Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. “Inuyashiki” Manga by Hiroya Oku: What Is Human?

 
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Kodansha Comics edition volume 1 cover design by Phil Balsman, Inuyashiki english translation copyright © 2015 by Hiroya Oku.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

You will not find this quote in newest manga series by creator of Gantz, Hiroya Oku, Inuyashiki, but you will find in the first volume two opposing views on what it means to be human. Does being human require a physical body — and therefore losing your humanity the moment your body ceases to function, or, having lost the experience of having lived in a human body, can you continue on as “human” after your physical death?

One of the things I enjoy about science fiction is how it can create situations that bring the essential differences into focus. Consider the following conversation of unseen beings occurring shortly after bright flashes of light obliterate a small overlook where two strangers have gone, each for their own reasons. The ensuing moral dilemma impacts more than merely the two.

“Any damage?”

“Nothing here. However…we did destroy two of the planet’s intelligent life forms…”

“Can we rebuild them?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Then at least recreate their outer appearances, as quickly as you can. Convincing enough that they don’t realize we tampered with them.”

“But we only have weapon-grade units in stock…”

“Wait, No! They’ll destroy this entire planet!!”

“That’s not our problem! We need to disengage at once!!”

Two men, one middle-aged (title character Ichiro Inuyashiki) given three months to live “tops” with a fierce case of stomach cancer, the other a high schooler (Hiro Shishigami), have each been killed by an accidental discharge of energy from an alien spacecraft. They are repaired by giving them new mechanical bodies, each of which has untold destructive potential. They each wake up and return to their lives, at first unaware of anything being different.

After a few days, the man discovers there is nothing left of his old body. His new body can open to expose the sphere (apparently where his consciousness now resides) and advanced weaponry. He realizes why he has not been feeling himself. This precipitates a crisis of whether he is still Ichiro Inuyashiki, whether he still has responsibilities to support his unloving family, why does he exist, has he gone insane? Somehow, he remembers the conversation that precipitated his reconstruction and begins to piece what happened together.

But life is not sweet in middle-class Kanagawa, Japan. Bands of delinquent middle schoolers periodically go out to attack and kill society’s least able. Using baseball bats and (fictional) fireworks, they gang up to torture and kill — for kicks — a homeless man sleeping in a public park. They record their exploits and later post videos with such titles as “killing the roaches.”

Inadvertently, Inuyashiki comes upon one of these attacks, and attempts to protect the man by putting himself between the youths and the man, taking the brunt of the fireworks assault. The youths beat him with their bats until he is unconscious and they leave him for dead. But while Mr. Inuyashiki sleeps and the attackers approach to torture the homeless man, his alien body awakens and goes into automatic protect mode. Not protecting himself/itself, but zeroing in on the homeless man and launching a barrage of non-lethal charges that chase the youths away and save the homeless man from being maimed or worse.

When Mr. Inuyashiki wakes up later, the homeless man sincerely thanks him for having saved his life, even calling him a god. In the aftermath, Mr. Inuyashiki himself is overcome with emotion, recognizing he is human after all, having saved a human life, that he does have a heart, vowing the next day to save as many lives as he can as a way of proving he is human.

Contrast that with the situation of the high schooler, Hiro Shishigami. His life appears completely normal on the outside. On the inside, however, he has convinced himself he is no longer Hiro Shishigami, i.e., he is no longer human. This becomes evident as he declares such to a fellow classmate he is visiting who has been out sick, when he opens his alien body to show he is a machine.

The question of what is human is so difficult for atheists and materialists to define because they look only at the physical side of humanity. It seems impossible for them to comprehend the meaning of being created equal because they only see the assemblage of cells and randomness. Of course looking at “humanity” this way is going to contradict the statement that all men are created equal because physically we are all unique. The great religions that consider the spiritual nature of humanity recognize the non-physical. That recognition is the basis of our founding documents.

There are 17 comments.

  1. Saint Augustine Member

    Nice post!

    So could I have been a penguin?

    • #1
    • October 12, 2015, at 5:12 AM PDT
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  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    According to Christian tradition, the answer is “both”. The body is essential, yet human life is not limited to the body. We are immortal, immaterial souls made for bodies, yet separable from our bodies. Body, mind, and soul together make us complete, but each is distinct.

    I find limited usefulness in comparing those three parts/aspects to hardware, software, and a user. Hardware can be sustained by itself, but loses its purpose without the others. The mind is data which can be transferred, but the original body is its context where that information is most useful. The user is an external will that directs those parts, but is dependent on those parts for full power or expression.

    Consider LEGOs. Which parts are essential? Does it matter if not all parts are used at one time?

    Sometimes I use my legs to walk. Sometimes I sit down. Are legs essential elements of human beings? If my legs are essential even when I don’t use them, why can’t they be essential even when someone loses them to amputation?

    If we are designed beings, essence is determined by the Designer’s intent. It relates to, but is not strictly limited by, functions and utility.

    • #2
    • October 12, 2015, at 7:39 AM PDT
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  3. Saint Augustine Member

    Aaron Miller:According to Christian tradition, the answer is “both”. The body is essential, yet human life is not limited to the body. We are immortal, immaterial souls made for bodies, yet separable from our bodies. Body, mind, and soul together make us complete, but each is distinct.

    I find limited usefulness in comparing those three parts/aspects to hardware, software, and a user. Hardware can be sustained by itself, but loses its purpose without the others. The mind is data which can be transferred, but the original body is its context where that information is most useful. The user is an external will that directs those parts, but is dependent on those parts for full power or expression.

    Consider LEGOs. Which parts are essential? Does it matter if not all parts are used at one time?

    Sometimes I use my legs to walk. Sometimes I sit down. Are legs essential elements of human beings? If my legs are essential even when I don’t use them, why can’t they be essential even when someone loses them to amputation?

    If we are designed beings, essence is determined by the Designer’s intent. It relates to, but is not strictly limited by, functions and utility.

    Ah, metaphysics.

    • #3
    • October 12, 2015, at 7:44 AM PDT
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  4. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa

    Implied by the different attitudes of their new existence, I think it’s pretty evident which one is going to pursue the moral path and which will be likely to go down the immoral path. As with people, so with government. Which world view is more likely to be able to govern itself?

    • #4
    • October 12, 2015, at 12:29 PM PDT
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  5. Brandon Shafer Coolidge

    Is related at all to the tv show Inuyasha?

    • #5
    • October 12, 2015, at 1:03 PM PDT
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  6. jonsouth Inactive

    Even as atheists we can argue whether consciousness is something that can be copied and ‘uploaded’ (as the Singularitarians like to say) – or is it equally the result of chemical processes within the physical body that wouldn’t be replicated in a silicon or mechanical one? Are conditions like anxiety and depression physiological, and would they transfer over to the new state? And if they didn’t, how could the new entity possibly be anything like the original, given our mental states drive our every decision and action?

    Then there’s the question of who would be the ‘real’ you – the copy, if it were even possible, has all your memories and believes it is you. Everyone who spoke to it would think they were talking to you. Yet the original ‘you’ could die, cease to exist, or be unintentionally destroyed by people who thought they’d successfully transferred your consciousness to another body.

    Why am I even bothered by these sorts of ideas?

    • #6
    • October 12, 2015, at 2:18 PM PDT
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  7. captainpower Inactive

    jonsouth: Then there’s the question of who would be the ‘real’ you – the copy, if it were even possible, has all your memories and believes it is you. Everyone who spoke to it would think they were talking to you. Yet the original ‘you’ could die, cease to exist, or be unintentionally destroyed by people who thought they’d successfully transferred your consciousness to another body.

    Same question arises when talking about teleportation. If the atoms are split into a bazillion pieces and reassembled on the other side, is it you or just a copy?

    • #7
    • October 12, 2015, at 2:34 PM PDT
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  8. captainpower Inactive

    Brandon Shafer:Is related at all to the tv show Inuyasha?

    Completely different authors (Rumiko TAKAHASHI vs Hiroya OKU) and premises, so no, not related.

    • #8
    • October 12, 2015, at 2:39 PM PDT
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  9. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa

    Brandon Shafer:Is related at all to the tv show Inuyasha?

    I had to do a double take on the title the first time I saw it, because I’ve been a big fan and collected to the last big size collection. This series is a futuristic, hyper-reality. City life is seen for what it is, warts and all. Nothing about city life is romanticized. The hard lives of many of the characters further the story.

    • #9
    • October 12, 2015, at 3:21 PM PDT
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  10. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa

    Another aspect that makes this series very current socially is that in certain segments, the story develops as news is spread, videos posted and declarations made via social media, which you get to see up close. So the context is today the way young people use social media in Japan, but where it takes off from that is that the alien technology built into the reconstructed Ichiro hacks social media at will, finding all of the perpetrators in social media and then interrupting broadcast media to expose and bring the perpetrators to justice. This all happens without any awareness or effort on his part.

    • #10
    • October 12, 2015, at 3:31 PM PDT
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  11. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa

    jonsouth: Why am I even bothered by these sorts of ideas?

    Probably because you’ve been reading Gantz, or saw the video.

    • #11
    • October 12, 2015, at 3:33 PM PDT
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  12. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    By the way, I think a false assumption of many AI enthusiasts is that a computer intelligence would be immune from all the internal conflicts and disorders of a human mind.

    It’s amusing that we pay so much attention to the ideal of human-level personalities in robots when we can’t yet even simulate the autonomy of insects.

    • #12
    • October 12, 2015, at 4:03 PM PDT
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  13. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Not related to InuYasha, but we named our cat Kikyo (high priestess, InuYasha’s girlfriend).

    Kikyo

    • #13
    • October 12, 2015, at 4:08 PM PDT
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  14. jonsouth Inactive

    captainpower:

    Same question arises when talking about teleportation. If the atoms are split into a bazillion pieces and reassembled on the other side, is it you or just a copy?

    The most frightening thing about that is: it could happen millions of times and no-one would ever know except the person being teleported… at which point it would be too late to warn anyone about it.

    Ray Kujawa:

    jonsouth: Why am I even bothered by these sorts of ideas?

    Probably because you’ve been reading Gantz, or saw the video.

    And the series of Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard K Morgan.

    • #14
    • October 12, 2015, at 4:17 PM PDT
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  15. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    Aaron Miller:By the way, I think a false assumption of many AI enthusiasts is that a computer intelligence would be immune from all the internal conflicts and disorders of a human mind.

    My own belief is that we can do away with the disorders, by which I mean literally “accidents of biochemistry, including genetics, as well as failure to reason rationally” but not “conflicts,” by which I mean “there are multiple equally feasible courses of action based on the available information, none of which are uniformly positive, and the negative utilities are incommensurable.” That follows more-or-less directly from abandoning “mimic the human brain” as architecture, although building a neural network and discovering it had epilepsy was kind of interesting.

    • #15
    • October 12, 2015, at 5:20 PM PDT
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  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Exactly. Human beings often must make decisions with incomplete information. We don’t wait for certainty, nor even for resolution of logical conflicts.

    If a supercomputer ever did gain access to all the knowledge of the Internet and try to rule humanity, it would probably go mad long before it reached that goal. Fun times!

    Great Ghost of Gödel: […]but not “conflicts,” by which I mean “there are multiple equally feasible courses of action based on the available information, none of which are uniformly positive, and the negative utilities are incommensurable.” [….]

    • #16
    • October 12, 2015, at 5:32 PM PDT
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  17. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa

    My reference for Kanagawa as a location sounds a little stupid to me at the moment. It was the only geographic reference I could find, as in one of the characters from within social media indicated he was from Kanagawa, but looking that up, it’s a prefecture in Japan, SW of Tokyo, that includes Yokohama, but it’s not a city. I was hoping to pass on some local flavor, but I’m sure my reference will sound pretty dumb to anybody who actually has spent time in Japan. Sorry. The scenes are drawn so realistically that I feel like I want to know what physical location they are based on. Hiroya Oku’s work in Gantz used a process of integrating CG and conventional tracing to make unbelievably realistic looking settings.

    • #17
    • October 13, 2015, at 2:02 AM PDT
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