Christ is Risen, Alleluia! After the long wait, Easter comes in like a lion, even through the struggles of the pandemic. The circumstances make it a time for heroism and hope, as well as celebration, but perhaps it is always so: Celebrations and triumphs are not the end of the road on this Earth, as there is always one day more with its own struggle, but they are certainly a sign of hope which we can recall during hard times. And we need such signs, as Boku no Hero, our winner for this year´s Anime March Madness, recalls with steadfast commitment.
Persecution, hardships, adventures, foreign countries, battle, and martyrdom were awaiting the Apostles ahead of the road on that first Easter, but they could remember that they had seen the resurrected Christ, and they could celebrate it every year. Their testimony, delivered through generations, moves us too. They believed (as we Christians do) that if He had opened the door beyond death and had come back, that was also possible for them if they followed Him, and for others too. And what lies beyond, plus ultra? Easter, celebration, triumphs, miracles, love on this Earth, prophecy, the turning points of good stories (Tolkien´s eucatastrophe) and most of all, the words and actions of Christ Himself, all offer us a glimpse in different ways.
In this Easter article, I would like to point to one of such glimpses, a particular prophecy I find immensely compelling: that of Ezekiel, 11.17 about the Law (I´m a jurist, so I can´t help it). This is it: “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them”.
Well? Perhaps obedience, rules, and statutes do not sound as compelling to you at first glance, but take into account that this is the Law of God, expressed in the Ten Commandments Our Lord told us He had not come to abolish, but to give in plenitude. This is the original and the root for every Code of Chivalry, Symbol of Peace or path of nobility and heroism. It is the way true love towards God and towards other behaves, and is strong as steel, heroic, a luminous sign of something not of this Earth. As sinners, the precepts gave testimony against us, as we learned we had not fulfilled them, but now Christ is here, alive, living in us through Baptism, Faith, and infused Charity, and the end of the story will be different. Perhaps, in Christ, we can be heroes too. The Commandments are a path once again, with the help of grace, and a prophecy as well: Each of them is a key to a new world, and their meditation will help us know Christ´s love better. And I thought that perhaps a few anime eucatastrophes would help me show that somehow. So let´s go, from the last to the first!
“Thou shall not covet.” Why? What is wrong with strongly desiring all sorts of riches and good things? They can lead to a better position, comfort and security, the power to do things, the rose-colored life of some sort or another. The unnamed protagonist of Masaaki Yuasa´s The Tatami Galaxy (minor spoilers ahead), strange and stylistically unique, may be able to tell you: He is determined to get the rose-colored university life. You know, all the good stuff: the love of a raven-head maiden, success, peace, and joy. But this desire, this thirst, is not pure, and as he jumps from parallel universe to parallel universe hungrily looking for it in all the absurd campus clubs, we can see how it hurts him more and more, turning him bitter and resentful, making his life a race, or better yet, a flight from his reality, making him blind to what he does have and to others around him, and ultimately trapping and paralyzing him in darkness and desperation. His world has effectively become smaller any time he let himself be blinded by this thirst, for having put his treasure where a mere moth can pierce it, and through it, his heart.
Even so, our anonymous student from Tokio University is lucky: Had he encountered some superficial satisfaction with which to anesthesize his deeper thirst which points to God and Glory, he may have become as numb as the rich of the Gospel, and equally unable to follow the deeper call to adventure, and learn that it does not profit a man to gain some imitation of the rose-colored university life, yet lose his own soul and himself. True life is unpredictable and adventurous, as baseball, and when looked with the eyes of God, our ordinary life is full of Nchijou-esque miracles, callings, opportunities and riches we may receive and give generously. The Father, says Christ, knows well that we need food and clothing, but as important as they are, life must not be about that. In God, all the beautiful world is ours, and we are the pilgrims, the travelers: He feeds the birds and dresses the lilies as Solomon could not dress himself in all his glory.
Virtues, honors, riches, good food, clothing, social life, knowledge, power (kosei or otherwise), joy, peace, friends, having a good time at university: All of that has its own goodness, but it is primarily a gift of God, and must be appreciated, accepted, received, and given with the same generous spirit. The world is broader then, and richer, for in the smallest things we come to know God. And we may come to see its beauty as Christ, the Word of God through and for Whom everything was created, sees it. A pure heart and a pure imagination can increasingly see the world as a treasure and discover its inner design and true meaning, and Masao Yuasa is capable of showing that in a vividly colorful way again and again. As a side note, beware of some vulgar imagery and themes at the middle of The Tatami Galaxy.
Let´s go to the Ninth now: Christ said that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (and of course, it works the opposite way), which can only mean that he has behaved as evilly, and hurt himself as much, as if he had carried out the deed. Nowhere in anime, perhaps, is this darkness and suffering, this undue attachment which comes to destroy the heart even without the actual illicit relationship, as clearly as in March comes in like a Lion´s Rei Kiriyama’s (minor spoilers) attachment to his adoptive sister Kyoko Kouda. Rei is an orphan, in depression and isolated from childhood, so here I don´t want to speak about to what point is he to blame or could have avoided it, but of the effects. An interior attachment that she knows of and uses to undermine him and sink him into darkness, but that he cannot stop, even though he knows it is bad for him.
When she visits him at his apartment before an important match to mess with his mind, we can see her through Kiriyama’s gaze. In the more and more rarefied environment. his impotence, his sadness, his guilt, the dark attraction, the hurtful bond, and the tension become evident. Every seemingly innocent detail, from her walking barefoot to her sniffing his t-shirt, pierces him like a dagger. The incest does not happen, but it is not necessary to hurt him just as much as if it had, and he goes under and under: What might have begun as a fantasy or a consented impulse has become a destructive chain, shackling tighter and tighter. He won´t be able to sleep for a minute that night. This aura of monstrosity and darkness is clear for Akari, Hina, and Momo, too, when they see them talking: Kyoko is human and broken, but the little girl is right to call her a witch. Though Rei sincerely cares for her, something else has taken root there, something that she can invoke with a gesture, but that could exist even unbeknownst to her. Though March Comes in Like a Lion´s anime is unfinished as for now, I truly hope to see Kiriyama fully freed of this shadow.
If it happens, it will be through the love of all who have looked Kiriyama with pure eyes, even when he appeared somber and undeserving, and have regarded him as a friend, as a companion, and as a valuable person, as they will have given him the hope of a pure bridge between person and person. Our Lord, Who looks to every human in all his or her specific beauty, is that bridge incarnated. And thus He creates communion, and peoples our world with names and faces in a way that makes us grow, not sink. Carefully observing His interactions with others, from Zacchaeus to Peter and from Lazarus to Mary, we will see pure love in action. And when He gradually makes us able to see others as He sees them, He is giving us one of the greatest gifts, because in every kind of human contact there is the underlying potential of leading the other and oneself to be themselves more fully. Kiriyama becomes conscious of this: the love and sacrifice of others has given him a world, and it is full of beauty.
And this is it for now. Happy Easter again! I´ll definitively be back for the rest.