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!

Advertisements

On Expanding the Heart

I have decided to break off my hiatus early, my dear readers.  But, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus provides a great reason to get back to blogging about Christianity and Anime.  All sorts of ideas for anime articles bagan popping into my mind as soon as the hiatus began anyway–that figures!  The themes in Saber Marionette J, the latest anime to steal my heart, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart incline me to write about the heart.  (Only two more episodes to go before I tuck another anime under my belt.)

1

N. B. Couldn’t find many good pictures from the anime online, so I cheated and used manga ones. But, I will warn you that the manga–like all old manga–is ridiculously fanservicey. I could not help but burst out laughing at the lengths to which it goes.

Saber Marionette J features some female androids who have something called a “maiden circuit” which allows them to empathize with others and have emotions.  Essentially, they were programmed with a heart.  The greatest joys and sorrows come from having a heart.  The greatest hearts feel most keely the highs and lows of life.  During these low periods, when love appears extinct and and pain everpresent, people often fall into the temptation of becoming bitter and seeking means of escape which only harden and diminish the heart.  Some may even fall so low as to wish that they had no heart.  Why have an organ capable of experiencing such beauty and love when all it finds surrounding it are ugliness and hate?  In Saber Marionette J, Lime gives in to the temptation of abandoning her maiden circuit in order to escape the pain of a traumatic event.

Not a spoiler.  You know this kind of things had to happen once, and it's unrelated to the traumatic event I mentioned.

Not a spoiler. You know this kind of things had to happen once, and it’s unrelated to the traumatic event I mentioned.

However, losing her heart does not increase Lime’s happiness.  She comes to realize that the joy of loving Otaru is worth all the pain she meets in life.  In a similar way, the Sacred Heart was tempted not to love us during the Agony in the Garden, especially in seeing how many souls would either not care about His Passions or prefer hell to the Source of Goodness and Love.  Despite the many thorns with which humanity has pierced the Sacred Heart of Jesus, He chose to accept all the pain of loving us, even the reprobate, for the joy of seeing us happy.  The hardships endured by Christ through His entire life which culminated in His Sacred Passion produced the most magnanimous Heart ever to beat in a man’s breast.  Christ is divine but also human, and His humanity required Him to grow through experience: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).  We must never forget that God Himself knows suffering and the misery of the human condition even more personally and perfectly than ourselves.

image

This picture of the Agony in the Garden hangs in my room. One of my favorite paintings

Those who wish to follow Christ must endure similar struggles knowing that perseverance in love and righteousness enlarge the heart.  The grace of God is so infinite that God can use loving imperfectly or outright sinning–through repentance–to building up the heart as long as we keep our gaze on Him.  So, let us celebrate today the love with which this Sacred Heart burns for us, which came down from heaven to remove our stony hearts and to give us hearts of flesh.  One day, we’ll see that our hearts are no longer small and stony, but large and ardent–pointing to that Heart which fashioned all our hearts.

sacredheartjesus

Rejoicing in Being Defective

For a while now, the old anime Saber Marionette J has excited my curiosity.  On the one hand, the show exudes mediocrity; on the other hand, I’m an avid enough fan of 90’s anime to pass over many flaws in anime from this era.  The basic premise for this show lies in a space ship crash landing upon a deserted planet, killing all the female crew members.  This necessitates the population of this world to come about through cloning (somehow, their best efforts to clone women from male genes failed); yet, the memory of the fair sex is kept alive through creating androids or marionettes in the form of women.  These androids are inferior to real women in many ways, especially because they lack volition and emotion.  (You can tell this anime is a commentary on the state of women in Japan, and you might expect an article from me in this regard by a certain point.)

SaberMarionetteJ6

However, our hero, Otaru, discovers a marionette named Lime who has both will and emotions.  His neighbors initially deem Lime a defective product and attempt to destroy this rambunctious robot.  (She does kind of rob all of them of their breakfasts.)  However Otaru saves her by begging for her life.  Afterwards, the neighbors come to a good opinion of Lime, claiming that sometimes the most defective products are also the most lovable.  At which point, Lime knuckles her forehead and says: “Ha, ha!  Yeah!  I’m defective.”

SMJ

In a similar way, we ought to consider our own defects with good cheer.  Rather than letting these bring us down, we ought to laugh with Lime at our own defectiveness.  St. Francis de Sales does aver that we should “rejoice in our abjection,” but few find their own weaknesses as something to rejoice in–especially if these happen to be sinful proclivities.  Yet, even more than Otaru’s neighbors finding Lime lovable in her crazy antics, Our Lord loves especially those who are weakest and most in need of His mercy.

Jesus - Lost Sheep

We seem to have more cause to weep over our defects than to rejoice over them; but, our very mourning becomes beatitude when seen in the light of Our Lord’s Passion: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:8).  Sorrow over sin inevitably raises the mind to the Passion of Christ, of Our Lord who suffered for the forgiveness of our sins.  When we look at God, God looks at us.  In seeing our confusion and sorrow over the wounds our sins inflicted upon Himself, Our Lord presents His wounds for the healing of our souls to God the Father.  The greater our sorrow and focus upon God, the purer our heart becomes and the greater God refines our souls from the dross of sin.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque receives the vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque receives the vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As such, we ought to view our sense of abjection as a gift from God.  If we felt that we were alright, we would not seek God.  Because we know that we are broken and defective, we focus more on the Great Physician, who heals us the more as we bind ourselves to Him by remembering Him always.  Even though conscious that the wounds we see upon Christ Crucified represent our offenses and sins, we become yet more conscious that God took these wounds upon Himself of His own free will out of love for us.  And so, the more we focus upon Christ’s wounds and sufferings, the more apparent God’s infinite Love becomes to us.  Indeed, the most sinful, weak, and defective become the most beloved of God.  As Jesus told the Pharisees: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matt. 21:31). 

St. Matthew, one of the tax collectors whom Jesus saved.

St. Matthew, one of the tax collectors whom Jesus saved.

But, I suppose that the knowledge that God appears to love those who caused Him the most suffering more than those who live decent lives is not enough for us.  We want to be just!  We want to cease being the thorn in Our Lord’s Sacred Heart!  But, have we not fulfilled the fourth beatitude in our desire for justice even if we see ourselves falling often every day?  Our very abjection fulfills the first beatitude.  Our knowledge of human weakness and our own poverty lead us to be gentle towards our brothers and sisters, fulfilling the second beatitude.  Our sorrow for sins and seeking righteousness increase our purity of heart or single-mindedness on God.  Our focus on God reminds us of the constant need we have for mercy, and so we become merciful to our brothers and sisters–desiring them to be happy even if we suffer temporal losses.  Our focus on justice, mercy, and purity make us excellent peacemakers, by which virtue the children of God are known.

St. Longinus at the Crucifixion

Then, once we have been filled with such blessedness, we shall be worthy to be persecuted along with our Lord and thus fulfill the highest and eighth beatitude.  Such a soul is so conformed to its Lord and filled with God’s Spirit that, as in the case of St. John Vianney, someone might exclaim “I have seen God in a man.”  All the saints have meditated often on Our Lord’s Passion and drawn strength from it as well as from the sacraments.  Though grace so wonderfully perfected the nature of these saints according to the image and likeness with which all human beings are created, they never forgot their utter need of God, their sinfulness, and how reliant they were upon His sufferings.

All this from knowing our utter misery, wickedness, and need of God!