Dies irae: Acta est Fabula

I already wrote a post on Dies irae, but I have so much to say about it that I couldn’t help but write another. However, while my previous post was different from the norm with its play on the chuuni genre and making outlandish claims about the true intention behind the story, this time I will go back to what I, and probably my readers, are used to. If you haven’t read my previous post on the story, then that might actually be a good thing because it spoiled all of the biggest plot twists. Instead, I will kind of spoil everything else but leave the biggest and final twists alone.

As you may know, Dies irae is about Ren, an ordinary protagonist who gets caught up in a supernatural battle with some Nazis in modern day Japan. He partners with the mysterious girl Marie to protect those he holds dear and stop them from sacrificing the entire town to resurrect their leader, so to speak. With the progression of each route, the stakes get exponentially larger and the truth behind the madness begins to unravel. However, while each route ends while arguably “stopping the big bad from coming back,” none of the routes other than the finale give a true satisfaction of victory. Kasumi’s route alone might as well be a bad end considering the sacrifices Ren has to make to stop them. Although Marie’s route can give off the impression of victory and the defeat of the most powerful enemies, the reader can’t help but shake the feeling that something is off. Mercurius, the mastermind pulling all the strings from behind the scenes, is defeated, yet the truth is that such defeat was his plan all along. Thus even in the “best case scenario” of Marie’s route, the characters did nothing but get played like fiddle. It is only in the finale of Rea’s route that things go off course from the puppet master’s plan. It is only in this route that things truly go as the characters hope for.

What, then, is so different about Rea’s route that it manages to undermine the plans of a man who manipulated people since WW2 and has the power of foreknowledge on his side? The answer is Rea, which was obvious because it’s her route. What does that entail exactly? In the previous 3 routes, Rea was closer to a bystander. Sure, she played her role and made certain choices, but she was never willing to throw everything away to achieve her goals. She was never willing to face the truth and move forward. More specifically, she was never willing to speak or act out against that which she knew was wrong. In her route, she constantly refers to how she always knew something was off with the church she grew up in. But she closed her eyes. She shut her mouth. She blocked her ears. She wanted to believe it was just her imagination, that she was just thinking too much. But the truth was that the church she knew as home was an existence far more sinister than she ever wanted to acknowledge.

However, when Rea chooses to speak out, to act, and to walk down an unknown path fraught with danger and arguably foolishness, the play which Mercurius so carefully laid out begins to distort. It is not a flashy wrench in his plans but more of a tiny snowball that grows with each successive coincidence. Rea does not hide from the truth, and thus, she paves the route to an ending which is far from the expectations of the one who commands foreknowledge.

Rea reminds me a lot of, well, myself. Similar to Rea, I grew up in a Christian home. To the average person, this says a lot about my childhood. When I tell other Christians this, they immediately assume so many things, as if they understand where I’m coming from. Because usually, they assume that my childhood was like theirs too. We both grew up in a Christian home, so we both grew up with similar childhoods. It makes it so much easier on me because I don’t have to give any detailed stories about how I became a Christian or why I go to church. I’m not lying, and people are just assuming, and the societal harmony is maintained. This meaningless exchange is no different than the Japanese 和 which insists on giving on the expected answers rather than the true ones. But the truth is so much grayer, and the Christian home I grew up is so much different than what people like to assume, though it was by no means as extreme as Rea’s case.

I did grow up in a Christian home, but there were still a number of times where I questioned what was going on and what was being said. Like Rea, I tried to believe that I was just misunderstanding. I was only a young child, so it must be the fault of my age; indeed, this is what I was told. But as I grew older, I found those doubts I had to be more legitimate and my suspicions to be more than just naïve questions. For example, the fact that my family would change churches so often. For example, deflecting any questions I had with being told to honor my parents. For example, and the most memorable conversation that has stayed with me to this day, when I was told how Mexicans should all be beheaded and the border should be lined with their heads to scare away illegal immigrants. I was told I would understand these things when I’m older. I still don’t.

There were a lot of things about my childhood that just felt off. But I did grow up in a Christian home. My parents are Christian. I learned to say my prayers and read my Bible. I learned about sin, God’s mercy, Jesus’ sacrifice, and grace and love that all Christians should exhibit. Yes, my childhood was filled with all the good things a Christian home should be filled with. But something was not exactly right. Even so, I closed my eyes; I shut my mouth; I blocked my ears.

Perhaps my experience is actually not too different from many other Christians who “grew up in a Christian home.” No one is perfect and all Christian parents will get things wrong sometimes. Regardless, the point I wish to make is it is very much against the nature of the Church to condemn each other for holding different viewpoints. At worst, we part ways and let each other do our own thing. The countless denominations are but one example of how this plays out. If we all believe in Jesus Christ, then that’s fine, right? To an extent, most definitely, but there should also be a limit. At some point, Christians need to stop passively disagreeing with other Christians and voice their issues with hypocritical beliefs .

Today, I see “Christians” advocating for genocide, blindly hating those they have never met or spoken to, and proudly stating themselves to be superior to others based off the color of their skin. I hear of atheists who have been deeply wounded by Christian words or actions or of Christian parents who drove their children away from God by hypocritical example. I and many around me will say something like “I’m sorry, but not all Christians are like that,” and the criticism stops there. Yes, I am dangerously towing the line of politics, but it is far too relevant to what I want to say, and I have personally been far too affected by current events to stay silent. At some point, Christians need to take real action to denounce “Christians” who are behaving exactly the opposite of how Jesus taught us to.

Dies was a silly but entertaining chuuni story about fighting against gods and superpowers that could redefine the very laws of the universe. To quote myself, it was a story immersed in philosophy yet meaningless in its delivery. But I resonated with Rea in her route so much. The regrets she had about not acknowledging the strangeness about her church. The doubts she silently buried deep within her heart. When she lived as a bystander, Ren could not overcome the power of foreknowledge. He could not fight against the strings of the puppet master. Other than having the blood of the Beast run through her veins, Rea was just a single, powerless human. She had no superpowers to speak of. Logically, her actions should not have such influential effects on the story. All she did was speak out. All she did was follow her heart. Yet this was enough to change the minds and souls of the people around her, of the people who had the power to do something about the hopeless situation of the Ghetto.

I think Christians desperately need to learn from Rea. Not just from what she did right but also from what she did wrong. The multiple routes of a visual novel make this analysis far more fruitful than a linear Christian parallel of typical stories. Through Rea, we see the full consequences of staying silent as well as the miracle she birthed by speaking out. Look at the current political environment of our country: a “leader” who actively works to divide up its citizens in any way he can, supported largely by “Christians.” People who claim to have the same religious beliefs as I are openly advocating for murder and praising Nazis (how fitting, that Rea’s “Catholic” family were actually Nazis), judging others based on their ethnic background. These are modern day Pharisees, who Jesus actively spoke out against and criticized, though with more love than I could possibly conceive. I know so many Christians who agree with my opinion but still choose to take the role of a bystander. Sadly, I would argue it is exactly because of this passive stance Christians have taken over many decades that this chasm formed between people who all identify as following the same religion. Rea’s decision to stop being a bystander inspired those around her to change, and she has even inspired me to change. It’s time to put an end to this farce of a play and actively work against those who are twisting Christianity to something that is practically its opposite. I’m well aware of the near impossible logistics with deciding where the line should be drawn, how exactly to go about it, etc. but maintaining this status quo will only worsen the situation for everyone. I am not advocating anything beyond this: to be more like Rea. Be someone who speaks up when she has doubts about the church and its members, for it is better to be mistaken than to bury those questions away from the light of the truth.

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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.