I don’t really participate in the broader anime blogosphere. I made this site to satisfy my own boredom during downtime at work and, as such, I rarely read posts from other writers. But this week I stumbled across something interesting: a discussion about fascism in anime, starting with this article from SyFy.
The Syfy article explores the author’s discomfort with the use of fascist imagery in several anime. Contrary to some of the criticisms of the piece I’ve seen on discussion sites, it fairly acknowledges that most such anime make their fascist-look-alikes into villains to promote anti-authoritarian themes. For example, Fullmetal Alchemist includes an evil dictator called “Fuhrer Bradley” that the heroes revolt against by the end of the series. However, the article perhaps stretches a bit too far when it claims that “Fascism in anime becomes a problem when fans glorify and emulate these clearly evil characters.” When fringe fans choose to interpret a piece of fiction opposite it’s intended (and obvious…) message, I am not sure if it’s fair to fault the fiction itself.
In general, I disagree with the article’s conclusions. Uniforms alone do not define a fascist. However, the weak arguments in one article do not make all anime immune to criticism. I myself have accused precisely one series of promoting authoritarian politics: Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria (official English: The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar; my translation: The Iron Tyrant and Holy Valkyria; shorthand: Holy Valkyria).
This may seem like an odd choice. Given it’s Bronze Age isekai setting, Holy Valkyria has no fascist aesthetic to worry about (except for two “Sieg Patriarch” chants in the first and last episodes, but that’s perhaps a HUGE thing to “except…”). Most of its episodes either dither away through boring battle sequences or the usual ecchi harem nonsense. For the uninitiated, here is a one sentence plot summary: a magic mirror throws Japanese middle-schooler Yuuto Suou into a Bronze Age fantasy world, where he rules as “patriarch” of the Wolf Clan via a magical solar cellphone and a crack team of lusty little-sister sorceresses that help him defeat his rivals on the battlefield. Typical isekai, huh?
Despite the bland premise, Holy Valkyria is uniquely vile among the anime series I have seen. Though my early impression post probably leans more toward a rant than a rigorous analysis given my overwhelming disgust with the first episode, having completed the show, I stand by my initial assessment. Holy Valkyria contains a core of fascist-ish ideology, espoused by the protagonists of the series rather than the antagonists.
Of course, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. To be clear: I do not want to validate Godwin’s Law or cheapen the word “fascism” with lazy accusations (see Orwell’s essay on “fascist” becoming a meaningless slur). As such, I will try to make my argument with greater rigor than I did the first time around. This post will not waste time judging the quality of the series’ animation or music or common isekai tropes. Instead, I will focus only on the themes that resemble fascist philosophy. I will start with a working definition of fascism, because to identify a fascist, you first need to know what one looks like. Then, I will compile the lines and scenes which I believe promote a fascist worldview, with a few concluding caveats.Continue reading “A fascist anime? Doing a post-mortem on Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Valkyria”