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).


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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Terror in Resonance, Episode 1: Questioning Ourselves

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.*

zankyou no terror

Art by * 結城紗羅 * (Pixiv ID 44589445)

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.

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Something More: Deva Orochimaru, Humble Kirito, and Bishie Satan

The beginning of a new anime season is always fun!  Anibloggers are most active during this time, with literally a thousand or more anime articles coming out this week.  Luckily, a number of those are spirituality-related, and we have a slate of great articles to link to today!

Frank is excited about the new season of Encouragement of Climb, and compares the previous season’s storyline to that of the Christian moving out in faith and accomplishing what God has purposed him or her to do. [A Series of Miracles]

Syng completes a series on Naruto and Buddhism, diving particularly into the characterizations of Orochimaru, Obito, Madara, and Kaguya [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Speaking of that excellent series, here’s Syng’s first post on Buddhist allusions in Naruto.

D.M. Dutcher tells how a new Christian anime and manga series, entitled Prince Adventures: Anointed, features bishounen characters fighting against Satan (also a bishie). Vic Mignogna, of course, is among those voicing the series. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Oh, and a voice actor for young Jesus has been cast.

Doug, a Buddhist blogger, visits a Mayuka church, home to a native denomination of Japanese Christians. [Essays in Idleness]

Rob continues his Christian-centered anime reviews, with some thoughts about a journey in The World Is Still Beautiful mimicking a Christian’s. [Christian Anime Review]

And while we skipped Something More last Friday, I still want to link to some of the great anime and spirituality articles that bloggers wrote last week:

Michael sees the victory of humility over pride in Sword Art Online as representative of the rule God has established for His kingdom. [Gaming and God]

Earlier, Michael also took at look at Fullmetal Alchemist and dove into the Elric brothers’ thirst for eternal life.

Here’s an interesting comparison – Medieval Otaku sees similarities between the hearts of Lime of Saber Marionette J and Jesus. [Medieval Otaku]

Annalyn weaves a terrific entry about introversion The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, including a note about how her faith. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

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: Not a Sequel

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.

Sailor Moon Crystal

Art by とらお (Pixiv ID 44225402)

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.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 1: Comfort Zones

We all have our comfort zones.  For some of us, it cuts a wide swath.  For others, like me, the area is miniscule.  But whatever the size, a common truth is this – it’s almost always a good thing to go outside one’s comfort zone, to experience a little uncertainty and to be challenged by relationships and experiences that make us nervous.

Sometimes, though, it takes a nudge (or a shove) to get us out of our ring of tranquility.

Episode one of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) is all about comfort zones.

blue spring ride

Nothing says “comfortable” like a tummy full of red bean buns

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Sword Art Online II, Episode 1: Mission Impossible

“Mixed feelings” would probably best describe my attitude toward Sword Art Online II, perhaps the most anticipated returning series this season.  I loved the first cour – no other series has provided me with more material about which to write!  The second, however, brought me anger (Asuna) and gagging (Leafa).

SAO II begins in an unexpected fashion, perhaps, dwelling mostly on technological and philosophical ideas, with just a few hints of the action to come and a dab of Kirito x Asuna fanservice.  So far, so good.

Kirito x Sinon

No matter what comes of it, this relationship CAN’T be worse than that between Suguha and Kirito (Art by 月森うさこ – Pixiv ID 44334853)

What’s also interesting is that the episode traces where Kirito is going with his life.  Long term, he wants to become a “creator,” but by the end of the first episode, he’s being sucked back into the virtual world as a player.  His conversation with the government agent felt a lot like a spy or superhero coming out of retirement to accept a new mission – and a difficult one it is.  Yet, Kirito takes it, not for the substantial money he’s being offered (does he have a ton of medical bills to repay?) or for a challenge, but because of his character.

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Spring 2014 in Review (Part 3/3)

TWWK: Disappointed in how our reviewers have graded the spring 2014 anime season thus far?  While Kaze and Japesland have generally been down on the series they’ve written about the past two days, it seems they may have saved the best for last, as they review some of the series they were highest on for this past anime season.  Read on to see their concluding post as Japesland and Kaze review Mekaku City Actors, One Week Friends, The World is Still Beautiful, the latest seasons of Mushi-shi and Tonari no Seki-kun, and the conclusion of Nisekoi.

Mekakucity Actors
Mekakucity Actors

Japesland – [6/10]

Yeah, so what happened exactly? I watched all twelve episodes and I’m confused. And not a good confused like you get after watching through Serial Experiments Lain. A “I feel like this story wasn’t that complicated but I still don’t know what happened” kind of confused. As an enormous fan of Jin’s two IA Vocaloid albums that inspired all of the Kagerou Project entries and an enormous fan of Shaft (the animation studio of the anime adaptation), I was frankly expecting this to score at least a 9/10 and be anime of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I still greatly enjoyed Mekakucity Actors, thanks to some wonderful art design and “interesting” animation (some was great, some was, we’ll go with “unique”…), re-recorded versions of some of my favorite songs, and some interesting characters, but, man… I have a hard time recommending it to anyone. Perhaps if it had had twice the number of episodes, I wouldn’t feel so poorly about how it was executed, but it’s hard to say, really. I just want to know what the heck was going on… is that so much to ask?

Kaze – [6/10]

I was a bit wary going into this, knowing very little about Kagerou Project, and songs getting anime adaptations do not have a good history. Although as a random note, I still want my Jun Maeda-Nagi album anime adaptation. It started out fairly confusing but as each episode progressed, it became clear that the characters were all connected via the eye powers and the mysterious “monster,” that was often alluded to. Like Japes, while I’m not as big on Vocaloid-related things, I was pleasantly surprised to see IA’s Fantasy Forest animated as it is one of my favorites. However, while the plot slowly came together, the animation certainly went in “interesting” directions (okay, I’ll say, it was bad. SHAFT spending too much money on Madoka S2 and where’s that Kizu?). Around episode 10, I was quite intrigued but then the finale fell flat. It seems there were a lot of things one can piece together, especially with knowledge of the source material, but even then, too much happened with not enough foreshadow. I did, however, love Kana Asumi and Mai Nakahara’s performances here as Ene and Ayano, respectively. I can definitely see why people don’t like this, but I can also see why KagePro fans would like it.

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Spring 2014 in Review (Part 2/3)

TWWK: Yesterday, Japesland and Kaze provided their thoughts on some of this past season’s series (Note that Japesland didn’t give any of the shows he reviewed more than a 4/10!  Tough grader.).  Today, the two start dissecting spring 2014 anime series that they both watched.  On tap today: Brynhildr in the Darkness, Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to, The Irregular at Magic High School, Is the Order a Rabbit?, The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, and the Little Busters!: EX OVA. Come back tomorrow to see our bloggers complete their series reviews.

Brynhildr in the Darkness
Gokukoku no Brynhildr

Kaze – [4/10]

I had heard Brynhildr was pretty bad, and coming from the same author as Elfen Lied, I wasn’t expecting much. I was expecting it to be bad, but oh did it manage to prove me wrong and be even worse than I imagined. It started out a little interesting, but let’s be honest, most things are best at their initial premise. It quickly became something akin to a supernatural girl harem as each new girl was introduced and subsequently joined the party after eye-rolling drama. The plot was a mess as they threw hints toward “something” and in the end, decided to add in several extra plot twists and magic coincidences that I was actually amazed at how bad it was. I was going to give it a 3, but then I watched the finale, and it got even worse, that it reached the level of true comedy. That horrible, ridiculous, nonsensical…thing… made me feel like it was actually worth my time watching just to laugh at how absurd it got so fast. 4/10. That was one amazing ending.

Japesland – [3/10]

Brynhildr was a very unfortunate addition to this anime season. Like Kaze, I’m also not a terribly huge fan of Elfen Lied, but I know so many people who love either the manga, anime, or both, that I felt another entry from the same author had the potential to be something great. The first few episodes were not fantastic, to be sure, but they were at least average and promised for some great plot twists in the future (for this reason, toward the beginning, I recommended the series to a friend of mine who absolutely adores Elfen Lied). That went downhill quickly, though, and by the last episode it was obvious that they had not received the go-ahead to produce any more seasons and they had to wrap up the series within a few episodes. Solution: Consolidate 80+ chapters of manga in about two or so episodes. Needless to say, pretty awful.

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Free! – Eternal Summer, Episode 1: Rin Matsuoka, the True Believer

The second season of Free! arrived with a splash yesterday (hardy har har), helping to launch a new season of anime.  No less than a phenomenon, at least among American anime fans, the first season ended with hopes and anticipation of the second, but after so many months of waiting, I think the series snuck up on a lot of Free! aficionados.  But by day’s end, however, my Tumblr dashboard was packed full of Free! related posts (and by almost an equal amount of “There’s so much Free! I can’t stand it” posts).

Free! Eternal Summer

Art by ぐる (Pixiv ID 35786668)

This season looks like it won’t disappoint either.  A storyline is set (further competition and consideration of the future for the seniors), a new rival arrives, and the same manic energy returns.  We also see a continuing growth of the characters, most emphatically for Rin.  If you remember, he was a tortured, angry youth for most of last season before Haru and the rest helped to show him a sight he’d never seen before.  The finale ended with Rin apparently moving on and transforming into someone more confident and kinder, reclaiming the compassionate and friendly personality that marked him in his youth.

What interested me most about the first episode in Eternal Summer, then, was just how far Rin has come in such a short time.

Early in the episode, we note that Haru has grown a teensy bit, though outwardly he’s just the same.  The rest of the Iwatobi High School group remains largely the same (all had their “growth” moments in season one or, in Nagisa’s case, had no real development at all).  But Rin – Rin has changed completely: He greets his old friends; he gives Haru a high five at the end of their race (instead of marching away sullen); he treats his kohai, Nitori, like a brother; and most telling of all, he transitions responsibly into the role of captain.

Rin’s growth reminded me that in real life, transformation isn’t something to be taken for granted.

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