Calling Every Odd Creature a Demon

Dream Eater Merry recalled a qualm I have about people who sub and dub anime. They translate most supernatural creatures from Japanese folklore as “demon.” The word demon points to a specific kind of creature: an intellectual spirit who refused to serve God and was damned for all eternity. They now roam the earth in order to tempt others into the same fate—for ultimately the same crime.

You might point out that the word demon did not originally mean devil. The ancient Greeks imagined that various places in the natural world had deities attached to them. These spirits were unknown within standard Greek mythology, and the pagans called them demons. Yet, it’s good practice to spell this kind of demon as daimon or daemon in order to help the reader separate this kind of spirit from a fallen angel. After all, Socrates claimed that he had a daemon who would tell him not to do wrong. The notion of a demon telling someone to avoid sin strikes one as preposterous.

Obviously a demon.

Very often, the same creatures referred to as demons in anime are more accurately called fairies. Yes, the Japanese do have a word which tends to get translated as fairy—yousei. But, if you look at European folklore, you’ll see that fairies or the fair folk or the longaevi cover a wider spectrum than small humanoids with tiny wings. Also, fairy can describe a malevolent, benevolent, or indifferent kind of creature—unlike the malevolent beings we call demons.

Still, I do imagine audiences would laugh at seeing Inuyasha boast that he wishes to become an “honest-to-goodness full fairy.” (There are at least two senses in which the above is funny; though, the slang for a man with same-sex attraction might be far from their minds when dealing with youkai.) Why not simply use the word youkai? English does this all the time when we come to unfamiliar concepts. Just make the word English with a properly Anglicized pronunciation. Let the viewer expand their horizons. Only use the word demon for akuma, which is how the Japanese translate the Christian concept of a fallen angel.

In Dream Eater Merry, the supernatural beings are not exactly “dream demons” but muma.  According to my big, fat kanji dictionary, muma is simply Japanese for nightmare or a disturbing dream.  Why not then translate muma as “nightmare”?  The heroine Merry originally calls herself a nightmare, but later becomes known as a baku for defeating nightmares.  Baku are spirits which eat nightmares but might turn around and devour a child’s hopes and dreams if called too often.  Oddly enough, there is one nightmare in the series who only does the later.  One might describe the battle between her and Merry as one between two baku–one good and one evil.

True enough, nightmares are not usually beings with personal agency.  In that way, the nightmares in Dream Eater Merry are more like demons in having agency.  But, the author is obviously personifying nightmares, and a viewer would eventually go along with this personification.  My main gripe still stands: stop calling every odd creature in anime a demon!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

Bona dies Sancti Josephi festa vobis!  Today happens to be my name day, and I have always felt a special devotion of St. Joseph.  I have admired his silence, courage, and strict adherence to God’s will.  Saints throughout the ages have remarked on St. Joseph’s perfect soldierly obedience.

Does it no astonish the mind that God the Son, who knows everything and has an Infinitely Good Father in heaven, wished to learn from and obey his earthly foster father?

Does it no astonish the mind that God the Son, who knows everything and has an Infinitely Good Father in heaven, wished to learn from and obey his earthly foster father?

Speaking of soldiers, St. Joseph, along with St. Michael, are often invoked for protection against the evil one.  One terrible thing about modernity is that it has downplayed or altogether scoffed at the notion of a rich and varied spiritual world.  I remember hearing a homily from one priest who found himself chagrined to speak at the feast of the holy angels, because he did not believe in them.  However, studying the scriptures and various theological texts in preparation for the homily convinced him he had been in the wrong.

But, here’s the problem with not believing the devil’s existence: he can lie without detection.  People become brainwashed more easy.  It is much easier to escape brainwashing when we perceive the propagandist.  Then, we can pour out contempt on the propagandist and more easily disdain his efforts.  What if we don’t perceive the propagandist and become convinced that his thoughts are actually our own?  Then, we couple this thought with the idea that God is somehow responsible for these thoughts?  That God does not wish to deliver us from melancholy, depression, lack of faith, or any of the very common mental maladies of this age?

Tsar Alexander said: "Thank God." His Assassin responded, "It is too early to thank God!" before throwing another bomb.

Tsar Alexander said: “Thank God.”
His Assassin responded, “It is too early to thank God!” before throwing another bomb.

The devil lacks originality–utterly so.  The devil’s lies are all the same whether one is in the third century or the third millennium: “God is just, but not merciful!  If you think Him merciful, then you hold him in contempt.  Your sins are going to drag you down to hell–no help for it.  God despises you.  God hates you.  Religion’s just for old people and women.  Heaven is deaf to your prayers.  Nothing matters.  If there was a God, why are so many people suffering?  Why are you suffering so uselessly?”

We see these same ideas in nihilistic and post-modern literature.  Even C. S. Lewis while an atheist wrote about how hateful the universe seemed in Spirits in Bondage–the first of Lewis’s works to enter the public domain.  Lewis claimed that these poems were “mainly strung around the idea that I mentioned to you before–that  nature is wholly diabolical & malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements.”  That this came from the pen of the person who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia  and Mere Christianity seems shocking!  But, I think that C. S. Lewis had an inkling of what might be going on: Satan is the poem’s first speaker.


So, I would propose St. Joseph as a good friend to have, especially when thoughts against faith or the goodness of God attack us.  We have many friends in heaven, both saints and angels in addition to our Greatest Friend God, who never leaves us nor ceases to draw us into His Fatherly embrace.