Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reading: Destroy and Revolution, by Kouji Mori (issues 1-10)

I've posted about this manga before on the project blog, after reading just the first issue. Now I'm up to #10 and have a better idea of the story.

The high concept: superhero terrorist bromance. Makoto has amazing superpowers he doesn't want anyone to know about. Yuuki is rich, handsome, and charismatic, but hates society and the entire system, which he identifies with his hated Corporate father. Together they set out to destroy society and replace it with a new order — of which, in classic terrorist fashion, they never get any kind of clear idea. (These are not religious terrorists, who do have a clear idea of what kind of order they want to impose: a totalitarian world Ordenstaat run by themselves.)

#10 is a significant issue because it brings us up to where the story began in #1 and thus serves as a natural end point for Book 1: they destroy a subsidized apartment building intended for Diet (Japanese parliament) members, who tend to be quite rich. On the way to this gambit against the Japanese state, we find out a few things. Apparently Yuuki hates Western values and the common people, both of which he seems to think are embodied in the state. He also wears his hair long to annoy his father, a straitlaced Corporate. And he jealously chases away the girl who likes Makoto. #6 made me shake my head: an old man who exists only in that issue appears to give Makoto a mystical experience of the oneness of all things, which Makoto passes on to Yuuki in #7. For Western secular radicals, this New Age (or, in the specific Japanese context, New Religion) thing is an unwanted intrusion into revolutionary theory. So is the Japanese nationalism, since there's no independence to be won like in, say, Iraq (successful) or Afghanistan (ongoing). And the contempt for the common people that is all too common among revolutionary elites will doom his revolution to mere personal tyranny, since classical revolutionary theory states that the common people are the ground of all revolution. Rebellion against the people invariable reduces to a lust for tyranny. How different, then, is Yuuki from his father, really, when his father is already a tyrant, the all-powerful CEO of a giant corporation? Here in America, class warfare against the people is the war cry of the Corporates. Yuuki isn't waging a social revolution, the only kind that can succeed in Japan or any other country with a mature economy. The French and Russian Revolutions succeeded only to the extent that they remained social, and failed when the revolutionaries turned against the people.

In America, with its tradition of superheroes and adventure strips, Destroy and Revolution would have been a rip-roaring action comic with shocking revelations in the tradition of cinematic political thrillers and expository scenes for the revolutionary theory. In fact, that's the way I originally planned my own Chaos Angel Spanner before I turned it from a webmanga concept into a novelized TV serial. In Japan, action stories tend to be age-limited to shounen (boys') manga. The Destroy and Revolution that author Mori created is less action-oriented and more thoughtful, thus more typical of seinen (young men's) manga.

In any case, the first book concerns itself mainly with the issue of "how we got here" to the act of destruction that kicks off the manga from the meeting of two high school malcontents in scene two. It's just setting up the confrontation between the terrorist heroes and the Japanese government. Japanese tradition actually has a higher opinion of terrorists than the moralistic West, since terrorists have purity of heart the ruling class lack. Purity of heart, or samurai spirit, serves the role that flaming Latin machismo has traditionally played among Latin American guerrillas. Western radicals would rather make the case that the side they're attacking is morally wrong — which leads to the paradox that purity of heart and ideology causes more evil than it solves and is thus one of the traditional banes of Western civilization since the medieval revolts of the antinomian Free Spirit sectarians. Al-Qaeda are very much in the Western tradition of moralistic evil. The showrunner of Serial Experiments Lain wanted to provoke different reactions between Eastern and Western viewers, but failed because he never guessed how Eastern the West has become since the British Empire conquered India in the 18th century. Because its heroes are terrorists, a class of vigilante universally demonized in the West, Destroy and Revolution would serve that intention far more effectively.

These are my impressions as of Book 1. Book 2 has also been fan translated, so there will be a follow-up.

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