Category Archives: Religion

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 4: Boundaries

Boundaries play a role in all relationships.  Depending on the closeness between two people, and each person’s ease with intimacy, walls between people can be high and near uncrossable, low to the point where one can simply step over them, or somewhere between.  Boundaries can even disappear altogether.  Episode four of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) explores this them in the boundaries established between pairings in our group of main characters.

It’s tough going for the new leadership group at first.  Kou and Futuba arrive late to the leadership camp, causing frustration and bitterness among their teammates and others.  In this already dispirited mood, each person seems to let the worse of themselves show instead of the best, creative further unpleasantness.  Conflict further ensues among the group, including a humorous one between Yuri and Toma involving a cupcake.

The other conflicts are more serious.  Kou and Futuba continue to have their boundary issues as they try to figure out who they are to each other now.  Kou thinks he has that answer figured out, with Futuba meaning nothing to him, though his actions speak otherwise.  Futuba, on the other hand, is just plain confused, and throughout the episode wonders what Kou exactly means to her now.  Time and events have erected a wall between the two, and they are each trying to figure out if and/or how they can cross it.

ao haru ride

Most significant to me, though, is the wall between Shuko and Tanaka, which seems impenetrable.  This episode hits us over the head with the reason that Shuko very unexpectedly joined the group; it’s because she is in love with Tanaka, her teacher (and Kou’s brother), though he is very clear and strong in warding off her advances.  The wall between them is erected both by morals and by Tanaka himself.  He won’t let Shuko into his space – he won’t let her cross his personal boundaries.

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Barakamon Episode 4, The First Step

While I have hardly been impressed with the summer season, one of the few shows I’ve been enjoying is Barakamon. It follows the encounters of struggling calligrapher Seishuu (though everyone calls him sensei) with the residents of a rural island. As a perfectionist, he often worries about things which the residents cannot comprehend or relate to. Yet, it is this stark difference in perspective that allows him to learn about ways of life other than his own.

Art by Yoshino Satsuki, Lineart and color by Osama

Art by Yoshino Satsuki, Lineart and color by Osama

In episode 4, sensei finds himself tasked with a demand to paint a boat’s name on its side, which as you might imagine is a bit different from that which a professional calligrapher is used to. He does not have his familiar tools and has no experience with the curved nature of the boat. First he wants to draft something and use it as a stencil, but the boat owner refuses as he wants something bold, unique, and not something so easily copied. He says there is no need for a draft and entrusts the rest to sensei. Consequently, he practices his strokes with the unfamiliar paint brush before approaching the real attempt, but then he suddenly remembers he forgot to account for the curved surface. He spends time inspecting it, contemplates more, and finds himself even more worried about starting. In response, Naru and friends, a few children who adamantly follow sensei around, start putting handprints on the boat (kids will be kids). As a result, he is forced to frantically start painting over the handprints and making large strokes to cover up the handprints. Before he knows it, he is easily accomplishing the task he was so worried about beginning. The result is something he never would’ve written without the handprints of children, and the boat owner is greatly pleased with it as well. The hardest part was taking the first step.

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Something More: Beyond the Boundary (But Stuck on an Island)

The summer season is now in full swing, and as Japes mentioned, it’s a particular fun one.  I’ve personally found more engaging series this season than I have in any season the past several years.  But our links this week don’t only point to current series, they also refer to past ones which are among the most popular in anime fandom.

Michael sees in Ao No Exorcist the ease in missing the supernatural world and explains how we can experience it. [Gaming and God]

Looking at Izumi Nase from Kyoukai no Kanata, Medieval Otaku points out how dangerous it can be to take too many burdens upon oneself. [Medieval Otaku]

Rob looks at how Usagi interacts with others from a Christian perspective in episode two of Sailor Moon Crystal. [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. 

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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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 3: The Past is (Ir)Relevant

Can I just say, I’m absolutely loving Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride)?

Though it still contains some doom and gloom, episode three moves us largely past that tone and toward a more hopeful one as a new school year begins.  The main cast is now all in the same classroom, with Futuba and Kou joined by Toma, Yuri, and Shuko.  And by episode’s end, the characters have all volunteered to become either class or event representatives.

The closing scene in which the five main characters of Blue Spring Ride take their place in leadership, is more than a convenient plot development – it’s thematically important.  For at least four of them, it seems (I’m not yet sure about Toma), it represents a moving forward from pasts that burdened them: Futuba from her playing at friends; Yuri from the hate that’s followed her; Shuko from a bitter school year; and Kou from family issues, though his, it seems, will be the most difficult transition.

Ao Haru Ride

At least Kou has a supportive brother…

It’s ironic, then, that Kou has now told Futuba several times that their past is irrelevant, when it seems that he’s the character who is most hanging on to it.  While encouraging Futuba, in his own buttheaded way, to make change, he himself can’t rise above whatever issues have haunted him during the past several years.  He’s quite the opposite of the former (and current?) object of his affection, who quite easily pursues change by making some brave gestures in leaving her “friends” behind and volunteering to be class president.

The truth of the matter is, the past is both relevant and it isn’t.  For Futuba, she sees Kou’s point in starting anew.  She thinks the following to herself:

If you lose it, just build it again.

Moving forward is like rebuilding a city following a flood.  The damage of the past can be wiped away and a new city can rise.

But just the same, when the devastation is massive or whole, it’s not always easy to rebuild.  It’s sometimes near impossible.

While Futuba embraces Kou’s words, her’s is a relatively easy past to overcome.  Kou’s is more difficult, and the problem may be that instead of simply forgetting and moving forward, he needs to come to grips with his past before he can do so.  For Kou, the past is very relevant.  And without knowing how far he’s come, and seeing what the future can offer, Kou won’t be able to “build it again.”

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Something More: Barakamon Christianity, Valkyria’s Salvation, and the Rapture of Tenchi Masaki

In the first two episodes of the Barakamon, Frank finds important points that all experienced Christians should probably take under consideration. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds an analogy for the rapture in Tenchi Forever, and examines why that film captures the essence of the rapture better than explicitly Christian depictions of it do. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What does Saber Marionette J have to say about the value of family? Plenty, and even from a Catholic perspective. [Medieval Otaku]

Medieval Otaku also explores that unusual path and perplexing salvation of Valkyria in Brynhildr in the Darkness. [2]

Finally, he explores Nadia’s vanity in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, and discusses snobbery in a number of different groups, including that of the religious. [3]

Rocklobster reviews Rurouni Kenshin (TV), and is perhaps one of the few to really enjoy the story arc featuring Japanese Christians. [Lobster Quadrille]

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. 

Terror in Resonance, Episode 2: You Reap What You Sow

While the first episode of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) introduced us to and focused on the terrorists, Nine and Twelve, along with their new accomplice, Lisa, episode two largely moves the focus toward the police.  It’s an interesting shift, especially with the terrorists playing good bad guys and the police playing the role of bad good guys.

Little by littke, Shinichiro Watanabe begins to unravel a story while burdening the audience with evermore questions, particularly as they have to do with Nine and Twelve’s pasts – who are they?  What was done to them?  Why?  Who were all involved?

And whatever “VON” is, it’s quite shady, judging from the terrified looks on the faces of various characters in-the-know.  They’ve done something mightily wrong.  And this episode is all about showing that the police – and perhaps larger forces involved – have it coming to them.  The variation of the Riddle of the Sphinx emphasizes the judgment the guilty must pay, ultimately ending in judgement upon the police at the end of the episode.

Toji Hisami 12

I spy a favorite trope – awful things done to little kids. (Art by みずのえ@スタンプ, Pixiv ID 44726975)

These ideas of justice, revenge, and karma are found in heavy doses in Watanabe’s works (think of almost all the episodes involving Spike and Vicious in Cowboy Bebop).  In fact, they figure prominently in many anime – no surprise seeing how deeply ingrained these ideas are in Japanese culture, history, and religion.  Of course the bad guys must pay for their evil deeds at the hands (or on behalf) of those that suffer.  That’s justice.

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Free! Eternal Summer, Episode 3: When the Going Gets Tough (Rei Gets Going)

Free! fans were all a-flutter (and a bit concerned) when last week’s episode ended with a preview which intimated that Rei was going to quit the swim team.  But when episode three rolled around, the circumstances were, of course, not quite what they seemed.  Though he was approached by the track captain about returning to his former sport, Rei never seriously considers the entreaty.  It’s less than a side note to him, because instead of being discouraged by being unable to do any stroke other than the butterfly, Rei is instead motivated to get even better.  It’s really an unusual move for Rei, who sometimes become discouraged and is quite emotional.  But it makes perfect sense in terms of the series, because as we know, his swim team is something quite special.

The idea of “team” works well in all sorts of analogies.  We certainly call for the closeness of a sports team when we team up at work or at play.  And we all get it – there’s something magical and powerful about the way people can come together and work for each other.  There’s almost nothing like it.

Rei Ryugazaki

Art by 平井ゆづき (Pixiv ID 44755335)

One place that the team concept is sometimes often an awkward fit, though, is with church.  Sometimes the analogy is weird (we’re a team and Jesus is the quarterback!).  And sometimes we can’t seem to muster the same feelings as with sport (I’ve read or heard the lament of “Why can’t we get as excited about church and for a football game?” many times in my life, including today).

Yet, the comparison is apt, I think, and particularly in terms of what we can learn from the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club:

Team and Church Demonstrate Accountability

One of my favorite scenes in episode three of Free! Eternal Summer is when Makoto declares that he won’t let Rei quit, and the others support his assertion.  Makoto is sensitive to his teammates’ needs and is mild mannered, so the declaration is particularly emphasized and rings true –  he won’t let Rei get away.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 2: Tension

When you last had to make such a moral choice, did you do what was right or what was convenient?  In episode two of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Futuba makes that decision spurred on by the words of Kou from the previous episode, when he said that she was merely “playing at friendship” with her two close friends from class.  And with her mind all a flutter after speaking with Yuri, and realizing their similarities run deeper than she imagined, Futuba scornfully rejects the faux friendship she had developed.

This climax, though, happens about midway through the episode. What’s interesting, then, is that the rest of the show focuses on the fallout and on Futuba embracing her decision.  She blurted out what she did almost involuntarily, and even apologizes for it, which hardly shows a determination to make change.  It’s only through accepting that it was a good decision as days (weeks?) pass by that Futuba accepts what she did as right and is able to move forward.

This tension that Futuba deals with isn’t much different from that we might face in our everyday lives.  We’re sometimes confronted with choosing between doing what we know is right and what we’d rather do.  And if there isn’t some anchor that holds us steady, it becomes way too easy to choose, well, the easy way.

In Blue Spring Ride, Kou functions as Futuba’s anchor in her decision.  He whispers truth to Futuba, and Futuba responds as she does, taking the hard road.

ao haru ride

We also got some more back story in this episode! (Art by RINriri – Pixiv ID 44608476)

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Choose Your Destiny

July 15th marks the 8th anniversary of the release of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.  Marvelously weaving science fiction, romance, and comedy into a story that’s charming and sometimes heart-breaking, TGWLTT is one of my favorite films, and stands with and above most of the great anime movies of the last 15 years, including anything Studio Ghibli has released.  It remains Mamoru Hosoda’s (Summer Wars, Wolf Children) best film.

One of the best parts of TGWLTT is how about midway through the movie, it flips it’s tone. There are charming bits about how Makoto, who has gained the ability to time leap, uses her new power to do all sorts of trivial things, from looping a karaoke session over and over to dumbfounding friends with her sudden surge in test scores.  But when she realizes how her ability is leading to unexpected and painful consequences, Makoto seeks to make things right (and much of the drama in the film involves whether or not her decisions can prevent some personally catastrophic events).

tgwltt

Art by ハブキ (Pixiv ID 44671391)

We’re not so different from Makoto, as it’s not unusual for people to make sudden changes in their choices as well when faced by undeniable reality.  Sudden illness, loss of a relationship, failed job opportunities – these are the kinds of events that kick start something within us, driving us to make changes we’ve long known we should.  We may suddenly make big shifts in our lives, including perhaps how we approach health, relationships, religion, etc.

But these are bigger changes – what of the little changes in our lives, those that demonstrate love for others?  Note that when Makoto changes the way she approaches her time leaps, she does a total 180 – her choices now are entirely for others, and not for herself.  She realizes her priorities – those that she most loves.

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