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Hannes’ Complacency

Throughout the entirety of my Christian life, there has been one thing that holds me back more than any other. One thing that I fear one day will spell some sort of enormous failure in my spiritual walk. That thing is complacency.

Maybe that’s why I felt more sympathy and compassion for Hannes and his initial actions in Attack on Titan than disgust. At the time of the first attack, Hannes lived a life of complacency. He was a soldier, a defender of the wall, and a committed fighter against the titans. A complacent fighter, but committed nonetheless, if that makes sense. Clearly he believed in the fight against the titans as evidenced by his intention to go after them to “ settle a score.” However, when finally in the fray, he found himself…unprepared.

When we first meet Hannes, he’s drunk. Even though he and his comrades are supposed to be guarding the wall in case of an attack, they have been lulled into a false sense of security by peacetime and the monotony of guard duty.

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He laughs off Eren’s scolding him for this, even making a joke that he is probably right about their unpreparedness. But he is, truthfully, convinced that things are pretty much under control and why make more effort than is necessary, right?

I feel like I do this so much in my own life. When things are bad, you better believe my nose is in that bible daily, but get things going pretty good and it’s easy for me to get distracted. I’ll put of reading tonight to watch this show, I haven’t prayed today but I’ll do it in a second, I stayed up late Saturday, I’ll sleep in and miss church this Sunday. I’ll go next Sunday. It’s fine. I’ll get spiritually fed tomorrow.

The bible is clear it is dangerous to adopt this attitude.

 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

- 1 Peter 5:8

I had a friend say to me very recently in small group, “I just want people to realize we’re in a war.” …And she’s right. I can’t continue to live my life forgetting where I am and what’s actually going on. I can’t act like nothing that big is ever going to come against me. Just because I can handle things right now on the bare minimum of spiritual food and training I sometimes subsist on doesn’t mean it will be enough for what I could face tomorrow.

It wasn’t enough for Hannes, although he thought it would be until the very moment he came face to face with a titan.

“Don’t go underestimating me Carla. I’m gonna slaughter these titans and save all three of you!”

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He had an idea of how he was going to act and what he was going to accomplish based on his personal experiences and his identity as a fighter. But, the damage of his complacency and lackadaisical approach to his responsibilities was too great.

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When actually faced with the situation he was supposed to be continuously preparing for, he could do little more than fearfully run away. The only thing he could do about the situation he was supposed to conquer after that was sobbingly apologize to Eren.

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That moment Hannes stared in the face of the titan made me think of something that truly scares me. What will be the consequences of my own complacency? Who is going to get jilted because of my unpreparedness? Even though I know who and what I am in the good times, I wonder what kind of person will I prove to be when the pressure is on.

Fact Check: Migi’s Claim of Humans as Demons

Parasyte (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) has been a provocative series.  On a surface level, it weaves together grotesque, hyper-violence with humor and a gentle protagonist, while combining modern anime style with 80’s sensibility.  On a deeper level, it also calls forth significant topics – in episode two, we are introduced to a heavy environmentalist theme, as well as something more philosophical.

The Claim

Shinichi, as you’d expect, is having a hard time getting used to alien living on his hand.  He calls it all sorts of names (other than the one it gives itself – Migi), including “demon.”  But Migi has an interesting response to being called this:

Shinichi, upon researching the concept of demons, I believe that, among all life, humans are the closest thing to it.

The rest of the episode, it seems, does a lot to support Migi’s assertion.

Kiseijuu Migi

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Anime Today: Jealous Love??

I’m no expert when it comes to the shoujo genre, but Wolf Girl and Black Prince seems to be about as shoujo as shoujo gets.

High school setting? Check.
Unlucky but romantically desperate female lead? Check.
Cold, but attractive and desirable male romantic interest? Check.
Ensuing love triangles? We’ll see, but it basically seems so.

17121-q1bzqbkl4sHowever, what has intrigued me most about this series thus far is not its use of the vast array of established shoujo tropes (who would that interest, anyway?), but how it depicts romance and the wiliness of a “maiden’s heart.” I’ve written before on the topic of love, particularly pertaining to Chuunibyou a number of months ago, focusing namely on the fickleness of love as portrayed in media. But that silly, unrealistic, “lovey-dovey” portrayal is not what interests me here. Rather, I was brought back to an article written by Kaze almost a year ago entitled, “The Greatest Love of All… Is a Yandere?

Let’s back up just a moment to the series in question. Erika Shinohara, being the (apparently) pathological liar she is, in order to impress her “friends” lies about having an impressive boyfriend. As it would turn out, the boy she lies about dating ends up being the school “prince” in another class, Kyouya Sata. Being the kindhearted gem he is, when chaos ensues he decides to play along with her game and pretends to be her boyfriend… only for Erika to discover that he is really a relentless sadist. He blackmails her into continuing the fake relationship as his “dog” by threatening to expose her lies, all in the name of “entertainment.”

The most outrageous part of this setup, though, is that she willingly goes along with it and ends up falling in love with him.

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Untangled: Facing Opposition for Your Faith

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email that brideofdracula recently sent us:

First of all I love your blog! I think it’s awesome how you connect anime and religion.

My question to you is kinda personal: recently, I moved to America from a muslim country. I am a practicing Muslim and I currently am enrolled in a liberal arts college. My problem, is I face alot of criticism from atheists. They see me, see my hijab, and start criticizing me, my religion, my Holy Book. I don’t have a problem with atheists,  but I HATE it when they start mocking me. I’m asking you this because as Christians, you must have faced such opposition.  What should I do? Should I stop wearing my hijab?

Please answer. I don’t think I can stand any more girls stuffing The God Delusion in my face. (Sorry about my English. It’s not my native language.) Thanks.

Thank you, first of all, for reaching out to us even though we’re of a different faith than you.  We definitely want our community here to cross religious boundaries, and some of that can occur when find common ground, such as criticism or persecution.

I think it must definitely be harder for you as a Muslim than for most Christians because through you hijab, you make your faith much more visible than others might.  Besides wearing, say, a cross necklace, Christians don’t usually express their faith by the clothing they wear.  Maybe that’s why when I attended a liberal arts university in a very liberal city, I never went through what you’ve had to endure.

I think that the best advice I could give you is this: make your everyday actions based on the bigger picture on what you most believe in life.  Sometimes, we have an idea of what we value most, but when suffering comes along and we’re tested by fire, we get to know where we really stand on those tenants we hold most closely to our hearts.  When you meditate on the bigger picture, it’ll help you determine the choices you make for issues like whether to continue wearing your hijab.  For example, if I were in your shoes, I would hope that I would be able to use a hurtful situation and turn it around, demonstrating the kindness, love, and grace that Jesus demonstrated to me through the gospel, which is at the core of my life.

I’d like to also open this up to our readers – do you have any recommendations for our brideofdracula?

Untangled: Manga Recommendations for Christians?

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email that Stephen recently sent us:

I just stumbled across your site while looking for Christian manga reviews. I like what you’ve got here: Do you also do manga as well as anime?

We do, Stephen!  Though to be honest, we don’t touch on manga nearly as much as we should, probably because only a few of us read manga as actively as we watch anime.

One thing we are working on is a “Manga Recommendations” section for Christians to go along with other such sections, accessible through our toolbar.

Stephen went on to recommend two manga series to us:

1) Holyland: There’s just enough subtle symbolism to make this series powerful but not preachy. One of the main characters receives a cross in a church at one point, and later on, at a critical moment, grabs the cross and cries out (apparently to God), “Tell me what to do!” Lots of violence (it’s about martial arts after all), and maybe four scenes in the whole series with very brief nudity. For a mature reader, I think it’s well worth the read.

2) Hikaru no go: Perhaps the only manga I’ve read with absolutely nothing inappropriate, apart from the occasional swear word. One of the themes that crops up periodically is Sai, the ghost, meditating on why God has him remain on earth and appear to Hikaru, rather than going immediately to the next stage of the after life. Both Sai and Hikaru learn lessons, making Sai’s experience a sort of Purgatory. The emotional movements of this series are excellent, at least through the first story arc.

Thanks for sharing those titles with us, Stephen!  And now, I want to open this up to our readers – are there manga you specifically recommend for Christians?  Why?

Anime Today: When Narrative Breaks Down

As the summer 2014 season winds down, I’ve recently been reflecting on my thoughts over the last few months of anime. Although this season has been one of the more enjoyable of the past year or so, it seems to have also been one of the most disappointing. But how can that be?

The answer is simple, and it comes down to let down expectations. If you’ve been following Anime Today, you are probably aware of how excited I was to see everything pan out this season. However, if you have been following Anime Today or listened to episode one of our podcast, you are also probably aware of how few of these entries have lived up to my artificially-raised expectations.

Without getting into too much detail (that’s what our live stream is for this Saturday!), between the overall poor production of Persona 4 The Golden Animation, Sword Art Online, Aldnoah Zero, and Captain Earth, to name a few, each week has been a question of how I am going to be let down. Why could I be so disappointed in these entries that originally excited me? With the exception of the possibility that I had simply misappropriated my preconceptions above and beyond what I should have expected, I place the majority of my blame on an inconsistency in writing and other production.

Aldnoah Zero is a prime example of this. With Gen Urobuchi at the writing helm (responsible for renowned shows such as Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica), expectations were high. And to be quite frank, expectations were met. Aldnoah Zero absolutely, wonderfully delivered.

Slaine Troyard

And then Urobuchi departed from the writing staff, and the fall into mediocrity commenced (this is not to say that Aldnoah Zero has been bad, per se, as much as it has just been closer to average than originally anticipated). The narrative shifted from what was an original, well-produced, thrilling, and thought-provoking exposition, to nothing more than an average mecha with a few interesting plot twists.

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The Wheat and the Weeds in Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass follows Unit One of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division in a futuristic Japan. The most notable thing about this futuristic world is how most things in a person’s life are determined by the program SIBYL and the person’s psycho pass, meaning basically their mental state. A bad psycho pass with a “crime coefficient” that is too high can land someone in jail or at a facility with no options, labeled as a ” latent criminal.”

One latent criminal’s life, Shusei Kagari, was over at 5 years old when the system labeled him as such.

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The way the system is set up made me think of the parable of the wheat and the weeds and how it is sometimes interpreted in real life. In the parable, a man is growing a field of wheat when his enemy comes and scatters seeds of weeds throughout the field. When the weeds start growing, the man tells his servants to leave them with the wheat until the harvest. After they are collected and separated, one goes in the storehouse and one goes in the fire. The wheat and weeds of course symbolizing good and bad people. Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Claymore Teresa’s Only Thing to Live For

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.

Warning: Today’s post is part of a HUGE spoiler from recent chapters of Claymore.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Teresa, Claymore extraordinaire and perhaps the greatest of all her type (until her shocking demise).  In chapter 150, Teresa has returned as someone transforming from within Clare, and during these sequences, she has a conversation with former protege:

Teresa of the Faint Smile

So, the claim is this: If God exists, in Teresa’s view, she has only one thing for which to be thankful. Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Post-Modern Monogatari

*Note: This article has been written in such a way to be completely SPOILER-FREE. Read without fear of spoilers!*

Christianity has, in the past few decades, had a confusing relationship with the post-modern movement and its refutation of objectivity. On one hand, many Christians agree with post-modernism’s skepticism of modern culture, skepticism of everything really, and acknowledge the possibility of many different existences or ideas. However, on the other hand, many Christians simultaneously disagree with these same notions that nix the possibility of one true objective belief and one true objective God. A sticky situation (and one that I’m sure most post-modernists would love to discuss for that reason!).

My goal here today is not to sway you one way or the other, but rather to reflect some of my appreciation for the healthy dose of skepticism and reliance upon symbolism and metaphor that post-modernism has either caused, or at least brought to society’s (relatively) recent attention.

In the scheme of anime and otaku culture, the recent release of Hanamonogatari, the latest entry in the Monogatari (or 物語, literally meaning “Story”) series well-known for its “off-the-beaten-path” directing style, reminded me of this modern skepticism that pervades today’s culture. In no other series will you find the same kind of dialogue, story-writing, art direction, and cinematography together in one piece of media. In fact, Shaft (the studio responsible for the series) has turned the Monogatari series into something of a trademark of theirs, to the extent that any other work of theirs, even from before the first entry in the Monogatari series, Bakemonogatari, can be traced to it in some fashion.

And what word best describes this inimitable (though oft-attempted) style?

Symbolism.

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Not actually faceless, yet they are still represented as such.

Though perhaps not as overt as it is in the Monogatari series, symbolism is something that forms the very basis of the works that we collectively refer to as “classics.” Literature like Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings… the list goes on. Although symbolism is still employed in modern works, it is perhaps less of a lost art (though it seems to me that it sees less attention in modern writing than it once did) as much as it has lost appreciation, or maybe simply an audience interested in appreciating it.

And thus I draw a comparison between biblical imagery and Hanamonogatari.

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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.

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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