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Something More: Gundam Orphan Christians, Suffering in FFX, and Congratulations to Marina!

None of us want to suffer. In the west especially, there’s seldom any good seen in suffering, only hallow “silver linings” that we use to encourage those going through struggles. In east Asia, suffering is more tolerated and even embraced, though of course, it’s still not preferred. We see this in the media produced there, such as in Final Fantasy X, in Tidus and Yuna, as Jack Hoey points out, “rage against the indifferent heavens” upon discovering that the church is hallow and that there is no meaning to the suffering Yuna was to undergo.

In his article about suffering, Hoey also points toward Silence, Shunsaku Endo’s classic (now being made into a film by Martin Scorsese). The book tells us that, indeed, there is meaning in suffering. Silence is as troubling a book as I’ve ever read, because it makes us question what we believe by putting forth unimaginable suffering and putting us in the position of those who witness it. But Christians (the primary character in Silence is a Jesuit missionary) must know that when we turn to Christ, we, too, must carry our cross daily and share in the sufferings of the Savior, who in turned had suffered so greatly for our sake, while keeping an eye toward eternity, where suffering is no more.

Read Hoey’s entire excellent article at Christ and Pop Culture:

>> Revelations of Suffering in ‘Final Fantasy X’ and Shusaku Endo’s ‘Silence’

Here are other articles involving spirituality and Japanese media from the past couple of weeks:

The result of acedia can be viewed by the change in Kenshin following the events involving Kaoru in the Jinchu arc of Rurouni Kenshin. [Medieval Otaku]

Are there any “Christian” anime? There are certainly at least some original English language works that could be categorized as such. [Anime Revolution]

Rob compares Mikazuki’s devotion to Orga in G-Tekketsu to the way a Christian should be devoted to God. [Christian Anime Review]

And last, but most certainly not least, we here on the blog would like to congratulate Anime B&B’s Marina on her recent engagement! We wish you a wonderful wedding and many blessings in your marriage! Read about Marina’s engagement and then check out her guest turn on The Tangles podcast.

As part of the Something More series of posts, 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 to be included.

Permission for illustration grated by the artist: duex | るろうに

Kenshin and Saito: A Balance Between Grace and Judgment

I revisited the Rurouni Kenshin TV series a few years ago, and found myself disappointing by the show. I had purchased the series volume by volume and had tremendous nostalgia for it, but now found that the show had aged badly. The animation didn’t hold up well and the tone was so dated.  Perhaps this is why the “new” Kenshin project from a few years ago ended up being a reworking of the Kyoto arc, maybe developed as an update for a new generation.

Still, as attested by the recent live-action movies and the enduring popularity of the franchise (and the manga, especially, which feels dateless), there’s so much good stuff that can be culled from Kenshin. For all the problems I know see in it, the series does so much right; there’s so much worth emulating. The characters and plot are now classic, and the themes contain an almost universal quality, laying out ideas like grace, compassion, vengeance, humility, karma, and repentance.

We also get to see themes arise in the substance of the characters themselves, which can be seen in the juxtaposition between Himura Kenshin and Saito Hajime, warriors who were enemies during the rebellion, but find themselves allies during the Kyoto Arc. They have very different fighting styles and opposing personalites. And, most significant thematically, they stand for different things, at least during the postwar years: Kenshin is about peace, life, and reconciliation, while Saito’s focus continues to be on the Shinsengumi code, Aku Soku Zan (Swift Death to Evil).

The characters fall dramatically to their ends of the spectrum – Kenshin is so caught up in non-violence that he actually devalues his own life. I would argue this is the result of the repentance he tries to build through his double-edged sword, not simply because of a promise he made after his time with Tomoe, but because he can’t get rid of the blood on his hands. But he tries by saving others and keeping a commitment to shed no blood, almost in a death wish sort of manner. Strangely enough, that takes something away from his sacrifice, since he (at least earlier in the series) doesn’t seem to value his life as he should.

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Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki and Laying Down Your Life

One of my favorite anime antagonists is Shishio, the evildoer from the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin.  Shishio looks like a mummy, replaced Kenshin as the battousai, is never really bested by Kenshin with the sword, and in the dubbed version of the show, he’s voiced by always-awesome Steven Blum.  What’s not to love (or hate)?

As Kenshin goes on a journey to defeat Shishio, the hero realizes early on that he’s not strong enough as is to defeat him.  To gain the necessary skills to stop Shishio, Kenshin returns to his old master, Seijuro, to learn an ultimate skill.  His sensei ultimately presses him into developing the technique, Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki (episode 43).  But the most interesting thing isn’t the technique itself – it’s how the disciple learns it.  Ultimately, it must be learned by using it on one’s teacher in an attempt to break the sensei’s otherwise unbreakable defense. And in doing so, the learner kills his master.

Seijuro lays down his life to teach the technique to Kenshin.

Seijuro falling to his apparent death

Seijuro falling to his apparent death

This teaching seems a bit extreme – but this is anime after all.  Reminiscent of Unohana’s teaching of Kenpachi in Bleach, there has to be great sacrifice for the result that’s received.  And although Seijuro doesn’t actually die – Kenshin is using his reverse blade, after all – is there any question that this noble and hard man wouldn’t be willing to die in this situation, having determined, finally, that Kenshin is worthy of learning it?

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Something More: Redeeming Kenshin, Protestors at Fanime, and Plastic Memory Moments

The title character’s quest for redemption in the Rurouni Kenshin OVA’s contrasts sharply with the Christian idea of our own lack of power in redeeming ourselves. [Lady Hannah Beth]

I’m a few weeks late in this linking , but since you’ll see Anime Reporter on this blog later today, it’s relevant to post a recent editorial he wrote about Ireland’s marriage equality referendum. [Anime Reporter]

The importance of living for the moment, as emphasized in episode 8 of Plastic Memories, reminds of the immediacy of salvation. [Christian Anime Review]

Is OreGairu’s Hayama a Pharisee? Perhaps… [2]

Speaking of OreGairu, the Bible warns of people like the collaborating student council’s crazy hands man. [3]

The Droid’s FanimeCon 2015 experienced started as many conventions do – with religious protestors at the event’s entrance. [AniRecs]

Casey Covel enjoyed volume 2 of Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and also finds that Christian readers may be able to relate specifically well to it’s diminutive lead. [Geeks Under Grace]

As part of the Something More series of posts, 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 to be included.

Top 5 + Guest: Five Best Anime EVER!

If you were to try to create an objective list of the greatest anime of all time, what would you put in the top five?  Fullmetal Alchemist, perhaps?  Mushi-shi?  And would Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke be the Ghibli representative on the list?

It’s an impossible task – there are so many great anime and it’s so hard to be objective.  If we assembled together 100 anime “experts” (otaku, assemble!), we could probably craft a pretty good list, but no one would be satisfied with it.  I certainly wouldn’t, as I lean more toward series that I love – my favorites – rather than those I respect as ones I consider “best.”

But you know what?  It’s a fun exercise to see what everyone would come up with for their list of, say, the five best anime EVERRRRR.  And to that end, please check out some of our picks below!  We’re joined this month by Justin, the editor-in-chief and founder of Organizational Anti-Social Geniuses, a terrific blog of all things anime and manga industry-related.

Oh, and please share with us your top five in the comment section below!

Justin’s Picks

  1. Hunter x Hunter
  2. Kill la Kill
  3. Usagi Drop
  4. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
  5. Mawaru Penguindrum

hunter x hunter 1 copyConsidering I still have a long way to go in watching anime, I can expect this current Top 5 list to change 5 years from now, when I’m 30 and traveling to Japan for some random reason. But at this present time, these are probably my Top 5 anime, narrowly edging out Rainbow and only a paltry mention of Death Note to suffice. The 5 I chose I think are worthy though. Mawaru Penguindrum was the first Ikuhara anime I tried, and it was 24 (or so) weeks of absolute chaos, stress, and joy, and boy I was not sure what to make of this anime when I finished it the first time. I then watched it a second time some years ago and, instead of feeling conflicted, I’m convinced this is definitely a great show. It’s just narrowly behind Madoka, which I burned through in a day like a madman with its story, its imagery, and the themes it presented. However, these two shows, which aired in 2011, couldn’t knock off what was my favorite anime ever, Usagi Drop. The relationship between Rin and Daikichi managed to work, along with its visuals and sound, and considering I started taking anime seriously four years ago, this was a welcome anime to watch each week, then re-watch a year later. But it’s reign ended at my top only two years later, as two shows that ended in 2014 knocked it off its perch. The first was Kill la Kill. It’s frenetic, crazy pace made a big impression on me, and after its first episode, was entertained from start to finish. This just beat Usagi Drop from my top spot. Then, Hunter x Hunter happened. How can a 148 episode show be on top? Make no mistake, this was not a perfect show. It even had an arc where I was less than impressed. Yet, the more I think about how it ended, and the more I thought about the arcs where they were excellent, and the more I think back to episodes that made me realize why I became an anime fan, the more I couldn’t deny Gon and his crew from being at the top of my Top 5 anime ever despite some imperfections. I can’t profess to these being the very best, but if nothing else, they are one of the many best out there. 

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Rurouni Kenshin: Lay Me Down

If I’m being completely honest, part of what originally drew me to anime (and what draws many people, I think) was the intensity of violence in some series and movies.  Princess Mononoke was the first anime I watched that I knew was Japanese in origin, and the violence of it, though tame by some standards, both totally threw me off and absorbed me.  The same could be said of Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen (Trust and Betrayal), which doubly surprised me because my experience of Kenshin up to that point had been the mostly bloodless kind from sixty-odd episodes of the series.

kenshin and tomoe

Tsuiokuhen makes no qualms of how bloody it’s going to be right from the start, as a group of bandits mercilessly brutalizes a traveling slave caravan, including the young Himura.  The bandits, in turn, are dealt with in an even bloodier manner by Seijuro, who will become Himura’s teacher.

The focus of the entire Kenshin franchise is not on violence, however – at least not the lethal kind.  The emphasis is on Kenshin’s vow to save others by his sword without taking human life.  And although a few different events later in the battousai’s life have an affect on how he develops this ideology, you could say it all began in that caravan when he was protected by women whom he’d only known for perhaps a few days, or maybe even just a few hours.

Let me paint the scene, if you no longer remember it, or if you’ve never seen it.  Kenshin is a young boy at this point.  He walks alongside a group of individuals – slave traders and slaves – on the way to some destination.  When the bandits come and slay everyone in the caravan, Kenshin is left as the lone survivor, and only because of this – the women in the caravan cover Kenshin with their own bodies, pleading to the young boy that he’ll continue to survive, as they are all eventually tortured and killed before his very eyes.  Those acts of heroism buy enough time for Seijuro, who has detected the bandits’ presence, to arrive and slay the bad guys.

Kenshin, unsurprisingly, is forever changed.  All throughout the next day, he uses his two little hands to bury the dead, the women (who receive special burial), slave traders, and bandits alike.  And it’s here that Kenshin begins the path toward giving his sword for a greater cause (even if it takes another tragedy, and lots of war, for him to finally transform fully).  He gives his sword and his life as a commitment in devotion to the unnamed women who sacrificed their lives for him.

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Fact Check: Aldnoah.Zero’s Sins

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito.  When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:

Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.

The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.

Fact Check

Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them.  I think perhaps few would dispute this portion.  Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions.  From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide.  But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.

In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words.  He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five.  And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.

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Something More: Barakamon Christianity, Valkyria’s Salvation, and the Rapture of Tenchi Masaki

In the first two episodes of the Barakamon, Frank finds important points that all experienced Christians should probably take under consideration. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds an analogy for the rapture in Tenchi Forever, and examines why that film captures the essence of the rapture better than explicitly Christian depictions of it do. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What does Saber Marionette J have to say about the value of family? Plenty, and even from a Catholic perspective. [Medieval Otaku]

Medieval Otaku also explores that unusual path and perplexing salvation of Valkyria in Brynhildr in the Darkness. [2]

Finally, he explores Nadia’s vanity in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, and discusses snobbery in a number of different groups, including that of the religious. [3]

Rocklobster reviews Rurouni Kenshin (TV), and is perhaps one of the few to really enjoy the story arc featuring Japanese Christians. [Lobster Quadrille]

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. 

Take Four – March 2014

Hanamonogatari Announcement and Promo – Kaze

Art by koflif

Hanamonogatari was announced to air as a 5 episode series after Nisekoi finishes. At 5 episodes, at least it won’t be getting the Neko Kuro treatment. This will bring a close to the adaptation of the 2nd season of the Monogatari series. The 3rd season of books is also nearing an end as the final pat of Owarimonogatari is slated to release early April, leaving only one volume left. However, if Nisio’s history with these novels is indicative of anything, we can probably expect several books, delays, and potentially even more volumes before the series really comes to a close. Regardless, the real question on all our minds is, of course, when will they give us Kizu?

kenshin and shishioShishio Revealed in New Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film Trailers – TWWK

I’ve still yet to watch the first live-action Rurouni Kenshin film, but I couldn’t pass up mentioning that the trailers for the next two movies, opening on August 1st and September 13th, respectively, in Japan, feature that bandage villain among villains, Shishio!  I’m definitely excited to see the Kyoto Arc brought to life, as it remains my favorite shounen quest/journey/tournament arc in anime.  And judging from the positive response to the first film, there’s high hopes that these remaining ones will deliver!  Check out the trailer below:

A New Vocaloid Game… Without Miku! – Japesland


Art by 野々原K

If you haven’t noticed yet, I am an unabashed Vocaloid nut. While I don’t have the time (nor, sometimes, the energy) to stay up with all of the popular producers or voice banks being released, I am always excited to see new Vocaloid announcements. Additionally, I have been hyped for months about the new Project DIVA game, F 2nd (which just released last Thursday and finally arrived at my post office on Monday). Needless to say, I was not expecting another company to begin a new Vocaloid-centric rhythm game any time soon due to the competition, but lo and behold, a game featuring one of my favorite Vocaloids was announced! If you are not familiar, I recommend checking out some songs using IA’s voice, particularly those in the Kagerou Project written by one of my favorite producers, Jin (Shizen no Teki-P). Imagination Forest is a good place to start, and I hope it gets you as excited as I am for this new release!

Nanoha Series Get Blu Ray Releases – KazeNanoha BD

All 3 Nanoha seasons will finally be getting blu ray releases near the end of this year. While I do admit there are flaws with the show, I am still a huge fan of the series, so I greatly look forward to seeing this iconic series getting some nice animation upgrades. Granted, I am one of many fans who believe the movie adaptation of the first season is superior in every way, animation included; however, I will no doubt be re-watching the later 2 seasons when they become available.  Of course, I recommend people to join me, as Nanoha A’s is pretty much the pinnacle of the Mahou Shoujo genre (another reason for my dislike of the Madoka fanbase, although the crossovers were quite amusing). There’s also a new movie in the works that’s supposedly coming out this year, but not much news on that front.

Something More: Kenshin’s Journey Toward Mercy, Bad Catholics in Maoyu, and Dreams of a Christian Japan

This week has been full of great articles involving religion and spirituality!  Unfortunately, I may have missed a few – the move from Google Reader to Feedly has been largely snag free, until this week, when I found that their latest update has omitted the search feature.  RSS users beware.

Anyway, onto the articles!

Medieval Otaku posts his academic essay on how Kenshin’s journey in the first two OVA’s (Trust and Betrayal/Samurai X) parallel to St. Bonaventure’s steps leading to God in Journey of the Mind to God. [Medieval Otaku]

Lady Geek Girl has a real issue with how the Catholic Church is represented in some series and movies, and uses Maoyuu Maou Yuusha as an example. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Justin notes an emphasis on religion in the Attack on Titan anime as compared to the manga. [Organization Anti-Social Geniuses]

Draggle draws connections between the act of a benediction and this week’s disturbing episode of Aku no Hana. [Draggle’s Anime Blog]

Zeroe4 makes a distinction between his “calling to anime” and his dream for Japan. [Zeroe4]

D.M. Dutcher offers reviews of Another and Girls Und Panzer that are directed toward Christian viewers. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]


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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