Você está na página 1de 12

Psychological Perspectives, 49: 267277, 2006 Copyright c C. G.

Jung Institute of Los Angeles ISSN: 0033-2925 print / 1556-3030 online DOI: 10.1080/00332920600998320

Japanese Anime and the Life of the Soul: Full Metal Alchemist
John Ranyard

here have been wonderful and surprising experiences in my passion for the Japanese animated movie (anime). Beginning with Hayao Miyazakis Princess Mononoke, a breathtaking feature-length movie, I found my way into a world of animation so rich with Eros, spirit, and feeling that I became utterly intoxicated. I have always loved story, but until I immersed myself in anime I didnt really understand how story loved me back. Many anime have put me under their spell and worked mysteries on my feeling; however, Full Metal Alchemist has the current claim on my heart. This series contains many of the elements that make anime stand apart from American animation. Feeling, relationship, and the complications of love are at the center of anime, not action. How a person feels is more important than what he or she does, and the action of anime serves to develop the feeling conicts of the characters. In anime spiritual and religious issues are freely explored, as is erotic experience, including the homoerotic. The feminine is a primary driving source in anime. There is abundant lunar symbolism, nature is free to be a divinity, and many series are completely built around women as heroeswhich breaks with the Western tendency to build story around men. Instead of curbing my sudden, wild enthusiasm for anime, I have indulged it shamelessly. Well, not entirely without shame. I did feel an awkwardness around my possession by the anime spirit. What would people think if they knew that a 50-year-old man was watching cartoons? Not just once in a while but every day! I bought shelves of DVDs, and my computer hard-drive was often lled to capacity with anime downloaded off the Internet, those newly fan-subtitled anime fresh off the Japanese airwaves. This passion and the accompanying shame are the prima materia of consciousness. My projection that my enthusiasm and obsessivecompulsive possession would not be acceptable to others made for awkward feelings and the shameful

267

268

PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

VOLUME 49, ISSUE 2 / 2006

Shadow Dancing, gouache on paper, 12 9

JOHN RANYARD

JAPANESE ANIME AND THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

269

vulnerability that leads to self-reection. This vulnerability awakened my deeper exploration and an awareness that anime carried elements of my personal individuation in it. After the crest of the orgiastic wave passed and Id ingested many hundreds of anime, I began to explore the realms anime was creating within me. I began by peering into Full Metal Alchemist, analyzing its effect on myself. In Full Metal Alchemist the heroes are two brothers, sons of an alchemist father who has abandoned them and their mother. The father did not leave a single word behind to explain his absence. The boys hold a connection to their missing father by studying alchemy, their shared talent. They also try to cheer up their mother by displaying these talents and giving her happy recollections of their father. They come home one day to nd her passed out and fatally ill on the oor. From the doctor they discover that she has been terribly ill for a long time and that her illness will nally take her. After she dies, the older brother, Edward or Ed, the more talented alchemist, cannot accept her death. He decides that he and his brother will bring her back to life through the forbidden alchemy of human transformation. His trusting younger brother, Alphonse or Al, accepts the older brothers strong desire to resurrect their mother, against his own feelings of caution around the taboo. Their attempt to bring their mother back from the dead ends in failure and catastrophe. The older brother loses his left leg and then his right arm to the alchemical reaction. He loses the arm when he reaches for his brother, who is being pulled completely into the void their alchemy has opened. All he can do is desperately attach his brothers soul to a suit of armor standing nearby. So Ed has lost an arm and a leg, and Al, the younger, has completely lost his corporal body and exists only as an animating spirit attached to a huge suit of armor. The boys had forgotten the most fundamental rule of alchemy, the principle of equivalent trade. In their grief, the boys neglected its requirements and that has left them dismembered and disembodied. This theme of equivalent trade is explored in its various dimensions throughout the series. The following quote opens each episode and denes the core meaning of equivalent trade:
People cannot gain anything without sacricing something. You must present something of equal value to gain something. That is the principle of equivalent trade in alchemy. Back then, we believed that was the truth of the world. (From the title sequence of Full Metal Alchemist)

To get something one must sacrice something of equivalent value. This truth returns over and over as the boys set out on their hunt for the philosophers stone. The older brother accepts that he cannot bring back his mother. He now wants to nd the philosophers stone so that he can

270

PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

VOLUME 49, ISSUE 2 / 2006

Dismemberment is a signature of separatio, one of the important alchemical procedures that reveals the emotional and psychological falling apart that happens when we realize something of our nature, something that previously had been unconscious.

recover his brothers body and, secondarily, his own missing limbs. Ed is tted with automail, a prosthetic arm and leg, which allow freedom of movement. Human grief, loss, and the processes of recovering the body become the important themes. This struggle to retrieve lost soul and return to an embodied life is personally important to me. This anime, one of the many wonderful cartoons Ive devoured, helped bring me to my own soul and a more embodied experience of life. In Full Metal Alchemist the beginning of the transformation mystery is the brothers dismemberment. In illustrations from Middle Ages alchemy are pictures of the golden-headed boy being dismembered by the chthonic man, the shadow, as in the 10th image from the Splendor Solis. Dismemberment is a signature of separatio, one of the important alchemical procedures that reveals the emotional and psychological falling apart that happens when we realize something of our nature, something that previously had been unconscious. Sometimes our ego effort in life is undercut by an unconscious motive, and we are met with a failure that leaves us shattered and in pieces. Often an attitude or belief or understanding is inadequate to lifes circumstances. To transform this attitude requires that all its separate parts be known and understood. Osiris is dismembered by Set, and it is left to Isis to collect and reassemble the god, her husband/brother. Disaster forces us to stoop down and pick up the pieces of a shattered life and to reassemble it anew. Isis found all of Osiris but for his phallus. She had to fashion that organ and add it to him, only later to generate new life using that very organ. Edward receives his prosthetic limbs from the old woman and girl who live next door. Something of the original wholeness is sacriced and replaced with a limb that expresses consciousness of natures pattern, a wound that serves individuation. The Elric brothers have lost their bodies to a failed attempt to regain the bliss of their life with their mother. This loss of their mother wounded them so much that they were willing to pit themselves against death. The second wounding comes with the failure of their attempt at human transformation,

JOHN RANYARD

JAPANESE ANIME AND THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

271

their dismembering failure, and shifts their attention from recovering their lost mother to recovering their own lost limbs. This is the important psychological shift in perspective from a focus on objective loss to one of subjective loss. Too simply put, the question becomes whether to heal the wounds of my soul by manipulating the world or by exploring and eventually accepting my souls reaction to this world. The boys strong reaction to their loss and then their shift to undertake the inner, subjective journey reveals that they have the integrity and self-reection that individuation demands. Edward becomes a dog of the military, a state-certied alchemist, to gain access to the secret books of alchemy he needs to create the philosophers stone. I see my own path as having a parallel here. I took analytic training to study the secret knowledge of Jungs psychology so that I could heal my own soul and again have an embodied life. I sought training to heal my own wounds of feeling and body. The focus on human relationship, its passions and conicts, is one of the characteristics I most appreciate about Japanese anime. Even when there is a heroic task involved, the story is less about what they do and accomplish than it is on the people they meet and the feeling conicts that arise around the demands of the heroic goal. Over the course of this anime there is an accumulation of relationships. The story begins with the two brothers and adds their neighbors, an old woman (the artisan of the automail) and her apprentice, a young woman. Then there are the several state alchemist soldiers, Eds commanding ofcer, his alchemy sensei (teacher), and others who become important to their journey of transformation. Many complicated relationships develop among these people as they explore love, friendship, loyalty, and the painful misunderstandings that occur when these values collide. There are also deep ethical conicts. As Edward comes closer to his goal of learning how to fabricate the philosophers stone, he discovers that what must be offered in equivalent trade, a human life, puts him in direct conict with his most basic human value. At one point he is within a hands reach of creating the stone and giving his dear brother his body back, but he cannot destroy a human life, even that of a criminal. In this story the philosophers stone requires human sacrice. Sacrice is core to any transformation mystery, any analytic process, and always central to the individuation of a human soul. Ed had to sacrice his most important desire until he could satisfy that desire and live within his values. I have also struggled with desire and its sacrice. The needs of my heart were buried in my bodys desires. Just after birth I spent many weeks in the hospital for a birth defect that required surgery to correct. The early holding environment was badly compromised by the necessity of my hospitalization. I also came quite close to dying. To this day I can feel a desperation and panic for touch, a need for skin contact, that is absolute and fundamental

272

PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

VOLUME 49, ISSUE 2 / 2006

I began to realize desire as an independent subject with whom I must learn to relate. This was the beginning of my efforts to relate to the Self and the dawn in me of the reality of the objective psyche.

in its devouring intensity. It is also utterly unrelated to the object. It has, of course, created many complications in my relationships with women. Over the course of my years of analysis I became aware of this desperation to recover the mother in the (only apparently) adult act of sexuality and love. In my urge to become whole again, to recover my lost body, my relations with women were intense and only supercially related. The intimacy of knowing another human being in relationship was washed away by my unconscious primitive need. Like Edward in Full Metal Alchemist I found my hand reaching out for the source of healing, the philosophers stone unconsciously projected into the sexual act, and eventually I could not take it for its inhumanity. I had to chose the despair of my deep unmet need, my wound. What good is satisfaction if it is met at the sacrice of my own soul and the soul of the encounter? I had been attempting, unconsciously, to take healing into the physical body, but this meant that the soul was still trapped in matter, in primitive, concrete terms. However, every act of love was followed by a despair born of its unconscious soullessness. It was this at rst inexplicable despair that helped return me to soul. I slowly began to realize that what makes touch meaningful is the love behind it, the soul that animates the hand. To get to this realization of soul I had to endure many painful failures to connect in which I suffered my overwhelming desire. I had to grapple with the confusion I felt over why all my efforts to love came to such an unsatisfying end. Eventually I began to nd and sacrice all the illusions of love that Id built up around my unconscious need. I slowly grew in my understanding, until I was able to consciously sacrice this core need and accept the wound. This acceptance meant that the overwhelming desire was detached from its object. However, I was not free of its violence. One became two, as stated in the Axiom of Maria, and now these desires were the object of my attention. I began to realize desire as an independent subject with whom I must learn to relate. This was the beginning of my efforts to relate to the Self and the dawn in me of the reality of the objective psyche. To create their mother the Elric brothers had the right number of liters of water, the right number of grams of carbon, nitrogen, salt, and such to make a human body. However, they glossed over the problem of not having their mothers soul. For the alchemical transformation they added a little of

JOHN RANYARD

JAPANESE ANIME AND THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

273

their own blood (only a few drops), as if this would constitute their mothers soul. It was not unlike guessing the riddle of the Sphinx and na vely expecting to gain the world as a result. Parsifal had the Grail within reach but missed taking it because he lacked the soul experience that would let him speak to the suffering the Grail symbolized. Parsifals second long journey to nd it gave him a soul that knew human suffering, need, and the complexities of love. In Full Metal Alchemist it is the same: The essential ingredient is soul, and glossing over this problem leads to a long and painful journey. These few drops of blood from their index ngers suggest the harder sacrice they must eventually makethat is, the sacrice of their own ego goals and desires in service to the philosophers stone. Alphonse, the younger brother, also grows in his own way. He has his own conicts and eventually is plunged into self-doubt and the abyss of his own being. In a battle with a soulless monster, Al is confronted by self-reection. His opponent is a serial murderer who had simply killed for pleasure during his life, a man who died in the esh but whose spirit was bound in a suit of armor. The monster attacked Al with the sword of rationalism, telling Al that he had no memories. Al was, said the monster, only a creation of his brother and only existed to suit his brothers needs. The normally sweet and loving Al cascades into doubt and the anger of existential meaninglessness. Feeling can be undermined by doubts from an inferior thinking functionthat is, a thinking process that is possessed by unconscious emotions. Al had trouble recalling memories of his life before he lost his body, and without those images his feeling had lost connection to life. He was ripe for doubt that was fed by a logic that rationally explained all the facts of his existence, his symptoms. The thoughts were as hollow as any tin man who has forgotten his own heart. The resolution of this conict is beautiful and moving. The older brother, Edward, reveals his deepest doubt and is vulnerable with Al. When Ed shares his raw feeling of love, he reects Als reality. This heart contact is the universal medicine, the alexipharmic that cures the poison eating away at Als soul. Existential doubt requires healing that comes from an experience of vulnerability and love within the dynamic of relationship. Tears are a big part of my experience of anime. As an introvert, being alone presents little difculty for me; time can pass with few emotional disturbances, yet deep inside of me there is a hidden ache for the emotions of being human in relationship. The many feelings stirred by the human conicts in anime gave me a profound company and validation for my own feeling. Here, in suffering the frustrations and despair of loneliness, I found story as container. The loving touch of anime nourished me, and I discovered story as mother and lover. My deepest love wounds began to heal. Anime helped me release women from the burden of having to satisfy my feeling needs. I found

274

PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

VOLUME 49, ISSUE 2 / 2006

that story held, contained, and nourished me. Here is where I had a living experience of the anima as a conscious phenomenon. Living within the comfort of these wonderful stories, I gained something of even deeper importance to me. I gained story and archetype as a felt reality. When I began on my path to become an analyst, I met fairytales through Marie-Louise von Franz. She was my bridge to C. G. Jung. My relationship to fairytales began with fascination, though, not feeling. I thought about them, I read them voraciously, I held them as important and saw their archetypal signicance, but I did not feel them. Fascination went no deeper, and so they were not real no matter how much I cared about them. I never felt shame or embarrassment for reading them. They were accepted by my consciousness because they lived in the intellectual space called psychology. I felt no personal conict when reading fairytales. My mind adopted them too easily and so the pressure to explore them for their personal meaning was missing. My emotions were not involved so, simply said, they did not make me cry. Without this feeling connection I wouldnt linger long enough to discover the fairytale riches. Anime, however, awakened my emotional connection to archetype, especially anima as the archetype of life. It was a surprise and a treasure when, while watching anime for the rst time (Princess Mononoke), I found myself moved to tears. It was like a man in the desert, dying of thirst, suddenly nding an oasis of living water! I was washed and relieved by these tears as the story sank gently into me. Finding few anime in the rental stores, I made my way to the Internet, where I found torrents of anime to download and watch. There are many small associations of people on the Internet that care so much for anime that they take the unsubtitled anime as it is released on TV in Japan, translate it, time and encode the subtitles, and then release the subtitled version for free distribution on the Web. This is called fansubbing. Most of these groups take the anime out of distribution when the show is licensed for commercial distribution in the United States. Over the years anime has grown to be fan-subbed in French, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Persian, Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, Hungarian, and others. I like to buy the domestically released commercial DVDs because I can watch them on TV and also to support the industry. I denitely want the creators of anime to be paid for their efforts! The differentiated feeling expressed in anime continues to give me many sweet moments. I look forward to the cleansing and refreshing tears, the laughter and warmth of caring friends, and animes devotion to the deeper life of the soul. The experience of anime has given me proof of my own existence through these feelings. There was also an unexpected gift. One day I picked up a Grimm fairytale to read before bed. At the end of the story I found tears owing down my face. Now even fairytales had become real to me. I wondered

JOHN RANYARD

JAPANESE ANIME AND THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

275

what had happened and then decided that anime functioned as a lubricant or emotional bridge to these spare archetypal tales. The freedom of imagination and the emotional and feeling focus of anime allowed my na ve feeling a place to unfold safely. I could immerse myself in stories of love and relationship and exercise qualities formerly forbidden by my ingrained attitudes and complexes. My relationship to my own personal feeling deepened in the loving temenos created by anime. The theme of alchemy is remarkably well explored in Full Metal Alchemist. I imagine that Jung would be very pleased to nd such a creative exploration. The creators of Full Metal Alchemist play with the theme of alchemy yet also take the ideas and images quite seriously. They end up, I believe, dreaming alchemy forward in a signicant direction. For instance, the problem of the power attitude getting a grip on the methodology of alchemy is expressed both in collective and individual terms. The military uses alchemy to advance its authority but has it turned against them when inltrated by homunculi, beings created from failed attempts to make the philosophers stone. Edward and Alphonse are also put into conict around their personal desires to make use of the philosophers stone. The unforeseen and unintended consequences of attempting human transformation for an ego need slowly close in on them, building an eerie tension in the anime that is very effective. In Full Metal Alchemist the creation of the philosophers stone depends on the sacrice of human lives and the capture of the rage and hatred each person feels for having to die. This blood sacrice is abhorrent to Ed and Al but not to those who have lost their soul. Ed and Als feeling for life, their ethics, force them away from the direct path to the philosophers stone. Ed and Als need for healing is of utmost importance to them, yet their feeling for life and for people means that they cannot sacrice others for this need. They become aware of themselves in this conict. Consciously attending to their personal values means stepping onto the narrow path of individuation. Ed and Al take the necessary sacrice onto themselves instead of projecting it onto another. This is a vital step in the integration of the shadow. The brothers grow in depth and soul because of this, whereas those who only care about the goal at any cost remain unchanged. Ed and Al undergo what they seek, the power of human transformation, because they struggle with holding their values. Their individual soul conicts are neither short-changed nor abandoned. They ripen as men, and na vete gives way to wisdom. They open to the depths, life, and the complexity of love and loss. Here is the stone

My relationship to my own personal feeling deepened in the loving temenos created by anime.

276

PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

VOLUME 49, ISSUE 2 / 2006

that is no stone, the aurum non vulgi, a creation of the honest effort of the total person. Ed and Al did not sacrice what they arewhat they believe and feel. The two boys accepted each roadblock set out by life while not giving up, and because they stayed true to themselves, the way to the stone of the philosophers opened. Often there is an easy path or a direct path or the quick path to a gratication that is right in front of us. However, if a moment of reection is taken, then hidden behind, easy is a tollperhaps only vaguely felt but signicant. If the toll requested is our human soul, then it can seem like a very small thing to forget it just for a moment, just this time, yet neglecting its signicance is ultimately catastrophic. In Full Metal Alchemist an image is used of a gate drawn from Rodins Port DInfer to indicate the boundary between the world and the beyond accessed through alchemy. They also call this gate the truth, and it is reached through the forbidden act of human transformation. Yet through this gate come the homunculi. These are the soulless beings that are created when, in desperation, an alchemist tries to bring a loved one back from the dead without rst possessing the philosophers stone. The attempt to bring a being back from the beyond without the philosophers stone always ends in failure, and a homunculus is born. Those who attempt this kind of human transformation are going against the ow of life. They have not accepted their loss and sorrow after a loved one has died. The attempt to go against the nality of death, the refusal to accept death, and the frantic attempt to resurrect a person create this soulless being, the homunculus. The homunculi are explicitly stated to be the sins of alchemists, and so it is the alchemists responsibility to deal with them. The homunculi want to have a soul, and they manipulate people to create the philosophers stone. With the philosophers stone the homunculi could steal a humans soul for his or her own use. Both the humans and the homunculi are striving for soul. The shock of a loss, a trauma, can strip us of soul, leaving us numb, empty, and cut off from life. The lost soul, without its human container, also suffers and must search for its lost humanity. A human without a soul and a soul without a humanboth are profoundly sad. In Full Metal Alchemist the story of this striving after soul is creatively expressed as the humans attempt to retrieve soul from the beyond, and the homunculis attempt to take soul from the humansresulting in a conict that creates soul in both beings. Ultimately it comes down to whether or not one lives life with soul. The homunculi have names taken from the seven deadly sins: lust, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, pride, and gluttony. Concupiscence is the prima materia, and these soulless beings, marked by a red uroborous symbol, manifest the values declared by their names. Taken over by lust or greed or sloth, I become driven and soulless. Sometimes the homunculus has a ash of memory, a memory of that persons life from whom they were created. This memory

JOHN RANYARD

JAPANESE ANIME AND THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

277

startles them just enough to make them reect. For a moment the drive is lost and a spark of soul intrudes. Recalling my bodys limits, I can pull back from my gluttony and not have a second helping. When I recall my heart need for feeling, affection, and relatedness, I can disentangle myself from lust. It is in these soul moments that I can witness the divine energy with which I had been identied. I can then know something of this vitality that is greater than my little human existence. I am transformed each time I contain and witness the manifestation of the dark god. I learn that the presence of such forces in my psyche is not the sin. If I remain unconscious to desire, being possessed by it and acting out its vitality to the detriment of my humanity, then I am likely to sin. The homunculi wish for a soul. Lust, Greed, Wrath, and such are personications of archetypes, and their drive to become humanized creates feelings of compassion for their suffering. Having been raised in the Christian Weltanshang where these qualities are sins and only called evil, it was surprising to nd myself sad at their defeat. The simple goodevil dichotomy is often avoided in anime in surprisingly creative ways. When a deadly sin strives for a mortal soul, a god is pressing for incarnation. To humanize such a god would put it into the conict of relatedness that must then transform the god. Incarnation is a deep engine of consciousness. Full Metal Alchemist is only one anime among the many that have touched me: Read or Die, Hana Yori Dango, Kare Kane, Wolfs Rain, Last Exile, Chobits, Sol Bianca, Paranoia Agent, Gantz, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, to name a few. Anime creates an exotic and beautiful universe. These surprising treasures have brought me into a deeper contact with life and helped awaken me to a new and personal experience of story. In Japanese the expression Yoroshiku onegai shimasu (Please take care of me) has the sense of a request for care, acknowledging the mutual dependence of people. This spirit lives within their world of animation. I have been lovingly taken care of by Japanese anime, those amazing creations from the other side of the blue Pacic, and I recommend you to their warm embrace.

I am transformed each time I contain and witness the manifestation of the dark god. I learn that the presence of such forces in my psyche is not the sin.

John Ranyard is a Jungian analyst practicing in Redondo Beach and Santa Monica, CA. He has a special interest in the mythology and fairytales of the Pacic Rim, especially Japan and New Zealand. He is a 20-year student of the martial art Iaido and also enjoys stone sculpting and the ocean.