[OWLS] Learning From Fantasy?

Hey guys! Welcome back to the blog for another OWLS blog post. I think today we’ll just get straight to the point because this huge bag of candies won’t eat themselves!

In the month of October, we will be exploring the world of fantasy in pop culture. The genre of fantasy focuses on telling stories about our external and internal environments. There are many ways we can interpret the word fantasy. For example, we can talk about how a fantastical place could glorify what reality should be, or the dangers of ideal expectations. Fantasy could also be seen as taking a “wild journey” or a “hallucination,” and how that can affect our psyche and well-being. Additionally, fantasy can focus on our personal dreams and expectations, and how those expectations do not align with our reality. Overall, our posts will reflect on how we view the fantasy genre and what we can learn about these pop culture mediums.

Harry Potter
Norn 9
Ancient Magnus Bride

As some of you guys may or may not have heard, I have an affinity towards history. But it wasn’t always like this. While in elementary school, history and anything associated with the government were the banes of my existence, more so because I can distinctly remember my history teacher yelling at me to stop copying exactly what was in the textbook. I think my teacher just wanted to say that and decided to yell at the first person who she saw writing…which was me. From there my grades went from Cs to Ds and history was the only class I ever failed in high school. It was a terrible blemish on my otherwise average high school transcript

When I got to university and I saw that I only had to take ONE history course for my associates, I was so glad I could almost cry. Except that this is when things changed. Instead of barely passing my class, I was the top student and my teacher wasn’t shy about telling it to the class, which always caused me embarrassment. Why the sudden jump? I could list all of the things that I was able to do now that my sixth-grade teacher wasn’t breathing down my neck, but the thing that really made the difference was the attitude of my college teacher

I feel it’s very rare that you get a teacher that is truly passionate about teaching, that they can express this to their class and inspire them. Maybe it has something to do with the subject, how many years a teacher has been teaching, the school environment that has students seeing teachers as enemies, or just a teacher’s reserved personality. Whatever the reason, I had never before seen a history teacher ADORE what they were doing. I’m sure my teacher would have loved to talk to us about Native American history for hours if we’d let her

Now, you guys are probably wondering why the heck I’m telling this story. I promise it’s related to my OWLS post!

Now, as an FYI, in the US,  you get an associate degree at a 2-year college and classes are typically equivalent to your first two years of your Bachelor’s degree, depending on what you’re going to study. These classes usually fall under the liberal arts and social sciences and elective labels, so when you graduate with an Associate of Arts, you generally transfer into a 4-year college as a junior where you begin to take more specialized classes (assuming you cross-checked that everything would transfer without a problem to your desired university – why are things so complex?!)

This is what I did and because of this experience with my history teacher, I did something I never thought I’d do: I declared myself a history major!

Long story short, I never graduated with a history degree but I took as many history classes as I could and now history is sort of like my side passion. It’s a side passion I constantly have to drill into my head and that’s what I have been spending my days doing lately. And the series I want to talk about, that you guys might have guessed already…

Saga of Tanya the Evil is a historical fiction anime of a Japanese salaryman who gets killed by an employee he has laid off, gets punished by “God” (Being X) for being an immoral atheist, and ends up reincarnated as “Tanya” in a fantasy world that is eerily identical to the modern world’s early twentieth century. So similar that you could say that Tanya is a German citizen during the beginnings of the Great War. And not just any citizen but an exceptional child soldier who climbs the ranks in the military like a walk in the park, scares her subordinates (and other officers double to triple her age) to death, and has no remorse for her enemies (whatever that may mean)

The great tragedy of this series is that it’s been filed away by the anime police force as being problematic and promoting nationalistic beliefs. If that were the case, then wouldn’t ALL media be problematic for one reason or another? But that’s not exactly what I want to talk about

The reason that I chose Tanya for this month’s Fantasy tour is that it’s a series that shows us a couple of things that I feel are important, especially right now

One is the “what if” scenario…what would things have been like if Germany had won the war? At the end of the first season, we get to see The Empire (Germany) celebrating the end of the war and their victory, meanwhile, Tanya sees a flaw in this “end” and wishes to properly end things by killing the remaining Republic (French) army, which she realizes is temporarily fleeing to the Southern Continent (Africa)

She’s ordered not to do anything by her superiors who believe that all fighting should cease and unless she wants to die by firing squad, her hands are tied. As the episode continues, we learn that the war will continue because the Republic is filled with resentment over the occurrences during the war. They vow to achieve True Victory and to restore their pride. Sounds a lot like the Germans and one of the many reasons that led to World War II

This ties into the second thing this series shows us and it’s probably something people don’t want to see. The Germans – the Nazis we learned about in school and have been told are terrible murderers (because aside from this, what else do we really learn about Germany?) – can be anyone. In this series, they are the Republic. In a parallel world, the loser in the game could have been anyone and they could have felt resentment for their loss and continued one of the great tragedies of our history

One of the things that you learn as a university student studying history – assuming you are attending an open minded college, which is a tragedy, you’d think this should be the norm – is that everything isn’t what it seems. The victors write a universal history, your teachers have their own biases (unless they’re good about showing you enough perspectives to leave you dizzy in confusion) which dictate lessons and opinions on events and figures, and where you live can drastically change what history you are taught

I’m sure you’ve all heard the rage on the internet (and IRL) about how terrible the US is about the history of the indigenous and blacks in America and how we tend to hide all the terrible things we’ve done throughout the years. We always try to present ourselves as leaders and righteous. And perhaps that’s why we dub series like Tanya as problematic and send hate mail to anyone who so much as mentions it. Because shows like this are too realistic and can show us how flawed we are

This leads me to the third thing – this series shows us that the Empire’s citizens (Germans) are everyday people just like anyone else. If we ignore the fact that Tanya is a reincarnated Japanese salaryman, you just have a person who wants to live a normal life away from dangers, which she always tries to aim for…except God won’t allow it. If you do take in the fact that Tanya is a reincarnated Japanese salaryman…well, if a Japanese man can easily fill the shoes of a merciless German, who’s to say an American, or British, or whatever other nationality, can’t do the same if their situations were reversed? Remember the Stanford prison experiment

I won’t say that I entirely sympathize with Tanya, after all, there are times where she does go overboard (especially when she first joined the army), but generally, I see her as someone who wants to keep her comrades alive and herself somewhere nice and safe. And her men (and woman) are as normal as they can get. They just want the war to end, sleep on a comfy bed, and eat some good food. This all sounds like something I can get behind and this comradery is a sentiment that fuels a lot of actions that people take IRL.

We always want to protect the people we love but sometimes we only make things worse, either by creating more hate among communities or by doing something that we normally wouldn’t consider humane (and may come to regret). I mean, killing is acceptable during wartimes as self-defense, but why is it okay? To me, killing is killing and should be considered terrible regardless (hm, except if maybe someone is one-on-one trying to kill you…oh god, this is tough!). Unfortunately, I don’t know what the right course of action would be during conflicts like this but OWLS did have a diplomacy tour once, maybe you’d all like to take a look at those posts

The bad thing about history is that people usually think it’s something that happened in the past and stayed there, but if you study events in history, you’ll learn that nothing ever truly stays in the past. It’s always in our peripheral, either waiting for the opportunity to reappear in front of our eyes or temporarily out of sight, already planted in the future and ready to take us by surprise. By surprise because there aren’t teachers that inspire us to really search for what’s hidden until you get to university and not everyone has that privilege. Or maybe you’re just too busy with trying to live that finding the time to be informed just isn’t feasible

Whatever the reason and surprisingly (considering the technological advances) a great majority of the world remains unaware of a lot of things happening at a state and federal level regardless of it being history or our present

I recently read a book called Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright, which does a good job of tying past events to present events. Whether you believe her argument on the signs of fascism surfacing in the US is entirely up to the reader, but I do recommend it as an interesting read. In the meantime, I’d like to spend my days trying to educate myself. It may take me a while, nonfiction puts me to sleep in a snap, which is another reason I love historical anime

It makes learning way more fun!

Welp! That rounds up my tenth consistent OWLS post! If you haven’t already, check out Naja’s post over at Blerdy Otome. The OWLS roundup will be coming out soon, along with the reveal of our November theme!! Keep updated by following the OWLS blog

6 thoughts on “[OWLS] Learning From Fantasy?”

  1. Even in University, the teachers don’t necessarily tell us to seek out what is intentionally hidden or even just obscured by the bushes of life. Early in my time at university, I had a professor who gave me much grief because I was in the National Guard at the time. According to him, that made me a tool of the American war machine. Bizarre.

    You know, all we ever did was maintain communications for things like earthquake and forest fire emergencies. Never saw a single minute of combat over my entire 6 years.
    Never fired a shot in anger. The meaning of what I was doing, civic duty, was lost on him. Had a few other profs who had a particular spin they wanted put on things. It wasn’t easy being true to myself and not getting graded badly and I walked a fine line, writing on only the most boring and uncontroversial topics.

    Of course, this was probably long before you were born. But it turned me off academia. Wasn’t until I later returned and caught a couple of good teachers as a returning adult that I reconsidered.

    We are all just humans. My father was a POW camp guard later in the war. He said the German and Italian soldiers he guarded were nobody to hate. They were just happy to be out of the war and safe. Of course, there were a few hard cases, like the Nazi party fanatics, and the SS. But even most of them were just doing what they thought was best for themselves and their families. If you got brownie points for joining, that’s what you did.

    Just like most Communist Party members in the old USSR were just in it to get higher pay and better career options and such. Not because they were enamored of sending off dissidents to the gulags but because they’d be the first in line when the new products came into the stores.

    Our ability to divide into “us vs them” at the slightest drop of a hat seems to be innate and difficult to overcome. The fact that we ARE them – just in a luckier place – is too easily ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

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