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.
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?
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.