「深く静かに陰謀せよ」 (Fukaku Shizuka ni Inbou Seyo)
“Plot Silent Plot Deep”
And so Shinichi is marked for death amid a round of applause.
Addiction & Control
This story is brilliant. Many viewers have been wondering for a while when the plot would kick in, but the truth is that it’s been here all along. Like I said back in Episode 09, this show doesn’t have stark demarcation between plot and not-plot like in so many other anime because the plot was quietly working behind the scenes the whole time. All those comedic hijinks? They were plot of a sort, because the more the Eldantese were pulled into otaku culture, the more they became addicted to it, giving the Japanese government a measure of control. Here the comedy wasn’t just for lulz. It was important.
The Japanese Government’s Big Mistakes
Props to the Japanese government and the JSDF – their plan wasn’t bad. The idea of using culture instead of guns and missiles isn’t a new one; in fact, it’s one some countries on Earth still try to use today. It was also supremely well-suited for what could have been a costly and damaging war with a country whose military capabilities aren’t well understood and which they weren’t sure they could effectively counter. Why get into a war for resources when you’re not sure you can win? Ignoring the fact that getting into a war for resources is boneheaded in the first place.
They made mistakes, though. Their chief mistake was bringing in someone in the critical role who hadn’t bought into the plan. Yes Shinichi’s enthusiasm made him an excellent missionary, and yes he is an unimportant nobody and therefore expendable, but they put him in the driver’s seat and gave him the opportunity to gather power among the Eldantese he met, which he did. With the personal support for the Supreme Ruler and a damn lot of the Eldant people, Shinichi wields enormous power to thwart their plans, so they should have made sure he would never use it before ever risking him getting it. Why risk a wildcard like Shinichi when Minori was right there? Sure it worked better with both of them there, but they should have gotten their agent’s buy in before he got in position to destroy their plan.
Their second major mistake? Once they already had Shinichi in place, they shouldn’t have told him the plan. What are they, Republic serial villains? Why risk him doing exactly what he did when you don’t have to! They should have stretched out the excuses for the shortages for as long as possible, and then quietly made Shinichi disappear before he could ruin everything. Why weren’t they building replacements for Shinichi all along? They gave too much power to an unknown element, so it’s no surprise it blew up in their faces.
By the way, none of these criticisms are leveled at author Sakaki-sensei or at feel and the rest of the anime crew. I’m criticizing the characters, but for these characters to make these mistakes is very, very believable. The government doesn’t understand a goofy subset of society? Yeah, I can see that. They made small tactical errors brought about by systemic organizational blind spots, allowing an individual who can act quickly to get the best of them? Seen it many times. More on this below.
What Japan Should Have Done – Slow, Cultural Power
Japan’s mistakes don’t even factor in how their central strategy was dumb. Enforce a shortage on otaku material to force the Eldantese to give them resources? I don’t see why they bothered with blackmail when the Eldantese would probably have been perfectly willing to buy the same otaku products the Japanese have been sending them for free. Give people a taste and if they like it they’ll buy more – that’s Marketing 101, people. This is the way of the world now. Why plunder when you can buy and sell? Customers are more valuable than colonies, especially since the latter tend to turn out insurgents. It’s largely the same anyway, and there are no bodies to clean up afterwards. Less bodies, at least.
Instead the Japanese should have done exactly what they did – including recruiting someone earnest and truly passionate like Shinichi – up until this episode. Then they should have kept doing that. To get far more materials into the Eldant Empire they absolutely should have sold them, but that’s only proper, and Shinichi would have had no problem with the Eldantese buying what they consume instead of the Japanese government footing the bill. That’s not the most important part, though. How the Japanese were slowly changing the next generation of Eldantese into more culturally Japanese was their greatest weapon, because if they slowly do that then soon they’d have an entire generation in love with Japan! Once again, they ought to be looking for customers rather than plunder, and this would give them that in spades.
Sure, there would be some accounting problems if they suddenly started buying up a lot of manga, anime, and games that appeared to be disappearing into a void – not to mention all the resources used to buy them appearing out of thin air – but if they’re willing to engage in a massive government cover up and execute a few Japanese citizens if they get in the way, a little bribery, accounting fraud, and/or copyright infringement shouldn’t have bothered them. Though personally, I think they should have bought all the otaku materials fair and square – Earth is going to find out about the portal eventually, so why create a trail of crimes? Just cover it up for as long as possible and sink your cultural claws into Eldant as deep as you can. Good faith is far more powerful than aggression, trust me.
The problem with this plan? It’s boring! The most effective plans usually aren’t exciting, which makes for a crappy story. This would have made for a boring climax because there wouldn’t have been a climax, just a slow buildup of advantages for Japan. This is a hard plan to pitch, and one that depends on a lot of marketing-style bullshit like “goodwill”, so I can very much see a government opting for the more clean-cut (though far less effective and moral) plan instead. This combined with the mistakes they made being so believable makes the story work. I’m telling the characters they’re being damn fools, not the creators, and that’s where you want that.
The Villain Jinzaburou
All that said, Jinzaburou makes a good villain. The way he calmly laid it all out was a treat to behold, but best of all was how he dealt with the resistance seen back in Episode 03. Actually creating the resistance would have been the move of a chump, a dangerous move which could be potentially traced back to Jinzaburou and the Japanese government. Not doing anything to stop the resistance that naturally formed? Brilliant. They didn’t have to do anything other than set up the situation where the resistance would occur – a situation they wanted to set up for their own reasons, mind you – and then use it for their own needs. Sure, it could have backfired – Petrarca could have ended up dead instead of Myuseru taking the knife, and a King Garius would have been much less interested in listening to the Japanese after his cousin’s death – but no plan is without risks.
Combine this with how Jinzaburou claims he actually likes Shinichi – and I believe he does – but is following his orders anyway makes him very dangerous, but also very human. To hate and despise Shinichi would have been clichéd, but to like him and do it anyway? He isn’t the first to use “I’m just following orders” to justify his actions.
Shinichi Answers Back
Not that Shinichi is going to have any of Jinzaburou’s bullshit. Which reminds me, the other flaw in the Japanese plan – they gave the Eldantese all the tools to create their own content, so once they pulled the rug out from under them, that’s exactly what they would do. Maybe not immediately, and maybe Japan would have gotten some good resources out of them in the meantime, but eventually they would start creating their own, whether by patronage of Petrarca’s government or all on their own. What Shinichi did was accelerate the whole process by helping to develop these artists and by giving Petrarca the idea to encourage more.
Not that Shinichi wasn’t without his own mistakes. While the final moments of this episode were wonderful, with Shinichi staring down Jinzaburou and Jinzaburou silently sentencing Shinichi to death amidst Eldantese applause, Shinichi should have played along like normal for a week or two before quietly giving the idea to the Eldantese. If they came up with it “on their own”, no reason for Shinichi to get in trouble, right? Because now he has a target on his forehead, and I expect his own government to come after him.
One more episode, and we’re heading into what looks like an exciting finale. This has been a sneaky series in many ways, but I’ll save my ruminations for the final impressions next week. Until then!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Everything Shinichi has done comes to a head as the government’s real plan is revealed. An Shinichi’s answer–! #ob_c 11
- Just mount him already Myuseru. You know you want your hardworking Danna-sama. She may not know everything about Shinichi, but she knows the most important thing – he’s a kind man. So seriously, wrap this up you two. Your relationship is too sweet, it’s giving me diabetes.
- It seems like Minori is sympathetic to Shinichi, but my question is – did she know? I think she did, or she strongly suspected, but she’s bound by orders too. I wonder though whether she’ll defy them in the end. Should be fun to see.
Check out my blog about storytelling and the fantasy novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Don’t reject feedback rashly, Hard fantasy vs soft fantasy, What I’m thankful for, and On writing fast, writing well.