Naruto: 5 months of frustration-pt 1.

Well…it’s time. Whoo-oo.

I finished all of Naruto and Shippuden in about 5 months, skipping a lot of  later filler because my siblings and I got tired of wasting our time on stuff that had no plot relevance.

I started off kind of liking it, I thought Naruto was cute, I thought Sasuke was okay, I did not like Sakura, but I wasn’t alone in that, at least 90% of the fandom doesn’t either.

About halfway through the OG show I stopped liking Sasuke completely, and about halfway through Shippuden, I stopped liking Naruto also. I began to like Sakura briefly, but before the Ninja War started I stopped liking her again.

However, I do have favorite characters, The Three Sand Siblings, Shikamaru, and the surprisingly great Sai (seriously never expected to like him as much as I did.) I also like Hinata, naturally. I’m going to devote a separate post to them so I can get into more depth.

Anyway, so I do have some positive feelings for the show, but overall it was the most frustrating thing I’ve ever seen.

I don’t need to go over the bad framing, horrible timing, and repetitive character types, because that’s not saying anything a million other people haven’t already said. Plus, those are aesthetic, cosmetic complaints that would not really matter if the quality was still good. Phineas and Ferb proved that repetitive humor and character types can be used in a genius manner, bad framing is annoying but not a death sentence. (Framing, in this context, means the plot points that set up a big confrontation or development. And the ones that follow it to create a cohesive story line. Avatar’s framing is famously well done to be just the right amount of filler and non filler so you don’t feel bored or exhausted.)

What killed this show for me were two, maybe three, consistent issues.

My Little Pony has shown that you can build an entire series out of one main message, split into many different facets and themes, like Friendship, and it can still be fun and profound.

So when I say the show Naruto has one or two basic messages, I do not mean that makes it bad inherently, I have no problem with repeating the same message over and over if you’re doing it well. I grew up on shows like that.

My problem is the messages themselves.

The three main messages are:

  1. Don’t ever give up on a friend who’s lost their way.
  2.  Choose love over hate.
  3. The world is a dark place but by sharing our pain, we can make it better.

Since the friend, Sasuke, is the biggest problem with this series, I’ll start with him.

Like many fans, by the time Shippuden was over I really hated Sasuke. I had been told he was going to go to the dark side, but starting a 500 episode series, I figured there was no way they could drag out his redemption arc till the last 30 episodes…or the end, depending on how you look at it. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Even so, I don’t think that was what made it bad.

Sasuke starts out as an okay character. He’s introduced as your typical dark, edgy, emo, anime boy. Everyone’s favorite. Literally, on the show, everyone likes him. It’s a bit of a mystery why since he’s antisocial and openly rude to most of them,and we never see him do anything kind or noble around the other ninjas. He finally does something cool at the end of season 1 by saving Naruto, and becomes more likable. For about two seasons after that he’s a good character, he and Naruto have a rivalry that makes some amount of sense. Sakura is annoying, but Sasuke doesn’t treat her terribly and she’s not totally bad all the time. So far, it’s okay, and Naruto is adorable.

About this time we start to get to know our side characters, and Shikamaru grabs our attention. Gaara is introduced, and it’s pretty compelling.

Then, Orchimaru shows up, bites Sasuke (ew) giving him a curse mark that gets activated when he loses emotional control, and says Sasuke will come seek him for power. Permanently traumatizing Sakura, who has flashbacks to this into the following show.

After that, over time envy and hate and resentment take over Sasuke’s soul, and he finally leaves to do exactly as Orchimaru said. He spends the rest of the show going from bad, creepy scientist to bad, creepy cult, to being his own band of bad, creepy people, all the while rejecting every attempt of Naruto, Sakura, and their teacher Kakashi to get him back. Ultimately, he holds the entire world a hostage to get his way, and Naruto fights him, finally winning but at a high price. Then Sasuke leaves again to go on his hero’s journey of atoning for his sins.

(If you think this is poetic coming after my Jellal post, then yes, I’m aware.)

Sounds okay if you only outline it, but the execution was horrible.

I sat through arc after arc of this show knitting my stress scarf waiting for Sasuke to start sucking less…it never happened.

The problem of Sasuke’s character in one word is: Stagnation.

After his brief period of being Naruto’s friend, and not a good friend, by the way, just one who didn’t totally hate him, he goes back to being the way he was before, and after that he stays that way the whole time. He NEVER CHANGES…EVER.

Like stagnant water, Sasuke gets more nasty and sour and gross over time. No matter how often he’s proven to be doing the wrong thing, he never gets it. He goes from one bad decision to another. When he eventually begins to care about “truth” he finds it out and still concludes he should do the same dumb crap that got the ninjas into this position.

Sasuke initially wants to kill his brother Itachi, who’s presented as basically the worst person imaginable, and then retconned into being a tragic hero because, for the sake of the village, he agreed to murder his family and entire clan, including children of all ages, old people, and people not involved in the politics of it…he was so noble, doing all that to protect Leaf Village, just, wow…

I repeat, Itachi committed mass genocide on his own people because Leaf told him to, and didn’t warn any of them to get out, and killed children under the age of 12, and he was portrayed as a tragic hero of the Leaf…

Sasuke finds out that Itachi was forced into it…not that anyone actually told Itachi if he didn’t do it they’d kill his family or anything, they just said he could spare his brother…for some reason…so, you know, they were generous.

But yeah, totally forced. No other options existed. So, Sasuke decides to learn from the past and not stop at one clan, but wipe out the entire village, including the innocent children, and the new Hokage who was not part of the assassination plans and wasn’t even in the village when it happened. You know, cause clearly the problem here was that Leaf was the one that survived, not that genocide is wrong or anything

What’s really hilarious is when he explains this idiotic plan to Naruto, Naruto doesn’t tell him it makes no sense, instead he tells him he can’t just destroy their bond, and that he’ll have to go through him to get to the village. Sasuke for some reason agrees to this plan and says he’ll kill Naruto first, Naruto being, in his own words, “his closest friend.”

If this hasn’t gotten insane enough for you yet, it gets better.

Later on Sasuke finds out from a reanimated dead guy that the Uchilha clan has always had issues with being unstable and turning on their friends, and abandoning their people in order to seek out dark power, in fact, one such person is the one currently trying to destroy the world as they know it.

Sasuke decides to do what Itachi did and protect Leaf Village…by holding the entire world hostage until he can kill off the current five kages, (three of whom are so new they had nothing to do with the massacre, and have been trying to implement more merciful practices into their villages,) and take over as Hokage. You know…totally unlike the previous rulers who messed things up to this point.

I mean, clearly, holding the whole world hostage till you get what you want is better than what that skunk Madera did by putting the whole world asleep into his jutsu dream prison. Huge difference there.

It’s really a thing of awe that Sasuke is so oblivious to his own hypocrisy…until you realize that’s because the show itself is.

You see, after a certain point, I realized I couldn’t blame the character. Some characters are written to be bad, others are just badly written.

Kishimoto, the writer of Naruto, seems to be the one with the Sasuke infatuation. Somehow, no matter how many bad choices Sasuke made, everyone kept defending him. The plot itself defended him by not having him get himself into serious trouble at any point where he should have.

When Sasuke is confronted by his friends, they never take the tack that what he is doing is horrifying and inhuman, instead they try to convince him that he needs friendship and love.

And he does…but he really needs to be hit over the head with a big stick first.

Even a lawyer who believed that “we are the product of our environment” couldn’t defend Sasuke’s actions because they make no sense. He was admired for no reason, worshiped simply for having good genetics, and at the end of the day he does not rebel out of disgust for that, but because he is too stupid to learn from the past.

However, Sasuke’s one good trait is simply that he hates BS. His open disgust with his friends and village is understandable because they don’t treat him realistically. He knows he’s a villain, and he gets sick of them acting like he’s a lost puppy. Naruto literally laughs it off when Sasuke tries to murder the girl who Naruto’s had a crush on for years, twice. And then threatens his entire village. You know, just Sasuke’s usual antics. What are we gonna do with that boy?

I have a trash can he’d fit in…

I honestly found the show’s attitude disturbing toward Sasuke, it never bothered to prove him wrong, or have him learn that relying on dark power is unwise. On top of that the show then turned the guy who cursed him into comic relief. This guy experimented on people, made them fight to the death, and abused children…and he never repents of all that, he just says his curiosity is now directed elsewhere…and he’s not even imprisoned…

The attitude towards villains on this show was disgusting. No matter how terrible they were, if Naruto fought them and won them over they were hailed as tragic heroes. After all they were just trying to do what they thought was best…even if that was putting the whole world into an eternal trance.

Now, the argument can be made that all anime does this. But there’s a difference in how they do it. Fairy Tail redeems nearly all its villains, but the villain are confronted with the wrong way they view the world, and they admit that love was better. It’s not always well done, but there’s a clear statement of what was wrong with their way, usually.

Naruto never provides that. Naruto himself is often unable to answer the villains.

What killed it for me was the Pain arc. This is the 2nd message: Choose Love over hate.

At the end of this arc, Pain is changed when Naruto gives him a speech that is based neither on facts, nor logic, nor virtue, but on a very vague idea of hope that he might find a better way than Pain’s to fix the Ninja world. This was not the first time Naruto gave a bad answer, but since he was up against someone with a very developed, though terrible, ideology, it struck me as 100% ridiculous that Pain would be moved by such a clumsy argument.

It wasn’t even an argument, just blind, baseless hope.

Naruto can say nothing about the value of love, about the folly of letting pain control you, and of the blindness of choosing to filter the world through only the lens of the horrible things in it.

Instead he uses a book that is fictional, as the basis for his defense of not destroying the real world. Not cleverly, but vaguely. Because Pervy Sage believed in it.

Though Jiraiya was a failure who couldn’t even define what he wanted and walked out on his students multiple times, though the show tried to retcon him into being a good mentor… it didn’t work.

Supposedly, Naruto is walking the path of love, but yet he is unable to defend it by anything more than he believes in it just because.

Yet, Pain listens to this stupid speech and decides to undo all the death he caused…for Leaf, not for anyone else… and leaves the future in Naruto’s hands. Yay…

3. Sharing our pain.

The show is sadistic toward it’s audience.

The show likes to introduce characters who are more lighthearted than the others, get us to like them, and then kill them off in front of us.  Most notably with the jinchuriki they introduced later in Shippuden. We know they’re gonna die, but they still are so likable that it stings when they do. And in senseless ways. No honor.

The show also liked to take any happier moment the characters had and just murder it with something going horribly wrong.

If that wasn’t enough, everyone in this world who isn’t a main character, or a side character of some importance, is a horrible person. All the kids are bullies, all the adults treat anyone who’s different like an outcast. And to expect a common sense approach to problems is like asking someone to jump over the moon…actually that’s more likely, because in one of the movies they go to the moon.

Ninjas can’t seem to not pick the worst possible way to deal with a problem. Either using a forbidden jutsu that is extremely destructive, or ordering murder.

Apparently it’s a cruel, cruel, cruel, cruel world, but it’s also mad.

The reason this kills the show is because of the first two points, that of how Sasuke is handled, and how Weak Sauce Naruto’s defense of his Ninja Way is.

For some more context, back in season one of the OG show, Naruto’s way of ninja was formed when Kakashi told them about Zazuba murdering his fellow ninjas as part of an exam. Naruto was quite properly horrified at this, because at that point the show hadn’t started treating mass murder as negligible in the list of crimes a human being could commit…(again, I am not kidding here.) Naruto resolves he will never be cruel enough to kill his comrades just because its what’s done, and he’ll change the Ninja system.

Which is great. I liked it. Sasuke and Sakura even seem on board with this way of thinking.

But Naruto later changes his Ninja way into meaning he will never go back on his word, even if it was a promise that doesn’t rely just on him in order to be kept, like bringing Sasuke back.

The focus shifts from Naruto seeing the world differently to his obsession with Sasuke, and his guilt over failing to convince him. But Sasuke rejected Naruto because he was his friend, not because he was weak or not good. It had nothing to do with Naruto’s approach.

Instead of being realistic about this, Naruto resolves to try harder next time, but not to change his outlook. However, it’s not necessarily bad writing because Naruto grew up with no examples of love until he was 12, and then it was still never taught to him directly what a healthy relationship was. It’s reasonable that he would not get why this is such a bad thing.

However, at no point is anyone able to explain to him why it’s destructive, no one seems to know what to say to Naruto.

Later, when my boy Sai criticizes the oh, so precious Sasuke, (not a lot, he simply states what Sasuke literally did by abandoning Leaf,) he gets punched. Later, Sai is the only one who bothers to step in and stop Naruto allowing himself to be abused for Sasuke’s sake. And to confront Sakura to make her stop using Naruto herself. Good for Sai!

His reward? Nothing, no acknowledgement whatsoever from them. Instead he gets flipped off by them and the plot and treated like an outsider.

All this comes together when the show’s big moment of preaching that we should share pain is used as a way to win Sasuke back. At that point, my sisters and I started laughing because why the heck would Sasuke listen to Naruto? Naruto knows nothing about sharing pain.

Naruto tries to take all the pain on himself, no matter if it even involves him or not. He tries to be the savior of the world. Instead of demonstrating this very destructive mindset to be faulty, the show gives Naruto god-like powers to be able to fulfill his fantasy. And they thought Madera was insane.

Naruto continues to go on about Sasuke and him being like brothers, and the bond, and all that nonsense, even after Sasuke has divorced himself in every way from morality and a bond with them. He’s completely delusional. Which some people point out. But they don’t stick by that opinion because somehow through pure optimism, not results, Naruto wins them over.

The message of sharing pain is further undermined by the fact that the show rarely bothers to show characters interacting as friends, and never shows them talk about what they’ve gone through, or heal from it. (There’s one exception to this in Shikamaru, I’ll cover that in part 2). The show also devotes pretty much zero time to building up the friendships it does have. They don’t get to be happy, and the romances get almost no attention, and it’s usually pretty clumsy when they do.

So, with no human interaction to back up the claim, we are expected to believe that Naruto understands anything about love and the way it softens pain. Great.

Sasuke would have been justified in laughing in his face. But instead it works because the show was ending and it had to. Not because anyone still cared…well, some people did, but not me.

Anyway, I could go on for a book’s worth of words about why I hate these messages being delivered in such a bad way, but I’ll conclude with this:

The real sin here is that the show lies to its audience, and to its own characters. In real life, Sasuke and Naruto’s relationship would be entirely abusive, but it is abusive on both sides, became Naruto never grants Sasuke the freedom to make his own decisions. He wants to ignore Sasuke’s free will and make him come back and be his friend. Sasuke doesn’t get a choice. Because the choice would mean he had to suffer consequences for it. And we can’t have that.  Either Sasuke was destined to be at odds with Naruto because of the 6 paths, or he was destined to be his friend because Naruto said so, but either way he had no choice.

And with that, I end part one, if you made it this far, thank you and sit tight for the next part which will cover the good things in the show– Natasha

Death= Redemption.

I got the idea from this from a comment conversation I had under my last post. I have been thinking about writing it for a while, so let’s talk tropes.

Although this trope is not exclusive to anime, as I’m sure all of us have seen it in movies and shows, anime uses it a lot.

Correction: anime pretends its going to use it a lot.

All us weaboos know the annoyance of animes that pretend they’ll kill everyone all the time, and then never kill anyone…except that one person you were kind of rooting for to make it. (sniff, Pyrrha.)

Then there’s Death Note where everyone dies.. (I don’t watch it.)

Well, I don’t care if nobody dies, I just hate being lied to and faked out so many times.

Naruto is almost sadistic about killing characters, it will inform you a character died a whole two or three seasons in advance, and then bring in the character later for a side arc, or flashbacks, and show them being cute and lovable and ready to actually be happy…and then they show your them dying, alone…(I’m still salty about The Bubble Guy Utaeka, I think.)

But, sometimes villains die, and they might stay dead, and then you have the redemption arc.

Anime accomplishes the arc part usually with flashbacks, while American media tends to either show you the villains in the beginning of the film and hint at a possible redemption, or maybe drop small hints throughout the movie or show, and then they have the death be a surprise.

Anime rarely makes it a surprise, by the  time they’ve actually died you’ve been watching for like, three episodes, or seen half a dozen flashbacks dragging it out.

Anyway, before I get into the meaning of it, I wanted to point out that not every redemption death is for a villain. Sometimes it’s a good character who left the fight, screwed up royally, or never committed to actually helping until that point. They aren’t a villain, sometimes they are a chaotic neutral, if you will, but they choose to sacrifice themselves and end up a hero.

The most infamous example of this in America may be Darth Vader from Star Wars, everyone loves that redemption moment of self sacrifice.

Often in kids media, its common that the character not actually die. In The Little Mermaid, Arial’s father sacrifices himself without dying exactly, (but I always found it much more horrifying to be turned into a worm-thing than just straight-up dying.) Or they will appear to die, but end up being okay.

Anyway, the kinds of characters you’ll see get a redemption death are usually villains who were shown to have a human side, maybe a person they still loved, even more likely if the person is the hero, take Thor and Loki’s back and forth relationship in the Avenger movies; another common one is bad parents who couldn’t seem to get it up until then, but show they love their kids by dying for them (Darth Vader); also the mentors or sage characters who failed to stop the villain make a sacrifice to give the heroes more time to figure it out. That’s even in The Lego Movie.

MHA has used this trope in a slightly different way, equating losing your powers with dying, for a hero, in a way. Thereby adding a weight to their fights that actually has a longer lasting impact on the show itself, not just the characters, because it means they can no longer use that character as a fail safe.

So why is this so  common?

The simple answer is that it’s easier to use death to create sympathy for the character and often it just doesn’t seem practical for a villain to survive, they would just go to prison or die anyway, why not let it be a blaze of glory instead?

But mechanics aside, I think there’s a deeper reason this is used so often.

The thing about tropes is, people mock them, but the reason they are so common is because they reflect meanings about real life that people feel to be true. Romantic tropes mirror what happens in real life, Chosen One tropes mirror the feeling of purpose we all want to have, and fallen Hero tropes mirror the knowledge we have of our own human weakness.

The Death=Redemption Trope is no different, it mirrors a feeling human beings have that death is somehow the only thing that can make up for our sins.

The Bible says “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” For thousands of years that meant animal blood, so that people could be pardoned. After Jesus came and died, His blood was enough to cover all men throughout time.

Fiction has felt this truth, whether the authors admit it or not, and that is why villains die so often to redeem themselves. somehow death seems to be the only way to blot out the memory of their evil.

Anime is interesting here, because as I pointed out in my last post, it has many bad guys who end up living. And without fail, those bad guys feel they must atone for their sins.

See, when the death part does not happen, the good guys are faced with the much more complicated problem of still remembering what the bad guys did and having that reminder in front of them. Even if the bad guys are sorry, the good guys may have a hard time seeing past that, sometimes they do not want to. Like Katara with Zuko on Avatar.

If the villain is dead, you can’t punish them anymore anyway. Only rarely will a character obsess over not getting to kill the villain.

Plus, dying for someone is just so hardcore noble, that it can challenge the heroes to think maybe the villain was never as evil as they thought. a lot of shows choose to later reveal that the villain did some good things along the way, often that they even help the heroes by leaving clues as to how to solve future problems.

Naruto did this with Itachi Uchiha…I hated it…

Now that I’ve discussed why this is so common, the better question is, does it work?

IS it good to send this message?

The answer is yes and no.

While death=redemption can be a beautiful way to symbolically show how we need to die to our sin, and how “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (-Jesus) there is one problem I see with it.

The whole point of fiction is to be symbolic. Sometimes when shows try to break down too much if death really equal redemption, then you have to start being more realistic.

The discussion then becomes “Should you have to kill yourself in order to be redeemed? Isn’t there a better way than that?”

Fairy Tail did this over and over again, and nearly always concluded on the side of life. But one time, at the end, they had Irene, the mother of Erza, kill herself because she did not trust herself and wanted to prevent herself from falling to the temptation to use Erza or her friends again.

When this happens it’s similar to Jesus telling us that if our right eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. If you really jsut cannot control yourself, then it’s better to lose an eye.

The bible is not saying self mutilation is a good idea. It’s saying that if we view sin that seriously, then we will put that kind of effort into getting free of it.

But we do not have to die fro our sins.

In the real world, this questions is also prevalent in our legal system. Should we just imprison people? Or should we kill them? Can’t anyone be redeemed? The real thought behind the more merciful system in America is that men can turn their lives around. But some men don’t, so we still need the Death Sentence.

Of course, Christians know that men on the verge of death for their sins have been saved, the thief on the cross is the most famous example. It happens nowadays too, in prisons and hospitals alike. But they still die.

The Bible does not seem overly concerned with whether men die in the body or not, as long as they are alive spiritually. That is, it is pro-life, but holds biological life as second in importance, if you follow God. And if you die immediately after accepting Christ, you are not the loser by any means.

Basically, with God, no one has to die for their sins, but some people still will because men cannot know for certain when there’s a change of heart, but that death is just of the body and not seen as a punishment to the christian anymore.

That said, you could say Death=Redemption really hangs on how well the villain understood why they were changing. You have to feel that, had they lived, they would have kept changing, not that they died out of some unhealthy, spur-of-the -moment, self hatred.

Dying for love is the preferred reason. And the one that reflects the most what Jesus did for us.

Though nonchristians may deny that, I don’t know anyone who hates this trope. It seems to be written into our psyches to see meaning in self-sacrifice. I know a YouTube reviewer who will give a movie a win every time there is a self-sacrifice in it.

Death is a tricky subject in fiction where death can be undone. Or prevented in ways we in the real world can only dream of.

Did they have to die? Does their death truly atone for their sins?

Death is all that can atone for sins, but yet, if they keep on living, can they live free?

Most often the answer is, they have to learn to love, to be a good person, to change.

Christianity ties these two things together by having a way to die before you die, to die to your sinful self, and to live in Christ.

As crazy as that sounds, the proof is in the pudding, more people become good because of Christianity than any other reason I know of. Throughout history, the bad kids, the rebels, the slaveholders, the cruel, the arrogant, have made 180 degree turns because of Christianity. Whole countries have changed over it. They still are.

In closing, there was one time Naruto did something with this idea that I thought was profound. When Gaara, a former murder/demon possessed person tried to learn about love, he later got kidnapped and killed in order to steal his power. He lost the demon (thank goodness)but also his life. But then a woman who had stuck him with the demon to begin with gave her life in order to resurrect him, with a little help from Naruto himself. Gaara is essentially given a new life, someone else’s life, and able to live free from then on. No longer needing to worry about losing control.

Easily one of the best examples I’ve seen, up there with Frozen.

Until next time–Natasha.

 

 

 

Anime Bondage: Fairy Tail

It’s been awhile…hey. 😁

Well, I think anime fans, sorry, weaboos, might laugh at me for using Fairy Tail as an example in this series.

I’ll admit Fairy Tail is on the lighter-hearted side, this is more about an anime trope that fairy tail introduced me to, but I’ve since realized is common.

It’s really pretty sad how common it is, and unquestioned.

For lack of a better term, I dub this trope the “I am too much of a sinner to be happy.”

In Fairy Tail, the character who fell under this trope was Jellal, who also happened to be criminally underused, and the other half of one of the better ships.

Saltiness aside, I was a bit surprised.

As someone who’s grown up on American media, and English Fairytales, I expect happy endings, pure and noble characters, and positive messages.

While anime features characters so relentlessly good they’d almost meet George MacDonald’s standard of the “common good uncommonly developed” it is a lot darker as a rule than our stories. Happy endings are hard come by and can feel rushed and incomplete compared to the rest of the story.

I started to like anime because it showed very real problems and made love and goodness the answer to them.

But I started to get frustrated the more I realized anime is incomplete also.

Here’s the skinny on Jellal if you don’t know:

Jellal is a villain in season 1, but he’s being controlled by another character. he began as a very brave, kind, and noble boy of around 8, and in a moment of weakness to hatred, was possessed by dark magic from a different villain looking for a victim.

Jellal goes on to try to kill all his old friends, and resurrect the Black wizard Zeref, causing a lot of pain and suffering along the way.

Later he survives being blown up (like you do on anime) and loses his memory. he meets his love interested again and tries to prevent a catastrophe. Then gets arrested and imprisoned. About 6 years later (time skip) he gets out and forms a group of former villains turned good guys to try to atone for their sins.

At this point he meets up with his love interest, Erza, again, and turns down her offer of a relationship and forgiveness. Telling  his new friends that for someone like him, love is out of the question. Love and happiness.

He then spends most of the show running from just that, and treating his own life as negligible. At the end he is told he should try to live to make Erza happy. We’re given a hint that he intends to do this, but it’s not shown.

Now, I’m happy it worked out in the end…but the pattern went on for a long time. It’s gone on longer on other animes. Including freaking Naruto (almost done with that finally.)

The reason I would call this attitude of self-inflicted punishment bondage is because it does not even work, even if it were acceptable.

No one ever changed themselves by punishing themselves.

I’m more concerned with how unchallenged the idea goes on anime then that it appears in the first place.

It’s even on my favorite MHA when Iida chooses to leave his hand injured until he can deserve healing.

It’s a very real struggle people have. My dad is one of them. In the past I’ve wondered about it myself, if I need to punish myself for things.

I remember it was humorously explored in one of the Anne of Green Gables books, the 7th one, Rainbow Valley. Where four children elect to bring themselves up by implementing rather creative punishments whenever they do something wrong. It does not work.

Interestingly, the Bible has strong words to say about people harming themselves, and treats the idea of self punishment as rather abhorrent.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body.”

Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.”

In 1 Kings it says of the prophets of  Baal “And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.”

This worship practice is not something you’ll find God telling His people to do.

Now, we are sometimes told to repent in physical ways, dust, ashes, sackcloth, fasting, but there is no health damage in any of this.

The same applies to emotional damage. Making ourselves miserable is discouraged by the Bible.

In speaking of guilt, Paul says “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Cor 7:10).

After repenting initially, we are supposed to receive God’s forgiveness, and give up thinking about our sins.

We no longer need to be haunted by regrets.

The reason for this is that God takes even our mistakes and uses them, once we’ve repented, to bring us into more freedom. We have to take sin seriously in order to want to be free of it, true repentance is not wallowing in guilt, but acknowledging how serious sin is, then trusting that God can deliver you from it.

There are many christians haunted by regrets, but that is not biblical. Some churches have taught it because they misinterpreted the teaching of the bible…or ignored it.

In my experience, actually, it’s not the chruches fault. A christian chooses to live in regrets.

I have had, since becoming a christian, been mostly free of regrets. Early on I embraced the idea that I do not need to beat myself up anymore about my past.

Probably because I watched my dad live that way for years, and saw how little good it did, and then had to deal with him imposing that on me because we treat others how we treat ourselves.

I let my past go, I only wished he’d do the same. I still do.

And so, when it comes to the self-punishment thing, I just can’t get on board.

From a logical standpoint, nothing is really accomplished by choosing to keep yourself either injured, or emotionally empty.

One might say ” I do not deserve love.” But welcome to the human race. None of us do.

Love is not about what you deserve, it’s about what you need to be a full person.

Jellal never has much success atoning for his sins while he is doing it out of guilt, the few times he does it out of love are when it ends up working out. Contrast it to Erza, who learns earlier to start forgiving herself and living out of love, and has success after success against impossible odds because love’s power fuels her.

The bondage of guilt is one any honest human being has to face, but we do not have to stay in it. God’s forgiveness sets us free if we just ask it.

And human forgiveness is good too. Honestly, more people need to learn to accept each other’s forgiveness and quit worrying about it.

Perhaps I leaned more on the christian side for this, but I can’t separate my idea of forgiveness from my faith.

Christianity is a very free religion in that way. The only one I know of that says guilt can be completely gone, that you can no longer require punishment, and can live free and happy no matter what your past is.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Anime Bondage: Naruto, (final part)

Hello readers, I’m back with the final part of my Naruto Bondage (though not the last part of this series, I’ll be moving on to other animes after this.)

You all seem to like this series so far, thanks for the support.

This time I want to talk about MC himself.

Again, I have not finished the show yet. So I won’t discuss how I feel about it. I’m using these characters for examples, not reviews, I just don’t want any fans to think I’m criticizing or praising the show itself for anything except a portrayal of the issues.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

I was gong to just talk about Naruto’s fox spirit problem, but with Shippuden, I’ve come to realize in technicolor that his issues are two-sided.

In Naruto, the OG show, the Fox Spirit inside Naruto was treated like an eccentric old bachelor living alone in his weird mansion, Naruto could sass it and it complied, briefly, it almost seemed like it might get fond of him.

While it was less freaky than Gaara’s problem, I did think it was problematic to portray having a demon inside you as a chill thing. I love MHA, but Tokoyami’s quirk really can’t be taken too seriously without very disturbing implications.

I have been greatly satisfied to find it was treated as an actual problem in the follow-up show, and very accurately.

Naruto begins to struggle with the Fox spirit tempting him to use it more, it’s getting stronger every time. Hurting his body now, where it didn’t used to, and now controlling him, whereas he used to retain his own mind when he used it.

The fox goes form being mildly annoyed when Naruto uses it, to tempting him too. It seems like a bit of a shift, but it’s reasonable to think the Fox realized it would have more freedom if Naruto began to lose himself to it, and so began to actually wish him to rely on him.

I want to note that this show portrays beautifully a very overlooked truth: You are what you rely on.

The Bible says “Do not be deceived: God is not to be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  (Galatians 6:7-8)

If you sow to the flesh, you are entrusting yourself to it, and you reap destruction. If you sow to God, you reap life.

The fox spirit tempts Naruto based on his flesh, his weakness is feeling he is never enough. He fails to save the people he most wants to save.

Yamato (I do not remember his real name) tells Naruto that he needs to save Sasuke with his own power. That he can do this and does not need the Fox.

Naruto, horrified at how he’s hurt people he loves by using the Fox, agrees, and from thereon begins to resist the Foxes’ efforts to take over. He does not always succeed without help, but he begins digging himself out of the hole.

It was shown with Gaara that he also did this, he began to choose not to tap into the power.

The show interestingly made the statement that free will is involved with the corruption of the Jinchuri (the people with demons in them.)

Naruto also is shown to be in contrast to Sasuke here, in that Sasuke was also cursed, but chose to rely on that curse and corrupt.

In real life, with demonic activity, the question of free will is tricky. Demon possession is horrifying mostly because it undermines a person’s free will.

Usually, at one point, the person opened a doorway, as we call it, and allowed it to come in. In that moment they sacrificed their free will. hey had a choice, you can choose to lose free will like you can lose a driver’s license, by making poor driving choices.

However, like I said in my Gaara post, someone can have a curse put on them by someone else, and it not be their fault that they suffer from the problem.

The Bible says a curse without a cause falls void (Proverbs 26:2). And as a popular christian children’s book, Punchinello, put it “The stickers only stick if you let them.”

It is sadly true that human beings could not be cursed if we had no sin. Sin breeds death and allows curses to have power over us. Most people activate curses by sinning. If we were all pure, it wouldn’t matter.

Gaara, Naruto, and Sasuke all deal with this in their own ways. Gaara was never given a fair chance to control himself, but he chose to make it worse by playing along. When he chooses to stop, his curse becomes weaker, and eventually, he gets freed from it entirely and gets a new life. (Literally, it was awesome.)

Naruto has a harder path because it does not seem likely he will lose his curse any time soon. He’s trying to manage it the way people mange mental illness…with about as much success. Good days, bad days, trying to live his life despite having that hang over his head.

But unfortunately, he has other issues the curse only makes harder.

Naruto’s emotional scarring about Sasuke becomes more and more of a problem with each time he fails to get Sasuke back. He blames himself each time for not being powerful enough.

To the point where he pushes himself beyond healthy limits in order to get stronger. He is obsessed and driven, to where he will not rest, and finally ends up hurting his own body in the process.

The absolute insanity of it is that his friends and teachers allow this, they even encourage it, shrugging off the consequences because “Naruto can handle it, he’s got stamina.”

At no point so far has he been told it’s a bad idea to desultory himself on Sasuke’s account.

I do not know if he is later, but I find that it has gone on so long already to be disgusting to my sense of wisdom.

The same thing happened with Sasuke. Kakashi waited until Sasuke was already ready to kill Naruto to tell him revenge might not be the best plan ever… long after Sasuke was past the point where that might have helped.

And it’s horrible for Naruto himself.

Naruto lives in guilt and shame over never being enough. It actually ties into his complex still left over from being an outcast. Nothing he ever did was good enough for Leaf Village to accept him. He was isolated just for being cursed.

Now he brings that into how he views Sasuke. He projects his own feelings onto Sasuke, and thinks it’s not right if he can be free but not free his friend.

It’s noble to want to help your friend, but if you are willing to destroy your own life over it…you have a problem.

Naruto however, is hardly an unrealistic example here. There are many people who sacrifice themselves for others in a way they shouldn’t. In my own family, it was what contributed to years of an abusive cycle.

That may be why I feel so strongly about Naruto’s case. I have lived to please and help someone who would neither be pleased nor helped, and I have damaged myself a lot in the process. I’ve seen my family damaged themselves even more than me.

Thank God we are beginning to heal, but it took so long.

I blamed myself too for not being better at loving, I had to realize that if someone will not receive love, it doesn’t matter how good you are at it. God himself cannot help someone till they receive it from Him (directly, of course He is always helping us in other ways.)

So, I know all about Naruto’s problem. And I know it’s common.

I will put this kind of bondage down to two things, neglect and abuse.

Naruto was abused by having a demon sealed in him. You could liken it to how all of us are programmed with bad behavior by our parents, at least if we have parents with issues.

Naruto was then neglected for most of his life, ad still is because people thing he is stronger than he really is. His strength is often brittle, and superficial. While his true strength is not nurtured by the people around him.

This combination would give anyone unworthiness issues. Naruto simply puts himself on the back burner.

I do the exact same thing. I shelve my needs in favor of my family’s.

I am so glad that I have God, because I do still take my needs to Him, even when I don’t to others. And if you take your needs to God, you will still get healed, even if God and people combined is faster.

But people alone is an imperfect solution, and for Naruto it’s not even a viable one most of the time. There’s a couple people in his life who would help hi,m, but he pays the least attention to them.

It’s not his fault, for it all comes of what he is used to. You tend to go with what  feels normal to you. If being treated meanly or neglected is normal, you’ll hang around people who treat you that way.

I know I have. To me, that was just how people treat me.

If you are blessed enough to meet someone who treats you better, and you like theme enough to let yourself get sued to it, you are one of the lucky  ones.

Often it has to be a choice to start seeking out better relationships.

What I would say in Naruto’s case, is that the best thing for him is to finally admit he is valuable enough for what’s been done to him to be worth getting angry over. He needs to cry about it. For himself, not for his friends.

He needs to start saying he deserved better.

And he needs someone to come alongside him and help him to stand by that.

For me, that’s God. I don’t think anyone else is as good, but even human beings can bring immense healing to each other.

The last thing, is that, Naruto (and us by extension) needs to let go. He can’t save everyone. He does not need to save everyone. We human beings are not the savior of the world. That position is filled already.

It is in God’s hands whether people are saved or not. And it also is on each individual themselves.

And it is not his fault. It is not your fault if someone in your life refuses help. Whether it’s your sibling, your child, your parent, your friends, your spouse, they have to want it.

You cannot make them want it. You cannot do that for them.

That’s a good thing.

And once you accept that you are merely human, you can begin to heal.

That is all for this post, until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

 

Anime Bondage: Naruto–3

Okay…time to tackle Sasuke…

I know if you’re done with Shippuden, you probably like Sasuke again. I’ve not started Shippuden yet, so bear with me, this will not be a very positive look at his character.

(I know he gets redeemed people, but it’s one freaking messed up origin story just the same. Oh, also, sorry if you didn’t already know that…but trust me, you’ll want to know it ahead of time if you’re going to endure hundreds of episodes of frustration.)

I’m not going to go into the myriad of things about Sasuke that I do not like, a lot of it is likely going to be changed anyway. I can’t speak for the future, so I’ll just sound stupid if I try to.

But the subject is bondage, so I want to talk about two things. A:  How did Sasuke get into bondage? and B: What did it do to him? Or, what is it? If you will.

I know that thousands of fans have no doubt assessed why and how Sasuke fell from grace, probably to the point where other fans hate the mention of it. I am not going to hyper-analyze everything, no worries. (frankly, it’s not worth the energy.)

I’m just going to highlight a few things:

Sasuke starts off as your typical emo anime boy, less likable than Todoroki (MHA fans) or Gray (Fairy Tail Fans) or whatever nicer version you happen to like (Naofumi from Shield Hero anyone?). But he wasn’t awful. I liked him up till season 3 or so.

He starts to get he typical emo arc of learning to care about friendship, and balance out their darker tenancies with strong loyalty to a select few people. Very common in anime.

Then, also common, he gets stuck with an evil power he didn’t really want, at first. But the allure of it slowly begins to corrupt him.

What is interesting, and horrible, about Sasuke’s fall is that not all of it is his own fault.

Both of the main villain of the series screw with his mind directly. One gives him a cruse mark that feeds of hate and fear and anger and corrodes the person who has it every time they use it.

The other traumatizes the crap out of him twice. In a way no human being should be put through.

Sasuke’s mind snaps, understandably, and though he is healed from the mental strain, the effects on his soul play out in a way that was very painful for everyone involved.

I really don’t like the punk, but I am going to be fair to him. It would be impossible to survive that unscathed, even uncorrupted, without a lot of help that he does not have available to him.

You see, in dealing with trauma of my own, I’ve found only God can really take the poison out of it. In Naruto, God is not often acknowledged. And no one would know that He can heal.

It may surprise the non-christian, or the legalistically raised christian to learn that the bible describes God as the Comforter, Near to the Broken Hearted, Binding up their wounds. The Healer, The Protector, and of course, our savior.

In the bible, it might surprise you to know, easily half of what the people who cry out to God in the major books want to be saved from is emotional turmoil.

Sure, it’s awful to have people trying to kill you., but the sting of despair, of being neglected and alone, is far worse. That is what the prophets, David, and people like Hannah, Hagar, and Abraham and Jacob, are always asking God to help them with.

I know I spend more prayer time begging God for help with my pain than with my real-world problems…if those two things are really different.

I pity Sauske, for being on an anime, and not having access to such help.

You may laugh at me for thinking about it that seriously (trust me, I’m light for a weeabo) but what I can’t laugh off is that Sasuke’s story is something that happens to many, many people. Only, he has the rare blessing of friends who do not give up on him and who risk everything to try to get him back.

Sasuke’s story is not painful because it is rare, it is painful because it is common. Though most people have not had their family massacred (in the West, that is,) they have had their home lives destroyed. There’s a little of Sasuke’s past in my story, probably in yours too. Who had not felt alone? Abandoned? Neglected?

If you haven’t, man, you’re so lucky.

A theme on Naruto is that a child who’s left alone will get twisted by their grief.

I don’t really like that the show always goes to extremes with it, as it gets kind of hard to believe after awhile, but I agree that loneliness causes you to develop weird habits.

I dealt with loneliness a lot as a kid. And, I still do. I still cry about it.

The truth is, we just rarely love each other the way we should and the way we would like to be loved.

Maybe we don’t care, maybe we don’t know how, maybe we just can’t.

Sasuke fell because he had the same problem as everyone, but not the solution. The solution all of us can have, if we search for it. Our pain will drown us if we do not seek a life line, and God is the only life line that never breaks on us.

Now, briefly, what did Sasuke lose? What did bondage do to him?

It’s important to know this, because until you know what you lost, you will not know what to ask for.

Sasuke is warned that he will lose himself if he uses the corrupted power. He is not able to resits the temptation because he has no strength of soul, and never did. But, unlike the usual fare on shows, the curse does not take away your ability to think, or reason, or fight….so what does it do?

The answer seems to be that it takes away your heart.

Not to overthink it, but I noticed that the more Sasuke used it, the less compassion or guilt he had.

This also is real life, people. You may suffer mentally form your baggage, but even if you escape that, your heart is going to be damaged.

It’s not your fault. The only time its our fault is when we could have healed, and we chose not to…like Sasuke.

(I could do a whole part two on the other problems with Sasuke’s choices, but I am trying to focus on how he got into bondage, not on what he did once he was in it, and that’s two different things. I’m trying to prevent it getting that far.)

Well, that’s all temporary anyway. But there are those who never recover once they refuse to heal. I’ve known them, you probably do too.

So, if you take away nothing else, my plea for this post is that you will seek to heal, and not to stay damaged.

The answer is very simple. God is near to the broken heated. With people who are in bondage simply from trauma, going through healing, prayer, and inviting God to bear that burden with them is the answer. How it will look for you specifically will depend, I can’t speak to that. There’s a lot of good resources about it, I recommend checking on John and Stasi Eldredge’s writing and teachings.

Until next time–Natasha.

Anime Bondage: Naruto (pt 2)

Well, no one read the first part of this yet, but far be it form me to let that deter me from writing what I want.

Heck, I’ll read it if no one else will.

So…

Sasuke is the worst. But I think he’s of a different kind of bondage than the other three I mentioned, so I’m reserving him for a separate post.

I’m still talking about how to deal with bondage you didn’t really choose, and with that, we have two characters left. (Probably not the only two on the show, but I like these ones, so let’s do this.)

Neji Hyuga:

Neji’s story is somewhat like Gaara’s. As a kid he was born into the Branch part of the Hyuga clan, he was branded with their special curse mark so that he would always have to protect Hinata, the daughter from the Head of the Clan, who was Neji’s father’s twin brother.

They’re cousins, if you’re confused.

Neji’s a pretty big jerk when he’s introduced, and goes on about destiny more than Pyhrra Nikos, and with a pretty twisted view of it. He thinks it cannot be changed, that we are stuck in certain roles, because the curse mark prevents the bearer from rebelling against the head family.

Neji’s a gifted Ninja, but feels he will never get to pursue that as he would choose, but as has been chosen for him. and resents that his father died to save his uncle.

It’s a messed up story, like most of the character’s are, and it wouldn’t be anime if people didn’t have daddy issues and tragedy in their past.

But Neji’s is resolved rather quickly, and he begins to become a better person, after embracing the path of forgiveness, and deciding to try his hardest to live his own life.

As far as spiritual matters go, that’s an excellent way to begin.

Neji’s story is a prime example of something called Generational Sin. Another anime, Fruits Basket, is pretty much devoted to that subject. And I know I mentioned it before in another post.

Generational Sin is a sin that passes from person to person in a family. The parents teach their children, who teach their children, who teach their children. Often the sin is started by one bad seed, and becomes a pattern over the course of just two or three generations.

Feuds start because of this.

And if it’s strong enough, the Sin can become a curse.

A curse doesn’t have to be bad luck, or even being forced to be evil, in fact, curses are far more often being given a tenancy to a certain self destructive behavior.

If you hear something enough times, and don’t actively resist it, you start to believe it.

Kids who grow up being told their stupid, and won’t ever succeed begin to live in a way that guarantees they won’t. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I think, really, almost all prophecies are self-fulfilling, what we speak effects what will happen.

Neji’s Curse Mark works as a visual representation of hos Family Curses operate. They are all about control, you can’t do a certain thing, you can’ be a certain things, you have to act a certain way.

And this has nothing to do with what class you’re in, all that’s superficial. I’m talking about things like holding onto a grudge, criticizing people constantly, addictions, anger issues, deceitfulness.

People used to get branded by what family they were. IF you read any book from the 18th or 19th century, chances are you’ll see references to someone from a family who’s known for dishonesty, or sluttishness, or pride. It’s all over L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, for instance.

And if you try to break out of your family pattern, as C. S. Lewis points out in The Four Loves, the family will bring down all their force on you to get you to conform.

This has occasionally worked in someone’s favor. Pressure to be good is not always a bad thing, if the person retains their individuality even so.

Neji’s cousin Hinata is, despite her position, a kind person who doesn’t seem to blame Neji at all for his resentment of her. Though she eventually learns to stand up for herself.

Within families, there are usually a few individual who break the cycle. For whatever reason, they don’t fall prey to the temptations the other members do. Much might depend on how well they understand why those temptations work.

In the example I’m using, though so far it hasn’t been explained, one could infer that Hinata simply noticed how the Curse Mark and the system in place was cruel, and bred resentment. She noticed that hatred and mistrust were at the center of it, and she decided not to be full of those things. She’s far from fully understanding, but she’s not cruel.

Neji himself realizes that part of the Curse’s effectiveness is making you live by it, by hating people so much that you have to be forced to help. His own father realized that if he chose to protect his brother, then the Curse wasn’t making him do it by force, and so, in way, he was free.

In Spiritual terms, Family Curses are hard to break without self awareness. But once you realize the patterns in place, it can be simple. It’s not easy.

In my own life, I have a father who carried on the curse of resentment and fault finding with me that he learned form his own parents. Despite hating that they did it, and recognizing it was bad, he has not yet shaken it off himself, or come to really understand why it was so destructive, and so he put it on me. We do what we are taught.

But, I’ve chosen a different path. It’s no good to just vow never to be like your parents. You have to dig deep into your own soul, you have to learn why your parents fell to these sins, why you yourself are tempted.

It’s no good denying it, we like to think we’d never be like our parents, but we inherit their weaknesses.

The good news is, those weaknesses can become our strengths and our children’s strengths if they are exposes and turned around.

I have had tenancies to tear people down and take a negative approach to things, much like my father, and to wallow in self-pity instead of responsibility.

It’s been hard to break that, because if he got away with it, why can’t I?

But, I don’t want to be that person.

I’ve had to dig up the roots of why I do this, for myself, and not just blaming my dad for every bad habit. After all, it’s not his fault I’m tempted to bet he same way, that’s my own nature, wanting to take the easy way out.

And, the Curse, unfair as it seems, is the easy way out. Change is hard, and it’s often discouraged by your family.

When Christians address Family curses, we break them off, but we also focus on healing from the pain. Because the pain has to be healed if you’re going to start moving forward. Forgiveness is a big step to healing the pain.

Forgiveness isn’t just about letting your family off the hook, that’s not what it does, forgiveness is not hanging on to their actions, because that keeps you tied to them.

I forgive my dad, because he’s my dad, and because I will not let him dictate my life anymore by blaming him for everything. I don’t ignore what he did, but I don’t cherish it either.

Neji does, thankfully, realize this. For him, breaking the Curse would be a simple matter, since he’s already let go of it.

I’ll get more into what happens if you don’t let go when I tackle Sasuke, and a character from a different show also, but for now, thanks for reading–Natasha.