Konnichiwa! As we head closer into fall and as the fall season of anime grows closer and closer (ONE-PUNCH MAN FTW!), I’ve been thinking a lot about anime that I’m going to watch and anime that I’ve watched, especially some of my firsts. My first ever true anime (Pokemon doesn’t count. Never has.) was Sword Art Online, and despite the equal amounts of love and hate surrounding the series, I still think of it as a pretty decent show. While not perfect, it did do a good job of showing the viewer a world within a world, and using the story to explore how humans act in a crisis. When the reality that death in the virtual world was permanent became real to those playing it, the way the players thought about the world around them radically changed.
No longer did they treat the game as something within their control, but they realized that they were at the mercy of the world around them. Or at least most of them did. The players in Sword Art Online divided into roughly three categories: those who wanted to beat the game and escape, those who decided to support the people beating the game, and those people who didn’t care or believe that they were trapped in a game and lived their lives as such. A prime example of the last category would be the character Rosalia, a member of the player-killer guild Titan’s Hand. One would think that being trapped in a death game would make people at least try to band together and help everyone else to beat the game, but the members of Titan’s Hand think differently, not caring about the fate of the other players and looking only for ways to gain the advantage over everyone else. But why do they act this way?
Rosalia reveals the answer when confronted, saying that no one really knows if they’re trapped in a death game, and thus she can act however she wants. Rosalia’s outlook on her situation still treats it as something fully within her control, and feels that she can act however she wants with no consequences. In other words, her view of reality is not consistent with the reality she lives in. She’s blind to the reality of death that overshadows her life in the virtual world, and doesn’t understand the actions of those who know the truth of the world. It is a striking parallel to life in our world: those who are without Christ are blind to the reality that the world is cursed, and they are trapped in a cycle of death without Christ. As Christians, we do understand the nature of this world: we know that through Christ, we have already overcome and we will escape this living death one day, and rejoice with Him forever. We have hope for the future, so we don’t have to give in to despair or give ourselves to the world for comfort. Kirito, our stalwart-yet-somewhat-oblivious main character, has a similar outlook on life: he realizes that there is no true difference between the real and virtual worlds, and acts accordingly. He realizes the fact that his life consists of doing his best to beat the game, but he doesn’t let his situation define his life, but he uses the hope of future release to drive him forward, to keep going despite the long, hard grind to get there. And so do we, with the promise of Christ and heaven as our motivation, we also keep going, despite all the pain, the hate, the scars, we can keep fighting, keep moving, and find our way out of this death-cursed world.