Slavery In Another World

Just want to put this post here as food for thought.

Why is slavery such a common plot device in isekai web novels? It’s something I’ve touched upon in earlier blog posts and Twitter threads, but it’s only become a big question within the last year or so, thanks to The Rising of the Shield Hero‘s general popularity with the Western anime community. What was once a curious oddity within the light novel subculture has gotten much more visible now. And thanks to America’s fraught history with chattel slavery and persisting political issues regarding how that history is taught and remembered, isekai slavery is a more controversial topic there.


As a result of all the recent chatter, I became curious about why slavery became such a trend on Narou in the first place. I stumbled upon a story called よくある異世界奴隷事情を現実的に考えてみた (“I Tried Thinking About the Common Isekai Slave Circumstances Realistically”). It’s an essay/short story that explores the topic. I thought it was interesting so I reached out to the author ε-(´∀`; ) and obtained their permission to translate it. Here is the translation:

https://frogkun.com/2019/07/01/i-tried-thinking-about-the-common-isekai-slave-circumstances-realistically/

Well, first of all, thinking about fake slaves sure beats thinking about the KyoAni fire. My condolences to everyone involved but I am just not ready to deal with it. I can use a powerful distraction. Second, Frog-kun please talk about slavery not when everyone is at AX? Thanks.

I’m just going to go scattered brain a bit. For one, regardless if there is (and there is) a difference between how Westerners view chattel slavery versus East Asians view chattel slavery, this is kind of neither here nor there. Putting it in context, we have some light novel writers writing slavery into their works, and it’s not off to assume that these Japanese people are integrated into Japanese society, in the early years of this century. Maybe there are some light novels from the 90s still being turning into anime today but when it comes to this particular discourse, it’s not really as much as historic as it is people using history to interpret a modern thing. Maybe we want to draw from slavery of the past to explain a feeling a writer may have yesterday. And these feelings are byproducts of living beings, in Japan, in the 21st century.

That being said, it feels like slavery, at least in the cases I have encountered in light novel adaptations (as I don’t really read light novels…) are closer to the kind you find in eroge, which is basically just different takes on sexual slavery. I think there are some cases where it isn’t, but invariably the negative space between the enslaved and their benevolent masters allow viewers (or fans, more specifically) inject sexuality into that. There is some notion of devotedness in which are on display at the foreground. It is not unlike how, in Shield Hero, Raphtalia lives for her master, and it is a malleable relationship in which we can interpret Naofumi in a variety of roles (provider, guardian, best friend, parent, lover, brother, etc).

Of course, these fictional relationships are ambiguous, partly because they lack modern analogues. Or rather, their modern analogues are too real to fit a fantasy work of mass consumption by a largely escapist audience. The real problem, similar to my idol rants, is that slavery still exists (both chattel and sexual), and it’s kind of cheeky to lay those into your light novel inspired by entirely different reasons.

The irony of isekai stories about slavery is that, well, for just about everyone involved in these isekai stories–writers, editors, publishers, distributors, retailers, readers–is that modern slavery is effectively a wholly different world that doesn’t overlap. I mean, we call with a different term–human trafficking. Maybe eventually that isekai novel about modern slavery will be the ultimate transcendental brain meme.

To put it in to other words, if people are more familiar with the problem of modern human trafficking (which Japan always be, maybe somewhat undeservedly, maybe not, always a big player in Asia), all this slavery discussion might become less relevant. Naively, I hope at least. I see it the same way as “idol” discussions out west–if people actually knew what idol culture is in reality, they wouldn’t confuse it with fake idol video games and anime. If people knew what modern-day slavery is, they might not kinkshame so much or confuse fantasy nerd self-inserts and bad philosophical signaling with the horrors of real-world slavery.

It’s almost like we are literally talking about slavery in another world. LOL. It’s the sad state of affairs when people cannot separate facts from fiction, because they don’t know what are facts, either due to misinformation or plain old ignorance, and a stubbornness to accept new information.

And it is kind of chilling in some sense. The human trafficking issue in Japan is very similarly patterned–when impoverished youths are exported into Japan and work the sex trade, only because they really have no option, we merely substitute magic spells and metal chains with systemic socioeconomic oppression. Yeah, they may live a much better life as a prostitute! Sure beats being a prostitute in a poorer country. They can afford healthcare! LOL. But com’on.

PS. Ever watch YOU wa nanishini nippon e? They interview some of these laborers under the TITP program.

PPS. Dr. Stone is basically an isekai isn’t it.

PPPS. The prevalence of slavery in isekai works today (of a certain style I should say) may very well be a symbolic representation of the yoke of the tools of society on its people. It would be way too raw to write about real human trafficking, but it is comfortable (for some) to enjoy magical slavery where one’s master is kind and takes care of us. After all, it would be ideal to find employment where your bosses are kind and takes care of you. For example. And of course don’t you rather want to be the boss and not be bossed around? Thus, isekai slavery as a proxy of human relationship in which the gears of society is proxied as magical slavedom now is a thing.


Anime North 2019: Wrap

I should add a huge question mark to this post, in that I YOLO’d Anime North to see Toda Megumi during Memorial Day weekend (in the States). I skipped Friday, mainly because of work reasons, but I carpooled with fellow Million Live P Moy Friday night and arrived in Toronto early Saturday. I stuck around and went home Sunday. It was a really quick sort of a deal.

Toronto has this great aspect to it for me in that it’s a well-equipped city that runs on Canadian Dollars, which currently has great rates against the USD. Road tripping again this year was fun, now that I know the routine and can just pace myself.

The con only gave Toda 2 signkai and 1 panel, so it was fortunate that I was able to catch the panel at all, and the signkai on Saturday. She was more or less what you would expect and she approached the oversea panel challenge in a fairly fun kind of way even if the crowd was pretty quiet.

I did prereg and picked up my badge pretty fast. The rain on Friday and Saturday was more annoying than any crowding, although there were a large group out and about in the parking area as per usual Anime North. Parking was quickly going by the time I got there at around 10am.

I didn’t really expect to do much at Anime North this year nor did I. The rain definitely put a damper on things. There were other exciting exigencies, which I’ll detail later.

Toda’s panel was not really eventful and now a couple months later it’s hard for me to recall much. There were some Japanese guys asking her role in New Game. That and Million Live were the bulk of it. She did end up going to the Falls and downtown Toronto, and seemed to have a good time? She also got a nice view from the CN Tower, which is a nice deja vu moment for me.

I asked her about weight training because she tweeted about it around that time, but it was mostly her training for more stamina for Fukuoka. I was kind of out of it due to lack of sleep so it was a bit more embarrassing than usual to think about to that experience.

For signkai, we talked about Meisou Mind being her favorite song, which she also mentioned during the panel. I had Makoto gear on so, lol.

The remainder of the weekend was for The World Standard, the fun Avex Trax backed idol group. Fun because, well, they’re fun. They are also in the middle of their prime years as idols, ranging ages 18-21 I think? Wasuta had a nice turn out since GTA is now a tiger’s den, but a lot of Japanese visitors also flew in. All of Wasuta’s events at the con were Saturday and Sunday, so that was nice for me, had I cared enough.

It was a crash course in learning about the group. I have only heard of them maybe a year-ish ago but before the con I looked them up on Twitter and IG. Not bad but still kind of stilted. I guess that’s what it means to be a Japanese idol this day and age.

Their live show Saturday night was fun and reminded me of WUG a little lol. Definitely some of the dance moves and the way their live videos are used are similar. I went to their panel Sunday. Really the only thing I did there, plus a signkai, on Sunday. Then it was time to bid the con farewell.

What else happened at the con? (Foregoing my usual postscript…)

  • We ate at a new steakhouse and it was great. The dessert was tops. We also “heard” game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at the steakhouse. Toronto is serious about their Raptors. “Heard” because it was a really loud crowd.
  • On the way to GTA I realized about 4 and half hours in that I left my passport home. Well, we ended up getting into Canada anyways because I had my Global Entry card. The thing does not substitute for a passport, but at discretion of the Canadian officer they could let you in. The main thing is, you can re-enter the States with it. If I was denied entry I at least can drop off Moy so he can mass transit into Canada, so we got to the border earlier than planned. As a result of this we ended up with less sleep than initially planned Friday night into Saturday, and we ended up stopping at a charger somewhere south of Toronto to have breakfast and kill some time. I didn’t even get to eat that complimentary breakfast at the hotel in Syracuse…
  • We stopped at around Niagara-on-the-lakes to buy booze to bring back to the States, on the way home. With just Wasuta, we got lots of time going home.
  • We also stopped to eat some pickled pizza in Syracuse.
  • Saturday was a pretty straining day, so after we were done with Toda’s events, we ate at Zets and I just crashed pretty hard.
  • Wastua girls were at the con exhibition area Saturday giving out flyers to their show. Their show was pretty decently attended and probably what you would expect for a 25k+ con.
  • Some JP fans definitely came and camped for it, and I saw some signs of at least normal wota behavior.

Toronto isn’t too far from Buffalo, so I guess the wings are legit enough.


Anime Expo 2019: Wrap

I went to AX and had that very special, only-at-AX experience, then I went home. Unusual for this year, I went to AX from Japan, and invariably flew from Tokyo to LA on a plane with JP industry on it. It also meant I had to pack for Japan and LA before I left, meaning I probably omitted a few things in the process that could be useful (like more WUG stuff for repping it).

Also, my body doesn’t really know which jet lag symptom to apply so I just feel generally fatigued now. It did not help I flew back on a redeye from LAX to EWR but at least I had the faux premium economy [booking a premium economy seat on flights that has the hardware but not selling the software] experience, which is something I cannot complain, even as someone who somehow has airline status.

Nor can I really complain about any of my flights this trip, both to LA and just in general between leaving for Fukuoka and coming home. The funny thing was, I wanted to see what flying is like for the JP industry side, but I ended up getting a bump to business so I really was in a strange, strange place that doesn’t give me any stalking options. The business cabin on that UA 787-9 was the older style which proved to be spacious if not very private, but I can’t complain about that. Oddly it probably served the most expensive meal I had all trip until I blew it open at M-Grill.

As usual AX is about eating, so let me get that out of the way first. We went to a Hakata-style yakiniku place one night (Aqours Earthquake night) and it was great, because after the grilling we also had motsunabe. I don’t mind it after eating it twice in Fukuoka. It is my kind of food.

The M-Grill trip was great too because we got a ton of pineapples, plus the meats were great as usual. Again, the MVPs have to be that, the chicken heart, and the ribeye.

I also had the privilege to attend the “dimsum panel” at a Shanghainese place, as well as some home cooking for homesick Chinese expats who were doing the AX thing without going to AX. Giant vat of slow-cooked chicken soup? It felt more China than any con.

Other than the earthquake, which I won’t go into detail here, the other relevant thing was that Yard House lost power that same evening. Great if you just got brews right before, not so much if you haven’t gotten anything. or had to wait until the power comes back to pay. They had to shut the place down and evac because the grills all had to shut down as there was no ventilation.

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Million Live 6th Tour Fukuoka

Kind of have this live write-up on the back burner because I wrote about it on Twitter fairly extensively. Then I read this tweet.

Like, it’s pretty reasonable, considering my own costs are in the same ballpark. I spent less on housing (shared an airbnb with friend), I spent less on chuusen (like, 14000 or so), I spent less on goods (about 30000 total), less on UOs (one box, 2800 at Yodobashi Hakata), and probably more on uchiage since I went to two (like 8000?). But 9600 on UO is putting that in perspective if you don’t know why your children are starving.

Anyway, I spent like 4000 on a set of binoculars after day 1, which I will thus explain with the rest of this post.

IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE 6th TOUR: UNI-ON ON AIR Fairy Station Fukuoka: Why did I buy binoculars for Fukuoka day 2

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They Stopped Trying to Name Things in 2019

With Spring anime almost over it’s time to look at the Summer cour offerings. So then I learned about Oosuki Mamako and her son, Oosuki Masato, from the light-novel-turn-anime title Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? In Japanese it’s 通常攻撃が全体攻撃で二回攻撃のお母さんは好きですか? I think both names give me the same kind of headache. I should say all 4 names, eh.

This Spring season is featuring two series with interesting names. And let’s be clear, anime with interesting names for characters are not unusual. There are usually at least one per cour. In Bocchi, the characters are all plays on their character archetypes. They go in as far as making them not just jokes themselves but also deep introspective points.

In Joshikausei, the main character is named Futo Momoko. I was going to crown this one winner of lol names category in Year In Review 2019 already.

Well, names of the characters are really important for anyone writing fiction. This is a kinda-universal thing that I learned, from classic British lit to folklore in China to light novel and video games. I don’t think you can put too much emphasis on how things are named, even though at times they aren’t significant either.

The joke names, though, reflects an attitude of these narrative. They are comedies. And we need more comedies in our lives, especially ones based on fiction. It feels mainstream entertainment tend to veer nonfiction for humor and fiction for the serious. Anime feels a strong buckling of this trend. Like, Bocchi deals with some serious issues and is generally a very sincere story, but it’s a comedy.

Sometimes, the name of the character is like the opening animation for the anime. You get it even in the opening animation, even. It’s what you see first about somebody. It help sets the viewer’s or reader’s expectation. And sometimes you really wonder what to expect from a title and characters like those from Okasuki [#お母好き].