On Student Power, Mishima, Ikki Tousen
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.
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.
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.
On one of the great struggles of this era in Japan: the Yasuda Hall takeover.