Friday, May 9, 2008

Robber Barons and Mercenaries: A look at Itazura na Kiss and Macross Frontier

You know, I'm not even going to talk about Code Geass and Pizza Hut.

Well other than I think the slogan, "This Revolution is brought to you by Pizza Hut!" is really funny.

But anyways, itsabun and later Hige mentioned how Kaiba depicts a fairly Marxist ideal of what a capitalist society is. And I have to agree, but I've noticed a couple of other fairly subtle nods to the capitalist system in a few other shows this season. In particular two of them come to mind right off the bat.

The first one, Macross Frontier, really shouldn't come as a shock to most people. Let's face it, the main character becomes a mercenary. A mercenary for a company that has better weapons than the military, no less. A while back, I did a piece on the nature of democracy in mecha anime. And Macross Frontier seems to hit all of the points, so far. The central government is crippled by red-tape, bureaucratic infighting and popular opinion. The only thing that seems different here is that Alto is actually a citizen solider, something which I find interesting.

And add in a "rags to riches" sub-plot worthy of Horatio Alger, and there seems to be a message coming out of the first five episodes of the show – follow your dreams and don't expect anyone else to help you out with it. Now I don't know how much of that is an artifact of the story-telling and how much of it is intentional. But it's an interesting message, especially when there are so many monolithic companies present in anime (Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 comes to mind right off the bat.) It's a nice change to have a show that features capitalism in a good light, even if democracy does get the shaft.

Well at least so far.

The other critique that I've spotted comes from an interesting place – Itazura na Kiss. One of the first things I noticed when I started watching this show was the stratified school system. To be honest, it's not a particularly uncommon idea in anime. But usually both of the characters are from the same social strata as it were. In Itazura you have one guy from the elite and one girl from the lower class. What makes this show interesting as far as that goes is that the usual theme is: "Oh my God, we can allow these two to date. That'd be unthinkable." And then they fight against society to be together and everything ends happily.

Strange enough Itazura na Kiss does exactly the opposite. Instead it's the parents who are trying to play matchmaker and Naoki who seems against it. In fact, it reminded me of the Industrial Revolution around the time of the muckrakers, with Naoki playing the part of the disinterested robber barons.

At least until, episode five. (I'm not sure if this is going to be a spoiler. If it is than avert your eyes, or go promptly to your nearest brainwashing center of your choice to remove the memory of this post.) Now at least a few people complained about how Naoki isn't really interested in Kotoko To be honest, I was a little put off by it too. Well that and the fact that she isn't capable of doing ANYTHING by herself. Now to be honest, it's not any more flattering if you replace Kotoko with the working masses and Naoki with the robber barons. In fact, it becomes the polar opposite of a Horatio Alger story. No matter how hard the lower classes work they're never going to achieve the status of the higher classes because of a sheer lack of talent.

Well unless the higher classes decide to practice a little bit of corporate citizenship. To explain, once Andrew Carnegie got tired of making his fortune off of the backs of the workers, he grew a conscience and said, "Wait, we should give something back." What was funny is that is exactly what Naoki does in the fifth episode of Itazura na Kiss. Now the message isn't necessarily any better. Now it's, "The lower classes can't achieve anything without help from the higher classes." But it is a bit more interesting.

Related Links

CCY's awesome Shoujo Showdown.

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