Dispatches from the Spring Season Part 2

And people say product placement is a problem. I just don't see it.

The first entry in this series didn’t really go down…at all. So in response to that, I thought I could perhaps change the format for version 2. So fewer themes and fewer series mentioned, and hopefully this will all be enjoyable.

So it’s about one-third of the way through a spring season that has seen everything from the rush of sugar known as Pretty Rhythm to the hellish scenes of Deadman Wonderland. Overall, it seems like a fairly solid season, but that could be because for once I haven’t quit anything at all.

The voice said to stay behind the yellow line.

Social Commentary

The theme to 2nd post of the season is social commentary. Anime by the very nature of the types of people who touch the material before it makes it to the consumer tends not to be radical in its approach to issues. One generally has to dig deep to find interpretations about the modern world in these shows, and most of the time there isn’t anything to be found. I present to you a few attempts at social commentary this season, and a little interpretation to go with it.

I start with C, a show with greater ambitions that the length of its title. Beneath the layer of shounen-type battles is some commentary on the capitalism. The first episode features an unnamed character entering the Financial District at the heart of events. Desperate for money he enters into a world he knows nothing about in absolutely desperate circumstances. He’s defeated in battle easily, and upon losing his last hope of income he takes his own life. In the second episode, protagonist Yoga Kimimaro is thrown straight into battle upon arrival without any bit of knowledge about the rules, though he is able to come out on top in the end.

First of all, I continue to feel that characters like the man in the first episode probably present a more interesting story as a whole, but the choice of a lead who has more in common with the audience is understandable. Kimimaro’s daily life of subsistence while working 2 jobs and paying for college highlights a certain futility within life. He works hard only to end up in the same position as 2 co-workers who have seemingly given up on life. The man in the first episode probably reflects the true state of average that Kimimaro wants to attain.

As far as the battles, they represent an allegory for business. The rarity of someone winning the first time is seen as beginner’s luck, but it can be seen as the same sort of thing for someone starting a business for the first time. The lack of knowledge of how things worked in his first battle very much seems in line trying to do business without having a clue how to do so. The fact that everything seems so zero-sum is a rather pessimistic take on the world. Finally, on a less serious note, I would be curious to know the impact of the Financial District’s use of quantitative easing on Japan’s economy.

You pretty much had no chance when you ended up here

Social commentary of a different sort is fairly obvious in Deadman Wonderland. Protagonist Igarashi Ganta’s world changes fairly quickly in the first minutes as he goes from innocent student to death row inmate wrongly convicted for killing the rest of his class. In the second episode, desperately needing the prison’s currency to ensure his survival, Ganta sees almost all of his competitors in the dog race die horrifically, and because he chose to do something honorable at the end his own survival was put in doubt.

First, the space between the classroom incident and Ganta’s arrival at the prison presents a lot to discuss. Ganta is given a public defender and ushered through a rapid trial that he had no hope of winning. Then, it is revealed that the man assigned to defend him was actually working for the prison. While the media coverage of the event didn’t help him, the blatant conflict of interest at work here seems comical. Then, the second episode presents a live audience filled with plenty of children seeing prisoners chopped into pieces, electrocuted, shot by snipers and skewered on spikes. They are led to believe that this is simply part of the show and no one is actually killed. Very much in the tone of The Running Man, I believe that scenes like these represent an angry view of the world as it is now and what will happen in the future. Death as a form of entertainment goes along with a corrupt political system and judiciary in a truly cynical view of the world.

There's a cruel irony somewhere in having a statue made of someone.

Finally, I conclude with a little Tiger & Bunny. A certain theme of this show is readily evident as more outside money and media attention creates a more sterilized version of the world and destroys the past. The original hero highlighted in the series called Legend is seems more of a footnote than anything else. He may have personally inspired the Wild Tiger into existence, but he’s seen as a fat relic of a foregone era. In addition, the coverage of the heroes and the fact that their livelihoods depend on sponsorship and time on television makes the very fact they are risking themselves seem less important.

Speaking from experience this is something that can easily be seen within the world of sports. There is a common joke about that football was invented in 1992 as that was the year the Premier League began with money and coverage from Sky. The years before are forgotten as though they were played with fights brewing in the stands and out of shape players hoofing the ball forward over plowed fields. Obviously, this isn’t true, but the need for television to promote the present as the superior product for advertisers and viewers means that those going into the game with more honorable intentions have to cater to television.

In Part 3: Denpa Onna and Moshidora present separate cases of getting what it says on the package while Oretachi and A-Channel provide clashing views on the meaning of slice-of-life from at least one person’s perspective.

4 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Spring Season Part 2”

  1. I’m trying to figure out what the hell the monetary values are supposed to represent. It’d be an interesting idea if the amount of money one starts with represents one’s life equity, and that number can rise and fall depending on one’s actions, whether it begets income or drives you down to zero. Now, the interesting scenario would be whether the world of the financial district allows you to bet against yourself by shorting your equity and use that as a hedge against self-immolation/implosion.

    1. I think it probably represents the financial district’s initial investment in the person based on their potential. It at least explains why the battles have generally gone the way they have. The thing I’m interested in is if players can short themselves and make money out of failing, or even short other players.

  2. I think the theme I’ve grasped onto in relation to the three shows you mentioned was a angry, cynical and twisted view of the world we live in and the direction it’s taking. All three shows seem to push this theme in varying ways with similarly varying success. But I still see a dissatisfied view of where we are and where we’re going. All of it is absurd and extreme, but they still make an impact.

    C for me signifies the frustration people (specifically the Japanese people) may have with what may be a stagnant and ultra-competitive financial environment. There are all sorts of systems in place that (whether real or not) seem to conspire to take advantage of us early, often and for as long as possible. Credit cards, mortgages, and investments in stocks all seem to be combined into this mythical shadow beast, this unseen colossus known as the Financial District.

    Deadman Wonderland’s view seems to be the one I have the least success connecting with. Their world view seems to show disgust at murder as entertainment, and the exploitation of the ignorant as viewers and participants. I think I understand the message; I just don’t think I like how it’s being told.

    And Tiger and Bunny’s world view seems to me like a twisted view of what we think the world would be like with superheroes. Almost no one talks about saving people. All I hear is talk about sponsorship and points. I suppose that’s fine for sports, but when I see it coming from people who are supposed to be stopping crime and saving lives and it makes the inner comic book fan inside of sad and a bit frustrated. Much of it hits me as more camp than anything, but I think there’s a relevant message in their that applies right now.

    I enjoyed this post. Keep it up.

    1. I think C’s frustration goes well beyond the Japanese people, but youth in general in the developed world for pretty much the reasons you listed. Deadman Wonderland is probably made in the wrong era, it would have fit in nicely in the mid-to-late 1980s with the violence angle. I was mainly focusing on corruption for that section. Tiger and Bunny starts with a foundation that everyone forgot why they are trying to be heroes.

Comments are closed.