Category Archives: Visual novel

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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Planetarian: An Analysis (Part One)

Today, on Beneath the Tangles, we’re proud to present the first of three guest posts about Planetarian from James, a gaming blogger.  Check out today’s post and return Wednesday and Thursday for the rest of the series!

Recently, planetarian ~the reverie of a little planet~ —featured on BtT’s own list of recommended visual novels—was released on Steam. After reading it (and drying my tears), I was inspired to write this essay. If you haven’t already experienced the novel yourself, I encourage you to head over to Steam and download it—$10 is a pretty sweet deal, after all. (spoilers below)

Despite its short length, Planetarian’s story is striking indeed. The apparent disproportion between the novel’s simplicity and its emotional power led me to wonder, why did this story touch me so? Before I can give my answer, though, it is necessary for me to spend some time talking about the pervasive spiritual themes that are present in the story. As such, the purpose of Part One is to draw attention to these themes.

Upon reading Planetarian with a careful eye it quickly becomes evident that the story is filled with religious elements, the most obvious example of this being the novel’s ongoing discussion of prayer and Heaven. It begins when the Junker, in an offhand remark, suggests to Yumemi that she pray to God that the projector be repaired in time for the next day’s 11:00 AM presentation. Yumemi, dutiful robot that she is, promptly asks in response, “Which god should I pray to, then?” A lengthy and somewhat humorous exchange follows in which Yumemi decides she should pray to Dionysus because the Junker would like him best, to which he replies that she should instead pray to “the god of robots.” After scanning her data banks for this entity, she declares: “I cannot find the information you have requested in my base databases or in my accumulated databases.”

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(Real) Christianity in Anime

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.

Several days ago I wrote a piece that I titled “(Superficial) Christianity in Anime“, but I realized after reading over it again that I seemed to come off with a rather negative view of Christian themes in anime. Now while I do believe the majority of depictions of Christianity in anime to be overall inaccurate, and even offensive (although when taken as a work of fiction and/or fantasy, I believe it to be less so), I felt that it was worth pointing of the positives that can be found in the medium. Now the title I’ve given to this post may prove to be somewhat misleading, as depictions of “Christianity” as it is often defined are not my focus, but rather depictions of spirituality (and even theology in a broader sense).

I would like to begin with some of the more obvious and move into the more subtle as we move along this (brief) post.

Rakka and RekiIf you read the aforementioned piece, then you are probably familiar with my positive take on the anime series, Haibane Renmei. Haibane Renmei is an amazing example of an anime that contains a number of Christian themes throughout it if one takes the time to analyze it. Disregarding the cherubic appearance of the haibane and instead focusing on the content of the story and dialogue, not only is a Christian faced with dealing with modern issues in Christian culture (something I find to be of less overall significance, but they are present nonetheless) such as the accepting church, but also the core doctrine of Christianity itself. “The circle of sin”, as The Communicator would say. The Haibane are trapped in their sinful states because they have done something wrong. When they accept this wrong (read: “sin”), they are inherently sinful, but when they declare themselves sinless, they are doing nothing but perpetuating the circle by sinning further. The only escape for this is to be forgiven by an external force.

SPOILERS

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Saya no Uta: A Reminder of Sinful Nature

Lately everyone seems to be talking about Urobuchi Gen and his recent works: Madoka, Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, and most recently, Gargantia. He has become a popular name ever since Madoka. But honestly, as amazing as Madoka was with its religious themes and correlations, I consider it very overrated even though I enjoyed it greatly. I was not impressed with either Psycho Pass, despite its homage to Kara no Shoujo, or Gargantia. Fate/Zero was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but being a prequel, a lot of the material was a foregone conclusion so it’d be misleading to attribute everything to him. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the rarely mentioned Phantom which aired not even 2 years prior to Madoka; even if it deviated from his original work, he has said he approved of the changes. However, if there is one work most often called his masterpiece, it is the very short VN Saya no Uta. While it may not be the best of the best, it is iconic in its own unique way and an interesting, albeit disturbing, read. Although it has some very questionable content, the themes Urobuchi explores with this is really fascinating.

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta is easily the most…disturbing, disgusting, and immoral thing I’ve ever read, so as a forewarning, I will be mentioning things that readers may not feel comfortable with. Granted, it is an eroge, so some of it was inevitable, but even so, it certainly made me think, “should I really keep reading this?” at certain scenes and I probably would have stopped if not for the fast forward button. The premise of the story is that the protagonist Fuminori was recently in an accident and when he wakes up in the hospital, he finds the world appears completely different. To put it succinctly, his five senses detect everything as decaying, rotting flesh. From the walls of the hospital to the bodies and voices of everyone around him to the smell and taste of his food, everything is something straight out of a horror film. One thing I really liked about the initial set up was that Fuminori, being a medical student, was quickly able to determine that everything wrong with the world was only his perception, and as horrific as it was, he mentally recognized that the problem was with his senses. Nevertheless, the situation greatly affects his mental and physical health as he tries to continue his daily life while keeping his condition a secret. Then the heroine appears before him, a beautiful, innocent-looking girl named Saya who looks completely normal, the first human he has seen since his accident. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here: since Fuminori’s senses have been reversed, Saya is the real monster.

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Something More: AKB0048 Missionaries, Amazing Anime Grace, and Space Brother Dreamin’

Medieval Otaku explores Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and how pride gets in the way from us embracing God’s love. [Medieval Otaku]

Did you know that the musicians of AKB0048 can be representative of Christian missionaries?  Seriously and truly.  [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn shares her personal experiences with depression and the importance of faith and friendship as she examines Nabari no Ou. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Annalyn continues to talk candidly, comparing the big dreams of Space Brothers to her own search for what God wants of her. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Continuing her thoughts, Annalyn extensively compares herself to Mutta of Space Brothers, asking the question of what God wants her to do with her life. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Frank explores the role that grace plays in Sora no Woto. [A Series of Miracles]

Is there more to be found than just superficial Christian imagery in anime?  Japes believes so. [Japesland]

Japes then looks at Haibane Renmei, Spice and Wolf, and Narcissu: 2nd Side as he examines deeper Christian themes in anime (and visual novels). [Japesland]

Charles Dunbar interviews Nina Matsumodo, a mangaka whose work, Yokaiden, explores yokai folkore. [Study of Anime]

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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. 

Little Busters: Refrain and The Power of Experience

Little Busters: one of the most controversial anime recently in terms of quality, potential, and execution. Key, infamous for their ability to make stories that drown their readers/viewers in tears, produced Little Busters in 2007, showcasing Jun Maeda’s mastery of tearjerkers. Hailed as one of the greatest VNs of all time, Little Busters is indeed one of the most well written stories out there and probably has one of the strongest emotional impacts ever. Clannad: After Story has nothing on this. And yet, as excited as people are and were for the anime, the fact of the matter is, an anime was a terrible idea and was bound to fail.

A story of unparalleled friendship.

A story of unparalleled friendship

Most complaints, or at least the vocal ones, blame JC Staff, a studio that is quite hated for a plethora of reasons that may or may not include a certain anime that doesn’t actually exist. Nevertheless, I was one of the people who, from the day the anime was announced (that is, before we knew what studio was in charge), were very doubtful about the quality of the anime. Of course I agree that beloved KyoAni would do a better job, but besides the fact that they have moved on to the cash cow of moeblobs with a hint of plot, the problem here is that the storyboarding of a Little Busters anime is a very interesting and even paradoxical problem that any studio would not be able to solve.

As a VN reader, I am fully aware of just how powerful Little Busters’ Refrain is. To this day, Haruka Kanata still evokes more sadness in me than any other song. But no matter how I try to convince people how good Refrain is, my words will never be able to convey it. Most people are unwilling to invest ~50 hours into a VN just so they can supposedly experience the greatest tearjerker around. They would rather just not spend 50 hours and live without knowing about it or…watch the anime, spend a lot less time and still see for themselves. Unfortunately, the anime will never live up to the hype of the VN. I had no clue what people meant by this until I read the VN; then I thought an anime would never happen due to it being too difficult and then it somehow got an anime and now I just watch and laugh at how bad it is.

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Readers’ Choice: When R86 Cries (Or Maybe Not)

I have been remiss by failing to mention in this space that I finished Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. In fact, it was probably about a month ago that I finished it. Several of you had warned me that I would probably feel trolled by the ending, and that this was largely because I was experiencing the anime rather than the visual novel. You were very clear that I would be missing a great deal of explanatory information from the visual novel that the anime left out.

Frankly, I was trolled much less badly than I thought I’d be.

While I was hoping for a clear victory of either Battler over Beatrice, or Beatrice over Battler, to me the ending came across like endings in many anime series: left open to the interpretation of the observer. And maybe in some ways this is the best kind of ending for this show.

I will probably disappoint those who recommended I watch this series, because I don’t have a lot more to add to what I’ve already written about my opinion of the show. It is sharply made and of high quality, with attractive characters and high tension. And not so much my cup of tea. Fans of action will find something to their liking, fans of horror even more so, and those who like to ask what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object perhaps most of all.

I am not into the horror/gore element, but I am still somewhat persuadable on watching/reading (?) the visual novel, since I have never experienced one before. So I think it’s best if I end by asking those familiar with the series why they’d recommend I watch/read (?) the visual novel — and I mean this question sincerely, and not as some kind of taunt or challenge. And let me be clear that spoilers are welcome! Especially, that is, if you feel they would make your case stronger.

I doubt that I will watch this anime again. And the male/female ratio that is very much smaller than 1 in Higurashi inclines me against watching that show, as I prefer a more balanced cast. But if I am missing as much background to Battler’s story as many of you indicated, maybe I will watch/read (???) the visual novel.

Who knows? Maybe I owe Battler at least that much.

Final verdict: 6/10 at MAL, for reasons already stated. I’d give it a 6.5 if I could, but I can’t. ;)

Mileposts: Interview with Caitlin Glass and Visual Novel Characters with Disabilities

Periodically, I like point back to some of the more than 500 posts we’ve written here on Beneath the Tangles.  Besides the “A Year Ago” series I began several months ago, I plan to occasionally post about blogging milestones – those little breakthroughs when posts hit certain numbers of significance in terms of hits.  Three articles recently hit such mileposts.

Hanako Ikezawa hug

Katawa Shoujo and a How to Guide for Referring to Individuals with Disabilities
Milepost:
5,000 Hits

The informational article discusses how to use person first language to refer to individuals (or VN characters!) with disabilities:

Rin is a character who was born without arms.  Don’t refer to this as a “birth defect.”  “Congenital disability” or “developmental disability” is preferred.  Further, remember to again emphasize that individuals have disabilities instead of saying that they are disabled, which emphasizes the disability, and avoid use of the word handicap.

This was a fun post to craft, because unlike many others, I had to do quite a bit of research.  I’m glad that this was my contribution to the blogosphere’s posts on Katawa Shoujo, a game that I actually never played.

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Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Kenshin as Christ, the Theology of Kokoro Connect, and Itadakimuasu!

Some weeks, there are no stories that focus on religion and anime, and virtually none that even mention the topic.  Then, some weeks are like this, where a number of quality posts about anime and spirituality are written!

Draggle goes theological, using Christian terminology to explain a different meaning behind death in episode 5 of Kokoro Connect, as well as Heartseed’s role in the series [Draggle's Anime Blog]:

I’d like to think of Heartseed as the tiller who is growing the kingdom of God, that is caring for the tiny seed that is taking root in Iori and friends’ hearts.

Otakuandrain finds that Keiichi’s response in chapter 287 of Oh! My Goddess! to the manimpulation he’s undergone is quite similar to that of Job. [The Cajun Samurai]

Medievalotaku compares Himura Kenshin to Jesus Christ, bringing up a number of points many viewers might miss at first glance [Medieval Otaku]:

Essentially, this is Eucharistic imagery!  Shishio, like evil, consumes those who fall prey to him; on the other hand, Kenshin is being described as food for the weak, and Christ feeds us weaklings with His body and blood each mass so that we remain in Him so “that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).  If not for Christ offering Himself as food for us, we should all fall to sin.

Lady Saika talks shinigami, examining the types of reapers presented in Bleach, Black Butler, and Death Note. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Charles Dunbar explain how  Dusk Maiden of Amnesia gives insights into how the Japanese view ghosts [Study of Anime]:

The idea of the vengeful spirit, overcome by its anger and swallowed by tremendous regret, is a powerful storytelling tool, often used to terrifying effect. But to humanize it, and give the viewer a stake in the outcome of Yuuko’s tragedy, places Dusk Maiden on a different path than a “typical” ghost story.

Sweetpea reviews “Re:Set,” a visual novel featuring demons representing the seven deadly sins. [Paper Chimes]

John explains what “itadakimasu” means and how its used, and provides information about its Buddhist origins. [Tofugu]