Two of the first, and most influential, anime series that I watched growing up were Trigun and Rurouni Kenshin. I loved watching Vash the Stampede and Kenshin using their finely honed, world-class skills to help and protect others–Kenshin being a master swordsman and Vash being a master gunsman. Whenever a bad guy would come on-scene and start causing trouble, I would be eager to see Vash and Kenshin put a stop to their wrongdoing and restore justice by using their gifted talents.
At first, I mainly thought about how cool it was to see the good guys kicking butt. But I recently realized a deeper message that Vash and Kenshin exemplify that can be related to biblical teachings.
Specifically, 1 Peter says, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:8-11
What I find interesting is that Vash and Kenshin have both walked extremely destructive paths long before they’re ever introduced on-screen. Vash (unintentionally) destroyed an entire city using his Angel Arm, and Kenshin (intentionally) was one of the most deadly killers/assassins of his time and had no second thoughts about taking others’ lives. However, when their respective series begin, we see both Vash and Kenshin “serving one another with whatever gift each of them has received,” as they continuously (and often anonymously) save innocent people from others who are seeking to do them harm.
There’s a ton of backstory (especially in Kenshin’s case) that explains Vash’s and Kenshin’s current outlooks on life, what led them away from their past selves and mistakes, and what they’re currently doing to find peace within themselves. I think their pasts are important aspects of the overall message they embody.
Firstly, their pasts show just how much power they have–Kenshin essentially being a killing machine that can easily take out a group of people with a single swipe of his blade, and Vash being able to wipe out an entire city using his arm, as well as having near-perfect aim with a revolver.
Secondly, their pasts show what that power is capable of when used for evil–how much pain, destruction, and death can result when their abilities are used for materialistic, worldly purposes.
And thirdly, their pasts show the extreme contrast of what that power is capable of when used to serve others, and the difference it makes in Vash and Kenshin’s lives when they turn away from the dark and towards the light. Kenshin, who was once a cold-blooded killer, becomes a meek traveler who’s always ready to save someone from harm. He even reverses the blade on his sword so that he only strikes with the blunt, non-lethal end. Vash, who is given the title of “Vash the Stampede” due to the death of an entire city, becomes a goofy and cheerful traveler who loves making kids smile, is always diffusing tension in possibly deadly scenarios, and protects those who can’t defend themselves.
Vash’s and Kenshin’s stories can be related to the story of Paul, one of the most well-known apostles whose letters make up a good majority of the New Testament. Paul, who was once named Saul, was initially a major enemy of Christians. He led the charge in heavily persecuting, and even killing, the followers of Jesus. It can be assumed that Paul had a lot of knowledge, authority, and leadership abilities due to his position; when he used those abilities to persecute Christians, the outcome was disastrous.
However, when Paul was blinded and spoken to by Jesus through a vision, he ultimately turned completely around and became a follower of Christ. Throughout the book of Acts and all of Paul’s letters, we see his true potential when his talents and abilities were used to glorify God and spread His love.
When we look at Vash and Kenshin, it’s obvious that they have talents and gifts, as we all do. Their stories serve as important examples of the two very different outcomes that can result when talents are used for selfish/worldly purposes or to help others. Through Vash and Kenshin, we see that the path of “the world” leads to dissatisfaction, pain, loss, destruction, and death, and that selfish means never make for a satisfying end. Oppositely, we see that the path of God and the teachings of Jesus (loving others and using our gifts to serve others) leads to joy, fulfillment, and life.
When it comes to using the talents and gifts we have, we essentially have two choices: use them for ourselves (“the flesh”), or use them to serve others and, ultimately, God. It’s certainly possible to use our talents to “succeed” in a worldly sense (as we see many people do today in the entertainment industry, for example), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll find joy, purpose, and fulfillment in life, as shown particularly in Rurouni Kenshin’s example.
True joy, purpose, and fulfillment comes from using our gifts and talents to love and serve others, even when the world doesn’t consider us “successful.” That’s the answer both Kenshin and Vash come to. And no doubt the Apostle Paul would back them up.
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