Hitler with Sunglasses: Evaluation of Nazism in Four Animes (and a Video Game)
Everyone can joke about how America’s morality is missing. Today, shows with a whole lot of nudity can be seen on cable channel while invectives and offensive speech are uttered like it’s no one’s business. If you are a religious person, watching South Park is like committing suicide.
Every FPS games these days must have Nazis: regular, zombie, mecha. Americans sure love shooting Nazis up.
Japan though is odd.
Where are the Nazis? And what happened to them?
I explore five works that alludes to Nazi Germany: Strike Witches, Gosick, Axis Powers: Hetalia, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, and Monster. While all works portray Nazism differently — Gosick being the most subtle and hence, having the least words for this issue — all five works paint the current landscape of the anime industry.
Set in 1944, an alien group called the Neuroi attacks various nations. Pissed, Her Majesty’s Glorious Britain employs a special group: the Strike Witches. What makes them special compared to tanks and planes?
They’re high school girls with jet boots and normal weaponry. Oh, and they have magical powers.
To this day, I am still confused how the Neurois are exactly beaten.
Nevertheless, let us dissect the work: particularly, Japan’s involvement in World War II and the usage of Neurois in the work.
The cast is filled with characters from different countries. Miyafuji Yoshika and Sakamoto Mio are the two Japanese characters because Japan apparently sided with the Allies in this alternate history version.
Pardon me for not suspending my disbelief — a good work should never ask a viewer to suspend disbelief, but immerse him/her into the environment — but I cannot believe the ass-pull done from this work. You cannot rewrite history and say, “Hey, Japan isn’t part of it! Now, here’s some loli pantsu.”
For people who know a bit of Japanese history, they will know that Japan was looked down upon by many countries. America’s Commodore Perry threatened to bombard Japan during the Tokugawa Era if they didn’t open up their borders. Foreigners were on Japan’s soil immune from the Japanese law. And Britain also didn’t give a shit either. The Washington Naval Convention allowed this awesome ratio for the number of ships: 3:3:1.
Guess which country can only have one ship to three.
There’s of course more. My point is: Strike Witches seemed to delude itself and the audience that Japan really did take the Allies’ side and none of those stuff happened.
Onto the Nazis, I mean ‘Neuroi’:
I am not going to criticize the creator’s part in naming them a different species; a landmark science fiction writer called the Nazis ‘newts’. In Capek’s The War with the Newts, he satirizes the hidden growth of the newts and the appeasement alongside capitalism. While the writing is a bit too pulpy for my taste, I think it is an effective satire so the experience of reading it should be similar to Witches.
But since this is Witches, this is how it pisses me off: the Neurois are really nice experimental, moe beings desu desu~.
Sora no Woto, an underrated show that I may write on someday, used this ending — with people instead of whatever the Neurois are — effectively. The difference between it and Witches are simply this: the former is anti-war; the latter has no point.
Witches is no Schindler’s List; it’s a loli pantsu show. This show doesn’t need World War II allusions; it can put itself in a war — any war, real or fictitious.
To use a war for its own capitalistic means is worrisome for the outlook of the anime industry. Thousands of people died; family were torn apart; and you come up with “loli pantsu”?
I hate this show. And I am going to watch its sequel soon because I hate myself. Haha. Ha.
We are introduced to two characters: Victorique de Blois and Kuzuo Kazuya. They are the two leads so they are obviously in love with each other. Kazuya goes to a fortune-teller and asks the future of their relationship; the fortune-teller says, “A gust of wind will separate both of them.”
Holy mac and cheese, the Nazis are airbenders!
Non-anime jokes aside, World War II is used as both a setting and a metaphor. Saubure, the fictitious country the anime sets itself at, has a deluded leader who is fooled by the villain. Okay, it’s an allusion to Hitler — the masses elected him. That’s pretty cool, I think. The setting feels fantastic thanks to Bones’s animation; watching it feels like you’re in pre-World War II Europe.
Japan, on the other hand, seemed to be fighting a different war in the last episode. According to the dates, they aren’t fighting the Russo-Japanese and the Sino-Japanese wars. In fact, what were they fighting? Anyway, the war that Japan took part in was pretty short.
I can’t comment much despite the incessant usage of “gust of wind”. Okay, we get it: Der Fuhrer’s comin’ to town. Don’t have to say it like fifteen times.
Gosick did a better job in portraying Nazism in a work. An indirect approach is much better than whatever Witches did. It isn’t something to hate upon; this is probably the work that passes the threshold for watchable works with Nazism allusions.
Axis Powers: Hetalia
And this work did better than Gosick.
If Witches called Nazi Germany the “Neurois” and Gosick called it a “gust of wind”, this camp gay anime called it “Germany”. Like it should be.
Now, I do not wish to comment on the quality of this bizarre work; to me, it’s like explaining the story of Touhou games to beginners. I may comment on it on some other article, but I must focus on how they used Nazism as an allusion.
Which they did pretty damn well. It doesn’t feel offensive and instead: it’s a lighthearted take on World War II history, an actually interesting subject that has been defecated upon by many boring documentaries.
It puts the countries as characters and plays off famous events as something you see in slice-of-life. Hetalia is the perfect mix of education and entertainment if you are in the right mood.
However, I accuse this work of being too ‘friendly’. Like what Witches did but to a lesser extent, Hetalia almost feels like an escapist work to Japanese history students. The work seems to be telling, “Hey, we did some bad stuff, but Germany x Southern Italy rules~!!!”
The work often strays from World War II itself and goes into building up relationships based on random historical events like the The American Revolutionary War (America x Britain 4evar). There’s not a lot of conflict between most countries — this being a World War II anime.
So it’s a pity this work is almost there in becoming a history anime, but it became something else.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Now, let’s talk about the actually good works that don’t censor much of Hitler. Like Persona 2.
I love this game; it has Hitler; you can kill him in one shot — it’s awesome.
And Atlus didn’t put Hitler for no reason. We view Hitler as the epitome of evil, but we love to talk about it (readers should know this feeling since you were interested in it because it had Nazis). Persona 2 makes gossiping come true due to an enigmatic supernatural power; say, if people gossip about “the new Iron Man 3 will have Aquaman”, that will be true. If Hitler was actually alive, then he may be planning world domination.
The sad thing is: Innocent Sin had a shaky past, despite being a great game. When it was released, the ESRB guys rejected it because it had Hitler. And homosexuality. Really, the main problem with the people was the fact that there was homosexuality. If America had a game where you shoot down a Mecha-Hitler and says you can’t publish a game with Hitler, I give a small laugh and say, “Hypocritical homophobes~”.
So when Atlus released the Portable version, they didn’t understand the main intentions by the US ratings board. They gave Hitler some nice shades instead. Even in Japan.
You’re doing what Hetalia is proud of: pussying out! Sure, you’re not doing worse than them, but why do you shy away? Be like the old Atlus: show them Hitler and homosexuality at an age when homophobia was still prevalent; show them kids shooting themselves on the head to summon Personas; and show them Mara, the penis god!
If only for that one flaw…
Everything else aside, Persona 2 shows a good portrayal of Nazism without pussying out. It doesn’t delude itself into thinking escapist thoughts; it reached out to the truth.
Sorry for the pun.
This blows Persona 2 off the charts.
It combines Gosick‘s literary devices with the straightforwardness of Persona 2 to create a masterpiece that deals with the conflict between Nietzscheian and pacifist philosophy.
Dr. Tenma is a Japanese doctor residing in Germany and he has unwittingly cured the future Hitler from the brink of death. He is framed for murder and escapes in hope to bring light the truth.
Some of his enemies are of course Neo-Nazis. It is obvious this work has to deal with race and ethnicity; Nazism argues for the extinction for all but one master race: the Aryan race. Tenma is Japanese and he has to deal with a lot of racism on his part. In fact, some may argue that he may not be in all this trouble because he’s Japanese. If he is an Aryan, maybe this anime will resolve itself in like three episodes.
Even though there is only one distinctive Neo-Nazi arc, the themes and symbols that relate to Nazism (Nietzsche philosophy, race, charismatic leaders) all bounce around throughout the 74 episodes. And they rarely, if not never, get in the way of enjoying the work — in fact, it makes you appreciate Monster even more. This show is classic literature taken to animation.
It uses Nazism as a device properly; it knows what the hell it is talking about unlike Strike Witches and goes to the point without the inconveniences seen in Hetalia and Persona 2.
I am generalizing the attitude towards Nazi involvement at World War II in the Japanese industries: “Cool story, bro.” That’s why we don’t have a lot of animes with Nazis. According to this mindset, we will rather have Strike Witches over something else. Eww~.
Now, I am of course not talking about Grave of the Fireflies and other great live-action war movies (Letters from Iwo Jima) released during and after the war. I love them. The problem is: that’s one side of the picture.
This is the same with the Americans: they love to talk about Germany more. They remember one thing from Japan in WWII: Pearl Harbor. Atomic bombings and the Tokyo fire bombings — what the hell are those?
If the entertainment industries are putting World War II references, they must treat them with respect. Lives were lost; exploiting and censoring them for the sake of greed and power is bloody stupid and evil.
What are we, Hitler?