Category Archives: Visual novel
This past week, we have spent a lot of time focusing on Key, particularly Rewrite. Hopefully you had the chance to check out Kaze’s four part summation and commentary on the visual novel. His approach took each and every section of the story and broke it down into individual parallels into Christian living, but I would like to take a slightly different approach. Assuming a basic knowledge of Rewrite is already known (which is what makes a commentary like Kaze’s ever so important), I would like to provide to you my own thoughts and thesis on what I consider to be one of the most outstanding and philosophically/theologically charged narratives in visual novel medium.
Here at Beneath the Tangles, we strive to extract biblical connections and principles from media that clearly did not intend them. The value of this can be debated, surely, but operating under the assumption that most media has redeemable qualities regardless of source and that all mankind comes from the same origin regardless of individual will (whether that is God or completely naturalistic sources, or perhaps even something else altogether), there are many themes to be appreciated that might go missed otherwise.
If you haven’t been able to tell already, Rewrite is a prime example of a piece of fiction that exhibits many of these principles and themes. Kaze has pointed out parallel after parallel to clear Christian ideas, yet what is so striking to me about Rewrite and its relevance to my faith is not this series of connections (though they are, of course, of significant value!), but the bigger picture. The saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and Picasso has been credited with saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” These two quotes in conjunction form the basis for what I consider to be some of the best narratives in existence: those that are not afraid to use and adapt established brilliance to create even more brilliance.
In order to illustrate this more clearly, let me give you my 4-point summary of Rewrite’s meta-narrative.
- Main Routes: A series of elaborate failures in an attempt to create a better world… or prevent a worse one.
- Moon: A symbolic culmination of what those failures were trying to accomplish.
- Terra: The symbolic taking literal form in order to enact the final saving plan.
- Post-Terra: Humanity now is given the chance to surpass their doomed existence.
Well… this is awkward… I think I’ve seen this somewhere before…
- Old Testament: A series of elaborate failures (by humanity) in an attempt to create a better world (i.e. God’s originally-planned world).
- The Transition to the New Testament: A symbolic culmination of what those failures were trying to accomplish.
- The Gospels: The symbolic taking form in the Son of God in order to enact the final saving plan.
- The New Testament as a Whole: Humanity now is given the change to surpass their doomed existence.
After several years, the Earth has become survivable again, and Kotarou and Kagari have grown into an enormous tree in the short time, very reminiscent of Sakuya’s end. The five heroines come together again, this time as people who are no longer carrying the emotional baggage that resulted from the war 10 years prior to the start of the common route. This is a factor in the difference between Terra and the other routes that hits far closer to home than the near abstract idea of humanity’s survival. When Kotarou follows the true route, much like when we walk the path that God lays before us, the emotional baggage that ties down the heroines is gone. It does not leave them; it is never there to begin with. This is very much like how God’s forgiveness of our sins, our burdensome weight of guilt, is forgiven. Jesus died for us in the past but his sacrifice then was enough to wipe all sins of the past, present, and in our case, future. It is like we never sinned in the first place. Unfortunately, we did sin, and we continue to sin. As sinful people, we continue to jump back and forth between following God and following our own desires. However, at the end of the path of detours and sin, when we reach heaven to be with God, that is when our sin will be permanently gone, because God cannot coexist with sin. Thus, we will be like the Rewrite heroines, who are completely free of the emotional baggage that they are not even aware of exists; our sin will be gone because Jesus’ sacrifice (Kotarou’s sacrifice) wiped them away before we even knew about it.
The heroines summon Kotarou from the tree, and he appears before them much like he normally did. Note that this is largely Kotori’s influence as her selfishness (and love) causes him to take the form of how she imagines him to be. They demand he obeys him, expecting him to be their familiar much like Sakuya was to Chihaya (in this timeline, Chihaya never made a contract with Sakuya); however, he does not listen to them and instead takes them to the Moon, where they find a small sapling growing amongst the regolith, which is the slow but sure rebirth of Moon Kagari, completing Kotarou’s wish to see her again. Kotarou’s refusal to listen to the heroines is much like a common relationship with God. Christians sometimes expect God to grant them their desires or only turn to Him when they are in trouble. However, God has His own plans for us, and drags us along for the ride – it is only at the end of the ride that we realize just how superior it was to our own plans. Read the rest of this entry
At the start of Terra, a teenage Kotarou and his family have recently moved to Kazamatsuri. His parents work at Martel, a part of Gaia. His neighbor’s family has a very young girl by the name of Kotori (!?). His parents attended Gaia’s meetings, but Kotarou spent his time hunting UMAs, which were actually familiars. However, one day, he encounters a much stronger familiar. Just as it attacks him, he is saved by Esaka and his knights. Kotarou falls unconscious but looks for Esaka and the two become friendly. Meanwhile, Kotarou is asked to take care of a young girl named Akane (!?). Akane seems to be affiliated with Gaia while Kotori notes that she wants nothing to do with Gaia and its meetings. As Kotarou’s teenage life unfolds, he ends up running away from home and joins Esaka and Guardian. He is put in a trainee team consisting of himself, Imamiya, Touka, and Nagai. However, this is a team of “unskilled” people, the ones who ranked lowest on the initial exam. Nagai eventually quits, but Kotarou gets stronger.
Eventually, the battle of Guardian and Gaia is about to start. Although the team is ordered on stand-by, Imamiya rushes in, followed by Touka and Kotarou. On the way, he encounters Akane who is cowering in the trees. Although he saves her and attempts to help her escape, he runs into another girl…Kagari, the Key, being born into the world. It is here that Kotarou is given a very important choice: try to attack her or run away. If the reader chooses to attack her, he will nearly be killed, end up in a coma, awaken to find the beginning of the common route, and another inevitable route to humanity’s destruction. In other words, from the very beginning, this part of Terra had already happened before the common route began, which explains a number of questions the readers may have had. However, in Terra route, there is another option Kotarou can take: run away and let Kagari escape. Read the rest of this entry
After completion of the five heroine routes, the two-part true route is unlocked: Moon and Terra. Moon route takes place on the moon but at the same time, it is more than that. On the moon exists Moon Kagari, who is tirelessly working on “something.” Koutarou cannot even begin to comprehend it; in fact, when he merely looks at it, it causes his head to undergo intense pain. This is not due to things such as brightness or a similar phenomenon; it is the result of the information being laid out simply being beyond human capacity for comprehension. By simply glancing at it, the human brain is overloaded with information. What we learn is that Kagari is working with what can be described as all the timelines in existence, akin to the akashic records. As a result, the moon where they reside is not the moon as we know it but rather a plane of existence that exists outside of time itself. The so called theorem which Moon Kagari works on has the ability to contain all timelines in existence. The map branches endlessly like a tree, with each line representing a different possibility. However, each line also meets its doom, the end of humanity. In fact, the five heroine routes were also a part of this tree of possibilities, all failures leading to humanity’s destruction, and this Moon Kotarou is the accumulation of all past Kotarous into a single being. What Kagari is looking for is the one timeline in which earth and humanity can survive. She makes adjustments to each “experiment,” and watches the earth proceed from its origin, only to eventually meet another end. She can also choose when to make branches, at any point in time. With the simplest tweak, she watches the butterfly effect unfold yielding yet another failure.
This existence outside of time parallels God’s existence outside of time. He too watches not just us but all points in time at once. Furthermore, the idea of heaven existing “above” us is only symbolically. The Moon is not a place which exists in the same spatial plane; it transcends the idea of time and space. Heaven is also a place that does not exist in any defined place as we know it. It exists, together with God, in a place that is not affected by the flow of time. Moon route speaks of time, but only vaguely, because Kotarou has no ability to keep track of time. This is perhaps a perfect representation of the common arguments and theories about what actually happened during creation. Did God literally create the world in 6 days or is that a metaphor for evolution or something else entirely? The answer is, if we used Rewrite as a basis, perhaps everything. Kagari controls the creation of life, but for the most part, watches it unfold. God, too, possibly set up the necessary components for the creation of life, but otherwise watched without involving Himself too much. A day in Moon route means nothing because the concept of time does not apply to it. However, the Bible uses words like “day” because it is the best way to communicate with us, who cannot grasp the concept of God. However, by reading Moon route and how Kagari works toward the creation of life, one can come far closer to imagining how God may have worked when He created us.
Of course, all of this may seem far-fetched or incomprehensible. Read the rest of this entry
This article does NOT spoil Air’s story.
If you are familiar with Air, it is probably because of Kyoto Animation’s popular anime adaptation of 2005. If you’re really a nerd
like me, perhaps you even know of the Air film adaptation of the same year by Toei Animation (and its gorgeous bonus soundtrack by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra). However, I would contend that few have actually read the source that made both of these adaptations possible.
Air originally met the world in the form of a visual novel, an interesting medium that we have written on more here. While visual novel to anime adaptations are hardly a new concept, many consumers are more familiar with the manga and light novel mediums that more often receive anime adaptations. Key, the studio responsible for visual novels like Air, Kanon, Clannad, Little Busters!, and others, however, is primarily a visual novel studio. Unfortunately for the Christian reader, visual novels are a medium wrought with R-18 (i.e. usually pornographic) content.
As a disclaimer: Air is one of these, and thus I cannot recommend it to those readers seeking to avoid pornographic material, unless the reader is able to import an all ages version (and can read Japanese) or is able to put together various patches to the original so as to remove the undesired content.
With this aside, having viewed the anime adaptation several times, the movie once, and read the visual novel once, I was struck by biblical parallels and significance that are especially relevant considering the impending Easter occasion.
Easter is kind of a peculiar time of year for Christians. We celebrate it, dress up in our Sunday finest and…search for Easter eggs. And although we talk about the commercialization of Christmas, many households across the country have made a concerted effort to at least keep that holiday holy. Easter, on the other hand, feels almost forced as a holy day and certainly only receives a fraction of the attention that Christmas does, even though it’s our most significant holiday.
To try to keep a focus on the magnitude of the events that transpired during the week leading up to the first Easter, and that Sunday itself, we delve into one specific topic during Holy Week each year and discuss it each on the days leading up Easter. This year, we’re focusing on a topic many of us on Beneath the Tangles adore – Key anime and visual novels. As a sort of early kick-off to the week, JP, Sean, and Kaze co-hosted a special, extended edition of “The Tangles” last week exploring Key – I highly encourage you to check it out!
For our posts this week, we’ll be focusing on properties we’ve barely touched in the past. Expect posts on Air and Kanon, but most of all, we’ll be diving into another of Key’s beloved properties – I’ll save that surprise and let Kaze reveal which one on Tuesday.
In the meantime, feel free to check out some of our many past articles on Key, particularly their properties’ anime adaptations. Here’s a selection of them:
- Planetarian: An Analysis, Part 1
- Little Busters Refrain and the Power of Experience
- More Lessons from Clannad: The Decisions You Make, Make You
- The Peacemaker: Yukine Miyazawa
- Saxy Side of Anime: The Key Anthology Saxophone Collection
- 12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 6: Angel Beats!
I hope you’ll join us this week, but more importantly, I also hope that you’ll spend time this week meditating on Easter and what it means. And my challenge to you all is this: as we approach Easter Sunday a week from now – attend a church. Step into the doors of a sanctuary. Go see what it’s all about, or go back if you haven’t been for some time. Perhaps you’ll see what we writers on the blog here know – God is good.
For episode 8, we are excited to have Aspirety, the founder of Kazamatsuri.org, as our guest. Not only do Sean and JP dive into some interesting discussion (mostly Sean!), we are also joined by Tangles veteran, Kaze! As part of our Key-themed Easter this year, we have decided to take a look at probably the most controversial issue in Key’s medium of choice: Adult content in visual novels. While controversial, we think you’ll learn a lot about the medium and have some fun along the way!
Apologies for issues in audio quality! We are experimenting with new recording hardware and still working out the bugs.
Also, be sure to email us with any questions you would like included in our “Listener Mail” portion, including the name you would like stated in the podcast and your website or blog for us to share!
Intro – 0:00
Announcements – 17:16
Otaku Diet – 19:34
Current Article/Discussion – 40:57
Listener Mail – 1:22:27
Closer – 1:38:53
Bloopers – 1:39:40
Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:
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:
Christmas is just under a week away? In terms of aniblogging, that means lots and lots of reflective posts – and a good number of them involving religion. This is likely the last post in this column until next year, so enjoy your quota of terrific articles about anime and spirituality!
Trigun’s traveling preacher, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, provides us a lesson about tithing and the heart of giving. [Old Line Elephant]
Christmas Eve deaths in Log Horizon symbolize the dark before the dawn. [A Series of Miracles]
Check out the comments on a Reddit board discussion about anime and religion this past week. [TrueAnime]
The Pokemon games and religion go hand in hand – did you know? [Did You Know Gaming?]
Among the many symbols anime has adopted from Christianity is use of the cross, specifically in crucifixion scenes. In the mood for a review of such scenes? Be warned, you might find it offensive, or really funny, or both. [Isn’t It Electrifying?]
D.M. Dutcher is through with visual novel-based anime, in large part because of how Christians should view suffering as entertainment. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
Though explicitly mentioned religion seldomly, Angel Beats is full of theology from various religions. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
Kit ruminates on a number of titles for a series of reflective posts, including one on the Shinto-inspired Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. [Study of Anime]
Actions of the cast of the new arc of Sword Art Online resemble Christian thought of keeping the eyes on the prize. [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. Thanks to Seasons for pointing us toward the Reddit article and to Alexander for the Pokemon one.
As a sort of tangential follow up to a post I wrote months ago, I’d like to highlight recent developments in the otaku culture. I wrote a bit about this before, but here’s some repeated notions as a reminder. Like it or not, a large portion of the otaku culture is visual novels, which are nearly all sexual in content. Despite containing such R-18 material, this is not a quality which discounts the VN medium from being able to produce meaningful stories. Indeed, it can be argued that some of the best stories in VNs have the most forced, out-of-place sex, because creators are trying to appeal to the larger otaku audience. As such, VNs are arguably the hardest area to get into as a Western – and Christian – otaku because almost no one wants to have to deal with the adult content just to get what is supposedly a good story. It’s understandable, even admirable, that such people stick to their beliefs and know where to draw the line. But if you want to minister to otaku, you can’t simply ignore such a huge part of the culture. You can try to read the clean ones, and there are a few, as listed on our very own visual novel recommendations page. But there are still many more which are so great yet have certain content which immediately stops any interest – again, for good reason.
Visual novels have a very niche market in Japan, and while there are console exports which results in removal of sexual content, these were thought never to be marketed toward foreigners. Recently, the company Sekai Project announced plans to release the entire Grisaia trilogy in English. Visual novels have historically had a proportionally small market in the West; Mangagamer and JAST have released a number of popular titles, so it’s wrong to say that official VN translations and sales are unheard of. However, the issue of Christians not wanting to deal with the sexual content remained unchanged – or so I thought. Grisaia is planned to be released as the all ages version. Perhaps it is not a huge surprise they chose Grisaia; it is after all, the current best selling VN on Amazon Japan. To clarify, Grisaia is still very sexual in tone, containing a large amount of sexual jokes and language, which may very well result in people responding the same way they did to the anime despite my (now dead) hype. But there is something to be said about specifically bringing over the all ages versions – they are clearly demonstrating that they want to expand the readership to those who are offended by sexual content.
Initially, Sekai Project mentioned they would be bringing over only the first game’s all ages version. A large number of people questioned the need to remove sexual content (to be fair, partly misunderstanding that all sexual jokes would be removed, which would be quite absurd indeed; it seems only the very extreme ones will be altered) and in fact, a small number of people were outraged at losing out on sexual content (at least they’re being honest). While I as a Christian disagree wholeheartedly with such thoughts, I can sort of understand why people questioned that the all ages version is being brought over. We are talking about something from the most otaku of the otaku culture – not anime, not manga or novels or fanart, but visual novels which are made almost universally with sexual content. Is there really a need to bother with what is arguably a non-existence market of Westerners who are both 1) interested in visual novels and 2) greatly offended by sexual content? Even I don’t think so, but Sekai Project thinks otherwise.