Aldnoah.Zero – The Politics of Conquering


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The idea of rigging an event, perhaps creating a situation that would allow a country to go to war is hardly new. Both in anime and in real life, situations have been engineered in order to create the desired effect for one particular party, regardless of the consequences or collateral damage to others. The same is true in Aldnoah.Zero, although to anyone familiar with this sort of story, and indeed, the writing style of Urobuchi Gen such an occurrence will come as no great surprise. We are presented with two opposing factions (ala Gundam), the Vers Empire, a clearly evil, nationalistic, militaristic, fascist society that has strong views of its own superiority to those who live on earth, a somewhat weaker, and far more naïve faction that seems doomed to destruction. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 10/11 – Sports Festivals as a sign of Prestige


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Anyone who has watched any amount of anime will be aware of the importance placed upon school wide events such as cultural and sports festivals. They become central to the school experience in anime, a period when exams and studying cease to be important and are replaced with a period in the characters life where the experience of something new takes priority. Looking at almost any school focussed anime and we find a series devoted to this period of experimentation and freedom from the rigid structure of school. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo for example is largely built around the premise of the school festival as a space for its central characters to learn from their experiences, and begin to understand what they want to do with their lives. In a similar fashion the entire narrative of Ano Natsu de Matteru is based on the creation of a film over the school holidays to be shown at their school festival. Within the narrative of such anime series, these festivals are so important that they take precedence over any form of studying, or university entrance exams (although we rarely see these within anime), and may also become the spaces for major character and story developments. Furthermore, the ideals of ‘tadashi to handanshita koto’ (what you judge to be right), and ‘susunde mina no tame no hataraku’ (proactively work for the common good), are an integral part of these activities, as important lessons that main characters must learn if they are to grow as individuals capable of working with a group and on their own. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei – A Families Prestige


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Anyone who has watched a moderate amount of anime may be aware that the vast majority of series and films focus on characters from fairly affluent backgrounds – many may not be rich, but their houses are spacious, and they do not seem to worry about where the rent or food money is coming from. In fact, one of the key aspects of anime is relative lack of working class or poor families and individuals, whereas most series may focus on, or include a number of characters from established families with significant wealth and prestige. The worlds of school centred anime like Mahouka Koukou no Reittouse engage with the complex nature of family, and its place within Japanese society, by presenting multi-faceted representations of ‘family’, and family life. The ‘ie’ household (extended family based on patrilineal descent) as interpreted by the Meiji Government quickly became a matter of state concern in establishing a modern nation, but it only exists because of the force of ideology and power promoting it; it is a dream of what a family should be, rather than way it is. The state views the family as a unit that conforms to acceptable social and cultural norms, reinforcing state ideology. It is essential to have a solid family structure in place in order to create society, and to engender the values central to state ideology. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 08 – On Weeds and Blooms


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While this week represents the start of a new arc, one focussing on a competition between Japan’s magic high schools, I am more interested in the way the series main characters and their perceived worth within the society of Mahouka. The terms ‘Weed’ and ‘Bloom have been used, to varying degrees, throughout the series so far, denoting a two-tiered class system within the school, and by extension, magic society. One of the key aspects of this series has been the unequal nature of Japanese society that it portrays, with those who have significant magical power given high status, privilege, and power, whereas those without are effectively pushed to one side and told to make do. The entire premise of a two-tiered system at this magic high school is based upon the idea of magic as inherently superior to every other skill or ability. The persistence of status inequality is arguably the major characteristic of Mahouka’s social system, and while there are features within this society that emphasise and promote social integration (such as the ability to attend magic high school regardless of your powers), it is clear that conflicting opinions about the nature of what it means to be a magician, and how that feeds into the national consciousness can have major consequences for the level of social conflict found within the series. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 07 – The Consequences of Inequality


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Previous episodes have provided numerous interesting examples of the inequality and frustration felt by those without significant magical powers in Mahouka. This weeks episode on the other hand presented us with an interesting, if brief, glimpse at the global politics of the series and how other groups and countries may try to manipulate the frustrations of those who feel left out in order to achieve their own goals. We now find out that Blanche are merely a front for other countries and alliances to gain information about magicians that the Japanese government has presumably kept relatively secret. That First Magic High School has access to this information, not only demonstrates its importance, but also helps to denote the schools status as an essential space for the education of the countries most valuable commodity, magicians. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 06 – When Good intentions lead to Nefarious Deeds


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Now we appear to be getting towards the end of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei’s first story arc certain attitudes are becoming more apparent, specifically those regarding the importance of magic within the stories society. We have already established that the world of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei is one of inequality, where the strength of one’s magic has a tremendous impact upon your place within society. That the society in Mahouka is filled with inequality shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, while it might involve magic, inequality and class system exist across the world, including Japan, so Mahouka is merely mirroring the reality of Japanese society. We have also been introduced to a school system that splits those considered to have strong magical powers, from those who do not, creating a two-tiered system that reinforces the sense of superiority that those in Course One have over Course Two, and by extension, everyone else in society. The entire premise of this two-tiered system arguably mirrors the attitudes found within Japanese society as a whole (or we assume it does as we see very little of the world outside of the schools grounds), and we should not view the school and its education system within a vacuum, but as a part of a wider set of ideologies surrounding the pre-eminence of magic within the world of Mahouka. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 05 – Complaining about a system without fully understanding it


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Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei’s first story arc has introduced us to a world with significant inequality (at least this is what we can assume given the attitudes towards those with little or no magical power or ability), and a society that puts utmost emphasis on ones magical strength and what can be done with your powers. We have also been introduced to a school system that perpetuates this distinction between those considered important to maintaining Japan’s position in the world (those with strong magical powers), and those considered inferior (anyone with little, or complicated magical abilities that cannot easily be recognised, measured, or labelled). The entire premise of this two course system is based upon the idea of magic as inherently superior to every other skill or ability. The methods of determining ones abilities, and by extension, worth, mirrors the ‘very expensive intelligence testing system with some educational spin-off’, that exists within Japan at the moment. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 04 – Social Conservatism and an Unequal Society


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One of the key aspects of this series has been the unequal nature of Japanese society, with those who have significant magical power given high status, privilege and power, whereas those without are effectively pushed to one side and told to make do. The entire premise of a two course system at this magic high school is based upon the idea of magic as inherently superior to every other skill or ability. The persistence of status inequality is a major characteristic of the Japanese social system, and while there are features in Japanese society that emphasise and promote social integration, it is clear that conflicting opinions about the nature of what it means to be Japanese can have major consequences for the level of social conflict in Japan. Within the world of Mahouka, the ability to use strong magic, coupled with the comparative strength of countries magicians with regards to other countries becomes a key means with which the Japanese state creates its vision of a strong, glorious country. In essence the strength of ones magic is of upmost importance, not only to the individual so that they can acquire high status and privilege, but also to the country and a national ethos. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 03 – Dangerous Assumptions


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To follow on from last week’s episode we now see how dangerous making assumptions based on ones position within the society of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei can be. Hattori’s hubris in assuming that Tatsuya is inherently inferior, and therefore is no match for his apparent superiority has been demonstrated to be false. His utter defeat through ultimately simple, and largely magic free means also helps to reveal how fragile the basis for magic discrimination is, and how easily its implied superiority can be brought down. Arguably, the character of Tatsuya has demonstrated how weak magic can be in the face of other abilities and powers – and through the use of his ninjutsu training we are also given a glimpse into the weaknesses of magic. A total reliance on ones magic powers is inherently flawed, as while they bring status and prestige, unless you understand their weaknesses and realise that on their own they can be defeated, your entire basis for high social standing becomes unstable and insecure. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 02 – Judging a book by its cover


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It’s fascinating watching the different classes in Mahouka interact, particularly when we see the attitudes that the majority of those in Course One demonstrate when interacting with Course Two. To follow on from last weeks exploration of Blooms and Weeds as two distinct social classes, we can see how Course Onw, those who are considered to be both gifted and powerful dismiss those in Course Two as inferior, weak, and unnecessary wastes of space. A clear example of this attitude is found in Hattori Hanzou’s reaction to the Shiba siblings entering the Student Council office. While he interacts with Miyuki, congratulating her for entering the Student Council, Tatsuya is treated as an invisible object, with Hanzou’s attitude clearly demonstrating that he doesn’t see the need to even acknowledge Tatsuya’s existence. He has already demonstrated his frustration at the existence of Tatsuya, or perhaps a more general frustration at the existence of Course Two in general during the first episode, as he gets annoyed, even embarrassed that Mayumi Saegusa acknowledges and interacts with Tatsuya and other Course Two members in the same way she talks to those in Course One. Read more of this post

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