Written by Jon Bangsoy
The Manga, ‘Attack On Titan’, displays the logical frameworkof how the Marleyan commander makes sense of evil, violence, and identity. With Nationalism, the irrational fear of the commander compels him to oppress the Eldians who he believes are creatures encased in human bodies. Expressed through the medium of irrational fear, survival is guaranteed by elimination and subjugation of the rampant animals in society. With Manga, Nationalism knows no bounds and the fantasies of man become reality in black and white tones. This post argues that Nationalism and its theories distort individuals’ perceptions about human nature and specifically humanity, which causes feelings of apathy to formulate as opposed to empathy. The role of Manga in this case, is to showcase the narratives that Nationalists advocate for every day. From creating ahistorical events to depicting conspiracy theories of the ‘other’.
First Panel: ‘Planet of the Jap’
‘Planet of the Jap’ by Suehiro Maruo, offers readers a fantasy-inspired rendition of the way Japanese Nationalists see themselves had they triumphed in World War 2. Often seen as either national revanchist or satirical critique of misguided Fascism, Maruo focuses on exposing how Nationalism conditions individuals to project fantasies on historical events which have already transpired. Through his work, Maruocondemns rather than glorifies the new world order that arose in this hypothetical postwar context. In the manga, Maruo invents ahistorical events such as converting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into the destruction of Los Angeles and San Francisco on August 6, 1945. In terms of human nature, the manga allows Nationalism to show how its ideologies inspire men to commit atrocities and assert power over those who are vulnerable fashioning a hierarchy based on superiority. The most graphic example is the systematic rape of an American family within this manga, starting from incapacitating the father, raping the mother, and killing their son by smashing his head on concrete. Nationalism perpetuates cycles of violence erasing components of empathy, kindness, and nonviolence. Instead, the new hierarchy is revered, organizing a culture that eliminates families, dehumanizes individuals, justifies exertion of power over others, and the creation of a world order where apathy dominates.
Second Panel: Demonstrations, Screw Them!
‘Hinomaru Gaisen Otome’ is a right-wing nationalist series written by Okada Ichika and illustrated by Tomita Akiko. It details the journey of Kanade from naïve high schooler to nationalist protester in a setting where Japan is engaged in a cultural battle between truths and lies. The manga lets Kanade congregate with the Zaitokukai, an ultra-nationalist right-wing group that vehemently calls for the termination of welfare benefits for Zainichi Koreans (Japanese Koreans born in Japan). The former view themselves as ‘truth tellers’ in this context by actively campaigning to wake up their countrymen from the liesthat surround them through the utilization of conspiracy theories such as the supposed annexation of Japan or the landing of Koreans in Liancourt Rocks. Through fear mongering, the Zaitokukai produce a narrative that Japan is under extreme stress, liable to attack, and in need of defending. Ultimately, this manga demonstrates how Nationalism progressively erodes an individual’s security and agency of thought through misinformation, hate speech, and illogical doctrines. Rather than erasing Kanade’s human nature, Nationalism remakes it into a completely adverse structure from before wherein it is natural to harbor xenophobic thoughts against seemingly violent Koreans or to ignore the grievances of mistreated comfort women in World War II. The cultural conflict continues to separate truth from lies with Nationalism poised to conquer the landscape.
Third Panel: The God of Comics
The brilliance of Nationalism stems from its ability to create perennial histories, national myths, symbolic artifacts, and dictate the normative functions of human nature. Osamu Tezuka, revered as the God of Comics in Japan, embarks on a chronological genealogy of Japan’s history with his work entitled, ‘Phoenix’, published in the 1960’s that spanned 30 years written in over 12 volumes. In essence, Tezuka attempts to reconcile present national identity with horrendous past events and to orchestrate how this identity was borne out of violence rather than the artificial history that resides in the collective’smemory. With Manga as his tool, Tezuka exposes the erroneous message of Nationalism in Japan highlighting the consequences of the ideology. These consequences manifest in the story of the mythical Emperor Jimmu, who attained power by systematically killing the inhabitants of the land he wished to conquer. Tezukaends the chapter with a bold claim: ‘IN THIS FASHION, JAPAN WAS FORMED AS A NATION THROUGH INVASION, WAR AND SLAUGHTER’.
Growing up during 1931-1945, Tezuka recounted the flaws of Nationalist Japanese ideology and its eventual defeat under the Americans, noticing the tandem of how state power and religion contribute to an ideology underpinned by brutality, imperialism, and ethnic superiority. Tezuka expresses human nature throughthe utilization of historical discourse linking it to ideology and narrative. Although most of the manga displays the natural violence of human nature, usually enacted by male aggressors, Tezuka positions it as an unlawful, immoral activity allowing readers to experience this violence through the lens of victimized women and children. Furthermore, this violence is consolidated by the parody character Ningi, the emperor of the Yamato empire who writes about the violence of their ancestors and why these aspects make the empire great, immortal, and by conforming to violence, how the empire lives on. However, Tezuka repudiates the notion that nations are intrinsically prone to violence and eradication of their fellow man, and in doing socreates an antithesis to combat the ideology by utilizing women. Human survival in the manga rests upon the woman’s ability to bear children and raise them as anti-nationalists who take revenge upon the imperial powers that forcefully took power. This means that women have an important role to play other than victims of sexual exploitation, masculine power, ornationalism, but as individuals capable of resisting evil with nonviolence.
Through the analysis of Nationalist discourse in manga, it becomes possible to witness how they distort views on human nature. For them, human nature is a concept that could be erased, modified, or subject to history. What stems from this is the natural right to conduct violence, spread lies, and justify their behavior with inaccurate history. Manga remains influential as ever, a cultural product that has graced the bookshelves of ordinary people worldwide. It only makes sense that Nationalism wholly embraces it to not only artistically express themselves, but hopefully to gain an advantage in the cultural war of ideas.