「死者の街の少年」 (Shisha no Machi no Shounen)
“The Boy from the City of the Dead”
A BOY OF WILL
A long, long time ago, God spoke and through his mana the World was born. The earth, sky, sea and all that is Nature. Through his words, other Gods as well as humans and animals were brought to life. “But good cannot exist without bad, and evil Gods came into being.” For light only shines where shadows linger in contrast. As a big-time fantasy lover, the illustrated narrated introduction with absence of overly complicated names was extremely pleasant. I was able to fully immerse myself in the story without missing a beat. Not everyone can be Tolkien, and that’s alright. If anything, I absolutely loved how the Gods in Saihate no Paladin have names connected to the elements and concepts they represent: The God of Justice and Lightning, Volt. The Earth-Mother, Mater. The God of Fire and Technology, Blaze. The God of Wind and Commerce, Whirl. The Goddess of Water and Greenery, Rhea Silvia. The God of Knowledge, Enlight. The God of Light, Death and Rebirth, Gracefeel and the God of the Undead, Stagnate.
Our story follows a little boy named Will who lives in a temple and is being raised by three undead beings: The Wandering Sage, Augustus ‘Gus’; War Ogre, Blood and Mary the Daughter of Mater. In one of Will’s magic and sword-fighting lessons we learn that the truth behind Will’s birth might be stranger than we thought. It appears that the three ancient beings brought ‘him’ back to life, which would make sense in Isekai lore. A soul dies and another–from a parallel universe–settles in as the new host.
It’s hard to pinpoint at this moment what will be the major themes of this series–I have not read the LN nor the manga–but one can easily see that the series has tones of introspection and spirituality, if the symbolism presented has any say on it. It was too easy for my brain to assimilate the four main characters with the major archetypes found in Tarot.
THE FOOL’S JOURNEY
For those unfamiliarized with the practice, the Tarot deck is composed of 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana cards and is known in its entirety as The Journey of the Self–which starts with the often unnumbered Major Arcana, The Fool (in some decks he’s number 0). Separately, the 22 Major Arcana cards depict archetypes found in classical psychology–C. G. Jung extensively speaks about such archetypes in his works as well as their role in our shared collective unconsciousness.
The Major Arcana is the path that the protagonist, The Fool, takes through the great mysteries of life–in the Tarot tradition this is also known as The Fool’s Journey. But one important thing to notice is that the word ‘fool’ does not stand for the literal meaning ‘silly’. The Fool is the representation of new beginnings, the enthusiasm, optimism and blind faith that the world is his to explore. Carrying only a small sack, he fearlessly jumps into the unknown. Although just a child, Will carries with him a collection of blurred memories from a meaningless and wasteful life. He is then given a second chance in this new world and he grabs this opportunity with both hands and a full heart. Associated with The Fool’s image are innocence and naivete. Free from the usual constraints of life and society, his character is still undeveloped and will be shaped by his experiences, but don’t be fooled by his childishness, for there is infinite potential to be found in him.
The next archetype Will meets, or the number one card in the Major Arcana, is The Magician, who symbolizes transformation. Through the tools displayed in his table he shows that all of us have talents, capabilities and resources to transform something. Often associated with his image is the phrase “as above, so below” meaning the earth reflects heaven, what is within reflects what’s outside–the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. Gus is the one who teaches Will about the Words of Creation, or the power of words–how to conjure magic as well as other academic teachings.
The High Priestess comes next, she is a wise woman ruled by the moon and her intuition. She represents the mysterious unknown that can be found inside a woman’s heart. She sits between two pillars of Solomon’s Temple: Jachin and Boaz, establishment and strength. These pillars also represent the duality of nature; negative and positive, good and evil, masculine and feminine and she serves as a mediator between these, for she believes there’s knowledge to be learnt from both. Mary is the one Will learns the most from, as he admits. She teaches him about the little things in life that add up in the end. While an undead cannot give life, she acts under the Goddess Mater, who curiously enough has a lot of similarities with the third Arcana, The Empress: the personification of nature, who represents the Earth Mother archetype (Earth-Mater is how they call her). The Goddess of fertility, also associated with new ideas, communication, grace and beauty. It’s through Mary’s prayers for Mater that Will gets bread everyday. For me, Mary and the Goddess Mater coexist side-by-side (she is even known as Mater’s daughter).
Lastly is the fourth archetype and card, The Emperor: he is the Masculine Principle, the patriarch. He stands for ruling with discipline, method and authority in life. His role is to guide, protect and provide. All of which Blood fills in accordingly. Out of the three undead, Blood is the only one that is represented as a skeleton, which shows a passage of time so long that flesh has long since deteriorated, curiously enough, in Tarot The Emperor has a long beard that represents his experience. Over his many years of rule he has learned what it takes to truly rule, how to properly conduct himself, what are his beliefs, what is his real character and personality and how to use these in order to benefit and care for his people.
A funny little detail was Gus’ over the top love for money. Because here’s an interesting thing about archetypes and tarot cards, they all have a reversed meaning. Where there is light, there is shadow. While we can clearly see a lot of good in Gus, Blood and Mary, they all clinged to strong emotions in their deathbed which led them to a contract with Stagnate. And whatever their reasons might’ve been (and I’m sure we’ll find out), these reasons come from a place of what the self desires, they might have been selfish reasons. Which is fine, selfishness is not inherently bad–even if christianity tries to tell you otherwise.
I really liked how gentle strokes of grey are brushed over this heavenly canvas to show us that there is a lot in between black and white. Also, I’m not the greatest anime fan when it comes to knowing studios, voice actor names, directors and so on and so forth. But I did enjoy the animation style in Saihate no Paladin, I thought it was carefully done and the pace of the episode felt sensible to the type of story it is. Scenes like Will crying in awe at the magnificent landscape in front of him really left an impression. It felt like a lot of love was put into the animation. Super side note, I loved Gus’ lanky fingers.
This wasn’t supposed to be an essay, but it ended up as one, so yeah there’s that. I actually study occultism and indigenous shamanic practices as a personal spiritual pursuit, so I can get enthusiastic about such topics.
Full-length images: 36.
ED: 「標火」 (Shirushibi) by (Nagi Yanagi)