Anime is political, just not the way some people think it is

I didn’t think it would be possible to choose one argument to talk when it comes to what blows up on twitter, because twitter seems to be a breeding ground of more and more conflicts at least one a week. First it was talk about how politics should or shouldn’t be apart of anime, something about how adults shouldn’t be anime fans anymore, the endless joy that is a voice actor of questionable quality that I am pretty convinced did bad things which keeps appearing causing endless amounts of debates and toxicity on both sides of the conflict, and who knows what else? All I know is that if it wasn’t for all the great people that I connected to on twitter and by extension here, I probably wouldn’t be on there anymore. Anyway, I don’t think that all of these things are worth discussing or I might have covered them already in a post from much earlier. I do think that giving my opinion on politics in anime or media in general is worth discussing though. I mean, that is what this post is about.

So I’m just going to say it now, I don’t think anime by itself is political. It is merely an art form or medium in which many people work very hard to tell some sort visually. There is no inherent agenda that anime is going for. There are too many genres, too many production studios, and just too many hands involved in anime to have a conspiracy theory or agenda behind it. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to have their heads checked thoroughly. That being said, anime doesn’t exist in a vacuum either.

The creators of the anime, the time period that the anime is from, the state of the industry itself, the state of country the anime was produced from, and who knows how many other factors go into the production of said anime. Each have some affect on the anime itself in even the most miniscule of details. It’s the exact same thing for every production of western cartoons, movies, live action television shows, and every form of media from every country in existence. I don’t think that is a bad thing either, because it’s fun to look back at some form of media from the past and see how the movie’s point of view changed, how media was created back then, what genres used to be the in trend, what brands that used to be popular during the time period, and who knows what else during that time. Besides the greater old stories out that, that is the fun of watching older anime and why I do it as often as I do. The culture changes, the animation and art styles of yester year, and what things were trends when the older anime was produced. All of that has to do with politics of some sort.

Maybe I should stop rambling, because I’m just writing sentences for other types of post I might have to write in the future.

Back on topic, I’m pretty sure that not every anime series has an agenda they are seeking. One anime that I would like to focus on is Kaguya-sama. Why? Because it’s an anime about two characters of different social economic classes falling in love with each other, but the comedy of them playing Death Note games to get the other to confess. Except, the two go to an elite school centered around people in the same classes and while social class is an issue between the two, it’s at a miniscule level. The two, despite how they act toward each other, are not troubled by their social status in the anime and neither is any other student in the show besides the aspect of “look how rich or poor I am”. I mean, Fujiwara is a side character in the show and she is going on multiple european vactions during the summer and it’s just ruining their plans to meet up with the other student council members during that time period. Kaguya and Miyuki, the people in question, are just two people. It’s just a show about how these two bland, galaxy brained individuals gothrough romantic comedy shenanigins. All of this is from my point of view, but there is no clear agenda that the anime wants to discuss at the moment. Maybe in the source material later on, but not right now.

The only time an anime is pushing an agenda is whenever the media that is when it is intends to do so by either the creator behind the anime or the media that is being adapted. Isn’t it obvious that some of if not all of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s work push powerful pro LGBT messages in a meaningful way? The guy is for equally after all and I found everything he worked on interesting. In a similar way, Sayo Yamamoto’s work tends to be very feminist and focuses on cool, complex action ladies like Fujiko and Michiko with some of that aspect making into Yuri On Ice. I love all of it. Do I need to even mention shows like Gundam and Legend of the Galactic Heroes whose soul focus is about two or more groups of people at war and what politics those group are in evoking. Or generally what the anime is trying to tell you through it’s story and it’s character’s journey. The rebooted Yamato series has a very strong anti imperialist message that it’s not subtle about in the least. Then there are shows like Gate that are kind of a recruitment ad for the JSDF. When a creator or some other force has a message they want to give the public, then the show is definitely political.

So in the end, anime is political in some form. The atmosphere the piece of media in question comes from in different ways and the intent of the author and/or people behind the product’s production to tell you a message. That doesn’t mean that those undertones of classism or anything else don’t exist or aren’t apart of Kaguya or other anime, for example. The question is whether or not the anime is focusing on those aspects or not is up to the viewer of the anime in question, it’s tone, and presentation of the anime currently being watched. So basically, what I am saying is that there are a lot of open variables in this topic and I would like to hear what all of you have to say about it.

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24 thoughts on “Anime is political, just not the way some people think it is

  1. I agree for sure. An individual anime series might have messages they want to push or portray, but “the anime industry” itself does not. Anime and manga are two of my favorite forms of storytelling because authors/writers/directors have so creative power over their content. Not all the anime released makes good money, of course, but anime is accessible now more than ever, so even small-time creators and studios are free to produce their own anime. With books, it’s much harder to gain recognition and most self-published or unpopular books are still pretty tough to access.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Anime does make a lot of different explorations and statements of different things with nudity and not everyone seems to get that. Especially when trying to explain them to other people and that doesn’t go well…

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Hmm, this is a thought-provoking post for sure. I subscribe to the idea “everything is political”, but when asked why, I’d need to dig into some of the miniscule variables you talk about and although that doesn’t change my stance, it seems to be a “glass half empty” way of looking at it.

    Even if something is made solely to entertain, it’s a rule of thumb that everything has a message (intentional or not) – even slice of life – and it’s just up to you whether you try to find it or not. By gaining access to written, visual and spoken language in so many forms (via mass media and tech advances), it’s easier to start looking for them…or be told what they might be. That’s where all the complications come from, I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I think your second paragraph is pretty on the money here. Seeing media all the time or having the ability to watch things at whatever pace you want has helped show what kind of themes and other things are in a series. Maybe we’ve gone too far?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Legend of the Galactic Heroes is one of my favorites partly because it gets into a lot of political philosophy without getting too heavy-handed about it, and for the fact that one of its biggest war heroes hates war and just wants to go home and study history.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sure. You’ve pretty well nailed this. While sometimes there’s politics involved, the more important message is Japan isn’t Hollywood. They have different interests, and their interests have very little to do with Hollywood politics. So rejecting Hollywood is kinda political?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As someone who tries his best to remain apolitical out of apathy and to avoid the toxicity that comes hand in hand with political discourse, even I can’t deny that Anime (and all media in general) has some kind of political influence, even if it’s on a very minor level.

    Even myself, choosing to be apolitical, is a political choice in and of itself, so even if the creators of a series had the same mindset as I do, they’d still be influenced by the political circumstances surrounding them at the time they got together to create it.

    That being said, my stance on this issue has never been “Anime isn’t political”, but more “Anime is political, but how much does that really matter? Should it matter at all?”

    I’ve found that it depends entirely on the viewer and the kind of show you’re watching.

    If you look at my favourite shows, they tend to range from going on an adventure, superpowers, chaotic edginess and a super relaxing show about a sleepy guy who happens to be my online avatar. I’m sure there’s some political statement in each of these somewhere, but to me, that’s not what’s important. I’m more interested in the cool adventure in that cool adventure series or getting a look into the mindset of that messed up individual who’s just made a bad decision due to their messed up morality.

    Of course, if someone wants to talk about the political aspects, they’re also free to do so however. My issue arises when people demand that you care and that it’s what matters the most because politics is important and you shouldn’t run away from it. For someone like me, who’d rather remain tucked in his apolitical bubble, I find it really insufferable when people try to tell me what I should value in my life or media.

    But I digress. I think you really hit the nail on the head with this one. Very insightful post that got me thinking for sure.

    And yeah, Twitter is toxic. So very toxic 😛

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Art in any form really does reflect life. I agree I don’t think most anime is flat out political but it is a reflection of what is happening in our world and you can really see that in the themes.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Just got a chance to read this today, and as someone who I would say beliefs in the idea of anime, and really all media, being political, I think the major disagreements are mainly over 1) the degree to which you can call media political, and 2) whether or not this matters at the end of it.

    On the first point, I would say you are correct in that the type of media you are talking about has different levels of political messaging. For example, your typical moeblob show is going to be fairly apolitical compared to something like Fullmetal Alchemist. However, I think it’s important to note that even in fairly innocuous shows like A Place Further than the Universe have messages like being able to rise above your situation that can be interpreted as fairly political in nature.

    As for the second, I would absolutely concede that we can get to a certain level of media analysis that is both vacuous and unnecessary and can in some ways hurt discourse by reading too much into things. However, popular narratives pushed by entertainment media can absolutely have an effect on the way we view things. Maybe not in one or two shows, but over a long period of time, repeated exposure to a certain message can absolutely normalize them.

    So, yeah. Not here to throw ad hominems, but I do think, generally speaking, that we should be a bit more critical of the media we consume, rather than assuming that it can’t have fairly large impacts on cultural narratives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Being critical is good and should be paid attention to because you are right about that. I guess the danger is that missing the forest for the trees is more then possible and it’s hard for people to find the differences between what is good and bad analysis.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s fair, but I would say that not being able to see the difference between good and bad analysis is more a lack of education. Not that I would ban people from consuming media unless they had a “proper education,” but rather that people should be more vigilant when it comes to overarching narratives, and try to educate themselves when they can.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. “Politics are in everything, but not everything has to be political” has always been my view.

    It’s fun to read into things, to discuss themes and ideas. Hell Darling in the Franxx has political themes and that’s why I enjoyed it, same with Gundam Seed, hell even Fate Stay Night. Everything in this world has something to say whether the author intends it to or not.

    It’s just that people often read way too much into things, or try to force something to comply with their personal ideology. That’s when people get pissed and annoyed. Not everything you watch has to reinforce your beliefs, hell challenging said beliefs is what makes us better people.

    I just don’t want to listen to your 40 minute video essay trying to tie Love is War to your marxist ideology. Fuck right off with that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Holy crap, you caught the video I was referencing. Yeah, that video was the worst.

      And agreed on everything you said. Talking about politics in anime is fine if people want to analyze something. Trying to force it under one’s own ideals is wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Philosophical is an experiment in thought. Political is an instruction on what one should think.

    I think anime is exceptionally useless when put to political purpose. Nobody’s mind is changed. OTOH a well-done exploration of the human condition can get one to think. Not necessarily to reach a specific conclusion but rather to encourage one to come to their own conclusion.

    Philosophical is interesting. Political is boring – unless it is specifically a political thriller. If you like older movies, Seven Days in May is perhaps the greatest American political thriller ever made.

    DarliFranxx’s greatest disappointment to me was that it didn’t pursue the dystopian theme to the end. We could have had Brave New World or Logan’s Run but instead, we got half-assed versions of several diferent ideas finishing with an Evangelion rip off. She also needed to go fishing more often.

    Liked by 2 people

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