Monthly Archives: February 2013

My Identity: Guest Post on Study of Anime

What is fandom to you?

This is the question Charles Dunbar, a friend of this site (I interviewed him once and he also gave us his aniblogger testimony), asked a number of friends and colleagues associated with anime.  I was lucky enough to get an invitation to join in his Identity Project.  Here’s how he explained the project:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fortunate to gather essays and ruminations from bloggers and fans about what fandom means to them. (I’m still accepting them, by the way.) Each one of the writers involved has chosen one aspect of their fandom and written about how it has fused itself into their lives. Hopefully, this will lead to more discussion about the changing nature of fandom, and provide some ideas on where it is going.

No surprise, I connected fandom to my faith.  You might want to pop in and take a read, as I give a little bit of context as to why I do what I do on Beneath the Tangles:

ID project, round 3: Tangles

Don’t Judge Me Until You’ve Walked a Mile in My Shoes (Or Not at All)

Sometimes you forsake depth for having a breadth of characters.  Through eight episodes, that’s been the case with Oreshura, where we have a number of girls vying for Eita’s affections, though we only know a few key points about any of the characters.

Oreshura Chiwawa Chihuahua

Art by ざじゃ

Paralleling that, the characters also seem to know little about each other.  In episode eight, Chiwa and Ai demonstrate how little they know of each other as they shout their overly enthusiastic encouragement toward characters on the movie screen.  Chiwa has no idea about Ai’s background with Eita (this is apparently going the Love Hina route) or that she likes him at all, while Ai just moments previous had found out that Chiwa was Eita’s childhood friend (the most important part of her character for this series).  And yet, the two are battling tooth and nail – this after they’ve already judged each other as enemies.

Their feelings are so intense, and this without having all the information.  But even if they did, could they truly understand what the other feels and thinks?  Different experiences help shape us, not to mention how we’re hardwired.

Here’s another example regarding Oreshura.  Alexander of Ashita no Anime and I had a discussion about the series.  He didn’t connect with Eita, whom he felt was going way overboard in worrying about his secret being leaked.  On the other hand, I felt his reaction made perfect sense.  Our reactions to Eita had much to do with how we experienced high school.  While Alexander wouldn’t have minded such a secret to be loosed, I was so afraid of being embarrassed and so focused (even if I wouldn’t admit it) on what others thought of me, that I’d be terrified if someone knew of my chuunibyou fantasies.

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Little Busters Episode 20: How to Alienate People & Fall from Grace

Sometimes, the simplest answer is best.

In episode 20 of Little Busters, Rin tries in her socially awkward way to help a lovesick fellow student gain the attention of his crush, Sasami Sasasegawa.  Of course, all attempts fail, and instead, draw him further away from Sasasegawa.  Once simply unknown to her, the boy now becomes becomes hated by her.

Little Busters Sasasegawa

Art by えすれき

As the episode concludes, Rin instead tells Sasasegawa the truth about her attempts and gives the boy the softball star’s phone number, allowing him to text her.  He now has an “in,” and with the truth out there, who knows what will happen?  Certainly, the simplicity of the truth led to far better result than Riki’s cockamamie schemes.

Isn’t it strange how we sometimes work really hard when it’s unnecessary?

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Something More: Shinto Sasami-san, Oreshura Allusions, and Ramayana = Journey to the West = DBZ

Jonathan Tappan does a wonderful job of explaining context necessary to understand the Shinto conventions in Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. [FunBlog]

Tom Pinchuk ruminates on the importance of religion and spirituality in Dragonball Z. [Anime Vice]

Pinchuk also mentioned the topic in a previous post I missed, commented on how DBZ related to the Hindu epic, Ramayana. [Anime Vice]

And speaking of articles I missed the first time around, Kylaran last week discussed the connection between Buddhist/Hindu conventions and both the title and show structure of Oreshura. [Behind the Nihon Review]

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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. 

 

DVD Review: Revolutionary Girl Utena Vol. 2, The Black Rose Saga

Utena Revolutionary Girl Box Set 2Revolutionary Girl Utena: Volume 2
DVD Box Set: Remastered Edition
Nozomi
Episodes 13-24

As the first season of Revolutionary Girl Utena ended, Utena had finally finished successfully dueling the members of the student council. She may well have been  able to enjoy some peace, if it wasn’t for the sudden appearance of a new set of duelists, each wearing a black rose, pushed forward and aided by Mikage, the leader of a strange seminar. Utena must once more fight duels to protect Anthy, the rose bride. But these new duelists are different. They are not strangers, but people Utena knows. Driven by bitterness and hatred,  they fight not to take Anthy away from Utena, but to kill her. The black signet rings they wear were each worn by one of one hundred boys who were rumored to have died in a fire.  Why is Mikage doing this, and how is he connected to Akio Ohtori, Anthy’s older brother?

In this season, Utena, Anthy, and the student council members tend to take a back seat. The center stage is instead handed to the minor characters, giving us a chance to see them in a completely different light. Hidden motivations and feelings that we never guessed are revealed, adding a brilliant new dimension to the story. I really enjoyed discovering more about them and their relationships with the main characters. The episodes featuring Wakaba were especially good, and really gave more depth to both Wakaba and Utena.

We’re also introduced to Anthy’s older brother, Akio. While we’re never given full insight into his character, we are given glimpses of just how important he’s going to be for the rest of the series, as well as to his relationship with Anthy.

This also ties in with another huge part of this season: foreshadowing. Much of it is very subtle, only hinting that what little things it was showing us would later become very important. In a way, it became the underlying tone of the entire season.  Episodes tended to end on a slightly unresolved note, leaved an inconclusive feeling. The end of the season, in fact, seemed to me to be slightly inconclusive in and of itself. While I did find this a little irritating at times, it worked very well when it came to leading up to the next season.

I do have some complaints, though. The duels were more predictable than the last season, making the episodes far more repetitive, almost to the point of giving the season a “monster of the week” feel. As well as the foreshadowing worked, very little of the plot was actually revealed, which was frustrating, and what plot the season did have was rather confusing. These faults are not unforgivable, but they were still there nonetheless.

I watched this in the remastered Japanese audio with English subtitles. The sounds were very clean and clear, and the voice acting was great. The animation had also been cleaned up, making the colors and lines seemed much sharper. The extras on the DVDs included some fun stuff like interviews with Kunihiko Ikuhara, an old Utena promo, and trailers: not too much, but I enjoyed them anyway. The box-set also came with a booklet filled with interesting extras, such as episode commentary by the director, interviews with some of the staff, and art galleries.

This was a great season, despite its faults, and the remastering made it all the more enjoyable.

Rating: B+

Review copy provided by Nozomi Entertainment

Call to Accountability from Anime Sports Shows

One of the hardest things in my college churchgoing experience was finding friends who could keep me accountable in my spiritual walk.  I was involved in small groups and I had an accountability partner, but these relationships felt only an inch deep – we all knew a lot about each other, but other than prayer (which is admittedly of prime importance), we did little about it.

On the other hand, the easiest thing to find was an accountability partner for working out.  I think I could throw penny in any direction on campus and find a guy willing to scream at me and otherwise push me to grow big, hulking muscles, while I did the same for him.  I certainly know that my best friend was constantly haranguing me to work out with him, and when we did, he was excellent and helping me push beyond my limits.

Miki HashibaOne reason I like to watch sports anime series is that I like to see this form of camaraderie where teammates do whatever is necessary to help each other grow.  They hold each other accountable and are very confrontational about doing so – they won’t let their teammates get away with anything less than 100%.

In Suzuka, Miki is the one who best plays the role of track accountability partner for Yamato, encouraging him constantly to continue working hard.  Suzuka, the captains, and the other athletes also demonstrate this influence throughout the series.

Man, wouldn’t it be great if we cared enough about each other to hold one another spiritually accountable?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had friends surrounding us that said, “You’re prayer life stinks – you need to do better.  How can I help push you do become a prayer warrior?”

Maybe you do have those friends.  Or maybe you’re like me, skimming just below the surface of casual friendship and above the depths of BFF-dom.

The real difference between a good, solid friendship among Christians and one where each holds the other accountable is this: love.  After all, if you love someone, you’ll do whatever it takes to help them be all that they can.

What about you?  Do you have relationships like this in your church?  Or do you have relationships like this outside of the church and spiritual context?

Something More: Hello Kitty in Space, Christian Manga, and Shuffled Spiritual Stories

Erin Straza reports on a 7th grader who sent a Hello Kitty doll into space, and hopes to use her passions to stir joy in others, too. [Christ and Pop Culture]

The Cajun Samurai jumps into the harem tale of gods and demons known as Shuffle…and then wishes he hadn’t. [The Cajun Samurai]

D.M. Dutcher gives a brief rundown of Christian OEL manga, particularly those distributed by the now defunct Realbuzz Studios. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

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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. 

DVD Review: Steins;Gate Complete Series, Part Two (Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Steins;gate Blu Ray coverSteins;Gate: Complete Series, Part Two
Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo
FUNimation
12 episodes

If there’s a consistent criticism of volume one of Steins;gate, it’s that the opening episodes are cold and inaccessible, with characters that are difficult to initially connect with.  These issues are long forgotten by the start of volume two of the series, which follows self-proclaimed mad scientist, Rintaro Okabe, as he deals with the consequences of the time machine he and his colorful team have built.  In fact, the story and characters have become so compelling that viewers will be glued to the action of part two, not because of the premise and unique feel of the series, but because we desperately hope to see Okabe fix the future and rescue the other characters from sometimes horrible fates.

The focus of the second half of FUNimation’s captivating series is on Okabe as he does everything humanly possible (and impossible) to reverse the effects caused by his tinkering with time.  Most of these episodes are particularly intense, as character origins are revealed, a sinister and violent society closes in, and mysteries of the past and future are unraveled.  But the show doesn’t leave us cold – it’s particularly intimate, as viewers see and feel what Okabe does on his very personal missions.

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Habemus Papam! A Manga About Pope Benedict XVI

With Pope Benedict XVI’s sudden resignation on Monday, any good anime and manga fan would ask the natural question: Has anyone made a manga about Benedict XVI’s life?

The answer is, of course!

In all seriousness, a treatment of his life in manga format does exist.  Originally developed by Gabrielle Gniewek and Sean Lam as a 16-page one shot for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, Regina Doman expanded on Habemus Papam! with Lam to create a full-length original English language manga.  Doman even provides some insight into the process on the blog for Manga Hero, the company that creates and distributes this manga and other original series.

I have not read Habemus Papam!, but I have read Manga Hero’s other OEL releases.  The company has done the unlikely and created captivating and well-crafted series based on Catholic principles and Bible stories.  I’ve enjoyed all of their works, though Many Are Called stands out as a favorite.

If Habemus Papam! is anything like Manga Hero’s other works, it’s one that’s definitely worth your consideration – and it’s certainly a timely OEL manga to read in these days of significant activity in the Catholic world.

Oreshura, Episode 06: Pride (or Forgetting It in the Name of Love)

I’ve really enjoyed Oreshura – while it’s characters and situations are retreads of retreads, there’s something fun and refreshing about the show, even when it repeats itself, like it did in episode six.  Eita, for a second straight week, puts his pride in the backseat and endures physical pain and embarrassment to defend a “young maiden.”  Whenever I watch embarrassing scenes like that, even enjoyable ones, I look away from the screen – it hurts me to see someone else get their pride hurt.

Oreshura Masuzu

Up next? (Art by 刃天)

But Eita seems to think nothing of losing his pride in confrontations.  I’m the type to be easily embarrassed, so for me it’s a little harder.  Truth be told, I’m just incredibly prideful, so putting aside my pride is hard in general, even if it’s not a public situation.  It’s even difficult for me to admit that I’m wrong to my wife (Note: In fact, I just had this issue as I was writing this post).  And I sometimes find it difficult to admit to my children that I’ve wronged them as well.

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