Friday, July 17, 2020

Japanese War Art, 1894-1905

Summary: This post-Meiji Restoration Japanese war art (First Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War) is a potent model for fictional war art despite its romanticized view of the wars. 

This post contains a series of artworks selected from the following collection:

I have little that is easy or simple to say about these and I am seriously struggling with exactly how to express myself here, so I will wait to pass comment in the way that I want to until I have better formulated my thoughts. For now I will simply post the art with a few minor comments and you can use it how you will. 

What I will say for now- and this is not meant to disparage or diminish these artworks, but simply to comment on the remarkable thing about them as pieces of contemporary war art- is that these works have a similar energy to a little boy when he's playing with his toy soldiers.

I believe that this is an attitude which, in part, characterizes military adventurism while it is commencing and while it is successful.

In my own life I have found that a soldier may celebrate having killed an enemy but may also periodically weep over having accidentally killed a civilian, especially if it was a child. Whatever logical contradictions one might propose about that, there is no inherent contradiction at the level of the human soul. That is not to say that soldiers never intentionally kill civilians, of course.

Experiences of violence and brutality don't always turn people into pacifists; in my experience they often serve to increase people's tolerance for violence and brutality.

Note that the danger level depicted in these pieces is "there's risk but you can handle it, and most enemies are not your equals"; what's interesting is that this is the same risk/development profile as e.g. recruiting material for the Marine Corps or Special Operations, and also that this is in the same difficulty profile as most video games and RPGs. I believe that this risk/development profile is attractive to us in most enterprises, and so its desirability may be innate to human psychology as a mechanism for safe but continuous personal development.

Note the left-hand guy's hat.

Interesting terrain feature.

Note the use of the rock.

Related to the above.

Note the journalists.

Note the usage of corpses for cover.

Note the close contrast of the flags.

Note the dudes going up the tree to escape.

Note the parasol.

"Conan-sama, what is best in life?"

One where the Chinese aren't depicted as gigantic pussies.

This one is worth some extra consideration.

Contemporary Western commentary.

A similarly complimentary Japanese depiction of an American victory over the Spanish.

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Art - First Run