Gasaraki: Progress Once Achieved

by Aaron H. Bynum

By nature, social units must evolve and progress. From this notion, a number of anime series and films construct their subplots. By examining this concept in the anime Gasaraki, one may find a clear understanding of progress: what it is, and how one can achieve it. To be straightforward, there is something rather unique about this series --perhaps defined by one dialogue in particular-- due to the fact that it not only advises the proper approach to progress, but it also tells of an improper approach.

Often wedged into a rarely exercised genre known as the political thriller, a genre regarding the political drama wrought by stubbornness and the struggle for power, Gasaraki is a series about just that, the seeking of power through politics. At the center of these objectives lies a number of reluctant puppets, their strings far too dense to be cut. This anime sports mecha-action variety and a vivid assortment of character dynamics. Nevertheless, there is a paradoxical moment of clarity wherein intelligent protocol is structured only to have said protocol carried out incorrectly by those accountable.

The eighth episode of Gasaraki shows a character dialogue that epitomizes the series' pre-defined genre, observes the purpose of the program's story lines, and explicates my previous conjecture concerning progress. In an anime about a group of socially influential individuals seeking ultimate political power, it is more than fascinating to have a discussion with a military officer, Lieutenant colonel Hirokawa; a spiritual and political figure, the old and blind Hiraku Nishida; and a wealthy business mastermind, Kazukiyo Gowa. Hirokawa works with the federal government's Defense Force, representing the position of the State in progress, while Nishida serves as an emblematic leader to Hirokawa, and Gowa, a harsh businessman, is representative of sociey's eager willingness to develop and evolve.

Just as these three individuals hold significance in their realm of subjectivity --State, Religion and Philosophy, Social-- Hirokawa, Nishida and Gowa are also three oddly shaped puzzle pieces to progress. Within Gasaraki, the three meet to establish, confirm and solidify their ideologies in leading the people of Japan into a new era. While I will debate the intelligence of their actions, it is important to note that in the discussion of these three, there is a relative, three-step diagram to progress: 1) The pressing of the issue at hand; 2) The rationalizing of a solution; and 3) The pushing forward of unity with confidence.

The flow of information must be of a decent measure in order for societal advancement. This holds true because a group or individual can only act upon a happening should they be aware of the circumstances. Like the first step, the introductory phase of societal betterment is quite important. In Gowa's case of amassed media control, this stage can be more about controlling the flow of information rather than the information itself being controlled. By properly managing knowledge, one person/group can be able to further direct the sought after progressive movement.

Realistically, one must observe that such a preliminary phase can be dealt with in a multitude of fashions. The before mentioned approach is used because the characters are not so much as corrupt, but misguided officials. Better still is the simple need to press an issue to the public so that the people will have a reason to act. Again, one cannot act just to change what is unfair if he knows not of the injustice. This should be observed whether "galvanizing public attention" or simply trying to enter the information in "the public consciousness", as Hirokawa notes.

The individual striving for progress or an altruistic leader of a group must subsequently rationalize the circumstance and perceive a solution. This level may not necessarily see a resolution, but rather it identifies a means of which they are to obtain a solution. In Gasaraki, the apparent problem of societal superficiality and foolishness is to be solved by looking to clone a more organized period of the nation's history and overlay the modern atrocities. Hirokawa continues, stating that Japan has "caused opportunism, irresponsibility, and selfishness to constitute the skills necessary to survive in this era."

The solution theorized best for this circumstance by Hirokawa and Nishida is often termed reactionary: "The Japan of today is but a shadow of its former self, fouled by pollution, incompetence, self-interest, and neglect" (Hirokawa). This view holds that the past was golden, andbecause the present is corrupt, a culture should return to the ways that things used to be, and literally start over. The reactionist view is overly idyllic, in that it narrows the perception and objectivity of an individual, compelling him to think that attempting to revert humanity to its previously undeveloped form will solve all of the present problems. This "solution" of sorts, as chiefly brought by Nishida --"I have seen the nobility of the Japanese people and I have seen it corrupted... I can still see it, the image of my people's fall from grace"-- does fulfill the secondary step of progress. On the other hand, it is to the disadvantage of Nishida when he assumes that "Grace lost to time might yet be restored to its former glory." Regardless of the society, chances are good that past oligarchies and fallen dictatorships are not as incredibly fruitful to a society's evolution as perhaps a parliament or a democracy.

The following bit is a critical portion of the second phase. It is ironically lacking in detail in the discussion involving Hirokawa, Nishida and Gowa. That critical portion is the question of judgment by one's peers, because through continual assessment of one's objectives by multiple individuals, a true, intelligent and just solution emerges. To be critiqued during this process of societal betterment is a blessing, to be without it permits any structured thought to take both root and command, no matter how impulsive or ignorant that the idea may be.

For progress to be recognized on a personal or public level, there must be the time of forward movement. As it is pertinent to this editorial, the group must: 1) Maintain unanimity in thought; 2) Possess assurance in their critiqued judgment (the decided solution); and 3) Move forward.

The importance and relationship of unity is simple in order for a positive change to occur. A mob must become a group, and multiple theories must become one central ideology. Hirokawa, the government officer, states: "I believe that the three of us all share a common goal in altering the future of Japan", which serves as evidence to prove that when seeking a change, it is necessary to work with those of like attitude and goals. Even if, perhaps, those goals lead a group to "risk everything at the moment" when the moment of revolution is imminent (Nishida).

The importance and relationship of intellectual decisiveness is more difficult due to the fact that progress itself is based on a supposedly accurate judgment. However, the importance of inquiry lies not in trying to understand by what means to obtain the goal, but rather, it is concerned with interpreting the "what ifs", the hypothetical results of this newfound progress. Understanding the effects of progress is as important as the progress itself.

The importance and relationship of moving forward can be understood as the cohesiveness of three dynamic forces of modern society. That is, the cohesiveness of the presence of a strong religious will (evidenced by the elderly Nishida's wisdom), which brings together the remaining doubters in spirit; the na´vetÚ of the State (Hirokawa's militaristic input), which although narrow-minded at times, it still serves as a controlling force both domestically and internationally for mob-rule; and the will of the people (Gowa's persuasiveness and his business knowledge) that ensures that the public, in the least, is ready for progress to take place.

Despite consisting of a few errant ideas, the progress proposed by Lieutenant Colonel Hirokawa, the aged blind-man Nishida and Mr. Gowa may not exactly be a wholesome progress, but it is still expressive and influential because of the manner in which it was constructed:

Each of the three realms
Overflowing with sentiments and memories
All have become but harsh worlds of desire and pathos
INFERNO.

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