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Anime Today: When Anime Hits Home

Death Parade has been a surprise hit for me this season, though I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise since I loved Death Billiards (shame on me for not realizing before the air-date that they were related!). While entirely different from Mushishi, Death Parade manages to evoke some sort of deeper, emotional response featuring a different cast of characters and set of situations each episode. While most of these have been great, I’d like to rewind just a couple weeks to episode 4: “Death Arcade”.

I’m going to take a shot at writing as transparently as I can for this article.

death parade 2Art by *zoff

If you have been following my column and my other writing, you may also be aware that emotions are an area of active struggle for me. While I have become much more consistent and well-grounded in the last few years, thanks primarily to a focus on my faith and, consequently, confidence in my existential beliefs (I feel like I at least have a basic grasp of why I exist and how that effects both my present and future existence!), I still encounter moments of mood swings and frustration.

As of writing, just this morning I had a lengthy text conversation with Charles (TWWK) about something that had been eating away at me for the past few months and just came to a head today. In a situation that can best be described as nothing more than a first-world problem (though still an incredibly discouraging one!), I found myself utterly depressed, unmotivated, and a shell of my former upbeat self. For a short time, every piece of good news I heard felt tempered and every piece of bad news felt magnified. Sitting in a public restroom and on my phone, I finally just broke down.

Now that I have recovered from that very short experience, let’s take a look at the episode of Death Parade in question and then rewind to my life just a few years ago…

[Spoiler Warning!] Read the rest of this entry

Re-Viewed: Angel Beats! Episode 02 and the Problem of Pain

When I first watched episode two of Angel Beats!, my emotions were mixed.  One one hand, I found Yuri’s background a little over-the-top and and the events of her past didn’t strike a chord with me.  On the other, I started liking Yuri as a character and embraced her as the centerpiece of this series.

The second time around, things are certainly different.  I went in knowing that Yuri isn’t really the heroine of the series.  I listened to her words more closely.  And I allowed her story to resonate with me…well, more than it did originally.

Yuri’s tale is a difficult one – her failures lead to the violent deaths of her siblings.  I’ve certainly never experienced anything of the sort, but all of us have experienced pain that we consider unfair.  Twice, Yuri calls her circumstances this – she can’t get over the injustice of it all, probably as much for herself having to go through this experience and live on (at least for a few more years) as her innocent siblings dying in a terrifying way.

Nakamura Yuri

2. Yuri (Art by はる)

And who does Yuri blame?  Well, a most natural source.  Towing the line between agnostic and believer (though probably more accurately a believer who has troubles with her faith), Yuri places her blame on God.  She wants to “defy God, if he’s really there.”  After all, why would a loving God allow all this tragedy to occur?

This is the problem of pain.  Read the rest of this entry

Anime and Religion Survey: Spirituality in Anime

Anime is almost never a proselytizing tool.  So, it’s no surprise that religion usually doesn’t take the forefront in anime series.  Even when religion plays a major role, it’s typically bended and used for aesthetic or plot reasons (ex. Evangelion) by the series animators.  Still, it’s ever-present in anime, as religion is deeply imbedded in the country’s culture. 

Today, we’ll look at four questions from the survey which address religion in anime. Read the rest of this entry

Anime and Religion Survey: Religion of Anibloggers

What do you believe?  Is there a God?  What is your faith?  Do you have a faith?

I wanted to know how the aniblogging community would respond to these questions.  About half of all respondents were either atheist or agnostic, with responses split exactly evenly between the two.  In other words, 49% of respondents don’t believe in a god or are unsure about a god’s existence.  If one combined the respondents who declared themselves Catholic, Christian (Protestant), Orthodox, and non-denominational Christian as one group, 35% of anibloggers believe in the Christian religion, which would be the highest percentage of all.  Within that group, most were either Protestant (20%) or Catholic (10%).  Read the rest of this entry

Roger Ebert: Critic, Pundit, Skeptic, and Friend to Anime

Not long ago, I posted a beautiful anime-style short.  Following a trail from Twitter, I was led to the site where it was featured, and to my surprise, it was Rober Ebert’s website.  But, I was only surprised for a second – after all, the nation’s leading film critic (and the first to ever win the Pulitzer Prize) has championed anime for many years and Anime News Network has described him as a closet otaku.  He even wrote an article entitled “The Beauty of Anime.”  In fact, aside from John Lasseter, there’s likely no more powerful voice for anime in U.S. mainstream culture.


Roger Ebert should be familiar to most of you.  Forbes called him American’s #1 pundit (and in the Internet age, that designation is no small feat).  Then again, maybe I recognize him better than most because I religiously watched “At the Movies” as a child, wanting to weekly see him duke it out with his first partner, Gene Siskel.  Later, I continued to watch (and then read) because I realized: a) I agreed with him much more than not; b) even when I didn’t agree, I learned something from his reviews; and c) his writing is clear, calculated and wonderful.  Even if you’re not familiar with Ebert, you certainly are with his (official) trademark of the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down,” regarding movie recommendations.

When Ebert discusses anime films, he comes at it as an admirer of the form, as when he reviewed Ghost in the Shell or selected Akira as a “video pick of the week.”  The Great Movies section of his web site, which itself has become widely admired, includes both My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies on this list.  Think of that – two anime among a U.S. movie’s critics best movies of all time.  Read how he ends the Grave of the Fireflies review: Read the rest of this entry


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