Ohayo gozaimas! As the summer season of anime has finally drawn to a close, I was reflecting back on some of the series I watched, and thinking about what I loved from each of them. As I really only followed three out of the many that came out ( so many sequels!), it wasn’t that hard to pinpoint various ideals about hard work, teamwork, utilizing individual skills for the good of the many, etc. I loved the familial love of the girls in Gakkou Gurashi, the Attack on Titan-esque battles of God Eater, but Charlotte struck a unique chord with me. Maybe it’s because it was written by Jun Madea, the write of Angel Beats, maybe it was because it was a story about schoolkids with superpowers, but the show made me realize how much we as humans value stories of redemption, and not just in anime.
The central plot of the show revolves around Yu Otosaka, a teen guy who discovered he had the ability to possess someone else’s body for 5 seconds at a time. Of course, he originally uses his ability selfishly to get ahead in school, open up opportunities for himself, and stuff like that, before he’s caught by a platinum-haired girl named Tomori, who herself has the ability to become invisible to anyone she chooses.
(Er, can we take a second here to notice that platinum-haired girls in anime always seem to have something special going on? Chaika from Coffin Princess, Menma from Anohana, Alisa from God Eater, and now Tomori! What’s so special about white hair? I gotta look into that…anyways, rant over…)
As I was saying, Tomori informs Yu that he’s not the only one with abilities, and she transfers him to a special school for ability-wielders in order to avoid detection and capture by the government and/or scientist groups who would want to study and probably dissect anyone with strange powers. Also, their powers disappear when they become adults. Apart from having the same basic plot as Marvel’s X-Men (I half-expected the school to be called Xavier’s), the story holds itself fairly well, not really distinguishing itself as well as Madea’s other works, but giving the viewer a good ride nonetheless. We follow Yu as he uncovers more about his past, and the different groups of ability-wielders, and we see him change from a typical self-centered jerk into someone who genuinely cares about the people in his life. It’s not an easy journey for him by any means, and he does fall into the same traps of depression and grief that we all fall into sometimes, but his journey towards personal redemption is nevertheless an interesting and touching experience. The big question here, is why? Why do stories of redemption and forgiveness and enlightenment touch us on so many levels? Why do we feel moved when we see another person struggle against their own character to become something new?
I believe that a large part of why we as humans seem to intrinsically love redemption stories is because we all recognize on some level that we need redemption. We all know we need forgiveness, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), and deep within our hearts we know this. We long for that true love and unity that only comes from God, and yet on our own we don’t know how to achieve it. So we pursue money, or wealth, or fame, or social status. But when our world crumbles around us, when we have nothing to show for all our labors, we panic and pull into ourselves. It takes Christ, the One who recognizes the disease of sin within us, to pull us out of our sin and bring us into His extended family of believers, just as Tomori did to Yu. And like Yu, we can learn to put our gifts and talents to good use in helping to reach others for Christ, living as examples of Christian love and fellowship to the world. Redemption is not a choice, nor is it something we can achieve on our own. It is a gift, given to us by someone who loves us more than we love ourselves. We don’t always know what that love is, or who loves us, but we all desire that love. We all want the peace of knowing who we are, and the power of overcoming our personal darkness. And so, even as we take in predictable story after predictable story of some hero overcoming some great darkness…we continue to cheer. Because we want the same for ourselves.