Before I begin this article, I should like to relate an amusing story with Professor Justin Jackson, whom I mentioned in my prior post. Once, he walked into a classroom to find that another professor had written “Grendel rocks” on the board. Seeing which, Professor Jackson reacted by saying, “Grendel rocks! Seriously? Don’t you know what Grendel means? Evil. A professor of Hillsdale College wrote “Evil rocks” on the board. He should be ashamed of himself!”
Nothing so sums up post-modernism as the phrase “evil rocks.” Shiki contains sections which convey the idea “Grendel rocks,” but I think that the anime ultimately undermines any such ideas. It certainly avoids the diabolic imagination, despite featuring scenes of pure horror, and the events serve to test the viewer’s ability to make moral decisions amidst attempts to make situations less black and white than they are. But, Seishin’s treatment of the Cain and Abel myth did make me worry about the author’s intent.
It’s spoilers galore from here on, but the way.
In my prior article, I argued that Seishin is like the scop in Beowulf. In Seishin’s version of the Cain and Abel myth, the elder brother still kills the younger, but the younger rises as a vampire to haunt the elder. (That’s a neat twist.) More divergences from the original myth come when the younger brother thanks the elder for freeing him from the odious service of God by killing him, and the reason adduced for the elder killing the younger was hatred of self.
I consider this tale self-referential to Seishin, who feels abandoned by God and feels pained by having to serve Him as a priest. It fails when applied to Vampires vs. Homo Sapiens. Abel, while living, hates himself in the same way that the villagers hate themselves–as shown by their refusal to take steps to preserve their own lives and defend their village until the very end. Even people that know about the vampires allow themselves to get sucked dry–like Natsuno. Yet, many vampires come to hate their vampire lifestyle, like Nao and Tooru. The chief vampire, Sunako, also seems not to relish it much, but she wants to live. On the other hand, we have Ritsuko who clings to her humanity and service to the sick even after being changed. These facts indicate that the allegory is imperfect or even wrong.
The problems in applying the allegory beyond Seishin himself serve to test the audience. Do we really believe that one is least free by becoming a slave of God? How can a perfect slave of the Freest Being not also become perfectly free? The person who seemed most free in the story is Ritsuko. She refuses to succumb to external pressures directing her life: she stays in the village because she wants to, she serves the sick because she wants to, and not even her rising up as a vampire can turn her from her desire to be human. In a beautiful death, she chooses starvation rather than betraying her friend in order to sate her appetite for blood. Neither the vampires who make excuses for their killing and kinslaughter nor human beings who refuse to face reality strike one as free.
The fact that Seishin is a priest appears to make him the epitome of a servant of God, but I would argue that the real epitome of a servant of God is Ritsuko. Look at what we know of Seishin’s stories. He writes novels about people who feel abandoned by God and omnipresent divine silence. He advances the cause of atheism rather than the cause of God! He certainly has no words of comfort for Kaori, a frightened teenage girl who feels like Megumi is coming to kill her. His consolations were so pathetic that I wished someone to give him a good thrashing.
On the other hand, Ritsuko tirelessly helps her patients as a nurse and loves doing it. The Christian faith has ever considered caring for the sick as a preeminent good work. One desert father told a colleague that a monk who merely fasted and prayed–holy though this style of life is–could not equal a monk who cared for the sick even if he hung himself up by the nose. The sick and suffering have ever been identified with Our Lord. For example, a certain saint, while caring for a patient, was told that the bishop was here to see him. He responded that he would “see his grace once he had finished attending the Lord.” At any rate, Ritsuko so loves her God-given talent for caring for the sick that she chooses to die rather than to live as a monster. A perfect example of a martyr or a friend of God.
Well played, noitaminA, well played. Even as the case is being set forth for the monsters of the story, it undercuts their philosophy. It probes the viewers on whether we should accept the dark imagination over the light. In giving us a post-modern Cain and Abel, it then reveals its falsity. Of course, I’d love to read an article or a comment which claims that the post-modern view wins out in the story.