Category Archives: Manga

Between the Panels: Keith Shadis’ Extra-ordinary Worth

I’m Casey, known to the cosplay and geek realm as Cutsceneaddict, and I’m the newest writer here at Beneath the Tangles. “Between the Panels” is my monthly column on manga, so I encourage you to read along with me as I draw spiritual applications from your favorite series. I assure you that if I can analyze something, I will over-analyze it, though I’ll do my best to keep things within that comfortable 1,500-word range. In any case, find a cozy couch, grab a box of Pocky, and enjoy!

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I told myself I would write about any franchise besides Attack on Titan for my first “Between the Panels” entry, primarily because my first guest post at Beneath the Tangles covered the events of chapter 69. Naruto, Your Lie in April, Kingdom Hearts, Trigun—I considered writing about any one of these franchises. But, lo and behold, that fated time of month rolled around, and with the release of a new chapter in the Attack on Titan storyline, I found myself struck with a tsunami of inspiration that I couldn’t keep bottled up.

For better or worse, here it is:

Attack on Titan spoilers below! If you haven’t “read ahead” via the manga, and only seen the anime, then please read at your own risk. Believe it or not, some characters in the series die, and they’re named here. Also, manga scans. Lots of them.

Chapter 71 is about the start of a new arc, the backstory of Keith Shadis, and the interwoven history of Grisha Yeager. But more importantly, it’s about worth—the worth we place on ourselves, the worth with which others label us, and the worth we are inherently born with.

Eren goes to his one-time, crotchety drill sergeant for answers about his father, but what he gets instead is a lengthy inferiority narrative about Shadis’ personal struggles as a military commander.

keith shadis one act of merit Read the rest of this entry

Silver Spoon: The Importance of a Different Perspective

I had lunch with a friend last week, with whom I talked about how hard it is to shake loose your cultural upbringing as it relates to religion and really focus on the real message of the gospel.  I mentioned how helpful it is to hear perspectives from others whose upbringings were very different from our own.  I know that for me, even though I frequently take a step back and try to see things from others’ points of view, I still struggle to understand how others think (or to be honest, how they could possibly think what they do).

One of my favorite manga is Silver Spoon, a series I recently picked up after watching the anime with my wife.  There are a lot of strong themes running through the series, but perhaps none more strongly than the idea that when we open ourselves up to other points of view, we’re able to grow.  Hachiken, the distressed city boy, experiences change almost immediately as he adjusts to life at an agricultural high school.  By the end of the anime run and into where the manga is now, he’s transformed even further.  By embracing different perspectives, he’s found himself.

The series also gives many asides from minor characters who comment on how Hachiken has changed them, too.

Hachiken's mom talks to a vendor about the importance of a different voice

Hachiken’s mom talks to a vendor about the importance of a different voice

It’s not so much Hachiken’s experience, though, that moves the student body toward transformation – it’s Hachiken himself.  His earnestness, intelligence, and compassion leads his friends and staff and others to think outside the box.  The greatest example is Mikage, who is given the courage to stand up for her dream and is motivated to put in the seemingly impossible task of working toward it.

Perhaps Christianity could learn a lesson from this manga.  For a religion that began with a Messiah whose every word was outside the box, it’s distressing how rule-centered and confined Christianity has become in the west.  As a reaction, perhaps, against easy beliefism and wrong theology, many of us have unwittingly become modern-day Pharisees who miss the forest for the trees.  We speak of mercy, but show ungrace.  The hypocrisy can sometimes be unbearable. Read the rest of this entry

Kenny Ackerman: the Pursuit of Fulfillment and the Power of Testimony

Note: This is a guest post from Casey Covel, whose work we’ve featured here a number of times through our Something More column.  She’s editor-in-chief at Geeks Under Grace and goes by cutsceneaddict in the cosplay world.  I hope you enjoy her submission…it’s the first of many from Casey that you’ll be seeing here on Beneath the Tangles.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait until 2016 for the second season of Attack on Titan and scooped up the manga ASAP to pursue the story. If you’re not like me, and you have the patience of Job to wait on that elusive second season, then I suggest you avoid this article for the time being, as there are some rather titan-sized spoilers within.

**In case you didn’t get that, I’ll say it again: huge spoilers below**

attack on titan 5aColored by AnimeFanNo1

As I impatiently awaited this month’s new chapter, I found myself reflecting back on the landslide of storyline from Attack on Titan chapter 69. Amidst such plot-relevant giants as the revelation of Levi’s childhood, the crowning of Queen Historia, and death of a certain ornery uncle, Kenny’s relationship with Uri is nearly forgotten. Admittedly, though, it’s perhaps the one reveal in the chapter that haunted me long after reading. As a Christian, I can only say that’s because it resonated with my faith so frighteningly well.

In chapter 69, it’s revealed that Kenny, having discovered Uri’s identity as true king of the human race, tried to kill him, but Uri initiated his titan form and caught his would-be assassinator off-guard, capturing him in a deadly fist. Despite Rod’s demands that Uri crush Kenny then and there, however, Uri released him and—even as Kenny pierced the king through the wrist with his blade—bowed hands-and-knees to his attacker, asking Kenny for forgiveness for the genocide of the Ackerman line.

This act of humility so affected Kenny that he found himself unable to end his enemy’s life, even with Uri face-down on the ground and his finger ready on the trigger.

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

Kenny and Uri went on to form an inseparable bond of friendship. All the while, Kenny’s insatiable curiosity for Uri’s unique ideology continued to grow. By the time of Uri’s death, Kenny had not yet unlocked the mystery of his friend’s inner strength, but—determined to achieve it for himself—went about seeking fulfillment in other ways in order to acquire Uri’s “power.” Gaining notoriety as a serial killer to preserve his family, raising his deceased sister’s child, earning a captain’s rank within the Military Police, striving to attain the power of a titan shifter and, thus, a god—all these routes Kenny pursued, and all of them left him unsatisfactorily empty.

Flashing forward to the present, Levi comes across a wounded Kenny—now burned and bleeding beyond saving—following his encounter with Rod Reiss. The two hold a final conversation, in which Kenny ponders the motivations of those he’s met throughout his life.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

I find it fascinating that this word drunk is specifically used here because it means to be “dominated by an intense feeling” to the point of “behaving in an unusual or improper way.” Furthermore, I think it’s a highly-appropriate word to describe the state of our world today, outside of Christ.

We live in a restless world—one that seeks to attain peace and fulfillment through a variety of outlets. Human beings are born with an instinct to worship—to fully dedicate themselves to something or someone, even if it is ultimately their own selves. Until we come to Christ, we carry a God-shaped hole in our beings—one that cannot be filled by anything else, and yet one that we continuously try to fill with worldly things (which can only satisfy us for a short amount of time). Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Redeeming Kenshin, Protestors at Fanime, and Plastic Memory Moments

The title character’s quest for redemption in the Rurouni Kenshin OVA’s contrasts sharply with the Christian idea of our own lack of power in redeeming ourselves. [Lady Hannah Beth]

I’m a few weeks late in this linking , but since you’ll see Anime Reporter on this blog later today, it’s relevant to post a recent editorial he wrote about Ireland’s marriage equality referendum. [Anime Reporter]

The importance of living for the moment, as emphasized in episode 8 of Plastic Memories, reminds of the immediacy of salvation. [Christian Anime Review]

Is OreGairu’s Hayama a Pharisee? Perhaps… [2]

Speaking of OreGairu, the Bible warns of people like the collaborating student council’s crazy hands man. [3]

The Droid’s FanimeCon 2015 experienced started as many conventions do – with religious protestors at the event’s entrance. [AniRecs]

Casey Covel enjoyed volume 2 of Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and also finds that Christian readers may be able to relate specifically well to it’s diminutive lead. [Geeks Under Grace]

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.

Letter from the Editor: Bleach, Church Retreats, and Powering Up

Dear Readers,

Have you been keeping up with the happenings in Bleach?

The manga has become fairly intense, and after all this time, the story’s become exciting again.  I haven’t been a fan of the series since early in the arc involving Aizen, but I just can’t help but to consume the manga in chunks every half a year or so just to keep up with the characters I once followed so closely.  Right now, the world (as the Soul Reapers know it) is coming to an end after the death of one specific character.  But never to fear, because of course, Ichigo is here!

And as is the tradition for a shounen, fight ’em series, he comes to maybe probably certainly save the day after having done some training.  Rukia and Renji have done the same. Maybe Chad and Orihime, too, though to be honest, I’m not clear on their storylines.

Rukia and Renji

It’s no surprise that we see this type of storyline again and again in anime and manga – whether it be for physical breakthroughs, as in Dragonball Z or Naruto, or more emotional ones, as you might see in “training camp” retreats in series like Oofuri or Bamboo Blade.  The opportunity to get away from the world leads one to cut out distractions and focus on a specific task at hand.

For Christians, there’s an added element.  Not only can you cut out the noise, but in the quiet and stillness of a retreat – both from the environment outside and in one’s heart, you can perhaps hear God.  What is he saying to you?  What does he want you to do?  And how will you respond?

Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Mikasa’s Cruel World

Anime is full of references to religion, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this column, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Mikasa Ackerman during a flashback scene in episode six of Attack on Titan, “The World She Saw.”  Perhaps the most famous quote from the popular series (well, except for Levi’s interesting remark about trees), these words arise during Mikasa’s fight for survival against a band of bandits when she was young:

The world is cruel, but also very beautiful.

The claim is very straightforward: this world is both painful and stunning.

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Fact Check

Attack on Titan is sometimes difficult to follow, partially because we’re introduced to so many significant characters early on and are encouraged to root for them without getting to know them.  Among the main characters, the Shiganshina trio – Eren, Mikasa, and Armin – it’s Mikasa that we know least about in the first half of season one.  Not until episode six do we learn her back story.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Pandora Sins, Avatar Religion, and Your Friendship in April

Christmas is less than two weeks away!  I can hardly wait!  On Beneath the Tangles, we’ll be doing the special series of posts we do every year, and I hope that the anime blogosphere will deliver some thoughtful posts about the season as well.  Until then, visit the great trio of wonderful articles linked below:

The very existence of Oz Vessalius, as told to him in Pandora Hearts, tells us about the nature of sin. [Old Line Elephant]

The last of three Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel trilogies, The Rift, explores the question of ancient tradition in a modern world. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Episode 6 of Your Lie in April demonstrates the special friendship between Tsubaki and Kousei, one that reflects the sacrifical call of loving friendships in the Bible. [Christian Anime Review]

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.

Review: Power Bible Book 1

power bible 1Power Bible 1
Art by Shin-joong Kim
Green Egg Media
208 pages

Let’s face it – the Bible is a difficult read for many people, even for faithful Christians.  Engaging with God’s word is even more of a challenge for children, too many of whom from a young age decide that the Bible is boring.  How to do you captivate young people with the Bible without straying from scripture?

The answer might be the Power Bible, a comic book series produced in book format.  Originally published in Korea, Green Egg Media has released the series, featuring chibi versions of Biblical characters, in the U.S.  And it’s a surprising triumph.

Volume one of ten-book series, which spans from creation to Revelation, focuses on the book of Genesis.  Developed with loving care, this first comic is wide-ranging in it’s content – Adam and Eve, Noah, and the patriarchs are all there.  Even lesser known individuals, like Methuselah and Lamech, make appearances.

The comic sticks closely to the Bible, which means that, especially in Genesis, there are plenty of passages that are very adult in nature, featuring violence, slavery, and other troubling subject matter.  But the strength of the Power Bible is that it chooses to remain scriptural, illustrating even difficult passages, albeit with children in mind (ex. deaths happen off the page).  There’s this dichotomy that occurs which is wondrous – the power of God’s word is continually emphasized in every page of the book, but humor and cute illustrations soften this version of the bible for grade school children.

Adults may enjoy it, too. I found certain passages particularly captivating, including the very beginning of the comic, which illustrates the creation story in a majestic and powerful way.  The quality of the illustrations, writing, and editing are all very high, and I especially liked the beautifully done chapter breaks.

Book One also reads well as one cohesive account.  Transitions between individual tales in this Genesis account are keenly done; it’s clear that you’re reading one large tale with many parts, rather than a disjointed story.  This cohesiveness, though, also points out my one key issue with the book.  Many recent children’s bibles and devotionals mention Jesus throughout Old Testament narratives, pointing out the significance of these stories in relation to God’s ultimate redemptive plan.  This more straight-forward telling of the Bible does not.

Still, what the Power Bible does do is extraordinary – it appeals to the visual senses without dumbing down scripture.  A comic book that does this has been sorely needed.  The Manga Bible has received excellent reviews, but it’s not for young children.  Another manga bible, simply titled The Bible, is not only aimed at older audiences, but was obviously created by those who don’t treasure the word.  It’s worth pointing out again that the staff that created and edited the Power Bible obviously has much love for the material, and for children, who will enjoy it.

But don’t take my word for it – here’s my six-year-old son’s review after reading Book One:

Dad's translation: I like the Power Bible 1. My favorite story is the meeting with the brothers. My second favorite story is "The Older Shall Serve the Younger."

Dad’s translation: I like the Power Bible 1. My favorite story is the meeting with the brothers [story of Joseph]. My second favorite story is “The Older Shall Serve the Younger.”

If you can teach kids to love the word of God – not a commentary, not a devotional, but scripture itself – you’ve done something mighty.  You’ve created an important work that going to change children’s lives – now and for eternity.

I have a critical eye for Christian work, especially that aimed at children, but as you can see in my review above, I highly recommend the Power BibleIf you’d like to purchase it, Green Egg Media has been kind of enough to offer a special promotion for Beneath the Tangles readers.  When checking out, type in the code TANGLES50 to receive 50% off volume one, or TANGLESSET for 30% off the complete set of OT and NT comics.

Naruto Chapter 700: The Gospel of Sasuke Uchiha

700 chapters.  All it took was 700 chapters and some 15 years to see our heroes achieve their ultimate aims – Naruto becomes hokage, Sakura marries Sasuke (not necessarily a bad thing), and Sasuke…well Sasuke finds love, which as he admits in chapter 699, is probably what he and Naruto wanted all along.  Strange that Sasuke set out with vengeance in mind only to find that love was the answer.  But perhaps that’s not unusual after all.

In our own lives, we all have certain aims, which are usually apart from love (and certainly apart from love of God, for which we were made).  We may not want to destroy an entire village out of a need to avenge our clan, but our goals may still be wayward – success, luxury, comfort, sex, wealth.  But unlike Sasuke, for most, the story doesn’t end on a note or redemption, at least not one connected to grace.  But if we can take a manga as example, there’s hope for all of us, even if takes many years for our story to turn into one of salvation.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

– 2 Peter 3:9

Path of Destruction

Sasuke’s road throughout the entirety of the series has been one of violence.  As a child, he violently puts off any attempts from others to befriend and love him, and of course, as he grows, he commits heinous acts – some would say (and some have said) those that have put him past the point of redemption.  Murder and death are only the prime examples of the many evil things Sasuke did to attain his goals; he also hurt those closest to him (Sakura especially).  Our lives follow similar paths without Christ – where we leave broken hearts and bitterness in our pursuit of whatever fills our heart, sometimes to the pain of others, and often toward the destruction of our own selves. Read the rest of this entry

Naruto Chapter 698: A Farewell to Arms

Yep, you guessed it.  I made this post just so that I could use that subtitle.

Well, not wholly.  Hang on with me a minute – I have something deeper than that to get to.

Most of the 698th chapter of Naruto is spent with our titular character and Sasuke lying next to each other, bleeding to death, going in an out of consciousness.  And in this gloomy setting, we get what might could finally be Sasuke’s surrender, not just in the final fight to Naruto, but of his will to Naruto, giving in to his friend’s way and finding a measure of peace (only time, the final chapters, and the last movie, though, will tell if he’s reached really that point).

At the very least, Sasuke has found that he cannot accomplish his own will, his way of becoming hokage.  Although he sees it as right and merciful, we know that Sasuke’s method is twisted, resembling a dictator willing to go to any means to accomplish goals that would otherwise be laudable.  From a superficial sense, though, it seems that both Naruto and Sasuke have equally reasonable methods.  They’ve both chosen their way to become hokage.  So what makes Naruto’s way better than Sasuke’s?  If we must ultimately choose our own paths, how can we dismiss Sasuke’s but praise Naruto’s?

The answer is that Naruto’s way reflects a truth, which is this: love is the right way.  Although the culture may tell us that your way is your truth, I disagree.  I believe there are certain truths that stand above others, and among those is that love trumps all.

Naruto does what he does out of love for his friends, village, family, and all people in the ninja world.  For Sasuke, Naruto will go to the same lengths as with anyone else – he is willing to die if it means saving them.  And as he lays bleeding to death at the end of chapter 698, with his right hand missing, Naruto demonstrates as much – that love knows no bounds.

naruto and sasuke missing arms hands

Read the rest of this entry

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