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Because Nao Tomori Has Been There, Yuu, and Because There’s No Other Response

I have the worst habit of writing quickly, proofreading more quickly (or not at all), and turning in work as fast as possible. All through my youth, I raced to be the first one done in anything school-related. It’s not a good compulsion, and it shows with my blog posts sometimes, as I often forget to make points vital to my main idea.

This rings true for my last two posts about Charlotte, and so I want to take the opportunity to revisit episodes seven and eight and emphasize a couple of points I missed the first time around.

> Charlotte, Episode 7: Ends of the Earth

Addendum: She and HE Can Relate

When Yuu draws near the point of no return (taking drugs is considered super taboo in Japanese culture, as explained by Kaze), there’s only one person that can talk him out of it. Nao is physically able to challenge Yuu, mentally able to trick him, and, as evidenced by Yuu later remembering her words of guilt, emotionally able to connect to him as well. There’s no one else who is able to remotely reach him – not a family member, other student council members, violent thugs, or his past crush. Only Nao.

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When we drown in our sins – whether in the dregs of depression or the heights of hallow hedonism – we might feel that God is remote. Without having a dynamic relationship with Him, it’s easy to imagine Him as such. Why turn to God when He’s so distant? And if He’s holy as the Bible says, how much more should we hide away? Like a harsh, upright father, God would never understand or have compassion on an unruly son.

But scripture says otherwise:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Read the rest of this entry

Yo-Kai Watch and Contextual Demons

August has been a month for discussing context here at Beneath the Tangles, and I highly recommend looking at both articles recently written on this subject: Annalyn’s article about historical/cultural context, and Kaze’s article about man’s context VS God’s context. Here, I’ll be adding my humble contribution and completing the proverbial “Context Trinity.”

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Growing up in the 90s, while attending a private/Christian school, I received my first taste of franchise demonizing. The school faculty sent out word that anything Pokémon—be that lunchboxes, trading cards, action figures, or even roleplaying during recess—would henceforth be banned at the school on account of the series’ demonic influence and focus on evolution.

Fifteen years later, I’m witnessing the advent of Yo-Kai Watch, a game-turned-anime-and-manga franchise about a boy with the ability to see and tame yokai with the help of a magical Yokai Watch. The new series has already overtaken Japanese audiences (and surpassed Pokémon—its spiritual predecessor—in popularity), with an official Western release scheduled for the games and anime next year.

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Recently, I saw a post on my Facebook feed that I couldn’t scroll past. A fellow Christian acquaintance had posted about Yo-Kai Watch, warning other Christians that it was demonic and that children should stay away from it. They referenced an article written by Gamesradar+, which stated, “There’s a real playfulness to each of the [yokai’s] designs, most of which are based on Japanese folklore demons, otherwise known as yokai.”

That terrible word “demon” is like a red flag to Christians. I can understand why reading this single article about the series might raise serious concerns in someone’s mind, but this particular Christian was mistaken in that they assumed the word “demon” was cross-cultural—that Eastern and Western demons were compatible entities.

Read the rest of this entry

Charlotte, Episode 7: Ends of the Earth

A lot of things can drive us away from God. Most are subtle, as we replace God in our lives with money, success, lifestyle, relationships, or usually a combination of many things. And sometimes, an event pushes us away from God, as we purposely, in full realization, run away from our maker.

In episode seven of Charlotte, Yuu makes a run for it, hiding away from the world, from his life, from truth, from pain, but most purposely, from Nao.

Angel Beats is not going to make you feel any better, Yuu...

Angel Beats is not going to make you feel any better, Yuu…

I don’t think any of us probably watched this episode thinking that what Yuu was doing was fantastic or absurd. We realize how difficult the time is for him, and how hard it is to bounce back from a tragedy like he endured. Those with anxiety or other difficulties and illnesses probably understand Yuu’s condition even more deeply – once you’ve been pushed over the edge, it feels like an impossible task to do what people are telling Yuu to do – to move on with life.

And so, Yuu runs. He runs away from Nao and the student council, so that they won’t bring him back to the heavy weight of reality. And he runs to a place where he can simply satisfy his basic animal desires, to indulge in things that will keep him from the reality of life. In this way, Yuu reminds me of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); though some tragedy didn’t push the prodigal to rebel, he did squander the money given him and breathed in “wild living.”

In the end, the prodigal returned to the father – not necessarily out of humility, but just for a place to go. Yuu is still running at the end of the episode, but knowing that he’s never likely to return, his “god” has to meet him more quickly than God met the prodigal.

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Between the Panels: Your Lie in Legalism

Don’t let that big word scare you. Legalism is just a formal word for “excessive adherence to law or formula.” In other words: following every jot and tittle of the rulebook.

In addition to countless 1st-place medals for his peerless piano playing (try saying that five times fast), Kousei Arima would likely be a candidate for “most legalistic of the year” if such an achievement existed. His uncompromising adherence to every note, rhythm, and annotation of his sheet music eventually leads his rivals to call him “robotic,”—a “mirror” who perfectly reflects the original intensions of a piece.

This might be a complement if not for the dark story behind Kousei’s formulaic performance. It’s revealed that the protégé pianist’s mother drove him to painful lengths in order to ensure his abilities, even restricting his sleep, food, and freedom. Due to his mother’s terminal disease, however, Kousei dutifully endured her abuse with the mindset that performing well would heal her.

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But with each performance, Kousei made a mistake—one small enough for only his mother to notice—and eventually, after a particularly bad presentation, his mother publicly beat him, Kousei spoke to her in hatred, and whatever remnants of a relationship they possessed began to dissolve.

Even when his mother dies shortly afterwards, however, her influence on Kousei lingers. Unable to live up to his mother’s perfect expectations—her demands that every note be flawless and every performance identical to the composer’s original intent—Kousei loses his ability to hear his own playing and finds himself irrevocably bound by his mother’s standards whenever he makes an attempt.

Music, once a joy in Kousei’s life, becomes tainted with the oxygen-masked face of his mother’s ghostly visage.

This hopeless quest to gain perfection through following a system of rules is legalism at its finest, and it’s a trap that the protagonist of Your Lie in April metaphorically falls into. It’s the same trap that many Christians find themselves ensnared in—including yours truly.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Godless Death Note, Virgin Mary Adventure Time, and Sinner Moon Crystal

Another season of anime has come and gone – and that quickly, a new season is upon us! But before we move too quickly ahead, let’s be reminded of the spiritual notes that rang out from some of the latter episodes of Spring 2015 series, as well as commentary about a few older anime:

Death Note provides an interesting case of the slippery slope in thought processes that can occur when God is separated from one’s worldview. [Lady Teresa Christina]

You know about the Bible anime that Osamu Tezuka created at the request of the Vatican, right? It’s kind an interesting deal. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Can religious characters be used in fiction while retaining their spirituality? Sure! Look to Saint Young Men for an example. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

The paradox of Christian love is seen in Nameko Families, where Bad Nameko does that which is purely good. [Old Line Elephant]

Episode 24 of Sailor Moon Crystal demonstrates to us the results of “sinful” decision-making. [Christian Anime Review]

As episode 6 of Re-Kan! shows, encouragement from others is a necessity – and this also holds true for a Christian’s walk. [2]

Who are we deep inside, beneath the facades? Hachiman asks that question in OreGairu, and the same should be asked in terms of spirituality. [3]

Adventure Time has, maybe for good reason, inspired artwork illustrated as Christian iconography. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

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.

 

Anime and the Digital Church

More and more, ministries are streaming their services online or making websites where Christians (or people of other faiths) can watch, donate or be a part of the community. Facebook and other social media networks have become the place where hundreds, even thousands, come to share their life, struggles and ask for prayer. Even here at Beneath The Tangles, though it’s not a church or ministry with a pastor, many people read our articles and learn more about our Creator. This may not sound like the typical way church is done*, but it’s a trend that is growing rapidly every year.

There are actually several anime that highlight this format, and the two (there are more!) that I would like to mention are .hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. Each one is about people who log on to a server where they play an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and build community with one another. Each player has an avatar that looks like a person, or sometimes part human and part animal that they can use to talk with each other, fight, and even romance. Each episode shows the dynamics of the game actually start to affect the characters emotions and spill out into the real world.

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For example, Kirigaya Kazuto and Yūki Asuna, whose avatars are famously named Kirito and Asuna, fall in love through the playing of the game and become romantically involved in real life. Their digital life affected their real lives, which can be also said for people who were in comas or died because of the game in both series.

.hack//Sign main characters Subaru and Tsukasa deal with real life situations that are sometimes resolved online or vice-versa, plan strategies or literally hack servers to stop people from going into comas induced by the games headgear. They even become very close friends and talk about their IRL (In Real Life) problems and get advice on them as well, just like many of us do online. This not only makes you feel for the character and the player, but often times as you watch the anime you forget that the avatars are being controlled by people outside the game. This can happen to us on social media or games, where we might blend the two aspects together and forget that these are real people we are talking to, not just text.

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The .hack//Sign team all together!

Now, being part of a digital community of fellow believers isn’t a bad thing but there will always be that need to physically be a part of a group that share the same faith. Let’s face it, there are things that you would not share online nor are you accountable to anyone either. You can post lots of Christian posts, messages or verses but who is checking up on you when you are alone or going through life? Are you obliged to report to someone or at least have a one-on-one with an admin online?

Not at all. Read the rest of this entry

Kenny Ackerman: the Pursuit of Fulfillment and the Power of Testimony

Note: This is a guest post from Casey Covel, whose work we’ve featured here a number of times through our Something More column.  She’s editor-in-chief at Geeks Under Grace and goes by cutsceneaddict in the cosplay world.  I hope you enjoy her submission…it’s the first of many from Casey that you’ll be seeing here on Beneath the Tangles.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait until 2016 for the second season of Attack on Titan and scooped up the manga ASAP to pursue the story. If you’re not like me, and you have the patience of Job to wait on that elusive second season, then I suggest you avoid this article for the time being, as there are some rather titan-sized spoilers within.

**In case you didn’t get that, I’ll say it again: huge spoilers below**

attack on titan 5aColored by AnimeFanNo1

As I impatiently awaited this month’s new chapter, I found myself reflecting back on the landslide of storyline from Attack on Titan chapter 69. Amidst such plot-relevant giants as the revelation of Levi’s childhood, the crowning of Queen Historia, and death of a certain ornery uncle, Kenny’s relationship with Uri is nearly forgotten. Admittedly, though, it’s perhaps the one reveal in the chapter that haunted me long after reading. As a Christian, I can only say that’s because it resonated with my faith so frighteningly well.

In chapter 69, it’s revealed that Kenny, having discovered Uri’s identity as true king of the human race, tried to kill him, but Uri initiated his titan form and caught his would-be assassinator off-guard, capturing him in a deadly fist. Despite Rod’s demands that Uri crush Kenny then and there, however, Uri released him and—even as Kenny pierced the king through the wrist with his blade—bowed hands-and-knees to his attacker, asking Kenny for forgiveness for the genocide of the Ackerman line.

This act of humility so affected Kenny that he found himself unable to end his enemy’s life, even with Uri face-down on the ground and his finger ready on the trigger.

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

Kenny and Uri went on to form an inseparable bond of friendship. All the while, Kenny’s insatiable curiosity for Uri’s unique ideology continued to grow. By the time of Uri’s death, Kenny had not yet unlocked the mystery of his friend’s inner strength, but—determined to achieve it for himself—went about seeking fulfillment in other ways in order to acquire Uri’s “power.” Gaining notoriety as a serial killer to preserve his family, raising his deceased sister’s child, earning a captain’s rank within the Military Police, striving to attain the power of a titan shifter and, thus, a god—all these routes Kenny pursued, and all of them left him unsatisfactorily empty.

Flashing forward to the present, Levi comes across a wounded Kenny—now burned and bleeding beyond saving—following his encounter with Rod Reiss. The two hold a final conversation, in which Kenny ponders the motivations of those he’s met throughout his life.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

I find it fascinating that this word drunk is specifically used here because it means to be “dominated by an intense feeling” to the point of “behaving in an unusual or improper way.” Furthermore, I think it’s a highly-appropriate word to describe the state of our world today, outside of Christ.

We live in a restless world—one that seeks to attain peace and fulfillment through a variety of outlets. Human beings are born with an instinct to worship—to fully dedicate themselves to something or someone, even if it is ultimately their own selves. Until we come to Christ, we carry a God-shaped hole in our beings—one that cannot be filled by anything else, and yet one that we continuously try to fill with worldly things (which can only satisfy us for a short amount of time). Read the rest of this entry

Air: New in Light of the Old

This article does NOT spoil Air’s story.

If you are familiar with Air, it is probably because of Kyoto Animation’s popular anime adaptation of 2005. If you’re really a nerd like me, perhaps you even know of the Air film adaptation of the same year by Toei Animation (and its gorgeous bonus soundtrack by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra). However, I would contend that few have actually read the source that made both of these adaptations possible.

Air originally met the world in the form of a visual novel, an interesting medium that we have written on more here. While visual novel to anime adaptations are hardly a new concept, many consumers are more familiar with the manga and light novel mediums that more often receive anime adaptations. Key, the studio responsible for visual novels like Air, Kanon, Clannad, Little Busters!, and others, however, is primarily a visual novel studio. Unfortunately for the Christian reader, visual novels are a medium wrought with R-18 (i.e. usually pornographic) content.

0127As a disclaimer: Air is one of these, and thus I cannot recommend it to those readers seeking to avoid pornographic material, unless the reader is able to import an all ages version (and can read Japanese) or is able to put together various patches to the original so as to remove the undesired content.

With this aside, having viewed the anime adaptation several times, the movie once, and read the visual novel once, I was struck by biblical parallels and significance that are especially relevant considering the impending Easter occasion.

Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April, Episode 20: Hands

The visual of a pair of hands can evoke a great many emotions; they can mean a lot of things – steadiness, strength, warmth.  In Your Lie in April, they certainly reveal ability and talent, but in episode 20, the imagery of hands means so much more -they represent both power and powerlessness, the ability to create and the inability to aid.

The episode continues to develop Tsubaki’s storyline and she kinda confesses to Kousei in her tomboyish way.  But as is usual, the plot returns to Kousei, who continues to grow, overcoming his discomfort of visiting Kaori with Watari and deciding to go along with him (and even further, telling his friend that he likes his girlfriend).  When they arrive at her room, however, they find Kaori convulsing and in need of dire attention from medical staff, as Kousei fixates on her hand, which at first grips onto the railing of her bed before falling away.

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Hands are so meaningful in music.  They, of course, are vital tools for the musician – injury or disease to them can destroy a musician’s career.  As Kaori loses control of her hands, Kousei still has his, and with his dexterous fingertips he creates beautiful music.

But even with that ability, a realization hits Kousei in this episode – his hands are useless to help Kaori.  There’s nothing he can do to help her during her episode, and in fact, he’s in the way, as a hospital staffer declares.

Even worse, not only can Kousei do nothing to help Kaori this very minute, there’s nothing he can do to stop her impending death.  This is demonstrated through his attempt to save the black cat; a metaphor for Kaori and reminiscent of Chelsea, Kousei feels that he is again unable to save someone dear to him, and as he stares down at blood-covered hands, he further thinks because he lacks this power, it’s his fault.

The blood on his hands is as obvious an image as can be – death is coming to Kaori, and there’s nothing he can do.  Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Kuroko’s Humble Gameplay

Kuroko’s Basketball has been pretty exciting lately. We finally get to watch the Generation of Miracles go toe-to-toe with each other and with Seirin, and it is awesome. Egos inflate and deflate. Kise and Kagami greet each other with slam dunks before their much-anticipated rematch. Fans cheer, squeal, and gasp both on the bleachers and behind their screens while ships continue to sail. Sometimes, I forget why I’m so excited. And then I remember what sets this show apart: the basketball which Kuroko plays.

In season one, we learn that Kuroko isn’t happy with how the Teiko Middle School team turned out. Everyone else sees the Generation of Miracles, an unbeatable team of allstars. But Kuroko sees athletes who prize their individual abilities above teamwork, winning above friendship, or personal challenge above what’s best for the team. They are immensely talented, but they’ve lost their perspective. Kuroko seeks a team that loves basketball and works together, that knows winning isn’t everything—but will try their darndest to win, because they love the game. This is the kind of team he can support.

Maybe Kuroko can keep his perspective because of his own skill set. Unlike the rest of the Generation of Miracles and Kagami, Kuroko can’t score on his own. He doesn’t even learn to shoot until partway through his first year of high school. Instead, he specializes in passing. When his teammates pass a ball, he briefly touches it, sending the pass in a different direction than their opponents expect. Through middle school and the first part of the anime, he rarely, if ever, holds or dribbles the ball for more than a second—and that is part of the “Misdirection” foundational to his play. He already has almost no presence on the court. He appears too weak and small compared even to average players, so opponents naturally focus on the more “significant” members of the team. Add to that his calculated contact with the ball and the tricks with his eyes, and he can easily direct attention away from himself, becoming essentially invisible. By disappearing, he enhances both the individual skills and group coordination of his team. He plays as a shadow, but that only works if he can team with others.

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In episode 1, Kuroko recognizes Kagami’s strength and promises to help him beat the Generation of Miracles.

Kuroko and Kagami join Seirin’s basketball club at the same time. Kagami is a tall, imposing athlete who has just come back to Japan after living and playing in America for several years. At first, he doesn’t understand why the pathetically-weak-looking Kuroko plays basketball. Kuroko, on the other hand, immediately recognizes Kagami’s strength and chooses to become a shadow to his light. In other words, while Kuroko does work with the entire team, he focuses on providing Kagami opportunities to shine even brighter than he could on his own.

Meanwhile, when people eventually notice Kuroko, they ask each other, “Wait a second… was number 11 on the court the entire time?”

In order to made Kagami shine and contribute to the team’s victories, Kuroko must forgo his own glory. Opponents forget he’s on the court, but they’re not the only ones. Journalists forget to interview him when they talk to the team. Fans of the Generation of Miracles forget about him… if they ever knew about him in the first place. Only people who have shared the court with him acknowledge his strength, and he’s okay with that.

Now, Kuroko’s gameplay has evolved a bit. He finally learned to shoot, and it’s a pretty incredible, unique shot, one that even Murasakibara couldn’t block. His Vanishing Drive starts to draw attention, too… and I haven’t forgotten Misdirection Overflow, in which he purposefully draws all attention to himself, away from his teammates. Kuroko isn’t just a shadow anymore. He’s spunky and competitive and not afraid to show it… If it’s also in the best interests of the team. In fact, in some matches—like the current one against Kise—it would be pointless to start with his normal disappearing act. Kise and the rest of Kaijo would see right through it. Thankfully, Kuroko’s new skills allow him to play on equal ground with the rest of the team, even when he’s not running his Misdirection.  He’s still well aware of his limitations—he’s not dunking anytime soon!—and even when he gets competitive as an individual, it’s more a matter of personal challenge than attention seeking.

Kuroko’s humble approach to basketball has me thinking about my approach to writing and school. I like my abilities to be recognized.  Read the rest of this entry

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