Saturday, September 28, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 9/27/13 The Ramblings God Only Knows Edition

Today’s ramblings concern two shows with “God” in their titles, and as such will have more God-related content than normal. They will also contain major spoilers for the ends of those series involved, so this will be the first Ramblings post to have spoiler protection. After the jump, there will be one large picture for each of these two shows, first one for Sunday Without God and then one for The World God Only Knows later on. If you only want the spoilers for the latter show, scroll down to the end of the post and then back up to the picture.
Warning: Major spoilers for Sunday Without God and The World God Only Knows after the jump!
Spoilers for Sunday Without God start after the pic.

Yeah, this post was just an excuse to use this adorable picture. Art by 藤夏.

 The last episode of Sunday Without God was good, albeit perhaps rather confusing. If Alice was the guy that was dead all along, why was Dee a ghost? Why couldn’t Scar tell that Alice was dead? How did Ai bring Alice back to life? And why on earth do Julie and Alice have girls’ names, anyways?
Some answers from the light novels themselves may help with the first three questions. I found this post from the AnimeSuki forums, which explains a fair amount that the anime left unexplained, so go there if you're interested.

As for the last question, I have no idea. On the other hand, this means that in this season, there are two characters of different genders named Alice and two characters of different genders called Ai...
The “concept” behind Sunday Without God is that God (clearly not the Christian God, as it has its own, vastly different creation story, even though it shares the “seven days” aspect) abandoned the world at some point, which has left the souls of the dead unable to move on until they have been properly “buried” by a Gravekeeper. However, even this concept is challenged by one character early on, who posits that rather than God abandoning the world, God simply decided to grant people’s wish of not dying, and later providing Gravekeepers when they started wishing that they could die properly. This view seems to be supported by the various instances where characters are granted wishes, whether or not they like the result.
This concept of God, as a somewhat apathetic but perhaps well-meaning deity that grants what people want and lets them deal with the consequences, is an interesting one. It’s still not the Christian God by any means, but there are some similarities. There are people who believe that God has abandoned our world, citing the prevalence of war, poverty, and other various injustices as things God would not allow if He actually cared about us. In a way, the reality is that God is letting us have what we want: ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve, humanity has desired to rebel against God, and because God wants us to love Him out of our own will rather than His forcing us to, He allowed us to live how we wanted, with all the consequences of rebellion against God that came with it.
That said, God is not an apathetic deity sitting on the sidelines while humanity rebelled against Him. He set in motion a plan that would ultimately allow those who desired to love and follow Him to be able to do so without the problem of their sin getting in the way, and He is also actively working in various ways to win over the hearts of those rebelling against Him. Speaking of a “god” actively working to win hearts, though…
End spoilers for Sunday Without God.
Spoilers for The World God Only Knows start after the pic.

The girl where it all began. Art by


The concept for The World God Only Knows is that Keima, the “Capturing God”, named such because he could “capture” any girl in any Dating Sim, uses that knowledge to win the hearts of real life girls. In the first two seasons, it’s because they have “loose souls” or Weiss inside them, which if left alone could cause problems for the world, but which can be forced out if the host falls in love. In the Goddesses season, it’s because they have goddesses inside them that need to be awakened through The Power of Love in order to save the world from the threat of Vintage. One way or another, the circumstances of this world have forced Keima to orchestrate things so that girls fall in love with him.
Complicating matters for the final goddess host, Ayumi, is that she’s actually been told that Keima is just trying to seduce her and doesn’t have actual feelings for her, although at the same time, she is also told that he has his reasons for doing so. Even Keima himself confirms that he has no feelings for her. And yet, as angry as all of this makes Ayumi, she nevertheless states that she is still in love with him, and that moreover, she chose herself to fall in love with him, therefore she all but forces Keima to complete her conquest.
We don’t oftentimes think of falling in love as a personal choice. We tend to think more like Elvis Presley, in that we can’t help but fall in love with whoever we fall in love with. And yet, while we cannot always control to which people our bodies physically get attracted to, we do most certainly choose what to do with that attraction. We can choose to ignore it, or dwell on it and let that attraction grow into infatuation, and from there we can choose to let it go and grieve over it, or continue to dwell on it until we have completely fallen in love with the person. (In addition, we can, to an extent, change who we are attracted to; that’s outside the scope of this particular rambling, though.)
I find the whole “can’t help falling in love” mentality problematic; it is so often used as justification for an affair or a divorce (“I can’t help it; I just fell in love with someone else), or as justification for being in a poisonous relationship, all while playing the victim for anyone that dares to rebuke them. That is why I rather like Ayumi’s (and Chihiro’s) approach towards love that takes more personal responsibility towards their feelings of love. She may know that nothing good can come out of holding such feelings, but that is her problem and she will deal with it.
That said, on one hand, we have Ayumi taking personal responsibility for her falling in love with Keima. On the other hand, Keima has all this time been orchestrating things to make sure that Ayumi falls in love with him. This must be this show’s own rendition of the “free will vs. divine ordination” paradox.

On the one hand, God has made the decision to love and follow Him a decision of personal responsibility. On the other hand, God actively works in people’s hearts to soften them and lead them back to Him, in a way somewhat similar to a dating sim player setting up all the right flags to make the girl fall in love with him. So just how is falling in love with God is a choice made of our own will while also part of God’s sovereign plan? That is not an easy question to answer, but perhaps by looking at Ayumi, we can understand some of this paradox better.
Of course, God is rather different from Keima, especially in how God loves us far more than we love Him back. Keima, on the other hand, has kept his own feelings for the girls neutral. Or at least, that’s what he has tried to do. And yet, one of the things I love most about this season of The World God Only Knows is that Keima grows to care for his capture targets as real people, understanding their pain when he must ultimately keep them at arm’s length for their safety (and also perhaps starting to develop feelings for one of them himself). He starts having regrets over some of the things he says and overall becomes more empathetic towards them—quite a change from the detached dating sim player he used to be. Somehow, through these real-life interactions with real girls, the “Capturing God” becomes truly more God-like.

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