Lately I’ve been playing Tales of Berseria, the newest addition to the “Tales” JRPG series. It’s definitely a fun game, but the quality of the characters and plot stands out most of all. In particular, the protagonist is a girl named Velvet who is dead set on revenge and she doesn’t care how many people she has to kill or lives she ruins to accomplish that. The companions she gathers to help her are not held together by trust and love but rather out of varying selfish reasons, and they make it clear that they will turn on each other if the situation calls for it. Moreover, the person they aim to kill is none other than the world’s hero Artorius who has led humanity’s fight against the emergence of monsters called daemons. However, his methods are very utilitarian, and he willingly sacrifices the few to save the many – so much so that he sacrificed Velvet’s own brother to gain the power he now holds. It is definitely a very unique kind of plot that manages to tell a story from an unconventional perspective.
Among Velvet’s companions is an exorcist named Eleanor. While the exorcists are commanded by Artorius to fight daemons, Eleanor finds herself cooperating with Velvet temporarily due to various circumstances. Eleanor is a person who is obsessed with righteousness; she is introduced as someone crying at the thought of needing to abandon the few to save the many. Simultaneously, she is realistic and understands that it is simply not feasible to save everyone, no matter how cruel it may seem. Thus, it goes against her very nature to be travelling with and aiding criminals and daemons who seek to kill the man working to save humanity. However, it is through her travels that she learns greater truths about the world that reshape her view on life.
While daemons are said to be humans transformed into bloodthirsty monsters, only capable of destruction, many of them retain their human consciousness even after the transformation, and this includes Velvet. Eleanor meets daemons with human emotions and tragic backgrounds. She learns Artorius’ methods are sometimes crueler than she could imagine, and that the evil daemons and the heroic exorcists are not as black and white as she thought. She is forced to accept that the world and its inhabitants are far more complicated than she thought, and the righteousness she believes in is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Perhaps the biggest plot twist of the game (spoilers! though honestly I feel like it was a pretty predictable one) is that daemons are not what people have been told. Instead, the transformation is caused by an overflow of malevolence, negative emotions, or for a more spiritual spin, sinful thoughts. This was a phenomenon that had always existed, but people simply could not perceive the appearance of the “monsters” and only saw regular humans being abnormally violent. With such a revelation, Eleanor is forced to reevaluate what is even the difference between a daemon and a human. While she previously viewed daemons as nothing but an evil that must be eliminated, she begins to accept that even daemons have their own feelings, goals, and beliefs.
I think many Christians are similar to Eleanor. We have a firm foundation and understanding in what is right and wrong, and for the most part, we are probably not technically wrong. “Those non-believers are sinners.” Yet, when we only ever interact with other Christians, it is so easy to paint an entire population as only black and sinful without ever thinking beyond that. Even when we minister to them, I am sure many of us approach them with the idea that they are sinners who need to be saved, and again, that is not technically wrong. But it is because those thoughts hold a certain amount of truth that it is all too easy to never expand that line of thinking. At some point, it is necessary to go out into the sinful world and experience the lives of those non-believers, unfiltered by our own assumptions. We need to remember that everyone is an individual with different backgrounds, histories, and feelings. They are not just “sinners,” but they are also neighbors, parents, and friends. “Sinful” is just one way to describe the countless facets of people’s lives, and of course, it we often forget that such a description applies to Christians as well.
Eleanor does not drop her beliefs when she finds out how misguided her way of thinking was. Instead, she reforms her perspective while still maintaining her core beliefs. Although she continues to reject the way of life that some daemons live, such as murdering for the sake of revenge, she learns to accept there are very human reasons behind such beliefs. She struggles with how to accept the reality around her without changing what she believes in, and goes as far as admitting that she no longer knows what the correct path is. However, that does not stop her from searching for a way to reconcile the truth of the world with her own idea of righteousness. Today, there are countless questions about what kinds of actions, thoughts, and lifestyles are sinful or righteous. The numerous denominations of Christianity alone are an example of how divided people are about the truth. Many Christians have this perception that we must have a clear set of rules in our minds. That because we believe in Jesus, we must have answers to the apparent inconsistencies of the world around us and the Word of God. Yet, if you think about it, if we had all the answers, why is Jesus called a teacher? There is nothing wrong with being lost and confused because that is in fact a part of being a follower of Christ. Like Eleanor, we will struggle daily with trying to figure out how to live a righteous life in a world that offers limitless choices; however, unlike Eleanor, we have Jesus guiding us.
If we accept it is okay to have countless questions about what is truly moral and righteous, then it becomes much easier to go out into the world and accept just how confusing reality really is. No one likes to admit how confusing things are, Christian or not. That’s why generalizations exist; they make the world seem simpler and thus easier to process. However, the more you generalize, the more you get things wrong. Eleanor could not have been more wrong in how she judged the world, even if her beliefs were righteous. She was only able to grow as a person because she was forced to experience all kinds of different things that denied her generalizations about the world. As a Christian, the more you generalize people into the simple box of “sinner,” the more you will fail to reach out to them with Christ’s love. If Christianity is about having a relationship with God and Jesus, then that means He isn’t just interested in our repentance but also in our lives, our worries, our hobbies (like anime), and our goals. To reflect Jesus in our lives is to be interested in people’s lives, not just their religious beliefs.
I haven’t finished Tales of Berseria, so I don’t know where Eleanor’s story leads her in the end. However, I don’t think she will find an answer. I can even see her admitting she may never find an answer. Even so, she has changed from someone who had an overly simplistic view of the world to one who is willing to accept the complexity around her without giving up on her beliefs. In her search for truth, she has learned to reach out to others and empathize with individuals she cannot agree with without compromising her own beliefs. I think Christians can learn a lot from how she approaches life and her journey that tears down all her preconceptions of what is right and wrong.