Blog Archives

Giving Yukino Yukinoshita What She (Doesn’t) Deserve

After writing my last piece about episode 8 of Oregairu season 2 and the topic of grace, I thought more and more on the connections between the characters’ actions and that topic.  There was more to be said regarding what I wrote on, particularly in the words thrown between the volunteer club trio in the episode’s climax.  But I also thought of something in a little different vein.

In the moment when Hikigaya tearfully confesses his desires, I think most of us viewers were expecting some sort of breakdown in return from Yukino.  But what he gets instead is a confused Yukino who doesn’t comfort him, who doesn’t even want to accept him.

oregairu 8c

When I watched the scene, I wondered why it seemed to familiar to me.  I realized that it was because I’ve been Hikigaya in this scene many times – and maybe you have as well.

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Oregairu Season 2, Episode 8: Reaching for Grace

With each episode that passes, Oregairu continues to surprise me.  In an episode that I thought started to drift towards anime melodrama, Oregairu instead turned toward something simple and profound.  It showed us the definition of grace – and the necessity of it.

The catalyst for the final, transformative scene of episode 8 is the earlier talk that Hikigaya has with Hiratsuka.  Among the many words of wisdom she gives during their speech is this line:

Sometimes people lose out on things because they’re looking out for each other.

oregairu 8b

This, of course, is what Hikigaya has been doing – trying to protect Yui and Yukino through his actions.  But Hiratsuka is right when she expounds on this statement, saying that if you really care about each other, you will hurt each one another; in an ironic way, that hurt signals that you care.  If you stand on eggshells doing everything possible to keep someone from being hurt, you fail to develop deep bonds – the person you care about is lifted higher than they deserve while you sink lower, and when you do fail that person, you find the distance between you and s/he grows even further.

Hikigaya, realizing this and armed now with wisdom and muster, goes to Yukino and Yui to build their relationships and bring healing to the club by tearfully offering words that at first surprised me, but which make sense.  He says that what he wants is genuine relationship.

And genuine relationship can only happen by grace.

oregairu 8a

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Something More: God’s View of a Giftia Wife, Parable of the Lost Nameko, and Allah or YHWH in Arslan Senki?

Episode 7 of Nameko Families provides a striking parallel to Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep. [Old Line Elephant]

The beauty of ABe’s concept artwork for Haibane Renmei is undeniable, and begs the question of whether he was inspired by Christian paintings. [Fantastic Memes]

Medieval Otaku sees a parallel between how the Christian God is depicted like Allah by non-Christians and a scene in Arslan Senki and wonders if the creator of Space Pirate Captain Harlock has some knowledge of scripture. [Medieval Otaku]

Rob asks an interesting question in response to Plastic Memories – what would God think of a giftia spouse? [Christian Anime Review]

Along the same lines, Tsukasa’s loving actions toward Isla demonstrate St. Paul’s assertion that “love never fails.” [Geeks Under Grace]

Patlabor: The Movie is full of interesting details, including many references to Christianity and the Bible. [Prede’s Anime Reviews]

There’s a lot of depth to a favorite Japanese expression of incredulity, including the fact that it might have Zen Buddhist origins. How could you not know that, baka?! [Tofugu]

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.

 

Hachiman Hikigaya and Busting the Christian Bubble

One of the most boring things a parent has to do is attend kids’ birthday parties.  Seriously, so boring.  The only thing a parent can do there is chat with other parents, but sometimes, even that option is cut off.  Particularly, if you’re an outsider at the party, the other parents might congregate with each other and leave you out, which can either irk you if you’re the talkative type, or seclude you if you’re not.  The first time this happened to me, I was shocked, because I was attending a party full of churchgoers and pastors.  I thought it must have been some exception, but repeatedly, I’ve seen this happen again and again and again (and as recently as yesterday), and particularly and mostly around Christians.

Why does this happen?  It’s because we hate to get outside of our bubble.

In Oregairu, Hikigaya is as stuck in a bubble as much as anyone.  Years of hurt, sensitivity, and ridicule have left him in a comfort zone of one (at least at school).  He’d rather stay by himself, think, and observe than to actually interact with others.

But slowly and steadily, he’s breaking free of this bubble.  At first, it was out of necessity – Hikigaya was forced to interact with Yukino and with anyone who came to the volunteer club for assistance.  Now, Hikigaya is understanding the value of relationships and is starting to break through his self-imposed solitary life because, hey, he now has friends whom he cares about, and caring requires us to reach out despite discomfort.

oregairu 5

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Annalyn’s Corner: Chihuahuas Fighting a Lion

Kuroko’s Basketball has always been, in part, an underdog story. No one expected Team Seirin to defeat the Generation of Miracles, but here they are, facing the final boss: Akashi Seijuro and the Rakuzan team. And they got here largely because of Kuroko, a small, seemingly unremarkable athlete.

Seirin's starters: Kiyoshi, Kuroko, Hyuga, Kagami, and Izuko (screenshot from current OP).

Seirin’s starters: Kiyoshi, Kuroko, Hyuga, Kagami, and Izuki (screenshot from current OP).

At some point, I started taking Seirin’s determination for granted. Of course they have courage against high odds. They’re anime heroes. But in the most recent episode, a weaker Seirin player faced Akashi himself, and a viewer in the stands compared him to a chihuahua facing a lion. Then I realized how much I can learn from their courage, and their faith in their coach. How do I react when faced with a “lion”? When I search the Scripture, I realize it’s not a hypothetical question.

Way back in Kuroko’s Basketball‘s first season, we met Seirin’s newest basketball players. All five of these first-years shouted their basketball goals from the school’s rooftop (except Kuroko, who was cut off, but he found another way to make his goal known). Only Kuroko and Kagami became starters. The other three were too weak to do anything but support their team from the bench… until the Winter Championship. Read the rest of this entry

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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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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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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