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Your Lie in April, Episode 13: Who Are You Playing For?

If you thought episode 10 was a tear-jerker, episode 13 of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) must have had you sobbingPicking up from last week, Arima goes on stage at the recital without Kaori to make a point, to make music for his muse, but instead comes away with something unexpected – healing and catharsis.

An accompanist without a performer, Arima plays anyway, pounding at the keys, aiming to show his worth (or Kaori’s), but in the midst of playing, he begins to remember his mom.  And in the music, in the lullaby his mom once played (and which he was now performing), Arima remembered her – not the specter haunting him nor the brutal mother from the last months of his life, but the loving, nurturing mother whose music was inside of him.

baby arima

And so, as the performance continues, Arima realizes this – he is playing for his mom.  After finishing and collapsing from the emotional weight of it all, he cries to Hiroko, “Did she hear it?”, wondering if the notes from his heart made their way to his her.  Hiroko assures him that they did – after all, Arima’s mom is there beside him.

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Your Lie in April, Episode 10: Love Song

Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) had danced in and out of the theme of grace for nine episodes, and so, I expected the gospel message to be delivered in it’s full force at some point – I just didn’t know it would come so soon.

This was a precious, precious episode.

It begins with an unexpected flashback to a conversation between Arima and Watari, where the latter says something very important:

In the face of adversity – that’s when you know if someone is the real deal or not.

april 10b

That quote sets up the adversity in this episode, where Arima must again face his demons and decide whether to retreat, as he has for the past two years, or to have faith in the one who believes in him when he doesn’t even believe in himself.

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Your Lie in April, Episode 9: Healing for the Sick

As much as I feel that Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Osu) is a joy to watch, there are portions of each episode that make me cringe, in a way that the show means us to.  In episode nine, there were a lot of these moments as Arima took the stage and saw all the demons of his past, and in particular a moment from his childhood in which his mom abused him horribly, to the point of bloodshed.

april 9a

The episode start innocuously enough, though.  We see the remainder of Emi’s wonderful performance, before Arima makes his way to the stage.  And as he approaches the piano, and even into his performance, flashbacks from Arima’s youth flood his mind and eventually overwhelm him.  In particular, we see that despite Arima’s loving attempts to help heal his mom through music, she responds by beating him severely with her cane in front of a host of people in the lobby of a concert hall.  He stands up to his mother after this, and soon afterwards, she passes away, which is perhaps a large part of the reason Arima carries such guilt and pain with him.

Although there was much think about in this episode, my mind kept drifting back to the mother.  Because Arima is a good kid and because there are such light touches to the series, I think I keep expecting to see redeeming qualities in her, but as each episode passes, further and further does she move toward the Gendo Ikari “parent of the year” path.

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Celestial Method Episode 6: A Slap for a Slap

As Celestial Method (Sora no Method) continues, it seems more and more obvious that for, at least the first half, the cast of characters are going to find redemption through Nonoka’s kindness.  In episode six, we get the conclusion of Yuzuki’s redemptive tale after her sudden conversion, to use religious terminology, in episode five.  Now seeing with unclouded eyes and understanding the wrong she’s committed, Yuzuki spends the episode trying to break through her embarrassment and fear in an attempt to make atonement.

sora 6a

The idea of atoning for one’s sins is present in almost every culture and religion.  The thread certainly runs deep in Japanese culture – we can see this in many anime (not that we should be looking to anime for all our Japanese cultural cues!).  Rurouni Kenshin reminds me most of this theme, as it features a protagonist who spends almost his entire adult life trying to atone for the sins of his youth (and finding, actually, that he really can’t).

Christians, too, can find themselves in this mode, even though we’re saved simply by God’s mercy.  In fact, part of the reason that Christianity spread so rapidly in the first few centuries of the church was that it appealed to people of all cultures and backgrounds, creating an equality by our shared sinfulness.

Nonoka , when asked by Yuzuki to slap her, could have done so.  It would have let Yuzuki atone for her sins.  It might have made Nonoka feel better.  And it would certainly fit the bill of justice in “eye for an eye” style.  Of course, Nonoka has none of that, giving Yuzuki a touch that could hardly be called a slap, and reminding Yuzuki that she accepts her fully as she is, warts and all, past and present.

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Naruto Chapter 700: The Gospel of Sasuke Uchiha

700 chapters.  All it took was 700 chapters and some 15 years to see our heroes achieve their ultimate aims – Naruto becomes hokage, Sakura marries Sasuke (not necessarily a bad thing), and Sasuke…well Sasuke finds love, which as he admits in chapter 699, is probably what he and Naruto wanted all along.  Strange that Sasuke set out with vengeance in mind only to find that love was the answer.  But perhaps that’s not unusual after all.

In our own lives, we all have certain aims, which are usually apart from love (and certainly apart from love of God, for which we were made).  We may not want to destroy an entire village out of a need to avenge our clan, but our goals may still be wayward – success, luxury, comfort, sex, wealth.  But unlike Sasuke, for most, the story doesn’t end on a note or redemption, at least not one connected to grace.  But if we can take a manga as example, there’s hope for all of us, even if takes many years for our story to turn into one of salvation.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

- 2 Peter 3:9

Path of Destruction

Sasuke’s road throughout the entirety of the series has been one of violence.  As a child, he violently puts off any attempts from others to befriend and love him, and of course, as he grows, he commits heinous acts – some would say (and some have said) those that have put him past the point of redemption.  Murder and death are only the prime examples of the many evil things Sasuke did to attain his goals; he also hurt those closest to him (Sakura especially).  Our lives follow similar paths without Christ – where we leave broken hearts and bitterness in our pursuit of whatever fills our heart, sometimes to the pain of others, and often toward the destruction of our own selves. Read the rest of this entry

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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