Letter from the Editor: Bleach, Church Retreats, and Powering Up

Dear Readers,

Have you been keeping up with the happenings in Bleach?

The manga has become fairly intense, and after all this time, the story’s become exciting again.  I haven’t been a fan of the series since early in the arc involving Aizen, but I just can’t help but to consume the manga in chunks every half a year or so just to keep up with the characters I once followed so closely.  Right now, the world (as the Soul Reapers know it) is coming to an end after the death of one specific character.  But never to fear, because of course, Ichigo is here!

And as is the tradition for a shounen, fight ‘em series, he comes to maybe probably certainly save the day after having done some training.  Rukia and Renji have done the same. Maybe Chad and Orihime, too, though to be honest, I’m not clear on their storylines.

Rukia and Renji

It’s no surprise that we see this type of storyline again and again in anime and manga – whether it be for physical breakthroughs, as in Dragonball Z or Naruto, or more emotional ones, as you might see in “training camp” retreats in series like Oofuri or Bamboo Blade.  The opportunity to get away from the world leads one to cut out distractions and focus on a specific task at hand.

For Christians, there’s an added element.  Not only can you cut out the noise, but in the quiet and stillness of a retreat – both from the environment outside and in one’s heart, you can perhaps hear God.  What is he saying to you?  What does he want you to do?  And how will you respond?

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Maria Watches Over Japan, Eschatology of Korra, and a New Christian Anime Forum

As another anime season draws to an end, it’s time to get excited about new series around the corner! But before that, we have season and series finales coming up, and with the importance that ideas like salvation, grace, and transformation play in many anime, it’s a rich time to dig into spiritual topics as expressed through some of our favorite shows!

Many Christian geeks will proudly display their Naruto gear, but aren’t so open about faith. What does say about them? What’s the response? [The Budding Philosopher]

And on that tangent, why do Christians often separate the nerd side of themselves from the “Christian” part? [Believers and Fandoms]

In shows like Maria the Virgin Witch and Maria Watches Over Us, we get a glimpse into how much the Japanese know of Catholicism, and how they view it. [Eugene Woodbury’s Blog]

The Legend of Korra tackles eschatology, or the religious perspective on end times. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

The “Sneak Entry” arc of Bleach contains some religious content and themes (perhaps not enough) for Christians, if you like the series enough to look past it’s shortcomings. [Geeks Under Grace]

Episode 17 of Your Lie in April demonstrates the way Christians should show friendship to one another. [2]

And speaking of Your Lie in April, have you noticed it’s similarities to Kids on the Slope?  Not least of all is a Christian message of sharing love. [Famous Rose]

D.M. Dutcher highly recommends Figure 17, and finds it mostly safe to watch for Christians. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

A new Christian otaku community has sprung up.  Here, the founder reflects on the significance of “wholesome” anime. [Christianime]

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.

 

Your Lie in April, Episode 21: The Struggle

As the date of the piano competition draws near, episode 21 of Your Lie in April once again finds Kousei falling into solitude, this time affected by having seen the reality – that Kaori is on death’s doorstep.  The question in the episode is whether Kousei will rise, or will he again fall as he did when his mother passed away.

While we have to wait until next week to see what happens with Kaori (though manga readers will already know by now), the last few minutes of the episode demonstrate to us what Kousei has decided – because of Kaori, and because of all the people who have invested their lives in him, Kousei will try.  As Kaori asked him, he will struggle.

And there’s no doubt, it is a struggle.  For those of us who have been through depression – and even those that haven’t, but have had moments in your life where you feel your world is collapsing, we feel what Kousei is feeling.  We can recall those moments where it’s too hard to try, too hard to get up, too hard to live.  Pain and hurt paralyzes us emotionally, and physically, too, as we see with the huddled position Kousei holds for much of the episode.

april 21a

For Christians, the same is true – faith in God is no protection against torrents of depression and pain.  In moments of struggle, we must to come the point where we decide, will be let the world overcome us, or will we struggle against the world? Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Eternal Judgment (Parade?)

If there is one thing of spiritual value that Death Parade has raised this season, it is the idea of eternal judgment. Considering that from its fundamental concept, the series explores the idea of determining a person’s final destination (or process), if not ultimate value, based on the human condition, it raises many questions for the spiritually minded. However, much like the “Emergent Church” movement, does Death Parade raise more questions than provide answers? That answer is difficult to determine.

death parade 1

Let’s walk through how Death Parade defines its version of judgment.

1) Judgment is not objective. Although the arbitrators are sculpted as much as possible to be objective (which they emphasize in their non-humanness), it is obvious that not all arbitrators are the same. They exude individual personalities, which, in turn, create different results. This is also obvious insomuch as Decim and Ginti quarrel, and insomuch as Decim shows a change in values based on his interactions with the judged as well as the unnamed female protagonist (女, or “woman”).

2) Judgment does not send someone to a final destination. This was described throughout the series as the concepts of “Heaven” and “Hell” are provided to the judged, but the reality is that they represent reincarnation and obliteration, respectively. The judged do not spend eternity in Heaven, nor eternity in Hell, they simply continue to exist as a human or they cease to exist at all.

3) The rules of judgment are not concrete. In episode 3, both humans are reincarnated. In episode 9, while not explicitly stated or shown, it seems as though both are obliterated. While these outcomes seem consistent with Decim’s judgment of their character, they are equally inconsistent with the idea that one person is to succeed in regard to the other’s failure.

What are the spiritual implications? Read the rest of this entry

Slaine Troyard and Spiritual Event Horizons

In our latest podcast, it seems that no one wants to admit they’re watching Aldnoah.zero.  The general consensus is, I don’t want to keep watching, but I just can’t help it.  I get the feeling that a lot of viewers feel that way, especially as they see the decline of Slaine Troyard from a loyal, kind boy to a single-minded, sinister one (feels very Anakin Skywalker-ish, no?).

aldnoah 3a

Slaine has apparently gone well past the point of no return (I admittedly dropped the series after episode one of season two – a smart move, I think!).  He seems to have done enough killing and betraying to have passed the moral event horizon, that event in which a character shows that they are “irredeemably evil.”  When we watch series like Aldnoah.zero, these falls from grace are often hard to turn away from – the drama of seeing such a transition is both difficult to watch and terribly compelling.

In real life, though, when we see friends falter, it’s not compelling at all – it’s just painful.  Certainly, it hurts me to see friends with whom I once served at church fall away from their faith.  The change is usually gradual, bit by bit, until there seems to be some spiritual event horizon where instead of say, killing earthlings in mecha, they make the choice to embrace the world – pleasures, success, comfort, money – and reject the gospel message, which isn’t as simple as saying a prayer of faith or going through the four spiritual laws, but is instead a choice to surrender all these wants and desires because of who Christ is and what He has done. Read the rest of this entry

Top 5 + Guest: Five Best Anime EVER!

If you were to try to create an objective list of the greatest anime of all time, what would you put in the top five?  Fullmetal Alchemist, perhaps?  Mushi-shi?  And would Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke be the Ghibli representative on the list?

It’s an impossible task – there are so many great anime and it’s so hard to be objective.  If we assembled together 100 anime “experts” (otaku, assemble!), we could probably craft a pretty good list, but no one would be satisfied with it.  I certainly wouldn’t, as I lean more toward series that I love – my favorites – rather than those I respect as ones I consider “best.”

But you know what?  It’s a fun exercise to see what everyone would come up with for their list of, say, the five best anime EVERRRRR.  And to that end, please check out some of our picks below!  We’re joined this month by Justin, the editor-in-chief and founder of Organizational Anti-Social Geniuses, a terrific blog of all things anime and manga industry-related.

Oh, and please share with us your top five in the comment section below!

Justin’s Picks

  1. Hunter x Hunter
  2. Kill la Kill
  3. Usagi Drop
  4. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
  5. Mawaru Penguindrum

hunter x hunter 1 copyConsidering I still have a long way to go in watching anime, I can expect this current Top 5 list to change 5 years from now, when I’m 30 and traveling to Japan for some random reason. But at this present time, these are probably my Top 5 anime, narrowly edging out Rainbow and only a paltry mention of Death Note to suffice. The 5 I chose I think are worthy though. Mawaru Penguindrum was the first Ikuhara anime I tried, and it was 24 (or so) weeks of absolute chaos, stress, and joy, and boy I was not sure what to make of this anime when I finished it the first time. I then watched it a second time some years ago and, instead of feeling conflicted, I’m convinced this is definitely a great show. It’s just narrowly behind Madoka, which I burned through in a day like a madman with its story, its imagery, and the themes it presented. However, these two shows, which aired in 2011, couldn’t knock off what was my favorite anime ever, Usagi Drop. The relationship between Rin and Daikichi managed to work, along with its visuals and sound, and considering I started taking anime seriously four years ago, this was a welcome anime to watch each week, then re-watch a year later. But it’s reign ended at my top only two years later, as two shows that ended in 2014 knocked it off its perch. The first was Kill la Kill. It’s frenetic, crazy pace made a big impression on me, and after its first episode, was entertained from start to finish. This just beat Usagi Drop from my top spot. Then, Hunter x Hunter happened. How can a 148 episode show be on top? Make no mistake, this was not a perfect show. It even had an arc where I was less than impressed. Yet, the more I think about how it ended, and the more I thought about the arcs where they were excellent, and the more I think back to episodes that made me realize why I became an anime fan, the more I couldn’t deny Gon and his crew from being at the top of my Top 5 anime ever despite some imperfections. I can’t profess to these being the very best, but if nothing else, they are one of the many best out there. 

Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April, Episode 20: Hands

The visual of a pair of hands can evoke a great many emotions; they can mean a lot of things – steadiness, strength, warmth.  In Your Lie in April, they certainly reveal ability and talent, but in episode 20, the imagery of hands means so much more -they represent both power and powerlessness, the ability to create and the inability to aid.

The episode continues to develop Tsubaki’s storyline and she kinda confesses to Kousei in her tomboyish way.  But as is usual, the plot returns to Kousei, who continues to grow, overcoming his discomfort of visiting Kaori with Watari and deciding to go along with him (and even further, telling his friend that he likes his girlfriend).  When they arrive at her room, however, they find Kaori convulsing and in need of dire attention from medical staff, as Kousei fixates on her hand, which at first grips onto the railing of her bed before falling away.

april 20b

Hands are so meaningful in music.  They, of course, are vital tools for the musician – injury or disease to them can destroy a musician’s career.  As Kaori loses control of her hands, Kousei still has his, and with his dexterous fingertips he creates beautiful music.

But even with that ability, a realization hits Kousei in this episode – his hands are useless to help Kaori.  There’s nothing he can do to help her during her episode, and in fact, he’s in the way, as a hospital staffer declares.

Even worse, not only can Kousei do nothing to help Kaori this very minute, there’s nothing he can do to stop her impending death.  This is demonstrated through his attempt to save the black cat; a metaphor for Kaori and reminiscent of Chelsea, Kousei feels that he is again unable to save someone dear to him, and as he stares down at blood-covered hands, he further thinks because he lacks this power, it’s his fault.

The blood on his hands is as obvious an image as can be – death is coming to Kaori, and there’s nothing he can do.  Read the rest of this entry

Throwback Thursdays: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann literally means, “Pierce the heavens, Gurren Lagann.” This strange title is used as a common phrase to inspire and build up the main protagonist of the series, Simon. If you haven’t realised by now, I love it when an anime series breaks off the norm and the stereotypical and does something new. Gurren Lagann does this, while paying homage to old school mecha anime and even traveling through different generations of mecha anime. It does this without even telling you in the process.

ttgl 1

The true genius of the show comes not from the reflections of past series of the genre, but rather the emotional tie that the audience develops with the characters. In the beginning, we are introduced to Kamina and Simon, who live in a small underground city that has forgotten about the surface of the earth. This episode introduces these two characters as well as the setting. The second episode throws you into the constant struggle above ground and the struggles as Simon tries to live up to Kamina’s expectations. From the end of the second episode, you are either into the show or aren’t. The slow increase in plot does not last long. If you make it past the painful tribute to fan-service that is episode 6, you will not be able to drop the show as episode 7 catapults you at full speed into the spiraling depths of emotion from which you cannot return. At this point you will love the show or will hate the very thought of it’s existence. In most of my experience, the first is more often the case. Read the rest of this entry

The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, Ep. 7: Relational Risk

Episode 7 of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls is an absolutely amazing episode. While the episode itself focuses on the simple matter of getting Mio to return to the Cinderella Project, the situation is explored from various perspectives, mainly with how the Producer handles everything, but also with how Mio, Rin and the other girls react. This means there are a lot of things worth talking about in this episode. I already talked about some of it in my last post on this series, and I will be covering even more in this post.

Those afterimages are not insignificant.

Those afterimages are not insignificant.

This time, I would like to look at the episode from the Producer’s and Rin’s perspectives. As we find out, the Producer has had some history with idol production before, which has affected how he approaches the Cinderella Project. Meanwhile, Rin, who had joined in the hopes of finding something to be passionate about, has only found instead disappointment with how the Producer is handling the matter with Mio. Both of them have found out the same thing: that even if it’s just for business, relationship can be a risky thing, and the end result is not always good. After the jump, I will look at what each of them learns in this episode.

Read the rest of this entry

Examining Old School Anime: Joe Yabuki’s Hard Heart

Greetings to our dear readers!  Having accepted TWWK’s invitation to write for Beneath the Tangles, we decided that blogging about old school anime (anime produced in the 80’s and in prior decades) would make for an interesting addition to the blog and introduce fans to some great old series.  This column shall point out and discuss themes in old school anime from a Catholic viewpoint.  Hopefully, the articles will both encourage you to explore older anime and provide ideas which will enrich your meditations on the Faith.

The salient feature of Ashita no Joe‘s plot lies in that it is a conversion story, pure and simple.  All my articles on this show will relate to this major point, and no better starting point for this conversion story exists than in the unfortunate state of Joe’s hard heart.  Diamonds are less solid!  Joe trusts no one, believes in nothing, and the notion of a good deed performed without an ulterior motive strikes him as pure fantasy.  If God now demanded the two coins of humility and charity from Joe for his entrance into paradise, Joe could offer nothing!

Joe Alone

To make this journey of conversion more difficult, our hero throws up every possible obstacle he can.  In Joe’s trial, it comes to light that Joe was abandoned by his parents at a young age, escaped from his orphanage, and has since lived as a drifter relying upon his fists and his street smarts until about his seventeenth year.  This life in nowise may be expected to produce a gentle heart!  Yet, he has the good fortune of meeting Danpei Tange, a retired boxer living as a homeless drunk.  Danpei becomes enamored of Joe’s fists, and persists in persuading Joe to take up boxing.  The first person to show Joe any kind of affection in a long time, Danpei does things like cover him with his overcoat when Joe goes to sleep and shields Joe from a beating by interposing his own body, which sends Danpei to the hospital.  When at last Joe caves in to Danpei’s entreaties, Danpei becomes Joe’s guardian and works night and day so that Joe might concentrate on training.  At the same time, a group of brats (I’m sure the Japanese term gaki applies to them) befriends Joe, but this association does not lead Joe to become a better person–despite the sincere affection the kids have for Joe. Read the rest of this entry

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