I came across an interesting scene at the end of the sixth episode of Combatants Will Be Dispatched. The situation is dire: not only have the hordes of the demon army overrun the capital, but the “hero” has no desire to save the kingdom in the first place. Lady Snow then offers Agent Six her body if he will save the kingdom. It’s an offer he can’t refuse, and soon he is smiting enemies with an anti-tank rifle. When that proves unable to take out the demon elite, Agent Six summons a magic chainsaw a la Army of Darkness and takes out all besides the archfiend Heine. (By this point in the anime, the viewer feels rather sorry for that mazoku.) He concludes an agreement for a month long truce, and the demon hordes depart for the time being.
Winning the battle described above required Agent Six to unleash the full power of his powered suit. This leaves him immobile over the course of a cool down period. Snow seizes the opening and an archfiend’s decapitated head to persuade Agent Six to annul their prior agreement. Snow explains that she might be willing to make love with him in the future, but now is too soon. Agent Six then lays out the vulgar truth: He only desired her for a one night stand because he liked her body type. (The only woman for whom Agent Six holds long term desires is probably the Kisaragi organization’s Freezing Astaroth.) Fortunately for Agent Six, his cool down period ends before an outraged Snow can turn him into sashimi. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!
For those unfamiliar with Combatants Will Be Dispatched, it stands in the isekai genre with the twist that a villain from an evil organization is the protagonist. That fact drives the kind of comedy where the characters are far less noble than ordinary people. (The story’s creator, Natsume Akatsuki, relied on a similar style of comedy for KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World.) For all their baseness, the characters still come across as sympathetic. Though Lady Snow is conniving and ambitious, she has a praiseworthy sense of honor and loyalty. Despite his amorality, Agent Six is capable of warmhearted affection towards his friends. The characters’ faults only render them more endearing.
One of the things which made the scene above so amusing is how it mocks the concept of free love while proposing a remedy to it. The free love movement has existed at least since the 19th century. (Maybe it even goes back as far as the Marquis de Sade, whose works formed the id of the French Revolution.) People began to decry marriage as fettering their freedom and to argue in favor of promiscuity. Back then, this idea did not get much traction in the wider culture: Promiscuity could easily lead to being infected with syphilis or some other horrible disease or stuck with an unwanted child. Modern notions of “rights” and contraceptives have rendered the latter less likely, while modern medicine has mitigated the harm caused by the former problem. And so, modern man fears less the material consequences of free love.
Despite the reduction of the material consequences, the emotional and spiritual toll of violating the Sixth Commandment remains. (Yes, the Sixth Commandment specifically forbids adultery, but it also forbids fornication—as is made evident by the rest of the Torah.) We’ve all come across Hollywood movies which try to elevate this sin into a worthwhile emotional experience. Combatants Will Be Dispatched does the exact opposite in highlighting its crassness. Lust does not become more virtuous because one endows an illicit relationship with sentimentality. That the partners are not bound by a vow, as they are in engagement and then marriage, makes all free love arrangements cheap, ephemeral, and self-centered.
I once read a submariner’s WWII memoir which included the story of how the officer tried to convince a crewman to end his philandering ways and to settle down with a good woman. After all, does not the relationship between man and wife contain some of life’s highest joys? The crewman responded that marriage was like buying a book when one could simply borrow one from the library. That man obviously wanted the cheap side of erotic love without sacrificing for its higher goods.
Wishing to enjoy the delights of Eros while avoiding having to sacrifice for it stands as one of the chief faults of modernity. Albert Camus has the narrator in The Fall describe the 20th century thus: “They fornicated and read the papers.” Each action in that description is ephemeral. A relationship based on fornication ends as soon as the relationship brings pain. Newspapers often print falsehood or things which are easily forgotten. Neither involves a true investment of the self or time.
What’s the remedy for the power lust has to draw people into sin? Spiritual writers strike the same note on this issue: remembrance of the four last things (death, judgment, heaven, and hell). Though the sins of lust are of brief duration, the effects are eternal. Even a lustful thought in which one willfully delights counts as a mortal sin. When breaking the Sixth Commandment, people see the pretty face of the beloved; Yet, dying impenitent of these sins will cause one to see the horrible face of the devil. That’s why I like how Snow uses a mazoku‘s head to persuade Agent Six to cancel their agreement. (Not that anyone can oblige someone to sin: any such agreement is null and void in and of itself.) If one seriously grasps the horror of hell, the penalty for mortal sin is enough to deter one from it.
Yet, the struggle for purity is difficult in a world as immersed in lust as ours is. Young people especially fall into bad habits or even addictions which can take years to break. We can be grateful Our Lord understands our weakness. Turning His merciful gaze on the Apostles who slept during His agony, He says in the Garden of Gethsemane: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Mark 14:38). By natural means, breaking lustful habits can seem impossible to those addicted to them. Thankfully, God gives grace to the penitent to overcome all sinful habits. If we remain faithful to prayer, avoid the occasions of sin, do penance, and remain humble and perseverant, we can be sure to see the day when lust will be dispatched from our souls.
Combatants Will be Dispatched can be streamed through Funimation.