I await the arrival of my Lady (this was so much better than a plate), so until then Code Geass is only 90% decent like Market Garden.
Recently I dug up my stuff left over from my ANT 149B class on Contemporary Japanese Society and my old notes from many moons ago. Suffice to say I have come to the conclusion that certain functions of my brain are permanently active and when Goro Taniguchi and the Sunrirse team make rather charged decisions in certain areas of Code Geass, I try to dismiss it as poor planning or lack there of. I don’t want to take it as anything more than bucket loads of fanservice and keikaku doori. If it is just as they planned and I did try and dissect the message what I find is something ugly, disconcerting, and disgusting. In short thank goodness for Cecile-nee. Though where in the world is Cornelia?
This has been a warning. NKVD Patrols are in effect.
An old aspiration of mine was to be able to conduct studies on the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Burma Campaign, Operation August Storm, and other obscure battle fronts in the Second World War. Sadly the CCP are a bunch of secretive dicks and won’t open their archives until the day they get thrown out of power, and the Japanese were pretty thorough in torching the little good documentation they had. The KMT weren’t very good either as their near defeat left them decidedly quite on the issue of documenting their epic failure to hold China despite German plans, German training, Western aid, and numerical superiority, then again soaring inflation and rampant corruption would kill any government good or bad. While the other Allied Powers were able to document their findings and record radio intercepts, they nonetheless leave a very incomplete picture of the battles being fought there. I lament the fact that the Japanese Imperial Forces were terrible at record keeping because the Germans left behind so much more. Given the lack of documentation the full or even partial history of what happened then might never be told and ever will it be a specter to haunt the history of the participants. It will haunt them for the invocation of those dark days will remain all too easy for less than good purposes.
There are times when I think this would have been preferable.
It is often said that losers have no hand in writing history, and this I think is not entirely true since enemy documents are to be treasured by militaries willing to evolve tactics and get a better picture of what they did right and what they did wrong from the enemy’s view. Even if the Germans lost, their influence on tactical thinking and doctrine still have considerable influence felt to this day. This allowed for the rehabilitation of sorts for the Germans who fought in Heer, Kriegsmarine, and Luftwaffe units in the West. Even the Soviets begrudgingly took and kept what they could because they wanted to end German dominance during the spring and summer. The Germans were superbly trained, disciplined, and tactically elegant, though strategically inept and politically naive/unscrupulous. The same is not possible for the Imperial Japanese military who left behind so few documents that the entire organization was deemed criminal as there was no way to sort out which units were not involved in war crimes. Not even the IJN was able to escape the accusations of using military brothels only a handful were to escape the cloud of criminality outside of Japan. As such Sunrise is drawing from a lot of controversial history to weave whatever tale they want to tell.
So I found that if you ignore the fanservice, the just as planned ethos, and the loliciousness of Code Geass what you might find is an advocacy of military adventurism, a rather disturbing definition of the non-Japanese other and their role. I know that supposedly there is supposed to be some liberal sentiment in the story, but if there is I certainly don’t see it, at least in the non-interventionist social democratic vein. Though keep in mind their omnipresent conservative party calls itself the Liberal Democratic Party, so perhaps they are liberal in a different sense, i.e. not advocates of social democratic government policy.
Begin subliminal message
I was disturbed when Lulu basically wanted to use China as the horse to ride to victory over Britannia. While seemingly sound it does have rather disturbing implications as it is the same rhetoric that was used to justify the Greater-East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Moreover the aesthetic choices they opted for, in regards to the Chinese, do emphasize and reinforce backwardness among other things, some what reminiscent of the paintings of the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The use of eunuchs instead of merely corrupt ministers also emphasizes the rather effeminate nature of China. Li’s solution to the situation was a coup. However, the overtone was decidedly evocative of the turmoil that rocked Japan in the 1930s where assassination and the military running rough shod over the country was pretty much the norm.
While not necessarily a Japanese type military coup it is nonetheless romanticized to a disturbing degree. Few are the coups and putsches that are hailed as good. I much prefer that militaries never mount coups regardless of the circumstances because all too often once they wield power absolute they tend to want to keep it. The armor of Li’s boys during their wedding crashing operation was more in the spirit of Japanese samurai than any armor of Chinese manufacture that I can remember from High Imperial China and Late Imperial China. The only time foreign help of any sort was welcome was with international pariahs like the Soviet Union and Weimar Germany, the latter of which provided most of the military muscle to fight imperialism prior to the entry of the Allies. Under Sun Yat-sen paranoia was at least pragmatic paranoia, and that is about as far as China has ever really come to opening up since the Song Dynasty. While Li is for the sake of the story a patriot albeit one with loli-con tendencies he is not unlike the Japanese in regards to using military power as a means to get control. Hence Li’s sameness, even excluding his loli-con predisposition, is what makes him a hero, he’s Japanese-like. If unconditional or hardly conditional cooperation with Lulu is in the works then Li will be Wang Jingwei (read: traitor) with long hair and a sword. Li will be little better than than a Cao Cao with pedophilia.
Historically China and Chinese have looked down upon military coups as a means to get power, the latest example being Yuan Shikai, the father of warlords. The importance of having to mobilize the peasantry and the working classes has characterized the Nationalist Revolution under Sun Yat-sen and the Communist Revolution under Mao Zedong. For reasons I do not fully understand, and I doubt anyone ever fully will, military might alone, or basically what Li is doing, is a losing proposition if done in China. The implicit notion that Li ought to subvert himself to Lulu’s will to take on Britannia is also takes on the flavor of the “first among equals” ideology where the rest of the Asian peoples provide the muscle while Japanese provide the brains. Once Li gets hitched to his loli, I just hope they avoid giving Li the Nine Bestowments if he is to remain a patriot in the Chinese vein. Though some douche bag such as Lulu would make for a decent enough recipient of the Nine Bestowments for epic faux pas.
The point that Lulu is not Japanese over looks the fact that he has gone quite native. Lulu is getting ever closer to being an Emperor with divine status (Geass powers already make him a demi-god) as Diethard (German), or Goebbels-lite (also German), is keen on creating a personality cult, hence it’s some sneaky dirty unwashed foreigner who is liable for the blame when Lulutology takes hold. Kaguya trying to pimp out the old palace practices of Japan doesn’t really help wash away Lulu’s veneer as a successor Emperor in the Japanese tradition. The key difference here is that Kaguya would have polygamy more openly rather than differentiating wife from concubines and mistresses for legal and possibly dynastic purposes as would be the case else where. (Note not necessarily a bad thing)
The Indians providing aid to the Japanese is also strange and odd given how their technology is comparable to the best Britannia has to offer yet abstain from actual combat seems to suggest that Japanese are better suited as fighters and the Indians are better suited to be producers. I have to say Rakshata is not a very flattering depiction of a foreigner as she is more along the lines of exotic seductress with her pipe and propensity for lounging about and not buttoning her shirt in certain places. While ostensibly brilliant, her tech manuals invite a bit of suspicion as they are decidedly small and not big enough to beat people to death with. Given how India can play its own games it is rather odd that while a militarily more powerful EU would have given a greater impetus toward their goal of liberation, as it would have made the powers in Luoyang look north rather than south given China’s traditional vulnerability in the steppe regions given that her navy in the Geassverse is sufficient deterrent to the Royal Navy, it is ignored in favor arming a merry band of terrorists with dangerously nebulous goals. By arming the Elevens they were in effect showing off some new tech that is superior to their nominal Chinese allies’ quite why this goes unnoticed is strange to say the least… I’d go deeper but this is merely the tip of a rather potentially monstrous iceberg. There are no allies, and no equals here, it is not a common struggle to unite the Earth Sphere. It is a national epic in the vein of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Great Britain (it includes the original King Arthur), which in the modern sense is oozing with propaganda and wanton imperialism.
The portrayal of women is probably less than flattering as well since strong women in a more dominant independent role are for the most part frowned upon. Kallen maybe strong as a fighter, but she needs Lulu (her man) to tell her what to do, even going so far as begging him to order her around. While the fanservicey nature of the show does demand that every woman be some how alluring, including Nina, they are nonetheless by and large dependent on a man. Cornelia was about as close as we got to a strong independent female who was master of her own destiny and leader of men, and her unhappy fate was to lose her sister and her brave soldiers to the machinations of a “superior” if more physically weak man. Hence the most GAR of women loses to the physically weak man. Since I am after all a dude and my view is decidedly skewed and itsubun is taking challenges I humbly request that the female blogging collective, Round Robin (or as I call them the Frauleinwehr). Weigh in at some point at their leisure. You can tell that I am most displeased with the current treatment of my Warrior Princess…
I hope that Goro Taniguchi and the Sunrise team are not actually endorsing the events of those dark times and embracing military adventurism. They do nevertheless rile up ill feelings that never really healed. By adopting real places and real people, it does raise some disquieting allusions for those familiar with the war where millions died not so long ago. Given the right circumstances CG like a lot of things can be interpreted as vile propaganda, it’s just easier with something as charged Geass. I just hope that they plan to end it all tastefully. By tying themselves to the past and present they limit the breadth and scope of the tale they could have woven. However by invoking real places and real peoples they are pretty much walking on eggs loaded with dynamite. Stylistic choices are like diction they color how a story will be interpreted. They have defined the other, but I wonder if they intended to depict the “other” in such a manner that I hypothesize.
End Subliminal message.
If Lulu’s victory is complete in the end it will be a tacit endorsement of militarism at its worst, the doctrine that might makes right for certain people and not others. I hope that they end it that every one loses and that the horror of war and folly of oppression as a means to gain an empire will be the finally legacy and not any implicit endorsement of war as best weapon in the diplomatic arsenal. The scary thing is that while propaganda is not new Sunrise has been able to bring it or a close relative of propaganda on a prime time slot. If it is propaganda then the implications are alarming, if it is a tasteless joke regarding world affairs coupled with mecha and harem fanservice it is much more benign and palatable. Sure it may be just a story, but so was Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation. Every nation engages in this sort of behavior, I just take solace in the fact that DoD public affairs guys are just so terrible at it that no one takes their word without a fist full of salt.
I’d advise one to be wary of digging too deep in Geass one may not like what they find. Again I hope that this is one show where one is by and large asked to turn on, tune in, and drop out. Otherwise you might not be unlike those who loved Birth of a Nation unconditionally. It maybe superbly done, but the message might still be hitting too close for some who belong to the “other” category.