Holy Week: Noragami and Treating God as a Genie, Part 1

Near the end of the Noragami series, an anime-only antagonist is introduced.  Like Yato, Rabo is a god of calamity, and the series does it’s best to make him seem a match for our laid-back (but occasionally awesome) hero.

Apparently, Rabo has returned after centuries of absence, but in just a short time, he has made his presence felt among the general populace.  One of Hiyori’s friends, Yamashita, mentions that invoking his name in attempt to off somebody is a fad, I guess akin to writing down someone’s name in a Death Note notebook you purchased on eBay.

In this same discussion, the girls have a quick, but meaningful discussion characterizing the gods.  Yamashita tells of all her wishes to the kami, to which Hiyori chastises that she shouldn’t burden the gods with too many wishes.  Yamashita responds, “But that’s what gods are for!”

Yato and Rabo

Art by mime6 (Pixiv ID 41703179)

Although it’s played for comedy, Yamashita’s words reveal how many of us treat God in deeds, if not also in words.  Our head knowledge might know God to be a living spirit who is dynamic and loving and full of life.  But our words indicate that he’s static and idol-like, something to go to when we’re in need.

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Holy Week is Noragami Week on Beneath the Tangles

The Holy Week, the days leading up Easter beginning with Palm Sunday, is upon us.  On Beneath the Tangles, each year we go topical during this week, discussing one character, series, or theme.  This year, we’ll be posting an article a day leading up to Easter Sunday about last season’s popular anime series, Noragami.  As rich in Christian spiritual truths as it was in Shinto imagery, Noragami was a favorite series for a number of us on staff, including myself.

Art by Mimi N (Pixiv ID 41251088)

Art by Mimi N (Pixiv ID 41251088)

So please join with us during the upcoming days as we dig into the show and glean out tidbits of Christian principles.

In the meantime, check out our previous couple of years’ series on Nicholas D. Wolfwood and Loving You For Who You Are, respectively.

Something More: Catholicism in Noragami, Wolf Children of God, and Bye, Bye, Animekritik!

D.M. Dutcher reviews Wolf Children and finds a parallel to the idea of Christians being “in the world, but not of it.” [Speculative Faith]

Rob continues his Christian reviews, closing out series like Golden Time [1] and Nobunagun [2], while reviewing new shows like Captain Earth [3].

Medieval Otaku gives his thoughts on Witch Craft Works and Noragami, including some Catholic connections in each. [Medieval Otaku]

Additionally, Medieval Otaku, who has guested here and whom we frequently feature in this column, is celebrating the two-year anniversary of his blog.  Go congratulate him! [Medieval Otaku]

Unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, animekritik is closing his blog [Kritik der Animationskraft].

We’ve included links to a number of his excellent articles in the past – including some of the following favorites:

Spring 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions, Including Haikyuu, Black Bullet, and Captain Earth

Who says this season won’t be any good?

After a lackluster winter season (though Japes and Goldy found some bright spots in it), the spring is offering some really enjoyable series of it’s own.  Usually, I’m able to cull out all but 3-4 series immediately, focusing on just those, but this season promises to make it hard on me to decide which shows to watch!

Captain Earth

Earth Engine Impacter

Art by 狐憑き (Pixiv ID 42730014)

Well, I have to say – my curiosity is definitely piqued.  The first episode of this sci-fi series from BONES (and the creators of Star Driver) was thick with content, so much so that I swore I was watching something an hour long.  And yet, the episode never lost me.  I was almost beside myself with how much this series seemed to rely on excellent ones from the past, like Eureka 7 and RahXephon, but by the time it ended, Captain Earth had taken a host of familiar elements and offered something compelling – the feelings of adventure, which I find so rare in anime.

Verdict: I’m in!

Isshuukan Friends

One Week Friends

Art by coma (Pixiv ID 42777163)

Boy tries to make friends with girl.  Girl says no.  Boy works hard to become friends.  Girl befriends boy.  Girl forgets boy.  On Mondays, repeat.

With a storyline similar to 50 First Dates, Isshuukan Friends looks like it’s going to be a very emotional series.  It’s the only one I was really looking forward to this semester, and based on the first episode, I don’t expect to be disappointed.  I really enjoyed the art style, the characters, and the way the series is already hitting the right emotional notes.  I can’t wait to see episode two!

Verdict: I’m in!

Baby Steps

Eiichirō Maruo

Art by アガハリ (Pixiv ID 30281964)

Sports anime.  Check.  Romantic element.  Check.  Relateable protagonist.  Check.

Baby Steps starts us a year after the events of the series, showing our hero playing well in a tennis match.  Then the episodes moves back in time to show him as the overachiever who does his best at school without passion or meaning, only with discipline.  But meeting a beautiful girl and trying out her passion, tennis, is seemingly going to change him.  The first episode was a lot of fun – it hit all the right strokes (har har) without going overboard in any of the ways that would turn me off (see my discussion of the steely bodies in Haikyuu!!).

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Black Bullet

Enju Aihara

Art by ジョン (Pixiv ID 42804916)

The opening episode of this futuristic action-thriller was almost jarring as it jumped between an almost epic story to a silly romcom.  But it all kind of worked together well, matching the demeanor of the main character, who seems to be trying to develop in his own right, out of bitterness toward a more normal life.  That normal life, of course, includes an underage girl whom he protects (and who is in love with him).  This is anime, after all…

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Haikyuu!!

Art by 豚カツ (Pixiv ID 29958530)

Art by 豚カツ (Pixiv ID 29958530)

I did not expect a whole lot lot from this series, but found myself really enjoying the opening episode.  I haven’t watched more than maybe half a dozen sports series, so I don’t have a great feel for the conventions of such shows, but it looks like they’re in full force here, with volleyball taking the place of baseball.  The twist at the end of the episode feels Cross Game-ish (not to worry – it’s not that twist), and the main character is similar to Mihashi, but with far more confidence (and a little more gas).  Also, there was a really lovely montage showing our protagonist training and gaining his teammates.  I don’t like how the characters go crashing all over the court and rise like they’re DBZ characters, but otherwise, color me intrigued.

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

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Untangled: Christian Panel at an Anime Con

One of my favorite parts of administering this blog is occasionally receiving emails from our readers.  A week or two ago, we received a request from Michael.  Here’s how he began:

Hi, I am so blessed to have found your blog, and here’s why. To keep it short, I am a Christian in Miami, FL and just went to my first anime con (Animate! Miami) in January and felt from Holy Spirit to bring Gods Kingdom to our otaku/video game culture[...]I submitted to do a panel at the biggest con in FL, Supercon. I want to do a panel about spirituality and anime but focusing totally on our Father God and Christ, and the impact God has on anime in general…

A lot of times, I don’t have a good answer for our readers.  But thankfully, I now have a little insight into this request after recently conducting a panel at IKKiCON, the anime convention in my local Austin community.

Michael went on to write the following:

I am making my presentation and wanted to get your much needed advice. I want to connect with the Christian otaku community and get ideas as to how to make this presentation great and an opportunity to bring souls to Christ.  Any advice or suggestions as to which amines I should focus on, or maybe just topics I should stick to? I have to present for an hour, and will throw in some games too to keep it interesting.

Michael, thanks for coming to us with your question – I’ll help you as best I can!

I think you first need to consider who your audience is, if you haven’t already.  It seems like you may be wanting to focus on Christian otaku.  In that case, you might consider that your audience will be unique – you may have a mix of those of different religious backgrounds who attend, not only within the Christian tradition, but possibly others who have an interest in religion.  I also found that a number of young people, attending with parents, came to my panel.

If you intend to make the panel evangelistic in nature, aimed at non-Christians, I would definitely think about what it is I can offer my audience in terms of my topic.  As with Paul and his teaching on being everything to everyone, your panel should appeal to anime fans, offering them something about anime that they can learn from and/or be entertained by.  Otherwise, they may feel they’re getting the old bait and switch, which might accomplish the opposite of what you intend.  Even if you carefully weave a gospel presentation into your panel, some will be offended and most may not be open to it.  In that case, I might suggest passing them to another resource they could consult, whether it’s your own or another, when they get home from the con and think back on your panel.

And I’ll mention one more consideration – this one on a more general level.  Others who visit our blog (and even a couple of other writers) have more to offer in the way of tips, but I’ll offer just this one – time flies when you’re doing your panel, so if you’ve packed your 60 minutes to the brim, you probably won’t be able to cover all that you’ve wanted.  Adjust accordingly.

Good luck on your panel, and please let us know how it goes!  And for all those reading this post, what advice might you also offer Michael?

If you have a question for us, please click on the “Ask the Staff” button on the top menu of our blog.

Winter 2014 In Review (Part Two)

TWWK: Yesterday, Goldy and Japes started their review of Winter 2014’s anime. Today, our reviewing pair join together to judge shows that they both watched this past season.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

Love, Chunibyou & Other Delusions – Heart Throb -

Goldy – [8/10]

In the past, I’ve praised Kyoto Animation for creating love stories without going all out shoujo drama, and while they did an excellent job with season one of Chuuni, I had my worries about the second season.
Where could they possibly go with this? Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and the second season delivered a brilliant performance, including all the familiar characters facing their weaknesses and even including some new ones. I like to see characters grow in stories, moving forward despite knowing their faults.
The main story, the relationship between Yuuta and Rika progressed rather well from last season, I thought. It grew at their own pace, which in itself was a beautiful and heart warming thing. I think the two still have a long way to go in understanding each other better, but sometimes baby steps are better than nothing.
I’m a sucker for an excellent love story, though.

Japesland – [7/10]

It took me quite a while to decide what to score Chuunibyou this time around (I rated season one an 8/10), but ended up landing on the 7/10 that you can see above. While I love this series, including this season, I found it hard to rate it anything higher than a 7 considering how little it had to offer beyond what was in the first season. With the exception of a fantastic new character, Shichimiya Satone, the vast majority of the emotional buildup found in this season was also found in the first season. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both, but I was hoping to see either something new, or perhaps something at least a bit more progressive than what KyoAni had to offer us this time around.

With all of that said, however, season two has left me eagerly awaiting a (perhaps more fulfilling) season three. Like Goldy indicated above, baby steps are better than nothing, and KyoAni definitely did not give us nothing.

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Winter 2014 In Review (Part One)

TWWK: Winter is typically a slow season for anime, and it looked like more of the same going into this past season.  But how did winter 2014 really pan out?  Between our resident anime addicts, Japes and Goldy, almost every anime of note was covered, and over the next two days, they’ll let you know their views on high points and low this just-completed season.  Today, Japes and Goldy review series that only one or the other watched, and tomorrow, they join together to review shows that they both viewed.

Goldy:

Noragami - [9/10]
Noragami

There are usually a couple series I watch every season that surprise me; Norgami was the lucky one this winter. I jumped into it without thinking much about it beyond “this animation style looks cool and the head guy is wearing a scarf, so it must be good! :D”
While the “main character is wearing a scarf so it must be good” theory doesn’t always ring true for every anime you will come across, Noragami never failed to make me laugh, gasp in suspense and worry over the characters, make my eyes even water a little (especially that finale), and my heart warm at the sweetness of the friendships between all the characters.
Though don’t mistake my tone, Noragami was far from a happy sunshine and rainbows comedy. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the route that the manga/anime Rurouni Kenshin took (“the reformed murderer” in simple terms). There is something very serious and contemplative and even sometimes a bit frightening about the story of Noragami. At the end of the day, even through all the sweet and fun times to be had, you need to face consequences of your actions.
I would recommend Noragami very highly.

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Anime Today: Idols in Ishinomaki

As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.

While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.

As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.

Wug Minami Katayama

Art by 馬の助 (Pixiv ID 40903644)

In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.

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Perspectives in Servant x Service

Servant x Service  follows five civil servants working at the welfare department of  a ward office. The show is strongly reminiscent of the British comedy The Office. Maybe it’s because college graduation was four years ago for me, but it was kind of refreshing to see an anime set in an office instead of set at school.

Although I’m not a civil servant, my jobs, present and past, usually involve  customer service situations similar to the ones in Servant x Service. I could definitely relate to a lot of them.

Like this one…

nn

Yep.

And this one…

n

Oh yes.

and ESPECIALLY this one….

nnnnn

For all eternity…….

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Take Four – March 2014

Hanamonogatari Announcement and Promo - Kaze

hanamonogatari
Art by koflif

Hanamonogatari was announced to air as a 5 episode series after Nisekoi finishes. At 5 episodes, at least it won’t be getting the Neko Kuro treatment. This will bring a close to the adaptation of the 2nd season of the Monogatari series. The 3rd season of books is also nearing an end as the final pat of Owarimonogatari is slated to release early April, leaving only one volume left. However, if Nisio’s history with these novels is indicative of anything, we can probably expect several books, delays, and potentially even more volumes before the series really comes to a close. Regardless, the real question on all our minds is, of course, when will they give us Kizu?

kenshin and shishioShishio Revealed in New Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film Trailers – TWWK

I’ve still yet to watch the first live-action Rurouni Kenshin film, but I couldn’t pass up mentioning that the trailers for the next two movies, opening on August 1st and September 13th, respectively, in Japan, feature that bandage villain among villains, Shishio!  I’m definitely excited to see the Kyoto Arc brought to life, as it remains my favorite shounen quest/journey/tournament arc in anime.  And judging from the positive response to the first film, there’s high hopes that these remaining ones will deliver!  Check out the trailer below:

A New Vocaloid Game… Without Miku! - Japesland

vocaloid

Art by 野々原K

If you haven’t noticed yet, I am an unabashed Vocaloid nut. While I don’t have the time (nor, sometimes, the energy) to stay up with all of the popular producers or voice banks being released, I am always excited to see new Vocaloid announcements. Additionally, I have been hyped for months about the new Project DIVA game, F 2nd (which just released last Thursday and finally arrived at my post office on Monday). Needless to say, I was not expecting another company to begin a new Vocaloid-centric rhythm game any time soon due to the competition, but lo and behold, a game featuring one of my favorite Vocaloids was announced! If you are not familiar, I recommend checking out some songs using IA’s voice, particularly those in the Kagerou Project written by one of my favorite producers, Jin (Shizen no Teki-P). Imagination Forest is a good place to start, and I hope it gets you as excited as I am for this new release!

Nanoha Series Get Blu Ray Releases – KazeNanoha BD

All 3 Nanoha seasons will finally be getting blu ray releases near the end of this year. While I do admit there are flaws with the show, I am still a huge fan of the series, so I greatly look forward to seeing this iconic series getting some nice animation upgrades. Granted, I am one of many fans who believe the movie adaptation of the first season is superior in every way, animation included; however, I will no doubt be re-watching the later 2 seasons when they become available.  Of course, I recommend people to join me, as Nanoha A’s is pretty much the pinnacle of the Mahou Shoujo genre (another reason for my dislike of the Madoka fanbase, although the crossovers were quite amusing). There’s also a new movie in the works that’s supposedly coming out this year, but not much news on that front.