Category Archives: Visual novel

Air: New in Light of the Old

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.

0127As 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.

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Holy Week 2015: Key Anime and Easter

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!

key

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:

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.

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 8 *Key Special*

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.

Feel free to stream the episode below, subscribe on iTunes, or check out our RSS feed!

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!

Time Stamps:
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

Direct Download

Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:

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:

Something More: Crucifixion in Anime, Wolfwood’s Tithing, and Religion in Pokemon

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.

The Start of All Ages Visual Novel Imports?

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.

F/SN is originally an eroge

F/SN is originally an eroge

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.

grisaia no rakuen

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Something More: Blue Exorcist Pluralism, Jesus in Planetarian, and More Godoka

Happy Halloween, all!  This is probably a good place to mention that the writers here at Beneath the Tangles are NOT the type to tell you avoid Halloween festivities because of pagan stuff blah blah blah.  Enjoy your night – but be safe!!  

Unfortunately, no spooky posts below…though maybe the first one, regarding a popular series about exorcism, is an appropriate place to begin on this holiday!

Matthew points out the error of a Buddhist group in the Blue Exorcist manga stating that Christianity and Buddhism are fundamentally the same. [Old Line Elephant]

In episode one of the Kazamatsuri.org podcast, the hosts dig into an interpretation of a forum member’s interpretation of the Planetarian visual novel from a Christian perspective and are very impressed by it.  That same forum user, James, later completed his ideas and guest posted them on our blog. If you’re interested, the discussion begins at 1:57:00 on the podcast. [Kazamatsuri]

Frank rejoices over Crunchyroll’s licensing of the remaining Encouragement of Climb episodes while digging into episode two and how Aoi’s climb up Mt. Fuji reminds us of a young Christian’s journey in faith. [A Series of Miracles]

He also wraps up his series of posts on Barakamon by pointing at a number of significant lessons for Christians in episodes 11 and 12 of the series. [2]

Moe discusses Madoka’s god form frequently while analyzing an important theme of Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion Story. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

In his analysis of episode 8 of Sailor Moon Crystal, Rob finds an interesting parallel between battle in the episode and the cosmic battle of Christianity. [Christian Anime Review]

Rob also discusses Sailor Moon’s claim of one committing and unforgivable sin in episode 7 of the same series. [2]

And he reminds Christians of where they should place their true value and worth while digging into episode 1 of Your Lie in April. [3]

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.

 

 

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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