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World War II anime.

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Joined: 20 Mar 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 12:02 pm Reply with quote
I’m a reporter at The Christian Science Monitor in Boston. Over the past couple weeks I’ve been looking for story ideas about the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

I’m most interested in exploring what young Japanese think about the anniversary – and the war itself. I’ve read that many young people feel they’ve learned far too little about the war, both from school and from aging family members. What I’m curious to know is whether they’ve filled this knowledge gap through other means (e.g., anime). I would love to hear all of your thoughts. Here are some general questions I have:

1. Is it true that many young people in Japan feel that they've learned far too little about WWII?
2. Has the 70th anniversary sparked greater interest in the war among young Japanese?
3. How does anime tackle issues related to WWII? What are some of the best examples of WWII-themed anime?
4. How has the anime industry responded to Prime Minister Abe’s call for more positive portrayals of Japan's wartime behavior?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 1:56 pm Reply with quote
I really can't speak to #1 and #2; I am not sure that anyone in these forums will be able to give you a good answer on those. However, concerning the other ones:

3. World War II is a very rare topic to see come up in anime, as only a handful of anime titles have ever been made which directly concern it. The most important ones, by far, are three movies made in the 1980s, all of which were based at least in part on the experiences of someone who lived through the war as a youth: Barefoot Gen, Barefoot Gen 2 (which is technically about the occupation/rebuilding phase following the war), and Grave of the Fireflies. All three focus on the impact that the war has on the Japanese home front; BG does it by chronicling the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its immediate aftermath in horrifically graphic fashion, while Grave focuses on the tragic impact that the firebombings of certain Japanese cities had on a boy and his little sister. Neither concerns itself with casting judgment or blame on those involved in the actual fighting on either side, as they are both concerned entirely with how ordinary citizens deal with the consequences of the war. Though all three movies feature children, how accessible they are to youths is debatable, as they are all (especially BG) difficult to watch.

The only prominent anime that I am aware of which directly concerns the fighting in the war is a mid-2000s time-travel series called Zipang, which involves a modern Japanese AEGIS cruiser which accidentally travels back in time and is present for the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, amongst other actions. It takes a remarkably self-critical, even fatalistic, look at the militaristic bent of the Japanese leadership during WWII (to the point of suggesting that Japan needed to suffer a devastating military loss to allow it to "clean house" of its leadership and advance as a modern nation) while also treating the American forces very even-handedly. It is a series aimed much more at adult military buffs than younger viewers, however.

4. To date we haven't really seen any reaction to this show up in anime. But that could be a result of not enough time having elapsed yet for the effect to show up in common source material like manga (Japanese comics) and novels and that source material to then get adapted.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 3:34 pm Reply with quote
If I recall correctly, Nightraid 1931 (Senkou no NIghtraid) had an OVA only episode that detailed the Mukden Incident. Laid the blame squarely on the Kwangtung Army. Otherwise, I don't think most modern anime really touch the issue...with good reason.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 4:32 pm Reply with quote
Regarding young Japanese people today - well, you'll have to either do a bit of research on the topic or conduct surveys. Right off the bat, the education system is a good place to start. Just as I have some bit of suspicion on the US south regarding the Civil War, it's good to ask: What are the Japanese schools teaching their kids about WW2?

BBC wrote:
The Ministry of Education's guidelines for junior high schools state that all children must be taught about Japan's "historical relations with its Asian neighbours and the catastrophic damage caused by the World War II to humanity at large".

"That means schools have to teach about the Japanese military's increased influence and extension of its power [in the 1930s] and the prolonged war in China," says ministry spokesman Akihiko Horiuchi.

At least, they have a policy in place.


And now, some WW2 influenced/related anime:

There's a list.

Can't say that I've watched these, but I'm surprised Space Battleship Yamato isn't on there.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:57 pm Reply with quote
The only one I've seen that was about WWII was The Glass Rabbit (Garasu no Usagi). It's dated by a decade or two but it is close to what your are looking for. It seems to be a taboo subject otherwise, that is understandably not explored.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 4:29 am Reply with quote
I'm also not in a position to talk about what's happening in Japan at the moment but I would like to add a relatively recent anime title to those already mentioned: Giovanni's Island, which premiered only last year and was released on DVD and Bluray in Australia just over a week ago by Madman Entertainment. Set on Shikita, one of the Kuril Islands, it follows the lives of the islanders as they experience defeat, annexation of the Kurils by the Soviets followed by their expulsion and repatriation to Japan.

While it doesn't examine Japan's role in the war to any significant degree it focuses on the grief and loss that defeat in war entails. As the title suggests it has many deliberate parallels with Night on the Galactic Railroad, a Japanese classic novel about dealing with loss.
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