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If society is to advance, it is necessary to have organization, a government that keeps the law and is ready to protect their citizens; at least, in theory. Unfortunately, in real life, we have a lot of examples of governments that seem to have forgotten the part where they’re supposed to serve their citizens and they rather serve other interests and their own pockets.
And while we could talk about real dictatorships that have reached incredible levels of cruelty, our focus is fiction. Where we can find things that no real government would do, at least not without risking a revolution or a new world war.
This is why we’re counting down the ten manga governments that we really don’t want to see replicated in real life. Remember, this is only for manga, so we won’t be touching some of the cruelest dictatorships in anime -if the manga has been adapted for the small screen, it won’t be on this countdown.
10. Japan in Jisatsutou (Suicide Island)
- Mangaka: Mori, Kouji
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 17
- Published Date: 2008 -2016
Suicide in Japan is a serious problem. Not just because of the huge amount of successful suicides every year; the Japanese government also has to spend a large quantity of money and resources treating those who survive their attempt at killing themselves. To solve this situation, and due to a general budget cut, the government decides a new law: whenever a hospital takes in a patient that has survived a suicide attempt, doctors must stabilize them and ask if they still want to die, or if they want to fight for their lives. If the patient replies they want to die, then the Government will respect their wishes, at least in paper. They will write a death certificate and the person will be declared deceased. However, this doesn’t mean they will die, instead, they will be sent to a desert island where they can try again to kill themselves, or repent and create a new life.
At first glance, the Japanese government in Jisatsutou doesn’t sound that cruel. They make sure the people they send to the Island are healthy, and they are respecting their citizens’ free will, as they won’t take extreme measures to keep them alive. But we know that suicide is not caused just by a period of bad luck, or a horrible experience. Most of the time, people try to kill themselves due to deep depression, or other mental problems that require constant therapy: sending them to a deserted island and wash their hands of them –without even consulting other family members who may have a better understanding of the situation- is a very perverse form of apathy.
And it’s just because of that apathy that the Japanese government in Jisatsutou opens our ranking in tenth place.
9. Wolfram from Wolfsmund in Wolfsmund
- Mangaka: Kuji, Mitsuhisa
- Genres: Action, Drama, Historical, Seinen.
- Volumes: 8
- Published Date: 2009 - 2016
In the XIV century, every canton was under the government of a noble in the nearby castle. There was trust that said noble would protect the commoners, and things worked fine. However, in the Alps, the Duke Leopoldon, a cruel Austrian lord, has conquered the Shwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden cantons. And as cruel as he is, his servant Wolfram and lord of the Wolfsmund Castle is even worse. Rumored to be the son of a demon, he makes sure that no one can cross his domains, killing not only those who try to cross, but also their families. He has a gentle face, but that only hides his cruelty. Children, women, the elderly; no one can get mercy at Wolfsmund’s keep.
We don’t see a lot of the normal life in the town under Wolfsmund’s shadow, but it is easy to infer that Wolfram uses the constant executions to keep the citizens under control and afraid. The rumors about his unnatural birth only help to create even more fear, and it makes it easier for him to find the spies who believe in those legends. Every time someone arrives to his castle there are some who hope this will be the one who will manage to cross the keep and show that Wolfram is not invincible, but every morning after, their dead bodies prove it was not the case.
Due to the cruelty he shows and his absolute lack of mercy even to his own soldiers, Wolfram earns the ninth place on our list.
8. Tiphares from Gunnum (Battle Angel Alita)
- Mangaka: Kishiro Yukito
- Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 9
- Published Date: 1990- 1995
Imagine a city in the sky, where people live free of all worries, can live without working, and are not afraid of crime. This is the city of Tiphares, which floats high above the Scrapyard, and governs over it with an iron fist, because, in the end, no utopia can work without creating a dystopia somewhere else. Some people in the Scrapyard dream to go to Tiphares, either by buying their passage with enough credits, or breaking every Scrapyard’s law by creating a flying machine, just to escape their horrible lives. None of them manage to do so, even if most citizens don’t know this. Part of the Scrapyard’s economy is sustained thanks to the few gullible ones who want to reach the sky.
At the beginning of Gunnm, Tiphares seems to be just part of the dystopia shown in the world that Gully –Alita in the translations- lives in. She has no interest in the city above the clouds, and the fact that her “father”, Ido, used to live there until he was exiled never comes up. It’s not until she meets Hugo, an orphan boy who dreams of reaching the floating city, when we start to see all the corruption behind Tiphares’ government, and a secret truth that is as surprising as it is cruel.
Because of how the citizens of the Scrapyard live, and the lack of humanity shown by the central government, Tiphares gets the eight place on our list.
7. Heaven from Defense Devil
- Mangaka: Yoon, In-wan (Story), Yang, Kyung-il (Art)
- Genres: Comedy, Action, Demons, Mystery, Drama, Ecchi, Romance Shounen, Supernatural, Psychological
- Volumes: 10
- Published Date: 2009 – 2011
When one thinks about life after death, Heaven is where good souls go, and Hell is reserved to those who deserve eternal punishment, right? However, this is not the case in the world inhabited by Kucabara, the second son of the King of Hell. Once Heaven showed that they had more power than Hell, demons had to surrender to the angels and become their literal slaves to avoid complete annihilation. Every 50 years, demons have to hand to Heaven a large quantity of “Dark Matter”, which they get from the souls they punish, and if they fail to do so, Hell’s destruction is assured.
The problem here is that demons are not naturally evil. Kucabara himself is more interested in saving those human souls that don’t deserve to be punished than torturing them. The only angel we meet by name in the story, on the other hand, was exiled from heaven for manipulating humans into creating wars and killing each other -and the story itself insinuates that the problem wasn’t that she manipulated humans, but that she choose to keep the Dark Matter created by those deaths. Humans were not important for Heaven either way, as they only wanted the power they created.
It is because of that indifference they show to human life, and the last twist that shows that not even God agrees with the government in Heaven, that Heaven manages to reach the seventh place on our list.
6. Tokyo’s Government from Yokokuhan (Prophecy)
- Mangaka: Tsutsui, Tetsuya
- Genres: Mystery, Police, Seinen
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: 2011 - 2013
Urban vigilantes are forbidden in real life because of many reasons: one can’t be jury, juror and executor; laws exist to protect innocents from being accused unfairly, and everyone deserves a fair trial, which an urban vigilante can’t give. But when justice doesn’t arrive, or can be easily bought by those with money, it’s very easy for those who don’t have that luxury to start wishing that there were such heroes that could punish the guilty who have escaped lawful punishment because the government is corrupt.
In the case of Yokokuhan’s Tokyo, things seem to be normal: The police investigate the guilty parties and punish them according to the law. But when they face a vigilante named Paperman, things become less clear. Yes, the cyber crime police follow the letter of the law, but sometimes seem to forget the spirit of the same. On the other hand, Paperman’s victims go from those who use social media to harass others, to multi-million companies who use their money to buy the government.
Because of the way in which the government seems to ignore the poor, and the way in which they cruelly punish those who commit minor crimes, but let go those who break the law in a bigger way, Tokyo from Yokokuhan earns the sixth place on our list.
5. Queen Datura Metel Mitragyna from Dokuhime (Poison Princess)
- Mangaka: Mihara, Mitsukazu
- Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Josei
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: 2002 – 2012
We’ve seen in Wolfsmund that the middle ages were an ideal time for tyrannical governments. With few citizens compared to a modern city, it’s a lot easier to keep rebels identified and controlled. But while in Wolfsmud it was possible to believe that the cruelty was contained to one small part of the kingdom, to those living in Mitragyna there’s no place where they can hide from their queen Datura Metel Mitragyna’s whims. Under her rule, families can lose their daughters to the house Cantarella, where they would be tortured and poisoned constantly so that the survivors will become the best assassins in the world. Besides that, her majesty keeps her kingdom controlled with more poison, and has many plans to destroy the nearby kingdoms if she can’t make them join her. To the world, she’s a vain woman who believes that mildly poisoning the guests of a banquet is a funny prank, but few suspect that she is willing to poison the water supply of her own people just to make a point about her power over her subjects.
Due to her cruelty and because the suffering of her people seems to be endless, the kingdom of Mitragyna earns the fifth place on our list.
4. The Orphanage from Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland)
- Mangaka: Demizu, Posuka (Art), Shirai, Kaiu (Story)
- Genres: Mystery, Horror, Sci-Fi, Shounen
- Volumes: 7
- Published Date: 2016 – ongoing
There are very few things that are crueler than fake love, and no better cage than one created by loyalty. This is what the House of Grace Field knows well, the orphanage where the story of Yakusoku no Neverland occurs. It counts as a government because after the end of the world, there’s no other body that tells them what to do or what is legal. For the orphans that live there, it’s a paradise. Mother is strict with her schedule, everyone must eat together, constant tests are being administered to show how much they’ve learned, and no one can leave the forest that surrounds the orphanage, but other than that, they have love, food, and everyone living there is a big family.
But if it was a paradise, it wouldn't be on this list. And the truth is really terrible: Mother feels no love for the children in Grace Field. The only reason why she keeps them healthy and fed is because she’s keeping a human farm. Children that get “adopted” are in truth murdered for their meat and brains, which are harvested between the ages of 6 and 12 years. The ones who discover this truth start a dangerous game of cat and mouse against Mother to be able to escape. But it is then when the true cruelty of the system hits the reader. Mother only sees them as cattle, but they see her as their real mother and her betrayal is the hardest punch they could receive.
Due to the way in which Mother hides her evil side, and the fact that children are used as literal meat, the Grace Field Orphanage earns the fourth place on our list.
3. The Program from Battle Royale
- Mangaka: Taguchi, Masayuki (Art), Takami, Koushun (Story)
- Genres: Action, Drama, Horror, Psycological, Seinen.
- Volumes: 15
- Published Date: 2000 -2005
Because of a high rise in crime among teenagers, the Japanese government decided to create “the program”, a system that keeps their population under control. The Program is very simple: Every year, a third year high school group is chosen at random and sent to a deserted undisclosed location that was also randomly chosen. They never repeat places, so no one can try and sabotage the Program once it’s in progress. Once the group is there, they are fitted with explosive collars and are given a backpack that includes a map, rations for three days, and a randomly chosen weapon. From there on, the rules are even easier: They must kill each other. Before the third day ends, there should be only one survivor who will get a pardon from the government and declared the winner. But if there is more than one surviving student at the end of the third day, the explosives in their necklaces will be detonated immediately, killing them all.
What is the real purpose of the Program, and how it works to keep the population under control is never quite explained in any of the different versions of Battle Royale. But that doesn’t change the fact that any government that forces teenagers to kill each other, and that disappears any adult who tries to stop the practice, is a bad government. The most terrible thing is that even if the “Game” that we follow in the manga doesn’t end with the death of every single student that was picked up, the survivors really don’t do anything that will stop the Program from continuing next year. The Government behind the Program is still standing, and no one seems to be able to stop it.
Since the situation created by their laws is really cruel, and makes teens to be their friends’ executors, the Program earns the third place on our list.
2. Friend’s Party from 20th Century Boys
- Mangaka: Urasawa, Naoki
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Historical, Sci-fi, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 22
- Published Date: 1999 – 2006
A lot of villains of old series we watched as children had the final goal of conquering the world. The problem was that they didn’t seem to have a clear idea of how to conquer it, much less of what to do with the world once they had it. This is not the case of Friend, who got his inspiration from many of those old villains –and from Kenji’s old childhood games- to make his own plan for world domination. It took years of work to infiltrate his people in the highest branches of the Japanese government and to keep a friendly face towards the public. To blame his enemies for his cult’s most extreme actions, and to create a political party to get to rule Japan legally were just the last steps of his plans. And despite Kenji’s best efforts, Friend manages to conquer Japan in the twenty first century.
Once Friend is Japan’s governor, things start getting worse little by little. Mob wars are fought openly, and cops, instead of stopping them, have the job of fueling the flames and killing anyone who finds out that they’re corrupt. Anyone who speaks against the ruling party, even mangaka who no one pays attention to, are sent to high-security prisons. And teenagers who still go to school can’t doubt the official Friend-approved history about the Bloody New Year when Friend faced Kenji’s Faction, or they are sent to Friend’s Land to be brainwashed.
And since things get worse as Friend, and later New Friend, keep advancing towards their final goal to completely destroy mankind, Friend’s Party earns the second place on our list.
1. The System from Ikigami (Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit)
- Mangaka: Mase, Motoro
- Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 10
- Published Date: 2005 – 2012
One should always live as if it was the last day of their life, with no regrets. That’s advice usually given to make people take advantage of their time, to fulfill their dreams and give their best; but in Ikigami’s world, the government of a country near Japan has taken that philosophy to the darker extreme. When children start elementary school, they all get a special injection. Most of those are completely innocuous, and are soon forgotten. But a considerable percentage includes a small nano-capsule that is programmed to explode and kill the person that has it at some point between their 19th and 21st birthdays. Until that moment, no one knows who could die and who will be able to grow into old age. But once the capsule is 24 hours away from the explosion, they’re sent a letter that informs them that it’s the last day of their life.
Kengo Fujimoto, who is one of the many workers who has to hand said letters, starts to find out that things aren’t quite as simple. Every time he hands a death sentence, he asks himself how is it that killing a young man who is starting their adult life makes others appreciate life more. More importantly, he realizes that expressing said doubts out loud makes him the target of a special police who protects the system; and that the nano-capsules aren’t as random and anonymous as the government claims, which makes everything more sinister.
Because this government actively kills innocent people just to maintain their power, there can’t be any doubt that they deserve to win the first place on our list.
There’s one simple advantage to all the horrible governments we can find in manga, and it’s that there’s always a rebel that is ready to risk their life to change their world. No matter how cruel the punishment could be if they’re captured, or the consequences for their loved ones, if there’s a cruel government at the beginning of a story, there’s a big chance that we will see it fall at the end.
But tell us… Which is your favorite manga dictatorship? Is it on this list, or did we miss it? Let us known in the comments below, and also let us know your opinion on this countdown.