This past week, we have spent a lot of time focusing on Key, particularly Rewrite. Hopefully you had the chance to check out Kaze’s four part summation and commentary on the visual novel. His approach took each and every section of the story and broke it down into individual parallels into Christian living, but I would like to take a slightly different approach. Assuming a basic knowledge of Rewrite is already known (which is what makes a commentary like Kaze’s ever so important), I would like to provide to you my own thoughts and thesis on what I consider to be one of the most outstanding and philosophically/theologically charged narratives in visual novel medium.
Here at Beneath the Tangles, we strive to extract biblical connections and principles from media that clearly did not intend them. The value of this can be debated, surely, but operating under the assumption that most media has redeemable qualities regardless of source and that all mankind comes from the same origin regardless of individual will (whether that is God or completely naturalistic sources, or perhaps even something else altogether), there are many themes to be appreciated that might go missed otherwise.
If you haven’t been able to tell already, Rewrite is a prime example of a piece of fiction that exhibits many of these principles and themes. Kaze has pointed out parallel after parallel to clear Christian ideas, yet what is so striking to me about Rewrite and its relevance to my faith is not this series of connections (though they are, of course, of significant value!), but the bigger picture. The saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and Picasso has been credited with saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” These two quotes in conjunction form the basis for what I consider to be some of the best narratives in existence: those that are not afraid to use and adapt established brilliance to create even more brilliance.
In order to illustrate this more clearly, let me give you my 4-point summary of Rewrite’s meta-narrative.
- Main Routes: A series of elaborate failures in an attempt to create a better world… or prevent a worse one.
- Moon: A symbolic culmination of what those failures were trying to accomplish.
- Terra: The symbolic taking literal form in order to enact the final saving plan.
- Post-Terra: Humanity now is given the chance to surpass their doomed existence.
Well… this is awkward… I think I’ve seen this somewhere before…
- Old Testament: A series of elaborate failures (by humanity) in an attempt to create a better world (i.e. God’s originally-planned world).
- The Transition to the New Testament: A symbolic culmination of what those failures were trying to accomplish.
- The Gospels: The symbolic taking form in the Son of God in order to enact the final saving plan.
- The New Testament as a Whole: Humanity now is given the change to surpass their doomed existence.
I’ve always been a proponent of brilliant meta-narratives, even in the face of something that looks rather silly at the most basic level. This is the reason why I so love the love-ably cheesy Metal Gear franchise, or Hideo Kojima’s secret masterpiece (secret in that what makes it so great is almost completely unknown by its fans!). Something that utilizes a story that is never really fully explained (yet actually is!) using symbols that can be interpreted multiple ways (yet imply a solid truth!) reflects that which makes classic and ancient literature so compelling… the Bible included! I’ve heard it stated on several occasions that people who read Rewrite find the main routes entertaining but Moon and Terra pretentious and unnecessarily confusing. I cannot disagree with this sentiment more. To me, Moon and Terra without the main routes are much like the Old Testament without the New: An unfulfilled hope for redemption.
As a quick note, I have created a section at the bottom that notes some of the key differences between the Rewrite narrative and the biblical narrative. Since both contain fundamental differences on varying levels, acknowledging these is necessary.
Let’s take a brief look at this four-point breakdown and what makes it so compelling, shall we?
1. Main Routes & The Old Testament
Kaze already touched on the significance of the main routes in the context of the Moon route, in that they are all facets of Moon Kagari’s ever-expanding saving plan for humanity and the earth. While all of them result in failures, at best only delaying the decay of humanity and its earth and at worst ending 99%+ of the human race, they all exhibit an honest attempt to create a better world. Due to nothing more than the failure of a sinful humanity, the world ends in ultimate destruction. However, this is not the end, and Moon Kagari shows this to be the case in that when a “branch” burns out she immediately investigates a new one.
The Old Testament is, similarly, a story of human failings in their attempts to enact to saving plan that God finally and fully brings out in the New Testament. From the story of Noah, to Exodus, to Israel, to the Prophets, and everything in-between, not a single human being was without flaw. In fact, even those that executed God’s plans relatively well had their own share of problems (e.g. Noah’s drunkenness and the issues that came from that, the murder by and lack of faith exhibited in Moses, David’s adultery, etc.). From the establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant, in which God promised to bless all the world through Abraham’s descendants (Israel) to the establishment of the Law in the time of Moses, the world awaited someone who could perfectly fulfill God’s obligations and bring about restoration. However, that was impossible, and it took the entirety of the Old Testament for humanity to realize this.
However, despite all of these failures, each story brought Israel a step closer to fulfilling the covenant that bound them so. Much like my post on the cycle of the book of Judges, each failure enacts a cycle not like a circle, but like a turning wheel or a spiral: the cycle of failure begins anew but that much closer to ultimate success. Each route ends in what visual novel readers would recognize as perhaps a short term “good end” or “true end,” but closer analysis reveals that they are nothing but “bad ends” as the end of the world continues to draw closer even in the best circumstances. However, that is not the final word, as the coming of Jesus in the New Testament attests in the biblical narrative.
2. Moon & The The Transition to the New Testament
Moon is easily the most confusing route of Rewrite, and for good reason: Moon brings about a complete paradigm shift from the entire narrative at that point. Up until Moon, the reader in his decisions is attempting to guide Kotarou to an end that will bring about ultimate salvation (whether willingly or not), but continually fails. Even if he succeeds at bringing about a stereotypical happy, romantic ending, the world is still doomed. Moon breaks out of this cycle, instead pulling the reader outside of his galge comfort zone and into the abstract, confusing world of the Moon outside of time.
First and foremost, this is most comparable to apocalyptic literature. While not relegated to only the Bible, the book or Revelation utilizes similarly confusing, yet necessary, measures to communicate the incommunicable through abstraction. Revelation 1:11-16 is a perfect example of John recording what he “saw” in ways that are understandable, but obviously not literal. Similar imagery is used in Kotarou’s attempt to rewrite himself into divinity, using colors and shapes to describe what he saw at that point.
Moon Kagari is tirelessly searching for the “true end” that will save all of humanity. Kotarou’s intimate connection with Earth Kagari seems to imply that he also exists on the Moon with her. Since all of this occurs out of time, it could also be said that Moon Kagari’s search was concluded the moment it began, along with Kotarou’s connection with her. What is amazing in this connection is that Kotarou, Moon Kagari, and Earth Kagari all exhibit such close ties so as to exist congruously in a way that defies conventional time and space. Additionally, as Kaze noted, after the epic confrontation, it is Kotarou’s “human” connection that ultimately brings about the saving plan of Terra.
Regardless of your beliefs on the exact nature of the events that occurred in the Old Testament (whether they happened as described, were hyperbolized, or did not happen at all), the narrative carries an enormous, complex story filled with numerous literally-described events, actions, and places… all with great significance. While there are too many to count, the establishment of the tabernacle (and the temple, later) is one of the foremost of these. Exodus 36-39 detail rather specific instructions on the construction of this “dwelling place” for God among His people (the Hebrews) using particular materials arranged in a particular way. On the other hand, while the New Testament still has its fair share of literal miracles (mostly in the four Gospels), much of the literally described narrative of the Old Testament has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ as the perfectly human element (Jesus stated in Matthew 5:17 that he was not abolishing the Law of the Old Testament, but fulfilling it). In this same fashion, I Corinthians 6:19 states that the temple is the collective body of believers. Isn’t this at odds with God’s establishment of the real, physical tabernacle and temple in the years before Christ? Absolutely not! The original intent of the these structures was finally being carried out, even if the outward form had changed! It is through this mode of thinking that the Moon route makes much more sense. The main routes describe the rather unbelievable, but literal events of Rewrite, while Moon represents the symbolic culmination of all of these events leading to the ultimate goal of Terra.
Take a step back and look at this overarching narrative.
Outside of time, Moon Kagari has been investigating, forming, and enacting a plan to save humanity and the earth. Since this was outside of time, Kotarou has also been eternally and intimately connected with this development (hmm… John 1:1, 14 anyone?). This brings us to point three.
3. Terra & The Gospels
In chapter 14 of N.T. Wright’s Simply Jesus, he notes that the ancient Jews did not share the modern view of Heaven that we now hold due partly to the influence of Greek philosophers like Plato. This distinction is, namely, that the Jews viewed Heaven and earth as two halves of one whole Creation, meant to eventually become one whole, whereas Platonists view that Heaven is something entirely separate and never truly attainable by our own definition of matter. It is because of this that the Jews believed the temple to literally be an overlap of Heaven and earth. “Moon” makes it clear that it is separate from time… but is it separate from matter? That is never entirely explored nor explained, though it seems as though it contains physical matter while operating by entirely different laws from earth. This is not to say that Heaven is a physical place that we could travel to, but that Heaven was simply created as an integral part of the whole of creation, not some lofty kingdom never to be even grasped. Revelation explains that God’s ultimate saving plan is not to whisk believers off to some foreign paradise where they are blessed to play harps and eat fruit for eternity, but that the original creation is to be brought together and made anew and the Resurrection brought about.
In the biblical narrative, the first step of this is sending the Messiah, Jesus, as the perfect representative of what Israel was supposed to be, being fully God and fully man. In Rewrite, Moon Kagari sends her power back to Earth Kagari in order to enact the final saving plan via Kotarou.
You already know how this ends… in both stories! Both Jesus and Kotarou/Earth Kagari are forced into death by the very population they are trying to save. Again, there are important distinctions to be made here, which I briefly note at the bottom of the article, but this instance of sacrificial, messianic redemption is one that inspires awe (or, at least, it does so for me). The fact that the sacrifice is made due to the sinful nature of man, making it a necessity, and resulting in some form of resurrection (explained below), is striking.
This is not where the story ends, though! In the Gospels, Jesus is recorded to have risen from death to life three days later, establishing complete defeat of death as an end. Not only are humans no longer cut off from God due to sin now, since Jesus took it upon himself, but Jesus has begun the process of Resurrection slated to end in the final marriage of Heaven and Earth in the New Creation.
This area establishes the resurrection as the most significant point with no Rewrite correlation (noted at the bottom). Kotarou is resurrected in a matter of speaking, and retains his independence despite being brought back as a familiar. However, this does not model the solution for those who were saved due to Moon Kagari’s final saving plan. This, however, does not detract much from the conclusion of point four.
4. Post-Terra & The New Testament as a Whole
Rewrite originally comes across as a piece of environmentalist literature, much like many of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films. Of course, I have no issues with this train of thought. Christians have an obligation as stewards of the Earth, and also those awaiting the bringing together of Creation, to tend to its needs thoughtfully and carefully. However, it is clear that environmentalism is not the final lesson that Rewrite has to teach its readers. The meta-narrative of Rewrite communicates so much more than that.
Rewrite contends that the Earth is doomed, and humanity as well. The Bible would contend this as well, particularly in conjunction with the modern science that supports the fact that we, as a species, are exploiting our planet. But there is hope in the face of this doom.
To simplify matters, many have inferred that the ultimate solution that Rewrite proposes is space travel and colonization. Spreading the species prevents the cancerous effects of our exploitive population, hereby allowing both the Earth and the species to survive indefinitely. This is not to say that humans should not take care of the Earth, though. The environmentalist themes still stand. Humans are to take care of the environment, but this is not to elongate their ability to survive in it, but to be responsible. Space colonization coupled with this new sense of responsibility allows humans not just to figure out how to best exist on their planet, but to surpass it.
In the Bible, as I mentioned before, God’s end-goal is not to whisk us off to a fantasy land forever. He created the Heavens and the Earth, but more than simply creating them, He called them very good (Genesis 1:31). We are called to respect what it is we have been given because it is part of the ultimate saving plan. We are not to escape the Earth, just as Rewrite’s space travel is not to expend and escape it either. We are to surpass it as God brings it all together and makes it anew in a world without the sin that plagues our existence now.
This, I think, is the greatest metaphysical truth, and Rewrite’s ability to touch it is what makes it so brilliant. We are not here for no reason. God is establishing His Kingdom here, and because he has begun this plan, we no longer must live in fear of ultimate demise. Just as both Kagaris and Kotarou were able to accomplish in Rewrite, humanity lives with hope and a purpose.
Now that is great news.
Key differences (pun intended):
Of course, all analogies break down. For this reason, my stress is not that each individual component of Rewrite follows Judeo-Christian tenets, but that the meta-narrative communicates something akin to the meta-narrative of the Bible. Because of Rewrite’s fundamentally different purpose and the writers’ vastly differing worldview, I would like to take a moment to comment on a few of the glaring differences between Rewrite and biblical thought.
First, while the different Kagaris and Kotarou all contain similarities with both God and Jesus in some facets of their existence and their actions, they are, in and of themselves, fundamentally different entities. Each Kagari contains great elements of pantheism where each Kagari represents the God that is the entirety of the planet on which each resides. They do not contain ultimate power, but they represent a being of ultimate power (which, consequently, bestows upon them ultimate power). Similarly, Kotarou is clearly a flawed human being, yet one who helps to bring about redemption much like the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Kotarou, Moon Kagari, and Earth Kagari all exhibit aspects of the Trinity, but are fully their own individual idea with important distinctions from Christian doctrine. The relationship between Earth Kagari and Moon Kagari is particularly confusing, since they both seem to meet their doom by the end of the narrative, while simultaneously not. The comparisons are all there, but the difference in motivation for their writing causes a quick breakdown upon a closer look.
Second, the sacrifice of Moon Kagari to save Earth Kagari, of Earth Kagari in order to stop decimation, and of Kotarou accordingly, are rather different from comparable biblical accounts, mostly in terms of motivation. All of these sacrifices were done out of necessity for the ultimate saving plan, but Jesus’s sacrifice was an integral part of the plan, while Rewrite’s sacrifices were only necessary due to the nature of the events that transpired. Also, the “resurrection” of Kotarou that occurred later was not necessary for the salvation plan.
For any other discrepancies, please comment! Again, I do not contend that Rewrite reflects a perfect biblical analogy, but that it reflects some of the greatest biblical principles that are so often missed.