Author Archives: TWWK
One of my favorite anime antagonists is Shishio, the evildoer from the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin. Shishio looks like a mummy, replaced Kenshin as the battousai, is never really bested by Kenshin with the sword, and in the dubbed version of the show, he’s voiced by always-awesome Steven Blum. What’s not to love (or hate)?
As Kenshin goes on a journey to defeat Shishio, the hero realizes early on that he’s not strong enough as is to defeat him. To gain the necessary skills to stop Shishio, Kenshin returns to his old master, Seijuro, to learn an ultimate skill. His sensei ultimately presses him into developing the technique, Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki (episode 43). But the most interesting thing isn’t the technique itself – it’s how the disciple learns it. Ultimately, it must be learned by using it on one’s teacher in an attempt to break the sensei’s otherwise unbreakable defense. And in doing so, the learner kills his master.
Seijuro lays down his life to teach the technique to Kenshin.
This teaching seems a bit extreme – but this is anime after all. Reminiscent of Unohana’s teaching of Kenpachi in Bleach, there has to be great sacrifice for the result that’s received. And although Seijuro doesn’t actually die – Kenshin is using his reverse blade, after all – is there any question that this noble and hard man wouldn’t be willing to die in this situation, having determined, finally, that Kenshin is worthy of learning it?
Do you have a tiger mom?
My mother isn’t quite of the sort, though I certainly received more discipline and was forced to focus on academics more than most any of my schoolmates. But she wasn’t a tiger mother to the extent that many of my friends’ mothers were. You can often tell which had them by the kids’ accomplishments – excellent grades, perfect SAT scores, excellence at musical instruments, polite to a fault – all signs that you had a tiger mother.
Of course, like another Asian concept, yin and yang, growing up this way isn’t all roses, though it may look so on the outside. Where perfection (at least in the eyes of parents) reigns, the child may be troubled by feelings of disappointment and lack of love, and may end up becoming overly cold or hot and arrogant or self-conscious.
Enter Yukino Yukinoshita.
The beautiful and frigid (matching her name) character for OreGairu can easily be pegged as the result of such parenting from her outward characteristics – all those around her are in awe or envy of her perfection. But we know something further, too – that she’s been oppressed by her mother, whom both her and sister vivacious sister, Haruno, fear. And while worldly success is withing easy reach for the sisters, the more we know of them, the more we see how flawed they are, with the author pointing toward their mother as the instigator of these problems Read the rest of this entry
In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers. Today’s submission comes from Michael:
Hello I have some questions about clannad. 1 would you recommend this title? 2 which version of clannad should I read/play first to get the whole story, from start to finish? (VN, LN, anime, manga). Thank you for providing a place where people can go to to get Biblically based advice.
Thanks for your kind words, Michael!
The first part is easiest – I would absolutely recommend it. In fact, Clannad is on the very short list of anime series we specifically recommend. The show is a lot of fun to watch, but more than that, in the second half it goes in a direction very unexpected from an anime series, a place both real and fantastic. And as After Story moves a long, the series brings in themes that are of utmost importance to Christians. If you do watch the show, I hope you’ll dig through our Clannad posts and see what we’ve written about it (but not before – these writings are full of spoilers!)
The second question is a little more intricate. I went to our resident Key experts here, Japes and Kaze, to get their advice. Their consensus was to just go watch the anime because A) it’s a great adaptation and B) the visual novel is very long. They do mention, though, that the anime doesn’t tell the “WHOLE story,” so if you’re willing to invest time in the VN, that would be best (and a localization of it is coming out next month).
Also, as a final note, Kaze had this to add:
Also movie is bad; don’t watch the movie.
So there ya go! YES to Clannad. YES to the anime (and to the VN, if you have time). A big NO to the movie. ;)
If you’d like be part of the Untangled feature, please submit a question to us. While we may not post a response on the blog, we will read your message and try to respond in some fashion.
A pretty significant anniversary for Beneath the Tangles has come and gone. As of September 12th, this blog is officially five years old! We’ve come a very long way since my first post on the site, as I tried to establish a brand new, unique presence on the web.
I’ve reminisced and reflected on changes for the blog a number of times in the past, so I’ll spare you today. However, I do want to thank our readers, especially those who’ve been with us for months or years, whether you comment or not. Your mere presence is encouraging. We write for you here, as opposed to simply getting our thoughts out for ourselves, so you are absolutely necessary to us.
I also want to encourage those who follow us or support our values and beliefs to consider become a patron of our blog. Any donation would be helpful, though we ask for $2 a month. This small donation is multiplied when added to others and under our careful spending to spread our blog to a larger audience.
Thank you again, and here’s to another five years!
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
– John 15:13 (KJV)
I recently heard a wonderful sermon on the value of friendship by Tim Keller. He spoke of how when it comes down to it, friendship is about a person choosing to be intimate with you. Christ called us friends, and took that love to the ultimate end point – death in place of us.
In the final episode of Charlotte, Yuu acts as that friend for all the children with the Charlotte disease, taking their illnesses upon himself and saving their lives. And yet, despite his noble act, Yuu isn’t the best of Christ figures – but maybe that’s because he’s not only an image of Christ, but also an image of us.
Yuu as Christ
As I mentioned before, Charlotte treats the mutations as a disease. Because of its origin, there’s no X-Men/Marvel style debate here – it’s something that needs to be cured. And as Christ took our sins upon himself at greatest personal cost, Yuu plunders the users’ and carriers’ abilities, knowing that it may destroy him.
Episode 13, though, gives us I think a unique insight into Christ, one that scripture only sparingly shows us – that of what Christ must have felt when he died in our place. No, he didn’t forget himself (or us), nor do I think he had to remind himself of why this was happening to him. But the physical and emotional toll upon Yuu might make us think about what Christ went through.
I’ve heard it said that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t much of one at all, him being God. On the contrary, though, I say it was far more so because of who he is. Perfect and pure, like the purest lamb, he was butchered (physical pain) and taken for the first time ever out of his perfect loving relationship with the Father, the only perfect relationship and the only one ever justified (emotional pain). Christ’s agony was demonstrated by his cries on the cross, and the distress upon him pictured by Yuu’s weariness and loss of himself when taking in everyone’s diseases.
But unlike Yuu, Christ never forgot. Christ cried that “it is finished” when he was about to die, fully knowing that the tortured he endured was for reason and done as he had planned. Sin nailed Christ to the cross – but Christ always, fully and consciously, allowed it to happen.
Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part II: A Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria
Last week, I dove into gender dysphoria, explaining what it is and hopefully helping fellow Christians understand that individuals who are confused regarding their gender or who don’t identify with traditional gender roles are just as in need of love and grace as anyone else – they’re not some suddenly created outcast group that God doesn’t care about. We, too, should, must care for them.
But how do we care for them if we think they’re constantly living in sin? Or are we approaching them from the entirely wrong angle?
Mark Yarhouse, referred to in my last article as really developing my outlook on this issue, tells of three frameworks regarding gender incongruence. Most evangelical Christians might fit into the first, which identifies people who see gender dyphoria as simply wrong. Others might see gender incongruence as a disability (Nitori’s sister, for instance, says about her brother, “He’s sick.).” And finally, there are those that would celebrate it and even to a radical extent, try to wholly deconstruct sex and gender.
Instead, an integrated approach, Yarhouse suggests, makes most sense when approaching the issue. It also allows us, I think, to break our own walls of hypocrisy and pride and to graciously approach individuals on the transgender spectrum with love.
But how does such an approach work within a Christian perspective? I think we can see part of that answer in Hourou Musuko, where the main characters are looking to establish relationships and community with people that understand them. Unfortunately, gender dysphoria mixes with teenage angst to make it difficult for Takatsuki and Nitori. Neither is particularly happy as they struggle with their gender identities.
Indeed, gender dysphoria by definition is a struggle, a wrestling with feelings – often very heavy and painful ones – that one’s sex doesn’t match his or her gender. It reminds me of other conditions that we might deal with, like anxiety or depression. When we’re overcome by these conditions, are we sinning? Are we more specifically dealing with the repercussions of the fall?
Perhaps this lack of connection between gender and sex isn’t always willful rebellion, cultural influence, or any type of choice, but a mismatch resulting from the condition our world suffers from – sin. An imperfect world leads to imperfect conditions, such as the feeling that one doesn’t belong in his or her body. Then, having feelings of gender incongruence might instead be approached with empathy, since we all live in this imperfect world.
And with that in mind, we should engage these folks with the gospel message as we would anyone else. They are no more or less in need of grace than anyone. But we must be careful to not hoist our biases and expectations on them as we minister. We must treat them similarly as we do others. We can’t flip the message for this group and expect transformation before salvation, when the latter must always precede the first.
If we have a heart for the lost, for those dying without Christ, we must approach transgender individuals and those working through gender dysphoria with the gospel, as much as any other group. But first, we need to earn our way into the debate, demonstrating compassion, kindness, and caring. Otherwise, we’ll never be given a chance by a individuals that already often feel lonely, maligned, or hated.
One of Christ’s most interesting and off-discussed teachings is how he equates are internal hated toward others as murder:
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
– Matthew 5:22 (NASB)
We often project our anger at God or upon others without realizing just how significant our feelings are. And why shouldn’t we? We’re just doing what we feel.
Matthew Newman unravels this passage some as he looks into episode five of Angel Beats. In it, he describes the students’ viciousness toward Kanade, against whom they’ve projected their bitterness, and how Yuri has done the same against God. In both cases, the students are wrong to do so, as are we when we blame God or rage against others.
And taking it in another direction, why might it be that calling someone a “fool” (raka = baka?) would lead us toward hell? As Matthew mentions, we’re taking away the person’s humanity when calling them a fool. Christ’s wording is perhaps alluding to public humiliation of another, where we intend to destroy someone and make them less than human. This kind of anger is the basis of all sorts of evil, included among these, murder and genocide.
And if we can’t understand that, comprehending how our raging against others shows just how hypocritical we are and how much we need grace, then indeed, we are lost.
Check out Matthew’s full article:
And after you read that, check out these other wonderful articles from around the blogosphere:
Revolutionary Girl Utena is chocked full of symbolism, and Taylor begins to unpack it as it has to do with Christianity themes and allusions. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]
Despite presenting an afterlife that is unlike the Christian conception of it, Death Parade brings up ideas and themes that coincide well with Christianity. [Christ & Pop Culture]
Cowboy Bebop reunion panels and cosplay events at Hawaii Con might be able to each us more about family – and Christian family – than we’d expect. [Lady Teresa Christina]
The way in which Nagisa’s carefully laid plans falls part in episode 10 of Classroom Crisis reminds of how ours might not match those of the Creator. [Christian Anime Review]
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.
As expected, Charlotte is rushing toward a surely emotional end. This 13-episode series has no time for long arcs and episode-long resolutions, so in quick order we see Yuu’s recovery (physically and emotionally) and Misa’s finale. But in the midst, we also have a plot point far more significant – that of Yuu’s decision to save everyone.
It’s no surprise that the proposal comes from Tomori, even if she only half-seriously suggests it. And while the suggestion of how to save given to a Christ figure from one I’ll later describe as more representative of humanity doesn’t fit the Jesus allusion, much of the proceeding portion of the episode does, especially when it clicks with us what Yuu plans to do, what it means, and what the ultimate conclusion will be.
What Yuu is Doing
As the strongest mutant, Yuu is perhaps the strongest person on earth, the “best human.” In scripture, Christ is the second Adam, a demonstration of perfect humanity (and perfect godliness). Indeed, while Christ is perfect in every way, Yuu is representative of different people in different parts of the story – the needful, condemned human in the first part of Charlotte and now the powerful savior in the second.
And in that way, it shows Yuu to be the fulfillment of humanity. For Christians, the Bible demonstrates as much – the Old Testament showing our sin and prophesying of the Christ who is to come, and the New telling of Christ’s saving grace. In this show, Yuu is that testament – showing the depths of humanity in his early selfishness, his need for a savior to save him from his sins, and now, like the New Testament, as the Christ who will take on the sins of the world to redeem it.
Which brings up point two:
Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part I: Understanding Gender Dysphoria as a Christian
When the anime version of Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) aired in 2011, much of the reception in the blogsophere was lukewarm. A lot of folks, having anticipated the adaptation, were disappointed in how different it was from the manga. I, on the other hand, without any previous connection to this story of a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy, absolutely loved it. It touched me and made me reconsider how I thought of individuals who identify as transgender.
However, I don’t know if I was ready for it.
I left the story feeling I should change, but I didn’t really. Fast-forward a few years, and my experiences on Tumblr caused me to research the topic, which then led me to read Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Mark A. Yarhouse), a study that informed me even further, and which forms the basis for much of this post and the one that will follow it. Like Eddie Redmayne, “my education continues,” but in the meantime, I want to introduce this topic to our Christian readers, many of whom probably flee from it, like I have my whole life.
Part of my issue that I was totally confused by the terminology – what does cisgender mean? Why would someone prefer to be called they? Is it still LGBT, or have other letters been added to the acronym?
I won’t go into all the definitions, but there are a few important terms that I think will help confused Christians understand this issue better:
- Gender dysphoria – Part of the title of this post, and a term I’ll refer back to, gender dysphoria is the distress an individual experiences when that person does not feel their biological sex matches gender identity.
- Gender and sex – Gender is what it means to be male or female; sex is biologically whether you’re male or female. Note this distinct but significant difference.
- Transgender – As Yarhouse notes, this is an “umbrella term” describing a diverse audience of people who live out a gender different from their sex.
- Cisgender – This is what perhaps most Christians would view as “typical” – the state of gender matching sex.
- Transexual – An individual who wants to or has transitioned from the sex to which he or she was born.
There are a host of other terms as well, like genderfluid, genderqueer, and intersex, which I encourage you to research. But the ones above are a good starting point for getting into the conversation.
It’s also important to note that gender dysphoric or transgender does not equal homosexual. Though one might be both, they are separate things, and many, many people with gender dysphoria are not gay. I remember this first clicking with me when I wrote a post about Hourou Musuko discussing Makoto’s feelings for his male teacher. Because I was vague in addressing homosexuality and never mentioned Makoto at all, a commenter was wondering why I was connecting the show’s transgender themes with homosexual ones, when I had never intended to.
But more importantly than understanding terminology, of course, is to understand people. Unfortunately, a common Christian response to individuals who feel this incongruence between their gender and sex is one of judgment and disgust. It’s taboo almost, an attack on morality for many, representative of all that might go wrong in a person’s life and all that’s gone wrong in culture. That, of course, is wholly the wrong reaction for a people who claim to follow Christ, who taught us to love everyone (and why we should).
We’re doing something fun today with the blog – I’ve swapped writing duties for the day with another editor! This article is a guest post by Allison Baron, the managing editor of Area of Effect magazine at Geekdom House. It’s a wonderful piece that I hope you’ll read (and read more about Allison following the article). Meanwhile, I’ve moved off the trodden anime path to write about one of my favorite childhood movies over at Geekdom House – check it out!
For most people, myself included, getting old isn’t something to look forward to.
Sure, I loved the idea of being an adult when I was ten years old and no one listened to my opinion, but now that I’m getting older? I’m only in my twenties now, but I don’t like the idea of bones cracking when I get up or finding grey hairs on my head in the future. I don’t like getting queasy on roller coasters when I used to be able to ride the loopiest tilt-a-whirl with gusto. And still no one listens to my opinion, so what’s the upside?
To Sophie Hatter, being cursed with old age (literally) is probably the best thing that could have happened to her.
In Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie is a young woman who works at her mother’s hat shop. She is resigned to working long hours, never speaking her mind and rarely having fun.
Then, one day, a witch puts a curse on her. Suddenly, Sophie is an old hag, creaking joints and all. But, after some expected expressions of shock, Sophie doesn’t cry, hide, or let despair take over. Instead, she embraces her newfound retirement and, like Bilbo Baggins before her, sets out on an adventure. Interestingly enough, Sophie seems much freer and happier than she used to be in her new predicament. I guess being transformed from a shy girl into a stubborn old woman who won’t take no for an answer does that to you. Whether she’s ignoring Howl’s whining or bullying a fire demon into cooking bacon and eggs for her, the old lady’s sass is something to behold.
“This isn’t so bad now, is it. You’re still in pretty good shape, and your clothes finally suit you,” Sophie says after being transformed.
Though she does complain now and then (“Why do you get so cold when you’re old? I’m fatter than ever, but the wind blows right through me!”), she finds peace in her old age, something that had escaped her before.
It is Sophie’s selflessness that makes her one of my favourite heroines of all time. Her faults, in fact, lie mainly in thinking too little of herself. Through making friends and adopting a new family, she learns that other people care about her for who she is, not how old she is, and that she has immense value as a person. Old age doesn’t stop Howl, Markl, and Calcifer from caring about her.