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

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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

Read the rest of this entry

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”:

Read the rest of this entry

Lost in Translation

When it comes to watching anime as a Westerner and relying on subtitles, there are a lot of things that simply don’t translate well across the language and cultural barrier. Usually, this does not hinder our enjoyment of the media. The general meaning still gets across. The subtitles will often change what is literally being said to something that simply fits better in the context of English language and culture. While sometimes this can lead to very liberal translations, which some people take offense to, it doesn’t change the fact that, for the most part, Westerners can understand the general meaning of what is going on and appreciate it thanks to the subtitles. However, this means that the more subtle implications and meanings, which may not be vital, but are certainly enhancing, to the story, are lost.

One example is character names. It is common for authors – in all media – to select names with a meaning reflective of the character’s personality or traits. As such, without an understanding of the Japanese language, this is completely lost. While this is generally not something that will ruin your experience, it is something that can change your perspective on things. I am reminded of Cytrus’ post on the names in No Game No Life. If you remember my review of the anime, I did not like the show at all; however, Cytrus’ analysis is spot on. The names are indeed meaningful and the kanji usage does in fact hint toward things which are not immediately revealed about the characters. While this does not have any kind of drastic effect on interpretation, it is something that simply cannot be translated and is completely lost on those without knowledge of Japanese.

Another example is the very beloved Monogatari series, or rather, anything Nisio Isin writes. As popular as it is, most Westerners are missing out on numerous jokes and puns, which often rely on Japanese culture or language knowledge. In fact, the anime itself loses out on the complexity of the puns because many are more apparent when written while other times the anime will simply exclude the wordplay altogether, which can be called a loss in translation of mediums rather than language. Many Japanese puns do not work in English, and there is no feasible way to translate them. (As an aside, I should perhaps highlight Steins;Gate, where the use of Japanese memes were translated to American memes. In terms of textual meaning, they could not be farther off, but the cultural significance of using senseless jokes which populated certain internet sites remained.) Furthermore, and this is hardly limited to the Monogatari series, there are many references to Japanese culture which weave their way into the conversation to produce meanings that simply don’t register in the minds of Westerners. The result is, regardless of what your opinion on the series may be, you are largely missing out on what made the novels popular in the first place.

nekomonogatari kuro, tsukihi

Did you get the joke? Of course not.

Things will always be lost in translation, regardless of how skilled the translator may be. When it comes to anime, these things usually aren’t a big deal, especially in the grand scheme of things where it is merely entertainment. However, when it comes to the Bible, losing meaning in translation can be very problematic. The issues surrounding how to correctly interpret the Bible are endless and partly result in the numerous amount of denominations which all believe slightly different things about how the Bible should be interpreted and what it means to truly be a Christian. Although, I’d like to avoid that can of worms if at all possible. Unlike watching anime, if we miss out on the subtle implications or the cultural and language specifics of the Bible, we risk an incorrect interpretation that can affect our spiritual lives as opposed to mere entertainment values.

Read the rest of this entry

Grisaia no Kajitsu Episode 1: A Promising Start

If you have been paying attention to anything I say, you would know I’ve been hyping Grisaia no Kajitsu since it was announced to air fall season. As someone who read the entire original trilogy (and even the magical girl spinoff heh), I have incredibly high hopes (not expectations) for this anime. While I’m expecting the anime to fail to meet those hopes, I do think it will regardless be better than most non visual novel readers would give credit based off the synopsis alone because the studio will honestly need to try to make this terrible. Grisaia’s premise is one that appears to be a very generic harem, and it sort of is, at least as far as the first game goes. However, beneath the surface, a well done adaptation will reveal themes and character depth that puts it far above any generic harem that people are used to. As for this first episode, well, that’s what this post is for!

Grisaia no Kajitsu

Grisaia no Kajitsu

The anime starts with some rather ominous text and a glimpse at the 5 heroines. So right off the bat, they’re telling you that these girls are not quite as they seem. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Next we see the protagonist Kazami Yuuji being detained at a police station. Unfortunately, the scene is incredibly brief but it still manages to retain the important parts – Yuuji’s attitude and a mention of a “special organization.” Regardless, the school principal Tachibana Chizuru comes to pick him up; they seem to already be acquainted. She almost causes a car crash because her character is suffering like that.

The police really don't like you, by the way.

The police really don’t like you, by the way.

That does not look safe.

That does not look safe.

She introduces him to the Mihama Academy, the normal school he wished for. Why would he wish for a normal school? And yet, there are only 6 “elites” in this school, including Yuuji. That hardly sounds normal to me. There is a lot emphasis on normal school life, which is normally not normal to emphasize. At the school dorms, we encounter Komine Sachi, the wonderful shark maid. She is wearing a maid uniform but is actually a student and gives quite a lengthy explanation as to why. She takes over leading Yuuji around the dorm. Then realizes she doesn’t know how to address him, so she asks to call him by the overly familiar name Yuu-kun but opts for Kazami-san instead. This is actually pretty relevant to Japanese culture, if you aren’t aware. I guess she’s trying to get a lead on the other girls. Read the rest of this entry

Sora No Method, Episode 1: Clumsy Kids

Do you remember what it was like to be a child?  The innocence, the earnestness?  Anime sometimes features child characters, as in Usagi Drop or Aishiteruzehe m Baby.  But in episode one of Sora no Method, we’re introduced to a character that isn’t quite that young, and still exhibits those important childlike characteristics.

Nonoka, having returned home with her dad (and without her mom, who seems to have passed away), finds a girl waiting in her home.  Noel, as she calls herself, is excited to see Nonoka, who had promised to return to her, but for the latter, Noel is nothing but trouble, making messes and then, apparently, breaking a picture frame containing an important photograph of her mom.  In a fit, Nonoka yells at Noel, telling her she never wants to see her again.  Later, Nonoka is guilt-ridden when she realized that Noel wasn’t the one that broke the frame.

sora no method

Noel perfectly exhibits what a young child is like.  She loves, but is clumsy in her efforts, as can be seen with the poor job she did in trying to wash away stains she made in Nonoka’s room.  And she takes Nonoka at her word, waiting for it to be fulfilled day after day, year after year.  Nonoka no longer has that sense of innocence – she’s more like a parent (and cares for her dad, in some ways, as a wife), so it doesn’t hit her until later that Noel was being incredibly sweet.

Read the rest of this entry

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade, Episode 0: Masters and Servants

Well, that was quick.  Ufotable made sure that this version of Fate/stay night is already better than the last.

The extra-long prologue of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works introduces us to Rin Tosaka, the intelligent and headstrong young mage, and her servant, Archer.  Episode zero provides background information about how the magic in this world works, some context regarding the Holy Grail War, and introductions into a few of the major characters.  It also concludes with a terrific fight scene and the appearance of everyone’s favorite servant (well, certainly mine).

fate stay night unlimited blade worksAlthough I was a huge fan of Fate/zero, I have no experience with the Fate/stay night visual novel and barely remember (or is it that I’ve tried to forget?) the original anime.  So although much of the prologue reminds me of that series, it’s still largely new to me.  I’ve forgotten much of where this show is going.

For instance, I don’t really remember the interactions between Rin and Archer.  They certainly have a fun dynamic, one that’s further layered by their defined relationship as master and servant.  Although it’s a stretch to compare that relationship to the one between God and His children, as the Bible does, I still see some similar aspects:

  1. Servanthood is Chosen.  Although Archer must serve Rin, he makes it clear in their first meeting that he will only do as he must; she has his allegiance only as far as he is obligated to.  It isn’t until he learns more about her that he gives a further allegiance to Rin, moving to a true subservient position because he finds her worthy.  A Christian’s relationship with God similarly must be chosen – it’s a response that occurs when we realize who God really is, what he has done, and how we measure up to His standard.
  2. We Find Our Fulfillment in the Master.  The battle between Archer and Lancer is a fight between two legendary warriors.  Brought back by magical means, they can once again do what they do best and, when empowered and instructed by good masters, they can do even more.  Humanity without God is ultimately only able to say this about life – it is without real meaning.  But in God, purpose exists.  The servants also find their purpose in their masters and fulfilling them gives their new lives some meaning, as does a life that’s lived for God.

The analogy breaks down in multiple other ways, but the above points ring true, and they’re important aspects that show what it means to be a Christian.  We are meant to serve Christ, but as Fate/stay night shows, servanthood can be powerful and fulfilling.  And after all, it must be – for ultimately, being a servant is what the Master also chose to be.

Something More: Faustus Metal Alchemist, Hopeful Anime Heroes, and Anime as Bible Study

A great thing about being an anime fan is that four times a year, we can get excited about a slate of new series!  While we wait on most of these to begin, a number of bloggers reflect on the final episodes of summer 2014 anime and on series older than those.

Draggle digs into his approach to bible study as he explains how to critically approach anime. [Draggle's Anime Blog]

Michael lists five anime character he considers “hopeful,” and explains why. [Gaming and God]

D.M. Dutcher finds that Star Light Woman, available through Crunchyroll’s manga service, speaks to the hopelessness of a world without God. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Frank compare’s the Holy Spirit’s guidance to a search for inspiration in Barakamon. [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn is surprised by the knowledge Japanese storytellers display about Christian legends through series like Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler. [Watching, Thinking, Writing]e

Rob catches up on Sword Art Online, finding Christians themes in recent episodes:

Episodes 10 [Geeks Under Grace] and 11 [2]

Episodes 12 [Christian Anime Review] and 13 [2]

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.