This article does NOT spoil Air’s story.
If you are familiar with Air, it is probably because of Kyoto Animation’s popular anime adaptation of 2005. If you’re really a nerd
like me, perhaps you even know of the Air film adaptation of the same year by Toei Animation (and its gorgeous bonus soundtrack by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra). However, I would contend that few have actually read the source that made both of these adaptations possible.
Air originally met the world in the form of a visual novel, an interesting medium that we have written on more here. While visual novel to anime adaptations are hardly a new concept, many consumers are more familiar with the manga and light novel mediums that more often receive anime adaptations. Key, the studio responsible for visual novels like Air, Kanon, Clannad, Little Busters!, and others, however, is primarily a visual novel studio. Unfortunately for the Christian reader, visual novels are a medium wrought with R-18 (i.e. usually pornographic) content.
As a disclaimer: Air is one of these, and thus I cannot recommend it to those readers seeking to avoid pornographic material, unless the reader is able to import an all ages version (and can read Japanese) or is able to put together various patches to the original so as to remove the undesired content.
With this aside, having viewed the anime adaptation several times, the movie once, and read the visual novel once, I was struck by biblical parallels and significance that are especially relevant considering the impending Easter occasion.
Before describing the biblical significance of Air, I would like to outline the primary difference between the three aforementioned versions of Air: quite simply, that is confusion. The farther one ventures from the source material of Air, the more confusing and abstract the story becomes. The movie is the biggest offender of this, with the anime somewhere in the middle, and the visual novel the least confusing and most easy to understand.
In order for this assertion to have any meaning, though, one thing must be understood: in contrast to (seemingly) popular opinion, confusing does not equal good. The reason I bring this up is because confusion results from two fundamental different approaches to writing: writing something deliberately ambiguous and confusing, and writing something with all necessary information that is difficult to understand simply because of complex material. The former breaks down upon any amount of study, but seems to gain undue popularity due to viewers assuming that their confusion stems from something beyond their understanding, while in reality it was only written so. The latter does not break down because it provides all necessary material. People are only confused because the themes and material themselves are inherently difficult to comprehend (I would claim that series like Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze fall squarely into this category).
The Air film and anime are good adaptations in their own rights, considering the limitations of their selected mediums. However, considering the vastly greater amount of content present in the visual novel, they also tend to fall into the first category. I would claim that the visual novel, on the other hand, falls into the second category (though I suppose you will have to simply take my word for it, if you haven’t read it yourself).
Why is this?
If you have watched either the film or the anime and found yourself entirely confused, you are not alone. Not only are you alone, but it’s not really as if you missed something. These two mediums simply skipped enormous portions of the source material, assuming that you knew of them already (the anime did add two OVAs that helped). Again, I am not faulting the adaptations as much as I am simply faulting the medium for its time limitations.
Now, more importantly, how does this relate to the Bible and Easter?
Around Easter time, churches and people tend to focus all attention on the events of the New Testament. More specifically, they focus around the events of the crucifixion and the Resurrection. Obviously, this is for good reason, as it is the entire point of the Easter holiday. However, it reminds me of a common problem in modern, Western, cultural Christianity: content without context.
I think it is safe to contend that the New Testament could not exist without the Old Testament. Jews clearly predate Christians. Jesus was, in fact, a Jew. He and many of those to whom he preached were familiar with the Jewish Scriptures. Jesus not only referenced said Scripture, others referenced it in regard to him. The Abrahamic Covenant also seems to indicate that God’s entire plan involving the Jews was set to culminate in Jesus’ actions as celebrated on Easter Sunday.
With this in mind, it boggles my mind that people can take the New Testament by itself and attempt to characterize Christianity. Isn’t that ignoring an enormous and rich history and culture that led to the very nature of Christianity as it existed in the time of Jesus and as it exists today?
In the same way, I am no longer surprised by how many people watch Air and how few people truly understand it. Much like the Old Testament is to the Bible, the Air visual novel provides something much like a significant prologue to the content of the anime and film (the anime’s OVAs attempt to cover this same material with some degree of limited success). Fans who attempt to explain Air based solely on its later works that include almost nothing but events after its prologue are much like Christians who attempt to explain Christianity with only the New Testament: their assertions are often fraught with errors, even if they do manage to reach a point very close to the truth.
One very specific example of this is Jesus’ command to forgive others 70 x 7 times, as given in Matthew 18:22. By itself, this can be very confusing. At best someone can interpret this as mere hyperbole that means to focus on forgiveness, while at worst someone can interpret it as literally a command to forgive 490 times, and then the 491st time is free game. However, both of these interpretations have little basis unless one considers the passage of Genesis 4:24 in which Lamech calls for vengeance of 77 or 70 x 7 (depending on the translation) times. Considering the Hebrews’ heavy emphasis of the symbolism of numbers, it is difficult to believe that Jesus would not have been familiar with this passage and been refuting Lamech’s ungodly call. All of this is lost without an understanding of the Old Testament, though.
Even when considering something as perhaps eternally insignificant as a piece of entertainment like Air, in this Easter time, let’s remember Jesus’ greater history: to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), that ALL PEOPLE OF THE EARTH will be blessed through Abraham. Jesus finally fulfilled this covenant.
This post is part of a series of themed articles publishing for Holy Week 2015. Please join us as we visit Christian concepts by journeying through Key anime and visual novels this week, concluding with Easter.