1. nulligravida FTW says:

    It’s probably a more Buddhist idea of sin than Calvinist, but it’s a relatively different angle of approach that makes it interesting.
    I feel like people could be disappointed by the small focus when it has a world full of mysterious weird stuff to explore, but I do like me some slice-of-life, too. Serial Experiments Lain is probably the more well-known version of this story, but Haibane is charming and I actually like it better because Lain couldn’t hold my attention.
    It also has a lovely OP song:

    • Travis Perry says:

      Buddhism as far as I know has no concept of original sin. Some Buddhists, from what I read, say there is no such thing as sin at all, but from what I can tell that is not a common view. It seems the vast majority of Buddhists do accept there are transgressions against other human beings and think of them in a way that would translate well as “sin.” But “original sin” or having “a sin nature”? Not so much.

      Buddhism has a different focus from Christianity. In fact, Christianity focuses on the biggest problem human beings have is the inabilty to overcome sin–and for this reason, Christ had to die for us, for God to do for us the things we could not do for ourselves (including taking our punishment, the reason for which this substitution was necessary proves to be at least a bit mysterious to us). Whereas the Buddhist concept of “salvation” is more an expunging of self to unite with the universe, not specifically focused on the problem of sin (though I’d say sin and self-focus are related). And although the way of Buddah is not really an easy one, it IS one you as a human being can follow if you choose to do so. You are capable of obtaining salvation in Buddhism yourself, if you apply yourself (though the salvation sought after has little in common with Christian salvation).

      In Christianity–well, mostly anyway, there are cults who turn this dynamic off–you are not capable of obtaining your own salvation. At least part of it had to come from Jesus’s death and resurrection.

      So if an anime series is doing things like having someone talk about badness as if there’s a certain irreducible amount of it, that’s actually not really a Buddhist thing to think. It’s really more Christian.

      Is it more Christian because of Christian cultural influence? Or because Japanese people also notice that it really does seem impossible for people to stop being stinkers (a.k.a. sinners)–not entirely–no matter how well they are raised, educated, and no matter how hard they try.

      So Audie noticing this anime doing what it does probably should not be brushed off “as a Buddhist concept of sin.” Actually, if Audie is correctly describing the anime, it would seem to be doing something rather unusual and unexpect. Something a Christian justifiably would see as a sign of God working behind the scenes in Japanese culture.

      • nulligravida FTW says:

        Yeah, Buddhists don’t have a concept of original sin, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an idea of the difficulty to rid yourself of their version of sin.
        If the Haibane world is a version of the Japanese purgatory-hells (Hell in Japan/a lot of Asian countries is about punishment for wrongdoing, not necessarily eternal damnation), Reki DOES overcome her struggle enough to be reborn (and it implies that Rakka will eventually, too). There isn’t a Christ figure in Haibane, after all.
        So it is definitely similar, but I think it’s a mistake to assume creeping Calvinism in Japan. I think it was a different process that produced this albeit similar result.

        • Autumn Grayson says:

          Unless he employed Death Of The Author, notleia :p Not saying he should, but believing strongly in Death Of The Author could make this conversation irrelevant, if authorial intent is irrelevant and a story is basically whatever the reader wants it to be.

          • nulligravida ftw says:

            Who is notleia? They sound like a fascinating person. 😛
            Even if you go Death of the Author, itself still hard to divorce a work from the culture that produced it.

      • Autumn Grayson says:

        Since Haibane Renmei uses some of the stereotypical aesthetics of Christianity it probably was vaguely influenced by Christianity, but it was probably influenced by other things as well.

        Several anime use Christian aesthetics and symbolism, or even things that feel like Christianity but are clearly not. Wolf’s Rain even had something called The Book Of The Moon, which seems a bit like the bible in the sense that it’s a religious text that prophesies the apocalypse in that world. But it’s clearly not the bible.

        Death Note, Ao No Exorcist and Fate Zero have things and symbolism that are definitely borrowed from Christianity, but it just seems to be there for storytelling purposes more than anything. (In Ao No Exorcist, for example, demons are depicted similarly to yokai, and even though the main char was basically raised by a Catholic priest that does exorcisms, God isn’t treated as important, and the exorcisms are just another way to fight demons/yokai, equal to that of Buddhist methods and whatnot.) Rouroni Kenshin had an arc where it dealt with Christianity a lot more directly and actually grappled with it a bit, though not in an entirely favorable way. And that’s one of the few times I’ve actually seen an anime explore Christianity so directly, rather than it just sort of being there.

        I haven’t seen Haibane Renmei, so I can’t say for sure. But although it seems to have some Christian influence and maybe some lessons that we as Christians can get from it, it’s worth being pretty skeptical about the idea of it trying to be Christian, or not using lots of other philosophies/religions in addition to Christianity. ‘One who recognizes their own sin has no sin’ sounds very different than the Christian notion of sin, after all. Recognizing one’s sin is the first step to asking for forgiveness, and perhaps for taking preventative measures to avoid sinning again, but it sounds like the show leads the concept of recognizing sin in a very different direction than Christianity does. So the story might be more about how an individual can understand themselves and keep from doing bad things, rather than actually caring about the religious part of it. Though of course that’s just a guess based on what I tend to see in anime.

What do you think?