On Student Power, Mishima, Ikki Tousen

Taishigi Shigi (Youshuu High)

Taishigi Shigi (Youshuu High)

Of the three traditional sources of revolutionary manpower (workers, peasants, students) only the students still pose a threat to the current world order.  French students in 1968 declared that “the proletariat is either revolutionary or nothing”—history has proved that it is nothing.  In order for the student struggle to succeed, however, it must be realized that revolution itself is impossible—the goal must be another.  One could argue student power is rooted, raised and nourished on inequality—how can it be the standard bearer of egalitarianism?

Yukio Mishima, a writer and a fascist (sophisticated, nuanced, but a fascist nonetheless) showed concern and admiration for to the Japanese wing of the 1968 world student movement.   He sympathized with the young leftists and declared that if only they would accept the Emperor he would join them.  And yet in the clashes of 1969 between the students and the police, he berated the state for keeping the Self-Defense Forces in the barracks.

He wished for the SDF to suppress, or attempt to suppress, the rioting students.  I think Mishima probably thought that the SDF struggle with the Zengakuren (the leftist students’ league), if it had materialized, would have been as sublime as the Sainan Rebellion (Saigo Takamori vs the Meiji Army) or the Gempei War (the Taira vs the Minamoto)  [Angels vs. Evas?].  Mishima was a Hellenist, and Homer’s sublime archetype of the two divine rivals (Achilles vs Hector) comes to mind.

Sonsaku and Shuuyu Koukin (Nanyou High)

Sonsaku and Shuuyu Koukin (Nanyou High)

Said Mishima: “What the Zengakuren students and I stand for is almost identical.  We have the same cards on the table but I have a joker—the Emperor”.  To comment on such a sentence would be improper and potentially offensive to some, but let me just say it indicates Mishima’s idosyncratic ideological framework.  When his own right-wing student group, the Tatenokai, attempted to stage a coup in 1970, its core members’ inadequacy was exposed, and I am sure at that point Mishima wished he had had a few Zengakuren students to help him out.

Speaking in terms of pure potential, the left-wing student will always be stronger than the right-wing student.  This is because the conservative is defending something that is not his own (the past) whereas the progressive is creating by means of the struggle his own (the future).

If Mishima knew something, it was that the struggle could only be properly carried out by youth.  He knew and suffered from the knowing.  He was obsessed with youth.  But he was bound to fail, because fundamentally it is not despite its naivete that the student is powerful, but precisely because of it.  And age erodes that innocence and steals it away.

Juventud, Divino Tesoro

Juventud, Divino Tesoro

I say: Students must fight for the freedom of all to do what they must… [see the link on Free Will at the end of this post]


Viewed in the light of everything stated above, the world of Ikki Tousen turns out to make perfect sense [at least in the first 20 chapters, which is where I’m at 🙂 ].  The war occurs in the schools, as is proper.  One gets the sense that were a single school to finally digest or destroy every other rival in the system, the entire world outside would be at its mercy.

It’s also logical that Sonsaku Hakufu, the practically illiterate warrior, is the protagonist.  She is strong, she is naive, she is matchless.  Her rival in Rakuyo High School, Ryofu Housen, looks extremely similar to Hakufu (initially I had a hard time telling one from the other), but they are worlds apart within.  Ryofu’s awareness of the History within the Magatamas is already causing her serious trouble.  She knows that her Magatamic father (my coinage) in the Three Kingdoms, Lü Bu, betrayed his benefactor Dong Zhuo and that his memory is infamous for this betrayal.  When Toutaku, Dong Zhuo’s Magatamic son, begins to mistreat her, Ryofu fears and foresees and grows weaker.

Ryofu two problems: History and Free Will

Ryofu's two problems: History and Free Will


From Wikipedia: Yukio Mishima, the 1968 protests.

On one of the great struggles of this era in Japan: the Yasuda Hall takeover.

For pointers on Spinoza’s demolition of the concept of Free Will, go here.  If you are bold enough, read what the Dutch philosopher himself wrote in one of his letters, here.

~ by Haloed Bane on May 26, 2009.

10 Responses to “On Student Power, Mishima, Ikki Tousen”

  1. In my (admittedly limited) experience, conservative students know where they want to go, while progressive students don’t. Politics, at least in this country, is inherently interested in progress, so you can get by with ‘progress for progress’s sake’ but not with ‘regress for regress’s sake’: the conservatives are forced to think. But of course there are very many more left-wing students than right-wing ones, and naïveté is quite powerful.

    (Incidentally, what are you doing to do when the number of comments overtakes the current caldendar year? Switch to a different calendar?)

  2. I find it peculiar that you couldn’t distinguish Hakufu and Hosen. The former gets her clothes torn of for the reader to see cleavage, and the latter uses a low-cut uniform to flash them.

    It’s interesting how Spinoza’s arguments against free will remind me of Hume’s arguments against knowing direct causes (which lead to atheistic arguments).

  3. @Animanachronism

    I totally get where you’re coming from. That’s why I put that “potentially speaking” disclaimer. At the same time, I could argue it’d be wrong to require of progressives to know where they’re going, as the future itself remains unknown.

    On the calendar/comment situation, I’m pretty sure it’ll take over a year to get there so I’ll have to time to think it over. I really don’t know what I would do.


    Hosen uses low-cuts, fine. But Hakufu’s physique is such that she “looks” like she’s using low-cuts all the time too. Anyway, I prefer Hosen’s attitude to the whole issue.

    Spinoza has always been accused of atheism. He himself wrote in Latin “Deus sive Natura” (God, or Nature), but the “sive Natura” bit was struck out in the Dutch edition (if I recall correctly). Even if you defend his belief in God, his God is unlike any religious figure, so again, for all intents and purposes he would likely be considered an atheist by religionists.

  4. Yes, I liek Hosen moar wwwwwww.

    Your explanation of Spinoza reminds me of how Richard Dawkins qualified the ‘theism’ of Voltaire. It is quite irreligious, or at least hardly usable (an inert, non-meddling being) for the purposes of moralizing religion.

  5. More reasons why people should watch Manabi Straight.

  6. I always had the impression that this was a fanservice series in the vein of, say, Kanokon. Glad to be proven wrong! I’ll try reading this some time.

  7. @ghostlightning

    And yet, Spinoza titled his magnum opus the Ethics. As Nietzsche says in many places, even after men abandon and attack religion, they still cling to its morality.


    As if you needed another reason beyond Aya Hirano’s participation in that project 🙂 Actually, I haven’t watched it!!


    If by “fanservice series” you mean loads of gratuitous scenes, then it IS a fanservice series. If you mean a series where the plot seems to consist of a succession of excuses to show off gratuitous nudity, then it IS a fanservice series.

    That said, the core plot of the Magatamas does lend itself to very thought provoking issues and situations. Said issues are drowned in fanservice though, so if that turns you off then I wouldn’t recommend it at all 🙂

  8. Nah, that never turned me off, but I had the impression that it was just a generic fanservice thing and nothing else, so this paradigm shift is much appreciated.

  9. @animekritik

    Yes people cling to morality and ethics anyway. I am partial to relating this to Richard Dawkins’ explanation of the ‘selfish gene’ in terms of biology. Philosophically I read the issue using Nietzche’s concept of ‘will to power.’

    Ethics and morality (especially slave morality) in its extremes (read: asceticism) are attempts by the individual to dominate aspect of the self when he cannot dominate others (the way masters can). Examples of this are:

    -vows to obedience
    -vows to poverty (including dietary restrictions)
    -vows to chastity/celibacy

    By dominating the self, the ‘base’ urges the ascetic presents himself as ‘more moral’ than those who cannot. Immorality is often ‘whatever the masters get away with doing.’ The other ‘slaves’ revere the ascetic and accept his dominant morality and are thus dominated by him. The slave becomes a master.

  10. @ghostlightning

    Yes! The slave becomes a master. Then the master of old adopts the slave morality and rebrands himself as a moral master, too. And then, capitalism swoops down out of Nothingness and turns everybody into slaves. Hooray?!

    Nietzsche’s analysis of masters and slaves is brilliant. Have you read Hegel’s? I can’t friggin’ remember the details, but it’s just as brilliant, except IMO it’s totally fictional (this sums up Hegel himself IMO: brilliant nonsense, nonsensical genius) whereas Nietzsche’s stuff actually happens historically.


    Mind you, then, that the first inklings of moral dilemma in Ikki Tousen pop up in the 4th volume. First three are all fanservice (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

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