After a few months off I’m happy to get back into OWLS and what better month and topic than December where we look at miracles.
Spoiler warning for Code Geass.
Tis the season where miracles happen. For December’s theme, we will be exploring faith in anime and pop culture. We will discuss some of the miracles that enter a character’s life during their darkest moments. Some of their questions we will explore is how does a “miracle” change a person’s life? How do we define miracles? Can miracles only happen due to a legend or a mystical being? Or do miracles happen every day, but we just don’t see it?
Miracles are awesome when they happen. While media such as movies and TV series tend to exaggerate the response to miraculous events for dramatic events, we live in a world where each and every day we encounter small miracles. Whether it is a chance meeting with someone, the coin that dropped and made you stop rather than step out onto the street, the smile someone gave you when you were feeling down; all of these small miracles carry us day in and day out.
However, what we need to take away from stories is that we can’t rely on the miracle happening just because we need it and that even if we get a miracle that isn’t the end of the story. And while I was very tempted to look at Miracle Max’s pill in the Princess Bride – and if you’ve never seen that movie, please go watch it – I decided to stick with anime for this month because I think anime really does capture the spirit that miracles do come in and change people’s lives. Sometimes in a wonderful and welcome manner and sometimes in a way the character can’t appreciate until later. But, these characters can’t just stop just because a miracle has occurred.
Starting with Setsuna F Seiei from Gundam 00, his survival as a child in a war torn country was a miracle. That wasn’t the only factor given how hard he worked to stay alive, but ultimately his efforts wouldn’t have been enough. The reason he survived was because at just the right moment a Gundam appeared.
For Setsuna, this defines his life after this point. He has an obsession with not just being a Gundam pilot but being a Gundam. His actual commitment to the cause is questionable, his interactions with his team are fairly disruptive, but he believes entirely in the power of the machine that saved his life as a child.
The problem with this approach is that Setsuna takes a long time to look beyond the Gundam to the people and the cause. These are lesser concerns to him because his whole life has really just been in a holding pattern ever since the day his life was saved. He didn’t think about who sent the Gundam, who piloted it originally, why it chose to intervene in that war at that time. Setsuna simply took the miracle that he was saved and it became to core of his life.
For Setsuna, he never really considered what his life was all about outside of being saved by the Gundam and as a result while he lived quite a bit longer and accomplished quite a lot, he never found what he was really searching for because he just missed so much. The miracle happened when he needed it, but that still didn’t give him the life he could have had. Because the miracle was the starting point and instead of finding out where he could go from there, Setsuna’s life stagnated around that single point until it was pretty much too late to change the course his life was set on. Though, it was good that he met Marina when he did.
Setsuna isn’t the only mecha character experiencing a miracle though (actually considering mecha anime are built around technology it is amazing how often miracles feature where machines suddenly go beyond specs and the like). For Setsuna, he welcomed the miracle into his life, however if we turn our attention to Suzaku from Code Geass we can see sometimes ‘miracles’ aren’t exactly welcome even if they are exactly what we need.
Suzaku is a pretty complex character in Code Geass and unfortunately a pretty tragic one. Having killed his father and joined the British army in an attempt to end the war he is pretty much just living in hopes of dying. This doesn’t change as he begins the fight against the mysterious Zero. Yet, despite being Lelouch’s enemy, Lelouch uses his one command on Suzaku to force him to live.
It was a spur of the moment and probably not well thought out command but it has incredible implications on the rest of the story and Suzaku. No matter how close to death he comes, eventually the geass kicks in and he performs some fairly impressive manoeuvres to survive what seem like impossible situations.
But none of this makes Suzaku happy. He’s a character more or less bent on self-destruction and is denied it through his former friend’s command.
But… The important take-away is that because Suzaku lived despite his best efforts, he eventually found a cause to fight for and to believe in, a role to play, and while I won’t say he absolutely found happiness at the end of so much tragedy, he definitely found purpose. While for Suzaku the geass to live may have been seen as a curse initially, it was exactly the miracle he needed.
This holiday season, it would be nice if we all took a step back and remembered not just to see the miracles, but to think about what we will do after them. Will we use the miracle to grow to new heights or will we wait for another miracle to come and save us again? Will we question why the miracle occurred at all or will we simply assume it was meant to be? And most importantly, will we reach out to someone else when they need a hand and become the miracle they need this season?
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