Well, I have watched Kill la Kill for three episodes and am not completely sure how to think of it. The heroine, as with any character voiced by Ami Koshimizu, is incredibly cute and the action rather amusing. I required the insight of other bloggers to form a more coherent opinion of the show. With the help of JoeAnimated’s article and the one he links to, I have discerned that Nietzsche’s philosophy, to which I am no friend, imbues the series. Apparently, this series attempts to attack Japanese notions of shame. According to the series, shame prevents one from attaining their goals. After all, ordinary shame would have prevented Matoi from seeking vengeance in that terribly revealing outfit. Kiryuin, the antagonist, accuses Matoi of allowing “the values of the masses,” i.e. modesty, to prevent her from achieving true fusion with her kamui or power suit and thus from her goal of getting vengeance for her father. Nevermind that idea of vengeance and vendettas, as with the Viking and Germanic pagans of the Middle Ages, reside in the normal Japanese psyche as well!
From my title, defensio pudoris, you might understand that I have a hearty disagreement with this view of shame. My aversion to the idea of shame hindering humanity is so great that I feel like dropping the show right here. Yet, I have been accused of excessive prejudice in my literary judgments. That article accuses me of allowing my religious and philosophical prejudices to blind me to the greatness of works written under opposing ideologies. To which, I respond that people of opposing views can certainly write a good work; but, a great author must have a great message in addition to a knack for memorable characters, great dialogue, engaging plots, vivid settings, and beautiful literary style. Everyone loves the truth, or at least everyone worth his salt does. (General Lee referred to one general in the Mexican War who as the only person he met indifferent to truth and falsehood. May none of us ever gain the same disregard for the truth!) Therefore, it is no surprise that my top ten list contains authors who come closest to the truth as I understand it. And judging from my friend’s top ten list–also on the blog, he stands guilty of the same laudable charge with the single aberration of H. G. Wells. The noble thought of overcoming my prejudices induces me to continue watching Kill la Kill with all its foolish Nietzschean conceptions of the will to power and of the abandonment of common morality.
At any rate, shame is essential to developing virtue. When the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope saw a young man blushing, he said: “Courage, my boy, that is the color of virtue.” Then again, Nitobe Inazo claimed that the way the Japanese would avert their children from bad behavior would be by telling them that they should be ashamed of it. Also, we see that shame is essential in the practice of religion. Who doubts that the ancient Israelites had forgotten shame prior to the Babylonian Exile when they worshiped other gods even around the temple, sacrificed blemished animals, father-in-laws bedded their sons’ wives, and the powerful oppressed orphans and widows? Their hearts had become so gross that they could not longer tell right from wrong! The Israelites even told a certain prophet that they have done nothing wrong, and they believed that God did not see their iniquities. They were shameless, and their very shamelessness prevented their repentance!
I remember reading about Padre Pio breaking down in the confessional after confessing minor sins. When the confessor expressed surprise at his tears, Padre Pio told him that it was his infidelity that brought him to tears. In the same way, a spouse might be filled with shame at enjoying a kiss from someone outside their marriage. And I am certain that a delicacy of conscience is necessary for sainthood.
It is also certain that shameless people cannot relate well with others, as we see from the example of Kiryuin in Kill la Kill. Does anyone find her clubbable? Rather she is far too superior to care for ordinary mortals or feel ashamed before them. The best persons to have in authority are those capable of shame, as we see in the example of the best kings from the Middle Ages. Why did Canute have himself brought to the shore to command impotently the waves to turn back except that he was ashamed at the ridiculous praise his courtiers heaped on him? Kiryuin surely ought to be ashamed for claiming so many special privileges, casting off feminine modesty, and having all treat her as a goddess!
Shame allows human beings to remain human. Without shame, the possession of virtue and the execution of many good deeds becomes impossible. Without shame, we cannot repent of our failings. Without shame, we cannot walk humbly with God or our fellow human beings. Of course, there can be excesses of shame, as when a person refuses to go to confession or to speak where necessary. However, a well formed conscience works best with a sense of shame: confession produces less amendment and speech becomes too bold without shame. It is easier to overcome shame on the right occasions than for a shameless mind to act justly and considerately.