Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Politics in Manga: The Human Element

Maiden Rose: Taki has too much honor to
abandon the role his culture demands from him.
On my main blog, I discuss political storytelling. I open with the following:
The political storyline is one that is motivated by political needs rather than social or personal ones. Characters are fighting a war. Character A wishes to win the war to expiate feelings of guilt (The Four Feathers); Character B wishes to win the war for the sake of his or her fellow soldiers (just about every war movie ever); Character C wishes to win the war to open up a trade route. The last reason is political.
I go on to discuss three types of political storytelling: the Objective Plot (Hamlet, Maiden Rose), the Transcendent Plot (Dune, Black Sun), and the No Way Out Plot (mafia/yakuza stories). Generally speaking, I prefer the first two to the last.

I'll get to manga yakuza plots in another post. For the purposes of this post, I prefer my politics to be localized, relatable, and overcomable (yes, I know it isn't a word).

In another post on politics in fiction, I commend Blue Morning for its complex, yet comprehensible politics:
In the manga series Blue Morning, for instance, there are three political agendas at play: (1) Katsuragi's initial decision to oust his charge from head of the Kuze household: (2) Katsuragi's later decision to protect his charge and force him to apply for a higher rank; (3) his charge's decision to give Katsuragi what he initially wanted.
Unfortunately, (3) doesn't simply cancel out (1) and (2) because the political actions that both characters throw into motion complicate a simple resolution: they make enemies of the wrong people or agree to make trades with different families or, occasionally, the same families but for different reasons. Katsuragi especially has to deal with the ramifications of snowballs he set in motion--based on (1)--ten years earlier.

This is all surprisingly clear--though not always to the characters.
To put all this another way, I like my politics to be human.

One of the tensions in Blue Morning is
the contrast between a master who cares
little about the "old feudal system" and
servants who care about it a great deal.
I have no very great opinion of political fiction that focuses almost entirely on an amorphous, utterly inhuman, and rather dull BIG BAD. I also have no very great opinion of political fiction that is too easily resolved. One of the truly fantastic elements of Maiden Rose is that Taki cannot easily extract himself from his culture. If he were the type of guy to "go off and find myself," he would cease to be the character that captivates us and Claus.

And one of the loveliest aspects of Black Sun is that although Jamal and Leonard fail to extract themselves from their society, they manage to improve their lot within the confines of that society's possibilities.

This is the type of politics that originates in difficult and conflicting human wants and needs: how the characters go about achieving those wants and needs may embroil them in the difficult and complex world of trade, money, power, and noblesse oblige. How they handle that world always goes back to those utterly human desires.

Manga is full of this type of politics; it is equally full of politics in the more obvious sense: corrupt local leaders and semi-corrupt yakuza.

To be continued . . .