The Week in Anime Winter 2015 #6 — The Theology of Yoru no Yatterman

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Maria the Virgin Witch: I’ll ship that. Also, why does Michael’s spear look like the devil’s trident, and when did Galfa become a Moor?

Yoru no Yatterman: As you guys have probably figured out by now, my favorite theologian is William Stringfellow. And thematically, Yoru no Yatterman is basically an anime adaptation of his seminal work, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. The central question of the book is, “How can we live humanly in the midst of the Fall?” Based on the book of Revelation, Stringfellow introduces this as an essentially political question, as a conflict between the kingdom of god (Jerusalem) and the demonic principalities and powers (Babylon).

Yatter Kingdom is the archetypal Babylon, following in the lineage of Babylon itself, Rome, Nazi Germany, the United States, etc., etc. I don’t think I even need to explain this: it oppresses all its people, forces them to live in poverty, forces people into military service, is morally impoverished, and kills any who oppose it. This is the central testimony against Babylon in the book of revelation: “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on Earth.” We see the Yatter Kingdom murder the prophets and saints over and over again in Yoru no Yatterman. Babylon / Yatter Kingdom is morally impoverished mainly through “hardness of heart”, of which Stringfellow says “I refer, thus, not so much to an evil mind as to a paralyzed conscience; not so much to either personal or corporate immorality as to social pathology possessing persons and institutions; not so much to malevolence, however incarnate, as to the literal demoralization of human life in society.” We see this as the oppressed people stand by indifferently to the struggles of Doronbo.

The central power, indeed, the only power, behind Babylon / Yatter Kingdom is the power of death. And this is also the source of the principalities’ fallen nature: the fear of their own death and their struggle for survival. We see the metaphoric Fall of the Yatter Kingdom clearly, as it once was a place of justice, but now its only concern is its self-preservation. Stringfellow says the principalities represent an “inverse dominion”: they were made to serve mankind, but instead mankind serves the principalities which are aggressive and oppressive. In Yatter Kingdom, humans serve robots.

Stringfellow lists a number of traits of the principalities: (1) denial of truth, (2) doublespeak and overtalk, (3) secrecy and boasts of expertise, (4) surveillance and harassment, (5) exaggeration and deception, (6) cursing and conjuring, (7) usurpation and absorbption, and (8) diversion and demoralization. It is quite obvious how Yatter Kingdom exemplifies most of these traits. Stringfellow claims that all these traits have a common heritage as babel. “Babel means the inversion of language, verbal inflation, libel, rumor… such profusion in speech and sound that comprehension is impaired, nonsense, sophistry, jargon, noise, incoherence, a chaos of voices and tongues, falsehood, blasphemy. And, in all of this, babel means violence.” Yatter! Yatter! Yatter!

How can people live humanly in Babylon? The answer, according to Stringfellow, is found only in the midst of coping with death. “Engagement in specific and incessant struggle against death’s rule renders us human.” Resistance is the only way to live humanly. And this is what Leopard and Doronbow show. Their resistance is utterly futile and hopeless. They have no chance of winning, and are always defeated, at the end of every episode. But it is the struggle itself which offers hope. Like the European resistance to the Nazis, every individual act seems pointless and hopeless. But to not resist would be to surrender to death, and become inhuman, which is not an option.

Stringfellow suggests the main means of resistance to Babylon are the gifts of the Spirit. In particular, discernment, glossalalia, healing, and exorcism. Leopard makes use of all of these gifts. The discernment to say no to the babel of the Yatter Kingdom and refuse to accept its rule. The ability to speak in tongues, to communicate with those who are completely different from herself, such as the man with the greenhouse and the boxing guy. The ability to listen and heal those who are broken, such as that guy and his girlfriend who follow them around, and the ability to heal her two sidekicks from their hopelessness and despair.

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And, finally, the gift of exorcism. The ability to fearlessly reveal and renounce death as the source of Babylon’s power.

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Seiken Tsukai no World Break: Wow, that eye growing in her hair is creepy.

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