Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of “That Anime/Light Novel Said Something So Well I Don’t Know How to Add to It!” Today’s thought comes from vol. 2 of Obsessions of an Otome Gamer. I was re-reading it and came across a passage I highlighted on my first reading, and it struck as me as so relevant that I’ve decided to share.
Apparently reincarnated into the world of a music-themed otome game she used to play, protagonist Mashiro is a budding pianist, and classical music has a major presence throughout the story. Mashiro has reached the finals of her very first music competition and anxiously awaits her turn to play. As another finalist named Kakeru performs, Mashiro is impressed by his skill, but also struck by a series of mistakes that “were particularly painful to sit through.” Mashiro finds herself feeling relieved, glad that Kakeru’s mistakes make her own victory more likely.
But quickly her thoughts shift to recrimination. She feels terrible for rejoicing over a rival’s failure and regrets “those ugly feelings.” The moment brings to mind the antagonistic Tobi Yamabuki, a smarmy weasel of a man who seems to have an important role in the story. Mashiro previously looked down on Tobi for his dishonest, unscrupulous behavior, but after catching herself rejoicing over Kakeru’s mistakes, she wonders if she’s really any different than Tobi:
“Maybe anyone can become a monster if they let jealousy, vanity, and self-importance rule them. If I don’t want to become like that, I’ll have to resist with my whole being and work toward the person I do want to become.”
We seem to be on a bit of theme here recently with other pieces also exploring the human potential for evil. Mashiro’s warning is simple, deep, and on point. Indulging in envy and pride can make any of us monstrous. We dare not look down our noses smugly and thank God that we aren’t like other people (Luke 18). We don’t avoid becoming monsters through luck and happenstance. We must actively pursue better things. The one point worth adding to the light novel’s message is that we don’t work solo to become better people. Certainly we must set our minds on things that are above (Col 3), not on things that are on earth. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2).
But we also can’t neglect to welcome God’s Word and Spirit into our lives to work within us. Left to our own devices, we are terribly weak and all too prone to becoming selfish Tobis ourselves. But Jesus has said “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12). As we press on to claim perfection, let us rely not on our own strength, but on the one who “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3). That’s the key to beating back our inner ugliness and growing into something more beautiful.