The Gospel message is simple, and yet many people misunderstand it or are simply ignorant of it. And thus, it’s sometimes helpful to use a familiar cultural artifact or form to illustrate the message. In this case, I’ll be using one of my favorite series of the 2013 fall anime season – Beyond the Boundary.
While the series as a whole – and even the primary episode I’m analyzing (episode 11) – could hardly be called a strong biblical allegory, certain aspects of it are beneficial for understanding what Christianity is all about.
Sinful Man is Bound for Death
One of the major themes of the Old Testament is that man is constantly in rebellion with God. While this is obvious in stories like the Tower of Babel, it’s more practical when we realize that falling short of holiness, of God’s standard, leads to sin. And sinning is rebellion against God. It’s, in a way, telling God that our way is better than His. And like a dirty white cloth can never become clean magically on it’s own, we, too, stained with sin, can do nothing to become holy and clean by our own power. This is significant because of the outcome – a unholy creature cannot be in the presence of God, who provides life; thus, he or she is bound for a place without God, a place of death.
In Beyond the Boundary, the title demon has latched onto Akihito at some point and he carries this weight around with him. Akihito, on his own, would not be able to remove this disease from his body. It’s a weight that changes him into a terrible creature and which leads to death.
Christ is the Only Remedy for Sin
Although God is often pictured as a spiteful being, the Bible rather portrays Him as a concerned parent who goes to unimaginable lengths to save His children. To bring us again into His presence, God must make us holy. To do so, our sins are removed from us by the only truly holy man who has ever lived – the incarnate Son of God.
I think this idea of the “removal of sin” connects very well to anime viewers, who have seen similar tropes in other series. In Beyond the Boundary, Izumi Nase informs us that only Mirai, from the cursed clan, can defeat Beyond the Boundary. She is the key to defeating the creature.
Christ Defeats Sin Through His Death and Resurrection
The sins of us all are laid upon Christ, who must face the judgment of death in our place. He is the sacrifice that atones for our sins. The work is completed both by his taking on our penalty and by His resurrection, triumphant over death. By his blood, we are healed.
Instead of choosing to kill Akihito, Mirai chooses to “die” in a sense, as her blood is what draws Beyond the Boundary out of Akihito. By her blood, Akihito is healed! He is restored to a clean self, as Mirai does battle with Beyond the Boundary.
We Must Take Action
While Christ has done the work, it is ultimately up to us to agree to let Christ be our Lord and Savior. He won’t force us to accept His love and sacrifice; we must love Him, a proactive action that leads to change. As we might demonstrate love to our family through action, an understanding of what Christ did and who God is will lead to transformation in our lives.
At this point in the series, the analogy begins to break down, but I think we can still make an application here. Akihito, newly cleansed, does take action. His appreciation for what Mirai did and his love for her spurs him onto action, as he becomes willing to lay down his own life for Mirai. We are asked to do the same as Christians, to lay down our lives for the sake of Christ; in other words, we are live a life fully dedicated to Him, whatever that may lead to.
Christianity isn’t an inherited religion – it is a dynamic one that spins upon one moment in time, the one in which God comes to earth and dies in our place. It’s a moment of life-changing effect, and it has a moving power, even when it’s seen through the sacrifice of a pink-haired, cardigan-wearing, meganekko.