Blog Archives

Your Lie in April Episode 2: I Stand Amazed

Oh, my.  I think this is the series I’ve been waiting for my whole life.

Kaori Miyazono

Episode two of Your Lie in April takes us past the mere introductions of episode one and shows us what the two main characters are all about.  Kousei is further revealed as a damaged young man, traumatized by his mother’s death (and by her life) – and yet as someone who is intentionally kind.  Kaori, the free spirit, demonstrates both her talent and personality through performance, and shows us a hidden timidity as well.

Kaori’s version draws the attention of everyone in the auditorium – in a negative way by sticklers, but in a very positive way by other judges, the audience, and her friends.  Kousei is especially moved.  Although he find Kaori annoying, and reminds himself of such, that isn’t the conclusion he reaches about her.  Ultimately, he decides this:

She is beautiful.

Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April Episode 1: From Monotone to Color

Grace is one of those terms people use without really knowing what it means.  We know there’s something special about it – we think of graceful people or gracious words, and they bring light, fluffy, angelic images to mind.  The meaning of grace is even better than those thoughts – it’s an undeserved love.  The word in action has the power to change people and to make them see the world in a different light.

In episode one of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso), Kousei is a young man living in ungrace.  Life has been hard on him – he lives without his father, absent due to work, and without him mom, who died several years prior.  And before that, his life was centered around being a piano prodigy whose performance determined how much love he would receive from his mom.  He was earning love, in a transaction relationship with the person that he cared for most.  It was the exact of opposite of grace.

Years later, Kousei no longer performs on the piano.  But as his best friend, Tsubaki, mentions, he still desperately clings to it.  All he’s known is approval through music, so what else can he do?

But if I’m still clinging to it, it must be because I have nothing else  Take away the piano and I’m empty.  There’s nothing left but an ugly resonance.

Though maybe not as obviously, we, too, try to earn the approval of people and things.  Our relationships are often based on this idea of earning – we’ll be friends with people who reciprocate, and visa-versa.  Certainly at work, we meet ungrace – if we don’t perform, we’ll be fired, and if we perform well, we’ll be promoted.  And how many of us have parents who don’t seem too far from Kousei’s mom, showering us with love when we do what they expect, but expressing disappointment otherwise?

The major problem with these relationships, which emphasize results, is that we’ll ultimately fail.  We’re imperfect.  So what happens when we let the most important people in our lives down?  Kousei’s reaction perhaps isn’t too far from what we might experience, a loss of feeling, sadness, anger, loss – a seeing the world in “monotone.”

Ah, but what happens when we instead experience grace?

kaori miyazono

Read the rest of this entry

The Bible’s Twist Ending Trumps Aldnoah.Zero’s

Two weeks after Aldnoah.zero‘s violent climax, fans are still a flutter over how season one ended.  In a week where there were a number of much-talked about finales (Terror in Resonance, Haikyuu!, Free!, and the Tokyo Ghoul manga among them), Aldnoah.zero‘s was perhaps the most shocking.

Of course, shocking isn’t always good.  For Japes and I both, Aldnoah.zero was the season’s most disappointing anime.  The twist at the conclusion didn’t redeem it.  In fact, for me, it reinforced al. that’s lacking with the show, as the sudden violent end felt more like a “let’s shock the audience so that they’ll be sure to return for season 2″ or “let’s shock the audience just to shock them” than a truly strong conclusion.

aldnoah.zero ending

The producers and writers from Aldnoah.zero could take a cue from other source as to how to both surprise while still keep a story’s integrity intact.  Take Game of Thrones, for instance.  While the TV series has come to renown for it’s frightful, unexpected character deaths, a deeper analysis of the show (and especially of the ASOIAF novel series) reveals that every major death serves a greater purpose, adding realism, plot development, tonal development, and all sorts of other significant contributions.

And how about another example – one more in line with what we do here on the blog.  Read the rest of this entry

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 11: Guilt and Despair

My mom moved around from church to church quite often as I was growing up.  I of course, hated that, because as soon as I would establish myself among a group of friends, it seemed, I would be uprooted.  Once, when I was in fourth grade, my church friends and I were working hard for the Christmas pageant we would act in just a few days later.  My Sunday School teacher sternly reminded us, “Makes sure you show up for the pageant!”

It was that day that my mom told me we were leaving that church.  I tried to explain my case, but to no avail.  I was very distraught.  Even today, occasionally, I wonder if they missed me and how it all went (probably fine, as missing Shepherd #2 usually doesn’t effect a Christmas play too much).

That event was something I could nothing about; yet, I felt guilty about it for a long time.  Most of us probably have similar stories – some much more painful than mine.  In episode 11 of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Kou reveals one such story.  As his mother holes up in the hospital with cancer, he receives a call from his brother.  But instead of finding solace with family, Kou can only feel guilt and despair, recalling his brother’s final words before leaving some time earlier – to take care of their mother.  And although Kou has no godly ability to shoo away cancer, nor should he for any rational reason feel guilty, he still does.  He can’t help it.

ao haru ride kou

Guilt is strong. But grace is all the stronger…

For Christians, guilt is a feeling that seems to be part and parcel of the religion.  I think that many outside of Christianity might say as much, seeing guilt as factor in forcing people to make changes in their morality.  And within, many of us may feel guilty falling to a specific sin or to many.

Read the rest of this entry

Terror in Resonance Episode 9: Two-Way Gospel

The rules and structure of the early episodes of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) have long been forgotten.  We’re now on a tense, thrilling ride to the end, where uncovering of the truth and simply guessing what will happen next leads to breathtaking moments as much as the action sequences.

Episode nine of Terror in Resonance follows our three heroes, who only a couple of episodes ago were briefly brought together, as they go separate ways.  Nine speeds up Sphinx’s ultimate plan; Shibazaki finds out the horrible truth; and Twelves dives into a trap to rescue Lisa.

zankyo no terror

First, let’s talk Shibazaki, whose heroics continue to enthrall.  Though his storyline could be mundane and boring, Shinichiro Watanabe uses his character well to uncover the past of Five, Nine, Twelve, and the other children (who we now know did not survive).  It’s a wonderful plot device, as we grow to root for another character whose journey garners our interest, when more conventional anime storytelling would have just revealed the entire background in flashback sequences.

Shibazaki’s investigation in this episode also further reveals the deep, troublesome questions at the heart of the series – the depths of evil that humanity is capable of.  Indeed, the comparison is made to the awful experiments that the Nazis conducted on undesirables, which fits more than just at a surface level.  The older gentleman that Shibazaki and his partner question seems quite reasonable, and indeed, he tries to subtly shift blame for his activities.  But Shibazaki directs a question to him, and to the audience as well – at what point are we complicit, where standing idly by, or just following directions, makes us culpable in wrong?  The depravity of humanity is such that too many people, both in the past (particularly during World War II) and today, cross that line and never turn back.

Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Claymore Teresa’s Only Thing to Live For

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

Warning: Today’s post is part of a HUGE spoiler from recent chapters of Claymore.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Teresa, Claymore extraordinaire and perhaps the greatest of all her type (until her shocking demise).  In chapter 150, Teresa has returned as someone transforming from within Clare, and during these sequences, she has a conversation with former protege:

Teresa of the Faint Smile

So, the claim is this: If God exists, in Teresa’s view, she has only one thing for which to be thankful. Read the rest of this entry

Mercy in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

As many Christians will tell you, mercy and grace are some of the dearest and most beautiful qualities of God. Not only does he show us mercy every day by guiding us through problems that we often bring on ourselves, but he gave everyone on earth mercy by dying on the cross so we wouldn’t have to take the consequence for our mistakes. Yet when the idea of showing such great mercy is presented to most people on earth, Christians and non-Christians alike balk at the idea. We make all sorts of excuses to avoid giving anything less than whatever we perceive as justice to those around us when they’re in the wrong, especially if it comes at a cost, despite the fact that there are few people who have never received a kindness they didn’t earn.

Mercy is also one of the main qualities of Edward Elric, the protagonist of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Unlike the majority of the characters, he actually avoids killing his enemies, for no other reason than that they are human, his definition of which is quite broad. His judgement on this is called into question several times, especially when he has to deal with Kimblee, the Crimson Alchemist.

FMA: BrotherhoodKimblee is both a fascinating and disgusting villain. Unlike Ed, he is a sociopath who places no value on human life and delights in pain and chaos. Even though Ed knows this, when the soldiers at Briggs decide to kill Kimblee and his chimera henchmen, Ed protests, and argues that they should try to capture them instead. His request is denied, and the soldiers of Briggs think his idea foolhardy and soft.

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

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 3: The Past is (Ir)Relevant

Can I just say, I’m absolutely loving Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride)?

Though it still contains some doom and gloom, episode three moves us largely past that tone and toward a more hopeful one as a new school year begins.  The main cast is now all in the same classroom, with Futuba and Kou joined by Toma, Yuri, and Shuko.  And by episode’s end, the characters have all volunteered to become either class or event representatives.

The closing scene in which the five main characters of Blue Spring Ride take their place in leadership, is more than a convenient plot development – it’s thematically important.  For at least four of them, it seems (I’m not yet sure about Toma), it represents a moving forward from pasts that burdened them: Futuba from her playing at friends; Yuri from the hate that’s followed her; Shuko from a bitter school year; and Kou from family issues, though his, it seems, will be the most difficult transition.

Ao Haru Ride

At least Kou has a supportive brother…

It’s ironic, then, that Kou has now told Futuba several times that their past is irrelevant, when it seems that he’s the character who is most hanging on to it.  While encouraging Futuba, in his own buttheaded way, to make change, he himself can’t rise above whatever issues have haunted him during the past several years.  He’s quite the opposite of the former (and current?) object of his affection, who quite easily pursues change by making some brave gestures in leaving her “friends” behind and volunteering to be class president.

The truth of the matter is, the past is both relevant and it isn’t.  For Futuba, she sees Kou’s point in starting anew.  She thinks the following to herself:

If you lose it, just build it again.

Moving forward is like rebuilding a city following a flood.  The damage of the past can be wiped away and a new city can rise.

But just the same, when the devastation is massive or whole, it’s not always easy to rebuild.  It’s sometimes near impossible.

While Futuba embraces Kou’s words, her’s is a relatively easy past to overcome.  Kou’s is more difficult, and the problem may be that instead of simply forgetting and moving forward, he needs to come to grips with his past before he can do so.  For Kou, the past is very relevant.  And without knowing how far he’s come, and seeing what the future can offer, Kou won’t be able to “build it again.”

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