Category Archives: Music

Nausicaä + Jazz = …Jesus?!

Ask any of my close friends what my favorite genre of music is. Seriously, ask anyone. If they don’t say jazz, please tell me. I will promptly cut all ties with that person and move on with my life as a happier individual, having removed one more false friendship.

When I say this, I am kidding of course. I would also accept J-Pop and progressive rock.

…Anyway…

As an avid listener of jazz and watcher of anime, I am always excited to stumble across an avenue where I can mix both of these interests. Most recently, this avenue came in the form of Western jazz group, Rasmus Faber. As few and far between as anime jazz groups are these days, they are still popular enough (and becoming more so) so as to not come as an enormous surprise. However, when listening to Rasmus Faber’s “Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol.3~”, I was amazed to find a third passion of mine enflamed: theology.

I have often contended that Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (「風の谷のナウシカ」) provides one of anime’s greatest examples of Jesus Christ as portrayed in holistic Christianity. However, before I spoil the rest of the article for you, valued readers, I would like to show you what exactly mixed theology, jazz, and anime (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind).

Below I have included a video to a live performance of “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (from “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”)” from “Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol.3~” as well as my own transcription of the lyrics. Take a listen (and a read!).

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Top 5 + Guest: Our Favorite Anime Openings

More and more effort and money seems to be put toward anime openings (OP) these days, but more than ever it’s striking when an opening strikes such a chord that viewers will watch it each week instead of skipping.  For the winter 2015 season, the Death Parade OP foots the bill – frankly, it’s probably better than the series deserves!

Below are our picks for all-time favorite anime openings.  This week, we’re joined by The Cajun Samurai, who’ll give his list as well.  By the way, I recommend that you go to his site to see his extended explanation regarding his selections.

And as always, we welcome your thoughts – what are your favorite anime openings?

Cajun Samurai’s Picks

  1. Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven (“Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)”)
  2. Toradora (“Pre-Parade”)
  3. Attack on Titan (“Guren no Yumiya”)
  4. Space Brothers (“Feel So Moon”)
  5. Nichijou (“Hyadain no Jojo Yujo”)

Tangles-san is evil. Yup. He’s brimming with evil. Yeah, I know he might look like a nice guy and sound like a nice guy, but really he’s not. Wanna know why? He asked me to pick five of my favorite anime openers and then rank them. You might as well ask me to take apart my Jeep Cherokee and put it back together…BLINDFOLDED. Picking five great songs is bad enough, but RANKING them!? Good grief. But, thankfully, I was able to pull it off, and my number one pick was pretty much a no-brainer; not only does it combine a classic hymn with J-Pop, it’s also the one anime song that my mom listens to while driving in her car. My mother is over sixty years old. Let that sink in. Anyway, those are my picks. Have a great day. I’m the Cajun Samurai, strolling inexorably down the bayous of life.

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Saxy Side of Anime: The Key Anthology Saxophone Collection

If you haven’t noticed, I’ll say it now – a lot of our writers are big fans of the media that’s developed by Key visual novel studio.  One of our bloggers, JP (Japes), has taken that like to a whole other level.

On January 1, 2015, JP will be releasing a full saxophone cover album covering the works of Key. The album will cover 17 songs from their visual novels Kanon, Air, Clannad, and Little Busters, which all received anime adaptations, as well as Planetarian and Rewrite, which have not.

This album is being released completely for free both on his YouTube Channel and his personal blog, so be sure to check it out and give it a listen! It also comes with free sheet music, karaoke tracks, and CD artwork for your enjoyment!

Also, be sure to listen to this month’s episode of The Tangles on Christmas Day for more information and early download access!

Check out the video below for a teaser:

Inspiring Praise: Hatsune Miku, Mitchie M, and the Emotion of Song

I’m not sure that I could identify myself as an overly emotional person.

If you know me as well as my immediate family, that statement probably sounds like an outright lie. Growing up, I was always quick to cry (a source of constant frustration, being a male). Even random conversations that resulted in seemingly little in the way of serious repercussions resulted in a teary-eyed mess. Anything from being chastised for being late for work to attending a good friend and co-worker’s pre-funeral viewing, and I was simply put out of commission. I can recall many angry and upsetting conversations around the time I entered college, particularly centered around issues of my waning faith, though surrounded by issues of a changed family situation and self-inflicted doubts and pressures.

But my statement still stands. I’m not sure that I could identify myself as an overly emotional person.

Why is it that I still make this statement, despite the previous paragraph that clearly lays out constructive reasoning for determining why, in contrast, I am an emotional person?

Perhaps this feeling stems back to my view of God and the Christian faith I follow. While I’ve had many emotional experiences relating to my views of God, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve ever directly felt the emotion of God directed toward me (though, perhaps, with the exception of the feeling of peace that said God exists and looks to my best interests). When, during worship songs, people raise their hands high at the apex of a piece of music, I’ve never felt the inclination to join. When I visited Japan on a missions trip, I can’t say I ever felt the oppressive atmosphere that several members claimed to feel in the shrines and temples (that is not to say they didn’t exist as much as I simply did not feel them, though that debate is another topic for another article). I even remember in a psychology class, the professor taking a poll and asking, “Do you believe that God [assuming He exists] is as emotional as people make him out to be?” My overwhelming response, of course, was “no!”

Although the Bible often personifies God with human characteristics, particularly emotions, I have, as I have matured in my beliefs, held fast to the idea that God is not the being that is so often caricatured by modern Christianity. Emotions are, of course, not inherently bad. If that were the case, the Bible would not personify God with them so frequently, nor would they be such integral parts of certain passages. However, He is an indescribable being. He is one without existence in time or space, one without substance that can be analyzed in our limited three dimensions (oh, how I want to reference Ever17!), and surely one that can only be moderately understood through analogies.

Now Japes, all this lofty and pretentious talk of human emotion and the nature of God is well and fine, but where does Miku fall into it? Thank you for asking, attentive reader! Let me direct your attention to one of Mitchie M’s newest Vocaloid creations, “Burenai Ai De”:

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Planetarian: An Analysis (Part Three)

Today, James concludes his guest post series on the visual novel, Planetarian, which is among those we recommend for Christian audiences.

Note: This post continues directly from the end of Part Two

If we keep this meaningful juxtaposition of music and story fixed firmly in our minds and accept the Christian interpretation, the rest of the novel falls into place remarkably well. To begin with, consider the setting Planetarian takes place in. The entire world has been ravaged by a “Great War” instigated by “foolish and selfish human beings.” By the Junker’s own account, “People worked so hard to slaughter each other…even when there were no humans left to fight” because they had become bent on “the internecine creed of revenge and massacre.” In this way, “The purpose of life became merely to live,” and “There was nothing left in this world but dirt immersed in poison and unspeakable ruin.”

In light of the Christian interpretation, this terrible state of affairs represents the depravity of mankind when left to its own devices, in all of its fallen sinfulness. (Not even the institution of the Church is immune to this systemic corruption, as the mere existence of the sniper nun from “Jerusalem” sadly attests.) The grim world depicted here is captured all too well in Micah 7:2-3a, “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well.” The fruit of mankind’s evil literally descends on people’s heads and destroys them in the form of the poisonous Rain. No one seems to have even an inkling of a better way of life, much less a means of attaining it. Indeed, in what must be the epitome of tragic absurdity, some people actively worship the very instruments of their own self-destruction (recall the Junker’s memory of the village idol made out of battle mechs). What delusion is this, that people would seek salvation from the works of their own hands, and artifacts of destruction to boot!

When the Junker, a product of this degenerate world, first meets Yumemi, her kindness, innocence, and unflagging devotion to serving others are initially dumbfounding to him, even repellent (note how at first he characterizes her smile as “childish” and her selfless behavior as “deranged”). As time goes on, however, he begins to describe her in much more generous terms—her smile becomes “pure,” “innocent,” “gentle,” “so gentle that even the angels would covet it,” and she herself is a “treasure.”

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Planetarian: An Analysis (Part Two)

Today, James continues his guest post series on the visual novel, Planetarian, which is now for sale and download at Steam.

At the end of Part One I suggested that there is a coherent religious message to be found in Planetarian. Before I elaborate, I must emphasize that there is obviously no way I can be certain that the author of the story intended to communicate the precise message I have in mind. Even so, considering the evidence that exists in the story, I think it is highly probable that the author at least intended to convey something very similar to what I propose:

I believe this story promotes the idea that true humanity is to be found not in ourselves, but rather in God and specifically in Jesus, the perfect human.

Again, I could never prove that the author actually meant to say this, but as I hope to show you, if nothing else it is incredibly easy and natural to take this message from the novel based on its content.

My interpretation is rooted in a key juxtaposition of music and story that takes place at the very end of the novel. Yumemi has sacrificed herself in order to save the Junker from certain death at the hands of the Fiddler Crab. As we see her fragmented remains scattered about, a mournful tune begins to play. This song is titled “Perfectly Human” in Planetarian’s in-game track list, but alternate translations of the title are “Perfect Human” and “The Perfect Man.” Assuming the song’s title has been meaningfully chosen, we must ask: in what sense is Yumemi “perfectly human” or a “perfect human”? The novel bends over backwards to periodically remind the reader that Yumemi, for all her intelligence and kindness, is still a robot. Clearly her tendency to constantly check her databases for information and coming up short—in addition to her corresponding failure to assimilate the new information the Junker repeatedly tries to convey to her—mark her as less than human, so in what sense is she a “perfect human”?

The answer becomes evident if we take into account the third possible translation of the song’s title, “The Perfect Man.” In this moment Yumemi has just “taken the bullet” for the Junker, thus saving his life. She approached the Fiddler Crab “without any hesitation at all” and the Junker observes, “It was like a scene from an antique religious painting.” In stepping into harm’s way for the sake of the Junker without considering her own wellbeing, she was a selfless servant to the end, even to the point of “dying” for the Junker. This scene strongly evokes Jesus’ death on the cross that he suffered so that not just one person, but all people might live. As Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

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MekakuCity Actors Episodes 11 and 12: Moon-Viewing Recital and Summertime Record

Endings are important, so it’s no surprise that I watched the last two episodes of MekakuCity Actors with a little more trepidation than usual. I was hopeful, though: I had thoroughly enjoyed the non-linear storytelling of previous episodes, and there were many helpful explanations. Although it wasn’t perfect, MekakuCity Actors has done nothing but strengthen my love for the Kagerou Project, which seems to have formerly been rather weak in retrospect.

[Spoilers ahead, obviously. But If you want a non-spoilerific opinion on the anime as a whole, scroll down to the final paragraph]

Episode 11: Moon-Viewing Recital

I knew from the moment I saw his black Route XX hoodie that something was up.

I knew from the moment I saw his black Route XX hoodie that something was up.

Yeah, in those other routes, nothing ever went well for anyone.

Yeah, in those other routes, nothing ever went well for anyone.

YOU HAD ONE JOB SHINTARO

YOU HAD ONE JOB SHINTARO

It’s night, and a red moon in the shape of an eye shines. Shintaro wakes up in his room, finding that he suddenly remembers everything. Through Shintarou’s conversation with one of Azami’s snakes, we learn that seeing Ayano’s photo triggered his own eye-power, Retaining Eyes, which causes him to remember everything, including tragic memories from alternate timelines. If you remember, in Kagerou Days (Ep. 4), every time Hiyori dies, the scenario is reset. This has actually been happening for a long time, except with the entire plotline. (The exact start time is unknown, but it’s hinted that it’s before the characters were born). The snake asks him what he intends to do, and in response, Shintaro repeats the scene from an alternate timeline called Route XX in which he stabbed himself with a pair of scissors.

Because Kido never made anything worse. Ever.

Because Kido never made anything worse. Ever.

We now interrupt the regular plotline for a Zombie Apocalypse

We now interrupt the regular plotline for a Zombie Apocalypse

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MekakuCity Actors episodes 9 and 10: Ayano’s Happiness Theory and Fantasy Forest

There are only two more episodes left of MekakuCity Actors, and, while it hasn’t been a perfect ride, I love the way all the little bits and pieces of information are finally coming together to form a story that is not only coherent (sort of), but intriguing. The two most recent episodes were based off of two of my favourite songs in the Kagerou Project, and my expectations were high. They were not disappointing in the least.

Episode 9: Ayano’s Happiness Theory

Oh hey! I think I've heard this before somewhere!

Oh hey! I think I’ve heard this before somewhere!

The episode opens with Ayano’s mother, Ayaka, reading her a story: The story of the little monster, in fact. So if you were wondering when the story-book clips at the end of each episode would tie in to the main plot, the answer is “Episode 9.”

They BETTER be saving that budget for the finale!

They BETTER be saving that budget for the finale!

Following that, there is a cover of Ayano’s Happiness Theory in place of the opening. While the cover itself is lovely, the opening art showcases some of the worst opening animation choices I have ever seen. Now, I will begrudgingly admit that after watching it several times over, it’s kind of sweet on its own, but the fact remains that when put in the anime alongside the regular animation, it’s nothing short of jarring and cringe-worthy. But I digress.

Kano, you've got to start being nicer, or pretty soon everyone new to the Kagerou Project is going to hate you!

Kano, you’ve got to start being nicer, or pretty soon everyone new to the Kagerou Project is going to hate you!

Two people in a deadly situation on August 15th, and only one makes it out...I wonder what could have possibly happened?

Two people in a deadly situation on August 15th, and only one makes it out…I wonder what could have possibly happened?

Ayano Kido Seto

Maybe he's hiding something?

Maybe he’s hiding something?

Tsubomi Kido, Shuya Kano, and Kousuke were adopted by the Tateyama family, and Ayano was like a big sister to them. Sadly, their happiness was cut short when Ayaka and Kenjrou were caught in a landslide on August 15th, and Ayaka died. Not long after, Ayano finds her mother’s research notes in her father’s room…along with a copy of the little monster’s story. Read the rest of this entry

MekakuCity Actors episodes 7 and 8: Konoha’s State of the World and Lost Time Memory

Episode 7: Konoha’s State of the World

I don't get why they didn't just talk about their health problems a bit last episode. Of course she knew--Why else did she think he missed so much school?

Why didn’t they just talk about their health problems last episode? Of course she knew–Why else did she think he missed so much school?

...I had trouble thinking of anything funny to say at all the constant sadness in this episode.

…I had trouble thinking of amusing captions with all the constant sadness in this episode.

The episode opens with us learning that Haruka has collapsed and is now hospitalized. Takane feels awful for leaving him alone, and decides to leave him with Kenjirou and get his things from the school instead of staying with him.

If only that were true.

If only that were true.

Pfft.  Yes, I'm sure that would work out great.

Pfft. Yes, I’m sure that would work out great. Jin, stop trying to ruin my OTP…Please?

She says it like she's talking about herself, don't you think?

It’s almost like she’s talking about herself

As she is wallowing in shame, she runs into Ayano, who has also been attending supplementary summer classes. They talk about school and Shintaro, and eventually Ayano confronts her about her fear of being rejected by Haruka, and encourages her to tell him how she feels.

If only she hadn't been such a Tsundere, maybe she could have had her wish.

You shouldn’t have been a Tsundere, huh?

Oh hey, if is itsn't [spoiler omitted]

Oh hey, if is itsn’t [spoiler omitted]

Takane thought about what she said, and realised that Ayano was absolutely right. Unfortunately, she collapsed soon after, likely due to her condition, and then weird things started happening. When they were over, she was no longer human. Read the rest of this entry

Vocaloid as Artistic Expression

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

Right off the bat, I feel compelled to say that Vocaloid is an enormous passion of mine. From Hatsune Miku to Megpoid, from Supercell to Jin, I adore what the Vocaloid movement has become since its pick-up in 2007.

In case you are unsure of what Vocaloid is exactly, Vocaloid is a voice synthesis engine created by Yamaha that has, over the last several years, been used to produce music sung by fictional animated characters (this was not the original intent of Vocaloid software, and I could probably write an entire post on the history of Vocaloid alone considering I have done an hour-long lecture on the same topic, but considering this is the Internet it would probably just be easier for you to look here than to read a long post by me, though perhaps I will consider writing such a piece in the future, and while I’m doing this I might as well add a few more commas and make this sentence as long as possible,,,,). For an example of Vocaloid in action, see the clip below from a relatively recent live concert featuring the most popular of the Vocaloid characters, Hatsune Miku.

What I would like to address here, however, is not the origin of Vocaloid, but its validity as an artistic expression. What do I mean by that, you ask. Why, thanks for asking, I’ll tell you exactly what I mean!

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