So I traveled to Japan this summer and I was really excited because for the first time I would attend to a fireworks festival. I mean I had already been to Tokyo’s gigantic fireworks, and it was amazing, but it was not a real festival like in anime with booths and masks and goldfish scooping… Though by all extent Tokyo’s fireworks were as real as it gets, right?
It got me thinking about the dichotomy that we brushed upon while talking about identity: one the one hand you have the real of ideals, qualified by Plato’s metaphor of the cave, and on the other hand you have the real of actuals, whose imperfections contribute to their beauty and realness. For if the Tokyo’s fireworks was undeniably actual, it was definitely not ideal, and what I was doing was actively seeking to get closer to that ideal.
And though I talked about the inter-relations of these concept through language while focusing on dating simulations, this situation brought to mind another major anime I’m going to use to push this discussion further.
In my pursuit of the true matsuri, which has to have goldfish scooping, come on… I realized I was acting like Haruhi Suzumiya. Like Keima Katsuragi, she is very sensitive to the world of ideals and concepts and how things should be.
« Remote islands are all about strange incidents, right? »
Are you sure you captured all the elements essential for summer?
This imperfect and mundane reality torments her. Haunted by the insignificance of her existence, she throws herself in the pursuit of ideals, with an unwavering motivation and an iron will like no others.
Every school story has to have a maid character!
Through her will, she actually realizes the potential ideals she cares about. She founds the SOS brigade, turns Mikuru into a maid, organizes various events how they should be…
But the anime goes one step further and plays around the notion of Haruhi being God and, through her will, tweaking and shifting the actual reality to the point of destroying it when it cannot fit her ideals. Haruhi is a force of actualization of potentials who brings the ideal into the actual.
This is exactly the kind of food for thoughts that you can find behind the writings of neoplatonicians like Augustine of Hippo. To them, Christianity was important and innovative because of the character of Jesus Christ who was a bridge between the ideal/godly and the mundane. Jesus was supposedly the incarnation of God on earth, thereby proving that it was possible for absolute ideals to be actualized. Furthermore, this divine power could be achieved by any one human sufficiently righteous and yearning for elevation. Jesus was a model proving that godhood was attainable in this world and actualization possible. As such, Haruhi may be closer to Christ than to God (which doesn’t really matter because Christ is God /o/).
On top of that, the christian mythos was centered around the Word of God, aka the Logos/Reason, accessible inside anyone (that’s what the whole communion bit is about tbh), highlighting once again the importance of language in the tension towards the Absolute and reminiscing of Haruhi’s will. God/Haruhi wills things into existence through the power of the Word (verbe generateur)
« In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. » (John 1:1)
From which the most famous example would be « let there be light » (or as Haruhi would put it, « let there be maids« ). Haruhi shapes her reality through dialogues and orders and meta-works of narrative fiction.
God is the holy trinity of Ideal-Verb-Actualization and their union. So too Haruhi transcends and transforms her mundane actual reality by bringing in the potential ideal, and I kinda did too by going to this festival.
Haruhi is a perfect example of tension towards the superior, which would bring her close to Nietzsche’s ubermensch (which we already mentioned and will come back to). She will not settle for what is, but instead strives to realize what ought to be. She reconciles the dichotomic aspects of reality, and helps us build the bridge between religion, spirituality, philosophy and anime. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that, although perfect example of this incarnation, Haruhi is still a fictional character, and thus an ideal, and it’s up to us to bring out our inner Haruhi to realize enlightenment.