Manga Mondays: Trinity Blood

Hey all! It’s been, hell, it’s been a while since I’ve picked up a Manga Mondays around here, but for the good of all I sat down yesterday and re-read all of the Trinity Blood manga I own just so we could talk about it.

Explaining the plot of Trinity Blood is a bit tricksy. You see, the manga is based on a set of light novels, and an anime exists as well, and each of them differ slightly. But the manga is the one I’m familiar with (I’ve never read the novels, and it’s been years since I watched the anime), and this is Manga Monday, not light novel Monday, so I’ll do my best to sum it up.

The setting is a post-apocalyptic Eurasia, divided into human and Methuselah empires. The Methuselah are a long-lived alien species whose traits and habits strongly resemble the human vampire myth, but the story makes it clear that calling a Methuselah a vampire conveys ignorance and/or xenophobia. Humans (mostly led by the Vatican, which controls most of Western Europe) and Methuselah (whose empire is based more in what was once western Russia and Eastern Europe) have held an uneasy peace for centuries, since the apocalyptic events that coincided with the Methuselah’s arrival.

The story starts off in the city of Istavan in Hungary, on the border of the two empires, where Sister Esther Blanchett, a young nun, is betrayed by her best friend and falls in with a priest from the Vatican’s special forces in order to stop the traitor. Political, emotional, and dramatic tensions mount as her former friend plots to set off total war between the Vatican and the Methuselah. After diffusing her former friend’s first attempt, Esther follows the priest, Father Abel Nightroad, back to the Vatican, where she is trained to be a part of the special forces as well.

Abel is a great character, a textbook crouching moron hidden badass who loves humans and tries to embrace pacifism despite his dark secret: he is a genetic experiment, a bloodsucking creature called a Crusnik who feeds on Methuselahs, developed during the first interspecies war as an ultimate weapon for the humans. Most of the time he’s a goofy, clumsy guy who flirts with literally everyone (even the robot priest) and takes 13 sugars in his tea; but fuck with him, give him a reason to release the nanomachine controls on his Crusnik form, and he’ll end you.

Esther is, after re-reading this series, one of my favorite manga heroines. She’s never oversexualized or objectified. She and Abel, save for a few instances when they’d just met, have a relationship that is wonderfully, relievingly platonic (yay for realistic male-female friendships!). She often gets herself into sticky or dangerous situations, but she almost always saves herself (and others, at times) rather than needing to be rescued. She is fiery, caring, and noble, a good on-the-fly strategist and a loyal friend, but also flawed in different ways. She is often naive; she has to train hard to become a skilled marksman; and when she learns Abel’s secret, she is realistically and understandably terrified of him and has a difficult time overcoming this fear to restore their friendship.

This was one of the things that, weirdly, really made me happy about her characterization. When you find out that one of your good friends is hiding a terrible monster, especially when it’s something you’ve been trained to fear, hate, and kill, inside himself, it’s unrealistic that a person will just shrug the revelation off and move on with being friends with no issues. (This was one of my biggest beefs with the Blue Exorcist anime.)

The series is also full of other strong female characters, both human and Methuselah: Esther and Abel’s boss, Cardinal Caterina Sforza, is a caring but stern administrator and a genius at political scheming. The Empress of the Methuselah is a loving and maternal figure who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty and kick ass when the situation calls for it. Lady Astarothe is a low-ranking Methuselah noble who’s loyal, intelligent, a skilled warrior, and comfortable with her body. (But seriously on the topic of objectification, this series is really wonderfully non-objectifying while not being afraid of the female form—there’s an entire scene where Astarothe and Esther talk in the bath, and even though that meant ten or so pages filled with boobs, the scene wasn’t portrayed in a sexually titillating (/badpun) way—they just happened to be in the bath, and thus there was nudity.) The rest of the cast, both female and male, are a bevy of interesting, unique, and well-developed characters as well.

The story also has a lot of interesting religious aspects and themes. Any divergences from current Catholic doctrine or practice (female cardinals, militaristic special forces populated by priests and nuns, robot priests, and boy popes) I personally forgive, because considering the story is set 900 years in the future a hell of a lot of things could have changed. Abel and his family are both named after and obvious callbacks to creation-myth characters: Abel, Cain, Seth, and Lilith. Other character names are obvious callbacks to notorious Catholic leaders of the past—Caterina and her brothers, a bishop and the Pope, have the surname Sforza, a family closely tied to the Borgias in medieval/Renaissance Italy.

There are also interesting race-related themes, regarding intolerance, fear, and hatred of those who are unlike ourselves. That’s another reason I liked Esther—although she grows to accept humans and Methuselah for their character rather than making judgments about their species, we see that she has to work through her preformed prejudices in order to do so. I found this far more realistic; if she’d started out as a girl from a border town growing up around fear of ‘vampires’ for her entire life, and then the second she met a real one she immediately befriended them, it would reek of Mary Suedom to me.

The art of Trinity Blood is beautiful and the storytelling is clever, funny, and flows very well to me. Unfortunately this series was licensed in the US by Tokyopop, which went under last summer, so only the first dozen or so volumes of this ongoing series are available in English. Despite that, however, it’s definitely worth checking out. Give it a look and tell me if you liked it as much as I do! (Athough feel free to write less—good gorram I wrote a freaking novel here…)

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Warning for Blasphemy in Fanfiction?

Blasphemy (Greek blaptein, “to injure”, and pheme, “reputation”) signifies etymologically gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem. In this broad sense the term is used by Bacon when in his “Advancement of Learning” he speaks of “blasphemy against learning”. St. Paul tells of being blasphemed (1 Corinthians 4:13) and the Latin Vulgate employs the word blasphemare to designate abusive language directed either against a people at large (2 Samuel 21:21; 1 Chronicles 20:7) or against individuals (1 Corinthians 10:30; Titus 3:2). (via New Advent)

A lot of authors in the world of Supernatural, Good Omens, and many other fandoms with religious themes warn for blasphemy in their fics. Being not only a religious person but a person studying theology for a living I decided to check a lot of these fics out and find out why these authors thought were blasphemous, especially since I didn’t think they were. I could see three reasons why they warned for this:

  1. Someone is having sex with an angel/fallen angel
  2. Someone is pissed at God and lets you know that they are pissed at God.
  3. The author uses religious themes at all in fanfiction

None of these things seem blasphemous to me, especially in the context of their stories. I really believe blasphemy is a rare occurrence in real life and in fiction. Why? Because if you look at the above definition, blasphemy is specifically to do “harm” to the “reputation” (which is literally what the word means) to a person or being worthy of esteem. It further means to do “harm” to “people at large” or individuals” by use of “abusive language.”

So knowing this definition, are the above three things blasphemous?

1. Someone is having sex with an angel/fallen angel—that happens in the Biblical tradition.

In The Book of Enoch, angels and humans have sex and give birth to giants (super half angel/half human babies). And before you ask, yes, the angels weren’t supposed to do this, but just because something is wrong doesn’t make it blasphemous. If I cheat when playing a game, is it wrong? Yes, but is it blasphemous? Not necessarily.

Furthermore, there are various traditions as to why the angels had sex with these mortal women (the women seduced the angels, the angels raped the women, the angels aren’t supposed to be in bodily form), but in some traditions God actually decrees it’s okay. Noah, Moses, Abraham, for example, are thought to be half angel in certain Jewish traditions. So it being “wrong” isn’t necessarily accurate and even if it was, something being wrong isn’t necessarily blasphemy as stated earlier.

I’m assuming because sex can be considered so taboo that is the main reason people think it’s blasphemous. You’re taking something holy (e.g. an angel) and having sex with it. Associating God and sex must be bad—except if you are religious, then you know God created sex. If anything, incorporating God into one’s sex life is healthy. Shame over sex is very unhealthy.

Now let’s look at two.

2. Someone is pissed at God and lets you know that they are pissed at God—Job was pissed at God and screamed it to God. Many people throughout the Bible get pissed at God. Also, God is God—if you say some nasty things to God I’m pretty sure God can take it. Just a thought.

Furthermore, fighting with God is part of having a relationship with God. If someone is pissed, they have to let it out—that’s fine. Just like how you should let out your emotions with significant others, you need to do the same with God. Job yelled and cried how he was being wronged by God and in the end Job is upheld, while the people telling him to keep silent and repent are reprimanded.

3. Fanfiction is often seen as this dirty thing that needs to be kept a secret, but it’s not; it’s a beautiful means of self-expression and a way to expand and explore a well-known and loved universe. There is nothing wrong with incorporating God into anything you love and put your heart and soul into.

Furthermore, most of the fanfiction that incorporates God or religious themes are from fandoms that already have religious themes in their storytelling.

So I don’t think any of these things are blasphemous. To be blasphemous I think you’d have to do something to intentionally harm others in some way. For example: having Jesus, let’s say, physically abuse someone just to piss a bunch of Christians off. Trying to intentionally hurt or harm others or God.

Usually in fics there is a plot—or character-driven reason—that things happen. I would say they only way for it to be blasphemous is to write something with the purpose of defiling God’s “name” (deface God) or intentionally trying to shit on Christian beliefs. I doubt this is the purpose of most, if any fanfic, authors or the intention of the writers of stories such as Supernatural and Good Omens that the fanfic are based on in the first place.

I assume the reason people warn for blasphemy is because the Christians you see on TV are often insane (because moderate and sane people don’t make the news) and probably would think what these authors wrote is blasphemous—but I also doubt that those Christians would like Supernatural, Good Omens, and many other fandoms anyway, let alone read fanfic about it. I wish authors didn’t warn for blasphemy because it keeps up the notion that these things they are writing about are somehow dirty or wrong, and they’re not. But that’s just what I think.

I’d love to know other opinions on this.