Considering some of the more recent shows, such as The Devil is a Part-Timer, it’s clear that subtlety doesn’t come too easy to the anime industry at large. If they bring up anything, anything at all, it will be a big deal. If it’s some character already having a girlfriend to equipping a Gundam with nuclear warheads (goooood thinkin’ guys), all that is mentioned in passing is used later as either a two-part drama-rama or the main plot catalyst that changes everything.
Thankfully for those of us that get tired of always seeing all the cards before they’re even played, a few shows have been opting for a far more subtle track, especially with war. In Gosick, for example, the idea of war being an issue around that world is dropped in a few conversations and is even shown a bit at the very end. But never is it focused on. Not once. In fact, the only reason we see anything of it at all is because one character joins an army and has to fight. But, again, his service time is all that is thought on and only when connected to another character and their relationship. The whole point of the show was about that relationship and thus the war aspect was in the background only. Other shows, like Rideback and the classic Howl’s Moving Castle also feature “wars” that are in the distance and never brought fully to the front.
Why? Easy. The purpose of these stories wasn’t war. It was the characters and those characters were not soldiers, thus war was never a part of the picture. A larger picture, perhaps, but not the one being looked at by the audience. And this is quite true to life as well. Wars are happening right now in some places around the world. But not everyone is involved in them. Not everyone even knows of their existence. Everyone has their own story to live and those stories don’t always interact with the “larger” stories happening elsewhere in the world. As selfish as it may sound, often a person’s life is not defined by a world event. It’s defined by individual events, by individual lives and the choices they make during those moments, not by wars happening between politicians and power-hungry tyrants.