Examining Old School Anime: the Arcadia as the Church

Occasionally, I find myself writing posts like this, where I ramble on about a vague idea.  They have the virtue of giving my dear readers an insight into how my mind works, though I can’t claim the following as a polished article.  In this case, the condition of Captain Harlock’s world in 2977 A.D. reminds me of Our Lord’s complaint to St. Faustina about how many modern souls are lukewarm with respect to religion.  This lukewarm attitude may be traced to the Enlightenment.  (Actually, some trace it to the late Middle Ages, but the symptoms became obvious after the Renaissance.)  More and more people questioned the validity of religion: didn’t religion lead to eighty years of continuous warfare during the Renaissance?  Isn’t faith purely irrational?  It became popular to cleave to a deistic model of the universe, and devoutly following the precepts of an organized religion became associated with the unsophisticated masses.  The pursuit of science and secular philosophy became valued over theology, which had been regarded as the Queen of the Sciences.

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This departure from God has brought the modern world to the problem expressed in Tolstoy’s dilemma, which I recall from his A Confession.  At one point in his life, Tolstoy suffered from such severe depression that the sight of a gun or a rope produced thoughts of suicide.  He saw his position–the position of one in a Godless universe–as of one who had been chased into a dry well by a terrible monster.  Fortunately, he caught a branch on the way down, for he sees a dragon on the bottom of the well waiting to devour him as soon as he lets go.  The monster above prevents him from climbing out of the well, which means that he must fall to his death below as soon as his strength gives out.  Why not just let go?  But, aha!  There’s some honey dripping from a the branch!  Why not enjoy the honey for as long as one can before letting the dragon eat one?  Ultimately, this is a futile activity, but the honey has the virtue of distracting one.

We discover later that the Mazone have the ability to cause others to hallucinate.
We discover later that the Mazone have the ability to cause others to hallucinate.

In the world of Captain Harlock as well as ours, mass amounts of people happily lap up the honey of life’s pleasures without giving thought to life eternal, leading to worldwide apathy.  In our own times, the First World suffers from depression to a much greater extent than previous ages.  People commit suicide unless they find God at the critical moment to save them from the meaningless pursuit of the passions–as happened with Tolstoy when he invented his unfortunately heretical version of Christianity.  Sadly, most people nowadays lack a true education in morals, and only see morals as a way to gain temporal advantages, e.g. “honesty is the best policy.”  On one hand, the pursuit of virtue, no matter the end, provides benefits to both the individual and the society at large; but, how many people can pursue integrity and the conquest of one’s passions without the goal of eternal life?  Pride of life is the shakiest foundation for virtue!

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Who is there to rescue the modern world except Christ?  But, one must remind oneself that God has elected to act through secondary means, as St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us in the Second Part of the Second Part of his Summa Theologica question 83, articles #2, #7, and #11.  It is often difficult to believe that our often distracted and lukewarm prayers hold more potency than our good deeds.  We must remember the omnipotence of the God to whom we pray compared to our own littleness!  The small number of people who pray and follow Christ in the modern world may be compared to the crew of the Arcadia in Space Pirate Captain Harlock.  It seems ridiculous that a small group of ragamuffins (a term I apply both to the Arcadia and to devout Christians) can change the world for the better or save it from destruction.  Yet, we must put more faith in the One who listens to us and loves us rather than our own flawed persons.  After all, God used a small group gathered in an upper room at Pentecost to enkindle faith in men’s hearts.

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And perhaps, I’ll go back to Mayu’s struggle a couple of weeks from now.

8 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: the Arcadia as the Church

    1. I have yet to watch the CG movie. The original Captain Harlock is full of great and surprising moments. A part of me wants to spoil them, but I’ll just say that you should try the series out on Crunchyroll. Just keep in mind that it takes 5-6 episodes to warm up, and you may have to adjust to the old-fashioned style of animation.

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