Kisara’s Revenge: Right or Wrong?

Here’s one last article on Black Bullet and the Spring season of 2014.  Like most of you, Kisara’s utter obliteration of her treacherous brother took me by surprise.  I thought that she would let him off with the loss of his legs, but I suppose cutting off a limb is always the prelude to giving the killing stroke–whether one is considering Japanese or Western martial arts.  Anyway, the parricidal villain got what he deserved.

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Or did he?  Kisara laughs maniacally after his death and claims that she is evil and that only evil can eradicate evil.  These two claims strike one as shocking, especially for someone from a culture where filial piety is so esteemed.  (And no, evil cannot eradicate evil.  Only justice and mercy can.)  When one takes that into account along with the traditional belief that the victims of murder will not rest in peace until they have been avenged, I’d say that most Japanese would think badly of her had she not killed Kazumitsu Tendo.

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So, whence arises the idea that she did wrong?  I am tempted to think Kisara’s words as purely rooted in the emotion of the moment.  To a person of integrity, killing is always ugly and painful even if justified.  Or does she feel that she ought to have left Kazumitsu’s punishment to the authorities?  But, one has already seen the degree of corruption in both the police and the government, and Kisara no doubt took this into account when she undertook extralegal means to avenge her parents.  Using a duel to execute a murderer is hardly ideal, but neither is Black Bullet‘s society.

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I’m pretty sure this did not enter into Kisara’s mind at all, but in the spirit of this blog let’s ask this question: was it unchristian to kill her brother?  The Faith does recommend mercy.  Kisara could have stopped short of killing him at least, right?  But, four things must be taken into account when judging this matter: 1) Kazumitsu thinks nothing of taking human life–even the lives of his parents; 2) merely maiming him does not prevent him from continuing to use his political power or influence to cause grave harm; 3) the corrupt government might acquit in a trial, thus allowing him to continue to take human lives or endanger society for his own ends; and 4) Kazumitsu would no doubt be using his power to eliminate witnesses should he be arraigned.  I think that there exists a hierarchy of compassion in Christianity and prudence partially governs how mercy is given.  As the Glossa Interlinearis, a 12th century Biblical gloss by Anselm of Laon, states: “Justice and mercy are so united that one ought to be mingled with the other; justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice profusion…” (Gloss to Matt. 5:7).  Permitting Kazumitsu to live in society places the life of a murderer above his potential victims.  To have compassion on the murderer in this case is to lack compassion for the innocent.  Giving the lethal blow to Kazumitsu falls more under Katsujinken (“the life giving sword”) than Satsujinken (“the murdering sword”).

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If anything could have rendered Kazumitsu’s death a moral wrong, it would be if Kisara had arranged the duel in the belief that she was doing wrong.  It is possible to render something objectively right evil by having the wrong intention.  For example, giving money to the poor in order to be praised by others or telling truth for the purpose of delighting in another’s pain on hearing it.  The ugliness of the deed certainly struck her after the fact, but she did not have any doubts about whether she should fight Kazumitsu beforehand.  The preparations before the duel evince her sense of righteous indignation.  But, if there be any truth to Kisara’s belief that she’s evil for avenging her parents, it could only be because she undertook the revenge believing that she was doing wrong.

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You couldn’t be more wrong, Kisara.

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Nevermind, you could be.

But, what do my dear readers think?  Was Kisara’s action laudable filial piety?  The only way to stop a dangerous malefactor?  Erroneous vigilantism?  Or wrong because Kisara acted against her conscience from the beginning?

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15 comments on “Kisara’s Revenge: Right or Wrong?

  1. Fred Warren says:

    It is possible to render something objectively right evil by having the wrong intention.

    A good point here, as we often talk about how a seemingly just end doesn’t sanctify evil means, but we gloss over intent, perhaps because it’s so hard to ascertain, sometimes even by the individual who acts.

    I haven’t watched Black Bullet, so I can’t offer an informed opinion on the morality of Kisara’s actions. Given that she dealt with a psychopathic killer certain to kill again if she held back, the end seems just and the means proportional to the evil averted. Was the government corrupt enough to demand vigilante justice, and is Kasara’s reaction driven by horror at her own ruthlessness (and loss of a brother she probably loved dearly at some time in the past) or her assessment of her motives? I can’t say.

    Great. One more series to add to my need-to-watch list. 🙂

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    • My own want-to-watch list grows almost every day. But, you should like Black Bullet. It has all the elements of a good shonen anime: fun characters, great action, funny lines which could only appear in anime, great animation (especially of the eyes), and a few moral quandaries like you see in this article.

      And indeed a good deed must use good means for a good end. If any of these fall short of goodness, the deed’s no longer good. But, it is so hard to determine intent in some cases. The most insidious evil intention of them all being vainglory, which can taint any good deed by the mere thought of how a good deed reflects well on oneself.

      My own opinion of some of the things Kisara blurted out after the duel is that she was carried away on the wave of her emotions. And Rentaro certainly didn’t help to keep her emotions under control!

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  2. Sindar says:

    Isn’t killing a person a mortal sin? If you look at this story from a Christian perspective, can there really be a redeeming qualities to such a deed? Trying to decide if letting someone live will cause greater harm we seem to be taking a role of a judge, deciding who get’s to live and who doesn’t. I feel that it is a role a christian should not attempt to take. That is just an opinion though, it is not like I can deliver a well educated theological argument.

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    • Cytrus says:

      Agree on all points. But God gives out the OK to kill people repeatedly in the Bible, so many Christians argue murder is not a sin if carried out under specified conditions, like mediaeval here. The biggest issue then becomes what those conditions are, and how a finite being prone to subjective views like a human might be able to ascertain those conditions are met.

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      • You’re telling people I think murder is okay, Cyrtus!? xD Naw, murder perforce must be wrong, because murder means “to kill unjustly.” I know most languages don’t have an equivalent term, but murder is always evil.

        Killing, on the other hand, is a morally neutral English word. Some people who are killed deserve it, because they’re trying to harm other people. People who refrain from violent deeds don’t deserve to be killed.

        If it really were wrong for a Christian to take life in all circumstances, we could not serve in the military and police or even use deadly force in self-defense.

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      • Cytrus says:

        Actually, medieval, I urge you to check out the definition of the word. I looked through five dictionaries and still failed to find even one mentioning your key quality of “unjust”. Murder is an “unlawful killing”, and this makes sense as its a common word originating in discussions of law rather than that of abstract morality.

        Kisara’s killing was most certainly unlawful, yet you try to defend it as a fine moral choice. Thus you are saying murder is morally right under the right circumstances. I know you wish to avoid the connotations of the word, which are wholly negative and don’t fit in well with defending the act being carried out. I just tried being a bit contrary by calling a spade a spade.

        The difference between the common definition and your definition, unlawful vs unjust, is linked to one of the main points of your article presenting Kisara as in the right, which is law =/= justice.

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      • Well, there are different types of law. St. Thomas Aquinas lists eternal, divine, natural, and human with each class being rooted in the preceding class. The curious thing about human laws is that they are unlawful when not rooted in natural law. One has no obligation to obey a bad law and actions undertaken with the support of bad laws are as unlawful as the laws themselves. Also, human laws effect only the jurisdictions covered by governmental bodies, while the other kinds of laws are valid in all places.

        I wish to argue that the amount of lawlessness in Black Bullet’s society practically renders it such that the people live under a state of nature–especially with the mass destruction following the Aldebaran attack. (I’m about to get rather Lockean here.) Under natural law, the citizens themselves must dole out punishment for evil deeds. So, Kisara herself metes out the justice which natural law would demand, hence her killing of him is neither unlawful nor unjust. (But, ideally, the two terms should be synonyms!)

        You also must keep in mind that Kazumitsu wished to flee the country with the crimes of murder and embezzlement on his head. Murderers are always the most desperate fugitives, and I doubt whether Kazumitsu could have been restrained without resort to deadly force. His very acceptance of the duel derives from the fact that he believes the agreement under which they fight can give him a means of escape. I don’t think even human laws in many places protect murderers from deadly force if they attempt to flee.

        So, Kisara did not murder. And if whether or not an action is murder depends on it squaring with the human law of a particular jurisdiction, then the SS did not murder millions of Jews, but lawfully killed them.

        At least, that’s how the matter seems to me.

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    • Some homicides are mortal sins and some may be commendable–even if unfortunate and producing a feeling of disgust. It all depends on whether the person was defending himself or a third person. Of course, classes of Christians, priests, monks, and nuns, are considered to have given up their right to kill in self-defense. (Reading medieval works will show that this was not always the case, but this understanding evolved over time.) Essentially, they mirror themselves so much on Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, that they offer no resistance to those who would take their lives in imitation of Christ Crucified.

      However, this excellence is not binding on lay persons. We are not bound to suffer harm to our persons or the loss of our lives should some malefactor attack us or try to harm or kill another person. In the most dire scenarios, we may take the evildoer’s life. This is why some translations of the Bible render “Thou shalt not kill” as “You must not murder,” since murder is always the unjust taking another’s life. And the Bible bears out the idea that every killing is not murder.

      Of course, more problems about this issue arise when applied to human society. The state generally has the duty of punishing malefactors in order to defend lawabiding citizens. What happens when the state, instead of punishing malefactors, abets them? It would seem like such government is more like a band of crooks themselves! Then, I would say that the citizens should work either to remove the corruption in the state or dissolve the present government and form a government capable of distributing justice. In the meantime, the citizens must resort to their own resources or permit crime and injustice to flourish.

      I suppose if there be anything redeeming about Kisara’s revenge, it is simply that Kazumitsu can no longer harm other people. At the same time, we feel for Kisara in that she felt herself forced by justice and filial piety to kill her own brother, which is extremely tragic.

      Great comment! Christians have been debating this issue for a long time.

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      • Sindar says:

        I feel like there is a difference between the ideals brought in Christian teaching and practical aspects of life. It is said “If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either” But in all honesty, we don’t expect people to do so. If someone doesn’t live up to this commandment we do not think that he is not a good Christian. But that, in my opinion, does not render the commandment less valuable as an ideal or guidance for people.

        It is the same with murder/killing. Of course we as a society need controlled violence, reinforcement of law, means of self defense. And Church has been a part of society for centuries, and all this time there were people who had to take up arms to defend their lives and well being of others. And if Church was to repel such people it would have only done harm. But same as in my first example, I feel like that is a practical aspect of life, as oppose to the ideal that is set by Bible “Thou shalt not kill” or “You must not murder”, which I read as “Don’t take other’s life”. But then again, I read it like this, it doesn’t mean that it is a the right way to read it =)

        I am not arguing your point though. Letting few people with no morals do what they want and not take any action, to let the society decay into chaos, I can hardly say that it would be an act of Christian virtue.

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      • St. Francis de Sales writes a few excellent passages on the difference between counsels and commandments. Jesus’ teachings cover both. A commandment must be followed because it pertains to righteousness. On the other hand, Jesus also offers us counsels in order to show us how to live in more conformity to His divine life. While it is more perfect to follow the counsels, they are not mandatory. Celibacy offers the best example. When Jesus’ disciples say that it is better not to marry, Our Lord says: “All men cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given,” (Matt. 19:11). And St. Paul reinforces the idea that it is better not to marry, but neither Our Lord nor St. Paul make celibacy mandatory, even if it is better state of life.

        However, most of the counsels–and you mentioned two of them at the beginning of your comment–pertain to mercy, and we must show some mercy if we are to have any hope of receiving it. So, mercy is recommended in most instances, and the counsels may actually said to be more valuable in that they bring the person in more conformity to Our Lord.

        But, I do think that “Thou shalt not kill” is meant to mean “You must not murder.” After all, murder is inherently evil because it means taking an innocent life. Some people, on the other hand, are killed because they are either doing or have done some grave wrong, which is not murder. For example, it would be impossible to have murdered Adolf Hitler during WWII, but one could have killed him.

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  3. Michael M. says:

    Hm, I read the comments above and they hit a few points I wanted to mention. I never saw Black Bullet, but it’s in my queue in Crunchy, will check it out! I think that to be honest, she’s crazy because if she finds any joy and excitement in killing the person who killed her parents, to me there’s something mentally wrong there. I can’t physically kill something/someone with my bare hands and have any joy in that. To take life, even if the person deserves it or not, is not an innate characteristic in humanity. God Himself wants all to be saved, not to perish, and if you want to go Old Testament, then yes, killings did happen A LOT, BUT, God was protecting His people in doing so because there were people who wanted to wipe them out. Most of the time they received permission as an act of self-defense and preservation, not just “oh, let’s kill all these people in the name of GOD!! YAYY!”

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    • Actually, rejoicing in the downfall of the wicked is natural to human nature. Christians are called to surpass taking joy in revenge and to forgive one another instead. Nevertheless, I think Kisara might very well have been in her right mind until the point of cutting her brother down, but the deed–no matter how much she told herself that filial piety demanded it and that Kazumitsu must be slain for justice’s sake–still troubled and repulsed her. Hence, she does appear crazed after the duel is over.

      Though God’s mercy is endless, He does put a stop to the wickedness of evildoers, especially when they are causing grave harm and show no signs of repentance. People are often the instruments of God’s justice. And, Kazumitsu fits the profile of an unrepentant serious offender to a T. So, I can’t really fault Kisara for her deed.

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      • Michael M. says:

        Yeah, I guess I need to watch that ep to really understand what was going on, my apologies for not getting what was going on though I read your article. I agree, yes, we are called to forgiveness and not revenge. God said that the wrath is His to give, not us. Still, I would never want to be put in that position, to cut someone down like that…

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      • No need to apologize! The comments were getting pretty complex, and, as I said, Christians have been arguing about issues like this for two thousand years now. And I did argue that there is no injustice, even from a Christian angle, to Kisara cutting down Kazumitsu. Prima facie, there does seem to be something wrong with that!

        It is said that Bl. John Henry Newman once defined a gentleman as someone who never willingly harms another person. Our very aversion to killing of any kind is a good product of civilized society, which is fundamentally Christian–as we see when secular people apply Christian morality without recognizing it. May our society continue to be so civilized that most people will never be faced with a deadly situation!

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  4. […] Medieval Otaku digs into the complex question of the morality of Kisara’s vengeance in Black Bullet. [Medieval Otaku] […]

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