I am often annoyed by self-righteous Christians who refuse to experience something new on the basis that they are a “Christian”, and therefore cannot experience it. For example, if there was a film that contained gratuitous violence, they would refuse to see it due to the violence, or if there was a book with sexual content, they would refuse to read it due to the sex.
Sometimes I feel that certain Christians, in an attempt to live according to their ideals, become so obsessively conservative that they eventually lose the ability to view something objectively. I see this as a significant problem, as it discourages countless individuals from experiencing new and exciting works of art, music, film, and literature.
However, I recently read a visual novel that has made me question my own objectivity. Rather, I have begun to question when objectivity crosses the line and devolves into detachment. Detachment is much worse than desensitization, as it implies a person has honed his or her ability to suppress subjectivity to such a degree, that they have in essence separated themselves from the work. If you are completely separate from the work, emotional connection does not occur. This also means that anything, no matter how horrible, suddenly becomes acceptable.
The visual novel that I read is entitled “Saya no Uta”. It was written by Gen Urobuchi, whom I was surprised to discover was also the writer for many famous anime series’, including “Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica”, “Fate/Zero”, and “Psycho-Pass”. This novel, which I literally read in a single sitting, was engrossing, but it was also extremely disgusting and vile.
“Saya no Uta” is about a young medical student, Fuminori Sakisaka, who’s life is turned upside down after a terrible car accident kills both of his parents and leaves him heavily injured. He undergoes a brain surgery, which results in an unexplainable phenomenon: Fuminori now sees everything that is beautiful in the world as something grotesque, and the truly grotesque appears as something beautiful. Fuminori is nearly driven to insanity, surrounded by these grotesque images at school and at home, until one day he meets a girl named Saya who is the only person who remains beautiful in his wretched world….
As I am an avid fan and supporter of the visual novel medium, I came to this novel like I do everything else: Objectively. Yes, I am aware that the content of this novel severely contradicts my Christian beliefs, but that does not mean I cannot read something that is inherently not Christian. The question is when do you draw the line?
Can you objectively read Harry Potter, even though it contains witchcraft? Yes. Can you objectively listen to heavy metal (which at times can be incredible complex and virtuosic), despite the vulgar content in the lyrics? Yes. Can you objectively watch porn? There lies the question. Where do you draw this arbitrary line between what is evil and what is “less evil”?
“Saya no Uta” definitely falls into this grey area, where it is impossible for any single individual to tell you whether or not it is “too bad” to read. It is considered to be one of the most disturbing visual novels ever written, and for good reason. It contains a plethora of questionable and unsettling content, everything from murder, graphic imagery, sexual content, and basically everything else.
So, now that I have read it, I guess that I am essentially asking two questions. Can you read something this gruesome objectively, as a Christian? And, why would you need or want to?
The first question, initially, I believed to be an unequivocal “yes”. After reading “Saya no Uta” however, I am beginning to wonder just how far people should go when it comes to being objective. I am not the first Christian person to read and review this novel (Another review: Click here), and I agree with many of this reviewer’s reasons for enjoying it. It is incredibly well written and paced, the music is hauntingly beautiful, and it delves deep into the human psyche and truly makes one consider our morals, our ideals, and our very humanness. It was definitely an enthralling read, but does that justify how absolutely screwed up this novel is?
I cannot answer that question for anyone. It is up to each individual person to decide for themselves. For me personally, despite my worries concerning taking objectivity too far, I still feel like reading the novel was worth it somehow. As the other reviewer states, “’Saya no Uta’ depicts human sinful nature for what it really is: Something that should make us sick to our stomachs but also something every person possesses. “Saya no Uta” is a slap to the face about that reality, reminding us what human sinful nature is capable of.”
This novel does not try to hide sin behind a veil. Sin is murder. Sin is rape. Sin is death. Christians like to water it down, focus on the positive, focus on the forgiveness, but sometimes I think it is useful to have a reality check. “Saya no Uta” does just that. It says, “Sin is evil, and here is what it looks like”.
I absolutely love what the reviewer says about this: “If we limit what we attribute sin to be, we limit what God wants to forgive. The more serious and immoral sin is viewed as, the more God’s boundless grace and forgiveness can be appreciated.”
This leads me to my other question: Why would you want to read something like this? Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, right? That is another unanswerable question. Once again, it is up to the individual. Angels are real, but so are demons. Lucifer was once the most beautiful of all the angels. I do not like being oblivious to this reality. Of course, I am not insinuating that we should let our children see these things. At some point, however, I think that an adult Christian needs to put aside these ridiculous “conservative” ideals, and look at the world with clear, understanding eyes.
The world is evil. It is ugly. It is grotesque. But God can forgive all of us, and make us beautiful.