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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!

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Blue Spring Ride Episode 8: The Thought That Counts

I was just about ready to give up on Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) – or at least blogging it.  But then came along episode eight, hitting me right in the feels.  Nicely done.

After getting so down on Futuba the past two weeks for her selfish thoughts (though I count myself as nearer her than a more perfect shoujo heroine), I was glad to see her thoughts this week turn toward Yuuri.  Futuba was reminded of how important Yuuri is to her, through personal flashbacks and by Shuko (who in this episode made two big steps out of her shell by spending time with the girls and by sharing her crush with them).  Out of respect for their friendship, Futuba tells Yuuri the truth – a hard admission, as Shuko points out.

Yuuri’s response is surprising to Futuba, and was a relief to me (the series has stressed me out the last few weeks), as she takes it relatively in stride.  Though she cries in the privacy of a bathroom, Yuuri confirms to her friends that she’ll remain true to her friendship with Futuba, even as the two both pursue Kou.

Yuuri Makita

Sometimes, love hurts

Though Yuuri’s words are admirable, I’ve found myself dwelling more upon Futuba’s thoughts and actions.  The latter has two real conflicting thoughts going through her head – her own desire for what she wants and a more altruistic hope that she won’t hurt a friend.  And though more than once, Futuba mentions that she might lose a friend, I don’t think that line of thinking weight on her as heavily as her want to keep Yuuri from pain, as this episode demonstrates how much she really cares for her friend.

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Blue Spring Ride Episode 6: Sisters Before Misters

Episode six of Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) picks up right where episode five left off, dealing with Yuri’s admission to Futuba that she likes Ko.  While Yuri tells Shuko the same and deals with the pains and delights of a crush, the scenario puts pressure on Futuba to really think about her feelings toward Ko, and by episode’s end, she lets chance become the final push to catapult her toward admitting to herself that she, too, loves him.

This is one angsty complication, for a couple of reasons.  First, Futuba and Yuri have a nice relationship and Yuri is a very nice girl – this is not a typical love triangle where it’s easy to root for one side over the other.  And further, it’s uncomfortable knowing that perhaps the only truly kind character among the major ones is going to lose, if not immediately, then eventually.  This is Futuba and Ko’s love story, but Yuri and Ko’s.

ao haru ride

If he gets off the train, it’s a sign to lie to classmates, abandon friendships, destroy feelings, etc. etc. etc.

What’s most appalling, though, is how quickly (in only one day!) that Futuba decides that her feelings are more important than her friendship with Yuri.  She doesn’t resist her feelings – Futuba lets herself feel all mushy toward Ko, and with a half-hearted internal apology toward Yuri, ends the day by perhaps making a decision to pursue the object of her affection, this though he’s mostly unkind toward her.

I can chalk it all up to high school immaturity and hormones – and probably should (I was there, too) – but I wonder if we don’t make the same kind of choice that Futuba does, just in different settings.  How often do we choose ourselves, making decisions based on emotions – at work, with family, in our relationships.  And all too often, selfish decisions can have consequences on co-workers, loved ones, or friends.

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Anime Movie Review: Hal



The anime movie Hal, a lovely piece from Wit Studio and Production IG, aired just one year ago in June 2013. Thus, it was a pleasant and refreshing surprise when I learned that Funimation had picked up the rights to dub and will be releasing the film in the US! Especially since I don’t believe too many people knew about this film prior to Funi picking it up.

Hal is a story about loss and dealing with grief. But it’s also about the hope of rebuilding.

I’ll be keeping this review spoiler free! So have no fear as you read and make sure you pick up a copy of the official Funimation release (scheduled for September 2nd)!

The story begins in a quiet village in Japan, with a curious robot named Kyuichi, trying to catch fish in a stream. Soon, the tranquility is broken by a commercial airplane bursting into flames in the sky overhead.

Then, we are introduced to a couple, Hal and Kurumi. Boyfriend and girlfriend who were untimely separated as Hal was killed on that airplane explosion. Kurumi falls into seclusion: not eating, not sleeping, not venturing out of her house anymore. Thus, she is sent a “Hal” robot (by direction of a local doctor in her community) to help her through her grief and keep her through her grief. At first, things don’t go too well. Plus, Robo-Hal (as we can fondly call him) isn’t the best at comforting anyone and can barely cook. But, as time goes on, he learns more about Kurumi and his persistence proves to be his most valuable attribute. But Robo-Hal is not without aid in helping Kurumi. The local doctor is there to give him encouragement, of course, as well as a group of old ladies in the local retirement home give him advice to help Kurumi. But more importantly, he finds a Rubik’s cube in Kurumi’s house, ready to be solved. And each side that is solved reveals a message, a wish of Kurumi. The more sides he solves, the closer Robo-Hal can get to helping Kurumi open her heart once again.

Just as things start going well, we learn that the situation isn’t exactly as it seems and the past cannot be so easily escaped.

But no spoilers for the ending! I did promise, after all. But I can’t guarantee the comments will be spoiler free, so beware!

The animation of Hal was stunning and gorgeous to look at. Could be a bit too shiny in some places, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching it all.

The story telling was simple, but expertly woven as to not drag on too long in places where it didn’t need to. At some times it felt a bit slow, but soon picked up, especially when we came closer to the climax of the story. The pacing was well timed and nothing seemed too rushed or too slow.

The use of plot devices made Hal all the more whimsical in some ways, from Rubik’s cubes to buttons to stuffed animals and to especially a glowing red button. It gave the story a other worldly feel, which fit with the story, interestingly enough.

Hal is rated PG-13 for more mature ideas (like death, etc.), but cursing is minimal and there is no sexual or violent content.

I always take a chance with most anime movies, especially originally created ones. Sometimes they do well and sometimes they don’t. Hal is a movie that did things well. It is a beautifully constructed story that ponders life and death and the reality that while all life must come to an end, we can still move forward with the memories of the ones we love.

I gave Hal a 9/10 on myanimelist, and even after watching it several times over after that, I still stay pretty firm in that rating. It’s definitely a film I would recommend in a heartbeat.

Rating: A



Sword Art Online II, Episode 1: Mission Impossible

“Mixed feelings” would probably best describe my attitude toward Sword Art Online II, perhaps the most anticipated returning series this season.  I loved the first cour – no other series has provided me with more material about which to write!  The second, however, brought me anger (Asuna) and gagging (Leafa).

SAO II begins in an unexpected fashion, perhaps, dwelling mostly on technological and philosophical ideas, with just a few hints of the action to come and a dab of Kirito x Asuna fanservice.  So far, so good.

Kirito x Sinon

No matter what comes of it, this relationship CAN’T be worse than that between Suguha and Kirito (Art by 月森うさこ – Pixiv ID 44334853)

What’s also interesting is that the episode traces where Kirito is going with his life.  Long term, he wants to become a “creator,” but by the end of the first episode, he’s being sucked back into the virtual world as a player.  His conversation with the government agent felt a lot like a spy or superhero coming out of retirement to accept a new mission – and a difficult one it is.  Yet, Kirito takes it, not for the substantial money he’s being offered (does he have a ton of medical bills to repay?) or for a challenge, but because of his character.

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Witch Hunts and the Modern Day Mekaku City Monster

Mekaku City Actors is pretty much all I ask for from an anime – it’s engaging, stylish, fun, has a plethora of terrific characters, and features some connections to religion, too.  The story of the monster, which began as a bookended theatrical piece for early episodes and was later revealed to be a significant part of the plot, demonstrates these religious ideas most significantly.  But it’s the not the symbolism, overdone in anime, that stuck out to me – it was the projection of how people have historically gone on witch hunts in the name of religion.

In college, one of my history courses focused on the witch hunt in Europe.  They of course occurred in the U.S. as well.  Recent episodes of Mekaku City Actors made me wonder if they happened in Japan, too.  Certainly, they occurred there for individuals other than witches (persecution of Christians comes to minds), as they did in the U.S.

Azami Kagepro

Art by きらげら (Pixiv ID 44146031)

Although the Christian community in the U.S. thankfully doesn’t harangue and persecute individuals with the same religious historic religious fervor (barring a few notable exceptions), we do still attack others with words, dirty looks, and protests.  Who are the witches of today – the workers at Planned Parenthood?  Homosexual and transgender advocates?  Some other groups?

Whatever the group is, they all have this commonality – the individuals within these camps are often dehumanized by Christians and others.  As with those in Mekaku City Actors who physically hunted Azami, and later Shion and Marry, we have a tendency to categorize people and see them solely by characteristics that we use to define them.  We forget that each of us is unique – that we have different circumstances and experiences, and that people are more than a caricature.  They are not part of that group; they are real people with real stories. Read the rest of this entry

One Week Friends: Stranger Than Your Empathy

For such a humble little show, I’ve been surprised at how One Week Friends has kept me at baited breath all season long.  I’ve been anticipating that the bottom would fall out, that we would have some big climax, though I wasn’t sure if it would feel contrived or if there would be genuine drama involved.  Episodes 10 and 11 have proven the latter to be true, as the series won’t emphasize “Will Hase keep trying when Kaori completely forgets everything?” so much.  Instead, there’s something deeper being explored – and it’s focused on Hase as much as on Kaori.

My biggest complaint about One Week Friends has been in regards to how selfish Hase has acted (though it’s also what I’ve related to most).  But when painful drama for Kaori shakes out in the course of episodes 9 and 10, Hase does almost a complete 180, finally moving the focus off of his own frustrations and his crush on Kaori toward really trying to care for her as a friend would.  A transformation is taking place, one I solely hoped to see in the show, but wasn’t sure would come to fruition.

Kaori Fujimiya Yuki Hase

Art by とおなおと (Pixiv ID 44174046)

Up until now, Hase has been surprisingly self-absorbed.  While Kaori deals with the pain of starting over, week in and week out, Hase has been stressing about whether he can get her to become closer to him so that they can have a “special” relationship.  It took a confrontation between Kaori and her elementary school friends for Hase to snap out of his selfish shell.  His dialogue shifts in episode 11 – it’s hardly about his feelings toward Kaori (he only discusses these feelings in the episode when someone else brings them up) and all about her needs.

Hase is now empathizing with Kaori.  Before, she was almost a project he was working on – can I turn this girl not only into someone that can become friendly, but someone who will love me?  Now, Hase is considering her emotions and her hurt, and he’s trying to find a way to prevent her from suffering more pain.

In a sense, he’s moved from being “in love” to actually “loving” her.*

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Fathers, Be Good to Your Daughters: Steins;Gate and Fatherly Love

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters, too

In anime, an archetype of a distant and cold father has long been pervasive.  Gendo Ikari is foremost among them, but there are many other examples of dads whose lack of affection (or presence) have had a powerful impact on protagonists.  I wonder if this has something to do with the undeniable fact that many Asian fathers of previous generations were harsh toward their children.  But as we can see with Ed and Al’s dad in Fullmetal Alchemist and with Eren’s in Attack on Titan*, there’s a lot of love that dad’s carry toward their kids, even if they’ve caused their children hurt.  Perhaps that reflects another side (or a wished-for side) of Japanese fathers.

While these daddy issues are often limited to one character per anime, one series in which there are plenty to go around is Steins;Gate.  Between the future and past, there are several fathers that get emphasized in the series.  And on this Father’s Day, it seems to be an apt time to examine them.

Better yet, we can go a step further and see how these Steins;Gate father-child relationships compare to that of the Heavenly Father toward us.  As with character relationships between father and sons/daughters, many people have cold relationships with God, perhaps out of misunderstanding, lack of effort, or something else.  But like a father who proves that he loves his child to no ends, there’s far more than meets the eye.

Art by 鼬鼬 (Pixiv ID 36404085)

Art by 鼬鼬 (Pixiv ID 36404085)

Warning: Spoilers galore in the post below. Read the rest of this entry

One Week Friends: Why We Do What We Do

At first glance, One Week Friends looks and feels like a cute show.  The animation is gentle, the frequently flushed cheeks are awww-worthy, and the storyline about friendship is the stuff of kid shows.  But the series makes me a little uncomfortable for a number of reasons, among them that I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out (perhaps it happened at the end of last week’s episode) and that our male lead, Yuki Hase, isn’t exactly a model of sacrificial giving.  In fact, it’s that last point that gives me pause each time I watch an episode.

Yuki Hase’s a fun lead because he’s a bit of a mess.  Self-doubting and nervous, but able to pick up his nerve and do that which grown men are too fearful to do (talk to a girl he likes), Yuki’s an entertaining character – he’s no generic plot device.  Much of what also makes him compelling is the dynamic we see between his wanting to get close to Kaori out of the goodness of his heart and, more pressing as each episode advances, because he likes her.  In fact, if he weren’t a bit of a basketcase, Yuki might be downright unlikeable, as the gulf between how Kaori sees him and how Yuki really is, doing this all for his own gain, is pretty large.  Whether he realizes it or not, Yuki is taking advantage of a girl with an (anime invented) mental illness as he tries to develop a relationship with her.  Adapt this story to live action on American television, and social media sites would have a field day with the societal-male-female interactions going on here.

isshuukan friends

Art by お茶 (Pixiv ID 43748122)

At the very center of things is this – Yuki continues to have a crush on Kaori.  He doesn’t love her – romantically or by any other meaningful definition of the word.

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I wanna be like you, Tohru!

Throughout anime, there are themes that reflect Christian values. You can see themes of loyalty, service, peacemaking, patience, love and acceptance just to name a few. Out of all the characters in all of the anime I have seen, the one I felt has come closest to what a Christian is supposed to be, or maybe the one I want to be like most, is Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket.


From her gratefulness, to her constant service mindset, to her unconditional love and acceptance of those around her, whenever I watch Fruits Basket I find myself wishing I would handle situations the way she handles them. It takes a certain amount of bravery and strength to approach life the way Tohru does.

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