Utawarerumono and God

The following is a guest post by my good friend and fellow VN enthusiast Japesland of Beneath the Tangles. When it comes to seeing Christianity in eroge, he is as weird as I am, so I hope you find his thoughts on the topic interesting. Utawarerumono is currently being localized, with the first 2 games already released and the final game scheduled for release this September. Naturally, the post will contain spoilers for the games, so you have been warned.

One of the craziest things about being a Christian is seeing Christianity in everything. I’m no psychologist. In fact, having only taken the most basic of psychology courses in college, I’m sure I know less about psychology than many with at least a basic college education. I’ve also been surrounded by Christianity and Christians for more or less my entire life. Those with more than my aforementioned level of psychology education could probably point out a physiological reason for why I constantly see the story of God and Israel all around me, and I could hardly refute that line of reasoning. However, that does not change the fact that I continue to see God no matter where I look, no matter how much I do or do not want to acknowledge it.

The most recent instance of this comes from finishing one of my favorite, in a guilty pleasure sort of way, video game series of all time: Utawarerumono.

Looking at the history of the series and its most basic premise would seem to indicate anything but a relation to Christianity. The series began almost twenty years ago exclusively on PC as an eroge with light strategic role playing game elements (notably, like some of its peers, the series has picked up some degree of popularity, so it no longer has to rely on porn as a selling point). The story essentially takes place in a fantasy Yayoi period, perfect for chuunibyo and nearly all characters feature animal tails and ears, making it appear marketed particularly toward a fetish-driven audience.

Yet in spite of all this, now that the series has come to its three-game conclusion spread over nearly two decades, I couldn’t help but be moved to my very core at not only an emotional, but a spiritual level.

The first game of the series has you playing an amnesiac human who has awoken in an unfamiliar world filled with unfamiliar creatures. Throughout the course of the game, you ultimately discover that this world is a post apocalyptic earth, and your character has only survived and awoken at this point because of his existence as a sort of god (the explanation is far too complex to explain here). By the end of the game, the climax has you sacrificing yourself, sealing yourself away with your more or less evil half in order to save the whole of society as it has managed to exist to this point.At this point the story is hardly Christian in nature. In fact, the concept of yin and yang is far more prevalent, necessitating that the good and evil halves of this deity be sealed away indefinitely.

Then enter the final two entries in the series.

In these two games you play as a human in the true sense of the word. Unlike the first game, you not only think you’re a human, you know you’re a human. There is nothing to indicate otherwise in the whole of the narrative. However, like the first game, you end up concluding the series by sacrificing yourself and ultimately sealing yourself away in a climatic conclusion that results in being killed by a great evil, returning temporarily from the afterlife, then returning to the afterlife as an exchange of sorts with the sealed main character from the first game (it’s worth noting that these games follow the first game by nearly 20 years, both in real life and in the context of the story. That’s a long time to wait for players and characters alike, and makes a more significant impact than my simple explanation does it justice).

Much more happens in the plot than this, but the Gospel connection that I just can’t forget, despite its analogous inconsistencies, comes down to matching each character with a Bible element. The main character from the original game is God as he interacts directly with his people, perhaps referred to best as the Holy Spirit. The main character of the second and third entries is the human element of God: Jesus. Both characters have similar, yet fundamentally different existences, in some ways analogous to the relationship of these two facets of the Christian God.

In Utawarerumono, the first game’s protagonist, Hakuoro, leads his people much like the people of Israel, through hardship and strife, enduring great loss, but ultimately into prosperity, then necessarily departing from their presence for a limited period of time (still there in spirit, but no longer leading in the direct fashion that he once had). Many years later, the protagonist of the final entries, Haku, leads a different group in a much different and more personal way, resulting finally in his own necessitated death. However, in spite of this death, he returns to life shortly after to “finish the job,” after which he returns to his afterlife state, exchanging places with Hakuoro, finally returning Hakuoro to direct contact with the people he led, now increased many fold.

Anyone with passing knowledge of the Biblical narrative, whether or not you call it “history” will see the connections here. Israel’s God once led the nation tangibly and directly before an extended period of several hundred years of basically “radio silence” following the last of the prophets. Then entered Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for all, returning to life physically and as a human for a short time before returning to Heaven. At this point, in his place, He sends the Holy Spirit to lead the people, much like God had allegedly led Israel in ages past.

So am I crazy?

If you haven’t played the games yourself, it’s obviously hard to say, as my account is colored by my Christian faith in every way fathomable. But rather than claiming that these flawed connections between a dumb game and the Bible are evidence of God, I think it’s significant to note that this interpretation can exist at all. Did God influence the writer to include these distant allusions, or am I merely seeing what I want to see because it is what I believe?

Ultimately, I don’t think the answer to that question matters, because either way it is evidence to me not that there is a God or that Christianity is true, but that if God exists and Christianity are true, He and it can truly use anything to strengthen faith and understanding. Even Utawarerumono.

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Author: Kaze

Kaze is a graduate from the University of Tokyo who currently works on developing gene therapies for genetic diseases. He is a Nanatard since 2009 and mostly spends his time reading VNs and studying Japanese. Strangely enough, also a devout Christian.

4 thoughts on “Utawarerumono and God”

  1. That´s one of the most interesting questions ever. Are the parallels to Christianity in un-Christian fiction us christianizing what we see or are there inspired, prophetic lights which point to Christianity? Either option is full of wonder, and I think both are part-true.

    First, I would say with the medievals that the Creation, being the work of God, has “the seal of the Artist” in all that is good, so every deep human wisedom who confronts the questions of love, truth, pain, mistery and so has some parallels to Christianity: Christ is like the key for man´s keyhole. The edenic “golden age”, the curse, the search, the Campbellian hero´s journey, the myths, the prophetic voices, the people, the law of natural order and balance, the chosen one, the rejected becoming the chosen one, the man who escapes the catastrophe by faith, the sacrifice of the faultless, the hope of resurrection, of the wasted land becoming alive again, those things are human in nature, and the Bible is not only a true story, but also our true personal story. Where there are wise pagans who search for the truth of the human heart, they search for Christ, in an imperfect way. And so, there are “semina Verbi” or “preambula fidei” in all cultures, even in all human stories: these elements with which God prepares them to understand His Love and His Salvation.

    A second element is the “missionary” one: the Creation is not complete, the Redemption is not complete, because the Lord wishes to complete it through through us (“I am completing whatever remains of Christ’s sufferings”, Col. 1, 24), so, in a way, we are always bringing all which is good around us to Christ, giving it a name like Adam, working the garden. In distinguishing good from evil, in gaming with God, or writing, or reading, or being an otaku or watching films, in suffering with a character -which is always inspired in real-life suffering-, in laughing, in sharing, in appreciating the beauty, in enjoying, we are in a way christianizing the act and the object itself, living it under God as it´s meant to be lived, “examining all and retaining the good”. So we can even put compassion where the author didn´t intend compassion, or seeing beauty where the author had ignored it, in a way “redeeming” the work.

    And there is another thing, the “prophetic” one: God speaks, and He does it when and where He wish, using misterious and paradoxical means. For me, there are countless things which I learned through people who where speaking of entirely different things. He can speak throught VNs and anime quite well if He pleases (Nichijou, Now and then, Erased and OreGairu, for example, were the way to teach me some specific things about my spiritual life, hope, joy, humility, vocation or how to grow with roots, for example), and sometimes even send a signal which connects with which you´re experiencing right now, “Do-this-not-that” style.

    I think that the psichological explanation may work sometimes, but hey, the psyche was also created by God, so it´s natural it tends to Christianity, more so if there are Christians around you. Sometimes, though, is just too much coincidence (I´m a jurist, and I´m accustomed to the “most reasonable explanation given the facts” standard, and under that standard, there is only a certain degree of coincidence I can admit). So either you are not crazy, or I am crazy too. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I can’t say that I disagree with any of your points, but I can also say that if I were not a Christian I would immediately fall back on the psychological explanation (which you touched on as well, of course).

      As a Christian I love seeing these parallels. Like the examples you gave, it’s an excellent way to build up others who share that faith (and oneself, for that matter!). The argument that I tried to avoid both at the beginning and end of this article, however, really does point out that those who disagree really have no hard evidence that would change their minds, making the matter moot.

      I think I’m preaching to the choir, so I’ll shut up, but thanks for insight! Always happy to see someone bring up the under-appreciated Now and Then, Here and There!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post here JP. I’ve been meaning to pick this game up, looking forward to getting it on Playstation.

    I too, see God in almost everything. Our faith shapes our worldview, which is good because many worldviews are pretty perverse or immoral. I like your comparison here, and I see how you came to it. Holy Spirit leads us every day, until Christ returns.

    Like

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