Hyouka Episode 06: Chitanda’s Seven Deadly Sins

Although I dropped Hyouka weeks ago, I returned to the show for one segment of one episode at Alexander’s (Ashita no Anime) recommendation.  In it, wobbly-eyed Chitanda tells the rest of the Classics Club that the seven deadly sins are all necessary…I guess for the growth of society (and for personal growth).

Art by jungon

As a good American Protestant, I apparently know less about the seven deadly sins than a typical Japanese student (ha!).  Most of my knowledge of the sins comes from Seven, so, I thought I’d consult that bastion of always-accurate knowledge, Wikipedia, for more information on the sins:

Theologically, a mortal or deadly sin is believed to destroy the life of grace and charity within a person and thus creates the threat of eternal damnation.

Okay, that makes sense.  I get why they’re called “deadly.”

Of course, Chitanda, as we’re all bound to do almost gutturally, applies her thoughts to a framework that is culturally very different from her own:

1. “If someone didn’t have any pride, wouldn’t they also be lacking in self-confidence?”

Well, sure.  You’d lack in self-confidence, but that doesn’t mean you’d be a sad sack of bruised apples.  In Christianity, we (try to) put our trust in God, relying on Him rather than ourselves.  While we obviously act out of our own accord, we don’t prize ourselves and our decisions above God’s.  Ironically enough, the people I know who are strongest in their relationships with God are almost always the most willing to speak up, go out on a limb, and be bold.

2. “If someone was free of greed, wouldn’t they have trouble supporting their family?”

Well, no.  If you’re greedy, your thoughts are on doing things your way.  My experience is this – in Asian cultures, the parents often work tirelessly for their families, to whom they often show love through their work.  But this love is often rather based on the dad and/or mom doing what they feel is right, rather than on pouring out love for their children selflessly.  Strangely enough, family is often drive apart by this type of love.

You need true, sacrificial love to support your family – not greed.

3. “And if people didn’t envy one another, wouldn’t they stop inventing new things?”

Perhaps.  But how much better would the world be without envy?  If there were fewer modern conveniences, the world might be a happier place.  And certainly, we’d likely have fewer inventions that destroy, rather than build up.

Maybe the root of all this misunderstanding, though, is in understanding what sin is.  The Japanese idea of sin is different from a Christian one, and even in western culture, understanding of sin can be skewed.  There are a lot of ways to define it, but I’ll go with this one – it’s when we fail to follow Jesus in his commands to love God and to love others.  When we fail that, we’re showing hatred toward one or the other or both.

This hatred can come across through anger, and that leads us to Chitanda’s final point, and one in which she’s quite on the money:

4. If you don’t get angry about anything, you can’t love anything either.

I’m not 100% sure of what Chintanda meant here (edit: perhaps clarified in Cytrus’ comments below), but I think maybe she’s referring to passion that leads to both anger and love, or else a jealous anger.  Either way, she’s probably right.

Of course, anger’s not a sin.  Wrath is.  There can be a big difference.

Jesus became angry…pretty frequently.  He railed at the religious leaders who made others feel like dirt and with shouts and a whip, He ran out the money changers who dishonored God’s temple.  He was angry with good reason.

What He didn’t do was strike out in revenge or hatred.  That is sin.

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.  Sin is about hate: it destroys, it tears down, and it breaks us.  Love is what builds us up – even sometimes when it’s an angry love.


14 thoughts on “Hyouka Episode 06: Chitanda’s Seven Deadly Sins

  1. You’re right that Chitanda (and the author of Hyouka) views the Seven Deadly Sins through the eyes of another culture. They a) don’t take into consideration that what they are trying to explain is being viewed through a dialectic system instead of the dualism that is common with Western thought. The second or b) is that Chitanda (the author) does not take into account the Seven Virtues which are the correct path to take instead of succumbing to the slippery slope that are the Seven Deadly Sins.

    1. Thank you for adding to the conversation – my ignorance when it comes to sins (and even more so in regards to the virtues) almost demands others’ wisdom! 🙂

  2. Don’t get too hung up on this one. You’re making a case based on word connotations that don’t even survive the translation into Japanese; there’s no way Japanese high school kids would think like somebody with a Christian background does.

    Chitanda’s point is what you have in point 4 – there is rightful anger, and anger that leads astray, always two sides to every coin. Nothing less and nothing more.

    This issue is extremely common in Japanese media, see Fullmetal Alchemist for greed referring to “a greed for the trust, respect and love of others”, Umineko for greed referring to the ambition for self-improvement and whatnot.

    Their understanding of this has nothing to do with what the good book says, of course, but saying they are “wrong” here misses the point that they are discussing it as a philosophical issue adjusted to their cultural background, not a religious one.

    You can also understand what’s Chitanda’s referring to in 4 if you know more about Japanese culture. There’s a long standing idea in Japan that you can only get truly angry about something if you care about it in the first place. This pops up most often with parents who get angry at their children because they love them. If they didn’t, it would be easier for them to just pretend the kid doesn’t exist (especially for the father, who’s rarely home).

    Not judging this, just saying this idea exists.

    1. Thanks for the great information, as always. I will say that I wasn’t hung up on this selection at all, though, as I tried to demonstrate through this line:

      “Chitanda, as we’re all bound to do almost gutturally, applies an idea not of her own culture and experience to her own preconceived thoughts.”

      Perhaps this line seemed harsh, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not chastising her character or the writers of the series – I understand that their point of view is very different from our own and in the opposite situation, a western series would likely approach eastern principles with ignorance and in context of western culture.

      The approach here doesn’t bother me one bit. What I was trying to do, instead, was take this as an opportunity, rather, to hopefully teach a little about the Christian perspectives on sin and love.

      As for your last point, thanks for the information – that really clears that quote up (and I actually really appreciate the meaning behind that thought).

      1. Sorry if I sounded too harsh there. I just read “As a good American Protestant, I apparently know less about the seven deadly sins than a typical Japanese student (ha!)” and thought you were being sarcastic about the issue. The Japanese have no idea about Christianity at all, that’s very true, but it’s not like they can help it. (You do know that it’s constitutionally forbidden to teach religion classes in schools in Japan, right?)

        As religion is one of my interests, I remember that encountering the ‘wall of religious ignorance’ in Japanese people left a deep impression on me. Religion/religious practice is part of Japanese life, religious thought is not (not exaggerating here.)

        My Japanese roommate had a part time job at a local Buddhist temple, so I was all excited about asking him for details about how Buddhist thought influenced his life, how he could reconcile Buddhist and Shinto ideals and such. Imagine my surprise when he looked at me blankly and asked “What’s Shinto?” It turned out that both the religions were one and the same to him, and he couldn’t care less about the details anyway – working at a temple just meant selling trinkets to him, the same thing he would be doing behind a shop counter.

        Well, they’re willing to listen if you’re willing to explain. It’s just that they are a blank slate when you start the topic. And declaring oneself to be an atheist is in fashion right now, as the ‘most reasonable way of life’. Again, it’s hard to blame the nation, as there are still plenty of people who remember the emperor proclaiming that no, he isn’t actually a god via radio. But those declarations don’t really mean much, as your average Japanese atheist carries around protective charms and whatnot…

        Sorry for getting long-winded here. Hope some of this proves useful ;D.

        1. One thing that doesn’t come across well on print (at least through a novice writer like myself) is sarcasm. I was just trying to poke fun at both myself and Protestant Christianity. 😛

          Thanks for all the info – it’s such a strange juxtaposition to someone in the west that religion can play such a role in the everyday lives of the Japanese, yet the Japanese are largely without any deep personal investment in religion (and the country is one of the most atheist on earth).

  3. When I watched that episode, I was counting how many days it will take before you write about it, and I am glad you did! It is fascinating reading about the language differences and the differences in thoughts across culture. It is of particular interest to me that some in Japan is so apathetic that it would be a sign of love to get angry.

    1. Haha, well, I would’ve never even watched the episode if Alexander hadn’t sent me an email about it.

      It’s definitely an interesting juxtaposition with love and anger. I guess I can see the idea in terms of getting angry at a child because you love them and want the best for them when they do wrong.

  4. That’s a nice article. However, I must note that you mixed up the concept of a mortal sin with the cardinal sins. That definition above is for a mortal sin. Dying with a single mortal sin, which must be concern a grave matter (murder, adultery, etc.) and done with full knowledge of the sinner and deliberate consent, is enough to condemn one to hell. However, a deadly sin, often called a Cardinal Sin, is a disposition which leads to the commission of certain sins, which may be mortal or venial depending on their severity.

    The quotations from Hyouka all sound post-modern to me rather than the result of a difference in cultures. For example, the word she uses for pride “kouman” I found also defined as hauteur. (When they want pride with a positive sense, the word “hokori” tends to be used) Hauteur is looked down on no matter where you go. Confidence in God is much better than “jishin”–self-confidence–as you said. Everyone knows that anger can be positive, and usually people with a very loving nature tend to be quick tempered if they have not bridled this impulse. As far as I know, only the Ancient Greeks felt that anger was never positive. They thought of anger as always a form of madness.

    In any event, a vice is always a vice because it either falls short of a virtue or goes to far. Greed is a vice because you want too much. Indolence is also a vice because you become a burden on others. Envy is a vice because one becomes unsatisfied with what is sufficient for them and wants what a neighbor has. (As Bishop Fulton Sheen points out, it’s also the one vice which never gave anyone pleasure in having!) No need to try to turn vices into virtues by turning the vices into the virtues we should strive for!

    1. Thanks for clarifying – as you can see, I’m very unfamiliar with this topic and just generally with the Catholic tradition.

      And thank you for adding so much to the discussion!

      1. As long as we’re talking about Capital Sins and Virtue, I just remembered something that you might find interesting. Aristotle actually classifies Pride as a virtue. Since the important thing is to accurately know oneself, a great man who knows that he’s great is virtuous in believing himself to be great according to his merits. But, he seems to give another mean: a less worthy individual who knows that he is not worthy of great things is temperate. Both can be the mean depending on the individual.

        On the other hand, he claims that both humility and vanity are vices. The latter goes too far and the former falls short. As a matter of fact, a great man who is unduly humble robs himself of what he deserves. The only reason that humility is a Christian virtue is because we recognize our reliance on God and our extreme indigence without his grace: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) So, worldly people look at exemplars of Christian humility, like St. Francis and St. Augustine, as absurd, because they do not realize their own greatness; while Christians look to them and realize that they still have a long way to go before reaching humility.

        1. Thanks for the additional thoughts.

          I like that you brought up humility. I think that in living a Christian life, we sometimes exude a false humility based on the typical definition of the word. It seems almost like a gut reaction to show demonstrate this characteristic. In a similar manner, we see celebrities who give “all glory to God,” putting themselves rightly in a position beneath the Almighty, before they talk about how great they are in their next interview. Humility in a Christian sense certainly comes when we understand the gulf between ourselves, sinful and powerless, and the holy and righteous God.

  5. It took me a while to think about this, which is why I didn’t reply right away. But despite my recommending this episode of Hyouka to you Charles, I don’t know what to say about your article. I guess I was expecting something different. From here I guess I’ll point to where I think you got it wrong.

    1. I’m guessing you mean you’re getting your self-confidence from/through god? I can’t relate to that because I don’t think your god exists. To me it’s empty.

    2. I think Chitanda was talking about financial support, not support in the form of guidance. You can love your children all you want, but they can’t eat, wear, sleep or get an education on love.

    3. It really disgusts me how quickly religious people will spit in the face of progress when they are irrevocably entangled in the benefits of modernization from birth. Think about the cave men only 10,000 years ago eking out a miserable life of hardship to be lucky to make it to the age of 30 before you start discrediting the comforts of innovation. If those cave men saw you right now and the glories of your comfortable, secure life they would think you were god. I’ll stop here, because I could keep going and I don’t want to get too heated. =P

    4. This one I mostly agree with with a single caveat. One man’s revenge is another man’s justice. -_^

    I hope my perspective didn’t come off as too confrontational. ^_^

    1. Alexander, I’ll just respond to your comments on #’s 2 and 3:

      Chitanda is talking about the driving force behind supporting one’s family. She certainly doesn’t say that greed is the only one, or the most important one. But she does infer that it’s necessary. My response is that, no, it’s not.

      I also disagree with your assessment about love. Love DOES provide. Saying “I love you” or being all lovey dovey is not my definition of love; love, in its truest sense, is selfless – it leads to action. Love is a driving motivation to find a way to provide for others; greed is a driving motivation to provide for oneself.

      As for number three, I really don’t know where you’re getting this from. I suggested a possibility without saying that I necessarily would choose it. I mean, who among us hasn’t gone a few days without a computer and though, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad!” or done the national day without television and enjoyed the time outdoors and/or with family.

      That said, I don’t think know ANY “religious” people, personally, among the hundreds and hundreds I know, that would do more than I in questioning the prices of progress. Perhaps you’re thinking of either religious nuts who have forsaken the message of grace in a modern-day, Pharisaical attempt to transform culture or the Quakers (and other similar groups), who indeed practice what they preach.

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