Today is the final day of our Patreon Drive. Thank you to those who have supported so far – your contributions have set the stage for greater development at Beneath the Tangles as we seek to deliver stronger content to a wider audience.
Ultimately, our goal here to establish genuine community on the blog – no small feat seeing as we occupy a very niche portion of the aniblogosphere and face head-on the controversial topic of religion. But in the years of this blog, a feeling of community has grown, and I know I see our readers – those visible and those not – as vital parts of our site, making Beneath the Tangles work. It’s through this collective that we’ll be able to move in readers’ lives, using anime as a medium to transform thinking and how we view both what we watch and how we view faith.
If you haven’t given yet, please consider donating – we’re asking for just $2 per month. And thank you for all your support, financial or otherwise!
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.
Dream Eater Merry takes place in the real world and the dream world. The dream world is inhabited by dream demons who come over to the real world by using humans as vessels while they visit the world during their sleep or by opening up a daydream.
Once a dream demon takes a vessel, they cannot return to the dream world and the human cannot be separated from them without dire consequences. This is because dream demons don’t just enter the dreams that humans experience each night but into the dreams they have about their lives, their jobs, their relationships, their future, etc. The dream demon connects to this part of the human and rests in that power.
Do you know the saying, “God works in mysterious ways?” I really felt that to be true a few weeks ago when Casey Covel (Geeks Under Grace) and I started chatting about her taking a role with Beneath the Tangles. What I haven’t told anyone until now was that her work was at the forefront of my mind the days before she reached out to me, and I wondered if I should invite her to join even before we spoke. Coincidence, possibly, but I think of it as something more divinely arranged.
In short, Casey has joined our staff here at Beneath the Tangles, and we are thrilled! Check out our interview below and please welcome her to the community!
TWWK: How did you become a fan of anime and manga?
Casey: Growing up, anime influenced a lot of the media I enjoyed, primarily my video games, many of which had anime-inspired art styles (Fire Emblem, Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Ace Attorney, etc.). I always found the anime art style attractive because it captured… something… that American cartoons did not–emotions, drama, original designs, bold storytelling, and other assorted wonders I couldn’t put a name on back then. When I was a child, I began watching Pokemon, but was quickly told not to by my parents (this was back when churches were cracking down on the Pokemon craze, and my parents were likely being cautious). It wasn’t until several years later that I actually began watching anime again, and to be honest I’m grateful that I waited that long. I believe anime is a beautiful medium of entertainment and art, but I don’t think I was spiritually mature enough to enjoy it until a few years ago.
TWWK: What are your favorite types or genres of anime/manga? How about favorite series?
Casey: I’m a bit of a psychology/philosophy buff, so I particularly enjoy anime that challenges me to think differently or to question my values. Watching anime that asks hard questions or acts as an animated microcosm for a social issue is like consuming a delicious tray of assorted sushi to me. Death Note–despite its storytelling flaws–is my absolute favorite series thus far. I also enjoyed the examination of dark issues in Attack on Titan and the bittersweet, poetic charm of Your Lie in April. Currently, I’m going on adventures with Vash in Trigun… and developing a craving for doughnuts for some reason. Read the rest of this entry
Faith is a funny thing. It seems so easy to keep right up until the moment it is tested. It’s fine and dandy to trust when things are going good and I know exactly what is happening, but I always surprise myself by how quickly that faith can wobble when things get a little tough.
Kotoura goes through something similar with Manabe during one of their summer breaks when she does not know what he is doing. While Kotoura is used to rejection, she is not accustomed to not knowing what’s going on. Her psychic abilities allow her to hear the thoughts of everyone around her as if they were being spoken out loud.
Throughout her life, people have avoided and hated her for expressing their thoughts out loud. Even her parents reject her after her power causes trouble at school and she exposes that each of them is being unfaithful to the other.
The opening theme song in Baby Steps (both this season and last) includes three English words: “Believe in yourself.” Last year, I didn’t pay close attention to those words. In this season, the phrase “Believe in yourself” becomes more important than it did before. It’s a trite phrase, one we often repeat to each other, but I think it’s worth reconsidering, especially as a Christian.
Last season, Maruo Eiichiro started playing tennis because he needed the exercise. By the end of the first 25 episodes, he decided that he loved tennis enough to become a pro player. His parents were a little uncertain about the decision, so he agreed that if he didn’t win the next All Japan Junior tournament, he’d give up the dream and focus on studies. To that end, his coaches arranged for him to train in America for two weeks. Baby Steps 2 begins with his first days at the training facility.
Ei-chan (as his crush and I both prefer to call him) has been playing tennis for less than two years, and he’s already training alongside new pros and players who have been aiming for pro since before he started playing. It’s not easy. As he starts playing against all these excellent players, he settles into a “losing habit” that he can’t seem to break. In the second episode, a young pro, Alex, gives him the advice “believe in yourself.”
Ei-chan’s game starts to improve after his chat with Alex. By the fourth episode, he’s expanded on the advice:
“Believe in myself. I’ve come this far.”
“Believe in myself. And trust my instincts!”
The idea is that his training and talent will yield results if he believes in himself. He’s not totally wrong. If he believes he’ll lose, he probably will. Believing in his ability to win is crucial. But that’s not telling the whole story.
Now, I don’t think Ei-chan has a stupid level of self-confidence; he’s teachable, humble enough to see his need to grow, and can gracefully admit defeat. Still, I think it’s worth it to step back and reconsider the true place of self-confidence in the big picture. Read the rest of this entry
There’s a distinction between a Christian in name only and one in practice. You don’t have to proclaim yourself a Christian to know as much – those outside the faith can see the actions of, say, the Westboro Baptist Church and without much knowledge still firmly state that these folks are not practicing the faith as Jesus taught it. It’s only a skip and a beat to Christian characters in anime, who aren’t there to preach the gospel to a nation that’s 99% non-Christian, but rather to color a series by bringing in a background that might provide for interesting storytelling. And so when you see a priest character, like Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun, you understand as a viewer that this character is probably developed as a Christian in name, not in spirit.
What’s interesting about Trigun, though, is that Wolfwood is saved spiritually in part through the words of an unbelieving plant. And even more surprising is this – that “plant,” Vash the Stampede, is a better example of faith than his seemingly spiritual counterpart.As we delve into the topic of faith, it’s probably a good idea to get a good definition of it. The writer of Hebrews defines it as such:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
– Hebrews 11:1
This definition is significant in a variety of ways. Since many might focus on the idea that we “do not see” when it comes to faith, one could easily make the assumption that having “faith,” in a Christian sense, means that you believe blindly. That’s an easy conclusion to make, but it would be a wrong one. Not being able to see doesn’t mean making irrational jumps based on emotion and upbringing and whatever else leads one blindly to religion – it means trusting in one’s belief even if you can’t see it right now. Even when the road is difficult and you’re in despair, a strong faith will lead you to lean on your belief even when you can’t see it played out in action.
Have you ever heard this one? Three Christians and an atheist walk into a…
Oh wait. That’s actually not a joke – it’s our next podcast episode. At the end of this month, I’ll be joining The Tangles’ hosts, Japes and Sean, and a special guest as we talk about anime, religion, and the intersection between the two.
This is where you come in. We need your questions to help stimulate discussion for the podcast. Please leave one or two (or more) below. Here’s what we’re looking for:
- Questions about Christianity, atheism, or anything else related to religion – feel free to get personal if you’d like.
- Questions religion in anime, whether superficially or thematically
Thanks in advance, all!
The first 75-episode season of Daiya no Ace (Ace of the Diamond) ended on a hopeful note, but I admit that Sawamura Eijun had me worried. For those of you who haven’t watched Daiya no Ace: Sawamura is the main character in this baseball anime. And yes, as usual, “main character” means pitcher. But he’s not the ace. Nope, even after seventy-five episodes, Sawamura is still just a talented, over-enthusiastic first year with a lot to prove.
It doesn’t help that he gets a the yips after a pitch-gone-wrong during the summer tournament. Sawamura can’t throw to the inside anymore. It’s devastating. He tries to pick himself up. But during a practice game, his new weakness becomes clear. He’s taken off the field. The coach doesn’t even let him practice with a ball for a while, regulating him to running instead.
Sawamura doesn’t protest the new regiment, because he knows: “I am so weak.”
It’s painful to watch, but necessary.
Some of Sawamura’s concerned classmates talk to Chris-senpai, a third-year catcher who has already taught Sawamura a lot. Chris tells them that he is sure Sawamura will not only overcome his pitching trouble, but become stronger because of it.
When I hear those words, I smile. Sawamura is the age I was when I realized how weak I am. In my early teen years, I was confident in myself, my mind, and my spiritual standing. I knew it was time for a challenge, so I had the nerve to ask God to humble me (oops). Sure, in my head, I knew I was weak compared to God and many of his servants, but I felt strong.
Then, when I was fifteen, depression hit, soon followed by anxiety. ADD symptoms, formerly minor and easy to compensate for, were exasperated. Homework became a battle—low focus, low motivation, and the elephant on my chest often interfered. At one point, I tried to doubt God (I’m pretty sure he raised a metaphoric eyebrow at my childish stomping). Then I started to doubt my end of the relationship.
Read the rest of this entry
Warning – plenty of spoilers ahead. Please watch episode 22 of Your Lie in April before reading this article.
The final episode was Your Lie in April was wonderful – a heartwarming, moving second half joined together with a beautifully animated, wonderfully musical first half to create a memorable finale. Indeed, it was a tale of two halves, with that inevitable event separating them. I’ll wax more on the second half in a follow-up post, but first, let’s talk about the first 12 minutes of episode 22.
As Kousei performs his piece, putting all his heart into the performance, he imagines Kaori playing next to him. It’s a wonderful, happy scene, as we get to see Kaori’s frenetic playing for the first time in many episodes – many months for us as an audience – accompanying an emotional Kousei, who is optimistic that he will play with Kaori once again.
But in the midst of the performance, as he stares at the image of Kaori in his head, Kousei realizes that she will not survive. In some “red string of fate” way, he even feels their connection severed, as if Kaori literally died on the surgery table with doctors working over her while Kousei (probably) wins the recital as he plays over the piano keys. Kaori completes her playing and she slowly fades away into oblivion, as Kousei can do nothing but break down and cry as he finishes his own piece.
Kaori is gone. The series plays her death in a beautiful, symbolic way with their final song together – a duet instead of a solo and accompaniment. But perhaps this tender way of letting Kaori go tells us something more. Maybe it tells us that Kousei must go on, that he will go on, and that Kaori has prepared him so. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been meaning to watch Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi (Okami-san and her Seven Companions) for a while. This twelve-episode anime draws heavily on fairy and folk tales, and my love for these classic stories never dies. I finally watched it this past week. It was… decent, once the narrator’s voice stopped annoying me. The title character, Ookami Ryoko, is part of Otagi Bank, a school club that does favors for “clients,” with the expectation that said clients will return the favors when called upon. The characters go on adventures of varying difficulty (the delinquent school in town provides danger), and it’s generally a fun club anime that unapologetically mixes tropes, stereotypes, and well-known tales.
Otagi Bank members help their schoolmates out for a cost, but they have their fair share of trials themselves. The fourth episode, “Ōkami-san and Otsū-senpai’s Favor Repayments,” confronts the idea of favors among friends. One of the secondary characters, Tsurugaya Otsuu, is obsessed with returning favors. When Ryoushi, the main male character, saves her from from getting hit by a stray baseball, she insists on becoming his maid… and I don’t mean just doing a bit of housecleaning, either. After all, Ryoushi saved her. She goes above and beyond, even sleeping in his little one-room apartment so that she will be available to tend to every perceived need. Ryoushi is so uncomfortable with this arrangement, he can’t sleep. Yet she is too worried about returning the favor to realize that he really just wants her to let him sleep in peace.
Otsuu has a tragic back story to go with her obsession: when she was younger, an older brother figure died saving her from being hit by a car. She can never repay him for his sacrifice. Instead, she is determined to repay all other perceived debts in her life. Otsuu overworks herself trying to repay Ryoushi. He goes to the Otagi Bank’s president with the problem. The group of friends comes up with a plan: do so many favors for Otsuu, even she can see that it’s impossible to repay them. The first step of the plan? Dress up as maids and wait on her hand and foot for an entire day. Of course, at the end of the day, she says that she’ll try to repay each of them for what they’ve done. They tell her that it’s impossible, and even if she did manage to repay the favor, they’d do even more for her, so the cycle would never end. They explain that since they are friends, helping each other out is only natural. Otagi Bank might be founded on a system of favor and debt, but the group’s members themselves need no such thing. There are no favors between friends.
This plot idea isn’t new. Many anime, movies, and TV shows include characters who are too proud or insecure to get help from others, or who feel they must repay every nice thing that’s done for them. (Arakawa Under the Bridge comes to mind, though I’ve only seen an episode or two of that.) They don’t know how to accept kindness with no strings attached. After years of watching these characters learn about friendship and kindness, I’ve finally realized how much I have to learn myself. Among my family, I don’t hesitate to ask for anything. But I’m more awkward with friends and classmates: If I accept an offer of food, but never give food in return or offer further friendship, is that rude? If they write me a note on my birthday, or just because they want to encourage me, doesn’t that mean I have to do the same? If I write a kind note or do something else for them, will they see it as more than passing kindness? I really can’t offer much companionship as a friend right now! Will I make them feel obligated? I don’t expect anything back, not even deeper friendship, I just want to do this one thing.
It’s kind of ridiculous. Read the rest of this entry