Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Saviors on Mount Anime: Volume 1


“… I’ll bathe in blood. If that’s what it takes to protect my friends, I’ll take it. All the hatred, the disease. I’ll take it as my own and end it.”

These words were uttered by Shu Ouma towards the end of Guilty Crown. Do they sound famiIiar to you at all? Someone bathing in blood to protect his friends? Someone who offers to take all the sickness upon himself to end it? Yeah, that sounds kind of like what Christ did for all of us. I should probably mention a few things while introducing my topic here: 1. The savior metaphors I reference here are my own opinions and observations, and may be not at all what the original authors intended. 2. I’m not trying to be sacrilegious by comparing anime characters to Jesus Christ, I really do see his likeness in some of the imagery. 3. I will be back later on with more examples to share.  And 4. This post will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Guilty Crown and Puella Magi Madonna Magica (or just Madoka for short). So if you are planning on watching either of these masterpieces and don’t want some of the key parts of their stories spoiled for you, back away now…

A Brief Japanese Language Primer

When I served as a Missionary in Japan, I saw little hints of the gospel everywhere. Now you may be thinking, “but Paul, Japan is a mostly Buddhist and Shinto country… what do you mean that there are hints of the gospel everywhere???” I’m so glad you asked, let me share an example. Take the word  示す (shi-me-su, “to show“) for instance. The kanji used seems to depict an altar with a sacrificial offering on top, and two drops of blood falling to either side. Not convinced? How about this one: the kanji for demon or evil spirit 魔 (ma) includes radicals that mean “garden”, “two trees”, and “devil”. Wouldn’t you say that sounds like a very famous story involving a woman, a man, and a serpent in a garden with two significant trees? I thought so.

Guilty Crown

Okay Japanese language lesson over, let’s get to the crux of my post already. Going back to Guilty Crown, I noticed a few overt symbols of Christianity throughout the anime. The first opening sequence shows a character set into a cross, singing lyrics that give off heavy Savior vibes: “Even if someone calls you a liar and tries to hurt you with heartless words. Even if the world forces you to wear a crown of thorns without even trying to believe in you…” Not to mention that one of the characters wears a cross… Up until the ending, I felt these items weren’t really up there in your face; they were more subtle nods to Christianity. Then, when Shu manifested the ability to take upon him the entirety of the apocalypse virus in order to save everyone, it felt much more conspicuous. I’m not sure if the author belongs to a Christian faith, or if he was just fascinated by Christian imagery, but I appreciated the hopeful overtones.


Let’s move on to Madoka. I remember feeling dubious when my roommate showed me the first of thirteen episodes. Apparently there is a whole 魔法少女 (ma-hou shou-jo, “Magical Girl”) sub-genre of anime, and some of the artwork of Madoka was very “cute”. Well, I kept watching and was very impressed by how deep and dark the story turned out to be. Basically you have these teenage girls entering into contracts with a being from the cosmos where they receive special abilities along with a granted wish of their choosing in exchange for the duty to fight a whole slew of “witches'' plaguing the world. Hmm… this almost sounds like the principle of covenants and how we receive power from on high as we promise to uphold certain requirements…? Anyway, at the end of the show the titular Madoka enters into the contract by making a very powerful and selfless wish. It turns out that witches are actually transformed from the very mahou shoujo that are trying to fight them. She asks for the power to prevent all mahou shoujo past, present, and future from ever breaking and becoming witches. That whole sequence is full of beautiful artwork depicting this Savior taking the pain and suffering of all the mahou shoujo throughout time, including the friends that Madoka lost along the way. She did for them what they could not do themselves.

I acknowledge that perhaps I’m just seeing what I want to see. Perhaps my experiences in the church frame the media I take in, allowing me to make connections that might not be there. Regardless, I’m grateful for these pieces of artwork that help remind me of the Savior I believe in. 

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