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

It’s incredibly easy to say discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry are without any rational basis. It is much more difficult to actually stop practicing divisive and unequal treatment. A Centaur’s Life has already introduced us to the idea that in the further past, there was widespread bigotry between the sub-species on Earth. However in more recent history, as sentient humans, the people of A Centaur’s Life are not immune to humanity’s greatest enemy: our penchant for tribalism.

The Twisted World of Enforced Equality in A Centaur’s Life

A Centaur’s Life follows the adventures of a group of high school girls in a world where human evolution—and evolution in general—took a very different path. Mythical creatures like centaurs (the titular character is named Himeno), satyrs, fawns, mermaids, angels, and draconoids exist. In the past, these sub-species often warred and subjected each other to horrible discrimination, including slavery, torture, and abuse. This is the major reason why the Japan of A Centaur’s Life uses state imposed propaganda to enforce equality. As such, violating these “egalitarian” rules can lead to dire consequences.

In the World of A Centaur’s Life, You Can’t Escape the Overt Government Propaganda

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

While we have been introduced to a pre-modern past in previous episodes, it has become clear in the latest episode that even when humans moved beyond judging each other by sub-species (certainly no mean feat, considering just how visually different each sub-species appears from each other in terms of their unique pair of additional limbs), this did not end discrimination. While clear differences do exist in the modern geopolitical situation in the world (such as the current president of the U.S. being a “Democratic Communist”), recent history is surprisingly close to our own. The rise of religious intolerance, radical ultra nationalism, and perhaps even a type of eugenics based on racial characteristics shared with us four-limbed humans (our social construct known as “race”), mirrors our own history. Modern history too, is affected by clear and obvious signs of colonialism.

The episode at first appears to center around the Amphibifolk character of Jean Rousseau, a French national (while the “joke” of a frog person being French is obvious, this quickly becomes no laughing matter) from an Amazonian tribe in South America. Rousseau is rescued as a boy by French missionaries—and they are strongly implied to be Christians. (That there are abrahamic religions in A Centaur’s Life obviously makes sense given how closely history hews to our own.) We quickly learn that the Amphibifolk are essentially the indigenous people of the Americas, and that some current governments seek to influence them with access to weapons and technology. The history of colonialism seems quite clear.

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

Most blatantly in the parallel historical progression, we had previously been told that the Third Reich existed by Kyouko, Himeno’s satyr friend. This implied that World War II happened in the world of A Centaur’s Life as well. It would not surprise me if some of the alliances were not the same (perhaps Japan did not join the Axis powers, perhaps some Allied country did?), but it’s difficult to imagine a Third Reich that didn’t engage in pretty horrific and reprehensible behavior requiring a strong response. Disturbingly, we have now confirmation that one of the key details of World War II also occurred in the world of A Centaur’s Life: the concentration camps.

The latest episode of A Centaur’s Life is not for the faint of heart. And for a certain demographic, it may be incredibly painful to watch, as the flashback parts of the episode specifically take place at the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. This isn’t conjecture: If you have seen a photograph or been in person along the rail road tracks leading to the front gates, you will not forget it. It is simply too blunt a monument to man’s cruelty and inhumanity towards man. This isn’t a metaphor or similar development. The camp in question is very clearly the historical Auschwitz.

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

Just as there is implication in A Centaur’s Life that the colonialist missionaries in South America were most likely Christian, there is an implication here that the victims of Auschwitz are Jews. The Germans are very clearly of all the sub-species, and their victims are also clearly of all the sub-species. Yet, both the Germans and their victims call themselves a “people” (minzoku). The Germans specifically refer to their victims as “inferior people.” Regardless of the phenotypical traits, in our own world, we talk about all Jews as the “Jewish people,” and the Third Reich certainly didn’t make distinctions when considering the extermination of Sephardic, Ethiopian, Mizrahi, or Ashkenazi Jews (except in terms of a perverse internal ranking).

The message is pretty clear, both in the case of the colonialist treatment of the indigenous Native American Amphibifolk and the actions of a sub-species diverse yet anti-semitic Third Reich: Humans don’t need a reason to hate one another. Humans will always create a reason. Why? Because humans are tribal.

Social groups have helped individuals to work together to survive, and tribalism has helped our groups to survive. Approaching other groups could be dangerous, and indeed fatal. While there have always been cases of assimilation and reproduction, that has been at least as much if not more competition and conflict. Psychological studies have shown we feel safer when we identify with a group and when we can compare our group favorably to other groups, even if those groups are entirely arbitrary.

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

A Centaur’s Life makes this very clear to us because we know there are such obvious differences in the sub-species’ physical features. The Germans are Germans because they are Germans. The Jews are Jews because they are Jews. It doesn’t matter that there are German centaurs and Jewish centaurs. Or German angels and Jewish angels. It only matters to the Third Reich that they don’t consider Jews to be German. How they come to that conclusion, no matter how riddled with inconsistencies, blatant contradictions, or pseudo-science that conclusion is, is really immaterial. If the episode makes you want to scream, “BUT THIS IS STUPID!!! HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT!?” that is, I believe, the whole point.

In several summaries of A Centaur’s Life, I have seen the series called “cute girls doing cute things,” but it was obvious to me from the very first episode that there was something dark and meaningful lurking in the background. I also previously said that I believed that the statist propaganda enforcement of equality and democratic utilitarianism reflected relatively new ideas—and that it probably had to do with the relative recency of World War II. Whether the ancient discrimination against sub-species, or the more recent socioethnic and religious discrimination, the world of A Centaur’s Life, and specifically how Japan has chosen to deal with it, exists as a response to relatively recent human atrocities.

A Centaur’s Life may have your cute girls doing cute things, but only they’re only a side dish to deep sociopolitical realities you are expected to consume as a main dish. Bon appetit.

A Centaur’s Life can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

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