Category Archives: Post Type

The Purpose of Trials in Fruits Basket

I have a tendency to shirk away from challenge. Complacency is a hole I feel I constantly find myself climbing out of. If I can avoid it or procrastinate, I usually do. It’s much easier to shove something into a metaphorical box and go watch Youtube videos then actually work through it.

Spiritually in my life, this is something God will tolerate for only so long. As always, God cares much more about me than I do about myself and wants me to have life in abundance, even if that means significant challenge.

There is one scene in Fruits Basket between Kyo and his master/father figure Kazuma that made me think about how sometimes God’s plan for my life and my desire to not deal with challenge, ever, come to a head.

As the cat of the zodiac, Kyo is the most cursed of all of the Sohmas. As part of his curse, he turns into a horrific beast if he doesn’t wear a set of beads and will be confined to a place on the Sohma estate for the rest of his life after high school. He copes with this situation by focusing all of his hurt and frustration on Yuki the rat, the most privileged of the zodiac that was said to have tricked the cat long ago, and keeping almost everyone is his life at a distance.

Kazuma confronts him about this one night.

Capmmmmmmmmmmmture

Kazuma: Is this the way you intend to go on living for the rest of your days? Ears plugged, eyes closed, hiding behind your hatred for Yuki? Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Confessions of an Exclusivist, Christian Otaku

For as long as I can remember, back even to my elementary school days, I recall always desiring to be different or unique. I can even remember my public school teachers all hammering that message into my and my classmates’ collective heads. “Be yourself” seemed to be the key phrase (and considering my years of work in IT for public education, and consequent time spent in public schools, seems to still be the key phrase) tossed around like an inflatable volleyball on the beach, for it floats easily and just seems to fit the setting.

Now before I continue on any further, I must qualify the rest of this article by saying that I do not disagree with this statement in the slightest. While it should perhaps not be taken at face value (some happy medium must exist behind the conservative convention that being oneself gives way to a lack of moral objectivity and consequent slippery slope of moral degradation and the liberal convention that moral subjectivity declares being oneself the path to defining morals themselves), there is redeemable value in those simple words, “be yourself.”

blue spring ride futaba

Ao Haru Ride has been, in part, about learning to be oneself

And with that explained, I would like to delve deeper into my personal experience with this concept of individuality.

As I mentioned in sentence one of this article, my personality has always been one governed by popular opinion. Governed not in that I blend in with society’s trends, but rather the opposite, that I purposefully have gravitated toward that which is not popular. This is a part of myself that I have determined through reflecting on past decisions, from decisions as minor as deciding a video game class based on looking up polls on which ones were used, and selecting the least popular, to decisions as major as choosing not to share some of my interests in fear of accidentally making them more popular and thus removing myself from the category of “unique.” This latter example is where I would like to spend the majority of my time today.

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Untangled: How Do You Choose Which Anime to Watch?

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email sent by Mason a few days ago:

How do you guys go about choosing your anime?  I don’t watch a lot but I like watching currently airing ones (because I have something to look forward too) so I would like to know how you guys go about finding anime :)

TWWK: Mason, I think most of us on staff here have a good idea of what we want to try out before each new season begins.  I usually check out a season preview post or two and choose the shows I want to try.  As for older series, I have a backlog that’s developed over the years.  Whenever I read about a series that interests me, I add it.  So I would say that typically I find anime by word of mouth.

Hansha: A lot of times, I’ll get suggestions from friends or they’ll start fangirling over one and insist I watch it. Other than that, I usually go through Hulu, Netflix or Crunchyroll and read descriptions. I’ve also gotten interested in a few anime because of cosplays I’ve seen at a convention or on different pages of cosplayers I follow. I think others on staff are more plugged in than I am though.

Japesland: I’ve gone through stages. At first, I based what I watched completely on word of mouth. Then I began looking online for recommendations, particularly from Beneath the Tangles (shameless plug for our Anime Recommendations and Anime Movie Recommendations pages). Then, I returned to word of mouth and friends’ recommendations and built up an enormous backlog, much as Charles mentioned (I marathoned a LOT of anime in the course of two years to get through that monstrosity!). Now, I’ve seen enough that I am generally able to find anime that I like myself, which is good because most of what I watch is currently airing nowadays! I recommend either asking friends, or checking blogs like ours as we write about new anime that we’re watching.

Kaze: I watch a lot of mediocre shows that I know are going to be mediocre, but I imagine most people aren’t weird like that. In terms of shows that I actually hope will be good, I rely on a few things. First is word of mouth, but particularly from people whose opinions I trust and tend to agree with. This is most useful when friends are familiar with the source material and can give you some concrete opinions rather than blind guessing. I also look at the staff and studio behind the anime. For example, P.A. Works tends to make very similar originals, so people tend to either like or dislike most of their work. I’ve also reached the point where I will watch anime for the seiyuu (voice actors), which as strange as it may sound to some, I don’t see how it is different from people watching TV shows for their favorite actors. Finally, while it probably isn’t helpful to you right now, the more you watch, the more easily you can identify shows which are going to be a flop or not, at least for you personally, because you start to see the trends and tropes. 

TWWK: Also, a shout out to our friends at Anime-Planet.  They were the first anime recommendation source on the net, and they’re still going strong.

And now, I’ll open it to our readers – how do you choose which anime to watch?

Fact Check: Aldnoah.Zero’s Sins

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, 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 that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito.  When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:

Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.

The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.

Fact Check

Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them.  I think perhaps few would dispute this portion.  Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions.  From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide.  But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.

In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words.  He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five.  And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.

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Anime Today: Undignified in Hanayamata

14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

2 Samuel 6:14-23

Well this is the first time I’ve used such a long passage of Scripture in Anime Today, much less right off the bat!* However, at the risk of falling into the camp of “stereotypical evangelical writer,” it seems to fit well today, as well as make for a nice change of pace in regard to the more regular composition of Anime Today.

Hana SekiyaIf you have been watching Hanayamata lately, then you know that it is nothing if not a normal moe anime about dancing (or to be more specific, Yosakoi)… but if you have ALSO been reading Anime Today, then you know that I am a sucker for exactly that! Regardless of my personal tastes, though, it is always a joy for me when I come across a way to connect one of my more outlandish pleasures with my faith. And in that light, as I reflected on the latest episode of Hanayamata (episode five), I realized that the main characters shared one particularly distinguishing trait with the ancient king of Israel, King David: being undignified.

 

First, what exactly does it mean to be undignified? Simple language study puts together the prefix “un” (not) with the word root of “dignity”. Without dignity. Thus, undignified essentially means shameless. In the context of the biblical passage, King David was so overjoyed for the ark’s (one of the most, if not the most, significant single object in Hebrew’s history, regarding as acting as the “seat of God”) coming to Jerusalem** that he stripped to be nearly naked and danced in front of his subjects completely full of sheer joy.

The king of Israel. Danced. (Nearly) naked.

In front of his subjects.

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DVD Review: Attack on Titan, Part 1 (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

attack on titan blu-ray reviewAttack on Titan: Part 1
Blu-ray/DVD Combo
FUNimation
13 episodes

When a highly anticipated property receives its translation, rescripting, and dubbing, consternation and grumbling are always sure to follow.  How closely do you (and can you) stick to the original writing and voicing?  Stay too close, and you run the risk of unintentionally dulling a property; move too far away, and you could alienate a fanbase.  With Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), FUNimation mostly found a nice middle ground with one of the most engaging anime of recent years.

Attack on Titan traces mankind’s resistance against the titans – creepy, sketchily-drawn giants that devour humans – when they unexpectedly tear open walls that had held them at bay for a century.  Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, a trio of spunky youngsters, join other cadets and the larger army in the fight to defend civilization against a seemingly unstoppable threat.  This DVD combo set encompasses the first 13 episodes.  The first half mostly deals with demonstrating the deadly threat of the titans, as well as showcasing the training by Eren and the others, while the second half deals with a large-scale battle between the army and their gigantic foes.

Attack on Titan is one of anime’s most gripping series both because of its genuinely terrifying plot, in which everyone is in constant danger and no one is safe, and because of the look and feel of the series.  From the dark, but colorful shades used, to the most unique and fun anime weapon of recent years, 3D maneuver gear, the series bleeds a style that’s all its own.  But SnK is more than skin-deep.  During my first viewing of the series, when it originally aired, I was so taken by sudden plot developments and the horrific (though rarely gorey) imagery that I missed the well-constructed tale.  My viewing of the DVD helped me focus on the storyline, which functions by unfolding rapidly and then slowly unraveling both secrets of the world in which the characters live and the back stories and personalities of the characters themselves.  Series fans rewatching the show will also note plenty of little giveaways in character quotes and actions that foreshadow major events later on.

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Anime Today: Story, Story, Story!

If you read Kaze’s and my reviews of the spring anime season this year, it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that neither of us was impressed. In fact, the general mediocrity of it all left me in such a cynical mood that I commented on how low my hopes were for this (summer) season… only for me to be (several weeks in now) greatly and pleasantly surprised! Although I shouldn’t speak too soon, shows like Aldnoah Zero, Blue Spring Ride, and even Sword Art Online II have all far surpassed my original expectations, Free!, Glasslip, and Hanamayata have at least met them, and even the new Persona 4 anime has had me much more interested than its original counterpart (I’ve purposefully neglected to mention the several anime that have disappointed me).

Persona 4 Golden

Nice start!

And all of these pleasant surprises have assured me that there still exists a thing called “good storytelling” in the anime medium (hyperbole; obviously there has been and will continue to be good storytelling, I just like to be cynical). Something that can grip the reader and either ensnare him/her into the trap of “just one more episodes,” or otherwise threaten to put them into a state of withdrawal by withholding the next episode for next week. That is the feeling I had been hoping for last season, and felt that it had not been delivered.

Simply put, I want to feel invested in what I’m consuming.

This same concept carries through all mediums of “entertainment”, from books to film, from opera to anime. And, pardon this shamelessly “Christian-ese” segue, but it reminded me of the true intention of the authorship of the Bible.

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Anime Today: Not a Sequel

After being on hiatus for a week, your favorite column, Anime Today, has made a triumphant return! (Kudos to those of you who even noticed that I was gone…). And with this come back, I bring a slew of new anime, courtesy of the Summer 2014 season!

It seems like this season, and perhaps even this year, has been the season of (notable) sequels. Between Free!, Sword Art Online, Sailor Moon, and, broadening our range, the nine-year, long-awaited return of Mushishi, it seems that most of the heavy hitters are returning all at once. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Sailor Moon Crystal

Art by とらお (Pixiv ID 44225402)

With time being such a valuable commodity in my life now, when I pick up a slew of anime each season for both my personal interest and reviewing purposes, having such a large amount of titles with such high production values and established premises makes my viewing experience so much more enjoyable (if you read Kaze and my recent season review, you’ll know that we are both rather harsh graders and also watch shows to completion in spite of poor quality, making this even more important for me).

As an unabashed, though somewhat late-coming fan of the first season of Free!, the first episode of season two was a pleasure, albeit a bit underwhelming. Although I wasn’t a particularly large fan of the first season of Sword Art Online, the first episode of season two seems to promise much better pacing and cohesion for this second season, which particularly excites me. Although I never got around to watching Sailor Moon so many “moons” ago (har har), the reboot has been an… interesting experience. And finally, I don’t think I need to say much about Mushishi, considering if you have followed any of my recent writing at Beneath the Tangles, you likely know how highly I regard it.

Needless to say, I am by no means a critic of sequels. Sometimes they can disappoint, and sometimes they do exactly as they promise: provide more of a type of content that people already loved.

As I pondered this new season, and reflected on how connected to my life and beliefs, I remembered several conversations I had had with a friend of mine about storytelling, both ancient and modern (thanks, Sean!). The reuse of archetypes throughout history and the origin of those archetypes. Symbolic and poetic literature versus literal and historical storytelling. Character development and world building.

And one thing seemed to draw all these topics back together, regardless of personal beliefs: the Bible.

Though I have not intellectually equipped myself to tackle these topics myself (you would have to direct yourselves to my friend for that), this onslaught of sequels reminded me of a common sentiment regarding the division of the Bible into the Old Testament and the New Testament. Is the New Testament merely a “sequel” to the Old Testament? Disappointing as it may be, by the end of this article I will likely not be able to provide you a solid answer to that, at least without resorting to arbitrary semantics (meaning transcends mere words). However, I hope that you will still feel compelled to think on it.

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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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Untangled: Wandering Son and Perspectives on LGBT Issues

From the very beginning, I intended this blog to be a place, a destination, a home, rather than simply a source about anime and our unique perspectives on it.  As such, we welcome your thoughts and questions not only through the comments page, but through the Ask the Staff button on the top of the menu.  And we’ve been blessed by some engaging questions submitted through that tab.

Last week, we received the following email (video and image added) from Zoe in regards to a post I wrote a couple of years back entitled, “Hourou Musuko and Loving the Sinner, But Hating the Sin”:

I recently watched ‘Wandering Son’ an anime that truly hit me in a number of ways. I’m a transgender woman so it was very relevant to me.

Wandering Son

Art by めの (Pixiv ID 9047230)

Lauren Orsini recommended that I read Beneath the Tangles posts on it as she found them very interesting. As she mention it less than hour ago I decided to hunt down the posts to read over the next few years. I like reading about different perspectives as it find it both interesting and insightful. I like to know how other people see a topic or issue, so I’m glad you’ve written on the series.

I’m on the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” post. I wanted to suggest watching a very good and interesting youtube video that my dear friend who is a Methodist minister suggested it to her friends on facebook. Just another perspective that while you very well my not agree with it, I think you’ll find the Minister Tony Campolo’s take on it. The video is just over 5 minutes long.

Take care and thank you for these very interesting post that let me see the subject from another perspective. As I mentioned, I so appreciate seeing things from the perspective of others. Read the rest of this entry