*From Episode 1a of Re:Zero*
The old saying “what goes around comes around” has been a sort of social karma that society follows because they believe that they will receive a reward for their good deeds. Working overtime so that someone else doesn’t have to, mowing the lawn for your buddy, or even paying your otaku friend’s monthly Crunchyroll bill are examples that we see in our everyday lives. However, this expectation of gaining something in exchange for works is selfishness that will never give a pure sense of fulfillment. Jesus knew this almost 2000 years ago when he came down from heaven, and talked numerous times about living selflessly for others with no expectation of Earthly rewards.
While watching the various shows in the spring 2016 season, one anime in particular stood that stood out to me for embodying this was Re:Zero, and it wasn’t in the midst of it’s time-traveling, complicated plot. In fact, I only had to watch twenty minutes of the first episode to clearly see Jesus’s teachings from a young elf girl named Satella (later known as Emillia). Her kind heart shines brightly through her actions towards the people around her and clearly display the kindness taught from the Bible.
Satella is partnered with her spirit friend Puck to search the local city for an object that was stolen by a young girl. Although it is not explicitly said, this item is assumed to be of upmost importance and sentiment to Satella, and seems to have personal worth to her. Yet when others need her she is completely willing to give up her precious time away to help them, even while her amulet is getting further and further away from her. Time is of the essence to her most because the city that she is searching is ginormous, which gives the thief many opportunities to escape without being seen, and she still chooses kindness.
One prime example of this selflessness is when our knucklehead, otaku protagonist Sabaru Natsuki is mugged by a group of bandits in a dark alley and beaten to a pulp. As the thieves turn around to leave the crime scene they are confronted by Satella who initially believes them to be the thieves who stole her special lost item and discovers that they in fact are not. The bandits saw the thief she was looking for pass nearby a few moments before and point her into the general direction. Satella could have easily left Sabaru on the ground to die while she went after her precious object. However, seeing the stranger in front of her on the ground, she uses her ice magic without thinking to protect him. Then, seeing the poor condition that Sabaru is in, stays by his side for a few hours until he has regained consciousness and heals him of his injuries.
“Stop now and I’ll let it slide. So graciously return what you stole,” Stella calmly stated.
“What we stole?” The thieves asked.
“Yes please it’s important to me. I’ll give up on the other stuff, but I can’t let you have that. Be good and hand it over, please.”
The thieves inquired, “You didn’t come to save this kid?”
“What strange clothes he has… If you asked whether I had any connection to him, I’d have to say no.” She responded back to the group.
“Then you’ve got no business with us! If someone stole from you, it was the brat that just ran by! Yeah that way, she ran that way!”
“Hmm… they don’t seem to be lying… I need to go after her!” Stella thought to herself
Stella exclaimed, “But regardless of that… I can’t overlook what’s going on here!”
This small act of kindness from Re:Zero almost perfectly mirrors the story of the Good Samaritan where Jesus responds to a Pharisee about who our “neighbor” is from the command “love your neighbor as yourself”.
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Looking at both stories, we learn that our “neighbors” are the normal people that we encounter everyday and that a Good Samaritan moment is only as far away as our willingness. This was seen when the passerby people saw Sabaru beaten to a pulp in the side alley, yet still decided to leave him be because they thought he wasn’t worth their time. The priest and Levite, both sharing the same blood to the victim, did likewise and passed the man lying for dead on the side of the street.
More than anything, the Good Samaritan explains that kindness transcends religion and that anyone can be selfless towards another person. Back 2000 years ago the Jews and Samaritans were heavily against each other, and to hear from the parable that a non-religious person would be the hero of the story was radical to the Jewish audience at the time. Satella from Re:Zero proves the same point, that anyone can be selfless towards another person without expecting anything back, and that it doesn’t take a certain god to do it.
From these two stories, it’s obvious that Jesus was bashing on the Pharisees, the puffed-up religious crowd of the time, by explaining that their kindness demonstrates to others their love for God and genuine love for their neighbors. I believe that this message transcends time and applies directly to modern day Christians who have substituted selflessness for Sunday church and doctrine. Maybe Jesus-followers need to set down their church potlucks, church bingo nights, and church Bible classes in order to be the church in our messed up world. I truly believe that Jesus was saying that non-believers like the Samaritan and Satella follow God’s will for kindness better than Christians and that we should shape up!
Sabaru from Re:Zero watches as Satella bolts out of the side alley after she has healed him of his injuries, and remarks at her selflessness towards him. He even entertains that she is wasting her life by living for others, but secretly he is impressed by her kindness. I think that Christians should be able to hold the same kind of status and watch Satella closely for how we live our lives by kindness and selflessness.