Religion, Politics, and Money in Anime

Some of you may be wondering what the first three words in anime have to do with each other. Well for one thing, you should never talk about either of those three things in gatherings outside of your house. Especially family gatherings where each branch of your family has a different political opinion for some reason. Having different generations together to talk about these issues is going to cause some very loud discussions. Loud discussions that you will be having instead of eating some tasty food.

While we are having these arguments, they are also the three things that help create a believable world in any medium. If you want to create a believable world or galaxy that people live in, how side characters and populous of any world deal and live with these concepts is how a series can help anyone feel like they are living in that world. Some anime series have mastered this concept to a t. You could say that some of those shows are airing right now. It’s crazy to think about, right?

Spice and Wolf

spice and wolf

Look, I know it’s not airing this season but I just want more, ok? Is that too much to ask? Holo and Lawrence have some of the best chemistry that anime have ever put together and I want to see them again in animated form. That’s besides the point of this post, but it needs to be brought up.

Spice and Wolf has some of the greatest world development that I’ve ever seen. The way its given to the audience is unique as well, because how many series have a trader like Lawrence as a protagonist? Since he is an expert in money quality and exchange rates, we can get a feel for how a country has declined by how much pure metals in each of a kingdom’s coins. By understanding that, we get a stronger feeling about how a nation is doing financially and a sense of every nation’s culture through their trade goods. Then we have all sorts of religious festivals that some towns use to celebrate farm gods and other things. Oh, then there is Holo. I mean, she is merely the wolf god of wheat. Nothing important there, right? *cough* Spice and Wolf is good and I want more of it sometime in the future. If Chihayafuru can get another season, why can’t Spice and Wolf?

Attack on Titan

attack on titan politics

I just have to say that I think Attack on Titan is one of the most unique shonen series that I’ve ever watched if it can be called that. It could also be called a historical drama and a lot of other things. Powers that involve people turning into Titans is a huge deal here. The rest of the world revolves around steam punk tech and trying not to die.

The religion and politics of Attack on Titan is so interesting to me. I like the narrative of warriors fighting to get their history back because it’s just as much of a mystery to them as it is to us. The fact that the walls have been built through mysterious means and we see a titan face out of it asks so much questions that I want to know. There is a very big religion context in the story because walls are worshiped and there is a whole religion built around them for some reason. There is a setup here that needs to be torn down eventually. Kind of like a wall.

Then there are the politics that Attack on Titan has been knocking out of the park this season. You know, the whole elitist control everything forever narrative that is popular. The difference from other media is that it blends religion together to make a whole new thing. While the uniforms give Attack on Titan a Nazi Germany feel, which does work, I would make the argument that it also adds in a lot of what we know from communist countries like The Soviet Union and North Korea have done to its people. Everything is well controlled and orchestrated that the environment in the walls feels realistic. Yet, everything is supposedly ruled by a monarch, which adds even more complication to this stories narrative. I love it though. I like break the system down narratives and I’m glad that our freedom fighters are fighting for the right to have their history back and install Historia as leader.

My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia poster

This show is as battle shonen as a battle shonen series can get, but I think the politics are different. I’m not saying that shonen series aren’t political in nature, because they are, but My Hero Academia seems to be more so the usual. For one thing, the entire world having quirks and depending on the ultimately strong All Might for peace in the world seems more then so. Now that All Might is powerless, the world of My Hero Academia is falling apart. Especially since there are heroes out there going through some complicated family issues just to make a baby that will have quirks which end up close to All Might’s capabilities. Todoroki is the result of some messed up marriage arrangements. Kind of sad, don’t you think?

Then there are the actual rules. Rules centered around kids not doing hero duty when they are unlicensed. Not a completely original concept in shonen battle series in general either, but there are actual consequences here. Legal ones that revolve around our characters possibly not achieving their dreams. That’s a huge deal for a show that want its heroes to succeed in life. Speaking of consequences, should we talk about how bad U.A. has been looking since it has that has been constantly attacked by villains? There is a possibility that the school might be shut down soon if it can’t guarantee the safety of its students in the eyes of the public. Consequences are a real thing in this show. This world is as realistic as a shonen can get while still playing with special abilities that everyone has. I should also mention how the police force is not completely useless like so many other pieces in super hero media. The world of My Hero Academia is very well constructed.

Conclusion

Not every series needs to be high stakes political to feel like it has a realistic world. While I love franchises like Gundam, Ghost in the Shell, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes for creating a world or universe that we can all breathe in, it doesn’t have to happen all the time. The level of money, politics, and religion doesn’t always have to be on high gear for the world to be believable. Asobi Asobase is a great example of that, because while does have politics centered around where people are from and school life, but it never digs into it too far. The antics of the characters being completely nuts drives the show forever more then anything else. Still, a story having a solid frame work around it helps the characters living in It even more in my eyes.

 

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25 thoughts on “Religion, Politics, and Money in Anime

  1. Very cool post. When I first saw the title of it, the first series that sprang to mind for it was Attack on Titan, especially since this season it does seem to focus a bit more on the politics side of things as well. And of course: you included it lol.
    True enough though, not everything needs to be fully fleshed out. I don’t like politics in the first place (although there are some noteworthy exceptions), so I certainly am not really looking for it in the things I watch. Really enjoyed reading this (and it’s also a very good reminder that I really need to get back to My Hero Accademia 😊).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How could I not include Attack on Titan? Its definitely a major influence of this post.

      I am not usually a fan of real world politics, but I do like fictional politics because it doesn’t directly affect us and you can see both sides of the issue in anime instead of getting news reports your aren’t sure is right.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. AoT has some very realistic concepts of history being forgotten. Sometimes I think how can that happen that people forget. But we do we move one and repeat the past. I really like that trope in stories as long as the discovery of what they forgot has a good payoff emotional moment.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, yes, and yes.

    I was just thinking about Spice and Wolf last night too, when I was thinking about some of my favorite characters(it’s also one of the best English voice acting for Holo).

    I’ve been waiting for a new season since I watched it in 2010… that was back when I didn’t know A LOT of anime is left “unfinished” relative to the source material.

    The real consequences of My Hero also impressed me, the world was a real place that shifted and changed as events in the anime did.

    While most anime feel like they have story lines inside a bubble that can’t effect the world, everything you listed has skin and teeth and agency in their worlds.

    You hit this one right on the head.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fantastic post scott. It made me want to watch Spice n Wolf all over again.
    I have always thought that the social implications and political structure was the best part of AoT. And although i haven’t yet seen the latest season of MHA the way you laid out the series here makes me even more impatient for it.
    I’ve always loved (for lack of a better word) banality in the midst of the fantastic. It gives substance to abstract worlds. Again, great job

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Irina 😀

      I feel the same way about AoT and season three has been going through a lot of this so it’s been like candy to me. I’m sorry for making you want to watch things faster. At least season three of MHA has only two episodes left.

      OH yes, that’s the best wording for that. I didn’t know how to connect everything together like that.

      Like

  5. I just got done reading Zeria’s article on politics in anime before this one so that made things all the more interesting. You both approach the topic pretty differently though (but that’s totally fine). I’m with you though when it comes to these things adding to a world. Great article Scott 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just read her video and see exactly what you mean. Dang, how did that happen? Still, I’m not trying to send the same kind of message she does and I do like what she is going for quite a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. After reading this post again (I was inspired to write something related to one of the topics – you’ll find out which one soon enough), I feel like you omitted the money part from the BnHA section. For starters, there’s that focus on some of the pro heroes (Uwabami and Mt. Lady in particular) which makes you wonder whether they’re only in it for money and fame, and then you have Stain, who wants to call these heroes out. Then there’s Uraraka, who’s trying to be a hero to get money for her parents. I’m probably forgetting some other aspects of the argument, but there’s two things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right about that. I do miss things here and there all the time when it comes to details in posts. Looking forward to this coming post from your side though! 😁

      Like

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