The third episode of Outbreak Company finally sees the protagonist of the series, Shinichi, come under real threat in dealing with the culture of the new world he finds himself. In the episode, the school that he had built to spread otaku culture with the backing of the Supreme Ruler Petrarca was taken over by a reactionary faction that opposed the existence of the school and how it affected the balance between the three races of the Holy Eldant Empire. Eventually a bit of modern technology and magic get them out of the crisis, though not without consequence. After three episodes, I’ve felt the desire to chime in on how this series has dealt with cultural assimilation.
When one looks at the basic premise of the series, it quite frankly looks a little absurd to devote a single aspect of a nation’s foreign policy to exporting culture. In reality, most of the time it is an opening of foreign markets to a new product which has little to do with what the “sponsoring” government wants. In this sense, the Japanese government’s participation in Outbreak Company is to handle to transport of cultural goods to the foreign land. It mirrors the way culture spread prior to the 20th-century where a ideas would be spread by representatives of governments living in foreign lands only to take root then on. The particular parallel with this series that strikes me here is the spread of the sport of baseball to Japan in the 1870s beginning with Americans teaching at Japanese universities.
I think from this standpoint, the series handles this part quite well. Previous expeditions to this new land had yielded only one thing that interested the new people, so it makes sense to bring over someone who would be an expert in that field to spread their knowledge. While it is rather contrived in how Shinichi ended up over there, it would make sense for someone with his knowledge to end up in that role of a cultural ambassador.
The next point I wanted to cover is the conflict that is at the heart of this episode. What Shinichi has found himself embroiled in is an internal conflict that his presence is only a symbol political opponents can rally behind. Naturally any potential change to a society is going to have some resistance from those who feel they will be the most negatively impacted. It does not change whether it is new health care policy or giving additional groups the right to vote; there will always be a group that will be opposed to it. The change in this series is an educational one. Shinichi’s school is open to all races to be educated with an otaku-centric curriculum which violates a social order that had placed humans above their elf and dwarf counterparts because they organized society first.
The movement led by Alessio in this episode is a reactionary one with their own interpretation of how the monarchy should rule the Empire. In Petrarca, they have a Supreme Ruler who is willing to open up the country to new ideas without taking their views in mind. They may be terrorists in the sense that they are willing to destroy to maintain the social order, but it is not as though they are without motivation. Any sort of widespread instruction of the other races in their eyes poses a threat to their future position, even if it is just teaching them language.
To take a step back, I think there is one very important question that the series has yet to really answer. What is the motivation for the Japanese government for being there? This is a nation that after all did shut itself off to the outside world at one point in its history. That they seem to be deploying the black ship of otaku culture is a nice bit of commentary, but there’s little as far as an end game in sight.
Additionally, I do like the fact that they are utilizing a fake version of Attack on Titan in Shinichi’s spread of culture to Petrarca and the other residents. I’ve always seen that particular series as a take on the opening of Japan in the 19th century to foreign ideas rather than simple story of survival against nature. Ultimately though, I can’t really say that this is used intentionally other than the fact that it is a popular series because of the idea at the center of it.
The thing the series always seems to place first-and-foremost is to place the events within the context of the culture they are coming from. Shinichi isn’t going to be able to spread democratic ideals through his otaku ideals. Myuseru isn’t going to be free from discrimination because she picked up Japanese quickly. The threats to the Petrarca aren’t going to go away quickly because she’s allowed the Japanese a presence in the Empire. The fact is that Shinichi gained the favor of Petrarca to build his school as a political maneuver. Myuseru wants to go away to Japan because everything Shinichi has shines a positive light on Japan though he views his own world negatively. Petrarca wants an interesting world to live in, but shaking up the social order of a nation has consequences. These are important things to keep in mind when watching this show and it should be commended for it.