Tony, MoBlack, and Danny return, using the theories of Sadiya Hartman and Joy James to discuss The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, Deca-Dence and Michiko & Hatchin!
0:02:22 Centering sexual assault survivors
0:12:05 The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
0:20:28 Stone Ocean
0:28:37 Sadiya Hartman and prisons as reformatories
0:56:14 Joy James
1:08:23 Captive Maternals
1:15:00 Michiko & Hatchin
1:30:36 Final Thoughts
TONI: Hello, and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. My name is Toni. I am a contributing editor here at AniFem. You can find me @poetpedagogue on Twitter. With me today, again, returning, are Mo Black and The BMC (Black Manga Critic), or Danny! So, if y’all want to quickly introduce yourselves…
MO: Yeah, hi, I’m Mo Black. I make longform anime content from a left-wing, abolitionist, anarchist, whatever-ist perspective. And yeah, I’m just happy to be here. I’ve admired AniFem for a long time, so it’s great to be working with y’all.
DANNY: Yeah, and I am BMC, The Black Manga Critic. Not recently, but I have a YouTube channel. I do manga reactions to different kinds of manga. And I have a Twitter, where I talk about abolition, anti-blackness… yeah, also anarchism, communism, and education. And sports. So, I talk about a lot of things, but those things are the main things.
TONI: Right. And, hopefully, for you all, you know this is part two of our two-part episode about anime and abolitionist theory and abolitionist practice, so if you have not, go ahead and go back and listen to part one. It’s good, I promise. And today, we are going to be talking a little bit more in depth about certain tensions and challenges and more complex ideas in abolitionist theory, because, yeah, now that we’ve got an introduction, there’s a lot of different things that we’re all trying to figure out together as abolitionists, and anime provides a really important space to do that.
The first one I thought we could start with— Because this is a feminist anime podcast, I think a lot of people, when they think about abolition, they often wonder, “Well, have these abolitionists ever themselves experienced being sexually assaulted or surviving an act of violence?” And I wanted to start with talking about how the position of survivors as central to abolitionist thought really changes or solidifies our understanding of abolitionism, and, yeah, talk about how that relates to a couple of different anime, specifically JoJo: Stone Ocean and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. So, did y’all want to get started with what this means to you, centering survivors in abolitionist work, and why that’s important?
MO: Yeah. Okay, I guess I’ll start. I guess to me the basic thing is it’s simple but it’s not easy, right? It’s simple in the sense that the main leadership and organization of any sort of movement should come from the people who are most affected by it. But then you get a lot of really pedantic people. It’s like, “Oh! Are you saying that someone’s right just because they went through this experience or just because they went through this skin color or blah-blah-blah? We can’t criticize some…”
And then… [Sighs] And you have to go on a case-by-case basis and blah-blah-blah, but the bottom line is, if you’re in a room in your organization or movement or Discord server or whatever, and all of the people talking are people who have never experienced this before and they’re all talking to each other about how cool they are, you fucked up. If you can avoid that situation and you instead have a room where it’s a bunch of people who actually have skin in the game doing their best to disambiguate this, that’s how you know you’ve done well.
DANNY: Yeah. And I would say, I think there are definitely moments where within popular culture, within our social and political milieu, when it comes to things like centering survivors, when you’re talking with, let’s say, certain people, and, relating to what Mo said, where you can kind of see that maybe these people either (A) are just really uninterested in that centering and are more interested in just talking about something and showing off, “Oh, well, I know this thing. I know A, B and C. I know XYZ,” then there are instances— And one that I’m thinking of right now is— Did any of you…? This is to the audience as a whole, too. Have either of you seen that Jane Fonda clip when she was on The View and they were talking about women’s bodily autonomy, and the state having just this unacceptable… And that’s not to say there is an acceptable amount of control that the state should have on women’s bodies. It’s just to say, this is unacceptable, to have any sort of control over women’s bodies. And they were like, “Well…” and they were talking to Fonda and they’re like, “Well, what do you suggest?” And Fonda’s like, “Murder?”
MO: Oh, yeah, yeah, I remember. I remember that.
DANNY: Right. And I think to any one of us who take centering survivors seriously within our politics, that… we are like, yeah, we take Jane Fonda very seriously in that moment. But there’s this uncomfortable laughter that occurs, and Jane Fonda’s just kind of looking around like, “I was dead serious.” Right? She’s kind of doing it— Right? And so, those are moments where those conversations show up, where we center survivors and we’re like, well, okay, so, in this instance, we see Jane Fonda suggesting murder as something that could maybe lead to resolution of that violence. But normally, people are like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! What are you talking about?” But at the same time, we have just absurd levels of state violence, death penalties, agents of the state murdering people with impunity.
So, to me, when we talk about centering survivors, I think a lot of times what goes unnoticed is the ways in which we view survivors, the requests of survivors and the words of survivors and the thoughts of survivors, as just ridiculous. But when it comes to state-sanctioned violence and agents of the state enacting state-sanctioned violence, again, back to what I was talking about with Angela Davis, we take that for granted. We’re like, “Yeah! Yeah, kill them. Shoot ‘em.” Not “we,” but you know what I mean, in terms of the United States or nation-states or whatever.
TONI: Well, when you think about somebody, like even what happened with Jordan Neely, right? He’s homeless and he’s suffering and he’s complaining about it? We gotta kill him because he’s complaining about suffering from being homeless! And that’s so normalized. It’s so normalized that you would murder somebody who is surviving homelessness. But it just shows you the normalization of certain forms of violence and the kind of… I wouldn’t say feigned shocked reaction, but certainly just a little bit disingenuous shocked reaction when we talk about it in any other context. But yeah.
MO: And just overall, we center survivors because by default we have the tendency to empathize with people who are not survivors and who are not directly impacted by the system. We all, by default, think the system works super well until something happens to us specifically. That’s when we start questioning. So, with the Jordan Neely case, more often than not, the people commenting on it have not been homeless, have not been in that situation. But they have been in a situation where they felt a homeless person made them feel uncomfortable. And so, the kneejerk reaction is to emphasize with the killer and not with the victim in the situation, because you’ve never been a victim in that case. But if you have a default politics of “Okay, we have a system. It uses people. Center the people who are hurt by it first and foremost.” It’s not perfect, but you can at least begin to not have completely unhinged takes where it’s like, “Yeah, if you yell at someone at a subway, you know, execution!”
MO: Which, I think if you said that plainly… if you said that plainly, everyone would realize, yeah, no, that’s ridiculous. Right? But then when the case shows up, because you’re not centering the people who are affected, suddenly that’s literally what you believe. And you haven’t even skipped a beat.
TONI: And it’s very interesting because when I’m working with students and I bring up the Jordan Neely case, oftentimes they will be like… the way they will frame it, because many of them have experienced homelessness, is immediately like “Yeah! Wasn’t that dude just shot for complaining because he was hungry?” And I’m like… And I just kinda stand there at the front of the room and I’m like… I just nod and I’m like, “Yeah. Keep going.” The kids know what’s up, because many of them have—the kids I work with anyway, many of them… I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, but they know people in their community who have been through these situations. And so, it just creates a different kind of empathy. And this becomes really important when we’re looking at— And I also want to emphasize that survivor— There’s many different ways of thinking about survivorship. We can think about survivorship both in terms of class, like we were referring to homelessness, but also I think it’s important to look at it in terms of gender and sexual violence because, so often, people’s derailing critique of abolition is “What about the rapists?” And I think that when we look at these situations—and the anime in particular we’re going to look at really gets into this—the prison is actually, in many ways, the site of sexual violence for so many people. Prison is not the solution to sexual violence; it causes sexual violence, systematically. So, the “What about the rapists?” line is just incredibly out of touch with the reality of anybody who’s actually been in prison.
So, yeah, I’m gonna start by talking a little bit about Woman Called Fujiko Mine. It’ll be a little bit of me talking because I’m the only one here who has watched it. But The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a really interesting example of this dynamic of the prison system in itself being the thing that creates sexual violence. And I think about this in particular through the characters of Zenigata and Oscar and the way that they prey on Fujiko.
So, early in the show, Zenigata sleeps with Fujiko and has sex with Fujiko while she is in custody and frames it partly as kind of like a “This is the condition of your release, is that you sleep with me,” which effectively makes it rape. There’s no way around that. And this, by the way, is something that happens, not necessarily [as] the condition of release, but certainly officers and corrections officers and police raping the incarcerated people who they take in is rampant in the prison system. It is extraordinarily common. And so, we see, in Woman Called Fujiko Mine, it actually accurately represented in that sense. And there’s even a moment where he’s about to take a cigarette and put it out on her chest and she has to flick it away before he does that, because ultimately he’s the one who has power in that situation. And as he’s doing that, he’s also reinforcing, creating this kind of model cop culture for his lieutenant, Oscar, who is a repressed gay person. There’s no way around it. I’m not sure if Oscar is gay, trans… It’s very unclear. Oscar kind of feels like almost a throwback to the 1920s, when we used to talk about “inverts” because Oscar really enjoys dressing up in women’s clothing for all of his schemes, wears high heels, and is obviously in love with Zenigata.
But then Oscar, to demonstrate his power over Fujiko Mine, rapes her—in an extremely upsetting scene. And in a sense, we’re seeing the creation of this kind of cop culture where rape against inmates is normalized, where sexual violence is used for power, to demonstrate one’s power over the criminal you are taking in. It really demonstrates that cops don’t stop violence; they cause it. And it’s really interesting because the show frames Oscar as being saved by Zenigata early in his life. He sees himself as being saved by Zenigata, is what I mean. I don’t think that the show necessarily agrees with that. But then, Zenigata’s influence on Oscar is actually profoundly, profoundly negative in terms of all the ways in which Oscar eventually completely represses his queerness, enacts all of this sexual violence that is shown to be a part of the cop culture in the world of the show. And Fujiko then has to live with the trauma from all of that.
It’s a lot, but I think that The Woman Called Fujiko Mine really powerfully demonstrates so much of what we’re talking about. And Fujiko has to figure out how she’s going to survive after all of that trauma, and we’re encouraged to go with her through that journey as a survivor. And yeah! It is very anti-cop and very much about the way that cops use sexual violence to enforce that power over people.
MO: From what I’ve heard, the Lupin series in general is usually pretty good about this stuff or…
TONI: I have not watched enough of it. This is the only Lupin series I’ve actually ever seen, to be honest!
MO: Oh, interesting.
TONI: But I will say there is something interesting, though, about— I think there’s a contrast between how Mari Okada views Zenigata and how Mari Okada views cops and the cultural work that the show is doing. The show is very anti-cop, right? It is very much about how cops engage in sexual violence to wield power over people and that that needs to be abolished. But it still wants to honor the history of Zenigata as being like the one cop that Lupin respects. And so, it has this really strong tension between this desire to critique cops and also the legacy of the rest of the show, I guess, where Zenigata is represented as being kind of the exception to the rule of cops being bastards, where… “Well, Lupin respects that one!” But yet, the show still has him rape Fujiko and model this horrific thing that Oscar ends up picking up, right?
DANNY: Mm. I have a hard time thinking of other anime that are as explicit. Even just now, I’m like [Hums in thought]. You know, because a lot of the violence that does happen, that is enacted upon survivors, is… you know, it’s not necessarily within a prison within a lot of anime that we tend to see where that’s a focal point. So, yeah. So, what is interesting that the— Personally, I don’t know, because on my end, Lupin III, that franchise, it’s not something… Like, I know Fujiko Mine is an important character within that franchise. I’m not sure how much those specific depictions of prison violence, sexual violence enacted by officers, agents of the state on a woman, I don’t know how much that appears within the series. But I do think that’s a really great instance in terms of portraying that and having people see that within a popular franchise. I don’t think that happens very often, at least within anime.
TONI: Well, what’s interesting about Woman Called Fujiko Mine is the way a lot of people look at it as taking a character who had previously been practically… I mean, normally you use the term “fungible” in the context of antiblackness, but this is a character who’s literally “interchangeable woman”—that’s how you would think of Fujiko Mine early in the Lupin series—and then recontextualizing the whole series through her eyes and through the eyes of somebody who’s experienced so much sexualization, that is often unwanted. And I think that in that way, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine strives to center survivors of sexual violence in a way that I think… there’s not a humongous amount of other shows that do that.
But the other show that I thought could be really interesting to talk about in this context is JoJo’s: Stone Ocean. And, yeah, it doesn’t have as much depictions of sexual violence in prisons, but I thought it was a really interesting one to talk about the ways that women’s agency and women’s moral purity is talked about in prison contexts and how sexist ideas of women’s purity are used to reinforce “Lock ‘em away for good!” attitudes or just attitudes of disposability of the women who are locked up, and also how women resist that and how Jolyne allies with the women around her to fight back. So, yeah. What are your thoughts on JoJo’s: Stone Ocean, I guess? [Chuckles]
DANNY: I have a lot of thoughts. [Chuckles] I have a lot of— [Coughs] Excuse me. I have a lot of thoughts. I think the first place to start… So, I’m gonna preface my thoughts by saying that I have… Many friends—Toni included, of course—who were not fans of the JoJo’s franchise and of the previous parts adore Part 6. Part 6 is like, “Oh! Okay! We’re doing something here.” This is like, “Wow! We’re really making a social commentary that is distinct and is not vulnerable to bizarre close readings or whatever or cherry-picking or whatever. This part is, if anything else, a critique of the prison-industrial complex and the violence that is enacted upon women within these particular spaces. Anyone who’s watching Stone Ocean and doesn’t take that with them, I’m like, “What are we watching?” You know what I mean? But in the other parts, I think it’s very easy to just kind of focus on, like, yeah, there’s a magic system and familial lineage and the JoJos and the Joestar family and Dio, vampires! Right? It’s like…
DANNY: Right? [Chuckles] It’s like, okay! But Part 6, though. You know? So, to me… I think Part 6 is, to me, one of my favorite parts. It’s not my favorite part. I’ve said it often. In the past I’ve told people. I’m like, “Part 6 is my favorite part.” And I think Part 6 only grew to be more cemented as my favorite because of what it does and how my politics have grown and shifted. So, in terms of one thing that I think is great about Stone Ocean in terms of its depiction of sexual violence, physical abuse within prisons is that there are… It’s not just “Okay. The prison guards are the arbiters of violence within prisons, and that’s where we focus on. We just focus on the prison guards.” It’s like, “No! There’s a priest. There’s Pucci, who’s supposed to be this bastion of morality and religious piety, of piety and all these things, but he’s the villain within the prison.
And normally, you have individuals who… Right? Like, the priest is supposed to be a figure that is not even adjacent to the prison-industrial complex in terms of how people think of Catholicism, in terms of how people think of that, but separate, right? He’s supposed to be an individual that people who are within that system, who are being harmed within that system, are supposed to be able to go to for salvation. But he is the villain here. He is unequivocally the villain. So I think, at the very least, that is one authorial choice that I really appreciate by Araki with Part 6.
TONI: Yeah, no, I 100% agree about the priest. He’s actually the reason why I brought up Stone Ocean because to me the priest in Stone Ocean represents the ways that the moral purity of women—or purity in general—is litigated in prisons to create all these different ideas about who is deserving of salvation, meaning, reform and what that looks like and the position of the prison as a space of reform. He represents the hypocrisy of this idea of prisons as a space for moral reform, because, I mean, at once, obviously, he’s a terrible, terrible person, right? So, who is he to talk about moral purity and any of that?
But on a much deeper level… He has this one moment. So, [in] one of his episodes where he’s introduced, he talks about this idea of reformability. You know, “People are in here so that they can reform and become better people.” But then, simultaneous to that and completely contradicting that, he dictates that many of the people he comes across are just like, “No, that person is unreformable. They should just be in here forever.” Right? Or die, right? And so, there’s this kind of contradiction there that represents, I think, a significant contradiction within the system as itself and as it pertains to how we talk about prisons, right? Because we often will justify prisons, saying, “Well, people need a space where they can reform. We should be rehabilitating criminals” and blah-blah- blah. But then in the same breath, they’ll also say, “Well, what do you do about the rapists and murderers? We should just lock them away forever. Fuck those people.”
And there’s this deep contradiction, right? Like, what are prisons for? Are they for rehabilitation or are they for just putting away the people who we think are going to do terrible things and are completely unreformable? But either way, either way, the ideology is “We should put these people away,” right? So, he represents how, no matter what way you look at prisons, within the system, it always results in “Let’s lock people away.” There’s also an element of moral reform, when we look— And specifically, there’s a history of women’s prisons as reformatories. I brought up Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Life, Beautiful Experiments in a previous episode. Both Saidiya Hartman and Hugh Ryan are the two scholars who I think have really deeply looked into this. So, there’s a long history of this. And if it’s okay, I’m gonna do a little bit of a dive into that history, if that’s okay?
DANNY: Yeah, yeah.
MO: Yeah, sweet.
TONI: So, Hartman early in the— And this history’s also gone into Are Prisons Obsolete? There’s a long history of this kind of scholarship. But Hartman really goes into how Black women at the turn of the century, as they were trying to figure out their subjecthood and how to be autonomous human beings within the afterlife of slavery… Those acts of autonomy were then pathologized as being morally decrepit and gross and indecent and being a whore or whatever. And so, they were often swept up for walking around, simply for walking around, and locked up in these reformatories, where they would be taught to be domestic servants and yadda-yadda-yadda. And it would be basically impossible for them to actually meet the level of morality, the kind of morality that these prisons were trying to instill upon them, without completely destroying their self.
It was essentially trying to re-push them back into a state of enslavement, unambiguously. And so, the minute they tried to have ideas—you know, be a human being… “No, that’s you being a disgusting person. You need to be locked up for longer, to continue to be reformed.” And I think that the priest in JoJo’s: Stone Ocean really represents that. And that history kind of is continued through the 20th century with the Woman’s House of Detention in Manhattan, which was a place where all sorts of women who were gender nonconforming—largely Black, largely queer women—were locked up. In fact, Tupac’s mom was locked up in the Woman’s House of D. Tupac’s mom, who was a bisexual woman, by the way… from the prison window, she witnessed the Stonewall Rebellion as it was happening. And she decided, based on that, to try to build coalitions between the Black Panthers and the Gay Liberation Front. As that was happening, the House of D was just taking any woman off the street that it could find that was not gender conforming, stone butches, it would take trans men… you know, obviously trans men are not women, but people who are assigned female at birth, people who the state viewed as women, and locking them up and trying to reform them morally.
This is a very personal history to me, I think, because I actually got to once see Jay Toole, who was one of the people at Stonewall, one of the stone butches who was taken into the Woman’s House of D, speak. And she’s talked about how every single time in the Woman’s House of D, when a woman would be picked up for this moral decrepitude—this alleged moral decrepitude—she would be raped every single time. And so, the system produces the moral decrepitude that it is then criminalizing.
MO: It’s almost as if, like, if it happens in a prison to the “right” people, then it’s the system working as designed and people don’t see a problem with it. They don’t realize that this is just a reproduction of the very thing that you claim to want to stop.
TONI: Yeah, absolutely! And that’s the really upsetting thing, is when we talk about rape, prisons are where a lot of rape happens! So it’s like, why are we talking about prison as being a solution to rape when prison is where people will be raped?
DANNY: Yeah, I think that’s where… Yeah. I think it’s where the— I think it’s sort of two parts, and one part this sort of disconnect that happens. On one side of it, maybe there are people, like children, who generally are not aware of certain things, and I mean really young children, who just are not aware of certain things just because of their age. And that’s not to say that all children aren’t aware because of course there are children that are aware of this violence that happens, because they are the children of those survivors. So, I think there’s one part of that where people just don’t know and that’s just because of certain circumstances, like maybe age, like they’re just very young and they don’t. And then there’s the other side of it, where it’s just a very willful… which I think is the larger side of that or the larger half of that or the larger part, which is that people are aware. People know that the prison is a space where rape occurs, sexual violence generally occurs. And we know this because even as educators, you hear the jokes. You hear the comments. You hear the kids making comments referring to prison violence, to sexual assault.
TONI: Like “Don’t drop the soap,” that sort of crap, yeah.
DANNY: Right. So it’s not to say that all children aren’t aware. Many children are aware. And that’s because that violence has become so ingrained into not only the prison-industrial industrial complex as something that strengthens it in this really perverse way, but it is also a part of our social consciousness in terms of what we know and what’s acceptable to joke about, what’s acceptable to mention in these awful, awful ways.
TONI: Yeah, and I think that, to bring it back to JoJo’s: Stone Ocean, what I really love about the show is it’s about these women who society has deemed irredeemable trying to fight back against the people who are categorizing them, people like that priest, who are categorizing them as irredeemable or, alternatively, perhaps even worse, in need of reform, and trying to act in solidarity with each other within these situations. I mean, even in one of the first few episodes, Jolyne, as she hears Ermes be brutally beaten up by these guards, one of her first uses of her powers is to protect one of her fellow inmates from that violence. And it’s interesting because the show kind of has this— Like all JoJo’s shows, most of the fun sidekick characters kind of start off as complete sociopaths before they become your best friend.
DANNY: Yeah, yeah. That’s like a staple of JoJo’s, where there’s a character who is initially introduced and they’re an antagonist to whichever JoJo is the protagonist, and then ultimately, after a certain number of episodes or some instance where they have to work together, then they become really close and they’re like a confidant and really close friends and things like that. Yeah. Yep.
TONI: And I think that that just reads very differently in a show that takes place in a prison among women who are trying to survive. It has a very different valence there.
DANNY: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, kind of back to what I was saying earlier, where when you’re watching the earlier parts of JoJo, it’s very easy to just kind of… “Okay, this is a trope. This is something that happens within JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. There are other characters, like a Speedwagon like in Part 1, a Caesar in Part 2, a Polnareff in Part 3 or… People who’ve watched JoJo’s know these characters that I’m sort of rattling off. But these are characters that are very much so a part of an overall trope. And Ermes is very distinctly different and is connected to that trope in a very generic sense, but Ermes really becomes a much more important, a much more vital instance of sexual assault, PIC[Prison Industrial Complex]-sanctioned violence, these important topics that are discussed. So I think Part 6… even just Ermes is a really significant departure from what the JoJo fandom and individuals who generally watch JoJo’s are used to.
TONI: They’re much more used to characters like Gwess, right? Gwess or “Guess” … [Groans]
TONI: … or Foo Fighters, right? That’s much more of what I was talking about with starting off as absolutely crazy people, but the thing is that it feels like they’re starting off as people who are incredibly violent because the system is violent and they are trying to gain some agency within a system that is incredibly violent. And it is contextualized within the culture of the space. It doesn’t feel like they’re just being violent for no reason like Zipper Boy in Part 5. They are violent because the system is violent.
DANNY: [Chuckles] I still think of Zipper Boy!
TONI: Zipper Boy! [Chuckles]
DANNY: I think that that— [Laughs] No, but yeah, no, definitely. And one thing I’m also thinking about with Stone Ocean is, again, the ways in which systems, and in particular the prison, is… there is no one within these systems, and in particular the prison, that is unaffected in some way. And this is why I think Part 6 works really well, because you have these different antagonists and it’s not just the individuals who are supposed to be these agents of the state in terms of officers, correctional officers. But it’s also the prison doctor, the janitor, these figures who are within this space, who… Normally you’re not like, “Oh my God, the janitor!” or the doctor. But Thunder McQueen is an inmate who is working as a janitor and is obsessed with Ermes and has consistently assaulted Ermes through his Stand ability, amongst other things. So it’s kind of one of those things where… Again, there is no person within that space who is unaffected. We can also think about Emporio, who I think is another figure that is very distinct, a very distinct commentary on the violence that is enacted within prison. As folks know who watched Part 6, Emporio is a child who was born within the prison.
TONI: Which is, of course, silly JoJo’s nonsense, but still… [Chuckles]
DANNY: Right. And his whole character is very bizarre. But I think at the same time there is— At least in, like, [obscured by crosstalk]— You know what I mean?
TONI: [crosstalk] He also looks like an old man.
DANNY: Yeah! [Laughs]
TONI: He looks like an old man. Let’s be real here. He looks like he’s 50. He’s got the JoJo’s ugly face going on.
DANNY: Yes. Yes.
MO: Kinda sounds like classic JoJo [audio cuts out].
MO: JoJo shenanigans.
DANNY: Right? But even then, there’s no way that even the JoJo shenanigans are exempt from the effects of the prison. Like, you can’t just have this character who looks 50 and he’s just kind of there to be there. No, it’s also related to state violence, prison violence. I’m gonna move on from him. But I do think that, yeah, Part 6 is very much so really great in showcasing that if you are within that system, there is not a single person within that system that can escape the effects of that violence.
TONI: All right, shall we move on to the next piece? I think we should move on to talking about the state, the question of the state, because the state is a question. You know, it’s funny, whenever you talk about something as a question, you know that we’re talking about destroying it. And I mean both in the context of fascism and in the context of abolitionism.
But yeah. So, there’s multiple strands in abolitionist thought, as I talked about in the first episode. Some of it is more state abolitionist thought that believes that somehow we can create a socialist state that still has abolished the police and prisons—again, I personally am not sure how, but I think anarcho-communism kind of points a way to that—whereas there’s other strands that are fully anarchist. And I thought that maybe it would be cool to talk about the anime Deca-Dence in the context of that, because Deca-Dence’s ending gives us an idea of what happens when revolution doesn’t actually mean the complete overhaul or destruction of an entire system. It’s more repurposings.
MO: So, Deca-Dence… Just TLDR, it’s post-apocalyptic future, climate change, pollution, blah-blah-blah, corporations, blah-blah-blah. And there’s basically two classes of people. There are human beings who are called Tankers, who live in poverty. They live on this giant ship called the Deca-Dence. And they fight monsters called Gadolls. And there’s this cyborg race called the Gears, who basically treat all of humanity like a video game. They log into an avatar and they fight the monsters for fun and for glory. And it’s essentially about a human, Natsume, and her Gear boss Kaburagi pretty much realizing that the system is exploitative and it kills people and it should die. And there’s a lot of good stuff. There’s a prison riot at one point, which is really fun. There’s a lot of really choice lines. Ah, I don’t have my Deca-Dence quotes with me, but there’s a lot of really good lines about, like “How can you let the system control you?” and blah-blah-blah. It’s really great.
TONI: [Laughs] A lot of “The system, man!” energy.
MO: The question, then— So, towards the ending, the way it ends is there is a radical transformation in how things work. Rather than this parasitic relationship between humans and Gears, they kind of live in harmony. You can farm now. The video game is Stardew Valley instead of COD [Call of Duty] or whatever. [Chuckles] There’s more sustainability. There’s not as much coercion. But the system, which is a literal thing, the computer system that runs everything, is still in place. And it’s run by an administrator of the old system, who has basically changed his mind.
And so, the question… There’s basically two things about Deca-Dence. The first is… The second half of the show really focuses on the Gears a lot more than the Tankers. And it goes back to centering the people who are most affected. There’s definitely a desire, when you watch it, to see more of the humans in the back half of the show and not so much the Gears, although the Gears are very fun and cute and they have great designs. And the other thing is, like, is that enough? You have overhauled the system, but there is still a system and it is still run by, kind of, the old guard. So, there’s a question of, like, is that thorough enough? And also, who decided that?
The show… It thinks very far ahead, but then seemingly not far ahead enough to imagine maybe a more democratic organization of this system or a system where there’s more input or a system where the humans actually run it. So, there’s a lot of interesting questions that I think map onto the questions of abolitionist movements as well. To be clear, I think the show is so fucking good. I love it so much. I highly… Like, 10-out-of-10 watch. It’s good enough that even with this ending, which I think falls a little short, it’s still an emotionally satisfying ending for basically every character. It makes sense why they did it.
TONI: Yeah, I was rewatching the ending earlier today. And I just… I don’t know. Every time that Natsume was on screen I started crying. And I’m like, “Why am I crying?”
MO: She’s such a good protagonist.
DANNY: She’s great. Fantastic!
TONI: I wish she had stayed the protagonist, though. You know what I mean?
MO: That goes back to what we were talking about, right?
TONI: Yeah. It’s so funny. The show creates such a fantastic protagonist in Natsume and you think she’s gonna be protagonist in the first episode. And then, very slowly over the course of the show, she becomes less and less and less of a protagonist. And I think part of what frustrates me about Deca-Dence is that I think that she is kept in the dark over so much of what she’s doing, even in the process— There’s an episode where they’re destroying the Gadoll factory, the monster factory. She doesn’t know what she’s doing when she’s doing that. She’s just like, “I’m just coming along with you doing this thing! I don’t know what it is, but I guess I’m doing it.” But she doesn’t even know that she’s about to destroy the entire system that governs her life and she’s doing it.
And it’s a little bit like… It reminds me a lot of what Paulo Freire talks about in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which is like you cannot be assuming that you have more knowledge than the people who you are working with and trying to liberate. And certainly you cannot be hiding information from them or manipulating them for your revolutionary purpose.
MO: I think if you think a little— It’s funny. If you think a little less politically and a little bit more [about] just the dynamics of the anime, if I had to think about it, I think there’s some sort of anxiety maybe from the staff. I don’t know who it is. Maybe from the studio, whatever. There’s not actually a belief that, in this story with all these Gears and stuff like that, an ordinary female disabled human can actually carry the show. I think that’s an unfortunate thing that they maybe thought, and so they tried probably to get more Kaburagi there, out of, I guess, some sort of assumption that he would be a better lead or a more compellingly lead.
Kaburagi’s great, but he’s not a more compelling lead than Natsume. He just flat out isn’t. [Chuckles] Natsume is just the best person for the role, in her own show. She’s optimistic, she’s human, she’s real. She’s got all these amazing faces. Her expressions are so awesome. And yeah, there’s… Like in the real world, where there’s just a lack of trust that the most oppressed can lead social change, there’s also a lack of trust that Natsume can lead her own show, which is a bit of a shame.
DANNY: Yeah, I would agree. Yeah. It’s weird, because I feel like a lot of people… You know, and it’s not that Kaburagi’s a bad—quote-unquote “bad”—character or anything like that. It’s just…
MO: [Obscured by crosstalk]
DANNY: I mean, yeah, he’s— You know, he [obscured by crosstalk].
MO: He just shouldn’t be, like, the lead.
DANNY: [Chuckles] Yeah. You know? And I feel like it is an unfortunate thing because there are just so many great things going for the show in the messages that it’s trying to portray and how Natsume does that. And I think there’s an instance, right, there’s an instance where the show is doing a really great job and there’s a way in which Natsume becomes more confident. It’s very unwavering in terms of what her goals are and what she intends to do, and there’s that growth in that. But then there’s a point where it’s just like, okay, let’s kind of shelve that and let’s talk about Kaburagi, this cyborg, and what his issues are and what he’s been going through. And it’s like, “Okay…” But I think all of us here are like, we’re just more invested in Natsume and her growth as, in a lot of ways, a revolutionary.
DANNY: Yeah, yeah. So, it’s an unfortunate thing. It’s an unfortunate thing, because I think as— Yeah, and especially towards the tail end, it’s almost like the show tries to, at some point, kind of reinsert that narrative and tries to make it like, “Yeah, see, we didn’t forget! See, we didn’t forget!” But it’s like, eh… You know, but Kaburagi’s still… He’s still very much so at the center. Everything revolves around what he’s able to do and his skill set and his drive. So, yeah, that’s all I’ll say about that.
MO: Yeah, and I think—
TONI: [crosstalk] Yeah, and bringing— Sorry.
MO: Just quickly, the fact that Kaburagi is the one that takes down the system, with— I mean, the humans help a little bit, but it’s insignificant. I think that’s kind of wasted potential, honestly. I love the show so much. I’m not sure my brain would be able to handle it if it was the same but also the ending was better. Then I think I would never watch any other anime again. I think I’d just watch Deca-Dence on repeat.
TONI: It’s also interesting because I think of Deca-Dence as an attempt to return to some of the same themes— So, right before this, you all, we had the Death Parade podcast come out. You’re probably listening to this after the Death Parade podcast that we put out, where I talked a lot about how the director of Deca-Dence, in Death Parade, kind of confronts a system and proposes these interpersonal transformations as the characters’ responses to a wildly unjust system, rather than taking down the system as a whole. And I think Deca-Dence is him attempting to return to those themes and say, “Well, no, actually, I’m a revolutionary. Things actually need to change and the system itself needs to be taken down.”
But the question is, ultimately, was the imagination of the writer and director enough to create a truly revolutionary show, or is it just creating a system that is effectively less oppressive but still generating capital through another kind of relation? I’m still unclear about whether there’s another planet where everybody else is and this is just kind of like a vacation spot for everyone to go and have some fun at. I feel a little bit unclear about the worldbuilding, to be honest.
DANNY: Yeah. Yeah, I do think— Yeah, I agree. I would agree with that.
MO: So, I guess the last thing I’d say about Deca-Dence is just I would encourage people to watch it; I promise you will have a good time. And watch it with those questions in mind, about, like, what is it that you imagine when you truly say, like the characters say, that you want to overturn the entire system, and then compare it with what the show actually does, and then see for yourself if you are satisfied or not, because I think doing that will also get you thinking about the exact same questions through abolition and abolitionist movements.
TONI: Alright. Unfortunately, Mo has to step off now. But we’re going to continue the podcast. We’re gonna keep going. But unfortunately, he has to step off. So, remind us where we can find you, Mo.
MO: Oh, yes. Moblack.xyz. It’s been super fun. Thank you so much for having me. I’ve read the rest of this conversation. I can see the future! I know it will be great, so please don’t leave.
MO: Alright, take care.
TONI: Take care! So good having you. So, Danny, I want to bring in one of both of our favorite theorists, to talk a little bit about Deca-Dence and also bring us into our next conversation. What do you think about Joy James and her theories of revolutionary transformation?
DANNY: Me, yeah, I love her work. I love many of the ways in which she challenges and is really just a true scholar in that sense, surveys the landscapes of abolition criticism, Black studies criticisms, and is just sort of like, “Hm. Something or some things are not being examined enough, or people aren’t being honest enough about the state of certain struggles and the decisions that are made, both in academic spaces and within organizing spaces and just amongst ourselves in terms of how we talk about revolution, how we talk about abolition, how we talk about Black feminism.” So, yeah, I think she’s great. I think she’s great. And I think she’s just constantly on the forefront of being like, “Alright, y’all gotta be honest about X, Y, and Z. And if we can’t be honest about those things, then the scholarship won’t be particularly useful for what we’re trying to do as abolitionists.”
TONI: Yeah. And I think that— Specifically referring to a piece that she put out. So, Joy James herself, her focus, for those of you who don’t know, which is probably a lot of people… Joy James is a scholar of incarcerated intellectuals. So, she works with intellectuals who have been put in prison, often for political reasons, and tries to elevate their voices and bring their conversations into the scholarly tradition through her work. But she also is a scholar of abolitionism and Black studies. And one of her pieces that really caused a buzz a couple years ago, I believe, three years ago, right during the center of the George Floyd protests, was a piece called “Airbrushing Revolution for the Sake of Abolition.”
In this piece, she was responding to, as I was talking about earlier, this breaking of abolitionism into the mainstream and this almost comforting narrative of abolition that it can be achieved through these ways where there does not necessarily have to be a… I don’t want to say “violent revolution” but where there doesn’t have to be the kind of rigorous, militant transformation and struggle, and kind of critiquing the placement of abolitionist theory within the academy, as such, as being this woo-woo theory that’s not really necessarily connected to the violence of people’s lives and to the reality of trying to prison-break and get people out of the situation of incarceration and the actual lived experience of that. And I think that that’s really interesting because her work, I think, clarifies a little bit of Deca-Dence and, I think, at large, a lot of anime’s way of looking at revolution as this impulse, this affective, theoretical impulse towards taking down the system.
“Take it down! It can be done through ideas! You just gotta convince the people that this is what’s right.” Or, alternatively, we can slowly… This is also partly a critique, I think, of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, whose work sometimes talks about the gradual repurposing of the state that we have and using it to create new systems and gradually those new systems completely replacing the old. And I think that there’s a critique there of “Can the system be repurposed and still change everything in the way that abolitionism says it can, in the way that Ruth Wilson Gilmore says is necessary?” Ruth Wilson Gilmore, herself, being, of course, one of the most important scholars of abolitionist ideas. She wrote Golden Gulag… And I think Deca-Dence is this interesting text because it kind of reveals the limits of that understanding of revolution.
DANNY: One thing I do like about Deca-Dence before the ending… and I think all of us are kind of in agreeance that the ending is kind of woo-woo and kind of all over the place and, at least to me, is not very specific or cemented in terms of, like, okay, what will… not necessarily what the world will look like, but what will actually change? What truly different systems…? And not every system, but what will be put in place that is inherently different from what we had before? You still have these sports, you still have these systems where people are paying for different kinds of foods and things like that.
And it’s almost a hodgepodge of ideas at the end, where it’s like, yeah, you know, cultivating our own food and controlling the means of production, but also, here are these stalls where you’re going to buy these things for these particular prices, and there is some market system, apparently, that came from somewhere. You know, so it’s stuff like that where I think the ending is kind of bizarre in that way. It’s not particularly, to me, useful in terms of imagining what revolution would look like, in that sense. But I do think there are other instances in terms of a path towards revolution in which Deca-Dence is useful and is very much so related to some of the work that Joy James has done in terms of talking about airbrushing abolition and thinking about the people who are working towards abolition. So, there’s that.
TONI: Yeah, I think that it’s— That’s one of the big struggles for me, especially as a disabled person. If the revolution creates a space where disabled people are thrown away— The organized abandonment is worse because there’s nothing to actually create any kind of stability for disabled people. If I can’t get my meds after the revolution, what is the purpose? What are we doing here? And so, that is part of the question of anarchism versus a more communist system. When I used to organize with Mariame Kaba, she would often say, “The reason I’m a communist and not an anarchist is because I fully believe that the state’s power is too important for us to just throw away.” The state can have this incredibly important role in protecting people and preventing organized abandonment of people. You know, that’s why communism is a thing, right? And I think that’s why I kind of align myself more with an anarcho-communist mindset. I’m not a full anarchist. It’s just the idea of abdicating state power entirely is a question in abolitionism: can the state exist without the police? Uh… Can it? I don’t know!
DANNY: Yeah. I think this is where Joy James is really great for her interventions. And I would say that Joy James is probably of the opinion that the answer to that question is the state is inherently violent and the state will use that violence to stabilize itself in multiple ways. But I think both of us are probably thinking of James’s idea of the captive maternal. And I think that—
TONI: Yes, which I was gonna use, yes, in just a second to transition us. [Chuckles]
DANNY: Yeah. And I think that Deca-Dence is great not necessarily towards the end, not the ending-ending, but prior to that, there are figures within Deca-Dence who are specifically harmed but also take on those roles of caretakers, individuals who will do that revolutionary work and who take on those roles that are, as James would say, completely worthy of them. But those roles, those functions, their functions stabilize the system, at least within Deca-Dence. So it’s an interesting thing, yeah.
TONI: And Deca-Dence explicitly says that actually, at one point. When Kaburagi’s in his big confrontation with the big boss, he says, “What’s going on here? Why are you even talking to me? I’m a bug.” And she says, “Well, the continued maintenance of and destruction of bugs actually is what stabilizes the system.” The bugs… in a sense, they’re recuperated back into the system.
Which brings us, I guess, to talking about the captive maternal, which brings us to dismantling antiblackness. So, Joy James has this concept called the captive maternal, and I’m gonna use it as a way to bring us into Michiko & Hatchin. And this is how we’re going to end the episode because I don’t know if we’re gonna have a lot to talk about with Michiko & Hatchin because both of us are still in the process of watching it. But it brings up a lot to think about with the captive maternal.
So, to introduce that idea, the captive maternal is a theory of Joy James of understanding how women of color’s reproductive labor and maternal labor and feminized labor is used to reinforce the system that ultimately oppresses them. The classic example that she gives—and she talks about it on a podcast she has, on Millennials Are Killing Capitalism—the mother whose child is trying to go to school. And so, the mother does everything that she can to… She’s a Black mother. She sees that the local school is hyper-segregated. And so, she might join the PTA or she might protest or she might try to do everything that she can to try to make the school livable for her child. But ultimately, all that labor to try to make the school even moderately possible to survive for her child is reincorporated back into it and to stabilize the system itself, of the school, and simultaneously her child can possibly see that this system is not going to prepare the child for the above-ground economies, the markets.
And so, they enter the underground economy where, as Joy James puts it, the blood is on the ground rather than on the stock floor. But the point is the process of resistance and trying to create livable lives reinforces the violence of the system, especially as it pertains to, for example, the wives of people who are incarcerated, who try to make that system livable for their husbands, et cetera. So, I wanted to bring this up. Did you have anything you want to add about that theory before we move into Michiko & Hatchin?
DANNY: Yeah, I think it’s great. What I would also say, to add one more thing, is that I think one thing with the function of the captive maternal is like… it’s, yeah, a couple things. One is that… James states this pretty explicitly multiple times, but the captive maternal is a function, so it’s not just, “Oh, here’s this person over here. This person is a captive maternal.” It’s more like the relationship between this individual and the state and these systems and the individuals’ relationship between their loved ones and the people that they are working to protect and care for. That creates something very distinct. So, when we’re thinking about that, we have to keep that at the forefront. I think the second thing is that— This is also something that’s, I think, pretty explicit, and just (1) within abolition and (2) within James and her scholarship, is that captive maternals are not these angelic, maternal figures. Not every captive maternal is this perfect mother figure or something who was harmed by the state. Captive maternals, in their function, are flawed people, and those flaws are also included in terms of how the function of the captive maternal stabilizes the state and stabilizes these systems. Yeah.
TONI: Right. There’s a certain element of… We often talk about quote-unquote “intergenerational trauma,” and it’s often done in this very depoliticized way where it’s just like, “We need to break the cycles of trauma! Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah!” in a way that often pathologizes our parents and the people who went through things that are unimaginable to us. I see this so much in Asian American communities, but if we look at it in the context of the captive maternal, we understand that the extreme sacrifice and labor that these women of color go through to support their children is what stabilizes the system and is what makes their children’s lives not completely collapse from under them—and, of course, is what fucks them up!
It’s a captive position, and it’s also not fungible in the sense that it is not— Captive maternals often occupy very different positions within these power structures. She talks about Assata Shakur as a captive maternal. Because Assata, for all of her work to resist the state… also, the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program. That is stuff that the government should have been doing! They should have been providing those breakfasts! But instead, the Black Panther Party stabilizes the survival of its people while also reinforcing the state’s ability to continue this position of organized abandonment because it’s about organized abandonment. It’s about the state and our entire society completely abandoning an entire class of people because of where they live and who they are. And we see this so much in Michiko & Hatchin. Ugh. We’re gonna get to it.
So, Michiko & Hatchin is about all the people who’ve experienced the worst of organized abandonment, who have been systematically shut out of just even a basic survival and who have to, as James talks about, enter underground economies to survive because of all of that profound organized abandonment. And I wanted to talk a little bit about Michiko and Atsuko as two different captive maternals and also Pepe because Pepe is a really interesting example of a captive maternal.
So, I think all three of them are really interesting examples of captive maternals, these women of color, especially Afro-Latina women who are just kind of trapped in a position of having to pick up the pieces for what the state abandons, regardless of whether they feel qualified to or really have the ability to or not. Did you want to speak to that?
DANNY: I feel like I could start any of them, but I think where I definitely want to start is… I guess it would make the most sense to start with Michiko because most people who have watched the show will probably see her most often and be able to see the links between her situation within the show and Joy James’s work in terms of thinking about the captive maternal. But also, Atsuko is… Her… it’s very interesting. There are reasons for that. But I guess I’ll start with Michiko. So, for me, the thing that I think is… and the word I’d probably use is ”heartbreaking,” is that with Michiko, the premise of the show as we’re going along is Michiko’s role as a caregiver.
TONI: And I suppose, before you go on, maybe I should give them a quick summary. So, Michiko & Hatchin is about a 10-year-old girl and a 27-year-old woman. The girl is white passing and the 27-year-old woman is Afro-Latina. And the girl is… They both are connected because the father of Hana (or Hatchin) and the boyfriend of Michiko is the same. It’s Hiroshi. And he has gone missing, leading Hana to be put in foster care with an abusive family, which she has to escape, and Michiko to try to find him. And so, Michiko saves Hana from her abusive foster family. And the show is about them trying to find Hana’s father and Michiko’s boyfriend while escaping the police because Michiko is a fugitive of the state. Anyways, continue with what you were saying, Danny.
DANNY: Yeah, no, yeah. And that’s important, that Michiko is specifically a fugitive, a fugitive of the state. And it’s— So, what I was thinking about was that even as Michiko has this violence that’s been enacted on her and continues to be enacted on her as a fugitive, as a fugitive of the state, as an incarcerated person who has escaped prison— So, that’s something that she is consistently dealing with throughout the show. And even with that, she still has the emotional and physical capacity and mental capacity to work to take care of Hatchin and to find her and to take care of her and to do that caregiving work.
But at the same time, we know that, again, it’s supposed to be the job of the state to make sure that Hatchin is safe, to make sure that she has shelter, to make sure that she has food, without all of these really just abhorrent caveats like the abusive family, the padre in that family that’s just absolutely horrible to Hatchin. So I think Michiko’s a great character and relates so much to James’s work because, again, James will consistently come back to this idea that captive maternals are flawed. Michiko is not this cookie-cutter person that’s super clean or anything like that. She is, I think, to me, distinctly flawed in the show for that reason. And yet, her role as a caregiver, as someone who is trying to take care of Hatchin is, again, in the words of James… it’s a task that is completely worthy of Michiko and her ability to love and her ability to care for other people, and to continue to do that even while she is a fugitive of the state. Yeah, yeah. So, that’s one thing that I would say. I would say that about Michiko.
TONI: Yeah. And to add on to that, she resists that role! It’s not like she takes that role and is fully ready to accept it. And there’s times where she— And that’s the thing about the captive maternal: it’s not a choice. It’s something that is done under threat of violence. So, she tries to drop Hatchin off at an orphanage, the same orphanage where she grew up, by the way, [where] she knew that orphans were being sold into child trafficking. And, of course, the matron of the orphanage just throws Hatchin away and is like, “No! You don’t have any money. Go away!” And so, Michiko is forced back into that role of the captive maternal even as she’s rejecting it.
And by the way, her rejecting it is not inherently a good thing. The captive maternal is not necessarily— As Danny was saying and Joy James says, these are roles and work that are worthy of her. These are often deeply meaningful things, providing free breakfasts as the Black Panthers did. But it is done under this threat of violence and in a way that can only stabilize the state. And I think that it’s interesting in— And the thing about the captive maternals is that it is also… she also emphasized it’s not fungible; there’s also people who are doing things where they are agents of the state as captive maternals, people like Atsuko.
DANNY: Mm-hm, mm-hm. Yeah. There’s just so many intricacies in terms of her function as a captive maternal, the relationship between her and Michiko, the colorism that occurs between the two. And again, all of these things only serve to stabilize the state. If we go back and we consider Michiko and her caregiving when it comes to Hatchin, the state will be like, [Claps] “Okay. That is one less child that I have to be concerned with, because I know…” As the state, right? I’m kind of personifying the state. But the state is sort of like, “Yeah. I know that Michiko is working as a caregiver for Hatchin, for this child. So, fewer number of things that I have to provide, that I have to do.”
And when we think about the relationship between Michiko and Atsuko, I think the one thing for me is… the relationship is key, but I also think about the fact that Atsuko is an agent of the state is one of those things that— I think sometimes people— Again, captive maternals are flawed. And it’s an important distinction because not all captive maternals are actively working against the state and simultaneously stabilizing the state. Atsuko is a character who is an agent of the state and has been harmed by the state but is still doing that, and not necessarily stabilizing the state more in a sense but is definitely doing it actively in a conscious way, is consciously stabilizing the state as an agent of the state.
TONI: And even as she’s doing it, of course, she’s put in this position where she has to choose between, like, “Am I going to continue to enact this violence against my former friend, Michiko, or am I going to resist?” And when she lets Michiko go… first of all, she was gonna get thrown away anyways. Atsuko is gonna get thrown away anyways. As Savannah Shange puts it, the police force eats its own sometimes and it protects its own.
Okay, I’m gonna… Delete all of what I just said. Okay, I’m thinking… How do I put this? Pfft! I’m running out of steam. We should wrap this up. The point is, Atsuko is put in this position where she has to choose whether she’s going to continue this role of hunting down the people who she cares about and continue this role that she’s been given where she is the captor and Michiko is the captive. And ultimately, when Atsuko realizes that the state will throw her away as a Black woman, she chooses… at the very least, up to where I’ve watched. I’ve only seen up to Episode 11, so please do, if you’ve watched it, be aware of that that’s where I’ve seen up to. She chooses to let Michiko go. And that’s really interesting to me because… how does that align with all these ideas that we talked about?
DANNY: I think to me, the ways in which that aligns is, again, if we’re thinking about… There are aspects of those relationships that the captive maternal has with others that, again, stabilizes the state and it allows the state to enact more violence against not only the capital maternals but [also] those people that the capital maternals care about and care-give for. So, the thing here is that— And that’s why I like that conversation that they have when Michiko is kind of like, “Don’t you want the chase to go on a little bit longer? Are you gonna catch me right now?” and the instances when Atsuko lets Michiko go or sort of lets her escape. These are things that if we read into them on a surface level, if we don’t consider James’s work, we would say, “Oh, well, you know, Atsuko is really kind and she’s trying to help a friend against the state,” and we might just end there. But again, if we consider James’s work and we consider, again, that the captive maternal and those relationships and that function ultimately stabilizes the state, we can see Michiko and Atsuko’s interaction—that particular interaction—as stabilizing that dichotomy of cops and robbers in a very basic sort of sense, the chaser and the chased, the agent of the state and the fugitive of the state. Those dichotomies are solidified.
TONI: Yeah, which brings us back to Assata Shakur, one of her classic examples of a captive maternal. Assata Shakur’s image being used as this fugitive who must be found reinforces this entire self-conception of America and of justice and of how the state relates to political exiles, effectively.
I think that just about wraps up what we can do for today. Did you have any last things you wanted to say, Danny, before we wrap it up?
DANNY: Yeah, one last thing, because I don’t want to forget about Pepe. So, one thing I will say about her character that’s kind of important to, again, relating back to this idea of the captive maternal and this idea of abolition and all this stuff, is a question that a lot of individuals have when we’re thinking about the captive maternal and all this, is “What is the endgame for the captive maternal?” And I think Pepe is really just this in a very pathetic way. And I don’t mean— Ugh. I mean, in the critical-theoretical sense. The endgame often is death. So, the thing to consider here is you have these characters, and Michiko, Atsuko, and Pepe all work to, in a really great way, showcase this spectrum of the eventuality of the end or the beginning, the middle ground of the captive maternal, what happens. So, I would leave off with that. I know it’s a somber kind of place to end, but that’s where I would leave it.
TONI: Yeah, the captive maternal will be used for her labor and then thrown away. And that’s why there’s an urgency—and a moral urgency—to understanding this, especially as we look at immigrant parents, as we look at all of these situations.
All right. So, on that note, we are wrapping up. Danny, where can people find you?
DANNY: You can always find me on Twitter @TheMangaScholar. And you can find me on YouTube. You can just type in “The Black Manga Critic,” and you’ll find videos and my channel. And if you ever want to contact me about anything related to what we’ve been discussing or anything YouTube related or Twitter related, you can send me an email at [email protected].
TONI: Great. And this has been Toni. You can find me @poetpedagogue on Twitter. And this has been Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast. If you like what you heard, leave us a review and subscribe. If you really like what you heard, you can follow us on Twitter @AnimeFeminist. And you can subscribe to our Patreon. We are really trying to build up our Patreon so that we can pay our contributors and editors more because people deserve good pay.
TONI: And we also have a Ko-fi, if you want to do a smaller donation. And with a Patreon subscription, you get access to our bonus podcasts and access to our Discord, which is such a fun place. Promise you’ll love it there. One of the safest spaces for talking about anime and complex ideas that I’ve ever been in.
Alright, and with that, we are signing off. Bye, y’all!