Welcome to Catholicism in Anime, the series which will be examining Catholic elements of various anime. If you wish, consider these as Catholic anime reviews, although they aren’t proper reviews, simply examination and analysis of the “seeds of the Logos,” that I see within these shows.
The first show I want to look at is Soul Eater, the 2008-2009 series from the studio BONES, which has produced several of my other favorite anime. Based on the manga (which I believe is still ongoing) by Atsushi Okubo, Soul Eater, on the surface, doesn’t look like the type of show to have any Catholic elements. The animation isn’t your typical, clean-cut style. And even the title, Soul Eater, doesn’t see to be particularly Catholic or religions. Despite all this, there are several themes running throughout the show which line up beautifully with Catholic teaching and several interesting parallels than run analogously between Soul Eater and Catholicism.
“A sound soul dwells within a sound mind and a sound body.”
This is the motto of the DWMA, which is spoken by Maka at the beginning of each episode. The implied meaning of this saying is thus: to have a sound soul, one must also have a sound mind and a sound body. Reasonably reversed: without a sound soul, one cannot have a sound mind or a sound body. Practically, this makes a lot of sense, especially the relationship between a sound mind and a sound soul.
In a Catholic sensibility, this saying and its implied meanings come to an even fuller meaning. The title of this section is hylomorphism, which is a philosophical theory developed by Aristotle. The basic gist of the theory is that substance (the essential essence of a thing) is a compound of matter and form. Applied to humans, Aristotle argues that the matter of humans are our bodies and that our form is our souls. Simply put, to be human (essence) is to have both a body and a soul.
Catholic teaching follows in the steps of Aristotle’s theory, teaching that humans are a body-soul composite; both are critical to my identity as a human being. How does this relate to the DWMA motto? If body and soul are inextricably linked, then it logically follows that they must affect each other. This is why the boxer who has taken a series of brutal hits to his body also finds his fighting spirit weakening. It’s why someone who is depressed struggles to be active.
This motto also serves as a warning against both over-spiritualism and hedonism. To neglect the body and only focus on the soul is to deny a part of our humanity. Often, the method for this is suppression of the body’s passions and emotions, which results in a stoic, unfeeling, un-human person. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ validated the matter of humanity, as a being of spirit took on physical human form. We cannot reject the body, because to reject the body as evil, unnecessary or a hindrance is to deny the reality of Christ’s being made flesh. As for the hedonism part (ignoring the soul for the passions of the body)…it’s pretty obvious what happens there.
For a meister in the DWMA, rejecting the body to focus only on the soul would lead to a complete inability to fight and complete the tasks set before them. Inversely, a meister focusing only on their body would lose the ability to harmonize their soul with their partner, likewise crippling their combat ability. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I see a bit of a parallel between a meister’s training and the spiritual training of anyone trying to grow closer to God. A rejection of either aspect of our substance is to reject our true nature, and it will inevitably make it impossible for us to fight the spiritual battles that we undergo everyday.
Thanks for reading this first episode in the Catholicism in Anime series! Comment below with your thoughts, and don’t forget to subscribe on the left side of the page!
UP NEXT: Catholicism in Anime, Episode 2: The Holy Trinity in Soul Eater?