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Your Lie in April, Episode 18: The Love You Take…

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.

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Christian Love in the Nana Fan Base

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.

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Your Lie in April, Episode 17: Playing for Someone Else

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.

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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

Judgment in Death Parade

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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