If you haven’t been paying attention to the anime community in recent times, and especially in 2018, you should know that there are two things that the majority of anime fans hate more than anything in the world when it comes to their favorite medium. One of them is politics. The other is PC culture. Given how anime has been enjoyed for decades now, I thought it was cut and dry regarding why anime fans would hate those things, but apparently a lot of people aren’t getting the memo. What’s wrong about using fiction to spread positive change? What’s wrong with censoring horrible actions against underage girls? Why are you promoting criminal activities by encouraging it in fiction? Because if we just go into these sorts of things with a binary viewpoint, then we’re going to be no better than Youtube comments, one of the least credible things in the world.
Let’s get what should be most obvious out of the way first: yes all fiction is political, or at least has some political influence in it. You can’t escape from it because even if the author doesn’t necessarily agree with the views he’s promoting, he still thinks they’re interesting enough to make a product out of. And the definition of political is just so all-encompassing in general. Something as innocent as Barney the Dinosaur is generally created out of a mindset that favors kids not being allowed to grow up. And if you try to argue that Fullmetal Alchemist isn’t political, you’re obviously not referring to the Arakawa manga or various adaptations.
Nobody had a problem with anime that were expressly political several years ago. Hell, anime like Death Note, Code Geass, Mobile Suit Gundam, Attack on Titan, and so on and so forth are still popular to this very day, and people knew they were political from day one. So even if you could blame things on anime becoming more mainstream and whatnot, why isn’t anyone giving any of these shows much shit despite their expressly political views? Hell, people love Bloom Into You. Look, it’s an anime about lesbians. Clearly this show is LBGQT propaganda…oh wait, no. The only people who call it that are the same people who hate Yuri on Ice for questioning their sexuality. Not the greatest hit in the world and I don’t know what the blu-ray pre-orders are, but it’s rated decently everywhere I look. Even if somehow none of the supporters are right-wing, you do know that a lot of left-leaning people hate politics invading anime as well, right? There’s no way the number of people hating the High Guardian Spice trailer all belong to the alt-right.
As such, where is all of this sudden “get politics out of anime” trend coming from? Why is it a problem now?
Now honestly, I don’t really know why I even need to explain all this, as there have already been a lot of people who have clarified that “get politics out of our fiction” is a lazy interpretation of people’s problems to begin with. Hell, Extra Credits said in their own “all games are political” video that yes, if the politics are not integrated into the story well, that can be problematic. The issue I’m seeing though is that people arguing that anime is always going to be political are not hearing those people and just cherry picking things to prove their point.
For example, look at this video.
See when the video came out at the bottom? Pretty recently. Definitely after the Extra Credits video. And yet this video never acknowledges more than Youtube comments that are about as trustworthy as r/anime, and a few Youtubers who look too minor to bother giving attention. Granted, Zeria is small-time too, but she was the first to appear when I searched “anime politics” on Youtube and has a sizable fanbase who agrees with her, so I’m going to assume she represents a good majority of anime fans who want politics in this medium.
Now let’s look at a video that explains the whole “get politics out of fiction” thing.
See when this came out? More than a year before the “anime is always political” video.
Now the above video primarily focuses on video games and Appabend is pretty small-time so it makes sense you wouldn’t see that. Still, one look at his video should make it clear where the “get politics out of our fiction” spiel is coming from, and in case you guys aren’t interested in sitting through all of that, basically politics in fiction become a problem when it’s forced into a narrative where it doesn’t belong. And it doesn’t help that in addition to this practice becoming more common, it’s also a common trend that those defending this practice are strawmen who shut their ears whenever someone tries to call them out on this.
I understand debates on the Internet are dangerous, especially when two people think very differently, but listening is a different story. If you’re going to argue a controversial point, please try to look at what the other side is saying first before you make said point. Unless they are just flat-out racist or something (in which case, just don’t pay attention to them), believing that your side is in the right is a very dangerous ideology to hold.
It can cause you to miss hidden implications that upend your whole argument, like how when Eugene Son legitimately believed turning one of the most beloved Saint Seiya characters into a female was a good way to represent women. Never mind that the original male character was a very effeminate sensitive soul who females love because he broke the mold to the point that the LBGQT community worshipped him, thus making him female is unconsciously saying “men can’t have a sensitive side/only females can be sensitive”. Never mind that being male and female is actually a major plot point in that show. And even if the majority of people had agreed with that decision, that doesn’t make it right. I mean Ted Cruz is still in office after all, and he’s a diiiiiicccccckkkkkkk.
Also, have you guys heard about the eSports competitor Ellie? Because her identity was kept hidden in an incredibly suspicious manner, lots of gamers suspected her to be a dude in disguise and sent suspicions her way to the point that she had to quit the Overwatch team she belonged to. And as soon as that happened, a bunch of gaming journalists wrote news articles about how she was harassed out of the scene due to toxic male gamers, ignoring the reasonable people (who greatly outnumbered the sexist dickheads) who said something wasn’t right and not bothering to confirm things themselves.
Guess what what discovered a few hours after those articles were published.
It’s all here in fully-researched detail. While I don’t know how this will affect women in e-sports, ask yourself this: why would I ever trust any of these gaming journalist sites ever again if they couldn’t be bothered to do the research that would have prevented their articles from having a shorter lifespan than fireflies? This all happened yesterday too. No matter how good your intentions are, if you’re going to talk about something important like this, you need to do some proper research! Or if you can’t get in contact with the sources required for said research to be possible, at least maintain some neutrality when talking about it.
You didn’t even apologize for being wrong, Kotaku (although to be fair, you’re not the only one). Not only are you under the false illusion that the majority of the accusers were sexist so who cares, your follow-up article focused on that apology from Second Wind to prove your point rather than the actual investigative work that was done by Slasher in order to discover Ellie’s identity in the first place. So in addition to being corrupt, you are also lazy. If Zeria or any of her fans happen to read this article, please take a look at what this site has done and use it as a “how not to act” guide for future videos. No matter what he says, Nathan Grayson is not someone to look up to.
Because honestly, Zeria is worth watching if you want Youtube essays on the political metaphors in an anime. The Flip Flappers one isn’t bad and the Banana Fish one…well the criticism of modern technology for a story originally set in the 80s is fine, but saying it should have strived to have more current politics is a rabbit hole that’s ill-advised for reasons I won’t get into here. However, her “Anime SHOULD BE(and is) POLITICAL” is a terrible video in so many ways, mainly because she’s not really listening to the other side. Let’s get the good stuff regarding her video out of the way first, in addition to laying down the groundwork that every piece of fiction has something political about it like Extra Credits did, the “All Anime Is Political” video does bring up a unique viewpoint on the anime, ACCA. Basically, the creator of the video criticized ACCA for how its shallow neutrality on government is offensive because it’s unintentionally endorsing corrupt monarchies, and she hates Now and Then, Here and There for being…pro-life?
Okay that’s a really dumb reason considering how that’s only one relatively small aspect of the show, but the point is that yes, neutrality can work against you if you’re not careful. Angry Joe tried to downplay the Battlefield V backlash whilst not really taking EA’s side until he could actually play the game, and it wasn’t pretty. However, neutrality is only bad if only one side sees it as a sign than you’re conceding to the enemy. If both sides think so, then there’s no issue, because neither side benefits from the stance and going after said person is a waste of energy.
And it all goes downhill for the rest of the video. For one thing, Kill la Kill is good and Flip Flappers can suck far away from me. But in all seriousness, you want to know how she labels people who say to keep politics out of anime?
Saying people who don’t want politics in their anime fall into only two options is a very stupid ideology to have. First off, it sure doesn’t seem to stop you from judging an anime because it has politics you don’t agree with in this very video. Why is that even a requirement in the first place? As long as the politics are interesting, it shouldn’t matter if you disagree with it or not. I hate guns and rape, but I’ll gladly take them in fiction if (and only if) it allows the narrative to be interesting like, say, Once Upon a Time in America. Scum’s Wish is full of characters who are mostly terrible at heart, but what makes them interesting is their struggle to contend with their fucked-up nature and how it ultimately gives them a positive outlook.
And yes, Zeria does mention that this isn’t a requirement at the end of the video. But since the rest of the video doesn’t support that (or throws it in as an afterthought), it doesn’t have the impact it should. Also, she overlooks a very key component regarding people’s complaints with politics in anime when discussing Princess Principal, a show she praises for its stance on monarchy and how it affects the characters. I didn’t make it far into that show, and listening to the specific praises she makes, it was pretty easy to recall why: because a story based around the evils of monarchy is goddamn boring.
Why? Because I’m an adult. I don’t want to be told something that I’ve known since elementary school, and just because I don’t know the actual details at that age doesn’t matter if said details are not affecting the core message. And if you base your characters around such a boring message, they’re going to be boring too. That’s why most anti-war stories suck. That’s why most environmental message movies that aren’t made by Miyazaki suck. That’s why Sense8’s second season sucked. Yes I love you Lito and being gay has never been a gray topic in the history of anything, but explain to me why I have to sit through an overly long gay pride parade that solely exists to celebrate being gay and has no bearing on the actual plot?
Also, are you going to talk about the other aspects of the anime? Like the animation? The character arcs? The plot progression? You know, important basic things that every anime needs to have? Zeria’s video essays about government in anime are fine as long as you’re not judging the show based just on that, but if you’re giving your entire opinion of an anime and don’t mention things like how Jean grows through the course of ACCA’s plot or how Darling in the Franxx keeps the viewer in the dark for too long, then you’re going to alienate the majority of your audience. And the people who are going to buy into “Franxx is right-wing propaganda” are terrifying because they’re taking anime, cartoons produced in Japan with the main intention being to entertain, way too seriously.
This entire crusade of fighting “keep politics out of anime” is nothing but a losing battle built on a lie that fails to take into account the other side, or the very definition of context in general. You know why you don’t hear much fuss about Bloom Into You despite being a show about lesbians? Because it’s a well-produced romance anime where the characters just happen to be lesbians. You know why most people complain about High Guardian Spice despite not airing yet? Because you didn’t clarify what the cartoon was going to be about in your promos, choosing to focus on women in the workforce as if that means anything. You know why I’m fine with Monokuma in Danganronpa mocking Trump in V3’s English dub? Because its fits Monokuma’s character to a tee what with all of the other references he pulls. You know what the problem with Dragon Maid doing the same thing is? Because they’re talking about something that’s mostly an issue in America despite the show taking place in Japan, a place that couldn’t care what issues the West have.
Context anyone? Ever heard of it?
And politics itself is such a dangerous landmine to toe around. You do not have to look at the entire picture, but in exchange you can’t give us half-assed answers based on the picture you convey for the audience because that just ruins your point. It’s like how people want to ban the word “trap” from the anime community because it’s a slur against trans people, even though none of the people that are called traps in anime are actually trans or non-binary, so by banning the word, you’re calling cross-dressers “trans”, which I’ve been led to believe is very insulting.
Also, the alternative terms like “otokonoko” can easily be abused in a way that’s more transphobic since there are other definitions of the word “trap” that don’t refer to people (it’s even a genre of music). And before you bring up Lily from Zombieland Saga, that’s because people were divided on whether she’s trap or trans, which basically confirms the two words are different in anime. Personally I think she’s trans, but either way I’m just going to refer to her as female because that’s clearly what she wants to be seen as. Either way, this topic has been discussed to death already.
Politics can be used as flavoring, but making it the main focus of your anime is not something that just anybody can pull off. Nobody but the incredibly deluded actually believes that politics should be removed from anime, and while the whole “keep politics out of anime” spiel probably should have been worded better, it’s not hard to find out what people really mean if you actually attempt to reach out to the other side. I mean Billy D’s fanbase is cancer, but the man himself is reasonable as long as you’re the same to him. And this is the same guy who wrote that article regarding Samus’ reduced bust size in the new Smash, which was so bad that even the far-right called bullshit and clarified that it was to make Samus look more like her Metroid Fusion model. If he can talk to the opposition reasonably, why can’t you?
More importantly, you shouldn’t sacrifice plot progression and character development in the process of putting politics in your show. I am completely against “world-building for the sake of world-building” and “relying on keeping the audience in the dark” as a form of good storytelling, and I probably always will be. Articles that focus on the politics of an anime need to make it clear how said politics relate to the anime. Not how said politics will actually cause people to deny the existence of Auschwitz. Or just be flat garbage like this…
And above all else, need I remind you that anime is fiction? It can inspire you. You can make a career out of it. You can even meet your future wife through it. But you can’t let it dictate your life, because people who retreat to fiction at the expense of reality tend to destroy themselves internally as a result. They eventually get pulled out of their dream world only to see a laundry list of real-life issues that they have not made any progress in resolving. At least the nuts who genuinely think that politics should stay out of anime are aware they’re using the medium to escape from reality. What did I say again about unfortunate implications that can come from noble goals?
Finally, if you’re going to defend politics in anime, don’t use the worst PR imaginable to do so. Need I remind you that fans are not entitled to give you money if they don’t like your product? And they’re the ones who are supporting you to begin with? Just because you can’t please everyone doesn’t mean you can launch cannonballs at the audience. Especially when all the cannonballs do is launch them away Team Rocket-style to a hidden utopia where they’re happy, and replacing those cannonballs ain’t cheap.
So in conclusion, anime fans hate politics because it’s inclusion in the medium is getting more stupid to the point that it’s affecting the story and characters. I hate it because the politics getting pushed these days are boring as shit at best and dangerous at worst. And let’s not forget that the more current the politics of an anime are, the more dated said anime will become over time. Yeah, might want to think about the long-term when you make a product. Otherwise you wind up with the reason Ancient Magus’ Bride doesn’t appear on many top anime lists of 2018.
- I’ll need another mini-essay to cover why anime fans hate PC culture. But first, I want to concentrate on some actual anime.
- Apparently, Felix from Re: Zero is supposed to be recognized as a trans female now.
- Admittedly, I don’t know what the fan reaction to Bloom Into You is beyond a couple of fans, but I think if an outrage happened, it would have been brought up on one of the news sites I look at.
- It’s possible that Princess Principal has more to it than saying “monarchy is bad”, but if that’s case, it’s Zeria’s fault for not clarifying that. I can say “Un-Go is a show that exposes the faults of Japan’s current government and questions the nature of existentialism in the process”. What does Princess Principal have to match that?
- 2019 already sucks and we haven’t even gotten to the anime yet.