Saber Marionette J and the Family

You know, its amazing how sometimes an anime can be based on a trite, fanservicey manga and yet contain a great high story.  This is precisely what happened in the case of Saber Marionette J.  (Don’t read the manga.)  I found myself surprised at the conservative tack it took in regard to the family.  As you know, the premise of this series describes a futuristic society on another planet which must survive by cloning.  Unfortunately, no women survived of the original settlers, which means that all clones are men.  In order to keep the memory of women alive, men make androids in the form of women, but these lack emotion–save in the case of our heroines and their opposites, anyway.  How miserable to be a man in a world without women!

A picture of our heroines' opponents for a change.

A picture of our heroines’ opponents for a change.

But, the shogun of Japoness has a plan for bringing women back into society through using the maiden circuits in Lime, Cherry, and Bloodberry.  He tells Otaru very little of his overall plan save that this will be possible once their maiden circuits or hearts have grown.  However, the Shogun insists that the family is mankind’s original form and that man must regain it.  This view diverges greatly from a more popular science fiction anime, Crest of the Stars, which imagines that people can do without the family.  But, would people really be happy without belonging to a family?  Here’s what Theodore Roosevelt says about the importance of marriage, which I quote from the forward of his autobiography: “There is need to develop all the virtues that have the state for their sphere of action; but these virtues are as dust in a windy street unless back of them lie the strong and tender virtues of a family life based on the love of the one man for the one woman and on their joyous and fearless acceptance of their common obligation to the children that are theirs.”  The hardships inherent in forming a good character have their reward in love.  Without love, especially the nearly unconditional love found in the family, people cannot be happy.

Cherry, the most domestic of Otaru's harem.

Cherry, the most domestic of Otaru’s harem.

But, most people follow the Crest of the Stars view that families are not necessary.  People place economic success as the goal of life, marriage and children are accessories rather than what makes for happiness.  But, happiness is an end, and work is obviously a means.  One cannot find happiness in means.  Because work and generating money are not the locus of happiness, Max Scheler, a famous Catholic philosopher of the turn of the twentieth century organizes the spheres of human activity thus, from least to greatest:

  1. Economic
  2. Vital
  3. Aesthetic
  4. Spiritual

The term vital refers to those activities which sustain humanity, especially the family.  Most thinkers nowadays refer to community and family without using the term vital, but we see the use of this term in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, who happens to be one writer to forget that all things are not a matter of utility.  Basically, modern man–or post-modern man, whichever term you think more accurate–places the economic sphere above the rest and does his best to eliminate or infringe upon the value of the rest.

Faust, actually does make the mistake of placing utility over personality--creating a monster android because it is better at battle than his original marionettes.

Faust (pictured in the upper left), actually does make the mistake of placing utility over personality–creating a monster android because it is better at battle than his original marionettes.

The problem with such a reversal lies in that such a mindset never finds happiness.  And our protagonists, poor as they are, would never be happy if it all depended on their economic situation.  Instead, the people of Japoness seek happiness in community, friendship, or art.  But most people would feel incomplete without families.  Saber Marionette J displays this best in the case of Otaru’s sensei, who has a marionette, with whom he has fallen in love despite the fact that she doesn’t have a personality.  Of course, he sees this deficiency and tricks Lime into giving up her heart.  He intends to erase the data on it and install the maiden circuit into his own marionette so that they can essentially live together as husband and wife–as the two haves of humanity should.  Most people need this kind of love.  If this were not the case, marriage would not have been called the ordinary vocation.

SMJ the gang

And so, I shall end my remarks on the surprising conservatism of Saber Marionette J by referencing the Holy Father’s thoughts on the family.  The shogun of Japoness would surely agree: “We were created to love, as a reflection of God and His Love.  And in matrimonial union, the man and woman realize this vocation as a sign of reciprocity and the full and definitive communion of life.”  Would that modern man learn both that happiness is the goal of life and that marriage is integral to happiness unless God has called a person to a life of service–especially as a priest or religious.  No one was created for the sake of merely making money and enjoying pleasurable goods!

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Day One of 10 Days to 300: Tokyo Godfathers

The first time this movie came to my knowledge was during junior year of high school.  The disease known as otakuism just infected me through Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin.  The magazine Anime Insider became my second favorite monthly publication after American Hunter.  (Due to our father never taking my brother and I shooting, Anime Insider soon became my first.  That which one can realize is ever superior to that which one must dream about!)  When the new issue of Anime Insider was released, the most important task of the day was to absorb all the material it contained from the Editor’s Letter to the Parting Shot; though, I confess that The Death of the Month was my favorite recurrent feature.  Around this time, the magazine must have praised Tokyo Godfathers.  And so, I recommended to my father that we watch this movie.  (He had become interested in anime through Vampire Hunter D, Princess Mononoke, and Rurouni Kenshin.)  However, the inclusion of a transvestite among the main characters caused him to strike down this recommendation.  Being an obedient child, I decided that this was sufficient cause never to watch this movie myself.

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After ten years of hearing praise concerning this film, I included it among the choices for the present series, “10 Days to 300.”  A part of me was surprised that it made it to the #1 spot in the poll, but after watching the film, I can see why so many people love this movie.  The presence of the transvestite bothered me a little at first until I accepted the character as he was.  Hana is the highest minded of the three characters, which is shown by his knowledge of Dostoyevsky and predilection for composing haiku on the fly.

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The thing which surprised me most about he movie was the degree of action it contained.  Gin, the bearded protagonist, remarks that he’s no action movie hero.  Naturally, he later features in some of the hairiest situations in the film.  As expected, the film probed human nature, had great characters, and featured excellent comedy.  Miyuki, the runaway, gives some of the best laughs.  Aya Okamoto does a superb job voicing her, which makes it a shame that she has not done any other anime roles and seems to have retired from acting after Metro ni Notte (2006).

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Overall, the film stands as a great work.  It earns high marks for its story and characters, each of whom has an interesting story about how they wound up on the streets.  Themes of family and forgiveness run throughout–important for a country which seems to dislike the positive use of the verb yurusu “to forgive.”  These themes were rendered yet more touching by the action being set on Christmas.  Also interesting is the theme of Providence–that Kiyoko is especially blessed by God.  I must say that the climax of the movie and that Gin’s relationship with her causes him to come into possession of two bottles of Hennessy V.S.O.P. certainly prove it!

Who says the two shall never meet?

Who says the two shall never meet?

If any of my readers have not seen this film, I recommend them to do so–nevermind Hana!