For this post, my dear readers, I’ll let you into the workings of my scrupulous mind. You see, for a long time now, I worried whether manga like Akame ga Kiru and Silencer actually carry a benefit to the reader. In general, a fascination with blood and violence for their own sakes obviously manifests a disorder of the soul. At the opposite extreme, squeamishness at the sight of blood and the refusal to countenance the existence of violence must also count as defects. So, do Akame ga Kiru and Silencer fall in the mean between these two extremes? And if they are in the mean, what is their particular virtue?
A couple of quotes I found recently appear to show the value of such works. One derives from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse and the second from one of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries. After describing a horrific and monstrous scene from the French Revolution. Kuehnelt-Leddhin writes the following:
It would be wrong to believe, as “sensible” but badly informed people like to do, that the French Revolution (as any other one) represented the “swinging of the pendulum in the other direction” or the “just reaction to earlier abuse.” In American high schools and colleges such interpretations of history are quite popular and are often given with the best intentions: to provide the students with a story that “makes sense” and at the same time suggests that reason and justice, though not always effective, are forces to be reckoned with in the gradual evolution of mankind. The alternative seems merely an endless enumeration of names, places, and dates, all amounting to the inventory of a madhouse or a vale of tears, the Beyond remaining the only consolation. The average teacher is afraid to tell young people who want to “establish” themselves cosily on this globe that Luther was only too right in calling the world des Teufels Wirtshaus, the “Devil’s Inn.” The deeper meaning of history is theological and he who flees theology can only try to solve the riddles of history by offering banalities of a moralizing nature, such as an optimistic Old Liberalism and Marxism (related to each other in certain ways) have tried to provide. This world, however, is a vale of tears and man, from a purely terrestrial viewpoint, a tragic creature. The trouble is that America and Europe, after a long process of de-Christianization, are no longer capable of assimilating a philosophy of the tragic or a theology of the Cross. (93)
The instigators of the French revolution are united to their less sanguinary successors–socialists–by one curious fallacy: the concept that we can create a kingdom of heaven on earth. Human beings can be molded into whatever shape the legislators wish. This transformation results from proper education and government control–à la Psycho-Pass. Religion is unnecessary when the State becomes God.
But this concept of creating a terrestrial paradise relies upon the false premise that people do not need grace. Many atheists claim that religion causes war and cruelty, but what so we see perpetuated in the name of liberté, fraternité, et égalité? By these optimists in the natural powers of man and proponents of the noble savage? To read about the French Revolution is to read about mass slaughters and executions, the violation of women and girls, unspeakable tortures and mutilations, and other horrors which abound when people forget God and try to become the Potter instead of remaining humble clay in the Father’s hands.
The second quote comes from Chesterton’s “The Secret of Flambeau”: “You may think a crime horrible because you could never commit it. I think it horrible because I could commit it. You think of it as something like the eruption of Vesuvius, but that would not really be so terrible as this house catching fire.” The point is that we are all sinners, but held back from the darkest deeds by the never ceasing operations of grace and providence. We should always be grateful to God for those graces we know of and those we don’t perceive: who knows but that a certain set of circumstances can lead us to commit a crime we thought unthinkable? Even those traits deemed virtues might lead to sin in the right circumstances.
Let us take the character of Esdeath for a moment. Her childhood seems remarkable for the virtues of obedience, simplicity, and courage. Even her cruelty toward animals was motivated by obedience to her father! But, that highlights her problem: these virtues serve the Social Darwinist worldview. With the goal of life subverted into mere survival, these virtues help her to become an efficient killer rather than a good soldier. Her sudden desire to fall in love must be seen as grace, but her entire life and education set an obstacle to her finding true love. The only reason which makes me hope for her yet breaking free of her Social Darwinist mindset lies in its incompatibility with love. As of Akame ga Kiru‘s last chapter, the chances of Esdeath turning from the dark side seem slim, but that recalls the points about the necessity of grace and the manifold ways God brings sinners to repentance.
To return back to the topic of violent and bloody tales, they must be considered good for reminding people of the depths human nature can sink to without grace. We ought to return thanks to God for innumerable graces, blessings, and rescues from sin. All of our good deeds begin in God, work through God, and come to completion with God by us being faithful to the grace working within us. The believer in the perfectibility of mankind through merely human actions will eventually start sending his fellow men to the guillotine and, like Robespierre, end by being sent to the guillotine himself!