Today’s article is a guest post by a friend to both me and the blog, Medieval Otaku.
Those of you who read my blog may be familiar with my article Un Programme d’Articles pour Novembre. (Why French? Because most things sound better in French, obviously.) Therein, I promised to write an article on Corpse Princess and my history with horror films and anime, but a more interesting topic came to mind. I became curious with the way the show presented Buddhist ideas of detachment, which ultimately led to me contemplating on how detachment differs with Christian charity.
Those familiar with this delightfully action packed and soap opera-ish anime called Corpse Princess, a. k. a. Shikabane Hime, know that the heroes are affiliated with a Buddhist sect. This sect uses certain undead young women, known as Shikabane Hime, to eliminate undead monsters. They boast that their monks have reached enlightenment, and therefore have no attachments to this life. This makes it impossible for them to become undead themselves, since the undead enter that state because of intense regret and attachment. The hero, Ouri, resists Buddhist principles of detachment, particularly in regard to Makina, his role model’s Shikabane Hime. He does this despite both Makina and others telling him to treat Shikabane Hime as tools and aberrations—not as people.
How different is the Kougen sect’s attitude from Christianity, whose essence is charity! Charity, at its heart, desires to unite all things and make them whole. The more charity enters one’s heart, the more one wishes that broken relationships heal and the more one’s own happiness depends on others being happy. We have the example of Christ: “’I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!’” (Luke 12:49-50) This baptism is His Passion and Death, by which He would free the world from sin and death. Because He saw that the whole of humanity would be consigned to hell without this baptism, He felt agony in this baptism’s delay—Jesus did not wish to be happy without humanity being happy.
Yet, here lies a huge gulf between Buddhism and Christianity: the Buddha desired to have no desires in order to escape suffering; Christ desired every man, woman, and child from Adam to the last human formed in the womb and the world returned to its original beauty. His “I thirst” on the cross manifested his insatiable desire for human hearts. His unquenchable charity to draw all men into His Father’s kingdom led to fathomless suffering.
Shikabane Hime presents arguments for and against attachment in a surprisingly even handed fashion. The fact that people’s evil desires produce so much suffering is manifest, especially in the undead whom Shikabane Hime fight. On the other hand, many people have good desires—especially the desire for love, friends, and family. Of course, the Buddhist sect does not condemn these things—unless they happen to involve Shikabane Hime anyway.
Ouri in particular might be considered to imitate Christ. To him, Shikabane Hime are nigra sed formosa (black but beautiful), a phrase from the Song of Solomon allegorically referring to the Church. Instead of monsters, Ouri sees human beings. Even Shikabane Hime like Makina, who have embraced being monsters, Ouri calls on to embrace their humanity.
All these things make the show much more interesting than a fanservicey horror anime has a right to be! But, I wonder if Shikabane Hime or yours truly has misrepresented Buddhism in some way. So, I should be more than happy to hear if my understanding of Buddhism is off or any comments on charity.
Medieval Otaku is run by a bookworm inflamed with a desire for learning and for God. The study of foreign cultures, literature, and history eventually led to him discovering anime, which hooked him with the remarkable richness and beauty of its stories and is likely to remain a strong hobby of his for decades to come.