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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.

Croisee_07bb

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

Kuroko’s Basketball and Imitating Christ

Hi there, folks! I feel like I should say something to properly introduce myself in my first official post as a BtT writer. But formalities aren’t exactly my forte, so I’ll just dive in. 

– – –

I’m a bit of a Kuroko’s Basketball fangirl. The show’s been on my mind almost constantly since the third season began airing. It’s prompted a lot of fist-pumping, squealing, and cheering—plus some convicting thoughts about the Christian walk. For example, Kise’s recent game against Haizaki has me thinking about imitation’s role in the Christian life.

– Spoiler warning for the third episode of Kurobas 3. –

First, a recap on this character: Kise Ryouta is a sports prodigy. He tried other sports before basketball, but he wasn’t challenged enough. His athletic ability, combined with his knack for imitation, allowed him to surpass teammates and rivals with ease. He finally started basketball partway through middle school, after he discovered how powerful the team was. Finally, a challenge!

Kise quickly joined the ranks of Teiko Middle School’s “Generation of Miracles,” but surpassing them would take a little longer. The rest of the team had developed personalized skills that matched their physiques and personalities. Kise wasn’t good enough to imitate their moves, let alone counter them.

Fastforward to the Winter Cup, Kise’s first year of high school. Kise is pitted against Haizaki, a nasty fellow who was kicked off the Teiko Middle School team just before Kise became a regular. Haizaki, too, is an imitator, but with a twist: he corrupts whatever skill he steals. This messes with his opponent’s rhythm, making it impossible for him to use the skill he used to call his own. Back in middle school, Kise could never beat him. Now, in high school, things look grim. Kise and the rest of the Kaijo team keep the gap from getting too wide, but Haizaki is dominating. Finally, in the last five minutes, Kise brings out the newest and most powerful weapons in his arsenal: skills he’s copied from the Generation of Miracles. He starts with Midoriama’s precise, high-arcing three-pointer. And he makes it from the other side of the half-court line. (Cue fangirling)

Kise can copy the Generation of Miracles. Okay, he's scary now. I don't even know how scary, because that pink aura there is Akashi,  and the only skill I've seen him use is his Alpha Dog commanding  aura, which is scary, but probably not imitable.

Kise can copy the Generation of Miracles. Okay, he’s scary now. I don’t even know how scary, because that pink aura there is Akashi, and the only special “skill” I’ve seen him use is his Alpha Dog control, which is scary, but probably not imitable.

Read the rest of this entry

Guest Post: Forgiving Hohenheim

I’m always ecstatic when writers around the web write guest pieces for Beneath the Tangles.  Today, the amazing Hailey (who I’ve long hoped would work something up for us) guests for our blog, explaining what a popular atheist character has to do with Christians and forgiveness.

I spent one glorious Saturday last semester sitting in my apartment marathoning Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I mean, this was a true marathon, in the most beautiful/unhealthy sense. I don’t think I moved from the couch for a solid seven hours. About two hours in, as my roommate and I were stuffing our faces with strawberry pancakes (my roommate is a lovely chef, bless her heart), we started playing a little game called “Spot the Religious Metaphor!” Needless to say it was pretty much the game that never ended. I’ve watched Brotherhood all through about six or seven times, but that marathon was the first time I truly caught notice of just how often the author weaved Judeo-Christian allusions and ideology into the story. Seriously, you pile up all those religious undertones and you’d have something big enough to sink the Titanic.

I’ve joked about how I could churn out dissertations on Brotherhood, so I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to write about what, in my opinion, is the simplest and most beautiful aspect of the show: forgiveness. As someone who struggles with forgiving those who’ve wronged me, I think the series portrays how difficult, but ultimately necessary, forgiveness is. Forgiveness is also a foundational practice of Christianity, preached several times throughout the Bible.

fma 2b

I want to focus on Edward Elric, the main character of Brotherhood, and his relationship with his father, Van Hohenheim. 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 8: Karin

Characters in Santa outfits.  Check.  Romantic gift-giving.  Check.  Vampire girl who injects people with joyous blood.  Uh, check.

Karin (Chibi Vampire) was a series I’d almost completely forgotten before deciding to watch episode 19, the show’s Christmas episode.  In fact, I don’t remember if I’ve even watched the series (I know that I’ve read the manga, and I enjoyed it very much).  But I’m glad I viewed (or re-viewed) this episode – it was a nice one.

Karin and Usui continue to shyly try to progress their relationships with one another.  To do so, and at the urging of her friend Maki, who is doing the same for her crush, Karin decides to knit Usui a Christmas gift.  As she builds her courage, Karin unwittingly encourages Usui to ask his mom about his past, which was a topic he’d avoided at all costs up until now.

karin and usui christmas

In anime, Christmas episodes offer an opportunity for animators to provide a little fanservice to the viewers – fun situations, wintry costume changes, and hints of romance.  And it’s very usual for the romantic element to revolve around gifts.  Karin wants to confess as she gives her gift, and so does Maki.

In the west, of course, gift-giving has a different feel.  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.

Read the rest of this entry

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 9: Friends and Lovers

As Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) progresses, so, too, do the relationships in the show.  Unlike other series, Ao Haru Ride throws five characters together who are fairly new to each other.  There is some history there, but none of these people have been in any others’ social group before.  We’re getting to see a quick evolution of a group of friends, and for some, a growth into something further.

Much of the continued emphasis in episode nine is on the love triangle between Kou, Futuba, and Yuri.  The familiarity between Kou and Futuba remains, and this worries a jealous Yuri, who thinks that Kou might already be in love with his former crush.  So in turn, Yuri tries to get closer to Kou, and perhaps does in some way, though both Futuba and the audience is left in suspense as to what (and what did not) occur.

But even with an emphasis on romantic relationships, the friendships are still an important part of the plot in this series.  In this episode, Kominato’s deepening friendship with Kou is on full display, as he aggressively defends his friend when some arrogant former classmates of Kou’s harangue him over a perceived lack of intelligence.

Kou Mabuchi and Kominato

Kou is taken aback by Kominato standing up for him (as much as the “stoic” Kou can be).  It’s a powerful witness when someone stands up for you, taking on the potential blame, insult, punishment, and pain to help you.  We’ve probably all been in a situation where someone has acted in that way on our behalf; how great it feels to have someone else put themselves on the line for us!

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Deva Orochimaru, Humble Kirito, and Bishie Satan

The beginning of a new anime season is always fun!  Anibloggers are most active during this time, with literally a thousand or more anime articles coming out this week.  Luckily, a number of those are spirituality-related, and we have a slate of great articles to link to today!

Frank is excited about the new season of Encouragement of Climb, and compares the previous season’s storyline to that of the Christian moving out in faith and accomplishing what God has purposed him or her to do. [A Series of Miracles]

Syng completes a series on Naruto and Buddhism, diving particularly into the characterizations of Orochimaru, Obito, Madara, and Kaguya [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Speaking of that excellent series, here’s Syng’s first post on Buddhist allusions in Naruto.

D.M. Dutcher tells how a new Christian anime and manga series, entitled Prince Adventures: Anointed, features bishounen characters fighting against Satan (also a bishie). Vic Mignogna, of course, is among those voicing the series. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Oh, and a voice actor for young Jesus has been cast.

Doug, a Buddhist blogger, visits a Mayuka church, home to a native denomination of Japanese Christians. [Essays in Idleness]

Rob continues his Christian-centered anime reviews, with some thoughts about a journey in The World Is Still Beautiful mimicking a Christian’s. [Christian Anime Review]

And while we skipped Something More last Friday, I still want to link to some of the great anime and spirituality articles that bloggers wrote last week:

Michael sees the victory of humility over pride in Sword Art Online as representative of the rule God has established for His kingdom. [Gaming and God]

Earlier, Michael also took at look at Fullmetal Alchemist and dove into the Elric brothers’ thirst for eternal life.

Here’s an interesting comparison – Medieval Otaku sees similarities between the hearts of Lime of Saber Marionette J and Jesus. [Medieval Otaku]

Annalyn weaves a terrific entry about introversion The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, including a note about how her faith. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

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. 

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