Anime Today: Jealous Love??

I’m no expert when it comes to the shoujo genre, but Wolf Girl and Black Prince seems to be about as shoujo as shoujo gets.

High school setting? Check.
Unlucky but romantically desperate female lead? Check.
Cold, but attractive and desirable male romantic interest? Check.
Ensuing love triangles? We’ll see, but it basically seems so.

17121-q1bzqbkl4sHowever, what has intrigued me most about this series thus far is not its use of the vast array of established shoujo tropes (who would that interest, anyway?), but how it depicts romance and the wiliness of a “maiden’s heart.” I’ve written before on the topic of love, particularly pertaining to Chuunibyou a number of months ago, focusing namely on the fickleness of love as portrayed in media. But that silly, unrealistic, “lovey-dovey” portrayal is not what interests me here. Rather, I was brought back to an article written by Kaze almost a year ago entitled, “The Greatest Love of All… Is a Yandere?

Let’s back up just a moment to the series in question. Erika Shinohara, being the (apparently) pathological liar she is, in order to impress her “friends” lies about having an impressive boyfriend. As it would turn out, the boy she lies about dating ends up being the school “prince” in another class, Kyouya Sata. Being the kindhearted gem he is, when chaos ensues he decides to play along with her game and pretends to be her boyfriend… only for Erika to discover that he is really a relentless sadist. He blackmails her into continuing the fake relationship as his “dog” by threatening to expose her lies, all in the name of “entertainment.”

The most outrageous part of this setup, though, is that she willingly goes along with it and ends up falling in love with him.

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Anime’s Common Grace

Note: This article was originally intended for publication elsewhere.  Read The Life and Death of an Anime Article on an Evangelical Website for the whole story.  This post contains spoilers for Haibane Renmei, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Trigun, and Death Note.

InceptionBlack SwanThe Matrix. These Hollywood hits have a common thread—each was heavily influenced by Japanese animation, aka anime.

Anime has settled in as a permanent part of American entertainment. Besides serving as inspiration for filmmakers, some anime movies—particularly those by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, The Secret World of Arrietty, and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away)—have found a Western audience. Still, it would a stretch to say that Americans have embraced anime. It remains an oddity—a medium filled with large-eyed characters and unfamiliar cultural references.

As with many adults, when I first watched anime as a child, I didn’t know about its Japanese origins. Dubbed versions of Speed Racer and Voltron stood side-by-side with Disney, Looney Tunes, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons as favorites. Years later, in college, I rediscovered anime and became gripped by the medium’s mature themes, fanciful artwork, and yes, the foreignness of it all. Younger Americans, meanwhile, have grown up with anime, from kiddie fare like Pokemon to action series like Naruto.

Many viewers are drawn toward anime’s storylines, which are far different from those in typical American animation. Despite a growing trend to the contrary, American toons are still typically aimed at children. In Japan, animation is produced for both children and adults. Anime films are routinely among Japan’s highest grossing and most adored movies, while most anime TV programming airs during primetime or late at night. Because it is often made for older audiences, the animation, storylines, and dialogue are typically more mature than in western counterparts, often including heavy doses of violence and fanservice (a term usually used to describe the animation of scantily dressed characters). In America, there’s a certain shock value to seeing something like the hyperviolent anime sequence in Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1, because it remains an exception.

Anime also frequently portrays Shinto and Buddhist practices, reflecting the habits of the majority of Japan, where only 1-2 percent identify as Christian. Not unlike American media, it’s more typical to find a vampire-hunting priest or an irreligious Catholic schoolgirl in a show than a Christian character simply living out his or her faith.

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Sora No Method, Episode 2: Conversation and Fireworks

In episode two of Sora no Method (Celestial Method), Nonoka starts school, but the episode isn’t centered around her class – it quickly focuses on a new friendship she develops with Yuzuki, a loud and spunky classmate who enlists Nonoka in her plan to get rid of the saucer that hovers over the island in which they live.

Throughout the episode, as Yuzuki drags Nonoka to different locations in executing her plans, you can see how uncomfortable Nonoka feels.  She does not want to be a part of all this, and is embarrassed by Yuzuki’s unabashed pronouncements over and over again.  And yet, Nonoka continues to follow along.  Certainly, she doesn’t want to hurt her new friend, but even the patient Nonoka is brought to a tipping point.  But strangely enough, it’s when she refuses to go with her friend to the island directly under the saucer, and after the two fall into a lake shortly after deciding to split, that Nonoka is able to have a real conversation with her spastic friend.

Yuzuki Mizusaka

We get to learn a lot about Nonoka’s character in this episode.  Though letting herself being taken along on this crazed journey could be chalked up to a number of things, Nonoka’s kindness at the end of their day’s sojourn can only be the result of a kind heart.  Despite suffering because of Yuzuki, Nonoka remains patient and loving as she listens to her friend.

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Grisaia no Kajitsu Episode 2: Special Circumstances

Well first of all, there are a lot of complaints about the fanservice. All I can say is…yes there is, I’m sorry, I didn’t think they would be this blatant with the fanservice. I can’t blame anyone who drops it for this reason, but I will still hold my opinion that its story is top tier. I’ll point to my old post on OreTsuba, which was far, far worse with its fanservice where even I, with pretty high tolerance, wanted to drop it multiple times, but it is still probably the most impressive (due to the difficulty of its storyboarding) visual novel adaptation ever. Point being, while I won’t defend criticisms of the show for its fanservice, it doesn’t change my stance that the story has really great themes to tell.

The episode begins immediately with Yumiko (aka not-Gahara) trying to stab Yuuji which he expertly dodges. The scene switches to Amane discussing the not-Gahara problem with him while doing some things under the desk. While I just said I wouldn’t defend fanservice, I’ll note that fanservice surrounding Amane is very in-character for reasons to be later revealed. Anything about character interactions that seems strange is due to “circumstances,” which some people are interpreting as poor characterization.

Complaining after you failed to stab someone

Complaining after you failed to stab someone

Amane takes every chance she gets

Amane takes every chance she gets

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The Life and Death of an Anime Article on an Evangelical Website

In the summer of 2012, I had the marvelous idea of expanding Beneath the Tangles’ reach by trying my hand at journalism.  I would approach publications with pitches for articles about anime to see if they were interested in working with me.  I was a bit apprehensive because unlike, say, Lauren Orsini, I have no journalism experience.  Still, I went at it with determination, exploring different websites that might be responsive to pitches, and soon finding that if I wanted to write about the intersection of anime and Christianity, my options might be limited.

If I remember correctly, I submitted to several websites and publications, but in the end, I received just one response.  But like a gift from God, that response came from the major evangelical Christian website, one with a very large readership.  In addition the obvious benefits of writing for a big site, I was very excited on a more personal level.  The website was one of my favorites throughout my twenties.  I was elated that the its culture and media editor was interested in my article.

With the go-ahead given, I wrote the article and was promptly paid by the publication (another pleasant surprise).  We spent about a month revising the article, as my editor patiently guided me in crafting a piece fit for publication.  It was a wonderful learning experience, and I was grateful to have someone patiently shape my writing.

Once we finished, I was notified that the article would likely post around January 2013.  So I waited several months until the new year came.  Eventually, January came and went without a peep.  I contacted my editor again to find that he had left the company.  He directed me to the new editor*, who was immediately less responsive to my writing, and he eventually (though kindly) let me know that he decided to pass on my article.

The rejection was painful.  Although I had mentioned the piece was coming up to a number of people, it wasn’t the embarrassment of getting ahead of myself that pained me, but more the idea that I had achieved something worthwhile, something that made me feel very proud, and suddenly it was no more, taken away in a simple email.  I suppose this is the life of a journalist – one that, with my thin skin, I’m glad I never pursued!

I later tried to find a home for the article elsewhere, but to no avail.  Still, I’m proud of the piece that my editor and I created.  And so, though it’s written for an audience with little knowledge of anime, I’ll post it here on Beneath the Tangles tomorrow for you all to read.  If it couldn’t find its place at the site it was intended for, I’m glad my article at least has this blog to call home.

*This editor is pretty well-known for his writings on Christianity and culture and in an unusual twist, I used some of his material in a course I taught at my church last semester about that topic.

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works, Episode 1: Saving Everyone

Two episodes in, and Shirou is already coming across as twice the man he was in the original Fate/stay night anime.  I’m not sure if this is a correction by design or if the chauvinism he displayed through FSN will rear it’s ugly head as he begins to develop his relationship with Saber.  Still, there’s promise here.

And maybe because Shirou is less “simple” in this series, his idealism, too, is more inspiring this time around than annoying.  Saved by Kiritsugu in the Holy Grail War tragedy that claimed many lives, Shirou has grown up wanting to help and save others – to be a “hero of justice.”  And not just for some – for all:

I’m not interested in salvation that’s inherently limited to a set number of people. I can’t bear the thought of strangers dying around me like they did that day.

Shirou’s altruism is admirable.  And by the end of episode one, he now has his servant – the amazing Saber (right up there as one of my very favorite characters – goosebumps when she arrives on screen!) – to help him achieve his goals.  But will he?  Can he?

saber

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Claymore, Final Chapter (155): The Gospel According to Teresa

It’s here – the end is nigh!  A wonderful, amazing, long-running manga has finally come to a close.

No, not that one.  No, I’m writing about Claymore.

At the end of September, and after a 13-year-run, Claymore finally concluded.  So obviously, it took me almost two weeks to finally get around to reading the last chapter.  But I must say, though the last entire half of Claymore hasn’t nearly lived up to the first half, the final few chapters were very, very good.

But maybe I’m just saying that because I feel they reflect something even greater than the manga itself.

If you’ve been reading the last few months, you’ll notice that Teresa of the Faint Smile, whose shocking death brought notoriety to Claymore many years ago, has returned.  Clare has transformed into her mentor, and Teresa, the strongest claymore to have ever lived, is the only one powerful enough to finally destroy Priscilla.

teresa of the faint smile claymore form

Teresa, sounding quite godly

But is it really Teresa who is victorious?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  In an internal dialogue, Teresa explains that she appeared because Clare’s wishes for and about her, and because of all that Clare had done – improving herself and building community with those around her.  Because of all this, Teresa was able to reappear.  And though Teresa’s physical embodiment will now disappear completely, she’ll remain with Clare in spirit, continuing to be with her.  And as Clare embraces her mentor – indeed, her mother figure – she knows this to be true – Teresa will always be with her.

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Something More: Good Librarians and the Good Shepherd, SAO Friendship, and Moe Buddhist Girl Figures

A new season of anime is here!  Although it may be too early to judge it, at the very least, there’s a lot of excitement in the air for new shows, with fewer sequels and more originals this season, including one that Frank talks about below in our lead-off article this week:

Frank finds a lesson of how Christians should imitate the Good Shepherd in the opening episode of Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai. [A Series of Miracles]

Rob finds that episode 14 of Sword Art Online provides some insight into friendship from a Christian perspective. [Christian Anime Review]

He also looks at the roles of the church body as he reviews episode six of Sailor Moon Crystal. [2]

D.M. Dutcher calls Canon “an interesting shoujo manga with some Christian-friendly themes.” [Cacao, put down he shovel!]

Casey dives into volume one of the Attack on Titan manga, providing a review that’s helpful for discerning Christians. [Geeks Under Grace]

And finally, I forgot to post a link to this article a few weeks ago, but it’s still worth sharing – the moe temple is now selling figures of moe Buddhist anime girls. Yep. [RocketNews24]

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.

Your Lie in April Episode 1: From Monotone to Color

Grace is one of those terms people use without really knowing what it means.  We know there’s something special about it – we think of graceful people or gracious words, and they bring light, fluffy, angelic images to mind.  The meaning of grace is even better than those thoughts – it’s an undeserved love.  The word in action has the power to change people and to make them see the world in a different light.

In episode one of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso), Kousei is a young man living in ungrace.  Life has been hard on him – he lives without his father, absent due to work, and without him mom, who died several years prior.  And before that, his life was centered around being a piano prodigy whose performance determined how much love he would receive from his mom.  He was earning love, in a transaction relationship with the person that he cared for most.  It was the exact of opposite of grace.

Years later, Kousei no longer performs on the piano.  But as his best friend, Tsubaki, mentions, he still desperately clings to it.  All he’s known is approval through music, so what else can he do?

But if I’m still clinging to it, it must be because I have nothing else  Take away the piano and I’m empty.  There’s nothing left but an ugly resonance.

Though maybe not as obviously, we, too, try to earn the approval of people and things.  Our relationships are often based on this idea of earning – we’ll be friends with people who reciprocate, and visa-versa.  Certainly at work, we meet ungrace – if we don’t perform, we’ll be fired, and if we perform well, we’ll be promoted.  And how many of us have parents who don’t seem too far from Kousei’s mom, showering us with love when we do what they expect, but expressing disappointment otherwise?

The major problem with these relationships, which emphasize results, is that we’ll ultimately fail.  We’re imperfect.  So what happens when we let the most important people in our lives down?  Kousei’s reaction perhaps isn’t too far from what we might experience, a loss of feeling, sadness, anger, loss – a seeing the world in “monotone.”

Ah, but what happens when we instead experience grace?

kaori miyazono

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Inspiring Praise: Hatsune Miku, Mitchie M, and the Emotion of Song

I’m not sure that I could identify myself as an overly emotional person.

If you know me as well as my immediate family, that statement probably sounds like an outright lie. Growing up, I was always quick to cry (a source of constant frustration, being a male). Even random conversations that resulted in seemingly little in the way of serious repercussions resulted in a teary-eyed mess. Anything from being chastised for being late for work to attending a good friend and co-worker’s pre-funeral viewing, and I was simply put out of commission. I can recall many angry and upsetting conversations around the time I entered college, particularly centered around issues of my waning faith, though surrounded by issues of a changed family situation and self-inflicted doubts and pressures.

But my statement still stands. I’m not sure that I could identify myself as an overly emotional person.

Why is it that I still make this statement, despite the previous paragraph that clearly lays out constructive reasoning for determining why, in contrast, I am an emotional person?

Perhaps this feeling stems back to my view of God and the Christian faith I follow. While I’ve had many emotional experiences relating to my views of God, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve ever directly felt the emotion of God directed toward me (though, perhaps, with the exception of the feeling of peace that said God exists and looks to my best interests). When, during worship songs, people raise their hands high at the apex of a piece of music, I’ve never felt the inclination to join. When I visited Japan on a missions trip, I can’t say I ever felt the oppressive atmosphere that several members claimed to feel in the shrines and temples (that is not to say they didn’t exist as much as I simply did not feel them, though that debate is another topic for another article). I even remember in a psychology class, the professor taking a poll and asking, “Do you believe that God [assuming He exists] is as emotional as people make him out to be?” My overwhelming response, of course, was “no!”

Although the Bible often personifies God with human characteristics, particularly emotions, I have, as I have matured in my beliefs, held fast to the idea that God is not the being that is so often caricatured by modern Christianity. Emotions are, of course, not inherently bad. If that were the case, the Bible would not personify God with them so frequently, nor would they be such integral parts of certain passages. However, He is an indescribable being. He is one without existence in time or space, one without substance that can be analyzed in our limited three dimensions (oh, how I want to reference Ever17!), and surely one that can only be moderately understood through analogies.

Now Japes, all this lofty and pretentious talk of human emotion and the nature of God is well and fine, but where does Miku fall into it? Thank you for asking, attentive reader! Let me direct your attention to one of Mitchie M’s newest Vocaloid creations, “Burenai Ai De”:

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