Examining Old School Anime: Sin and Humanity

Man and sin are, as it were, two distinct things.  What savors of man, God made; what savors of the sinner, man made himself.  Destroy what man has made so that God may save what He has made.

-St. Augustine


The above quote recurs in my mind as I consider several stories, from The Revenant to Werewolf Cop to Akame ga Kiru to, most recently, Cat’s Eye.  Cat’s Eye happens to be a rather random choice of an anime for Crunchyroll to have added to their site.  Before seeing it on that site, I had never heard of this 80’s anime.  A visiting friend of mine picked it out for us to watch precisely for its 80’s-ness, and I found it good enough to continue watching afterwards.  The animation portrays the proportions of the human body with that attention to detail rarely found outside of that decade, the songs have a pleasantly upbeat quality, and the episodes are plain fun.  Our tale features three sisters who run a cafe by day and steal precious artwork by night, doing both activities under the name Cat’s Eye.  They claim to steal in order to take back their father’s legacy and have no qualms about gleaning information from the middle sister’s, Hitomi’s, boyfriend, who works as the chief detective in charge of apprehending Cat’s Eye.  They claim to have good reasons for resorting to theft, but this hardly excuses them, unless the anime explains more fully how they are under necessity and without a legal resource.

Rui to Hitomi

Why do people enjoy shows about thieves, like Cat’s Eye, Lupin III and Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, so much?  Do we delight in theft and crime as such?  Looking at Cat’s Eye, we see three sisters against the world who must use all their cunning, mechanical know-how, and athletic ability to take back what they consider their own.  Few underdogs are so outmatched as those up against a nation’s law enforcement.  Few endeavors take as much cunning and even athletic skill as crime.  We admire the virtues and become absorbed in the struggles of the thieves, while the theft itself stands irrelevant compared to the struggles in obtaining the wanted object.  In essence, we delight in the works of God, the talents and gifts of the thieves, but not in the work of man, theft.

Rui with shotgun

Someone may now be wondering whether God does wrong in giving thieves talents, gifts, and virtues which he knows beforehand they shall use for crime.  St. Thomas Aquinas remarks somewhere in his Summa Theologica that creation would be less perfect if God declined to give people perfections and gifts which may be misused.  To prevent theft in a fallen world, God would need to deprive people of cleverness, prudence, resourcefulness, athleticism, strength, stealthiness, perceptiveness, patience, courage, prudence, estimation, quickness, speed, strength, and other things besides.  Could you imagine living in such a dull world?

Tormenting the Cat
In a world where it would be impossible to torment cats, it would also be impossible to play with them.

The important thing is to separate a man’s sins from the man himself.  At the end of the day, however, only the man himself can turn away from his sins through the grace of God.  We can easily lose patience with our fellows, especially the most sinful, and start wishing them ill.  It is one thing if the perpetrator is like Hitomi: young, beautiful, amusing, and possibly on the side of the angels.  What about praying for the salvation of the hardened in crime, ugly, dull fellow who perhaps conscientiously serves the devil?  People can become so wicked as to obscure the fact that they were created in the image and likeness of God.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky dubbed one of his most famous novels, predicting the evils of CommunismDemons.  What more fitting name can one apply, for example, to the character who drags a wounded man back home into his cellar and then spends days listening to the sufferer’s pleas for help and groans of pain with pleasure?  Until that person expires of his wounds?  When we consider such a villain, we may be inclined to imitate a warrior-priest in Bernard Cornwell’s 1356: upon dispatching three longbowmen who were raping, pillaging, and torturing with glee, he thinks about saying a prayer for their souls; but, he changes his mind, thinking to himself, “I don’t want to share heaven with those animals!”

Pain in the neck

Still, we are called to forgive even the most evil men—not always in the sense of letting them off the hook, but always in ceasing to bear them any ill-will, which is cultivated by praying for them.  (Punishment is a good for the guilty, hence why Christians voluntarily take up penance.)  This is easier for those of us who have been very evil or have a keen sense of the depravity of our own sins and need for God’s mercy.  After all, how can we justly wish ill to another soul when we ourselves can only escape damnation through the mercy of God?  Still, it is hard, and the longer someone persists in grave sin, the more inclined we are do doubt the value of praying for their salvation.  Yet, God created each and every human soul for Himself as a unique, unreplicable work.  This work of God will be lost if a man continues in sin, but Christ died upon the Cross so that we would never despair of the salvation of anyone.


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9 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: Sin and Humanity

  1. I love how you said that God would have to deprive our world of many qualities in order to prevent sin, but I think the concept goes deeper than that. God, the creator of all things, author of time itself and infinite savior, certainly had the power to stop Adam from eating the forbidden fruit, and yet he didn’t. I believe that God values free will for humanity, as we came down on our knees when we accepted salvation instead of God robotically forcing us. The same applies with sin: God allowed man to make his own decisions. This is why Hitlers, Stalins, and other criminals have talents and gifts from God: because they are sinners, same as the rest of humanity. And that’s the craziest part of all, that God, knowing that we would fall short, still decided to give us so much.

    1. That’s very true. When we think of the magnitude of God’s generosity, we cannot but marvel. It makes for yet another reason why we can always have complete confidence in Him.

  2. Great writing =) I’d like to ask you about that quote of St. Augustine. Is it a dominant view in Christian literature, or is it one of many different views?

    “Punishment is a good for the guilty” – I suppose it is also something one can trace to a theological text? Or is it your view? It feels like a very strong statement.

    1. Hi, Sindar and thank you! St. Augustine’s view is dominant in Christianity. Every created thing is good, and God made all things to be good. On the other hand, moral evil (as opposed to physical evils) must come from the will of the sinner and not from God. So, by turning to God, man cooperates in his salvation and rejects the one thing alien to original human nature: sin.

      As for “Punishment is good for the guilty,” you can find it in Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. In general, it is good for us to suffer a certain penalty for our sins but not necessarily the full penalty for them. Obviously, eternal damnation, the full penalty for grave sin, can in no way be good for the guilty. But, trying to make up for our sins with good deeds, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and patient acceptance of the consequences of our evil deeds–even up to turning ourselves in to face the charge of a capital offense–are good for us. One of the worst mindsets people can have is that they can sin with impunity. The effort of conversion and accepting just punishment prevent us from forming this mindset.

      1. I see, thank you for the explanation. About the second part, can I sum it up as “punishment is beneficial for the sinner”, as the immediate reality of punishment helps us weak people to abstain from sin? And I understand what you said about making up for our sins by, besides everything else, taking a punishment from law/society; I just feel it is a different question, that there is difference between morality of punishing someone and presenting yourself to receive punishment.

        1. Yes, punishment or at least having to answer to someone does help people abstain from sin. Not many kings become canonized (Just six to my knowledge: St. Olaf, St. Edward, St. Louis, St. Henry, St. David of Israel, and St. David of Scotland. Charlemagne was beatified.) This is because pride is the root of sin, and kings and other persons who deem themselves above the law are the most susceptible to pride’s excesses.

          There is a difference between accepting punishment forced upon one and handing oneself over to be punished. The person able to do the latter is in a much better place than someone who tries to escape justice. Both are better than the person who escapes justice and thinks he can continue committing crimes.

  3. Luminas here! Again. XD Even TWWK leaving isn’t going to get rid of me. ;D

    “To prevent theft in a fallen world, God would need to deprive people of cleverness, prudence, resourcefulness, athleticism, strength, stealthiness, perceptiveness, patience, courage, prudence, estimation, quickness, speed, strength, and other things besides. Could you imagine living in such a dull world?”

    Actually, He’d only have to deprive us of one thing: Free will. That’s it. And that brings me to my point.

    Rape, torture, starvation, crime, mass violence, terrorism, human trafficking, exploitation…all of these things only exist because God gave us the free will to choose whether to eat from the tree…or not.

    The fact that the Devil often fails to tempt us as often as he succeeds is a testament to the human spirit, yes. But are those fine human spirits worth the suffering and collective debasement of the entire human race, for centuries on end? Did I necessarily even want the free will to make the choice I’ve made, when it would’ve been so much easier if I had been born loving God the same way that I was born loving the God I worship? Is free will the same thing as consciousness?

    To be honest without God’s word for it, I’m not really sure it was worth it to give us free will, and let us fall, knowing everything that would happen (Differences between us, disabilities, that cause my kin who lack power and voice to be tortured and abused and neglected by others) and what we would do to one another.

    1. I hope that nothing we do here ever brings you to stop following us! I still have hopes that TWWK will return or do guest posts here and there, but we’ll see.

      Your comment reminds me of something said by Oscar Wilde: “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” But, without free will, persons would not exist. Imagine a universe without angels or men but glowing lights (I can hardly imagine a spirit not being a person!) and humanoid apes. Imagine a universe where God is the only Person and under Him are the lights of heaven, animals, plants, and various material substances. Creation is so much better and more interesting for having people!

      It is worth it to have free will, because the imprint of God’s image and likeness is a gift whose goodness is beyond comprehension. The fact that people willfully do evil and other people suffer is sad; but existence without people would be sadder still. Though the Fall of Adam was a great evil, God has brought forth a greater good out of this evil by sending us His Son. This caused the medieval to sing, “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

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