Having watched anime and sometimes even read Manga, one may have been surprised by the abundance of German elements they contain (due to the obvious physical distance between the two countries), while many of them are quite famous, such as Attack on Titan, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Monster, Hellsing, Girls Und Panzer, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Rozen Maiden and the list goes on and on.When we talk about German elements we mean character names (almost all in Attack on Titan *) and place names, hypotheses inspired by the German history of the Nazi period (Hellsing), landscapes, cities and villages of medieval Germany (Attack on Titan) or even period before the Fullmetal Alchemist. All these German elements, which are not at all discreet but are clearly displayed, show a strong influence of German culture on Japanese, which is more due to historical circumstances.
Initially Japan experienced a period of political, institutional, and social transition known as the Meiji Restoration in 1868, during which the established feudal system evolved into the then “modern” constitutional monarchy. A prime feature of Japan’s feudal system was its complete isolation in the last 200 years before the Reformation, which, when it came, allowed Japanese society to come into contact with the works of the Western world.This contact, in addition to the intellectual works, was in principle necessary for the modernization of the country in terms of military technology / know-how, as technologically Japan had lagged behind the Americans, the Dutch, the British, the French (and all the then colonial powers that reigned on the planet) after so many years of isolation.Thus, in the context of the modernization of Japanese society, they were hired as expert advisers from the Western world and especially from Prussia / Germany (in 1871 the unification of the country took place) with whom cooperation was crucial for Japan. The Germans helped design the country’s industry, namely the military industry, the education system, the medicine and the legal science (the Japanese civil code is based on the German one).Furthermore, several doctors studied the German language (it is no coincidence that in the anime Monster we see a Japanese doctor living in Germany) since they used German terminology until the 70’s, while the iconic in the anime and manga Japanese school uniform was designed with standard the Prussian uniform of the navy.
Most German-dominated manga and anime are mostly military in nature, although this is not limited to them since also in the western world when we want to portray a militarized country / society we go back to early 20s Germany. (e.g. Star Wars). This is due to the image that Germany itself cultivated of itself as a terrifying military force during the two World Wars.
In addition there is also the fact that Japan and Germany were allies during the Second World War , however Japan did not suffer as much as the rest of Europe from the heinous acts of the Nazis, due to its natural distance and thus they (German people during Nazi era) have not been associated with all these negatives by the Japanese people like it is the case for the rest of the world. Their cooperation on an economic level, now ** continued even after the end of WWII.
But beyond the German influences, as far as military anime is concerned, there are also German influences in anime with supernatural / mystical themes because, perhaps, they give an extra element of exoticism due to the language (like the “spells” / “magic” in the anime Hellsing). In Europe, after all, there were alchemists and various other such movements (Hermeticism, for example), which left their mark on the traditional Western occult and spiritual tradition. The “magic words” from Hellsing come from the tradition of the Hermetic Alchemists:
Of course, many believe that this “obsession” with these German elements of the Nazi period is linked to Japanese nationalism, as they consider some anime / manga to have an apologetic attitude to the period of fascism that the country experienced in the 1930s ,which led to the invasion of China in 1937. An example they give is that in Attack on Titan the Mikasa character bears the same name as the Imperial Japanese Navy warship and the fact that the creator of the anime (Hajime Isayama) admitted that he created the Dot Pixis character based on the general Yoshifuru Akiyama of the Imperial Japanese Army, which had occupied Korea until 1930. In a broader context, the clearest evidence from this period of the country is the depiction of teenagers literally becoming soldiers and proving how good soldiers they are by serving their homeland.
* Many parts of the anime soundtrack have German lyrics.
** The word “part-time job” in Japanese comes from the word “Arbeit” which means “job” in German.