Blog Archives

Annalyn’s Corner: When the World Feels like Ergastulum

I just watched Gangsta., one of the darker anime to air in the past year. I’ve seen a few anime that center on crime syndicates and corruption, but this is one of the most horrific—up there with Black Lagoon‘s second season. The anime’s setting, Ergastulum, seems hopelessly corrupt, and the anime refuses to sugarcoat it. There isn’t even a redemptive ending—perhaps because the manga itself is still incomplete. We’re just left with a heavy sense of evil and tragedy, with no solution offered.

Worick Arcangelo prepares for battle (ep 12).

Worick Arcangelo prepares for battle (ep 12).

And yet, even among all the pain and sin, there is compassion, love, truth. Don’t get me wrong: I would not recommend Gangsta. to very many people. If my 16-year-old self asked about it, I’d tell her to stay far away. But for me, in the place I am now, the anime provides a way to process the brokenness of the world and the pieces of goodness that are still present. Because sometimes, the world can feel a lot like Ergastulum: enslaved by sin and strangled by violence. Read the rest of this entry

Examining Old School Anime: Mindfulness of Death

Time for me to take another foray into the Leijiverse!  Lupin III gave me no ideas for this week’s article, but I remembered the first episode of Galaxy Express 999 held some very important themes on mortality.  Some themes in Space Pirate Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 cause me to wonder whether Leiji Matsumoto might indeed be a Christian.  If not, he ranks as a noble pagan–along with the likes of Cicero and Lao-Tze.  (And perhaps more moderns are familiar with Matsumoto than Cicero.)  The two works above began serialization in the same year (1977) and share a similar theme: remembrance of death drives one to nobility while forgetfulness of death leads to corrupt morals.  Christians believe the same thing, though perhaps no book spells it out as well as Budoshoshinshu, aka The Code of the Samurai, which was written as a guide for Bushido: “As long as you keep death in mind at all times, you will also fulfill the ways of loyalty and familial duty….your character will improve and your virtue will grow,” (3).  In the anime Captain Harlock, forgetting death led to a population which declined to lift a finger to preserve their own lives against the invading Mazone and which drowned itself in distractions and worthless pursuits.


vlcsnap-2015-11-10-14h47m27s937The moral corruption in Galaxy Express 999 is a bit more subtle.  People can now plant their minds into machine bodies and so live for as long  as 2,000 years.  This technology is touted as increasing human flourishing, which it does in terms of increased lifespan.  However, it has a dark side: the poor are unable to attain mechanical bodies, suffer destitution, and essentially live without the protection of the law.  But, the poor dream of one day boarding the train Galaxy Express 999, which is rumored to take them to a planet where they can obtain mechanical bodies free of charge.

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Anime Today: Beautiful Bones and Beautiful Death

I’m totally digging Beautiful Bones.

It seemed silly at first, like, “Let’s get a pretty girl, give her a young boyfriend-type, and make her singularly obsessed with bones. I smell a hit!”

But the show quickly hooked me. I enjoyed the character interactions, the animation has some key, sweeping moments, and the show’s just been fun.  There’s also an underlying hint of something deeper (we’ll get to that later) to keep me intrigued.

kujou sakurako bones

art by けいん | reprinted w/permission

That one’s skeletal remains, the barest sense of our physical selves and all that’s left after we’ve rotted away (and before we turn to dust), can tell us about life and death is peculiar and beautiful. The juxtaposition of life and death and the idea that we can tell of the living through the dead are powerful motifs, and are further colored by the presence of a beautiful protagonist, Sakurako, whose obsessive interest in bones is unexpected of one so young and pretty. As the series progresses, though, we get some insights into her interest, probably most instigated through the death of her brother.

That personal connection is really important because it humanizes Sakurako – she’s not just a comedic lead, then, but a character with heart, something that’s already demonstrated by her decisions to help others (though hesitantly).  Her assistance, and the people connected to the deceased, demonstrate the significance and value in humanity and life by breathing story into dead characters.

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Charlotte, Episode 6: When the Story Changes

I don’t know Jun Maeda’s works intimately well – not like some of the writers on our site. But I do love many of the works he had a heavy hand in, and from what I know of him, I feel that he has a unique talent at creating scenarios and work that pull real emotion out of audiences, and that he can take a commonplace storyline and turn it into something quite unconventional. That’s why hitherto, it’s been surprising for me that Charlotte, though very enjoyable, has been conventional.

But with episode six, Charlotte seems to be taking a turn toward something totally different.

charlotte 6a

One of the interesting things about this episode is that like the rest of the series, it’s playing with the audience.  While the student council believes that Ayumi is the latest adolescent that demonstrates powers, the audience is meant to think that her classmate, Konishi, is actually the one with the “collapse” ability. In the final five minutes though, this run-of-the-mill episode ends with an unexpected bang – Ayumi is the one who exhibits the powers, collapsing the school building and perhaps falling to her death; Yuu, going to help his little sister, is apparently crushed by concrete – perhaps he died as well.

Depending on how the next episode turns out, this could be one of those moments in anime that really shocks you – an unexpected moment that changes the game. But right now, at this moment of time, it makes perfect sense to me, because it all too often takes moments like these to move people to change – and that, I guarantee, you’ll see from one or more of the characters in Charlotte.

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Examining Old School Anime: As the Tree Falls

Few anime possess the brilliance of Space Pirate Captain Harlock.  On the night when I became inspired to write this article, I watched no fewer than seven episodes in a row.  This viewing also happened to give me another, more happy topic, but the topic of death appeared more interesting.  To be more precise, Captain Harlock inspired me to write about a theme in Catholic eschatology.  Episode 17, “The Skeleton Hero,” was unique in focusing on the life of the Arcadia’s chief engineer, especially his relationship with his former captain, Yamanaka of the warship The Braves.  (Most of the crew have amazing backstories.)  What caused this reminiscence was the Arcadia receiving a distress message from Captain Yamanaka, whose ship has become stranded in the Horsehead Nebula.


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Anime Today: Dealing with the Finite

Episode one of Plastic Memories had me hooked this season. With a theme and feel much like Time of Eve, one of my all-time favorite movies, and a dollop of moe, its pilot episode hit all the the right spots. Of course, the episodes following the first have yet to prove if the series will stand up to its concept, but that stands beyond the fact that it absolutely hit on a topic that is of utmost importance for Christians: finite-ness.

plastic memories 1

For those who are unaware, Plastic Memories follows a young man at a robot manufacturer’s department responsible for collecting and effectively “wiping” the memories of its old distributed models. The reason? Robots have a defined life span of 9 years, and they must be collected before they naturally and slowly progress offline. This presents a plethora of intriguing dilemmas as the robots are as close to human as one can get.

Why must humans suffer through parting with their loving companions? Why must robots operate at all, knowing that they are going to effectively “die”? What we’ve seen so far in Plastic Memories thus far is a mixture of perseverance and a loss of hope on the part of the heroine, Isla. But how does this translate into Christianity, for this is surely a relevant topic? Read the rest of this entry

Grisaia no Kajitsu Episode 5: Dying While Living

After the events of last episode, Michiru apparently took an overdose of drugs in her depression. However, a few days later, she appears to be as active and normal as always. Unfortunately, the truth is that this is the “other” Michiru, and only Yuuji sees through her act. She claims that the original Michiru has fallen into a deep darkness in her heart, never to wake again.

Overdosing medication is no problem.

Overdosing medication is no problem.

It's like reverse plot armor.

It’s like reverse plot armor.

Sachi then brings Yuuji a box that Michiru gave to her to hold onto forever. She is apparently troubled that she cannot clean the inside and there is no key available. In exchange, Yuuji “takes care” of the box for her by later “accidently” unlocking it and looking at its contents. He discovers that the other Michiru and the original Michiru had conversations via a diary in the past, and that the other Michiru surfaced as a result of a heart transplant. Michiru requested that the other her take over her body forever because she is unable to handle the sadness of the world when people die. The other her explains to Yuuji that she thinks Michiru deserves to live in the body and that she is not interested in the freedom of having a second life at the cost of Michiru. Yuuji takes this as that he can do whatever he wants to her body – by forcing her to swallow more medication to force the original Michiru’s personality to surface. He says he will do whatever she wants, and she answers that her one wish is to die. Yuuji obliges. Read the rest of this entry

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Wisdom of Heartseed, Ghibli in Catholic Magazine, and Christianity in Evangelion, Trigun, and FMA: Brotherhood

Draggle continues to examine Kokoro Connect with Christian language, finding the kids caught up in a battle between flesh and Spirit, and Heartseed as similar to Ecclesiastes’ teacher. [Draggle’s Anime Blog]

Sarah Greydanus, the teenage daughter of reviewer Steven D. Greydanus, reviews Whisper of the Heart. [National Catholic Register]

After finally finishing Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sweetpea provides her overview of the series, including some commentary on the use of religion in the show. [Going in Blindly]

Rocklobster review a classic, Trigun, and includes examination of Vash as a stand-in for Christ and of Wolfwood’s portrayal as a priest. [Lobster Quadrille]

Annalyn is rewatching FMA: Brotherhood, and notes some commentary about religion in the show. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

On a more somber note, Annalyn also reflects on the death of a young man she knew. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

Kokoro Connect 05: If You Had 30 Minutes to Live, What Would You Do?

Kokoro Connect continues to surprise me by how touching and involving it all is.  Though not without its faults, it’s still one of my favorite series of the year.  After a strange (but still compelling) fourth episode, five did was episode fives of good series often do – hit an early high point in the series.

Art by 三毛之助

Without going into much detail, a central theme to this episode is to do that which you have to as if there’s no tomorrow.  If you could be brave enough to escape the fear of the moment, knowing that there is no fear of repercussion in the future, what would say?

And so, I’ll ask this question of you all:  If you had only thirty minutes to live, what would you do or say?

Please use the comment area to tell us what’s in your heart – no names and specifics necessary, of course.  I hope that perhaps, this episode and this question might persuade us to be brave ourselves and live stronger and deeper.

Kokoro Connect 05: Hurt Me Bad (in a Real Good Way)

A while back, I had difficulty getting my son to close his eyes while I washed his face in the shower.  I’d have to tell him multiple times to close his eyelids in the same shower session.  One day, I just let him do what he wanted, and to his discomfort, soap ran into his eyes.  He had a miserable time.  But now, I never have to ask him to shut his eyes – he does it without any encouragement on my part.

Kokoro Connect demonstrated the same principle this week.  At the close of the episode, Heartseed lets the gang know that he presented this awful situation to them as a way of pushing them forward – of making them do the things they needed.  The pain opened them up and caused them to do what was necessary.

Art by 五歳

This push reminded me of these lyrics*:

Oh but you move me
Out of myself and into the fire
You move me
Now I’m burning with love
And with hope and desire
How you move me

These actions reminded me of God and his relationship with  us.  While I can’t relate Heartseed’s dishonesty or manipulation to God, a basic similarity arises.  A message, oft repeated in evangelical circles (and said much more eloquently by others than I’ll paraphrase here), is this: God doesn’t mind hurting you if it helps youTemporary pain might be necessary for eternal growth. Read the rest of this entry


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