BELIVE! BELIVE IN ME WHO BELIVES IN YOU!
(Is that how that goes? I’m not really sure because… psst, I’ll let you in on a little secret… I dropped Gurren Lagann after the first episode.)
Well, Charlotte just got disowned (or owned depending on your take). She proceeds to spend the whole episode crying and such, but I really can’t sympathize with the daughter of some bourgeois woman and her equally bourgeois dream. There are probably people dying from starvation and disease (this IS in medieval times after all), getting oppressed left and right. We’ve got an empire after all, and if we’ve ever learned anything from history and Star Wars, empires are bad news. B-b-but I only wanted to fulfill my mother’s dream…
Luke’s in this episode for all of about two minutes? What a hero.
Rather than focus on the titular character, the rest of the episode swings into a rematch between Cecily and Charlotte’s three loli-looking servants (I can’t be bothered to learn their names). Cecily got her ass handed to her just two episodes ago, but of course a short training scene in the last episode is all she needs to become the ass-hander. I wish other anime operated on a similar time frame. In a typical shounen show, two episodes would probably only amount to ten real time minutes of gratuitous ‘power upping.’ Maybe Cecily is like Mega Man… when those girls groped her over and over, she just picked up their power, knowledge, STDs, you name it.
So the lesson here is, like, friendship y’all. Friends are awesome and they teach you stuff. One girl taught Cecily how to become a spear ’cause the way to beat a spear is to become a spear… too…? Whatever. Cecily then learns to become an arrow because she obviously can’t beat the dagger chick in close combat with a big, long sword–hey, wait a minute, why the hell not? Finally, to beat Miss Big Sword, Cecily learns to just swing her sword… bigger! Yeah!
Well, I dunno. Isn’t shame kinda bad? It’s kind of like anti-honor and if there’s anything my Asian mom taught me, honor is bigger than sliced bread.
I’m more interested in something else though. I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent. If you’re only here specifically for episode eight of The Sacred Blacksmith, you can stop reading now.
Charlotte’s servants are so damn devoted to her that they’d even die for her. That’s kind of dumb to me, personally. You could say, “Well duh, you’re an American. Americans hate the king!” but that doesn’t quite cover it. Plenty of people in the US would probably jump in front of a bullet for Obama and maybe even some congressmen (I’d like to know who would bite the bullet for Bachmann) though I sure as hell wouldn’t–I’m not one for patriotic fervor. This kind of stuff is common in anime though, isn’t it? By that, I mean royal loyalty. Now, I’ve always heard from others that the love for royalty just comes naturally to the Japanese because they still have an emperor and all that jazz, but is that really true?
Japan just had a huge celebration for Emperor Akihito’s 20th year on the throne. In fact, there were “parades, concerts and speeches by leading athletes, actors, businesspeople and politicians… that lasted most of the day” (source). Still, that doesn’t say whether or not people would be willing to die for the guy. Let’s not even go that far though. I’m just wondering if the target audience of The Sacred Blacksmith would even look approvingly on someone else dying for royalty. To understand public perception of the Japanese royal family, I dug up an interesting article. In the opening paragraph, it said:
When Diana, Princess of Wales, died in the tragic Paris car crash of 31 August 1997, thousands of Japanese knew more about her life than they did about the everyday happenings of their own royal family. Yet public opinion polls, like that of the Asahi Shimbun, still register a rating of 85 per cent of uyamai (esteem) and aijo (attachment) for and to the Emperor and Empress largely because of the Emperor’s position in Japanese society.
The popularity of the Emperor and Empress amongst the majority of the nation which is middle class, is founded on four main factors. The Emperor is seen as symbolising democracy; he is perceived as a denizen of progress in science and technology; he is deemed to represent the modernity which has brought Japan prosperity; and, he is believed to incorporate all the factors that make the middle-class feel safe in their pursuit of their aspirations.
The emperor seems to be very popular at first glance, but we should be wary of jumping to conclusions. Not all opinions of the emperor and his family have been positive:
As the 1990s have evolved prominent Japanese publications like the Sunday Mainichi and the Shukan Bunshun have run a critical eye over the Imperial Family accusing them of “spite, trivia, wanton-waste and self-importance.”
Certain publications… [attacked] Empress Michiko, dubbing her a petulant shutome (mother-in-law) who henpecks her husband. The monthly publication Takarajima 30 went full tilt at the Empress and her supposed demanding nature. They averred: “The Empress has a hysterical side, her shrill voice can often be heard around the palace and she once rebuked a chamberlain for an hour for a minor misdemeanour.”
Events prompted one Minoru Hamao, an erstwhile Imperial Chamberlain, to comment publicly: “The media have generally been too soft on the Imperial Family. Now they are being plain nasty. This is not a good trend.”
On the other hand, the press was very sympathetic of Princess Masako’s entry into the royal family. They almost seemed to pity her fate, calling her royal status “‘a life of stifling Victorian values…’ [sacrificing] great personal liberties to become Crown Princess.” What goes on in a day for the royal family thus seems both mysterious and even weird to some Japanese people.
Even so, criticism of the press might not reflect the views of the common people. Regarding the favorable polls in the Asahi Shimbun, however, it doesn’t necessarily tell us what we need to know either. I don’t know (nor do I have the means to find out) who makes up the readership of the Asahi Shimbun, but my gut feeling would assume that the publication wouldn’t exactly reflect the views of those likely to watch The Sacred Blacksmith. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but feeling esteem and attachment to the emperor also doesn’t really tell us whether or not the audience of The Sacred Blacksmith would approve of others sacrificing everything for royalty. Whether or not the audience would sacrifice their own lives is another thing altogether.
We could say that the show has a quasi-medieval setting and people are just plain loyal to their liege in such stories. That’s a bit of a cop-out though and I doubt the creators of The Sacred Blacksmith wanted to potentially alienate the audience. As a result, the royal loyalty displayed by Charlotte’s servants probably garnered some sympathy. Here’s another assumption: since it got some sympathy, the audience probably approved of their willingness to sacrifice their lives for a princess. To be accurate, however, Charlotte’s servants would do anything (see the last pic above) just to see her smile, and that–quite frankly–is just stupid.