Anime Today: When Even One Supernatural Student is Missing (Even if She is Commonplace…)

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As carefree of a series as When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de) is, it has rather regularly hit on a rather serious topic, if only briefly. Charles focused on one of these two weeks ago, writing on perhaps one of the most impressive several minutes of anime monologuing in the past year or so. As you can see from the above screenshots (courtesy of Crunchyroll), the literature club’s protagonists are lamenting the disappearance of Hatoko, and the very integrity of the group after her absence.

Although only a brief moment in the episode, and completely dependent upon the events in the previous episode, this immediately struck home for me. To illustrate this point, I will provide two examples. The first of these comes from a piece of my childhood very near and dear to my heart.

A spark... the very thing which makes us what we are.
A spark… the very thing which makes us what we are.
Every Cybertron, Maximal, or Predacon has one.
Every Cybertron, Maximal, or Predacon has one.
And each... is different.
And each… is different.
When a spark goes online, there is great joy.
When a spark goes online, there is great joy.
When one's extinguished...
When one’s extinguished…
...the universe weeps.
…the universe weeps.

This short scene comes from episode 15 of season 1 of Beast Wars, the CG animated series from 1996 that was created as an addition to the Transformers universe first begun in the 1980s by a Japanese and American partnered toy line. There are some obvious correlations to Eastern religious thought to be made from this explanation of the “spark” in Transformers canon, but some equally obvious correlations to be made to the previous situation. But before that, I would like to present the second related example that hit me upon reflection.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:1-10 (NIV)

While different in scope (When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is much less serious in nature while Beast Wars and the passage from Luke focus on the matters of death and salvation, respectively) and in context (fantasy high school comedy harem vs. science fiction transforming robots with “souls” vs. ancient religious literature), they all share an enormously important common thread of the sanctity of life and each person’s individual worth.

The high school literature club recognizes the importance of their friend, Hatoko, as a part of their collective identity. The transformers of Beast Wars tell of a type of mechanical soul, called the spark, that differentiates them explicitly from each other, while also valuing the existence of each and every one (including both celebrating their creation and mourning their loss). Luke writes about Jesus’ account of the shepherd-like value of each of his individual “sheep,” or the impoverished woman’s value of her individual coins. This may be talking about members of the kingdom of God, but its implications for the worth of people in general are great.

Whether or not you believe that each human being has a soul, or something like it, I would admonish you to think this week a bit about the independent creativity of every person you know. Think about the diversity they have brought into your life, or perhaps into the lives of others, and how different the world would be without them (even people you might not like!). Perhaps, if we can all take into account the intrinsic value of those lives, we can help to build a collectively better society.

And perhaps even have as much fun as the high school literature club.





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