Nihongo no Hon #3: Rurouni Kenshin Volume 23

The twenty-third volume of Rurouni Kenshin forms part of the Jinchuu Arc and distinguishes itself for its two duels: Saito vs. Yatsume (Literally, “eight eyes,” but typing it out in English makes it look like “the damn guy.” xD) and Kenshin vs. Enishi.  Yatsume is one of the assassins who originally tried to kill Kenshin in the trap set for him by the Tokugawa gov’t during the last days of the Shogunate, but Yatsume fled after Kenshin thrust a wakizashi through his hand.  He felt disappointed not to fight Kenshin first, but you can be certain that Saito was more than a match for him–a very exciting duel indeed.  We learn about the origins of both Yatsume and Enishi’s prowess; though, I could not help but feel underwhelmed with the “pirate martial arts” of which Enishi boasts.  After all, English pirates beat Wakou in one famous encounter.  Perhaps, George Silver’s English martial arts is superior to both Watou-jutsu and Hitenmitsurugi-ryu?  Anyway, you can tell that I’m annoyed with this made up martial art.  Let me continue with the article.

Saito, the most awesome character in manga, levels insults almost as well as Alucard.

Saito, the most awesome character in manga, levels insults almost as well as Alucard.

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Scrambling for Freedom: How Mardock Scramble Points to Freedom as the Goal of Christian Life

Several of my readers may have come across Mardock Scramble and been dissuaded from watching it by reading descriptions of this show.  In that case, retain your original resolution not to watch it, because it does contain scenes which are downright gruesome and characters representing the worst levels to which a human being can fall.  At the same time, the evolution of Rune Balot from a prostitute leading a miserable existence to a woman capable of great compassion and virtue stands among the most beautiful anime has to offer.

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The anime describes this transition from prostitute to heroine as the same as from slave to free.  That these three OVAs focus on freedom as their main topic makes itself apparent in the three ending songs.  (Yes, I loved this anime so much that I listened to the ending songs so that I might get every drop of it out.)  The first OVA plays “Amazing Grace,” the second “Ave Maria for Balot,” and the third Megumi Hayashibara’s (Rune Balot’s voice actress, by the way) “Tsubasa,” which means “Wings” in English.  These songs point to the three steps of salvation: 1) Christ finds us and saves us from hell; 2) we struggle for righteousness through the grace of God–especially sought through prayer; and 3) we fully realize the freedom found in abiding in God’s will.  The very highest freedom exists in heaven, where we shall no longer be tempted by evil choices and only chose from several goods.

Yet, people often look at things like the commandments and religious obligations, which lead them to come to the opinion that religion represses freedom.  But, let us examine these “strictures.”  The commandments order us not to do evil.  Constantly doing evil leads to vices forming on the soul.  What is a vice except a form of slavery on the soul?  Whether one looks at pride, envy, anger, greed, lust, gluttony, or sloth, it will become evident that these things limit a person.  Pride blinds us to truth, envy prevents us from loving others, anger prevents rational thought and action,  greed blinds us to what we really need, lust prevents us from seeing persons as persons, gluttony produces a body unfit for strenuous activity, and sloth prevents us from developing our talents.  In essence, by God telling us to be good, He tells us to be free.

Our Lord delivered St. Mary Magdalene from seven demons.  In the same way, He delivers all souls from the seven deadly sins.

Our Lord delivered St. Mary Magdalene from seven demons. In the same way, He delivers all souls from the seven deadly sins.

In the case of religious obligations like attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation, receiving the Eucharist at least once a year, or going to confession at least once a year during Easter if we have committed a mortal sin, these merely oblige us to do what we should decide to do on our own initiative if we were not so ignorant.  Eating the Body of Christ and drinking the Blood of Christ is our very salvation.  And can one complain about having to go to confession if one is in a state of mortal sin–a condition where a sudden death might deprive them of eternal life?  Do not people who decline to go to confession out of fear or laziness rather than run into the arms of their merciful Father and steadfast Brother strike one as foolish?  Certain people have enough leisure that they receive the Eucharist daily or the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly or even daily–ever dwelling in the Mercy of God imparted in the sacraments.  To wisely fulfill one’s obligations is not slavish but free.

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To take the case of Rune Balot, she has obligations to Dr. Easter, who saves her from certain death through his medical technology, to help him testify against the man who used her as a concubine before attempting to burn her alive.  She is given Oeufcoque, a golden, talking mouse who can change into practically any tool–from computerized gloves to a hand cannon, as a partner.  Her acceptance of this duty leads to many violent confrontations, and she does have one major fall from grace.  When she realizes the extent of her fault due to Oeufcoque suffering from his aversion to her evil deeds, she comes to herself and repents straightway.  She had determined to love Oeufcoque earlier, but she had not taken into account her obligations to her new partner.  Without meeting these obligations, she cannot be free.

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Freedom is not without structure.  The order to which freedom adheres derives from moral law.  When we fit into this order, we bring our freedom to perfection.  The struggle of overcoming ourselves and conforming to virtue leads to us gaining true freedom.  And to what end ought we put our freedom?  Love.  Toward the end of the series, Balot tells Oeufcoque that she has known many men whom she wished would love her, but he is the first being she wished to love of her own initiative.  As conformity to the moral law leads to us becoming more at home in the universe, we become the persons we were meant to be and our desires are met in ways we never dreamed possible.  The ending of Mardock Scramble indicates that Balot, despite the pain of her recent experiences, has found happiness and rejoices in living–something which would never have happened had she not been providentially rescued from her wayward lifestyle.

Plenary Indulgence This Sunday!

This is a last reminder that this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, offers the Faithful a chance to gain a plenary indulgence.  The conditions are described as follows:

The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).

So, go to confession this Saturday or that Sunday if your Church offers it then, receive communion, have a strong resolution to turn from sin, pray the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, and “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Should you die immediately after that, you’ll go straight to heaven without a moment of Purgatory.

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How many of my dear readers balked at this bold assertion?  A villain becomes a saint in the space of one or two days?  And quite painlessly?  No, they should have to suffer more!  Forgiveness should be more difficult!  But, we are forgetting the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where those who worked one hour are given the same reward as those who bore the day and the heat.

We forget one more thing: mercy is unearned.  At least, mercy was not earned by us.  It was earned by Jesus Christ for all that would receive His mercy.  Either through the instrument of His Church or without the instrumentality of His Church, Our Lord can apply mercy to whomever He wishes.  Our very willingness to receive mercy, our tenderness of heart, is something Jesus Christ earned for us.  Therefore, we have no right to be like the Prophet Jonah and sulk because Our Lord shows mercy in a manner which doesn’t meet with our human values.

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But, we are so quick to doubt God’s Mercy and Love for us!  In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father does not have the wayward son weep for a week outside of his door and fast on bread and water before taking him into His house.  Rather, He does so immediately.  To use an example from the life of St. Gertrude, she once wished to gain a plenary indulgence, but illness or business kept her from being able to obtain it.  The Lord asked her if she wished to have it, to which she responded yes.  After the Lord’s blessing, she doubted the very purity which she felt in her soul.  Knowing her doubts, Our Lord recalled to her that the sun can bleach dyed cloth to a pure white.  Our Lord said to her: “If I have given such power to a creature, how much more can I purify souls?”

And so, let us allow the Lord to shine down as much mercy as He wishes upon us two days from now on Divine Mercy Sunday.

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Elfen Lied and the Causes of Sin

Reading the manga of Gokukoku no Brynhildr inclined me finally to read the manga of Elfen Lied, which is by the same author, Lynn Okamoto.  I will say that the manga Elfen Lied is more violent and sexually graphic than the anime, but it explores its themes more thoroughly.  (Yes, I argue that Elfen Lied is a very intelligent work, though the case can easily be made that the author should have restrained himself in regard to its repulsive images.)  In this article, I shall remark a little on the nature of evil, which appears to be the main subject of Elfen Lied.  The manga focuses on the fact that man is tainted–or, to speak more precisely, in a state of total depravity–by original sin, which we see in the characters’ self-absorption, focus on baser things, and the dehumanization of other people.  Most of the characters are victims of some kind–whether one speaks of Mayu flying from her perverse step-father or Lucy, whom people see as an instrument for breeding Diclonii or–in her earlier years–a fun object to torment.

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The viciousness displayed by the Diclonii are impelled by their forced isolation or their desire to revenge themselves on the human race.  In the latter case, it is important to remember that the general run of people are mirrors: we reflect goodness or ill-will as it comes at us.  Only the truly vicious person does evil things to people who show him goodness.  Only the saint or man dedicated to repentance returns good for evil.  People who have never known love can hardly help reflecting the hatred and malice directed at them.

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Take the famous flashback to Lucy’s past.  She is beaten, tormented, and ostracized by her fellow classmates.  She feels loved only by a puppy.  Once she finally gains a human friend, she discovered that this girl had only befriended her in order to betray her.  With the dog–her sole friend–butchered, she kills her malicious classmates and flees into the woods, producing total isolation.

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As spiritual writers remark, the devil likes to tempt people when alone, whether they are Our Lord Himself, St. Anthony the Great, or my dear readers.  The devil wishes to lead us into sin, especially that most terrible capital sin of invidia or ill-will, often translated as envy.  I am afraid that Lucy is a particularly easy soul to tempt from ill-will to the blackest misanthropy.  Though, the devil commonly appears in Elfen Lied and–I would argue–is the main villain of the show, scientists can’t perceive him.  The scientists come up with the absurd reasoning–which smacks of superstition–that murder is written into the Diclonii’s genes.  If they had not made themselves out to be so righteous, they would have perceived the same affliction in their own natures–original sin!  If murder were really written into the Diclonii’s genes and not the result of scientists exacerbating fallen human nature’s inclination to evil through ill-treatment, then we could not have a Diclonius as sweet as Nana–my favorite character, by the way.

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Indeed, the devil is more apparent than God in the manga because people have forgotten God.  Perhaps this, more than isolation and envy, is the main cause of the crimes committed in Elfen Lied.  Forgetfulness of God means disbelief in the idea that people are created in God’s image and likeness.  As many people aptly argue, ethics become emotivism without God.  The villains of this series are particularly warped and hardhearted.

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But, good exists in the world too, as shown by the love of Nana for her papa and Kouta and Yuka’s willingness to take in homeless people.  (I shall argue in another article that goodness starts to shine more brilliantly as the manga shows evils multiplying.)  In a sense, we’re all wandering and homeless without God.  Though imperfect and marked by frailty, people are often the vehicles for bringing God into other people’s lives.  The recognition Kouta gives to Lucy and Mayu affirms the value of these two persons.  Due to their perception of themselves as lovable and valuable beings, they work to make other people feel valued.  Love, most importantly, the love of God, turns people from selfishness and malice.  Yet, one wonders whether love can save Lucy, who is simultaneously the most guilty and most victimized of the characters?

Akana ga Kiru: Love Makes the World Go Round

Well, my dear readers, Akane ga Kiru happens to be the latest manga to capture my imagination.  However, the villains are downright fiends.  Some of the atrocities they commit make it easier to think of them as demons or monsters than human beings.  The violence often reaches the level of Hellsing (and the artwork of Akame ga Kiru is incredibly reminiscent of that work) and occasionally the level of the Berserk manga (don’t read that for Pete’s sake!); so, I only recommend it to the thickest skinned of my readers.  I find myself skipping pages and examining each page for foreshadowing of the gruesome so that I can avoid scenes reminiscent of the worst passages of Terry Goodkind’s novels.

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Then, why read Akame ga Kiru?  Any lover of dark stories will tell you that one reads dark stories for the light contained therein.  The surrounding darkness makes the light seem that much more precious and lovable.  If dark stories contain no light, they fall to the level of trash or poison—the product of a diabolical or melancholy imagination.

Speaking of diabolical, the attitude of treating people as cattle is pretty much rampant among the upper class of this society,

Speaking of diabolical, the attitude of treating people as cattle is pretty much rampant among the upper class of this society,

The point of light which seems most precious because it shines most precariously is romantic love in Esdese, our heroes’ greatest opponent.  Objectively speaking, she’s a vile sadist, but I cannot help but be fascinated by her–nay, she’s actually my favorite character right now.  Her desire to fall in love separates her from the majority of the villains.  And who else should she fall for but the hero?  During a tournament instigated by her to find the sixth member of her Jaeger team, Tatsumi steals her heart, and she drags him from the field in a manner reminiscent of a caveman claiming a bride.  They pass the night debating philosophy–Aristotle vs. Nietzsche, you might say.  Like Thrasymachus of Plato’s Republic, she claims that Tatsumi’s notion of justice derives from weak people: the strong only need to act to their own advantage.  All the while, Tatsumi tries to convince her to defect from the Empire and join the Rebel side without admitting that he has already joined the Empire’s most infamous enemy: Night Raid.

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Esdese seems pretty cute until you get to know her.

During a hunting exercise, he escapes her grasp.  She tells the Jaegers that they do not need to offer Tatsumi mercy should they meet him in combat; yet, she still pines for him.  She even refuses the evil Prime Minister’s offer to find a similar man for her.

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Why should this be significant?  Even bad people love others.  That’s natural, isn’t it?  But, love is intimately bound with happiness, the chief end of human beings.  If love were not so bound with happiness, the family would not be the chief unit of society.  The most effective governments try to foster the health of the family through fostering peace and justice.  Essentially, Esdese, by desiring love, also wishes for the flourishing of peace and justice unless she wants a sham love–the mere indulgence of her feelings.  If she opts for true love, she must become the enemy of her current employers.  (Oh, what a beautiful moment that would be!)  The rampant cruelty and injustice infecting the country hardly fosters the creation of happy households.

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But, many things war against her defection: her vicious character first and foremost.  Her subordinates are incredibly loyal to her because she shows them affection; however, her show of affection is motivated by the desire to make them good subordinates, i. e. tools.  Aristotle claimed that the wicked can only have friendships of utility, and all of Esdese’s relationships belong to that category.  Her relationship with Tatsumi stands as the sole exception, but if she begins to view her relationship with Tatsumi according to usefulness or pleasure, that will shatter her ability to find real love, where the beloved is loved for his own sake.  Then again, the heroines have taken a shine to Tatsumi, and he could easily break Esdese’s heart by choosing one of them over her.  At which point, Esdese might forsake love altogether.  Thirdly, the Japanese concept of karma would certainly deny Esdese the right to real happiness.  The manga takes a grimly realistic view of humanity.  I’d have to say that Dostoyevsky’s underground man had a greater chance at salvation than Esdese.

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In the meantime, I shall follow with rapt attention Esdese’s standing on the fence.  Shall she fall on the side she naturally leans towards and snuff out the little bit of light in her soul?  Or shall amor, with all its demands, sacrifices, and true joys, truly omnia vincit?

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: A Spy Anime?

If you have not watched Arpeggio of Blue Steel, I might advise you not to read any further.  Not only because this article is chock full of spoilers, but because I think that such shows are best enjoyed without one perceiving their purpose until the end or even upon another viewing.  But, if you have my own nonchalant attitude toward knowing all about a story before watching or reading it (in my case, an attitude fostered by the study of the Classics), read on by all means.

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Anyway, Arpeggio of Blue Steel stands as the latest “spy anime” if you will.  This has nothing to do with espionage of the Cold War sort.  Thompdjames, a close friend of mine and blogger of Dusty Thanes, once told me about term “spy novels,” which he defined as novels which were clandestinely Christian in order to be read by the general public.  Selling around 150 million copies, The Lord of the Rings stands as the most successful novel of this type.  Few on the first reading would realize that it is a Christian fairy tale.  I wish to argue that Arpeggio of Blue Steel is of the same class.

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Now, not everything in this series is explicable through the lens of the Bible.  In particular, I have no idea how to explain the initial scenario of intelligent robots coming down to earth and taking over the seas.  This scenario merely offers a field for Christian ideas to play out.  If anyone thinks the coming of the Fog refers to the fall of the angels, I wish instead to argue that the Fog represent the Jews.  This claim has neither to do with the origins of the Fog nor their being ships.

Maya never looks that cool in the anime.

Maya never looks that cool in the anime.

So, how do the Fog represent the Jews?  They run their careers according to a series of orders, which stopped coming at one point.  This is similar to how the Jews have 613 Mizvot, to which they have neither added or subtracted since the times of Moses if they are Orthodox.  And so, the Fog symbolizes humanity under the Old Covenant.

This is not a bad place to be; however, it cannot compare to the Law of Love found in the New Covenant: “This is my command: love each other” (John 15:17).  The New Testament requires love as the basis of our relationship toward God rather than strict justice, though love is both just and yet goes beyond justice so that our “righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law” (Matt. 5:20).  This is because under the Old Covenant people were slaves of God, but the New Covenant makes people friends of God: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). 

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Gunzou, the Christ figure of this anime, illustrates this concept that Christians are joined in friendship with their Lord.  Gunzou assembles a very diverse group of friends who are all one in his group: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  Whether playing at the beach or fighting against the Fog, one sees that friendship binds them together.  Also like Christ, Gunzou brings division: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).  But, is it Christ’s fault that He brings division?  That most amiable and lovable of persons who strove to reconcile all human beings with God?  Of course not!  One who seeks to reconcile people cannot be the cause of discord.  The enemies of Christ rage against the Cornerstone and are crushed (Luke 20:18).  In the same way, U-400 and U-402 strive to sink Gunzou’s ship and are lost themselves.  Gunzou’s near sacrifice of himself for Iona is reminiscent of Christ’s death on the Cross.  Lastly, the fact that Gunzou is the Captain of the U-401 mirrors the relationship of Christ to the Church, as Christ is the Head of the Church.

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Indeed, the amount of resistance among the Fog to Gunzou’s desire to reconcile them to humanity resembles the resistance of the Jews to the message of Christ.  In particular, Kongou’s resistance to Gunzou’s offer of friendship reminds one of the Pharisees’ refusal to accept Christ due to their hardness of heart (Mark 3:5)–if we take the mental model’s cores to symbolize their hearts, what else is Kongou’s leaving her core aboard ship but the refusal to give Gunzou her heart?  One almost imagines Kongou, after seeing how much Gunzou’s crew is enjoying themselves, asking: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?” (Matthew 9:14)  Like the Pharisees toward Jesus, Kongou finds herself attracted to Gunzou, but prefers the old wine of the law to the new wine of friendship (Luke 5:39).

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Shortly thereafter, we see the collusion of the Fog to kill Gunzou, which reminds one of the Sanhedrin’s plan to assassinate Jesus Christ.  Interestingly, Kongou ends up chained for her zeal in desiring U-401’s demise.  Who else is Kongou like except St. Paul, whose zeal for the traditions of his fathers and led him to “[breath] out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1).  The genius of having such a Pauline character makes the series.

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Unlike St. Paul though, Kongou breaks of the chains of the Fog’s directives but without accepting the friendship of Gunzou.  What has she done?  With neither the Law nor Love to steer her course, her own envy drives her quest to destroy U-401.  She even goes so far as to destroy her allies ships so that she can gain all the glory of destroying the U-401.  This reminds me of how the enemies of the Church are attracted to what the Church has and yet wish to destroy it at the same time.  As George MacDonald wrote in his Weighted and Wanting: “The world had given her the appearance of much of which Christ gives the reality.  For the world very oddly prizes the form whose informing reality it despises.”  Those outside the Church have no idea how happy the treasures of faith would make them.

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This event leads to the final confrontation between Kongou and Iona.  Iona gives her all to save Kongou from her envy.  The vast battery of firepower unleashed on Iona to prevent her approach imitates the way worldly people attempt to drive Christ away from them.  The frosty blades with which Kongou attempts to cut down Iona and the force field placed around the Fog’s place of meeting all show the hardness and coldness Christ is shown by the same people.  Yet, it is not Gunzou, whom I referred to as this series Christ figure, who approaches Kongou on this occasion, but Iona.  This refers to the fact that Christ acts through his members to bring people to salvation.  I am not sure whether it might be more appropriate to say that Iona is a Marian or apostolic figure.  She is certainly Gunzou’s most perfect follower.  Yet, we view St. Mary as being a more quiet and contemplative figure; yet, in the orthodox and medieval tradition of the Church contemplation and prayer considered far more active in bringing people to Christ than missionary work–though, we obviously need missionaries.  Why?  Because contemplatives have chosen the better part with another St. Mary (Luke 10:42): love purely focused on Christ.

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Be that as it may, Iona is sent as a lamb to a wolf (Matt. 10:16).  Kongou has become truly warped by her hatred of Gunzou, which leads to such hatred of herself that she warps the form of her ship and even wishes to destroy herself along with Iona.  Her envy is such that she cannot bear to see another person happy, since she believes that happiness does not lie in store for her.  But, Iona manages to touch Kongou’s heart, and thus they are saved, which reminds us of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s assertion that no one is saved alone.  The salvation of one always means the salvation of others.  To further the Pauline theme in the case of Kongou, recall Timothy 1:15-16: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.  But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.”  And so, Kongou’s darkness dissipates, her animosity toward Gunzou and his crew vanishes, and her Death Star-like airship returns to her true battleship form, events which show that she loves others now and loves herself truly.

Remember!  One can't properly love others unless one loves oneself.

Remember! One can’t properly love others unless one loves oneself.

So, what do you think of my evidence for Arpeggio of Blue Steel as a “spy anime”?  Am I correct or did I read too much into the show?  I think this might be the longest article I’ve ever written outside of the papers for school I have posted here!  I hope that everyone got to the end!

Divine Mercy Novena Reminder

Hello, dear readers!  I just want to remind you to say the Novena of the Divine Mercy Chaplet this year.  It starts on Good Friday and includes saying a prayer intention for a different group on each day: All the World especially poor sinners, Priests and Religious, Pagans, Heretics and Schismatics, Faithful Christians, Meek and Humble souls, those who glorify God’s mercy by meditating on the Sacred Passion, the Souls in Purgatory, and those who have become lukewarm.  We are all in need of God’s mercy, and praying for others both increases our charity and obtains mercy for ourselves.

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I was thinking to myself how God’s mercy, love, and our faith are so important.  Unless we show mercy, mercy shall not be shown to us.  Unless we love others, we cannot love God.  Unless we live in both love and mercy, we cannot have faith.  For, faith is trusting that God loves us to death and that His mercy is without limit.  But, if we ourselves don’t show mercy or love others as unconditionally as possible, if we’re selective in who we love or who we’ll forgive, then we may begun to think that God is selective or that limitations are placed on His love.  But, this is false.  God is unconditional love, constantly looking for the least excuse to bring each and every one of us into His kingdom.

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Ultimately, love is unitive: one wishes to be united to all, to suffer when they suffer, to rejoice when they rejoice, to know everything they know, and even to be punished when they are punished.  One would not go wrong if they loved the very worst people imaginable, felt themselves guilty of the sins committed by these people, and did penance for them.  That is the highest state of the Christian vocation.  Love, forgive all offenses, strive to remain pure, honestly admit one’s failings, don’t fear to love, and show mercy to everyone you meet.  Try to imitate the Heart of the Master, and contemplate on the lengths he went to redeem you so that you may take some of His Love with you in order to share it with others.  Then, God will take you up into Heaven and place your head upon the very Heart you strove to imitate.

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Lest the obstacles which are sure to sprout up thwart you, have recourse to prayer.  Don’t overdo it, but be sure to pray enough for your needs.  In this way, you may feel fatigued, but not discouraged.  Plagued by sins and defects, but not despairing.  Perhaps the greatest prayer for this goal is to meditate on the Passion of Christ while praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Just pray the Sorrow Mysteries as if doing the rosary or concentrate on one mystery, on certain wounds, on the Stations of the Cross, or on Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.  You might just find your favorite devotion and will certainly please the Divine Master.

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And here’s a link to information about this chaplet and novena: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/dmmap.htm and Divine Mercy Novena.

The End of Samurai Deeper Kyo: All About Heart

The extent to which the Samurai Deeeper Kyo manga has captivated me is well known to my dear readers from my last article on the subject.  I must say that no manga ending in recent memory has quite satisfied me as much for all the time and effort that went into reading it–I’ll likely take up this 308 chapter manga again!  Unlike so many series, one can see that the author had a clear ending in mind.  This prevented the series from wandering due to a lack of focus prevalent in so many manga.  (One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, I’m pointing at you!)  The ending in particular, for all its catering to the fans, possessed many interesting themes running through it: so much so, that I doubt having completely understood it.

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Anyway, let me begin my only slighly spoilerific discussion of the manga–with the exception of the last paragraph, anyway, which contains the biggest spoiler in the work.  One of the most interesting facets of the manga is the clever use of Christian imagery–the cross in particular.  The use of such symbols tends to make the Christian otaku/anime junkie (whichever you prefer) a little nervous considering  the Japanese inclination to scatter random Christian symbols throughout their works.  However, one perceives a purpose to the use of this symbol throughout SDK.  The fanservice and downright roguish characters rather obscure this, but one see how the themes of love, self-sacrifice, and suffering out of love run through this manga–more so as one approaches the end.  (This is not apparent in the anime and must be considered the reason for its lackluster performance.)  I almost wish to label Demon Eyes Kyo a Christ figure, but his lack of decency causes me to hesitate–someone else may make the connection if they like.  Interestingly, this manga is one of those which refuses to paint black black or white white: one must carefully consider the person or matter at hand before labeling anything.

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The ways Kyo approximates Christ lies in his strong loyalty toward his “servants.”  Kyo himself tends to take up the lion’s share of combat unless one of his friends absolutely insists or he finds himself too weak for fighting.  At which point, he refuses to lend his companion a helping hand–no matter how poorly the fight turns out for that guy.  In order to refer this quality to Christ, let us remind ourselves that, although we cannot do anything without God’s grace, He sometimes wishes us to triumph in situations where He appears absent and in agonies which require all our effort–though, it is not really we who conquer, but Christ in us.  This affords an opportunity for growth–if Christ pulled us out of all our difficulties by overwhelming force, we could neither develop the virtues of fortitude, faith, hope, and love, nor nor understand how weak we are in ourselves.

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Then, one is struck by how much mercy and compassion the protagonists show toward their fallen foes: by the end, only one enemy, who appears to lack any kind of empathy or compassion, is willfully killed–nevermind, one other person of a similar caste met the same fate.  Often, our heroes will mourn over the deaths of certain foes or convert their foes into allies in their quest to bring down the infamous Mibu clan–thus, showing the triumph of charity and a good-will.

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The main villain, the Aka no Ou or Crimson King, is deluded rather than truly evil.  He wishes to create a paradise free from suffering through the means of a violent conflict.  But suffering, at least in the current version of reality, is inseparable from love.  On the more humanist side, Schopenhauer claimed that compassion derives from us suffering and therefore being able to understand the sufferings of others.  And indeed, people who have kept themselves from suffering are often those least able to empathize with others.  Our Lord, the Man of Sorrows, revealed the fullness of his love during His Sacred Passion.  We even see an essential transformation in Kyo: as the manga progresses and Kyo suffers more with the other characters, his love increases toward them, and he risks himself more for them.

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But, the very end contains a striking symbol of love (the whopping spoiler to which I refer): the treasure which the Mibu had been closely guarding was the Crimson King’s heart, which he had removed from his body.  Kyo’s final victory over the Crimson King convinced the king to place his heart back in his chest.  Not only is his treasure a heart, but it has a cross engraved upon it.  This displays the truth that some things cannot be understood save through the heart, especially a heart that has suffered.  So, the Crimson King is persuaded to abandon his idea of a painless Utopia, since a Utopia as he envisions would be a loveless place–perhaps, even because people would not be able to suffer.  And the cross upon the Crimson King’s heart cannot but recall the Sorrowful and Sacred Heart of Jesus, which comprehends all things.

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So, do you know of any Christ figure in anime or any anime which uses Christian figures well, my dear readers?

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