The Inevitable Politics of Anime About Police, Detectives and Everyday Heroes

This is partially inspired by Scott’s piece on religion, money and politics and partially inspired by something Doug says at the end of the second episode of Double Decker.

Writing about the world you’re in or a fictional version of it is bound to mean you’re making some meta commentary on the condition of said world – whether that be the rules, the social norms or something else. So naturally, having anime (and manga, but I’m only focussing on anime here) that centre on police, detectives and/or heroes are bound to have some sort of political commentary. Most of the time, having a detective step in while the police are at the scene amounts to “the police are useless” if the detective in question isn’t an occult detective, but useless against…what? That’s where shows tend to differ.

Sidenote: Occult detectives such as Loki (Matantei Loki Ragnarok) have their own set of commentary which isn’t quite relevant to this post. That’s why they’re probably a topic for another time…

Take Samurai Flamenco, for instance. Sure, past episode 7 its commentary is more about the status of being a “hero” involves fighting threats others can’t tackle and fighting them in your own way (although hypothetically those morals could belong to any of the shows addressed in this post), but that’s intertwined with how the police are useless against smaller unreported crimes, at least in the very beginning. This is expanded to a crazier scale when it’s revealed the prime minister of Japan is focussing solely on his ratings (it’s to boost his mechanical suit’s power, but same difference), which is probably how all the smaller crimes and wackier tokusatsu heroes managed to continue existing in the first place.

Welp, it wouldn’t be a post on heroes without Boku no Hero Academia, so let’s look at that next. Aside from the more obvious messages of “everyone can be a hero with the right mindset and determination”, the pro heroes of that world are entrusted to be as good as police, if not more due to their ability to use hard power to enforce justice. As shown time and time again in the series, being a hero means using your head to obey existing laws and norms, just as much as your fists need to do damage when words aren’t enough. As for the bit about detectives…in Boku no Hero Academia‘s case, it’s mostly up to the police and pro heroes to also act as detectives, but Deku does step up to that role at times as well.

To take an example from an even more recent anime (i.e. it’s airing right now), the anvil of that message gets dropped pretty hard at the end of Double Decker‘s second episode, where it’s revealed Doug wants to get rid of 1) poverty and 2) class. The first one is hypothetically possible in purely monetary terms, considering the baseline for extreme poverty, as used by one of the Millennium Development Goals, is cited to be US $1.25. By observing Kirill’s apartment in the first episode, he obviously has more than that, although in only two episodes, it’s hard to tell whether he worked his way out of poverty (which would be a capitalist success story) or whether someone took him in (which isn’t that relevant in the context of this post). The second one…er, not so much. I feel like I’m going to make internet enemies if I start spouting off about why eradicating social classes might be a bad thing though, so let’s not pursue that idea any further.

Aside from that societal spiel, Double Decker is probably the most blatant when it comes to its interconnection between police, detectives and heroism. Seven-O hold the role of detectives (and police when Anthem is involved), the local police – Kirill’s former colleagues – jump in where they can’t. Finally, Kirill’s aim is to become a cool hero…like Doug. Or Jefferson. Or that guy who’s mentioned at the start of the first episode, Sam Purcell, who’s basically Double Decker‘s equivalent to Tiger and Bunny‘s Mr Legend.

Sorry about the abrupt ending and the cutoff in the middle of the paragraph. At first I only wanted to rant about what Doug said and was clearly more in international studies mode for that, but the more I typed, the more I thought the topics I was tackling were ones people get a little too passionate about, in ways that might cause angry screeds to show up in the Spellbook comment section…ones Scott specifically warned about at the start of his post.

Anyways, there’s definitely more shows that discuss at least two of these three topics and their interconnections. I could’ve included Detective Conan/Case Closed, for instance. So, what’s your favourite series (manga or anime) about the nature of heroism? I could always do with some recs on that front.


4 thoughts on “The Inevitable Politics of Anime About Police, Detectives and Everyday Heroes

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  1. The more I think about it, the more I think either HunterxHunter or Yu Yu Hakusho have interesting explorations on what makes a hero.

    This was such a great take on my post. The exploration on people and society and police in different anime and mediums in general and how they can be useless needs to be explored more.

    Liked by 1 person

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