I just watched Gangsta., one of the darker anime to air in the past year. I’ve seen a few anime that center on crime syndicates and corruption, but this is one of the most horrific—up there with Black Lagoon‘s second season. The anime’s setting, Ergastulum, seems hopelessly corrupt, and the anime refuses to sugarcoat it. There isn’t even a redemptive ending—perhaps because the manga itself is still incomplete. We’re just left with a heavy sense of evil and tragedy, with no solution offered.
And yet, even among all the pain and sin, there is compassion, love, truth. Don’t get me wrong: I would not recommend Gangsta. to very many people. If my 16-year-old self asked about it, I’d tell her to stay far away. But for me, in the place I am now, the anime provides a way to process the brokenness of the world and the pieces of goodness that are still present. Because sometimes, the world can feel a lot like Ergastulum: enslaved by sin and strangled by violence. Read the rest of this entry
Gendo Ikari is one of anime’s great villains. Some 15 years after Evangelion originally aired, he remains hated, the very picture of a vile father willing to sacrifice his son (and the entire world, even) for his obsession.
But even Gendo has a tender side. Even Gendo was once in love.
In the following portion of the Evangelion manga, Gendo makes some interesting statements about love and about God. He claims that God gave him Yui, and then after she is absorbed, questions why God gives and takes away.
The question Gendo poses is one that countless others have asked, and that Christians frequently posit as well, even if we might “know” the answers to it in our heads.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
– Job 1:21
Gendo doesn’t explain what he believes the answer was to his question, “If he was going to take her away, why did he give Yui to me?” But he does make a decision – like so many villains before and after him, Gendo determines to become God.
The answer to Gendo’s question, though, is quite contrary to what he resolves to do. Near the ending of Job, throughout which the title character has struggled with the loss of all he held dear, God lets him and his “friends” know that, well, He is God. We can’t always know the answers, for we are not.
And in that seeming insecurity we peculiarly can find hope. For in all the pain and loss in this world, God holds true. His love is true. His promises are true. And when those people and things dear to us disappear, we can cling onto God, for He’s proven that He when all is gone, He will remain. And there’s nothing more assured than that.
Much of the action in episode 14 of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) takes place in a confined space – the bare walls of a small hospital room. But while the action in this episode is passive, our protagonist’s thoughts are moving a mile a minute. Two trains of thought are hurtling through Arima’s mind – the first is a fearful one, as he again worries that he’ll lose someone so dear to him. The second, though almost overtaken by the first in this episode, remains hopeful, as Arima continues to be fully drawn toward Kaori, determining that she again lifted him up, having selected the previous piano piece specifically for him.
As Arima explains his performance to Kaori in this episode, it seems that he hasn’t fully processed it. The audience, though, has – we witnessed how he struggled through it and came out shining. But we remember, maybe better than Arima, that it was a struggle, even before the recital, as haunting memories came flooding back to him (remember that Arima kept telling Kaori he didn’t want to play this piece). But in the pain, there was meaning.
There was a reason Kaori chose this song for Arima.
I have a tendency to shirk away from challenge. Complacency is a hole I feel I constantly find myself climbing out of. If I can avoid it or procrastinate, I usually do. It’s much easier to shove something into a metaphorical box and go watch Youtube videos then actually work through it.
Spiritually in my life, this is something God will tolerate for only so long. As always, God cares much more about me than I do about myself and wants me to have life in abundance, even if that means significant challenge.
There is one scene in Fruits Basket between Kyo and his master/father figure Kazuma that made me think about how sometimes God’s plan for my life and my desire to not deal with challenge, ever, come to a head.
As the cat of the zodiac, Kyo is the most cursed of all of the Sohmas. As part of his curse, he turns into a horrific beast if he doesn’t wear a set of beads and will be confined to a place on the Sohma estate for the rest of his life after high school. He copes with this situation by focusing all of his hurt and frustration on Yuki the rat, the most privileged of the zodiac that was said to have tricked the cat long ago, and keeping almost everyone is his life at a distance.
Kazuma confronts him about this one night.
Kazuma: Is this the way you intend to go on living for the rest of your days? Ears plugged, eyes closed, hiding behind your hatred for Yuki? Read the rest of this entry
If that bullet could also kill a player in the real world, and if you didn’t shoot them, you or someone you loved would be killed, could you still pull the trigger?
I won’t lie. Sword Art Online 2 has kept me entertained all season long. The Alfheim Online arc burned me so bad that I’ve lost the absolute love I once had for the series, but it’s starting to come back. I’ve even begun to accept Kirito and Sinon in all their post-traumatic stress syndrome glory whilst just two weeks ago, I felt that the latter’s back story was too contrived.
I thought episode six, however, did an especially good job of demonstrating to us that these two characters had real fear and real pain from the past. Their situations are more extreme than a typical person’s – they aren’t the hurts that most of us can relate to. But they’re perhaps the kind of hurts that it might be good for us to reflect upon.
One thing we know about Riki is this – he’s kinder, smarter, more loyal, and more level-headed that probably most, or all of us, are. Thus it’s no surprise when he ultimately makes a good decision in episode five of Little Busters! Refrain after making a gut-decision that was less wise.
Rin has been offer the opportunity to be an exchange student, but turning to Riki for guidance, she goes along with his selfish desire to refuse the honor. However, Riki later makes things right by showing his girlfriend tough love and pushing the opposite stance.
Rin’s immediate response to the request was the same as Riki’s – she told her principal “no” immediately, though she was asked to take time and reconsider. While the episode strongly points out to the viewers that Rin has changed after making friends outside of the original Little Busters, she’s still shy at heart, and moving to a place where she has no friends is going to be a challenge. It’s going to make her very uncomfortable.
Kokoro Connect continues to amaze me.
Episode 11 marked the beginning of the third arc. After the painful, but deep “unleashed desires” arc, I was surprised at how much this episode engaged me. I expected a denouement, perhaps, but instead saw the start of an arc that appears to be a little less painful, a little funnier, and little more Aoki and Kiriyama packed, and equally interesting.
As the members of the Cultural Research Club regress into miniature, younger versions of themselves and then return to their normal age, they are bringing with them the pains of their past. And along with those pains, perhaps they’re bringing regrets as well.
So I’ll ask you all – what would you tell your younger self if you had the chance? Is is something about being fearful, as with Inaba? Does it have to do with a relationship, as with Aoba? Or is it about finding yourself, like with Nagase? Or might it have to do with an activity you used to participate in or a promise you made, as with Kiriyama? Or would it be something else entirely?
If you could give a piece of advice to your six-year-old self, your-eleven-year old self, or your fourteen-year-old self, what would you say?
I have a family member who might be like someone you know (or might even be like you). I think his main goal is life is to not offend people – he goes with the flow and tries his best to never rock the boat. He wants to avoid conflict at all cost. And while this attitude just plain fits well with his personality, I think the overriding motive behind it is just that he doesn’t want to see his loved ones get hurt.
This is the strategy that Inaba and, through the course of episode eight of Kokoro Connect, Taichi take. To avoid hurting their friends (and implied through several arguments between character, for selfish reasons), Taichi and Inaba become distant from them. But by the episode’s end, Fujishima’s words (directly) and Iori’s (written) reveal something to our knight in shining armor – some things are worth the pain. While hurt can cause us to regress, as with Yui, it can also push us to grow.
When faced with difficulties, sometimes extreme, we can respond by meeting the challenge. Iori, filled with pain centered on her lack of identity, grows past it and at this point in the series seems to be the character, ironically, most in touch with her emotions. Yui and Inaba, too, seemed to be coming out of the pain, before recent setbacks.
It’s often said that God will do what He needs to, including letting you be hurt, to push you to grow closer to Him. Call it divine tough love. I know for me, I spent years “growing” in my spiritual walk, unchallenged by any major setbacks. But when I had children, and life became very difficult (it’s definitely hard to be a good parent!) and even painful, I was pushed out my comfort zone. Read the rest of this entry
A while back, I had difficulty getting my son to close his eyes while I washed his face in the shower. I’d have to tell him multiple times to close his eyelids in the same shower session. One day, I just let him do what he wanted, and to his discomfort, soap ran into his eyes. He had a miserable time. But now, I never have to ask him to shut his eyes – he does it without any encouragement on my part.
Kokoro Connect demonstrated the same principle this week. At the close of the episode, Heartseed lets the gang know that he presented this awful situation to them as a way of pushing them forward – of making them do the things they needed. The pain opened them up and caused them to do what was necessary.
This push reminded me of these lyrics*:
Oh but you move me
Out of myself and into the fire
You move me
Now I’m burning with love
And with hope and desire
How you move me
These actions reminded me of God and his relationship with us. While I can’t relate Heartseed’s dishonesty or manipulation to God, a basic similarity arises. A message, oft repeated in evangelical circles (and said much more eloquently by others than I’ll paraphrase here), is this: God doesn’t mind hurting you if it helps you. Temporary pain might be necessary for eternal growth. Read the rest of this entry