Fact Check: Mikasa’s Cruel World

Anime is full of references to religion, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this column, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Mikasa Ackerman during a flashback scene in episode six of Attack on Titan, “The World She Saw.”  Perhaps the most famous quote from the popular series (well, except for Levi’s interesting remark about trees), these words arise during Mikasa’s fight for survival against a band of bandits when she was young:

The world is cruel, but also very beautiful.

The claim is very straightforward: this world is both painful and stunning.

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Fact Check

Attack on Titan is sometimes difficult to follow, partially because we’re introduced to so many significant characters early on and are encouraged to root for them without getting to know them.  Among the main characters, the Shiganshina trio – Eren, Mikasa, and Armin – it’s Mikasa that we know least about in the first half of season one.  Not until episode six do we learn her back story.

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Shirobako, Episode 19: Straight into the Future

I can’t remember the last time I watched a series that was as consistently excellent as Shirobako.  I’ve not been let down by any episode – they’re all terrific.  But this week, we might have gotten something a little better, a little more special.  There’s some Shirobako-style fanservice in episode 19, in the image of a young Marukawa, Sugie, and Ookura; the return of Yano; and new relationship dynamics, like that between Yano and Hiraoka.

More significantly, we finally get a breakthrough moment for our main character, Miyamori.  Though honestly, I was a little confused, as I wasn’t sure what the series was trying to tell us about career fulfillment for Miyamori.  Is it that if you go full steam ahead, you’ll find your dream?  Or is it that the dream is in the here and now?  Or maybe it’s that if you find something you love, like how Miyamori feels about anime because of her connections to it, you’ll learn to love it?

For someone like me, who’s already established in a career, another lesson was most striking: when things are difficult, and you don’t know the way – in the big picture or in the small – there is a reason, and as you make wise decisions, there is a good end in sight, even if you don’t know what that good end is.

shirobako 19b

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Your Lie in April, Episode 18: The Love You Take…

Typical shonen series build up a protagonist until he is able to overcome an obstacle, at which point he may be able to save everyone, often at great risk and sacrifice.  Even though friends and mentors help along the way, the hero always has something within him, and it’s ultimately through determination, skill, and talent that he brings out his true potential.  But in Your Lie in April, the formula isn’t quite the same.  Kaori Miyazono is no mere helper along the way – she is the grace that instead of bringing out the best in Kousei Arima, changes him forever.  It’s not the inner Kousei that comes out – he’s a new person entirely.

In episode 18, Kousei and Nagi perform their duet for the world to hear, and more importantly in the case of Kousei, for Kaori to witness.  When he confronts Kaori later, she tearfully has to admit that he’s done what she had closed her heart to – that he brought warmth back into her life and again made her dreams come alive.

april 18a Read the rest of this entry

Throwback Thursday: The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye

The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye originally developed from a light novel series dating back to 1999. The anime was originally released in 2006. The show however does feel a bit older than it really is, like a hybrid of a 1990’s environment and setting with an early 2000’s style. The show bounces between the genres of action and sci-fi, but retains a strong and poetic slice-of-life feel.

The series follows a character named Honoka as she travels a post-apocalyptic desert world in a sand tank, fulfilling job requests and helping people. She is an outcast of her own people, who are called The Third. They are a world governing body and a special race of humans with a red eye in the middle of their foreheads. Their goal is to prevent the world from being nearly destroyed again in another great war, so they restrict humans from having any advanced technology.

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Even though Honoka is similar to The Third, she lives on earth traveling the deserts for work as a freelancer and nomad. My favorite part of the series is the poetic moments. Often, Honoka’s thoughts are shared by a narrator, but this doesn’t take away from the show like most series of this style. These moments add meaning and depth to the social moments and even more to the action scenes which begin to conflict with the audiences emotions in the same way it affects Honoka’s.

Honestly, this show is not for everyone. If you mainly like deep stories and a carefully crafted plot, you will love this show. It monopolizes on character development and painstakingly reveals the environment of the story. If you like shows like Eureka Seven, Barakamon, or similar shows, you will like The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye.

My only complaint with the show is that it is a little slow at first. That only last a few episodes, but it does make the show work. Also, I normally prefer subtitles only, but the dub is very good and I like it as much as the subbed version.

Five Reasons to Give up Anime for Lent

Today marks to beginning of the Lenten Season.  Although I’m not Catholic, and have never observed the tradition of giving up a vice or practice for Lent, I certainly understand that this custom holds significance for many (Medieval Otaku, one of our newest writers, could certainly tell you more).  There’s also an increasing trend of Protestants practicing this custom, including a number of college folks at my own church.  And on social media, a quick search reveals the idea of many perhaps giving up anime for Lent.

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Although mostly tongue in cheek, I would be surprised if many Christians weren’t sincerely thinking of doing so, especially in light of how common media and social media fasts have become.  And although we aren’t separatist in our beliefs here, instead really focusing on all the good there is to be seen in anime, both on a surface level and on a deeper, thematic level, there could be very good reason to dump anime for the next 40 days.  Here are five reasons why you might consider doing so:

1. You Feel Convicted To

Sometimes we’re compelled to take action on things in our life, often without strong rhyme or reason.  It could certainly be that the voice you’re hearing isn’t a simple back and forth in your head, but rather the Holy Spirit convicting you to do something.  Or perhaps a trusted peer had suggested to you that it might be a good idea to let anime go until Easter. Although prayer discernment is always recommended, conviction certainly plays a role in a Christian’s decision-making. Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: Battling Against The Creator

Hi everyone, and welcome again to my column, Gaming With God. If you missed my first post, please be sure to check it out. Also, if you have any games that came out of Japan that you would like me to highlight, be sure to mention it in the comments below! I reply and read to every single message I get, and I enjoy interacting with my readers.

This week’s post is all about Star Ocean 3: Till The End Of Time. If you’ve never heard of the Star Ocean series, it’s an obscure series that never really picked up popularity in the USA, but was very popular overseas. Yes, there are many fans, but even the first game never made it to the states and was originally released on Super Famicom in 1996 (PSP remake in 2007). The whole series was developed by Tri-Ace, and there are four entries and international versions which is like a DLC (Downloadable Content) or expansion that has extra goodies. Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Free to Love

In December, I watched Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth for Anime Secret Santa. I was struck by the way the main character, Yune, reaches out to those around her. She feels free to love and serve others, while her guardian, Claude, is held back by fear and social convention. Freedom and love are strong themes in Croisée, and for good reason; freedom is connected to how people relate to each other. This just as true in reality as in anime, which leads me to thoughts about Christians. We, more than anyone else, are free to love. In fact, we are commanded to love. So what holds us back? Croisée highlights three of the biggest inhibitors: fear of betrayal and rejection, fear of loss, and fear of what others may think (social convention). I focus on the first two in this post.

Fear of Betrayal and Rejection

Claude, a blacksmith and Paris native, tells Yune to be wary of strangers, lest they take advantage of her. He disapproves of her friendliness toward a little street boy. She sees a hungry child; Claude sees a thief. She sees an opportunity to serve; he sees a threat. Both are technically correct. The boy does steal from them. Yet Yune remains compassionate. She gives him bread two episodes later, much to Claude’s dismay.

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Yune gives bread to the little boy in episode 7.

When Yune becomes ill, Claude is sure that the child gave her the disease. She still defends him, explaining that she wants to understand how the boy feels. She thinks he’s searching for a place to belong. Claude dismisses the idea… but then he finds flowers the boy left for her.

Claude isn’t exactly wrong to be suspicious. When we extend kindness, people won’t always respond in kind. Sometimes, they may take advantage of us. But defensive callousness is not the answer. We are called to be compassionate, the way Yune is. Compassion is the kind of empathy that moves you to understanding and action—it’s a part of active love.

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Grave of the Fireflies and the State of the World

I was reminded of Grave of the Fireflies, one of the first anime films I ever watched, when Mark recently posted about his love for Studio Ghibli.  He remarked that the movie “creeped him out.”  For me, it was just massively depressing, especially because of it’s haunting basis in truth.  I think about rewatching it often, but I can never get up the muster to do so.

grave 1Fruit Drops by turtle-rn | used with permission

The suffering of children is something that really hits me.  You of course don’t have to be a parent to feel this way, but I know being a father is what led me to feel more deeply about tragic stories involving kids.  It’s hard not to think about the innocence of your own children and how unforgivable it is when someone would take that away and even do worse.

Of course, tragic and painful events involving children are not just relegated to the past – they occur every day.  Many of us were perhaps reminded of such when a recent report told that ISIS was enslaving children, abusing them sexually, and turning them into child soldiers – and moreso, some were crucified and buried alive.

I literally felt depressed all day.  What could I do to help?  Why aren’t we as a human race doing more?  And how could people commit such atrocities?

It’s easy to get down when reading stories like these.  In my job, I work with the topics of genocide and the Holocaust, so I’m surrounded by such historical accounts; I purposely avoid reading too much, lest I get bogged down in a depressive state, paralyzing myself in making a difference.

For the Christian, there is a hope that the world, no matter what state it’s in, can withhold.  There will be an eternity for believers where such suffering will no longer occur, where goodness and beauty reign and evil has been eradicated.

But that day is long off for most of us.  Until then, perhaps we should reflect on Christ’s words when it comes to children – and remember that in the here and now, we can make a difference to keep children safe and in the state they should be – as innocents.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’

- Luke 18:16

Christian Love in the Nana Fan Base

A year ago, I wrote about how God’s love could be compared to that of a yandere. This year I’d like to make another kind of comparison on the topic of love, but instead of focusing on God, I want to focus on Christians and our love for God. Our love for God is, or at least should be, the greatest emotion we can possibly offer. It is a love which drives us to worship Him, follow Him, strive to be like Him, and serve Him. Anime loves to depict similarly idealistic characters – from the main character who always has to help others to the school idol who is loved by the entire school to the deredere archetype that is just helplessly in love with another. Anime, and people in general, love the idea of love.

But in real life, these ideals often fall apart. Especially in Japan, people who reflect even a fraction of such ideals are hard to come by. It is a sad irony in that although Japanese people can be so friendly on the surface, their hearts are so disconnected from each other. But while they may fail to emulate the type of godly, unconditional love which Christians (should) have, that doesn’t mean similarities don’t exist. And while rare, such a type of love is something which the Japanese are drawn to.

Nowhere have I seen this more than among the Nana Mizuki fandom. Perhaps my view is skewed since, well, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to any other fandom, and as a whole, the otaku culture in Japan has a fascinating difference in lifestyle compared to most other Japanese (but that’s a different topic for a similar phenomenon). In my short time in Japan, with moderate interaction with other Nana fans, I have come to feel that the love fans feel for Nana is similar to the love Christians have for God. Of course, I’d be the first to admit the numerous reasons why it’s an imperfect parallel, but compared to other Japanese people, and even compared to other fan bases, there is something here that reminds me of Christian love, and there is something about Nana that draws people to her in ways that remind me of how people are drawn to God.

Nana2 Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Religion at Katsucon, Hinduism in Death Parade, and Heaven in Wolf’s Rain

Truth be told, this week’s post was intended to be the last regular column of Something More.  I felt that especially with an umber of the writers we feature here having recently joined our site, the column had outlived its usefulness.  That was still my thought this morning, until I realized just how many spirituality-related articles were posted in the aniblogosphere this week.  And so, we continue forward, though it should be noted that Something More may post on more a biweekly schedule from this point forward.

And now, onto this week’s articles!

At Katsucon this weekend? Then you’ll no doubt want to check out Charles Dunbar’s panels on Japan and religion. [Study of Anime]

If you’ve noticed the religious allusions in Death Parade, you’re not the only one – it’s chock full of Buddhist, Shinto, and especially Hindu imagery, and may also have something to tell us in alignment with the last of those three religious philosophies. [Isn’t it Electrifying?]

The first episode of Super Sonico demonstrates to us how fanservice can reveal adulterous desires. [Old Line Elephant]

The concepts of sin and repentance surprisingly find themselves instilled in an ecchi game, Criminal Girls, Invite Only. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

She’ll spend an upcoming post on religion, but even this week’s post regarding queerness, the first in a series on Kill la Kill, makes some mention of Christian imagery and ideas. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

The wolves in Wolf’s Rain seek a literal paradise, but is that what they need? And how does that compare to what otaku seek? [Black Strawberry]

Episode 3 of KanColle demonstrates to us a principle recorded in the Book of James: tomorrow is not guaranteed. [Geeks Under Grace]

Could a solution to the way women are represented in games be found in the understanding of sinful nature? [2]

Adam Ledford completes his series on the history of Christianity in Japan by discussing the Shimabara Rebellion and the faith in Japan following the failed rebellion. [Tofugu]

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.

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