Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World-: The Star of Kararagi, and the Race for Capital

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

Re Zero 8

Of the numerous tangential things an anime could inspire me to write something extensive, Re: Zero’s possible showcase of environmental storytelling is one thing that has. I don’t know whether or not the creator of Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World- actually intended to comment on this obscure point of political economy theory in his narrative, but hell. As much as it may irk the political leftists I know online, I’m not going to pass up the excuse for talking about a positive about capitalism and meritocracies, by extension.

It’s a theoretical positive, mind you. I’m fully cognizant of the blurring that tends to occur between free markets and free-for-all markets in the absence of government regulation. To quote Alexander Hamilton, men are not angels. To quote myself, men  don’t always act as rational actors. The people who’ve first acquire a disproportionate amount of power to distort the market and media to suit their own profit and prejudice. They can engage in monopolistic practices to crowd out competition from small business outsiders in the workforce by threatening price wars, and set up normative barriers to crowd out competition from minority outsiders in the workplace by enabling the continued propagation of toxic stereotypes. I’ve already spent some time and type making the case for Railgun’s critical attitude towards meritocracies in practice. So in using a narrative element of Re: Zero as a springboard, I want to talk about how capitalism (via the precursor merchant form of it in this medieval fantasy) was theorized to function in the ideal. And it starts with the Fang of Steel, Anastasia Hoshin’s merry band of demihuman mercenaries.

Continue reading

Girls und Panzer and Stella Women’s Academy: High School Division Class C3: The Moe-Military Anti-War Complex and The Death of the Engineer

Management:  While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

Girls und Panzer 1

So I was having a chat with Frog-kun one day about politics in anime. The conversation ended up veering away from Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There and towards the question of military moe, how both this kind of show and that kind of moe is the cultural product of, maybe, a growing sense of nationalism in Japan. For the longest time since the end of WWII, there was this disconnect between many Japanese leaders and much of the Japanese public over the question of revising/repealing Article 9. Imposed on Japan by the US during the American Occupation, Article 9 is a provision in the Japanese Constitution that effectively prevented Japan from waging wars of aggression ever again. For the most part, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the party dominating politics for the better part of the post-WWII era,  favored Article 9’s revision or repeal. The public,  in keeping with memories of the horrors of war on their homeland, for the most part favored keeping Article 9 as is. The leadership featured a continuity of wartime leaders who wanted to normalize the country (starting with its military).

C3-bu 2

It’s been many decades since the end of WWII, and emerging from the intervening period of a belligerent past and the peaceful present is a budding subculture of military history and military hardware enthusiasts. They love guns and fawn over tanks. Is this enthusiasm by these Japanese enthusiasts for things military evidence that the Japanese public is becoming cooler to their previous pacifism? Is military moe evidence of this trend? I can’t answer the first question, but I can provide a response to the second. I will do that by analyzing the following moe military shows, Girls und Panzer and Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (henceforth, C3-bu).

Military Moe

Are Girls und Panzer and C3-bu examples of moe military promoting military revival? Just the opposite.

Continue reading

AKB0048: Work, Play, and Life Fulfilled

Management:  While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

AKB0048 1

Idols doing battle in space. It’s not as though this eccentric premise is especially unheard of in anime history (See: Macross). However, its eccentricity seemed to demand something thorough explication of its setting’s cosmology. I demanded one, anyway. The show’s backdrop is one of conflict between the forces of play and the forces of work. At the vanguard of the forces of play is the idol battle group, AKB0048. The armed guard of the forces of work are the Destroy Entertainment Soldiers, DES.

While the audience during the show was treated to insider information  about the motivations of the idols and the mission of idols’ organization, the DES was treated, more or less, as this large, amorphous, and ambiguous force that sought to destroy singing and dancing and idols and entertainment. Why? Because EVIL? Because the show treated them as clear EVIL,  AKB0048’s mission would be seen all the more as GOOD, because the alternative is EVIL? Is play all good then, and work all bad? Musing on the show more, I would say the answer is neither.

Continue reading

The Heavens Fall | Aldnoah.Zero, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching. For clarity’s sake, I’ll emphasize this: the review isn’t meant to be so much holistic as it is coverage of what I believe is of core importance to the show.

Aldnoah.Zero 1

“Honorable” is a word in the human vernacular that carry a bit of controversy in its historical and even current usage. It and its variants have often been used as praise for action, person, system, and idea. For instance, that soldier sacrificed his life in order to saved his platoon from a stray enemy grenade… That was an honorable action. He did an honorable action without regard for anyone but the lives of his comrades… He must be an honorable man. The system that produced such an honorable man to commit … It must be an honorable system. That system must have been produced by an idea of some kind… It must be an honorable idea.

Now apply “honorable” to a suicide bomber. Some of you, many of you, or most of you reading this review (I hope) will outright reject or at least question the mere notion of juxtaposing “honorable” and “suicide bomber” together in the same sentence as something that goes beyond an oxymoron, but there are people who believe suicide bombing can be honorable. Even more people believe in “honor killings,” where a person or a group of people murder or massacre another person or group of people, respectively, because they feel he or she or they sullied their social, spiritual, and/or personal standing. The most infamous cases involve “righteous” men killing “deviant” women, though “honor killings” have been used to excuse violence against ethnic, religious, and national groups.

We may condemn it as not being “civilized,” but “civilized” has been used to justify numerous travesties on one group to another because of “civilized” folk believing they’re superior to everyone else which, thus, gives license for them to do and take what they will them. Even “civilized” individuals who honestly believe they are well-meaning, imperialists, missionaries, and Social Darwinists, believe their impositions on others that aren’t them are benefiting mankind. What about “just?” What about “justice?”

“Fiat justitia ruat caelum…”

…or…

“…let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

As to what that means, Aldnoah.Zero attempts to explain.

Continue reading

Spice and Wolf and Maoyuu Maou Yuusha: Politics to Economics

Economics to Politics

Management: While my opinion of the show is positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay, in particular, takes from Episodes 8-10 of Spice and Wolf and Episode 1 of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.

Spice and Wolf 4

Calculus courses and statistical computations don’t come easily on me, and you can’t pay me enough to retake another year on physics. Needless to say, I’ve never been big on math, and one of the reasons I prefer studying the social sciences is because of my admittedly petty aversion to number crunching. I prefer studying the humanities partly because I loathe numbers. I had a dream once where I was attacked by numbers.

It seems somewhat contradictory then that I invested all this time learning about the breath and depth of political science if a major, if not the major component understanding political science is understanding economics. Economics, after all, is typically characterized by myriad accounts of large and every changing numbers lining across stock market monitors.

I’m admittedly apprehensive of the complicated numerical calculations I may inevitably have to force myself to rote and, eventually, cognitive memory, but understanding the fundamental waves of economic currents doesn’t actually require a complicated understanding of numbers. I mean, economics use numbers, but they’re only important for general comprehension in so far as they demarcate the relative values of concepts such as the magnitudes of rates of flow in trade, the concentrations of disparities in assets, and the prices of goods and services for examination. From these comparative studies, we get headings and directions, trends and patterns that, boiled down, are often ultimately the result of politics.

The variety in anime has produced two good examples that demonstrate the interconnectedness of politics and economics: Spice and Wolf and Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.

Though not strictly defined by numbers, some economics concepts need some explanation. Economics can be roughly divided into two general fields: microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics deals with the localized environment of economics, the behavior of individuals and organizations in reaction to events that perpetuate or challenge the status quo of the local market. Macroeconomics deals with the overall environment of economics, the trends and patterns of economic activity derived from the sum of microeconomic transactions.

Within both of these fields, economics, including in both Spice and Wolf and Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, is generally dictated by two basic principles: supply and demand and the rational actor model. Individuals and organizations react to periods of stability or fluctuations of instability in the supply of goods and services from suppliers, and the demand of goods and services from consumers. Reactions are based on the paradigm of a rational actor. In the marketplace, suppliers and consumers are generally benefit heavy and cost averse in terms of profit, the most net gain of money or capital for the supplier, and the least net loss in both money and quality for the consumer.

Continue reading

Of Political Dimensions: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha and the Factors of Liberalism

Management: While my overall opinion of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, is fairly positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review. It is rather an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. It touches on the actions and ideas of some key modern and postmodern political revolutionaries, but their beliefs, by no means, are meant to be completely representative of mine.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha 5

Here are several ideas that Maoyuu Maou Yuusha brought up that interested me enough to jot them down in a somewhat organized essay form.

Freedom

“I… as one who has a soul like your own, I have something I must tell you. I was… I was born as a serf. I was the third of seven siblings.”

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha began its airing by utilizing a not too uncommon fantasy trope: a human hero and a demon king facing each other in a pitched battle that would decide the fate of the world. The Human Hero would win, and the Demon King’s forces would crawl back into their hole, disappear into thin air, surrender unconditionally, or all drop dead. The Demon King’s war would be over, peace and prosperity would return, and happily ever after.

Shortly after its introduction, the trope was then subverted though inquires challenging its premise. Why demons weren’t simply evil, why war wouldn’t simply end, and soon enough, the show became an overarching study on the whys of conflict. Truth be told, beneath its fantastical exterior, the show is a narrative chronicle of history. History? Why, the history of revolution. A revolution of liberation from what was effectively feudal, a feudalism of landed noble lords and landless serf peasants, to what’s effectively more egalitarian. More… liberal.

Continue reading

Of Political Dimensions: Log Horizon and The Rise of Civilization

Management: While my overall opinion of Log Horizon is quite positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review of the series, but rather, an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. Much of this essay draws implicit reference to Modernist Political Philosophy, from Thomas Hobbes in particular, what with his conceptions of the state of nature and his views on the origin of power, though this is, by no means, a total affirmation of on my part of everything Hobbesian.

Image

Here are several ideas that Log Horizon brought up that interested me enough to jot them down in a somewhat organized essay form.

…and my axe.

Speaking as a former avid MMORPG player myself, when it comes to MMORPGs, or Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games, there are two general aspects of MMORPGs that I suspect people keep coming to them for.

First, then, is the aspect of RPG. I mean, for your average MMORPG player, who wouldn’t want to be part of some heroic triumph over beasts of Legend or Lovecraft, or serve at the honorable behest of some high lord or princess as one of his or her confidants, respectively. Hell, why stop there? Why not be the sole hero, or the sole confidant?

The ends of RPGs are thus. Immersion is the RPG’s aim. Empowerment is the RPG’s name. Those who play the roleplaying game are allowed to lose themselves in fantastical and brave settings, brave new worlds to conquer or become a part of, new narratives of which to consciously carve out as one’s own, like a knife to a landmark. This all still begs the question of why MMORPGs. Why are just plain old RPGs not enough for MMORPG players?

Last, then, is the aspect of MMO. Now, I’m not going to say that all people who enjoy MMORPGs are of a certain, peculiar nature, but people that play them tend to have… certain interests or display… peculiar idiosyncrasies. I’m, of course, no exception. Yet it needs to be said that neither certain interest nor peculiar idiosyncrasy denote, by absolute default, anti-sociability.

Players are people, and people, boiled down, are social creatures. As social creatures, we want social reference, desire social interaction, crave social reference somewhere with someone, whether that be in the form of a companion or even a competitor. More often than not, as “certain” and “peculiar” probably denote, this demographic of interest and idiosyncrasy comprise the minority in the general population. Moreover, this demographic is relatively sparse and widely distributed amongst towns, cities, and countrysides. And yet remarkably, the digital worlds of MMORPGs bring these relatively sparse and widely distributed people together into one forum, which even there can be divided into even more numerous subforums, guilds, in other words. The result is a community, some being tighter than others, a culture where dividing associations melt away in perceived gravity of mine and thine due to the time spent playing together, the bonds of fellowship forged through virtual combat and craft. A band of brothers… of sorts.

Continue reading