Elections and their results tend to be historically significant, but the true matter is what happens when officials and laws are voted in and how it affects the citizens and the entire world. For instance, numerous countries are wondering what to do about the Syrian refugee crisis. In Brazil, many disenfranchised citizens were against having the Olympics and World Cup in their country, feeling they wouldn't directly economically benefit from it. In the end, many of the results/consequences of some of these issues can be metaphorically portrayed in anime. So for today’s unique list, we are going to cover our Top 10 Political Anime.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2014 – March 2015
Taking place in the year 2014 in an alternate timeline, mankind has expanded into space, specifically Mars thanks to the discovery of various technologies found on the moon. However, a group of explorers found more technology and used it for themselves to establish their own nation, the Vers Empire and wish to be independent of Earth.
Aldnoah.Zero is a classic tale on how power can corrupt. Many military officers want absolute control and use any small reason to justify a full-scale assault. Sometimes if you can’t find a reason make one, which is what some extremists from Mars resort to doing to kick off the conflict. Sadly, it is the supposed assassination of the Princess of Mars, which is used as the reasons for the invasion, but the rest of the series is about how she is still alive and wishes to make contact to stop the conflict that is being carried out in her name.
9. Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (GATE)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2015 – March 2016
Taking inspiration from the novel series by Yanai Takumi, GATE highlights the story of the use of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. As some of you may or may not know, though Japan may have a Self-Defense Force, legally they do not declare what they have to be an official military. In fact, their members (despite having formal rankings) are actually still considered civilian! This anime touches on how the government should use the JSDF, especially in times of extreme crisis. After Japan wins the battle (from an invading force from the world of fantasy) that sets forth the events of this series, the next step is about establishing peace.
Legally, the JSDF is not to be used in international conflicts, but the Japanese government orders them to enter the gate and establish a base. Were the Japanese being victims of an attack, giving them the right to do this? But thankfully, in the events of the series, it is also highlighted that the Japanese government does everything possible in establishing peace and economic relations with the Gate-world, but still pursue with caution, even though other countries are beginning to get involved and threaten the said relations.
8. Joker Game
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2016 – June 2016
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Based on the novel series by Yanagi Koji, Joker Game is about the D Agency, who specializes in espionage, operate around the world trying to gather intelligence upon the start of World War II. Naturally, they are trained in various sciences, languages, and seduction, but some members have their own natural abilities. Since this takes place before the Cold War where espionage would be more of the main tactic and become part of popular culture, the Imperial Japanese Army tends to look down on the methods of the D Agency as cowardly and unpatriotic.
Though the story takes place in the late-1930s, it is still a story of the old ways vs. the new ways. The officials at the D Agency feel that values such as seppuku, in the case they face capture are counterintuitive. The D Agency has learned from their enemies (notably the Americans) that the spy game is the way to go in order to gain the advantage and ultimately, the victory. In addition to the conflicts the D Agency has with the military, the very spies themselves tend to see their jobs more as a competition between each other and their egos can be the undoing of them. This shows that teamwork is necessary in order for a government to succeed.
- Episodes: 38
- Aired: June 2012 – February 2013
Kingdom tells its own story of the Warring States period of Ancient China. The main character is Li Xin, based on a real-life general for the Qin emperor from thousands of years ago. Xin is portrayed as a young man who comes from humble beginnings with big dreams. Through his difficult but yet, inspirational childhood, the audience learns of his motivations on wanting to help unify China under Heaven. Thanks to Xin’s achievements in helping aristocrats, he goes up the ranks.
However, some can see the controversy of positively portraying the Qin Dynasty, which some Chinese historians see as a brutal regime (the Qin emperor may have unified China, but has a reputation of not being a nice guy) despite Xin executing another general for his unjust acts towards innocents. The series shows that Xin is a man of action and takes charge. He doesn't like dealing with bureaucratic approvals and he knows how to get the job done regardless of how many men are in his command, and his leadership and charisma makes him very noble as portrayed in the anime to help achieve his destiny in unifying China.
6. Terra Formars
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: September 2014 – December 2014
In this high-octane series based on the manga series by Tachibana Kenichi and Sasuga Yu, it tends to deal with the consequences of one’s actions despite how noble the intentions are. Sometimes, things just happen beyond one’s control, hence the title Terra Formars, evolved cockroaches of super size and strength (and intelligence). Of course, the natural reaction to such a threat is to destroy it, but once it has spread beyond a certain point, what can one do? How do you inform the public and keep them safe? This series tends to tackle those questions. In addition, it covers other controversies such as human experimentations and internal conflicts due to opposing and self-serving agendas, which delves into further political heat.
Last, though not related to the story of the series, there has been controversy amongst non-Japanese fans claiming the series could be racist due to the designs of the Terraformars resembling those of African descent, while there are others who say that those claiming racism in this series are just overthinking things. Other reasons for racism is because how the Chinese are negatively portrayed due to Japan and China’s complicated relations. So some of the political themes can be seen both internally and externally.
5. Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2015 – September 2015
In the 2015 edition of Arslan Senki, based on the manga by Arakawa Hiromu, which in turn is based on a novel series by Tanaka Yoshiki, tells the story of the war between the Kingdom of Pars and Lusitania. Through Arslan, the Prince of Pars, he learns of the world beyond the castle walls to become a great warrior. Like Tanaka-sensei’s previous famous novel series, Legend of Galactic Heroes, it deals with many of the same themes such as external and internal conflicts between factions and trying to win the loyalty and respect of one’s own people and the enemy’s. You never know whose is going to betray whom because someone was promised this in return for his or her loyalty.
The series shows to win a war, one must need good soldiers, money, and power, and because of the changing tides of this series, audiences never know where it’s going to go next. So not only does Arslan have to learn to become a king, he must also learn how to become a warrior, and ultimately a master general and politician.
4. Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2015 – March 2016
In the latest alternate universe series of the Mobile Suit Gundam brand, it highlights many issues that previous Gundam series’ have portrayed but approaches them in a more realistic sense. As shared before in the Top 10 Gundam Protagonists list, Mikazuki and Tekkadan are a very realistic portrayal of child soldiers in the circumstances of what leads them to this path, and how it can affect their social and psychological growth. The series also demonstrates that the children of Tekkadan are in to get a buck and it is due to the economic conditions of their homeland, and they are orphans or abandoned by their families.
Through Kudelia, the client of Tekkadan, the audience learns that despite her high birth status, she sees how Earth’s economic sanctions on Mars affects the citizens and genuinely wishes to fight for their independence by meeting with Earth government officials. Due to the economic conditions and wars on Mars, it has made the orphaned children resort to the only means they can find to provide for themselves and their siblings, Tekkadan. The series as a whole greatly shows how dominant superpowers and imperialism can have a negative effect on developing and third world countries who impose economic sanctions on them. As seen, not only do the people have little to no economic opportunities, the children have no educational opportunities as well, since a majority of the children (including Mikazuki) are (functional) illiterates.
3. Legend of Galactic Heroes
- Episodes: 110
- Aired: December 1988 – March 1997
Based on the classic space opera novel series by Tanaka Yoshiki, it tells the story of the 100 plus year war between The Free Planets Alliance and the Galactic Empire. Not only does the series cover the political relationships between the two warring factions, it also portrays the internal systems on both end and how that on both sides there are no definitive heroes or villains. Through Reinhard Von Lohengramm and Yang Wen Li, the two central characters on each side of the conflict, the audience gets to see how their systems of government work and their individual motivations. The Free Planets Alliance is portrayed to be a democratic system while The Galactic Empire is ruled by a monarchy.
Not only does the audience get to see the benefits, they also get to see the problems portrayed. In numerous instances throughout the series, there are also times of internal conflicts on each side. One faction on each side of the conflict will at times rebel and try to take over being frustrated by decades of war, or for their own lust of power. Though Lohengramm takes charge of a system that should be outdated in the distant future, he demonstrates compassion towards his own citizens and does everything he can to ensure their safety and prosperity. If anything, he probably hates his own style of government due to the previous emperor taking his older sister as a concubine, and only joining the military and entering politics to free his sister which happens to be an inspiration to the nation. Through Yang of the Free Planets Alliance, and to truly appreciate systems such as democracy, one must be humble, which is why he is hesitant in taking big responsibilities that would give him too much power.
2. Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: October 2002 – January 2005
In the iconic Sci-Fi series inspired by Shirow Masamune’s manga, it approaches numerous political conspiracies and how the crew of Section 9 must unravel them. A little before the era of the Anonymous hacker group and Eric Snowden, the first season through the Laughing Man (a hacker akin to those previously mentioned) highlights the relationship between governments and the pharmaceutical lobbyists and industries. The first season shows how the pharmaceutical industry (with help from the government) has capabilities of implementing and distributing inexpensive cures of serious diseases but feel that sticking to long term expensive treatments are more profitable, which many people accused the real life industry and government of doing. Like Snowden, the Laughing Man tends to be portrayed as a villain by the government, but there are those that dispute he is a hero for exposing immoral and illegal government activity of its own citizens.
The second season focuses on the issues of refugees, and how a terrorist group known as the Individual Eleven, use extreme means through cyber terrorism to demonstrate they are against Japan taking them in. Upon publication of this list, the issue of refugees is really hot right now and many of what people support and protest against them is highlighted in this show. People want to flee to other countries to escape oppression and war but can no longer be cared for in the end of the wars in the show, to the point that their lack of economic opportunities has pushed them to the edge.
1. Code Geass
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2006 – July 2007
Though Code Geass may be a mech anime on the surface, much of its appeal has been due to the deep political intrigue. For starters, the series has a very unique, geopolitical landscape in which its world map resembles the real world, but is separated into three superpowers, The Kingdom of Britannia (Having control of both North and South America, Greenland, Japan, Russia, and a good portion of Africa and Western Europe), The European Union (the UK and Northern Europe and a small portion of Africa), and the Chinese Federation. Why would a kingdom want to conquer Japan, a country that is realistically known to not have any natural resources and relies heavily on export goods? Is there more to winning a war than just fighting fire with fire? This anime tends to answer those questions.
Through Lelouch, the audience learns to understand that though you may need soldiers to win a revolution, in the end, you have to win the hearts of the people, who are the true victims of not just war but also the ones affected by policies from governments. As Zero, Lelouch slowly wins people over by claiming he fights for those who cannot defend themselves, regardless of being Britannians or Japanese (renamed as Elevens under the Britannian rule). In the second season upon his comeback, he manages to avoid being attacked by making his broadcast in the Chinese Federation Embassy, knowing if anyone attacks him, they would start a war with that country.
Whether they would be portrayed in a realistic, past, future, outer space, or fantasy setting, anime in its own way can cover political issues of the past and present, and what they may pave way for the future. Some anime has portrayed that lobbying will probably always exist. Some portray that conflicts both internally and externally, are always changing. But ultimately, the people are the real victims and they must do their part in having their voices heard so they won’t allow themselves to become victims.