“What’s done to the children is done to society.”
— Buddhist proverb
Spoiler warning: much to do with Franxx will be spoiled. As well there will be TLDR; on Japanese politics and revising the Japanese constitution, or not…
After watching the final episode of Darling in the Franxx, I like many viewers (and bloggers) leaned back and shook my head as if to wake and throw off a troubling dream. Sure there were parts, large slabs of it in fact that warranted examination but once you get past the action scene animation or the curious fighting robot/ mecha designs (Tittie bots! Giant fighting robots with girlish tittie bumps – ok, guy-ish robots have done worse but… ) and the cringe-inducing notion of doggie-sex positioned girl-boy pilot pairs…
Oh SNAP. Dealing with Franxx is like dealing with a crazy president. The weird shit just keeps getting thrown at you. You really don’t have a chance to deal with one bit of weird before another bounces off the wall and flies past your left ear. The overall “shape” of the whole remains somewhat consistent: some form of updating/ tribute to epic sci-fi anime franchises of decades gone by, but the bits appear to have been slapped together while the vehicle was already in motion using whatever was in the back seat or could be snagged off the side of the road with poles when they slow down to take a curve.
Ecological dystopia, domed cities, cynical ruling cabal, mad scientist, child soldiers raised in Brave New World creches, ever escalating levels of incomprehensible monsters, giant girly looking robots/ doggie-sex position piloting and
One Demon girl.
Code/ name 0-2; Zero-Ni. O-ni; subtle-not. At least she doesn’t wear a tiger stripe bikini to go with her fixation on her “Darling”. Zero-Ni is the heroine of the story, lad notwithstanding. Of course the lad be captivated but this essay is NOT going to do Zero-Ni as Übermensch, so just stipulate and keep moving. Zero-Ni is so strong that she can even power up one of those giant robots (tittie version or boring on-spec version) herself – which as well could lead to strained metaphors which will not be indulged. Zero-Ni has a snarky “pro-from-Dover” attitude, follows orders whenever or not and seems to have enough privilege to get away with minor misbehavior because she is very good at killing the incredibly loud monsters (rendered in English as Klaxosaurs). Driven to kill in fact. Kill obsessed.
Beside her, all the other kids, pistils, stamens, post-gendered squad 9, adult-ish minders and the mad scientist Dr. Franxx pale. Also they get used a lot as plot road-kill. Boyo’s original partner Naomi is soon hustled off stage. As she departs, she gives our hero her belongings to distribute to her ex-comrades as if to say; “I ain’t coming back from this one, they are going to euthanize and dissect me or something, so fuck it.”
Time to bring in the interesting analysis of gender essentialism and disposable queer characters considered in an essay on Anime Feminist: Discourse: Childbirth and Politics in DARLING in the FRANXX by Caitlin Moore (September 7, 2018)
Moore wisely sticks to her thesis and doesn’t TLDR; out and wander all over the map (hold my beer) but notably links a lot of the attitude as to the proper roles of characters in Franxx to current real-world-Japan trends in politics and society. Specifically:
“A few weeks ago, Japanese lawmaker Mio Sugita stirred up international controversy when, on-camera, she chuckled about queer Japanese youth attempting suicide. She said that, since same-sex couples don’t reproduce, they are “unproductive” and not worth taxpayer money.
Her remarks sparked outrage, and thousands came to protest on the doorstep of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters. Although the LDP has disavowed her comments, other members have said similar things before.
In June 2018, the LDP’s secretary general, Toshihiro Nakai, said childless couples were “selfish.” Only a month before that, another LDP politician said that newlyweds should focus on having “three or more” children, and that single women are “letting the country down.” Another stated that women, rather than men, should be in charge of caring for children. Meanwhile, women who take maternity leave, especially politicians, face maternity harassment.”
It had been hard to miss the recent glaring example of misbehavior by some of the ruling LDP party’s right-wing howling dogs. Imagine my surprise, when I was looking through chapter synopses of a new, open source academic anthology of essays on Japanese feminism and I run into the snippet intro-ing K. Hemman’s ch10 essay:
“In July of 2003, former Japanese prime minister Mori Yoshirō stated that women without children should not receive welfare benefits. “It is truly strange that we have to use tax money to take care of women who don’t even give birth once, who grow old living their lives selfishly and singing the praises of freedom,” Mori explained in a speech addressing Japan’s falling birthrate, which had reached an all-time low of 1.29 children per woman…”
— Dangerous Women and Dangerous Stories: Gendered Narration in Kirino Natsuo’s Grotesque and Real World by Kathryn Hemmann; Chapter 10 of Rethinking Japanese Feminisms, Editor(s): Julia C. Bullock, Ayako Kano, James Welker, University of Hawai’i Press. (2018)
Clearly this “unproductive” manzai routine has a long history within the right-wing ranks of the LDP. Re-stating it and recycling it is alternatively a phatic gesture; a dog-whistle and a shout-out tribute to a senior faction player (now heading the 2020 Olympic Cttee — expect disaster) as well as being a calculated and cynically deployed lie. However Mio Sugita is more telling as symptom rather than as cause.
“It must be said that Sugita is not qualified to serve as a member of the Diet — a person who yields power to make laws as a representative of the people and make decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money.
Sugita has made absurd arguments in the past. For example, she criticized moves seeking more day care centers, use of different surnames among married couples and support for LGBT individuals as acts “driven by the Comintern (an international organization of communist parties) to destroy Japanese families.”
LDP legislators are constantly making socially unacceptable remarks under the almost unchallenged long-term reign of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They include unruly statements such as, “Moms are indeed the best people to raise children,” and, “Cancer patients don’t have to work.”
Sugita was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 on the ticket of the Japan Innovation Party. She lost her seat in the 2014 election, but was re-elected as an LDP candidate on the proportional representation list for the Chugoku region in western Japan in the 2017 general election. She now belongs to the Hosoda faction of the ruling party, from which Prime Minister Abe hails. The LDP bears a serious responsibility for leaving Sugita’s words and deeds unchecked.””
— Editorial: Bigoted lawmaker Sugita not worthy to represent the people
Mainichi Japan, (July 25, 2018)
Why such a recent uptick in LDP wingnuts spouting-off?
Shinzo Abe has just sewn up his internal party election, secured his third term as leader of the LDP and therefore will remain Prime Minister of Japan. Mio-san, like the other rightists undoubtably voted for their patron. His opponent Ishiba Shigeru received 254 votes to Abe’s 553. Shigeru’s platform alluded to past and recent Abe-linked corruption scandals. Right-wingers picked their best friend, a champion of a puffed-up nationalism that serves as a blanket to hide if not legitimise decades of crony profiteering. Perhaps they sensed that Abe-san’s need for their votes gave them an opportunity to slip the leash and do some loud barking?
Mio-san later issued a grudging apology and Abe has remarked that she has is still young and holds promise.
Franxx‘s ruling APE conspiracy is resonant to Japanese viewers if only for its cynicism and ruthless instrumentalism. That its ultimate agenda involves the complete destruction of the earth and the psychic assimilation of the souls of all humanity is a suitably overdone restatement of the gulf between the public pronouncements of Japan’s political elites and their “apres moi le deluge” impulses.
The Anifem essay calls out the gender essentialism of Franxx as mirrored in contemporary Japanese politics and social discourse but slips past the greater, even genocidal instrumentalism that always hides behind extreme manifestations of statist authoritarianism. The Japanese 1945 Constitution is hated by the nationalists – according to the cover story, because it was ‘imposed” by the American occupation. Plenty of scholarship exists that argues that indigenous Japanese progressives; even an American-Japanese proto-feminist had significant roles and input in its drafting:
“We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.”
Lookie how the preamble echoes the contemporaneous United Nations declaration and then cuts immediately to a categorical rejection and proscription of the kind of authoritarian absolutism that had marked power and rule in Japan since its earliest recorded histories. To put it in Twitter terms, the 1945 Constitution was written by Social Justice Warriors.
“Beate Sirota Gordon Lecture: “Present at the Creation of Japan’s Post-WWII Constitution” (1/3/2000)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1ikfxYoO34 (36 min in)
Oh heck, who are we fooling. Beate wrote it.
Meanwhile, the LDP had a committee of right-wingers beavering away at a replacement, properly Japanese constitution. The good news: it did not restore female debt-bond sexual slavery. The bad news: pretty well everything else. As always, any organised tendencies that spit at SJWs are at very least after some dodgy fast money and at worst are wannabe slavers and genocides. Final good news; they went so overboard on it that it was dead in the water the second it was released. Abe & co. now say they will attempt amendments via a stealthy incremental approach.
“As many scholars have pointed out, the 2012 draft rejects all three core principles of the current constitution: people’s sovereignty, human rights and the rejection of war (including denunciation of wars by the Japanese Imperial army). Reflecting historical revisionism, this completely revises the current preamble, which is based precisely on those principles. The newly proposed draft preamble reads:
Japan is a nation with a long history and unique culture, having the Emperor as the symbol of the unity of the people…
The Japanese people, defend our country and homeland with pride and strong spirit,… value harmony, and form a nation where families and the whole society assist one another […]
The Japanese people, in order to pass on our good traditions and our nation-state to our descendants in perpetuity, hereby establish this Constitution.
The 2012 draft thus emphasizes Japanese tradition as represented by the Emperor, the duty to defend the country, and family values. People’s sovereignty is undermined by the fact that the Emperor is designated the head of the state in the preamble and in Article One. Respect for fundamental human rights is constrained by the demands of public order detailed in Articles 12 and 13, and importantly, Japanese citizens are no longer respected as “individuals” but only as “persons”. Needless to say, the principle of renunciation of war in Article 9 is dismissed in favor of establishing a national defense army.
Higuchi Yōichi has criticized the 2012 draft as being worse than the “Five Articles of the Charter Oath” [Gokajō no goseimon], the foundational document of the Meiji regime, published in 1868. The LDP draft, he writes, is “not a return to the Meiji Constitution but rather like one of the proclamations of the Keian era (1648-1652) – the edicts imposed on Japanese peasants and others by the Tokugawa Shogunate].”20 In a conversation with Higuchi, another scholar of constitutional law, Kobayashi Setsu recalls that he once tried to explain to members of the LDP that “the constitution does not exist to constrain the people, but should serve as the supreme law that limits the power of the state,”21 and was taken aback at the politicians lack of understanding of this fundamental point. The 2012 draft is not simply a revision, but the destruction or total negation of principles of the current constitution. In fact, Abe firmly believes that the view of constitutionalism shared by most social science scholars was biased or old fashioned. “”
— Prime Minster Abe’s Constitutional Campaign and the Assault on Individual Rights by Okano Yayo, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (March 2018)
CRAP! Who would do such a nasty thing?
“At its launch, the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League had 189 members from both chambers. The number continued to increase, and as of November 2015, there were 281 members (mostly LDP), and the members of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League were the largest force in both houses with around 40 percent of the 717 Diet members. This rightwing league was behind the launching of the three Abe cabinets. Abe was the League’s key person as party president and prime minister. In the 3rd Abe Cabinet, 16 out of the 20 (80 percent) of the ministers are members of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League.
The Nippon Kaigi, with its close ties to the Diet Members League, is now running Japanese politics. One example can be seen in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which from 2002 has distributed, to all elementary and middle-school children, supplemental educational pamphlets called Kokoro no Nōto [Notes for the Heart] (four levels: 1st and 2nd graders, 3rd and 4th graders, 5th and 6th graders, and middle-school use). The materials promote official moral values, starting with love of country, and are aimed at controlling the minds of children.”
— What is the Aim of Nippon Kaigi, the Ultra-Right Organization that Supports Japan’s Abe Administration? by Tawara Yoshifumi, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (Nov 2017)
“The Abe administration’s “education rebuilding” policy was realized with the passage of the revised Fundamental Law of Education in 2006. The policy aims to create “human resources” (jinzai) to carry out the goals of the new law. Abe’s “education rebuilding” policy aims at 1) the cultivation of human resources sought by large corporations seeking to win in global competition; and 2) education that will produce a “national army” and supporters of the same. In both aims for human resources education, there must be inculcated in the schools a sense of “patriotism” and “morality,” and in order to realize these aims, the system of education and type of textbook are essential. The Abe administration stresses that “education rebuilding is the foundation for realizing a society in which there is “dynamic engagement of all 100 million citizens” [ichioku sōkatsuyaku].
Setting up a council to carry out education rebuilding, the Abe administration moved forward at a fast pace with various “educational reforms” to nurture such human resources. The main reforms included: 1) strengthening control over the contents of education; 2) nurturing effective human resources for the sake of the large corporations; and 3) controlling school administrators and teachers.
To accomplish that, the system of screening textbooks was revised. What had been treated as a “special course” of “moral education” [dōtoku] was elevated to the status of official subject entailing evaluation, (on a par with courses such as mathematics). The education guidelines were greatly revised to make this possible.
The next version of the education guidelines comprehensively control the education system with the state setting not only the contents of what is being taught but also the instructional method used by teachers, the way schools should be run, and even the relationship between schools and the home and local community. The system has changed from one in which the dignity of children is respected and the aim is character development to one shifted 180 degree toward creating “human resources” that will serve the state, national interests, and the interests of corporate giants. ”
— ibid Yoshifumi (1)
“Article 97 of Japan’s Constitution delivers a stirring declaration of the heritage of these rights: “The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.”
The LDP proposes to simply delete these words. The Party provides no explanation for this in its Q&A pamphlet, so we can’t be entirely sure about its motivation. I assume that Party leaders are most offended by the notion of an “age-old struggle of man to be free.”
Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change 危機に瀕する日本の民主主義 自民党憲法改正案、最も危険な10項目 by Lawrence Repeta (Japanese translation courtesy of Takahiro Katsumi0, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (July 14, 2013)
CAVEAT EMPEROR – The Religious Cult Secretly Running Japan
by Jake Adelstein and Mari Yamamoto, The Daily Beast (07.10.16 12:15 AM ET)
Dissecting the Wave of Books on Nippon Kaigi, the Rightwing Mass Movement that Threatens Japan’s Future by Saito Masami, Nogawa Motokazu and Hayakawa Tadanori. Introduction by Sven Saaler. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (October 4, 2018) https://apjjf.org/2018/19/Saito.html
Did you think that Franxx‘s evil wurld gummint cabal, complete with stylised monkey masks and “Papa” authority over the child soldiers was overdone?
To push at the edges of heavy-handed allegory in Franxx you have to stay relentlessly within a heteronormative male viewer frame of reference but if you do, you can see a standard sci-fi allegory as critique of instrumental authority — of the kind that the Franxx‘s Japanese audience’s demographic would instantly recognise. The kids in the “birdcage” are a lab experiment to see what happens when you allow a small resurgence of individuality and gender expression. They even have individualised girlish robots and… Lo and behold, one of their number is able to survive more than three piloting sessions with star quarterback demon-girl. They fight like kittens until leveled up but that’s immaterial as long as being with them motivates demon-girl to vainly seek to become more human and less demon by killing ever more of her own kind.
Before this essay bogs down in lefty contemporary Japanese politics articles, we can try to go at Franxx sidewise and note what it doesn’t do. Take for instance that even though we have invading aliens, we do not get the usual ‘Black Ships’ plot – a fave for lazy Japanese pop-cult allegories. Those robots: while they are clearly Eva lineage, rather than the usual blocky mecha lineage, it isn’t the boy who gets to spaz out to super-power one up. It is Zero-two demon girl who goes on solo rampages. Once again, a Beautiful Fighting Girl is trotted out for boy viewers. This raises the relentless guy-Ota-King gaze of Franxx. While not inconceivable that women might tune in to watch Franxx, they risk laughing themselves into stitches. Doggie-sex piloting positions? What nitwits came up with that one? Was not Infinite Stratos bad enough to prevent recurrences of this kind of foolishness? Perhaps there are some bishies worth some fun “transformative” interpretation?
Euuhyechhh. The writers did a clumsy “salting” of same-sex desire and gender politics in the story. Very clumsy. The rotten tribes are infinitely inventive when they get the urge to ship but if you leave a ham-fisted set-up out as bait it annoys them.
As well, Franxx has villains but no Adversaries, save for the late-on-the-scene Klaxasaur Queen who descends from the wires.
There isn’t a whole lot to work with here.
The Childbirth and Politics beat is closer to the nut but elides the only weighty (relentlessly heteronormative) antimony of the story. Sure all the girl child soldiers except the woman-loving one must heroically fulfill their biological essentialisms, just as Prime Minister Abe and the entire right-wing-militarist-shinto-nationalist power structure of Japan has been harping at them for decades…
The world of the evil treat-the-kiddies-as-disposable-child-soldiers-while-the-adults-are-sterile and ruled by a nefarious government science conspiracy HAS TO BE TOTALLY OBLITERATED, a la 1909 E.M.Forester The Machine Stops catastrophe [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops]…
…Before the kids can pappa-mamma.
The lad with misplaced feelings of admiration settles for a girlfriend; the sole lesbian becomes a doctor, the gender-hating squad 9 go off into space to meet their destiny as kamikaze warriors serving as honor guard to Zero-ni, now queen of all Klaxosaurs and merged with a honking giant aryan babe centaur mecha that also needs to vore buddy boy so that it can obliterate the ever-waiting eon-spanning threat of the animation studio logo beings.
Survivors back on earth get to do the Whole Earth Catalog.
“Farming by hand is backbreaking work.” — Slavoj Zizek
At least all of the pregnant and child-raising gender essentialised ex-pilot young women command the full resources and support of the surviving human enclave. The Japanese right may call on the women folk of the nation to be “productive”, may push gender essentialism as part of a nationalist “Heimat” fantasy of family structure but they remain resolutely unwilling to spend any more money on programs or do anything else to reduce the very social and economic pressures that work against family formation.
Ladies, get pregnant yesterday and sign up for a second shift at the 7-11.
Over 50% of Japanese single parent mothers live UNDER the poverty line. Child support is arranged by private contract if at all. Social costs continue to be shifted onto prefectural and local governments, who in turn shift it onto users in the form of fees. Full-time employment with benefits is out of reach for more than %40 of the workforce. You get fired if you want to take maternity leave. %40-60 of men and women of marriageable age have given up on the dream of ever getting married and it aint because they want to marry their game consoles…
Mio-san and the cabal she performs for can spout off about unproductive gays or unproductive single women but most Japanese people under the age of 60 will shake their heads because they know perfectly well that this tired line is a crock of shit. How original; shift all the blame and responsibility onto individuals-as-subjects with a time-worn cheap-ass notion of state authority. Never heard that one before… this afternoon.
Another damming trend:
“Suicide leading cause of death among pregnant women, new mothers: survey
TOKYO — The leading cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers from 2015 through 2016 in Japan was suicide, making up about 30 percent of the total, according to a survey by the National Center for Child Health and Development and other research institutes.
Of the 92 women who took their own lives, those aged 35 or older totaled 45, and people who had their first delivery numbered 60 or 65 percent. The suicide rate was higher in jobless families.”
— Suicide is the leading cause of death for all persons in the 15～39 age bracket. Mainichi Japan, (September 6, 2018)
Then again, suicide is the leading cause of death for all persons in the 15～39 age bracket.
“Indeed, members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) keep demonstrating their world view is still deeply rooted in pre-war thought, before Japan had a constitution guaranteeing gender equality, popular sovereignty, and basic human rights. On May 10, another LDP politician, Kanji Kato. stated that single women were a burden to the nation and also added that “I always tell every newly wedded couple that they need to have three children or more,” recalling the pre-war slogan of Umeyo, Fuyaseyo (breed more, make more soldiers for the nation).
One in six children in Japan now lives in poverty. Half of all single mother households do as well. The number of people who have regular employment with all the benefits it carries has been declining for years. Death by overwork (karoshi) is a chronic problem that won’t go away and Abe’s latest “labor reforms” are certainly going to make life harder for anyone who isn’t a CEO. In fact, they legalize 100 hours of overtime a month, 20 hours more than what the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare deems dangerous. Some jobs will have overtime pay removed entirely. Technically, you can’t work to death if no one keeps track of your hours, or has responsibility for them, so perhaps that’s one way to eliminate the problem.””
THE TALE OF MISOGYNY: In Japan It’s Now #WithYou, Not #MeToo—But Sexual Harassment Is Still a Venerated Tradition by Jake Adelstein, The Daily Beast (05.21.18 6:13 AM ET)
And in recent news: (Google machine translation)
“The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education showed attitude to interview the Mainichi Shimbun on interviews by the Mainichi Shimbun regarding sex education classes in which one junior high school in Adachi – ku, Tokyo explained sexual intercourse, contraception, abortion to third graders. The school will continue classes in the future. In this issue, LDP lawmakers criticize the class at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and the urban board of education departs from the scope of the instructional guidelines.
Liberal Democratic Party member Toshiaki Koga, who criticized the class at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. In the past gathering, “purity education to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage is necessary” “values after war to self-decide to marry, do not self-decide in the first place are problems, marriage, childbirth, child rearing contribute to society” etc.”
(Sex education acceptance 3 in view of the issue of Liberal Demographics)
Nakagawa Satoko, Mainichi Shimbun (September 11, 2018 21:38)
Or, per Twitter user @neko_guruma01
Tokyo Metropolitan assemblyman Koga (LDP): We should teach kids that
– having sex before they get married is bad
– deciding for themselves whether they marry or not is wrong
– marrying and having kids is to make an important contribution to society
Despite all, the ultra-nationalist manzai routine remains very very popular among some factions of the LDP.
Young singles of Japan. If you wish to be able to marry and reproduce without starving or being worked to death, the LDP, the Keidanren [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Business_Federation] and the Nippon Kagi must be stuffed into a barrel and dropped into the sea, preferably from a great height. Vote Communist, subscribe to Akahata today!
Redefine the idea of family and live in communal poverty while working at shit jobs and shoplifting dinner:
‘Shoplifters’: Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winner is an eloquent look at the human condition by Mark Schilling, Japan Times (June 13, 2018)
Can Hirokazu Kore-eda’s success with ‘Shoplifters’ shed some light on poverty in Japan? by Jake Adelstein, Japan Times (June 2, 2018)
From the less-polite longer version in the Daily Beast:
“Kore-eda, in the course of doing research for the movie, also spoke with non-profit organizations and visited a care home for abused children. It was this visit that stuck in his mind. “While we were there, kids started to come back from school and I asked one little girl what she was studying at school. She pulled out her Japanese class textbook from her backpack and suddenly started reading Leo Lionni’s Swimmy out loud to us. The facility staff scolded her, ‘Everyone’s busy, you shouldn’t bother them,’ but she refused to listen and read to us the story from beginning to end. When she finished and we all clapped for her, she beamed at us with such joy. It was in that moment I thought, maybe what she really wants is to read that out loud to her parents who she doesn’t get to live with. After that, the face of this little girl reading to us haunted me and I wrote the scene in which the boy reads his textbook out loud right away.”
FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNTS – Prize-Winning ‘Shoplifters’: Japan’s PM Hates This Movie Because It’s Just Too True by Jake Adelstein, Mari Yamamoto. The Daily Beast (06.14.18 5:43 AM ET)
“Ironically, on the day of the Kore-eda press conference, Tokyo police arrested a married couple on suspicion of neglect resulting in the death of the mother’s 5-year-old daughter. The little girl left behind a notebook pleading with her parents to stop abusing her, promising to work harder. The child had been previously taken into protective custody and the police in another prefecture had twice recommended her stepfather be prosecuted for abuse. The authorities kept returning her to her “real parents” until they finally killed her. That’s how the Japanese government protects children.”
— Ibid Adelstein, THE TALE OF MISOGYNY
If you don’t have a proper Class War (or alien invasion), nobody will be able to marry and all the kids will end up in military orphanages, raised to fight to the death for “Papa”. Or die of abuse. Or survive by living in squalid petty theft communes. At least they won’t be raised by queer parents!
LDP representative Mio Sugito is curiously nuanced in her homophobia. She claims to have nothing against gay people and recognises the historical existence of homosexuality in Japan. It is only when gay, trans and other queer folk pick up strange outlander notions, get uppity and start agitating in the Asahi Shinbum – Japan’s premiere (mildly) liberal newspaper (whom Sugita associates with an International Communist Conspiracy) – do they become a danger to the nation. The next thing you know, brothers and sisters are wanting to get married, people are marrying their game consoles and the libb-rull apocalypse is at hand. Did she not herself once experience a girl-crush in high school? She got over it and went on to a successful career as a reactionary flak. Ladies, pull up your socks and get with the program!
Biology-is-destiny complaints aside, there are plenty of folks in Japan, as in other countries, that would love to have and/or raise children if only it wasn’t economically or legally impossible. LGBTQ folks are as prone to social conformity and competency at family formation and child-rearing as straight folks. If western experience is any example they might well be slightly more disposed to weather the social and economic forces that discourage child-rearing in contemporary Japan. Two moms? that works. Two dads? That might involve adoption but surprise; few people adopt other people’s children in Japan. Japanese practice terms adoption of children as “special adoption” because it is so rare. (2) I wonder if two dads could remedy this problem. Trans* parents should also have the option to run the baby route, so why not quietly ditch the nazi-eugenics inspired sterilization and full surgery requirements for official gender re-assignment?
If Abe and the LDP want more child-raising family units (and wish to further cheap out on orphanage costs) a simple equivalent-to-marriage civil union addition to Japan’s laws could be passed into law tomorrow. No need to save gay marriage for a soften-up-the-voters trial run constitutional amendment. This is all well-known. Japanese activists know all the grotty details of how their country’s Family Law is messed up, from child support, to the nightmare of the family registry, to nearly non-existent adoption rates, maternity leave, child abuse, discrimination against “illegitimate” children, bullying… The list is exhausting.
Rightists and the Nippon Kagi‘s solution to any of these ills is to exhort Japanese women to somehow “take care of it” for free.
Everyone in Japan knows this. Everyone knows that the right are full of shit. When they spout off, it is the same as with western reactionaries; pump up the thuggish “base” and make a show of power to everyone else. Then cash in on your “patriotism” with some crony rewards.
“You calling me a liar?”
Against this frightening spectre of a modern Japan lurching towards authoritarianism under the influence of a secretive cabal, there stands the powerful and reassuring weight of social conformity and institutional inertia. And the LDP. Surprisingly enough – there are social progressives in the LDP. “Not all LDP” are war-crazed feudal lord wannabes. Japan’s LDP is a multi-party political system in and of itself. As it takes 3 blue moons in a row plus a Prime Minister and cabinet screwing sheep on the front steps of the Diet for the LDP to lose power for a year an a half, all the action in Japanese politics happens within the LDP.
There are factions that are somewhat disposed to grabbing, watering down and rolling out token progressive social policy initiatives, if only to maintain power. Outside observers have even ventured that the LDP makes a home for wingnuts within their ranks and throws token bones to them (as well as letting them run off-leash every so often) lest the rightists go all secret-secret-death-culty if expelled and start doing political terrorism.
Japanese rightists were historically noted for their taste for political assassination, seppukku after bizarre manifesto readings and whipping up lynch mobs against Japanese Koreans after earthquakes. They just do that kind of stuff. Better to have them inside the tent pissing out. Give them a warm blanket, a place by the fire and let them get fat and lazy. Overstaffed Japanese police forces might spend too much time running surveillance and harassment on the few members of the official Communist party but there is no need to re-deploy them against the sound truck nuts. The sound truck nuts are (mostly) well-behaved co-opted allies of the ruling party.
This highlights a further curious happenstance of Japanese political approaches to social policy issues: right-wingers can wave around the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers, Sailors and Schoolchildren because few other factions within the LDP or opposition parties give a flying squirrel about social policy issues. Within the LDP, daycare centers don’t kick back campaign contributions; best to leave that kind of stuff to local governments (3) and/or the Soka Gakkai backed Komeito.
With the power of the local women’s chapters within the Soka Gakkai and Komeito, plus their nominal do-gooder Buddhism image one would think that they would be a continuous force of agitation for social policy innovation. Instead they appear to be curiously reactive. Their ineffective resistance to the recent Casino legislation is typical. The Komeito‘s only political absolute is to ally itself to power and prevent any persecution or interference with the Soka Gakkai. The Komeito‘s sole social policy constant is probably that people should join the Soka Gakkai. One more quasi-religious power bloc scurrying about in the wings.
That leaves the Communists, one or two remaining Socialists/Social Democrats (they and the Communists hate each other) and the rather recent Constitutional Democratic Party [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_Democratic_Party_of_Japan]
More about Japanese parties here: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Japan ]
The CDP is a new party, born out of the disintegration of a previous catch-all party, whose rightists all bugged off to join a new, even more rightist party led by the charismatic governor of Tokyo. She promptly ran away from the mess during their first federal election and left a lot of hacks floundering. Meanwhile the liberal-leaning refugees banded together to form a new, radical party dedicated to keeping the Japanese constitution exactly as it is, with no damn amendments whatsoever. This is radical in Japan. They have also proven to be media and social-networking savvy, so they may yet become a force for social policy innovation. What the right’s cynical use of hot-button “social” and “family” issues proves is that in Japan, as in the west, progressive forces need to develop and articulate a broad consensus vision of the individual and the family, within society. One that features employment, enforced workplace regulations and has social safety net would be a start. Otherwise opportunists and scammers step into the policy vacuum and turn human lives into fodder for jingoism.
Is this beyond Japan’s (and our) abilities? Are such dreams only possible in China?
Where does this leave us with Franxx? Aside from the unsurprising tendency to fill in the bits between the giant robots vs incomprehensible geometric monster fights with resonant sociopolitical filler, not much. One might as well try to glean insights into trends in Japanese education policy in the early 21st century through a close reading/ watching of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. That Franxx padded out its story by letting the kids grow up and make babies the old-fashioned way, once the ruling evil old men (and sneaky aliens and sterile, net-addicted adults) were wiped out was a simple and obvious pitch towards the sympathies of Japanese viewers of a certain demographic.
Dammit, we wanted Ota-princes and we got Netto-uyoku
Franxx is a spaghetti-at-the-wall sci-fi epic. It could have had the good doctor live and announce his nifty procedure for M-preg, or that along with the cavern full of washed out pistil & stamen kids in suspended animation waiting to be revived, there were also 90 miles of caverns full of viable, almost to term test-tube babies in suspended animation. Therefore everybody, boys and girls alike got to greet the new era by helping out in the nursery, for decades. Deduct four points for lack of imagination by the writers. Unfortunately, baby-making essentialism comes with the hippie commune Whole Earth Catalog ending; the WEC itself being an artifact of less enlightened times.
Does Franxx plant its butt on the ash-heap of history by suggesting that all or almost all of the surviving young ex-soldier women naturally -must- become “good wives and wise mothers”? Would it have won a grudging pass if more of them were shown to put off the maternity route if favor of exploration, administration, governance and farm machinery maintenance? Does the controversy boil down to ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to”? Boys squad to the nursery STAT!
Anything else? Oh yeah: star-crossed love affairs with super-powered outlander girls will NOT yield a happy family life but must end in heroic double love suicides.
At some point it could be instructive to track representations of family in anime and manga over the last 30 years. I suspect it would run from majority “ideal supportive Japanese extended” through “nuclear” to absent father/ single mother and finally parent(s) dead/ vanished/ work overseas, siblings supporting each other households – with outlying horrorshow instances – but that is just initial speculation. Family/home substitutes could use a survey as well. I predict share-houses as the next big thing; an update on ever-popular eccentric rooming-house tropes.
One could even quantify the heck out of this kind of study so that it would smell science-y.
Another interesting exercise would be to close-read-watch the few remaining young-girl-gaze anime properties and note how they build and use character and story (while still managing to sell sparkly plastic toys.) to foster dreams of independent, mature adult femininity with agency and an elaborate (though NOT skeevy skin flashing) wardrobe. And long, thin legs. The fashion model legs seem important.
Have a seat and get comfy, that one could take a while.
(1) More details on the push for “moral education”, including nonsense that required erasing bakeries (yes, bread) from schoolbooks!
English subs added to a Japanese documentary on right-wing efforts to control school textbooks and curriculum. Details and transcript:
“Education and Patriotism” (Kyōiku to aikoku). A Documentary
Translated by Collin Rusneac with an Introduction by Sven Saaler.
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (September 15, 2018)
(2) Good backgrounder on orphan care and post orphanage support in Japan:
TT-956 — An Unsung Hero with a Pragmatic Approach for Orphans, by Terrie Lloyd. Terries Take, Japan Inc.com (August 6, 2018)
(3) Local Governments Take the Lead on Social Policy, by Rob Fahey.
Tokyo Review (July 18, 2018).