Category Archives: Christianity
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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. 
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) arrived with a bang this season, full of mystery, sentiment, and crumbling buildings. The first episode was gripping and fascinating, as anyone should expect, coming from director extraordinaire, Shinichiro Watanabe, who on a personal level, solidified my love for anime as much as anyone.
The series also opened with a fistful of questions. We’re introduced to our main characters – the icy cold and calculating Nine/Arata; playful and energetic Twelve/Toji; and bullied and depressed Risa. Each has back stories and secrets that beg to be unraveled. On a greater scale, the very actions in the opening episode beg us to ask both “what’s happening?’ and “is this okay?”, as we’re brought into a world where the audience is asked to feel sentiment toward teenage terrorists who level a public building with bombs, which tumble to the earth in a way that can’t help but be reminiscent of 9/11.*
Is it ever right to do wrong?
A question that I think we’ll be contemplating throughout the series is whether or not Nine and Twelve’s actions in the short-term are morally okay because of their goals in the long-run. I’m not sure what Watanabe has in store for us. How many will have died from episode one’s fallout (any?), and, regardless of the death count, is terrorism ever okay? The answer seems easy to give, but the plot of this series will certainly muddy it for us, especially as we find out more about Nine and Twelve’s past.
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.
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.