Examining Old School Anime: On Glory

Curiously, today’s article features an anime I dropped after episode one: Space Adventure Cobra.  This is not to say that the anime is bad.  After all, it has the distinction of being directed by Osamu Dezaki, famed for directing Astro Boy, Ashita no Joe I & II, The Rose of Versailles, and five Lupin III movies.  But, I am not in the mood for a sci-fi version of Conan the Barbarian.  You know, the tough, smart, strong hero who reaps fame, fortune, and the admiration of beautiful women wherever he goes.  That can be fun, but I would rather read the adventures of Fafhrd and Mouser or of Conan the Barbarian.  (I prefer fantasy over sci-fi any day of the week.)

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Nevertheless, certain themes in episode one caught my eye.  Cobra, our hero, has forgotten his identity and lives from paycheck to paycheck in a routine existence gobbled up by the little pleasures money can buy.  However, this world has technology whereby one can dream pre-programmed adventures.  Instead of seeing the dream Cobra asked for, he recalls instead his daring adventures as a space pirate.  Still, it takes an old enemy’s attempt to assassinate him before he makes the connection that the figure in the dream is himself.  Then, he returns to his glorious life as a pirate along with his trusty robotic sidekick.

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How does this relate to life?  Quite simply because we have three possible ends in life: earthly glory, heavenly glory, or to number among the timid and lukewarm who seek their own comfort.  The third choice is very easy to make.  We, like Cobra, can become enmeshed in our daily struggles and little pleasures and so never attain our true greatness.  As the children of God, we are all called to greatness.  Even people forgotten by the world may achieve awesome glory through the grace of God.  Many hermits and religious in the Middle Ages were completely unknown until people discovered that the sick who visited their tombs became cured of their diseases, and so they were elevated to sainthood by popular acclaim.  What do we know of the life of Saint Philomena’s life?  But, God has graced her intercession with thousands of cures and conversions.  The least in the world, as long as they remain with God, are often the most in God’s eyes: “But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words?” (Isaiah 66:2) How simple it is to please God, and yet so many wear themselves out trying to please an indifferent world!

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What does earthly glory and fame matter if one is damned?  Human glory fades, especially in this age of five minute fame and ignorance of the past.  Before, people thought it a duty to keep alive the memory of brave and noble men.  Now, our contemporaries seem to think it a duty to consign them to ignominy!  Better it is to be poor and unknown in this life and to be remembered by God for eternity than the opposite!  Indeed, I should rather be Captain Joseph Fry than Attila, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Louis XIV, or a host of other men who reaped the glory of the world but achieved no fame for their love of God and neighbor.

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What brings Captain Joseph Fry, a figure none of you have heard of, to mind is that a newly discovered, sunken Confederate blockade runner may be his.  I chanced upon his biography a couple of years ago and was impressed by Fry’s love of God, country, family, and fellow men.  Despite his many virtues, wisdom, and humility, history only remembers him for his execution by Spanish authorities in the Virginius Affair of 1873.  Shortly after his and his crew’s execution for trying to supply Cuban freedom fighters with arms, his last letters to family and friends were released to the newspapers, and journalists across America hailed him as an exemplar of American virtue, even as veterans of the Civil War, North and South, demanded that we go to war to avenge the deaths of so many Americans.  But, Spain paid our government blood money, and the event was forgotten.  (If you want to learn more about Fry, there exists a biography of him written by a friend of the family, Jean Mort Walker, and I have dedicated two articles to his life: here and here.)

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Being forgotten by the world would not have upset Fry.  He knew very well how fleeting the glory of this world is.  In his last letter to his wife before being executed on November 5, 1873, he wrote this as one of his last wishes: “Tell [Our Lord] that the last act of my life will be a public profession of my faith and hope in Him of whom we need not be ashamed — and it is not honest to withhold that public acknowledgement from any false modesty or timidity.  May God bless and save us all.” One can be sure that even now Fry is remembered and glorified by Him who matters most.  How much worse to be those who have won great fame, yet heard those aweful words: “Amen, I say to you, I know you not.”

5 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: On Glory

  1. This entire post strikes an interesting chord in me, which is probably pretty far out of the original article’s context but I thought I’d note it anyway. There’s this famous line that says something like: “Well-behaved women very rarely make history.” Well I’d say that’s right— We hear very little of the honest, well-meaning, kind, God-fearing feminine housewives of the world. Yet I should think they affect history far more often than their boorish counterparts, because there are legions of people who have laid down their lives and their dignity to protect such women. There are wicked men who are all over history but love nothing else but that sort of woman and who end up going through a fathomless amount of effort to attain again “the dream that has long since ended” (Tsubasa).

    And this dichotomy, the choice between being famous and being glorified by God, is at the heart of the strangest running argument I’ve ever had (Which is….intensely personal and indulgent, I’f guess). One participant explaining simply that I don’t need to “be” anything but what I have been (Worshipful), and that He will remember me when “mankind is dead and books are written by rabbits” (The Last Unicorn), and the other (me) frustrated by the lack of Him in Reality and the emptiness of this world without glory.

    “Many hermits and religious in the Middle Ages were completely unknown until people discovered that the sick who visited their tombs became cured of their diseases, and so they were elevated to sainthood by popular acclaim. What do we know of the life of Saint Philomena’s life? But, God has graced her intercession with thousands of cures and conversions. The least in the world, as long as they remain with God, are often the most in God’s eyes: “But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words?” (Isaiah 66:2).”

    Yet, indeed, like Vincent Van Gogh in her own way, Saint Philomena was ultimately glorified by the people of this world, precisely for her faith. But this does not happen to the vast majority of young saints, however true to God’s Word they might be in life. By forsaking Earthly glory some saints have achieved it, but most of the truly devout are ultimately forgotten. I think that Mr. Fry is the better example of what should be emulated, for while there are few today who know who he is…He was an intimate and trusted friend of God. And likely will be again, or is.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! The interesting thing about glory is that one must be content with the kind of glory God wishes to give them. Eve fell to the temptation that eating the forbidden fruit would make her as a God. She wanted more than being mistress of creation and being in the image and likeness of God and so fell. C. S. Lewis plays with this idea very well in Perelandra, as the devil tempts the Eve of the planet Venus with thoughts of glory. It makes for a very interesting struggle.

      So, our ultimate glory is determined by how well we follow the will of God, and not following God’s will can earn us plenty of infamy but no glory.

      I do hope that if the blockade runner is indeed Fry’s ship that he will become more known, as his example of quiet devotion to duty is sorely needed in our times.

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  2. It’s very true that most Christians in this world die for the sake of Jesus Christ without ever being noticed. However, those who follow God choose to give Him all the glory instead of having earthly fame, even after death. I like the deep analysis that you were able to do through only one episode of anime, and I can’t wait to read future articles that you post!

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