I just finished watching WorldEnd: Etc. (Who would ever scribble out the entire title?) This stood as my favorite anime of the last season. (Though, my selection of anime series from the last season was quite small.) The author of this series did a wonderful job of world-building. Digressions on the world’s past did much to inform the current state of affairs with beast men and normal looking humans (the “disfeatured”) roaming about. The final revelation about the Timere, biological weapons in human form, managed to be shocking and horrific at the same time. I also loved the use of Latin in the anime: Timere is from the verb timeo, timere meaning “to fear,” the name of the airship Saxifraga is from saxa fraga “broken rocks,” and the sword Lapidem Sybilus is from lapis sibilus “Hissing/Whistling Rock.” Would that Latin featured in more anime!
However, I must complain about the treatment of love in WorldEnd, even though this treatment naturally flows from the author’s worldview. Now, romance is not the product of the West. (Pace, Welcome to the NHK.) You can find some very romantic tales in Japanese literature; but, Buddhist principles are not applied to them, and the romances end in marriage, not death. If one applies Buddhist theology to a romance ending in death, the result is as cruel as if the universe were run by Moloch and Baal.
In the series, suffering renders the romance between Willem and Chtholly more beautiful. Yet, after all the effort placed into stopping Chtholly’s and her memories’ demise, she dies defending Willem and a fellow Leprechaun–as the fighting girls are called. During the final battle with the Timere, both recall how much joy each brought to the other’s life. Chtholly calls herself the happiest girl alive. The last episode also reveals that Chtholly is no more than the dream of a long departed goddess, and dreams must pass.
This ending would be great if it stopped there with Chtholly’s death. Tragedy fills the world of this anime. Despite all the death and destruction which imperil our heroes, Chtholly and Willem loved each other to the utmost. Yet, the reincarnation clip after the credits ruins the effect of her sacrifice. If the world is cruel, the universe is more so: Chtholly returns to the world with no memory of her past life–save for the pain apparent in her first cries. The two women attending her birth note that this indicates how much attachment she had during her past life–and, we all know attachment leads to more need of reincarnation.
The overall effect of this imagery is to declare that love is not eternal. (Perhaps, it is even wicked if it attaches one further to this world of pain and suffering.) Buddhist marriages do not include presentation of rings as part of the ceremony–rings symbolize the eternity of love after all. What will happen should Willem and Chtholly meet again, say, when Chtholly is once again in the bloom of youth at fifteen and Willem is thirty-three? Chtholly will have a new name, perhaps a new personality, new memories, and not the same appearance. They shall not recognize the other and have no feelings for each other either.
Love in the Christian worldview has eternal significance on the other hand. We live but one life, and our personal loves live on in heaven. God is love, and our love of family and friends partake of the nature of eternity. Contrast this to the Buddhist and his cycle of death and rebirth: will his first love have any meaning after two thousand rebirths and two thousand marriages? I doubt it. Chtholly’s last words might as easily have been the all too common parting line “Tanoshikatta”–“It was fun.”
People believe Christianity cruel in saying some souls go to hell for all eternity. But, is not the Buddhist conception of the cycle of death and rebirth until the final dissolution of one’s personality not more cruel? Most of a human being’s choices, actions, loves, desires, and sufferings do not matter under the Buddhist conception. In the Christian worldview, all of one’s choices and all of one’s life matters: they come to determine one’s eternal destiny. God tells each soul that their loves and hates will be carried into eternity. In the case of Willem and Chtholly, their love really only matters if they have but one life.