Something More: Less Game More Life, Ranma Devalues Akane, and Good Samaritan Art Online

This week was full of great articles about spirituality – many, as usual, about Christianity, but note the first link below, from academic and frequent convention panelist, Charles Dunbar, which focuses on Shinto and Buddhist traditions.

Charles Dunbar investigates A Letter to Momo and discusses the spiritual idea of our loved ones watching over us after death. [Study of Anime]

Frank sees Seishuu’s actions and thoughts as an example of pride, humility, and fear in episodes three and four of Barakamon. [A Series of Miracles]

Michael looks at No Game, No Life and takes a Christian perspective with gaming addiction. [Gaming and God]

He also examines the idea of doing ministry at conventions. [2]

Annalyn digs into Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and the reason why human life is valuable. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

She also looks specifically at the beauty of women in her essay on Akane from Ranma 1/2. [2]

Rob continues is Christian-centered anime reviews, looking at the idea of forgiveness in Sword Art Online II, episode four. [Christian Anime Review]

He also draws a really neat parallel to the Christian idea of helping others in episode four of SAO II. [2]

Medieval Otaku digs into the complex question of the morality of Kisara’s vengeance in Black Bullet. [Medieval Otaku]

And finally, Josh presents a little baptismal humor involving Sailor Moon. [Res Studiorum et Ludorum]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week 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 if you’d like it included.  Thanks this week to Don for pointing me toward Josh’s post!

Terror in Resonance, Episode 4: Know Thyself

Some of the most intense and well-written series, anime and otherwise, present a strong, overarching narrative that knows precisely where it’s going, but keeps viewers at bay, leading them to only of what’s occurring in the present.  Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) accomplishes this by slowly unfolding a calculated story, but creating tension in each episode that keeps us in the moment.  It’s not until after episode four that I wondered exactly how all this will end, because I was too busy thinking of bombs, riddles, and Lisa Mishima during the show.

zankyou no terror

Nine and Twelve continue their terrorist attacks, but this time, Watanabe leads the audience to think that perhaps the police are catching up to them.  In fact, they probably are getting closer due to Shibasaki’s investigation, but in the climax of the episode, the police aren’t following Shibasaki’s clues – they are following clues from others in the department, a path which has consistently led them astray.  It’s no different at the end of episode four, when a different kind of bomb – an explosion of information in the form of police files – is leaked onto the Internet.

The moment in which the episode turns against the police is when they decide they have enough information to catch Nine and Twelve; they’ve spent their time focusing on the identity of the terrorists and believe they’ve tracked them down, instead of working on the immediate problem – the bomb.  A prideful police force thinks they’ve identified the suspects – or at least their place of residence – and in a Grecian hubris manner, take a fall.

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Take Four – July 2014

Fate/Stay Night to Adapt Unlimited Blade Works – Kaze

Unlimited Blade Works, Fate Stay NightAfter much anticipation from fans, it has finally been announced that the Fall 2014 reboot of the Fate/Stay Night anime will be adapting the Unlimited Blade Works route. Since the adaptation will be done by everyone’s beloved studio Ufotable, there is little doubt and much hype about the quality to be expected. While UBW is an enjoyable story when done right, it did leave many fans disappointed at the lack of Heaven’s Feel, which, if nothing else, is most relevant of the routes as a sequel to Fate/Zero. That is, until the live stream announcement ended with a Heaven’s Feel movie trailer. Although a questionable decision as HF is much longer than UBW and thus hardly suited to be contained in a single movie, there is much speculation about the prospect of a series of movies. Ufotable has proven themselves capable of doing justice to Nasuverse adaptations, so hopefully they continue to meet fan expectations.

Dub Cast Announced for The Tale of Princess Kaguya – TWWK

The Tale of Princess KaguyaI’m not a dub fanatic, except when it comes to Studio Ghibli releases. The dubs for Ghibli films, even those not directed by Hayao Miyazaki, are always glorious, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya looks to be no exception.  Headlined by Chloe Moretz, the release will also feature the voices of James Caan, Lucy Liu and, get this, DEAN CAIN.  Very nice.

I’m frankly just looking forward to the film itself.  I’m maybe as big of a fan of Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor the Yamadas, Only Yesterday) as I am of Hayao Miyazaki, and it’s wonderful to know he’s finally directed another Studio Ghibli work.  I can’t wait for the release stateside.  It’s scheduled to hit theaters in the U.S. this fall.

When Marnie Was There Has Disappointing Opening – TWWK

marnieLet’s double dip with the Ghibli news!  You’d expect any Studio Ghibli film to top the Japanese box office upon release, right?  I guess the new norm is that a box office hit for Ghibli is only guaranteed when it’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki, as the company’s latest offering, When Marnie Was There, came in third place during it’s opening weekend (July 19-20).  It had to settled behind the latest Pokemon movie and Maleficent (really?).

This doesn’t bode well for the historic company.  Marnie was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose last directorial effort, Arrietty, debuted in first place in it’s opening weekend.  Ghibli’s previous release, the aforementioned Kaguya, took a heavy loss in the box office, even with Takahata at the helm.  With Miyazaki retired (again), it’ll be interesting to see if the company can weather the storm, financially and creatively.

Alliance for Raising Children Sings “Let it Go” – Japesland

Okay, so this is hardly anime-related. However, it is Japan-related… and it is animation-related! Merely a few weeks ago, Japanese non-profit organization, Alliance for Raising Children, created a parody music video of “Let it Go” (something that seems to be all the rage these days, not only in the United States but also in Japan). While not important in the least, the video shows how some of the bigwigs were willing to put themselves out there and poke fun at themselves in order to encourage Japanese parents to stop stressing themselves out over parenting (and to hopefully improve the declining birth rate). Check out the strangely hilarious video below.

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 4: Boundaries

Boundaries play a role in all relationships.  Depending on the closeness between two people, and each person’s ease with intimacy, walls between people can be high and near uncrossable, low to the point where one can simply step over them, or somewhere between.  Boundaries can even disappear altogether.  Episode four of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) explores this them in the boundaries established between pairings in our group of main characters.

It’s tough going for the new leadership group at first.  Kou and Futuba arrive late to the leadership camp, causing frustration and bitterness among their teammates and others.  In this already dispirited mood, each person seems to let the worse of themselves show instead of the best, creative further unpleasantness.  Conflict further ensues among the group, including a humorous one between Yuri and Toma involving a cupcake.

The other conflicts are more serious.  Kou and Futuba continue to have their boundary issues as they try to figure out who they are to each other now.  Kou thinks he has that answer figured out, with Futuba meaning nothing to him, though his actions speak otherwise.  Futuba, on the other hand, is just plain confused, and throughout the episode wonders what Kou exactly means to her now.  Time and events have erected a wall between the two, and they are each trying to figure out if and/or how they can cross it.

ao haru ride

Most significant to me, though, is the wall between Shuko and Tanaka, which seems impenetrable.  This episode hits us over the head with the reason that Shuko very unexpectedly joined the group; it’s because she is in love with Tanaka, her teacher (and Kou’s brother), though he is very clear and strong in warding off her advances.  The wall between them is erected both by morals and by Tanaka himself.  He won’t let Shuko into his space – he won’t let her cross his personal boundaries.

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Barakamon Episode 4, The First Step

While I have hardly been impressed with the summer season, one of the few shows I’ve been enjoying is Barakamon. It follows the encounters of struggling calligrapher Seishuu (though everyone calls him sensei) with the residents of a rural island. As a perfectionist, he often worries about things which the residents cannot comprehend or relate to. Yet, it is this stark difference in perspective that allows him to learn about ways of life other than his own.

Art by Yoshino Satsuki, Lineart and color by Osama

Art by Yoshino Satsuki, Lineart and color by Osama

In episode 4, sensei finds himself tasked with a demand to paint a boat’s name on its side, which as you might imagine is a bit different from that which a professional calligrapher is used to. He does not have his familiar tools and has no experience with the curved nature of the boat. First he wants to draft something and use it as a stencil, but the boat owner refuses as he wants something bold, unique, and not something so easily copied. He says there is no need for a draft and entrusts the rest to sensei. Consequently, he practices his strokes with the unfamiliar paint brush before approaching the real attempt, but then he suddenly remembers he forgot to account for the curved surface. He spends time inspecting it, contemplates more, and finds himself even more worried about starting. In response, Naru and friends, a few children who adamantly follow sensei around, start putting handprints on the boat (kids will be kids). As a result, he is forced to frantically start painting over the handprints and making large strokes to cover up the handprints. Before he knows it, he is easily accomplishing the task he was so worried about beginning. The result is something he never would’ve written without the handprints of children, and the boat owner is greatly pleased with it as well. The hardest part was taking the first step.

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Something More: Beyond the Boundary (But Stuck on an Island)

The summer season is now in full swing, and as Japes mentioned, it’s a particular fun one.  I’ve personally found more engaging series this season than I have in any season the past several years.  But our links this week don’t only point to current series, they also refer to past ones which are among the most popular in anime fandom.

Michael sees in Ao No Exorcist the ease in missing the supernatural world and explains how we can experience it. [Gaming and God]

Looking at Izumi Nase from Kyoukai no Kanata, Medieval Otaku points out how dangerous it can be to take too many burdens upon oneself. [Medieval Otaku]

Rob looks at how Usagi interacts with others from a Christian perspective in episode two of Sailor Moon Crystal. [Christian Anime Review]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week 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 if you’d like it included. 

Terror in Resonance, Episode 3: Unforgiven

In Episode 3, Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) continues barrel forward, presenting a third bomb (and third riddle) in as many weeks.  But action takes a backseat as director Shinichiro Watanabe spends much of the episode unfolding pasts and presenting some half-answers to building questions as the plot unfolds.

Perhaps the most identifiable character of the series, and the certainly the one whom the audience can most relate on a moral level, is Shibasaki.  We already knew that he was formerly a detective, and a clever one, having cracked the previous riddle, but now we get to know his background a bit as well.  Because he refused to back down from a politically charged investigation, and rather delved deeper and deeper into one, Shibasaki was removed from his post and relegated to no man’s land.  But according to his supervisor, Shibasaki has never let that go.

zankyou no terror

And here’s the moral compass for our tale…

But the episode seems to place more importance on another part of the detective’s past as a motivating factor: his childhood in Hiroshima.  He spent his summers there (at the very least), and remembers well a town populated by elderly atomic bomb survivors.  The summer was a lonely, quiet time for Shibasaki, and the residents refused to go outside, the insinuation being that they were still dealing with the painful memories of the bomb, which dropped in the summer of 1945.  Shibasaki takes this hurt and used it as fuel to help him stop Nine and Twelve.  His tirade at the end of his message to the terrorists suggest that the pain of the past and the moral fortitude rising from his memories are an utmost part his character.

Nine, too, is dealing with tragedy from the past.  Ironically, it’s the more impulsive 12 that tries to soothe 9 as he deals with flashbacks of the experiments conducted on the two and with even younger children (Emily makes an apt comparison of this, along with Lisa’s predicament, to the Child Broiler of Mawaru Penguindrum).  Most pressing on Nine’s mind is a white-haired boy who was unable to escape with them, seemingly perishing in the intense heat of self-immolation.  Nine can’t shake these images, and it’s these children and the abuse they suffered that drive him.

And so, two of the main components of the series – Sphinx and the police force – are rolling with an unstoppable momentum, both motivated by the same concepts – revenge and justice.

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Anime Today: Story, Story, Story!

If you read Kaze’s and my reviews of the spring anime season this year, it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that neither of us was impressed. In fact, the general mediocrity of it all left me in such a cynical mood that I commented on how low my hopes were for this (summer) season… only for me to be (several weeks in now) greatly and pleasantly surprised! Although I shouldn’t speak too soon, shows like Aldnoah Zero, Blue Spring Ride, and even Sword Art Online II have all far surpassed my original expectations, Free!, Glasslip, and Hanamayata have at least met them, and even the new Persona 4 anime has had me much more interested than its original counterpart (I’ve purposefully neglected to mention the several anime that have disappointed me).

Persona 4 Golden

Nice start!

And all of these pleasant surprises have assured me that there still exists a thing called “good storytelling” in the anime medium (hyperbole; obviously there has been and will continue to be good storytelling, I just like to be cynical). Something that can grip the reader and either ensnare him/her into the trap of “just one more episodes,” or otherwise threaten to put them into a state of withdrawal by withholding the next episode for next week. That is the feeling I had been hoping for last season, and felt that it had not been delivered.

Simply put, I want to feel invested in what I’m consuming.

This same concept carries through all mediums of “entertainment”, from books to film, from opera to anime. And, pardon this shamelessly “Christian-ese” segue, but it reminded me of the true intention of the authorship of the Bible.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 3: The Past is (Ir)Relevant

Can I just say, I’m absolutely loving Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride)?

Though it still contains some doom and gloom, episode three moves us largely past that tone and toward a more hopeful one as a new school year begins.  The main cast is now all in the same classroom, with Futuba and Kou joined by Toma, Yuri, and Shuko.  And by episode’s end, the characters have all volunteered to become either class or event representatives.

The closing scene in which the five main characters of Blue Spring Ride take their place in leadership, is more than a convenient plot development – it’s thematically important.  For at least four of them, it seems (I’m not yet sure about Toma), it represents a moving forward from pasts that burdened them: Futuba from her playing at friends; Yuri from the hate that’s followed her; Shuko from a bitter school year; and Kou from family issues, though his, it seems, will be the most difficult transition.

Ao Haru Ride

At least Kou has a supportive brother…

It’s ironic, then, that Kou has now told Futuba several times that their past is irrelevant, when it seems that he’s the character who is most hanging on to it.  While encouraging Futuba, in his own buttheaded way, to make change, he himself can’t rise above whatever issues have haunted him during the past several years.  He’s quite the opposite of the former (and current?) object of his affection, who quite easily pursues change by making some brave gestures in leaving her “friends” behind and volunteering to be class president.

The truth of the matter is, the past is both relevant and it isn’t.  For Futuba, she sees Kou’s point in starting anew.  She thinks the following to herself:

If you lose it, just build it again.

Moving forward is like rebuilding a city following a flood.  The damage of the past can be wiped away and a new city can rise.

But just the same, when the devastation is massive or whole, it’s not always easy to rebuild.  It’s sometimes near impossible.

While Futuba embraces Kou’s words, her’s is a relatively easy past to overcome.  Kou’s is more difficult, and the problem may be that instead of simply forgetting and moving forward, he needs to come to grips with his past before he can do so.  For Kou, the past is very relevant.  And without knowing how far he’s come, and seeing what the future can offer, Kou won’t be able to “build it again.”

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Something More: Barakamon Christianity, Valkyria’s Salvation, and the Rapture of Tenchi Masaki

In the first two episodes of the Barakamon, Frank finds important points that all experienced Christians should probably take under consideration. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds an analogy for the rapture in Tenchi Forever, and examines why that film captures the essence of the rapture better than explicitly Christian depictions of it do. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What does Saber Marionette J have to say about the value of family? Plenty, and even from a Catholic perspective. [Medieval Otaku]

Medieval Otaku also explores that unusual path and perplexing salvation of Valkyria in Brynhildr in the Darkness. [2]

Finally, he explores Nadia’s vanity in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, and discusses snobbery in a number of different groups, including that of the religious. [3]

Rocklobster reviews Rurouni Kenshin (TV), and is perhaps one of the few to really enjoy the story arc featuring Japanese Christians. [Lobster Quadrille]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week 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 if you’d like it included.