Blog Archives

Working!!! and Scripture: Neither as Simple as it Seems

A third of the way through season three of Working!!! (Wagnaria), and I’m super pleased – the show continues its wonderful, character-based humor (as expected) while moving along romantic relationships (not necessarily as expected). And as has been impressed upon me all along, the series confirms that it isn’t just funny – it’s a really well-made show.

I was trying to explain this point to someone last week, and it was hard for me to do so – I’m not 100% sure what makes Working!!! more than just fun.  It has a lot to do with smart source material, with its well-written gags and funny situations.  It also has plenty to do with the characters, who are loveable, well-defined, and who grow, bit by bit, through the course of the series.   And it certainly has to do with how the four panel strips, so obviously the format for the show’s source material, flow well thematically from episode to episode when animated.

In short, while the series seems simple, it’s a lot more complicated than we might give it credit for.

It took me 2+ seasons, but I've learned to like Yamada.

It took me 2+ seasons, but I’ve learned to like Yamada.

Not all of you may agree with my assertion – I may have to butt heads with some of you that see the series as relatively common.  There’s a parallel here, too, with a work I esteem much more highly – and strangely, it’s more often the choir to whom I preach the merits of that work. Read the rest of this entry

Charlotte, Episode 4: Earning It

Baseball episode!

I love baseball, and so, Little Busters notwithstanding, I really enjoy baseball episodes/series. And if you throw in the emotion of the relationship called a battery, I’m done for.

As the student council, with a new two new characters in two, finds their next subject, they turn to a baseball game to bring the pitching ace into their school.  But with supernatural powers being wielded, the contest is a farce from the start.  The opposing team’s pitcher throws a near-unhittable knuckleball through telekinesis, while in the 9th inning, the student council’s team counters with their own powers.

charlotte 4a

It’s surprising perhaps, then, that the game-winning hit depends on one not using his powers, as Yuu gives his all sincerely without using his ability.  Going into the at bat, he wonders how he could use his power, not even thinking of getting a hit in a legitimate fashion, but Nao insists that he find a way to drive two runs home on his own.

Yuu is understandably apprehensive.  He, like many of us, would rather fake it than do things legitimately and risk mediocrity, embarrassment, or failure. Read the rest of this entry

One Week Friends: He Hasn’t Forgotten You

I finished watching this short but sweet anime titled One Week Friends. Like most of the anime series I have been watching recently, it was recommended and reviewed here on Beneath The Tangles. The animation and character focused story hooked me immediately and I felt as if I was watching real people live life.

If you haven’t watched the show then you should check it out; it’s very touching and one of those anime that pull on your heart a little. The main concept is memory loss, since the female protagonist has trouble remembering her friends every week starting on Monday. Basically, you can be her friend and have fun together but when the week starts, she won’t have a clue who you are. This is not a real life condition, but it’s interesting to see the reactions and emotions that go through each character because of this phenomenon.

Not being able to remember something or someone precious to us can be irritating since our memories are very important to us. It got me thinking about the meaning of our thoughts, experiences and consciousness. Whenever we as people go to an event, experience something new or spend time with friends the purpose is to create a memory. Without them, pictures and videos would be worthless and so would many of the exciting places we go to. If you couldn’t recall what happened after it’s over, why even go? When we see Kaori unable to remember the places she went with Hase-kun, it makes him sad and frustrated since it seems like it was all a waste.

I started to think about that and how it relates to God’s thoughts towards us. God calls us His friends, and He thinks about us every single day. It’s not about how long you prayed, or how much money you gave to a charity or church. It’s not about all the good things you did for someone, He loves us and unconditionally. Read the rest of this entry

Like Patema, Religion Can Be Inverted

Religion is wrong.  At least fanatical religion is, according to the general tone of western culture, if not outright through its statements about zealotry.  Islam is good, but when taken to the extreme, it’s bad.  Christianity is okay, but not when you tell people it’s the only way.  Buddhism is lovely precisely because of it’s openness.

Although I largely disagree with the statements above (after all, if you believe in the veracity of Christ’s words, you can be nothing less than a zealot of sorts), there’s no doubt that religion taken to an extreme can be close-minded, hypocritical, and dangerous – all these ideas expressed in Patema Inverted, where Izamura, the religious/political leader of Aiga, uses fear and religion to keep the masses under his thumb while pursuing the exposure (and destruction?) of the “inverts,” those whose gravity is the opposite of his people and who live underneath their feet.

patema inverted 1

Patema Inverted is no subtle film – the message of how religion can go terribly wrong is hammered into us from the beginning.  In fact, the first images to really hit me from the world of Aiga were those of the central tower in the city, rising like a ziggurat in the landscape, and more specifically, like the Tower of Babel, the structure the ancients built to reach to God, but which in turn led them further away from Him (and from each other).  The tower in Aiga appears to easily be the biggest structure in the city, casting a shadow over the population, and staffed by intimidating security personnel, reminding the populace that religion is king – obey the rules, avoid sin, and do what is told of you. Read the rest of this entry

Anime and the Digital Church

More and more, ministries are streaming their services online or making websites where Christians (or people of other faiths) can watch, donate or be a part of the community. Facebook and other social media networks have become the place where hundreds, even thousands, come to share their life, struggles and ask for prayer. Even here at Beneath The Tangles, though it’s not a church or ministry with a pastor, many people read our articles and learn more about our Creator. This may not sound like the typical way church is done*, but it’s a trend that is growing rapidly every year.

There are actually several anime that highlight this format, and the two (there are more!) that I would like to mention are .hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. Each one is about people who log on to a server where they play an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and build community with one another. Each player has an avatar that looks like a person, or sometimes part human and part animal that they can use to talk with each other, fight, and even romance. Each episode shows the dynamics of the game actually start to affect the characters emotions and spill out into the real world.

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For example, Kirigaya Kazuto and Yūki Asuna, whose avatars are famously named Kirito and Asuna, fall in love through the playing of the game and become romantically involved in real life. Their digital life affected their real lives, which can be also said for people who were in comas or died because of the game in both series.

.hack//Sign main characters Subaru and Tsukasa deal with real life situations that are sometimes resolved online or vice-versa, plan strategies or literally hack servers to stop people from going into comas induced by the games headgear. They even become very close friends and talk about their IRL (In Real Life) problems and get advice on them as well, just like many of us do online. This not only makes you feel for the character and the player, but often times as you watch the anime you forget that the avatars are being controlled by people outside the game. This can happen to us on social media or games, where we might blend the two aspects together and forget that these are real people we are talking to, not just text.

Hack-todos

The .hack//Sign team all together!

Now, being part of a digital community of fellow believers isn’t a bad thing but there will always be that need to physically be a part of a group that share the same faith. Let’s face it, there are things that you would not share online nor are you accountable to anyone either. You can post lots of Christian posts, messages or verses but who is checking up on you when you are alone or going through life? Are you obliged to report to someone or at least have a one-on-one with an admin online?

Not at all. Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: Playing With The Right Intentions

Before I get into this week’s topic, I want to apologize to the readers of Beneath The Tangles as I was not able to meet my commitment and post two weeks ago. We (my wife and I) were actually in the process of moving into our first home so we are very blessed and grateful to God for the new change. Things got so busy that I could not just type up a poorly written piece, as I truly want to do these articles with excellence for you and my Heavenly Father.

This week is going to be all about why we game, and the motives behind the time we spend holding the controller. A long while back, I found this article that talked about how we can honor God through our video games, and to be honest it was pretty negative and pointed out how video games are basically a waste of time and don’t give God any glory.

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I’m not going to write a rebuttal to that post, but after reading it I realized that the writer was being sincere and explaining his feelings. That being said, I decided to ponder this and see how do I bring God any honor by playing video games for hours throughout the week (not all in one sitting).

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Bayonetta 2, not a game I could recommend for viewers

I’ve written on the subject about overdosing on what we enjoy as entertainment and that has its place, but what about God? Where does He fit in while we are conquering our digital worlds, leveling up or camping to snipe the next unlucky player? How can we reconcile our faith with our hobby (yes, I said hobby, unless you’re getting paid to play)? When we are playing games full of violence, gore, foul language and immorality, can we praise God at the same time? These are very valid questions that many Christians and other people of faith ask themselves, and I myself have even been asked on an interview. Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: The Devil’s Eden

I’m an RPG fanatic, especially since I was very young. I enjoy reading books, so these kinds of games would take me on a journey that I couldn’t experience with other genres. One of my favorite series of all time has been Breath of Fire, especially part III. I have a deep hatred for part V (BoF Dragon Quarter) because of how terrible of a game it was, but that’s for another post.

Spoilers ahead for Breath of Fire IIIBofFIIILogo

BoF III is possibly my favorite of the five games (part six is currently in the works!) because of its plot, characters, realistic situations and humor. You play as the protagonist Ryu, a member of the Brood (Dragon Clan) who doesn’t say a word (typical RPG cliché) and his friends Nina, Teepo and Rei. The game starts off with them as kids going through various adventures, meeting new party members that become friends. They find out that Ryu’s clan of the Brood was eliminated centuries ago by order of the Goddess Myria. One of Ryu’s party members was part of a group of Guardians that killed off his clan and now wants to finish him off as well. He fails and the party goes their own ways for a time.

Free Will

The game jumps a few years and we find Ryu is now a teenager who joins back with his team and they go on a quest to find out why the Goddess decided to wipe out the ancient Dragon Clan. When they finally arrive and begin to question her, she explains that the Brood were a danger to the world and had to be destroyed before they unleashed their power. Since she was defeated by the Dragon Clan in Breath of Fire I, she already has hatred towards them and that’s why she committed genocide. She knows how powerful Ryu already is so instead of fighting him, she offers him a choice.

Give up your free will and live peacefully in her makeshift Garden of Eden or fight.

Myria_Bed

The Goddess Myria in her human form speaking to Ryu in his sleep.

Read the rest of this entry

Volunteers in Need of Help: OreGairu and Godly Contentment

In the modern world, the term “contentment” feels so old-fashioned and out of place.  Why strive for contentment when we can have more?  And indeed, that’s what it seems our lives are often about – becoming better, richer, stronger.  But in attaining the things that make us happy, we often don’t feel the satisfaction we think we might – there’s no contentment when we seek things that won’t fulfill us.

In OreGairu, the service club has a near-perfect track record.  They help all their clients, but they can’t seem to help themselves.  All three, but especially the original two members – Hachiman and Yukino – are sure of their ways, and find success in them (as they each define success), but have no peace.  Perhaps it’s because each is seeking something that can never be fulfilling:

Yui and Approval

oregairu 2bThe first client of the club, and the third member to join, Yui has trouble establishing effective relationships because she’s afraid of showing her true self.  Yui has lived a life that basically says that she’d rather have shallow friendships than dig into something deeper that might damage them.  Yui wants the approval of others and is afraid of rejection at the start of the series; even now, she continues to battle this struggle, though Hachiman and Yukino helped her move past a significant hurdle in not worrying so much about what others think.

It’s easy to get bogged down in what others think of us.  Our relationships often drive our actions – for some more than others.  When we live that way, though, we try to take our lives into our own hands by presenting an image of ourselves in others’ eyes that isn’t real.  Living life in this manner can’t bring contentment because it will collapse – others will let go of their superficial relationships with us and we’ll fail to keep up perfect appearances.  Dwelling instead in the perfect, unchanging nature of God is what brings contentment, for He alone never fails us. Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: Overdosing On Entertainment

This post is going to be a little different than what I’ve previously written. There is so much that goes into the video game industry, player experiences and games themselves that I have plenty of topics I could cover. This time I would like to talk about gaming overdose. Something that many gamers don’t like talking about is how many hours they actually spend playing. There have been many times I have played for 3-5 hours non-stop except for bathroom or snack breaks. Nowadays, I don’t have that kind of time to dedicate solely to my console, but if I did I know I still could! When you finally get that great game you’ve been waiting to play for months, it’s no wonder we won’t put down the controller.

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Imagine when that movie that’s been hyped about finally gets released and your sitting in the theater. Even if it’s a 3 hour film you won’t move from your chair because your so into the film. People tend not to understand what’s so fascinating about gaming, but that’s because they haven’t experienced it themselves or it’s just not their cup of tea. Some people would rather watch a football game or some other activity, but for us gamers we enjoy our video games. There comes a point though, when too much is too much. There needs to be balance in our lives, and if we have a hobby/past time that is taking up much of our time then we need to take a step back. We often don’t notice how quickly time can pass between loading, boss battles, dungeon grinding or side quests but before you know it you have to go to bed! Read the rest of this entry

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

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