I’ve wanted to delve into these Happy Science movies for a long time now. Everything I’ve heard about them pique a lot of my conspiracy theory and occult interests, and the fact that they’re financed by a literal cult makes them all the more fascinating in a morbid, bizarro way. If I were in my late teens or early twenties, I’d have jumped on them right away, since that was the peak of my “I need to read about Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey and all sorts of other nutjobs” phase. Nowadays that passion for this sort of thing has been tempered a bit since a lot of these fringe trains of thought are starting to become far more mainstream and exert real world influence. The fascination is still there, but now it feels more like I’m indulging someone who can take that indulgence and work off of it rather than simply looking on at some harmless tinfoil hat type no one listens to.
With the recent (as of this writing) hubbub over at Anime News Network and their accepting a paid editorial for the latest Happy Science movie without their ad department realizing what was up, and with my realizing that one of Happy Science’s movies is up on Amazon Prime, I finally indulged my curiosity and watched The Mystical Laws.
Knowing that this is one of the more subdued entries has my interest heightened even more, because while this does start rather mundanely, in a Code Geass/Psycho Pass/Ghost in the Shell anime thriller sort of way, it quickly goes off the rails and becomes something of a modern day conspiracy theory greatest hits record.
It starts with a premise that’s fairly “mainsteam” in terms of right wing ideology: China, here rebranded as the Godom Empire, has become full on imperialistic. It’s now the world’s dominant military and economic force, and is beginning to work its way into Japan. Not only do we get a full-on land invasion of Japan, playing to the worst sort of fear mongering– since such landings are effectively unheard of in modern warfare– we also get some jabs at attempts to scale back military spending in countries like the United States. The movie makes it a point to say that the rise of the Godom Empire is due in part to decreased military spending in the US, with taxes going to infrastructure and such instead of maintaining the US’ position as “the world’s police.” Much is made of not only Japan’s inability and unwillingness to confront not-China with its military might, but also of the same perceived neutering of the United States.
That’s fairly standard gung ho, right wing, military storytelling right there. It’s the idea that government money is better spent not on improving the lives if its citizens, but on ensuring that government’s place in the global pecking order– the usual talk radio spending talking point. They find a global boogeyman, stoke fear, and demand increased spending for their pet military contractors and the like while insisting that money is “wasted” on the domestic side. Not that China isn’t without its real world problems, but those issues are framed not in terms of the dangers China poses to its own citizens or to the global situation as a whole, but in terms of “they’re coming for us” and “they want to replace us.” In this movie’s case, yeah, not-China is gunning for global dominance and destruction, but it’s ire is especially levied towards Japan, and that’s because Japan is weak for depending on others for its defense.
There’s also the imagery of the Godom Empire using a swastika on its flag, lending them a new age Nazi vibe despite China having no real connection to that brand of fascism. It’s that weird brand of “no, you’re the actual Nazi” you get from people like that Dinesh D’Souza hack who “proves” that the US’ left is the real inheritors of Confederacy. These types love to do that sort of turnabout thing where they deny their line of thoughts real history and claim that their enemies all originate from the past’s monsters. “Yeah, we say everything that the KKK loves, but you’re actually the KKK for wanting high taxes! Bazinga!”
If that were the gist of The Mystical Laws– a sci-fi political thriller stoking the fires of nationalism and isolationism– it’d be more in line with, say, those faith-based indie movies like God’s Not Dead or the one where people are told to pray for Trump because God sent him here to do his bidding. Its politics would be ugly, but they’d also be all too banal, common, and expected.
Nope. That’s where The Mystical Laws begins.
Happy Science is based around the notion that its leader is some sort of reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha, and other assorted holy figures throughout the ages, and apparently many of its movies are based around savior figures who are fictionalized incarnations of this leader. The movie follows the latest incarnation as he discovers his place in the world as The God of Earth. He works for a Doctors Without Borders like organization that not only goes to warzones to do good deeds, but also works as a secret resistance force against The Godom Empire. They’re secretly followers of this God of Earth, and are here to do his bidding. They also believe that one of their doctors, a man who has prophetic visions of people being slaughtered by the Empire, is this latest incarnation, and they work to awaken the god within him so that he can bring everlasting peace to the Earth.
It’s self-insert fan fiction for the cult’s leader, as he’s the only person who can save the world from the tyranny of a god-less empire descended from divergent ideologies founded by evil leaders like Marx, Nietzsche, and Darwin. As the movie progresses, he is visited by a few gods. One is a spirit who’s represented as something of a representation of Japan, and another is an ancient Incan king who is another godly incarnation, and also is a part of this doctor’s soul.
There are a lot of second coming Christ allusions going on, all indirectly framing Happy Science’s leader as this unlikely and somewhat hesitant messiah. That, along with pairing him with “godless” philosophies and an origin involving him being created by the government in a cloning experiment, in turn frames the leader of the Empire as the Anti-Christ.
This is basically a recontextualization of the Book of Revelations into Happy Science’s strange cocktail of Christianity, Buddhism, and Shinto. These are the end times. The war with not-China is the final battle, and Happy Science is here to be the lamb ushering in God’s peaceful reign on Earth. We even get a crucifixion and resurrection scene presented in a stadium and streamed live to the world.
But The Mystical Laws isn’t done there. We already have a fixation on right wing military build-up propaganda and End Times philosophy, but we haven’t gotten to the aliens and its take on the afterlife.
This is where the movie really delves into some relatively deep cuts of conspiracy theory. We get a lot of talk about different planes of existence, and that the “gods” in question come from different, higher planes than our physical, mortal realm. The higher you go, the closer you get to god, with god effectively being the highest plane, and the further away you go you get to what we’d call “hell.” Forces from higher planes are here to help us, and forces from lower planes are here to hinder our way. It isn’t a simple heaven and hell deal, it’s all about the relative distance from what humans dub god. Sometimes it’s referred to as energy wavelengths, sometime’s its actual dimensions– it goes by different names depending on which spiritualist/medium/whatever you’re listening to on a given night, but it’s all the same general principle of levels of existence.
It also frames Earth as the “testing ground” for spirituality. You go to Earth to learn how to become a better being. You get that a lot– that we’re here to learn through different lifetimes, and that Earth isn’t just such a place for Earthlings, but also souls from all around the universe. Earth is special not just for housing life, but for housing some sort of redemptive, enlightening nature.
And yeah, souls from around the universe flock to Earth seeking this. See, the reason why the Godom Empire was able to really escalate its power is because they got technology from aliens from the star Vega.
Their planet got worked over like Krypton in Superman. It’s dying, and the people need a new planet to inhabit. Their princess or whatever found Earth and made a deal with the man who would lead the Empire to prominence: Help us and you may have Africa so that your dying species’ souls may possess Africa’s people and live there.
Yeah. Africa is so beneath their contempt that the only consideration it gets in this Revelations fanfic is becoming the home for the souls of aliens who have white skin and blonde hair.
So we have ancient aliens and the notion that human progress only happens with alien assistance. We have aliens working with governments so that they can live on Earth and use some humans as vessels. We have Earth as the most important planet in the universe. We also get a glimpse at the greater galactic whole, as we see lizard men aliens waiting for humanity to devastate itself so that they can swoop in and eat us, and how they have to obey galactic law and allow humanity to effectively do itself in before they can directly get involved. So we get that weird “the Federation from Star Wars is real and we’re being indirectly influenced because the aliens can’t just beam down here because of The Prime Directive” stuff that a few of the alien types like to expound on (especially those who claim to commune with them). We have good aliens and bad aliens and how these aliens end up corresponding with the higher wavelengths/spiritual planes and vice versa.
It’s all old hat late night conspiracy radio craziness. It’s like this Happy Science dude just took all the wacky stuff he heard on these shows and crammed them into one handy, easy to bilk you money package, and took it to Japan where no one’d notice. It’s the tinfoil hat version of a celebrity going to Japan to do a commercial because their US fans won’t see it and call them out for whatever.
And it’s a shame this movie isn’t nearly as interesting to actually watch as it is to talk about it. The animation is OK at times, but the computer animation is awkward at best and largely misused. The action scenes are decently done, but when the movie pauses to give us a “history lesson,” it can be a bit of a bore since it usually boils down to one character lecturing another in a very dry manner. Despite its gonzo, bonkers premise, it really is a religious “talking to the choir” sort of movie at heart, as the only people who would actually be swayed by its message are the true believes.
Maybe I’d actually go see a God’s Not Dead movie if Kevin Sorbo donned his Hercules outfit and fought bad CG skeletons who waved Nazi flags as China made a land invasion in San Diego.
It’s crazy, man, but its also really tiresome in how it just borrows ideas from all the previous kooks’ playbooks?