Anime Philosophy #2: Azumanga Daioh and Philosopher Kings

This issue of Anime Philosophy I'll be talking about Azumanga Daioh. I've already written a little bit about this strip before, so click here if you're unfamiliar with the series. The story is about high school life for a group of girls and their teachers, and happens to be a personal favourite of mine, but what the heck is a "Philosopher King" and what does it have to do with high school girls?

Technically, nothing. I doubt the author (Kiyohiko Azuma) had the intention of touching on Plato when she wrote the strips which I'm going to discuss. But philosophy happens to be a particular area of study for me which I enjoy, and I'm probably reading too much into the strip. But the idea just smacked me in the face when I read it.

Because I won't be placing all the strips for the story arch in here, so I'll just give a breif review of the story.

Read the Manga for More!

Azumanga Daioh
Azumanga Daioh

The complete set in one volume.

 

Class President

It is common practice in Japan for each classroom to have it's own "Class President," which is usually decided each semester or trimester. Usually, this is not done democratically - since very few people step up to the added responsibilities. Often times, one model student will volunteer for the job, or no one volunteers and the teacher will appoint a student.

In this case, Tomo, who is far from being a model student, volunteers to become class president. This would lead to - in the words of one classmate - "unmitigated disaster" and thus the teacher, Yukari-sensei, appoints Chiyo-chan. It is important to note that Chiyo-chan did not volunteer to be class president. A snap in-class election is held and Chiyo-chan wins against , greatly humbled and a little embarassed. After all she did not seek nor desire the position.

About Plato and Aristotle

Plato, a student of Socrates, continued Socrates work after his passing. They had been philosophers in Athens around 427 BCE - 347 BCE. In most of Plato's works, he uses Socrates as his mouthpeice, and the central theme of his dialogues tends to be on the nature of truth and justice.

Plato's idea of philosopher kings falls in to the justice category. Plato argued that in order for a ruler to rule justly, either philosophers - who make entire careers of studying what is "just" and what it means to be a "just person" - would have to rule, or rulers would have to genuinely become philosophers. Aristotle, a student of Plato's also had similar beliefs on Philosopher King's, however Plato went a step further: The one who desires to rule is the least qualified to become a just ruler, and the one who wishes not to rule is the one most qualified.

Aristotle then went on to tutor Alexander the Great.

Chiyo-chan as Philosopher King?

Obviously we can see in the strip and series that Chiyo-chan makes an excellent metaphor for Plato's and Aristitle's Philosopher King. She is highly intelligent, a philosopher in her own right. She did not desire the job of class president, yet she was obviously more qualified than the one person who did want the job. Furthermore, we can see that her rival Tomo fits the designation of one who desires to rule, and is probably the most unqualified in the classroom.

And yes, the students actually start to look to the ten-year old prodigy for leadership in some cases, and things go smoothly in classroom five under her guidance.

Republic (Hackett Classics)
Republic (Hackett Classics)

A friend of mine teaches policy studies at a local university. This is the translation she prefers when teaching her class.

 

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Comments 3 comments

RachaelLefler profile image

RachaelLefler 5 years ago from Illinois

You make an interesting case. There's a book I have called Anime and Philosophy that explores the philosophical possibilities of a variety of anime shows. It was an enjoyable read.


Bubblegum Senpai profile image

Bubblegum Senpai 5 years ago from Little Tokyo Author

Thanks! Again, I do not believe that Azuma-senpai intended to give any particular message regarding Aristotelic philosophy. That said, I read the omnibus before I ever studied philosphy in depth, and returning again afterwards and rereading it, the comparison smacked me in the face.

Aristotle is considered the founder of western thought, but even so, most Japanese students studying the humanities route in high school are probably familiar with some of his basic concepts. So who knows? This may have been intentional on Azuma-senpai's part, after all.


RachaelLefler profile image

RachaelLefler 5 years ago from Illinois

Yeah, that's what I thought. Sometimes I like to draw comic-style illustrations of stuff I'm learning too. It makes note-taking less boring.

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    Nigel, AKA Bubblegum Senpai has been a weird, anime obsessed freak of nature since he first watched "Samurai Pizza Cats" as a young lad.



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