Examining Old School Anime: A Christian’s Conduct in War

Episode eight of Captain Harlock features a rare act of mercy: a captured Mazone is permitted to depart peacefully from the Arcadia.  However, Harlock’s decision does not please Daiba, whose father was murdered by a Mazone.  Part of his reason for joining the crew of the Arcadia was to get revenge on these aliens.  Daiba demands to slay the fleeing Mazone, and Captain Harlock bids him to do as he pleases.  The upshot of this event is that the Mazone is killed and Daiba, due to the damage received to his craft in the fight, suffers temporary insanity from oxygen deprivation.  Daiba’s desire for revenge almost led to his own death.

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The obvious message behind this event lies in how lust for revenge can destroy oneself.  A Christian would hardly disagree.  Yet, I wonder what opinion our dear readers have of Captain Harlock’s general ruthlessness toward the Mazone.  After discovering that Mazone have infiltrated Japan, Captain Harlock descends from space and kills every Mazone he can find until the inimical forces of the Earth compel Harlock to halt his raid.  One is left wondering at this character who combines in himself both utter ruthlessness and pity.  I would argue that he stands as a good example to a Christian soldier.

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In general, Christians abhor violence more than the members of most religions, with the probable exception of Buddhists.  After all, Christ advises us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  However, the word used in Greek is εχθρους not πολεμιους, the former of which indicates personal enemies rather than enemy soldiers.  St. Jerome confirms this idea in using the word inimicos rather than hostes in the Latin Vulgate.  (The distinction does not exist in English.)  However, the word εχθρους relates to the Greek word for hate, εχθρα, which can be easily held toward πολεμιους.  One thinks that the distinction exists not at all in Daiba’s mind, as he considers every Mazone guilty for his father’s death.

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The sad fact about war is that it offers few chances to be lenient towards one’s foes.  The surest way to maximize one’s own chance of survival and that of one’s comrades is to ensure that one’s enemies don’t survive.  This requires the absolute ruthlessness we see in Captain Harlock’s battles with the Mazone.  However, actual hatred of the enemy–as much as it seems to facilitate the destruction of one’s foes–ought to touch as little as possible the heart of a Christian soldier.  The memory of the crimes committed by the Nazis and Japanese during WWII, by American Indians during America’s westward expansion, and by radical Muslims of contemporary times show how difficult it is not to turn πολεμιους into εχθρους.  Yet, the Christian soldier is called not to slay the incapacitated or those desiring to surrender.  In this way, a Christian can show his allegiance to our Merciful Savior even in war and prevent hatred and desire for revenge from eating away at his heart.  For example, Captain Harlock, because of his pity toward those of the enemy who cannot fight back, stands mostly untouched by hatred.

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But, what do our dear readers think about this topic?  Do any believe that the only proper way for a Christian to live is as a pacifist?

5 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: A Christian’s Conduct in War

  1. HMMM interesting this makes me want to watch it even more now! I was wondering though was this by chance made by some of the same people who made the original gundam? I started that show and the characters look really similar.

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    1. The characters of Captain Harlock do look similar–if a little leaner than Gundam characters tend to be. Leiji Matsumoto does not seem to be connected to the Gundam franchise (though he is also responsible for Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato), but they may just follow a similar style of art–sort of like how 90’s anime look alike in character design.

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  2. MedievalOtaku, you are clearly an educated man. As something of a Greek student (still trying to learn it), I am delighted how you pick up on the subtlety of “enemies” then go to Jerome to further evince your point. You impress me.

    As for the pacifism thing, I am very nearly a pacifist. What holds me back from actually being one is if I were placed in a hard situation like war, for instance, I could not live consistently with my position (I could die consistently, though). At any rate, I respect the pacifism of a Tolstoy or Bonhoeffer — very principled men with a very principled stance — and will try to live peacefully with all, so long as it depends on me.

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    1. Thank you. As for formal education, I’ve taken Latin for eight years and Attic Greek for three. I trust my knowledge of Latin much more than my understanding of Greek, which prompted me to look at how St. Jerome translated the verse. Latin and Greek–except in the realm of technology–seem to be more precise languages than English, which is why I sometimes refer to the Greek original or Jerome’s translation. It’s also great fun besides.

      Cardinal John Henry Newman once defined a gentleman as someone who would never willingly harm another person. This seems like the right attitude: the gentleman’s hand is always forced when he resorts to violence. On another note, it is very hard to get civilized individuals to kill even in war. They’ve excavated Civil War muskets from Gettysburg, which were reloaded six or seven times without the soldier firing. In WWII, squad leaders felt that they were doing a good job when two or three of their men were shooting toward the enemy. 🙂

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