Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

State encouraged propaganda plays a rather large roles in our lives. Often it takes on such a part of the background it can be difficult to even point out. In A Centaur’s Life the State imposed propaganda used to enforce equality is far more readily identifiable. Almost everything: civics education, commercial practices, social programs, and popular media—even fairy tales and magical girl shows—overtly spell out what the society believes.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

[This article contains spoilers for the first five episodes of A Centaur’s Life.]

The series of A Centaur’s Life revolves around Hime, the titular centaur character, and her friends and classmates of a world where “humans” developed from early six-limbed aquatic animals, rather than four-limbed aquatic animals. This leads not to the phenotypical “races” of our own universe, but a collection of human “species” that resemble mythical creatures from our universe’s lore.

Hime’s best friends are Kyouko, a kind of sheep-based human, and Nozomi, some kind of dragonoid-bat human. The defining characteristic of the Japan in which the girls live is that equality between all species is the primary social endeavor. This is maintained through a clear regimen of formal education, social conditioning, and legal action.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

While it isn’t clear just how relatively “new” the current state of Japanese society is in A Centaur’s Life, I’m going to hazard to guess it’s relatively recent. If I had to take a guess, I might say this is a reflection of the actual drive for social equality found after World War II in our own Japan. (Side note: We know that the Third Reich existed because Kyouko tells us so, so it’s a fair guess that WWII happened in A Centaur’s Life, too).

In many societies, as history goes on and state propaganda is accepted as the norm, it becomes less necessary to impose it with law. The social messaging becomes self-perpetuating through memes (yes, memes) and no longer needs blunt imposition from the state.

This hasn’t yet happened to the society we are shown in A Centaur’s Life. Instead, it’s very obvious that the government is keeping close tabs on what’s going on in the day-to-day lives of the people. This would make the most sense if the values they are trying to enforce are still “new” to the population in a cultural sense. Perhaps a significant part of the population—especially the elder portion—is still capable of questioning these ideas; they are not yet seen as “obviously true.”

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

As equality through anti-discrimination is the key social focus for the government, we are introduced to it in the civics and moral education classes Hime and her friends take. The homeroom teacher declares for her students (and for us) “equality is the most important social value, even more important than individual civil rights!” This is further explained to us when Kyouko declines a ride on Hime’s back, because it might be seen as illegal discrimination, and she could be sent to a “re-education camp” even though Hime asserted her individual desire to help Kyouko. Likewise, a similar issue comes up when a tailor tries to protest she doesn’t know how to accommodate snake-person Suu-chan’s “snake tail” and her coworker warns her if she doesn’t try, she may be sent to one of the previously mentioned camps.

Of course, we can find examples of government encouraged propaganda in any textbooks in our own universe. This is true of most major nation-states, including our own real Japan. I have some problems with the Japanese social studies textbooks, to be sure. However, having taught social studies and attended moral education classes in Japan, there have never been uniformed members of the government present to check up on if I “disseminated” the messaging correctly.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

In the case of A Centaur’s Life, this is precisely what the homeroom teacher faces. There’s a clear and direct threat to not following whatever procedures are established. Like the camps, this clear and direct threat would not be necessary if the state generally believed that the vast majority of people would already disseminate such views because they already believed such views to be truth.

That’s not to say, however, that the equality-centric propaganda isn’t potentially spreading on its own. In one scene, we are exposed to a magical girl anime where the heroine declares a commitment to utilitarianism by shouting “the most happiness for the most amount of people”—challenging a classmate who would put majoritarianism over a minority protected representative democracy.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

A lot of civics words, I know, and it would be easy for a viewer to insist “Aw, come on, that’s obviously written by government agents!” But perhaps not. In this world, it would be economically profitable to create a kids’ show with a magical heroine who champions the very values those kids are learning at school. In the same vein, we see Hime read her young cousin a fairy tale with similar themes. Was the storybook a government plant, or simply a viable product for its publishers? Honestly, we don’t know.

Great fiction, especially dystopian science fiction (which is what A Centaur’s Life most certainly is), holds up a mirror to our own social issues. The extent to which the propaganda of the Japan of A Centaur’s Life affects the free expression and thought processes of the characters should come as a warning. It implores us to question what we see around us. We should take a hard look at the classes we have, the books we read, the celebrities we follow, and the “truths” we tell each other about ourselves and each other.

A Centaur’s Life can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

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