The most realistic mecha anime I’ve seen so far (aside from the kugai/kai part). I thought FLAG1 was a decent attempt but it ended up too boring.
The Belgistan Affair
The unilateral action by the US there reminds me eerily of the start of the current occupation of Iraq. I actually had to check when this series was made–just to make sure this wasn’t some imitation of current reality. Sure in the real thing the US had allies like the U.K. but the rest of the world then was quite skeptical so it constitutes an almost unilateral action. The first Gulf War was probably an inspiration for Belgistan but the reason for the war was so like the weapons of mass destruction alibi for the second Gulf War. ( Gasaraki ended in 1999 which was way before what happened in 2003.)
Globalization was already progressing in leaps well before Gasaraki aired. But what surprised me was how it was depicted in Gasaraki. I don’t remember any other anime that has used global economic conditions so well. The point is, the consequence of globalization is interdependence. Countries specialize in products that they are good at making, that way they become competitive. Other countries then rely on their products. But since some industries have to be sacrificed, the same specialist countries also rely on other countries for their other needs. In Gasaraki, Japan relies on foreign countries, to make up for the shortfall in local grains production. The Americans then use their position as a major grains exporter effectively to put pressure on Japan. But…
Nishida has an ace up his sleeve. I actually am not very well-versed in finance but, as I understood it, his plan was to liquidate the cash that Japan had. If you still didn’t know, Japanese are big savers, export a lot, hence they have money to burn in investments around the world. Well, if somebody moved it all that would make quite a big impact on the financial markets. And in Gasaraki it would make the Americans poor.
There is another interesting dialogue regarding this. When Nishida meets the CEO of Symbol, Nishida confidently states that Japan as a country can withstand 3 years of poverty. America, on the other hand, couldn’t last a year without unraveling. It is actually a comment on the different cultures of the two countries. It also actually implies (at least to me) that the Americans (in this anime) didn’t have the strenght of character to survive such hardships.
Anyway, it would have been interesting to see Nishida’s counterattack happen, but in the end the Americans blinked and called off their strike. What happened was that Nishida reciprocated by calling off Japan’s economic assault and left words of wisdom: It is harder to stop a war than to start one.
The immigration problem
This subject has been explored more fully in Ghost in the Shell SAC 1 and 2. In the case of Gasaraki, the immigrants manage to live in decrepit neighborhoods and organize mafias. Actually the problem of immigration is a real problem in Western countries especially in Europe. The children of immigrants aren’t fully integrated with the country they’re staying in, don’t have jobs, are subject to discrimination and violence because they’re perceived to take jobs away from the locals, etc.
In Japan it’s not much of a problem right now, but might be in the future. This is because of Japan’s low birth rate that they need to take in more foreign workers. There’s already the case of the Brazilians of Japanese descent 2 having problems with integration. Though I wonder how the current financial crisis will influence the inflow of foreign workers into Japan.
The American factor
Lastly, the portrayal of America here has been the most harsh so far, but let’s also take into account that Symbol was also pulling strings. The Gowa family was also pulling strings. Even then, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the portrayal was totally accurate.
1. The director of Gasaraki, Ryousuke Takahashi, also directed FLAG. Hmm, maybe I should take a look at his other works then.
2. The Japanese went to Brazil to work. Now it’s the other way around.