Hello folks! We of the Otaku Warriors for Liberty & Self-Respect (OWLS) have reached our 3rd blog tour. How exciting is that? I hope that you enjoyed last month’s Yuri on Ice “Flight” Blog Tour. It was super fun, believe me. This month’s topic is Sanctuary and it’s our busiest blog tour yet, with 3-4 bloggers posting every week. I hope you enjoyed Rai’s tour post this past Monday about “chuunibyou”. She did a great job. Now it’s my turn. Here we go.
A sanctuary is a place of safety and stability. In anime, there are several different places and environments that characters call “home”. For this topic, we will be discussing various locations and settings within certain anime series.
ONE PIECE is my #1 favourite series, I’m sure some of you already know. That’s why I’m super excited to finally have the opportunity to write about it for my tour post this month. One Piece is about pirates who set out to travel the most dangerous ocean, Grand Line, in order to search for the great treasure left by the former pirate king, Gol D. Roger. These pirates are constantly travelling from island to island, while at the same time evading or fighting other pirate crews and, of course, the marines who try to catch them.
Sanctuary in Status
The world of One Piece is full of wonder and adventures, but it is also extremely dangerous and unpredictable. This is not exactly a place where you feel safe or stable, especially if you are a pirate. And if you are a pirate with a bounty, well, chances are that people are going to be after you for money all the time. You are always on the run, so a place to call home or “sanctuary” is a luxury most pirates can’t afford, unless you’re given Ōka Shichibukai (王下七武海 / Seven Warlords of the Sea) status by the World Government. That status alone becomes a “sanctuary” because it gives you and your crew legal immunity from indictment. If you can stomach allying yourself with the corrupt government and being hated by other pirates, then the sanctuary of your Shichibukai status grants you safety and stability…not to mention the fame and power associated with the title.
However, this is not true sanctuary because it’s not permanent. As a Shichibukai, you are expendable to the government. If a more formidable pirate is recruited, they’ll kick you out and give the new hotshot your spot without blinking an eye. You have to maintain the highest standards of power, influence, and relevance in order to keep your Shichibukai title for a long time.
You can also see this in our real world. Take for example the world of Japanese showbiz. The Shichibukai are the celebrities who are enjoying the fruits of their fame and influence. Their status as celebrities is a sanctuary that they can count on to book more work deals, ask for higher talent fees, receive VIP invites to the most exclusive parties and events, etc. They are treated almost like divine beings by their fans, placed on pedestals and worshiped. However, like the Shichibukai in OP, these celebrities need to maintain the highest standards of appearance and relevance. If they fail to maintain the public’s expectations of them, they are brutally stripped bare and pulled down from their thrones as other brighter stars replace them.
I have written about the harsh world of Japanese showbiz in a previous post, where I expressed my dismay and frustration on the ridiculous “scandal” one of my favourite seiyuu experienced last year. Fortunately, it has now quieted down but remembering it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Plus we still don’t know the real truth, whether the rumours were real or not.
In that post, I also discussed the even stricter standards female Japanese celebrities need to maintain compared to their male counterparts. Remember that AKB48 member who shaved her head while crying in front of a camera, apologizing to her fans for dating? Ridiculous! Remember Becky who got caught having an affair with a married band vocalist (the douchebag) and her fall from grace was even faster than your sneeze? Ridiculous!!! Fortunately, these two women sucked it up and are still fighting their way back to redemption. Of course, the public is resistant at first because they’re now viewed as “tainted” women but I’m sure that they’ll do fine.
Photo of Minegishi Minami (峯岸 みなみ) on her viral apology video.
These only show that yes, there is sanctuary in status because there is a certain degree of safety and stability in fame, wealth, and power…but only if you successfully maintain it. However, if you are looking for a permanent sanctuary, status is not the answer. If you think about it, status is more like a “cage” than a “sanctuary”. Yes, you obtain the power to do almost whatever you want if you have status, but it also restricts your freedom to be who you really are inside.
Sanctuary in Your Nakama
The theme of nakama is perhaps the most important aspect of One Piece. “Nakama” is often translated into English as “comrade” or even “friend”, but it’s not as simple as that. The Straw Hat Pirates (麦わらの一味 / Mugiwara no Ichimi) is the best example of demonstrating the concept of nakama in this series. They’re not simply friends in a way that they get along well together; not simple comrades who happened to belong in the same crew; nor are they family in the sense of blood relations.
I daresay that the bond between the Straw Hats is stronger than that of friends, comrades or even family. Their bond is forged by the desire to achieve their individual dreams tied together with Luffy’s dream of becoming the next Pirate King. Their bond is strengthened by the many life and death adventures they constantly experience together, and solidified by the ultimate trust they have on each other. Once a Straw Hat, always a Straw Hat. They will storm the gates of hell itself and punch the devil himself in the face if one of their nakama is in danger. This is demonstrated during the Enies Lobby arc where the Straw Hats, led by Luffy, waged war against the World Government by burning the government flag for taking Nico Robin away from them. This is my most favourite arc before the timeskip. So amazing!
The Straw Hats consider each of their nakama as their sanctuary who gives them a sense not only of belonging, but of safety and stability as well. Their ships, the brave Going Merry (which died and given the honour of a Viking funeral) and the amazing high-tech Thousand Sunny (their current ship), are their homes and are also treated as fellow nakama. No matter how dangerous their travels become and no matter how many deadly opponents they face, as long as they have each other, they are “at home”.
Compared to just achieving status—which by the way the Straw Hats don’t lack as they are the only pirate crew to have declared clear war against the World Government, punched a Tenryuubito (天竜人 / Celestial Dragons / World Nobles) in the face, and all members having their own bounties—having nakama whom you can count on is a more reliable form of sanctuary.
l consider my fellow OWLS members my very own nakama. Living in this hyper-connected yet solitary Internet age, all of us OWLS members are bloggers. And as bloggers, the Internet is our only way to communicate with each other as we are scattered in different parts of the globe. Yet we are connected by our love for anime, manga, Japanese culture, and other otaku-related passions…and of course, our membership in Otaku Warriors for Liberty & Self-Respect (OWLS). I won’t go as far and say that we are the closest, not at all, especially since we have only formed OWLS some months ago. We are still learning about each other, discovering new things, and as new members join, we are forced to adjust accordingly.
Nevertheless, all of us are strongly driven by our cause which is to promote acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. We have different personal values and principles from each other, but we believe that these differences should not be a cause of division but as a source of opportunity to expand our own worldviews and understanding of each other.
OWLS is our sanctuary where we experience a sense of belonging in an otherwise impersonal bleakness of the Internet. OWLS gives us safety and stability to freely exercise our passions for anime and all things otaku without subjecting ourselves to ridicule. Not only does OWLS benefits us members, but it also gives other otaku a positive message that it’s OKAY to love what you love and to be who you really are, and that you are not alone because there are many other people like you who can support you when you feel like the most hopeless person in the world just by identifying yourself as an otaku.
It would be amazing if we OWLS reach the level of closeness between the Straw Hats in One Piece. That is a dream that I’m confident we’ll achieve together in the future. And speaking of sanctuary in status, I’m not going to lie. I hope that someday OWLS obtain great status as a distinguished organization that gives sanctuary not only to us members, but also to all otaku of every background. It might not be the best sanctuary that we can rely on, but the merits will surely help us grow for the better. But of course, nothing still compares to the sanctuary of nakama we members get from each other. It is more constant and reliable than any status we may or may not achieve. As long as OWLS exists, we members will always have a sanctuary to rely on.
That’s it for my tour post today. I hope that you enjoyed it, especially those of you who are fellow ONE PIECE fans. I find this the easiest tour post that I’ve written so far, perhaps because I’m very comfortable writing about One Piece. Thank you very much for reading and please don’t forget to tune in for Crimson’s tour post this coming Friday. I’m sure it would be great.
Have a lovely day, folks. Be kind to one another and stay true to who you really are. Cheers!
Free to be ME,
Arria (OWLS Secretary)
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