Category Archives: Innocence

The Happy Prince, Selflessness, and Ganbaru

I just watched episode 32 of DokiDoki Precure.  I know all of us here talk about how impressed we are with Precure, but I still am more and more amazed the more I watch.  These shows really present some complicated issues regarding innocence and love, and they give us such wonderful answers to these issues.

Mana-chan collapsesIn episode 32, we run into the dilemma of The Happy Prince.  A more familiar tale to the modern reader might be the Giving Tree.  The dilemma is one of selfless giving and whether there is a point where this can be taken too far.  In the episode, the school is having its cultural festival, and Mana-chan wears herself out to the point of getting sick working on the festival.  During the episode, it also becomes clear that the other students have likely been relying on Mana-chan too much.

After reading the story of The Happy Prince, Aguri-chan takes it upon herself to remedy the situation.  She orders Mana-chan to bed, and proceeds to do what she thinks is needed to bring everything in balance.  She takes it upon herself to chide the other students.  After she has done so, she accuses Mana-chan of pampering everyone, leaving them open to becoming Selfishnesses.  She says that they should all learn to stand up for themselves as individuals.

The Happy PrinceAguri-chan’s words are similar to Western conventional wisdom and notions of “tough love.”  Mana-chan had a very different answer to this problem.  She recognized that everyone did need to be as strong as they could be, but explained that everyone had things that they could and could not do.  Mana-chan also talked about the warm and exciting feeling of helping and being helped.

After this, we see that the other students took Aguri-chan’s words to heart.  They began to do their best, or ganbaru.  They work hard and solve problems themselves.  Aguri-chan sees all of this and learns a lesson herself, which is the lesson of what it means to love and to be loved.  With this lesson, she gains a new power as Cure Ace.  At the end of the episode, Mana-chan and Aguri-chan talk about a world where one can give selflessly safely, and Aguri-chan says that she would like a work towards such a world being possible.

This is a really complex issue, I think.  One of the reasons it is so complex in this day and age is that the concept of understood virtue and fault has been lost.  In the world today, particularly in the West, there is a utilitarian notion of right and wrong.  Right and wrong are often seen in a pragmatic light.  Things are good and bad depending on how they effect us, other people, and society.  This leads to some very strange practices, one of them being “blaming the victim.”  There is a belief that if one is being mistreated or taken advantage of, it is her job to stop it, and that if she allows it, she is “enabling” the other.  From a utilitarian standpoint, there may be truth to this, but it is quite topsy-turvy.  The reason I think we tend to blame the victim is that generally it is harder to get the wrongdoer to change her ways.

In a democratic society, there is also the notion of individual “rights,” and individuals are have the responsibility of protecting their own “rights.”   Taking this notion further creates the implication that if someone can not protect her “rights,” it is ok for others to trample upon her.

This episode has a much different analysis of this problem.  The issue is not about whether Mana-chan is “enabling” others, or whether she is giving more than everyone else.  The issue is one of virtue and fault.  Selfless giving is a virtue.  Not doing one’s best is a fault.  Aguri-chan takes on the role of Authority in pointing out the faults of the other students.  The students accept the reprimand from Aguri-chan, even though she is an elementary school student, and in general, she is not in a position to issue such a reprimand.  They accept the reprimand because they can see that she is speaking truth, and that she was pointing out a true fault of theirs.  They knew that they could not refute what she was saying.

Cheering the Precure onIn accepting the reprimand, the students were able to correct their fault, and they do ganbaru.  The answer was not Mana-chan holding back but was everyone else stepping up to the plate.  This is also the innocent answer to the problem of The Happy Prince, rather than the cynical one.  People can change.  People can respond to selfless love in a loving way, rather than in a selfish way.  This is the lesson that Aguri-chan learned, and it warmed her heart.

Make Dream RealityI think it is a lesson we can all learn as well.  Does this always happen?  No, of course not.  We all have faults, and we are all tempted by our False Self at times.  There are those from the Selfish Kingdom who will exploit those faults.  Yet, as Aguri-chan and Mana-chan said at the end of this episode, we can all work to create a world where it is safe to give and to love with all our hearts.  We do this by giving of ourselves, freely letting our virtues shine, and willingly accepting correction to help minimize our faults.  We can respond to love by loving in return.  This is what innocence is all about, I think.

 

Is Innocence Safe?

hummy-yes“I am naive, that is why I get hurt so much.”  I do not know about anyone else, but I have heard that a lot.  One of the biggest arguments against being innocent is that it not safe.  People tend to accept the belief that innocence and naivety equate with vulnerability as true, without even questioning this.  Is this really true though?  Suite Precure has an answer to this question.  That answer is: No! It is not true at all.  In fact, it is the opposite that is true.  It is cynicism, not innocence, which leaves a person vulnerable!

****For those of you who have not seen Suite Precure, you may want to wait to read this article.  This is a BIG, BIG, BIG SPOILER!  Just to let you know, I am writing about episode 21 of Suite Precure***

Hummy's like that

In Suite Precure, the fairy that helps the girls out is Hummy.  She is a sweet little cat and songstress.  She is also quite innocent and naive.

On the side of evil is another cat and songstress, Seiren.  We find out in the series that Seiren used to be good, and her and Hummy used to be good friends.  Seiren was smart and quite cynical.  In the first episode, Seiren calls Hummy an “airhead,” and Hummy told her, “thank you.”  Seiren’s reply was that this was NOT a compliment.

Hummy and AphroditeHummy never stops believing in their friendship though.  She believes in it so much that she ends up handing over a big victory to the side of evil, when Seiren tricks her into believing that she turned good, when she had not.

This was not the end of the story, though.  With the approval of Queen Aphrodite, the Queen of the good land, Major Land, Hummy keeps believing in her friendship with Seiren anyways!

Hummy Keeps Believing

She does not give up on it, even when Seiren is about to sing the Melody of Sorrow for the side of evil.

No Matter What

Seiren TearsThis belief and love starts to break through to Seiren, and the Evil King Mephisto says, “Friendship? Love? Trust? It’s all useless.”

See, this is a lie, though, and even the evil people know this.

Earlier in the episode, King Mephisto was told, “This friendship that Hummy believes in is really quite dangerous.”  Dangerous to evil, that is!

As it turned out, Hummy’s love and friendship really did get through to Seiren.  She not only turned good, but she became a PRECURE!  She became Cure Beat!

Hummy and Cure Beat

 So, which is REALLY the safer course, cynicism or innocence?

“Guilty Pleasures” and Conscience-Inversion

Suite Precure - too true to be good?
Suite Precure – too true to be good?

A friend was recently telling me about how many review sites for the kind of anime we watch complain that they are “unrealistically good” or that the conflict between characters is based on misunderstandings and not “real conflict”. The latter remark was made in the case of Suite Precure.

Many of the same people refer to Magical Girl anime as a “guilty pleasure” because they see them as vacuous largely because they are “too good”, lack “real conflict” between the good people and operate in terms of good vs evil.

Now actually, as we try to show here, the values of the best magical girl anime are actually metaphysically quite deep. Much deeper than the average adult Western movie. Suite Precure, to take an example, has a theme of music. Music is metaphysically symbolic of the cosmic harmony, of which human harmony is one part. Therefore it is natural that the show should explore the themes of discord vs. harmony. And because (unlike post-modern culture of the Western petty-intelligentsia) its values are not inverted, it is naturally on the side of harmony.

To the inverted pop-Western sensibility, harmony and goodness are naïve and therefore enjoying anything insufficiently “dark” is a “guilty pleasure”.

Interestingly (although I do not claim to have read a lot of this kind of Western chatter), this is the only way I have ever heard the term “guilty pleasure” used. It appears to mean that something is “too decent”, and therefore the writer is ashamed of liking it.

As such “guilty pleasure” seems to be almost a technical term of conscience-inversion: that process by which modern Western pop-society makes people proud of their worst instincts and ashamed of their best ones.

I am interested to know, am I correct about this? Is this how the term “guilty pleasure” is generally used? Do pop a comment below!

Is Your Innocence Lost Forever?

Is the age of innocence lost?
Is the age of innocence lost?

Is innocence actually possible? Once we grow up, have we outgrown innocence because we know “reality”? Is everything we do to recreate innocence false and foolish? That is what the world will try to tell you. And we are here to tell you why that is so wrong.

To a lot of Western people innocence = ignorance. We are only innocent because we don’t know or haven’t experienced what they like to call “real life”.

From this view a lot of other things follow, so it is important for us to understand what innocence actually is.

What are the things that follow from the innocence = ignorance equation? Let’s look at some of them.

• If innocence = ignorance, then once we “know” it is gone. It cannot be recovered.

Therefore:

• If we do “know” then any attempt at innocence is false.

Therefore:

• People cultivating an innocent style and enjoying innocent things are

either:

• Deceiving other people and putting up a false front.

or:

• Deceiving themselves and imagining they can return to a more childlike state when in fact their knowledge of “reality” has trapped them forever in non-innocence (or, to use the terms of those who dislike innocence “given them a realistic view of the world”).

This view of innocence as ignorance is deeply embedded in the modern Western view of the world. It accounts for a lot of the cynicism that we see engrained in the entire current western culture.

What is the answer to this?

Well let us begin by asking, what is this “reality” that the West is so proud of.

On the surface it consists of two things.

1. A belief (founded on the “Freudian revolution” of the early 20th century) that “sex” is central to the human psychological condition.

2. A belief that the world is inherently hostile and therefore we have to be constantly on our guard.

However these two already-dubious assertions have become largely excuses for something else. That something else is what the Narnia-professor, C.S. Lewis called the “Saturnian” culture of the 20th century. An attraction to things that are dark and negative.

Let us take just a few things at random. An acquaintance started a beautiful fashion boutique, and named it “The Dubious Armoire”. A blogger presents absolutely beautiful anime-inspired wallpapers and wonderful information on Japanese language, and calls it “The Jaded Network”. A reasonably charming Lolita site contains an implied swear-word in its title.

dark-and-gritty
We’ll turn the world to darkness!
Anime villainy or standard modern culture?

If these were isolated instances, they would not be important. But you, dear reader, know they are not. You know that it is almost compulsory to include a “negative” or “dark” element in anything that aspires to be beautiful or bright. An art network full of lovely things must be called “Deviant Art”. This cynicism, this belief that anything beautiful must also be “warped”, “twisted” etc. is deeply embedded in popular culture.

Now compare this with Japanese names for places where we may find beautiful things. “Angelic Pretty”, “Fairy Wish”.

Now here is the fundamental point: Which of these two sets of attitudes is natural? What does a normal, healthy person want? Does she want happiness or does she prefer sadness? Does she want things to be pure and good, or does she want them to be warped and “deviant”? Does she want Light, or does she want Darkness?

I think once we put it this way, the answer is clear. The pure, open, innocent happy things are what we naturally want. The yearning for darkness and twistedness is not natural to us. It is something we learn, and it is wrong. Really it is as simple as that.

So – it is true that once we learn to like nasty things, our innocence is gone, and to that degree, innocence = ignorance.

BUT, here is the point: Innocence does not equal ignorance of truth. It equals ignorance of certain falsehoods. If the opposite of innocence were the truth then innocence would be lost. In order to keep innocence we would have to deny the truth. So we would either be deceiving others or deceiving ourselves.

But what if the “knowledge” that denies innocence is a lie? What if innocence is natural and true – the simple longing for what is good and light and pure? What if cynicism is just the willful embrace of darkness?

the-trap

In that case, “knowledge” does not destroy innocence. Because we can know the lie as much as we are forced to. But we do not believe it. Only if the lie were true would knowledge destroy innocence.

So are we saying that modern western popular culture is based on a lie? To a large extent, yes, we are. The pursuit of darkness, selfishness, “sex” and coarseness are deeply ingrained in much of the culture. And this is not natural, it is not right and it does not represent any kind of truth.

In seeking innocence, happiness and beauty, we are seeking the things a person naturally wants. The right and true things. And in doing so we find a deeply cynical and unnatural culture opposed to us. That is why we call ourselves musume senshi. Because in order to be innocent and pure one has to have at least a little of the heroic warrior spirit.

When we see magical girls in anime, sometimes we may think it a bit odd that there are always these cackling villains with plans to take over the world and turn it into a dark place – to make the heart-flowers wilt, to drain everyone of her energy etc. It may seem like a rather awkward plot-device. But actually it is rooted deeply in the nature of things. Wherever there is light, darkness will oppose it. If we want to be good and pure, there will be cackling villains telling us that only darkness and coarseness and “twistedness” are real.

We do not have to go out and defeat those villains. But we do have to do something that requires courage and fortitude. We have to defeat them in our hearts.

And if we do that, then we can regain our innocence with absolute authenticity, however much it has been assaulted and battered by the forces of darkness.

Like the Magical Girls in the anime, we can triumph through determination and fortitude, even when defeat seemed certain. We can expose the lie and return to our true, natural, and pure state of innocence.

Ganbatte kudasai!

The enemy looks strong but Purity WILL win!
The enemy looks strong but Purity WILL win!


Continue to our other Keynote Pages

Happy, Innocent and Fighting Evil
Group Self-Policing: How Innocence is Arrested
Magical Girls are for Real!