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Annalyn’s Corner: Ore Monogatari!! and Sacrificial Love

I watched the first five episodes of Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) this weekend. The premise intrigued me: this shoujo anime is shown primarily from a male point of view, and he’s not the typical bishounen love interest. Instead, Takeo is the bishie’s big, clumsy best friend. I was immediately intrigued by this break from the mold, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to hold my interest. I’m too easily bored.

So what did hold my attention? Friendship and sacrificial love. Takeo, especially, is willing to sacrifice himself for his friends, his crush, strangers, and even enemies.

First, there’s the friendship between Takeo and Suna. Suna looks and acts like the typical bishounen male lead (I might have squealed a little when he first crossed the screen… it’s a habit I developed somewhere between The Wallflower and Kaichou wa Maid-sama). He’s cool, collected, has a great laugh, and knows how to deal with a spastic main character. But instead of dealing with a spastic heroine, he watches over Takeo.

Ever since they were kids, Takeo would have crushes on girls who eventually confessed their love to Suna… and were turned down. The same girls talked cruelly behind Takeo’s back, and Suna wouldn’t have any of that. Meanwhile, Takeo got used to being looked over in favor of his more charming friend. So when the girl he saves and falls in love with shows even the tiniest sign of caring about Suna, Takeo gives up on having a relationship with her. And he decides to help her and Suna get together.

Takeo observes Yamato closely, certain she likes Suna. Isn't she adorable in this shot? (ep 1)

Takeo observes Yamato closely, certain she likes Suna. Isn’t she adorable in this shot? (ep 1)

I can understand Takeo’s thought process, to a degree. When someone you’re close to is more charming than you are, it’s safest to assume they’ll always get the best of everything: the crush, the cutest puppy… everything. That way, you don’t get your hopes crushed. At that point, you have two options: become resentful, or support your charming friend. Takeo chooses the second option.

Takeo is humble and selfless, but imperfectly so. Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Hollow Fulfillment in 2D and 3D Realities

I just re-watched the last couple episodes of The World God Only Knows, aka Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai, most easily called KamiNomi (season 1). This time, I noticed the fulfillment Keima seems to find in his obsessive approach to dating sims, and the pride he takes in it. I think many otaku, including me, have felt similarly about our habits… sometimes to our detriment.

Quick Summary: This anime centers around Katsuragi Keima, a gamer who specializes in dating sims—in fact, he’s so good at these, he’s called the “Capturing God,” and otaku look up to him. Even the “demons” have heard of Keima’s expertise. One such demon, Elsie, misunderstands his reputation. She recruits him for a very important task: capturing Lost Souls. This task, much to Keima’s dismay, requires him to woo and rescue girls in real life, which takes a lot of time away from his gaming.

A Note on Religion: When I first heard of KamiNomi, I was suspicious. “The World God Only Knows“? Isn’t that a little… blasphemous? But God, as in the God, isn’t really talked about, and His power isn’t so much questioned as ignored, as in most anime. And the demons? We’re not talking about Satan’s crew, I assure you, though a couple elements of Christian tradition are incorporated. There’s some Buddhist imagery, too, when after-images of Keima’s arms make him look like a certain bodhisattva. In sequel seasons, Greek and Roman mythology is incorporated. This collection of religion and myth is not meant to be taken seriously—it’s a comedy.

Okay, housekeeping over. Let’s dive into the part of the post that makes me squirm:

Keima avoids interacting with the real world as much as possible. He proudly devotes every waking minute to dating sims—he’ll even play them while he’s running in gym class. Most people consider his lifestyle unhealthy, but he claims it’s fulfilling.

Keima’s obsession with his games is most fully shown in the last episode, when he finally gets a decent-length break from capturing Lost Souls. It’s not like he was completely cut off from gaming during the last eleven episodes, but he didn’t get enough. Apparently, like many long-time addicts, he needs higher doses of his drug for full effect.

Uh... "Kami onii-sama"? You're looking more like an addict than a kami right now.

Uh… “Kami onii-sama”? You’re looking more like an addict than a kami right now.

It’s natural to spend a lot of time doing something you love. Others don’t always understand it. As a result, many of us are used to waving off their concerned comments about our anime-watching, gaming, etc. Read the rest of this entry

Rewrite Part 3: Terra, the Path of Salvation

At the start of Terra, a teenage Kotarou and his family have recently moved to Kazamatsuri. His parents work at Martel, a part of Gaia. His neighbor’s family has a very young girl by the name of Kotori (!?). His parents attended Gaia’s meetings, but Kotarou spent his time hunting UMAs, which were actually familiars. However, one day, he encounters a much stronger familiar. Just as it attacks him, he is saved by Esaka and his knights. Kotarou falls unconscious but looks for Esaka and the two become friendly. Meanwhile, Kotarou is asked to take care of a young girl named Akane (!?). Akane seems to be affiliated with Gaia while Kotori notes that she wants nothing to do with Gaia and its meetings. As Kotarou’s teenage life unfolds, he ends up running away from home and joins Esaka and Guardian. He is put in a trainee team consisting of himself, Imamiya, Touka, and Nagai. However, this is a team of “unskilled” people, the ones who ranked lowest on the initial exam. Nagai eventually quits, but Kotarou gets stronger.

Eventually, the battle of Guardian and Gaia is about to start. Although the team is ordered on stand-by, Imamiya rushes in, followed by Touka and Kotarou. On the way, he encounters Akane who is cowering in the trees. Although he saves her and attempts to help her escape, he runs into another girl…Kagari, the Key, being born into the world. It is here that Kotarou is given a very important choice: try to attack her or run away. If the reader chooses to attack her, he will nearly be killed, end up in a coma, awaken to find the beginning of the common route, and another inevitable route to humanity’s destruction. In other words, from the very beginning, this part of Terra had already happened before the common route began, which explains a number of questions the readers may have had. However, in Terra route, there is another option Kotarou can take: run away and let Kagari escape. Read the rest of this entry

Destroying Seiichi Kinoshita: Shirobako and Murderous Words

I’ve mentioned this before, but to me, Shirobako feels like family.  There are some members that annoy me, some that I embrace, but regardless, I care about them all.  I want to know what’s happening with everyone – a week seems too long to wait to catch up with the cast.  I streamed the first cour to catch up to the second, watching an episode or two each day – and getting that much of these characters felt just about right!

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Among the characters, the one I find most interesting is the director, Seiichi Kinoshita.  Besides being hillarious, there’s a realism to him despite his over-the-top tendencies.  Most of the realism comes in the way of his faults – his procrastination, stubbornness, shyness, gluttony, and insecurity.  The last of those is most interesting to me, because like the characters he creates and the context that he develops, especially in relation to Arupin, there’s reason for the way his current self has become the way he is.

Do you remember the episode that showed Kinoshita accepting an award for his early work?  He came across as humble, energetic, happy.  The Kinoshita we know now is of course largely none of those things.  But on the back of his failed marriage and ridicule regarding his work, for which he is particularly sensitive, how could we expect him to be the same?  And personal jokes or chides at his expense are common, perhaps most hurtful when they came angrily from episode director Zaruyoshi Yakushiji in episode 18.

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Words have immense power.  My wife says that my love language is words of affirmation, and perhaps that’s true – I know that when I’m praised, I’m eager and energized to serve.  And on the other hand, words can destroy, which is what I think has happened to Kinoshita. Read the rest of this entry

Examining Old School Anime: The Christ Figure Antagonist

Ten or so episodes of Ashita no Joe convince one that many Christian themes run through it.  One even locates a Christ figure in Rikiishi and a Marian character in Yoko Shiraki.  Therefore, Joe Yabuki (especially when one considers the slang “average Joe”) might be looked on as an everyman–a representative of graceless humanity needing a Savior.  In this article, I do not wish to belabor Rikiishi’s parallels to Christ: his standing head and shoulders above ordinary mortals, his generally meek and polite personality, how his weight loss reminds one of Christ fasting in the desert, Yoko as a woman who fulfills the role of the Lady of Sorrows for Rikiishi, etc.  Instead, I wish to ponder the curious choice of Ikki Kajiwara to make the Christ figure as the story’s antagonist.  In what ways might Christ, the friend of sinners, also be viewed antagonistically by his followers?

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If memory serves me right, the Pearl-Poet gives Christ the title “Conqueror of Christians” in his poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”  Does that not take my dear readers aback?  What does he mean by the title “Conqueror of Christians”?  Aren’t we His by virtue of our supernatural regeneration in baptism?  What does it mean that Christ conquers His followers?  The simple fact of the matter is that we are very unlike Christ.  Where Christ possesses infinite virtue, we can often boast infinite vice.  We would repeat the same sins infinitely unless God’s grace brings them to an end.  All Christians in a state of grace have all the virtues in some degree, but not sufficiently as to prevent us making a hell out of heaven should we be transported the eternal fatherland this very moment.  The realm of the vices in the arena in which our antagonism to Christ resides, and Christ must conquer us in this arena. Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Ookami-san and a Favor that’s Impossible to Return

I’ve been meaning to watch Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi (Okami-san and her Seven Companions) for a while. This twelve-episode anime draws heavily on fairy and folk tales, and my love for these classic stories never dies. I finally watched it this past week. It was… decent, once the narrator’s voice stopped annoying me. The title character, Ookami Ryoko, is part of Otagi Bank, a school club that does favors for “clients,” with the expectation that said clients will return the favors when called upon. The characters go on adventures of varying difficulty (the delinquent school in town provides danger), and it’s generally a fun club anime that unapologetically mixes tropes, stereotypes, and well-known tales.

Otagi Bank members help their schoolmates out for a cost, but they have their fair share of trials themselves. The fourth episode, “Ōkami-san and Otsū-senpai’s Favor Repayments,” confronts the idea of favors among friends. One of the secondary characters, Tsurugaya Otsuu, is obsessed with returning favors. When Ryoushi, the main male character, saves her from from getting hit by a stray baseball, she insists on becoming his maid… and I don’t mean just doing a bit of housecleaning, either. After all, Ryoushi saved her. She goes above and beyond, even sleeping in his little one-room apartment so that she will be available to tend to every perceived need. Ryoushi is so uncomfortable with this arrangement, he can’t sleep. Yet she is too worried about returning the favor to realize that he really just wants her to let him sleep in peace.

Otsuu-senpai in episode two. Even when she isn't obsessing about repaying Ryoushi, she dresses as a maid.

Otsuu-senpai in episode two. Even when she isn’t obsessing about repaying Ryoushi, she dresses as a maid.

Otsuu has a tragic back story to go with her obsession: when she was younger, an older brother figure died saving her from being hit by a car. She can never repay him for his sacrifice. Instead, she is determined to repay all other perceived debts in her life. Otsuu overworks herself trying to repay Ryoushi. He goes to the Otagi Bank’s president with the problem. The group of friends comes up with a plan: do so many favors for Otsuu, even she can see that it’s impossible to repay them. The first step of the plan? Dress up as maids and wait on her hand and foot for an entire day. Of course, at the end of the day, she says that she’ll try to repay each of them for what they’ve done. They tell her that it’s impossible, and even if she did manage to repay the favor, they’d do even more for her, so the cycle would never end. They explain that since they are friends, helping each other out is only natural. Otagi Bank might be founded on a system of favor and debt, but the group’s members themselves need no such thing. There are no favors between friends.

This plot idea isn’t new. Many anime, movies, and TV shows include characters who are too proud or insecure to get help from others, or who feel they must repay every nice thing that’s done for them. (Arakawa Under the Bridge comes to mind, though I’ve only seen an episode or two of that.) They don’t know how to accept kindness with no strings attached. After years of watching these characters learn about friendship and kindness, I’ve finally realized how much I have to learn myself. Among my family, I don’t hesitate to ask for anything. But I’m more awkward with friends and classmates: If I accept an offer of food, but never give food in return or offer further friendship, is that rude? If they write me a note on my birthday, or just because they want to encourage me, doesn’t that mean I have to do the same? If I write a kind note or do something else for them, will they see it as more than passing kindness? I really can’t offer much companionship as a friend right now! Will I make them feel obligated? I don’t expect anything back, not even deeper friendship, I just want to do this one thing.

It’s kind of ridiculous. Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April, Episode 21: The Struggle

As the date of the piano competition draws near, episode 21 of Your Lie in April once again finds Kousei falling into solitude, this time affected by having seen the reality – that Kaori is on death’s doorstep.  The question in the episode is whether Kousei will rise, or will he again fall as he did when his mother passed away.

While we have to wait until next week to see what happens with Kaori (though manga readers will already know by now), the last few minutes of the episode demonstrate to us what Kousei has decided – because of Kaori, and because of all the people who have invested their lives in him, Kousei will try.  As Kaori asked him, he will struggle.

And there’s no doubt, it is a struggle.  For those of us who have been through depression – and even those that haven’t, but have had moments in your life where you feel your world is collapsing, we feel what Kousei is feeling.  We can recall those moments where it’s too hard to try, too hard to get up, too hard to live.  Pain and hurt paralyzes us emotionally, and physically, too, as we see with the huddled position Kousei holds for much of the episode.

april 21a

For Christians, the same is true – faith in God is no protection against torrents of depression and pain.  In moments of struggle, we must to come the point where we decide, will be let the world overcome us, or will we struggle against the world? 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.

Kuroko_ep01

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

Annalyn’s Corner: Free to Love

In December, I watched Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth for Anime Secret Santa. I was struck by the way the main character, Yune, reaches out to those around her. She feels free to love and serve others, while her guardian, Claude, is held back by fear and social convention. Freedom and love are strong themes in Croisée, and for good reason; freedom is connected to how people relate to each other. This just as true in reality as in anime, which leads me to thoughts about Christians. We, more than anyone else, are free to love. In fact, we are commanded to love. So what holds us back? Croisée highlights three of the biggest inhibitors: fear of betrayal and rejection, fear of loss, and fear of what others may think (social convention). I focus on the first two in this post.

Fear of Betrayal and Rejection

Claude, a blacksmith and Paris native, tells Yune to be wary of strangers, lest they take advantage of her. He disapproves of her friendliness toward a little street boy. She sees a hungry child; Claude sees a thief. She sees an opportunity to serve; he sees a threat. Both are technically correct. The boy does steal from them. Yet Yune remains compassionate. She gives him bread two episodes later, much to Claude’s dismay.

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Yune gives bread to the little boy in episode 7.

When Yune becomes ill, Claude is sure that the child gave her the disease. She still defends him, explaining that she wants to understand how the boy feels. She thinks he’s searching for a place to belong. Claude dismisses the idea… but then he finds flowers the boy left for her.

Claude isn’t exactly wrong to be suspicious. When we extend kindness, people won’t always respond in kind. Sometimes, they may take advantage of us. But defensive callousness is not the answer. We are called to be compassionate, the way Yune is. Compassion is the kind of empathy that moves you to understanding and action—it’s a part of active love.

Read the rest of this entry

Osananajimi: Growing Up With God

First of all, many thanks to TWWK for inviting me to join this site. For my first post on here, I thought I would repost a post I made a long time ago on my own blog, A Series of Miracles. This post is a very personal subject for me, and I think it will also serve well as an introduction to me and my own history with Christ.

Osananajimi is a Japanese term that translates to “childhood friend”, and indeed means just that. In and of itself, the term has no romantic connotations and can refer to any unrelated person, male or female, with or without romantic connections, with whom a person has grown up with. From what I gather, culturally the Japanese value those whom they have grown up with as having a special connection with them, and as such, the childhood friend has been a popular character in classical fiction, including as a romantic interest.

In the world of anime and related media, though, the popularity of the osananajimi as a romantic interest largely comes from their use in dating sims and visual novels, particularly Shiori Fujisaki in Tokimeki Memorial and Akari Kamigishi in To Heart. (Also worth noting is Kanon, which likely helped popularize the “meeting with childhood friend after a long time apart” variation.) Since then, theosananajimi has been a common character in all sorts of anime, manga, and the like, with some recent examples including Rihoko Sakurai in Amagami, Chiwa Harusaki in OreShura, Manami Tamura in OreImo, and… well, the entire core cast of AnoHana.

Alt text, we found you!

Not even death can separate them… not that it didn’t try.

As for why this character is so popular, I would say it’s because they exemplify a lot of traits—faithfulness, ability to love despite imperfections, ability to be open with each other, and a deep sense of intimacy that comes from a well-developed friendship—that are very desirable in any romantic partner.

The osananajimi has been one of my favorite character types since very early in my anime-watching experience, though that is very largely in part due to one obscure, unlicensed (and probably will never be licensed) visual novel adaptation called Lamune, which even now has one of my favorite portrayals of a childhood friend romance in anime. As for why I like such characters—and their romances—so much… that is a good question. It’s not like I have any female childhood friends myself that I wish I could be with, nor do I particularly care about finding one again in the first place.

The aforementioned desirable qualities of a romantic partner could be a factor. However, after some consideration, it became clear to me why I like osananajimi characters so much.

It’s because they remind me of my relationship with God. Read the rest of this entry

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