Very mild spoilers. In fact the title of this post is probably more of a spoiler.
It’s hard to put my finger on the pulse of Sasami-san@ganbaranai week after week. It’s like there’s some imaginary point out there in space, where if I stood there and took a panoramic photograph of what’s surrounding me, the end result will be a coherent narrative about what it means to be human and what it means to be god, all at the same time making sense what it means to be Japanese. It’s like one of those 3D perspective artwork that canvasses a sidewalk, where when you look at it from a certain angle, it makes up a different image. Right now I’m just waving my head all over like an idiot, trying to find that perspective.
My Shinto-fu is just not strong enough bro.
Still, I found the whole story behind Juju’s death and rebirth, either via time traveling powers or via a deal with the devil, strangely remarkable. She is a spiritual woman with spiritual powers, even without the super-god-powers and the responsibilities it comes with. Maybe it was also because it is one of the biggest Asakawa Yuu roles that I enjoyed in a while. I don’t know.
In the anime we see the story told from Sasami’s point of view. It’s relatively linear as she jumps from timeline to timeline, event to event. Tsurugi met her at one of these points in time. Juju tagged along because somehow she is resurrected in the present and thus also available to be summoned? I’m not sure how it works–probably similar to how Tamamo-no-Mae did its tricks. But I wondered how it seemed from Juju’s point of view.
I guess in the end Sasami handed her powers to Juju, so she can continue to “ganbaranai” lol. Sasami’s explanation on the take regarding her attitude is a good response to the “ganbare” notion. It’s awfully Japanese I guess, both ways. But it is at least a thought that could, arguably, be construed as modern criticism. And how can you have an anime about religion without criticism? I thought not.
At the same time, Juju’s spiritual characteristics has to be constructed in some way that transcend merely her religious position and duties. It’s not just that she has, as what the kids call it these days, super powers. It’s not that she can lead a super-shinto cult-like group, although she’s got what it takes. It’s more about how she embodies both what humanists cherish and what religious people cherish, and it expresses itself in a Binding of Isaac kind of piety but also a “Mom will take care of her worthless child so she can blossom” kind of way. Otherwise she would seem like a pale villain rather than someone who Sasami can honestly seek approval from.
It’s both super gross, super offensive, yet somehow everything works. It’s magic. And in truth that’s the real value of spirituality when expressed as a religious belief. It is supernatural, and I don’t just mean the time traveling; I mean how it can deal with things like regret. But that’s just me speaking.
Lastly, I guess this was more Episode 8 material, but it’s good to see Amaterasu owning up being a hikki in rehab. Now that is true divine humanism.