I’m not a terribly big fan of Free! I really don’t remember season one too well, and two has been meh for me as well. But beginning with the last episode, the series has really picked up, and in episode ten, it does something really unexpected – it takes all the build up from this season and a lot from the last and makes it pay off in a way that doesn’t feel pushy or unnatural. In that way, episode ten felt, well, kinda free.
In this week’s episode, the focus lands squarely upon Sousuke, as he finally gets a chance to shine. As the emphasis of the lesser subplot this season, Sousuke doesn’t get a super thorough back story, but the few minutes spent on it in this episode were enough. We view Rin through Sousuke’s eyes, and see how Rin’s actions and thoughts through the years impacted him and ultimately helped turn him into a better person, one who once approached swimming selfishly, but now did it purely for friendship, even through physical pain.
But note this – Sousuke doesn’t take that final step toward making change in his life until he sees Rin compete in the relay with Makoto, Nagisa, and Haru. In that moment, the climax of season one, Rin became a “true believer.” And in that moment, Rin and the Iwatoba team served as witnesses to Sousuke, who would eventually transform as well.
Notice the way the personal transformation in this series works. Through demonstrating love toward Rin, the Iwatoba boys help push Rin toward change. By demonstrating a loving coaching style toward his team, his teammates do the same. And by showing love for one another, Sousuke is pushed toward change. All this transformation is almost infectious.
When you last had to make such a moral choice, did you do what was right or what was convenient? In episode two of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Futuba makes that decision spurred on by the words of Kou from the previous episode, when he said that she was merely “playing at friendship” with her two close friends from class. And with her mind all a flutter after speaking with Yuri, and realizing their similarities run deeper than she imagined, Futuba scornfully rejects the faux friendship she had developed.
This climax, though, happens about midway through the episode. What’s interesting, then, is that the rest of the show focuses on the fallout and on Futuba embracing her decision. She blurted out what she did almost involuntarily, and even apologizes for it, which hardly shows a determination to make change. It’s only through accepting that it was a good decision as days (weeks?) pass by that Futuba accepts what she did as right and is able to move forward.
This tension that Futuba deals with isn’t much different from that we might face in our everyday lives. We’re sometimes confronted with choosing between doing what we know is right and what we’d rather do. And if there isn’t some anchor that holds us steady, it becomes way too easy to choose, well, the easy way.
In Blue Spring Ride, Kou functions as Futuba’s anchor in her decision. He whispers truth to Futuba, and Futuba responds as she does, taking the hard road.
July 15th marks the 8th anniversary of the release of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Marvelously weaving science fiction, romance, and comedy into a story that’s charming and sometimes heart-breaking, TGWLTT is one of my favorite films, and stands with and above most of the great anime movies of the last 15 years, including anything Studio Ghibli has released. It remains Mamoru Hosoda’s (Summer Wars, Wolf Children) best film.
One of the best parts of TGWLTT is how about midway through the movie, it flips it’s tone. There are charming bits about how Makoto, who has gained the ability to time leap, uses her new power to do all sorts of trivial things, from looping a karaoke session over and over to dumbfounding friends with her sudden surge in test scores. But when she realizes how her ability is leading to unexpected and painful consequences, Makoto seeks to make things right (and much of the drama in the film involves whether or not her decisions can prevent some personally catastrophic events).
We’re not so different from Makoto, as it’s not unusual for people to make sudden changes in their choices as well when faced by undeniable reality. Sudden illness, loss of a relationship, failed job opportunities – these are the kinds of events that kick start something within us, driving us to make changes we’ve long known we should. We may suddenly make big shifts in our lives, including perhaps how we approach health, relationships, religion, etc.
But these are bigger changes – what of the little changes in our lives, those that demonstrate love for others? Note that when Makoto changes the way she approaches her time leaps, she does a total 180 – her choices now are entirely for others, and not for herself. She realizes her priorities – those that she most loves.
Lady Saika discusses Haiyore! Nyarko-san in her examination of the elder God, Cthulu. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
Tsunderin and MadameAce point out the Jesus allusion in a very critical review of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
Guardian Enzo mentions a number of religious connects in episode four of Red Data Girl. [Lost in America]
The Medieval Otaku, frequently featured in this column, celebrated both his 100th post and one year blogging anniversarythis past week. Congratulations! [Medieval Otaku]
There were a number of reviews posted this week that contained ratings and other information directed at Christian viewers:
- Samurai Champloo [Lobster Quadrille]
- Gaiking-Legend of the Daikyu-Maru [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
- Demonbane [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
Also, a little something more to something more – I missed a couple of articles (and maybe a lot more) the last few weeks as I’ve started to learn the ins and outs of Feedly versus Google Reader. Here are a couple good ones I missed out on:
Our own Zeroe4 comments on his personal experience, specifically discussing how his own relationship with the Holy Spirit relates to his viewing of AnoHana and Jintan’s experiences. [Zeroe4]
Kokoro Hane tells how God motivated her through Bakuman to work on storyboards. [Kokoro no Uta]
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.
I adore the characters in Princess Jellyfish, particularly the protagonist, Tsukimi. Their awkward tendencies and feelings of wanting to often hide from the world are very relatable.
The show centers around five hermit-like, NEET otaku that live together in an old apartment complex in Tokyo and refer to themselves as the Amars or “nuns.” Their otaku interests range from trains to Three Kingdoms to traditional clothing and dolls to “gracefully aging” men. Tsukimi is the newest member and fits right in, which is a rare thing to happen for her as we learn, with her obsessive affinity for jellyfish. Although Tsukimi enjoys her life and the people she lives with, she admits from episode one realizing she doesn’t think she is what she was meant to be.
“Mom, I know I was supposed to turn into a princess, but somehow I became a freak.”
On the surface, she is referring to the way she looks, but on a deeper level I think she feels more should be happening in her life, that she should have become something greater. She is not sure what that thing is, she just knows. Read the rest of this entry
Kathleen Kern is a part of Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization which seeks to transform areas under occupation or war through non-violent methods. She is also an anime fan, and brought this interest together with a passion for her work in Because the Angels, a novel featuring a protagonist who is Blood+ obsessed. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.
TWWK: Kathleen, your main character is a woman who is obsessed with anime, particularly Blood+. What compelled you to create such a character and to use anime as such an important part of the novel?
Kathleen: I had insomnia one night and was looking through the channels. The name “Samurai Champloo” just struck me as funny for reason, and when I tuned in–somewhere in the middle of the series, I thought it was funny and liked the fluid drawing. I liked the way that Mugen and Jin kind of looked semi-realistic, but Fuu looked like big-eyed anime characters. I’ve always been a sucker for stories that mix humor with pathos (I pretty much learned to read, by reading Heidi over and over again), which Samurai Champloo does. I think Blood+ was playing after Samurai Champloo, which has more pathos than humor, but the story line and the music drew me in. In hindsight, I realize that I started on shows with a more artistic bent than most anime series. If I had started on Inuyasha, for example, I don’t think I would have gotten sucked in (but I actually ended up watching the whole Inuyasha series, as well as some other “lessers.”) Read the rest of this entry
From the impression given by its title through to the very end of the series (at least thus far), Eden of the East conveys strong Christian symbolism. Months after I drew allusions between three of the Seleção in the series and Biblical individuals (Shiratori and the adulterous woman, Mononobe and Lucifer, and Takizawa and Christ), Funimation’s recent stateside release of the third Eden of the East movie, Paradise Lost, leads to one final strong parallel – that of heroine Saki and Christian believers, particularly those who knew Jesus in 1st century Palestine.
To examine how Saki is similar to Christian believers as a whole, it’s imperative that we discuss whom they (and she) believe in – Christ and Takizawa (Note: Plentiful spoilers for the movie abound in this post). Although I compared the two before, as mentioned above, this movie emphasizes the similarities between the Humble Savior and the crazed genius that is Takizawa.
Suffering. Death. Hope. Life.
These themes pervade Magica Madoka, particularly informing the final two episodes. They are also important ideas in religious traditions, namely Christianity and Buddhism. The Buddhist principals expressed in Madoka Magica are so pervasive, that I’ve started to think that the Christlike imagery I immediately saw when viewing episode 12 wasn’t at all planned by the show’s creator. After all, while the burden of sin on the Christ figure in the story is obvious (as are ideas like God living out of space and time and Madoka’s visit with Akemi resembling Jesus’ visits with the apostles and others before his ascension), other actions are harder to reconcile with Christianity. Maybe I’m just being euro centric, applying western thinking to an eastern medium.
Not that I have a problem with that – this is what I do on this blog (spoiler below). Read the rest of this entry
If you’re like me, sometimes you watch an anime that doesn’t seem all that great, but for some reason captures your imagination anyway. Perhaps you realize why only later. For me, Onmyou Taisenki (“The Great Battle of Yin and Yang”) was such a show.
The premise of the anime is nothing that hadn’t been explored before in shows such as Digimon. Humans called 闘神士 toujinshi form contracts with animal-like guardian spirits known as 式神 shikigami. The toujinshi uses a colorful gun-like “drive” to cooperate with the shikigami, in order to fight either demons or other toujinshi-shikigami pairs. Further, the shikigami (and, by extension, their toujinshi) belong to either the 天流 tenryuu (“Heaven Style”) or the 地流 chiryuu (“Earth Style”), with other affinities toward certain seasons and elements. In this manner a great dualistic battle plays out, with strong Taoist overtones.
Three koujin sequences for the price of one: the toujinshi Tachibana Riku, Asuka Yuuma, and Oogami Masaomi call out Byakko-no Kogenta, Byakko-no Rangetsu, and Seiryuu-no Kibachiyo, their respective shikigami
I’m not usually a big fan of Secret Santa arrangements. In fact, I recently went on a long diatribe about the evil of Secret Santa with my wife (who thinks I’m a Grinch). But when I’d heard about what Reverse Thieves does each year, I immediately jumped on it.
I was terribly excited, until I saw my recommendations – there was not one anime I had an interest in among my picks! First, there was Tsukuyomi Moon Phase - a show I had flirted with watching at one time, but really wasn’t too keen on watching. A second choice, Kino’s Journey, looked dull to me. So, I settled on a unique-looking series called Kaiba.
It was a little too unique for me.
I stopped halfway through the first episode. And lucky for me that I did, because the choice I settled on has ended up becoming a new favorite. Although it took a few episodes, Kino’s Journey got it’s hooks in me and hasn’t let go.
Like I said, though, it took a bit of convincing. Prede linked me to an interesting note he wrote about the show on his MAL account, which encouraged me to watch. But even when I started, I found the animation unattractive and the show too slow for my (typical) tastes. Perhaps most distracting were the voices, as I saw it with dubs the first several episodes. While I enjoyed Kelli Cousins’ mature voicing of the lead, Cynthia Martinez’s Hermes sounded so much like Pucchan from Best Student Council that I had a hard time taking the show seriously. Read the rest of this entry