Unraveling the Mystery Behind Predetermined Enemies

Unraveling the Mystery Behind Predetermined Enemies

In the graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy, the U.S. government accused Japanese-Americans, including George Takei’s family, of being spies sent by Japan during World War II.  The false accusation towards Japanese-Americans inspired the title They Called Us Enemy.  But that leads to the real question, can an individual be considered an enemy without having committed a crime yet?

They Called Us Enemy, Page 23

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Hawaii.  Soon after, President Roosevelt signed an order declaring Japanese-Americans as enemies of the United States and relocating them to internment camps across the U.S..  With absolutely no proof that any of the Japanese-Americans were responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the government took away their homes, businesses, positions, bank account balances, and worst of all, their pride.  Non-Japanese communities began to advocate for the complete removal of Japanese-Americans from the country.  The sharp pricks of persecution and false blame were humiliating and unreasonable.

They Called Us Enemy, Page 36-37

As George and his family were traveling to an internment camp by train, their actions were monitored by guards.  As patriotic civilians who had come to the United States with nothing and worked hard to make a life for themselves, being watched by guards was uncomfortable.  They were being accused of a crime they had not committed.  I’m sure that George’s parents were really anxious about what would come of them once they reached the internment camp.  Unfortunately, this was the new way of life for thousands of Japanese-Americans across the United States.

As shown in the panel below, Japanese-Americans like Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Yasuda were arrested by authorities for being prominent members of society.  Their influence as school teachers or businessmen made them “possible threats” to American security and therefore, suspected of supporting the actions of the Japanese government.  The arrests of influential Japanese-Americans violated the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that neither individuals nor their land can be arrested/taken away without “probable cause” (U.S. Constitution – Fourth Amendment | Resources – Congress; https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/amendment-4/; Accessed: March 19, 2023).  At court, the authorities had no evidence that Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Yasuda were Japanese spies or secretly supporting the Japanese.  They were just a few of many Japanese-Americans who faced this injustice during World War II.

They Called Us Enemy, Page 74

Image Credit

Image Credit

The concept of predetermined enemies can also be noted in modern Japanese media.  In the manga Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the main character Tanjiro’s sister (named Nezuko), turns into a demon after being bitten by one.  Demons are known to suck the blood of humans and wreak havoc everywhere they go, forgetting all their human memories.  As humanity’s worst enemy, the Demon Slayers seek to kill all demons and protect humans from them.  When one of the Demon Slayers finds Tanjiro traveling with Nezuko, they try to kill her.  However, she has never harmed a human before.  Is it right to kill her for being a demon even though she hasn’t hurt anyone yet?  The situation is complicated, especially because Tanjiro doesn’t want Nezuko to die.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Page 48-49

When the Demon Slayer (named Tomioka) arrives, Tanjiro steps in front of his sister, protecting her.  Willing to do whatever it takes to complete his job, Tomioka charges at Tanjiro, his sword raised.  At the last second, Nezuko blocks Tomioka’s blow and bares her teeth at him.  Not only did she not kill Tanjiro to suck his blood, but she is protecting him.  This shows that it isn’t fair for Nezuko to be killed before being given the chance to prove that she won’t kill humans.  Tomioka is astonished because he has never seen a demon PROTECT a human before.  This scene is shown in the panel above.  Nezuko also protects Tanjiro and other humans in this clip from the anime Demon Slayer, which is inspired by the manga. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY1W-g4glLI).

In a later episode, Tanjiro and Nezuko are captured by the Demon Slayers.  One of the Demon Slayers is determined to prove that Nezuko is an evil demon.  In order to do that, he cuts himself, knowing that demons cannot resist the sight of blood and will then attack humans.  However, to everyone’s surprise, Nezuko resists the urge to attack the Demon Slayer, proving that she is not bad like other demons.  This scene from the manga is also in the anime, which can be found at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xc-glGfwYM.

Image Credit

So, the question stands; can an individual be considered an enemy without having committed a crime yet?  Unfortunately, it has happened numerous times in history and cannot be ignored.  But the more important question should be, SHOULD this happen?  Absolutely not.  Of course, this documentation is not intended to boo the individuals who supported Japanese-American incarceration.  When putting myself into their shoes, I realize that they acted in fear and the desire to protect their families, so I am more understanding of their situation.  Instead, I am hoping to raise awareness for the persecution of Japanese-Americans during World War II, make connections to our current world and media, and honor the courageous individuals of that time.

In They Called Us Enemy, George’s father was brave to sacrifice his pride to protect his family and volunteer to help other Japanese-Americans.  George’s mother silently walked beside her husband and took care of George and his siblings during times of worry and injustice.  Even after suffering so much due to the actions of the U.S. government, George’s father continued to support American democracy.  He claimed that the U.S. had the best democracy because the people have the freedom and ability to bring positive change.  After hearing his father say that, George began to appreciate American democracy more and advocate for racial equality in order to prevent incarceration from ever happening again.  By inspiring the graphic novel They Called Us Enemy, George Takei has raised awareness for the Japanese-American incarceration and encouraged Americans to support racial equality movements.

They Called Us Enemy, Page 195-196

In Demon Slayer, Tanjiro was brave to protect Nezuko from prejudiced Demon Slayers and remain hopeful that Nezuko was innocent.  Nezuko’s unconditional love for Tanjiro allowed her to suppress the urge to hurt humans and prove that not all demons are evil.  Even after suffering so much due to the false premonitions of some Demon Slayers, Tanjiro and Nezuko became Demon Slayers and devoted their lives to protecting humans from evil demons.  Their love for each other and their desire to protect humans gained them a lot of respect from other Demon Slayers.  Audiences that read the manga were very touched by the characters’ bravery and inspired by its message of resilience.  

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Page 48-49

Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and take back the prejudice towards Japanese-Americans during World War II.  We can’t go into the world of Demon Slaye and convince the Demon Slayers not to attack Nezuko in the first place either.  However, we can make a difference in our world today and possibly inspire future generations to do so.  Reading the graphic novel They Called Us Enemy or the manga Demon Slayer allows us to be aware of past mistakes and prejudice.  Visiting additional websites can help us learn more about what we can do to avoid declaring predetermined enemies.  As stated by George Takei years after World War II, “My family and I spent 4 years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.  It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America” (George Takei on U.S. Concentration Camps and Refugees – World Hunger and Poverty Blog).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s