Category Archives: Media Type

Free Eternal Summer, Episode 12: Taking the Plunge

With one episode remaining, Free Eternal Summer has surprised me in how good it’s become.  The first season had it’s moments, but it was mostly mediocre, and the same could be said for much of season two.  It sometimes felt like a conglomeration of tropes and ideas that, though well put-together, were very artificial.  But as the show nears it’s end, Free gets better and better, taking a turn toward significant questions about growing up through the lens of pretty boy swimmers.

While the last couple of episodes focus on Haruka, who has struggled all season to find his way, it’s Rin that compels me the most.  As I mentioned earlier this season, he’s like a born-again believer, someone who’s been transformed and now genuinely lives out his faith.  It’s easy to forget that season one’s Rin was angry and bitter and arrogant, especially in light of the kindness, patience, and leadership he’s shown all season long.

rin matsuoka

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Anime Today: When Narrative Breaks Down

As the summer 2014 season winds down, I’ve recently been reflecting on my thoughts over the last few months of anime. Although this season has been one of the more enjoyable of the past year or so, it seems to have also been one of the most disappointing. But how can that be?

The answer is simple, and it comes down to let down expectations. If you’ve been following Anime Today, you are probably aware of how excited I was to see everything pan out this season. However, if you have been following Anime Today or listened to episode one of our podcast, you are also probably aware of how few of these entries have lived up to my artificially-raised expectations.

Without getting into too much detail (that’s what our live stream is for this Saturday!), between the overall poor production of Persona 4 The Golden Animation, Sword Art Online, Aldnoah Zero, and Captain Earth, to name a few, each week has been a question of how I am going to be let down. Why could I be so disappointed in these entries that originally excited me? With the exception of the possibility that I had simply misappropriated my preconceptions above and beyond what I should have expected, I place the majority of my blame on an inconsistency in writing and other production.

Aldnoah Zero is a prime example of this. With Gen Urobuchi at the writing helm (responsible for renowned shows such as Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica), expectations were high. And to be quite frank, expectations were met. Aldnoah Zero absolutely, wonderfully delivered.

Slaine Troyard

And then Urobuchi departed from the writing staff, and the fall into mediocrity commenced (this is not to say that Aldnoah Zero has been bad, per se, as much as it has just been closer to average than originally anticipated). The narrative shifted from what was an original, well-produced, thrilling, and thought-provoking exposition, to nothing more than an average mecha with a few interesting plot twists.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 11: What We Do With Our Time

Episode eleven of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) begins with a very heavy hand, as in the opening few minutes we finally see why Kou has become the way he has.  Not only do we now see the pain he went through with his mother’s illness (from lung cancer, it turns out) and death, but we also see why Kou pushes back so hard against academic studies.  When his mother was well, she would ask Kou to simply spend time with her watching television, but Kou would refuse, saying he needed to focus on studies in order to eventually make good money, apparently through which he could support his single mother.  Kou was single-minded in his determination.  Studies, at that point of his life, superseded everything, even relationships with family.

And being driven isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  A close family member of mine, a really smart guy, had planned out his young life.  He was going to return to school, open a business, and make a lot of money.  He had the energy and will and smarts to do it all.  But then, tragedy hit.  My family member’s best friend was murdered, and suddenly, all those seemingly worthy goals meant so little.  Since that time, he’s focused much more on the “little things” in life, more absorbed by family than by riches.

Kou’s story is similar, though his motivation is perhaps more pure.  He doesn’t want to make money for himself – he wants to support his mom.  It seems a worthy goal.  But the pain that life sometimes brings gets in the way, and the time that Kou took for granted went away in the blink of an eye (six months).  As Kou remembers his mom’s pleading to spend time with her, the thoughts that run through his mind are transparent – I wish I would have spent more time with her and less time hitting the books.

Ao Haru Ride

Truth told, we don’t know how much time we have in the world.  But one thing I think is true is that no matter how much time we have, it’s never enough.  Time is really so short, and unfortunately it’s usually only through tragedies that we evaluate how precious life really is.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 11: Guilt and Despair

My mom moved around from church to church quite often as I was growing up.  I of course, hated that, because as soon as I would establish myself among a group of friends, it seemed, I would be uprooted.  Once, when I was in fourth grade, my church friends and I were working hard for the Christmas pageant we would act in just a few days later.  My Sunday School teacher sternly reminded us, “Makes sure you show up for the pageant!”

It was that day that my mom told me we were leaving that church.  I tried to explain my case, but to no avail.  I was very distraught.  Even today, occasionally, I wonder if they missed me and how it all went (probably fine, as missing Shepherd #2 usually doesn’t effect a Christmas play too much).

That event was something I could nothing about; yet, I felt guilty about it for a long time.  Most of us probably have similar stories – some much more painful than mine.  In episode 11 of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Kou reveals one such story.  As his mother holes up in the hospital with cancer, he receives a call from his brother.  But instead of finding solace with family, Kou can only feel guilt and despair, recalling his brother’s final words before leaving some time earlier – to take care of their mother.  And although Kou has no godly ability to shoo away cancer, nor should he for any rational reason feel guilty, he still does.  He can’t help it.

ao haru ride kou

Guilt is strong. But grace is all the stronger…

For Christians, guilt is a feeling that seems to be part and parcel of the religion.  I think that many outside of Christianity might say as much, seeing guilt as factor in forcing people to make changes in their morality.  And within, many of us may feel guilty falling to a specific sin or to many.

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The Wheat and the Weeds in Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass follows Unit One of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division in a futuristic Japan. The most notable thing about this futuristic world is how most things in a person’s life are determined by the program SIBYL and the person’s psycho pass, meaning basically their mental state. A bad psycho pass with a “crime coefficient” that is too high can land someone in jail or at a facility with no options, labeled as a ” latent criminal.”

One latent criminal’s life, Shusei Kagari, was over at 5 years old when the system labeled him as such.

pp

The way the system is set up made me think of the parable of the wheat and the weeds and how it is sometimes interpreted in real life. In the parable, a man is growing a field of wheat when his enemy comes and scatters seeds of weeds throughout the field. When the weeds start growing, the man tells his servants to leave them with the wheat until the harvest. After they are collected and separated, one goes in the storehouse and one goes in the fire. The wheat and weeds of course symbolizing good and bad people. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Catholicism in Baby Steps, Religion of Eureka Seven, and Idolizing K-On!

What a week for spiritual articles in the blogosphere!  Check out the abundance of posts linked below, a number from bloggers and writers who don’t usually write about religion:

Josiah Harrist beautifully weaves his experiences as the child of missionaries with his viewings of many Studio Ghibli classics. [Christ and Pop Culture]

M.S. O’Brien looks into the Catholic character of Ogata from Baby Steps! [Aliens in This World]

Frank continues to analyze Barakamon from a Christian perspective, finding a number of such themes in episodes seven and eight. [A Series of Miracles]

Frank also looks a yuri-slanted friendships in anime and considers them comparable to the “heavenly friendship” between David and Jonathan of the Old Testament. [2]

R042 dives into the ideas about religion in the world of Eureka Seven in analysis of episode 40. [Ideas Without End]

Medieval Otaku finds the simplicity, tenacity, joy, and dependence of Jinbee in Mushibugyo a model of sainthood. [Medieval Otaku]

Rob uses a picture of a K-On! figma collection to ask questions about idolatry and hobby collecting. [Geeks Under Grace]

Annalyn looks to Fruits Basket, Kuroko’s Basketball, One Week Friends, and Dear Boys for examples of characters who demonstrates a selfless, biblical love. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Ogiue Maniax looks to a religious example to illustrate the arrogance of the Orbital Knights in Aldnoah.zero. [Ogiue Maniax]

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.

Terror in Resonance Episode 9: Two-Way Gospel

The rules and structure of the early episodes of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) have long been forgotten.  We’re now on a tense, thrilling ride to the end, where uncovering of the truth and simply guessing what will happen next leads to breathtaking moments as much as the action sequences.

Episode nine of Terror in Resonance follows our three heroes, who only a couple of episodes ago were briefly brought together, as they go separate ways.  Nine speeds up Sphinx’s ultimate plan; Shibazaki finds out the horrible truth; and Twelves dives into a trap to rescue Lisa.

zankyo no terror

First, let’s talk Shibazaki, whose heroics continue to enthrall.  Though his storyline could be mundane and boring, Shinichiro Watanabe uses his character well to uncover the past of Five, Nine, Twelve, and the other children (who we now know did not survive).  It’s a wonderful plot device, as we grow to root for another character whose journey garners our interest, when more conventional anime storytelling would have just revealed the entire background in flashback sequences.

Shibazaki’s investigation in this episode also further reveals the deep, troublesome questions at the heart of the series – the depths of evil that humanity is capable of.  Indeed, the comparison is made to the awful experiments that the Nazis conducted on undesirables, which fits more than just at a surface level.  The older gentleman that Shibazaki and his partner question seems quite reasonable, and indeed, he tries to subtly shift blame for his activities.  But Shibazaki directs a question to him, and to the audience as well – at what point are we complicit, where standing idly by, or just following directions, makes us culpable in wrong?  The depravity of humanity is such that too many people, both in the past (particularly during World War II) and today, cross that line and never turn back.

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Fact Check: Claymore Teresa’s Only Thing to Live For

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

Warning: Today’s post is part of a HUGE spoiler from recent chapters of Claymore.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Teresa, Claymore extraordinaire and perhaps the greatest of all her type (until her shocking demise).  In chapter 150, Teresa has returned as someone transforming from within Clare, and during these sequences, she has a conversation with former protege:

Teresa of the Faint Smile

So, the claim is this: If God exists, in Teresa’s view, she has only one thing for which to be thankful. Read the rest of this entry

Blue Spring Ride Episode 10: Realization and Confession

The more I watch Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), the more I see myself in Futaba.  And that’s unsettling, not because of her faults, but lately because of her strengths, which are more on display in episode ten than in any of the others to date.

This episode begins where the last left off, with the group of five new friends continuing to study at Kou’s residence, though now, Futuba is unable to concentrate as the envy bug has bitten her.  In the last episode, it was Yuri who felt envy at the special relationship between Kou and Futuba, but now it’s the other girl’s turn to feel the same as she wonders what the “nothing” is that the her friend and ex share.  It eats her up inside and, as is her character, Futaba is so consumed with it that she goes back to Kou’s house, after everyone has left, to confront him.  And there she discovers the secret that Yuri had stepped into – Kou’s mother is deceased, and this is the reason for his change in personality.

Ao haru ride

So sly, Futuba, with eyes not looking at the study material. So sly.

This sequence of events is probably something most of us can relate to.  We think one thing of a person and later find out that we failed to realize something else.  For instance, we might honk at a car in front of us who’s driving far below the speed limit, only to pass it and find an elderly person behind the wheel (though to be honest, we might’ve honked even knowing that).  Or we might get mad at a friend who’s late for dinner, only to later discover it wasn’t her fault.

In my life, this episode was timely, as I had just finished having an episode of my own with my wife.  Our fights sometimes work along these lines – one person gets mad at the other for being inconsiderate or not supportive enough, only to find that the other person has a burden of his or her own and just didn’t have enough left to give.  And per usual, once this comes out, understanding abounds and both sides pour out love and forgiveness.

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Send Us Your Suggestions for Our Live Stream Event

Our staff at Beneath the Tangles is committed to engaging our readers through interaction and great content.  As such, we continue to explore new ways to bring you our views on anime and spirituality, such as with the podcast, and to have you participate in our community here.  To that end, we’ll be having our first live stream on the night of Saturday, September 20th 9 PM EST through Ustream! We will be discussing our thoughts on the ending summer 2014 season as well as hopes and expectations for the coming fall 2014 season, with a highlight on the Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works anime. As it is a live stream, we hope you will engage in the discussion as well!

We’ll send out notifications the night of the 20th with links to the stream through our social networks, but you can get a notification straight to your mailbox by emailing us now with the subject line, “Live Stream.”  Alternatively, you can personalize your streaming experience by registering for a free Ustream account and following us there to receive notifications every time we go live. Registration will also allow us and others to distinguish your username when chatting during the live stream.

We also want some feedback from you!  While we hope for your real-time interaction, you can also help us prepare for the night, which will focus on reviewing series from summer 2014 and previewing ones from the upcoming fall season.  Which summer 2014 anime series would like to see us review?  Which fall 2014 series would you like to see us preview? 

Comment your suggestions below or tweet them to us! We hope you can make it to enjoy the night of our first (of many) Beneath the Tangles live stream event!