Eagle: The Making Of An American President Volume 5
By Kaiji Kawaguchi
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Political Drama
Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)
The final volume of this series starts out with Yamaoka and his team trying to find a way to turn the leaders of the World Machinists and Aerospace Union into his supporters. The President of the Union, Michael Kozlov, has a chip on his shoulder about Yamaoka, and any other immigrant who had it “easy”, and is determined to back the Republican Grant. By playing Kozlov against the Union Secretary Zamal, both men break the other with secrets they had been keeping, and in the end, Yamaoka is able to win another supporter in Kozlov and in turn, the Union. Then, the series finally turns to the great white elephant in the room. Racism. With Yamaoka winning so much support, the question starts to turn if a non-white can really become president. All the kooks come out, such as neo-nazis, rallying against Yamaoka, and violence breaks out in the south, which culminates in not one, but two assassination attempts on Yamaoka, neither of which succeed, and ends with Yamaoka winning more widespread support.
The story then returns to Takashi and the questions he has about his mother’s death and Yamaoka’s connection to them. While Takashi searches for answers, Yamaoka has a final debate with Grant. Yamaoka seizes on one miss spoken word by Grant, and the debate, and Grant are done. The night before the election, Takashi plots to confront the murderer of his mother, but there are several twists before the culprit is revealed. In the morning hours, Yamaoka tells Takashi of how he met his mother and their whirlwind relationship, and Takashi has a suprise for Yamaoka. The series ends with Yamaoka being sworn in.
While the end of this series is no real surprise, the road getting there, especially in this volume, is one serious roller coaster ride. Not much time is ever spent on Grant as the Republican candidate. He is only seen doing interviews and expressing typical right wing conservative views, especially about illegal immigration. He’s not so much an adversary as a contrast to what Yamaoka is about. There are never any outward personal attacks made from the Republicans about Yamaoka. It’s always about the issues, which is very similar to the way the 2008 general election played out. The Democrats had an easy target in Sarah Palin, McCain’s selection for Vice President, when it was revealed that her daughter was pregnant out of wedlock. But Obama never went after her, keeping to the issues of the campaign, something unusual in US politics lately.
And never once do we hear or even see Grant’s VP pick. He isn’t a player, which is a stark contrast to the 2008 election. McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, the conservative woman Governor of Alaska was very controversial. Some might say it’s part of what lost McCain the election. There were a lot of doubts about Palin’s abilities, and as the second most powerful position in not just the US, but possibly the world, this was an important decision. Especially with McCain’s advanced age. Palin has very little political experience and was Governor of a small state. Her nomination looked more like an attempt to placate radical conservatives who didn’t like McCain’s more moderate views. And Palin didn’t help herself with some of the things she said. Her flubs were worse than Grants, and didn’t need someone else seizing on them to point it out.
Racism finally takes center stage, after being hinted at in the last four volumes. Grant is pretty confident that, despite what the American people say, deep down they are all racist, and will not vote for a non-white candidate. Kawaguchi juxtapositions Grant talking with scenes of Americans talking in bars about the very same thing. And Grant is fine with it, as long as it remains implied. But when it becomes overt, he starts to get worried and wants it stopped. Yamaoka sees a big boost in the polls after extremist attempts on his life, exactly what Grant didn’t want. By contrast, the 2008 election saw little to no mention of Obama’s race, though I have no doubt a lot of Republicans believed and hoped as Grant did.
Instead, it was Obama’s religion that was attacked. Throughout the campaign, emails and “news” stories were circulated that Obama wasn’t a Christian, but was, in fact, a Muslim. There was no basis for this claim, other than his name, and the fact that his father was raised Muslin, though no longer practiced. At one point, a shocking 33% of polled Americans believed this claim on nothing more than hearsay. Attacking Obama’s religious affiliation is safer in the US than race, especially in Post 9/11 America, where it’s becoming more “Christians vs Muslims,” than “Whites vs Blacks.” The only worse thing his opponents could have done was call him an atheist. And this is in a country where there will be no litmus test for political office. But, Obama still over came this obstacle, just as Yamaoka overcame it by facing the issue head on. Obama just didn’t get to do as dramatically as Yamaoka.
The results of the election are no surprise, with Yamaoka taking 2/3 of the vote AND Texas. Obama had more of a battle, taking more of the battleground states, but not all of them. And none of the southern states other than Florida went his way. Only in a made up world would Texas vote democrat. Obama was able to switch a few red states to blue, which does say something about his message, which was the same as Yamaoka’s. It was time for change. Most of previous administration’s policies was focused on foreign wars and policing the world. Neither Obama nor Yamaoka advocated this. Their change was focused at home, on domestic policy. While the series ends with Yamaoka being sworn in, Obama, in his first year, has tried to keep one of his campaign promises of reforming health care and getting coverage for Americans who don’t have any. It’s been a tough first year. Change is not easy, no matter how much it is needed.
This volume ends with an afterword written by series adapter Carl Gustav Horn a few days after 9/11. It is dedicated to the passengers of United 93, who died trying to stop the terrorists from completing their task with the plane. It’s almost fitting that this title was compiled for printing days after the worst terrorist attack on US soil. This series serves as a reminder that the ideals this country was founded on should not be taken for granted. They were hard fought for, and the fight must continue, even today. The rights we enjoy today, such as freedom of speech and to assemble are always under attack and still envied in many countries. And even in our own borders, discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation still happen everyday. But as big and insurmountable as the problems we face today may seem, we can not forget that the true power lies in us, in our votes and how we wield them. Yamaoka reminds his critics of this after the first assissination attempt. Use your vote as your weapon.
This was a fantastic series, and I’m kind of sad to see it end. The characters were varied and engaging. Takashi was a great lead that was both unsure son and dogged reporter. He came off as very realistic. Yamaoka was an enigma right up to the end. He always remained true to his stands to make America a better place, but had no problem with using any mean necessary to reach his goals. The story was a great political thriller that at times had my heart pounding. The cliffhangers at the end of each volume perfectly created that “must read the next volume NOW!” feeling. The translation and adaptation are top notch. You are so drawn into the story, that you don’t even think about it. We just don’t get enough of this kind of manga here in the US. The same can be said of Kawaguchi’s work in general. I can only hope that if manga for older readers finds it’s audience, that more of Kawaguchi’s work can come over.