Sword Art Online: Alicization made waves recently, or at least a few ripples, by portraying a double sexual assault on-screen. At the critical moment, young knight-in-training Eugeo finds the courage to attack the noblemen perpetrating the assault. The young women are grateful to him, naturally. But it is Eugeo, not the (surviving) nobleman, who ends up in jail.

In the eyes of the state, he’s the only criminal. (Well, there’s also Kirito, who came to his aid.) Noblemen, it turns out, are legally given a lot of latitude as far as how they treat lower-ranked citizens, but attacking a nobleman is against the law.

Eugeo, however, remembers what Kirito had told him previously:

“There are things you shouldn’t do, even if it’s not forbidden by law. … There might be things you should do, even if they’re forbidden by law.”

SAO just made a really compelling case for breaking the law.

At least some of the time, I mean. I would hope that my readers recognize that sexual assault is wrong, even if permitted by law, and this should need no justification. There is a Law above the law, a standard against which the laws of humans can be judged.

This is hardly a new idea: a moral law woven into the fabric of the universe. To the ancient Greeks, it was called the Logos; to the ancient Chinese, the Tao; to the Hindus, Dharma. The Christian intellectual tradition calls it Natural Law, while the Enlightenment spoke of self-evident truths which included inalienable rights.

Naturally, they didn’t all agree on the details. Was this law created by God/the gods, or did it exist of itself? How could humans apprehend it? About the only things they consistently all held were these: There existed this Law above the law, and we can somehow figure it out. This means that political law should be made in accord with it, and can (or should) even be changed if it does not.

Perhaps it is obvious how this applies to grave wrongs like assault, or significant rights like freedom of speech. But what about, say, manga scanlations? If there is a law attached to the very fiber of the world of which we are a part, is it so strange to think that this law lays down rights and responsibilities on even the most mundane points?

I like to think that there is a moral principle, rising from within Creation itself, that includes at least to some extent an inalienable right to manga.


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