Megumi Kato: Saekano’s Little Helper

One Winter 2015 show that I finished but did not get a chance to review in the end-of-season reviews was The Megumi Kato Show. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it’s better known as either Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, or its official English title Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. In this show, after a fateful encounter with a girl, an otaku guy gets inspired to make a visual novel, and gets some otaku girls he has a history with to help him out. However, when he meets that same fateful girl again, it turns out she is Megumi Kato, a completely average girl who has no presence and is in many ways the complete opposite of a visual novel heroine. As such, the guy takes it upon himself to try to shape Megumi into a proper heroine.

It’s a fun show that also explores some of the conflicts serious otaku can encounter with creators and with the non-otaku world. However, what really allows the show to be as strong as it is, instead of collapsing under its own weight from trying too hard to be both a parody of otaku rom-coms and a serious story, is Megumi Kato. While she is supposedly a “boring” girl, I instead find her to be by far the most interesting character, and easily one of my favorite anime characters of the year. She has very normal reactions to all the craziness around her, avoids falling into obvious stereotypes, and serves as a bridge between the sillier parts of the show and the more down-to-earth parts. And in addition to all of that, she is just a great girl overall.

It’s especially interesting to see what role she plays in the visual novel-creating team. Compared to Tomoya’s as the director, Eriri as artist and Utaha as scenario writer, Megumi initially seems to be little more than a model to stand around and serve as the inspiration for the work where appropriate. Just like she has no presence among her classmates, she also has no presence in the team.

Put her with Akari from YuruYuri, Momoko from Saki, Kuroko from Kuroko's Basketball, and Kellam from Fire Emblem: Awakening for the ultimate stealth team.

Which makes for some funny moments when the others don’t notice her at their meetings.

However, as the story goes along and she starts to learn how visual novels work and the potential of the stories behind them, she decides to start helping out in more notable ways. In episode 11, she starts helping with the scripting of the visual novel, connecting Utaha’s written story, Eriri’s character art, and other elements of the software together. As she does not have any specialized talents, she decides to contribute to the project in whatever small ways she can. I love that about her; I too sometimes feel like I am not suited to the major jobs in any project I’m in, so I also look to help out in smaller ways. And I believe her spirit of helping where she can is not just a great trait of hers, but also something Christians can learn from.

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OreGairu, Episode 7: Hiki Old is Not Hiki New

The tone of OreGairu has always been peculiar for a self-declared romantic comedy – sarcastic, depressing, persnickety.  But throughout most of season two, particularly the episodes since Hikigaya has been helping out “Irohas,’ the show has developed a nervous feeling to it as well.  Simultaneously as the audience is on edge about what will happen both to the service club and with the student council project, we’re made more and more aware that almost every character is changing and/or preoccupied with something uncomfortable – and all that makes us uncomfortable as well.

Even though we’re only privy to Hikigaya’s thoughts, we can especially in episode seven guess about the preoccupations of the others – Yui is worried about the club and their friendships; Yukino, perhaps, about her inability to be the person she would like to be; Iroha about her responsibility and budding feelings toward Hikigaya (the latter to an extent with Kaori); Rumi regarding her continued problems establishing friendships; and Hayato’s jealous/admiration toward our lead.  Hikigaya, we know, is dealing with how to help others, as he comes to the realization that his methods aren’t working very well.

What surprises me is that Hiki is not preoccupied with the fact that his entire way of thinking is falling apart.  He actually takes it in stride that his methods, so core to his belief system, aren’t working with practically anyone right now.  He’s more concerned with the fact that he’s not able to help those he’s come to care about.

oregairu 7a

At the beginning of season two, my guess was that, in traditional anime fashion, the cour would culminate in some grand scene in which Hikigaya would suddenly realize the error of his ways and the value both of relationships and depending on/working with others.  Some emotional climax may still happen, but subtly, ever so subtly, transformation for Hikigaya has and is already occurring.  We know it by his actions and his thoughts.

The Hikigaya from the beginning of the school year was satisfied being alone and not being involved with anyone. Even in season one, he was resolved to just do things his own way, a cold method that didn’t take others into consideration.  But this episode reveals this much – he can’t do that anymore, not just because his ways are practically flawed, but because he cares.

Hikigaya now wants something more than to prove himself right or to finish the job – he wants his friends to be happy.

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Examining Old School Anime: The Beatitude of Suffering in Captain Harlock

In thinking about a Christian theme to pick out from Space Pirate Captain Harlock, the image of Mayu standing determined before the crucifix in her school’s chapel continuously comes to mind.  Mayu is the orphaned daughter of Captain Harlock’s friend, whose final wish was for her to be raised on Earth.  Because of his promise. Captain Harlock refuses to let Mayu join him in his ship, the Arcadia, despite the many hardships she is forced to undergo.  In episode two, the villains demand that she write to Captain Harlock in order to draw him to Earth where he might be captured.  Mayu refuses and is forced to repeatedly clean the chapel from dawn through night of the same day in order to break her will.

IMG_5721[1]

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Throwback Thursday Readers Choice

Every other Thursday, Zeroe4, a long-time columnist here and real life missionary in Japan, reminiscences about some of his favorite series from yesteryear.  If you haven’t read his column yet, I highly encourage you go through his posts so far – you’ll probably either get nostalgic yourself, find a gem you missed, or both!

For one of his articles next month, he’d like to pitch it to you, the readers.  Of the following series, which would you like him to write about?

Top 5 + Guest: Best “Morally Gray” Anime

I’m often asked to give recommendations for anime I think people should watch.  While that’s a simple request, the answer is maybe a little more complicated for myself and our writers at Beneath the Tangles.  We have series that we think are beneficial for our readers to watch; those that are both beneficial and entertaining; and series that are fun, but not necessarily ones we’d recommend because we’d consider them “morally gray.”  This final group of anime are comprised of shows you generally wouldn’t see us discuss here and that many of writers might avoid because of excessive fanservice, nihilistic themes, graphic violence, themes that don’t jive with our beliefs, etc.  Still, there’s still value in many of these shows, and they might be worth the watch, which is why we’ll be giving our top five lists of morally gray anime today.  But, of course, viewer beware.

We’re blessed to have iblessall joining us as our guest today.  You know him from Mage in the Barrel, a wonderful and very active anime blog.  I highly encourage you check it out – and perhaps very germane to our discussion today, click over and see iblessall’s critique of Maria the Virgin Witch.

iblessall’s Picks

  1. Nisemonogatari
  2. Seitokai Yakuindomo
  3. White Album 2
  4. Junketsu no Maria
  5. Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere

Nisemonogatari 1For me, making a decision on whether or not to recommend a show to someone usually comes down to one particular question: do the good things about this show outweigh the bad to make it worth watching? In truth, I’m not sure any of the shows on this list are conclusively among those whose troubling elements override the good pieces (most shows like that I never even bothered to finish), but all of them certainly exist much closer to the line than my favorites do. Anyone familiar with the first two titles on my list should understand why they’re there, but the final three merit a bit more explanation. White Album 2’s ending troubles me a great deal because, although the story as a whole functions a cautionary tale, the lack of offered alternatives or even the faintest hint of possible reconciliation makes the show feel incredibly nihilistic and hopeless to me. Junketsu no Maria (on which I’ve written elsewhere and will write again) worries me with both its portrayal of Catholicism and its dangerously simplistic morality, traits that sadly compromise the quality of its likable cast. Finally, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere boasts mostly boilerplate ecchi, but it’s so copious and so egregious that I always have to pause before recommending.

Kaze’s Picks

  1. Oretachi Tsubasa wa Nai
  2. Monogatari Series
  3. Baccano
  4. Perfect Blue
  5. Shokugeki no Souma

OreTsuba 1OreTsuba is one anime I will always praise and never recommend. It’s less grey and more black, with an obscene amount of fan service, especially the uncensored version. But the storyboarding? Top notch. This is an amazing example of a really well adapted VN. The Monogatari series is perhaps plenty infamous already, but between fan service, toothbrushes, and the like, it’s tough to rec this to others. Morally grey aside, it is also extremely conversation based, and relies heavily on Japanese culture and language puns, making it even harder to rec. Baccano has a different kind of problem, with it being overall a very violent show, which some Christians may have problems with, but I rate the show very highly. Perfect Blue, like many works by Satoshi Kon, is wonderfully directed, but the content is most definitely mature and has a couple disturbing scenes. The last one you might notice only just started airing, so I might be jumping the gun, but I thoroughly enjoy the Shokugeki no Souma manga and consider to be a surprisingly well done shounen. But that fan service is really extreme. Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: The Devil’s Eden

I’m an RPG fanatic, especially since I was very young. I enjoy reading books, so these kinds of games would take me on a journey that I couldn’t experience with other genres. One of my favorite series of all time has been Breath of Fire, especially part III. I have a deep hatred for part V (BoF Dragon Quarter) because of how terrible of a game it was, but that’s for another post.

Spoilers ahead for Breath of Fire IIIBofFIIILogo

BoF III is possibly my favorite of the five games (part six is currently in the works!) because of its plot, characters, realistic situations and humor. You play as the protagonist Ryu, a member of the Brood (Dragon Clan) who doesn’t say a word (typical RPG cliché) and his friends Nina, Teepo and Rei. The game starts off with them as kids going through various adventures, meeting new party members that become friends. They find out that Ryu’s clan of the Brood was eliminated centuries ago by order of the Goddess Myria. One of Ryu’s party members was part of a group of Guardians that killed off his clan and now wants to finish him off as well. He fails and the party goes their own ways for a time.

Free Will

The game jumps a few years and we find Ryu is now a teenager who joins back with his team and they go on a quest to find out why the Goddess decided to wipe out the ancient Dragon Clan. When they finally arrive and begin to question her, she explains that the Brood were a danger to the world and had to be destroyed before they unleashed their power. Since she was defeated by the Dragon Clan in Breath of Fire I, she already has hatred towards them and that’s why she committed genocide. She knows how powerful Ryu already is so instead of fighting him, she offers him a choice.

Give up your free will and live peacefully in her makeshift Garden of Eden or fight.

Myria_Bed

The Goddess Myria in her human form speaking to Ryu in his sleep.

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Annalyn’s Corner: Ore Monogatari!! and Sacrificial Love

I watched the first five episodes of Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) this weekend. The premise intrigued me: this shoujo anime is shown primarily from a male point of view, and he’s not the typical bishounen love interest. Instead, Takeo is the bishie’s big, clumsy best friend. I was immediately intrigued by this break from the mold, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to hold my interest. I’m too easily bored.

So what did hold my attention? Friendship and sacrificial love. Takeo, especially, is willing to sacrifice himself for his friends, his crush, strangers, and even enemies.

First, there’s the friendship between Takeo and Suna. Suna looks and acts like the typical bishounen male lead (I might have squealed a little when he first crossed the screen… it’s a habit I developed somewhere between The Wallflower and Kaichou wa Maid-sama). He’s cool, collected, has a great laugh, and knows how to deal with a spastic main character. But instead of dealing with a spastic heroine, he watches over Takeo.

Ever since they were kids, Takeo would have crushes on girls who eventually confessed their love to Suna… and were turned down. The same girls talked cruelly behind Takeo’s back, and Suna wouldn’t have any of that. Meanwhile, Takeo got used to being looked over in favor of his more charming friend. So when the girl he saves and falls in love with shows even the tiniest sign of caring about Suna, Takeo gives up on having a relationship with her. And he decides to help her and Suna get together.

Takeo observes Yamato closely, certain she likes Suna. Isn't she adorable in this shot? (ep 1)

Takeo observes Yamato closely, certain she likes Suna. Isn’t she adorable in this shot? (ep 1)

I can understand Takeo’s thought process, to a degree. When someone you’re close to is more charming than you are, it’s safest to assume they’ll always get the best of everything: the crush, the cutest puppy… everything. That way, you don’t get your hopes crushed. At that point, you have two options: become resentful, or support your charming friend. Takeo chooses the second option.

Takeo is humble and selfless, but imperfectly so. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Owari no Family, Humble Vegeta, and Job of Angel Beats’

There are weeks on Something More where I need to dig and prod to find articles for linking.  This is not, however, one of those weeks, as the blogosphere has produced almost a dozen wonderful articles about anime and religion/spirituality.

Eugene Woodbury discusses Japanese Buddhism from a pop cultural perspective, referencing Gingitsune among other anime series. [Eugene Woodbury]

He does the same with Shinto, mentioning Noragami, Kamichu!, and other shows. [2]

It is any surprise that the actions of one of most known and best priest characters in anime, Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Trigun), would teach us theology? [Cajun Samurai]

Owari no Seraph speaks to the value of the family, ironic in a series that looks at family unconventionally and perhaps at sex in a faulty way. [Medieval Otaku]

Dragonball Z’s Vegeta may be the poster child for ego, but his actions often speak to the opposite: humility. [Geeks Under Grace]

One piece of proverbial wisdom is to seek advice from many advisers; but if your advisers are unwise, well, you get the absurd consequences of episode 3 of Plastic Memories. [2]

Dig a little into Gurren Lagann, and you might find an interpretation of Plato’s allegory of the cave and a case for divine illogic. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

Is God fair? Yuki of Angel Beats! doesn’t think so, but perhaps her backstory (and the story of Job) can teach us a little about the concept of fairness. [Old Line Elephant]

The vital importance of forgiveness – both to give and receive – is a heavy theme in Koe no Katachi. [Famous Rose]

More wisdom from Proverbs this week, as Rob tells us Hikigaya’s methods in OreGairu are ungodly and unwise. [Christian Anime Review]

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.

Anime Today: Experiencing Context

If you listened to our latest episode of The Tangles Podcast, you probably know that I am soon headed to the land of Japan. Actually, within 24 hours of this article going live, I will be on a plane crossing the Pacific (God willing).

On a somewhat disconnected note (I promise it will make sense soon), I’ve also recently noticed a trend in my viewing habits this season: 6 of the 8 anime I am currently following follow Japanese school life. In fact, as I’ve perused my MyAnimeList profile, I’ve noted that many of my favorites come from this genre.

Kiniro 1

Now how do these previous two paragraphs connect? Quite simply, actually. For the three months I will be in Japan, I will be working as an intern for a Japanese university, assisting in English instruction, among many other things. The thing that I most love about school life anime, namely the the reflection of genuine Japanese culture (sugar coated and fictionalized, to be sure), is exactly what I will be experiencing firsthand.

Obviously I’ve been granted a somewhat rare opportunity to gain this experience, and definitely not one that many of our readers will experience, so how does this relate to you? This upcoming experience has brought me to the conclusion that for someone to have a true passion, that must have the passion to develop a holistic understanding of whatever the object of that passion is. For my roommate this past academic year, one of those passions was Star Wars, thus he was highly engrossed in many products of the Star Wars expanded universe. For me, that passion is Japanese culture, and one natural consequence of this is my desire to experience life in Japan as I shall be this summer.

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Dealing with Doubt in Kotoura-san

Faith is a funny thing. It seems so easy to keep right up until the moment it is tested. It’s fine and dandy to trust when things are going good and I know exactly what is happening, but I always surprise myself by how quickly that faith can wobble when things get a little tough.

Kotoura goes through something similar with Manabe during one of their summer breaks when she does not know what he is doing. While Kotoura is used to rejection, she is not accustomed to not knowing what’s going on. Her psychic abilities allow her to hear the thoughts of everyone around her as if they were being spoken out loud.

Throughout her life, people have avoided and hated her for expressing their thoughts out loud. Even her parents reject her after her power causes trouble at school and she exposes that each of them is being unfaithful to the other.

k3

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