what i was (not) forced to (re)watch this week #11: martian sucessor nadesico

I had been meaning to write this post months ago, but all of my anime watching and blogging got through off when I had to give up my computer for a few weeks and it was hard to get back into the swing of things. I felt like I had to restart when talking with people after NYAF who started referring to my blogging in the past tense (“I really liked reading your posts about what you were forced to watch”) and realized that damn, that’s a bit too long to procrastinate. That said, the bright side to my procrastination is that I’ve read more and more stuff that’s been relevant to this post and had more and more time for these ideas to percolate around in my head.

So, what are these ideas? Basically, the way that individuals and societies deal with fantasy and subtext in Nadesico, and by extension, pop culture in general. Every once and a while, I like to rewatch Nadesico. Usually this occurs after watching some milestone sci-fi series, like Macross or Gundam. I watched Yamato partially for this reason, but the real reason that I wanted to rewatch it was after reading Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals.

One of the main building blocks that Azuma starts from is the idea of otaku having (re)constructed a new Japan (in the wake of the old Japan that America dismantled after World War II) out of American pop culture, and more specifically sci-fi. Azuma doesn’t discuss this process that much more in depth, but I’ve seen more detailed examples of this given in both Schoolgirl Milky Crisis and Notenki Memoirs. This re-built Japan, however is extremely right-wing. Clements mentions Japanese translations of Heinlein, so the right-wing building blocks concept is a bit easier to see.

Azuma then argues (or perhaps simply, “states”) that Nadesico is first about this process, and then as the series progresses, the realization amongst the characters of the fascist subtext and their attempts to try to forge a new otaku identity free from those values. For the few people (or perhaps, the many non-old fans) that haven’t seen Nadesico, the series is about an anime otaku who is becomes a mecha pilot after being filled with HOT BLOOD and BURNING PASSION as a result of watching a 1970s super robot anime called Gekiganger 3. That name is a pun; “gekiga” are the graphic novels to manga’s comics. Yet the series is often ambivalent as to what exactly the joke is in the title: is the joke that this kiddie show has such a serious name, or that this kiddie show is actually serious business?

The reasoning behind this ambivalence is that the crew of the Nadesico eventually discovers that the alien race that Earth has been fighting against since the beginning of the episode is actually a group of ostensibly Japanese humans that have formed a militaristic fascist society modeled on the explicit and implicit values portrayed in Gekiganger 3 (which, it’s important to note, is a Japanese anime, and therefore these are the values of Japan and Japanese otaku). Thus, the crew of the Nadesico are forced to come to terms with themselves and just what exactly it means to have a life (shades of Paul Verillio and Jean Baudrillard) in which they cannot mediate life except through anime, and just how exactly that lens is affecting their experiences.

Both Azuma and my own interpretations of the show is that that it takes the srs bizness side of the show’s internal debate between srs bizness and MST3K (Repeat to yourself that it’s just a show. You should really just relax…) Going from this perspective then colors a lot of interpretations of different ways to read possibly conflicting aspects of Gekiganger 3 (and because of the meta-ness in the show, Nadesico itself). There’s a joke in the credits of Gekiganger 3, for example where the OP is full of crayon drawings of the Gekiganger with a caption listing the artist (“Taro, age 5″), with the final one being from a 34 year old man. (Another joke: the karaoke is entirely in hiragana, showing that only kids—who would not know enough kanji yet—are assumed to be watching it.)

We laugh; he’s a grown man getting really into a kid’s show. But what exactly does that mean? Well, for starters we’re laughing at how this show is for kids but not for adults. But why? I’d say that it’s because an adult is supposed to see how ridiculous the show is. But what exactly is ridiculous? That’s the crux of the matter. Liking robots is probably part of the ridiculousness, but I’d argue that another big part of what is ridiculous are the characters behaviors and actions. Yet at the same time, these are values like courage, loyalty, friendship, honor, dedication, and so on that are lionized by both Japanese and Western society. So maybe we’re just supposed to “know” not to take things to far. We’re supposed to reflect on our beliefs and actions, and how they affect us, and how they affect the world around us, and what they mean. But sadly, how many people really do this? All you need to do is look at a lot of political coverage to see an overwhelmingly huge number of examples that this is rarely done.

That’s why I think articles like io9’s Your fantasies are not acceptable (and I should also note that, oddly enough, one of the things that brought this idea back to the forefront of my mind was that Oreimo has been exploring this theme) misses an important point. For very obviously “wrong” fantasies, both the fantasizer and the worrier recognize that the fantasies are wrong. I sincerely doubt that very few people defending Rapelay, for example are doing so because they think that the act being fantasized about in the game (you know, raping a family until they kill themselves in anguish) is not a problem, but rather that because everyone knows that raping a family until they kill themselves in anguish is so bad that obviously nobody is going to or really wants to do that.

Instead, I think a far better comparison is historical revisionism. It just-so-happened that around the time when I read Azuma was the one-two punch of the premiere of Senkou no Night Raid (moar liek Sankou no Night Raid amirite?) with the brouhaha over Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declaring April “Confederate History Month”. Once this happened, I scrambled to get a copy of Saburo Ienaga’s The Pacific War (which I got from a used bookstore on Amazon for like $1), which is sort of like one half discussion of war atrocities and one half Howard Zinn/Noam Chomsky-esque discussion of how easily the Japanese government was able to get the Japanese people to go along with war.

(Ah, Senkou no Night Raid. Fascism turned into fodder for fujoshi to masturbate over.)

Time and time again, those participating in historical revisionism don’t ever recognize how, what, or why what they are doing is wrong. It is the polar opposite of people rolling their eyes when they’re told by about how playing Doom is going to make them want to shoot up their classrooms. This has come up pretty frequently in the many posts since April that Ta-Nahesi Coates has made about history and historical revisionism regarding the Confederacy and the Civil War. People first of all don’t even understand that their many fantasies about the Confederacy and the Civil War are even fantasies (everything from that idea the war wasn’t about slavery to notions regarding the military prowess of the Union and Confederacy) despite these being easily debunked through copious amounts of primary sources. Then, they rarely realize why these fantasies are so pernicious. Finally, they rarely realize why other people would so bothered by these fantasies.

Which, getting back to Nadesico, is a pretty big deal with Japan. There are constant tensions between Japan and its neighbors regarding Japan’s atrocities both before and during The Pacific War because of the constant denialism and historical revisionism regarding the time period.

(Sidenote: The difference between “The Pacific War” and “World War II” is that the former starts with the Mukden Bridge Incident in 1931 at the earliest and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1937 at the latest, while the former begins with Pearl Harbor in 1941.)

The most important fantasies that Ienaga takes aim at are the idea that surely not everyone could have been like this, and that there had to have been people that disagreed and did not participate. It’s both a pretty common fantasy since it seems reasonable, and it’s an extremely important fantasy because it shows how threatening the subtext in some ostensibly safe fantasies (like super robots!) can be. There was a time, not too long ago, when people did take that subtext and those fantasies seriously, and look at the catastrophic results. With that in mind, one shouldn’t be so glib as to just easily be able to dismiss problematic fantasies and subtexts.

Hmm, that word. Problematic. Where do I keep seeing that? Ah yes! In analyses of subtexts. The next big source for getting me to think more about fantasies and subtexts was when Sady Doyle started having the same kinds of thoughts that the characters in Nadesico were having, in her case with feminism. Sure, it’s easy enough to take something (really, anything) and apply one’s theoretical lens(es) of choice to it and come up with the subtext that we want to see. It can be either a good or bad subtext, depending on what we want to prove. But usually, what we want to prove is something that works easily for us. It’s a pretty frequent mindset, both on the left (I’m resisting hegemonic capitalist forces by reading Harry Potter slash about Snape raping Draco!—Matt Hills actually took Henry Jenkins to task on this tendency when he interviewed him in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers) or on the right (Precious is a conservative movie because it shows those welfare queens to be as lazy and stupid and fat and slovenly and undeserving of the fruits of my Randian labor as they really are!) I will note that the left is usually more intellectually honest about this.

(I’ve seen everything from Star Trek to Avatar argued to either conservative or not conservative entirely depending on what straw man the author is setting up. But I digress. And I think that the fact that theory rarely usefully engages anything is a big part of the popular backlash against it. But I digress again.)

But what we rarely see are the cases like Sady’s (or the Nadesico’s) where one realizes that the subtext in things regarding themselves may not live up to their theoretical ideals, and have to figure out what that means for themselves. Instead, it’s far easier to deny the dissonance, or tweak the theory, or joke it away, than it is to genuinely wrestle with the implication that it might have for oneself or one’s society.

Then, the final thread that finally got me to want to write this post: the scandal regarding the teabagger candidate in Ohio who regularly participated in World War II SS re-enactments. Not just World War II. The SS. There’s two parts to this. The second part was how I lol’ed for 20 minutes at how this guy has been so warped by teabagger anti-socialist ideology that the Nazis have become the good guys to him because they fought against communism in World War II. But the first, more important part, are the fantasies revolving around Nazi Germany.

I pretty frequently say on this blog “While I am pussified pinko faggot liberal academic, I can’t get enough of (war-related thing)”, and one of those things is World War II alternate history. And, since I’ve got this whole post on my mind, I started thinking about what this all means for me and what I think.

(Wuh oh, this is getting as close as I’ll ever get to one Diary of an Anime Lived thingies. Dear Internet, I first watched Nadesico when I was going through the very emotional time in my life when I too was getting to burning…)

I thought about how when I read The Pacific War, I kept thinking about how awful the Japanese army was. Their strategies were terrible, their tactics were terrible, the only things that they were good at doing were raping Koreans and performing medical experiments on Chinese, and how hard they got their asses kicked by the Russians both in 1938 and 1945 when they realized that pulling out a sword and screaming “LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR FOR ONE THOUSAND YEARS!” is a lot less effective against a T-34 than it is against a Filipino baby.

But then I also wondered if there was a big racist dimension to this. Nazi Germany, the other bad guys (Italy doesn’t even exist), are the baddest bad guys of all time, with all the best units and stats and uniforms. I thought about how I loved playing Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe when I was little because they had stealth bombers and jet fighters and cruise missiles, while the Allies had boring old prop planes. I thought about whenever I would play Axis and Allies, I either wanted to be Germany or Russia since they had the best, most stuff. I thought about how I keep wanting to buy Hearts of Iron 2 to see if I can win the war with Germany, beat both Japan and Germany as Russia with no help from America and England…and make Japan never attack America. The fantasies with Germany and Russia are to see if I can take on the world, while the fantasy for Japan is for them to never get involved in a war that I can’t even fantasize them as being possibly able to win. And then I realized that I’m basically repeating the common American mindset regarding the Axis powers in WWII, and perhaps also reading in the subtexts that I want to read in order to confirm what I believe, rather than engaging my beliefs (like in Nadesico!)

(Sidenote: in case anyone hasn’t read it, a great example about this tendency to fantasize about history (and damn the subtexts) is that joke about how World War II was full of plot holes.)

Finally, I think that one of the reasons that Azuma’s reading of Nadesico was such a revelation to me was simply because so few anime ever even remotely address this issue. One of the only other times that I can recall seeing an anime(ish) work address this was Sakura Wars 2, and the fact that it addressed the Gekiganger 3-ish subtext (which was pretty obvious in the first Sakura Taisen) is one of the reasons that I liked that one so much. Any other ones that anyone else can think of? And no, anime like Grave of the Fireflies absolutely do not count, as these still traffic in the same historical revisionism about how the Japanese people were innocent and blameless and whatnot that Ienaga demolishes.

(tl;dr there is kissing in the last episode, and if I didn’t own this on DVD and watched it numerous times before, I would have been forced to watch this, and said kissing would be the reason why this series was originally burned to CD.)

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Every once and a while, I'll write something about those Japanese porno Pokemans cartoons that are STRAIGHT FROM JAPAN but AREN'T KIDS' STUFF. Just not today.

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26 comments on “what i was (not) forced to (re)watch this week #11: martian sucessor nadesico
  1. karry says:

    Tried reading this incoherent ranting twice, both times got hopelessly lost on the fourth block…no idea what your point was, as its all over the place.

  2. kakoishii says:

    also tried to read this, but too tired and eyes won’t stay tired. The irony is I never finished nadesico either, stopped 5 episodes shy from the end.

  3. dm00 says:

    I always wondered if Nadesico wasn’t also a reaction to one of the perennial Japanese history text-book controversies that was raging (throughout East Asia) at the time the series was made.

    Not only are the Jovians fascist reinterpretations of the Gekiganger ethos, they are also the victims of an atrocity that had been written out of Earth history.

    But I’m going to say that you’re stopping too soon. Nadesico is about memory in all its meanings — personal, nostalgic, historic. Omoikane says that our memories are what make us what we are; Ruri vetoes the hop-back-in-time-and-prevent-the-war solution because it would rob her of her only happy memories; Akito and Yurika have very different interpretations of their memories from their time together on Mars.

    • jpmeyer says:

      @dm00

      I think they’re pretty intimately linked. There’s a pretty big overlap on 2ch for example between the otaku and the right wing net uyo (sorta like the Japanese equivalent of the tea party). It’s weird when you look through something like Itai News and the stories are like weekly DVD sales, review of the new Final Fantasy game, Korean exchange student in America gets murdered, and Kyoto Animation’s show for the spring season.

      Or when they use 2ch to coordinate doing stuff like this with Yasukuni Shrine: http://blog.livedoor.jp/insidears/archives/52343172.html

  4. Mitch H. says:

    You know you’re in for a world of confused, disemboweled strawpeople when the first thing you encounter is a sentence with “right wing”, “fascist” and “Heinlein” thrown together as if they were all synonyms.

    The funny thing is, is that I sort of agree that Nadesico is about the fascistic impulse, in a Sorelian sense. The joke is, is that a “vital myth” can be *anything*. It doesn’t have to be the dictatorship of the proletariat or blood-and-soil historical fantasy or a theocratic “cult of the emperor”. Nadesico offers a satirical fascist state where the “vital myth” is a hot-blooded Seventies giant robot show.

    But seriously, go to your room, young man, until you figure out how to have a serious conversation without demonizing your political opponents by calling them obscene names.

  5. Mitch H. says:

    Oh, and by the way, someone whose avatar is a latin-american fascist mass-murderer like Che Guevara ought not to be throwing stones about somebody else’s cosplay history. That guy also liked to run around in Union blue & WWI American infantryman drag – you’ve been using fanboy-Che for what, two years now? One might almost suspect you of wanting to butcher “counter-revolutionaries in a post-revolution Cuban concentration camp for “class enemies”.

    • jpmeyer says:

      Mitch, what straw men am I setting up here?

      Japan has a problem coming to terms with its imperial/wartime/fascist past
      Otaku and net uyo overlap a lot
      The left and right both are too eager to condemn things through their ideological filters rather than engage those issues
      It’s hard to deal personally in a critical way with the cognitive dissonance we encounter when something we are personally involved with doesn’t go through those filters so well

      (Also, looks like someone hasn’t been paying attention to whose face has been on that avatar all this time!)

      @omo

      Maybe it’s like that study about whether people where able to understand political satire of their personal positions?

  6. omo says:

    LOL mitch i think that is the point.

    Thanks for the write-up JP, I appreciate the fast turn-around ;) The bigger fan-meta-subtext question I have is, really, what does this make Nadesico? Let’s say if I’m a net uyo freeter and I spend my free time between jobs feeding coins into a Nadesico pachinko machine. What does this mean??? Am I worshipping the satire that is my life’s philosophy, all the while further cheapening my proud home country’s national cultural export?

  7. omo says:

    So Nadesico is a political satire? Well I guess I buy that. Or is it about cognitive dissonance? At least for a part of it.

    • jpmeyer says:

      @omo

      Dunno either way. I really just used the word because you used it in your example!

      @OGT

      1) Yeah, net uyo comes from uyoku dantai and is a subset of it. Rather than like going around screaming all night in front of poor Ienaga’s house so he can never fall asleep, they just go around 2ch screaming all night about how China is evil
      2) I dunno if I’d go that far, since it’s not like any of the conditions are different. I think it’s much more like the kind of thing I talked about here where they’re kind of like creating a parallel world with more or less the same gender roles as mainstream society, just with different women. There’s another essay right after the Nadesico one in Otaku where he talks about that idea with regards to Sabre Marionette J, although I had heard/thought about that idea well before I read that book (that post was from December and I read the book in the Spring).
      3) Like Che. But not like Takakazu Abe. He is in no way an ideologue.
      4) You get to burning.

  8. OGT says:

    1) I guess this “net uyo” thing is the “uyo” from 右翼団体 and so indicates a net right-winger. I had never heard this phrase before.

    2) Does the typical moe series, with its conservative viewpoint of women, fall under some form of historical revisionism? Or is that falling victim to a Chrysanthemum and the Sword-esque view of the Japanese identity? I’m with you with historical revisionism for the “hot-blooded” 60s-80s sorts of anime (what’s up Space Battleship Yamato, I’m just curious if the conservative trends in the 90s and 00s may stem (at least some) from similar origins.

    3) I do think that we ought to encourage people to take a more active role in challenging and understanding their beliefs; I try to do this in what I write but I am sure I do a terrible job at it. Also, pretty sure ideologues of any variety or belief are the scourge of the Earth.

    4) I should rewatch Nadesico again.

  9. ToastCrust says:

    Lol, I was going to mention how somehow Mitch failed to notice the yaranaika face on Che, hahaha.

    I really enjoy Nadesico. I think this might be yet another reason rewatch Nadesico again, especially after having bought the DVD set and finally gotten around to watching Macross back in summer.

  10. OGT says:

    Yeah, Azuma’s Saber Marionette J discussion is what sticks most in my mind when looking at anime in terms of gender relations: the whole dialectic between accepting an artificial woman versus dealing with The Real Deal (where just accepting The Real Deal is the endgame).

    Also, the socioeconomic realities of what’s going on in Japan (and what’s increasingly going on in the US) are why I tend to hold my ire for the society and its conditions than for its cultural products and the people stuck trying to figure it out on the front lines of it all.

  11. Hinano says:

    ugh, I knew I should have made a post about lesbian sisters from yosuga no sora instead of this!!

  12. TheBigN says:

    jpmeyer :
    @dm00
    I think they’re pretty intimately linked. There’s a pretty big overlap on 2ch for example between the otaku and the right wing net uyo (sorta like the Japanese equivalent of the tea party). It’s weird when you look through something like Itai News and the stories are like weekly DVD sales, review of the new Final Fantasy game, Korean exchange student in America gets murdered, and Kyoto Animation’s show for the spring season.
    Or when they use 2ch to coordinate doing stuff like this with Yasukuni Shrine: http://blog.livedoor.jp/insidears/archives/52343172.html

    Any chance you could make a post contrasting this with the political demographics of anime fans here in the US now? You piqued my interest with this. :P

    And I need to watch Nadesico again, especially since it seems like the intellectual gift that keeps on giving.

    • jpmeyer says:

      I don’t actually know the political breakdown of any kind of fandom in the US, and I’m really wary to make any guesses. Here’s why:

      When I first heard about net uyo, I was pretty surprised. The reason that I was surprised was because when I made a snap judgment of fandom in the US, my first two thoughts were about all the politically activist stuff like racebending, and then because of the identification in my mind that anime fans = nerds, nerds = science/technology, and then about surveys about how (especially in recent years) scientists have been pushed very far leftward politically because of the right becoming more anti-science and anti-rationality.

      But then I also thought about how a lot of nerdy or somewhat nerdy internet forums and sites that I use are frequently infested with libertarians. RON PAUL! Which then made me remember that nerds also pretty frequently identify with (American right-wing) libertarianism, which I believe is due to a combination of a political ideology that appears logically coherent (which is very attractive to highly rational nerds) and a very longwinded discussion/explanation of how different libertarian political philosophies think about the role of labor vis a vis freedom that I won’t get into here lest I make everyone’s eyes glaze over even more than they already have.

  13. dm00 says:

    I guess that explains your response to me — the whole idea of a bunch of SF-fan nerds also being right-wingers comes as no surprise to me, since, a generation ago (the generation to which the creators of Nadesico largely belong), that was pretty common. I guess people get in trouble for mentioning Heinlein in this context, but it’s probably safe to use Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle as examples.

    Yes, these days scientists have been pushed leftward by right wing (or “movement conservative”) anti-rationalism, but a generation ago a lot of the forces pushed the other way when the counter-cultural left was rejecting technology and embracing a lot of Green primitivism.

    Which is a round-about way to say that the fascist elements of battling-robot anime has always seemed pretty obvious, and Nadesico‘s examination of that is nuanced and intelligent.

    But I don’t think that’s all that Nadesico is doing. That’s just one facet of the show’s explorations of memory and identity. It goes on to develop those topics in many other ways, large and small.

    • jpmeyer says:

      Yeah, there’s a TON to Nadesico. Every time I watch it, I end up with a different reading of it, especially based on how much more anime I’ve watched in the interim.

      Heinlein’s output definitely varies in terms of political views, but from what I had read about regarding his books in translation in Japanese, the ones that made there way over there were much more Starship Troopers and much less Stranger in a Strange Land in terms of ideology.

      And I do have to say, it was kind of weird how for much of my life, I had the association in my mind of science and technology being associated with conservative thinking, with the left being associated with hippy-dippy crystals and Earth Mothers and stuff, but then all of a sudden all I could see was the right being associated with science denial, creationism, etc., and being kind of surprised when stuff like anti-vaxers, healthy at any size, etc. would show up and remind me of that sort of anti-science leftist thinking that had previously been the more dominant position.

      (Which is why I, and a lot of my friends for that matter, being fellow nerds and all turned into “pussified pinko faggot liberal academics” as I put it despite our personal views not really changing all that much…)

  14. TheBigN says:

    Just the sign of the times, I guess.

    “I don’t actually know the political breakdown of any kind of fandom in the US, and I’m really wary to make any guesses. Here’s why:”

    The “here’s why” portion is something of what I mean when I say that. And given examples like you and lolikitsune compared to zaitcev and SDB (chizumatic’s writer), political identification with anime fans here is complicated. But I think it’s a fun complication.

  15. Janette says:

    While in Ohio, we just consider such things normal. You get so use to weirdos…especially in politics.

    This is one of my favorite animes.

  16. adaywithoutme says:

    “(Ah, Senkou no Night Raid. Fascism turned into fodder for fujoshi to masturbate over.)”

    Shit. Where can I sign up?

    In all seriousness: Ok! Totally not what I was expecting of this post! I think this has basically convinced me to go back and finally finish Nadesico, having seen a scant six or seven episodes of it about… hmm… six years ago.

    Thanks for the links to the articles from the Atlantic. I more or less stopped reading that magazine when they moved down to D.C. and dropped their wider-spectrum coverage in favor of almost pure politics, so I’ve ended up missing a bunch of stuff (in my defense, I can’t really afford to have too many magazine subscriptions).

    I absolutely think there is a racial dimension to our conception, as Americans, of our WWII enemies… and I’d argue that this extends to Italy to a minor extent as well, although this may vary regionally. Probably the easiest indicator is simply the fact that Japanese-Americans got locked up whereas German and Italian Americans didn’t. While Italy certainly played a much smaller role than the other Axis powers, I think they also tend to go unexamined because there’s this notion of Italy as either being useless or harmless, ultimately, depending on where you’re coming from (in the Northeast, I’d say this shades towards harmless because of the large ethnic Italian populations present in major population centers, e.g. Boston, NYC, New Jersey, etc.). Italian stereotypes remain extremely pervasive in our culture at large*.

    I also think racialist beliefs also explain the fact that Japan’s ideologies and roles in WWII go largely unexamined in a more general sense… which is to say, not in the ‘woo! big guns!’ sense of your gaming experience, but in more negative ways, e.g. the racism. Most Americans haven’t even the faintest inkling as to the fact that Japan had this hugely racist mindset that informed a lot of their belief set and aspirations during the WWII (and pre-WWII) era. Japan and the Japanese are just easier to caricature because of endemic racism about Asians in general in our society; although I would argue that these attitudes have changed since that time, the fact that they essentially grounded the way our forerunners looked at that conflict means that these beliefs persist more in conceptions of WWII than they perhaps do in other sectors of our culture.

    Of course, even more simply, the Japanese are easier to render flat because they were easier to mark aside as the ‘other’ than the ethnically German or Italian (and, you know, those sneaky German folks just changed their last names! a whole branch of my family went from being the scary Clausewitzes to the wholly benign Chiltons).

    Holy shit, that was such a TL;DR comment. I hope I got my ideas across, I’m fairly sleep-deprived currently. I took this really excellent military history course last spring, and I felt like no one had really taught me WWII history prior to that; it was that good of a course, that in-depth of a course.

    …but I still like WWI better.

    * La la la, and in Japan, too, if Hetalia is of any indication!

    • jpmeyer says:

      >>I absolutely think there is a racial dimension to our conception, as Americans, of our WWII enemies… and I’d argue that this extends to Italy to a minor extent as well, although this may vary regionally.

      Yeah, I kind of implied that in my post. I think part of the reason why there’s like no popular perception of Italy in WWII is partially born out of those kinds of stereotypes.

      I’m always struck by the irony about the variation between the role of the USA in WWII in each theater and its popular perception. Russia does all the heavy lifting against Germany (and would’ve been able to beat them without any help), but WOOOOOOO, ‘MURICA BEAT THE NAZIS WOOOOOOO! Meanwhile, America does most of the work against Japan, yet the Pacific Theater sees very little in terms of popular portrayals outside of stuff about Pearl Harbor or The Bomb.

      Or, how Japan is portrayed as cowardly despite the fact that their soldiers always fought to the death no matter what the odds, while the Nazis are portrayed as the baddest bad guys ever when they couldn’t surrender to the Americans fast enough (so they wouldn’t have to surrender to the Russians).

      (Bonus round: or how Ulysses S. Grant is a drunken butcher, yet his relatively bloodless siege of Vicksburg is taught as a masterpiece of military strategy.)

      >>…but I still like WWI better.

      I want there to be more WWI alternate history stories where Germany wins like you don’t even know.

  17. adaywithoutme says:

    Ok, so I zoned out and forgot to respond.

    I would make the argument, though, that, no, Russia couldn’t have beaten Germany completely on its own – economically, they were in dire straits, so they couldn’t make enough equipment. So, yes, I think they could’ve beaten Germany militarily on their own, but not without the economic aid they were given (mainly) by the U.S. Sending people with pitchforks at tanks can only be done so many times before everyone is dead, after all.

    I think we see less about the Pacific theater in part because the matter of the atomic bomb has become so fraught. It is uncomfortable to get all jubilant about it because we can’t escape talking about Hiroshima or Nagasaki if we are to bring up that theater. And while the firebombings of Dresden or even Tokyo ultimately killed a lot more people, the atomic bomb was much more disturbing to people since it killed so many people in an instant and since it was a completely new weapon and ended up ushering in a protracted period of anxiety for America.

    Also, quite frankly, the Holocaust is more marketable than the various Japanese atrocities since it was done in an assembly line fashion. The banality of evil just comes across as more unsettling to many people – and the wide knowledge of that phrase also points up another factor in why it was easier for people to demonize the Nazis in a way they didn’t really do with the Japanese: the Nuremberg Trials. It really gave people the opportunity to get to know the evil overlords of the whole Nazi system, so in the aftermath of the war Americans had a pretty easy time of marking these individuals aside as monsters. There really is no equivalent with the Japanese.

    I would argue that the Japanese aren’t necessarily portrayed as cowards so much as they are depicted as being crazy; the kamikaze pilot is such an enduring piece of our collective memory regarding WWII despite the fact that it only became a tactic of desperation that was utilized very, very late in the war. This itself goes hand-in-hand with the popular notion of the Japanese as uniquely inclined toward suicide. Look a those crazy Japs! They’re just always killing themselves!

  18. [...] Also, I’m not entirely sure how to mentally square that whole concept of how Patlabor 2 is a left-wing military thriller. But you already know that. [...]

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