If you’re like me, sometimes you watch an anime that doesn’t seem all that great, but for some reason captures your imagination anyway. Perhaps you realize why only later. For me, Onmyou Taisenki (“The Great Battle of Yin and Yang”) was such a show.
The premise of the anime is nothing that hadn’t been explored before in shows such as Digimon. Humans called 闘神士 toujinshi form contracts with animal-like guardian spirits known as 式神 shikigami. The toujinshi uses a colorful gun-like “drive” to cooperate with the shikigami, in order to fight either demons or other toujinshi-shikigami pairs. Further, the shikigami (and, by extension, their toujinshi) belong to either the 天流 tenryuu (“Heaven Style”) or the 地流 chiryuu (“Earth Style”), with other affinities toward certain seasons and elements. In this manner a great dualistic battle plays out, with strong Taoist overtones.
Multiple koujin or “summon” sequences for the price of one: the toujinshi Tachibana Riku calls out Byakko-no Kogenta, with other characters’ shikigami also appearing
As a Christian, I believe we are not in an endless struggle between equal but opposite dualistic powers, but in a great cosmic war that will come to an end someday. One side in the war follows the creator of all things, himself uncreated, and the other side is aligned with the enemy, who was created to be good, but rebelled and was banished with his followers. We believe that, ever since the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the rebels have already in principle been defeated, but the war isn’t over yet. Living as we do on planet Earth, as C.S. Lewis puts it, we are in enemy-occupied territory.
We Christians are supposed to play a role in this war, but before anything else, we must admit that this is an area where Christians have historically gone terribly wrong, both individually and as groups. Christians have hurt and killed people, and sometimes even thought that they were carrying out God’s will for them in so doing. There is no excuse for this, since the very Bible Christians appeal to as their rule for conduct couldn’t be clearer on the matter. In Ephesians 6:12, the apostle Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Whether we like it or not, war rages around us, and we Christians are involved – but we must never forget that other humans are not the enemy.
God has not left us Christians unarmed in this conflict, however. God gives his people special abilities or “gifts” to use in his service, which have always taken on a variety of forms. In the New Testament, we find at least two commonly-referenced lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8 and I Corinthians 12:7-11), though we need not suppose that these lists are anything like exhaustive. And we can go even further. The verse in Ephesians 6 quoted earlier is part of a larger passage exhorting all Christians to “put on the full armor of God.” Again, the figurative language used here can be easily misunderstood, and perhaps even overinterpreted. But the point is clear enough that there are gifts and powers God grants to his people, some intended for use by all, and some for individual use.
Just as the toujinshi of Onmyou Taisenki were granted the privilege of forming contracts with their shikigami, we Christians have been granted all kinds of gifts that God intends us to use for his glory, that do not originate from within ourselves, that we did not earn by being special or strong or good. They are not cartoony or outrageous-looking, in fact they are not visible at all; and they certainly aren’t sentient like Byakko-no Kogenta or Seiryuu-no Kibachiyo. And we by no means wave around colorful “drives” as we call upon these spiritual gifts to “descend.” But just as the toujinshi depend on their shikigami to play their respective roles in the “great battle of Yin and Yang,” so we Christians depend on the gifts God has granted us in order to be effective in service to him.
Does this mean that we Christians are always effective in the use of our respective spiritual gifts? Hardly. Even Onmyou Taisenki would teach us this, when Riku has forgotten about his contract with Kogenta for certain reasons, and yet somehow cannot forget completely. Riku can’t get it out of his head that something is wrong, something is missing, so he sets out to find he knows not what. It is a powerful moment when Riku and Kogenta are reunited, a moment when I believe it is especially clear that Kogenta personifies not the giver of spiritual gifts, but the gift itself, here reclaimed by its recipient after he remembered what he should never have forgotten.
In the end, I think that one lesson we can all take from Onmyou Taisenki is that we have a responsibility to use our gifts and talents well, whatever they may be. As long as we use them to benefit others, and not just ourselves, we cannot go too far wrong. Hopefully, like Riku, we can find the resolve to use our respective gifts in helping others, whatever the cost or risk. The responsibility is great, but the help available to us is greater, if only we will seek it.
This post was written by frequent guest-blogger, R86.