Gods tend to come off badly in fiction. Really, really badly. No, wait, “badly” isn’t strong enough. Worsely? Worstly? Anyway…
There are stories with evil gods. There are stories with insane gods. There are stories where the gods are actually unfathomable horrors misidentified as deities. Going back to ancient mythology, many fictional gods are deeply flawed, with the same failings as humans but far more power with which to run amok. Sometimes the gods aren’t quite malevolent, but they are annoying jerks. Other times, gods are just foolish and incompetent. There are stories with gods who aren’t actively hurtful, but never do they bother to do anything worthwhile either. In some settings, whatever god once existed is dead. Plenty of stories have gods that must be killed by the heroes. Even if the god in a setting is benevolent, there’s a good chance he’s still somehow limited and unable to do much. One of the prime ways to undermine gods is to make them reliant on the faith / prayers / worship of mortals for their power and even their very existence.
I could go on, but I think the point is made.
Of course, all these examples ignore another huge swath of fiction. While much fiction specifically portrays gods as finite, flawed, and/or false, countless other stories project a sort of implicit atheism. Such stories simply don’t bother to bring up the subject of deity at all. The existence of a god is never explicitly denied, but the utter absence of gods from anything the characters say or do leaves a clear implication that the idea of a god is irrelevant to the story. Perhaps this is because no such being exists, or maybe it’s because the setting’s deity is a deistic figure uninvolved with the affairs of mortals. Either way, these are stories where it would be perfectly reasonable to bring up the topic of god, if one existed in the setting, but by ignoring the matter entirely, they leave one with the tacit conclusion that either god doesn’t exist or he doesn’t matter.
Now let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that any works of fiction that fit the descriptions above are necessarily bad. My goal is not to judge the merit of all these stories. I’ve enjoyed a number of them myself. Star Trek: the Next Generation and Stargate SG-1 are the first examples that spring to mind. I also think of the works of Brandon Sanderson, a number of which feature “gods” of various sorts and actively explore the question of what does it really mean to be divine. My point is simply that fiction commonly portrays gods in a…less than favorable light, to put it mildly.
There are exceptions, of course. The preeminent examples would be the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Each of them wrote fantasy (and, in the case of Lewis, some sci-fi as well) within a setting where the God of the Bible clearly exists. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. It’s quite unusual to find stories that feature gods that are genuine, effective, benevolent, not somehow dependent on mortals, etc. I don’t expect every fictional work to have an Aslan equivalent, but I do find it strange how rarely fictional gods bear even the least resemblance to the God I worship.
So when I recently encountered one such exceptional story, featuring a god strikingly reminiscent of the God of the Bible in several respects, I was quite taken aback. It’s just so unusual for even faint glimmers of the true God to shine through in fiction. It’s also a great opportunity to highlight that hey, here’s a story featuring thought-provoking echoes of the God of the Bible.
Invaders of the Rokujouma!? is the saga of high-schooler Satomi Koutarou and nine girls who become friends with him and with each other. It’s a genre-defying epic that could rightly be characterized as a *deep breath* supernatural harem romantic comedy school slice-of-life sci-fi fantasy adventure time travel isekai magical girl political thriller, with a dose of the Power Rangers thrown in for good measure. And I’m probably forgetting something. Anyway, the twenty-ninth volume of the series finally resolves a plot thread that has been dangling since the very first book.
Warning: Spoilers! I’m not going to spoil everything, but there are some really huge spoilers ahead.
Back at the start of the story, Koutarou had a brief, barely remembered, cryptic encounter with a mysterious figure in an underground chamber. Some volumes later, he encounters what might be the same being thanks to a certain accident involving time travel, which sends him all the way back to the beginning of the universe. He doesn’t remember this meeting, either, but we the readers certainly do. We also learn that the alien Forthorthians refer to this being as the Goddess of Dawn. While the narrative periodically referenced the goddess, her true nature, character, and role in the story remained nebulous for twenty-eight volumes.
Finally, though, she comes into full view. Koutarou encounters her once again and the truth behind much of the story is revealed. It was meeting Koutarou at the beginning of time that caused the omniscient, almighty Goddess of Dawn to create the universe as she did. After meeting another person, i.e. Koutarou, she came to desire relationships, and thus created a universe with people in it. She hoped they would get to know her and love her.
After that meeting at the beginning of time, the goddess remained interested in Koutarou, and that’s actually why he ended up with so many of the eponymous “invaders” in his tiny apartment. It wasn’t just a weird coincidence that a ghost, a few aliens, a couple of magical girls, the reincarnation of an ancient alien princess, a mole person, and his landlady (who seems normal at first but actually can transform into a dragon) keep inserting themselves into Koutarou’s life. It’s actually divine providence. The goddess hoped Koutarou would learn to love her, and to help him get to know her, she incarnated different aspects of herself into nine human girls—the very same ones Koutarou has grown close to over the course of the story.
Let’s review: An all-knowing, all-powerful deity created everything. This deity made humanity out of a desire to have relationships, wanting to love and be loved. This deity benevolently influenced the course of history, providentially intervening for the benefit of humans. Finally, this deity incarnated in human form in order to more fully reveal themselves to humans. Who are we describing, Yahweh or the Goddess of Dawn?
Of course, the resemblance is far from exact, and if you read the story, you can find obvious points of divergence between the two. The Chronicles of Narnia this is not. But those differences are far less interesting than the similarities. Typically, fictional gods differ so sharply from my God that I’m flummoxed that the same word can even be applied to both. Excluding Tolkien and Lewis, it’s incredibly rare to see a “god” in fiction who reflects this many aspects of the true God’s nature. It fills me with curiosity as to how the author arrived at this character. Whatever the author’s reasons, Invaders‘ Goddess of Dawn is one of those exceptional fictional deities who moves me to think about my God not by way of contrast, but rather because I can see a genuine resemblance. It’s refreshing to find a story that encourages me to think about God from a positive angle, to say to myself “Yeah, my God really is like that.” I already thought Invaders was one of the best light novel series around, and the revelations in vol. 29 just make me appreciate it even more. If you haven’t read this series, I hope maybe this post will encourage you to check it out.
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