Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh Ye of Little Faith: Rebirth of the Buddha

Given the recent success of high-profile theatrical anime such as the Evangelion re-imaginings and Summer Wars, I’m excited to see what the industry has brewing in the ‘ol percolator for us.

There was a group handing out flyers for a new film by the station so I made it a point to snag one. That’s the nice thing about living in Japan, you get to experience things on the ground floor. Anime is on the level here, man.

Rebirth of the Buddha, huh? The character designs look kind of generic. But I’d be interested to see a story about the Buddha in modern Japan.

Wait, Ryuho Okawa? I know I’ve heard that name before…

Even if you’re not familiar with his name, anyone who ventured near a train station without their tinfoil hat during last election’s campaign period was surely bombarded with his policies. Eliminating taxes, opening the door for foreign workers, stressing the nuclear danger that North Korea represents… I could only be talking about the leader of Japan’s most ineptly benign cult, Happy Science!

Happy Science started in the mid-80's as a new-religion fringe group. They made headlines at the time for their lawsuit against Kodansha claiming defamation of their holy leader, as well as their public fight against the Aum Shinrikyo shortly before they carried out their the infamous Sarin gas attack. Then, radio silence from the mid-90's until last year with the sudden formation of the Happiness Realization Party. But protest and politics make for a poor business model. How was Mr. Okawa funding his revolution?

Any self-respecting snake oil salesman in Japan these days claims to be a reincarnation of the Buddha. Ryuho Okawa needed something to help him breakthrough the entrenched competition, Sokka Gakkai International, who had beaten him to the punch by a good ten years. Say, aren’t we due for the Second Coming of Christ any day now? That’s right, the King of Kings has returned to our world to take up residence inside Ryuho Okawa with the Buddha. It’s like Saint Young Men, except the punch line is gullible old women being swindled out of their retirement money.

Wielding his divine powers, Mr. Okawa can reach back through the eons and speak to the spirits of leaders past. Gandhi, Lincoln, Florence Nightingale —Happy Science has them all on speed dial for consultation and has published countless books detailing their super-dimensional exchanges. Amongst them, The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus was made into a movie to bring their warnings of the Apocalypse to the masses.

Laugh at the cheap special effects while you still can, because if Mr. Okawa and his cronies are to be believed, it's only a matter of time before the Norks rain nuclear destruction on Tokyo and Japan finds itself colonized by invading Chinese forces. "But Japan has missile defense systems," you scoff. Tell that to these guys!

I’m ready to man up and pay the fifteen hundred yen and risk the possibile brainwashing for the sake of entertainment by seeing Rebirth of the Buddha when it comes out in theatres this weekend. Perhaps it’s opening somewhere close to you? Just be sure to put a tack in your shoe beforehand. Focusing on the pain will help keep Mr. Okawa from opening a direct portal into your brain.


  1. What kind of lunatic carves T, S, or B into their hand. Then we're to take your criticism seriously?

  2. Derek: Thanks for commenting! I hope you are enjoying the blog.

    Carving the alphabet into your hand is far more sane than believing yourself to be the reincarnation of BOTH Buddha and Jesus. I would have accepted one or the other, but both in the same body? Let's not get greedy!

  3. Actually the loony to outloony either is people who are actually scared out of their wits over North Korea, Iran, or whatever be the newest pet scapegoat rouge nation in mode.

    Anyone sane enough to hold power in any of these countries is lucid enough not to effectively commit suicide by capriciously launch whatever imaginary doomsday weapon they are being accused of possessing against any nation that anyone cares about without, for just one second, consider the comeuppance they are likely to get back, with interest, from the world as a whole.

    People in developed countries really, really need something with a bit of actual substance to fear and distract them.