So, in the spirit of thinking about the meaning of war - and throwing in a bit of manga into the mix - I've chosen for this week's blog to touch upon a recent propaganda manga in Japan. (OK, so it's a bit of a stretch, but why not?)
There's actually a fascinating history of manga as propaganda during the war years (covered here by manga journalist Deb Aoki) - and the US has used this influential tool in Okinawa as well. In fact, the American comic books were used by the US government during past wars. And Japanese manga ranges from positive images of Americans to blatant anti-Americanism.
As such, it's no surprise that manga is used to influence the Japanese public, but this time it feels a bit heavy-handed. Japan's ruling party is the 自民党 jimintou or LDP (Liberal Democratic Party), with party president Shinzo Abe also serving as Japan's prime minister. Abe (pronounced ah-bay) is known for his right-wing politics, and one key issue is Japan's Constitution, which he wants to amend. Since this Constitution was implemented soon after World War II ended, the influence of Douglas MacArthur and the Allied Occupation Forces was significant.
While the previous Meiji Constitution (Japan's first) implemented an absolute monarchy based on the Emperor, the post-war constitution switched to a liberal democracy. One key aspect is the prohibition of military forces in Japan (Article 9) - and the recognition of the 自衛隊jieitai (Self-Defense Forces) as an interpretation of the constitution.
Abe wants to amend Article 9 to allow the SDF to participate in "collective self-defense" which some see as a step towards re-militarization. Of course, China isn't happy with this - and the move can be seen to be a counter to China's increasing military power. Outside of Japan, there are arguments for change; and arguments against it.
But the Japanese public is split almost evenly on changing the Constitution - and without a majority public vote, an amendment cannot happen. Thus, the manga!
While there isn't an English version available yet, I read it in Japanese and found it quite clever. It uses a "typical" family (a young couple with a 2-year-old child, one grandfather and one great-grandfather) to debate the issue of Constitutional change. A lot of emphasis is put on the current Constitution being "very old" and "out-of-date" (70 years old, compared to America's 228-year-old Constitution), as well as forced upon Japan by America, thus "not Japanese".
This convinces the young couple that a revision is probably necessary - but, "wow it's sooo difficult!" As-is, 2/3 of the upper and lower house need to ratify before going to the public, which must vote it in by a >50% majority. The manga focuses a lot on just how much of a burden that change is - although many scholars believe it's no harder than Korea and even easier than America (Japanese-only blog here). Ultimately, the manga encourages people to discuss and consider the issue.
Time will tell if the manga sways public opinion. The jieitai (SDF) have also used manga images (below) to recruit - almost making war seem sexy and fun.
For the same reasons, manga and anime appeal to so many fans worldwide - compelling characters, enjoyable plots, and of course amazing artwork - it can also serve as a persuasive propaganda medium.
On that serious note, time for BBQ!