Characters: Shinkuro Kurenai, Renjo Kuhoin, and Ryuuji Kuhoin
Occupation: dispute mediator and family heads
Bible Twins: Joab, King David, and Absalom
Based on how I enjoyed stories featuring parents and kids, one of my co-bloggers, R86, recommended that I watch Kure-nai. I dove in, expecting another touching story in the mold of Usagi Drop and Aisheteruze Baby. Of course, what I found was that Kure-nai was unlike either of those titles; moreover, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Supernatural powers, fantastic fight and chase scenes, journeys from childhood to adulthood, and even musical numbers filled the series.
So it comes as no surprise that spiritual themes also abound in this complex show. While a number of characters were well-developed in Kure-nai, giving an opportunity for analogous comparisons to individuals from the Bible, the strongest connection I found made it’s way out near the end of the series. In a reversal of roles, lead character Shinkuro Kurenai takes the supporting role of King David’s “henchman,” Joab, while Murasaki’s father and brother take the larger roles of King David and Absalom. And thus begins a closely-related anime retelling of one of the most dramatic and tragic stories from the Bible.
Let’s begin with Absalom, one of King David’s sons, who was praised for beauty. The Bible first gives us an insight into Absalom’s less-than-beautiful character, though, with an unseemly story about his sister, Tamar. Raped by their half-brother, Amnon, and abandoned by him, Tamar goes to live with Absalom, who schemes to kill Amnon, eventually doing so. Now a murderer (of one of the king’s sons, no less), Absalom flees (2 Samuel 13).
King David is inconsolable. No stranger to losing a son, he’s now lost two more in one day – one to death and one to exile. Seeing the pain that the king is in, Joab, the commander of Israel’s army and David’s nephew, convinces the king to receive Absalom back into the kingdom.
On a side note, though Joab comes across as a pretty nice guy in this part of the narrative, the rest of the Biblical account regarding him is less than clean. He murdered a number of people for self-benefit and other reasons, including one at the end of this tale.
After Absalom returns, he conspires against the king, gaining support and eventually announcing himself the new king in place of his father, who flees. Absalom sleeps with David’s concubines, a visible display of his conviction, and the two sides eventually do battle. In a strange twist, Absalom’s beautiful hair becomes caught in a tree as he rides a mule; the mule continues and Absalom remains, hanging. And though David asks the army to spare Absalom’s life, Joab thrusts spears into prince as he and his men kill the traitor and end the insurrection.
The twisted story of father and son is similar to one in Kure-nai. Murasaki’s father (Renjo Kuhoin) is a strange comparison to the beloved King David, who God ascribed as a “man after his own heart” (Acts 13:22). Renjo abuses women and puts the horrid traditions of his family above love and humanity. Yet, the struggles in his heart arouse some feelings of compassion in the viewer. And David, for sure, was far from perfect in his own right.
Renjo’s unwillingness to confide 100% to the Kuhoin traditions (even if his words are resolute) leave room for his son, Ryuuji, to come to control. Handsome, heartless, and brutal, Ryuuji more than fits the description of Absalom. And as with the traitorous prince, Ryuuji schemes to take over the “kingdom,” as it were, gaining trust from his grandfather and taking necessary actions (like recapturing Murasaki) to strengthen his hold.
In a redemptive moment of sorts, Shinkuro makes a final attempt to rescue Murasaki and has a discussion with Renjo, whose heart is finally starting to open after all these years of wrongs. In a way, Shinkuro has become the leader of Renjo’s army – they are both fighting for Murasaki against the new leader of the family, Ryuuji, who arrives soon afterward. And as with Joab and Absalom, Shinkuro is able to defeat Ryuuji and restore power to the leader of the family.
Old Testament accounts seem so foreign and distant to us. Fortunately, other media can sometimes enlighten us regarding ancient times. Kure-nai shows us the family struggles, lack of morals, and greed, injustice, and violence that not only were the trademark of a backwards anime family, but which also often ruled during Biblical times, even during the reign of a great monarch.