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Promare, BNA, and the Outrage of the Oppressed


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JaffaOrange



Joined: 01 Apr 2011
Posts: 152
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:57 pm Reply with quote
It was mentioned earlier but as TRIGGER tries to take a more "nuanced" look at social issues it feels like they're regressing, defaulting to a faux centrist outlook. Back with Gurren Lagaan, they nailed it: If there's a system of oppression, you break the system and move forward (pierce the heavens). Then KLK followed it with "Fascism is bad except it's kinda justified because there's a race of alien invading to steal our resources". And now this. I'm still glad that they're being more ambitious with their themes but greater ambition means greater consideration.
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octopodpie
ANN Managing Editor


Joined: 02 May 2011
Posts: 1996
Location: Washington State
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 10:27 pm Reply with quote
murgleis1 wrote:
Wow, I spent time doing a thoughtful response earlier today (that was completely civil) and ANN just deletes it. Are they always this fascist?


Your post equated Black culture with violence and insinuated it didn't value fatherhood. I don't care how nicely you're racist here. If you have any other questions, take it to Feedback
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AmpersandsUnited



Joined: 22 Mar 2012
Posts: 264
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:02 am Reply with quote
SS723 wrote:
I'm sorry, I thought Promare was about a bunch of little aliens who come to Earth and give people superpowers...


Personally, I've never been a fan of monster/infected/zombie style plotlines being compared with discrimination. Mainly because there's a difference between being hated by what you naturally are and what you mutate into due to supernatural schenanigans.
Promare's set up is basically no different than what you described: people getting special powers from alien flame creatures and some using them for good and others using them for evil. In the end, the Burnish are cured and they go back to normal. No different than a zombie virus being cured or a ghost being exorcised from possessing someone. I don't see that as cultural or racial erasure because Burnish were neither of those. They were humans who were infected by the Promare and mutated. They weren't discriminated for their culture, skin color, or anything like that, they were feared because of their powers which were dangerous, destructive, and most importantly, uncontrollable.
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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
Posts: 63
Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:55 am Reply with quote
I will iterate what others have said here: expecting nuance from Trigger is simply reading into things too much (an academic mainstay). But to then take that misplaced belief that what amounts to merely an excuse to animate ridiculous scenarios and sequences and personalise it with experiences that bear only superficial similarities is to keep traipsing up the garden path and further away from any real tenable stance regarding the poorly-handled themes of Promare and BNA. I would much rather read a more researched, grounded piece on why and how works like Promare and BNA can be so glib and flippant with heavy ideas like oppression and how authority deals with the inevitable surge of resistance when the oppressed realise their power. That sort of approach might not end with such a deflated, defeatist anti-bang as this one did.

But I suppose we can call a piece that basically just says, "anime doesn't always handle topical subjects well and that offends me and but it seems there is no resolution" a start of what is definitely an important conversation, that being the reconciliation between anime as originally intended to be entertainment for a Japanese audience, and its international viewers who are very much more aware of what anime creators are really saying, especially, as with Trigger, when they themselves don't seem aware of it. Or, to put it simply: well-made, top tier anime is sometimes STILL casually, carelessly racist/classist/sexist. More than sometimes. How do anime fans with different cultural biases and perspectives, some at distinct odds with a country that, like or not, allied with the Axis in ww2 (I found The Wind Rises much more unsettling than Promare or BNA, but oh it was beautiful!), negotiate that?

For my part, I am being rhetorical. I am able to accept that certain things in anime are going to rub me the wrong way, but I like to examine why and consider the intriguing nature of this dissonance. After all, ours is not to make or change Japanese-targeted anime, only to consume it. Maybe the term will be fully wrested from a domestic definition someday, but that day when people universally agree that anime isn't inherently Japanese and burdened with the cultural baggage thereof is a long way off. Until then, we watch, we comment, we deal with the uncomfortable parts, or we simply don't watch anime studded with them. Again, not a problem if we are talking lower tier works or blatantly fringe material, but when Those Who Saved Anime or Ghibli do it...oh, then the confrontation seems unavoidable. "Well that was really shallow and weak and thematically unsatisfying but damn, that sakuga!" seems the healthiest recourse to me. Gets this anime lover through many problematic works considered essential viewing. BNA and Promare included.


{Mod Edit}: I edited your post. If you have concerns about why something was removed you can either PM a moderator or ask in the feedback section. Snarky and passive aggressive soapboxing however is not going to be allowed. ~ Psycho 101
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simona.com



Joined: 20 Apr 2007
Posts: 238
Location: Tokyo
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:40 pm Reply with quote
AmpersandsUnited wrote:
SS723 wrote:
I'm sorry, I thought Promare was about a bunch of little aliens who come to Earth and give people superpowers...

I don't see that as cultural or racial erasure because Burnish were neither of those. They were humans who were infected by the Promare and mutated. They weren't discriminated for their culture, skin color, or anything like that, they were feared because of their powers which were dangerous, destructive, and most importantly, uncontrollable.


Exactly. There's absolutely no point in trying to correlate Promare with racial issues.
I can appreciate that race is a pivotal issue for the US, but I find this article to be gratuitously US-centric. I can understand the need to discuss racial issues, but not the tendency to make EVERYTHING a racial issue. I think that most anime don't really try to convey political messages, so the use of discrimination themes is just a minor element, some sort of narrative expedient more then the main theme of the plot. That, in my eyes, makes it really irrelevant to discuss these aspects of certain anime like they were a political issue.
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JaffaOrange



Joined: 01 Apr 2011
Posts: 152
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:12 pm Reply with quote
It's not as though Japan is immune from issues of discrimination and I think it's hasty to assume that any allegories are directly influenced by specific events in the West (I find it hard to argue against the similarity between Freeze Force and ICE though). That being said, these allegories can only work because issues of discrimination and the various -isms are more-or-less universal. Therefore, it's fine to not have to standardise discussions of how these themes are utilised based on the culture of the creators, especially if the allegory is abstract enough.

And these discussions shouldn't be used as justifications for whether or not we should like a thing. Rather, criticism is meant to help to explain why we responded to a piece of work in the way we did. It should not be used as a means to decided the correct moral stance to take. if someone tells you that you have to stop liking a certain thing because it is "racist" or "problematic" then you can tell them politely to keep to themselves. If you care about those issues, it should naturally colour how you see something but it shouldn't take away the raw emotional response you had when you first experienced it.
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The.Great.Willow



Joined: 09 Aug 2020
Posts: 3
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:37 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
How dare they burn things down after they are attacked and discriminated against?

unsure how to tell you this but burning down stuff hurts people and their livelihoods so yes how dare they use terrorism against innocents in the city who dont know anything about what's going on behind the extreme security of the government. also you just can't trust people with Literal Fire Powers that can be used to kill instantl as much as you can people without such capabilities. you saw what happened when lio got a Little Bit Too Angry

i highly suggest you watch the movies "Freaks" and "Chronicle" to get a better taste of what i'm talking about concerning the inherent danger of people who suddenly have incredible superhuman power.
this concept isn't a good metaphor for racism
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murgleis1



Joined: 08 Aug 2020
Posts: 18
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:50 pm Reply with quote
Honestly, this article was probably the worst take I've seen so far. I'm basically a double minority (racially) and it seems like the point of the villains being who they were (as well as their motivations) were obvious to me. There's no point in reading into it beyond that.
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Spike Terra



Joined: 21 Mar 2016
Posts: 251
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:57 pm Reply with quote
JaffaOrange wrote:
Back with Gurren Lagaan, they nailed it: If there's a system of oppression, you break the system and move forward (pierce the heavens). Then KLK followed it with "Fascism is bad except it's kinda justified because there's a race of alien invading to steal our resources".


It's good that you mention Gurren Lagaan cause I feel that not enough people are willing to turn a critical eye to it as it sort of has reached celebrated classic status in the eyes of many anime fans. I watched GL a few years ago and I had unexpectedly negative feelings about it as a whole. From what I have been able to gleam from as whole your mileage varies with how much you like the character of Kamina. Kamina embodies the themes of the series and forms the foundations of the beliefs that Simon, Yoko, Kittan and others adhere to in order to achieve their goals.

So I do not like Kamina as a character, while I admit that I enjoy confident characters who are all about forming important bonds with their friends. My problem is that Kamina is dangerously reckless, a bit sexist, moderately racist and has general disregard for thinking through any situation. Half of those are the reasons why people like Kamina.While other characters are more conscientious about dealing with the conflicts within the show, the Kamina method of piercing the heavens with ones drill ends up being the dominant solution. And this solution never considers any consequences for their actions and GL only condemns this line of thinking once spoiler[when he accidentally blows up part of New Kamina City.It doesn't really play in Simon's favor that he does this as the "supreme leader" of Kamina City.]

While I do think oppressive systems should be destroyed, I think everyone involved in said revolution should try their best to minimize casualties. And I feel that out of most of the anime discussed in this topic (I have not seen Promare), GL regards that the least. I feel that's cause revolution might not be the biggest concern of GL as a series. The express purpose of GL is like most shonen series of its ilk: take on insurmountable odds with only your friends and a positive attitude. It's a simple show and the more I thought I put in it, the worse I feel about it.

As for your point on KLK, I wouldn't say it openly condemns fascism as much as I would like but I don't think it actively endorses fascism either. While the system at the beginning of the series was morally irresponsible spoiler[despite Satsuki's good intentions]. I feel that said measures didn't assist with gaining victory in the end, in fact spoiler[they gain victory after completing discarding their fascist system and working together with the previous resistance.]

As for BNA, I think they did a good enough job on representing the beastmen, but I think I would have preferred to have a PoV character who was a normal beast person and not just points of view from Michiru and Shirou as they are outliers in this particular society. So I think a follow up of BNA following new characters trying to integrate into a human society in the aftermath of the events of the first season would be really interesting.
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FinalVentCard



Joined: 28 Oct 2018
Posts: 129
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 5:16 pm Reply with quote
El Hermano wrote:
99% of Promare's online popularity and discussion I see is shipping and posting Galo x Lio art. I assume that's what they mean by "cute, fun ride".


Yeah, Promare is definitely a victim of "Wow! Cute boyfriends!" while the entire story of discrimination flies over people's heads. And I don't blame people for focusing on the queer content because it hits hard, and Promare's representation feels extremely validating.

But I'm also a Latinx man who's been living in fear of being carted off by ICE since 2016. So when Promare's solution to all that is to just de-burn the Burnish, who have been targeted by Freeze Force for decades, I definitely feel like something was fumbled hard. Like, Lio says it best when the movie begins: "We are the Burnish. It's our nature to burn". They didn't choose to have a connection to the Promare, they just... did. And it was wholly unfair for Galo to ask them to just not use their powers if they were getting them in trouble.

I'm Latinx. I didn't ask to be, I was born one. It's who I am, down to my core. You can't just take the Latinx parts out of me. I can't even do it to myself. So a lot of the discussion around Promare and the cute boyfriends irks me just a little because hey, a lot of those cute boyfriends are still in cages. And there's an unintended implication that the Burnish are an accident, seeing as spoiler[their connection to the Promare was never intended, it was just a side-effect of a wormhole opening up]--the Burnish are subtextually framed as aberrations because of this.

AmpersandsUnited wrote:
In the end, the Burnish are cured and they go back to normal. No different than a zombie virus being cured or a ghost being exorcised from possessing someone. I don't see that as cultural or racial erasure because Burnish were neither of those. They were humans who were infected by the Promare and mutated. They weren't discriminated for their culture, skin color, or anything like that, they were feared because of their powers which were dangerous, destructive, and most importantly, uncontrollable.


See, that's the entire problem, because so much of the Burnish and their oppression is purposefully framed with real-world analogues. You don't just accidentally name your militarized police after ICE, and for people like me that's an incredibly charged parallel to make.

I don't think Trigger is bad. Their heart is definitely in the right place. They're doing a great job of creating discussion around these things. But they have a long way to go, and hey, that's fine. Education is an ongoing process.

I really loved this editorial, it put a lot of what I felt about Promare into words. I still love it and I would gladly watch it in theaters a third time. But, y'know, they still did the Burnish dirty.
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The.Great.Willow



Joined: 09 Aug 2020
Posts: 3
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 5:34 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
You don't just accidentally name your militarized police after ICE, and for people like me that's an incredibly charged parallel to make.


That's actually what happened though. Freeze Force was originally called Burning Force in the original script, and production began way before the events of 2016. Nakashima had no idea what ICE was, and stated the parallel is an accident. He's a 61 year old Japanese man who has no need to know what's going on domestically in the United States. He was criticized for this lack of sensitivity/real world awareness regarding the writing by Japanese and Americans alike, however. But if you're arguing this was an intentional part of the story, that's wrong.

Addition: Comparing the Burnish to being Latinx I also feel is super harmful. Us Latinx people don't harm anyone by existing, we're human just like everyone else. However, the Burnish harm people when they use their powers. Latinx people don't burn down cities for being Latinx. Neither do us LGBT people, or any other minority.
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FinalVentCard



Joined: 28 Oct 2018
Posts: 129
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 10:57 pm Reply with quote
The.Great.Willow wrote:
Addition: Comparing the Burnish to being Latinx I also feel is super harmful. Us Latinx people don't harm anyone by existing, we're human just like everyone else. However, the Burnish harm people when they use their powers. Latinx people don't burn down cities for being Latinx. Neither do us LGBT people, or any other minority.


Insisting that the oppressed community--even in a fictional setting--is rightfully oppressed isn't the argument you think it is, my dude.

Especially since IRL, so many Latinx like me are already demonized because "they don't send the best ones over".
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The.Great.Willow



Joined: 09 Aug 2020
Posts: 3
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 1:20 am Reply with quote
We have to remember we're talking about people with superhuman abilities and not people who are just like everyone else like latinx folk and other poc bro. There's no such thing as super dangerous firebenders, so saying that this fictional group of people turning fire into overpowered armor and weapons is a good metaphor for real life people just being people like everyone else is kinda whack. poc arent dangerous for being poc but dudes with firebending ability are.

taking real oppression out of proportion by making the group pose a real danger to others is such a bad trope. in real life oppression makes no sense because we're all human beings, but if somehow dudes with superpowers came into existence tomorrow i'd probably be afraid to live among them. now burnish mistreatment and experimentation is of course abominable and is shown as such in the film. however the people of the city are rightfully afraid of the burnish[/i]
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Blanchimont



Joined: 25 Feb 2012
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Location: Finland
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 11:01 am Reply with quote
FinalVentCard wrote:
But I'm also a Latinx man who's been living in fear of being carted off by ICE since 2016. So when Promare's solution to all that is to just de-burn the Burnish, who have been targeted by Freeze Force for decades, I definitely feel like something was fumbled hard.

They were normal humans who were afflicted with a terrible syndrome, and they were cured at the end. I can't see how that has anything to do with racial issues, nor how it was fumbled. How they were treated in the meantime is up for discussion and the movie certainly gives as a tour around that, but, at the end those afflicted were simply cured, what better outcome can you even propose?

Quote:
See, that's the entire problem, because so much of the Burnish and their oppression is purposefully framed with real-world analogues. You don't just accidentally name your militarized police after ICE, and for people like me that's an incredibly charged parallel to make.

Promare began production in 2013, far before we saw any major headlines about the American ICE.
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tojikomori
Aria CompanyAria Company


Joined: 08 Jan 2017
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Location: Minnesota
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:00 pm Reply with quote
FinalVentCard's comments deepened my appreciation for this piece. His identification with the Burnish made me realize I was wrong here:

tojikomori wrote:
The relevant difference between myself (a card-carrying foreign-born resident) and an "illegal alien" is ultimately bureaucratic – the US government recognizes one of us but not the other. That's a distinction that could certainly be removed without eradicating the oppressed's identity.


That invisible distinction has nothing to do with what made me first relate the Burnish to the oppression faced by immigrants and people of color in America. The pizzeria scene is the film's most sympathetic portrayal of the Burnish and it says everything about why they're so relatable: it's the nature of the oppression they face. It's the life lived in fear regardless of wrongdoing, the weak justification for arrest, the ungrounded assumption of guilt, the disproportionate use of force against them, the denial of their humanity.

The script's revelation about the relationship between the Burnish and the Promare came much later. In the pizzeria, we knew nothing of it, and it was at that point and earlier that some of the audience had sat up in their seats realizing "Holy crap: this is a film about me. That's my experience." People related their own cultural and social identities to the Burnish long before the story got around to its silly twist.

We were first made sympathetic to the Burnish as a distinct identity group – something like mutants of the X-Men universe – and that portrayal was so vivid and relatable that we all bought it. And then the film pulled a lazy stunt that forced us to reinterpret them all as victims of circumstance. How readily or how reluctantly we accepted that stunt is really what this piece is about. It was harder for those who had seen their own identity groups in the Burnish.
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