Politics in Space

One of the many amazing things about stories, and anime in general, is its ability to explore ideas and possibilities that may or may not ever exist. Science Fiction in particular delves into the realm of what may be possible as well as the problems and consequences that come about with technological development.

Which is why I find it so interesting that despite all the possibilities that might exist, why so many stories do so little in terms of exploring potential political structures. Certainly the dangers of dictatorship and corruption are explored in plenty of dystopian stories, but we move through a large volume of stories set in space, as humans and aliens alike roam amongst the stars and explore new worlds, what we see is a rehash of earth based political systems with very little originality or variation.

Welcome to my stop in the Space is the Place blog tour organised by Scott over on Mechanical Anime Reviews. Hopefully you caught Lynn’s post yesterday and be sure to catch up tomorrow with Crow’s post.

Now when I first heard the name of the tour ‘space is the place’ I immediately got Kate Miller Heidke’s song ‘Politics in Space‘ stuck in my head, which has nothing to do with anything except that as I thought about it a bit more I decided that was what I wanted to talk about. Not the song mind you, but the idea of how politics have been represented in sci-fi anime set in space. Incidentally, if you clicked the link and listened to the song, I apologise but good luck ever getting it out of your head.

And moving on.

It seems space politics very much reflect the earth origins where the creators are based. We have monarchies set up, usually with a space princess as the focal point of the story for some reason because why focus on the actual king or queen when you can have a princess floating about. There are authoritarian systems and various democracies that always closely resemble various real world countries right up to the spiffy uniforms they put some of these characters in. But there’s nothing new of fresh coming out of these systems.

And it makes sense. While the story might be set in space and the technology and conflicts might be based around fantasy or future possibilities, the audience needs to connect with the story. By having recognisable political frameworks the story remains grounded in the viewer’s reality and they can make sense of the situation and even relate it to various real world events.

If we look at pretty much every Gundam story ever we usually have three or four factions with various needs and rivalries fighting over some resource or technological development. If based on Earth. We usually have one group that seems to very much reflect western values and attitudes and another that might stand in for Russia/China or similar and then there are usually some smaller factions that represent either private corporations or more independent ideals.

Through this the story doesn’t have to give us complex explanations about these groups and how they operate. A few key scenes and discussion between members and we get the gist of what kind of system is at play and the basic values and attitudes at work. Because the political situation is grounded in something we are at least semi-familiar with the story doesn’t need to take a rest stop while they give us a lesson on it.

Still though, I’d love to see something truly innovative and a political system we hadn’t seen before on display, or at least a fair variation or refinement of existing political systems, rather than just transporting all our current issues into a new location.

All of this however, is nowhere near as important as this question:

Why are there so many space princesses?

There are so many anime set in space that involve a princess of some sort who for whatever reason is at the centre of whatever conflict is going on. It all seems a little anachronistic to be honest.

Now if you are thinking I’m just exaggerating the frequency of this, let’s look at some examples and I’m positive you will think of dozens more than the ones I include.

The most obvious would be Sailor Moon, Princess of the Moon. Surrounded by the Princesses of all the other planets in the solar system who were her guardians because the moon is super important. The guardians who happily and at numerous times put their lives on the line to save the Princess because she’s the most important.

You know, as a kid I didn’t question that. Of course you have to save the Princess. That’s what you do. Rescue Princesses. However, now I’m seriously wondering why the other Sailor Scouts, raised in the modern world, thought that sacrificing themselves was an acceptable situation for the life of a reincarnated Princess who didn’t do anything to help herself back then because she was all ga-ga in love with some Prince, and who, despite being able to sue some crystal, isn’t all that strong.

Moving on, we have Aldnoah.Zero where the Martian princess visits Earth and in the process is targeted by her own people in order to create a pre-text for a war with Earth. Why does Mars have a Princess? Did humans leave Earth, get to Mars and just think they’d really like to have no say over who lead them again and they’d like to hand power over their political system over to one particular blood line for the foreseeable future? Or were they just the first one’s there?

The Price of Smiles Episode 1

More recently we had Yuki from The Price of Smiles, another young Princess trying to keep the peace despite the fact that no one else seemed all that interested. She also had dead parents and was only still a Princess due to her young age, though the number of people who ignored her orders was kind of absurd. It almost made you wonder why they bothered with the figure head Princess at all given everyone else seemed perfectly capable of making decisions whether they conformed with her will or not.

Actually, Yuki gets a second eye-brow raise because for almost a decade everyone around her blatantly lied about the state of relations between her kingdom and the other group on the planet they were on and she was all but clueless as to the actual state of politics on her own planet.

Next we have an Empress from Tenchi Muyo War on Geminar with Lashara Earth who at the age of 12 has been crowned but faces hostilities from within her own government. However, Lashara isn’t so much interested in keeping the peace as she is in making a profit and luring out her enemies so she can crush them. Maybe that’s why she moved up from being a Princess because she wasn’t peaceful enough.

So yeah, why are there so many space princesses?

But back to the point at hand, what are politics in space actually like? Well apparently they are just like politics on earth only with some slightly different names and symbols attached to them.

Remember to check out the rest of the tour.


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Karandi James



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20 thoughts on “Politics in Space

  1. Very nice discussion of politics in space and all those space princesses. I have no idea if this is a reason for actual anime creators, but for me, I’d have trouble thinking of new political systems because it might require explaining how it came to be. That in turn might require developing your races of aliens, their cultures, biology, and evolution. It would be a highly involved process, if one truly took it seriously. This isn’t space-related, but I love how Hunter x Hunter explores all of what I just mentioned for the species of Chimera Ants. As such, they have their own defined social hierarchy and, essentially, their own politics.

    1. That’s a very good point and while I still haven’t finished Hunter x Hunter I really did enjoy seeing how they set up the Chimera Ants as their own society.

  2. Just want to say great job on the redesign so far! The banner looks really good, as well as the about and content tabs. I don’t know if this was already a thing, but I like how the patron sidebar is a nice de facto community tab that works better for the size of your audience. Probably doesn’t mean much coming from me who’s site looks….. ironic (or moronic) ; but I like what you’ve done with the place.

    1. Thank you. I am glad I didn’t break anything while updating. Hopefully I can finalise it by next weekend. I don’t really want the blog to be under constant construction.

  3. Vandread is about the politics which arise from a space culture based on organ harvesting, and cloning based on gender. There’s humor in the story, but also some pretty dark political themes.
    Martian Successor Nadesico is about the abandoned colony ships invading the earth (spoilers) with their remote attack robots, which everyone things are “Jovian Lizards” but there’s no aliens in Nadesico. Its all about politics and survival and revenge, so its a lot like Gundam.
    Haruhi Suzumiya has an alien, whose brain is so weird it has multiple remotes with completely different motivations. One likes to read human books to understand us. The other wants something to happen so tries to murder God (note the capital G), who is not Haruhi Suzumiya despite the repeated mistaken accusations that she is such. (spoiler) Kyon is God. They said so in the first episode.
    ID-0 is about space and the politics of recordings of human minds in AI-capable robot bodies, and whether people in robot bodies are still people and still have property rights and human rights. Its very political, and takes place in space. Realistically speaking, someday we’re going to send out probes with 3D printers and small assembler robots and will get somewhere useful and interesting using Ansible (Quantum Entanglement) to allow real-time communication through its implied wormhole so we can remote pilot these manufactured space drones in the far light-years distance. Special Relativity will give you headaches. So ID-0 isn’t as silly as it might appear. We’ll have something like that one day, while the pilot is safe on earth.
    Its true there’s lots more space princesses. Its just there’s also exceptions to that trope. I hope you find watching some of these shows makes you feel better about the willingness of Japan to publish and show programming which isn’t all the same. Its one of the things I like about their efforts.

  4. And of course I had to click on that link pretty much right before I am almost off to sleep, and I now have that song in my head. Thanks for that…..πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
    Seriously though: fun post! I was thinking about the question of why there are so many space princesses and my mind draws a blank lol πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ But well, maybe because well, they are kind of fun as well?
    Also politics is something that bores me, even in anime lol, but I have never had more fun with politics than with reading this post. So…yep that is a compliment! 😊

    1. Sorry for that. That song does tend to stick with you for awhile.
      Glad you enjoyed the post. My next question would be: Where are all the space Princes?

      1. Lol…that’s alright…it was funny (ofcourse what I should have done, is also reply with a link to one of the most annoying songs ever made lolπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ But naw, I wouldn’t do that…or would I? πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ˜ˆ)
        Lol…Good question, erm….Maybe in space? (yeah I know, that one was horrible….πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚).

  5. Politics in space, eh? Well, besides the obvious Star Wars with which the younger readers will be familiar, you have Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series (terrifying, in many respects) and Frank Herbert’s Dune series. . .

    1. Asimov’s Foundation series is really fascinating in how it looks at politics and society. It doesn’t offer a new solution but looks at the best of pre-existing ideas (and worst at the same time). I really should read through it again as it has been at least a decade and it is a really fascinating read.

  6. Science fiction is often
    used by the author to explore current world politics in one way or another, so I guess it makes sense that they would be based on systems we have. I guess we just all lack some sort of imagination when it comes to it. I’ve only seen some examples of political systems that are beyond the norm and even those are rooted in human society in some way. Curse our lack of imagination.

    As for princesses, not quite sure either. That’s a good question πŸ˜‚.

    1. Yes, it does make sense that they base the systems on ones we know and certainly that makes it easier to make some kind of point that strikes true to the viewer.

  7. Hey Karandi , fun blog to read as always.

    I think space princess, or empresses/ whatevs kinda make sense.
    You are right that it seems weird you can’t vote for your ruler but I think with space travel being an option, you’d want to elect someone to take the throne at first. Then you want said people to stay there, even when those annoying earthly immigrants come over, let alone aliens coming to live amongst you. Elections would most likely be a mess, with probably much more than just a right and left camp. Both existing with biases towards all planets and species. A princess is a symbol of purity oftenly being a young girl not hard pressed with a political bias yet. If she then does piss off your people she is easier to assassinate than a charismatic elected leader as well. With more room to start rebellions as more people might disagree with her. So it’s a system working for the traditionalists, but doesn’t exclude the progressive system either, all you have to do is convince a young girl rather then a senate That and Star Wars did it!

    1. Star Wars did do space princess as well. You are absolutely right. Though technically that was a ‘long,long time ago’ so maybe they outgrew them.

  8. The political aspects were interesting in sci-fi works. Planetes was a fascinating case of it mirroring real-world sociopolitical elements despite taking place in the 2070s. I always wondered why space princesses were a thing, too.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one troubled by the number of space princesses. Curiosity: Have you ever come across a sci-fi anime that does have a political system that isn’t reflective of one that exists on earth?

I'd love to know what you think.

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