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Anime Today: Death Parade and Skating Idols

TWWK filling in for Japes today, who has been working hard at our podcast (tune in tomorrow!) and special themed posts for Holy Week next week!  I’m glad to have the opportunity to write this article, as I’ve just finished catching up with Death Parade and have a lot on my mind, particularly in regards to the most recent episode, Memento Mori.

Chiyuki’s life, as illustrated in episode 11, tells us a lot about hope and it’s opposite, hopelessness.  Her back story is surprising – both for how happy it begins and for how quickly it deteriorates.  Chiyuki is a happy girl with a warm family, surrounded by loved ones and supported by a strong foundation of love.  So when her skyrocketing career is derailed by knee problems (Chiyuki = Sada meets Kerrigan?), I assumed that she would somehow bounce back – this couldn’t possibly be leading to suicide, could it?  Chiyuki is too well-grounded and happy for that!

Of course, it does turn down that path, frightfully and quickly.  And not, as Chiyuki assures, because of her drive for figure skating.  It’s because she feels an extreme loneliness, a disconnect from everyone else, and in that, a loss of hope.  When there’s literally no hope in a person’s life, there’s no reason to live.

Chiyuki Death Parade

But it shouldn’t have been that way – not for Chiyuki.  Her parents are both supportive and loving.  And it’s love that provides hope.  In all the struggles we go through and all the hurt we endure – some far more than others – love shows us that in the midst of it all, there’s something to which we can cling.  But when signs of that love are dim, either because we’re met by so much unlove in our lives or because we’re blind to it because of the heavy fog of difficulties in our lives, we lose that hope.

Then again, some of us are more like Chiyuki, who wasn’t battered by months and years of pain.  Read the rest of this entry

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 12: Nanoha A’s

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, especially its second season A’s, is one of my favorite anime, and just hit its 10 year anniversary. At the least, it’s probably the anime I’ve rewatched the most number of times. The climax of the second season takes place on Christmas Eve, as the protagonists Nanoha and Fate engage in a final battle against the Book of Darkness. Among other plot revelations, the real predicament Nanoha encounters is not how to defeat her opponent, it is how to save her opponent (and this is a recurring theme throughout the series). The Book of Darkness was originally called the Tome of the Night Sky, but at some point in time, its name and purpose were forcibly changed for malicious goals. Even so, the conscious entity known as the Book of Darkness is aware of this change. Unfortunately, she believes there is nothing that can be done to stop herself from going berserk. Therefore, Nanoha desires to save and redeem her. Although the Book of Darkness has already given up on herself, Nanoha doesn’t.

NanohaAs_1

In the same way, there may be times in your life that you feel you have fallen too far; you cannot be saved. However, God does not give up on you. He will continue to reach out to you until you respond. This Christmas, remember that God sacrificed his Son Jesus Christ at the cross to save all of us. No matter how far you’ve strayed from the right path, He is by your side, waiting for you to accept His help, love, and salvation.

Meanwhile, the Book of Darkness is having an inward conversation with its master Hayate, who has been absorbed by it. Although being its master is also the source of much of Hayate’s suffering and pain, she is still able to sympathize with the Book’s sadness as well. As the master, Hayate temporarily overrides the berserk program to help Nanoha. Although the Book of Darkness feels there is no hope, Hayate grants her a new name: Reinforce, and the two are separated from the malicious program.

NanohaAs_2

When God chooses people to do His work in the Bible, it often comes with granting them a new name. Oftentimes these people feel no hope in themselves, that there is no reason to choose them. However, as if to reinforce the idea that they are capable of what He wants, God grants them a new name, usually with a specific meaning. Hayate bestows a name which means the opposite of what the Book of Darkness believes itself to be: one who supports and blesses others. It is clear that names hold more meaning to God than a way to call someone by,  and when it comes to the meaning of names, remember that Christmas is all about the birth and name of Jesus, who saved us from sins.

And they will call him Immanuel – which means ‘God with us.’

Merry Christmas everyone!

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 11: Shugo Chara and Hope

I love Christmas. It has always been a magical time of the year for me and somehow, I always ended up cheery just because its the Christmas season.

Though, this year was the first for me where not only does it not feel like Christmas, I also haven’t been very cheery at all. I could blame that on many reasons, but that’s not important, really.

Even for the 12 Days posts this year on Beneath the Tangles, I was not very enthusiastic since most of my “fall back” Christmas anime (ones easy to write about like The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya or Toradora for example) were already taken in previous years (by me probably, haaaaaha) and I really didn’t have many other options that I thought would make good posts.

Yet, I chose Shugo Chara, a series I’ve watched and loved and have apparently forgotten since it blind-sided me with its uplifting message. How can is be that I learn more from kids shows as an adult I’ll never know. Regardless, this was something I needed and didn’t even know it.

The Christmas episodes of Shugo Chara (roughly 10-13) only vaguely touched on Christmas imagery.

shugo-chara-christmas
Yet, the episodes focused on a bigger theme that is definitely a something many associate with Christmas: Hope.
As a crash course for those who haven’t seen Shugo Chara, it’s a magical girl anime about a girl who has “heart eggs” that are her potential selves; what she could become in the future, that she can use to transform and purify other people’s heart eggs if they become tainted.

Read the rest of this entry

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 3: School Rumble

In this Christmas episode, Harima’s quest for Tenma’s heart, the central theme of the majority of the School Rumble series, continues on. He starts off the holidays with his own personal style, dressed as Santa in a jail cell lying among a pile of manga pages he just finished.

SR

Erm….Merry Christmas?

The manga he just wrote, like everything else, revolves around Tenma. Harima means to bring it to her first and foremost in an attempt to confess his love, despite the strict time constraint he was given by the publication planning to run it.

Even with the editor’s time restraint and the anger he knew he would face with Tenma, he decides he wants to show the comic to her before doing anything else. Due to a misunderstanding, Tenma is very angry because she believes Harima is messing with her sister, Yakumo, when her sister is actually helping him with the manga. Despite knowing what he will face, he still goes.

“If I’m not careful there will be another misunderstanding, but so what? Why should I be afraid of that? Compared to the crap I lived through before this comic and before I met her, this is nothing.”

SR3

He confronts her, faces her anger, explains the misunderstanding, and lets her read his comic. After that, he rides off to the publisher across the snow on a giant curry dish using a giant wooden spoon and dodging flying frozen fish.

SR4

Yup…that’s how my Christmas usually goes.

Read the rest of this entry

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 1: Bartender

On several occasions in our podcast, I’ve made it clear that Bartender is one of my all-time favorite anime. Despite its technical flaws, its thematic focus through episodic directing and frequently breaking the fourth wall, all while aimed at a more mature audience (in the sense of intellect and emotions, not sexual content) culminate in something truly special. Bartender’s Christmas episode, episode ten, is a continuation of this trend.

Early on, the episode makes it quite clear that the main character of the episode, the professor, is rather the oddball. Growing up, he became fascinated with the “sparkling star” water to the point that he devoted his entire life to studying computational fluid dynamics. This resulted in his academic achievement, but inability to function socially to the degree that society normally expects. Realizing his own shortcomings and disappointment, this Christmas time is when he sees something he is unused to: a “star.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 6.16.36 PM (2)

With the imagination of his original “star,” the beauty of water, gone due to his own studies and over-analysis, this beautiful woman he passes serves as the target of his fascination that he had almost forgotten was possible. Just like in the Christmas story of the four candles that he recounts, even though his life’s peace, faith, and love might be gone, it is hope that revives him. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Faustus Metal Alchemist, Hopeful Anime Heroes, and Anime as Bible Study

A great thing about being an anime fan is that four times a year, we can get excited about a slate of new series!  While we wait on most of these to begin, a number of bloggers reflect on the final episodes of summer 2014 anime and on series older than those.

Draggle digs into his approach to bible study as he explains how to critically approach anime. [Draggle’s Anime Blog]

Michael lists five anime character he considers “hopeful,” and explains why. [Gaming and God]

D.M. Dutcher finds that Star Light Woman, available through Crunchyroll’s manga service, speaks to the hopelessness of a world without God. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Frank compare’s the Holy Spirit’s guidance to a search for inspiration in Barakamon. [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn is surprised by the knowledge Japanese storytellers display about Christian legends through series like Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler. [Watching, Thinking, Writing]e

Rob catches up on Sword Art Online, finding Christians themes in recent episodes:

Episodes 10 [Geeks Under Grace] and 11 [2]

Episodes 12 [Christian Anime Review] and 13 [2]

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.

12 Days of Christmas, Day 7: ef~A Tale of Melodies

If ef began with the characters who were lost in the present, then it ended with characters who hopefully looked forward to the future. Although A Tale of Melodies is not a continuation of the stories within the first season, the two tales are tied together by Himura and Yuko and the two twin cities. In the same way Memories began with events on Christmas Eve, Melodies ends on the same holiday, but with a much different tone.

While this episode shows all the characters at some point, its focus is on the conclusion between Himura and Yuko, the two with the most bittersweet relationship of the series. Although Himura has spent the entire series repeating his claim that there is no such thing as a miracle, his reunion with Yuko can only be called a supernatural miracle. After years of living in the past, Himura finally obtains closure on one of his greatest regrets in life. As a result, he is finally able to look toward the future and live life to its fullest.

art by れもよな

art by れもよな

Similarly, all the other characters are shown with feelings of hope as they are no longer bound by the problems they had when they were first introduced. As they spend Christmas with their loved ones, they reminisce about their past, how they have grown, and look toward the future with hope and anticipation. They do not expect things to be go perfect; rather, they understand more trials await them. However, they have learned that they no longer have to deal with their problems alone. They are no longer the lost people who they were when they were first introduced. The episode – and the series – ends with a final reminder given by all the characters: no matter the trial, no matter the hardship, always remember there is someone who is willing to help you continue toward a happier future.

The celebration of Christmas is not just a reminder of past events but also one of the future. Christ was born, died, and rose from the dead, but He is also coming back. As Christians, we continue to anticipate the day of His return. We don’t know how long it will take, and the wait will involve an array of events from blessings to suffering. We don’t know what the future really holds for us. Simultaneously, however, our relationship with Christ Himself is what helps us move forward. As difficult as it may be at times, God is always with us. That doesn’t mean things will go as we want, but it does mean things will be a little more bearable. Thus, Christ came not only to seek the lost but also to guide us along the difficult path of life.  As Christmas approaches, whatever situation your life be at, remember that Christ is right next to you. Oftentimes it may not seem like He is there; the hardships are too great and the support is too little. However, that is exactly one of the reasons to celebrate Christmas. It is to remind ourselves that Christ came for us, died for us, resurrected, and will continue to be with us forever.

Something More: Kiba-Cheza-Mary-Jesus, Writing Papal Manga, and Spirituality in Sora no Woto

Medieval Otaku refers to Wolf’s Rain as “essentially a Christian allegory,” focusing particularly on the symbolism of Kiba and Cheza as Jesus and Mary. [Medieval Otaku]

Foxy Lady Ayame digs deep into Sora no Woto, discussing ideas like the spiritual and healing aspects of a festival depicted in the series. [Anime Diet]

Regina Doman blogs about the process of writing Habemus Papam, Manga Hero’s OEL manga concerning the life of Pope Benedict XVI. [Manga Hero]

Zeroe4 discusses the “necessity of hope” on his personal blog, referring to his time in Japan. [Zeroe4]

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As part of the Something More series of posts (formerly Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere), 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. 

Light Invades Darkness: The Search For Hope

I just recently arrived in Tokyo after going to the Tohoku Prefecture for a week and a half with the organization International Hi-B.A. as part of their Gospel Team ministry. Hi-B.A. stand for Highschool Born-Againers, and is an organization that allows high schoolers to meet together and share their faith. Gospel Team (GT) is a ministry that is run by Hi.B.A. every year for two weeks in which Hi-B.A. students and staff are split into teams and sent out around Japan to minister to high school students. YWAM Tokyo partners with Hi-B.A., so all DTS students were placed on teams with high school students.

My team was sent to Tohoku after we finished three days of training camp in Chiba. Our team traveled for eight hours by van to Tagajo, which is right out side of Sendai. We stayed there for three nights as we did manual labor in Ishinomaki during the day. We worked on people’s houses. We shoveled and moved hedoro (contaminated dirt which in our case was full of petroleum and lime from the tsunami) out from under houses, so renovations could start. We also helped with bleaching the inside of the houses to kill mold and pulling up floors, in order to prepare the houses for renovations. Then, we held a barbecue at the end of the last day for the entire neighborhood. Many people showed up and we had a wonderful time meeting everyone. Read the rest of this entry

Rebuild of Shinji, Asuka, and Rei: You (Can) Hope

For many around my age, Neon Genesis Evangelion was an important series.  Not only was it addicting, but it was breathtaking in so many different ways.  For me, it sealed my love of the medium.  Yet, I wasn’t terribly excited for the Rebuild of Evangelion films.  The first movie was good, but instead of enjoying it, I longed for the depth of the series and became too caught up with comparisons.

Evangelion 2.0, however, is a different story.

Departing significantly from the series, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance not only brings us new characters and situations, it also changes the tone of the series somewhat.  Despite Justin Sevakis’ comments to the contrary, I found the movie to be brighter and happier than the original.  What struck me was that the characters were no longer almost entirely helpless, victims of circumstance and doomed for their destiny.  Perhaps this shift was no surprise, since Hideaki Anno was dealing with depression during the course of creating the classic series.  Instead, he sends a message that is most unexpected – he tells us that there is hope.

Asuka Langley Shikigami

Art by boyaking(SBF) (Pixiv)

Read the rest of this entry

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