Speed Grapher is a story about government corruption
A wonderful anime called Speed Grapher is about a Tokyo where money buys you anything you wish. The rich use it to enjoy all the forbidden pleasures in a secret club for elites (like the Horned Society, in Eyes Wide Shut). The protagonist, Tatsumi Saiga, is a former war photographer who found secret joy in capturing the perfect moment (it gave him an erection), often at the moment of his subject’s death (a perfect character flaw in a story about taboo pleasures).
The man behind the forbidden club is Chōji Suitengu, a character who quietly illustrates his conspicuous consumption by smoking cigarettes wrapped with 10,000 yen bills. Later we find out that he is just another victim trying to change the system but in less moral ways.
What this anime does so well (to the point of some critics deciding the characters aren’t likable) is constantly focus on the horrors of a trickle-down economics society where having enough money allows you to create wars for even more profit. In trickle down economics, the guys in control of the faucet always win.
We see this when Saiga talks ells Kagura about the wars he has seen that didn’t make any sense to the people doing the fighting, but did make sense to those ordering the fighting or supplying the equipment. We see this when we find out Suitengu’s father was killed due to owing debts to a politician, who then pressed Suitengu into the military to cover his father’s debts. And we see this at the end, when Ginza is trying to out the corruption but everywhere she turns, she finds that the levels above her are beholden to the secret society in some way.
The Activist SF Test
One of the tests that I use in determining if something is Activist SF, is if it portrays to the audience actionable steps that an audience member actually do. IE, getting a battle mech isn’t an actionable solution. Getting a tank or an attack isn’t likely in the cards either, but exposing the problem to society, or to the authorities despite adversity, or organizing a resistance are actionable.
Exposing the problem: Throughout Speed Grapher, it exposes how government officials, police chiefs, media outlets, and corporations can support each other as oppressive forces, which I don’t think is big news. But tying together how corrupt elements use war for profiteering isn’t well understood so Speed Grapher does bring this to our attention.
Portraying activism: Speed Grapher shows how to take action through the organization of the White Knights. This episode focuses on Joe the non-fic writer who isn’t sure he has the courage to out the elite’s connections to the secret club. Saiga works with his newspaper, or finds experts to help figure out what is happening.
Check out Speed Grapher. As an American, you won’t feel emotional ownership of the corrupt officials, but through out, you’ll enjoy the humanist story about Saiga’s work as a photographer, and how a simple photo can make a difference.