Two of the shows I’m watching this season are Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga and Masamune’s Revenge. While these two shows are vastly different, I noticed something that struck me as similar about a protagonist from each show. Yukio Okumura and Masamune Makabe are both driven by a similar want – to feel equal. Masamune’s desire is more openly shown, sure, as you’re shown that he’s lost lots of weight and built up lots of muscle. He then thinks up this huge plan to humiliate Adagaki Aki. This is all just to get her back for calling him “Pig’s Foot” many years ago in response to his confession, so that he’s on equal playing grounds with her in terms of “being desirable”. Yukio’s struggle is less openly presented, but is showcased briefly in the first episode via an internal dialogue the viewer is privy to. Upon hearing another person’s story of how they grew up feeling inferior to their father and brother, Yukio is reminded of the same struggle. The thoughts of inferiority next to his brother, which he has tried hard to suppress, begin resurfacing. Now, his brother once again reminds him of that quiet voice saying “I’ll never measure up”.
Now, the need to feel equal is not the only thing these two boys have in common. In both cases, this need doesn’t just push them to excel (Masamune in his dieting and gym efforts, Yukio in his efforts to become a high-ranking exorcist). This need also starts to grow bitterness and anger in them. Masamune holds a grudge for years against Adagaki, while Yukio masks his frustration towards Rin rather than trying to deal with it. They both begin to lie to themselves. Masamune convinces himself that Adagaki deserves revenge for what she did and how she treats people now. Yukio tells himself he’s not upset with his brother, nor is he dealing with any of those feelings of inferiority. Neither approach – revenge, nor ignorance – is a healthy approach, because both of those continue to cause more anger, hatred, prejudice, and animosity.
What’s it matter that two fictional guys have some lingering family and friend issues? Sadly, this is often a parallel of real people. This world in many aspects is a comparison game. Someone’s always smarter, more attractive, more successful, more creative… it’s hard to go a full day, let alone a few hours, without feeling measured up and compared to someone else in a way that makes us feel inferior. I could write a whole other post about why we never need to do that, as unique, loved children of God, but that’s not the focus of this post, so I digress. Regardless of how you feel about those you’re being compared to, or comparing yourself to, you have to be consciously careful to avoid letting that bitterness build up in you. After all, we are called to love, not to hate.
Some people respond in the same way Masamune does. They want revenge, and justify it by saying things like “I’m just evening it out for what they did to me” or “they deserve this because of what they did”. We are reminded numerous times, however, not to do this. For example, Proverbs 24:29 says, “Do not say, ‘I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.’ ” Proverbs 20:22 says the same, also adding “Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.” I am also reminded of Matthew 5:38-42, during the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus addresses the “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” saying that was often used as excuse to exact revenge and essentially shuts that notion down entirely. There is an emphasis and a reminder placed on two things, between these passages. The first is that we are always to respond in love – not by trying to “get even”. The second is that, as mentioned in Proverbs 20:22, God’s ultimately the one who handles it. If someone has wronged you, then God will be the judge – He will exact a punishment, as He is the only one who has the right to do so. It’s not your job, and you step into sin if you build up that anger and take out revenge.
Other people respond how Yukio did. They bury the negative thoughts and feelings, convince themselves there’s no problem, and keep going. It often feels much easier, in the moment, than dealing with it would. In the long run, however, it just means you’re dealing with the same negative emotions that have grown in the shadows since you tucked them away. Suddenly, all that anger toward someone else feels like it’s coming back, even though it was never really gone. This is incredibly dangerous for its own set of reasons. An interesting passage I stumbled on while writing a review for episode one of Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga for Geeks Under Grace was 1 John 2:9. It says “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister* is still in the darkness.” (*Noting that the word used for “brother and sister” was specifically referencing fellow believers.) Essentially it presents the image that someone who thinks they’re doing well (“in the light”) or tells people they are, but deep inside is harboring hatred (or anger, bitterness, a want for revenge…) against someone is lying to themselves and/or everyone else. They are, in fact, still “in the dark”. They’ll remain there, too, letting the problem grow until they finally choose or are forced to confront and address it – it’s that or bring it to the grave.
Regardless of whether you cope like Masamune or Yukio, the issue lies in the same place – the heart. See, if our hearts were in perfect alignment with God’s, we would never be able to hate anyone. All we would feel for everyone would be love, in such a capacity that we would be willing to make the same sacrifice for them as God did for us. The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” would come naturally. There would be no competition, comparison, or people struggling because they just want to feel like equals in some area(s). That sadly will never happen, because we are all fallen and all sinful by nature. So, we need to make a conscious effort to not let our need to feel equal turn into a sinful bundle of bitter emotions, creating divides between us and those we are called to love like Christ. Even if you want revenge, or even if you just want to deal with it “later” (whenever that means), we are reminded in Ephesians 4:26 “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” We all need to be careful not to become a Masamune, driven by a need to hurt someone back, and not to become become a Yukio, acting like everything is okay while bitterness grows deeper in us. Instead, do what I hope both these characters will do in their respective shows, and choose to let things go in the name of love.