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With a colourful history, humanity in the 21st century lives in a time where human rights and freedom are a recurring theme which bear more relevance than ever, given just how much has happened to get to this point. With stories of everlasting monarchies that failed to be such, war, and a list of dictators which stretches as far as far as the eye can see, we know all too well what a terrible government looks like; in fact, some of us may be living that same reality right now. Given that reality with which we’ve had to live, anime has a list of innumerable titles which reflect that reality; titles which have themes of politics and social importance; titles which, given our unfortunate reality, often have some of the worst power structures in place. Yes, we are here to dive into history and pull out some of the worst governments in all anime – here we go!
Careful, in order to tamper with our journey into history, corrupt officials have put spoilers ahead!
10. Vers Empire – Aldnoah.Zero
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
When the human race discovered a hypergate on the moon, it enabled teleportation to Mars. Those who settled on Mars discovered an ancient and advanced technology, far ahead that of Earth, called Aldnoah. This discovery led to the founding of the Vers Empire on Mars and the declaration of war against the Earthlings, or “Terrans”, who stayed behind on Earth. However, a skirmish on the moon led to the destruction of the hypergate, separating both planets and leading to the reluctant establishment of a ceasefire. Fifteen years later, high school student Kaizuka Inaho witnessed the plotted assassination of the Versian Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia, who came to Earth hoping to establish lasting peace between the Empire and Earth. With the princess’s death, the ceasefire ends and war ensues yet again, this time, with Inaho and his friends jumping into the fray to settle things once and for all.
Once one glances at the synopsis for Aldnoah.Zero, one can already tell why the Vers Empire features on this list: they got some new toys and decided to bully the kids on the playground… in the next town over. The discovery of Aldnoah is the only true difference between the humans of Earth and the humans of Mars, and yet, for whatever reason, the Vers Empire saw it fit to expend people and resources to wage war against people they deem inferior, a war which saw the destruction of the moon hypergate which got humanity to Mars in the first place. To make things worse, they plotted the assassination of their own princess in order to create a reason to cause the dissipation of the ceasefire which gave both planets 15 years of peace. That is just corrupt and maybe… a bit stupid.
9. Saderan Empire – GATE: Jietai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (GATE)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2015
When an interdimensional gate opens up in the middle of Ginza and ushers in an army of supernatural creatures and warriors from another realm, pandemonium ensues. Off-duty JSDF officer Itami Youji happens to be in the area to attend a doujin convention when he is caught in the chaos, but he remains calm and helps to save as many lives as he can as the rest of the Japanese Self-Defense Force thwarts the invasion. Months later, Itami is tasked with leading an expedition through the gate into the region beyond – now referred to as the “Special Region”. With his special recon team, Itami must travel into this unknown world in order to befriend locals in order to establish peaceful ties within the ruling empire. Failure would result in a war far more chaotic than the devastation that befell Ginza a few months prior.
The Special Region is ruled by an empire known as the Saderan Empire, a society of structures that come straight from a fantasy world, a medieval amalgam of dragons, elves, magic, warriors and many other supernatural elements. Regardless of how far this world strays from the conventional concepts of reality, it still manages to suffer from the same cancers of the world Itami and his squad originate from: corruption and selfish monarchs. The Saderan Empire, a feudal nation currently ruled by Emperor Molt Sol Augustus, the man responsible for the attack on Ginza which set this story in motion. A ruthless ruler, Augustus sought to extend the Empire’s influence even after his tenure had ended, plotting to put his unintelligent son, Zorzal, in power as he is easily manipulated.
8. World Government – One Piece
- Episodes: ongoing
- Aired: ongoing
The World Government, a behemoth of an organisation controlled by the Gorosei, consists of the world at large and was established 800 years ago. The World Government has several militaristic sub-organisations, most notably the Marines, the Cipher Pol and the Shichibukai. The World Governments serves as the main antagonist group of the entire One Piece universe, and given the fact that the Cipher Pol deals with shadowy dealings which include espionage and assassination, from a moral perspective, the World Government is a corrupt organisation which hides the truth from citizens and uses the pretext of justice to serve its own ends.
7. Amestris – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 2009 – July 2010
The ultimate law of alchemy, the Law of Equivalent Exchange, states that nothing can be gained unless something of equal value is lost. Young brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric learn the hard way when they attempt to perform alchemy’s taboo: human transmutation. As a result, Edward loses his left leg and Alphonse his entire body; only by Edward’s selfless sacrifice of his own right arm is Alphonse’s soul affixed to a suit of armour. With hopes of one day returning their bodies to the way they once were, Edward receives metal limbs and becomes the youngest State Alchemist of Amestris, codenamed the Fullmetal Alchemist. Three years later, the brothers are in pursuit of an ancient mythical relic known as the Philospher’s Stone, capable of forgoing the Law of Equivalent Exchange. Alongside several military allies, the brothers’ search for the stone unravels into a nationwide conspiracy which reveals not only the stone’s true nature, but the dark history of their country.
Amestris has a dark history of racism and violence, often remembered through the bloody Ishvalan War which was an act of ethnic cleansing which saw an entire society brought to extinction. In addition to crimes against humanity, the country had hidden an entire history tied to synthetic human beings known as the Homunculus, 7 beings which had been plotting to use the entire population of the country as live sacrifices to create a Philosopher’s Stone. Standing at the top seat of the country was one such Homunculus, the Fuhrer King Bradley, also known as the Homunculus, Wrath.
6. Imanity (Pre-Sora/Shiro Arrival) – No Game No Life
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2014 – June 2014
Shut-in sibling pair Sora and Shiro are the faces behind [Blank], an online entity that has dominated every sphere of online gaming. Now bored with their lives on and offline, their lives change when a strange email challenging them to a game of chess transports them to another realm called Disboard, where they meet Tet, the God of Games. Tet explains to them that all conflict in Disboard is resolved through games – war does not exist in that realm. The system works on the ultimate rule that warrants that both parties must wager something of equal value. In this strange land of elves, werebeasts and other powerful mythical creatures, humanity finds itself at the bottom of the pecking order, Sora and Shiro have found a real reason to live, aiming to unite all sixteen races of Disboard, defeat Tet and become the new gods of their new home.
Humanity in Disboard is known as Imanity, the lowest-ranking race out of all sixteen in this realm. Prior to the events of the series, before Sora and Shiro’s arrival, Imanity boasted ownership over the largest territories in Disboard. However, when the Ten Pledges were enacted and all war was forbidden in this realm, Imanity lost a fair amount of land to other races because of a lack of affinity for magic. Enter the “Foolish King”, the previous ruler of Imanity before Sora and Shiro, who lost all land apart from the capital, Elchea, as well as Imanity’s only library. Despite being terrible at games, the Former King saw it fit to constantly challenge other races in order to find out the other races’ winning secrets and, one can at least credit him for planning the election contest after his death, a gamble which brought in Sora and Shiro, a pair who could prove to be Imanity’s greatest rulers yet.
5. Japanese Government – Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai (Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
The introduction of new morality laws turns Japan into a paragon of virtue, free of all that is obscene and impure. By monitoring citizens with special collars, the Japanese government has gone to extremes to keep society pure. Enter Okuma Tanukichi, the son of an infamous terrorist who once opposed the new laws, who has just entered high school with hopes of getting close to the Student Council President, Nishikinoya Anna, his childhood crush. However, terrorism runs deep within the Student Council as the vice-president, Kujou Ayame, leads a double life as the infamous masked criminal, Blue Snow, who is dedicated to spreading lewd material amongst the public. Knowing Tanukichi’s father’s identity, Ayame drags him into her organisation called SOX, where he is forced to spread propaganda and help Ayame launch an assault against the government’s rule.
The introduction of the morality laws by the Japanese government ushers in an era characterised by general ignorance: anyone who has any sort of knowledge on the subject of sex in this new society ends up slipping up and saying something that lands them in prison. As such, the government in this new, blissfully ignorant society; albeit for something that is quite trivial compared to other instances of this practice, seeks to create a society that is not only chaste, but easier to control as ignorant citizens become easier to manipulate. While it may not look like they have any ulterior motives, the practice screams of something more than just getting rid of awkward cylindrical shapes here and there.
4. The Kingdom of Balbadd - Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2012 – March 2013
Around the world, mysterious labyrinths containing incredible treasures have appeared. These labyrinths, or “dungeons” are brought about by Magi, rare magicians that are capable of building empires. It is said that one who conquers a dungeon can be chosen by a Magi to become a potential king candidate, someone with the potential to rule the world. Bursting forth from a life in isolation, the young magician, Aladdin, eagerly begins his exploration of the world after leaving home, soon becoming friends with a young man named Alibaba Saluja. When Aladdin accidentally destroys a local merchant’s supply cart, Alibaba suggests that they conquer the nearest dungeon in order to be able to pay for the damages. And so begins one of the epic journeys that could decide the fate of the world itself.
Alibaba’s country of origin, the Kingdom of Balbadd, complete with a beautiful capital city surrounded by slums upon slums, is one of the places where one of the many dungeons appeared. Since the death of the last king, Rashid Saluja, the once-thriving nation experienced heavy decline with the emergence of a Robin Hood-esque criminal organisation operating from the slums, the Fog Troupe. Not only was organised crime a big problem, but Balbadd was under heavy influence from the Kou Empire, with Kou’s currency circulating within Balbadd, creating big economic problems. All this; however, was under the reign of Alibaba’s corrupt brother, Ahbmad and upon conquering the dungeon, Alibaba dethroned his brother and made Balbadd a republic, ushering in much needed change within the country.
3. The Empire – Akame ga KILL!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2014 – December 2014
In an empire plagued by the corrupt ideals and actions of the Prime Minister Honest, a faction called the Revolutionary Army has formed in order to overthrow the current government and end the wide-scale poverty and suffering they have been subject to. The assassination branch of the Revolutionary Army is known as Night Raid, a group of experienced killers who lay their lives on the line for the future of the country. Their latest recruit: a naïve villager named Tatsumi who made his way to the Capital in order to earn money for his impoverished hometown, but saw first-hand the extent of the depravity which permeates through their society. With powerful weapons and enemies to boot, can Night Raid pave the way to a just future for the empire?
The Empire, possibly one of the worst fictional governments of all time, was a place packed to the eyes with corruption, injustice and poverty. The young and impressionable emperor was only but a figurehead in the depraved prime minister’s plans to remain in power and stuff his face as the citizens starved. The Empire was a violent place with Honest’s rule and as the saying goes, no good deed went unpunished, as officials within government ranks who tried to do their jobs the right way were assassinated. Some officials were drunk on power, it dictated their very actions and in some cases, bore some of the most barbaric behaviour out of them. It’s as they say: a fish rots from the head down.
2. Britannian Empire – Code Geass
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2006 – July 2007
A.D. 2010. The Holy Empire of Britannia wages war against the rest of the world, and armed with powerful giant robots called they effectively subjugate the majority of the world. Exiled to Area 11, formerly Japan, is the Britannian Prince Lelouch Lamperouge, who is one day caught in the midst of a skirmish between the Britannian army and Japanese rebels, who had stolen a very dangerous weapon. The weapon turned out to be a young woman who gifted Lelouch with the power of Geass, which manifested in “absolute obedience”. Armed with the Geass and a vendetta which runs deep into the Britannian Royal Family, Lelouch decides to pursue his revenge, using the Japanese rebellion as a catalyst.
Out of the blue, the Britannian Empire decides to wage war against pretty much the whole world. Being the largest power at the time, the empire quickly established itself at the top of the food chain and began a tenure of colonisation and subjugation that we in the real world are all too familiar with. The focus of the series is Japan and as such, we see Japanese people experiencing the brunt of the brutality, losing their name, their land and their identity and they are treated as second-class citizens.
1. Sibyl System – Psycho Pass
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2012 – March 2013
In the 22nd Century, justice and law enforcement have changed and in Japan, a system known as Sibyl is enforced which is a means of determining the level of threat posed by an individual by examining their mental state, or their Psycho Pass. Investigators in this society use the Sibyl System to determine what level of force to use when subduing criminals. Alongside them work the Enforcers, former Investigators who, over the years, have developed latent criminal potential and are therefore granted freedom in return for their services to the authorities. Tsunemori Akane, a young woman with an honest desire to uphold justice is given the ultimate trial when she realises that Sibyl’s judgement isn’t always perfect and as a result, she struggles with the concept of true justice, and whether or not Sibyl acts in those interests.
From the day you are born, you become part of the system and it eventually determines what role you play within that system. Hopes and dreams are obsolete in this society as people live simply to fulfil the roles given to them by Sibyl and as such, society runs much like a well-oiled machine. The pretext of having your entire life mapped out for you while seemingly convenient for those of us who are unsure of what to do with our lives. However, what we come to realise towards the end of this series is that the world cannot run on logic alone; sometimes the warmth of human empathy and irrationality is necessary, and in the context of the Psycho Pass universe, the Sibyl System is quite inhumane as it can completely disregard human life in order to preserve the false sense of perfection brought on by the apparent objectivity of the system. We’d like to keep our hopes and dreams, thank you very much!
Every single day of our lives, we witness perpetual chaos and suffering at the hands of the leaders of this world. It’s only natural that our forms of escape; the art that we consume, reflect this unfortunate fact. So it goes without saying that the anime we love do the same thing, not to mention that the fact that they do it oh so well! Know any other terrible governments in anime? Drop a comment below and let the boycotting begin!