But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
– Isaiah 53:5
In my original review of “My Last Day,” I called the 9-minute film, created by the makers of the JESUS film together with STUDIO4°C, a “powerful piece of entertainment.” Eight months later, I’m revisiting the piece to see if I was blinded by Jesus goggles upon my original viewing, particularly in light of a scathing review by one of my favorite bloggers, Sweetpea.
The following post won’t address Sweetpea’s points, per se, but will instead focus on what I saw differenlyt this time around. Namely, what I found most important about evaluating the film is something I thought little about the first time around: context. When I watch anime, I generally think little about context (mistake!), unless the piece is based on historical events. But the context here is all-important. The film is an evangelistic tool – it is joined to a gospel message that will be presented along with the movie. As such, one has to see what the filmmakers were attempting to convey alongside with how “My Last Day” would be used.
For instance, we know little about Jesus’ teachings through the story and we know little about what it takes to get to heaven. The film, seen through the eyes of a thief crucified alongside Jesus, infers that belief is the only key to getting into heaven. But that’s not the message the film is trying to promote; instead, I see two main themes:
- We are all sinners. The thief represents us. Many who view the film will identify with him. The inference is that he was a good but desperate man, who committed a horrible act without forethought. But still, he needs to be punished; the crucifixion symbolizes the extreme consequence of sin. Other imagery also presses the theme, particularly a beautiful, but bloody, image of drops of Jesus’ blood being blown onto the crowds watching His death; his blood is on us all.
- Jesus is like us in that He knows our sufferings, but as the Holy God, has the power to heal us. Jesus undergoes a horrible death. The sometimes very sanguine imagery of the film, along with the screams and sound effects that rumble in our ears as Jesus and the thieves are tortured, impresses upon us the punishment that Jesus paid. But the film also makes clear that He is innocent. Why is this important? Because He is pure and sinless and has the power to ultimately take the burden of our punishments upon Himself. The dichotomy is powerful and if one believes in what Jesus did, the eye-averting scenes carry even more strongly. The film, of course, ends by showing Jesus’ power over sin, punishment, and death.
Other items I noticed this time around were less important (and showed my eagerness to grade such a film highly) – the animation was nice, but not as good as I’d remembered it; the English accents were even more distracting; and the film carried an old biblical film tone, hurting its contemporary look. These issues are significant enough to lower my original rating dramatically, but my deeper introspection again raises it, as the carefully-crafted message of the film rings more loudly in my ears and heart this time around.
As with any medium, one must approach it with context in mind. I think if you watch this film knowing how the film will be used, you’ll be able to enjoy it more than you would otherwise. And perhaps, it might even do to you as it did to me – make a strike right to the heart.
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2 thoughts on “Re-Viewed, Reanalyzed and Re-reviewed: “My Last Day,” the Jesus Anime”
Well, after reading this and thinking it over, I think I can agree with some of your points. I do think the themes you mentioned aren’t as visible or apparent as I would have preferred them to be. It bothers me that when I watch it, I can only see the message that if we do something wrong, then if we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven.
I also don’t believe that it ‘makes clear that Jesus was innocent’. It only shows one moment of Jesus’ teachings, and the only thing that you see is other people saying that he’s innocent. People screaming that someone’s innocent doesn’t make them so- which means that his innocence has to be backed up with the story of his betrayal from the Bible. People have to know that before watching this and seeing this being played out, because otherwise I imagine it would be mixed feelings.
Thanks for the thoughtful response. You made me think even more deeply about the film. You write that, “I can only see the message that if we do something wrong, then if we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven.” I thought, “Well, yeah.” I don’t believe in works getting us to Heaven – I believe in grace. Grace means we get what we don’t deserve. Beautiful grace.
Of course, it’s understood that genuine belief that comes with understanding the gravitas of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection leads to a changed life. The thief can’t lead a changed life because he is under the physical sentence of death. I was thinking, “Well, there’s nothing unbiblical about this” and “hey, the people who show this video will emphasize the idea of a repentant life.”
But you know what? I agree with you a bit in regards to the whole idea that the video doesn’t go far enough. Because if the organization releases this video to the public, as they have, without anyone providing context, then the message is at it is, up for interpretation. And without context, the message of repentance certainly does not come through clearly.
But I do think we’ll need to agree to disagree about the clarity of Jesus’ innocence in the film. I wasn’t thinking about the people saying He’s innocent; I was thinking more of contrast. Jesus’ calmness v. the thieves’ desperation; the people’s declaration of innocence v. the cruel and uncaring soldiers; Jesus’ peaceful teachings v. the thief’s murder; and the amazement and fear of the onlookers and soldiers v. the supernatural happenings upon Jesus’ death.
Thanks again for the comments! That’s twice now that you’ve made me reexamine a review I did…that’s a good thing. 🙂