Monthly Archives: September 2010

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Natsume Yuujinchou and the Path of Enlightenment

Many conservatives refer to America as a Christian nation (though that’s a point that can be argued).  Japan, most certainly is not such a nation.  Culturally and religiously, Shintoism and Buddhism form a syncretic mix that affects the daily (and even minute-to-minute) lives of most Japanese.

Therefore, it’s no surprise to see one or both traditions play a major role in some anime.  Buddhism is ever present in Natsume Yuujinchou, as attested to in one of my favorite blogs, Major Arcana.  See Aorii’s write-up about this by clicking the link below:

Natsume Yuujinchou and the Path of Enlightenment – [Major Arcana].

Finding the Invisible God in…Bleach

Rukia Kuchiki, Bleach's Holy Spirit

Character: Rukia Kuchiki
Series: Bleach
Gender: female
Occupation: soul reaper (shinigami)
Bible Twin: the Holy Spirit

Overview
Bleach is a manga and anime that needs little introduction.  It follows Ichigo Kurosaki, a high school student who is bestowed with the powers of a Shinigami (soul reaper), beings who send tortured souls to the afterlife and who fight against powerful spiritual beings known as Hallows.  Rukia Kuchiki is the first Shinigami introduced in the series, and through coincidence (or fate?) is forced to lend her powers to Ichigo.  The second arc revolves around Rukia’s upcoming execution for committing this illegal act.

Bleach was once the supercool show on the block.  It gave us great characters, nice action scenes, and an interesting premise.  It has since maintained its popularity, though the critical reaction has definitely waned.  Two things first attracted me to the series: the awesome first OP and the character of Rukia Kuchiki.  Designed to be small, but not necessarily cute, Rukia is a mature (usually) match for Ichigo.  I think it’s no coincidence that as her storyline becomes less important, and as her powers dwarf in comparison to almost every other characters’, the series has suffered.

Rukia’s role in the series, though no longer so significant, was vital at the very beginning.  It was through her actions that Ichigo was awakened to his powers, setting the stage for the rest of the manga and anime.  She is a messenger of sorts, and this, among other roles, parallels closely to one part of the Christian triune God – the Holy Spirit. Keep reading…

The Reality of Senseless Violence

I didn’t plan on writing yet another post, but real life has struck.  If you haven’t heard, The University of Texas at Austin campus is on lockdown, as one of two gunman is still loose in on the university grounds.  I work five blocks away from the PCL, UT’s main library, where the first suspect shot and killed himself.  It’s mayhem around here – the sound of helicopters and police sirens are a constant outside my office.  Meanwhile, I pray here silently for my friends on campus, including about 20 young people who are students of mine in a prayer class I teach.  This is happening just a few months after another national news story involving Austin, when a man purposely crashed his plane into a building not far from my house.

Christians are often condemned for their seemingly hypocritical views of nudity v. violence, where the first is degraded and the latter often accepted.  Personally, I’m a hater of senseless violence in media, or violence for the sake of art.  Most of all, I hate when violence is used to titilate.  Case in point: Keep reading, but be warned, a major Code Geass spoiler is ahead…

One More Brave Song

If you were like me, you were entranced by last season’s gorgeous, genre-crossing work by Key, Angel Beats!  The show started with so much promise based on an interesting storyline, fun characters, beautiful animation and credibility based on Key’s recent series.  From there, fans were divided about whether or not the show met it’s early promise.  I fall on the side of “yes it did.”  I agree with the terrific post on Major Arcana, which argues that the series is more than skin-deep.  Furthermore, the series is deep in spiritual themes – after all, it’s setting is in an afterlife where those who are conscious to it’s reality are suffering from thoughts of their life (and death) on the earthly plane.  Obviously, this is something we’ll discuss in the future on this blog.

One wonderful part of the series was the ending (don’t worry, no spoilers here).  It caught me by surprise, in a good way, even though I should have known that Key’s endings always get me.  Still, as the series ended (and in fact, long before the end), a general view was that it was too short; the anime would have been strengthened by 26 episodes rather than 13.  Well, at the very least, fans are getting a bit of what they clamored for.  According to Anime News Network, the final episode, which is set to be released on DVD in Japan on December 22, will be bundled with an epilogue episode.

YES!

Otonashi, Yurippe and Kanade return

I thought Angel Beats! ended beautifully, but I can’t resist the opportunity to revisit (I hope) our favorite characters one last time.  Yui and Kanade are fan favorites, but I’m also hoping to see more about Otonashi, Yuri and my favorite, Hinata.  Here’s looking foward to the epilogue…and perhaps, in the future, a movie?

Petty Little Liars

Do you know the anime trope where a character will uncover significant information about another individual, and keep that information secret so as not to hurt that person?  This happens in anime time after time, including in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which I’m now watching via Hulu.  Spoilers begin here.  In episode 22, Winry discovers that Scar killed her parents.  Spoilers end here.  The Elric brothers withheld this information from their childhood friend, before it blew up in everyones’ faces.  In other words, they lied, leading to somewhat expected consequences.

The dramatic consequences of hiding the truth

While it’s a discussion for another day whether or not hiding something from someone is equivalent to a bold-faced lie, I think we can all agree that lying isn’t just common to anime; people are lying to us constantly.  The worst offenders of all may be the teenagers one encounters on the Internet.  In a time of self-discovery, many teens take it further by creating a new self.  I once encountered a young man who tried to convince me that he was some sort of warrior monk; of course, little did he know that just a month prior, he told me he used to work at Funimation. Keep reading…

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Natsume Yuujinchou and Living with Spirits

One purpose I hope to accomplish through this blog is to help readers understand Japanese religion better.  The Japanese religious system cannot be pegged in simple terms.  It is also both unique to Asia and similar to other Asian religious traditions.

That said, one blog I often read had a recent posting about personal practice of Asian religion.  Specifically, it discussed spirits while making parallels to the much-loved series, Natsume Yuujinchou.  The post is a very interesting read, and I hope you’ll check it out!

Living among the spirits; do you believe in Nyanko-sensei? | Canne’s anime review blog.

Update: Canne later wrote a terrific post for Beneath the Tangles describing her religion, which includes a belief in ghosts.

Week in Review (Sep 18 – 24)

  • More Genshiken Manga on the Way
    News:  The popular manga about otaku, Genshiken, will be continued as Genshiken II in Japan in Kondasha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine.  The sequel manga will feature Ogiue, now the Genshiken president, as the main character of the college club.  New characters will join in, including a cross-dressing boy named Hato.

    ViewsGenshiken introduced some of the most memorable characters in recent anime/manga history, but seemed to finish fairly conclusively.  That said, I’m a fan of sequels, and am hoping to see an extension of characters I’ve grown to love.  Ogiue has become a fan favorite as she struggled with personal demons in a cute sort of way. More than that, she is a character whose actions and thoughts reveal profound truths about the human condition.  We’ll certainly discuss her on this blog in the future.

    SourceANN

  • Court Uses Beserk Manga to Strike Down Obsenity Laws in Oregon
    News: The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down two proposed laws meant to prevent minors from accessing “obscene” materials.  Considered overly restrictive, the court used Beserk as an example of a work that contained content which wasn’t considered obscene, but would have been restricted through the laws.

    Views
    :  Censorship is always a touchy issue, made even more troublesome by the fact that the second law struck down was meant to protect minors from pedophiles.  Laws or not, protecting minors starts as a social issue.  It is at home that parents have the opportunity to instill values meant to protect their children.  On another note, Judy Blume was also mentioned in the decision: has any celebrated childrens’ author been on as many banned/restricted book lists as her?  Makes me wanna to read some Superfudge.

    Sources:  Mangablog and ANN

  • Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act Bill Introduced in Senate
    News:  Veteran Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, introduced a bill on Monday that would give the U.S. Attorney General considerable power in bringing down sites that infringe on copyright laws, even if the creators of the site are overseas.

    Views:  As we all remember from our Schoolhouse Rock lesson (video below), this bill still has a while to go before becoming a law.  That said, this law would be a major development.  No manga site wants to have to deal with the federal government.  Perhaps this is a marked beginning to a change for viewing habits of manga fans, and that might be a good thing.

    Source: ANN

How A Bill Becomes a Law

A Guide to the Guides: Fall 2010 Anime Series

It’s seems like every other anime blog is discussing the upcoming shows for the fall season.  And so they should – most are premiering in October, just a few weeks away!  While I don’t have the inclination, time or skill to do any sort of preview guide, I’d like to list the series I’m looking foward to and give you links to what I feel are some of the blogosphere’s best preview guides:

Preview Guides

  • The Cart Driver
    Do you like pretty charts with short but excellent summaries of the shows?  Look no further than The Cart Driver, one of the best anime blogs on the Internet.  These charts are a quick way to get a grasp on the tons of new shows out this fall season.
    Grade A for easy access, graphic imagery, quick reading
  • T.H.A.T. Anime Blog
    The folks at T.H.A.T. have created a terrific fall guide, giving strong summaries of the upcoming shows, providing additional information (like those involved in the productions) and providing some insightful and fun comments by the bloggers.
    Grade A on fun-viewing, in-depth previews, additional information
  • Random Curiosity
    This guide is simply one stop shopping.  If you really want to dig in, looking up various sources about new shows, watching trailers, and reading about all sorts of information, go to this impressive preview.
    Grade A on covering everything but the kitchen sink, nice charts
  • Neko Pan
    Although created months ago, this handy guide provides some pieces that the other don’t.  It gives video previews and premiere dates in addition to the typical information.
    Grade A on youtubing and logistics
  • Major Arcana
    Short sypnoses and quick comments mark this website’s preview.  The blog’s writer is excellent, and it’s a good place to visit if one is seeking informed and thoughtful opinions on the new series.
    Grade A on insights and purty-ness
  • Ani No Miyako
    Focusing on a handful of the series, this site gives in-depth commentary on the blogger’s expectations.  Agree or disagree, they provide insights on the some of the most-anticipated fall series.
    Grade A on depth and organization

Other Preview-related Site

  • Moetron
    The post linked above provides an easily-accessable chart for the the premieres this fall.  This is handy for anyone looking to already shore up their watching schedule.

Keep reading to see what shows I’m looking foward to.

Of Kami and Buddhas: The Wizards of Japanese Religion

This is the first post in a biweekly series that I plan on writing about Japanese religion.  Most of us are familiar with certain aspects of Japanese religion – Shintoism, the idea of the kami, Buddhism and the importance of nature in it.  These posts are meant to dig deeper, as I investigate scholarly sources to discover the deeper meanings and ideas behind Japanese spirituality.  For Christians, this will help us understand the Japanese better in terms of differing viewpoints about spirituality, and for all anime fans, we can better appreciate the subtleties of our favorites series.

Edison is more than a man to the Japanese

Speaking of common knowledge, most American otaku are familiar with the veneration given the kami (a complicated term, but often referring to sacred entities) and the buddhas.  These “beings” are on a higher plane and are often prayed to on various occassions.  However, there is another group, less venerated and less “powerful,” but still honored by the Japanese.  Professors Ian Reader and George J. Tanabe, Jr. refer to these individuals as wizards.  No, they’re not talking Harry Potter or Gandalf – more like Thomas Edison and Heinrich Hertz.  These people are clearly human, but their contributions and genius has elevated their positions in Japanese society to that above you and me.  And like the kami, these individuals are attributed certain powers. Keep reading…

Pick Six: Viewing Anime Through a Christian Lens

From dangerous Shinto film to beautiful redemptive work

While searching on the web, I found a very interesting question and response (edit: now available here).  The question was, “So how well does anime sit in the conservative Christian culture and is it important to conservative Christian anime and mange lovers that the two be reconciled?”   The response was basically that the Christian culture is wide and vast, as is the response of Christians toward anime.

I would encourage Christians and non-Christians alike to read the article.  For Christians, it may help us understand better where we fall in the spectrum and why other believers believe the way they do.  For non-Christians, I think it will help you understand that some of us carry the burden of what others believe, though we don’t share those beliefs.

For those unwilling to read the lengthy response, here are some of the vital points: Keep reading…