Something More: Plastic Religious Memories, Steins;gate Heaven, and Sinful Pokemon

A new season of anime is upon us!  And it’s been…underwhelming?  Still, there are interesting series here and there, and a few that provide us with something a little deeper to think about as well.

Jimmy Kudo’s transformation into Detective Conan teaches us about humility and servant leadership. [Kendall Lyons]

The Steins;gate of that named series makes an interesting metaphor for Heaven. [Famous Rose]

Yuri of Angel Beats! declares her hate for God, but underneath, is she looking for the hope that God provides? [Old Line Elephant]

Medieval Otaku is taking a hiatus from blogging (including from here on Beneath the Tangles), but unsurprisingly, leaves us with some Christian wisdom in a post that discusses Ashita no Joe, Maria the Virgin Witch, and Gokukoku no Brynhildr.

The Japanese’ pragmatic and syncretic approach to religion applies to in anime as well as in real life, with Devilman and Evangelion shining as examples. [Ogiue Maniax]

Draggle wasn’t impressed with the theology expressed in Maria the Virgin Witch. [Draggle’s Anime Blog]

Dee mentions Buddhist themes among those that complicate Plastic Memories. [The Josei Next Door]

Plastic Memories can also be approached through a Christian perspective, particularly in light of what scripture tells us about giving love. [Geeks Under Grace]

The opening episode of Re-Kan! provides a example of faith can be. [Christian Anime Review]

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the flap this week in which a site claimed that the much-derided Creflo Dollar (he of the “my congregation should buy me a new jet”) espoused the evils of Pokemon in a sermon.  Although a number of outlets picked up on the story and had fun with it, the source article never links to such a sermon. [Christnews]

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.

Inadequate Sacrifices in Fatal Frame

People are drawn to the horror game genre for different reasons. For me, I enjoy the challenge of desperate survival in an eerie atmosphere and satisfying that “Why is something like this happening?” curiosity.

Fatal Frame is one of my favorite horror series because it creates that tense atmosphere and puts plenty of story behind even the minor ghosts in the game. It doesn’t overly rely on blood, gore, and shock value and it uses a camera as the main weapon adding the horror element of having to look through a lens for much of the time.

FFIII_Miku_Camera_obscura

Many Fatal Frame games revolve around some ancient religious ritual that remained very secretive over the years and required some sort of human sacrifice. The purpose of the sacrifice generally relates to hell or the other side. Closing the gate to hell, keeping something from coming out of the other side, appeasing something from hell, etc. The sacrifice goes wrong because of the actions or feelings of the person being sacrificed and terrible consequences ensue.

Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Dealing with the Finite

Episode one of Plastic Memories had me hooked this season. With a theme and feel much like Time of Eve, one of my all-time favorite movies, and a dollop of moe, its pilot episode hit all the the right spots. Of course, the episodes following the first have yet to prove if the series will stand up to its concept, but that stands beyond the fact that it absolutely hit on a topic that is of utmost importance for Christians: finite-ness.

plastic memories 1

For those who are unaware, Plastic Memories follows a young man at a robot manufacturer’s department responsible for collecting and effectively “wiping” the memories of its old distributed models. The reason? Robots have a defined life span of 9 years, and they must be collected before they naturally and slowly progress offline. This presents a plethora of intriguing dilemmas as the robots are as close to human as one can get.

Why must humans suffer through parting with their loving companions? Why must robots operate at all, knowing that they are going to effectively “die”? What we’ve seen so far in Plastic Memories thus far is a mixture of perseverance and a loss of hope on the part of the heroine, Isla. But how does this translate into Christianity, for this is surely a relevant topic? Read the rest of this entry

Grisaia no Meikyuu: As One Who Suffers

I know most people didn’t manage to get through Grisaia no Kajitsu, and that’s fine since it was a lot worse than I was hoping. Regardless, the sequel has begun, and this is where the overall theme starts coming together. In the first season, in what may appear to be a relatively standard harem, Yuuji saves all the girls from their different problems, giving them reasons to live for the future without being dragged down by their pasts. Some have argued he was depicted as a perfect protagonist – someone who could apparently do anything that was required to help the girls, even in the most absurd situations. And a protagonist with no apparent faults is indeed a common problem in anime. But as Meikyuu reveals and Rakuen will expand on, Yuuji is hardly a perfect protagonist. In fact, he is as broken and hurting as much as the heroines, if not more.

Yuuji was unluckily born as the younger brother of his sister Kazuki, an absolute genius. Always being compared to her, nothing he did was ever approved of, and his parents ignored him in favor of Kazuki. Although Kazuki, who treated him as her precious brother, was his only source of comfort and happiness, she soon dies in an accident, leaving him alone. Because of the expectations in Kazuki to bring them money, his father becomes a violent drunk, and his timid mother does nothing but apologize. Eventually, he runs away together with his mother, and the two build a simple life of solitude away. One day, his father tracks him down and begins to rape the mother, demanding she produce another genius like Kazuki in his madness and greed. In response, Yuuji slams a bottle of alcohol onto his head, killing him. His mother sends him to run away, saying she’ll follow shortly; however, he eventually returns and finds she has committed suicide instead.

Meikyuu1

Mentally broken, Yuuji is adopted by one of his father’s acquaintances Oslo. It is here that Yuuji’s life truly takes a turn for the worse. Oslo is all kinds of messed up, partly because he is in fact a terrorist. He begins by forcing Yuuji to crossdress like a doll and sexually harasses him. One of Oslo’s men also physically abuses him until eventually Yuuji snaps and kills him. Oslo, however, is pleased to find Yuuji is a killer and enrolls Yuuji in his personal child terrorist training facility. Here, he learns how to be a cold blooded killer and many related skills. Furthermore, the children are all given drugs to “help” their focus on murder. After completion of the training, Yuuji moves on to become a tool of Oslo’s who assassinates people for the sake of financial or political gains. At this point in his life, Yuuji cannot be said to even have his own will. Between feeling he is the cause of his parents’ deaths after seeing his mother’s suicide, being forced into kill or be killed situations, and having no reason to continue living yet no reason to die either, he is merely an empty shell who does as he is dictated. Read the rest of this entry

Wolfwood and Vash: A Contrast in Faith

There’s a distinction between a Christian in name only and one in practice.  You don’t have to proclaim yourself a Christian to know as much – those outside the faith can see the actions of, say, the Westboro Baptist Church and without much knowledge still firmly state that these folks are not practicing the faith as Jesus taught it.  It’s only a skip and a beat to Christian characters in anime, who aren’t there to preach the gospel to a nation that’s 99% non-Christian, but rather to color a series by bringing in a background that might provide for interesting storytelling.  And so when you see a priest character, like Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun, you understand as a viewer that this character is probably developed as a Christian in name, not in spirit.

What’s interesting about Trigun, though, is that Wolfwood is saved spiritually in part through the words of an unbelieving plant.  And even more surprising is this – that “plant,” Vash the Stampede, is a better example of faith than his seemingly spiritual counterpart.

Vash and Wolfwood

Reprinted with permission [http://bit.ly/1FQJW89]

As we delve into the topic of faith, it’s probably a good idea to get a good definition of it.  The writer of Hebrews defines it as such:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

– Hebrews 11:1

This definition is significant in a variety of ways.  Since many might focus on the idea that we “do not see” when it comes to faith, one could easily make the assumption that having “faith,” in a Christian sense, means that you believe blindly.  That’s an easy conclusion to make, but it would be a wrong one.  Not being able to see doesn’t mean making irrational jumps based on emotion and upbringing and whatever else leads one blindly to religion – it means trusting in one’s belief even if you can’t see it right now.  Even when the road is difficult and you’re in despair, a strong faith will lead you to lean on your belief even when you can’t see it played out in action.

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Nausicaä + Jazz = …Jesus?!

Ask any of my close friends what my favorite genre of music is. Seriously, ask anyone. If they don’t say jazz, please tell me. I will promptly cut all ties with that person and move on with my life as a happier individual, having removed one more false friendship.

When I say this, I am kidding of course. I would also accept J-Pop and progressive rock.

…Anyway…

As an avid listener of jazz and watcher of anime, I am always excited to stumble across an avenue where I can mix both of these interests. Most recently, this avenue came in the form of Western jazz group, Rasmus Faber. As few and far between as anime jazz groups are these days, they are still popular enough (and becoming more so) so as to not come as an enormous surprise. However, when listening to Rasmus Faber’s “Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol.3~”, I was amazed to find a third passion of mine enflamed: theology.

I have often contended that Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (「風の谷のナウシカ」) provides one of anime’s greatest examples of Jesus Christ as portrayed in holistic Christianity. However, before I spoil the rest of the article for you, valued readers, I would like to show you what exactly mixed theology, jazz, and anime (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind).

Below I have included a video to a live performance of “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (from “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”)” from “Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol.3~” as well as my own transcription of the lyrics. Take a listen (and a read!).

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Throwback Thursdays: Blast of Tempest

This week I am review Blast of Tempest, also known as Zetsuen no Tempest. Now I really enjoyed this show, but it will not fit everyone’s tastes. It is a fantasy, sci-fi, slice of life, action, and mystery anime, told in Shakespearian style focusing on revenge and magic. The original concept is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It also adds very tragic elements in a similar way to Hamlet.

tempest 1

The story centers on three main characters, Kusaribe Hakaze, who is trapped on a dessert island and a powerful magician of sorts, Fuwa Mahiro, who is a high school age boy out to avenge his sister, Aika’s, death, and Takigawa Yoshino, who is an old friend of Mahiro. Yoshino and Mahiro wander around Japan as Mahiro is trying to gain information on his sisters death. They are being guided by Hakaze through a magic walky-talky of sorts. She is having them find a way of getting her back to prevent the end of the world from occurring. Her clan is trying to awaken an ancient evil known as the Exodus Tree. Together they travel and witness the destruction of the tree and fight members of her clan on the way.

Now, from that description you can’t understand anything about the show. There are far too many layers. Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: Cloud Strife Finds Forgiveness

Personally, I loved the CGI movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and felt it was one of the best video game movies ever made (we don’t have much to work with). This is not a review of the movie itself, though I might write one; this is about a scene that I noticed while watching it. There are a little bit of spoilers ahead, but if you honestly have never played Final Fantasy VII then it’s no big deal.

Aerith-and-Zack

The scenes that I want to highlight are around the end (see video below). Cloud is being dropped into a baptismal pool in the middle of a church and he is healed of the Geostigma after being infected. While he is in the water, he has a vision of Aerith and Zack who were his friends that have passed on. Cloud struggled with not being able to forgive himself because of the death of Aerith (the girl that speaks to him in the vision) that he felt was his fault.

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With his eyes closed and several hands on him, he wakes up to see several children in the water with him who also has been healed. He begs with his hand for Denzel (one of the main children of the movie) to come in and be healed. He takes the water and dips it over his head as the Geostigma washes away, as if he was being baptized. It’s so interesting to see the spiritual implications here from the water being used for healing to the baptism being done in the middle of a church.

Cloud accepts Aerith’s death and receives forgiveness in his soul as she departs out the church’s doors with Zach. He sees them leave, but he knows he is at peace now. Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Hollow Fulfillment in 2D and 3D Realities

I just re-watched the last couple episodes of The World God Only Knows, aka Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai, most easily called KamiNomi (season 1). This time, I noticed the fulfillment Keima seems to find in his obsessive approach to dating sims, and the pride he takes in it. I think many otaku, including me, have felt similarly about our habits… sometimes to our detriment.

Quick Summary: This anime centers around Katsuragi Keima, a gamer who specializes in dating sims—in fact, he’s so good at these, he’s called the “Capturing God,” and otaku look up to him. Even the “demons” have heard of Keima’s expertise. One such demon, Elsie, misunderstands his reputation. She recruits him for a very important task: capturing Lost Souls. This task, much to Keima’s dismay, requires him to woo and rescue girls in real life, which takes a lot of time away from his gaming.

A Note on Religion: When I first heard of KamiNomi, I was suspicious. “The World God Only Knows“? Isn’t that a little… blasphemous? But God, as in the God, isn’t really talked about, and His power isn’t so much questioned as ignored, as in most anime. And the demons? We’re not talking about Satan’s crew, I assure you, though a couple elements of Christian tradition are incorporated. There’s some Buddhist imagery, too, when after-images of Keima’s arms make him look like a certain bodhisattva. In sequel seasons, Greek and Roman mythology is incorporated. This collection of religion and myth is not meant to be taken seriously—it’s a comedy.

Okay, housekeeping over. Let’s dive into the part of the post that makes me squirm:

Keima avoids interacting with the real world as much as possible. He proudly devotes every waking minute to dating sims—he’ll even play them while he’s running in gym class. Most people consider his lifestyle unhealthy, but he claims it’s fulfilling.

Keima’s obsession with his games is most fully shown in the last episode, when he finally gets a decent-length break from capturing Lost Souls. It’s not like he was completely cut off from gaming during the last eleven episodes, but he didn’t get enough. Apparently, like many long-time addicts, he needs higher doses of his drug for full effect.

Uh... "Kami onii-sama"? You're looking more like an addict than a kami right now.

Uh… “Kami onii-sama”? You’re looking more like an addict than a kami right now.

It’s natural to spend a lot of time doing something you love. Others don’t always understand it. As a result, many of us are used to waving off their concerned comments about our anime-watching, gaming, etc. Read the rest of this entry

Celestial Method: The End and a New Beginning

Opinions are fairly divided on this show, but I personally enjoyed Celestial Method (a.k.a. Sora no Method) a lot. And since the show did get some regular coverage before TWWK could no longer cover the show, I thought I would go ahead and close up the show with a look at its final arc. As it turns out, that final arc actually has some connections to the Easter story, and Easter was not that long ago, so let us see just what the end of Celestial Method has for us…

This show was written by the writer of the Kanon 2006 anime, so it kind of goes with Key week, right?

…and if you’re watching along, you might want some tissues.

Warning: some… astronomical spoilers are coming. 

Read the rest of this entry

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