Scratching the Surface With Mavrs: Politics in Manga

When you write a story that is so blatantly political, one with the express intent of pushing propaganda on an audience, can you really blame a reader for avoiding it?

Recently Screenrant published an opinion piece discussing how manga has always had political connotations. I – for one -had no idea that a story could be political or that an author could take inspiration from current events. In some respects, the writer of the Screenrant piece makes a good point, but most of the points are so outlandishly forced, it makes me question if we are engaging with the same source material.

One of the aspects the Screenrant piece touches upon is the themes in Attack on Titan. To start, the Nazi Germany arguments are a bit of a reach. Contrary to popular belief, not every event in history has to do with Nazis. Just as Germany had its own gestapo, so did Japan, the Soviet Union, and believe it or not, even the United States had a similar program under the guise of weeding out communist spies.

Every country has historically gone through dark times. In Attack on Titan, the structured militaristic lifestyle has less to do with Nazis and more about the society that these people live in on a daily basis. Think about the days of ancient Greece where war was a common occurrence. The Spartans chose to live a lifestyle of militarism because it was the only way to survive as a nation. On Paradise Island, the people are constantly surrounded by a bunch of giant humanoid creatures that want to eat them and can’t be killed unless you do special acrobatics. The society is based on a militaristic one because at any moment, they could all die.

On the relationship between Ymir and Christa, I never picked up any vibe other than two people who are really just good friends, but then again, I’m a veteran, so seeing people who would risk everything to save another person isn’t something new to me. It’s this weird thing in western culture that says two people can’t just be good friends that is baffling to me. Even worse, is the dichotomy between having friendships of the same gender and one of the opposite. When you take the beloved season eight of Game of Thrones, the love scene between Jaime and Brienne was so out of place and unnecessary, it was almost vomit inducing. It’s okay for two people to be friends. There is no shame in having friendships without sexual attraction involved.

It is to laugh, ain’t it?

Screenrant’s writer implies that political connotation in manga was always there, but you need to be a “politically savvy reader” to be able to see it. This phrase pretty much sums up the overall point of the article. No one will ever deny that politics exist in manga and anime. Take Acca 13 for example – you simply can’t get more “political” than that. Back door dealings, a country’s fear of uprisings, mistrust of government officials, all of this was present in Acca 13. The difference between manga and the current western comic industry is that the writing in manga isn’t forced, in-your-face propaganda. Like John Locke said, “There’s no such thing as original thought.” It’s ok to be inspired by history. The way it’s done is the major issue.

Acca 13-Territory Inspection Department

Year after year, the mainstream comic book industry is becoming more and more of a joke. Even prominent writers are starting to come out and acknowledge that today’s low sales numbers would have been cancellable offenses in the past. The truth behind the drop in sales isn’t about rampant political messaging that borders on propaganda, it’s the fact that there are more opportunities for independent creators than there were even twenty years ago. This has resulted in writers who would never have been given the light of day at companies like DC and Marvel being able to thrive. There are entire retail stores in Japan dedicated to no-name writers just trying to get their story out there. Even the company Webtoon is thriving at the influx of audiences who are simply seeking out good stories to read.

At the end of the day, it isn’t a story’s politics that make western audiences so turned off by western mainstream storytelling. If that were the case, Starship Troopers wouldn’t be so beloved. Western audiences are turning away from writers of DC and Marvel simply because their stories are copy-and-paste formulaic garbage.

As for me, I’m currently watching Muv-Luv Alternative, and the most recent episode had such a hilariously Japanese view of the way Americans speak, I couldn’t help but laugh.

If you have any other examples, please share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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