[LWC 64] Native Nippon, Exiled Eleven Revisited: On Nationalism

[Post by Lelangir]

↩[LWC 63]

The territorialization of the socio-cultural and political positions, that is to say ethnicities vis-à-vis corresponding politics, is pretty interesting in Geass R2. But for a moment may we put aside all raeg and anti-raeg in order to simply enjoy something? – and by enjoy I equate to masturbation, blogsturbation, blogfap, etc. Essentially, OGT put it very well when he said that Code Geass is like a history major’s wet dream come true (though I’m no historian).

1 – Territories & Positions

Kallen is a half-blood and self-proclaimed Japanese while Suzaku is a half-baked traitor in the eyes of the Japanese public. Their personal histories also emphasize the culture behind these positions, Suzaku’s father being a (dead) former prime minister, Kallen seeking a kind of vengeance for her dead brother whom we assume fought in the Brittanian invasion with Ogi. We can, of course, detect both a resonance and polarity between Suzaku and Kallen; one man, one women; both pivotal knightmare pilots; both fighting “for Japan”, albeit in opposite ways; both with dead father-like figures, and so forth and so on. I could posit that they are each other’s antithesis, but that would perhaps skew Lelouch’s role in relation to them both.

While not ignoring the multifarious parallelisms exhibited by these two characters in respect to Lelouch, going back to the territorialization of certain positions, how does the presence of Britannia affect the positions in which these two characters take action? These positions are out of their control – they are unable to remove Britannia from Japan (for now, at least), so dissident Elevens become territoralized as “terrorists”, and those that join or submit become the dogs of Britannia, like that hotdog stand guy.[1] But these characters must also work within their kaleidoscopic socio-ethnic positions; their halfness. These are the ones in which they exercise their agency. This is not to say that they can, to their liking, pick and choose an attractive position out of the many within their cultural kaleidoscope and curtain the rest, but because these positions are not political (they have a politics, but they are not inherently so), Britannia can do little to nothing to alter directly the “meaning” of Japan since she has not established a hegemony over the majority of the its public – every action has an opposite and equal reaction (I’m not trying to be cute, I swear), therefore, Britannia’s actions elicit a response from the Japanese, and this response is what develops the nation’s meaning.

These positions are not immobile. In fact the greater territories themselves are expanding and contracting – hence the paradox behind the title. Kallen is simultaneously a Native Nippon and an Exiled Eleven. Her homeland is her exile; her exile is her homeland. The same applies for Suzaku. It’s what they fight for – the reclamation and reterritorialization of their Island as Japan and not Area 11. It’s reading how they negotiate with the flux of the territory, and how their positions are territorialized as Britannian, Japanese, or Eleven. There’s the crucial distinction: the difference between fighting as, in, and for – positions, territories, and goals, respectively.

Two of the greatest political forces that territorialize are both part of Britannia. There’s the imperialistic side, regal Charles (his army as well) and the insistence upon natural inequality, and the let’s-be-friends side, Euphie/Nunnaly and the Special Administrative Region of Japan (Henceforth SARJ).

Consider this territory: Suzaku wants to change it from the inside, so he joins not the very thing he wants to change (Japan, or perhaps the world), but the thing that controls the power that is able to produce change. Lelouch points this out in the first season – the insertion of Japan into the empire’s global market has stabilized their own economy, although this is to the suffering of the Japanese and the benefit of a select few like Kirihara. Suzaku fights as a reformist Britannian, perhaps an extremely leftist one at that – Euphie and Nunnaly fall into this political category since they all want to recognize Japan. They are contrasted by the conservative Cornellia, Charles, and so forth. While the first attempt at the SARJ ended in a fiasco, the original intent behind it is what is important. The Japanese may have perceived Euphie as a psychotic killer, but that was all – they never thought that the intent of the SARJ was a bad thing. The ideology of the SARJ remains as a territorializing force in which Suzaku locates himself.

While Suzaku is situated within the ideology of the SARJ and thus positioned as Japanese, the infamy of his reputation precedes him and he is positioned as more of a [honorary] Britannian than a Japanese. Suzaku’s efforts towards forging himself a Japanese image are thwarted by the disabling results of his actions – he fights Zero, thus he fights Japan. Ironically, Suzaku fights Japan for Japan. And more and more is the Japanese territory he so desperately wants to fight in expanding due to the reinstallation of the SARJ, yet, again ironically, no longer are his actions by any means Japanese for he surely is a Britannian, for he surely is a Knight of the Rounds. Suzaku enters the dilemma of standing far, far away, seeing his homeland being gradually restored, helpless to partake in the festivities since he is the one that always crashes the [Zero's] party.

Kallen’s situation is a little more straight forward, and while she’s half-blooded, she is seemingly insecure about her Britannian background and feels it as a blemish, as her mother’s addiction to refrain is a good indication of the remorse she held at her self-disgraceful heritage.

Kallen doesn’t have the drama of being deemed a traitor by her own people, so, unlike Suzaku who is moving away from his native territory, she is seeing the perimeter of hers contract and break, thus allowing the ideology of Elevens and terrorism flood in and territorialize herself as such. She has to work against the current of this force in order to execute a counter politics and force under the banner of Japan. A counter politics she exercises, and the workings of the Order can be seen either as contributing to either the discourse of terrorism or [anti-imperial] “justice”. The big factor here – the gravity that pulls the scales in one direction or the other – is Zero, which makes it all the more complicated for Kallen since she knows that Zero is a Brit whose intentions lie not with Japan in the long run of things.

I think that she dims the spotlight on this horrifically revealing facet. Of course she knows that Lelouch doesn’t care about Japan, but Zero does. There was the “play on identity” back in episode two of the second season, Kallen relying on the convenience of Zero in the face of Lelouch and so forth – that’s the hegemony of Zero; out to get Britannia, yet Japan will be liberated in the process, so why not jump on his bandwagon until then? Kallen is perhaps the only one (and the late Urabe) that resigns to this technique, but in doing so, she submits to the representation of Zero. She then contracts her actions over to the Order and loses all her political power, letting Zero territorialize her however he sees fit.

Kallen positions herself as a Japanese fighting for liberation, and, after having received Zero’s burden of representation, remains territorialized as Japanese. The contradiction she faces is personal and internal – bow down to the Machiavellianism of Lelouch and posture herself as an Eleven, or ignore that and focus on Zero and the reclamation of Japan. Suzaku, too, has personal issues (you may accept this pun if you wish) centered around his ends versus his means, but these aren’t so much as self-territorializing as they are Kallen’s. Both have differences, yet their paradox remains: they are forced to circumvent particular ideologies in order to propagate some and reconstitute others – they are forced to work within a particular position in order to see that their actions are not territorialized in a problematic way that aggravates the circumstances they seek to improve – all of this is as exiles within their nativity.

2 – Nationalism

Episode 8 of R2 brings (brought) up the interesting topic of nationalism. Not necessarily what it is, but where it is and how it is so. Is nationality dependant upon geography? Perhaps, I think concrete, geographic location has a large say in the genesis of nationalities, but after substantial development “geography” becomes the politics of mapping – a discursive element. It goes without saying that if it weren’t for that island near the Korean peninsula, there wouldn’t be a Japan, but if the island were to be decimated and subducted into the Pacific ocean (knock on wood) “Japan” would surely still exist and, possibly, continue to thrive alone as a concept.

Because our concept of Japan is merely that, a concept, it is amorphous, kinetic, movable, displaceable, and so forth. Hence the state of being Japanese – the ability to declare a heritage, a cultural lineage – is decentralized and not physically or geographically restricting. We had not seen a great Japanese diaspora here in Geass; you may call the iceberg exodus a migration of sorts, though it being limited to insurrectionary guerillas surely reduces the scope of its potential cultural impact. Compare the lack of evident Japanese rhizomorphic elements to Britannia’s apparent global, colonial ubiquity. When she conquers, she colonizes and establishes governance as well as cultural gateways. While this oppression does not necessarily lead to a supposed “melting pot” (disparate Shinjuku ghetto across the train line from wealthy urban center) but rather than “salad bowl” that is indicative of distinct socioeconomic conditions.

Language plays an oddly mundane role in Geass. Apart from the large amounts of Engrish (which we shouldn’t hastily express as such because it was rather good Japanese) the “language” elements here are for narrowcasting to a specifically imagined Japanese audience. Because Britannians speak Japanese, there is no official language of state, and thus one less way (a very important way at that) for the Japanese to declare their cultural autonomy. In that sense, Britannia has already territorialized the language by her “fluency” in it – the only problem is that “fluency” was most likely not intended by the animators, it wasn’t even considered, it’s just to make the show palatable, unfortunately.[2]

The use of what we can now lightly call “catch phrases” such as “yes, your majesty/highness” and “all hail Britannia” are then exotified, dramatic effect only (compare this to this). Similarly, on the subject of verbal traditions, we see glimpses of bodily traditions, namely Cornelia’s informal knighting (“Simplified ceremony”, as GG translates it) of Suzaku in episode 25 of R1. Traditions, rituals, ceremonies, and so forth and so on all have the potential to draw practitioners and witnesses into the hegemony of the nation state. This was the case for historical shift in the British governmental system as it appropriated power from the King and reallocated it to Parliament. With the “disintegration” of the Monarchy and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the royalty in the eye of the public transformed from a stereotypical god-sent dictatorship to a waning, grandfather-like figure. With the aid of new technologies that propagated images, sounds and footage of the royalty, public connection to their increasingly beloved royalty grew, and, as David Cannadine put it (1983), there was a “‘preservation of anachronism’, the deliberate, ceremonial presentation of an impotent but venerated monarch as a unifying symbol of permanence and national community” (p. 122). In the context of Geass this is strange because I don’t think we’ve yet to see of an actual Parliament within Britannia; seems like the emperor has all the power, and we’re left guessing what the general public opinion is.

But similar anachronism is evident in Geass; the lances on the Sutherland KMF’s that are mirrored by the katana-like swords (more like chainsaws) of the idiosyncratic, samurai-esque Burai KMF’s of the Japanese.[3] For the most part, anachronism connotes class – from Kanon‘s ballroom dance scene to Afro Samurai‘s clashing juxtaposition of sword and gun – but here each militaristic motif is meant to compliment the nationalities carried out through KMF’s.

For the sake of brevity I’d hav….oops.


[1]“Territorialized” may seem like pretentious jargon – could I have used the word “labeled” here? But in fact “territorialized” means more than simply a cultural connotation that is the adhesive properties of a name/concept and a particular entity. It is how things are positioned within an ideological territory. In this sense, things are stationary and the ideological territory is always shifting around and exhibiting a kind of osmosis of things; in the sense of things being labeled, labels are stationary and the things float around to insert themselves into certain categories and/or descriptions.

[2] It’s also interesting to note how Japan is deemed erea juu ichi while the Japanese are labeled as ereben. The land receives the native numerical (十一) while the peoples receive a more “foreign” taxonomy (エレベN). I said language plays a mundane role, and it does so in a first-order denotative sense, though a second-order meta sense does reveal, as usual, that language plays an interesting role in many things.

[3] To this extent I wonder if the Britannian KMF’s being purple has any significance?

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3 Comments

  1. Get thee to a Nunnaly.

    Reply
  2. This was a well-thought out piece. But I think beneath all those alliances and positions, Suzaku is just a douchebag and it’s good that he’s slowly redeeming himself near the end of R2. Beneath all the uncertainties, Kallen is just another girl who has fallen in love with another guy. ;)

    And people think I’m overthinking. :P

    Reply
  1. THAT Animeblog - [LWC 65] Serendipity Notion Revisited

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