Blog Archives

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 4: Boundaries

Boundaries play a role in all relationships.  Depending on the closeness between two people, and each person’s ease with intimacy, walls between people can be high and near uncrossable, low to the point where one can simply step over them, or somewhere between.  Boundaries can even disappear altogether.  Episode four of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) explores this them in the boundaries established between pairings in our group of main characters.

It’s tough going for the new leadership group at first.  Kou and Futuba arrive late to the leadership camp, causing frustration and bitterness among their teammates and others.  In this already dispirited mood, each person seems to let the worse of themselves show instead of the best, creative further unpleasantness.  Conflict further ensues among the group, including a humorous one between Yuri and Toma involving a cupcake.

The other conflicts are more serious.  Kou and Futuba continue to have their boundary issues as they try to figure out who they are to each other now.  Kou thinks he has that answer figured out, with Futuba meaning nothing to him, though his actions speak otherwise.  Futuba, on the other hand, is just plain confused, and throughout the episode wonders what Kou exactly means to her now.  Time and events have erected a wall between the two, and they are each trying to figure out if and/or how they can cross it.

ao haru ride

Most significant to me, though, is the wall between Shuko and Tanaka, which seems impenetrable.  This episode hits us over the head with the reason that Shuko very unexpectedly joined the group; it’s because she is in love with Tanaka, her teacher (and Kou’s brother), though he is very clear and strong in warding off her advances.  The wall between them is erected both by morals and by Tanaka himself.  He won’t let Shuko into his space – he won’t let her cross his personal boundaries.

Read the rest of this entry

Terror in Resonance, Episode 3: Unforgiven

In Episode 3, Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) continues barrel forward, presenting a third bomb (and third riddle) in as many weeks.  But action takes a backseat as director Shinichiro Watanabe spends much of the episode unfolding pasts and presenting some half-answers to building questions as the plot unfolds.

Perhaps the most identifiable character of the series, and the certainly the one whom the audience can most relate on a moral level, is Shibasaki.  We already knew that he was formerly a detective, and a clever one, having cracked the previous riddle, but now we get to know his background a bit as well.  Because he refused to back down from a politically charged investigation, and rather delved deeper and deeper into one, Shibasaki was removed from his post and relegated to no man’s land.  But according to his supervisor, Shibasaki has never let that go.

zankyou no terror

And here’s the moral compass for our tale…

But the episode seems to place more importance on another part of the detective’s past as a motivating factor: his childhood in Hiroshima.  He spent his summers there (at the very least), and remembers well a town populated by elderly atomic bomb survivors.  The summer was a lonely, quiet time for Shibasaki, and the residents refused to go outside, the insinuation being that they were still dealing with the painful memories of the bomb, which dropped in the summer of 1945.  Shibasaki takes this hurt and used it as fuel to help him stop Nine and Twelve.  His tirade at the end of his message to the terrorists suggest that the pain of the past and the moral fortitude rising from his memories are an utmost part his character.

Nine, too, is dealing with tragedy from the past.  Ironically, it’s the more impulsive 12 that tries to soothe 9 as he deals with flashbacks of the experiments conducted on the two and with even younger children (Emily makes an apt comparison of this, along with Lisa’s predicament, to the Child Broiler of Mawaru Penguindrum).  Most pressing on Nine’s mind is a white-haired boy who was unable to escape with them, seemingly perishing in the intense heat of self-immolation.  Nine can’t shake these images, and it’s these children and the abuse they suffered that drive him.

And so, two of the main components of the series – Sphinx and the police force – are rolling with an unstoppable momentum, both motivated by the same concepts – revenge and justice.

Read the rest of this entry

Terror in Resonance, Episode 2: You Reap What You Sow

While the first episode of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) introduced us to and focused on the terrorists, Nine and Twelve, along with their new accomplice, Lisa, episode two largely moves the focus toward the police.  It’s an interesting shift, especially with the terrorists playing good bad guys and the police playing the role of bad good guys.

Little by littke, Shinichiro Watanabe begins to unravel a story while burdening the audience with evermore questions, particularly as they have to do with Nine and Twelve’s pasts – who are they?  What was done to them?  Why?  Who were all involved?

And whatever “VON” is, it’s quite shady, judging from the terrified looks on the faces of various characters in-the-know.  They’ve done something mightily wrong.  And this episode is all about showing that the police – and perhaps larger forces involved – have it coming to them.  The variation of the Riddle of the Sphinx emphasizes the judgment the guilty must pay, ultimately ending in judgement upon the police at the end of the episode.

Toji Hisami 12

I spy a favorite trope – awful things done to little kids. (Art by みずのえ@スタンプ, Pixiv ID 44726975)

These ideas of justice, revenge, and karma are found in heavy doses in Watanabe’s works (think of almost all the episodes involving Spike and Vicious in Cowboy Bebop).  In fact, they figure prominently in many anime – no surprise seeing how deeply ingrained these ideas are in Japanese culture, history, and religion.  Of course the bad guys must pay for their evil deeds at the hands (or on behalf) of those that suffer.  That’s justice.

Read the rest of this entry

Witch Hunts and the Modern Day Mekaku City Monster

Mekaku City Actors is pretty much all I ask for from an anime – it’s engaging, stylish, fun, has a plethora of terrific characters, and features some connections to religion, too.  The story of the monster, which began as a bookended theatrical piece for early episodes and was later revealed to be a significant part of the plot, demonstrates these religious ideas most significantly.  But it’s the not the symbolism, overdone in anime, that stuck out to me – it was the projection of how people have historically gone on witch hunts in the name of religion.

In college, one of my history courses focused on the witch hunt in Europe.  They of course occurred in the U.S. as well.  Recent episodes of Mekaku City Actors made me wonder if they happened in Japan, too.  Certainly, they occurred there for individuals other than witches (persecution of Christians comes to minds), as they did in the U.S.

Azami Kagepro

Art by きらげら (Pixiv ID 44146031)

Although the Christian community in the U.S. thankfully doesn’t harangue and persecute individuals with the same religious historic religious fervor (barring a few notable exceptions), we do still attack others with words, dirty looks, and protests.  Who are the witches of today – the workers at Planned Parenthood?  Homosexual and transgender advocates?  Some other groups?

Whatever the group is, they all have this commonality – the individuals within these camps are often dehumanized by Christians and others.  As with those in Mekaku City Actors who physically hunted Azami, and later Shion and Marry, we have a tendency to categorize people and see them solely by characteristics that we use to define them.  We forget that each of us is unique – that we have different circumstances and experiences, and that people are more than a caricature.  They are not part of that group; they are real people with real stories. Read the rest of this entry

Fathers, Be Good to Your Daughters: Steins;Gate and Fatherly Love

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters, too

In anime, an archetype of a distant and cold father has long been pervasive.  Gendo Ikari is foremost among them, but there are many other examples of dads whose lack of affection (or presence) have had a powerful impact on protagonists.  I wonder if this has something to do with the undeniable fact that many Asian fathers of previous generations were harsh toward their children.  But as we can see with Ed and Al’s dad in Fullmetal Alchemist and with Eren’s in Attack on Titan*, there’s a lot of love that dad’s carry toward their kids, even if they’ve caused their children hurt.  Perhaps that reflects another side (or a wished-for side) of Japanese fathers.

While these daddy issues are often limited to one character per anime, one series in which there are plenty to go around is Steins;Gate.  Between the future and past, there are several fathers that get emphasized in the series.  And on this Father’s Day, it seems to be an apt time to examine them.

Better yet, we can go a step further and see how these Steins;Gate father-child relationships compare to that of the Heavenly Father toward us.  As with character relationships between father and sons/daughters, many people have cold relationships with God, perhaps out of misunderstanding, lack of effort, or something else.  But like a father who proves that he loves his child to no ends, there’s far more than meets the eye.

Art by 鼬鼬 (Pixiv ID 36404085)

Art by 鼬鼬 (Pixiv ID 36404085)

Warning: Spoilers galore in the post below. Read the rest of this entry

KanColle: The Biggest Trend is Still a Trend

It’s been just over 1 year since the release of Kantai Collection, or Kancolle, a browser game centered on moe anthropomorphisms of historical World War II ships. For those who still aren’t aware, it’s a simple game based largely on rng and micromanagement, leveling cute ship girls as you progress through maps. At the time of release, this game planned for a small player base – no more than few ten thousand. It was just meant to be an addition to the website’s other games. However, it didn’t take long for the servers to over-flood with new players, quickly surpassing its expected maximum and beyond. Registration had to be controlled through lottery admissions as new servers were opened one at a time (in fact, after some 9 months, new players still must pass through a lottery to play). Fan art exploded, official merchandise began to be created; manga and anime were started. It invaded everything: events, crossovers, collaborations, and more, and is often compared to Touhou, a fanbase which took years to establish. In this short year, KanColle has proven to be the most explosive fandom in otaku culture history.

Art by 墨洲

Art by 墨洲

But the question is whether all this popularity is just a remarkably popular fad or actually the birth of a new fanbase here to stay. No one can really say either way, and the game developers are surely going to be playing a large role in that as one big mistake can ruin everything. Personally, I don’t see it ending for awhile, but I also don’t think it will have the longevity that Touhou has proven itself to have. As one of the many people trapped in its addictive gameplay, I must say one of its best features is the ability to play with constant breaks. Between waiting for your resources to naturally regenerate, ships being repaired from damage, or ships recovering from being “tired,” it makes breaks almost a requirement. Granted, if you are really hardcore, there are ways to get around it to still play 24/7, but you can still make significant progress without investing constant attention.

On a less technical side, its vast popularity no doubt truly stems from all the different ship girls. With over 100 girls, the art, personalities, and voices have enough variety that at least one will probably appeal to you. And with the marriage system in place, you can be sure all otaku are quite glad to marry their favorite girl(s) (yes, harem is possible too). Coupled with the fact the game is free for the most part, it is only going to get more popular for the time being. Regardless, in the end, it is a trend, and no matter how long or short it takes to die off, it will eventually lose popularity.

The idea of fads applies to religion, too.  Of the many things said against Christianity, one of them is that Christianity was just a trend. Read the rest of this entry

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Finding Strength in Your Flaws

The second season (and part 3) of Jojo is upon us and going strong! And my spirits have been renewed by the news that Crunchyroll is streaming all the episodes of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure!
Now everyone can watch it with no fear or guilt! jojo-battle-tendency

Check it out here: Watch JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure at Crunchyroll

Since I’m pumped with excitement about Jojo, it’s time for me to catch up on my Jojo posts and talk about Part 2 (here’s Part 1), which is the last 17 episodes of the first season.

In Part 2, we meet a new Jojo; and with a new Jojo, comes a whole new feel to the story. With our beloved Jonathan Joestar, gentlemen of all gentlemen, gone; we remember his sacrifice fondly only to be greeted with his short tempered and sometimes ridiculous grandson, Joseph Joestar.
Maybe it was just me, but I remember not liking Joseph at first because he wasn’t like his grandfather at all. Plus, I was still sad over Jonathan’s death to be amused by Joseph’s cheeky attitude and clever tricks (granted, using Ripple powers to fire the cap off a soda bottle to break someone’s fingers is pretty impressive).

Like Jonathan, Joseph realized he has Ripple powers, though he had not had any proper training with them. Since the disappearance of Dio, there weren’t too many vampires around, so the power of the sun (the Ripple) wasn’t really needed.

That is, until the Pillar Men are awakened.

Pillar men Jojo

The fourth Pillar Man, Santviento/Santana not pictured because no one loves him. ;.;

Read the rest of this entry

Vocaloid as Artistic Expression

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

Right off the bat, I feel compelled to say that Vocaloid is an enormous passion of mine. From Hatsune Miku to Megpoid, from Supercell to Jin, I adore what the Vocaloid movement has become since its pick-up in 2007.

In case you are unsure of what Vocaloid is exactly, Vocaloid is a voice synthesis engine created by Yamaha that has, over the last several years, been used to produce music sung by fictional animated characters (this was not the original intent of Vocaloid software, and I could probably write an entire post on the history of Vocaloid alone considering I have done an hour-long lecture on the same topic, but considering this is the Internet it would probably just be easier for you to look here than to read a long post by me, though perhaps I will consider writing such a piece in the future, and while I’m doing this I might as well add a few more commas and make this sentence as long as possible,,,,). For an example of Vocaloid in action, see the clip below from a relatively recent live concert featuring the most popular of the Vocaloid characters, Hatsune Miku.

What I would like to address here, however, is not the origin of Vocaloid, but its validity as an artistic expression. What do I mean by that, you ask. Why, thanks for asking, I’ll tell you exactly what I mean!

Read the rest of this entry

Holy Week: Yukine and Matters of the Heart

As a Christian, I’ve found that one of the hardest things to explain to non-Christians is about the seriousness of sin.  Without comprehending this, the gospel story makes little sense and thus there’s little to compel one to be open to the religion.  One of the roadblocks in trying to help others understand the gravity of sin is that we’ve grown up with varied definitions of the phrase, and it’s become perhaps defined best in our culture as “doing something bad,” rather than as rebelling against God.  Add to that other cultures’ and religions’ uses of the word, as expressed in Noragami and other anime, and it becomes a word that’s loaded with meaning that isn’t necessarily Christian, and becomes a confusing path to explore.

Another roadblock is in understanding that sin doesn’t have to be something we physically commit.  This comes into play with Yukine and Yato in Noragami.  Even though Yato warns his shinki that even when Yukine simply thinks sinful thoughts, Yato suffers, Yukine continues to do so.  Perhaps he just wants to cause Yato displeasure – no surprise for an adolescent with a holder as annoying as Yato.  Or maybe Yukine just can’t accept the fact that he could sin by simply coveting.  After all, Yukine resists stealing items on a couple of occasions, as if trying to stop himself from crossing that boundary.  Moving from thinking to doing is, apparently to Yukine, the bridge between sin and not.

For Yato, there is no difference.  Coveting and giving into mindful temptation is the same as physically giving in – they both cause Yato harm in the form of a blight that eventually consumes most of the kami’s body, particularly taking over once Yukine indulges completely in sinful desire.  And so, not only is thinking sinfully considered a sin, but it becomes a root desire that helps beget the physical detrimental actions.

Yukine Noragami

Art by 謖 (Pixiv ID 41940946)

These ideas are very much in line with Christianity.  From the Old Testament, the Bible makes it clear that God is concerned with our heart and mind, even above physical actions:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

- I Samuel 16:7

Read the rest of this entry

EF: A Tale of Theology

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

As I watched through the Ef series (particularly A Tale of Melodies, the sequel to A Tale of Memories), I was immediately struck by how astoundingly deep it was. Whether looking at it from a pure artistic standpoint, a written standpoint, or a theological standpoint, Ef provides quite a lot of interesting material to chew on, especially for me. Because of this, Ef: A Tale of Melodies (the stronger of the two seasons of the series in my opinion) has easily become one of my favorite anime.

Now, because of my Christian faith and the emphasis on religion (particularly with the inclusion of the oft-seen church setting), I felt compelled to put together a short piece detailing my thoughts on the theology present through A Tale of Melodies (since it provides more of an emphasis on the spiritual and religious aspects of the drama).

CAUTION: There will be spoilers below.

Read the rest of this entry