Hayao Miyazaki began his career at Studio Toei, and quickly found himself involved in the union struggles occurring at the time, efforts which eventually saw he, Isao Takahata, and others virtually forced out of the studio. Rising to prominence in this milieu, Miyazaki spent his early life as a self-proclaimed Marxist, and the artistic priorities set by those politics survive even into his present work. In the 80s he declared that he wanted to, “always be aware of the dangers of being too wishy-washy, to be aware of the relationships between media creators and consumers, capital and labor.” Yet, within a decade, this belief in Marxism totally crumbled. With the fall of the USSR and the writing of Nausicaa, Miyazaki’s faith in historical materialism—which centers class struggle and the relations of economic production in its analysis—collapsed, and he declared that the kind of thinking where, “if things like the distribution of wealth and the means of production were properly taken care of, everything would get better”, was something he could no longer accept. Indeed, in 1994 he claimed that, “Leaving decisions up to the collective wisdom of the masses just results in collective foolishness”, as well as saying, outright, that “Marxism was a mistake,” and from here, the ecological tones already present in his work became even more central.
In Jean Renoir’s 1939 classic, The Rules of the Game, a group of bourgeois “friends” spend their time partying on the eve of what would eventually reveal itself to be the world’s deadliest war. There’s not a care in the world, except towards questions on who is cheating on who with whom. Aside from the somber Octave, played by Renoir himself, the characters show little concern for what’s going on and even when emotional, treat everything as a bit of a game. That is, until these silly antics escalate on account of no one taking anything seriously, leaving a man gunned down, something explained away as a chance accident.
The satirical nature of the film is clear. Due to the immense wealth of these upper-class French citizens, they’ve been isolated from the concerns of the outside world, including the oncoming war with Germany. After all, they’re rich enough that even life under the Nazis wouldn’t be so bad, right? Of course, that’s not the case. Ultimately, someone will die, but even that will be excused by the morally bankrupt French bourgeoisie. Even the Jewish Marquis shows no fear, brushing aside the murder; only Octave is truly concerned. And so ends the film, as everyone abdicates blame, settling instead for a return to the jovial party they came from. When the world falls apart, these people won’t fight, they’ll simply keep up their play. Continue reading “On The Rules of the Game and Complacency on the Brink of Death”
All art is political, but anime is an art form which tends to shy away from engaging with that fact. It isn’t hard to tell where a show like GATE’s ideological biases lie, but shows like this rarely engage with ideology on a more explicit level. It’s rare to get shows like Ghost in the Shell or LotGH that not only explicitly engage with politics, but make it totally apparent where their opinions lie, and it’s always nice when it happens.