Category Archives: Anime

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 3: The Past is (Ir)Relevant

Can I just say, I’m absolutely loving Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride)?

Though it still contains some doom and gloom, episode three moves us largely past that tone and toward a more hopeful one as a new school year begins.  The main cast is now all in the same classroom, with Futuba and Kou joined by Toma, Yuri, and Shuko.  And by episode’s end, the characters have all volunteered to become either class or event representatives.

The closing scene in which the five main characters of Blue Spring Ride take their place in leadership, is more than a convenient plot development – it’s thematically important.  For at least four of them, it seems (I’m not yet sure about Toma), it represents a moving forward from pasts that burdened them: Futuba from her playing at friends; Yuri from the hate that’s followed her; Shuko from a bitter school year; and Kou from family issues, though his, it seems, will be the most difficult transition.

It’s ironic, then, that Kou has now told Futuba several times that their past is irrelevant, when it seems that he’s the character who is most hanging on to it.  While encouraging Futuba, in his own buttheaded way, to make change, he himself can’t rise above whatever issues have haunted him during the past several years.  He’s quite the opposite of the former (and current?) object of his affection, who quite easily pursues change by making some brave gestures in leaving her “friends” behind and volunteering to be class president.

The truth of the matter is, the past is both relevant and it isn’t.  For Futuba, she sees Kou’s point in starting anew.  She thinks the following to herself:

If you lose it, just build it again.

Moving forward is like rebuilding a city following a flood.  The damage of the past can be wiped away and a new city can rise.

But just the same, when the devastation is massive or whole, it’s not always easy to rebuild.  It’s sometimes near impossible.

While Futuba embraces Kou’s words, her’s is a relatively easy past to overcome.  Kou’s is more difficult, and the problem may be that instead of simply forgetting and moving forward, he needs to come to grips with his past before he can do so.  For Kou, the past is very relevant.  And without knowing how far he’s come, and seeing what the future can offer, Kou won’t be able to “build it again.”

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Something More: Barakamon Christianity, Valkyria’s Salvation, and the Rapture of Tenchi Masaki

In the first two episodes of the Barakamon, Frank finds important points that all experienced Christians should probably take under consideration. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds an analogy for the rapture in Tenchi Forever, and examines why that film captures the essence of the rapture better than explicitly Christian depictions of it do. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What does Saber Marionette J have to say about the value of family? Plenty, and even from a Catholic perspective. [Medieval Otaku]

Medieval Otaku also explores that unusual path and perplexing salvation of Valkyria in Brynhildr in the Darkness. [2]

Finally, he explores Nadia’s vanity in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, and discusses snobbery in a number of different groups, including that of the religious. [3]

Rocklobster reviews Rurouni Kenshin (TV), and is perhaps one of the few to really enjoy the story arc featuring Japanese Christians. [Lobster Quadrille]

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 2: You Reap What You Sow

While the first episode of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) introduced us to and focused on the terrorists, Nine and Twelve, along with their new accomplice, Lisa, episode two largely moves the focus toward the police.  It’s an interesting shift, especially with the terrorists playing good bad guys and the police playing the role of bad good guys.

Little by littke, Shinichiro Watanabe begins to unravel a story while burdening the audience with evermore questions, particularly as they have to do with Nine and Twelve’s pasts – who are they?  What was done to them?  Why?  Who were all involved?

And whatever “VON” is, it’s quite shady, judging from the terrified looks on the faces of various characters in-the-know.  They’ve done something mightily wrong.  And this episode is all about showing that the police – and perhaps larger forces involved – have it coming to them.  The variation of the Riddle of the Sphinx emphasizes the judgment the guilty must pay, ultimately ending in judgement upon the police at the end of the episode.

Toji Hisami 12

I spy a favorite trope – awful things done to little kids. (Art by みずのえ@スタンプ, Pixiv ID 44726975)

These ideas of justice, revenge, and karma are found in heavy doses in Watanabe’s works (think of almost all the episodes involving Spike and Vicious in Cowboy Bebop).  In fact, they figure prominently in many anime – no surprise seeing how deeply ingrained these ideas are in Japanese culture, history, and religion.  Of course the bad guys must pay for their evil deeds at the hands (or on behalf) of those that suffer.  That’s justice.

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Free! Eternal Summer, Episode 3: When the Going Gets Tough (Rei Gets Going)

Free! fans were all a-flutter (and a bit concerned) when last week’s episode ended with a preview which intimated that Rei was going to quit the swim team.  But when episode three rolled around, the circumstances were, of course, not quite what they seemed.  Though he was approached by the track captain about returning to his former sport, Rei never seriously considers the entreaty.  It’s less than a side note to him, because instead of being discouraged by being unable to do any stroke other than the butterfly, Rei is instead motivated to get even better.  It’s really an unusual move for Rei, who sometimes become discouraged and is quite emotional.  But it makes perfect sense in terms of the series, because as we know, his swim team is something quite special.

The idea of “team” works well in all sorts of analogies.  We certainly call for the closeness of a sports team when we team up at work or at play.  And we all get it – there’s something magical and powerful about the way people can come together and work for each other.  There’s almost nothing like it.

Rei Ryugazaki

Art by 平井ゆづき (Pixiv ID 44755335)

One place that the team concept is sometimes often an awkward fit, though, is with church.  Sometimes the analogy is weird (we’re a team and Jesus is the quarterback!).  And sometimes we can’t seem to muster the same feelings as with sport (I’ve read or heard the lament of “Why can’t we get as excited about church and for a football game?” many times in my life, including today).

Yet, the comparison is apt, I think, and particularly in terms of what we can learn from the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club:

Team and Church Demonstrate Accountability

One of my favorite scenes in episode three of Free! Eternal Summer is when Makoto declares that he won’t let Rei quit, and the others support his assertion.  Makoto is sensitive to his teammates’ needs and is mild mannered, so the declaration is particularly emphasized and rings true -  he won’t let Rei get away.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 2: Tension

When you last had to make such a moral choice, did you do what was right or what was convenient?  In episode two of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Futuba makes that decision spurred on by the words of Kou from the previous episode, when he said that she was merely “playing at friendship” with her two close friends from class.  And with her mind all a flutter after speaking with Yuri, and realizing their similarities run deeper than she imagined, Futuba scornfully rejects the faux friendship she had developed.

This climax, though, happens about midway through the episode. What’s interesting, then, is that the rest of the show focuses on the fallout and on Futuba embracing her decision.  She blurted out what she did almost involuntarily, and even apologizes for it, which hardly shows a determination to make change.  It’s only through accepting that it was a good decision as days (weeks?) pass by that Futuba accepts what she did as right and is able to move forward.

This tension that Futuba deals with isn’t much different from that we might face in our everyday lives.  We’re sometimes confronted with choosing between doing what we know is right and what we’d rather do.  And if there isn’t some anchor that holds us steady, it becomes way too easy to choose, well, the easy way.

In Blue Spring Ride, Kou functions as Futuba’s anchor in her decision.  He whispers truth to Futuba, and Futuba responds as she does, taking the hard road.

ao haru ride

We also got some more back story in this episode! (Art by RINriri – Pixiv ID 44608476)

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Choose Your Destiny

July 15th marks the 8th anniversary of the release of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.  Marvelously weaving science fiction, romance, and comedy into a story that’s charming and sometimes heart-breaking, TGWLTT is one of my favorite films, and stands with and above most of the great anime movies of the last 15 years, including anything Studio Ghibli has released.  It remains Mamoru Hosoda’s (Summer Wars, Wolf Children) best film.

One of the best parts of TGWLTT is how about midway through the movie, it flips it’s tone. There are charming bits about how Makoto, who has gained the ability to time leap, uses her new power to do all sorts of trivial things, from looping a karaoke session over and over to dumbfounding friends with her sudden surge in test scores.  But when she realizes how her ability is leading to unexpected and painful consequences, Makoto seeks to make things right (and much of the drama in the film involves whether or not her decisions can prevent some personally catastrophic events).

tgwltt

Art by ハブキ (Pixiv ID 44671391)

We’re not so different from Makoto, as it’s not unusual for people to make sudden changes in their choices as well when faced by undeniable reality.  Sudden illness, loss of a relationship, failed job opportunities – these are the kinds of events that kick start something within us, driving us to make changes we’ve long known we should.  We may suddenly make big shifts in our lives, including perhaps how we approach health, relationships, religion, etc.

But these are bigger changes – what of the little changes in our lives, those that demonstrate love for others?  Note that when Makoto changes the way she approaches her time leaps, she does a total 180 – her choices now are entirely for others, and not for herself.  She realizes her priorities – those that she most loves.

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Terror in Resonance, Episode 1: Questioning Ourselves

Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) arrived with a bang this season, full of mystery, sentiment, and crumbling buildings.  The first episode was gripping and fascinating, as anyone should expect, coming from director extraordinaire, Shinichiro Watanabe, who on a personal level, solidified my love for anime as much as anyone.

The series also opened with a fistful of questions.  We’re introduced to our main characters – the icy cold and calculating Nine/Arata; playful and energetic Twelve/Toji; and bullied and depressed Risa.  Each has back stories and secrets that beg to be unraveled.  On a greater scale, the very actions in the opening episode beg us to ask both “what’s happening?’ and “is this okay?”, as we’re brought into a world where the audience is asked to feel sentiment toward teenage terrorists who level a public building with bombs, which tumble to the earth in a way that can’t help but be reminiscent of 9/11.*

zankyou no terror

Art by * 結城紗羅 * (Pixiv ID 44589445)

Is it ever right to do wrong?

A question that I think we’ll be contemplating throughout the series is whether or not Nine and Twelve’s actions in the short-term are morally okay because of their goals in the long-run.  I’m not sure what Watanabe has in store for us.  How many will have died from episode one’s fallout (any?), and, regardless of the death count, is terrorism ever okay?  The answer seems easy to give, but the plot of this series will certainly muddy it for us, especially as we find out more about Nine and Twelve’s past.

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Something More: Deva Orochimaru, Humble Kirito, and Bishie Satan

The beginning of a new anime season is always fun!  Anibloggers are most active during this time, with literally a thousand or more anime articles coming out this week.  Luckily, a number of those are spirituality-related, and we have a slate of great articles to link to today!

Frank is excited about the new season of Encouragement of Climb, and compares the previous season’s storyline to that of the Christian moving out in faith and accomplishing what God has purposed him or her to do. [A Series of Miracles]

Syng completes a series on Naruto and Buddhism, diving particularly into the characterizations of Orochimaru, Obito, Madara, and Kaguya [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Speaking of that excellent series, here’s Syng’s first post on Buddhist allusions in Naruto.

D.M. Dutcher tells how a new Christian anime and manga series, entitled Prince Adventures: Anointed, features bishounen characters fighting against Satan (also a bishie). Vic Mignogna, of course, is among those voicing the series. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Oh, and a voice actor for young Jesus has been cast.

Doug, a Buddhist blogger, visits a Mayuka church, home to a native denomination of Japanese Christians. [Essays in Idleness]

Rob continues his Christian-centered anime reviews, with some thoughts about a journey in The World Is Still Beautiful mimicking a Christian’s. [Christian Anime Review]

And while we skipped Something More last Friday, I still want to link to some of the great anime and spirituality articles that bloggers wrote last week:

Michael sees the victory of humility over pride in Sword Art Online as representative of the rule God has established for His kingdom. [Gaming and God]

Earlier, Michael also took at look at Fullmetal Alchemist and dove into the Elric brothers’ thirst for eternal life.

Here’s an interesting comparison – Medieval Otaku sees similarities between the hearts of Lime of Saber Marionette J and Jesus. [Medieval Otaku]

Annalyn weaves a terrific entry about introversion The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, including a note about how her faith. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

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. 

Anime Today: Not a Sequel

After being on hiatus for a week, your favorite column, Anime Today, has made a triumphant return! (Kudos to those of you who even noticed that I was gone…). And with this come back, I bring a slew of new anime, courtesy of the Summer 2014 season!

It seems like this season, and perhaps even this year, has been the season of (notable) sequels. Between Free!, Sword Art Online, Sailor Moon, and, broadening our range, the nine-year, long-awaited return of Mushishi, it seems that most of the heavy hitters are returning all at once. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Sailor Moon Crystal

Art by とらお (Pixiv ID 44225402)

With time being such a valuable commodity in my life now, when I pick up a slew of anime each season for both my personal interest and reviewing purposes, having such a large amount of titles with such high production values and established premises makes my viewing experience so much more enjoyable (if you read Kaze and my recent season review, you’ll know that we are both rather harsh graders and also watch shows to completion in spite of poor quality, making this even more important for me).

As an unabashed, though somewhat late-coming fan of the first season of Free!, the first episode of season two was a pleasure, albeit a bit underwhelming. Although I wasn’t a particularly large fan of the first season of Sword Art Online, the first episode of season two seems to promise much better pacing and cohesion for this second season, which particularly excites me. Although I never got around to watching Sailor Moon so many “moons” ago (har har), the reboot has been an… interesting experience. And finally, I don’t think I need to say much about Mushishi, considering if you have followed any of my recent writing at Beneath the Tangles, you likely know how highly I regard it.

Needless to say, I am by no means a critic of sequels. Sometimes they can disappoint, and sometimes they do exactly as they promise: provide more of a type of content that people already loved.

As I pondered this new season, and reflected on how connected to my life and beliefs, I remembered several conversations I had had with a friend of mine about storytelling, both ancient and modern (thanks, Sean!). The reuse of archetypes throughout history and the origin of those archetypes. Symbolic and poetic literature versus literal and historical storytelling. Character development and world building.

And one thing seemed to draw all these topics back together, regardless of personal beliefs: the Bible.

Though I have not intellectually equipped myself to tackle these topics myself (you would have to direct yourselves to my friend for that), this onslaught of sequels reminded me of a common sentiment regarding the division of the Bible into the Old Testament and the New Testament. Is the New Testament merely a “sequel” to the Old Testament? Disappointing as it may be, by the end of this article I will likely not be able to provide you a solid answer to that, at least without resorting to arbitrary semantics (meaning transcends mere words). However, I hope that you will still feel compelled to think on it.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 1: Comfort Zones

We all have our comfort zones.  For some of us, it cuts a wide swath.  For others, like me, the area is miniscule.  But whatever the size, a common truth is this – it’s almost always a good thing to go outside one’s comfort zone, to experience a little uncertainty and to be challenged by relationships and experiences that make us nervous.

Sometimes, though, it takes a nudge (or a shove) to get us out of our ring of tranquility.

Episode one of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) is all about comfort zones.

blue spring ride

Nothing says “comfortable” like a tummy full of red bean buns

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