Two sides of the same anime coin – Anime and Politics

whitehatazn-48.jpgI had this in my head for a while and I would’ve gotten this done sooner had it not been such an eventful week. I officially gained my first godchild at my cousin’s christening this past weekend. I guess having random Filipino women yell out “Ninong!” while having your picture taken with a baby may be the cultural equivalent to fangirls going crazy over yaoi. Add this to a full week of calculating ballistic coefficients and the coriolis effect and I’m exhausted.

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Paid for by the Coalition for a Better Moe and the National Institute for Befriending

About two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to catch up with a few of my college friends. We went off into our usual discussions of life, work, video games, anime, the economy, guns, missiles and various world domination plots (again, the usual stuff). In the anime discussion, we went though various topics like the anime industry, current shows and fandom.

Before I go further into what we discussed anime-wise, I’d like to preface the depth of my two friends’ anime fandom. One considers himself as a silent fan. While no one questions his knowledge of the anime subject, he prefers not to vocally express himself as a fan. My other friend swears by the action-adventure genre, bleeds the gunmetal of hardcore mecha and defends the Lelouch bible.

Add myself, the tsundere-moe advocate, and we get the tower of babel among anime fans. Now, it’s not like our conversation didn’t go anywhere. But one can tell who was not comfortable/familiar with a particular topic and notice when he retreats/changes topic. I noticed that I had to back off of my position a few times to let conversation continue.

The above situation has given me a thought for this week. The reason why we had varying viewpoints despite our fandom for the same medium is because we have varying fundamental philosophies. Our differing philosophies lead to our differing approaches/reasoning to all the anime-related topics/issues. And when one talks about differing philosophies, one can then start to talk about differing political standpoints. That is what I’ll look into today.

Anime’s multi-faceted gem

One element which makes the anime medium unique is that it is genre-independent. Many titles are made which appeal to various audiences. Because of that and the recent internationalization of anime (i.e. torrents and fansubs), anime fandom has opened up to a number of fans with different philosophies. The politics of anime thus come from fans imposing their worldview into the anime world.

Political opinions also come with ways of quantifying those opinions. Below are some of the classic positions in the anime world. I also broken them up into a few intermediate positions and ordered the accordingly. This should give a good idea as to how one places himself/herself in some of these philosophies. Here are some of my views:

Intellectually Stimulating vs. Entertainment

This relates to the reoccurring question: Is anime deep? Those who answer “Yes” would lean towards the intellectually stimulating side. Those who answer “No” lean towards the entertainment side. I tend to have a slight lean towards the intellectually stimulating side since that is what usually separates anime from the North American cartoon medium. However, if anime leaned so far towards the intellectually stimulating side, anime will be way to dull to generate the interest that it has today.

Example:
Intellectually Stimulating – Mushishi
Middle-Intellectually Stimulating leaning – Higurashi
Middle – Suzumiya Haruhi
Middle-Entertainment leaning – Shuffle!
Entertainment – School Rumble

Untouched Source vs. Culturally Adapted

This often is the contention which leads to the everlasting raw-sub-dub flame war in the anime community. Raw-favoritists would ask: “What’s more pure to the original form than the original source itself?” Whereas dub-lovers would remark: “We need dubs to spread the anime wealth.” Thank god for the institution of a moderate subtitle position. Personally, middle-untouched source leaning is my way.

Example:
Untouched Source – RAWs
Middle-Untouched Source leaning – Literal subtitle translation w/ liner notes
Middle – Most subtitles
Middle-Culturally Adapted – Literal dub translation/Adapted subtitles
Culturally Adapted – Dubs

MOE vs. GAR

This one is another possible dimension which seemed has grown over the years with the emergence of moe in the American anime mindset. Although the MOE/GAR seems to exist as an alternate title to MOE/Anti-MOE. Despite what others may assume of me, I actually like this to be fairly in the middle.

Example:
MOE – Kanon
Middle-MOE leaning – Clannad
Middle – Nanoha A’s
Middle-GAR leaning – Shakugan no Shana
GAR – Gurren Lagann

These are just a few of the possible positions and their appropriate examples. Plenty of others can be made an analyzed (shoujo vs. shounen and bishoujo vs. mecha just to name a few). Others include a few modifications/expansions to existing debates (source vs. adapted could also represent the divide between the two ends of how well an anime uses a source material). Anyway, being on one facet of the anime gem is not cut and dry.

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Paid for Geass State Committee of the Constitutional Mecha Party and the United International Church for the Resurrected Lelouch

The Grand Old Mecha!?

In the traditional understanding quantifying political positions, the basic left-right spectrum always appears. This classic model is usually defined as any fairly common conservative view on the “right” side and any radical liberal view on the “left”. The model also describes a person with a set of views which may place him/her on a particular conservative-liberal standpoint.

The left-right model does not seem to work the same way in the anime world. Anime has the unique situation of being international. The conservative set of views for the Japanese anime fan is different from the conservative set for the American fan. This also implies that the liberal set may be different as well.

One example is the MOE vs. GAR debate. Moe fandom is common place to the Japanese anime fan which makes this debate inconsecquential or exclusive-gar as the rare radical left. However in the American anime fan psyche, gar characters and gar-ish anime have been around for years. The sudden appearance of moe fandom into the American anime market may be considered a radical left movement towards the cute side and has been downplayed as fetish for the 40+ year old basement otaku.

Such mixtures in political philosophies leads to political associations known as political parties. Anime can be viewed in a similar sense. Below are some possible anime party associations. There are definitely more, but these are the ones seem to stick out to me the most.

Basics Moe National Party Constitutional Mecha Party New Socialist Party
Core Ideologies
– Moe/ Harem
– Personal Fandom
– Mecha/Sci-fi
– Return to “Golden Age”
– Entertainment-Centered
– Social Fandom
Country Origin Japan Japan/North America North America
Anime Origin Tenchi Muyo Gundam Naruto
Spectrum Moe National Party Constitutional Mecha Party New Socialist Party
Left-Right (Relative to Country Origin) Center-Right Center-Right Center-Left
Intellect vs. Entertainment Mixed Mixed Entertainment
Source vs. Adapted Source Mixed Adapted
Moe vs. Gar Moe Gar Mixed
Fandom: Individualism vs. Communitarianism Individual Mixed Community
Issues Moe National Party Constitutional Mecha Party New Socialist Party
Social Mainstream Acceptance Generally Oppose Generally Oppose Mixed
Long-Running Series Generally Oppose Mixed Favor
Figure Fandom Favor Generally Favor Generally Oppose
Club and Convention Growth Mixed Generally Favor Favor
Weapons Proliferation Mixed Favor Generally Favor
Loli Leadership Favor Oppose Oppose
Ninja Special Ops Mixed Generally Favor Favor

These are just some of the anime “parties” I’ve seen over the years. From Saimoe followers, to mecha builders, to Narutards, anime has some fairly diverse philosophies.

The simple point of this post was to highlight that each of us have different philosophies despite our same love for the anime medium. These philosophies are so varied and wide ranging that they can be quantified and organized into political positions. So keep this in mind the next time you discuss anime with a fellow fan. That is if you care about other people’s philosophies of course. Dad is still seething from November 4th

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7 Responses to Two sides of the same anime coin – Anime and Politics

  1. As always in politics, this is messy – if you’re someone who gets lots of fun out of sitting in front of School Rumble with a notepad jotting down the show’s different takes on masculinity, then intellectual stimulation is your entertainment – but I guess it’s necessary to have some general axes to work with. I like how the Constitutional Mecha Party and the Moe National Party both end up on the centre-right.

  2. koneko-chan says:

    Actually the more I re-think this, I’d probably should’ve done the table first before determining left-right. I’m finding an axis between those who would like anime to be independent from the cultural mainstream vs. those who want anime to be accepted. But shame on me to base an anime politics post on the already confusing state of American politics.

  3. down cosplay says:

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  4. Cal Sullivan says:

    Pretty good article. I never really thought too much in a politics vs anime scenario where they coincide. It all makes sense though if you think about it.

    However politics can ruin an anime sometimes….the first thing came to mind is the Air Gear Manga…which went seriously down hill after they put Obama in it as character…

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