Guest Post: Tokyo Ghoul and the Nature of Repentance in the Midst of Sin

I’m proud to present an article today on Tokyo Ghoul from KnightofCalvary, a graduating seminary student and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserves and former A.D. Vision partner through Suncoast and Anime Central.  If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, send us a pitch via email.

As a concept, I don’t typically watch anime with the level of violence and gore that Tokyo Ghoul has. However, I’m also not entirely opposed to doing so strictly on the basis of the level of violence. Rather, I’m often left with feelings of disappointment from such anime due to shortfalls in storytelling or character development. Tokyo Ghoul definitely sets itself a part in that respect. It is both heavily violent and well done in terms of storytelling and development of its characters, particularly the main character, Ken Kaneki.

Spoilers to follow.

Poorly fortuned Kaneki is turned into a human eating ghoul following what can only be described as the worst streak of bad luck ever. After surviving an encounter with a female ghoul that attempts to eat him, he ends up in the hospital following the attack and ends up with her organs being transplanted to him to save his life. This results in Kaneki becoming half-ghoul and half-human. The remainder of the first season is spent dealing with Kaneki’s newly found identity issues, integration as a ghoul, conflicts with the police enforcement agency specializing in tracking and destroying ghouls and in the middle of all of this, struggling to maintain some sort of humanity. This effort to remain true to his human half however ultimately fails due to his overwhelming desire to protect those he cares about in the season 1 finale.

Tokyo Ghoul 1

Picking up with season 2, Kaneki has fully embraced his new ghoul qualities and powers, however his desire to protect his friends leads him to something forbidden even for a ghoul which is cannibalism, that is a ghoul eating another ghoul. All this leads up to a fight at one point between Amon, an “anti-ghoul” investigator that Kaneki previously showed mercy to and himself. Now at this point in the story, Kaneki’s cannibalism has led to a rage like lack of self control and Amon says during the fight, “That’s all, right? An ordinary ghoul is all you are, right? That’s all, right?!” This snaps Kaneki out of his blind rage and after regaining his self control, he says “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. I was left with this powerful impression of our daily and constant struggles with sin.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Your Love in April, Virtuous Violence in Akame ga Kill, and TTGL’s Megachurch

Isn’t it funny that when an anime season near its end, we seem to be less excited about finales the shows we’ve invested in than we are to the slate of new series about to arrive?  Or maybe that’s just me.  But it’s good to focus on the here and now – some of the columns below look at shows that have ended their runs in Japan or in the U.S. on Toonami.

Esdeath of Akame ga Kill reminds us that violence in anime (and life) tells us something very important about human nature, and of a need we all have. [Medieval Otaku]

The final episode of Your Lie in April has a lot to say about godly love. [Christian Anime Review]

The previous episode also demonstrates the idea of how brothers and sisters in Christ should encourage one another. [2]

In his review of Gurren Lagann’s finale, Tommy makes an interesting comparison between a devastating scene and a megachurch. [Anime Bowl]

Are you a fan of the “Ask John” column, like I am? If so, you may be interested in knowing it’s columnist has finished a light novel, which among other things is “steeped in Shinto mythology and includes extensive references to literary tradition and religious iconography along with abundant subtextual thematic depth.” [AnimeNation]

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.

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 8 *Key Special*

For episode 8, we are excited to have Aspirety, the founder of Kazamatsuri.org, as our guest. Not only do Sean and JP dive into some interesting discussion (mostly Sean!), we are also joined by Tangles veteran, Kaze! As part of our Key-themed Easter this year, we have decided to take a look at probably the most controversial issue in Key’s medium of choice: Adult content in visual novels. While controversial, we think you’ll learn a lot about the medium and have some fun along the way!

Apologies for issues in audio quality! We are experimenting with new recording hardware and still working out the bugs.

Feel free to stream the episode below, subscribe on iTunes, or check out our RSS feed!

Also, be sure to email us with any questions you would like included in our “Listener Mail” portion, including the name you would like stated in the podcast and your website or blog for us to share!

Time Stamps:
Intro – 0:00
Announcements – 17:16
Otaku Diet – 19:34
Current Article/Discussion – 40:57
Listener Mail – 1:22:27
Closer – 1:38:53
Bloopers – 1:39:40

Direct Download

Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Anime Today: Death Parade and Skating Idols

TWWK filling in for Japes today, who has been working hard at our podcast (tune in tomorrow!) and special themed posts for Holy Week next week!  I’m glad to have the opportunity to write this article, as I’ve just finished catching up with Death Parade and have a lot on my mind, particularly in regards to the most recent episode, Memento Mori.

Chiyuki’s life, as illustrated in episode 11, tells us a lot about hope and it’s opposite, hopelessness.  Her back story is surprising – both for how happy it begins and for how quickly it deteriorates.  Chiyuki is a happy girl with a warm family, surrounded by loved ones and supported by a strong foundation of love.  So when her skyrocketing career is derailed by knee problems (Chiyuki = Sada meets Kerrigan?), I assumed that she would somehow bounce back – this couldn’t possibly be leading to suicide, could it?  Chiyuki is too well-grounded and happy for that!

Of course, it does turn down that path, frightfully and quickly.  And not, as Chiyuki assures, because of her drive for figure skating.  It’s because she feels an extreme loneliness, a disconnect from everyone else, and in that, a loss of hope.  When there’s literally no hope in a person’s life, there’s no reason to live.

Chiyuki Death Parade

But it shouldn’t have been that way – not for Chiyuki.  Her parents are both supportive and loving.  And it’s love that provides hope.  In all the struggles we go through and all the hurt we endure – some far more than others – love shows us that in the midst of it all, there’s something to which we can cling.  But when signs of that love are dim, either because we’re met by so much unlove in our lives or because we’re blind to it because of the heavy fog of difficulties in our lives, we lose that hope.

Then again, some of us are more like Chiyuki, who wasn’t battered by months and years of pain.  Read the rest of this entry

Untangled: Maria the Virgin Witch and Being an Ezekiel in Christian Society

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Today’s question/comment (revised) comes from a long-time reader of our blog:

Junketsu no Maria 7 won’t leave my mind. Here we have Ezekiel berated for the sins of love and mercy. And he (she?) does deeply regret ignoring Heaven’s orders… only he hates the idea of killing the innocent so much more!  Ezekiel pleads he cannot act because he does not understand the main character’s sin.

“I didn’t make you to think,” the archangel Michael refutes Ezekiel’s doubts. “My words are the words of Heaven.”

It is a dead-end street for Ezekiel. His mind will not dare blame the religious authority, his heart will not cast away love and mercy. What is there left for him but to blame himself for… for what?

I feel like Ezekiel’s plight perfectly reflects the tribulations moral and thinking people go through in a Christian/Catholic society. We are called upon to hate, abandon and destroy in the name of God. That’s maniacal heresy, certainly, but words of hate and division are sweet indeed, especially when spoken from a position of heavenly authority. As the poison spreads, many an Ezekiel is born. Those poor souls retained their sanity and suffer for it in solitude and silent doubt: might they be the insane ones?

The reader goes on to give examples, mentioning a priest decrying My Little Pony as satanic and the church as “spawning internal conflicts by delving into politics and dishing out the tried and true ‘you are with us or against us.'”  He concludes with this:

The will of Heavens is unfathomable, the Church will say – the end-all of any discussion, the all-answer. But wait a moment longer and you will be told exactly what the Heavens want you to think and do. “My words are the words of Heaven.” That is most unfathomable!

I think of the Ezekiel curled up silently by the riverside, and wonder what words I can offer him. And I tell him, if you do not doubt God, make sure you doubt that Archangel.

My response? Hallelujah!

Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: But I’m not an Anime Hero!

Everyone loves self discipline. The hard work, the daily routine of sweat and blood, the power to resist temptation, the success—all this gives a sense of satisfaction that resounds deep in our hearts. It might require pitching practice until his fingertips are bloody, running when his legs already feel exhausted, or writing at the same time every day, no matter how she feels. No matter what the exact daily challenge entails, there’s something inspiring about it.

Yes, self discipline is a great spectator sport. I enjoy the training sequences in sports and action anime almost as much as the games and fights. But actually practicing discipline on a daily basis? I’m not sure about you, but I’m not that great at it. Sure, I’ve instituted some routines for homework, but they come with a crutch: if I’m not at one of my specific study spots, the homework probably won’t get done. And what about my other goals? When people suggest I (or their audience in general) set aside time to do something every day, my instinct is to protect myself from certain failure.  For example:

“If you’re serious about writing, make time for it every day. Or at least every weekday.” —many published writers

“If you want to grow in Christ, I really recommend daily devotions.” —various pastors, writers, and other wise Christians

“But I can’t!” —me

Whoa there, “I can’t”? Hmm… focus and daily effort don’t come easily, but “I can’t” seems a little strong. And whether or not I can do something, as soon as I say “I can’t,” I really can’t. If I give up instead of persevering through something that’s difficult, if I don’t have the discipline to continue trying, then I won’t make progress.

When I watch anime, I expect the protagonists to face the impossible without backing down. Whether it means tracking down a stubborn friend, killing a Colossal Titan, or beating the Generation of Miracles, these heroes must never give up. Instead, they train hard and fight hard.

Kuroko and Kise face off in the eleventh episode of the season.

Kuroko and Kise face off in the eleventh episode of the season.

[Kurobas spoilers next paragraph only]

Right now, in Kuroko’s Basketball, the Kaijo and Seirin teams are in the final minutes of an intense game. Kaijo could have lost after Kise was subbed out. But the captain didn’t give up, and neither did the rest of the team. They played hard enough to slow down Seirin. Kise himself could have accepted his injury and his coach’s protection, but he felt responsible as the team’s ace, so he came back on the court earlier than planned. Now, Seirin must find the fortitude to maintain their lead. If they doubt themselves, then Kise will easily beat them with his Perfect Copy. But if they refuse to give up, if Kuroko finds a way to defend against Kise’s new moves, they have a chance. They just have to persevere through the next few minutes… and before this? They persevered through daily training. Without the discipline to train their bodies and minds, they wouldn’t even be at the Winter Championship.

Yes, but that’s anime logic. Read the rest of this entry

Destroying Seiichi Kinoshita: Shirobako and Murderous Words

I’ve mentioned this before, but to me, Shirobako feels like family.  There are some members that annoy me, some that I embrace, but regardless, I care about them all.  I want to know what’s happening with everyone – a week seems too long to wait to catch up with the cast.  I streamed the first cour to catch up to the second, watching an episode or two each day – and getting that much of these characters felt just about right!

Shirobako 17a

Among the characters, the one I find most interesting is the director, Seiichi Kinoshita.  Besides being hillarious, there’s a realism to him despite his over-the-top tendencies.  Most of the realism comes in the way of his faults – his procrastination, stubbornness, shyness, gluttony, and insecurity.  The last of those is most interesting to me, because like the characters he creates and the context that he develops, especially in relation to Arupin, there’s reason for the way his current self has become the way he is.

Do you remember the episode that showed Kinoshita accepting an award for his early work?  He came across as humble, energetic, happy.  The Kinoshita we know now is of course largely none of those things.  But on the back of his failed marriage and ridicule regarding his work, for which he is particularly sensitive, how could we expect him to be the same?  And personal jokes or chides at his expense are common, perhaps most hurtful when they came angrily from episode director Zaruyoshi Yakushiji in episode 18.

Shirobako 15a

Words have immense power.  My wife says that my love language is words of affirmation, and perhaps that’s true – I know that when I’m praised, I’m eager and energized to serve.  And on the other hand, words can destroy, which is what I think has happened to Kinoshita. Read the rest of this entry

Kaori Miyazono’s Letter: Your Grace in April

What’s the deepest you’ve ever loved someone?  Was it for your parents?  Friends?  A spouse or lover?

Have you ever loved someone so much that would have pursued them, even if you knew you only had months left to live?

Your Lie in April is full of love stories, ranging from a typical high school romance to sacrificial, serving love.  But it’s not until the finale of the series that we see the grandest love of all – that of Kaori Miyazono for Kousei Arima.  With her time short, she pours all that she has left into loving someone who didn’t know she even existed, and in doing so, changes his life forever.

april 22a

The letter that Kaori leaves to Kousei is heartwrenching – it’s an emotional note that was a perfecting ending to this beautiful series.  But it’s also stunning, as it reveals so much we didn’t know about Kaori, who was always a bit distant as a character, a little outside of the group, a mover of events if not a participant.  But with her last words to Kousei, we see her heart and the lengths she went through to show it.

Who knew that Kaori was bespectacled and reserved?  Who knew that she was too shy to approach Kousei?  And who knew that she had been chasing him since she was five years old?

And the moment he played the first note, he became the object of my admiration.  Playing notes as colorful as a 24-color palette, the melody began to dance.

Kousei didn’t know any of this – he didn’t know that he was always in Kaori’s heart. Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April, Episode 22: Why Look to the Sky?

Warning – plenty of spoilers ahead.  Please watch episode 22 of Your Lie in April before reading this article.

The final episode was Your Lie in April was wonderful – a heartwarming, moving second half joined together with a beautifully animated, wonderfully musical first half to create a memorable finale.  Indeed, it was a tale of two halves, with that inevitable event separating them.  I’ll wax more on the second half in a follow-up post, but first, let’s talk about the first 12 minutes of episode 22.

As Kousei performs his piece, putting all his heart into the performance, he imagines Kaori playing next to him.  It’s a wonderful, happy scene, as we get to see Kaori’s frenetic playing for the first time in many episodes – many months for us as an audience – accompanying an emotional Kousei, who is optimistic that he will play with Kaori once again.

april 22c

But in the midst of the performance, as he stares at the image of Kaori in his head, Kousei realizes that she will not survive.  In some “red string of fate” way, he even feels their connection severed, as if Kaori literally died on the surgery table with doctors working over her while Kousei (probably) wins the recital as he plays over the piano keys.  Kaori completes her playing and she slowly fades away into oblivion, as Kousei can do nothing but break down and cry as he finishes his own piece.

Kaori is gone.  The series plays her death in a beautiful, symbolic way with their final song together – a duet instead of a solo and accompaniment.  But perhaps this tender way of letting Kaori go tells us something more.  Maybe it tells us that Kousei must go on, that he will go on, and that Kaori has prepared him so. Read the rest of this entry

Throwback Thursdays: Darker Than Black

Zeroe4 is taking the week off for Throwback Thursdays, but arranged for a fellow YWAM Tokyo missionary, Sheridan Reid, to be a guest writer.  Sheridan is an avid reader and writer of fantasy and sci-fi books and lover of action/adventure anime. If she’s not working or immersed in a good story, she’is ts probably at a coffee shop or exploring the crazy city of Tokyo with friends. 

I often find myself drawn to dystopian stories and super hero tales. Both genres hold special places in my heart. It’s not often that they’re combined well outside of DC or Marvel, so when I heard about Darker than Black, my interest was piqued to say the least. Dystopian, near-future Tokyo, super powers, totally shrouded in mystery sounded like my cup of tea, and until very recently, it was one of my favorite anime. However, as I was rewatching it last month, I began to notice the amount of darkness and hopelessness in the show.

darker 1a

Let’s start out with the reasons I really like the show. First, I love the characters. We start out meeting policewoman Kirihara Misaki who is thrown into this crazy world and chooses to protect people the best way she can. Though she’s halfway between a side character and a main one, her kick-butt, unstoppable attitude and unfailing desire to save her people makes her easily one of my favorite characters. If the show focused on her, I think the darkness would be much more bearable, but alas, it doesn’t. Shortly after meeting her, we are introduced to our main characters: two of the super-powered people: Hei (an assassin) and Mao (a talking cat), Yin (a young blind girl), and Huang (their handler). These four work as a team and take on various assignments from the ever-sketch ‘Syndicate’. The show focuses on them, especially Hei who is known to most as the ‘Black Reaper’ and feared for his deadly ability as an assassin. This guy’s reactions to his world, though very broken, are very human and down-to-earth which I appreciate in a character from such a far-from-reality world. This relatability helps me understand and connect with him on a personal level. This is a very common trait among the characters of this universe. We get to see their choices, and often, I understand where each one is coming from and why they choose what they do. I love well-written characters, and these don’t let me down.

Second, it’s rare for me in a world so filled with super heroes and super villains to find a show about super powers that really leaves me really thinking. Hei’s ability is electricity manipulation. I’ve always had an interest in electricity manipulation abilities, and the way he uses his, though really dark, is very intelligent and well-thought out. It’s the same with all the powers demonstrated though the show. Every one is used in a way I wouldn’t see coming, and I like not being able to predict how someone will react to a situation, or how they would work together with other people with varying abilities. The characters who possess these powers are known as ‘Contractors’ because when they receive their various abilities, they are forced to accept a ‘Contract’. Thus, every time they use their power, they have to perform some task. These tasks range from falling asleep to arranging rocks in a row to smoking a cigarette. Use of these powers has a personal cost that isn’t just energy. I like that they’re forced to take into consideration the cost of using their powers and whether or not they’ll be able to pay their ‘Price’ in the time they have. It’s a really interesting concept.

But now to talk about the reasons I find Darker than Black really hard to watch. First off, there’s a lot of killing. Hei is an assassin. He kills people for a living. This is why being able to relate well to the main character is a double-edged sword. I find myself getting really invested in this character but then realize that he casually kills people on a regular basis, so maybe I don’t actually want to relate to him. The show treats this huge amount of killing as a normality, so when I pull back slightly to actually look at what I’m watching, it disturbs me. Watching a show that treats something so absolutely wrong as so normal tells you that these kind of things don’t affect you. That’s totally wrong. And this is why the show’s overall feel isn’t that dark when so many of the things that happen really are darker than black.

Next are the ‘Contractors’ themselves. I talked about the ‘Price’ they have to pay to use their powers, but receiving their power is actually a trade. They get these insane abilities at the loss of their emotions and conscience, which explains why Hei is as assassin. These people, who make up a lot of the characters you meet throughout the show, are missing any feeling of guilt. They can kill with impunity, and most of them do, gruesomely and without any second thought. This is where I feel so much hopelessness throughout the show. These people have accepted their fates as killers. Normal people expect it from them, and they just meet those expectations. There’s no hope in them. It’s hard to watch. However,  in these particular characters, this attitude often makes it feel like they are simply meeting their reality head-on, and that feels like it should and kind of does seem admirable in a way, but there’s this deep hopelessness that creeps in with that mindset which always leaves me feeling like doing nothing whatsoever after I finish watching an episode.

I can totally see why this anime got popular. I mean, I loved it for quite a while. And while this series is chalk full of intriguing characters who live in an alluring and mysterious world, I can’t recommend this anime. It’s really dark in subtle ways that, at least for me, allow that darkness and hopelessness to creep over me and leave me feeling sluggish and unhappy after watching.

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