Sunday Select: 7 “Political” Anime series

Greetings, dear readers! Have you ever wondered if there are any anime series that cover political topics and themes? Well, wonder no more. Anime like that does indeed exist. I now present to you my list of seven political anime series, with detailed notes on each entry. The topics range from warfare to entertainment censoring and all the way into government conspiracies. There’s a lot of ground to cover so get ready for a longer post than usual. Let’s Rant!

1) Attack on Titan

(Kenny of the Military Police)

Attack on Titan has a lot of content that could be called political. In season 3, the entire government within the walls is overturned. And in season 4, we learn about the war between Marley and Paradis as well as a few other countries. Additionally, there are “political messages,” such as the horrors of war, the cyclical nature of violence, and the harms of demonizing other humans with racism or other prejudice. But for our purposes today, I point to Attack on Titan to show the political theme of information control.

The way different people and governments handle, process, and manipulate information is extremely important in this anime. In Marley, the history seems to be mostly accurate in that the Eldians did great wrong in the past. But in the secret Eldian Restoration movement, alternative information was presented, some of it from sources that could not be verified. Grisha claimed that the old texts said Ymir was like a helpful goddess to the world, but he hadn’t actually translated the texts. Also in Marley, there is misinformation that Eldians are all evil people by definition. Because this lie is propagated by the government and social culture, the Eldians are still treated like less than human one hundred years after their historic defeat.

Within the world of the walls, information control is an even more relevant topic. King Fritz had the power to alter his people’s memories with the Founding Titans. So he made them all believe that they were the last of all humanity, and that they must live within the walls to survive a world otherwise inhabited by Titans. The military police, for almost a hundred years, suppressed information and technology that could reveal the truth or allow Paradis to contact the outside world. The government even made false history books to reinforce the lie. The story of Attack on Titan would be nothing at all like we know it without the theme of governments controlling information.

2) Carole and Tuesday

(A Performance for the ages)

Most of Carole and Tuesday is not what I would call “political.” It’s the story of two young girls on the futuristic Mars which has been completely terraformed and is an independent government. The two girls, Carole and Tuesday, express themselves with music made without the help of AI technology. They grow closer to each other as they also grow in popularity. As the show moves into its later stages, however, politics definitely play a role. Tuesday’s mother, Valerie, is running for Prime Minister of Mars. There is a huge political scandal surrounding she and her main advisor. After finding out about the terror attack that her own party secretly initiated, Valerie dropped out the race. This despite her extremely high likelihood of winning. It was interesting.

However, that’s not the extent of politics in Carole and Tuesday. Mars is its own independent government. Late in the series, the theme develops that the current government does not take kindly to refugees from Earth. The refugees are discriminated against and often already struggling economically. This brings up issues surrounding immigration. But more relevant to Carole and Tuesday themselves is the trend that they see of music and art by refugees being suppressed. Many refugee artists and musicians are even arrested for songs that express themselves and/or state their right to be on Mars. This is is the theme of political censorship.

Carole herself is a refugee from Earth who had very humble origins. Her rights are being endangered, too. Tuesday sees the wrong in the censorship and the immigrant discriminations. So in the final episode, the two girls and other famous musicians gather to use their biggest concert venue and play a new song about the humanity of immigrants and the need for artistic freedom. Armed police forces begin storming the venue as the girls sing their passionate song. The ending is left up to interpretation– what happened? I think this open ending was extremely effective for suggesting that we in reality can influence and even change society if we try.

3) Code Geass

(Lelouch of The Rebellion)

Code Geass is one of my top ten favorite anime series and is extremely heavy on psychological, philosophical, and political elements. There’s also romance, school comedy, and supernatural lore– a little of everything! Even a general overview of everything political in Code Geass would be too long for this post. So I will point to just one of the many themes and review it in brief. The one I chose is the theme of violent rebellion against ruling powers; whether you want to call it terrorism, revolution, or something else is up to you.

The main world power in the Code Geass world is the Holy Empire of Britannia, which in some ways resembles monarchist Great Britain but with the vast resources and land of the United States. (It covers much of Europe and all of North and South America, plus some foreign territories). The story of Code Geass begins when Britannia invades Japan for its huge supply of Sakuradite, an extremely powerful element used in weapons development and other technology. Japan is overwhelmed with no real way to defend itself. It’s renamed Area 11 and its people are reduced to little more than slaves living in ghettos. They are even referred to as “Elevens” rather than “Japanese.” With such terrible conditions for the Japanese, a rebellion was inevitable.

At first, instances of rebellion were small and disorganized. Sometimes these “terrorist attacks” did more harm than good, since Britannians would respond by wiping out entire towns of people. Once he got his Geass power, though, main character Lelouch immediately began organizing and leading the rebels. He formed a powerful force which was able to stand a chance against Britannian military. Japan is almost theirs by the end of season one. Lelouch did many terrible things to get this far. The subject of his evil or goodness is constantly debated by fans, and part of the issue goes back to the ideological conflict between Lelouch and his best friend Suzaku.

Lelouch believes in fighting by any means necessary, including sacrificing lives directly, because the end justifies the means. Suzaku believes in trying to change existing power systems from within, avoiding rebellion to save lives, because the ends do not justify the means. In cases where a country must defend itself from a powerful occupier, I believe they are justified to fight. Code Geass forces you to pick a side in this issue, leading to a better understanding of your political values.

4) Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

(King Bradley)

I’m not quite as familiar with FMAB as I am with most of these other entries. I have watched it twice, but it’s been a while since then, and I’m sure I missed some details both times by rushing to get through it. Anyway, most fans would consider FMAB more military-themed than political. However, there’s some of both to be found. I think one important political message you can get from this anime is that militaristic governments are not good. By that I mean governments that are intricately intertwined with the military, without other strong branches of government. Regimes like these can pave the way for one bad leader to commit terrible atrocities without any backlash from other parts of the government.

That’s exactly what happens in FMAB. The country of Amestris is ruled by a Fuhrer named King Bradley (yes, his name is actually King). He is a Homunculus, an artificially created human with special powers, but he successfully pretends to be a normal human. Bradley has direct and final control of the military of Amestris. If there are other major branches of government, they aren’t even mentioned in the anime. During the series, Bradley is secretly working on a plan that would sacrifice the lives of most people of Amestris to create a philosopher’s stone and put Homunculi on the level of “god.”

Thanks to the heroes of FMAB, this particular plan is halted and Fuhrer is defeated. But this isn’t the first time Bradley sanctioned unspeakable horrors. Years before the start of the anime, he wiped out the entire country of Ishval and committed genocide on their people. It was both information manipulation and militaristic government that allowed Bradley to do this. The genocide was reframed as a fair war that wouldn’t have happened if Ishval had just been compliant. In reality, it was much more one-sided. Anyway, if Bradley hadn’t had direct control of the military, the Ishval people might have survived.

5) Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku

(Now and Then, Here and There)

Not many people have even heard of the 1999 anime “Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku.” In English it’s called “Now and Then, Here and There,” although that isn’t actually what the title means in Japanese. For simplicity’s sake I will call this anime ImaSoko. It’s one of the earliest series that we would today consider as “Isekai genre.” That is, a male main character from our world is inexplicably transported to another world where there are usually nonhuman races, magic, and other fantasy or sci-fi elements. Our protagonist Shuu magically ends up in a barren, war-torn world. Shuu wishes to save a girl named Lala-Ru from the clutches of the selfish dictator of the mobile city.

So, what’s political about ImaSoko? Well, this anime tends to throw viewers for a loop with its unexpectedly dark content. All of it revolves around the theme of war. Various interrelated topics also appear, such as limited resources, prisoner torture, and the widespread use of deadly weapons. There’s quite a lot to unpack in ImaSoko, and most of it can be called “political” in nature. It will make you think about the horrors of war.

The most powerful example of a war-related tragedy in this anime is the army’s use of child soldiers. Supporting character Nabuka tries to deal with life as an extremely young warrior with no choice in the matter. Eventually, he even loses his best friend and little brother figure, Boo, in a gun fight. This was a devastating moment to watch even as someone who felt mostly disconnected from the central characters. With topics like this, ImaSoko makes audiences ponder uncomfortable truths, as well as inspiring us to reconsider politics that lead to such atrocities.

6) Psycho Pass

(Makishima, antagonist in Psycho-Pass)

Psycho-Pass is about the police force in a complicated sci-fi dystopian world. It’s similar to Attack on Titan and Code Geass in that it has a great deal of political content spanning many topics. In equal parts, it’s political, philosophical, and psychological. The subjects are numerous, but I’ll pick one for our post today. That is the difficulty governments face in balancing out citizen’s personal freedoms and the need for interference in their lives. Let me give some background for a better understanding of the issue.

In a post-apocalyptic world, Japan is one of the only countries that still keeps strict law and order and society. This is thanks to the Sybil System, which is supposedly a perfect AI system that essentially rules the country and has most of its power in law enforcement. In this world, one’s mental state can be perfectly understood with a cymatic scan. The scan gives a color to each person. That is used in combination with the crime coefficient, a number calculated by Sybil to measure the propensity to commit crime. Together, the scan and the number system form one’s psycho-pass: the key to living in this world. Sybil judges everyone’s psycho-pass. If you keep a good, normal psycho-pass, you will be rewarded with a peaceful life. But when your color is clouded and your number rises, that’s another story entirely.

People with certain “dangerous” psycho-passes are labeled as latent criminals and forced to live in “rehabilitation centers” which are basically comfortable prisons. Even if you have never committed any crime or never plan to, you can get labeled this way and be locked up, possibly for life. As for those who actually commit crime, some will be temporarily paralyzed with a Dominator gun and arrested. However, others, whose number is too high past a certain level, will be executed by law enforcers without any kind of trial. In order to maintain this system, cymatic scanners are installed everywhere all over the cities, scanning and keeping track of everyone’s mental states with or without their consent. This is the world of Psycho-Pass.

It appears that the Sybil System takes things way too far with regards to its supervisory powers over the citizens. Arguably, nothing can completely justify this. But at the same time, if the alternative was plunging into anarchy and violent revolution, the society made by the Sybil System may be superior. Indeed, the main antagonist of Psycho-Pass proves this point. He, Makishima, invents and distributes helmets that protect people from being scanned. As a result, a barbarous revolt began where people did whatever they wanted without any fear of the law. The destruction was immense, and hundreds or perhaps thousands of people died. That’s what happens when the System falls apart.

So what should be done? Should intrusive and unethical practices continue to supervise and judge the populace, or should the System be dismantled to give way to a world of “freedom” without any law and order? The situation in Psycho-Pass is of course extreme and fictional. But to a lesser degree, every modern government is forced to tackle this issue. How much surveillance of citizens is justifiable? How much control should government systems have over the daily lives of the people? What are the consequences to lack of surveillance and/or holes in the system? With the way it handles this topic, Psycho-pass can definitely be considered a political anime.

7) Terror in Resonance

(Nine and Twelve)

Terror in Resonance is a fascinating anime that I think should be watched by any fan of thought-provoking fiction. If you haven’t heard, it’s about two mysterious boys who start committing mass terrorism in Tokyo. Not only is it beautifully animated with an amazing soundtrack, but also, the themes in its story are fascinating. Although Terror in Resonance is mostly a suspenseful mystery story, it is unmistakably political in some ways, too. Terrorism is a major plot point in the anime, but that’s actually not what I’ll be discussing. The main topic I will address is political/government conspiracies.

To some degree, political corruption is a problem in every country in existence. But sometimes, there’s a case where a particular conspiracy is far more powerful and sinister. Whether you like it or not, your government may be hiding dark secrets. What should we do about it? Terror in Resonance asks us this question as it shows the two boys who refused to be quiet about the corruption. In order to show what I mean, I’ll review the conspiracy that is slowly uncovered in Terror in Resonance. This will contain spoilers.

A group of nationalists formed an under-the-radar organization that secretly had its hands in the government. The members were mostly rich people and politicians, as well as scientists and large company owners. This organization was secretly making weapons of mass destruction– including at least two atomic bombs– for the purpose of making Japan great again. They also did a number of other horrible things, including a running a secret program that experimented on children to try to make them into savants. Most of the kids in that program died. Of the three that survived, two of them escaped and vanished– our two main characters, the boys known as Twelve and Nine.

Though they go about it with criminal and unethical means, Twelve and Nine’s goal is sort of noble. They aim to expose the secret organization and its evil deeds, even if it means throwing the entire country into chaos. They were the whistleblowers who revealed the corruption rooted deep in the Japanese government. So as you can see, Terror in Resonance is full of “political” content. It’s an important work because it makes viewers think about topics like terrorism, unethical science, weapons production, political conspiracies, and corrupt governments.

That concludes my list for today. I hope it was informative and interesting. Writing it was actually a lot of fun, though occasionally a challenge too. I tried to choose some series that don’t often appear in lists like these. If you have any thoughts about the anime series or the topics from today, please feel free to share in the comments. Now here’s a big Thank You to my followers and everyone who read my post. Arigatou Gozaimasu! Have a wonderful and relaxing day.


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