Planet With: Sealing Away Those Who Stray From The Path of Love

In a season where everyone was talking about Hero Academia and Attack on Titan, the actual best anime of the season goes unnoticed by many. Planet With is an anime written by none other than Mizukami Satoshi, the author who penned the legendary manga Hoshi no Samidare.  Anyone who was around back then will remember the countless threads and memes about how we will never get a Samidare anime. Finally, after all these years, we have gotten the closest thing to a Samidare anime. Mizukami is one of the best mangaka of our time, with his stories being full of amazing action, whacky but loveable characters, powerful messages, and what is sorely lacking the most in manga: satisfying endings. Planet With has all of that in anime form, and it has only made me wish even more for his works to get an anime.

Like all Mizukami works, the fight scenes make for great entertainment, but it’s really the message of the story that sets the plot apart from others. In the universe of Planet With, humans have been marked as a species which is evolving too quickly and heading down a path of destruction. Since they are unlikely to choose the path of love, Nebula wishes to seal humanity away in dreams of happiness. However, one person (cat) in Nebula wishes to watch over humanity peacefully with the optimism that they will choose the path of love. He partners with the sole survivor of Sirius, a planet which chose destruction over love, to protect the Earth and show the potential of love that humans have.

For a 1 cour anime, its plot is difficult to summarize succinctly, and I have left out a lot of important details. Even so, I think the major point is conveyed – Planet With is a story about choosing love and forgiveness over hate and destruction and the trials that come with it. It is difficult to believe in the potential for love of those who are filled with hate, and it is even more difficult to forgive those who performed acts of hatred and violence. At what point should you draw the line and stop people from acting out their evil desires? If a group of people is consistently producing violence, is it justified to punish the entire group, including those who have yet to commit any faults? Nebula believes in stopping a species from evolving if they show signs of danger. In contrast, the protagonists want to keep believing that humanity will choose the path of love.

Oops we did.

Planet With’s story applies to Christians in the way we could view ourselves. Christians are capable of so much good, but it would be foolish to ignore all the evils we have committed and continue to commit in the name of God. Recently, I have become more and more disappointed with “Christians.” It was not long ago that I argued the ones atheists always complain about were the small minority who gave Christians a bad name. You could find recent blog posts I wrote only a few years ago that said that. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear to me that such hateful Christians are far from a minority. Maybe the ones who need to be sealed away are Christians…is what crossed my mind as I watched certain characters in the story think the same of their own species. But Planet With is a story of hope, love, and forgiveness. Despite so many characters wanting to seal away humanity, they eventually come together and hope for a better future. Even so, you cannot forgive others without first acknowledging the sins they commit. Like my own self only a few years ago, it’s clear that one of the biggest problems with Christianity now is not only those who corrupt its name but also all of us who passively let those around us continue evil and immoral acts. Even some of the most loving, respectable Christians I know will only acknowledge the Pharisees of today in closed circles and call for prayer that they see the error of their ways. However, this has only served to make the problem fester and the corruption of Christianity from the inside has blossomed thanks to all of us who tried to downplay the problems. I, too, am part of the problem.

I think you mean Christians

Today, the Republican “party of Christian values,” supported by millions of conservative Christians, have come out defending pedophilia, Nazis, murderers, rapists, concentration camps, calling the media the enemy of the people, and other horrors that Christians should be directly against; or, basically what every fascist dictatorship looks like in both fiction and reality. After a lot of thinking and reading about how this insanity came about, I think the biggest problem has been because Christians so rarely speak out against each other.  In Planet With, Nebula is the organization of those who chose the path of love. Yet, when one of their own performs his own idea of justice, they banish him. Christians are called to judge not those outside the Church but those inside the Church so that we are not corrupted from the inside out. We have absolutely failed in that regard.

Even the most liberal pastors I respect speak of the changes in society’s culture and the spread of immorality as reasons why people are fleeing Christianity. I think it is clear that the biggest issue is not the immorality of today’s society but the immorality of today’s Christianity. Christians around me are quick to pray for fellow Christians that they might see why they are wrong, but they aren’t willing to speak out against them, even in today’s climate. So while there are large numbers who actively support neo-Nazis, violence, and racist hatred, there are millions more who passively support it by “avoiding politics” because they either won’t confront those who do or they don’t even realize it is happening. Even worse are the ones who verbally disagree with what’s happening then go on to vote for “Christian” Republicans who will *intentionally* make the situation even worse. The culture of staying away from politics has resulted in millions of Christians who simple wonder how things are so bad when this is exactly what all those critical atheists have been trying to warn us about for decades. What’s happening is not new; it has been festering for years and years and been conveniently ignored under the guise of politics. We have developed a culture that doesn’t discuss politics because it so easily brings out the worst in us. Yet isn’t it because we are so reluctant to witness the worst in others that things like racism, murders, and terrorism can be supported by people we otherwise thought to be good Christians? If the debate of forcibly removing children from parents and locking them up in cages is a political issue, then what isn’t political? We’re now at the point where Christian leadership is no longer just hypocritical, but many leaders are outright lying with messages of hate and fear, and effectively building cults rather than communities for the sake of power and money.

As recent news has revealed, Christian churches and leadership, among many other organizations, have been targeted for infiltration and manipulation for nefarious purposes over the last several decades in what is likely the most sophisticated and coordinated propaganda attack modern society has experienced (and continues to experience). Through extremely slow but methodical influences, Christianity has been corrupted from the inside. What might have started as affirming disgruntled Christians regarding illegal immigration can, over the course of 30+ years of constant lies and fear-mongering, become a justification for concentration camps and eventually genocide. And throughout this time, Christians such as me have done little other than saying that such people are a tiny minority. But this is not just a few people who don’t misunderstand a couple tenants of Christianity; this is a deliberate, malicious, and extremely successful attack on Christianity that has come to fruition, and nobody seems to be able to accept this. Of course, I’m just being a paranoid alarmist here; I’m sure those who warned German citizens about Nazis were just alarmists too. What pains me most is when so many of my Christian friends call it a spiritual problem and pray for it but do nothing else. Yes, there is a spiritual aspect, but it is by and large a physical problem that can be countered by real actions. Prayer is great, but it is also the easy way out rather than confronting those who continue to make the problem worse. After all, what good is faith without works?

With the advent of the internet and social media, there is so much propaganda fanning the flames of hate or at best, frustration at “both sides,” among us, without Christians ever recognizing that it is an intentional, human act to sow discord, hatred, and perhaps even worse, apathy and exhaustion.  Republicans of today only care for power and are manipulating the country with massive amounts of propaganda and blatant lies to maintain that power, with a particular reliance on the Christian communities to remain ignorant, fearful, and uneducated, or at least, uninvolved in politics. The calls for fear and hatred of immigrants and “others” is exactly what you would see in every fascist’s rise to power. It is now, when so many Christians view so much of the world as enemies, that the story of the Good Samaritan and who are neighbors are is most poignant. If Christians do not speak out now, when we currently have calls for white supremacy nationalism and stochastic terrorism from many of the Republican leaders, who are supported by millions of “Christians,” then when will we speak out against such evils? To every person who still does not acknowledge this truth yet: you are exactly how things like the Holocaust happen without anyone stopping it – a lot of propaganda and refusal to admit things are as bad as they are until it’s too late.

How to forgive the one who murdered your entire species?

To tie all of this back into my original point: large portions of Christianity are on a clear path of immorality due to corruption from the inside. We are so busy looking to non-believers and spreading the Gospel to those who have never heard it, that we have neglected nurturing those who claim they have heard it but are now misguided in ways that cannot be rectified easily. I no longer have any words to refute those who think Christianity should be sealed away and removed from society because for better or worse, I am finally being exposed to just how hateful, cruel, and numerous so-called “Christians” can be while invoking God’s name and the countless others who turn a blind eye to it. But Planet With is a story of love and forgiveness. Rather than choosing hatred and revenge, the characters choose to forgive; however, that does not mean a lack of punishment. While the big bad villain is forgiven, he is also properly punished, and it is through facing a punishment that lacks hatred that he finds peace. It is an optimistically hopeful end that I’m sure many feel is too unrealistic to happen in today’s environment. Nonetheless, I want to continue hoping and believing in the best that people and Christianity have to offer. As tempting as it might be to seal away Christianity from society’s culture, I hope that people will mete out just punishment and go no further and keep believing in the potential of Christianity’s intended values and its path of love. But even then, I have no choice but to admit such a dream will be a long and arduous path.

Advertisements

Dies irae: Amantes amentes

I recently finished reading the highly praised epic Dies irae, and what an epic it was. While a lot of it feels nothing more than action and redundant, generic speeches, there is a lot more going on beneath the surface of the plot which does not get revealed until the latter half. Moreover, many have bestowed upon it the title of the best chuunibyou story ever written. Contrary to what probably the vast majority of Western anime fans may believe, the chuuni genre is hardly limited to teenagers glorifying the idea of superpowers and magic words. Rather the genre itself is one which glorifies anything in the name of awesome for the sake of awesome. Rather than trying to be serious about the logic of the powers and plot, it instead has self-awareness about its own absurdity and plays that up even more. And so with stories like Dies irae, the superpowers are completely real, the stakes are as ridiculous as what they claim, and chanting psalms to unleash your true power is an absolute requirement – all because it’s cooler that way and nothing more. Even so, Dies irae rises above the rest of chuuni stories as being something that is incredibly well written. The prose is so elegant and grandiose, reflecting in its annals the embellished glorification of superpowers, and the English localization masterfully translates this immersive tone to the spectators of the Grand Guignol.

Before delving into the prophesized Day of Wrath, it is necessary to understand that Dies is heavily influenced by Also sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, as many of the characters, themes, and ideas are directly based off it. To be completely frank, a fully accurate and fair analysis is something outside my range of knowledge and understanding. I could never hope to do a proper philosophical analysis of it as it pertains to Christianity. But simultaneously, we must remember that Dies is also the pinnacle of the chuuni genre – a genre that is not supposed to be taken seriously. Thus, it is this comical dichotomy that creates a story engrossed in philosophy yet meaningless in its delivery. Any outlandish interpretation we choose to make of it can therefore be argued as viable not because that is what the work is about but because making such a claim would in the spirit of the work. In other words, the genre is not about speaking in red but speaking in gold. It is not about stating the truth but about creating your own truth.

To give a quick and horribly simplified summary of Also sprach Zarathustra and Nietzsche’s philosophy, it includes a harsh critique about Christian theology. Zarathustra is a man who speaks of the ubermensch, an individual who journeys to master himself and has complete power over himself. Humans are but the transition between monkey and ubermensch. Furthermore, the universe is always in flux and changing; nothing is fixed. Therefore, the ideas of an unchanging God and an absolute truth and even a fixed morality are all false. To be misguided by something claiming to be unchanging is to fail as an ubermensch. Finally, the universe is always recurring in a phenomenon known as the eternal recurrence. An ubermensch accepts this for he has no regrets in life and would be delighted to repeat anything in life no matter how much suffering it entails, going as far as to even laugh in the face of hardship. Therefore, the idea of heaven or hell after your life ends is an idea for the weak, those who cannot accept the reality of the present. To desire an end is to run from the truth of eternal recurrence. Okay, that is far from an acceptable summary, but these ideas are critical to understanding Dies irae and the following explanation.

Now I must summarize a 50 hour long VN in a short paragraph. Ren, the protagonist of our story, is forced to gain supernatural powers and fight against superpowered Nazis or let the world be destroyed by their leader. He is given the name Zarathustra and as an ubermensch, is able to alter the world around him with his own desires, by his own powers, as are the antagonists. Skipping over a million plot points, he will find himself facing off against the two leaders of the remnant Nazis: Reinhard the Beast and Mercurius the Serpent, references that are far from a coincidence. In the world of Dies irae, Mercurius is an enigmatic figure whose true nature is the god of the world who achieved the highest level an ubermensch can and paints the laws of the universe with his dearest wish: eternal recurrence. In the end, Ren puts an end to both The Beast and The Serpent, ending the eternal recurrence. His partner Marie takes the Throne of the universe and paints over the Law with her desire to envelop every person with her love. Wow I butchered that summary too but these are the key points I need to comprehend things

In Nietzsche’s work, Zarathustra accepts the eternal recurrence, but Ren destroys it. In other words, Dies irae can be viewed as a criticism of Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity. The eternal recurrence which he speaks of is but a farce and ended by one who carries the very name of Nietzsche’s prophet-like protagonist. Furthermore, the eternal recurrence is created by The Serpent, who symbolizes Temptation.  In other words, in the world of Dies, eternal recurrence represents the cycle of sin as we constantly repeat the folly of our own actions (No doubt Taichi’s Channel has a thing or two to say about this). Indeed, the characters constantly refer to this phenomenon of eternal recurrence, stating they already have foreknowledge of a situation even if it is the first time they have experienced it. For the cycle of sin is the repetition of our folly and though we have foreknowledge of it, we still sin even while knowing exactly how it will go.

If Mercurius the Serpent represents Temptation then Reinhard the Beast naturally represents Satan. It is important to note that Reinhard, The Beguiling Light, was a normal man until he encountered the Serpent, whose silver-tongued words tempted Reinhard down the path of becoming Mephistopheles. As you may recall, Lucifer was originally an angel of heaven, and it was only when he listened to the temptations of his pride that he became the Satan of today. Furthermore, Reinhard is constantly referred to as being incredibly handsome; he is said to be the most beautiful man the characters have ever laid eyes on. Yet again, this description is fully intentional to make a parallel to his Biblical identity. Although, above everything else, the story outright calls him the Devil, making it less symbolic and more literal. Alongside this blatant parallel to the Devil, Reinhard is depicted as the ideal ubermensch: he is someone who accepts and loves everything equally. He does not regret and he does not fear whatever befalls him. Even when faced with death, he merely laughs in amusement, exactly as Nietzsche describes an ubermensch should. As such, it is clear that Dies irae is depicting Nietzsche’s ideal as the Devil incarnate, the one who rules over Legion.

Finally, with the destruction of both Mercurius the Serpent and Reinhard the Beast, the Throne of the World of Emanation is usurped by Marie the goddess who envelops all with her love. Most notably is that she chooses to envelop all the antagonists including Reinhard with her love as well. Her love does not discriminate against anyone. Sound familiar? By putting an end to the cycle of sin, the laws of the universe are replaced with infinite love – God’s love for us. Nietzsche’s entire philosophy is undermined by a power even greater than eternal recurrence: Christianity. Viewing the world of Dies irae a little differently, one could even call it a microcosm of our spiritual lives wherein we are initially ruled by the emanation of temptation, and it is only after a long struggle that we are able to put God on the Korsia of our lives and escape the Ghetto. Indeed, the story which unfolds is revealed to be but a theatrical act directed by The Serpent who grew wary of the eternal recurrence created by his own desires. We too will grow weary of the cycle of sin which tempts as daily, for no gratification in life can fill the gaping hole in our lives but Christ. We seek an end to eternal recurrence yet simultaneously do not choose to break free of it ourselves, even if the power of formation is buried in our souls. It is when the one who sits on the Throne emanates love throughout our lives that we can finally put an end to the deceitful cycle of eternal recurrence. Ren’s rejection of the supernatural and his return to the ordinary is depicted as the equivalent of the return of Odysseus to his wife Penelope. It is only through similar struggles that we too can return home to be the bride of Christ.

It may be easy to argue that my interpretation of Dies irae is wrong, but in the context of a chuuni story, does it even matter? Making pseudo-intellectual claims is the entire basis of the genre; with Dies being what it is, my entire argument could only be wrong by not being ridiculous enough. By making the original story of Zarathustra the basis of Dies irae, Masada is discussing Christianity in the way only a chuuni would. For the Light of the world is what birthed the story which he penned. Therefore, let this be my Beri’ah, the manifestation of my desires in the real world, so I’ll say it in gold:

Dies irae is a criticism of Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity

.