Life Imitating GATE: Diet Votes to Expand JSDF’s Role


Rambling observational commentary follows.

The fictional Japanese military of countless anime throughout the years have been typically portrayed as serving in a strictly defensive capacity: only allowing the use of arms if directly attacked. And attacked they have been, be it from terrorists, giant monsters, aliens, or other nations.

In the first episode of GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There!, it’s the same story: a massive enemy force invades Ginza and the JSDF get their SD on. But what happens next is not only a rare(r) occurrence in anime, but also presaged the movements of the government of real-world Japan: Prime Minister Abe wants the ability for the JSDF to go on the offensive under certain circumstances. He wants a JSOF.

Today, it would seem he got his wish, in a contentious vote that caused opposition lawmakers to walk out and spurred large protests in Tokyo. Polls indicate a small plurality of Japanese are opposed to the expansion. The approved measure means Japan has lost its unique—at least for a country of its size—pacifist stance laid out in its constitution, though many anti-militarist opponents believe this vote violates the constitution.

In any case, the timing of GATE’s airing, and the fact it portrays a modern 2015-era JSDF invading enemy territory and mowing down feudal armies of tens of thousands with ease, adds credence to rumblings that it is veiled pro-offensive-military propaganda, even if the creators and producers of GATE didn’t quite intend it that way. Of course, the timing could also just be a coincidence (if anyone has any insights one way or another, feel free to voice them in the ‘ments).

We’ll continue to closely watch both GATE and the developments in real-world Japan, a country whose constitution “forever renounces war as an instrument for settling international disputes”, but currently led by those who believe the country’s best chance of maintaining security and stability in the region is to amend, if not outright abrogate, that long-standing renouncement.

Whatever your personal position on these developments (and we welcome all viewpoints; it’s a free internet!), they certainly comprise a fascinating juxtaposition of anime and real-world politics.


11 thoughts on “Life Imitating GATE: Diet Votes to Expand JSDF’s Role”

  1. It feels too easy to think of Gate as pro-militaristic propaganda at an opportune time, especially since, at least from a non-Japanese viewer’s perspective, the show is doing more to question the efforts of this ‘JSOF’ than it is encouraging support for them. Nothing looked pretty about the scenes of carnage they created on the other side, and yet they then went around trying to make friends with the villagers. When has being two-faced ever made you look good?

    The use of the bewildered child at the funeral furthered my overall feeling that this show will work more as an open commentary on the idea of a Japanese offence rather than just propaganda for or against the political shift in the country. I feel like the show’s only telling itself about the greatness of the JSDF so that the viewer can line that up with what they’re actually seeing. There’s certainly a juxtaposition between the ideas they represent and the actions we’ve seen so far.

    1. I agree with you, which is why I’m continuing to watch without rushing to conclusions. For all the “glamour shots” of the super-competent JSDF forces in action in both the OP and throughout the episode, the show isn’t afraid to show the costs of what the forces do, and the diversity of reaction to their actions among the ranks.

      While the JSDF is obviously tactically superior to the larger Special Region forces, they’re not invincible, infallible supermen. They’re men and women with their own individual personalities, backgrounds and perspectives. And it’s important to note that they’re not just killing, but trying to engage with the less hostile elements of the region, i.e. villagers, with some apparent success.

      I hope Gate continues to weigh the pros and cons of what the JSDF is doing, creating the open commentary you speak of rather than serving as a “might makes right” or “offense is the best defense” manifesto.

    2. I feel like this is a lot of credit to be giving them. Juxtaposing what you’re seeing and what’s being said is a very complex storytelling device. It’s not impossible, but it’s more advanced than I would usually give a web-novel/light-novel story.

      Also, if you don’t know that’s what they’re doing, then making the assumption belies the fact that they may mean EXACTLY what they say, and the reason there’s a seeming separation is that you don’t agree with what you’re being told.

      A good example of this for any Marvel Comic’s readers is AvX. That was an event where the Avengers and X-men fought a war and, if you ignored the dialogue, it actually presented a fairly grey conflict where each side had their ups and downs but if you read the dialogue, it came off as Avengers propaganda. However, it wasn’t a juxtaposition. It was just the writers not seemingly getting how they were presenting things.

      1. There’s a lot of discussion going around this week about writer intent with the release of new Harper Lee novel To Set a Watchman, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

        Among the many sides of the argument, there’s one that believes the characters belong to the author who created them forever, and are theirs to build up or tear down in subsequent canon works. Another side believes the author/creator loses ownership as soon as the book enters the hands of a reader who use the words on the page to create the story.

        A reader/consumer of something is always going to be informed not just what the author provided, but what their own experiences and expectations and yes, prejudices bring to the table. It’s a collaboration between author and reader, thought they may not be speaking entirely the same language.

        Sorry for more rambling, but I like your AvX example because it allows the possibility the creators may not know what they’re doing until it gets into the hands of readers.

      2. I’m just saying what I see. If a juxtaposition is there, it’s there. Whether or not it was intended just adds another dimension to what you notice. As per your example, a debatable aspect of a work can add to the story’s ‘success’ even if it works in a way contrary to what the author wanted. In that case I would give credit to the art while criticizing the artist.

        A person may not know whether God or man or evolution created a landscape, but they can still appreciate its beauty. I don’t have to know authorial intent to be able to say ‘I like that’ or ‘this does that for me’ or even ‘this does that for the wider audience’. Art communicates. That’s why we have structuralist and formalist approaches to things.

        Also, juxtaposition like this is hardly ‘advanced’, and saying that a certain artistic form wouldn’t have ‘advanced’ techniques just sounds weird. Literature is literature. If a medium is known for being of a certain ‘quality’, then I’d be more inclined to seek out and boast about more interesting things in it in order to help the form be not so typecast by its context. That’s one of the reasons I criticise anime itself – a lot of people view it too simply and would be better off being somehow aware that it has as much variation and depth as any kind of art.

      3. 1. No, if a juxtaposition is based entirely on your belief that the actions and comments are at odds, that’s called an ‘opinion.’ Which you are welcome to, but has nothing to do with what the story may or may not be doing. When you’re discussing whether or not something is propaganda, the author’s intentions are the core of the entire argument. Propaganda MEANS it’s designed to push a political message. Which it either is or it isn’t. It’s not the same as saying something has ‘unfortunate implications.’ Lots of things have unfortunate implications, very few things are actual propaganda. And whether a piece of propaganda is SUCCESSFUL in pushing its message is also secondary to whether its trying to push a message in the first place.

        2. And of course there are more and less advanced writing techniques and forms of literature. To imply there isn’t is buffoonery. That’s why we have writing classes at different age levels that teach different writing techniques and use different levels of literature. And while determining these can be complex, a fairly simple rule of thumb is the age it’s pointed at. Light/web (seems like a huge number of LNs start on the web) Novels in general are for teens; they’re not meant to be high literature. And Light Novels are not “anime,” Light novels are light novels. Anime is simply the term for any animated product from Japan, of course there’s variation there. Light Novels (and their adaptations) are a far more specific sub-type. Which is already starting to be avoided by the blogosphere because they have a tendency to be rather trashy (which can still be fun sometimes, don’t get me wrong, they’re just not Shakespeare)

        3. People always try to to get around this by saying ‘America does it.’ First off, they don’t as much as people pretend and as Jack explained rather well when America does do it, it tends to get roasted. And secondly, it’s a false comparison. Nothing about the American military situation is the same as in Japan. Not the law, not the constitution, not the history, not the culture, not the public opinion, not anything. It’s comparing apples and oranges.

    3. The manga and presumably this anime makes America:
      a.) Comically and stupidly evil
      b.) Incredibly incompetent

      It’s propaganda. If it was just the JSDF slaughtering 100,000+ people that would be manageable, but bringing other nations—-allied nations—-into the storyline and dressing them up as these cartoon villains?

      It’s insulting and demeaning.

      1. As if American media has never done the same.

        Let’s isolate this anime adaptation and see where it goes – directorial choices could render the source material’s appearance as propaganda (which I can’t comment on) differently.

    4. And when American media does it it’s criticized by both national and (especially) international audiences. Hence the reason why most American media outlets try to make any foreign antagonist as detached from their actual country as possible to minimize stereotyping. Gate doesn’t do this. In the first three episodes it portrayed America’s president as some sniveling Team Rocket reject——–and if the anime is anything like it’s manga/novel precursors, that vilification and demonization of a foreign power is going to get much worse as time goes on.

      Imagine if Team America: World Police was supposed to be a completely unironic, non satirical, non self-parodying, movie. And anything that could be ironic, satirical, and parody was purely accidental. Plus, let’s assume in this example that Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady were all chest-beating, America-can-do-no-wrong ex-Marines. Because this is exactly where the various iterations of Gate are right now, and that’s concerning.

  2. I’m not that optimistic. While the show has certainly created a certain amount of ambivalence in viewers so far, a big part of that has more to do with how WE feel about killing 120,000 in a few days than the show spending much time dwelling on it. So far the bad guys have been pretty one-dimensionally evil to the point of stupidity (seriously, I get not believing in an unknown enemy’s strength, and I get using a losing battle to knock off political rivals, but doing them both at the same time is moronic) and the heroes have been basically awesome.

    Yes, he’s an otaku which gives him ‘layers’ but not really when being an otaku that is also a superhero is the secret dream of nearly every viewer. I’m hopeful that the introduction of actual characters from the other world will help even this out in the next episode or two. As of now though it’s been pretty much military propaganda. I won’t say it’s necessary Japan militarist propaganda, up to now I’d compare it more to Michael Bay-style army scenes in the Transformers movies where the soldiers just look like demigods.

  3. Just coincidence, that’s all, no conspiracy here. The JSOF will enable new mission cooperation with US and NATO, and provide a wider experience to all involved. As allies that’s just a expected result, yet if in the distant future the Sengoku mindset appears, even locally or against allies, rest assured either NATO or US will bury again those guys and force back a JSDF. But this is very remote, its not like tomorrow both China and Russia will be attacked over island disputes, or re enact the rape of Nanking. Everybody involved is wiser to a certain degree, and this will unfold in further progress of tech that will end in everybody use. No doomsday is forthcoming from this, but in future US and NATO combat operations, Japan might say present, and as a result have some troops killed, I don’t foresee Japan going alone against ISIS for payback, but could join on air or drone sorties for experience sake. So no reason to worry. Gate is a great anime in it’s own right, and bloodless compared to other anime.

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