A Combat Veteran Explores The ‘Pretty Cure’ Magical Girl Anime, Part 2

Reviewer Timothy Stone explains one reason he enjoys this anime series: colorful yet honest themes of repentance and forgiveness.

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Last time, I declared that I am a fan of the Japanese “magical girl” genre. I introduced the genre and spoke about a particular franchise called Pretty Cure or Precure for short. I briefly gave an overview of why Precure is so popular and of why I enjoy it, which would be it’s clever writing, postmodernism/realism, action, and how it deals with Biblical themes (albeit often unintentionally). Now let’s deal with one particular story arc of last year’s series/continuity that dealt with an important spiritual issue in a Christian way.

Exploring ‘Happiness Charge Precure’

Now let’s explore a more recent anime series, Happiness Charge Precure, and egspecially a recent story arc. The story dealt with forgiveness and did so quite well.1

Since the first episode this story has been building. Shirayuki Hime (Cure Princess and heir of the Blue Sky Kingdom) has been hiding the dark secret: that she was the one who opened the box of Axia and released the evil sorcerers imprisoned within. This evil is known as the “Phantom Empire” and is lead by Queen Mirage. They have invaded many worlds, including parts of Earth. Another Cure, Fortune—a girl named Hikawa Iona, whose sister was captured by the bad guys—knows the truth. Or at least she knows part of it; she doesn’t know Hime was tricked into doing this. And she hates Hime with a passion.

Enter two new friends and fellow Cures who Hime meets: Aino Megumi (Cure Lovely) and Yuko Omori (Cure Honey). Though a loner, Iona does become aware that she needs others. But she is still quite callous and selfish, wanting their help for her sake, not theirs. She also wants to hurt Hime, so she reveals her identity as Cure Fortune to the others and offers to team up with them, if they leave Hime behind. After telling them Hime’s secret, she is shocked when they side with and forgive their friend and try to convince her to forgive Hime as well.

Going deeper: four lies about forgiveness

Obviously, Hime and Iona do become friends, but only after a difficult path. That’s what has caused me to explore this story arc. Too often our culture reflects twisted ideas of forgiveness. In Happiness Charge Precure I can see our unscriptural ideas of forgiveness falling under the headings of four lies.

The first lie is that we are expected to not just be willing to forgive, but to forgive period, someone who has not asked or repented. That is absolutely not in line with the Bible. You ought to be willing to forgive people, and not hold hate or a grudge against them, but you can’t forgive someone who doesn’t ask, anymore than God can forgive us our sins if we don’t ask Him for salvation. You treat those who wrong you with love and hold out the hand of forgiveness, but you can’t do so until they ask.

The second lie is that “tough” guys and gals don’t forgive because it is weak. No, it is not “weak.” It takes strength, because it is hard. Among the hardest things you or I will ever do. Last fall, I began to truly take steps to love and to be willing to forgive certain people (if they ever ask forgiveness) for their past mistakes and evil done to in the Army, and before that in high school. I still have flashes of hard feelings, and this is several years after the Army and even more after high school. It’s hard to forgive.

The third lie is that folks should earn forgiveness. This is absurdly unscriptural, but it’s easier to condemn this lie because Christ says we can’t earn redemption.

However, the fourth lie is the opposite of the third like and escapes our notice: that offenders don’t need to repent or face any consequences after their offenses, or that no atonement is necessary. How often have we heard folks state they “are sorry,” they “take responsibility,” but they do not take responsibility, not do anything to repair their error, and in general, not actually bear fruit in keeping with repentance?2 It is so strange, because repentance is a big part of the free gift of unearned salvation and of continued fellowship with Christ. I’m not saying that if we do not specifically repent of every single we lose our salvation, which I don’t believe is Scriptural. Instead, we must constantly repent of sins we commit in order to keep in good fellowship with Our Savior and Lord.

Yet too often if someone asks another person to own their mistakes and fix things if possible, we cry, “They said they’re sorry! What else do ya want?” Um, probably to show real repentance, meaning to try to not do the same thing again and to make things right if they are able to do so, God-willing. Christ never said to the adulterous woman, “Go and have a great life since you’re sorry and scared.” No, He said “Go and sin no more.”3 Paul didn’t get off easy once saved on the road to Damascus, but served Christ in missionary work (which was a joy to him in God’s mercy, as it should be for us all), which included a lot of suffering.

A related false idea, perhaps a fifth lie, is the notion that folks are “let off the hook” if forgiven. They are not. The “making amends” part of repentance is necessary, as are natural consquences for sin.

Did the adulterous woman and later Paul earn their salvation, forgiveness, or anything else? No. You can’t earn salvation or forgiveness. God’s grace, which by His power we extend in our small ways when we forgive, is unearned. That is the definition of grace. But they were expected to repent, change their ways, right their wrongs, and do what they could to do right in the future. That wasn’t about earning anything. It was about showing, and acting in a manner that showed, real repentance.

Now back to Happiness Charge Precure. In the arc that comprises episodes 19-23 (the main story and its aftermath), we see forgiveness and repentance dealt with, including atoning for mistakes. But here repentance and forgiveness go both ways.

Yes, Hime made a horrible mistake, but Iona has been a selfish, cruel bully. Hime can’t make up what she did, and says as much, but she saves Iona from imprisonment and sacrifices something amazing for her. This is a woman who has treated Hime like slime unendingly and continually actually proclaimed her intention to never forgive Hime or give her a break. Yet Hime takes such an incredible step to show her sorrow for past wrongs. She does so because she knows she can never make things “right” but she is sorry and wants to apologize and help one of the many people that she hurt. She states as much when she begs for forgiveness and gives up something so important for Iona.

Iona on the other hand morally ought to — but doesn’t have to — accept this apology. She could easily have stated that she still won’t forgive Hime because Hime is right. This doesn’t change things. Not really. But she realized that forgiving is the right thing to do for everyone, including herself, and that she herself has done wrong and needs the forgiveness of others, including Hime.

The key is that neither girl tries to get off with just a “sorry” and expects that all harm for their actions will magically disappear. They both realize they made mistakes for which they desire to atone. They want forgiveness even though they can not change what they did, and they truly do repent and take responsibility. Both girls also, in turn, truly must forgive out of kindness and grace, and not what they can “get” from the other one. Neither Iona or Hime is “earning” or buying forgiveness or anything else. She is merely showing repentance.

As you can tell, this obviously left an impression on me. Japan and its culture is very secular, though influenced by Christianity and Western philosophical ideas. But this story it still hit the major points in the Scriptural ideas of forgiveness and repentance in a way most American and other shows do not.

Explore ‘Precure’ and beyond

I could go on trying to defend the “magical girl” genre, but this is just one example of why I like the types of series and all the Precure franchise. Yes, it has the frilly stuff that doesn’t interest me and causes eye-rolling. But it also has action, believable characters and interesting arcs, while dealing with complicated issues in a way that evokes Biblical ideas even though often not written by a believer.

I urge folks to try out this show, or any of the stories in the franchise or broader genre. You’ll be impressed with a the ability of these series to handle the plots, serious issues, and characterizations, in such a compelling, funny, and often Biblical manner.

  1. A quick word: Happiness Charge Precure is not a series written with Christianity in the setting. The god of Earth is a different entity that bestows the girls (and others around the world) with their powers to fight Mirage and her Phantom Empire. What appeals to me is that here, like elsewhere in Japanese media, the story deals with these issues in a mature and (intentionally or not) Scriptural manner.
  2. Matt. 3:8.
  3. John 8:11.
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Leah Burchfiel
Member
Leah Burchfiel

For the anime noobs, believe me, it’s better when they unconsciously engage Christianity. If they do it on purpose, it gets weird, mostly because they generally understand Christianity about as well as we generally understand Buddhism.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

My wife and I are enjoying Fairy Tail, which seems to borrow external elements from Christianity/Catholocism. So even in a world in which magic is part of daily life there are also churches and cemeteries and bishops/priests — but the exact beliefs of the “religion” remain unknown. So they seem to be viewing Christianity/Catholicism through the same “let’s show it as an exotic faith” as our stories do Eastern religions.

Similarly, the spells and much of the slang are in most-often-plain English.

Leah Burchfiel
Member
Leah Burchfiel

They announce their attacks in English in Sailor Moon, too. And some in Yu Yu Hakusho (the main character’s “ray gun” attack is a pun on the Japanese “rei,” roughly meaning “spiritual energy” [at least 50% of Japanese humor is puns]). But the 19-yr-old bishounen Catholic priest (!) in “Ghost Hunt” recites John 1:1 as part of his exorcism routine in Japanese and not Latin for some reason.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

It’s not always better in English:

https://youtu.be/LDnu0giUS00

Norio Wakamoto playing Father Andersen in Hellsing.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

A good link on how anime consciously engages Christianity is from TV Tropes at http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NunsAreMikos

It can lead to some bizarre contrasts and situations. Like Hellsing, in which the Vatican uses Dracula to fight against Protestant Nazis in a very “do not turn the other cheek” way. Or, like the link, you get fifteen year old “nuns” that show off a lot of leg as they fight evil via magic.

Mirtika Schultz
Member

I have seen a total lack of understanding of Christianity in manga, too. It’s pretty weird. Married Catholic priests never gets old. hah

anon
Guest
anon

Catholicism and Christianity aren’t he same thing. I have family who’s former catholic, I’ve had friends who were catholic. Actual Christ followers are considered protestant. Catholicism inadvertently worships Mary (and her mom), because they believe both were immaculately conceived like Jesus. Catholicism picked up a lot of idolitry parallels and pagan concepts along the way, because the Roman Catholic church often absorbed other religions so that “all roads lead to Catholic Rome.”

Julie D
Guest

A show with a good understanding of forgiveness? Go for it!

Autumn
Guest
Autumn

I tend to avoid the magical girl genre, or at least the less serious ones, but I do like to hear about things like this in genres normally dismissed as silly 🙂

As for Christianity depicted in anime, I tend to go back and forth with how I feel about it. I don’t like how it’s skewed, but it does make the story interesting sometimes and to me reflects how far people can stray from God’s original plan, corruption grows everywhere within human formed things, etc. One example that comes to mind are the glimpses of Christianity seen in Fate Zero. The story is great, but includes a church that acts as a refuge and referee for mages battling for the holy grail. The son of the church’s priest, Kirei, becomes very horrible by the end of the show. Yet, toward the end, he is shown fingering his cross pendant before a fight and eventually takes his father’s position in the church. And I saw a glimpse ofthe new Fate Stay series, where Kirei is described as a fake priest.

I find such things to be a reasonable portrayal in this story’s world. Christianity placed in a different culture and eventually joining forces with things it once considered wicked(magic) and compromises from people that may not entirely understand Christianity eventually leading to a ritualistic and corrupt religion far from what God wanted.

Leah Burchfiel
Member
Leah Burchfiel

I’m kinda tempted to tell you to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion just to feel the disturbance in the Force as your mind asplodes. NGE is basically weird expressed in random Judeo-Christian iconography. Also Freudian symbolism. SO MUCH FREUD.

 

Autumn
Guest
Autumn

I might just watch it some time, thanks 🙂

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Big content warning on that one: it’s a deconstruction of the idea of children fighting in giant robots, and the original series is more horror than anything. It has dark, but absolutely astounding imagery: “robots” that are wiry and with teeth, and some seriously brutal battles. All the while there’s heavy stuff about depression, abandoment, and using or being used. It ends in the movie The End of Evangelion, which is so dark it’s incredible, and actually portrays to me what the events in Revelation must feel like if you’re living through them. Most fans just see the “omg asuka and rei are mah waifu,” and don’t get the psychdelia.

I’d avoid the reboot movies, they simply can’t come close. If you’re an anime fan, you really have to see the original Evangelion though. Nothing has really come close to it.

Autumn
Guest
Autumn

I’ll keep that in mind, thanks :). Fate Zero was pretty dark, so hopefully I could handle this show. I think it’s specific bits of content that tend to bother me more than a show simply being dark and violent. I do watch my anime online, though, so I can always skip parts when need be 🙂

Jay Rockefeller
Guest
Jay Rockefeller

Hime best girl