From the Streets to Plasma Screens, An Analysis of The Man in the High Castle’s Depiction of “Honorable” Kempeitai
Dudd, Emily Robin Kaneko
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The Man in the High Castle portrays the Kempeitai in a fashion that hinges upon unity and static characterization, reducing the individuals of the military unit to mindless, obedient drones who follow their commanding officer. The characteristics of duty, loyalty, and honor are what draw together the Japanese in the scenes of the show, following a template of ideal behavior laid out by the interwar and wartime, kokutai ideology. Historically, the Kenpeitai were involved with acts of brutality and dehumanization, aiding in the Japanese wartime initiative to further biochemical warfare (Unit 731). Despite the conjecture surrounding The Man in the High Tower and its overarching narrative, the plot of the television adaptation is guilty of reducing the negative impact of the Kenpeitai in Asia during the war, and systematically rationalizing their actions through the stereotypes of honor, loyalty, and fealty toward the emperor. Furthermore, the show’s characterization of the military follows the ideological staples delineated in the Kokutai no Hongi and Senjinkun, both of which are blatant examples of nationalistic, pseudo-religious propaganda; as noted by Karl Friday and the examples of wartime atrocities committed in direct violation of prescribed (ideological) directive, there exists a difference between such documents and reality. I conclude, therefore, that the portrayal of Inspector Kido, the demonstrated (spiritual) loyalty toward the crown, and the emphasis on honor that The Man in the High Castle prescribes toward the Japanese that the Kempeitai’s characterization, falls closer in line with the propaganda demonstrated in the Senjinkun and Kokutai no Hongi—and is misleading in nature.