The Kill la-steia: How Kill la Kill borrows from the Oresteia

While offering my final thoughts on Kill la Kill, the similarity of certain features of Kill la Kill to Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy struck me.  Of course, the lack of vengeful goddesses pursuing Ryuko for slaying Ragyo means that it borrows chiefly from the first two tragedies: Agammemnon and The Libation Bearers.  As a Classicist (Yes, in addition to loving the Middle Ages, I also love the Classical Ages.  Viva antiquity!), I become very excited when modern works either retell or incorporate ideas from Ancient Greek and Latin sources.  The fad nowadays seems to favor spontaneous originality.  People want tales and characters which have never been conceived in the mind of man.  (Can you detect my sarcasm?)  Studying classics for so long has made me adopt the attitude of the ancient Greeks and Romans: the best originality occurs when a writer takes prior works and applies his own spin.  Such appropriation shows that one is participating in the Great Conversation which began when Homer exclaimed: “Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, the son of Peleus!”

*SPOILERS GALORE AFTER THIS!*

Ryuko as Orestes

The first striking connection between the Oresteia and Kill la Kill lies in Ryuko’s mission to avenge the death of her father, Isshin Matoi.  We see exactly the same thing in The Libation Bearers.  The flashback to when Isshin and Ragyo were still man and wife reveals the start of their quarrels: Ryuko is sacrificed in an experiment on Life Fibers, whom are essentially the gods of Kill la Kill.  (Though Kill  la Kill’s story does makes it apparent that the Life Fibers are false gods–as Christianity also declares the gods of the pagans.)  This is similar to how Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis.  In the same way as Ragyo sees the progress of the Life Fibers as necessary, Agamemnon sees the progress of the Greek expedition to Troy, which had been held up by Artemis’ wrath, as important to prevent chaos among the Greeks and to avenge his brother’s honor.  So, Agamemnon sacrifices Iphigenia; though, a majority of the versions of this myth state that Iphigenia was spirited away to Aulis, which Euripides treats in his Iphigenia at Aulis.  Simultaneously, Ryuko is both Iphigenia, the innocent sacrifice, and Orestes, the avenger of her father.  Actually, the idea that Junketsu is Satsuki’s wedding garment reminds one of how Iphigenia was initially told that she was going to her wedding instead of the place where she would be sacrificed.  Iphigenia lives in both Satsuki and Ryuko!

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But, an interesting twist lies in the fact that Isshin and Ragyo are not perfect facsimiles of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.  As a matter of fact, the above paragraph makes it clear that the husband is placed in the role of Clytemnestra, while the wife approximates Agamemnon.  But, Isshin is still the murdered father and Ragyo the instigator of the deed and adulteress.  How does she commit adultery?  By binding herself to the Life Fibers and separating herself from her husband!  Curiously, I would claim Nui Harime fulfills the role of Aegisthus.  Even though Nui did not separate Ragyo from her spouse, she does participate in the murder of Isshin, engage in a scandalously lascivious deed with Ragyo (how’s that for euphemism?), and is about as odious as Aegisthus.

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But, that refers mostly to the flashback.  During the main story, we see that Satsuki and Mako might be considered Electra and Pylades respectively.  After all, Electra lives in constant fear of her mother and at the same time wishes to avenge her father.  We see the same desire in Satsuki, though her willingness to off her mother is further bolstered by the fact that Ragyo wants to annihilate humanity.  Also, Satsuki shows the same distaste toward Nui as Electra did toward Aegisthus.  As in The Libation Bearers, both Satsuki and Ryuko combine to defeat their evil mother.

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The figures Orestes and Pylades are renown for their friendship.  I myself have used their relationship as a metaphor in this article.  And Mako undergoes many dangers for the sake of her friend Ryuko, in the same way as Pylades did for Orestes.  As Pylades held a supportive role to Orestes, so does Mako to Ryuko.

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Well, my dear readers, I hope that you found these parallels as cool as I did!  Now, we need to see the Trigger version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle!  Or does the thought of that scare you? 🙂

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Final Thoughts on Kill la Kill: What a Fun Ride!

Trigger’s first great anime proved to be riotous fun and to have a decent high story at the same time.  If one wished, one can delve into Kill la Kill’s themes concerning excessive shame (as I did), the isolation caused by wealth and power (which I still haven’t written about), wealth as a source of corruption (which Japesland wrote astutely about), how people’s excessive concern for appearances strips them of their personhood (as Good Bye Navi touches on), and its hierarchical treatment of friendship.  I was pleased to see that my guess that Satsuki and Matoi would become friends came true.  In many ways, Kill la Kill felt like an Attic tragedy, especially with the internecine conflict among the Kiryuins (someone should compare the main characters to Agamemnon (Isshin Matoi), Clytemnestra (Ragyo Kiryuin), Orestes (Ryuuko Matoi), Electra (Satsuki Kiryuin), and Pylades (Mako) ) and the chorus-like role of Mako.

Anyone else think that Matoi looked extravagantly cool in "Ride like the Wind"--episode 14?

Anyone else think that Matoi looked extravagantly cool in “Ride like the Wind”–episode 14?

Though it was a great show on many levels, the panache and flamboyance of the characters separated it stylistically from most anime released around the same time.  The show offered its audience more twists than any show in recent memory.  I also remember becoming immediately attached to Matoi when I saw that she had the moral courage to run from losing battles in the beginning of the show–very un-Shounen-like, but Orestian!  (Yes, my dear readers, you can see that an article comparing on the Oresteia and Kill la Kill is presently being contemplated.)  In my opinion, the plot’s greatest weaknesses came from its excessive borrowing from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan.  This did establish Trigger’s commitment to epic stories, but their next work can do without aliens, evolution, crazy power-ups, etc.  But, Kill la Kill makes me look forward to their next great work.

Fight Another Day

Kill La Kill and Putting on the New Man

Watching the conversation between Matoi and Senketsu in episode 13 of Kill la Kill reminds me of how Christ might speak to a Christian who has fallen into a vicious cycle and can’t seem to bring himself up.  From the above statement, you probably figure that the allegory is tenuous; but, let’s see how far we can take it, shall we?  First, my dear readers, let’s start with Matoi’s status as a hero.  People look up to her.  Then, she loses her cool, her kamui devours her, and she is saved by someone who hardly counts as a fighter–Mako.  This might be analogous to a young man or woman who strongly practices the faith, which always leads people at least to marvel at them for not skipping church and disobeying the other precepts of the Church as most of their colleagues do.  But, such people always endure the sharpest temptations: they are scoffed at by the majority and weighed down by the desires of the flesh.  If none of these bring them down, then the devil tries to bring darkness and confusion into their lives.  Against this onslaught of evil, it is not surprising that some fall and even fall so deeply that they do not want to get up.

Matoi sleeping life away.

Matoi similarly does not want to rise–even from her bed.  (How I know that feeling!)  She dares not to put on Senketsu and even feels embarrassed to speak to him.  She has witnessed how monstrous her nature and lack of self-control can be.  To compare her to a Christian, imagine someone who had immense confidence in Christ, but forgot the limitations of human nature and fell.  What they thought was confidence in Christ turned out merely to be confidence in themselves.  Is Christ to be blamed for this deplorable state of events?  Of course not!  “Pride goeth before a fall.”  Whenever people fall greatly, they have forgotten humility and the fear of God.  Pride inhibits the working of grace, which is why St. Augustine told someone that the three main virtues of Christianity are “humility, humility, humility.”

St. Augustine

Curiously, Senketsu hanging on the closet reminds me of a crucifix.  Many Catholics have them hanging in every room.  Negatively, this means we cannot avoid suffering.  Positively, this means that we cannot avoid Christ who is always aids us in our suffering.  Perhaps, the line of Matoi’s which most easily brings one’s thoughts to the crucifix are when she tells Senketsu that the memory of Senketsu’s tears brought her the most pain.  In perfect repentance, a soul repents not merely for the punishment due their sin, but most especially for the pain and disappointment their sin caused Jesus Christ.

The Bed and the Cross--so to speak.

The Bed and the Cross–so to speak.

What is the result of a soul falling into such sin?  They might not feel the confidence of faith as they once did, and Jesus Christ finds that he needs to knock on a door which was once always open to receive Him.  Excuses are tendered.  Self-accusations of unworthiness are offered to avoid having to do God’s will.  Even the accusation that God let one down might be said–but who really believes that?  One wants to ignore the fact that there is a war waging between good and evil and that losing means nothing less than than losing one’s own soul and harming the souls of others.

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But, Jesus Christ is patient because human beings are so weak and ignorant.  Like Senketsu, Jesus might remind us that He “was born in order to be worn by [us].”  For, what else is the Christian religion but putting on Christ, the New Man, and fulfilling the works he would have us do so that we might crucify the Old Man, our sinful selves?  We all have particular trials to undergo for the love of God.  Christ ardently desires to be with us every step of the way: we must simply put Him on and run our course.

Now, Matoi is saved by her greatest rival.

Now, Matoi is saved by her greatest rival.

Even after agreeing to run again, we might find that we fall to that formidable temptation over and over again–as Matoi fell in battle soon after putting on Senketsu again.  But, St. Theresa of Avila confessed that she even fell occasionally into mortal sin after entering the convent, but she became a great saint through perseverance, i.e. always trying to put on Christ.  Likewise, Christ shall lead us to become great saints as long as we don’t stop trying.

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Matoi and Satsuki: Friends in the Making?

Watching Kill la Kill thus far convinces me that Matoi and Satsuki’s relationship goes beyond that usually shared by the hero and her antagonist.  Satsuki has always displayed a particular interest in Matoi.  I wish to make the case that Matoi is Kiryuin’s closest person to a friend.
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This sounds like an absurd statement, especially since Kiryuin places so many obstacles between Matoi and her goals.  Also, she may have even been responsible for the death of Matoi’s father.  (I rather doubt that, however.)  But, Aristotle called friendship the highest good, and everyone desires friends on one level or another.  Even as early as episode 3, Kiryuin donning a Kamui might be understood as an attempt to create similitude–an almost essential condition for friendship–between Matoi and herself.
Satsuki vs. Matoi
Yet, Kiryuin has a warped understanding of human relationships.  Her relationships are based on power rather than love.  She is surrounded by henchmen, not friends; though, she seems loath to suffer the loss of her top henchmen.  Even episode 6, where she almost abandons Uzu, she quickly forgives his loss to Matoi after seeing a sign of his resolve.  By episode 10, two of her henchmen suffer defeats by Matoi, but they appear confident that they can work their way back to her side.
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Yet, these kinds of relationships do not suffice for Kiryuin.  Perhaps even she thinks that it does, but her spirit must be at variance with this–as is shown by her actions.  After all, she busts her favorite tea cup in order to try to land a surprise attack on Uzu!  I cannot understand this action but through the lens of playfulness.  Uzu, having been conditioned to Satsuki’s quest for power, responds that she did not use her full power.  Who uses their full power in play!?  But, her subordinates cannot believe that Satsuki might just want to play with them.  Indeed, it seems like the closest Kiryuin comes to play is in placing obstacles before Matoi.
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Then, Satsuki offers Uzu a cup of tea at the end of episode 6.  Uzu declines his offer as tea is now too hot for his now heightened sense to endure.  The austerity of this scene suggests how isolated Satsuki is.  She sees Uzu, because he comes closest to Kiryuin in power, as the closest thing to a friend she has outside of Matoi.  One imagines that a pang of regret or doubts about her conduct ran through Kiryuin’s mind at this moment.  One even feels sorry for her.  Why have power if it only causes one grief?
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Under these circumstances, Matoi becomes Satsuki’s best choice for a friend.  And so, we have the fight club episode, where Satsuki attempts to establish equality between the two of them in terms of wealth and understanding the isolation caused by its possession.  Lastly, the tournament between Matoi and Satsuki’s top henchmen sees Matoi equaling Satsuki in her ability to secure the same triumphs as Kiryuin herself has achieved.  And if Matoi succeeds, Satsuki shall bring her into her confidence concerning her father’s death.  Shared secrets are yet another sign of friendship!
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Yet, I only wonder whether Satsuki’s mind has been far too warped in her quest for power.  Is she capable of realizing that perfect equality is not needed for friendship?  That the only result of attempting to gain this perfect equality will lead to the dominance of one party or endless conflict?  Will she even decide to renounce her quest for power and recognize that friendship is a higher good?  These are just a few things which make watching Kill la Kill interesting!

Un Programme d’Articles pour Novembre

My dear readers, having taken a three day break from writing posts, I have decided to scribble one of my favorite posts: the kind which lists several prospective articles.  Looking back at other posts where I have done this indicates that I usually write about 90% of these articles if not more.  I have had the good fortune of landing some work at UPS, which means that my struggle to write daily will increase; but, as my alma mater avers, virtus tentamine gaudet.  (“Virtue rejoices in trial.”)  The order of the articles is about the same order in which I hope to write them, and they shall be divided into anime or religion–though, you know that my favorite thing to do is to combine the two subjects.

Madonna And Child

Religion

1.  An editorial or review on The Names of Christ by Luis de Leon

2.  Book of Proverbs: timeless wisdom

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Anime

1.  How Kill la Kill Demonstrates that wealth and pride breed solitude and unhappiness (might contribute this one to Beneath the Tangles)

2.  Solty Rei and Hard Boiled Anime

3.  A review of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye

4.  Tower of Druaga and the Jason-like hero

5.  Short Manga reviews of Fuyu no Hanabi, Tripeace, A Bias Girl, and Seishun For-get

6.  World Embryo and my love of Daisuke Moriyama’s work

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7.  Corpse Princess and my history with horror films and anime

8.  My fascination with Kouichi Mashima’s female assassins (Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja)

9.  My opinion of Bodacious Space Pirates

10.  Ys: an enjoyable 90’s fantasy anime

11.  A review or editorial of Soukou no Strain

Well, that’s a huge list, but it will provide me with only two weeks of articles if I’m good!  Of course, I reserve the right to include different articles, especially if they are about currently running anime.  Feel free to say which articles interest you most!

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“Traduttore, traditore”: An Interesting Allusion in Kill la Kill

The above Italian proverb is famously translated as “Translation is betrayal,” but even that translation betrays the more literal “Translator, Traitor,” but we would all agree that the former carries the meaning better for English speakers.  In episode 5 of Kill la Kill, I noticed a rather interesting expansion of what was literally said.  Before I get into that, I would just like to say that episode five has by far been the most interesting episode thus far.  The show is starting to get into more of the plot as a new faction has appeared on the scene and we discover that Kamui have killed their wearers.

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But, the line to which I’m thinking of is Teme ni wa shindemo watasanee!”  If we were to opt for a literal translation, this would translate to “Even dying, I won’t hand it over to you!”  That does not  make to much sense to English ears.  Better would be “Even if you were to kill me, I would not hand it over.”  But this sounds a little wordy, and does not really seem to fit Matoi’s personality.  What did the translators for Crunchyroll do?  Reference Charlton Heston!  (Requiescat in pace)  “You’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands!”  A more excellent choice that anything based on a literal translation.

Charleton Heston

One of the reasons I study Japanese is so that eventually I might not have to rely on the translators.  How much fun they must have though, especially those who worked in the 90’s!  Some anime of yore have hilarious translations, especially the many and varied ways they translate baka!  Well, wish me luck as I try to find time to tackle my kanji book again.

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My Progress This Season

Well, I figure that my dear readers deserve to know how I have been occupying myself recently with anime, so I have decided to write a post on my general progress.  Some older shows with which I have been dallying are Hunter x Hunter, a series of shorts named Sparrow’s Hotel (completed in one evening), Majestic Prince, The Third: The Girl with the Blue EyeSolty Rei, and Tower of Druaga: The Sword of Uruk.  At last, I’ve almost finished with the original Hunter x Hunter, having just watched Kurapica’s major battle with one of the Spiders gang.  It was so pleasant to see the god-like and glorious victory over a certain murdering blackguard–whatever his name is–that I have difficulty putting my feelings to words.  Sparrow’s Hotel is a great comedy about a kunoichi working at a midsized hotel, which I heartily recommend to anyone needing a laugh.  I’m still trying to finish off Majestic Prince, which has to be one of the greatest mech shows of recent years–I place it next to Code Geass.   You might know that two of those last three shows figure on my top fifty list, and hence deserve their own posts.  Tower of Druaga is a great fantasy, and the first episode alone, which parodies fantasy anime in a grand style, suffices to give it a large place in any otaku’s heart.

tower of druaga

But, now onto some brief descriptions of this season’s shows.  I still have to get around to Samurai Flamenco and Coppelion, but I expect to accomplish this soon.  At any rate, my ability to keep up with new shows is much the highest since 2009.  That says something about the quality of this season!

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1) Arpeggio of Blue Steel (aka Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio) – 3 episodes

My long time readers will know that I am a huge fan of submarine warfare, particularly the WWII era.  So, it comes as no surprise that I am digging this show, despite the fact that the show exclusively employs CG animation.  As a matter of fact, I’m surprised in how unobtrusive they render this style of CG, which likely indicates that it will become more prevalent in the future.

It's based on a manga!  Now, I have to read that too!

It’s based on a manga! Now, I have to read that too!

Anyway, this show concerns aliens known as The Fog, who have effectively wrested the seas from humanity.  One of their vessels, a submarine, defects and gives humanity the chance to regain possession of the seas.  I find the fact that each ship’s personality is presented in the image of a cute young lady most amusing–all ships are feminine, you know!  The first sea battle was very exciting, and the submarine’s captain displayed that combination of intuition and sang-froid which renders submarine warfare particularly delightful.

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2) Golden Time – 3 episodes

I was pleasantly surprised by this romance anime.  The dialogue tends to be rather sophisticated, and the characters entertaining.  A very enjoyable watch thus far.

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3) Hajime no Ippo Rising – 1 episode

It feels very much like the prior season.  As long as this show sticks to exciting boxing with interesting characters, I’m going to keep watching.  I’ve only seen one episode so far because I hope to watch the rest of the series with my brother.  He’s a bigger fan of the Hajime no Ippo franchise than I am!

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4) I Couldn’t Become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job – 3 episodes

This show is hilarious!  Usually I steer clear of ecchi with shows like Freezing being a major exception.  The premise is that a prospective hero is forced to get an ordinary job after failing his exam.  While working in a magical department store, the demon king’s daughter decides to work there with him.  The effort he must expend to try to make this person use polite language and treat customers with hospitality is absolutely hilarious.  I might add that the girls are quite cute too.  Forma pulcherrimae!  When the tentacle monster appeared, I feared lest decency forbid me to watch further, but that scene did not exceed my tolerance, though it did exceed the grounds of decency.  This is a wonderful comedy if you don’t mind some fanservice.

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5) Infinite Stratos 2 – 2 episodes

Hmm…There’s not much to this season yet.  I’m almost tempted to drop the show, but then I should be denied Charlotte’s cuteness.  I’m not sure whether I’m ready for that deprivation.

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6) Kill la Kill – 4 episodes

This is indeed an interesting show.  My last post and the commentary below it make it clear that this is a very thoughtful work.  I’ll definitely be keeping track of this show, and I hope that the animators are able to keep the high action and amusing antics up.

Well, that adequately describes the shows which I have watched.  I can heartily recommend all of them except Infinite Stratos 2 and recommend Golden Time with the reservation that shonen fans might find it uninteresting.  Cheers!

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Defensio Pudoris: Against the Shameless Philosophy of Kill la Kill

Well, I have watched Kill la Kill for three episodes and am not completely sure how to think of it.  The heroine, as with any character voiced by Ami Koshimizu, is incredibly cute and the action rather amusing.  I required the insight of other bloggers to form a more coherent opinion of the show.  With the help of JoeAnimated’s article and the one he links to, I have discerned that Nietzsche’s philosophy, to which I am no friend, imbues the series.  Apparently, this series attempts to attack Japanese notions of shame.  According to the series, shame prevents one from attaining their goals.  After all, ordinary shame would have prevented Matoi from seeking vengeance in that terribly revealing outfit.  Kiryuin, the antagonist, accuses Matoi of allowing “the values of the masses,” i.e. modesty, to prevent her from achieving true fusion with her kamui or power suit and thus from her goal of getting vengeance for her father.  Nevermind that idea of vengeance and vendettas, as with the Viking and Germanic pagans of the Middle Ages, reside in the normal Japanese psyche as well!

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From my title, defensio pudoris, you might understand that I have a hearty disagreement with this view of shame.  My aversion to the idea of shame hindering humanity is so great that I feel like dropping the show right here.  Yet, I have been accused of excessive prejudice in my literary judgments.  That article accuses me of allowing my religious and philosophical prejudices to blind me to the greatness of works written under opposing ideologies.  To which, I respond that people of opposing views can certainly write a good work; but, a great author must have a great message in addition to a knack for memorable characters, great dialogue, engaging plots, vivid settings, and beautiful literary style.  Everyone loves the truth, or at least everyone worth his salt does.  (General Lee referred to one general in the Mexican War who as the only person he met indifferent to truth and falsehood.  May none of us ever gain the same disregard for the truth!)  Therefore, it is no surprise that my top ten list  contains authors who come closest to the truth as I understand it.  And judging from my friend’s top ten list–also on the blog, he stands guilty of the same laudable charge with the single aberration of H. G. Wells.  The noble thought of overcoming my prejudices induces me to continue watching Kill la Kill with all its foolish Nietzschean conceptions of the will to power and of the abandonment of common morality.

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At any rate, shame is essential to developing virtue.  When the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope saw a young man blushing, he said: “Courage, my boy, that is the color of virtue.”  Then again, Nitobe Inazo claimed that the way the Japanese would avert their children from bad behavior would be by telling them that they should be ashamed of it.  Also, we see that shame is essential in the practice of religion.  Who doubts that the ancient Israelites had forgotten shame prior to the Babylonian Exile when they worshiped other gods even around the temple, sacrificed blemished animals, father-in-laws bedded their sons’ wives, and the powerful oppressed orphans and widows?  Their hearts had become so gross that they could not longer tell right from wrong!  The Israelites even told a certain prophet that they have done nothing wrong, and they believed that God did not see their iniquities.  They were shameless, and their very shamelessness prevented their repentance!

Every Japanophile needs to read Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo.  It offers incredible insights into the Japanese.

Every Japanophile needs to read Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo. It offers incredible insights into the Japanese.

I remember reading about Padre Pio breaking down in the confessional after confessing minor sins.  When the confessor expressed surprise at his tears, Padre Pio told him that it was his infidelity that brought him to tears.  In the same way, a spouse might be filled with shame at enjoying a kiss from someone outside their marriage.  And I am certain that a delicacy of conscience is necessary for sainthood.

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It is also certain that shameless people cannot relate well with others, as we see from the example of Kiryuin in Kill la Kill.  Does anyone find her clubbable?  Rather she is far too superior to care for ordinary mortals or feel ashamed before them.  The best persons to have in authority are those capable of shame, as we see in the example of the best kings from the Middle Ages.  Why did Canute have himself brought to the shore to command impotently the waves to turn back except that he was ashamed at the ridiculous praise his courtiers heaped on him?  Kiryuin surely ought to be ashamed for claiming so many special privileges, casting off feminine modesty, and having all treat her as a goddess!

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Shame allows human beings to remain human.  Without shame, the possession of virtue and the execution of many good deeds becomes impossible.  Without shame, we cannot repent of our failings.  Without shame, we cannot walk humbly with God or our fellow human beings.  Of course, there can be excesses of shame, as when a person refuses to go to confession or to speak where necessary.  However, a well formed conscience works best with a sense of shame: confession produces less amendment and speech becomes too bold without shame.  It is easier to overcome shame on the right occasions than for a shameless mind to act justly and considerately.