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
Lately, I’ve been watching an anime called “The World God Only Knows” (referred to as TWGOK from here on in). For anyone who hasn’t seen or heard of it, I’ll give a brief plot explanation, without any spoilers (or, without anything you won’t learn in episode one). The anime follows the story of a “professional dating simmer” (this guy plays dating sims all but 24/7), Keima, who has become known famously online as “the god of conquest” for his ability to “conquer any girl”. In hell, some “souls” have escaped, and a demon, Elsie, is sent to capture them. Thinking the “god of conquest” is her best chance, she invites him into a contract – he, thinking it is a game challenge, accepts. Only after she explains what the reality is does he understand what he’s agreed to.
Bound by a contract that must be completed (or they will die), they have to find these loose souls and capture them. The problem is, these loose souls hide in people – people with spaces in their hearts (in the show, all females). Those spaces have to be filled – by love – before the soul will be pushed out and can be caught. Naturally, as a guy who lives on dating sims, the main character has hardly spoken to a real woman (and prefers those in his games). Yet, he has no choice but to help complete the quest.
Perhaps it’s my brain’s ability to make weird connections to things, but watching this anime, I can’t help but be reminded of our call as Christians to save the lost, and also the reminder that we are not battling an earthly enemy, but a spiritual enemy.
In TWGOK, the souls that inhabit people with emptiness in their hearts are meant to be those of demons. If left long enough, these souls can gain strength and manifest in the world. Ironically, this is fairly similar to how demons work, as far as we can understand from the Bible. Naturally, demons have one purpose – to aid the Devil in drawing us away from God. It is far, far easier to attack someone who has an “emptiness” in their heart, than it is to attack someone who has no room for a demon to get their foot in the door of your life.
In episode five of Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider (Subete ga F ni Naru), the director’s wife serves tea and cookies to Sohei, Moe, and the associate director, during which time Moe subjects the woman to tough questions. Even though the widower says she’s trying to keep herself from thinking about her husband’s murder, she just doesn’t seem that broken up. He died mere hours before via a knife to the back of the neck, but eh, she’s mostly fine.
Denial, or is she feeling justice has been served?
I wonder if the director’s wife knows what’s now been revealed to the audience, that the director, Shiki’s uncle (or “uncle”), had an affair with his niece when she was underage. Maybe she also knows that her husband (possibly) had some role in the deaths of Shiki’s parents.
And in the end, perhaps the director’s wife is relieved at this comeuppance. He got was what coming to him.
Hidden from the view of the world (with the possible exception of a few intimate people who may have had knowledge of it, as I suggest above) is this affair between Seiji and Shiki. But even in secret, Seiji, who though he was being manipulated was still absolutely at fault for committing such acts outside of his marriage with an minor, paid the price. He was destroyed by his sin.
The sins we commit, and often particularly the “big” ones (which happen to be those we usually hide) can destroy us. They beget sin after sin as we hid the original one, and they prevent us from reconciling with God and thus from strengthening our relationship with him. And as we effectively sever that relationship, it’s no surprise that such sins might destroy us.
I’ve come close to such an experience myself.
I previously likened God to a yandere. This time I am likening Christians to a tsundere, a real tsundere, or at least an actually well-written tsundere. I previously alluded to “real” tsunderes being far better than the average achetype we get nowadays, but let’s go a bit more in depth as we explore this comparsion. While not a requirement to the archetype, many tsundere start off with a bad relationship. Like people who do not yet know God or have had bad experiences, they reject everything about their partner and refuse to acknowledge them as equals let alone as potential love interests. However, the comparison only begins once people become interested in Christianity and forming a relationship with God. It is here that people reach an unfamiliar territory and struggle with how to approach this new relationship. From a mixture of pride and embarrassment, tsundere find it hard to admit their true feelings. In a similar way, it is hard for us to acknowledge that we are not in control of our lives, and that we must follow God completely. It is important to remember here and throughout that this is a comparison of Christian believers. Non-Christians are not tsundere for God (though you could make an argument for that based on the “new definition” of tsundere), and thus it is important to keep this analogy in reference to yourself and not impose it on others.
A tsundere is most well known for her abuse of the person she actually likes. It is repetitive to the point of annoyance and no matter how much she apologizes for it, she always seems to fall back into the same habits. While the abuse can vary from simply ignoring the person to something as absurd as violent rampaging that you would only ever see in anime, this repetition can grow to be quite annoying to viewers and is no doubt a reason for the archetype’s negative image. But as you might have already guessed by now, this repetition of hurting the one you claim to love is very reminiscent of how Christians treat God. Even though we have chosen to follow God, there is no one who ceases to sin. We continue to sin again and again; no matter how much time passes, we seem to only be able to stumble yet again. It’s a very repetitive and tiresome process. This constant sinning against God despite claiming that we regret and don’t want to is very similar to the tsundere who always reacts so cruelly despite being in love.
One thing to understand, however, is that while a tsundere constantly hurts the target of her affection, a tsundere also constantly hates herself for this. This is so important and one of the most misunderstood aspects (or rather, most skipped over aspects in writing) of a tsundere because a true tsundere is able to acknowledge her true feelings but is unable to act in accordance with it. More than a cycle of repetitive actions as a result of bad writing, a well written tsundere expresses frustration at herself for this very characteristic. She seeks to overcome her own selfishness and harshness and act according to her true feelings, but for some reason it never goes right and the cycle repeats. The frustration at herself for harming the person she likes is indeed just like how we treat God. This is the same repetitive and sometimes frustrating cycle of the life of a tsundere.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15
I recently watched the Digimon live stream of the entire first season. It was a pretty fun, nostalgic watch, especially reading all the live comments from other fans made for a more interesting experience. I realized several things about Digimon that ran counter to my thoughts based on a mixture of nostalgia, realism, and incorrect memories. I initially recall Digimon being slowly paced, but its pacing is actually pretty darn good. While suffering the syndrome of “monster of the week,” each episode provides necessary growth of the characters (in this case, literal digivolving). When you think about it, they put in 5 arcs into 54 episodes, which made for little downtime.
A fun fact I realized is the battle in the real world takes place in Odaiba, and the famous Tokyo Big Sight is featured several times. Since the time period was also early August, this further meant the battle occurred just prior to summer Comiket! The chat had some fun joking that Digimon was really about saving Comiket. Also, apparently the soundtrack abused Bolero a lot more than I recall. Sometimes it didn’t even make sense to be playing such a song but there it was, playing in the background. Aside from obvious usage of stock footage, I also realized Digimon is quite poorly animated at times. Abrupt scene transitions and points where a couple seconds were very clearly cut indicates that there were some production issues, or possibly simply due to episode time constraints and not caring how bad the results looked. There were numerous places I couldn’t help but admit “yeah, this is some really bad animation quality,” but hey it’s Digimon, one of my most nostalgic childhood shows, so whatever.
One of the most impactful moments in Digimon to me as a child was the digivolution of Greymon into Skullgreymon. Rewatching it was…well a lot less exciting than I recall. Instead, a statement later on is made that I must have forgotten. I recalled Taichi’s forced methods as a cause of Greymon’s incorrect evolution. However, the reason was slightly different in that it was an incorrect display of courage – but technically courage nonetheless. Taichi does display a form of courage, what his crest resembles, but it was one where he purposely put himself in danger for the sake of power. It was not the forceful actions but rather a twisted form of courage which gave birth to Skullgreymon.
Christianity is known for many things today, oftentimes bad things. There are too many outspoken people who call themselves Christians while spewing hate and slander towards others. It is amazing that these people can claim to love Jesus and God while wishing death upon others. It is perhaps an extreme, modern example of the Pharisees, except these people today do not even necessarily hold positions of power or education. They are merely people who put others down to raise themselves up, at least in their own minds. This cannot even be called a twisted form of love – it is malice, plain and simple.
But what about more “normal,” everyday Christians? There are plenty of examples of Christians who don’t condemn others. Some might not be able to help judging, but they do have enough self-control to stop themselves from acting on those thoughts. In fact, some Christians are so inclined to avoid conflict, they won’t even bring up these issues with their fellow Christians. And this avoidance is the opposite problem of condemning people who aren’t Christians. It is a problem that probably crosses the mind of most Christians at some point in time, but very few will actually bring the topic up, perhaps afraid of confrontation. Those who do are often quickly shut down with excuses like “it’s not a big deal.” And I’m not necessarily referring to extreme problems like murder but smaller, everyday sins that, while understandable, are nonetheless wrong.
Allowing such actions by fellow Christians to occur right in front of us might be called a form of love for them – we are willing to accept them despite their flaws, forget their struggles with sin, and focus only on loving them for who they are. But in reality, like Taichi’s twisted form of courage, this is a twisted form of love. Read the rest of this entry
As much as I enjoy Clannad (I’ve written more than a half-dozen articles on the series), it’s not my favorite Key anime. My very favorite series of theirs, and one my favorites period, is Kanon. As probably is the case for a lot of you and your top series, it’s difficult for me to explain why I love the show so much. I know I like the wintry setting. I like the “sad girls in snow” thing that’s going on. And most pronouncedly, I like angel-winged Ayu Tsukimiya, who stands as one of my favorite two or three characters in anime. Despite, or maybe cause of, her foibles (thief!), faults, and childishness, I find her character irresistible.
But the central character in Kanon, as with other Key anime, is not the girl – it’s a guy. Yuichi Aizawa, our hero, is a good lead – he’s kind and has a lot of personality. The story begins with him moving to a slightly mystical town to attend school and live with his aunt and cousin. He’d lived here as a child, but a traumatic event led him away (and caused him to lose part of his memory). As the story progresses, Yuichi meets (or reconnects) with a cast of characters, and one by one, he helps them with their sometimes supernatural issues. (Warning: Spoilers Ahead).
And that’s most of the show – Yuichi helping these girls with their problems. He’s compelled to aid them by a sense of kindness, and with maybe only Nayuki being an exception, he helps bring a modicum of healing to them all – physical, emotional, spiritual. Yuichi’s presence and instigation helps resolve these young ladies’ deep-seated problems.
Of course, the most dramatic path of all is the one that’s left for the end – Ayu’s story. As the pieces come together – little hints here and there that showed us Ayu wasn’t quite present – we find out that she and Yuichi are connected in the most painful of ways. Read the rest of this entry
I’m proud to present an article today on Tokyo Ghoul from KnightofCalvary, a graduating seminary student and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserves and former A.D. Vision partner through Suncoast and Anime Central. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, send us a pitch via email.
As a concept, I don’t typically watch anime with the level of violence and gore that Tokyo Ghoul has. However, I’m also not entirely opposed to doing so strictly on the basis of the level of violence. Rather, I’m often left with feelings of disappointment from such anime due to shortfalls in storytelling or character development. Tokyo Ghoul definitely sets itself a part in that respect. It is both heavily violent and well done in terms of storytelling and development of its characters, particularly the main character, Ken Kaneki.
Spoilers to follow.
Poorly fortuned Kaneki is turned into a human eating ghoul following what can only be described as the worst streak of bad luck ever. After surviving an encounter with a female ghoul that attempts to eat him, he ends up in the hospital following the attack and ends up with her organs being transplanted to him to save his life. This results in Kaneki becoming half-ghoul and half-human. The remainder of the first season is spent dealing with Kaneki’s newly found identity issues, integration as a ghoul, conflicts with the police enforcement agency specializing in tracking and destroying ghouls and in the middle of all of this, struggling to maintain some sort of humanity. This effort to remain true to his human half however ultimately fails due to his overwhelming desire to protect those he cares about in the season 1 finale.
Picking up with season 2, Kaneki has fully embraced his new ghoul qualities and powers, however his desire to protect his friends leads him to something forbidden even for a ghoul which is cannibalism, that is a ghoul eating another ghoul. All this leads up to a fight at one point between Amon, an “anti-ghoul” investigator that Kaneki previously showed mercy to and himself. Now at this point in the story, Kaneki’s cannibalism has led to a rage like lack of self control and Amon says during the fight, “That’s all, right? An ordinary ghoul is all you are, right? That’s all, right?!” This snaps Kaneki out of his blind rage and after regaining his self control, he says “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. I was left with this powerful impression of our daily and constant struggles with sin.
If there is one thing of spiritual value that Death Parade has raised this season, it is the idea of eternal judgment. Considering that from its fundamental concept, the series explores the idea of determining a person’s final destination (or process), if not ultimate value, based on the human condition, it raises many questions for the spiritually minded. However, much like the “Emergent Church” movement, does Death Parade raise more questions than provide answers? That answer is difficult to determine.
Let’s walk through how Death Parade defines its version of judgment.
1) Judgment is not objective. Although the arbitrators are sculpted as much as possible to be objective (which they emphasize in their non-humanness), it is obvious that not all arbitrators are the same. They exude individual personalities, which, in turn, create different results. This is also obvious insomuch as Decim and Ginti quarrel, and insomuch as Decim shows a change in values based on his interactions with the judged as well as the unnamed female protagonist (女, or “woman”).
2) Judgment does not send someone to a final destination. This was described throughout the series as the concepts of “Heaven” and “Hell” are provided to the judged, but the reality is that they represent reincarnation and obliteration, respectively. The judged do not spend eternity in Heaven, nor eternity in Hell, they simply continue to exist as a human or they cease to exist at all.
3) The rules of judgment are not concrete. In episode 3, both humans are reincarnated. In episode 9, while not explicitly stated or shown, it seems as though both are obliterated. While these outcomes seem consistent with Decim’s judgment of their character, they are equally inconsistent with the idea that one person is to succeed in regard to the other’s failure.
What are the spiritual implications? Read the rest of this entry
Anime is full of references to religion, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality. And that’s the idea behind this column, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.
Today’s claim comes from Mikasa Ackerman during a flashback scene in episode six of Attack on Titan, “The World She Saw.” Perhaps the most famous quote from the popular series (well, except for Levi’s interesting remark about trees), these words arise during Mikasa’s fight for survival against a band of bandits when she was young:
The world is cruel, but also very beautiful.
The claim is very straightforward: this world is both painful and stunning.
Attack on Titan is sometimes difficult to follow, partially because we’re introduced to so many significant characters early on and are encouraged to root for them without getting to know them. Among the main characters, the Shiganshina trio – Eren, Mikasa, and Armin – it’s Mikasa that we know least about in the first half of season one. Not until episode six do we learn her back story.