A long-running project of mine is to get my wife to become an anime fan. It started when we were dating and I got her to fall in love with Studio Ghibli. Over the years, I’ve shown her a number of series, too, and they’ve been a hit (mostly): Clannad, Kids on the Slope,
Attack on Titan (I went for the jugular and FAIL), Kimi ni Todoke, and now, Honey and Clover.
Each character in Honey and Clover is wonderful, but my very favorite is Ayumi Yamada. For whatever reason, I connected with her best, and felt as much empathy for her struggles as with any of the others. Also, clay. Ayumi’s talent is my favorite among the cast’s.
There’s something soothing and beautiful about pottery making, isn’t there? The idea of a sole person turning a block of clay into something smooth and beautiful and useful with just hands and wheel is idyllic. The same imagery wasn’t lost on the Bible writers, who made frequent comparison of God to the potter:
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
The comparisons between God and a potter are plentiful:
- God cares. As the potter must carefully and skillfully manipulate the clay to stay from ruining it, God is gentle with us. His patient and grace are abundant with a people that are far more stubborn than clay.
- God is creator. The potter and clay metaphor brings to mind the creation story. As clay comes from the earth, Genesis explains that humans, too, come from the dust of the earth. God breaths life into humanity, as the pottery shapes life into pottery.
- God shapes us. Ten potters can be handed the same size and type of clay, and each create some wholly different piece. But the similarity is that the potter guides the entire process to make the clay into something more than it was.
And it’s that last point that most presses upon me. Today, I was reminded what a sinner I am, how vicious I can be, and how inhuman (or perhaps how very human) I am at my worst. At my lowest, I turn to God, because who else can I turn to? Friends and family don’t have the power to change me, and I’ve found that I don’t have the power within to transform myself. But the Holy Spirit can empower us to change and to become far more than we are – nearer to image of Christ.
And in that sense, when we feel like clay – something buried in the earth, lower even than dirt – we know that we are being shaped, molded into the image of Christ. And in that sense, there’s nothing else better to be.
If that bullet could also kill a player in the real world, and if you didn’t shoot them, you or someone you loved would be killed, could you still pull the trigger?
I won’t lie. Sword Art Online 2 has kept me entertained all season long. The Alfheim Online arc burned me so bad that I’ve lost the absolute love I once had for the series, but it’s starting to come back. I’ve even begun to accept Kirito and Sinon in all their post-traumatic stress syndrome glory whilst just two weeks ago, I felt that the latter’s back story was too contrived.
I thought episode six, however, did an especially good job of demonstrating to us that these two characters had real fear and real pain from the past. Their situations are more extreme than a typical person’s – they aren’t the hurts that most of us can relate to. But they’re perhaps the kind of hurts that it might be good for us to reflect upon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!