After writing my last piece about episode 8 of Oregairu season 2 and the topic of grace, I thought more and more on the connections between the characters’ actions and that topic. There was more to be said regarding what I wrote on, particularly in the words thrown between the volunteer club trio in the episode’s climax. But I also thought of something in a little different vein.
In the moment when Hikigaya tearfully confesses his desires, I think most of us viewers were expecting some sort of breakdown in return from Yukino. But what he gets instead is a confused Yukino who doesn’t comfort him, who doesn’t even want to accept him.
When I watched the scene, I wondered why it seemed to familiar to me. I realized that it was because I’ve been Hikigaya in this scene many times – and maybe you have as well.
With each episode that passes, Oregairu continues to surprise me. In an episode that I thought started to drift towards anime melodrama, Oregairu instead turned toward something simple and profound. It showed us the definition of grace – and the necessity of it.
The catalyst for the final, transformative scene of episode 8 is the earlier talk that Hikigaya has with Hiratsuka. Among the many words of wisdom she gives during their speech is this line:
Sometimes people lose out on things because they’re looking out for each other.
This, of course, is what Hikigaya has been doing – trying to protect Yui and Yukino through his actions. But Hiratsuka is right when she expounds on this statement, saying that if you really care about each other, you will hurt each one another; in an ironic way, that hurt signals that you care. If you stand on eggshells doing everything possible to keep someone from being hurt, you fail to develop deep bonds – the person you care about is lifted higher than they deserve while you sink lower, and when you do fail that person, you find the distance between you and s/he grows even further.
Hikigaya, realizing this and armed now with wisdom and muster, goes to Yukino and Yui to build their relationships and bring healing to the club by tearfully offering words that at first surprised me, but which make sense. He says that what he wants is genuine relationship.
And genuine relationship can only happen by grace.
Something More: God’s View of a Giftia Wife, Parable of the Lost Nameko, and Allah or YHWH in Arslan Senki?
Episode 7 of Nameko Families provides a striking parallel to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep. [Old Line Elephant]
The beauty of ABe’s concept artwork for Haibane Renmei is undeniable, and begs the question of whether he was inspired by Christian paintings. [Fantastic Memes]
Medieval Otaku sees a parallel between how the Christian God is depicted like Allah by non-Christians and a scene in Arslan Senki and wonders if the creator of Space Pirate Captain Harlock has some knowledge of scripture. [Medieval Otaku]
Rob asks an interesting question in response to Plastic Memories – what would God think of a giftia spouse? [Christian Anime Review]
Along the same lines, Tsukasa’s loving actions toward Isla demonstrate St. Paul’s assertion that “love never fails.” [Geeks Under Grace]
Patlabor: The Movie is full of interesting details, including many references to Christianity and the Bible. [Prede’s Anime Reviews]
There’s a lot of depth to a favorite Japanese expression of incredulity, including the fact that it might have Zen Buddhist origins. How could you not know that, baka?! [Tofugu]
As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality. If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.
One of the most boring things a parent has to do is attend kids’ birthday parties. Seriously, so boring. The only thing a parent can do there is chat with other parents, but sometimes, even that option is cut off. Particularly, if you’re an outsider at the party, the other parents might congregate with each other and leave you out, which can either irk you if you’re the talkative type, or seclude you if you’re not. The first time this happened to me, I was shocked, because I was attending a party full of churchgoers and pastors. I thought it must have been some exception, but repeatedly, I’ve seen this happen again and again and again (and as recently as yesterday), and particularly and mostly around Christians.
Why does this happen? It’s because we hate to get outside of our bubble.
In Oregairu, Hikigaya is as stuck in a bubble as much as anyone. Years of hurt, sensitivity, and ridicule have left him in a comfort zone of one (at least at school). He’d rather stay by himself, think, and observe than to actually interact with others.
But slowly and steadily, he’s breaking free of this bubble. At first, it was out of necessity – Hikigaya was forced to interact with Yukino and with anyone who came to the volunteer club for assistance. Now, Hikigaya is understanding the value of relationships and is starting to break through his self-imposed solitary life because, hey, he now has friends whom he cares about, and caring requires us to reach out despite discomfort.
Kuroko’s Basketball has always been, in part, an underdog story. No one expected Team Seirin to defeat the Generation of Miracles, but here they are, facing the final boss: Akashi Seijuro and the Rakuzan team. And they got here largely because of Kuroko, a small, seemingly unremarkable athlete.
At some point, I started taking Seirin’s determination for granted. Of course they have courage against high odds. They’re anime heroes. But in the most recent episode, a weaker Seirin player faced Akashi himself, and a viewer in the stands compared him to a chihuahua facing a lion. Then I realized how much I can learn from their courage, and their faith in their coach. How do I react when faced with a “lion”? When I search the Scripture, I realize it’s not a hypothetical question.
Way back in Kuroko’s Basketball‘s first season, we met Seirin’s newest basketball players. All five of these first-years shouted their basketball goals from the school’s rooftop (except Kuroko, who was cut off, but he found another way to make his goal known). Only Kuroko and Kagami became starters. The other three were too weak to do anything but support their team from the bench… until the Winter Championship. Read the rest of this entry
One Winter 2015 show that I finished but did not get a chance to review in the end-of-season reviews was The Megumi Kato Show. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it’s better known as either Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, or its official English title Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. In this show, after a fateful encounter with a girl, an otaku guy gets inspired to make a visual novel, and gets some otaku girls he has a history with to help him out. However, when he meets that same fateful girl again, it turns out she is Megumi Kato, a completely average girl who has no presence and is in many ways the complete opposite of a visual novel heroine. As such, the guy takes it upon himself to try to shape Megumi into a proper heroine.
It’s a fun show that also explores some of the conflicts serious otaku can encounter with creators and with the non-otaku world. However, what really allows the show to be as strong as it is, instead of collapsing under its own weight from trying too hard to be both a parody of otaku rom-coms and a serious story, is Megumi Kato. While she is supposedly a “boring” girl, I instead find her to be by far the most interesting character, and easily one of my favorite anime characters of the year. She has very normal reactions to all the craziness around her, avoids falling into obvious stereotypes, and serves as a bridge between the sillier parts of the show and the more down-to-earth parts. And in addition to all of that, she is just a great girl overall.
It’s especially interesting to see what role she plays in the visual novel-creating team. Compared to Tomoya’s as the director, Eriri as artist and Utaha as scenario writer, Megumi initially seems to be little more than a model to stand around and serve as the inspiration for the work where appropriate. Just like she has no presence among her classmates, she also has no presence in the team.
However, as the story goes along and she starts to learn how visual novels work and the potential of the stories behind them, she decides to start helping out in more notable ways. In episode 11, she starts helping with the scripting of the visual novel, connecting Utaha’s written story, Eriri’s character art, and other elements of the software together. As she does not have any specialized talents, she decides to contribute to the project in whatever small ways she can. I love that about her; I too sometimes feel like I am not suited to the major jobs in any project I’m in, so I also look to help out in smaller ways. And I believe her spirit of helping where she can is not just a great trait of hers, but also something Christians can learn from.
The tone of OreGairu has always been peculiar for a self-declared romantic comedy – sarcastic, depressing, persnickety. But throughout most of season two, particularly the episodes since Hikigaya has been helping out “Irohas,’ the show has developed a nervous feeling to it as well. Simultaneously as the audience is on edge about what will happen both to the service club and with the student council project, we’re made more and more aware that almost every character is changing and/or preoccupied with something uncomfortable – and all that makes us uncomfortable as well.
Even though we’re only privy to Hikigaya’s thoughts, we can especially in episode seven guess about the preoccupations of the others – Yui is worried about the club and their friendships; Yukino, perhaps, about her inability to be the person she would like to be; Iroha about her responsibility and budding feelings toward Hikigaya (the latter to an extent with Kaori); Rumi regarding her continued problems establishing friendships; and Hayato’s jealous/admiration toward our lead. Hikigaya, we know, is dealing with how to help others, as he comes to the realization that his methods aren’t working very well.
What surprises me is that Hiki is not preoccupied with the fact that his entire way of thinking is falling apart. He actually takes it in stride that his methods, so core to his belief system, aren’t working with practically anyone right now. He’s more concerned with the fact that he’s not able to help those he’s come to care about.
At the beginning of season two, my guess was that, in traditional anime fashion, the cour would culminate in some grand scene in which Hikigaya would suddenly realize the error of his ways and the value both of relationships and depending on/working with others. Some emotional climax may still happen, but subtly, ever so subtly, transformation for Hikigaya has and is already occurring. We know it by his actions and his thoughts.
The Hikigaya from the beginning of the school year was satisfied being alone and not being involved with anyone. Even in season one, he was resolved to just do things his own way, a cold method that didn’t take others into consideration. But this episode reveals this much – he can’t do that anymore, not just because his ways are practically flawed, but because he cares.
Hikigaya now wants something more than to prove himself right or to finish the job – he wants his friends to be happy.
In thinking about a Christian theme to pick out from Space Pirate Captain Harlock, the image of Mayu standing determined before the crucifix in her school’s chapel continuously comes to mind. Mayu is the orphaned daughter of Captain Harlock’s friend, whose final wish was for her to be raised on Earth. Because of his promise. Captain Harlock refuses to let Mayu join him in his ship, the Arcadia, despite the many hardships she is forced to undergo. In episode two, the villains demand that she write to Captain Harlock in order to draw him to Earth where he might be captured. Mayu refuses and is forced to repeatedly clean the chapel from dawn through night of the same day in order to break her will.
Every other Thursday, Zeroe4, a long-time columnist here and real life missionary in Japan, reminiscences about some of his favorite series from yesteryear. If you haven’t read his column yet, I highly encourage you go through his posts so far – you’ll probably either get nostalgic yourself, find a gem you missed, or both!
For one of his articles next month, he’d like to pitch it to you, the readers. Of the following series, which would you like him to write about?
I’m often asked to give recommendations for anime I think people should watch. While that’s a simple request, the answer is maybe a little more complicated for myself and our writers at Beneath the Tangles. We have series that we think are beneficial for our readers to watch; those that are both beneficial and entertaining; and series that are fun, but not necessarily ones we’d recommend because we’d consider them “morally gray.” This final group of anime are comprised of shows you generally wouldn’t see us discuss here and that many of writers might avoid because of excessive fanservice, nihilistic themes, graphic violence, themes that don’t jive with our beliefs, etc. Still, there’s still value in many of these shows, and they might be worth the watch, which is why we’ll be giving our top five lists of morally gray anime today. But, of course, viewer beware.
We’re blessed to have iblessall joining us as our guest today. You know him from Mage in the Barrel, a wonderful and very active anime blog. I highly encourage you check it out – and perhaps very germane to our discussion today, click over and see iblessall’s critique of Maria the Virgin Witch.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo
- White Album 2
- Junketsu no Maria
- Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere
For me, making a decision on whether or not to recommend a show to someone usually comes down to one particular question: do the good things about this show outweigh the bad to make it worth watching? In truth, I’m not sure any of the shows on this list are conclusively among those whose troubling elements override the good pieces (most shows like that I never even bothered to finish), but all of them certainly exist much closer to the line than my favorites do. Anyone familiar with the first two titles on my list should understand why they’re there, but the final three merit a bit more explanation. White Album 2’s ending troubles me a great deal because, although the story as a whole functions a cautionary tale, the lack of offered alternatives or even the faintest hint of possible reconciliation makes the show feel incredibly nihilistic and hopeless to me. Junketsu no Maria (on which I’ve written elsewhere and will write again) worries me with both its portrayal of Catholicism and its dangerously simplistic morality, traits that sadly compromise the quality of its likable cast. Finally, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere boasts mostly boilerplate ecchi, but it’s so copious and so egregious that I always have to pause before recommending.
- Oretachi Tsubasa wa Nai
- Monogatari Series
- Perfect Blue
- Shokugeki no Souma
OreTsuba is one anime I will always praise and never recommend. It’s less grey and more black, with an obscene amount of fan service, especially the uncensored version. But the storyboarding? Top notch. This is an amazing example of a really well adapted VN. The Monogatari series is perhaps plenty infamous already, but between fan service, toothbrushes, and the like, it’s tough to rec this to others. Morally grey aside, it is also extremely conversation based, and relies heavily on Japanese culture and language puns, making it even harder to rec. Baccano has a different kind of problem, with it being overall a very violent show, which some Christians may have problems with, but I rate the show very highly. Perfect Blue, like many works by Satoshi Kon, is wonderfully directed, but the content is most definitely mature and has a couple disturbing scenes. The last one you might notice only just started airing, so I might be jumping the gun, but I thoroughly enjoy the Shokugeki no Souma manga and consider to be a surprisingly well done shounen. But that fan service is really extreme. Read the rest of this entry