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Adoption in anime is always an interesting theme. From what I have seen, the theme is largely ignored, and is mostly a plot device of sorts. It receives no further treatment, exploring the minds of the adoptee and adopted.

Ponti-dono speaks of Mari acting as a de facto mother for Mirai in TM8.0 and how this relationship practically mirrors Balsa from Seirei no Moribito (though I’ve never seen the show).

What I was interested in was how race and ethnicity play into the psychology of adopted characters in anime. One good example is Eureka’s kids. [warning, Eureka 7 spoilers follow]. The reason why a transracial – hell, it was trans-species – adoption seemingly, seamlessly works in Eureka 7 (Linck was black). One guess is that the complexities of transracial adoption is neglected for the sugarcoated kazoku theme that permeates a lot of anime. This is very similar [warning, Nanoha spoilers follow] to Fate, where Admiral Lindy adopts fate, though I’d say the adoption focused more on the development of Fate than it did the relationship between Lindy and Fate – Lindy was also a single mother. Yet in Nanoha, race, ethnicity and nationality are non-issues, despite the existence of different “worlds” made explicit. It’s just for marketing, yeah, but still.

But, probably the most interesting case is in Dragonball Z. Goku was a saiyan, yet he was adopted by a human. This gets complicated when Vegeta shows up and Goku’s saiyan identity is propelled by Vegeta. Throughout the anime (I wouldn’t bother with the manga….) Goku does acknowledge himself as Kakarot, but fights Vegeta not for any racially (saiyan vs. human) motivated reasons. For Goku, it’s more of those ubiquitous themes of HEROIC JUSTICE etc. which motivate Goku to fight. On the contrary, Vegeta’s discourse is situated in the intersection between class and race (the prince of saiyans) – that’s why he’s always flabbergasted that a “common soldier” could be stronger than a royalty.

Of course, while race and class are addressed somewhat in DBZ, Goku’s mentality is ignored for the most part. In most real life cases, as there is a bit of literature on the subject, transracial adoptees will suffer from any number of theoretical psychological constructs, double consciousness, multiple selves, cognitive dissonance, the other, etc. This is the kind of complex issue I haven’t seen in any anime that does feature interracial adoption.

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10 Responses to Babies for sale! Babies for sale! Buy one, get another 50% off!

  1. ghostlightning says:

    This is interesting. Imagine my surprise when I saw the post on my front page.

    I would consider the tradition of Gundam shows wherein pilots in their early adolescence are adopted by their respective war efforts, often without having guardians with in the ‘nurturing parent’ capacity. I speculate that there is a relation to the amount of angst the said pilot displays during the course of the narrative relative to the amount of parental guidance/support/affinity in whatever form he gets.

    In Mobile Suit Victory Gundam Uso Evin is possibly the youngest lead pilot (at least in the Universal Century continuity). The very idea of using him as an ace pilot (Newtype powers) is questioned very early on, and at some level I contextualize the 50-ep series as commentary on children adopted by armies in the war effort (there are a LOT of kids involved,they fight and perform support duties and are for the most part the least annoying of such characters in Gundam).

    For something more familiar to you, what do you think of this relationships in Gundam 00:

    1. Soran Ibrahim (11) – Ali Al Saarchez
    2. (Soran Ibrahim) Setsuna F. Seiei (14) – Celestial Being

    In #1 I think there’s a more straightforward parent-adoptee relationship, in #2 it’s more like a foster home. But tell me what you think.

  2. Cuchlann says:

    This might have more to do with Ghostlightning’s comment than the original post, but anyway: orphans are generally symbols of the entire society which adopts them. Since they have no parent, all society is their parent. It’s why so many hero stories use orphans, because they can easily represent everyone in a culture because the familial traits won’t be passed down to them directly — that is, their parents aren’t teaching them family indiosyncracies.

    • lelangir says:

      Yeah, why didn’t I know that? -_-;

      another example of that is the tomb of the unknown soldier – generally, a nation will have an unknown soldier. The unknown soldier acts as a metonymic device to represent the nation because there are no other signifiers by which to identify it. For example, an unknown soldier will have no gender, age, race, ethnicity, name, etc. – only nationality is implied.

      both orphans and unknown soldiers are useful representational devices then.

  3. coburn says:

    Most of the adoptions that sprung to mind in anime do wind up fitting into the old Orphan Hero set-up, so the adopter/ee relationship presumably gets underplayed in the name of having an independent child hero (who, in addition to Cuchlann’s points re. society as parent, is an exciting sorta hero for children to empathise with). That whole trope probably distorts the proportion of introspective attitudes per fictional adoption quite heavily, in some genres more than others.

    Michiko to Hatchin definitely covers an adoptive relationship, and an interracial one at that, but the race thing isn’t really important to the dynamic. Still, I’d argue it’s vital to Hatchin’s character. One of the things M2H uses adoption for is emphasising the importance of shared experience behind any sense of family – which would also apply to Kurenai, although with a class divide chucked in. Another class divide adoption dynamic might be Yomi in Ga-Ri Zero, who is happily beholden to her noble father but finds her role as heir contested by his devious blood relatives – it’s nothing too complex, but pretty important for understanding Yomi (who goes on to become an adoptive onee-san to the heroine).

    • lelangir says:

      the whole illegimate child theme in Kurenai I wish was taken further. In this respect, Kurenai had a looooooot of potential but didn’t really give it any treatment. I can’t really comment much on gar ei- les…zero, though.

  4. gloval says:

    Race and nationality issues in adoption doesn’t really seem to be tackled in anime. Although discussion on character issues do touch on the fact that that character is adopted. We could see that in Ranka and how she was spoiled by Ozma.

    Speaking of the situation of having a man as guardian of a little girl, the lolicon angle is usually, intended or unintended, mixed into the relationship dynamic. And it usually results in character flaws and issues with the girl. Could it be taken from real life examples perhaps or a precautionary tale against lolicon?

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’ll let lelangir address your points, not that I really could myself. But I’ll add Shuu-chan with Hagu in Honey and Clover to your Ozma and Ranka.

      • lelangir says:

        hagu was adopted? I thought that – for some “trans human” reason (mechademia vol2?) – Shuu was actually her biological uncle, and that towards the end of s2 (or was it s1?) there was some fukken incestual feelings going on yo.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Does her biological ties invalidate the adoption mechanic? She was taken in by her grandmother first before Shuuji took her in. Also, if the incest does occur, it’s a consequence that doesn’t change the premise. I haven’t read mechademia (I want to) so I can’t say definitively, but what do you think?

  5. Pingback: WHEN EDITORIALS FIGHT BACK: Superfanicom vs. We Remember Love (Anime Blog Tourney Silliness) | We Remember Love

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