ANPANMAN, SAITAMA AND ALTHUSSER SITTING IN A BAR

H-hello? It’s been more than a year since I posted something, wow. I actually drafted 2 long posts but life is cruel and my motivation is non-existent. Hence, I’m back with something I promised my friend and with second season starting, why not publish here as well?

In the form of screenshots, as well ~~

I never felt the need to comment on this, most probably because never thought this deeply about both of the shows however, what got my gears into moving was Namjoon’s review of their album LY : Tear. In his Vlive, he mentioned how he preferred Anpanman over One Punch Man because instead of being an almighty powerful character like Saitama, Anpanman was weak, in order to help the others they were sacrificing from themselves and thus, more of a relatable character for BTS.

I first learned about Anpanman after reading (and then watching) One Punch Man, since Anpanman was the inspiration for One during the process of creating the characters. Together with Mob Psycho 100, these mangas deal with the notion of “power” in very unique ways and that’s what drew me in to these series. Looking at both ANP and OPM side by side, I think they both encapsulate their respectful historical backgrounds extremely well.

Although ANP had started being serialized in 1973, we know that Takashi Yanase based the character on his unfortunate experiences during WW2, where he was at the beginnings of his 20’s. Of course, main reason of the characters’ and the story line’s simplicity is due to show being geared towards children, so I don’t think a very deep reading is necessary. In this regard, I just want to point out that due to political climate of the WW2, some post-war literature examples included, the “extremely good” and “extremely bad” – two opposite extremes of the moral spectrum was the way some viewed the world.Which is plausible, you have pure evil on one hand and victims who are being sent to death camps for just existing. However, I truly like the naivety and the notion of giving from yourself to lighten the burden on others.

Fast-forwarding to our modern world, where does all this put Saitama, our mighty hero who sacrificed his hair through ”rigorous” training? I think he’s the embodiment of a modern person trapped in between the wheels of capitalism. Saitama had the dream of becoming a superhero when he was a kid. His dream was pure as it could get, naive and excited as much as the next kid. However, growing up, he faces the reality of the world and gives up on his dream. He’s dejected from failing each and every job interview he tried for, tired of having to put up with something he doesn’t want to be a part of in the first place. That’s when he meets the giant crab villain looking for a kid (who happens to be the son of the founder of Hero Association). Saitama doesn’t really care what happens to the kid, he keeps questioning his motives even when he’s fighting the villain and putting his own life on the line  to save the child. Although he starts off reflexively, doing something “right” or “worthy” rekindles his childhood excitement and that’s when he starts his training regime to become a superhero.

What’s important to point out here first, is The Hero Association. What should be born out of rightfulness or moral obligation of an individual as we usually see in American hero stories, Hero Association is extremely “corporal”.

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Heroes have hierarchy amongst themselves, their monthly salary is decided according to their levels. They may get promotion or demotion depending on their performance. They have a company building, have meetings with the CEO or founder, work together with police force, they hold written and physical exams to employ new heroes. The notion of “being a hero” is institutionalized, dissected and is controlled, it’s a profession that doesn’t necessarily depend on the feeling of  moral duty of the individual. This institutionalization makes way for the job to become a part of capitalist scheme and heroism has become a part of the overall ideology’s tool.

Then, you have Saitama as a part of this institution. He screams that he never wanted to become a businessman, yet  his childhood dream of being a hero doesn’t help him escape the dull and exploitative cycle of work life either.

Carefully considering his situation, he’s so overqualified for his job to a point where no one believes his strength. He’s a C-level hero who has to wander around, searching for potential villains so he can meet the “quota”, hopefully promote to B-level and earn more. Not only he’s not recognized or praised for his hard work, since his potential is not used fully and he cannot find a single villain worthy of calling an opponent, he feels hollow. He knows he doesn’t make any impact on world peace, considering the amount of villains is not dropping in any way, he loses his determination and will to continue the job as he wanted to when he was a kid.

This alienation Saitama feels is very interesting, and I think, very relatable as well. He no longer has any vision for the future of the country/other people/himself. When Genos appears at his door, begging him to be his master so he can take revenge, Saitama only accepts him after Genos offers to pay half the rent and bills, not because Saitama wants to pass on his own techniques or values for the next generation. What all these made me think was, although Saitama can bring down each and every villain there is to exist with just a single punch, the only enemy he is yet to defeat is something that is smaller than him, yet it has seeped into every corner of our lives so strongly that we cannot identify the whole, or point out a definite and pure evil, it eats our energy away, draining us a little bit while staying completely invisible.

What makes this alienation to his own dream and circumstances this powerful? And what exactly brings Saitama down? I want to quote two parts from Althusser’s Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, where he dwells on the endless chain and circulation of capital, where labor-power (=worker) stands in Marxist theory.

“A moment’s reflection is enough to be convinced of this: Mr X, a capitalist who produces woolen yarn in his spinning-mill, has to ‘reproduce’ his raw material, his machines, etc. But he does not produce them for his own production – other capitalists do: an Australian sheep farmer, Mr Y, a heavy engineer producing machine-tools, Mr Z, etc., etc. And Mr Y and Mr Z, in order to produce those products which are the condition of the reproduction of Mr X’s conditions of production, also have to reproduce the conditions of their own production, and so on to infinity – the whole in proportions such that, on the national and even the world market, the demand for means of production (for reproduction) can be satisfied by the supply.”

Hence, dividing the totality of production enables one to lose control over the whole process, making them dependent on other branches for reproduction of what constitutes of their livelihood.

“How is the reproduction of labour-power ensured?

It is ensured by giving labour-power the material means with which to reproduce itself: by wages. Wages feature in the accounting of each enterprise, but as ‘wage capital’ ,* not at all as a condition of the material reproduction of labour-power.

However, that is in fact how it ‘works’, since wages represent only that part of the value produced by the expenditure of labour-power which is indispensable for its reproduction: sc. indispensable to the reconstitution of the labour-power of the wage-earner (the wherewithal to pay for housing, food and clothing, in short to enable the wage earner to present himself again at the factory gate the next day – and every further day God grants him) ; and we should add: indispensable for raising and educating the children in whom the proletarian reproduces himself (in n models where n = 0, 1 , 2, etc. . . .) as labour-power.

Remember that this quantity of value (wages) necessary for the reproduction of labour-power is determined not by the needs of a ‘biological’ guaranteed minimum wage [salaire minimum interprefcssionnel garanti] alone, but by the needs of a historical minimum (Marx noted that English workers need beer while French proletarians need wine) – i.e. a historically variable minimum.

* Marx gave it its scientific concept: variable capital.”

“I shall say that the reproduction of labour-power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time , a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class ‘in words ‘ .”

In short, capitalism needs you alive and present at work every day while paying you shit and it works because it feeds on our desperation and depression. Although Saitama can bring down each and every villain there is to exist with just a single punch, the only enemy he is yet to defeat is something that is much smaller than him, yet it has seeped into every corner of our lives so strongly that we cannot identify the whole, or point out a definite and pure evil, it eats our energy away, draining us a little bit while staying completely invisible.

Have a nice day and don’t forget to fight the patriarchy ~~

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