We All Live in Purgatory

By Jin-yeong Yi

Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - Fiery Purgatory

Trapped in purgatory
A lifeless object, alive
Awaiting reprisal
Death will be their acquisition

The sky is turning red
Return to power draws near
Fall into me, the sky’s crimson tears
Abolish the rules made of stone

Pierced from below, souls of my treacherous past
Betrayed by many, now ornaments dripping above

Awaiting the hour of reprisal
Your time slips away

Raining blood
From a lacerated sky
Bleeding its horror
Creating my structure
Now I shall reign in blood!

—Slayer, “Raining Blood”

One time in an art class in high school, I was listening to a conversation being held among classmates I was sitting with. One of them, a female punk, wondered aloud if this world was Hell itself. When her friend disagreed, arguing that it wasn’t “bad enough,” she immediately shot back with “How do you know?” Incidentally, the late Chuck Schuldiner (Death) actually once said that this world was Hell, and that there were demons in people.

I tend to take a more moderate position. In my post on Painkiller, I noted that I saw the game as a metaphor for life, and I feel strongly as ever about this. This world is neither Heaven nor Hell. This world is Purgatory. Unlike Heaven and Hell, Purgatory is a mixed bag–here one finds beauty as well as ugliness, good as well as evil, reasons to live as well as reasons to die. Also, unlike Heaven and Hell, Purgatory is not static; it’s a journey rather than a destination. It is a temporary state of being, one full of perils–and possibilities. Above all, it’s a perpetual war, full of uncertainty, chaos, horror, suffering, and death.

If we’re here for a reason, I doubt it’s to pursue happiness, which is as elusive as a pot of gold on the other side of a rainbow. The sum of my observations and experiences suggests to me that, if we’re here for a reason, it’s to do battle, to oppose our wills and wits to the howling fury of demons within and without us.

So pick up your sword–or your Painkiller, if you happen to own one of those–and brace yourself for the next battle, with a smile of grim determination on your battered and bloodied face. Having some kickass music playing in the background wouldn’t hurt either.

Maetel: Divine Mother or Demigoddess?

By Jin-yeong Yi

Maetel (1)

“Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of children.”

—William Makepeace Thackeray

That one can be captivated by a person who does not exist—while being fully aware that that person does not exist—is a testament to the power of fiction. From the age of seven or eight or so, I found myself allured by Maetel, the mysterious and elegantly beautiful heroine of Galaxy Express 999.

Maetel, which appears to be a mistransliteration of mēteru, is the Japanized form of mater, which is simply Latin for “mother.” Here’s the million dollar question (or hundred million yen question, if you like) for today: does Maetel qualify for divine motherhood? Does she possess the credentials necessary to enter the august pantheon occupied by the likes of Mary, mother of Jesus; Maya, mother of Buddha; Devaki, mother of Krishna; and Isis, mother of Horus?

Maetel (2)

Maetel is, from the get-go, a curiosity. A woman with seemingly Indo-European features, who speaks only Japanese, but has a name that is neither Indo-European nor Japanese, and, as it turns out, wasn’t born on Earth?

She is not Tetsuro’s dead mother, but she is the spitting image of her. And we learn that this is no coincidence: physically speaking, she is Tetsuro’s mother. (She is essentially an ageless soul without a permanent physical form, switching bodies when one begins to grow old. She happened to be occupying a copy of the body of Tetsuro’s mother during the events of Galaxy Express 999.)

However, Tetsuro is, of course, not a god-man, but an ordinary human placed in extraordinary circumstances. Even if he were God incarnate, it wasn’t Maetel who gave birth to him, despite the fact that she inhabits the body of the woman who did.

Furthermore, her relationship with Tetsuro is ambiguous. While at first glance she seems to comfortably fit the role of surrogate mother, the fact that she kisses Tetsuro on the lips when they part ways for the last time cannot be overlooked. However, the kiss is ambiguous as well, in part because it is unknown what exactly the cultural connotations of kissing were on the planet she was raised on.

Finally, unlike the aforementioned Divine Mothers, Maetel cannot intercede for humankind. It is also unclear what kind of deity or deities she believes in, if any.

Maetel (3)

In the end, one is forced to admit that Maetel does not qualify as a Divine Mother, or a demigoddess, or even a Divine Lover. Though of royal lineage, she is, in the last analysis, very human. But perhaps that is why I adore her so. She is as much of a goddess as a woman can be without actually being one.

Odes to Maetel[1]

“Blue Earth”

by Jun Hashimoto

I shut my eyes and remember my mother’s vestiges
O distant blue earth, sleep in peace
Maetel – another star fades away
Burning red, red
As if it were flowing through the galaxy
As if it were flowing through the galaxy

Her lonesome smile resembles that of my mother
She is calling out to the stars scattered far across space
Maetel – someday you shall find happiness
As if your hotly, hotly burned
Life were shining
Life were shining

Maetel – you seem to be looking at my mother
Within your pallidly, pallidly clear eyes
Courage wells up
Courage wells up

“My Dear Maetel”

By Jun Hashimoto 

It is said that there is a sad star
That is as pale as ice
It is said that people looking for happiness
Are waiting for you
Maetel… my dear Maetel
My dear, sweet Maetel
Like an angel innocent of corruption
Comfort those who are lonely

It is said that the call of wanderers
Will become twinkling stars
You gaze gently at the light lacking in happiness
Maetel… my dear Maetel
My dear, sweet Maetel
Your cheeks are wet with tears
As if you were an angel stripped of her wings
Maetel… my dear Maetel
My dear, sweet Maetel
Resembling an angel traversing the galaxy
Your sleeping face is so beautiful


[1] Translations mine.