Anime Review #34: My Last Day

At this current moment, billions of Christians worldwide are in the process of commemorating Holy Week – which remembers the final days of Christ before His betrayal, crucifixion, death and His glorious Resurrection. It’s one of the most pivotal moments in history, one that has been depicted many times over in the field of art, literature, drama and film. One example of this is a 9-minute piece known as My Last Day.

Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi: Anime Edition.

MY LAST DAY

Created in 2011, My Last Day is a short production by the folks at The Jesus Film Project, comprised of Japanese studio STUDIO4°C, and award-winning animator Barry Cook, a veteran of various Disney productions in the 1990s. What’s interesting about these two is that, unlike most other studios that I’ve mentioned in this blog, these individuals are not known for creating episodic animated series, but rather they were involved in the development of OVAs (short animated pieces) and feature films. In addition, compared to most films about Christ, be it His Nativity or His Passion, which can span hours on end, this one was a mere eleven minutes, and is easily available on YouTube as opposed to other anime streaming sites. Despite these shortened limitations, being that it’s Good Friday, in which we commemorate the final hours of Christ and His redemption of us, I felt that it was a good piece to introduce given the theme of the day.

PLOT

The story centers around the time of Christ moments before He was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, and is told mainly from the point of view of St. Dismas who, in Christian tradition, was the thief crucified on the right hand side of Christ, to which He was the recipient of the following dialogue:

And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: “Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.” And he said to Jesus: “Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.” And Jesus said to him: “Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”

St. Luke 23:39-43

One interesting piece that is brought about in this film is a backstory behind St. Dismas, who, at least according to this interpretation, was the sole ringleader of a theft gone wrong, leading to the unexpected murder of his victim (note that this event is not recorded anywhere in the Gospels), and was present during Christ’s discourse on “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s” (St. Matthew 22:21). In any case, he was arrested and is the main witness to the pivotal events of Christ’s Passion; namely, His scourging, carrying of the Cross, and His subsequent crucifixion.

St. Dismas’ double sin of theft and murder.

From this point on, anyone who is familiar with the story of the Crucifixion should be familiar as well with the elements in the last 7 minutes of this short; in particular, the final moments of Christ as well as His short discourse with St. Dismas. After uttering His famous words, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit”, as is consistent with the words of the Bible, both thieves to His side die as well, and it ends with St. Dismas, in Heaven before a resurrected Christ, who recites the words of St. John’s Gospel:

I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live: And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this? 

St. John 11:25-26
St. Dismas comes face to face with Christ, redeemed and eternally happy in his new home.

WHAT I LIKED

  • From a Christian point of view, there is nothing intrinsically objectionable about this production, and it served well as a glimpse into the Passion of Christ. It was consistent with Biblical source material, and did not compromise in any way with invented dialogue or imagery when it came to the important scenes related to such matter.
  • The central theme of the suffering of Christ for the salvation of the world was something that was heavily enforced in this short video, and it did well in not downplaying the reality of His suffering, and the trials that He endured en route to Golgotha, from the beginning to the end. Neither did it compromise in depicting His divinity and placing emphasis on it.
  • I liked how they interconnected the words of St. John 11:25-26 in Christ’s heavenly discourse with St. Dismas, even though the original context of that line was directed at St. Mary of Bethany, the sister of St. Lazarus who we know was personally resurrected by Christ in that same chapter. I thought it was a beautiful reminder of what awaits faithful Christians who die in the state of grace. Also’s a good way to throw off Protestant objectors who deny the efficacy of prayers to saints (who they disregard as “dead men and women”, LOL)

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  • There were a few scenes in which the animation felt, at times, choppy. Whatever effect they were trying to convey through this was lost on my eyes, and only made it an inconvenience to go through that part.
  • One thing that I noticed was the serious downplaying of the other characters that were present at the Passion, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Apostle, St. Mary Magdalene, and even Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas who demanded his execution. It felt weird to see them not present especially when they were either the major players in the story, or it was recorded that they were physically present at the foot of the Cross.
Pin on Selected Listings from DoubleQuicktime
Principal characters in the Passion of Christ, such as the Apostles or the Blessed Virgin, remain curiously missing from this production.

MUSIC

The story was accompanied by a wave of background music for the most part, which I could only describe as somber, yet moving; nothing too flashy or grandiose. The melody would swell or deprecate depending on what was being depicted on-screen, but nevertheless I found that this was pretty effective in helping viewers to understand the seriousness that was Our Lord’s Passion.

CHARACTERS

Very often, films about Jesus’ life tend to focus from the third-person perspective towards Him, and His message. Not so with My Last Day: instead, this version takes the story of Christ’s last days for a spin and, instead of focusing on Christ, rather focuses on that of someone who was there with Him this whole time, kind of like the “side player” to this whole story. That person was St. Dismas; also known as the “penitent thief”. Although he does not have many lines other than his famous “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom” line, needless to say, his character was not only well-rounded, but his presence made the story and its message even more powerful. Throughout this video we see how he develops from a man who initially did his work without remorse, gradually realize the gravity of his crimes, and come to terms with his own sinful nature, culminating in his acknowledgement of Christ as His King, the only source of his hope. I found it beautiful how they could interweave him and his character, and make it reflect as a symbol of how us mortal humans, despite our naturally sinful nature, can achieve righteousness through acknowledgement of Christ and abiding by His will.

BONUS STAGE: TWO JESUSES?

Never before has an anime depicted so strongly the words: “And Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost.(St. Luke 23:46)

The big thing that I liked with My Last Day is the focus of Christ and not just His humanity, but His Divine status as well. For an anime, that’s quite extraordinary. It’s very unlike another anime with Jesus as a character: the slice-of-life comedy series Saint Onii-san (Saint Young Men). Compared to My Last Day, Saint Onii-san has almost nothing to do with authentic Christianity, and rather completely screws up on its depiction of Jesus in more than one ways. Some examples include:

  • It promotes an Arian view of Christ. In Saint Onii-san, Christ is depicted as “one of the guys”; he’s living out an ordinary life in Tokyo, going out shopping, playing video games, and travelling. Such borders along the lines of the heresy known as Arianism, which explicitly denies the divinity of Christ, and was condemned by the Council of Nicaea in 325. Of note, its founder, Arius (hence the name), got slapped by St. Nicholas of Myra because of this heresy. Not good.
  • It promotes the Vatican II error of ecumenism. Christ’s roomate in this series is none other than Buddha. Moreover, they are depicted as having amicable relations with each other, not caring about the fact that their teachings are pretty much contradictory to each other. It’s reflective of one of the errors of the Second Vatican Council; namely that all religions have, more or less, a certain degree of truth to them (and consequently, lead to salvation).
  • It’s literally blasphemy. I don’t care the fact that it was made by people with little to no knowledge about Christ; the fact that this series presents a completely erroneous depiction of Our Lord, His works and life, and subsequently bastardized them to use for comedy. Combine that with the two points I made above, and you get that this is blasphemy, and utter madness. (But this is not Sparta) You might say I’m reading a bit too much into it, but believe me; I try to take my faith seriously, and this is one of the times I spring it into action.

You know, it’s rather amazing how I can find myself more impressed over a 9-minute anime about Christ’s Passion instead of an episodic series involving two guys in a Tokyo apartment. As a matter of fact, I have not watched even one full episode of this series, and rest assured I have no plans to in the future.

“The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.” (Nostra Aetate, pgh 2). Sounds familiar when you put it with Saint Onii-san…

CONCLUSION

To conclude: My Last Day pales in comparison to other films such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ, but if one looks at it not as a motion picture, but rather as a spiritual reflection, I think that’s the best way to describe this. The fact that it employed the artistic style so common to anime to depict the Greatest Story Ever Told is in itself amazing, and proof of how God can use and inspire us to use whatever medium He wishes to bring out a positive moral message of reforming our lives and doing His will, rather than ours; I think that’s a pretty good message considering the times we are in now.

Final word: St. Dismas, patron of penitents, ora pro nobis!

SCORE: 8.5/10

My Last Day: more like The Redemption of St. Dismas.

6 thoughts on “Anime Review #34: My Last Day

  1. I just watched this today actually, I enjoyed it. I hope one day a full anime series can be released about Jesus or the saints. The chances are quite small of course, but we can hope right? Lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed that would be MVPerry! As far as I know though, the closest an anime has come to properly portray Christianity is “Vatican Kiseki Chousakan”. They even throw a few references to early Catholic saints in the early episodes.

      Hope you are having a great and blessed Holy Week!

      Like

  2. I wasn’t aware of those anime takes on Jesus. I didn’t even know Studio 4C whom I know because of Tekkonkinkreet worked on such a project. Saint Onii-san just looks facepalm worthy regardless if anyone has any spirituality or a religious worldview.

    Liked by 1 person

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