Tag Archives: Magical Girl

Doki Doki Precure: Selfishness and Harmony

Selfish Crab: Doki Doki Precure Episode 1
Selfish Crab attacks order & harmony

In DokiDoki Precure the primary enemy is selfishness, embodied in a monster called King Jikochu (King Selfish) and its humanoid minions, the Selfish.

Each Precure series has a different enemy based on a different “theme”. Superficially these can be seen as so many arbitrary and colorful story elements, but if we look at them a little more closely we can see that there are in fact important connections between them.

In Suite Precure, the enemy is “Noise”. The fundamental conflict is between harmony and discord. The harmony (and the discord) are expressed musically, but we should note that 和 wa or harmony is a fundamental concept in Japanese life and in traditional metaphysics in general (it is an interesting side-note that the most literal battle between harmony and discord in serious music is one of the very few that have gone to the side of the angels in recent West Tellurian history). Wa is both social harmony and the “music of the spheres” — the harmony of all being.

That selfishness is also an opposite to this kind of harmony is clear enough. Self-centered behavior (literally 自己中 jikochuu 自己 jiko, self, 中 chuu, center) is anathema in Japan precisely because it destroys 和 wa. As it says in the Feminine Scriptures:

When each spoke assays to be the center, the wheel cannot turn.

In Heartcatch Precure the enemies are the Desert Apostles whose aim is to cause the withering of the great Heart Tree by exploiting the weaknesses of people’s individual Heart Flowers. Each individual Heart Flower (everyone has one) is connected to the great Heart Tree, and the health of the Heart Flowers and the Heart Tree are interdependent.

Heartcatch Precure: Great Heart Tree
The Great Heart Tree is linked to every individual heart

Perhaps we begin to see a pattern here! The connection of the individual with the Whole; the importance of wa or harmony; the enemies who seek to disrupt that harmony in the service of discord, selfishness, or a “bad end”.

In Smile Precure the theme is fairy tales, which, as most of us know, carry fundamental truths at their heart. The Happy Ending is precisely the defeat of discord and the restoration of divine Harmony. The enemies seek 最悪の結末 saiaku no ketsumatsu — “the worst possible ending” for the world. They mock friendship, trust, and amity as things they “don’t need” and continually preach against them.

Precure stories are always philosophical debates in this sense. A friend observed that a Magical Girl can rarely attack successfully without first stating the fundamental rightness of her cause. Very often in Precure battles the girls are at first defeated and the rallying point (while often depicted as a pretty new power) is actually heralded by a speech in which the wrongness of the villains’ cynical perspective and the rightness of amity and universal harmony is eloquently expounded.

Often these speeches will center around everyday things — the happiness of a Japanese omatsuri (festival); the reading of fairy tales to small children; food prepared with love and dedication. To some viewers these things may seem trivial or “childish”. In fact they are the everyday ways in which we express and reinforce wa or harmony.

That the villains sneer at these things while the heroines eloquently praise and defend them is a vital expression of the moral and metaphysical conflict that is taking place. That the villains’ point of view is often remarkably close to the cynicism popular in the current West is something most Japanese people are quite unaware of. They tend to believe that the West is a lot healthier than it actually is.

Someone recently said that English has no word for wa because the culture has no wa. While the metaphysical equivalence of social and cosmic harmony to music is profound, it does show a lack in the language that there is only a musical analogy to represent the concept. A member of the Daughters of Shining Harmony once told me that it would have been impossible simply to use “Daughters of Harmony” because it would sound like a vocal quartet, and there really is no word in English to express wa/harmony.

Major Land - Suite Precure
The Land of Harmony from Suite Precure

However that may be, the villains of the Precure series are fundamentally representatives of  fuwa (anti-wa — or in terms of feminine spirituality, athamë) which is essentially discord: the chaos that precedes cosmos in Greek thought, the opposite of the Music of the Spheres, and the principle of disharmony between people, which manifests as the harmony-destroying selfishness. When each spoke assays to be the center, the wheel cannot turn.

The Precures, by contrast, are the forces of wa. Their role is always to restore harmony and to reinstate the True Heart. As Cure Heart herself says in each episode [of course substituting whatever form the Selfish currently takes for “crab”]:

愛をなくした悲しいカニさんこのキュアハートがあなたのドキドキ取りもどしてみせる!

Ai wo nakushita kanashii kani-san kono kyua haato  ga anata no dokidoki torimodoshite miseru!

“Love-bereft, unhappy crab-san, I, Cure Heart will certainly restore your heartbeat.”

“Heartbeat” here is hard to translate. It is dokidoki , which can mean excitement or happiness but also refers to the heartbeat, and as I think must be clear by now, it refers equally to both these things at once — to the restoration of the True Heart as opposed to the isolated, fuwa, selfish heart. The heart has lost love by becoming selfish. Its self-seeking can only lead to unhappiness because it has left the dance of the Universal Music.

The job of the Precure is to restore the true heartbeat, that is at once harmony, happiness, and abundant life, to both the individual and the cosmos.
_____

See also:
The Philosophy of Doki Doki Precure: Overview
Precures, Sailors and Admirals: the Art of Transformation
Magical Girls are for Real

“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!