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WataMote: Wata We Are Is Wata We Do

I made it through four episodes of WataMote before dropping it.  I genuinely liked the series, Tomoko is a riot, and unlike Richard Eisenbeis, I don’t think the series is mean-spirited, but it’s just a little too discomforting for me to continue to spend time following it.

Some of that discomfort has to do with seeing myself and others in Tomoko.  WataMote‘s lead character is delusional, thinking herself only a step or two away from attaining popularity.  But even in these early episodes, Tomoko seems to realize that she’s not an “easy fix.”  She understands that there are many deep-rooted issues keeping her from being a “normal,” popular girl, and it isn’t as easy to treat as 1-2-3.

Still, she can’t or won’t make that connection into a lasting one.  Tomoko doesn’t quite get it.  Most of the time, she thinks of herself in one way, even though her actions show someone else entirely.  There are plenty of examples of this, but one that sticks out to me is Tomoko’s judgmental attitude.  She throws around the word “slut” frequently (in her mind at least) – this even though her best friend would more than fit into her definition of the term (and even though Tomoko tries to emulate these girls).

Tomoko Kuroki

Art by トライフル2杯 (Pixiv)

When I was growing up, and even still, I found myself heaping judgment down on people – frequently and heavily.  I judged the way people acted, how they dressed, and what they did and believed.  I might have been slightly more socially adept than Tomoko, but I was just as twisted – and I was even worse, because I called myself a Christian.

I know I wasn’t alone in this.  After all, the picture of an evangelical Christian in America may be one of two things – the genial and uncool Ned Flanders or the judgmental, hypocritical right-winger.  We’ve done well to cultivate this hateful image, even if our “Lord” was anything but.

So why don’t we just flip the switch and turn the judgement off?  Well, it’s not as easy as that, especially for a heart resisting change.  As with Tomoko, a few attempts to change actions won’t really change anything.

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Loving your Enemy in Shigofumi

A Shigofumi is a letter from the dead.

The final thoughts and feeling of someone imprinted in a letter and sent to a person of their choosing. Sometimes the letter is angry, sometimes the letter is joyful, sometimes the letter is sent to a cat.
In most episodes of Shigofumi, the main character is sent off to deliver a letter to whomever the deceased person chooses. Most often, the letter is sent to either a loved one left behind and is filled with love or an enemy and is filled with hate and contempt. The letter that struck me the most in the series was one sent to an enemy but filled with unconditional, radical love. It was given to one character’s murderer.
 l
The victim, Shouta, and the murderer, Asuna, were friends that would often meet and talk about their dreams. After Shouta learns about Asuna’s dark secret, she kills him to protect herself and her family.
In the letter, there is no trace of hate or resentment. There is not really even direct mention of the murder. Surprisingly, there is an apology. Shouta apologizes for not seeing the pain the murderer was in that led to her choices.
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice. All I thought about was myself. I never really thought about what kind of girl you were…”

Saya no Uta: A Reminder of Sinful Nature

Lately everyone seems to be talking about Urobuchi Gen and his recent works: Madoka, Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, and most recently, Gargantia. He has become a popular name ever since Madoka. But honestly, as amazing as Madoka was with its religious themes and correlations, I consider it very overrated even though I enjoyed it greatly. I was not impressed with either Psycho Pass, despite its homage to Kara no Shoujo, or Gargantia. Fate/Zero was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but being a prequel, a lot of the material was a foregone conclusion so it’d be misleading to attribute everything to him. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the rarely mentioned Phantom which aired not even 2 years prior to Madoka; even if it deviated from his original work, he has said he approved of the changes. However, if there is one work most often called his masterpiece, it is the very short VN Saya no Uta. While it may not be the best of the best, it is iconic in its own unique way and an interesting, albeit disturbing, read. Although it has some very questionable content, the themes Urobuchi explores with this is really fascinating.

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta is easily the most…disturbing, disgusting, and immoral thing I’ve ever read, so as a forewarning, I will be mentioning things that readers may not feel comfortable with. Granted, it is an eroge, so some of it was inevitable, but even so, it certainly made me think, “should I really keep reading this?” at certain scenes and I probably would have stopped if not for the fast forward button. The premise of the story is that the protagonist Fuminori was recently in an accident and when he wakes up in the hospital, he finds the world appears completely different. To put it succinctly, his five senses detect everything as decaying, rotting flesh. From the walls of the hospital to the bodies and voices of everyone around him to the smell and taste of his food, everything is something straight out of a horror film. One thing I really liked about the initial set up was that Fuminori, being a medical student, was quickly able to determine that everything wrong with the world was only his perception, and as horrific as it was, he mentally recognized that the problem was with his senses. Nevertheless, the situation greatly affects his mental and physical health as he tries to continue his daily life while keeping his condition a secret. Then the heroine appears before him, a beautiful, innocent-looking girl named Saya who looks completely normal, the first human he has seen since his accident. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here: since Fuminori’s senses have been reversed, Saya is the real monster.

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Something More: AKB0048 Missionaries, Amazing Anime Grace, and Space Brother Dreamin’

Medieval Otaku explores Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and how pride gets in the way from us embracing God’s love. [Medieval Otaku]

Did you know that the musicians of AKB0048 can be representative of Christian missionaries?  Seriously and truly.  [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn shares her personal experiences with depression and the importance of faith and friendship as she examines Nabari no Ou. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Annalyn continues to talk candidly, comparing the big dreams of Space Brothers to her own search for what God wants of her. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Continuing her thoughts, Annalyn extensively compares herself to Mutta of Space Brothers, asking the question of what God wants her to do with her life. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Frank explores the role that grace plays in Sora no Woto. [A Series of Miracles]

Is there more to be found than just superficial Christian imagery in anime?  Japes believes so. [Japesland]

Japes then looks at Haibane Renmei, Spice and Wolf, and Narcissu: 2nd Side as he examines deeper Christian themes in anime (and visual novels). [Japesland]

Charles Dunbar interviews Nina Matsumodo, a mangaka whose work, Yokaiden, explores yokai folkore. [Study of Anime]

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As part of the Something More series of posts, each week 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 if you’d like it included. 

Attack on Titan, Episode 07: Grace, Guilt, and Good Ideas

Another week, another terrific episode of Shingeki no Kyojin.  But at this point, everything still feels like setup and context – when do we find out about some of these secrets (looks like very soon)?  When will the troops start fighting back with ferocity (other than Mikasa)?  When do we start getting to know the other characters?

I should sit back and just enjoy the series and all the build-up, I suppose, but my anxiety is that the series will conclude without finishing the run of the manga, and I’ll be left out in the cold.  Well, if that’s the case, at least we got to see some real development for one of Attack on Titan‘s terrific characters, Mikasa Ackerman.

This week, Mikasa addresses the remaining squads with a speech that half inspiring and entirely condemning.  The characters, some reticently, follow Mikasa into battle, but with different reasons in mind, and resulting in different consequences.

Mikasa Ackerman

Art by へび

Note that more than once it’s mentioned that if the troops just stay there, they’ll eventually die.  It’s simply a rational and good idea to take their chances.  There’s also a feeling of guilt – those in the supply depot are trapped and dying, and Mikasa is running into battle by herself, so these elite cadets should at least help, right?  But when reality strikes again, in the form of the ominous giants (and an out-of-commission Mikasa), many of the soldiers begin to crumble, particularly the guilt-driven Jean, who stands frozen in fear while his comrades die.

However, one soldier stands out by being brave, and perhaps it’s a surprising who it is.  Read the rest of this entry

Oreimo, Season 2, Episode 02: Love Plus…Nothing

After last week’s episode of Oreimo, where I continued to emphasize my disappointment with the show, I was advised that I should quit “torturing” myself – that I should drop it.  But despite all my issues with the series, there’s one particular thing that keeps bringing me back – I really like most of the characters on this show.  This week’s episode focused on Ayase – one of the show’s most surprising characters.  She really cracks me up.

Ayase Oreimo

Art by 松竜

Ayase, who like Kirino, fronts with a “perfect girl” vibe, quickly becomes jealous when her best friend is more eager to spend time with her video game girlfriend than with her.  In turn, Kyousuke tells Ayase that she should be like the Love Plus Love Touch girl, spouting similar lines in similar ways.

Of course, Kirino finds this…creepy.  And in the end, despite Ayase’s breakdown, this is exactly the answer she wants, isn’t it?  Kirino is telling her – don’t be like this other (digital) girl – be yourself.  I love you as you.

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Are You Deaf (to Real Love)?!

I claim that this blog covers anime and manga, but in reality, we do little of the latter – mostly because I don’t read much manga.  But yesterday, my attention was drawn to a captivating gif on Tumblr for a manga that I just had to check out.  Entitled Koe no Katachi, the one shot focuses on a middle school transfer student with a hearing disability through the eyes of the class bully.

Nishimiya Shouka

Art by ループ

On the opening pages, the side editorial claims that there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the manga would be published because of its controversial subject matter.  We east Asians are prone to exaggeration, and I assumed this to be the case in this instance, but…no.  The 61 pages were full of painful moments – the kind of cringe-worthy pain only middle schoolers can cause to each other.

But in the midst of suffering, Nishimiya, the transfer student, stands as a beacon.  Throughout all the bullying she faces, she remains almost impossibly kind, even to her greatest tormenter, Ishida.  He breaks her heart (and her hearing aid) by his utter ruthlessness.  But he’s simply the leader; all of Nishimiya’s classmates join in the tormenting.

Without giving too much away, the climax of the tale occurs when we realize just how patient and loving Nishimiya has been all this time, even after she has been removed from the story.  The climactic gesture she makes is not over-the-top (surprise!), but it’s powerful in as a sign of sacrifice and selflessness.

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Suzuka Asahina and Yamato Akitsuki: Made For Each Other (And Made Like Me)

As I wrote about previously, I again made my way through Suzuka, a high school romance anime.  Unlike many others in the genre, Suzuka is unique because it features two fairly repugnant leads: Suzuka, who at best is rude to people who are kind to her and worst yells at everyone and anyone and Yamato, a selfish adolescent whose thoughts are entirely focused on how to make Suzuka his girlfriend.  Also, he assaults a girl who’s in love with him.  Charming.

Suzuka anime

I don’t recall Suzuka ever being quite this happy in the series (Art by HAL)

Unlike these two, I tend to like lead characters who are morally upstanding.  They may be boring, but I find in them pieces of who I’d like to be.  Yamato and Suzuka don’t represent any of that, so why do they (and the series) appeal to me?  Perhaps it’s because they’re both similar instead to who I really am.

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Little Busters Episode 20: How to Alienate People & Fall from Grace

Sometimes, the simplest answer is best.

In episode 20 of Little Busters, Rin tries in her socially awkward way to help a lovesick fellow student gain the attention of his crush, Sasami Sasasegawa.  Of course, all attempts fail, and instead, draw him further away from Sasasegawa.  Once simply unknown to her, the boy now becomes becomes hated by her.

Little Busters Sasasegawa

Art by えすれき

As the episode concludes, Rin instead tells Sasasegawa the truth about her attempts and gives the boy the softball star’s phone number, allowing him to text her.  He now has an “in,” and with the truth out there, who knows what will happen?  Certainly, the simplicity of the truth led to far better result than Riki’s cockamamie schemes.

Isn’t it strange how we sometimes work really hard when it’s unnecessary?

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Rescuing Faye Valentine

At last year’s IKKiCON (my first convention experience), I was surprised to see someone cosplaying as Faye Valentine.  After all these years, she remains a popular character for cosplaying.  And why not?  Faye’s looks (and moves) scream femme fatale, while she also has a “sad girl in snow” kind of side.

At the end of “Gateway Shuffle,” the fourth episode of Cowboy Bebop, Faye Valentine more or less invites herself onto the Bebop as the newest member of their crew.  She gives off no air of humility or thankfulness, even though it’s unusually kind for Spike and Jet to take her in after she’s already left them in the dust once, and possibly has a massive debt and other more sinister things hanging over her head.

Faye Cowboy Bebop

It’s not easy finding a picture of Faye appropriate for this blog (Art by Morrow)

Faye may be grateful, but she doesn’t show it.  And honestly, she may not have much reason to.  She knows little about Spike and Jet, except that they really don’t like her.  For Faye, her joining of the crew is temporary.  She doesn’t see it as something permanent, and she certainly doesn’t expect to form bonds with the rest of the bounty hunters.  They are a pit stop on the way to her next scheme.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words when comparing a “sinful woman” to Simon, a religious teacher who was hosting him for dinner:

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.

- Luke 7:47

Faye doesn’t feel “forgiven,” nor does she feel welcomed or loved.  Not yet.  And because of that, she demonstrates little gratitude.

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