Nothing adequately encapsulates the amount of awesome in this image
‘Allegory’ is a word I hesitate to employ. Understandably, it is often used loosely on the internet, to mean something like ‘metaphorical’. I personally prefer to reserve it for a certain type of storytelling, and it’s a type which is relatively rare in anime. (Though perhaps more common in anime than in a lot of art after the ‘Rise of the Novel’.) It’s a kind of complex, extended and (over)developed metaphor or set of symbols which say something.
Frequently, allegory becomes so overtly symbolic that it ceases to feel like a normal story. The Bouge of Court, for example, has a set of characters named ‘Disdayne’, ‘Ryott’, ‘Suspycyon’ and so on, and it’s much more worthwhile to read their behaviour and speeches as examinations of the things they embody rather than as revelations of normal fictional character; Suspycyon’s eyes roll and his hands shake not because of some motive peculiar to him as a person (for he isn’t a person) but because (I think) the poem’s pointing out what suspicion does to anyone.
This sort of thing is, as I said, fairly rare in anime; Gluttony, Lust and Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist spring to mind, and Infinite Ryvius is (among other things) a sustained political allegory. (Is the Ryvius a Ship of Fools?) Another place where we can find something approaching allegory is Mobile Fighter G Gundam – yes, despite the fact that it’s a childish show about large robots, fighting. Or perhaps because it’s a childish show about large robots, fighting: allegory loves reductive simplicity. Continue reading