I never imagined Trump would get this far and assumed it would be just another joke campaign. For whatever reason, ever since Obama was elected back in 2008, politics has turned into a circus act, and almost all the clowns are on the right side of the aisle. -________-
    I understand someone not liking the idea of voting for the “lesser of two evils”, but IMO this election has to be an exception. I hope the more reasonable people out there don’t sit out the elections, because you can bet the hardcore are energized to vote and “make America great again”.
    I have a silly question about the revisionist faction. Who uses the term “revisionist” to describe them? Is it just the opposition, or do most scholars and everyone else accept that it accurately describes them? I assume they don’t refer to themselves as that, lol.

    Hm…? What have you seen in the anime fandom that you would consider more right wing?

    Ugh. This is hard to articulate, but it’s related to my recent tweet responding to the Afar article you linked. It’s about the meaning behind the word gaman. The general idea of “stoic forbearance in the face of the unbearable” is certainly desirable… up to a point. But past that I think it stifles progress and is just a way to dismiss legitimate complaints as being lazy, weak, inconveniencing others, etc.
    A least that’s how the American right-wing would interpret this value (loose interpretation of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”). So it sort of rubs me the wrong way, knowing full well that it’s cultural bias. Now where specifically do I see this right-wing sentiment in the anime fandom? To be honest, I can’t pinpoint a specific media or event, so for now I’ll say I misspoke. In fact, when I made that comment in my previous post, it was about right wing views as a result of WW2, so it’s not even related to what I’m yapping abut now! I was just typing words. The nerve of you to politely ask me to clarify and backup my statements. Grrr.

    And sorry for the TL;DRs! I don’t normally comment on contemporary Japanese politics in the anime community, so it tends to pour out when I do!

    Haha, I can definitely see the enthusiasm for this type of stuff in your posts. These blog posts on the intersection between anime and politics are fun! It sucks that it’s hard to discuss politics, especially online. Please keep it up. ^_^

    Like

    • karice says:

      It’s times like these that reinforce how much I don’t like the idea of being able to choose whether to vote or not. In Australia, citizens have to vote–though people can do a protest vote if they do not wish to support any of the candidates. Of course, we have a parliamentary system, so the way it’s structured and thus how politics works in our country is also quite different from yours.

      I have a silly question about the revisionist faction. Who uses the term “revisionist” to describe them? Is it just the opposition, or do most scholars and everyone else accept that it accurately describes them? I assume they don’t refer to themselves as that, lol.

      That’s a good point. The term “revisionist” (and its Japanese equivalent 「修正的」) is predominantly used by scholars, especially those that would consider themselves to be ‘progressive’. They use it to describe people like Abe, who appear to want to ‘revise’ how Imperial Japan is recorded in history. Those more on the central or conservative sides of the political spectrum may use it with quotations to indicate that this is how that faction tends to be seen, but the connotations are so negative that I doubt they themselves use it.

      The formal name of the faction Abe belongs to is the ‘Seiwa Political-analysis Council’, also known as the Hosoda faction after its current leader (NB: the English wikipedia entry on this still lists it as the Machimura faction–Machimura Nobutaka was its leader until he stepped down last year for health reasons).

      In fact, when I made that comment in my previous post, it was about right wing views as a result of WW2, so it’s not even related to what I’m yapping abut now! I was just typing words. The nerve of you to politely ask me to clarify and backup my statements. Grrr.

      LOL. Sorry. I mean, “right-wing” and “conservative” are terms that are thrown around so much, and which tend to mean different things to different people, so I can’t help but ask so that I can understand better (^^; What you’ve described is pretty interesting, as I didn’t know that one aspect of the US right wing was that they don’t think people should have to have “stoic forbearance in the face of the unbearable”… It’s not something I would have ever thought might be an issue in the US domestic debate, for some reason.

      =====

      And thanks! It’s fun, though I sometimes wish more people were willing to talk about politics in anime etc where appropriate. How Japanese creators have come to terms with what they’re country had done during the first half of last century is incredibly important for a lot of stories even today, and it’s sad to see so few of the ‘famous’ bloggers really taking that into account.

      Like

      • sikvod00 says:

        Oh, I totally forgot about voting being required in Australia! When I first learned about that I thought it was such a terrible idea. But now I tend to agree. In short, I think mandatory participation forces more people to have skin in the game instead of just a sliver of the population deciding our collective fate. And even if they end up doing a protest vote, at least they had to consider the issues and politicians unlike now, heh.

        Sorry, I knew I didn’t explain myself well on the gaman thing. The right wing would definitely find it appealing (I still can’t get over the English translation; not easy to understand at first). So you have this Japanese value of the individual enduring their situation and not complaining (simplified). This is similar to the values the right holds in very high regard: personal responsibility, self-reliance, hard work, pull yourself up by the bootstraps etc. I mean, most would agree these are great qualities, but the right overestimates them and uses it to argue for things like less government assistance and social welfare.

        Like

        • karice says:

          Yeah, I suspect that most Americans would see it that way. But I’d like to think that the vast majority of Australians recognise that this is much better than the alternative…even if the leadership shenanigans over the last few years have given us little cause to rejoice.

          Ah, that does make more sense. I thought it was weird that the right might favour anything that would allow people who are less well off to make a case for better social welfare etc. I wonder if the strange state of the Republican party–where someone like Trump is doing so well on the ‘right’–has further clouded my already poor understanding of US domestic politics!

          Like

  8. Pingback: Concrete Revolutio – Cold War, Sizzling Justice « Geekorner-Geekulture.

  9. azurestratos says:

    Coming from a country that was once under Japanese occupation, its interesting to see what could be running in the heads of Japanese people since they seem to have an allergy of public depiction of military (or should I say, its become somewhat taboo) but on the other hand, the sociopolitical atmosphere of current years is not one that may give benefit to stick to this allergy.

    Other countries will use the past bogeyman Imperial Japanese, against Japan, for political gain. Any overt show of military pride by the Japanese might be used against them. However times are changing, and Japan had revealed their new military aircraft X-2 without any backlash.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Hm…rather than becoming somewhat taboo, I’d say that the taboo that has existed since the end of the war has gradually been chipped away. The public depiction of the military–or should I say, the public visibility of the military–in Japan has been incredibly low since it was created back in the 1950s. In fact, it is not referred to as a military (軍), but as a ‘self-defense force’ (自衛隊). Unlike in other countries I’ve lived in, SDF members tend not to appear in public in their uniforms. That probably stems from the heavy anti-militarism attitude that most of the Japanese public took up after the country lost the war. There’s a lot to be said about why public attitudes have gradually changed over the last quarter of a century, from Japan’s slowly increasing participation in peacekeeping operations to the recent reforms that Abe has been pushing through. However, in my interactions with Japanese people, especially those associated with the government of the SDF, it’s incredibly clear to me that Japan is highly unlikely to do anything that certain other Asian publics (and governments) are prone to call it out on.

      However times are changing, and Japan had revealed their new military aircraft X-2 without any backlash.

      Hm…do you mean backlash from other countries, or backlash from its own public? (Or perhaps, both?)

      Like

      • azurestratos says:

        Agreed the taboo is disappearing, probably because the changing of generations. Young people tend to not like being tied down by the faults of their ancestors. Its been roughly 50 years.

        Backlash from both foreign countries and the citizens, not that I expected it. Normally political backlash varies, from simple rumors, to condemning statements, to simple measures like tightening borders/reducing visa.

        Like

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