UPDATE: Effective after today’s edition of the St. Pius V Corner, I will be regularly posting on Mondays. So consider this the last time I produce a post on a Friday; my next post will be published on 27 April 2020.
And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he executed all the power of the former beast in his sight; and he caused the earth, and them that dwell therein, to adore the first beast, whose wound to death was healed. And he did great signs, so that he made also fire to come down from heaven unto the earth in the sight of men. And he seduced them that dwell on the earth, for the signs, which were given him to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make the image of the beast, which had the wound by the sword, and lived. And it was given him to give life to the image of the beast, and that the image of the beast should speak; and should cause, that whosoever will not adore the image of the beast, should be slain. And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand, or on their foreheads.Revelation 13: 11-16
A couple of months back, I had the pleasure of reading The Apocalypse of St. John, a comprehensive commentary on the Bible’s final book surrounding the end of the world, written in 1921 by American seminary professor and Catholic priest Fr. Sylvester Berry. At the same time, I was also watching The Rising of the Shield Hero, an anime which centers around the eponymous Shield Hero, Naofumi Iwatani, who goes on a world-saving adventure in the kingdom of Melromarc alongside a raccoon girl named Raphtalia and a chicken girl named Filo. However, the subject matter of this post will not deal primarily with them, but rather with the main antagonists of the show; namely, Melromarc’s state religion, the Cult of the Three Heroes – whom call into mind similarities with those of the Antichrist’s religion as described in St. John’s Apocalypse (more boringly known as the Book of Revelation), and their ultimate goal to bring damnation and eternal ruin to the souls of many.
Again, I must remind again, since we’re not dealing with a review of The Rising of the Shield Hero but rather an analysis of one feature of it, there will be spoilers; so unless if you are familiar with the source material (namely episodes 9-20), do not proceed.
THE CULT OF THE ANTICHRIST
Shortly before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and the subsequent end of time, the world – especially Christians, will undergo the greatest of all tribulations and sufferings, taking place during the reign of the Antichrist; a man who sets himself up as a God among men, ruling with an iron fist, and commanding all powers of Hell in the temporal world. Though he is previously mentioned in the Bible beforehand (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4, 1 John 2:18), he is explained in great detail within the thirteenth chapter of St. John’s Apocalypse.
Aiding the Antichrist in his quest for world domination is his sidekick, the false prophet, who, according to Fr. Berry:
… Antichrist will have his representative in the false prophet who will be endowed with the plentitude of satanic powers to deceive the nations… The prophet, of course, shall have power to perform the wonderful works of his master. Among other prodigies he will bring down fire from heaven, … He will also have statues of Antichrist erected to be adored by those whom he has seduced, …
The followers of Antichrist will be marked with a character in imitation of the sign that St. John saw upon the foreheads of the servants of God… In fact there will be a complete organization – a church of Satan set up in opposition to the Church of Christ…. Their ceremonies will counterfeit the Sacraments and their works of magic be heralded as miracles.Fr. Berry’s commentary on Revelation 13: 11, 16 (pgs 135, 138)
The role of the false prophet, thus, is to overthrow Christianity from the public, and replace it with the religion of the Antichrist and his evil regime. Remnants of Christian truth – churches, Bibles, the Blessed Sacrament, holy images, relics, etc, will be destroyed and blasphemed against in the sight of God. This new religion will make use of externals to give the impression of some resemblance as a successor to Christianity when in fact, it is a pathetic mockery.
Despite overwhelming power granted to it, it will be Christ who emerges victorious; through several plagues, afflictions and battles, He will lead his army – the Church and Her followers – to a total victory over the armies of the Antichrist, who will then be cast down into eternal torment.
THE CULT OF THE THREE HEROES
Similarly, in The Rising of the Shield Hero, we see these properties present in the Cult of the Three Heroes, a religious sect with overwhelming influence in Melromarc’s affairs. Established some time prior to the beginning of the series, the Cult serves as the dominant religion of Melromarc, fundamentally built around the dogma that the Shield Hero, one of the four main heroes of the series (the other three being the Sword, Bow, and Spear Heroes) is a devil-like entity that aims to bring about ruin and destruction to the world, in contrast to the other three. It is led by a man of high intelligence and apparent compassion named Biscas T. Balmus, the High Priest of the Three Heroes Cult.
Unbeknownst to many however, the Cult itself is actually a counterfeit branch-off of the original state religion, the Church of the Four Holy Heroes, adopting many beliefs of the latter except the one where the Shield Hero is a good person. The religion itself is a cover for the evil actions of the High Priest, who in episode 18 exposes the true nature of the cult, which is not about salvation but rather, world domination – which spars a three-episode long battle pitting the Heroes against the Cult, which ultimately results in a decisive victory for the former, and a bloody end for the latter. With this, peace and the true religion of the Four Heroes is re-established in Melromarc, and the followers of the Cult are exiled and punished with no remorse under the leadership of Melromarc’s Queen Mirellia.
ONE AND THE SAME EVIL: THE CULT OF THE THREE HEROES AND ANTICHRIST
Putting Fr. Berry’s analysis on the religion of the false prophet and the Three Heroes Cult side-by-side, I was able to pinpoint several glaring similarities shared between the two sects, which rather fit well with the series’ partially apocalyptic narrative.
- Believers of the Cult can be identified with a necklace displaying the symbol of the Cult: an interwoven Bow, Sword and Spear, like how followers of the Antichrist are marked with the symbol of the Beast, without which they could not interact with society. Anyone who is shown with it is depicted as evil beyond repair – be they a member of the royal family like princess Malty (a.k.a B***h) and her father Aultcray (a.k.a Trash), the soldiers who tried to kill Melty in episode 9, or Idol Rabier, a nobleman and slave owner, whereas followers of the Shield Hero, like Raphtalia, princess Melty, Filo, and some of the villagers, are not shown with such on their bodies and are thus kind, noble characters.
- Both sects are prejudiced towards a certain group, and do not hesitate to employ a high degree of violence against anyone who they deem as such. Demi-humans and followers of the Shield Hero are subject to immense persecution by the Three Heroes Cult in the same manner that Christians face lots of suffering under the Antichrist and his forces. This is hammered down in Raphtalia’s backstory (episode 15), where Cult followers murder her family,sell her to slavery, and commit horrible atrocities against her and her friend Rifana, who eventually succumbs to a fever and dies.
- Anyone who shows even the slightest bit of dissent against the Cult’s policies is sentenced latae sententiae to death, as is the case of Ren and Itsuki in episodes 18, during their investigations to the inner workings of the Cult. They even go as far as to lie to another Hero, Motoyasu on the fate of the former two, blaming it on Naofumi.
- Both cults are suppressed by just and benevolent rulers 20 chapters into their respective stories. The Three Heroes Cult is dissolved by Queen Mirellia in episode 20 of the series, and it is Christ and His Church that bring down the mega ban-hammer on the Antichrist’s cult in the twentieth chapter of Revelation.
THE FALSE PROPHETS COMPARED
Even the High Priest of the Three Heroes Cult is shown as portraying several characteristics of the false prophet in Revelation.
- For starters, the High Priest and the false prophet are both ruling their respective religions during apocalyptic events. Shield Hero‘s antipope reigns over a time when his populace is attacked by the Waves of Calamity, and the false prophet’s rule is prior to the Second Coming of Christ – a time of great devastation and destruction.
- Both individuals are capable of wielding a great amount of magical power, in the name of evil; such as being able to call down fire from the sky at will. Granted, the High Priest requires the use of a falsified copy of a magic scepter to do so, but can one imagine the Antichrist’s prophet doing anything similar, to win over followers?
- Deception is a major character trait for both characters. Both of them were successfully able to sway over a large part of the populace of their nations to commit all kinds of unspeakable evil, all while posing a facade of compassion, helpfulness, and benevolence all while hiding their true ideals. Not even people of good intentions, such as Sword, Spear and Bow heroes Ren, Motoyasu and Itsuki are spared from playing into his trap; their subsequent actions lead to unleashing of pestilence, war, famine, and death (coincidentally, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) to neighboring states.
- The manner in which the two meet their end share striking similarities with each other: the High Priest meets his doom during the battle with Naofumi, the rest of the Heroes, and Queen Mirellia’s army, killed by getting eaten by a giant beast rising from the ground. Gruesome as it seems, it’s no different than the fate suffered the Antichrist and his false prophet: being thrown by Our Lord into a lake of fire. Either way, their suffering will endure for all eternity.
Granted, The Rising of the Shield Hero is in no way a cut-and-paste retelling of the story of the Apocalypse of St. John. However, both of them do contain themes akin to each other, namely world-destroying calamities, references to plagues and other pestilences that affect many people, deception among characters, and most especially the premise of a false church leading souls astray to commit horrific acts of evil and perdition. One theme is common though in both St. John’s Apocalypse and The Rising of the Shield Hero: they both contain an allusion to the words of Christ – a warning, more like:
For there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say to you: Lo here is Christ, or there, do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand.St. Matthew 24:21-25
5 thoughts on “St. Pius V Corner: Melromarc’s Anti-Church and the Apocalypse of St. John”
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Thank you David! I try 😁
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I actually kind of thought this anime was anti-Catholic. They seem to demonize the Crusades and just Catholicism in general through cultish devotion to the pope and other things.
Welcome to my blog Mitch!
Not sure about the Crusades part, but keep in mind that Japan’s perception of Catholicism is quite flawed and foreign. I’m not excusing it, but IMO it’s a bit of a stretch to call it anti-Catholic per se. If you want an example of such, Trinity Blood is your show with its female “priestesses” and messed up theology.