Japan at War – All the Anime

August 18, 2022


by Lee Brimmicombe-Wooden.

A place opens up to the West and goes via a flowering of political and social liberalism right before reactionaries force a backlash, democracy flounders, and a repressive regime will take the reins. This could explain Jap Europe subsequent the collapse of the Soviet bloc, or Japan from the Meiji Restoration to the 1945 surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Jonathan Clements dissects the arc of Japanese militarism in Japan at War in the Pacific, a e book that tracks the “shattered jewel” meme in Japan from its first rhetorical use to its an infection of armed service dispatches and ideology. Applied to explain the suicidal heroism of Saigo Takamori in the Satsuma Rebellion, “shattered jewel” was immortalised in the 1891 anthem ‘A Myriad Enemies’, and turned a rallying cry for reactionaries who favored purity and death to compromise.


This English translation of Myriad Enemies substitutes ‘You ought to be shattered like a jewel’ with ‘you must slide admirably

Clements peppers the text with patriotic songs, simply because Japan’s imperial growth was as a lot a task of the Japanese masses as its elites. In an age of conscription and mass conversation, empire and war had to be marketed to the public. Learners of pop culture will be fascinated to see how it was weaponised, with blood-curdling ditties such as ‘Sounding of the Bugle’ referencing the ‘Shattered Jewels’ in accounts of the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95.

Japan’s modernisation was viewed by its architects as a struggle for survival against a domineering West. However, it also birthed the perception that the Yamato race was divinely ordained to manual the enhancement of the total of Asia. This ‘pan-Asianism’ would draw the country into growth in Taiwan, Korea, China, as properly as conflict with Russia.

Clements argues that these early clashes had been missing by Japan’s opponents as significantly as they had been gained by armed service prowess. Even so, victories bolstered the prestige of the armed forces. Militarism crept bit by bit into institutions and day to day life, to the point exactly where even armed service incompetence was valorised in popular songs. Disaster could be excused if the act was sufficiently deserving. For a reader introduced up on a eating plan of British ‘noble failure’ in will work these kinds of as The Charge of the Light Brigade and A Bridge Far too Much, tunes extolling the foolhardy Shuta Tachibana at the Struggle of Liaoyang, or the incompetent commander of the doomed submarine #6, come to feel achingly common.

More than time, the obsession with ‘shattered jewels’ would mutate into a loss of life cult. The use of cherry blossom (sakura) to depict fallen troopers appeared in the 1911 marching tune ‘A Foot Soldier’s Duty’, referencing the very poor bloody infantry cut down, Somme-fashion, at Mukden. The Sakura symbol before long spread to unit names, badges, and medals.

A turning level arrived just after Entire world War 1, when Japan did badly out of treaties at Versailles and Washington. Crucial to the collapse of parliamentary democracy and the increase of navy rule was the junior officer corps, a bellicose constituency inside of the mystery societies that motivated Japan’s policy. By means of the 1920s and 1930s, younger officers launched wrong-flag and coup functions, from time to time egged on by their superiors. These culminated in a collection of ‘incidents’ that provoked expansion into Manchuria and the coup attempt known as the ‘2/26 Incident’. Visitors acquainted with ideal-wing manga, these types of as Sanctuary (Fumimura and Ikegami, 1990-95) and The Silent Company (Kawaguchi 1988-96) may recognise a trope of ‘young adult men rise to preserve Japan’ that strongly echoes these situations. For nationalists then as now motion, significantly violent motion, trumps warning.

An accumulation of ‘incidents’ exploded into violence, initially in China, where by the Rape of Nanjing mirrored the fashion in which samurai Bushido had been debased into a cult of brutality then all over again throughout the Pacific. The remaining hundred internet pages of Clements’s narrative handles the apocalypse of the Pacific War and how ‘cherry blossoms’ and ‘shattered jewels’ recurred both in formal pronouncements, and tracks these kinds of as ‘Cherry Blossoms of the Exact Era’, with its oblique references to the kamikaze suicide pilots.

The wholesale destruction of towns, by using incendiaries and atomic weapons, still left a deep mark on publish-war Japan. Clements describes the victors’ justice that was applied to the war’s perpetrators. But the conflict, so large and so devastating, in no way solely ends. It ripples into the potential and from outdated tunes into contemporary pop society.

Even now, there is a struggle involving proponents of perpetrator narratives and these who assert the wars had been fought out of requirement. We see the 2/26 Incident echoed in the anti-war anime Patlabor 2 and the correct-leaning visual novel Muv Luv Different, the latter of which has the coup plotters earn and restore Imperial rule. In other cases of wishful imagining, the shame of defeat is wiped out by re-renderings of a war in which Japan is victorious or righteous. In Deep Blue Fleet, Japan defeats the dastardly forces of Churchill and FDR, only to change their guns on the only worthy enemy: the Nazis. In Kishin Corps Japan invades Manchuria, but for the righteous cause of battling alien invasion!

Clements’s book not only supplies an knowing of how a country can fall into militarism, but gives us a lens by way of which we can interpret its aftershocks in the modern period.

Japan at War in the Pacific: The Increase and Tumble of the Japanese Empire in Asia by Jonathan Clements is published by Tuttle.

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