Anime and the Costs of Starting Battles

I think a lot of people who read my blog posts know how I feel about wars and fighting. I hate them. Not because they aren’t necessary sometimes, but because they can be depending on the circumstances. WW1 and WW2 for instance were wars that had to be fought. But still, there is a huge human cost that comes from them occurring. Normal human lives are in the crossfire with other normal humans and the results are not good. What made me think about this concept I am writing today are a couple anime series I am watching right now, Dairugger XV and the new Legend of the Galactic Heroes series made me think about this concept a little more than I should have. Not really a friendly topic to write about, so I might be walking on eggshells.

When thinking about a lot of conflict in anime series, most of the time the heroic side is the reactionary side. The aliens or opposing force always attacks causing devastation across the world or they were encountered before they could cause that devastation. That means the heroes are already on the ideologically good side because they didn’t start the conflict first and they must fight in order to survive. Then there are cases where the situations become much more complicated. Mobile Suit Gundam, for instance, starts with the enemy destroying the protagonist’s crew home. It’s not the civilians fault for not knowing their colony was a testing bed for experimental weaponry. The Zeon did destroy the colony, but there was at least a reason for it. Not to mention that the Earth Federation and Zeon were already at war before this episode.

And there are various other complicated series to be discussed here like how Space Battleship Yamato 2199. This show flipped the script on the original Yamato series with the starting of the conflict at hand. Who started the war this time? The Earth fired first this time which lead to the Earth being planted bombed into oblivion. Still not a good reason for the Gamilian forces to do it, but it adds a lot more exploration into the morality of the situation. The original Macross series did something like that too. While the Zentradi were getting closer to Earth, the Macross cannon fired on the Zentradi fleet that wanted to know what was going on. It was a booby trap and no one there caused this problem to start, but the Zentradi could clearly point at humanity for it.

So with all that in mind, what makes this Legend of the Galactic Heroes adaptation and Dairugger different? Because they are series where either war or large military actions are declared instead of being assumed. The human costs of those situations are explored more than letting the conflicts happen. For instance, the Free Planets Alliance and Empire in LOGH were already at war for 150 years and it has always been a stalemate. A cold war situation with some military action here and there. Yet, this new adaptation has made its place when it shows the consequences of launching larger campaigns into the other’s territory. 

The costs of manpower, the effects on the civilian populations of either side geared for what is going to happen, and so many other things. These invasions are declared in the name of good and justice when in the end they are nothing but political moves for campaigns that people want to be re-elected or because it plays into a character wanting to conquer the other side and how they got the backing of their own people behind them. The entire fourth cour of this Legend of the Galactic Heroes has been setting up the campaign for the empire to invade the Free Planets Alliance where you see almost every side at least have an opinion on what’s going on.

Dairugger is similar and yet different. For instance, the Three Planet Alliance (led by Earth) is trying to create a star map of the galaxy while Galvaston needs to find a habitable planet because their own planet is dying with people starving in the streets. You would think it would be an easy thing for the two sides to get along and work together, but that isn’t the reality. Some factions see the good in working together, while others want to do nothing but destroy the other side. After twenty episodes of uneasy peace and conflict between the two, war was officially declared by the Three Planets Alliance despite knowing it would cause so many more people to die as a result of placing their claim on the galaxy instead of backing away. 

All of which is how I want the start of war, or larger military actions, to be perceived in anime. If a series is going to be antiwar in its messaging, then it should be slower and more contemplative. There would be a weight and reason behind every sort of big decision because of how the citizens feel and how the military is going to use their power to push further on in their execution. Much more fitting then jumping into a war where more of that energy is filled and its easy to get the wrong message. Especially since these things are huge in real life and series that want to be grounded in reality, even if they aren’t, should consider that fact. Ok, that’s enough of my anime and political spewing for the day I think. Have a good day. 


  1. I don’t watch much intergalactic war anime, but this was definitely an interesting read, comparing how different anime look at this complex topic. Did you notice any difference in the sentiment towards war change in conjunction with when the anime was made? I was just wondering if anime was more anti conflict or pro conflict the closer or farther it was from big wars like WW2? I’m always interested in learning how real life events effect the anime that is created in that era.

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    1. Only have small samples for this unfortunately. From the original Yamato to Yamato 2199, the sense of nationalism has completely left with more focus on the horrors of way and being much more responsible with their wave motion cannon then before. I don’t think the politics in legend of the galactic heroes has changed at all, but there are more glimpses into what civilian points of view are in the newer one.

      It’s hard to tell in general because less war dramas are being made these days, thought it feels like anti war sentiment has appeared in other anime.

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  2. This is a topic that should be talked about. I didn’t think about it that much when most anime or most war dramas involve the bad guys attacking first, so the good guys can claim self-defense. Given a recent re-watch of a certain anime, I liked how it was more complex and the so-called good guys were no better than enemies since they were doing the same thing, so some protagonists want to break free from it. Also, war dramas can be filled with protagonist centered morality and propaganda (especially the ones made in Hollywood, let’s be real). I do agree that media with an antiwar message should be more contemplative and also show that this kind of violence is horrific.

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    1. That is one of the reasons why I don’t watch war movies. I know there are movies which show the costs of what people are fighting for, but they do get pushed into pro military too depending on the angle. Or even despite the angle.

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      1. I don’t blame you. Most of the movies I like that involve war usually has it as a backdrop and not the main focus, shows how horrific war is, or shows a very uncomfortable truth about specific events. It’s no wonder some of favorite movies involving WWII are Grave of the Fireflies, Mother of Mine, and Camp de Thiaroye even if those movies have completely different angles in how they deal with that topic. That makes sense and what you talked about involves The Truffaut Effect when it’s done poorly. If you make a war movie with combat scenes it can come off as jingoistic or if it is meant to be an antiwar message, people will still think the fighting is cool which is what someone wouldn’t want.

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  3. There were very substantial anti-war factions in the US prior to WWI and II. If it weren’t for the sinking of the Lusitania and later the Zimmerman telegram, the US would never have entered WWI. For all of its history, America had historically been neutral regarding anything beyond the western hemisphere. Not getting embroiled in European wars was fundamental to American policy.

    WWII was a bit more complex. Prior to American entry to the war, FDR had instituted the policy of “lend-lease” to shore up the British. American volunteer pilots went to fight in China against the Japanese. US ships would sink German U-boats if they attacked a convoy, but that was as much force as FDR could muster without Congress on board.

    Even that was not universally popular. It put us in exactly the same position with the war in Europe as we are today with the war in Ukraine. Without Pearl Harbor and the invasion of the Philippines, or something similar, it was unlikely we were going to get directly involved in Asia. We still would not have been able to declare war against Germany had Hitler not declared it first.

    The American public is isolationist by nature. They either have to be dragged into a war by world events or manipulated into it. Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq I, Afghanistan, and Iraq II were all special military operations with the first two being heavily fought by draftees. (Sound familiar?) Some were justified and some were not. Some were badly fought, some were well fought. But there was never a declaration of war. That’s on Congress.

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