Annalyn’s Corner: Working!!! and Communicating Across Personalities

So, we finally found out why Yamada Aoi ran away from home. I wondered how they’d weave serious backstory into this lighthearted show, but they actually did it pretty well.

Spoilers ahead, in case you didn’t guess.

Basically, Aoi’s mother isn’t good at talking. She overthinks everything, and when she finally opens her mouth, very few of those thoughts come out. When Aoi’s father was alive, he could interpret his wife’s miniscule expressions. He kept the family in a more stable state. Once he was gone, his already communication-challenged family had extra emotional burdens to process. He left a”Top Secret Mom Manual” for his kids, but reading it was not their first priority. Aoi didn’t even notice she got one. Instead, her relationship with her mother broke down. Aoi felt misunderstood and pressured to do well in school. She felt no sympathy—no emotion at all—from her mother, and she came to hate studying. Her mother, on the other hand, felt awful. She wanted to encourage Aoi to do well, and to comfrot her when she failed her entrance exams. But the words didn’t come out. Instead, she just bought more study books to help.

Clearly, there was a communication problem. The mother didn’t even communicate that she’s struggling to talk. Aoi shouldn’t need a manual to tell her that. Meanwhile, it may have been helpful for Aoi to confront her mother, to speak her own feelings instead of being isolated within them—or at least to enlist her brother’s help.

Aoi and her mother finally embrace. It took the help of many friends—including a conversation with a lost

Aoi and her mother finally embrace. It took the help of many friends—including a conversation with a lost “stranger” on the street—but Aoi is finally ready to try understanding her mother, and her mother is finally taking the initiative to search out her daughter. (ep 7)

The problem stemmed partially from differences. Aoi and her brother are expressive. If they’re happy, sad, angry, or excited, the world knows it. Their mom isn’t as expressive… but that doesn’t mean she’s emotionless, let alone that she doesn’t care. She expresses the only way she can—through subtle changes in her eyes, changes her husband could interpret, and that her son understands now that he’s read the manual.

Most of us don’t have such extreme communication issues in our families. But even in the healthiest, most understanding relationships, we often misunderstand each other.
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Charlotte, Episode 7: Ends of the Earth

A lot of things can drive us away from God. Most are subtle, as we replace God in our lives with money, success, lifestyle, relationships, or usually a combination of many things. And sometimes, an event pushes us away from God, as we purposely, in full realization, run away from our maker.

In episode seven of Charlotte, Yuu makes a run for it, hiding away from the world, from his life, from truth, from pain, but most purposely, from Nao.

Angel Beats is not going to make you feel any better, Yuu...

Angel Beats is not going to make you feel any better, Yuu…

I don’t think any of us probably watched this episode thinking that what Yuu was doing was fantastic or absurd. We realize how difficult the time is for him, and how hard it is to bounce back from a tragedy like he endured. Those with anxiety or other difficulties and illnesses probably understand Yuu’s condition even more deeply – once you’ve been pushed over the edge, it feels like an impossible task to do what people are telling Yuu to do – to move on with life.

And so, Yuu runs. He runs away from Nao and the student council, so that they won’t bring him back to the heavy weight of reality. And he runs to a place where he can simply satisfy his basic animal desires, to indulge in things that will keep him from the reality of life. In this way, Yuu reminds me of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); though some tragedy didn’t push the prodigal to rebel, he did squander the money given him and breathed in “wild living.”

In the end, the prodigal returned to the father – not necessarily out of humility, but just for a place to go. Yuu is still running at the end of the episode, but knowing that he’s never likely to return, his “god” has to meet him more quickly than God met the prodigal.

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Something More: Christian Yo-Kai Watch, Turning Nao’s Cheek, and The Cat Returns (with Purpose)

I think one of the hardest things for a Christian aniblogger to do is to write to a general Christian audience rather than straight to Christian geeks. The level of acceptance and openness in the latter group can be diverse, but the spectrum is much, much wider with the more universal population. In her informative article about Yo-Kai Watch this week, Casey Covel (who also writes for us!) describes the franchise and details items that might be of concern for this more general audience of Christians.

When our bloggers give recommendations or write general information articles, as we did this past week with our manga recommendations, we’re also looking at a broader audience. But I think a further goal is this – we’re trying to educate and bring some Christians along who either are just discovering anime or have a very set-in-stone view about anime and other media that espouses cultural or religious ideas that are counter to Christian ones. And really good articles about media, like Casey’s or those in Christianity Today, accomplish as much, and in doing so, help break down some of the legalistic walls we might have in our hearts.

Check out Casey’s article:

>> What Christians need to know about Yo-Kai Watch

Here are other articles regarding anime/manga and spirituality from around the blogosphere:

The Cat Returns supports the scriptural principle that each of us has purpose and meaning in our lives. [Lady Teresa Christina]

Adding more fuel to the fire that today’s Christian praise isn’t all that great is this song from Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny, which could be argued gives better praise than many songs sung in today’s churches. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What should Charlotte’s Nao do when getting slapped in the face by her classmates? Turn the other cheek, of course. [Christian Anime Review]

The abandonment by many students of A-TEC in episode three of Classroom Crisis recounts a piece of proverbial wisdom. [2]

Rob notes that Nagi no Asukara might be a good anime for Christians parents to show their children. [Geeks Under Grace]

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. 

Manga Recommendations for Christian Readers

Fruits Basket

While our aim is to reach out to readers of all faiths (or none at all) with articles about anime and Japanese culture that spark discussion about spiritual issues, we also want to serve as a resource particularly for Christian audiences.  As such, we’ve developed recommendations pages for Christians interested in anime series and movies and in visual novels.  And today, we’re proud to launch a new page providing manga recommendations for Christian readers:

Manga Recommendations

As always, our recommendations are not based on series that explicitly talk about the Christian faith, feature Christian characters, or even wholly support Christian values.  We applaud series that point readers toward scriptural truths, even as they are presented apart from a Christian context.  As such, these series feature topics like grace, sacrificial love, and humility.  And with an understanding that many Christians are not as willing to dive into all sorts of manga as our writers are, we’re also cognizant of content that some may find offensive in this material, which helped guide our choices (and which we note in our recs).

Take a look at our page if you’re looking for recommendations, and please join in the discussion by mentioning your own recs for Christian readers in the comments section for future visitors to peruse through as well.

Anime Today: Why You Should Be Watching What I’m Watching (And Why I’m Always Right)

The moment you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: Japes has returned from Japan! Please, don’t make too much of a fuss. Put the confetti away, save the cake for another time, the fireworks were a nice thought, but I’m sure there’s a better time to break them out…

Nah, who am I kidding. It’s party time everyone! Your favorite writer has finally returned after months of hiatus! It’s time to pop open that champagne you’ve been saving!

Ahem. Moving on.

If there’s one thing that surprised me about my time in Japan, it’s the amount of personal growth I did in a rather concentrated amount of time. Who would have known that living by yourself in a different country halfway across the world would do that to a person? Who could have guessed, right…? In the past three months, I have developed far more in my personality, my theological beliefs, my spiritual habits, my career goals, my personal goals, and everything else, than I ever have in a period of three months elsewhere in my life. But you know what’s really been solidified these past few months? My brilliance in anime selection.

It took me 2+ seasons, but I've learned to like Yamada.

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Saving Lives: The Impact of Truth on Charlotte’s Nao Tomori

I had a conversation with a college guy from my church this past week.  We talked about how important it is to be straight with people inside and outside of the congregation.  Too often with the latter, we’re guilty of “playing church,” rather than truly loving our brothers and sisters in Christ with the harshness that love sometimes demands.  I think similar things could be said in a lot of different contexts – we would rather skirt around issues than really dive into difficult territory, even as we claim to love those that might be sinking in the troubles of life or in sin.  But why would our simple discomfort keep us from loving people to our utmost?

The answer in some situations – and specifically with church – might be that we’re just not convinced enough, either of the truth of the situation, the need someone has, or even of our love for others.

In Charlotte, Nao Tomori is none of these things.  She’s convinced a) of the truth that these students with special abilities are in danger; b) that they are in need of assistance only she and her student council members can provide; and c) that despite their faults, none of them deserve to go through what her brother did.

charlotte 3b

That last point about her brother in the one that certainly seems to be the motivating factor that’s moved her forward. She was a witness of what occurred – maybe not of the experimentation itself, but of what her brother was once like and how he changed afterward. She is utterly convinced of what these scientists are going to do to other students with powers. Nao has no doubt that her rescue attempts must be done.  Even when other students assault her because of her bluntness, even when she is almost killed by those she wishes to help, Nao continues to do her work because she must.

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Annalyn’s Corner: Spirited Away, Anime Heritage, and Christian Heritage

A DVD copy of Spirited Away has sat in my room for over a month, still shrink-wrapped. I’ve wanted to watch it for years—or, should I say, re-watch it. I first saw it when I was twelve, before I knew what anime was. I hated it. It was dark and bizarre, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Three and a half years later, I stumbled across Naruto and was sucked into anime fandom. I stuck mostly to TV series, but I kept hearing about Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. After a few more years, I heard that Spirited Away won awards, and I often heard people call it their favorite Miyazaki film. Clearly, this movie—just a strange memory by now—was part of a greater legacy, one that, as an anime fan, I wanted to better understand.

SpiritedAwayI’m getting ready to put on the movie as I write this. But if I really want to know more about anime’s rich history, there are other, older titles I need to stop procrastinating on, including Ghost in the ShellAkira, and at least a few more episodes each of Dragonball and Astro Boy (not to mention some of the anime Medieval Otaku writes about in his articles). I’d also benefit from reading old manga, especially that by the iconic Osamu Tesuka. Ideally, I’d spend time with even older Japanese art and literature. Why? So I can spout knowledge about “classics”? No. By learning about anime’s history, I can learn more about what’s inspired today’s creators, and better understand their references. And as a lifelong story lover, I love learning the heritage of any story-telling medium. It makes the current literature that much richer.

When I first think about anime history, my mind goes back about a hundred years, to animation’s earliest days. But as I indicated above, the history stretches further into the past, through days of woodcut printing and old fables. Anime classics are only the latest Japanese aspects of a worldwide storytelling heritage. If we forget that, we do ourselves and our predecessors a disfavor.

Why dwell on this now, in this post? Different kinds of heritage have been on my mind lately. Part of it comes from volunteering at a thrift store where people carelessly toss aside 100-year-old books and 200-year-old Bibles. A larger part of it comes from conversations about Catholicism and Church history, and from reading 1 Kings—part of Israel’s history and my Christian heritage. As I do, I realize how shortsighted we often are. Sometimes, American Protestants like to talk about “our Christian heritage.” Such conversations recall our Founding Fathers—who we wishfully repaint as faithful Christians—and occasionally go as far back as the Mayflower. And these conversations are usually, in my experience, fear-induced reactions to current events, such as the legalization of gay marriage, fear for our religious rights, abortion, etc. This can lead to political activism, even beneficial activism, but I think it’s healthier to step back and take a much broader view. By looking at a history between us and God that stretches back several thousand years, we can gain a lot: a bigger picture that emphasizes God’s role, rather than our own. Read the rest of this entry

Charlotte, Episode 6: When the Story Changes

I don’t know Jun Maeda’s works intimately well – not like some of the writers on our site. But I do love many of the works he had a heavy hand in, and from what I know of him, I feel that he has a unique talent at creating scenarios and work that pull real emotion out of audiences, and that he can take a commonplace storyline and turn it into something quite unconventional. That’s why hitherto, it’s been surprising for me that Charlotte, though very enjoyable, has been conventional.

But with episode six, Charlotte seems to be taking a turn toward something totally different.

charlotte 6a

One of the interesting things about this episode is that like the rest of the series, it’s playing with the audience.  While the student council believes that Ayumi is the latest adolescent that demonstrates powers, the audience is meant to think that her classmate, Konishi, is actually the one with the “collapse” ability. In the final five minutes though, this run-of-the-mill episode ends with an unexpected bang – Ayumi is the one who exhibits the powers, collapsing the school building and perhaps falling to her death; Yuu, going to help his little sister, is apparently crushed by concrete – perhaps he died as well.

Depending on how the next episode turns out, this could be one of those moments in anime that really shocks you – an unexpected moment that changes the game. But right now, at this moment of time, it makes perfect sense to me, because it all too often takes moments like these to move people to change – and that, I guarantee, you’ll see from one or more of the characters in Charlotte.

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Between the Panels: Your Lie in Legalism

Don’t let that big word scare you. Legalism is just a formal word for “excessive adherence to law or formula.” In other words: following every jot and tittle of the rulebook.

In addition to countless 1st-place medals for his peerless piano playing (try saying that five times fast), Kousei Arima would likely be a candidate for “most legalistic of the year” if such an achievement existed. His uncompromising adherence to every note, rhythm, and annotation of his sheet music eventually leads his rivals to call him “robotic,”—a “mirror” who perfectly reflects the original intensions of a piece.

This might be a complement if not for the dark story behind Kousei’s formulaic performance. It’s revealed that the protégé pianist’s mother drove him to painful lengths in order to ensure his abilities, even restricting his sleep, food, and freedom. Due to his mother’s terminal disease, however, Kousei dutifully endured her abuse with the mindset that performing well would heal her.

42

But with each performance, Kousei made a mistake—one small enough for only his mother to notice—and eventually, after a particularly bad presentation, his mother publicly beat him, Kousei spoke to her in hatred, and whatever remnants of a relationship they possessed began to dissolve.

Even when his mother dies shortly afterwards, however, her influence on Kousei lingers. Unable to live up to his mother’s perfect expectations—her demands that every note be flawless and every performance identical to the composer’s original intent—Kousei loses his ability to hear his own playing and finds himself irrevocably bound by his mother’s standards whenever he makes an attempt.

Music, once a joy in Kousei’s life, becomes tainted with the oxygen-masked face of his mother’s ghostly visage.

This hopeless quest to gain perfection through following a system of rules is legalism at its finest, and it’s a trap that the protagonist of Your Lie in April metaphorically falls into. It’s the same trap that many Christians find themselves ensnared in—including yours truly.

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Throwback Thursdays: Pandora Hearts

Zeroe4 is taking the week off for Throwback Thursdays – but fear not!  Fellow YWAM Tokyo missionary, Sheridan Reid, is returning this week as a guest writer.  Sheridan is an avid reader and writer of fantasy and sci-fi books and lover of action/adventure anime. If she’s not working or immersed in a good story, she is probably at a coffee shop or exploring the crazy city of Tokyo with friends. 

Pandora Hearts revolves around a young noble by the name of Oz Vessalius. The anime starts out with Oz turning 15 and his coming of age ceremony being interrupted but a bunch of red-robed figures who say they are there to “judge” Oz. He is then thrown into the “Abyss,” which is basically explained to be a prison, but it looks far more like a broken toy box. There, he is attacked several times by what look like the broken toys come to life. A young girl named Alice comes to his rescue and explains that she, like the things that had attacked him, is a Chain: a being born in the Abyss. The two of them form a contract that allows them both to escape this Abyss. After this, the two (along with a few others) begin a journey to try and find out why Oz was targeted and what the deeper plot behind it all might be.

pandora hearts 2

Both of the main characters spend the series on a journey to find themselves, and they start out as very broken people. This journey is something I can relate to a lot. I spent a long time trying to be someone I wasn’t, so the journey back to finding who I am has been a long one and is something I am still working through. Part of this journey for both the characters and myself is realizing that we aren’t alone even if we feel like we are. There’s one scene in particular that really stuck out to me. One of the characters sees two other characters reunited after a separation. They are celebrating, really happy to see each other. She however, takes it as exclusion, assumes that she’s not wanted because of it, and runs away. Her friends, realizing she’s gone, run after her, and in good ol’ anime fashion, crazy madness adventure ensues.

This feeling of isolation is also something I struggle with, though. For me, it’s hard to feel like people want me around, and my tendency is to run away when I see other people having a good time and I’m not expressly invited, but like her friends in the show, my friends are awesome about running after me and reminding me that of course they want me around; we’re friends. That is something I love about this anime: they are always fighting for each other and trying to make sure their friends are okay, even though sometimes it’s obvious that they really, really aren’t.

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