23 CommentsMuv-Luv / By Shinmaru /

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse 4 – Racism Is Funny

“And their cartoons are also violent and pornographic! All those damn tentacles!”

It would be silly of me to slam this episode of Muv-Luv too hard for its hilarious depiction of racism. Not because it’s good, mind, but because it’s not actually worse than any other anime that tackles racism. Sure, a lot of them condemn it. There’s negative consequences for oppression, and racists themselves are shown to be the terrible people they are. But it’s often dealt with on a surface level — this person is a big, racist jerk, they get their comeuppance, everyone loves each other, the end.

It’s often difficult to take seriously as a dramatic device, at least for me, because when it’s reduced to one person or a group of people spouting racist shit, I’m not normally thinking, “Wow, what a jerk! I hope that person gets what’s coming to them!” Rather, I’m thinking, “Holy crap, what a fucking loon!” A single racist is a god damn goofball, as this episode demonstrates. “Those damn Japs! They’re all so sneaky and sly! Don’t trust them, ever!” Don’t you just imagine him angrily squatting at a desk and two-finger typing a letter to a right-wing newspaper after that?

That’s the thing with societal ills like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. One person espousing those views is an idiot. An entire society promoting those views is frightening. That’s what makes those ideas dangerous. Distilling it to a single person or small group of people and having them be the Representative(s) of Racism just seems disingenuous to me. It’s like in pro wrestling when you have the foreign dude waving the flag of his country and being like, “America, that sure is a shit country, am I right?” It’s such an easy, obvious target for villainy, and black and white in a boring way.

Yuuya’s sob story did nothing to get me more interested in him because of this, although I did find it hilarious that his mother responded to a negative stereotype with a positive stereotype. Maybe you should tell the guy about their great SAT scores, too!

On the other hand, the scene where Yui berates Yuuya for not piloting his mecha well actually does work for me because we already have a fair amount of context to show why Yui would react this way. We’ve seen bits and pieces of Japan going in an ultra-nationalistic direction since the world has fought against the BETA. (Or maybe even before then; I forget exactly how this timeline is supposed to work.) We’ve seen the expectations fostered upon Yui and the mindset with which she has been raised — again, pure, nationalistic pride. It’s still silly (because unbridled nationalism is silly), but the way it’s used is not totally silly because some care has been put into the context. Yui isn’t some strawman racist conjured to give Yuuya some angst time.

Ghostlightning nails the other reason why this scene works for me — because Yui’s criticisms of Yuuya are valid, and he isn’t the hot shit pilot he thinks he is. (Or, at least, the type of hot shit pilot he is is rather impractical against a horde of aliens that know no fear.) And, again, knowing Yui’s context gives weight to her words and makes them sting for the audience. We saw those girls battle the aliens: at least for a little while they were semi-effective, until numbers, sheer relentlessness and advanced weaponry just wrecked their shit. Yuuya jumps in and slaughters a few simulated BETA, but he’s soon overwhelmed because he can’t totally handle his mecha.

And then Yui tells him he’s a failure because he can’t work his mecha half as well as the people she saw die in the second episode. So there you go. There’s silly nationalism at work, but there’s also something personal.

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  1. Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Nowt wrong with two-finger typing. Racist.

    • Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      It’s not racist if you do it with a modern computer.

  2. Posted July 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I pretty much agree with your stance towards racism in anime. Most of the time, anime can’t handle social commentary well and you get a lot of black and white thinking. Only rarely, you get to see some more interesting approach to those topics as with UN-GO or Shigofumi, for instance.

    However, you shouldn’t forget about the temporal setting of the show: In this case, we’re talking about an American grown-up man back when Yuuya was still a kid. It makes sense to assume that Yuuya’s dad is all too familiar with racism, given that back in the days, Japan and America weren’t on the best terms… actually, even nowadays, things could be a lot better for the two of them.

    Of course, it’s still not the best way of storytelling. “I don’t like the Japanese!” would have been fine with a reason directly related to the present or the setting, seeing how this show puts an emphasis on global affairs with the whole world being torn apart. However, it’s lazily written to come up with some sort of tragic childhood flashback to explain his hatred towards the Japanese.

    • Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, you’re definitely right about taking the setting into account. That’s another difference between how we see Yui versus how we see Yuuya, I think. With Yui, the show does a better job of showing how the alternate history, social climate and the fight against the BETA shape and influence her views. With Yuuya, it seems more like we’re supposed to assume this super racist climate — it’s obviously not out of the question that those attitudes can develop, but the way we’re shown it is so ham-handed.

  3. Posted July 26, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Everyone knows that the only respectful and accurate depiction of the broad-ranging and unique cultural heritages of races and nations in anime is G Gundam. Why does anyone else even try?

    • Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Obviously. I’m proud to be represented by the greatest Gundam of all time, Tequila Gundam!

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

        step back guys, Windmill Gundam is gunna wipe the floor with your sorry asses

  4. Scamp
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    What got to me about them doing the whole ‘racism is bad kay’ is a later scene had a Russian going “boy we’re so great at torture yum yum”

    • Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      lol, yeah, I didn’t want to bring up some of the other stuff because I’d end up going all over the place.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m liking this show more than I thought I would.

    • Posted July 27, 2012 at 3:08 am | Permalink

      Any particular reason why, out of curiosity?

    • Golos
      Posted July 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      So do I, but only because I do not take the whole Muv Luv stuff seriously, just like you have to take Aquarion EVOL not seriously to enjoy it.

  6. Posted July 27, 2012 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    You mention that typically racism in anime is handled as a “wow, look at that one jerk!”, although I would point out that there are times that its implied to be a societal problem… unfortunately, when anime does try to tackle systemic racism, it never does so with “actual” different races of humanity (scare quotes since race is a social construct, really). Instead, we get something like Otome Youkai Zakuro, wherein its half-human, half-youkai people who are hated and looked down upon, or Tactics, where its the youkai who are looked down upon. It isn’t that this is necessarily a bad way of tackling it, its just that it seems to be the only way anime ever seems to go about it.

    • Posted July 27, 2012 at 3:06 am | Permalink

      Oh yeah, definitely. There are probably series that handle the matter more directly (I’ve likely seen one or two, but my memory is terrible), but when it is a societal issue, it’s often of the fantastic racism sort. In Gundam SEED, you have the Coordinators (genetically engineered humans, but they may as well be a different race), in RahXephon you have the humanlike Mulians, etc. I don’t have a huge problem with that approach, either, but it does seem a relic of a time people had to use metaphors to even broach these subjects. Then again, maybe that’s the best way to approach this sort of thing in anime? I’m probably not the best person to speculate on that sort of thing, haha.

  7. Mr.RR
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    You know i used to live in Hawaii and southern California where being white is a minority. I have a habit of calling everything racist like, “Man the grass is racist today.” if it hasn’t been cut so I’m using totally out of context.

    The funny part was someone was telling me I was gonna get beat up for it but instead people look at me weird and then we all laugh, so it kind of goes to the point is that something is racist only if you intend it to be.

    The End

    • Posted July 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t entirely agree with that. You can say some crazy racist shit even if your intention isn’t to be racist. It’s just more ignorant than malicious.

  8. Adrian
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    Well, they could insert another flashback displaying the root cause of the old man’s racism within the flashback. If that’s not enough, redo the process over and over again until it convinces us.

  9. Posted July 27, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    I wonder if part of the reason for this portrayal is that racism is more abstract for the Japanese than it is for us. From what I can tell, there’s hardly any racial diversity in Japan, so the people there can’t experience it directly. Of course, they are still racist as hell against the Koreans, Chinese, etc., but it isn’t something that has much relevance on a day to day basis.

    This is also why I am amused by Europeans who pontificate about the evils of the US for its racism problems. Then we see what happens when Muslims move into Europe. Racism is much more deep-seated than people would like to believe; only in the US with its mixture of cultures is it more readily apparent…

    • Mr.RR
      Posted July 27, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      I would agree the US is more racist mostly due to the “melting pot” idea we had long ago, even though we are more racist might be possible we are also more tolerant. Then again I can’t really say this as fact.

  10. Golos
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    What are you asking is basically more explanation of Yuuya’s America to give his thought and words more context.

  11. Black Dalek
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Yui comments about Yuuya pilot skills remember me the things said about two american fighters: Bell p-39 cobra (WWII) : with USA and UK pilots this plane was a failure, when the USSR Pilots take it, they got with it the best kill ratio of all the American fighters that US lend to the USSR. the other one was de F-4 Phantom, generally speaken it was one of the best jet fighters in history, but it has cons : if you over-control this plane.. you can fall in a spin and drop… curiously Bell p39 has the same problems with tendency to spin.

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