The Virtue of Bloody and Violent Tales

For this post, my dear readers, I’ll let you into the workings of my scrupulous mind.  You see, for a long time now, I worried whether manga like Akame ga Kiru and Silencer actually carry a benefit to the reader.  In general, a fascination with blood and violence for their own sakes obviously manifests a disorder of the soul.  At the opposite extreme, squeamishness at the sight of blood and the refusal to countenance the existence of violence must also count as defects.  So, do Akame ga Kiru and Silencer fall in the mean between these two extremes?  And if they are in the mean, what is their particular virtue?

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A couple of quotes I found recently appear to show the value of such works.  One derives from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse and the second from one of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries.  After describing a horrific and monstrous scene from the French Revolution. Kuehnelt-Leddhin writes the following:

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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!

Anton Chekhov and Suicide

A while back, I took out a Signet Classic edition of the major plays of Anton Chekhov.  Having read the first two in the collection, Ivanov and The Sea Gull, these plays surprised me *EPIC SPOILER WARNING FOR THOSE WHO CARE* by both ending with a suicide.  In each play we have someone suffering from melancholy, who decides to end his own life with the pull of a trigger.  The first, Ivanov, loses his love for his wife, love for living, finds himself gravely in debt, can’t stand being home, suffers the loss of his wife to consumption, and is about to be married to a young lady who has taken pity on him–who at the same time is unsure whether or not she loves him or can make him happy.

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In the second, Trepelev, the twenty-five year old son of a famous actress, writes unconventional plays with an Eastern feel, i.e. they rely upon imagery rather than intellectual motifs–as we might find in a Noh play.  (They also have a shockingly Manichean flavor, as his first play calls the devil the father of matter.)  Anyway, his sole happiness is in his love for Nina, an actress, which brightens his impoverished and useless existence: his mother, despite having 70,000 rubles in the bank, cries at the thought of lending him anything with the result that Trepelev hardly leaves the house and gads about in a threadbare coat.  Trepelev furthermore feels down on himself because society frowns upon his literary style.  This coupled with Nina leaving him for a more famous writer led to his first suicide attempt.  Then, Nina returns two years later to Trepelev after having an affair and a child with the other writer before he tires of her.  Unfortunately, Trepelev’s assertion that he still loves her and has been waiting for her falls on deaf ears.  This destroys Trepelev’s last hope and leads to a successful reattempt on his life.  (The moral of the story is not to place one’s hopes on an actress, a profession which at one time was esteemed only slightly higher than a prostitute’s.)  By the way, the former play is described as a drama and the latter as a comedy!

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But, these two characters had striking similarities in personality to myself.  Presently, I find myself quite broke, sometimes cannot stand staying in the house, and my existence tilts toward the useless side.  Also, despite my earnest striving, the world and the people in it have felt distant and unlovable–as if there were an unscalable wall between us–and an insufferable egotism afflicted me, as if my mind were some kind of prison impeding my soul’s freedom.  Thanks be to God that these latter two symptoms are mostly gone!

There's something rather curious about this picture of St. Jerome wearing glasses.

There’s something rather curious about this picture of St. Jerome wearing glasses.

Yet, why did I not pull a trigger?  Or even ever seriously consider it?  One could take a rather banal explanation that I believe suicide to be a mortal sin unless preceded by extreme mental stress or extreme fear of physical suffering.  It would not feel comfortable arriving before the judgment seat of Our Lord and Master saying, “Well, I calculated that my stress was such as to make this action a rather serious venial sin than something worthy of hell  So, please just give me some time in purgatory.”  But, I do suppose that my relationship to God is what would prevent any serious consideration of suicide.  After all, I have shown God far too much ingratitude and would like to do at least something in return for His great blessings.  Of course, I can never adequately pay God back for all His blessings, but I would at least like to do so super-abundantly–which sounds absurd and can only be possible through the grace of God.

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Three other thoughts would also come in the way: 1) I deserve what’s coming to me either because of my sins or personal faults and mistakes; 2) God both lowers us into the dust and raises us up; and 3) God foresaw all this suffering from the beginning.  Therefore, all I need to do is progress as best as I can in full or as full as possible knowledge of my sins and weaknesses, hoping in God’s mercy.  The only outcome for one who perseveres is to be brought out of one’s misery either by one’s appointed death or that joy in living will be found again.  In either case, “Blessed are those who weep, for they shall know joy.”

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Yet, I think that neither of the protagonists of the plays were able to continue living because they had removed God from the picture.  The Sea Gull says this very plainly in the case of an old man named Sorin who is looking toward the grave, whom a friend claims is not religious; therefore making fear of death merely animal fear.  In the case of the suicides, they also seem to remove other people from the picture and have an unhealthy concentration on themselves.  People were meant to be happy in community–not isolation!  Even the hermits of early Christianity knew this as they read Scripture, prayed to God and the saints, offered sacrifices and prayers for poor sinners, and rejoiced to serve the rare visitor or traveler.

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As a matter of fact, The Sea Gull‘s happiest character happens to be a poor school master named Medvedenko burdened with serving his younger siblings and aged mother.  After he married Masha, Trepelev’s sister, he in addition must care for their newborn child.  Though, it does seem that Masha now wishes not to have married Medvedenko or to be a mother.  The folly of people!  When one is surrounded by people who have made themselves unhappy through selfishness, why not imitate Medvedenko, whose only riches are the people in his life?

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Egotism kills, especially if exacerbated by preoccupation with one’s faults.  This was the case especially with the eponymous hero of Ivanov.  Indeed, he has many faults: he’s in debt, doesn’t love his wife, is irritable, can’t stay a night at home, has lost all his dreams, and is obsessed with his failures.  But, why torture oneself with all these things?  He’s a man, not an angel!  When grieving over one’s faults leads to self-torture rather than a change of life, it is time to stop grieving for a little!  Over how much does man have control?  Before her death, Ivanov should have tried to hang out with his wife, curbed his spending little by little, and tried a few new lucrative projects!  But, when one has done everything one can, there’s nothing else to do but look with hope at a crucifix.

Well, this has been a rather reflective and meandering article, but may it have been of benefit or amusement to my dear readers!