The anime Bungo Stray Dogs, another called Shigofumi, and certain blog comments have inspired me to write this article. Shigofumi, an anime highly reminiscent of Kino’s Journey, (For interesting me in the latter series, my thanks go to Genki Jason of the blog Genkinahito.) hits the nail right on the head in the way it portrays evil as the negation of being in the first couple of episodes. Since many of my fellow bloggers watch Bungo Stray Dogs, my article will focus on that series rather than Shigofumi, but I highly recommend it to those who love introspective dramas. There are some spoilers, but you should be fine as long as you have watched the first seven episodes of Bungo Stray Dogs.
In this series, I have been flabbergasted by both Osamu Dazai’s predilection for suicide–which is treated as absurd–and his nihilistic outlook, which shows his predilection for suicide to be no laughing matter. His statement “Justice is a weapon” stands as the most nihilistic statement I have heard all year. (By the way, if you wish to read an excellent article on Dazai’s statement and the nature of justice, read Annalyn’s article here. No more digressions–I promise!) Dazai, even if he works for the good guys, counts as an anti-hero if not a downright villain. Though he pooh-poohs ideals, his statements prove that he has his own ideology, which is not far from the ideals of some of the worst villains.
For the sake of argument, let’s divide villainy into two sorts: active or passive. Active villains are more known to us, because they have existed since Cain murdered his brother. They express themselves violently and are impossible to ignore. What differentiates them from the passive villain is that they see goods as really goods and do not mind taking them at the expense of others. Think of Blackbeard or Moriarty for this category. The passive sort of villain tends to be rarer, because he neither sees goods as goods or existence as worthwhile. One can see why this sort of villain is rarer: it takes a special sort of lunacy to deny the goodness of goodness or not to value life–n.b. life itself, not necessarily the lives of others. In this category, I would place Karl Marx, the villains of Dostoyevsky’s Demons, Batman‘s Bane, or the professor in Chesterton’s Manalive. Fortunately, the last of these was redeemed from his villainy in one of the most powerful scenes in Chesterton’s fiction.
We live in an age of passive villains, who do not kill by their actions, but by their words. An episode from a certain show (Dexter, I think) featured a psychologist who would insinuate to his patients, like Manalive‘s professor, that suicide is the rational action for them to take. These villains sap the vitality and joy of living from all in their sphere of influence. Dazai’s suicide attempts and joking inquiries for beautiful women to consider double suicide with him are passed off as jokes; yet, his diatribe against Kunikida’s idealism revealed a deadly earnestness underneath this play. Good ideals give a vision of beauty to souls and help people live through the worst times. A person cannot be happy without ideals, because life without ideals is mere animal life.
Under mere animal life, existence becomes gray and meaningless and people begin to long for death like the Sybil in T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” or the heroine in the anime Sky Crawlers. The prevalence of passive villainy can be seen in the public square by attacks against patriotism, religion, and Western heritage in general. These attacks try to divide people from the pride and joy they ought to have in being American, British, German, French, Christian, Jewish, etc. If infected by the ideas that we can have no pride in our heritage and are just meaningless atoms adrift in space, the pursuit of pleasure, of money, of activity, or of any other distraction from the weight of existence replaces the pursuit of ideals.
The worst thing about passive villainy is that it approaches the essence of evil more closely than the active. Evil is the negation of being, and passive villainy aims not to overcome the external man but to erase the inward one. In the modern era, the great increase in suicides, tens of millions of abortions, and general resistance to marriage and starting families are all symptoms that passive villainy is eating away at our culture. If it were not, people would be less inclined to kill themselves and more inclined to pass on their culture through having children. But, it need not be so. The great vision and ideals of our Forefathers and that our Father in heaven has created us immortal with an eternal abode with him should be preached to all and sundry. Life is worth living, and to live is to be happy!