Mia is an exceptional princess—and not just because she’s reincarnated back to her 12-year-old self after being parted from her head, Marie Antoinette-style, courtesy of Guillotine-san. She’s also exceptional on a meta level, as a protagonist in the reincarnation isekai genre. This is because when Mia wakes up that fateful morning after her death, she has not just been given a second chance; she’s actually been born again. As in that thing that Christians talk about. Sound like a bit of a leap? Well, let’s dive in and take a closer look at Mia’s reincarnation story. Prepare to be surprised!
For all the profusion of series that use reincarnation as their key premise, it’s actually pretty rare in anime for a protagonist to be reincarnated as themselves, or rather, to leap back in their own timeline after an untimely end. So much so, the top comment on Crunchyroll for the premiere episode of this series is a quip about “that time I got reincarnated as myself.” Usually, the protagonist incarnates into someone else’s life—such as the villainess of a novel or an otome game—or into a new life in another world as either an NPC-type or OP-type. But not so with Tearmoon Empire. Mia does not get a personality upgrade by being possessed by a Japanese high schooler or overworked closet otaku, nor does she get to try again in a more chill environment, surrounded by cute slimes instead of pike-wielding peasants calling for her head. No, when Mia awakens after her execution, it is to her own life and she is still herself.
Except that she’s changed! She is friendly toward the servants, speaking to them politely. When her number one most detested food is served, she gobbles it up with gratitude. And rather than imprisoning the maid who ruins the only cake in the castle, she ultimately speaks kindly to her and promotes her. The servants don’t know what to make of it!
Normally in this genre, these kinds of changes are tactical. Motivated by fear and an instinct for survival, the reincarnated protagonist uses their knowledge of the future/storyline to make better choices the second time around and build alliances through strategic acts of kindness. This is not the case with Mia, who is already a changed young woman even before she fully understands that she has seen her own ending and that it is not good. In fact, it is not until near the end of the first episode that she begins to take those patchy memories and her blood-soaked diary seriously, by which point she’s already shown herself to no longer be the spoiled, petulant princess she once was. (At least most of the time!)
So if it isn’t fear of death and doom that drives the change in Mia, then what is going on? Let’s take a look at the details of her first day back after reincarnation to get a better idea.
The first sign that something is different comes at lunchtime, and it starts with Mia’s nose and taste buds, that is, with her senses. Mia finds that the foods that used to turn her stomach and raise her ire against the chef (to the point of firing him) now smell delicious and taste ever so yummy. During the three years of imprisonment before her execution, Mia experienced hunger for the first time, yet it is not merely the memories of an empty tummy that inspire her to give the detestable tomatoes another go. After all, she still curled up her lip at them even while starving during her imprisonment, and at this point, she’s not even convinced that she ever actually was starving for real. Instead, something more fundamental has shifted about the way in which Mia interacts with and experiences the world, and because of it, she enjoys her veggies.
This shift really becomes clear through her interactions with others: she has new ears to hear what people are saying to her and around her. For instance, she actually listens to the chef’s rationale for preparing a vegetable stew for her despite knowing her dislike for veg. When he says that it is his job to make sure she is healthy, Mia accepts his explanation and expresses her gratitude to him in a move that shocks the kitchen staff into silence.
Similarly, the princess begins to remember a particular annoying civil servant who was always nagging about reducing expenditures, but whom she now realizes had the good of the empire at heart, just as the chef had her good in mind with those veg. Now able to appreciate his efforts, the princess seeks out the official in order to partner with him—someone she had previously mocked and dismissed. Likewise, her attitude toward the klutzy maid Anne is also transformed as she embraces with joy the girl she used to hit and kick practically on a daily basis. Mia has a new sense of value for others, and is able to see their hearts, their intent, and where they fit in the bigger picture, and not just how they fall short in their service to her.
It is Mia’s nature that has changed, not just her tactics or behavior. She is a new creation! She has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands. She fits Jesus’s description of someone who has been transformed by the presence of God. After she awakens, Mia experiences the world and everything in it differently. She experiences others differently, and she discovers her capacity to value them and honor them. She has been born again and has received a new nature. She is still herself—she still appreciates fine decor, cake breaks, and her own good looks—but she is no longer exclusively self-centered, playing the god in her own life and in her empire. Mia now sees beyond herself. This is the kind of radical change that comes with receiving a new, divinely gifted nature, and not just by trying harder, working smarter, or adopting new tactics for survival. It’s not just her output that has changed, but her input too: she is different inside.
But when exactly did this happen? Or more to the point, how?! This is not a Christian story, after all, so there’s no altar call, no confession of sin or repentance, no life-changing prayer or flash of divine grace. Right? Wait a second…
Actually, that’s exactly what happens.
As the executioner is escorting Mia away, her faithful servant Anne closes her eyes, bows her head, and folds her hands in heartfelt prayer. And that’s when it happens. The princess stops on the path that leads to death, turns, and comes to stand before Anne, bowing to her in a gesture of gratitude and apology: “In my current state, I am unable to reward your devotion. I can do nothing but say, ‘thank you’,” she says. “Please forgive me.” This is the very picture of repentance, or shoob in Old Testament Hebrew, which means to turn or return, to make recompense. It is a turning of the heart away from death and sin. The fuller, theological meaning of the term, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, also implies a consciousness of guilt and one’s own helplessness to repair it, and an awareness that we are not who we thought we were (Psalms 51:4, 9, 11, and 109:21, 22). We see this in Mia’s opening line, as she acknowledges both her powerlessness and the fact that Anne’s devotion was not owed to her, but rather was something deserving of reward. The former Princess Mia would never have countenanced such a thought, believing herself to be worthy of whatever she fancied, whenever she fancied it.
But that’s not all: Easton’s points out that alongside the awareness of our own shortcomings, is also the “apprehension of mercy” or the realization that mercy has been gifted to us. There can only be true repentance when mercy is received and accepted as something unearned and undeserved. Repentance is not cleaning up our mess (that comes later!); it is acknowledging that we cannot do so in our own strength, yet we still desperately need a fresh start. It is this realization that changes Mia’s heart, and propels her back to her servant’s side: the realization that during these past three years, Anne has been showing her mercy. While Mia was imprisoned, it was within Anne’s power to punish the princess who had used her so cruelly. But instead, Anne forgave her mistress and continued to bless her: visiting her in prison, caring for her, combing her hair, putting up with the stink, and speaking kindly to her, even weathering her bad moods without complaint. This is what mercy does, and Mia knows that she needs it. So she humbles herself, bowing before a servant girl, in order to accept it. What a powerful scene!
There’s more though. As it turns out, Anne’s prayer is not only a catalyst for Mia’s repentance and her “beautiful ending”; it also changes her destiny, and with it, that of the entire empire and everyone in it. You see, Anne’s prayer was that Princess Mia “be granted heaven’s protection.” And that’s precisely what happens—albeit maybe not in the way Anne imagined as she prayed! Mia is born again: she is protected from the finality of death and given the chance to take hold of life not only for herself but for her empire too. And she embraces this chance with fervor!
Let’s just pause and sit with that for a moment. When it comes to the fates of nations and empires and the hardened hearts of the one percent, prayer is not really our go-to strategy, is it? When we see some injustice or evil in the world, some corrupt individual wielding too much power and causing harm, we don’t often take to our knees or pause the stream of bad news to turn our hearts and thoughts toward heaven in silent prayer, do we? But maybe we should.
Too often, we talk about prayer like it is just a last resort, the tool of the poor, weak, and oppressed. Or even worse, the recourse of those who are too resigned to their fate to try to do anything practical to change it. We say things like “Well, all you can do is pray” or “I guess we’ll just have to pray.” We have phrases like “a wing and a prayer,” which conveys a sense of hopelessness, as if prayer is a long shot, a Hail Mary pass as the clock ticks down. Yes, when we talk about it like this, anyone would be excused for thinking that prayer is merely a sign of desperation, powerlessness, or resignation.
But Anne knows something that we often forget: prayer is not a last resort. It’s not something we turn to when every other avenue has been exhausted. Instead, it is powerful, changing hearts and destinies alike. And it is the tool of the courageous: the bold, unflinching, servant-hearted heroes. That’s what Anne shows us! Prayer positions us like Anne, like a servant. It enables us to align our hearts with the servant-hearted King. In that sense, prayer is ministry—no matter how brief or seemingly unimpressive it may be. When prayer comes from a place of servant-heartedness, as it does with Anne, it connects us to the eternal, to the King, and when we are connected to him, suddenly the impossible becomes possible. This is what Jesus meant when he said that with man, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. It’s not only God who does the impossible, it is us too when we act and serve aligned with God rather than merely with well-meaning men and women.
Anne was aligned with no one else as she served her princess—not with her own self-interest, with the royal family, or with any other group who might provide her with some advantages in life. She was aligned only with the One to whom she prayed. And her wish, her blessing for Mia, came true, and it is going to have a far greater impact than she ever imagined! Everything from this point onward in the series is the fruit of Anne’s earnest prayer. A servant girl prayed and a princess was saved, and with her, as the coming episodes will doubtless reveal, the whole world of Tearmoon Empire.
Mia still has a lot of growing to do. She loses it at one point, slipping back into her former ways and throwing a tantrum when her cake is ruined. We do the same. This is because being born again is a completed work in eternal terms, but it’s also a work in progress as it unfolds in our individual lives. It’s a divine paradox, because the work of salvation, completed by Jesus, is both in time and outside of it; that’s what it means to be eternal! The now and not yet, coexisting. We are still being transformed. We need to learn to walk again, run again, dance and swim and love and rest and do all the things—now with a new nature, with new eyes, ears and hearts. Which is why we don’t always get it right on the first try (or even the second). We are getting to know our new selves and the One who gifted that self to us. Sometimes a ruined cake still makes us angry, because we have yet to see that the cake is not the important thing, but rather, it’s the girl carrying it who matters. Mia is starting to get this, but she still has a ways to go.
Thankfully, the princess is not alone in this journey, and she is not unequipped. Instead, she has a new fount of knowledge and wisdom to draw upon: she has the book that she studies each day, and her own, direct experiences. Mia also has new relationships and genuine fellowship supporting her: she has Anne, and will soon have the civil servant and many others by her side too (according to the OP!). She will be able to draw on their wisdom and experience as well, as they work together to see their lives and Tearmoon Empire thrive.
It is the same for the new believer, born again by the Spirit: we have both the Word of God, the “Good Book” as it is often called, and our own direct experience with God and his presence in the world and in our lives. We draw on these as we navigate our new lives and our renewed selves. We benefit from new (and renewed) relationships as well, not only with fellow believers like Mia with her new friends, but also with God himself. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the entire purpose of God’s incarnation and his mercy and grace towards us is to be able to invite us smack dab into the middle of the fellowship he enjoys as the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He made us to be part of that conversation too, fully caught up in relationship with him.
Will we ever encounter the divinity of Tearmoon Empire? Perhaps not. But even so, I have a feeling that there will continue to be a wealth of hidden treasures for us to unearth in this series. I, for one, can’t wait to find out!
Tearmoon Empire is streaming on Crunchyroll.