The Difficulty of Interior Change

Recently, I have been watching You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle.  Those of you who watch the show know that one character named Aoi is a transvestite/trap, who gives no indication of masculinity save for his height.  In episode six, a former superior who knew Aoi when he transitioned shows up and tries for a second time to make a man out of him.  He puts Aoi through judo and other tough training in order to accomplish this, but Aoi persists in being more feminine than the female heroines.  In the end, this superior gives up, and assumes that Aoi is fine living the way he does.

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Here, I don’t want to discuss the ethics of changing a transvestite to conform to their sex.  Instead, this episode reminds me of the difficulty of changing one’s ways–whether they be habits, opinions, vices, or sins.  A friend once told me that a man doesn’t change much after reaching the age of twenty-five.  (Though, many great saints experienced conversions around this age.)  I assume the same rule applies to women.  There is a strong likelihood of retaining all the evil habits one has acquired by this point to the grave; though, they will naturally ameliorate or worsen depending on our recognition of these faults and our attempts to overcome them.  Sometimes, one does succeed in uprooting a vice entirely through time, effort, prayer, and the sacraments.  During the long period of struggle, victory seems impossible as the long force of habit draws us again and again to sin–even over the course of decades.

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The Fragmented Heart of Mytho

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I’ve known about Princess Tutu since around 2004, but have only just decided to watch it due to Josh W’s influence.  One does not expect a fantasy show revolving around ballet to be this good, and part of the entertainment lies in how little of the plot is straightforward.  In the city where the tale takes place, storybook characters can enter the real world.  Prince Mytho stands as one such person and so is his antagonist, the Raven.  According to the book, written by an eccentric named Drosselmeyer, the Prince sealed the Raven’s power through shattering his own heart.  Though Mytho succeeded in his object, he has become the shell of a human being.  The heroine, Duck, is approached by Drosselmeyer and given the power to transform into Princess Tutu so that she might restore Mytho’s heart to its proper condition.  However, restoring Mytho’s heart brings him pain and sorrow which he would never experience without a heart.  Also, the advent of the Raven’s release from his imprisonment is simultaneously advanced by the restoration of Mytho’s heart.

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Erased and the Two Forms of Salvation

Happy Low Sunday or Divine Mercy Sunday!  The anime Erased has got me thinking about the topic of salvation, as you know from my last article on the show.  In the finale, Yashiro was given a final chance of salvation by Satoru on the hospital roof: the statute of limitations had expired on Yashiro’s attempted murders.  He could have continued his ordinary and law-abiding life because Satoru had prevented his evil deeds.  Yet, Yashiro could not give up his evil obsession and was caught in the very trap he set: “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they dug a pit for me; they themselves have fallen into the midst of it” (Psalms 57:6).  Like the reprobate soul I described in the past article, Yashiro pursued his own destruction despite all the help Satoru gave him.  (After all, if Socrates’ dictum that the one doing harm is harmed more than the one harmed is true, Yashiro himself received more benefit from Satoru’s acts than the children Satoru saved!) Yashiro refused to be deterred from sin and must now repent of it.

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About the Devil in the Series Lucifer

A few days ago, I received a curious protest petition against the upcoming series Lucifer, which will premiere in January on FOX and is based on a character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.  The e-mail highlights how the series would show the devil as a nice guy, solving crimes and being kind and compassionate to all sorts of people.  The e-mail stated how important it was to urge FOX not to air the show, for it’s portrayal of the devil would confuse the ill-informed and corrupt the youth.

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But, this description of the devil brought an important fact to my mind: the devil never shows himself as the hate-filled and filth-loving monster that he is.  If he does take that aspect, it is only toward people who assiduously resist his temptations and refuse to be taken in by the devil’s facade.  Fulton Sheen appropriately notes that the devil pretends to be a friend of human freedom before a sin, while God, who actively tries to stop us from doing evil, appears as if He were against human freedom.

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Nisemonogatari and Being a Phony

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I mentioned in my post before I traveled across half the country that I was watching Nisemonogatari, which might be translated as “Tale of the Fakes” or “Tale of the Phonies.”  Watching through episode seven made me ponder just what a phony was in Nisemonogatari’s book.  The ideas surrounding the issue reminded me of this great passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  Razumihin begins berating Raskolnikov by saying:

“Well, go to hell then,” he said gently and thoughtfully. “Stay,” he roared, as Raskolnikov was about to move. “Listen to me. Let me tell you, that you are all a set of babbling, posing idiots! If you’ve any little trouble you brood over it like a hen over an egg. And you are plagiarists even in that! There isn’t a sign of independent life in you! You are made of spermaceti ointment and you’ve lymph in your veins instead of blood. I don’t believe in anyone of you! In any circumstances the first thing for all of you is to be unlike a human being!…And if you weren’t a fool, a common fool, a perfect fool, if you were an original instead of a translation…”

Only Dostoyevsky could pose this problem so well: “If only you were an original instead of a translation…”  The reason Raskolnikov stopped being human is because he murdered an old woman for money and a sense of power.  His crime destroys his humanity.

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One character in Nisemonogatari who fits the same description is Kaiki the con artist.  Sin detracts from our humanity and thus from our originality.  Of course, “errare est humanum,” but sins are sins because they make us less than who we were meant to be.  Our Lord came to deliver us from sin, and we slowly walk, slip, fall, and stand back up again on the way of perfection until we see the image and likeness of God made perfect in us in heaven.  In our perfection according to God’s image and likeness lies our originality.

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But, I do think Nisemonogatari distinguishes between two kinds of fakes: the completely fake and the almost original.  Kaiki, because of his preference for money over the service of God and his fellow man, is a complete phony.  He introduces himself as Kaiki with the kai spelled as the clam/kai in “a mound of clams” and the ki as the ki/tree in “a dead tree.”  This brings to my mind Our Lord’s cursing of the fig tree.  The fig tree did not produce fruit when our Lord needed it, so it was cursed with barrenness.  Kaiki imitates the clam in its refusal to offer itself: Kaiki refuses to offer his talents for the good of his fellow man.  Also, like a dead tree, he bears no fruit.  A perfect name for a villain!

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Yet, a different sort of fake is symbolized by Karen Araragi.  She is almost original in that we see her using her talents for the good of others.  Where she lacks originality, as her brother aptly notes, is that she has appropriated other people’s desires and does not know what she really wants.  She merely plays.  But, her play reveals that her talents are genuine, which indicates that her true calling is not far from her play.  One day, she shall discover the true purpose her martial talents and give up her play as a seigi no mikata–ally of justice.

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And the majority of humanity undergoes the same struggle as Karen in finding their true purpose.  People try to advise us to take one path or another, but we can ever only truly find our path through looking at our own hearts and praying to the God who made us all originals.

Valkyria’s Limited Experience of Goodness & Invicible Ignorance

St. Thomas Aquinas’ fourth proof for the existence of God has always struck me as his weakest.  The fourth way of the Quinque Via states that we see various degrees of perfection in created beings.  These perfections must have a highest exemplar from which they gain all their perfections, and this highest exemplar with every perfection must be God.  However, the argument already assumes the existence of God: because we know that God is the greatest thing which can be thought, he must also be the highest exemplar of every perfection we find in creatures.  But, one cannot reason for the existence of God from such an argument.  You’re free to dispute this point if you like.

It's hard to tell who was the greater genius, St. Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle.

To use an example from Gokukoku no Brynhildr, Valkyria cannot reason from the beauty of the sunset, the tender kindness of Kuroneko, or the courageous rescue by Chisato to the infinitely beautiful, infinitely loving, and saving God.  Part of the reason Valkyria cannot reason thus lies in her being trapped in a world of evil: Vingulf’s laboratory which experiments on and tortures human beings until they expire or displease their superiors.  The belief that human beings hold intrinsic value stands as a moot point.  Chisato even frankly admits that all lives are not equal.

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This causes a big problem for Valkyria.  Valkyria’s experience of goodness seems limited to Chisato and Kuroneko for the most part.  She loves Kuroneko because Kuroneko’s almost an exact clone of her, and she looks at Chisato as her god.  Instead of a God who calls every creature good and created human beings as the very image of himself, Valkyria believes in Chisato, who sees everyone and everything as either useless or potentially useless–except for his dead sister anyway.  Valkyria believes Chisato can do no wrong and follows him blindly.

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Her obedience even extends to killing Kuroneko, her other self.  She does attempt several times to dissuade Chisato from demanding Kuroneko’s death; but, when push comes to shove, she’s willing even to kill her twin for Chisato’s sake.  Thus, her limited perception of the good constricts to a solitary and morally corrupt individual.  Though, Kuroneko escapes death, Kuroneko might as well be an infidel with a fatwa on her head at that point.

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However, a pivotal moment occurs when Chisato dies while saving Valkyria one more time.  (The spark of divine goodness reignited in him at the end.)  Valkyria decides to annihilate the entire city and everyone in it at that point.  In her mind, the present situation is none other than Nietzsche’s proclamation on the theological state of the world–though with a slight twist: “God is dead…And you have killed him!”  Valkyria believes that Chisato was the sole good in her life.  Without him, she wants to destroy the entire worthless world.  Fortunately, Kuroneko defeats her, which leads to one of the most perplexing scenes in the manga.

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Upon her death, Valkyria sees Chisato one more time and pronounces his name before disappearing.   Are we to understand this as Valkyria’s salvation at the end?  (Elfen Lied, Okamoto’s prior manga, is patently Christian, and the same ethos is present in Gokukoku no Brynhildr, though more hidden.)  One wonders if it is really Chisato she sees–having been granted salvation though doing the greatest good one friend can do for another–or is it in fact Jesus Christ?  When we think of the genus savior, Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle.  But, the only example of salvation Valkyria knew was of Chisato; hence, at the brink of eternal damnation, she could only recognize the Savior, who desires to rescue all souls from eternal death, as Chisato.  In light of the ultimate Goodness, the last movement of her soul is toward repentance for her evils–which must appear truly detestable in the full light of God–and toward love of God.  Thus, she is saved.

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Would this movement of soul would be enough for salvation?  Love of the good which God placed in Chisato and which Valkyria could only recognize as Chisato?  As a Catholic, even if this were enough, I cannot but believe that her crimes would keep Valkyria in purgatory until the end of the world.  Though, the abyss of ignorance Valkyria has concerning God and goodness might indeed be invincible enough for Valkyria to escape the full penalty for her crimes.  May we all be so excused from our sins!

Thoughts on Noragami and Witch Craft Works

The realization that I have not written about either Noragami or Witch Craft Works since writing Renuntiato Brevis struck me.  Yet, these are my two favorite shows from the winter season.  Now, that they have ended and the Spring season is impending, the time to write a few final thoughts on these shows is more than ripe.  The following article is a nicotine powered ramble I wrote while enjoying a blend of Latakia, Virginia, and Cavendish pipe tobacco on a beautiful, sunny day.

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The most surprising thing about Noragami is how many of its themes one can tie into Christianity despite its Shinto background.  As a minor example, we have the fact that Yato only takes 5 yen coins for his services.  Spiritual gifts are priceless.  Since they cannot be equated in any way with material goods, money given to religious institutions are rather tokens of good will than amount tendered for particular services.  All the money in the world would not be the equivalent of a single drop of holy water.

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Then, the progression of sin which we see in Yukine follows a very Catholic understanding.  First, he commits slight faults because of his attachment to earthly things.  The effects of his peccadilloes are seen in the small blight produced on Yato, the god to whom he is attached, but this can fortunately be removed by pouring holy water on them.  In the same way, prayer, holy water, and penance remove venial sins through the grace of God.  Then, Yukine moves on to greater offenses until he does something so terrible that Yato is rendered prostrate.  Who can forget that those who do grave sins “are crucifying once again the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:6)?  His offenses lead to him hardening his heart toward Yato so that he needs to be forced to undergo the absolution ceremony, which requires confession.  In the same way, sin hardens our hearts to God and constant mortal sin produces a hatred of Him.  Similarly, absolution must be accomplished with confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I was more than a little surprised by all these parallels.

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Might I add that the final battle is spectacular?  The conflict between Yato and Rabo borrows heavily from Rurouni Kenshin.  After all, Yato is trying to escape his past as a god of calamity by doing good deeds and Rabo’s desire to make Yato a god of calamity again reminds one of Shishio’s wish for Kenshin to revert to his manslayer self.  Well done!

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My favorite character in the series. It helped that Rie Kugimiya voiced her.

Witch Craft Works is as flawed as a Sir Walter Scott novel but about as much fun!  The plot meandered until the end, and the revelation about Takamiya’s condition and the state of the world was scattered as randomly as buckshot throughout the show.  Yet, from Tanpopo Kuraishi to Kasumi to Chronoire Schwarz VI to Kagari, the characters stood as some of the most likable of any show I’ve seen.  Might I add that the end featured a great villain?  Our heroes must have been as tenderhearted as God to let her live!  They could make six or seven more seasons, and I should probably watch all of them.

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To tell you the truth, I even liked Takamiya.  He’s a hapless dope, but his heart is in the right place.  One of my favorite moments from the Winter season occurs when Evermillion asks Takamiya for his eyes as an exchange for dispelling the petrification spell on Kagari.  Takamiya heartily agrees–happy that he can undo her spell so easily!  Of course, Evermillion admits that she is jesting, but this “I love you more than my eyes” scene touched the Italian part of my soul.

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For one more religious allegory, Takamiya and Kagari’s relationship reminded me of a cradle Catholic with the Lord.  Most Catholics are baptized as infants.  Similar to Takamiya’s arranged betrothal, these Christians are not consulted as to whether they want to be joined with Christ’s Body.  Yet, once introduced to Christ at a later age, we become so enamored of His goodness that we accept this relationship, the initiation of which we had no say.  In the same way, Takamiya finds himself ecstatic to be loved by the beautiful, intelligent, and caring Kagari.  But, how lucky we all are to be loved by the infinitely Beautiful and all-Loving Source of Wisdom and Knowledge?

Let’s see whether the new season will provide us with shows this great.

De Liberalitate et Peccato

While pleasantly smoking a pipe today, meditations on human nature and sin came to my mind.  This meditation came to my mind while I was thinking of my response to a Scrooge who said that it would be smarter to save my money by not buying anyone Christmas gifts.  I responded that I should be unhappy with myself if I took his advice.  Indeed, I’m not sure whether I could live with myself!

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But, why should I have phrased my response “be unhappy with myself”?  Surely, I could buy myself more books, anime, tobacco, wine, and other things which generally please me?  Though these things do please me, the fact that I should be depriving myself of the chance to make someone else happy would remove the pleasure I had in these things.  That is because, as Bl. John Paul II beautifully wrote, we are called to be self-gifts.  Indeed, the enjoyment of the above four goods could only be increased if I shared either the objects themselves or even my knowledge of them.

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But, sin enters the picture, which is essentially selfishness.  Fortunately, Our Lord entered the picture and bestowed on us the greatest example of self-gift: His Father becomes Our Father, His Spirit becomes the Spirit leading us into all truth, wisdom, and goodness, his mother becomes our mother, His divine Life becomes our divine Life, His Body no longer refers only to Himself but to the Church, and His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity–His whole Being–becomes incorporated in us through the Holy Eucharist.  Who could imagine grater gifts than these?  Before Christ came down as the perfect revelation of the Father, this generosity would have been beyond the mind of man and produces mute wonder and utter astonishment in those who believe.

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Yet, we still fall short of our election by sinning.  In addition to selfishness, there is another cause of sin: frustration.  That’s why “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32).  The impetus to offer oneself as a gift can easily lead people to doing so in the wrong way.  Think of a strong man who, instead of waiting for the right opponents, takes to preying on whoever takes his fancy or a beautiful woman who lies with the first young man to take her fancy rather than having her husband as her first.

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Sir Breunor le Noir and his bride. The former is one of my favorite characters and one of the most interesting knights in Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.

However, the price of acting out of frustration is more frustration, because nothing is communicated by sinning–there is no generosity.  Someone may say, “But, an evil is communicated at least.”  But, evil is the absence of being and therefore nothing.  Rather than joining people together, sin separates them as it separates the people who sin from their true selves.  Instead of being a warrior, like King Richard the Lionheart, the strong man becomes a forgettable punk.  Instead of becoming a wife and mother of distinction, like Frances Cleveland (the wife of Grover Cleveland), the beauty becomes a body.

Therefore, let us exercise patience in our generosity and above all avoid the selfishness of sin.

Forgetting One’s Sins

Dear Readers, the idea for this article came from my reminiscences about my Alma Mater, Hillsdale College.  I feel that I was too shy to take proper advantage of the great minds and personalities which surrounded me there.  Among my reminisces, one professor stands out: Dr. Reist.  He was a hoot.  A professor not easily forgotten.  I’ll never forget the first time he walked into my classroom:

He says: “My wife broke her leg.”  The students collectively gasp.  Then, Dr. Reist says: “I told her having sex standing up was dangerous.”

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That’s a masterful way to break the ice!  One day, when he noticed people were not participating or had not done the readings, he told us that we weren’t free.  Which is an interesting way to put it!  And sealing one’s lips as one looks down at an unfamiliar text hoping that the professor won’t call on one may be compared to slavery.  After all, how much more preferable is it to be able to gaze steadily upon the teacher confident in being able to provide an answer to any question and being free to participate or not as you list?

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This professor, a fellow New Jerseyan, had once been Catholic but converted to a variety of Protestantism–even became a minister.  I suspect the reason for his conversion lay in that he felt Catholicism’s emphasis on faith and works placed too much emphasis on personal merit than on God’s election.  (But, even our merits are God’s gifts to us.  The idea of cooperation between grace and free will tends to overcomplicate matters from most Protestant perspectives.)  However, he seemed grateful for many of the lessons he learned as a Catholic.  For example, he once told us: “Do you know that it’s a sin to forget your sins?”

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And it certainly is: the sin of pride.  In our unending process of repentance, we ought always remember where we have been and all the patience God has shown us and continues to show us despite our iniquity and lack of amendment.  Even if we claim that we have progressed far from where we once were, that does not cancel out the fact that we did not deserve to be extricated from our wicked ways of living–that it was pure Mercy which brought us out of each vicious circle.  Even after confession where our guilt is washed away, can we ever stop mourning for the wounds we have placed on Christ’s body or forget that we still deserve temporal punishment and have deserved everlasting flames?

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So, whenever a non-believer claims that Christians have a nonchalant attitude toward sins because God is so ready to forgive, you can tell him that this is the attitude of the proud or the ignorant.  An educated Christian knows that he ought never stop pouring tears into his pillow or cease remembering the wounds of Christ until Christ himself has wiped away every tear  and welcomes us into Our Father’s house.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

One of the things which I admire about anime is that when one feels like one has seen the same plot a million times over, the same characters ten million times, and the same school classrooms a hundred million times over, a show will surface to blow one’s expectations and remind one why anime was so appealing in the first place.  This little one season show, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, stands head and shoulders above most anime for the profundity of its message.  I feel an eternal debt of gratitude toward Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime for intriguing me enough to pick it up.  Among its themes, the refusal of its heroine to acknowledge her dark past and believing that she should be loved less if the hero discovered it reminds me of the folly of pride which believers can enmesh themselves in relation to God.

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia has an interesting portrayal of pride in the mind of Yuuko, the ghost for whom Niiya, the protagonist, falls in love.  She has a light side which has expunged all the memories of suffering, bitterness, and hatred which she suffered in her past, and a dark side which remembers only these painful moments and can only feel these negative emotions.  This split is so complete that they appear as different persons.  We, dear readers, similarly have darkness and light within us; but most of us, however much we may minimize this darkness, never fall into that greatest temptation of pride: to cast off this dark side from our consciousness and to distort reality to the extent that we consider ourselves angels.

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But, Yuuko does have more of an excuse than most of us.  After all, she was sacrificed by superstitious pagans so that an epidemic might cease. (Perhaps superstitious is an unneeded modifier.  Can one truly be a pagan without being superstitious?  Oh, well.  That’s a question for another blogger.)  Nor was this a quick death: she was left to die alone of suffocation or of starvation in pitch blackness while suffering the agony of a broken leg at around 15 or 16 years of age.  All of this while thoughts of envy toward her best friend and hatred toward those who abandoned her there swirled in her mind.  That’s a memory I’m sure most of us would desire effaced!

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Yet, we are not walking according to the truth if we disown our suffering, evil thoughts, and dark deeds.  And do we not own our dark side more truly than than our good side?  After all, we cannot maintain the least virtue, perform a single good deed, or have one good thought apart from God, who aids us by His own divine life.  On the other hand, we can do all sorts of sins on our own and would even plummet into utter vileness if not prevented by His grace.  St. Philip Neri once remarked as he saw a condemned man passing him on the road: “There goes Philip Neri but for the grace of God.”  Nor is this arrangement unfair: how many sins have I myself committed despite receiving the grace to will otherwise?  How many times have I consented to sin without lifting up a single prayer so that I might will good instead of evil?  Or did pray, but never wanted to form the wholehearted will to shun what might be more delightful to the senses or sweeter to my ego?

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At any rate, Yuuko further compounds her darkness by believing that Niiya won’t love her if she has any darkness or suffering in her.  This is not true: we are all loved by the people in our lives in spite of our defects.  How much more ought we trust that God loves us in spite of our wickedness?  As believers love to repeat, God’s love is unconditional.  Even in the midst of mortal sin by which we deserve to be sent straight to hell, God does not cease loving us and strives to turn us to repentance.  Yet, I believe people growing in goodness are more susceptible to this form of pride than outright sinners.  Somehow, the delusion intrudes that God loves us because of our good deeds rather than simply because He made us and thought it delightful that we should be with Him in paradise forever.  Then, we start forgetting our wicked deeds or minimizing them under the delusion that God somehow loves us more infinitely for being good!

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Yuuko’s desire to forget her painful past becomes so extreme that she further effaces her memories of Niiya.  You see, Niiya had absorbed the dark side’s, Shadow Yuuko’s, terrible memories and Yuuko cannot help reliving them when she touches Niiya.  Therefore, she blocks Niiya’s presence from her vision.  Even though she strongly desires to see him again and stays in the same vicinity as him, she cannot see him.  At last, the only way that they can communicate is by writing notes to each other in a notebook.

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Is this not rather like a Christian who in his mad drive to forget the memory of his sins even avoids the sight of a crucifix?  I think it no accident that in one episode we see two images of a cross: one made by Niiya and Kanoe’s shadows crossing and the other one of light.  For, the cross is painful because we see our sins in the wounds of Christ, but these very wounds bring us in the light of Christ’s presence.  And Niiya and Yuuko exchanging notes is rather like how a Christian soul, when frustrated at not feeling God’s presence, will turn to the Scriptures–all the while yearning for the embrace of the One who loves her.

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Then, that beautiful scene occurs in their club’s room, the Paranormal Investigation Club.  Niiya takes a bat and begins shattering everything in the room in order to get Yuuko’s attention.  Furthermore, his actions bring Shadow Yuuko into focus for Yuuko at the same time.  This is reminiscent of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

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In this scene, we find that Niiya wishes especially to speak to Shadow Yuuko and embraces her, saying that he loves Shadow Yuuko too, because Yuuko and Shadow Yuuko are the same person.  In the same way, though Jesus hates the least speck of sin in our souls, He loves us entire.  He wishes to love us in pain as well as in joy, which is so plainly figured in the cross as Jesus endures all the pain caused by pain and suffering in our lives out of pure love for us.  The confession of love by Niiya allows for both halves of Yuuko to come together, forming Yuuko into a complete person.

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Since God loves us as a complete person, there is no need to attempt hiding our sinful selves from Him.  Rather, let us contemplate the Crucifix in which we clearly see our sins in the holes in Christ’s hands and feet, the pierced side, the crowning of thorns, and the anguished expression on His countenance, knowing that it is through means of these wounds that we are bound to Him forever.

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Speaking of forever (Big spoiler coming!  If you’re the kind of person who absolutely cant’s endure them, don’t read on!), I expected Yuuko to disappear in the last episode–the natural end for ghost stories like this.  And indeed, with her regrets being solved and the integrity of her person, she does disappear for a while, leaving Niiya in great sorrow.  Does this not remind us of how we desire heaven, where we shall be reunited with our loved ones and love shall endure in perfection forever?  It seems, however, that Niiya’s last kiss produced a new regret in Yuuko: she now desires many more kisses.  Truly, love is never exhausted!  Since this is a love story first and foremost, Catullus 5 powerfully comes to mind:

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

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Simplicity and Identification in You’re Under Arrest

About one year ago, I discovered You’re Under Arrest, a very amusing series by Kousuke Fujishima who is also famed for Ah! My Goddess!  It excels in showing spectacular car chases, amusing plots, likeable characters, comedy, and even has a very believable and nice–though frustrating at times–romance for those of you who care about that facet of storytelling.  (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m sometimes a sucker for that too.)  This TV series began with a four episode OVA, which became popular enough to warrant a series.  However, I consider the OVAs to be the weakest episodes of the first season, to which the OVA was attached, with the exception of the OVAs having better animation quality.  But, the comedy and the plots of You’re Under Arrest only improved from there.

On the other hand, the second season started pretty strong.  Saori’s entering into Bokuto Station with a ton of youthful rigor made for some splendid comedy as our heroes and their comrades tried to restrain her high ideals.  Saori is eventually relegated to a desk job.  (By the way, if you’re presently seeking the next animated masterpiece, don’t watch You’re Under Arrest.  This show is best for those who wish to enjoy some light comedy without being bombarded by fanservice.)  Everything was proceeding as normal until the series introduced a love triangle and showed Kobayakawa distancing herself from her partner Tsujimoto.  Usually, more conflict increases the value of a show, but a show needs to know what kind of conflict is suitable for it.

In the case of a show like You’re Under Arrest, interpersonal conflict among friends and dark, internal struggles ruin the work.  Instead of the lighthearted fun and likeable characters for which the viewers watch the show, we see Kobayakawa become steadily more detestable as passion draws her closer to a mechanic aged thirty-something and his daughter(a nice guy, but one should avoid unequal relationships in general).  This causes extreme suffering for her long time love interest, Nakajima, and leads to her getting into a serious fight with Tsujimoto, even slapping her at one point.

Now, in a certain book on novel writing (The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall, I think), the author commented on how he hated simple characters.  They’re boring, uninteresting, and more like children than adults.  How is an adult supposed to relate to them?  No doubt, Kousuke Fujishima thought like this when he decided to introduce these difficulties: that these struggles would result in the story becoming more interesting.  The case is rather that this stands as one of the dullest, saddest five episodes stretches in the history of anime.  I felt that several of the episodes past the middles of the second season were weak, but these were downright depressing!

If one thinks about it, much of the “complexity” we see in adults derives from sin.  Adults wish to improve their situation in life and feel envy toward those who are above them either in terms of their position or of wealth; they have difficulty remaining faithful to one person because they think that indulging their lusts would be more pleasurable; they constantly want more stuff; they do not trust God and so suffer from many phobias and constantly fear being injured.  Shall I go on?  All these things make for complex characters, and several good stories have been made where plot centers on the main character overcoming his defects; but who would not prefer to be simple?

The simple man considers his station in life sufficient unless a true need arises, he does not bear ill will toward his superiors, he treasures his relationships, and fears nothing.  If there is anything in his character which strikes others as an idiosyncrasy, he does not consider it as a cause for pride.  Again, who would not rather be this person?  Ah, such perfection is rarely achieved!

Which reminds me, one of the chief reasons a viewer likes or dislikes a story lies in whether he can identify with the characters.  Interestingly, this identification occurs either because a character’s personality approximates the viewer’s or the viewer would like to become similar to that character.  In the former case, we cheer the hero on, hoping for him to overcome all the obstacles.  Sorrowing when he fails or rejoicing when he succeeds as if we ourselves rise or fall with him.  In the latter, we see a model for us to attain.  Seeing the greatness of this character, we are on fire to attain his virtues.  The point of having the two kinds is so that one can see both the goal and how miserable it is to be away from the goal!  The first spurs us by its beauty and the latter by revulsion.

To tie this back into You’re Under Arrest, Nakajima seems very much like myself.  Even though he knows how to respond to matters well when it concerns his job, he procrastinates and is terribly unsure of himself when it comes to his human relationships.  But, at the same time, he has a degree of reflection which usually prevents him from hurting other people–at least, by commission.  Nakajima needs to learn more from Tsujimoto, who simply sizes up problems and does whatever she thinks is right.  An example of simplicity very much worth following!

To wrap up with a more practical matter, I just need to decide whether I should go on to the third season.  Considering that most of the characters are women, the first two seasons showed remarkable restraint when it came to fanservice, but this did increase over the course of the second.  Does anyone have any opinions concerning how tolerable the third season is?  Also, the episodes plots tended to be subpar in the second season.  Does the third season offer an improvement in this area?  Comments please!  Especially if this article brought you some intellectual delight!