Blog Archives

Something More: Skip Beat Dependance and Christian Encouragement of Climb

After the plethora of posts last week, we only have two for this week’s column.  But fret not, they’re both wonderful articles by terrific writers.

Frank draws some significant lessons involving the journey of faith from the first four episodes of season two of Encouragement of Climb. [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn looks back toward Skip Beat, all the way to the first episode, where she sees Kyoko’s dependance on Sho as something symptomatic in our culture. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

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.

Free Eternal Summer, Episode 12: Rin’s Serving Heart

Because the series almost doubled it’s main cast this season, it’s easy to forget that Free! Eternal Summer has two primary leads – Haruka and Rin.  And while Haruka’s angst has been on full display this season, Rin has mostly tended to be in the background, influencing the rest of the cast in significant ways, but playing a secondary role after getting the “starring” part in season one.  Rin is again significant in episode 12 as he gently pushes Haru toward making a decision about the future.

What’s most remarkable about Rin this year, as I’ve mentioned too many times in the past, is that he’s totally transformed, doing almost a 180 from his previous season’s angry, emotional, arrogant self.  In season two, that turnaround is marked by what is perhaps Rin’s most pointed characteristic now – his serving heart.

Rin and Haruka

Though changing your heart doesn’t mean you necessarily change your “teeth,” as it were.

Throughout season two, Rin serves those around him, most obviously through captaining his swim team, and serving as a mentor and friend to Sousuke, Aiichiro, and Momo.  In episode 12, we see this side further, as he uses an important trip back home, one that he off-handedly remarks he’ll use to secure his future plans, as a way of helping Haru.  And also within the episode, he mentions a conversation he had with Makoto – he even still tends to that friendship as well.

How did Rin come to this point?  In season one, the cantankerous redhead was shown unconditional love by the Iwatobi boys, eventually leading to his absolute brokenness and a change of heart.  What results from that is a response from the deep recesses of Rin’s soul, a response so strong that it causes a holistic change in his life.  Rin had long sought his own desires first; now, instead of receiving, he gives.

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Free Eternal Summer, Episode 12: Taking the Plunge

With one episode remaining, Free Eternal Summer has surprised me in how good it’s become.  The first season had it’s moments, but it was mostly mediocre, and the same could be said for much of season two.  It sometimes felt like a conglomeration of tropes and ideas that, though well put-together, were very artificial.  But as the show nears it’s end, Free gets better and better, taking a turn toward significant questions about growing up through the lens of pretty boy swimmers.

While the last couple of episodes focus on Haruka, who has struggled all season to find his way, it’s Rin that compels me the most.  As I mentioned earlier this season, he’s like a born-again believer, someone who’s been transformed and now genuinely lives out his faith.  It’s easy to forget that season one’s Rin was angry and bitter and arrogant, especially in light of the kindness, patience, and leadership he’s shown all season long.

rin matsuoka

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Anime Today: When Narrative Breaks Down

As the summer 2014 season winds down, I’ve recently been reflecting on my thoughts over the last few months of anime. Although this season has been one of the more enjoyable of the past year or so, it seems to have also been one of the most disappointing. But how can that be?

The answer is simple, and it comes down to let down expectations. If you’ve been following Anime Today, you are probably aware of how excited I was to see everything pan out this season. However, if you have been following Anime Today or listened to episode one of our podcast, you are also probably aware of how few of these entries have lived up to my artificially-raised expectations.

Without getting into too much detail (that’s what our live stream is for this Saturday!), between the overall poor production of Persona 4 The Golden Animation, Sword Art Online, Aldnoah Zero, and Captain Earth, to name a few, each week has been a question of how I am going to be let down. Why could I be so disappointed in these entries that originally excited me? With the exception of the possibility that I had simply misappropriated my preconceptions above and beyond what I should have expected, I place the majority of my blame on an inconsistency in writing and other production.

Aldnoah Zero is a prime example of this. With Gen Urobuchi at the writing helm (responsible for renowned shows such as Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica), expectations were high. And to be quite frank, expectations were met. Aldnoah Zero absolutely, wonderfully delivered.

Slaine Troyard

And then Urobuchi departed from the writing staff, and the fall into mediocrity commenced (this is not to say that Aldnoah Zero has been bad, per se, as much as it has just been closer to average than originally anticipated). The narrative shifted from what was an original, well-produced, thrilling, and thought-provoking exposition, to nothing more than an average mecha with a few interesting plot twists.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 11: What We Do With Our Time

Episode eleven of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) begins with a very heavy hand, as in the opening few minutes we finally see why Kou has become the way he has.  Not only do we now see the pain he went through with his mother’s illness (from lung cancer, it turns out) and death, but we also see why Kou pushes back so hard against academic studies.  When his mother was well, she would ask Kou to simply spend time with her watching television, but Kou would refuse, saying he needed to focus on studies in order to eventually make good money, apparently through which he could support his single mother.  Kou was single-minded in his determination.  Studies, at that point of his life, superseded everything, even relationships with family.

And being driven isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  A close family member of mine, a really smart guy, had planned out his young life.  He was going to return to school, open a business, and make a lot of money.  He had the energy and will and smarts to do it all.  But then, tragedy hit.  My family member’s best friend was murdered, and suddenly, all those seemingly worthy goals meant so little.  Since that time, he’s focused much more on the “little things” in life, more absorbed by family than by riches.

Kou’s story is similar, though his motivation is perhaps more pure.  He doesn’t want to make money for himself – he wants to support his mom.  It seems a worthy goal.  But the pain that life sometimes brings gets in the way, and the time that Kou took for granted went away in the blink of an eye (six months).  As Kou remembers his mom’s pleading to spend time with her, the thoughts that run through his mind are transparent – I wish I would have spent more time with her and less time hitting the books.

Ao Haru Ride

Truth told, we don’t know how much time we have in the world.  But one thing I think is true is that no matter how much time we have, it’s never enough.  Time is really so short, and unfortunately it’s usually only through tragedies that we evaluate how precious life really is.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 11: Guilt and Despair

My mom moved around from church to church quite often as I was growing up.  I of course, hated that, because as soon as I would establish myself among a group of friends, it seemed, I would be uprooted.  Once, when I was in fourth grade, my church friends and I were working hard for the Christmas pageant we would act in just a few days later.  My Sunday School teacher sternly reminded us, “Makes sure you show up for the pageant!”

It was that day that my mom told me we were leaving that church.  I tried to explain my case, but to no avail.  I was very distraught.  Even today, occasionally, I wonder if they missed me and how it all went (probably fine, as missing Shepherd #2 usually doesn’t effect a Christmas play too much).

That event was something I could nothing about; yet, I felt guilty about it for a long time.  Most of us probably have similar stories – some much more painful than mine.  In episode 11 of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Kou reveals one such story.  As his mother holes up in the hospital with cancer, he receives a call from his brother.  But instead of finding solace with family, Kou can only feel guilt and despair, recalling his brother’s final words before leaving some time earlier – to take care of their mother.  And although Kou has no godly ability to shoo away cancer, nor should he for any rational reason feel guilty, he still does.  He can’t help it.

ao haru ride kou

Guilt is strong. But grace is all the stronger…

For Christians, guilt is a feeling that seems to be part and parcel of the religion.  I think that many outside of Christianity might say as much, seeing guilt as factor in forcing people to make changes in their morality.  And within, many of us may feel guilty falling to a specific sin or to many.

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The Wheat and the Weeds in Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass follows Unit One of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division in a futuristic Japan. The most notable thing about this futuristic world is how most things in a person’s life are determined by the program SIBYL and the person’s psycho pass, meaning basically their mental state. A bad psycho pass with a “crime coefficient” that is too high can land someone in jail or at a facility with no options, labeled as a ” latent criminal.”

One latent criminal’s life, Shusei Kagari, was over at 5 years old when the system labeled him as such.


The way the system is set up made me think of the parable of the wheat and the weeds and how it is sometimes interpreted in real life. In the parable, a man is growing a field of wheat when his enemy comes and scatters seeds of weeds throughout the field. When the weeds start growing, the man tells his servants to leave them with the wheat until the harvest. After they are collected and separated, one goes in the storehouse and one goes in the fire. The wheat and weeds of course symbolizing good and bad people. Read the rest of this entry

Terror in Resonance Episode 9: Two-Way Gospel

The rules and structure of the early episodes of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) have long been forgotten.  We’re now on a tense, thrilling ride to the end, where uncovering of the truth and simply guessing what will happen next leads to breathtaking moments as much as the action sequences.

Episode nine of Terror in Resonance follows our three heroes, who only a couple of episodes ago were briefly brought together, as they go separate ways.  Nine speeds up Sphinx’s ultimate plan; Shibazaki finds out the horrible truth; and Twelves dives into a trap to rescue Lisa.

zankyo no terror

First, let’s talk Shibazaki, whose heroics continue to enthrall.  Though his storyline could be mundane and boring, Shinichiro Watanabe uses his character well to uncover the past of Five, Nine, Twelve, and the other children (who we now know did not survive).  It’s a wonderful plot device, as we grow to root for another character whose journey garners our interest, when more conventional anime storytelling would have just revealed the entire background in flashback sequences.

Shibazaki’s investigation in this episode also further reveals the deep, troublesome questions at the heart of the series – the depths of evil that humanity is capable of.  Indeed, the comparison is made to the awful experiments that the Nazis conducted on undesirables, which fits more than just at a surface level.  The older gentleman that Shibazaki and his partner question seems quite reasonable, and indeed, he tries to subtly shift blame for his activities.  But Shibazaki directs a question to him, and to the audience as well – at what point are we complicit, where standing idly by, or just following directions, makes us culpable in wrong?  The depravity of humanity is such that too many people, both in the past (particularly during World War II) and today, cross that line and never turn back.

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Something More: Jesusmonogatari, GGO’s False Prophet, and Christian Writers on Ghibli

School is back in session for most students, which means that summer is coming to a close.  That means the fall season of anime is just around the corner.  Can you believe it?  But writers continue to blog wonderful articles for the shows coming to a close for the summer season, including those below.

Medieval writes that Nisemonogatari “wished to scoff at a central tenet of Christianity,” as he describes allusions in the series to Christ and the Virgin Mary. [Medieval Otaku]

Frank continues to find excellent lessons for Christian living in Hanayamata, this time looking at episodes 7 and 8 and at lessons in discouragement and transformation [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds in Yurika of Rokujyoma?! a character who shares similar struggles to evangelizing Christians. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

In reviewing episode eight of Sword Art Online 2, Rob warns of “false prophets” as he describes symbolic gestures by Death Gun. [Christian Anime Review]

The writers at Christ and Pop Culture show their appreciation for Studio Ghibli in reminiscing about some of their favorite films from the studio. [Christ and Pop Culture]

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.

Terror in Resonance Episode 8: Orphans

 And now we’re grown up orphans
And never knew their names
We don’t belong to no one
That’s a shame
But you could hide beside me
Maybe for a while
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ‘em your name

After the thrilling action in the last episode of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror), episode eight tunes down the action, while still keeping the tone nervous and tense.  Five discovers the apartment at which Nine, Twelve, and Lisa are staying and blows it up.  And though the group relocates, a guilty Lisa leaves the guys, and in the process gets herself captured.

zankyou no terror episode 8

Meanwhile, Shibazaki, now effectively forced from being a detective, continues his investigation, and finds out what the audience had likely guessed, that all this can be traced back to experimentation on “gifted” orphans – namely Five, Nine, and Twelve among a host of others taken from orphanages.

The vileness of the actions against these kids, seven years ago, is obvious, but maybe expected.  This is, after all, what crooked politicians do in anime and movies – immoral things to advance their goals without thinking about how it destroys others.  Their tinkering has come back to haunt them, of course, in the forms both of Sphinx and of Five, a monster they’ve unleashed.

Their target made sense – after all, who would miss a group of orphans?  That must have been the officials’ pattern of thought as they took children away from churches andp other institutions.  They experimented on them, hurt them, and stripped the children of their identities, so much so that they didn’t even keep their names, hence the numbers by which they know one another.

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