Episode 12: The Saga of Tanya the Evil and Wonder Woman

For the 99th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, Podcastle in the Sky looks at two fantastical versions of that war from this year – the feature film Wonder Woman and the anime series The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Women with supernatural abilities, godlike beings engineering conflict, pop culture memory of a war from a century ago – we have all!

Transcript

William: Welcome to this episode of PodCastle in the Sky. In this episode we’ll be looking at two pieces of pop culture from 2017 that deal with World War I in a fantasy way. The anime is The Saga of Tanya the Evil, also known as Youjo Senki, and the other piece is the film Wonder Woman. I’m William.

Amber: I’m Amber.

Tom: I’m Tom.

Jesse: I’m Jesse.

A: All right. So I would like to kick things off by actually commenting on both, because one thing I really appreciated about both of these was they both – and maybe because it was both of them are about war – but they both really bring in the idea of humanity being kind of incredibly sucky and reliant on vengeance and things like that. It seems like it’s two characters coming to terms in different ways with the worst aspects of humanity.

And Wonder Woman, she comes to the conclusion that even if humanity has a serious downside, it doesn’t matter, she’ll still fight for what is right because that is what is right. She believes that if she keeps fighting she can help humanity reach a better state, if you will.

Meanwhile, Tanya, her whole deal is essentially using humanity’s worst attributes against her enemies. Anybody who is too vengeful, anybody who is too angry, she flips it and uses it specifically to get ahead for herself only. Everything she does, even the heroic things she does for her team, are for her own benefit. I really like that both shows showed the darker side of humanity and showed what different personalities do with the discovery of that darker side.

J: Well, the thing is that Wonder Woman is a hero – a superhero – and Tanya is basically the villain. We’re watching the bad guy winning, basically, in The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Which, I can’t actually remember the last time an anime had the villain as the protagonist. Continue reading

On Anime and Nuclear Annihilation

It is strange days when we see Japanese schoolchildren running for their lives in simulation of a nuclear attack from North Korea. The picture in the linked article reminds me of nothing more than Cold War evacuation drills in the US.

Selfishly, as an anime fan I wonder how all this uncertainty is going to affect the anime industry. I never thought the threat of nuclear conflict would figure into my estimation of when we could expect season 3 of Attack on Titan, but here we are.

It’s jarring to think of these things when thinking of anime, which, let’s face it, is mostly just escapist fantasy, like most mass entertainments are. I’m reminded that Jane Austen joked about being tempted to include a treatise on Napoleon in Pride and Prejudice just to counteract how light and frothy her novel was. I’m also reminded of what Slavoj Zizek said about the use of the Christian calendar, which uses the birth of Christ to mark the flow of events: he called it the irruption of the infinite into the historical. Perhaps we might call the imposition of nuclear geopolitics into the logic of anime production as the irruption of the political into the inconsequential.

Of course, this statement is both facetious and incorrect, for anime is already political. It is produced in a web of politics -government grants to aid in translating content for export, industry-wide discrimination to discourage women, a regime of austerity that encourages overwork of animators, and a capitalist ideology that demands crass commercialism – and also expresses statements of political positions – women are always emotional, Chinese and foreign characters can never beat Japanese protagonists, and Koreans don’t exist.

The surprise we feel when placing anime in the same headspace as nuclear diplomacy is a surprise that has been manufactured. Being apolitical is a political stance, and depoliticization is a political action. To divide the world and say these things are of politics and these things are not is an act of power (Michel Foucault called it power/knowledge, which is the power of defining what knowledge is).

The personal may be political, but it’s inconvenient for the powerful to let common citizen remember this fact. Politics is not merely debating tax rates and talking at town halls, which is to say it’s not only for politicians and activists, but keeping it an activity of a small elite certainly makes it easier for those elites to set the agenda. Political apathy serves those who already have power.

And so we come to anime and its role in the politics of apathy. Crudely speaking, anime is just another cog in the machinery of distraction that keeps the masses quiescent in that old Roman strategy of panem et circenses (i.e., bread and circuses). Focus on your pop culture, say the masters of the world, and leave the important things to us. This was, of course, the old politics, before the divisions in democracy were laid so starkly bare, but it was a deal that many thought worthwhile, and many still do.

But even behind this wall of willful ignorance, sometimes the world of politics would intrude, as in the current case of North Korea and its nuclear arsenal threatening the home of anime. We find that we cannot leave politics because we are already doing politics. We are reminded that we live in a political world. The personal is political, but now we see that the reverse is also true, that the political is also personal. In a liberal democracy, to not resist is to consent. Therefore if we wish not to die and to continue watching anime, we must act.

Action begins in knowledge, so I ask first that you learn what is happening around you. What circumstances led to the nuclear standoff threatening our beloved hobby? What power moved us to this impasse?

After answering these questions for yourself, then ask yourself this one: am I okay with things continuing the way they are?

If your answer is anything besides “yes”, then continue asking questions, including the big one – what should I do? The answer is simple: do anything that you can. Speech is action, so even something as minimal as talking online is still a step in the right direction.

My fellow otaku, ignorance is only a temporary condition. I challenge you to look up from your TV and computer screens. Remember that you are not only a consumer. You are also a citizen.

— from the desk of Jesse

Episode 11: Garzey’s Wing and The Sword and the Sorcerer

We test our fortitude by watching two legendary works of fantasy crapitude: the 1996 OVA series Garzey’s Wing and the 1982 movie schlockfest The Sword and The Sorcerer. Incoherent writing, awful acting, and incoherent writing abound in both of the items we review. Can we actually find anything nice to say about either work of fiction? Is there anything redeeming about either movie beyond their ironic camp value? And is it possible to watch either work without feeling oneself getting dumber? Join us this episode and find out!

Episode 10: Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade and The Company of Wolves

In this episode we discuss urban planning and transformative pubescent experiences. Also we talk about the movies Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and The Company of Wolves. Both adapt the story of Red Riding Hood, with the former being about an alternate history fascist Japan and the latter being a magical realist feminist take on the traditional fairy tale. We had a couple of technical issues during recording, but we soldiered on for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Episode 9: FLCL and Tank Girl

flcl

In this month’s episode, the Podcastle in the Sky crew take a journey back to an era when alt-rock ruled the world and ennui was in by watching two cult favorites, Gainax’s sci-fi infused coming of age story FLCL and the 1995 film adaptation of Tank Girl. Does FLCL stand the test of time as a classic piece of animation, does Tank Girl’s box office failure mask a hidden gem? Listen in and all will be revealed!