Something More: Maria the Inaccurate Witch, Guslinger Augustine, and the Divine Satsuki

It’s that time of the year again when new anime come out to play!  We’ve got one post on a new series below, and number about shows that have completed their runs.

Taylor zeroes in on Satsuki of Kill la Kill as a divine figure. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

Medieval Otaku dives into the medievalness of Maria the Virgin Witch, discussing how accurate the series was to that historic time, including how the show portrayed “heretics.” [Medieval Otaku]

Romance is discussed often in the bible, the absurdities of which are on full display in Urusei Yatsura. [2]

Nameko Families, an anime about anthropomorphic mushrooms, can tell us a lot about Christian love and forgiveness in a marriage. [Old Line Elephant]

A Christian newspaper in Japan is featuring a religious slice-of-life manga, whose protagonist is named Pyuuri-tan. [Kotaku]

Did you catch the St. Augustine quote in the first episode of Gunslinger Stratos? [Aliens in This World]

iblessall saves her lowest rating of the 2015 winter anime season for Maria the Virgin Witch, largely for it’s misrepresentation of Christianity. [Mage in a Barrel]

The finale for KanColle evokes teachings about the body of Christ. [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.  Thanks to Laura of Heart of Manga for pointing me toward the Pyuuri-tan news!  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.

 

Top 5 + Guest: Most Overrated Anime

There are a lot of really great anime out there.  There are a lot of really bad series, too.  And then there’s that subset of anime that are held in high esteem, but don’t deserve all the praise or popularity that they receive.  For our Top 5 + Guest post this month, we’re tackling those series that get a lot of love, but maybe deserve to get a little more hate.

Joining us today is Tommy of Anime Bowl.  A long-time aniblogger, Tommy’s unique site combines his passions of anime and sports.  He’s recently started a Toonami podcast and has just finished up his annual March Madness character tournament (I was defending champion in the pick ’em, but came in dead last this year).

And as always, tell us below how we messed up and what shows would make your list!

Tommy’s Picks

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  2. Attack on Titan
  3. Sword Art Online (I)
  4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
  5. Durarara!!

fma 4All my picks are incredibly popular shows which have appeared on Toonami/Adult Swim recently; shows that are household names amongst otaku, yet ultimately missing something that causes them to fall into mediocrity. The top choice is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which failed to live up to the reputation of its predecessor due to a reliance on deus ex machina – which will be a recurring theme amongst my choices. Over and over again, Edward Elric, who was a very well-developed character in the first series, ends up in Brotherhood somehow always magically making the right choice no matter what, making him as close to a Gary Stu as you can get. And while I love how Brotherhood ends – I rank its final episode second only to Cowboy Bebop’s “The Real Folk Blues” – the major conflict is resolved by a dose of deus ex machina reminiscent of Frozen (just “love,” Elsa!). Next are Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online, which are two peas in a pod. Both suffer from a never-wrong shonen lead (like Edward Elric, to an extent), and both never live up to the over-the-top hype they received upon airing. Both make heavy uses of deus ex machina – in particular SAO. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a tough one to criticize; it’s got lots to like, and it has some really strong characters. However, if your bar is set at “Evangelion,” anything short of “masterpiece” is to fall short. (Plus my heart was ripped out in the finale. NIA!!!) Finally, Durarara!! doesn’t really fit anywhere amongst these, but I can’t figure out why everyone else loves this one. I watch it asking, “am I just watching people chat in chatrooms? How is this entertaining?” So while I do enjoy all these series, they ultimately fall short of the hype. Except Durarara!! – I can’t enjoy that. Read the rest of this entry

Requested: Questions About Anime and Religion!

Have you ever heard this one?  Three Christians and an atheist walk into a…

Oh wait.  That’s actually not a joke – it’s our next podcast episode.  At the end of this month, I’ll be joining The Tangles’ hosts, Japes and Sean, and a special guest as we talk about anime, religion, and the intersection between the two.

This is where you come in.  We need your questions to help stimulate discussion for the podcast.  Please leave one or two (or more) below. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Questions about Christianity, atheism, or anything else related to religion – feel free to get personal if you’d like.
  • Questions religion in anime, whether superficially or thematically

Thanks in advance, all!

Producing Anime/Christian Products: An Interview with Inside Surrendering

As anime grows increasingly popular and etches its place in popular culture, more and more individuals and groups have focused on what we do here – finding an intersection between anime and Christianity.  Besides the multitude of blogs that now explore this arena, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs are developing products that bring together anime and faith, crossing creativity with a mission mindset.  Inside Surrendering is one such venture, offering “entertaining and purposeful products, art and stories that best represent what the true Gospel is all about: Love, Grace, and Truth.”

I recently interviewed Tim and Yavanna, the company’s founders:

inside surrenderingTWWK: This is a pretty unique idea for ministry – how did you come up with the idea?

Tim: We originally came up with the idea for Inside Surrendering back in October of 2013. Yavanna and I had met earlier that year in April, and we almost immediately knew we wanted to do ministry together – we just weren’t sure what kind of ministry it would be. I myself was very familiar with the anime convention scene and already had a desire to one day start a convention ministry. Once I learned about Yavanna’s own desire to minister to people through her art, it just made sense to start something like this.

Yavanna: Tim and I originally had a lot of ideas of how we wanted to go into ministry. We were kind of all over the place, and maybe a little too ambitious about wanting to reach EVERYBODY in the world. We even had the idea of starting a church at one point. In the end, what it came down to was focusing on what gifts we had, and who we could reach with those gifts.  We love Jesus, but we’re also huge nerds, and combining those two passions is what led us to wanting to go into a ministry of reaching out to fellow nerds, geeks and otaku.

TWWK: Did you have any hesitation about diving into this venture?

Tim: I wouldn’t say that there was much hesitation in the beginning, but there was a lot of doubt. Christianity is very misunderstood among our fellow young people today, maybe even more so in the otaku community. So we weren’t sure how to go about presenting the Gospel to them, or how well it might be received, if at all.

Yavanna: There was a little bit of hesitation. I mean, personally, I questioned and doubted myself a lot. I wasn’t sure if I could bring glory to Jesus with my art, if it was good enough, or if it would even help people. And there were quite a few times where Tim and I were discouraged by the world we live in, and wondered if we could even make a difference. But, thankfully, Jesus has always been there to pull us through.

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Winter Anime 2015 Review (Part 3/3): Death Parade

For the final part of our winter anime 2015 review, we’ll be changing the format to highlight a particular show: Death Parade!

death parade 2

Death Parade
Death Parade

Japesland – 7/10

I picked up Death Parade a little late, and only because of Sean’s (our podcast’s co-host) recommendation, and when I was starting it I found myself pleasantly surprised as I recognized the setting and character’s of the short film, Death Billiards. I had no idea the productions were related (and I think Kaze is the only other person I knew who had even seen Death Billiards, except for maybe Sean). After the series finally kicked off its first few episodes I was thoroughly enjoying it and reasonably engrossed. I’m an absolute sucker for something episodic that tickles your philosophical funny bone, hence why I love Mushishi, and Death Parade scratched that itch enough to earn an 8/10 (I score I rarely give, I might add!). I finally had to drop it down a point, though, because the end just did not manage to maintain the atmosphere I had learned to love throughout the show, operating on some rather strange character transformations and assuming some development that did not actually occur. Had it ended on a cliffhanger, much like Death Billiards, I think I might have liked it more. That said, it’s still a worthwhile watch.

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Winter Anime 2015 Review (Part 2/3)

Today we continue our review of the winter 2015 anime season with reviews of Aldnoah.zero 2, Junketsu no Maria, Drrrx2, Dog Days”, Parasyte, and The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella GirlsAnd tune in tomorrow for a finale that we’re approaching a little differently!

idol 2

The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls

stardf29 – 8/10

The original iDOLM@STER anime started off slow but ended up really good; Cinderella Girls keeps up the quality of the original while having a stronger start. The first seven episodes are especially strong, with a good plot line that explores a lot of both the excitement and disappointments of entering the entertainment industry (as well as providing me with plenty of blog material). The character focus episodes that followed were all very solid, too, if not as strong as the show’s first quarter. The development of the producer character is yet another strong point that this show has inherited from its predecessor. Overall, this show looks to be every bit as good as, if not better than, the original iM@S anime and I am definitely looking forward to the second half this summer.

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Winter Anime 2015 Review (Part 1/3)

It’s that time again, where the season’s anime comes to a close and the anticipation of the new one begins. With so many new writers here at Beneath the Tangles, this time we’ll be giving a far more diverse set of reviews than usual!  Up today are Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, Koufuku Graffiti, Your Lie in April, Shirobako, Rolling Girls, and Ace of Diamond.

CuteHighPromotional

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!

Annalyn – 5/10

I like to have at least one ridiculous anime on my watching list at all times, one that guarantees laughter. I need something I don’t care about, don’t plan to blog about, and won’t procrastinate on. Cute High fulfilled that need. It’s a parody of magical girl anime, which means it takes a genre already filled with cheese and makes it cheesier. There are times when I considered giving it less than 2.5/5 stars, but I had too much fun laughing at the magical boys, their exaggerated conflict, the ridiculous enemies, and the cheesy English names for their “love”-powered moves. Oh, and the writer knew exactly how ridiculous the English was. They weren’t even trying to be grammatically correct with the “More Better Love Shower,” let alone Yumoto’s end-of-fight catchphrase, “Love is over!” They milked the tropes for all they were worth, but they managed to surprise me, too, including a plot twist in the last episode. There were a couple annoying instances of suggestive humor, but overall, this was a fun, brainless view.

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Annalyn’s Corner: Strength from the Yips

The first 75-episode season of Daiya no Ace (Ace of the Diamond) ended on a hopeful note, but I admit that Sawamura Eijun had me worried. For those of you who haven’t watched Daiya no Ace: Sawamura is the main character in this baseball anime. And yes, as usual, “main character” means pitcher. But he’s not the ace. Nope, even after seventy-five episodes, Sawamura is still just a talented, over-enthusiastic first year with a lot to prove.

It doesn’t help that he gets a the yips after a pitch-gone-wrong during the summer tournament. Sawamura can’t throw to the inside anymore. It’s devastating. He tries to pick himself up. But during a practice game, his new weakness becomes clear. He’s taken off the field. The coach doesn’t even let him practice with a ball for a while, regulating him to running instead.

Sawamura leaves the mound, unable to pitch during the practice game (ep 70).

Sawamura leaves the mound, unable to pitch during the practice game (ep 70).

Sawamura doesn’t protest the new regiment, because he knows: “I am so weak.”

It’s painful to watch, but necessary.

Some of Sawamura’s concerned classmates talk to Chris-senpai, a third-year catcher who has already taught Sawamura a lot. Chris tells them that he is sure Sawamura will not only overcome his pitching trouble, but become stronger because of it.

When I hear those words, I smile. Sawamura is the age I was when I realized how weak I am. In my early teen years, I was confident in myself, my mind, and my spiritual standing. I knew it was time for a challenge, so I had the nerve to ask God to humble me (oops). Sure, in my head, I knew I was weak compared to God and many of his servants, but I felt strong.

Then, when I was fifteen, depression hit, soon followed by anxiety. ADD symptoms, formerly minor and easy to compensate for, were exasperated. Homework became a battle—low focus, low motivation, and the elephant on my chest often interfered. At one point, I tried to doubt God (I’m pretty sure he raised a metaphoric eyebrow at my childish stomping). Then I started to doubt my end of the relationship.
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Kanon: Rising to Life

As much as I enjoy Clannad (I’ve written more than a half-dozen articles on the series), it’s not my favorite Key anime. My very favorite series of theirs, and one my favorites period, is Kanon.  As probably is the case for a lot of you and your top series, it’s difficult for me to explain why I love the show so much. I know I like the wintry setting. I like the “sad girls in snow” thing that’s going on. And most pronouncedly, I like angel-winged Ayu Tsukimiya, who stands as one of my favorite two or three characters in anime. Despite, or maybe cause of, her foibles (thief!), faults, and childishness, I find her character irresistible.

But the central character in Kanon, as with other Key anime, is not the girl – it’s a guy. Yuichi Aizawa, our hero, is a good lead – he’s kind and has a lot of personality. The story begins with him moving to a slightly mystical town to attend school and live with his aunt and cousin.  He’d lived here as a child, but a traumatic event led him away (and caused him to lose part of his memory). As the story progresses, Yuichi meets (or reconnects) with a cast of characters, and one by one, he helps them with their sometimes supernatural issues. (Warning: Spoilers Ahead).

Kanon

And that’s most of the show – Yuichi helping these girls with their problems. He’s compelled to aid them by a sense of kindness, and with maybe only Nayuki being an exception, he helps bring a modicum of healing to them all – physical, emotional, spiritual. Yuichi’s presence and instigation helps resolve these young ladies’ deep-seated problems.

Of course, the most dramatic path of all is the one that’s left for the end – Ayu’s story. As the pieces come together – little hints here and there that showed us Ayu wasn’t quite present – we find out that she and Yuichi are connected in the most painful of ways. Read the rest of this entry

Rewrite’s Biblical Meta-Narrative

This past week, we have spent a lot of time focusing on Key, particularly Rewrite. Hopefully you had the chance to check out Kaze’s four part summation and commentary on the visual novel. His approach took each and every section of the story and broke it down into individual parallels into Christian living, but I would like to take a slightly different approach. Assuming a basic knowledge of Rewrite is already known (which is what makes a commentary like Kaze’s ever so important), I would like to provide to you my own thoughts and thesis on what I consider to be one of the most outstanding and philosophically/theologically charged narratives in visual novel medium.

Here at Beneath the Tangles, we strive to extract biblical connections and principles from media that clearly did not intend them. The value of this can be debated, surely, but operating under the assumption that most media has redeemable qualities regardless of source and that all mankind comes from the same origin regardless of individual will (whether that is God or completely naturalistic sources, or perhaps even something else altogether), there are many themes to be appreciated that might go missed otherwise.

Rewrite-menu

If you haven’t been able to tell already, Rewrite is a prime example of a piece of fiction that exhibits many of these principles and themes. Kaze has pointed out parallel after parallel to clear Christian ideas, yet what is so striking to me about Rewrite and its relevance to my faith is not this series of connections (though they are, of course, of significant value!), but the bigger picture. The saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and Picasso has been credited with saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” These two quotes in conjunction form the basis for what I consider to be some of the best narratives in existence: those that are not afraid to use and adapt established brilliance to create even more brilliance.

In order to illustrate this more clearly, let me give you my 4-point summary of Rewrite’s meta-narrative.

  1. Main Routes: A series of elaborate failures in an attempt to create a better world… or prevent a worse one.
  2. Moon: A symbolic culmination of what those failures were trying to accomplish.
  3. Terra: The symbolic taking literal form in order to enact the final saving plan.
  4. Post-Terra: Humanity now is given the chance to surpass their doomed existence.

Well… this is awkward… I think I’ve seen this somewhere before…

Biblia_moralizada_de_Nápoles_cropped

  1. Old Testament: A series of elaborate failures (by humanity) in an attempt to create a better world (i.e. God’s originally-planned world).
  2. The Transition to the New Testament: A symbolic culmination of what those failures were trying to accomplish.
  3. The Gospels: The symbolic taking form in the Son of God in order to enact the final saving plan.
  4. The New Testament as a Whole: Humanity now is given the change to surpass their doomed existence.

Read the rest of this entry

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