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?
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
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 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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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)
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.
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.
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!