Anime is full of references to religion, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality. And that’s the idea behind this column, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.
One of the things that makes Fate/stay night so compelling is that most of the servants embody two characteristics simultaneously – they’re so awesomely powerful that it seems nothing or no one could defeat them, and at the same time seem just vulnerable enough that they may get killed (and most of them, of course, are destroyed).
Gilgamesh, the final villain in Unlimited Blade Works, tends more toward the former and less toward the latter, though. And that’s part of the reason he’s such a compelling baddie – it doesn’t seem like he can lose. If he does win the grail, humanity is in peril, as Gilgamesh intends to use the grail as a weapon to destroy mankind. The reason for his goal is demonstrated through the quote below, which is the claim we’ll examine today:
This world is enjoyable, but also beyond redemption. A plentitude of mongrels enjoying life is an affront to the king.
Gilgamesh has that very villainy attitude – he seems to occasionally enjoy being a hedonist (the “I’ll stretch out in luxury while my servants feed me grapes from the vine” kind), but generally finds life boring. More than that, he looks with disdain upon just about everyone, seeing them as beneath him.
And thus, we can see why Gilgamesh says what he does in the first line of the quote – he enjoys the riches of the world, but not the world itself. While I don’t know why he goes even further to say that it’s beyond redemption (perhaps it has to do with the death of his friend Enkidu, though I have no idea if that’s true in the UBW route), a fatalistic viewpoint is consistent with who Gilgamesh is. A conqueror and the strongest entity on earth, Gilgamesh has seen the evil of mankind and he himself manifests it.
And as powerful as he is, Gilgamesh feels that regular people are “mongrels.” They are mangy animals, inferring that their lives do not matter. In fact, the way that people live their lives is an indignity to him. I’m reminded of how Japanese soldiers viewed the Chinese and Koreans during World War II, how they were able to carry out vile acts (such as those in Nanking) by seeing the people as animals. This is also, by the way, similar to how we treat people when we rage at them because they slighted us, forgetting that they, too, are God’s creation (as are we all).
But there’s a difference between this god of anime and the God of the universe. While the latter abhors many human actions, finding them detestable as Gilgamesh does, His response toward the perpetrators of the actions differs.
Though God has so much more personal involvement in human actions than Gilgamesh does, He acts in the opposite way. He responds with grace:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
– Romans 5:8
At great personal cost, God decided to save a people living unholy lives, those who rejected Him. Could one imagine Gilgamesh making such a sacrifice?
Maybe, though, that kind of sacrifice is what definitive of true kingship. Gilgamesh, who once spoke with Rider and Saber about the nature of being a king, treats his subjects with disdain. But the one true king (coincidentally alluded to in the Messiah-like legend of Arthur, represented by Saber) cares for his subjects. The King loves his subjects even unto death.
Gilgamesh’s assertion receives a 2 out of 10. Though there are morsels of truth in his statement, God proves that a true king redeems his people at a cost that Gilgamesh perhaps can’t even fathom.
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