Guest Post: Forgiving Hohenheim

I’m always ecstatic when writers around the web write guest pieces for Beneath the Tangles.  Today, the amazing Hailey (who I’ve long hoped would work something up for us) guests for our blog, explaining what a popular atheist character has to do with Christians and forgiveness.

I spent one glorious Saturday last semester sitting in my apartment marathoning Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I mean, this was a true marathon, in the most beautiful/unhealthy sense. I don’t think I moved from the couch for a solid seven hours. About two hours in, as my roommate and I were stuffing our faces with strawberry pancakes (my roommate is a lovely chef, bless her heart), we started playing a little game called “Spot the Religious Metaphor!” Needless to say it was pretty much the game that never ended. I’ve watched Brotherhood all through about six or seven times, but that marathon was the first time I truly caught notice of just how often the author weaved Judeo-Christian allusions and ideology into the story. Seriously, you pile up all those religious undertones and you’d have something big enough to sink the Titanic.

I’ve joked about how I could churn out dissertations on Brotherhood, so I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to write about what, in my opinion, is the simplest and most beautiful aspect of the show: forgiveness. As someone who struggles with forgiving those who’ve wronged me, I think the series portrays how difficult, but ultimately necessary, forgiveness is. Forgiveness is also a foundational practice of Christianity, preached several times throughout the Bible.

fma 2b

I want to focus on Edward Elric, the main character of Brotherhood, and his relationship with his father, Van Hohenheim. Hohenheim left his wife and children for reasons unknown when Edward was just a toddler. Edward grew up nursing a terrible grudge, believing his father selfishly abandoned the family and never looked back. He didn’t see Hohenheim as his father and refused to call him “Dad.” Near the end of the series, Hohenheim returned and tried to reconcile with his sons. While Alphonse, Edward’s little brother, immediately accepted his father back into his life, Edward remained stubborn. He refused to forgive Hohenheim and clung to his anger.

During the final battle of the series, Hohenheim offered his life to his sons in a touching Christ allusion. During this, he apologized to Edward for not being a good father and for disappearing all those years ago. Edward began to cry, and though he yelled back something typically rude, a single word of his response screamed volumes. He referred to Hohenheim as his father, something he had always staunchly refused. Though subtle, his forgiveness is a beautiful, cathartic thing to experience as you’re watching the show. Anyone who says they don’t tear up during that scene is either a liar or a robot.

When Peter asked Jesus how many times he was to forgive his brother, Jesus replied not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matt 18:21-22 NIV). Forgiveness is such an important part of being both a Christian and a human being. What I think Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood showcases so gracefully is that forgiveness is not instantaneous or easy. Forgiveness is not saying everything is okay. Forgiveness is unclenching a fist of hurt inside of you, letting go of it, and moving on. And maybe it’s not so hard to forgive after all when we consider how often Christ has forgiven us. By receiving this forgiveness time over time over time, surely we can be empowered to practice it ourselves.

I know, I know. It’s a little heavy to take in, especially in conjunction with a show that primarily features a kid scientist/wizard and his little brother, the talking suit of armor. My advice? Cook up some strawberry pancakes and marathon Brotherhood.

I think you’ll understand.

Hailey is a senior in college who enjoys drinking copious amounts of tea, reading brick-long fantasy novels, and putting off homework to marathon anime. You can find her posting about things such as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, book series, and the occasional Chris Hemsworth man bun on her Tumblr.

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: Forgiving Hohenheim

  1. “I’ve watched Brotherhood all through about six or seven times, but that marathon was the first time I truly caught notice of just how often the author weaved Judeo-Christian allusions and ideology into the story. Seriously, you pile up all those religious undertones and you’d have something big enough to sink the Titanic.”

    Brotherhood’s Judeo-Christian references are enough to sink a modern day cruise liner, not just the Titanic. XD I mean Satan and the Seven Deadly Sins are rather blatantly in the story, to the point where “young sexy Hohenheim” conveniently happens to probably look like the Devil. And then there’s the fact that the story is fixated on atonement for sins, love, and forgiveness. It’s either the most unintentionally Christian anime ever or it is very deliberate.

    The only odd feature is God being….kind of a dick? XD

    “During the final battle of the series, Hohenheim offered his life to his sons in a touching Christ allusion. During this, he apologized to Edward for not being a good father and for disappearing all those years ago. Edward began to cry, and though he yelled back something typically rude, a single word of his response screamed volumes. He referred to Hohenheim as his father, something he had always staunchly refused. Though subtle, his forgiveness is a beautiful, cathartic thing to experience as you’re watching the show. Anyone who says they don’t tear up during that scene is either a liar or a robot.”

    Yeaahhhh. T___T *Sniffles*

    The show is…technically perfect in absolutely every conceivable way. Character development, use of episodes, emotional impact…It’s just gorgeous. :}

    1. I still have yet to finish this show. #GivesBackOtakuCard

      Yeah, and I don’t know if the way it features God is really odd. That’s certainly a common theme in anime (EVANGELION), and you know, it’s a common theme in our world to think of God that way. The problem of evil in the world helps make it so, and people who have suffered much, too, may think this way.

      1. v___v *The Otaku Police come and retrieve your Otaku Card, shaking their heads in disdain*

        XD

      2. God being a dick is pretty common in our world, but God being this extremely strange immature-sounding kid with a crazy grin is just weird as all heck. X]

        1. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help myself from replying. God is amazing. Until you realize that, listen to me. 1 John 4:19 ~ We love Him, because He first loved us.~ Even when you make those horrible remarks, GOD STILL LOVES YOU. EVEN WHEN YOU DO HORRIBLE THINGS HE WILL STILL FORGIVE YOU IF YOU ASK HIM FOR IT. This is the most AMAZING thing about God. Please, consider my one request: Ask God for forgiveness!! I’ll be praying for you, Luminas.

          1. When I said “God being a dick,” I’m referring more to the way He is commonly portrayed in anime and less the way He actually is. I’ve met Him maybe three times (Obviously not in person, but in the way that people meet spirits and the Holy Spirit— Through their brains and souls) and every time He was very kind. You very likely perceive yourself as almost constantly “meeting Him,” based on your contact with the Holy Spirit. Hence the phraseology of “Christ is alive and with us.”

            But I’m not a Christian, no, and my opinion of Him is complicated because He hurt someone I love, a spirit, really badly. It’s like being proxy to an argument between family members that you have nothing to do with. I don’t think He is “a dick”— In fact I’m betting my Christian sister’s life on the fact that He knows what He is doing.

            But just like with most people who are not Christians, my problems with Him are not easy to resolve.

  2. There’s so much blog-worthy material in this show, and so much to reflect on… I’m impressed that you managed to pick just one topic to focus on for this post. I’ve reflected on religious elements in FMAB before, but I hadn’t dwelled on the forgiveness piece. Great post, Haley!

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