Category Archives: Christianity

Hachiman Hikigaya and Busting the Christian Bubble

One of the most boring things a parent has to do is attend kids’ birthday parties.  Seriously, so boring.  The only thing a parent can do there is chat with other parents, but sometimes, even that option is cut off.  Particularly, if you’re an outsider at the party, the other parents might congregate with each other and leave you out, which can either irk you if you’re the talkative type, or seclude you if you’re not.  The first time this happened to me, I was shocked, because I was attending a party full of churchgoers and pastors.  I thought it must have been some exception, but repeatedly, I’ve seen this happen again and again and again (and as recently as yesterday), and particularly and mostly around Christians.

Why does this happen?  It’s because we hate to get outside of our bubble.

In Oregairu, Hikigaya is as stuck in a bubble as much as anyone.  Years of hurt, sensitivity, and ridicule have left him in a comfort zone of one (at least at school).  He’d rather stay by himself, think, and observe than to actually interact with others.

But slowly and steadily, he’s breaking free of this bubble.  At first, it was out of necessity – Hikigaya was forced to interact with Yukino and with anyone who came to the volunteer club for assistance.  Now, Hikigaya is understanding the value of relationships and is starting to break through his self-imposed solitary life because, hey, he now has friends whom he cares about, and caring requires us to reach out despite discomfort.

oregairu 5

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Anime Today: KINMOZA’s Communication Barriers

Hello, this is stardf29, and I will be taking over Anime Today for japesland while he is in Japan experiencing the Japanese life for himself.

Kiniro Mosaic, a.k.a. KINMOZA, is a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show with an ongoing theme of overcoming communication barriers, and that theme is stronger than ever in the currently-airing second season. In addition to the obvious example of the language and cultural barriers between the Japanese and British cast, there’s also the barrier between teacher and student, and plenty of subtler barriers that keep various characters from clearly expressing their thoughts to each other.

Don't worry, she only wants to tell Youko how much she admires her.

…which is why it’s often easier to tell nothing at all.

Communication barriers are even more important for Christians, because evangelism is in many ways like translating a foreign language. When we preach the Gospel to non-Christians, we are taking something that is fundamentally incomprehensible to them, and explaining it in a way they can personally understand. Christians can run into several communication barriers that make the job of evangelism harder, some of which can even discourage them from trying to talk about the Gospel to others.

After the jump, I will look at some common communication barriers, as experienced by both the characters of KINMOZA and possibly by Christian evangelists.

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Annalyn’s Corner: Chihuahuas Fighting a Lion

Kuroko’s Basketball has always been, in part, an underdog story. No one expected Team Seirin to defeat the Generation of Miracles, but here they are, facing the final boss: Akashi Seijuro and the Rakuzan team. And they got here largely because of Kuroko, a small, seemingly unremarkable athlete.

Seirin's starters: Kiyoshi, Kuroko, Hyuga, Kagami, and Izuko (screenshot from current OP).

Seirin’s starters: Kiyoshi, Kuroko, Hyuga, Kagami, and Izuki (screenshot from current OP).

At some point, I started taking Seirin’s determination for granted. Of course they have courage against high odds. They’re anime heroes. But in the most recent episode, a weaker Seirin player faced Akashi himself, and a viewer in the stands compared him to a chihuahua facing a lion. Then I realized how much I can learn from their courage, and their faith in their coach. How do I react when faced with a “lion”? When I search the Scripture, I realize it’s not a hypothetical question.

Way back in Kuroko’s Basketball‘s first season, we met Seirin’s newest basketball players. All five of these first-years shouted their basketball goals from the school’s rooftop (except Kuroko, who was cut off, but he found another way to make his goal known). Only Kuroko and Kagami became starters. The other three were too weak to do anything but support their team from the bench… until the Winter Championship. Read the rest of this entry

Megumi Kato: Saekano’s Little Helper

One Winter 2015 show that I finished but did not get a chance to review in the end-of-season reviews was The Megumi Kato Show. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it’s better known as either Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, or its official English title Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. In this show, after a fateful encounter with a girl, an otaku guy gets inspired to make a visual novel, and gets some otaku girls he has a history with to help him out. However, when he meets that same fateful girl again, it turns out she is Megumi Kato, a completely average girl who has no presence and is in many ways the complete opposite of a visual novel heroine. As such, the guy takes it upon himself to try to shape Megumi into a proper heroine.

It’s a fun show that also explores some of the conflicts serious otaku can encounter with creators and with the non-otaku world. However, what really allows the show to be as strong as it is, instead of collapsing under its own weight from trying too hard to be both a parody of otaku rom-coms and a serious story, is Megumi Kato. While she is supposedly a “boring” girl, I instead find her to be by far the most interesting character, and easily one of my favorite anime characters of the year. She has very normal reactions to all the craziness around her, avoids falling into obvious stereotypes, and serves as a bridge between the sillier parts of the show and the more down-to-earth parts. And in addition to all of that, she is just a great girl overall.

It’s especially interesting to see what role she plays in the visual novel-creating team. Compared to Tomoya’s as the director, Eriri as artist and Utaha as scenario writer, Megumi initially seems to be little more than a model to stand around and serve as the inspiration for the work where appropriate. Just like she has no presence among her classmates, she also has no presence in the team.

Put her with Akari from YuruYuri, Momoko from Saki, Kuroko from Kuroko's Basketball, and Kellam from Fire Emblem: Awakening for the ultimate stealth team.

Which makes for some funny moments when the others don’t notice her at their meetings.

However, as the story goes along and she starts to learn how visual novels work and the potential of the stories behind them, she decides to start helping out in more notable ways. In episode 11, she starts helping with the scripting of the visual novel, connecting Utaha’s written story, Eriri’s character art, and other elements of the software together. As she does not have any specialized talents, she decides to contribute to the project in whatever small ways she can. I love that about her; I too sometimes feel like I am not suited to the major jobs in any project I’m in, so I also look to help out in smaller ways. And I believe her spirit of helping where she can is not just a great trait of hers, but also something Christians can learn from.

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OreGairu, Episode 7: Hiki Old is Not Hiki New

The tone of OreGairu has always been peculiar for a self-declared romantic comedy – sarcastic, depressing, persnickety.  But throughout most of season two, particularly the episodes since Hikigaya has been helping out “Irohas,’ the show has developed a nervous feeling to it as well.  Simultaneously as the audience is on edge about what will happen both to the service club and with the student council project, we’re made more and more aware that almost every character is changing and/or preoccupied with something uncomfortable – and all that makes us uncomfortable as well.

Even though we’re only privy to Hikigaya’s thoughts, we can especially in episode seven guess about the preoccupations of the others – Yui is worried about the club and their friendships; Yukino, perhaps, about her inability to be the person she would like to be; Iroha about her responsibility and budding feelings toward Hikigaya (the latter to an extent with Kaori); Rumi regarding her continued problems establishing friendships; and Hayato’s jealous/admiration toward our lead.  Hikigaya, we know, is dealing with how to help others, as he comes to the realization that his methods aren’t working very well.

What surprises me is that Hiki is not preoccupied with the fact that his entire way of thinking is falling apart.  He actually takes it in stride that his methods, so core to his belief system, aren’t working with practically anyone right now.  He’s more concerned with the fact that he’s not able to help those he’s come to care about.

oregairu 7a

At the beginning of season two, my guess was that, in traditional anime fashion, the cour would culminate in some grand scene in which Hikigaya would suddenly realize the error of his ways and the value both of relationships and depending on/working with others.  Some emotional climax may still happen, but subtly, ever so subtly, transformation for Hikigaya has and is already occurring.  We know it by his actions and his thoughts.

The Hikigaya from the beginning of the school year was satisfied being alone and not being involved with anyone. Even in season one, he was resolved to just do things his own way, a cold method that didn’t take others into consideration.  But this episode reveals this much – he can’t do that anymore, not just because his ways are practically flawed, but because he cares.

Hikigaya now wants something more than to prove himself right or to finish the job – he wants his friends to be happy.

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Annalyn’s Corner: Ore Monogatari!! and Sacrificial Love

I watched the first five episodes of Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) this weekend. The premise intrigued me: this shoujo anime is shown primarily from a male point of view, and he’s not the typical bishounen love interest. Instead, Takeo is the bishie’s big, clumsy best friend. I was immediately intrigued by this break from the mold, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to hold my interest. I’m too easily bored.

So what did hold my attention? Friendship and sacrificial love. Takeo, especially, is willing to sacrifice himself for his friends, his crush, strangers, and even enemies.

First, there’s the friendship between Takeo and Suna. Suna looks and acts like the typical bishounen male lead (I might have squealed a little when he first crossed the screen… it’s a habit I developed somewhere between The Wallflower and Kaichou wa Maid-sama). He’s cool, collected, has a great laugh, and knows how to deal with a spastic main character. But instead of dealing with a spastic heroine, he watches over Takeo.

Ever since they were kids, Takeo would have crushes on girls who eventually confessed their love to Suna… and were turned down. The same girls talked cruelly behind Takeo’s back, and Suna wouldn’t have any of that. Meanwhile, Takeo got used to being looked over in favor of his more charming friend. So when the girl he saves and falls in love with shows even the tiniest sign of caring about Suna, Takeo gives up on having a relationship with her. And he decides to help her and Suna get together.

Takeo observes Yamato closely, certain she likes Suna. Isn't she adorable in this shot? (ep 1)

Takeo observes Yamato closely, certain she likes Suna. Isn’t she adorable in this shot? (ep 1)

I can understand Takeo’s thought process, to a degree. When someone you’re close to is more charming than you are, it’s safest to assume they’ll always get the best of everything: the crush, the cutest puppy… everything. That way, you don’t get your hopes crushed. At that point, you have two options: become resentful, or support your charming friend. Takeo chooses the second option.

Takeo is humble and selfless, but imperfectly so. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Owari no Family, Humble Vegeta, and Job of Angel Beats’

There are weeks on Something More where I need to dig and prod to find articles for linking.  This is not, however, one of those weeks, as the blogosphere has produced almost a dozen wonderful articles about anime and religion/spirituality.

Eugene Woodbury discusses Japanese Buddhism from a pop cultural perspective, referencing Gingitsune among other anime series. [Eugene Woodbury]

He does the same with Shinto, mentioning Noragami, Kamichu!, and other shows. [2]

It is any surprise that the actions of one of most known and best priest characters in anime, Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Trigun), would teach us theology? [Cajun Samurai]

Owari no Seraph speaks to the value of the family, ironic in a series that looks at family unconventionally and perhaps at sex in a faulty way. [Medieval Otaku]

Dragonball Z’s Vegeta may be the poster child for ego, but his actions often speak to the opposite: humility. [Geeks Under Grace]

One piece of proverbial wisdom is to seek advice from many advisers; but if your advisers are unwise, well, you get the absurd consequences of episode 3 of Plastic Memories. [2]

Dig a little into Gurren Lagann, and you might find an interpretation of Plato’s allegory of the cave and a case for divine illogic. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

Is God fair? Yuki of Angel Beats! doesn’t think so, but perhaps her backstory (and the story of Job) can teach us a little about the concept of fairness. [Old Line Elephant]

The vital importance of forgiveness – both to give and receive – is a heavy theme in Koe no Katachi. [Famous Rose]

More wisdom from Proverbs this week, as Rob tells us Hikigaya’s methods in OreGairu are ungodly and unwise. [Christian Anime Review]

As part of the Something More series of posts, 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 to be included.

Dealing with Doubt in Kotoura-san

Faith is a funny thing. It seems so easy to keep right up until the moment it is tested. It’s fine and dandy to trust when things are going good and I know exactly what is happening, but I always surprise myself by how quickly that faith can wobble when things get a little tough.

Kotoura goes through something similar with Manabe during one of their summer breaks when she does not know what he is doing. While Kotoura is used to rejection, she is not accustomed to not knowing what’s going on. Her psychic abilities allow her to hear the thoughts of everyone around her as if they were being spoken out loud.

Throughout her life, people have avoided and hated her for expressing their thoughts out loud. Even her parents reject her after her power causes trouble at school and she exposes that each of them is being unfaithful to the other.

k3

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Annalyn’s Corner: Baby Steps and Believing in… Yourself?

The opening theme song in Baby Steps (both this season and last) includes three English words: “Believe in yourself.” Last year, I didn’t pay close attention to those words. In this season, the phrase “Believe in yourself” becomes more important than it did before. It’s a trite phrase, one we often repeat to each other, but I think it’s worth reconsidering, especially as a Christian.

Last season, Maruo Eiichiro started playing tennis because he needed the exercise. By the end of the first 25 episodes, he decided that he loved tennis enough to become a pro player. His parents were a little uncertain about the decision, so he agreed that if he didn’t win the next All Japan Junior tournament, he’d give up the dream and focus on studies. To that end, his coaches arranged for him to train in America for two weeks. Baby Steps 2 begins with his first days at the training facility.

Ei-chan (as his crush and I both prefer to call him) has been playing tennis for less than two years, and he’s already training alongside new pros and players who have been aiming for pro since before he started playing. It’s not easy. As he starts playing against all these excellent players, he settles into a “losing habit” that he can’t seem to break. In the second episode, a young pro, Alex, gives him the advice “believe in yourself.”

Ei-chan’s game starts to improve after his chat with Alex. By the fourth episode, he’s expanded on the advice:

“Believe in myself. I’ve come this far.”

“Believe in myself. And trust my instincts!”

The idea is that his training and talent will yield results if he believes in himself. He’s not totally wrong. If he believes he’ll lose, he probably will. Believing in his ability to win is crucial. But that’s not telling the whole story.

Ei-chan faces Alex in episode 4 of Baby Steps 2.

Ei-chan trusts his instincts as he faces Alex in Baby Steps 2 ep 4.

Now, I don’t think Ei-chan has a stupid level of self-confidence; he’s teachable, humble enough to see his need to grow, and can gracefully admit defeat. Still, I think it’s worth it to step back and reconsider the true place of self-confidence in the big picture. Read the rest of this entry

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 9

For episode 9, we are excited to have Alexander (pseudonym: Lord Marlin), the administrator of Anime of Tomorrow and Affinity for Anime, as our guest. While a professing humanist or atheist, Alex has had an outstanding relationship with Beneath the Tangles and our staff. In order to capitalize on our unique guest for this month, we have changed our normal formula and, for this month only, the entire episode will be treated as a Q&A a la the normal “Listener Mail” portion of the podcast. We cover a variety of topics that I think you will all enjoy!

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 – 12:01
Q1: Favorite Anime of Spring 2015 – 15:58
Q2: Religious Symbols – 36:38
Q3: Biblical Interpretation – 1:03:17
Q4: Stretching Religious Observation – 1:29:28
Q5: Good Portrayals of Atheists – 1:33:33
Q6: Stories that Portray Religion Positively – 1:42:22
Conclusion – 1:51:23
Closer – 1:58:53

Direct Download

Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:

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