Ikki Tousen Vol. 12: Kanto and the Three Kingdoms
I’m going to discuss volume 12 of the Ikki Tousen manga and I won’t go lightly on the spoilers so beware!!
I liked this volume because it gave us a heck of a lot of information to flesh out the background behind the –ehem– flesh-revealing battles that have been going on. In particular, we learned that not only are the three big Kanto schools the spiritual descendants of the Three Kingdoms in China, but that the Kanto region itself is a micro-China of sorts.
Rikuson Hakugen, the smartest junior high student in Ikki Tousen (which is not saying much at all), figured it out with the use of an ancient Chinese map and her nice laptop. I went ahead and retraced her steps back to front, that is, whereas Hakugen went from China to Japan, I’ll start with a Japanese map and end up with a Chinese one. The whole sequence actually does work! Let me go through the steps.
First, we have to keep in mind that Nanyou Academy = Wu, Kyoshou Academy = Wei and Seito High School = Shu. Next, we take the locations of each of these schools: Nanyou is in or around Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture; Kyoshou is in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture; Seito is in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture. BTW, these three prefectures, along with Tokyo Bay, enclose the Japanese capital on all of its sides.
You can tell which school is which in the map above by the initials. Hakugen was clever enough to figure out that by fiddling with the scale, rotating and inverting the map, while leaving the triangle unchanged, you could get this:
It’s natural IMO that the world of Ikki Tousen would be literally an upside-down version of the Three Kingdoms period; as it turns out gender inversion is only part of it! Here’s a map of the actual Three Kingdoms of China with a similar red triangle.
Pretty close, right? In any case, it’s close enough to make for a nice piece of cartographical fanservice.
Just as interesting is the connection between the kingdoms and the prefectures per se. I know next to nothing about this period of Chinese history, but I have lived in two of these three prefectures and know the third one pretty well. If Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama went to war, I’d put my money on Kanagawa to win: it’s got sophistication (Yokohama), naval power (Yokosuka) and a large contingent of fearsome yakuza (Kawasaki). It seems likely that Wei would be in Kanagawa, just from that.
Chiba’s industrial, tough in its own quiet way. Saitama’s residents seem to prosper despite a reputation as plain and boring. Sometimes Saitama people will say they come from Tokyo (then again, Chiba residents do the same thing). The big black hole here is precisely Tokyo: what is Tokyo in terms of the Three Kingdom’s history then? I have no clue.
Another humongous piece of information came from Sonsaku’s Grandpa, who taught her that each of the three great dragon-infested toushi are aligned with one of the Eight Trigrams of Chinese Legend. In short: Sonsaku has the power of Water, Ryuubi of Thunder, and Sousou of Fire. I’d be curious to know whether these associations come originally from China or were invented by the mangaka.
Water is extremely powerful though it looks soft (Sonsaku!), Thunder is linked with dragons (the first dragon we learned of was Ryuubi’s), Fire starts strong but may be extinguished in the end (Sousou?). I got these blurbs from the first page of a Google Search, so they’re kind of random…
So what’s this story about? After reading Volume 1, I wrote this:
“Judging strictly from Volume One of the manga, one finds a systematic de-moralization of the tale. Here everything is about power.”
What I meant by tale there was the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
I saw it argued somewhere on a forum that Ikki Tousen was about loyalty. I agree that this theme is everywhere, but I would argue that it ultimately serves the purpose of feeding the main issue, which is power.
Early on we had Housen’s tortuous loyalty to Toutaku, and Koudai’s loving loyalty to Housen. Toutaku was the most powerful man in the Kanto school system at that time, making the loyalty/power connection explicit. Koudai was of course indirectly
feeding into the same system. When Housen broke with Toutaku, she died.
In the last few volumes we have seen a multiplicity of loyal toushi all revolving around the three great toushi of Nanyou, Kyoshou and Seito. Kyocho for Sousou, Kanu for Ryuubi, all of Nanyou (following Koukin’s lead) for Sonsaku. The cases of Ryuubi and Sonsaku are especially revealing because neither of these characters have really earned the loyalty of their devotees: what does Kanu see in Ryuubi? The same thing Genpou sees in Sonsaku: the only path to ultimate victory and total power.
There are sentimental attachments too, like Kyocho’s for Sousou, but it’s still obvious how these all happen to center around the characters that have the largest amounts of power behind, or rather within, them.