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Does anime have a Nazi problem? Some Jewish fans think so.



TAIPEI (JTA) — When the Season 3 plot twist of “Attack on Titan” aired in 2019, viewers wasted no time in jumping online to discuss what they saw. 

In the world of “Attack on Titan” — an extremely popular Japanese anime series now in its final season, which started in March and does not have a known end date — humanity has been trapped within a walled city on the island of Paradis, surrounded by Titans, grotesque giants who mindlessly eat any person who gets in their way. 

In the third season, the Titans’ origins are revealed as a group called the Eldians, a group that made a deal with the devil to gain Titan powers with which they subjugated humanity for years. A group called the Marleyans later overthrew the Eldian empire and forced them into ghettoes, forcing them to wear armbands that identified their race with a symbol similar to the Star of David. Political prisoners were injected with a serum that turns them into the terrifying Titans. 

The implications that a race meant to represent Jews had made “a deal with the devil” to achieve power were too much for some to bear. Fans debated the meaning on Twitter and Reddit as think pieces pointed to the show’s “fascist subtext” and possible antisemitism as ratings and viewership climbed. Some viewers defended the series as a condemnation of those ideas and a meditation on moral ambiguity, but others said the plot’s condemnation of fascism was too weak. The New Republic in 2020 called “Attack on Titan” “the alt-right’s favorite manga.”

Either way, in November 2021, the show’s production team announced it would cancel the sale of Eldian armbands — the ones Eldians were forced to wear in their ghettos — explaining that it was “an act without consideration to easily commercialize what was drawn as a symbol of racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination in the work.”

“Attack on Titan” is only the latest manga (a specific type of Japanese comic books or graphic novels) or anime (TV shows or movies animated in the manga style) series on the chopping block. As it continues to gain popularity outside of Japan’s borders, the Japanese animation medium as a whole has been hit with criticism for alleged glorification of antisemitism, fascism and militarism. The debate has been fueled by a stream of examples: the literal evil Jewish cabal in “Angel Cop,” (references to Jews were later removed in the English-language dubbed version), the Fuhrer villain in “Fullmetal Alchemist,” the Nazi occultism (in which Nazis channel the occult to carry out duties or crimes) in “Hellboy,” and the Nazi characters in “Hellsing” and “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” to name a few. 

Western viewers are not the only ones taking issue. Fans of “Attack on Titan” in South Korea — which was subject to Japanese war atrocities during World War II that Japan continues to deny — have taken issue, too. Revelations from Hajime Isayama, the creator of the original “Attack on Titan” manga, that a character in the series was inspired by an Imperial Japanese army general who had committed war crimes against Koreans were met with heated discussion and later death threats from Korean fans online. Some also pointed to a private Twitter account believed to be run by Isayama that denies imperial Japan’s war atrocities. 

“Ridiculous the lengths a fandom will go to downplay the blatant antisemitism in a series and protect and lie about the creator of said series,” wrote one Twitter user. “[Y]ou doing this and ignoring koreans and jewish people says a lot.”

These themes are so common in manga and anime that some independent researchers like Haru Mena (a pen name) have begun creating classifications for the many Nazi tropes that make regular appearances. Mena, a military researcher who lectures annually at the Anime Boston convention about World War II and Nazi imagery in anime and manga, says the phenomenon is a result of how Japan remembers its role in World War II — not as the aggressor, but as a victim of war

“​​Japan does not want to be the bad guy. They love to have other people be the bad guy,” he said. “That’s why they’re using all these Nazi characters. We all agree Nazis are bad, war crimes are bad, no decent self-respecting nation would ever do [what they did].”

But many Jewish anime fans, like Reddit user Desiree (who did not offer her last name for privacy reasons), have taken issue with the way some anime and manga series portray Nazis while reducing the Holocaust to narrative devices. 

“I think that most people who are telling these stories aren’t coming from an area where this would be as personally familiar,” she said. “There’s almost no resonance to it. Because they take away all these details they make it a big trope.”


anime and manga have an antisemitism problem

good day

— Kay (he/they, she for friends only) (@Cayliana) February 19, 2022

East Asian interest in Nazi imagery has also bled over into the West in the form of news headlines in recent years — involving everything from Nazi-themed bars and parades to Nazi cosplay in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Korea.

But some experts say that repeated references to Nazi villains and World War II in manga and anime have more to do with Japanese history and culture than with antisemitism.

“There is a fascination with Nazism in Japan to some degree or another,” said Raz Greenberg, an Israel-based writer whose Ph.D. research examined Jewish influence on Japan’s “God of Comics,” Osamu Tezuka, an artist sometimes referred to as Japan’s equivalent to Walt Disney. In 1983, Tezuka released the first in a five-volume series called “Adolf,” a popular manga set in World War II-era Japan and Germany about three men with that name — a Japanese boy, a Jewish boy and Hitler.

“I think there’s something fascinating about Nazi aesthetic, certainly for countries that never actually participated in the war against the Nazis. But I don’t think it’s that different from, say, the way George Lucas made the Empire in the ‘Star Wars’ films very Nazi-like in its aesthetic,” Greenberg said.

As Greenberg notes, Western media is also full of Holocaust references — some more successful in its repudiation of Nazi ideology than others — like the numbered tattoos and recent use of a Lithuanian prison camp as a filming location in the Netflix hit show “Stranger Things.” 

“What makes people angry is, people think when the Japanese approach it, they approach it without understanding. And it’s easier to think that they don’t understand it when you look at a show like ‘Attack on Titan,’” Greenberg said. 

Liron Afriat, a Ph.D. candidate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Asian Sphere program and the founder of the Anime and Manga Association of Israel, said while shows like “Attack on Titan” reference the Holocaust and use World War II-era imagery, it’s likely that Western viewers are misinterpreting its intended parallels to Japanese politics. … particularly Japan’s past of aggressive and corrupt militarism and late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempts to reinstate a non-defensive military.

“Western people are very eager to jump to conclusions when it comes to Asian media. This is something I see a lot in my work and it’s very frustrating,” she said. “There is a sense that because Japanese pop culture is so popular nowadays, it’s very easy to kind of dogpile on it and say it’s racist.”

In recent decades, anime series have been watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world, and the medium has gone from being seen in the West as a geeky niche genre to a mainstream phenomenon. Though show creators may be conscious about their references, some fans say the fascist and Jewish references, especially the more clear-cut ones — like the Jewish conspiracy in “Angel Cop” — have real-life consequences. 

Many in the anime fan community today remember a 2010 incident at Anime Boston when a group of cosplayers dressed up as characters from “Hetalia: Axis Powers,” a series that anthropomorphized Axis and Ally countries, was photographed making Nazi salutes just around the corner from the city’s Holocaust memorial.

“It used to be like, I can go to an anime convention and they would be selling uniforms that were clearly meant to be Nazi uniforms, but sans the swastika,” Desiree said. “And then over time, I noticed conventions started banning that kind of thing.”

“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” features a Nazi character named Rudol von Stroheim. (Screenshot from YouTube)

Noah Oskow is the managing editor of the digital magazine Unseen Japan and a Jew who has lived in Japan for seven years. He recalled similar experiences at U.S. anime conventions.

I think that it is problematic to portray Nazis and the Holocaust in the very frivolous way that it’s often portrayed,” he said. “Even in a place that is so far removed from Japan, that aesthetic of Nazis from manga or anime was seeping into somebody’s choices in a far-removed anime and manga event.”

Oskow says recent portrayals of Nazis and fascism in anime and manga lack the depth necessary to confront an issue like the Holocaust, but that some subtext in shows like “Attack on Titan” is likely missed by Western viewers since it is created for a Japanese audience.

Still, he says, as a Jew, there is a discomfort with these depictions, and the problems with simplifying themes like fascism and genocide should not be ignored just because the product came from Japan — particularly as stereotypes about Jews as having outsize influence remain common. In Japan, as in other East Asian nations such as South Korea, China and Taiwan, books and classes on how to become as smart and wealthy as Jews — believed to be among the most powerful people in media and finance — are not uncommon.

“In my years of discussing Jews with Japanese people…they really think of Jews as an ancient historical people or the people who were killed in the Holocaust unless they have some sort of conspiratorial idea. But most people have no conception of Jewish people,” Oskow said. “So when they’re portraying Jews in manga or anime or any sort of media, and when readers or viewers are engaging with that media, I just don’t think there’s this thought of how a Jewish person would perceive how they’re being portrayed.”

Jessica, a 29-year-old Jewish and Chinese anime fan from Vancouver who also requested her last name be left out of this article, said she deliberately chooses not to watch shows such as “Attack on Titan” and “Hetalia” because she finds the discussions about them among fans to be unproductive and frustrating.  Desiree echoed Jessica’s experience of being ignored when raising the topic of antisemitism within the medium or within the fan community on platforms such as Reddit.

“I saw the reactions of other Jewish fans and, more importantly, saw the reaction of the goyish fans — the way ‘Hetalia’ fans did the sieg heil in front of a Holocaust memorial, the way that [‘Attack on Titan’] fans would swarm concerned Jewish fans in droves to tell them that they should perish in an oven, and I decided I didn’t want anything to do with anime that attracted that sort of fanbase,” Desiree said.

“Attack on Titan” returned to streaming services on March 4 with the first part of its final season. In the first episode, the protagonist Eren, whom audiences have followed for a decade, begins carrying out a global genocide known as “the rumbling” with the end goal of destroying all Titans for good and bringing peace. The end result is a wipeout of 80% of humanity, an act that Eren believes was the only path to freedom. He thinks humans must all suffer as a consequence of being born into the world — a nihilistic philosophy that can be found among the manifestos of school shooters and incels. 

In the original manga series, Eren’s supporters on the island militarize in order to defend Eren’s violent act, chanting a slogan: “If you can fight you win, if you cannot fight you lose! Fight, fight!” The ending was seen as morally ambiguous and was not popular with fans, who mostly refuted it due to poor writing. Many hope that the anime series will go a different route in its final episodes, which have not yet been released or given future release dates.

The post Does anime have a Nazi problem? Some Jewish fans think so. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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