「世間で偉人って言われている人の苦悩って. / 世間で偉人って言われている人の人生って.」 (Seken de Ijintte Iwarete Iru Hito no Kunoutte. / Seken de Ijintte Iwarete Iru Hito no Jinseitte.)
“What Are the Struggles of Someone Known as a Prominent Figure? / What Is the Life of Someone Known as a Prominent Figure Like? “
I never thought I would cover an anime that took a serious look into the pain, horror, and lingering effects of the Holocaust, nor would I have expected an anime to examine the lives of those who have survived and died in concentration camps. Even with centaurs, angels, and demons being thrown into these camps by centaur Nazis, it’s still able to evoke the living hell that the Jewish population and races that were victim to Hitler’s hatred had gone through. Depicting a particular survivor’s life in the camp emphasizes the impact that wide-scale racial violence has had in this universe to the point that many countries agreed to rehaul their laws against prejudice to prevent any such atrocities from happening in the future.
Additionally, this survivor’s interaction with a bespectacled prisoner helps reflect on how racial strife is internalized behavior that is emboldened through what society teaches people about race. Much of the fear bred in the series is through misunderstanding one another (such as with Himeno’s fear of Antarcticans being bred from watching an old racist horror movie as a child), and while the Holocaust is a massive leap from contemporary microaggressions like being scared of a race because of a horror movie, the influence that a tyrannical figure has with emboldening and empowering prejudice on a wide scale had made it possible for the Nazi ideology to have spread, especially in this universe where characters to this day live under the constant reminder of what racial atrocities their family, relatives, and ancestors were either involved with as victims or perpetrators. It would make a re-watch of the series intriguing since tying together many of these races with traumatic historical events they were a part of would inform us on how interactions between different races are informed through the collective knowledge of their racial histories.
The episode was poetic in its story-telling when we learn that the young boy we follow in the concentration camp grew up to be the president who is shaking the hands of Jean Rousseau near the beginning of the episode. It was very effective in striking an emotional chord with me, especially after thinking back to the scene where he criticizes his aid for trying to give him a tissue to wipe his hands after his handshake with an Amphibianfolk. His struggles with prejudice as an older man also mirrors on the struggles that Rosseau has as the president of a French conglomerate who had been adopted and raised as a Frenchman (apologies to our French readers who have to contend with the show making their French character a frog). His troubles are more along the lines of trying to be a mediator between Amphibianfolk and Mammals in preventing a race war from breaking out in his homeland. In the process of trying to mellow out the rising tensions, the leader of the Amphibianfolk tribe he originated from accuses him of not understanding their point-of-view as he was raised by the same Mammal-based species that they are in opposition to.
It differs heavily from the racial strife the angel president went through, but lends itself to the conversation that unfortunately, racial strife continues to follow everyone in history even with such strict laws. This was the heaviest episode yet with very little of the SOL aspects of the school life scenes, but I’m curious as to what effect revealing the information has on the rest of the series, or if there will be other characters who were involved or related to people involved in historic events such as Himeno’s ancestors. Episode 09 was hard to watch with how intense the scenes in the camps were, but it resonates with the main message of the series to use our knowledge and acknowledgement of how our history of racially-motivated violence and horrors lends itself to how we see the present and future.