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The World is Mine - a Philosophical and Religious Analysis

I Affirm Myself

This is a rewrite of a blog I wrote around two years ago. After revisiting it last night, I found myself incredibly embarrassed at the content and structure of the whole thing. This current version will hopefully be better than the writings of the 15 year old me.

The World is Mine, or TWIM, is a story written by mangaka Hideki Arai which appears on its face to just be a subversive view of political terrorism, yet contained in its many chapters is a far more intricate narrative. Arai provides in the subtext of this manga, a fictive lens through which to view the ideas of Hegel and Nietzsche, an excellent satire of Japanese-American relations, and a modern view of divine retribution.

TWIM follows the terrorist duo ToshiMon as they engage in a mass bombing campaign throughout the urban centers of Japan. The two are incredibly different in temperament however they are bound together by their pursuit for power. Toshi is an introverted young mailman obsessed with creating bombs and more genuinely the grand power that they afford him. His partner Mon lives similar to that which one would expect of primitive man, to Toshi he represents a power worthy of awe and worship. Mon undergoes a development throughout the story towards what can only be described as transcendence. This evolution follows in multiple stages, both dialectical and religious, seemingly mirroring that of Nietzsche’s Zarathurstra. Toshi’s character progression is contingent upon Mon, viewing him as a godlike being, yet hating him at the same time. As Mon transforms Toshi does so as well, becoming increasingly violent and disillusioned with modern society.

The two’s attachment is not disimlar from the narrative presented in Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic. He outlines a conflict between two subjects, each able to recognize the other as equally self-aware beings. Both — in this case Toshi and Mon — seek to be recognized as self-aware by the other, making certain that they truly are a thinking beings. In order to guarantee this recognition, the subject must enslave the other, thus turning them into an object. The first contradiction of the relationship stems from this act, in objectifying the other, the Master no longer regards them as self-aware. This new relationship deprives each subject of their self-awareness while ensuring that both remain dependent on the other..

This dialectic is manifested in Mon and Toshi’s relationship in that Mon refuses to acknowledge Toshi as human, referring to him as a demon and a monster; Mon, in contrast, regards himself as king and absolute. Even despite Mon’s abuses, Toshi stays with him because of the possibility that at one point he will be recognized, maybe not by Mon, but by his bombing victims. By the time he and Mon end their first campaign, Toshi has thrown away his own morality, stating, “I don't know if we’re the heroes or the bad guys… but it would be more fun if we made history.” The exchange in which he makes this statement is entirely one sided with Mon only answering, “Im Hungry.”

The dialectic between Toshi and Mon only lasts for so long; eventually divine retribution catches up to them in the form of Higumadon, a giant dog-bear seemingly originating from heaven to punish humanity. Mon hallucinates that he and Toshi have been killed by Higumadon in a snowy forest, this causes him to experience awe and fear for the first time. Mon must now reckon with the fact that there is a force greater than himself; perceiving this as a loss of power, Toshi assumes Mon's role of master in a pseudo-equal truce.

Toshi from this point forward grows more bitter and disillusioned with society, turning into a somewhat crude imitation of the primitive Mon. Mon in turn grows increasingly passive and finds himself hurt when he sees wounds on others. The fear and awe he felt facing Higumadon granted him empathy, taking him one step closer to escaping the dialectic. Higumadon has become his master, not in a dialectical context, but in a religious one.

In the manga there are two main “prophesies” that are given to Toshi, one predicting the arrival of Mon and the other predicting Higumadon’s destruction of Odate. The prophecies allude to each great power as having fallen from heaven to punish humanity. Further alluding to this theme of divine retribution is the relation of Odate and the biblical city of Sodom. Sodom and Gomorrah were two cities deemed wicked by god, the story — along with the great flood — is a symbol of divine retribution. The destruction of Sodom represents not just divine retribution, but also god’s infinite capacity for cruelty. There is an alternate myth of Sodom in the Gnostic faith which describes it’s destruction as a tragedy brought on by a demon just after the teachings of Christianity are brought by the prophet Shem. This alternate story more closely parallels TWIM as it affirms Higumadon as a more morally ambiguous entity, and keeps the metaphor of ToshiMon as prophets. (I may write a more religious analysis of TWIM eventually).

During Higumadon’s attack on the city of Odate, Mon undergoes a sort of rebirth shown in visions he has while unconscious. He first sees himself as a child, witnessing a series of fireworks; he then sees himself drowning and falling back down to earth; and finally he finds himself in a plain of sunflowers blowing in the wind. Sequentially, these visions visions represent; absolute power, salvation, and Mon’s ultimate goal of creating paradise.

Quick Write-Up on the Hegelian Dialectic

The Hegelian dialectic is a model of conceptualizing hierarchies, viewing them as a result of the desire for recognition, among other qualifiers; much critique of the dialectic is focused upon the initial premise that all men start on equal footing, one solution provided to this blind spot is the entire practice of critical theory, which examines power structures as they occur in reality without the greater angle of a dialectic.

The dialectic assumes some things are true, these being that:

  • People have an intuitive idea that they have a conscious experience
  • To have absolute knowledge of the idea that they are Self-Conscious they must be recognized as such by a subject.
  • Useful recognition must come from a being equal to the subject to the degree that they recognize the object (the being) as a Self-Consciousness, in other words recognition must be mutual.
  • Each subject seeks to subordinate the other in order to keep this recognition.

From these qualifiers we enter the chronological order of the dialectic in the instances of three ends to a fight.

  • Both die
  • Neither achieve the recognition they desire, they both become objects rather than subjects
  • Both subjects' will to live was superseded by their desire for recognition.

  • One dies
  • The Subject left is not satisfied as he cannot gain recognition from an object
  • Both or one of the subjects' will to live was superseded by their desire for recognition.

  • Neither dies
  • One subject is recognized as they won the fight, they forcefully subordinate the other by enacting mortal fear within them.
  • The one who risked their life for recognition becomes the Master, he who did not risk his life becomes the slave.

From this fight, the dialectic is formed; I will now list the traits of the Master and of the Slave

  • Master
  • Is recognized by the slave who lacks recognition from the master
  • Lives off the labor provided by the slave (negation)
  • Has no inherent characteristics, only those that occur from his relation to the slave

  • Slave
  • Prepares objects for negation
  • Lives in absolute fear of the master
  • Transforms objects and therefore the world through labor

Eventually the master realizes that recognition from a subject he does not recognize is illegitimate, there is no longer one worthy of being his equal and therefore he is once more reduced to an object. The slave however, who desired power less than his will to live, becomes recognized; not through an “other” but through his creations, he sees his tangible impact on the world and the manifestation of his consciousness through art and labour.

A Brief Biography of Balanchine and the Birth of Neoclassical Ballet

One of the greatest contributions to modern ballet in America came not from Americans but instead Russian defectors who revolutionized the standards and methods of the companies of the era. The most impactful of these Russian defectors was "the Father of American Ballet" George Balanchine, who created the momentum necessary to allow commercial ballet to flourish in America.

“God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it - from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do.”

George Balanchine studied ballet in russia for the early years of his life practicing the Vaganova discipline of ballet from the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. After displaying enormous talent he was quickly swept into a professional career with the ballet russes company. Balanchine travelled the soviet union with this company performing traditional ballets all consistent with vaganova styling, he grew bored of this and feared the artistic repression he was faced with in the Ballet Russes. During a trip to germany with this company he fled to Paris for artistic freedom, this event is considered the starting point of "American ballet" as we know it (previous to the Baryshnikov era, more on that next blog!!!). In Paris he began forming his own form of "neoclassical" ballet, blending elements of musical theatre and jazz with his Vaganova training to give each movement a more dramatic and dynamic quality. His Paris endeavors culminated in a collaboration project with Stravinsky; Apollo. the ballet sought to display the holiness of the greek god with his iconic lute; what differentiated it from previous attempts of representing apollo was an almost hollywood-like quality to the choreography, such as steps modified with slides and jazz arms (totally novel movements in a professional ballet setting).

Due to this, Apollo later came to be known as the first neoclassical ballet. After George Balanchine left Paris for America he gained experience dancing in broadway and hollywood acts, places which would directly impact his conception of what a ballet could be. He would spend much of his professional dancing career there, honing his technique and choreography into what i can now only refer to as "distinctly Balanchine". Balanchine would later move to new york after an injury would prevent him from dancing professionally, there he founded the New York City Ballet Studio Company and School of American ballet with the arts patron Lincoln Kirsten who would continue to finance his creative endeavors. These two organizations were based upon his new technique as opposed to already established disciplines such as Royal ballet or Russian Vaganova ballet. His first piece in America; Serenade, was an instant classic, the ballet (which i performed recently) incorporated elements of choreography from the tragic ballet Giselle and a very modern jazz styling of the port de bras (carriage of the arms). From then on Balanchine — or Mr.B as he was known to those close to him — created many ballets all consistent with this styling such as the Jewels series of works and the short piece "Square Dance".

Accompanying Balanchines new form of American ballet was a drastic rise in the standards of skill required to be considered a "real" professional ballet dancer, suddenly century old pieces performed regularly in Europe were required of the much less skilled american dancers. A large race to the top in New York ensued in which hundreds of ballet studios were founded and then collapsed, each with either a novel technique or simply trying to replicate Balanchine. Until the Baryshnikov era however the Balanchine discipline of ballet reigned supreme in America.