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. 
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.
What’s the deepest you’ve ever loved someone? Was it for your parents? Friends? A spouse or lover?
Have you ever loved someone so much that would have pursued them, even if you knew you only had months left to live?
Your Lie in April is full of love stories, ranging from a typical high school romance to sacrificial, serving love. But it’s not until the finale of the series that we see the grandest love of all – that of Kaori Miyazono for Kousei Arima. With her time short, she pours all that she has left into loving someone who didn’t know she even existed, and in doing so, changes his life forever.
The letter that Kaori leaves to Kousei is heartwrenching – it’s an emotional note that was a perfecting ending to this beautiful series. But it’s also stunning, as it reveals so much we didn’t know about Kaori, who was always a bit distant as a character, a little outside of the group, a mover of events if not a participant. But with her last words to Kousei, we see her heart and the lengths she went through to show it.
Who knew that Kaori was bespectacled and reserved? Who knew that she was too shy to approach Kousei? And who knew that she had been chasing him since she was five years old?
And the moment he played the first note, he became the object of my admiration. Playing notes as colorful as a 24-color palette, the melody began to dance.
Kousei didn’t know any of this – he didn’t know that he was always in Kaori’s heart. Read the rest of this entry
Warning – plenty of spoilers ahead. Please watch episode 22 of Your Lie in April before reading this article.
The final episode was Your Lie in April was wonderful – a heartwarming, moving second half joined together with a beautifully animated, wonderfully musical first half to create a memorable finale. Indeed, it was a tale of two halves, with that inevitable event separating them. I’ll wax more on the second half in a follow-up post, but first, let’s talk about the first 12 minutes of episode 22.
As Kousei performs his piece, putting all his heart into the performance, he imagines Kaori playing next to him. It’s a wonderful, happy scene, as we get to see Kaori’s frenetic playing for the first time in many episodes – many months for us as an audience – accompanying an emotional Kousei, who is optimistic that he will play with Kaori once again.
But in the midst of the performance, as he stares at the image of Kaori in his head, Kousei realizes that she will not survive. In some “red string of fate” way, he even feels their connection severed, as if Kaori literally died on the surgery table with doctors working over her while Kousei (probably) wins the recital as he plays over the piano keys. Kaori completes her playing and she slowly fades away into oblivion, as Kousei can do nothing but break down and cry as he finishes his own piece.
Kaori is gone. The series plays her death in a beautiful, symbolic way with their final song together – a duet instead of a solo and accompaniment. But perhaps this tender way of letting Kaori go tells us something more. Maybe it tells us that Kousei must go on, that he will go on, and that Kaori has prepared him so. Read the rest of this entry
In our latest podcast, it seems that no one wants to admit they’re watching Aldnoah.zero. The general consensus is, I don’t want to keep watching, but I just can’t help it. I get the feeling that a lot of viewers feel that way, especially as they see the decline of Slaine Troyard from a loyal, kind boy to a single-minded, sinister one (feels very Anakin Skywalker-ish, no?).
Slaine has apparently gone well past the point of no return (I admittedly dropped the series after episode one of season two – a smart move, I think!). He seems to have done enough killing and betraying to have passed the moral event horizon, that event in which a character shows that they are “irredeemably evil.” When we watch series like Aldnoah.zero, these falls from grace are often hard to turn away from – the drama of seeing such a transition is both difficult to watch and terribly compelling.
In real life, though, when we see friends falter, it’s not compelling at all – it’s just painful. Certainly, it hurts me to see friends with whom I once served at church fall away from their faith. The change is usually gradual, bit by bit, until there seems to be some spiritual event horizon where instead of say, killing earthlings in mecha, they make the choice to embrace the world – pleasures, success, comfort, money – and reject the gospel message, which isn’t as simple as saying a prayer of faith or going through the four spiritual laws, but is instead a choice to surrender all these wants and desires because of who Christ is and what He has done. Read the rest of this entry
What can you give to someone who’s dying?
Kousei, who’s still merely a boy, doesn’t know what he can give to Kaori – but he knows he needs to give her something. Sometimes, he brings her a treat; on a grander scale, he delivered her hope in the form of a song in the last episode. And yet, in episode 19 of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso), he still wonders what he’s able to do for Kaori – in fact, Kousei doubts he’s done anything for her.
And Kousei’s father gives an interesting response to Kousei – he reaffirms what the boy feels, that he hasn’t done anything at all. But then he quickly follows up by saying, “All you did was show devotion.”
Devotion – what a powerful and weak thing. It can be given by the smallest of children – perhaps presented best by them. It can be given freely. But it’s not quantifiable. Sometimes it’s not even wanted.
But for Kaori, it is wanted. And it is meaningful.
Typical shonen series build up a protagonist until he is able to overcome an obstacle, at which point he may be able to save everyone, often at great risk and sacrifice. Even though friends and mentors help along the way, the hero always has something within him, and it’s ultimately through determination, skill, and talent that he brings out his true potential. But in Your Lie in April, the formula isn’t quite the same. Kaori Miyazono is no mere helper along the way – she is the grace that instead of bringing out the best in Kousei Arima, changes him forever. It’s not the inner Kousei that comes out – he’s a new person entirely.
In episode 18, Kousei and Nagi perform their duet for the world to hear, and more importantly in the case of Kousei, for Kaori to witness. When he confronts Kaori later, she tearfully has to admit that he’s done what she had closed her heart to – that he brought warmth back into her life and again made her dreams come alive.
A year ago, I wrote about how God’s love could be compared to that of a yandere. This year I’d like to make another kind of comparison on the topic of love, but instead of focusing on God, I want to focus on Christians and our love for God. Our love for God is, or at least should be, the greatest emotion we can possibly offer. It is a love which drives us to worship Him, follow Him, strive to be like Him, and serve Him. Anime loves to depict similarly idealistic characters – from the main character who always has to help others to the school idol who is loved by the entire school to the deredere archetype that is just helplessly in love with another. Anime, and people in general, love the idea of love.
But in real life, these ideals often fall apart. Especially in Japan, people who reflect even a fraction of such ideals are hard to come by. It is a sad irony in that although Japanese people can be so friendly on the surface, their hearts are so disconnected from each other. But while they may fail to emulate the type of godly, unconditional love which Christians (should) have, that doesn’t mean similarities don’t exist. And while rare, such a type of love is something which the Japanese are drawn to.
Nowhere have I seen this more than among the Nana Mizuki fandom. Perhaps my view is skewed since, well, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to any other fandom, and as a whole, the otaku culture in Japan has a fascinating difference in lifestyle compared to most other Japanese (but that’s a different topic for a similar phenomenon). In my short time in Japan, with moderate interaction with other Nana fans, I have come to feel that the love fans feel for Nana is similar to the love Christians have for God. Of course, I’d be the first to admit the numerous reasons why it’s an imperfect parallel, but compared to other Japanese people, and even compared to other fan bases, there is something here that reminds me of Christian love, and there is something about Nana that draws people to her in ways that remind me of how people are drawn to God.
When you’ve shared those sounds with tons of people, when you’ve reached tons of people with those sounds, when your hearts come together, it might be that music transcends words.
If a few of the past episodes of this second cour of Your Lie in April were a mess, episode 17 is the opposite, weaving two storylines together nicely. Kousei is struggling with the realization that Kaori’s condition is likely terminal, and in his struggle (and through it, growth), he helps Nagi grow, pushing her to prepare with him a special piece for school music festival.
This entire show sometimes feels rushed – for instance, during this episode, I wondered if the series could have been helped by more episodes featuring Kaori and Kousei simply interacting – but one thing it’s done slowly and patiently is develop Kousei’s character. Though he’s already has his epiphany, Kousei is still growing. Like a new believer in Christ, you don’t become a lovely person over night – it takes time. The same is true with Kousei as he learns to trust others and become stronger. Read the rest of this entry
Death Parade presents its own attempt in answering the always interesting question of “what happens after death?” Recently deceased characters wind up in a bar called Quindecim where they are told to play a game they must stake their lives on and are judged during the game on whether their soul will go to heaven (reincarnation) or hell (the void).
The judges in this situation are called arbiters and judge souls based on their memories and the parts of their character that manifest themselves during the life or death game. The winner of the game is not relevant.
The first episode follows a pair of newlyweds. During the game, we learn that the wife, Machiko, was unfaithful and lied and the husband, Takashi, is a bit of a coward and can have a violent temper. At the end of the game, he is sent to be reincarnated and she is sent to the void.
One of the more disturbing aspects about the anime is the way sins are weighed. According to this particular arbiter, Decim, adultery and deception are weightier than violent rage. Because Machiko cheated and lied about loving Takashi she is sent to the void. Takashi simply flew into a rage and attempted to attack Machiko after the game.
Not nearly as bad. He gets to go up.
What makes it even worse is we learn in the second episode that Machiko lied to protect Takashi. The head of the arbiters, Nona, even suggests Decim may have mistakenly sent her to the void. The situation is smoothed over with a simple “everyone makes mistakes” and an encouragement to take the situation to heart.
Whoops, sent a soul to hell on accident. Oh, well…