Blog Archives

Working!!! the Humanity Out of Your Staff

I don’t watch many comedies anymore – whether on TV, at the movies, of through anime streaming. But I can never resist Working!!!, which is such a joyful show. It just does so many things right, including giving the audience that feeling that we, too, want to work at Wagnaria. And besides the assuredly low pay, why wouldn’t we? It seems like so much fun!

There’s a camaraderie among all the employees built on genuine love and caring for one another. Those who’ve worked in the food service industry know that it’s critical to have genuine friendships in the kitchen if you want a good working environment – it makes a stressful job easier to handle. It also helps to have caring supervisors like Kyouko (in her own way) and Otoo. In fact, bad managers is why so many of us quit our jobs.

Have you ever had a manager that treats you like you’re less than? As if you’re not their equal, as if you’re just someone to be used for his benefit or the company’s?

And it doesn’t have to be a supervisor – co-workers can treat you the same way. Someone very close to me, who works in education, is frustrated at being treated like a second-class citizen by the teachers around her, as she isn’t credentialed like they are.

Or…are you the person who treats others this way?

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Whether the cause is pride, stress, or something else, poor treatment in the workplace is a miserable thing. And it runs deep – the way we treat people denotes the way we feel about them. While there’s hierarchy in the workplace, there shouldn’t be hierarchy in humanity. We’re all on equal footing. But when one treats a co-worker or subordinate in a dismissive or condescending way, he or she is basically saying, “You’re not my equal. You’re less than me.” And when we take equality away, we’re stripping away someone’s humanity. We’re treating them like animals.

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Gaming With God: Why Mega Man Will Never Win

I finally beat him! After a few hours of overcoming eight robot masters, hundreds of enemies and going through a huge castle with skull décor, Dr. Wily was defeated. I breathe a sigh of relief and thankfulness, knowing that it’s over and done. The two hardest parts were fighting the exact same bosses again before having to battle multiple forms of a giant machine (armed with wheels, more skulls, and blasters!).

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Dr. Wily plotting to conquer the world….again.

As I watch the ending of the current Mega Man game (Rock Man in Japan) I’m playing, I know for a fact Dr. Wily will be back. At the same time, I wonder how he escapes? What kind of cheap jail do they keep putting him in? On top of that, why doesn’t Mega Man just blast him and be done with it. Sure, that would go against his morals, but at least threaten him a little? In every single game, he shows up again to do some damage or make Mega Man’s life just that much more difficult.

This shouldn’t be something new if you’ve played any video game series. Haven’t you noticed it’s always the same scenario but the setting is different? The same baddie is loose and the same protagonist must save us all, before it’s too late! It might be in space, a jungle, cave or city, but it’s the same story. Mega Man doesn’t seem to get tired of it, and he refuses to take a day off.

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Why doesn’t Mega Man just end his troubles and not let his nemesis escape again. Nobody will blame Mega Man for doing it! Yet he never does, and I think I figured out why…

It’s grace, and the hope that it will grow in Wily’s heart and change him.

What is grace? It’s our second chance, the slap on the wrist, that time when you should’ve got fired but you weren’t. Remember when you messed up and got caught, but they said, “this time is the last time, don’t ever do that again!”.

Yup, that’s grace.

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Because Nao Tomori Has Been There, Yuu, and Because There’s No Other Response

I have the worst habit of writing quickly, proofreading more quickly (or not at all), and turning in work as fast as possible. All through my youth, I raced to be the first one done in anything school-related. It’s not a good compulsion, and it shows with my blog posts sometimes, as I often forget to make points vital to my main idea.

This rings true for my last two posts about Charlotte, and so I want to take the opportunity to revisit episodes seven and eight and emphasize a couple of points I missed the first time around.

> Charlotte, Episode 7: Ends of the Earth

Addendum: She and HE Can Relate

When Yuu draws near the point of no return (taking drugs is considered super taboo in Japanese culture, as explained by Kaze), there’s only one person that can talk him out of it. Nao is physically able to challenge Yuu, mentally able to trick him, and, as evidenced by Yuu later remembering her words of guilt, emotionally able to connect to him as well. There’s no one else who is able to remotely reach him – not a family member, other student council members, violent thugs, or his past crush. Only Nao.

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When we drown in our sins – whether in the dregs of depression or the heights of hallow hedonism – we might feel that God is remote. Without having a dynamic relationship with Him, it’s easy to imagine Him as such. Why turn to God when He’s so distant? And if He’s holy as the Bible says, how much more should we hide away? Like a harsh, upright father, God would never understand or have compassion on an unruly son.

But scripture says otherwise:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

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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 Today: Kumiko’s Divine Encounter in Sound! Euphonium

Sound! Euphonium could very well be one of my new favorite anime shows of all time. Not only does it have Kyoto Animation, one of my favorite animation studios, bringing its usual high standards of quality to the table, but it also features a topic that is personally very nostalgic to me: the school concert band. I played alto saxophone from late elementary school all the way through college, and that time has given me some of my best memories of my school life, in part because of how much music means to me. And among other things, Sound! Euphonium is absolutely nailing the high school concert band experience, especially as it explores the different motivations (or lack thereof) of the various characters for being in the band.

As for what are the “other things” this show is nailing, one is definitely the character relationships, particularly between protagonist Kumiko, a euphonium player, and Reina, a trumpet player and bandmate from middle school that has inexplicably followed Kumiko into a high school with a low-reputation band, despite Reina herself being one of the most passionate people about the band that Kumiko has met. In the opening scene, we see her crying after their middle school regional performance, because they failed to make nationals even though they earned the gold award. It’s at this moment that Kumiko said something rather insensitive to her, asking her if she seriously thought their band would actually make nationals. While Kumiko does not feel like what she said was wrong, she does realize that it probably burned a relational bridge between the two, something that comes back to haunt her when the two end up in the same band again in high school. It’s a very different sort of relational dynamic than just your normal estranged friends or two people who dislike each other but have to put up with each other for the team’s sake.

A good portion of the rest of the show involves Kumiko trying to make things up with Reina somehow, with some surprising moments throughout. First of all, it seems like Reina did not take Kumiko’s words back then as badly as Kumiko worried that she did. Overall, it seems that the bridge between the two was not really burned, with only Kumiko’s own worries making it look that way. All this leads up to episode 8, when Kumiko ends up going to a summer festival with Reina for reasons… which ends up turning into what can only be called a divine encounter. Be warned that there are spoilers after the jump—not particularly heavy ones, but still significant enough to point out—so if you have not seen episode 8 yet, you may want to catch up before continuing.

But if you are ready, continue on to take a look at just how subtly powerful Kumiko’s meeting with Reina was that evening… and how similar it is to a Christian’s encounter with God.

Yama no Susume -> Euphonium

Going mountain climbing with your instruments is one part of the concert band experience I clearly missed out on…

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Giving Yukino Yukinoshita What She (Doesn’t) Deserve

After writing my last piece about episode 8 of Oregairu season 2 and the topic of grace, I thought more and more on the connections between the characters’ actions and that topic.  There was more to be said regarding what I wrote on, particularly in the words thrown between the volunteer club trio in the episode’s climax.  But I also thought of something in a little different vein.

In the moment when Hikigaya tearfully confesses his desires, I think most of us viewers were expecting some sort of breakdown in return from Yukino.  But what he gets instead is a confused Yukino who doesn’t comfort him, who doesn’t even want to accept him.

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When I watched the scene, I wondered why it seemed to familiar to me.  I realized that it was because I’ve been Hikigaya in this scene many times – and maybe you have as well.

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Oregairu Season 2, Episode 8: Reaching for Grace

With each episode that passes, Oregairu continues to surprise me.  In an episode that I thought started to drift towards anime melodrama, Oregairu instead turned toward something simple and profound.  It showed us the definition of grace – and the necessity of it.

The catalyst for the final, transformative scene of episode 8 is the earlier talk that Hikigaya has with Hiratsuka.  Among the many words of wisdom she gives during their speech is this line:

Sometimes people lose out on things because they’re looking out for each other.

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This, of course, is what Hikigaya has been doing – trying to protect Yui and Yukino through his actions.  But Hiratsuka is right when she expounds on this statement, saying that if you really care about each other, you will hurt each one another; in an ironic way, that hurt signals that you care.  If you stand on eggshells doing everything possible to keep someone from being hurt, you fail to develop deep bonds – the person you care about is lifted higher than they deserve while you sink lower, and when you do fail that person, you find the distance between you and s/he grows even further.

Hikigaya, realizing this and armed now with wisdom and muster, goes to Yukino and Yui to build their relationships and bring healing to the club by tearfully offering words that at first surprised me, but which make sense.  He says that what he wants is genuine relationship.

And genuine relationship can only happen by grace.

oregairu 8a

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Revisiting Clannad and Fathers

One of my most popular posts on this site was for a personal piece I wrote regarding Clannad After Story and fatherhood.  I revisited the post recently, and it struck me both how much time has passed, as the article marked a time – now seemingly long ago – when my kids were practically babies, and how the challenges remain the same.  In the article, I mention how being a parent is so very hard.  It can be very lonely and painful when you want to do the best for your child but can’t, either because it’s out of your control or because you’re out of control.

But as I read the essay, I was reminded of how Clannad demonstrates God’s love for us through the relationships involving fathers.  The comparisons are remarkable:

  • Tomoya’s dad sacrificed his life for his son in terms of career and motivation and energy.  We’re like Tomoya, who didn’t realize what his dad had done for him, and what sacrifice he gave for one who didn’t comprehend that love.
  • Tomoya is like a prodigal father, aided by Ushio, who helps him see that even though he left what should have been precious to him because of his own demons and desires, there is a childlike forgiveness available.  A grown-up Ushio maybe wouldn’t forgive a dad who only reluctantly tried to reinsert himself into her life, but the little girl loves him tenderly and shows such affection that Tomoya’s heart is changed.  He realizes the awfulness in what he did in abandoning her, and changes his life to be the father he should have been all along.

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The Father’s love is without borders.  We are never at the point of no return.  Today is Good Friday, a time to think upon how Christ took the penalty we deservedm just as how Tomoya didn’t deserve forgiveness from Ushio, and laid down his life, just as Tomoya’s dad sacrifices his to raise him, so that we could live.  I hope you’ll think about this awesome love today, especially, and if you haven’t surrendered to that love, consider doing so, for your story isn’t over yet.  Your “after” story can be one, too, filled with grace and a heart changed forever.

To read my original article, visit the link below:

Diary of an Anime Lived: The Selfless/Selfish Daddy

Something More: Your Love in April, Virtuous Violence in Akame ga Kill, and TTGL’s Megachurch

Isn’t it funny that when an anime season near its end, we seem to be less excited about finales the shows we’ve invested in than we are to the slate of new series about to arrive?  Or maybe that’s just me.  But it’s good to focus on the here and now – some of the columns below look at shows that have ended their runs in Japan or in the U.S. on Toonami.

Esdeath of Akame ga Kill reminds us that violence in anime (and life) tells us something very important about human nature, and of a need we all have. [Medieval Otaku]

The final episode of Your Lie in April has a lot to say about godly love. [Christian Anime Review]

The previous episode also demonstrates the idea of how brothers and sisters in Christ should encourage one another. [2]

In his review of Gurren Lagann’s finale, Tommy makes an interesting comparison between a devastating scene and a megachurch. [Anime Bowl]

Are you a fan of the “Ask John” column, like I am? If so, you may be interested in knowing it’s columnist has finished a light novel, which among other things is “steeped in Shinto mythology and includes extensive references to literary tradition and religious iconography along with abundant subtextual thematic depth.” [AnimeNation]

As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.

Destroying Seiichi Kinoshita: Shirobako and Murderous Words

I’ve mentioned this before, but to me, Shirobako feels like family.  There are some members that annoy me, some that I embrace, but regardless, I care about them all.  I want to know what’s happening with everyone – a week seems too long to wait to catch up with the cast.  I streamed the first cour to catch up to the second, watching an episode or two each day – and getting that much of these characters felt just about right!

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Among the characters, the one I find most interesting is the director, Seiichi Kinoshita.  Besides being hillarious, there’s a realism to him despite his over-the-top tendencies.  Most of the realism comes in the way of his faults – his procrastination, stubbornness, shyness, gluttony, and insecurity.  The last of those is most interesting to me, because like the characters he creates and the context that he develops, especially in relation to Arupin, there’s reason for the way his current self has become the way he is.

Do you remember the episode that showed Kinoshita accepting an award for his early work?  He came across as humble, energetic, happy.  The Kinoshita we know now is of course largely none of those things.  But on the back of his failed marriage and ridicule regarding his work, for which he is particularly sensitive, how could we expect him to be the same?  And personal jokes or chides at his expense are common, perhaps most hurtful when they came angrily from episode director Zaruyoshi Yakushiji in episode 18.

Shirobako 15a

Words have immense power.  My wife says that my love language is words of affirmation, and perhaps that’s true – I know that when I’m praised, I’m eager and energized to serve.  And on the other hand, words can destroy, which is what I think has happened to Kinoshita. Read the rest of this entry

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