Author Archives: TWWK

Rurouni Kenshin: Lay Me Down

If I’m being completely honest, part of what originally drew me to anime (and what draws many people, I think) was the intensity of violent in some series and movies.  Princess Mononoke was the first anime I watched that I knew was Japanese in origin, and the violence of it, though tame by some standards, both totally threw me off and absorbed me.  The same could be said of Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen (Trust and Betrayal), which doubly surprised me because my experience of Kenshin up to that point had been the mostly bloodless kind from sixty-odd episodes of the series.

kenshin and tomoe

Tsuiokuhen makes no qualms of how bloody it’s going to be right from the start, as a group of bandits mercilessly brutalizes a traveling slave caravan, including the young Himura.  The bandits, in turn, are dealt with in an even bloodier manner by Seijuro, who will become Himura’s teacher.

The focus on the entire Kenshin franchise is not on violence, however – at least not the lethal kind.  The emphasis is on Kenshin’s vow to save others by his sword without taking human life.  And although a few different events later in the battousai’s life have an affect on how he develops this ideology, you could save it all began in that caravan when he was protected by women whom he’d only known for perhaps a few days, or maybe even just a few hours.

Let me paint the scene, if you no longer remember it, or if you’ve never seen it.  Kenshin is a young boy at this point.  He walks alongside a group of individuals – slave traders and slaves – on the way to some destination.  When the bandits come and slay everyone in the caravan, Kenshin is left as the lone survivor, and only because of this – the women in the caravan cover Kenshin with their own bodies, pleading to the young boy that he’ll continue to survive, as they are all eventually tortured and killed before his very eyes.  Those acts of heroism buy enough time for Seijuro, who has detected the bandits’ presence, to arrive and slay the bad guys.

Kenshin, unsurprisingly, is forever changed.  All throughout the next day, he uses his two little hands to bury the dead, the women (who receive special burial), slave traders, and bandits alike.  And it’s here that Kenshin begins the path toward giving his sword for a greater cause (even if it takes another tragedy, and lots of war, for him to finally transform fully).  He gives his sword and his life as a commitment in devotion to the unnamed women who sacrificed their lives for him.

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Something More: Christian Anime Idols, Sailor Moon Gossip, and Integrity in SAO

The end of the summer season is here!  While some may not have enjoyed it much, it’s been one of my favorites in recent memory.  At least, judging by some of the posts below, it’s provided plenty of fuel for discussion!

Milesvibritannia looks at the issue of morality in anime, delving deeply into a number of series, including Tokyo Ghoul, Death Note, and Liar Game. [Anime Anemoscope]

Frank explains the biblical idea of “hating your family,” among other items, in his analysis of episodes nine and ten of Hanayamata [A Series of Miracles]

Frank also really enjoys the way that Locodol flips the anime idol formula, and see lessons applicable for Christians. [2]

D.M. Dutcher is able to find good application from a strange episode of Getchaman that features a molten lava Jesus and Jesus being carved on Mt. Rushmore. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Rob reviews episode five of Sailor Moon Crystal and discusses biblical teachings of gossip and looking at a person’s heart. [Christian Anime Review]

He also stresses the importance of integrity in his review of episode nine of Sword Art Online 2. [2]

Kit explores the deathly symbol of the higanbana, an autumn flower, which is seen in anime like Hell Girl and the Madoka Rebellion movie. [Study of Anime]

Casey Covel gives an extended review of the first volume of Attack on Titan, with particular emphasis for Christian viewers. [Geeks Under Grace]

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.

Untangled: Facing Opposition for Your Faith

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email that brideofdracula recently sent us:

First of all I love your blog! I think it’s awesome how you connect anime and religion.

My question to you is kinda personal: recently, I moved to America from a muslim country. I am a practicing Muslim and I currently am enrolled in a liberal arts college. My problem, is I face alot of criticism from atheists. They see me, see my hijab, and start criticizing me, my religion, my Holy Book. I don’t have a problem with atheists,  but I HATE it when they start mocking me. I’m asking you this because as Christians, you must have faced such opposition.  What should I do? Should I stop wearing my hijab?

Please answer. I don’t think I can stand any more girls stuffing The God Delusion in my face. (Sorry about my English. It’s not my native language.) Thanks.

Thank you, first of all, for reaching out to us even though we’re of a different faith than you.  We definitely want our community here to cross religious boundaries, and some of that can occur when find common ground, such as criticism or persecution.

I think it must definitely be harder for you as a Muslim than for most Christians because through you hijab, you make your faith much more visible than others might.  Besides wearing, say, a cross necklace, Christians don’t usually express their faith by the clothing they wear.  Maybe that’s why when I attended a liberal arts university in a very liberal city, I never went through what you’ve had to endure.

I think that the best advice I could give you is this: make your everyday actions based on the bigger picture on what you most believe in life.  Sometimes, we have an idea of what we value most, but when suffering comes along and we’re tested by fire, we get to know where we really stand on those tenants we hold most closely to our hearts.  When you meditate on the bigger picture, it’ll help you determine the choices you make for issues like whether to continue wearing your hijab.  For example, if I were in your shoes, I would hope that I would be able to use a hurtful situation and turn it around, demonstrating the kindness, love, and grace that Jesus demonstrated to me through the gospel, which is at the core of my life.

I’d like to also open this up to our readers – do you have any recommendations for our brideofdracula?

Terror in Resonance Episode 11: Look to the Sky

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

- I Corinthians 13:4-8a

In the west, we color love as something that’s giddy and cute; passionate and sexual; cheesy and delightful.  And it can be all those things.  But love, at its best, is moving and powerful and dynamic.  It stirs people to action, to do right, to sacrifice themselves.  It can change a country.  It can change the world.

If the final episode of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) ended 2/3 of the way through, it would have been merely beautiful, emotional, and almost perfect.  I was moved by subtlety and beauty of it all.  Nine and Twelve could live, they could survive, they could be happy.  Or even if they were arrested, they could still live and eventually be exonerated.

But that wouldn’t have been an ending of integrity.  It was an impossible ending.

terror 11a

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Free Eternal Summer Episode 13: The Whole Story

Overabundance of “swimming with animals and with each other” imagery aside, the final episode of Free! Eternal Summer (and of the franchise, I suppose, though wouldn’t a return for the 2020 Olympics in Japan be neat?) was excellent.  The reactions from my Tumblr follows was pretty much this: tears, tears, and more tears.  Although I managed to keep my own eyes dry, I still felt emotional about the conclusion.  It was a good way end a series that I was originally pretty meh on, even into this season (as I mentioned in our first podcast), but whose final run of episodes made me rethink the series and rate both it and the first season higher than I had originally.

free anime team

What made the series ultimately very good was the evolution in the characters and the movement from a rather silly show with no palpable bigger storyline to a, well, silly show with a broader, bigger, and more significant narrative that was still personal and accessible.  Looking at just the first season apart from the second, I saw a mediocre, forgettable show with a nice, emotional ending.  But taken as one whole series over 26 or so episodes, we saw a larger tale about redemption, friendship, and transformation.

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Naruto and Futaba Just Don’t Care (and Neither Should We)

Is there a specific characteristic that sets great anime protagonists and heroes apart?  While there are perhaps plenty of common traits they share, one that really just out is their ability to be themselves even when being yourself isn’t cool.

naruto uzumakiNaruto Uzumaki provides us a good example of this funny trait.  The Naruto manga is nearing its end, and after a more than ten-year run, it’s hard to remember what the character of Naruto was like at the start.  He was hated by his village because of the disaster the Nine-Tails brought upon Konohagakure.  But more than that, Naruto was just weird.  And although he’s matured so much, Naruto is still weird, far different than most of the hyper-serious, ninja-ninja-ninja-everything residents of the village.

Even as Naruto grows in power and develops his “ninja way,” he retains a sense of doing what’s right, no matter the sacrifice, a trait demonstrated in many ninjas of the past (including his own mentor), but not generally of the culture, which values the village as a whole above individuals.  Naruto loves both and is unwilling to sacrifice either.

But you don’t have to just look at shonen series to see this characteristic, though.  The same is true in shoujo.  Just look at Blue Spring Ride, for instance, where Futaba learns very early on to be true to herself.  And from that point forward, she’s unable to be anything but that.  She loses her “friends,” risks another friendship by telling Yuri the truth of her love for Kou, and frequently unleashes her feelings and worry about Kou onto him.  She’s herself, even though it would be far more convenient if he stayed as she was at the series beginning – a semi-popular girl who fits right in.

I wonder if the Japanese particularly like these characters because of expectations in the country.  There’s certainly a less individualistic tone to the culture there compared to the west, and especially in the workplace, where standing out is usually something you don’t want to do.  What if we plugged Naruto into a Japanese conglomerate, or did the same with Futaba, or Kyoko (Skip Beat!), or Ichigo (Bleach)?  Havoc would ensure (and if this were an anime, the entire business would change), but one thing that wouldn’t alter is this – those characters would stay true to themselves.  They wouldn’t choose the culture over their own convictions.

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Untangled: Manga Recommendations for Christians?

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email that Stephen recently sent us:

I just stumbled across your site while looking for Christian manga reviews. I like what you’ve got here: Do you also do manga as well as anime?

We do, Stephen!  Though to be honest, we don’t touch on manga nearly as much as we should, probably because only a few of us read manga as actively as we watch anime.

One thing we are working on is a “Manga Recommendations” section for Christians to go along with other such sections, accessible through our toolbar.

Stephen went on to recommend two manga series to us:

1) Holyland: There’s just enough subtle symbolism to make this series powerful but not preachy. One of the main characters receives a cross in a church at one point, and later on, at a critical moment, grabs the cross and cries out (apparently to God), “Tell me what to do!” Lots of violence (it’s about martial arts after all), and maybe four scenes in the whole series with very brief nudity. For a mature reader, I think it’s well worth the read.

2) Hikaru no go: Perhaps the only manga I’ve read with absolutely nothing inappropriate, apart from the occasional swear word. One of the themes that crops up periodically is Sai, the ghost, meditating on why God has him remain on earth and appear to Hikaru, rather than going immediately to the next stage of the after life. Both Sai and Hikaru learn lessons, making Sai’s experience a sort of Purgatory. The emotional movements of this series are excellent, at least through the first story arc.

Thanks for sharing those titles with us, Stephen!  And now, I want to open this up to our readers – are there manga you specifically recommend for Christians?  Why?

Blue Spring Ride Episode 12: Opening Up

Episode 12 ends Blue Spring Ride without much of anything resolved.  Summer has come.  Kou doesn’t have to take summer classes.  The group of friends continue to bond.  Yuri and Futaba agree to increase their efforts for Kou’s affections.  The only major thing that’s happening is this: Kou has started to open himself up to his family and those around him.  And while there’s nothing real climactic about that change, it’s something quite significant.

Notice the impact that Kou’s change has on him throughout this episode.  He’s far more emotive than he’s been all year.  He cries and holds tightly onto Futaba at the beginning of the episode.  Near the middle, he reveals his heart to his older brother and father.  And at the end, he smiles.  All these might me par for course for most characters, but they’re out of character of Kou, demonstrating a change within.

blue spring ride 12

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Video: Summer 2014 Anime Review & Fall 2014 Anime Preview

It always seems as if season finales sneak up on us, and summer 2014 was no different, with shows ending their runs this week.  That also means that a packed new season of anime is about to begin!  Last night, Japes and Kaze conducted our first live stream, reviewing a number of this season’s shows and previewing a ton of shows for the upcoming season.  See our recording of the live stream below:

The live stream doesn’t actually begin until 14:12 into the video, so jump there to begin.  Here’s the entire breakdown:

14:12  Live Stream Introduction
15:58  Summer 2014 Review
17:40  Ao Haru Ride
21:06  Terror in Resonance
26:40  Sword Art Online 2
37:09  Glasslip
43:51  Aldnoah.Zero
52:20  Rokujouma, Free, Hanamonogatari
57:57  Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Discussion
01:12:23  Fall 2014 Preview
01:12:46  Grisaia no Kajitsu
01:18:15  Log Horizon
01:22:01  Sora no Method
01:25:23  Random Anime Preview
02:14:00  Wrap-up

And thanks to all who tuned in live on Saturday.  Be anticipating more live streams in the future!

Terror in Resonance Episode 10: Fine Line

One week left.  Just one week…

Episode 10 of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) continues to press this ambitious story forward at breakneck speed.  In twenty-something minutes, we get Nine’s arrest, Twelve’s rescue, Shibazaki’s confrontation of Mamiya, Five’s killing of her handler, and Five’s suicide, enough action to fill two episodes.  But somehow, Watanabe is able to keep the series clarity, and it all works to create a tone of desperation and anxiety, a literally explosive ending is on the horizon.

znt five death

What I found most interested in this episode was how the show, which has mildly asked us to ask who the villains are all along, really hits that question hard in this episode.  Some villains are clear, like Mamiya (though perhaps many will find his motive patriotic and honorable, if his actions were reprehensible).  Others are more difficult to put a finger on, like Five, who while killing without abandon and putting innocents at danger, is herself a victim of the worst kind of childhood abuse.

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