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Guest Post: Tokyo Ghoul and the Nature of Repentance in the Midst of Sin

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.

Tokyo Ghoul 1

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.

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Anime Today: Eternal Judgment (Parade?)

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.

death parade 1

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

Fact Check: Mikasa’s Cruel World

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.

The Claim

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.

snk 2a

Fact Check

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.

Read the rest of this entry

Check Out Our New Banner!

2014 was a year of transformation for Beneath the Tangles. While our emphasis remains on blogging anime, we’ve looked toward other topics and mediums as we seek to engage our readers in all sorts of Japanese-related topics from our unique perspective.  For instance, you’ve hopefully listened to our monthly podcast and you may have tuned in to our live stream (more from that very soon, by the way).

To reflect these shifts, we’ve added a new banner – our first original one as it were.  I sought assistance from Genevieve of PandaPad.Com, having some familiarity with her wonderful artwork, and she agreed to donate her time and abilities.  The wonderful banner above is the result.  In Genevieve’s words, “It represents the continuous spiritual battle to cut off the sometimes attractive yet entangling sin in a believer’s life.”

Thank you so much, Genevieve!  And another thanks, too, to Marina, who developed the banners we used for so many years.

If you’d like to check out more of Genevieve’s art, check out these her sites below:

website | facebook | twitter | deviantart

Something More: Pandora Sins, Avatar Religion, and Your Friendship in April

Christmas is less than two weeks away!  I can hardly wait!  On Beneath the Tangles, we’ll be doing the special series of posts we do every year, and I hope that the anime blogosphere will deliver some thoughtful posts about the season as well.  Until then, visit the great trio of wonderful articles linked below:

The very existence of Oz Vessalius, as told to him in Pandora Hearts, tells us about the nature of sin. [Old Line Elephant]

The last of three Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel trilogies, The Rift, explores the question of ancient tradition in a modern world. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Episode 6 of Your Lie in April demonstrates the special friendship between Tsubaki and Kousei, one that reflects the sacrifical call of loving friendships in the Bible. [Christian Anime Review]

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.

Grisaia no Kajitsu Episode 6: Reason for Existence

Okay, first of all, wow. The anime turned the speed up to 11, and we got an entire route in a single episode (and getting a full route next episode too!). To be kind of fair, I predicted large amount of cutting for Yumiko’s route because it was heavy on romance and related things which would cause conflicting plot points if they were included. Furthermore, I probably liked Yumiko’s route least. She’s a fake Gahara with very little personality and her route was basically a melting pot of ojou route tropes, so I really don’t care what kind of butchery they did to her. Even so, it honestly wasn’t super terrible so much as a weird choice to do a “route” like this. That said, this brings into question whether they are just making room for the highly praised (except by me) Amane route or are planning to do the 2nd game Meikyuu as well in the last 2 episodes (length wise, it is about as long as a single route). At this point, I’d be happy to get Meikyuu because then I’d get to write on some more interesting themes that I was debating how to approach should it not be aired. Anyway, let’s move on to the actual episode.

The episode begins with a flashback to when Yumiko decided to stab a schoolmate who was gossiping about her. JB is seen talking to Yumiko’s father who wants to Yumiko to be raised properly as his heir (through any means necessary). He decides to have her “attacked” by his own men.

Cutting people is a great solution

Cutting people is a great solution

Great logic runs in the family, I guess

Great logic runs in the family, I guess

Yumiko leaves the dorm by herself, and Yuuji abruptly follows her out. JB told him that he was ordered to act as her bodyguard, but lose the fight on purpose. Meanwhile, Yumiko is drawing because she says it lets her avoid talking to people. It starts raining and some suspicious men come to attack. Yuuji swiftly beats them up and runs away with Yumiko. She wonders how Yuuji can be so strong and talks about her past. Her mother was condemned for giving birth to Yumiko, a girl, instead of a male heir. They were rejected by their family, and even Yumiko’s mother regrets “if only you were a boy.” Although her father later had a male child through another woman, he died, and her father was forced to accept Yumiko as his heir. Yumiko was ridiculed by everyone because of this, and her father was only interested in raising her as an heir. As a result, Yumiko attacked her classmate, and her father decided to build the school as a birdcage for her.

Nothing, don't worry about it.

Nothing, don’t worry about it.

Not stabbing people might be a good start.

Not stabbing people might be a good start.

Punch punch wham

Punch punch wham

Because science

Because science

Rich people logic: build enormous school as a prison for daughter

Rich people logic: build enormous school as a prison for daughter

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Fact Check: Heaven’s Feels’ (Im)Morality of Life

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.

Warning: Today’s post contains massive spoilers for the ending of Heaven’s Feel, the third arc of Fate/Stay Night. Also note that this is taken from Fate/Stay Night: Realta Nua, the all ages adaptation of the visual novel Fate/Stay Night.

The Claim

The following is a conversation between Shirou and Kirei in the final showdown of Heaven’s Feel, English translation courtesy of Beast’s Lair.

Kotomine: “What is good and evil? Are you saying murder is an absolute evil?

…There is no answer from the start. That’s what humans are like. There is no clear answer, and they accept a changing truth. We have no absolute truth from the very beginning.

Humans have both good and evil, and it’s up to you to decide which is which. The start is at zero, and there is no crime in being born. I thought I’d already told you.”

Shirou: “—-Yeah. You said there’s no crime in the baby even if it’s evil.”

Kotomine: “Correct. Humans become good or evil through learning.

A certain scripture mentions that humans are superior beings to angels. Why? Because there are people who know of evil, but do not become evil. It’s different from angels, who only know of good since birth. Humans have evil, but can live as good, so they are superior to angels, who only know of good.

—-And at the same time.

There are rare moments of goodwill shown by evil men. There are bad intentions shown on a whim by saints. The contradiction. The coexistence of good and evil is the Holy Grail that makes people human. Living is a crime by itself, and there are punishments because one is alive. Good exists with life, and evil exists with life.


—-You cannot inquire about the crime of one who has not yet been born.

There is no existence that is born as evil, that is unwanted by everyone.

It has no reason to be punished until it is born.”

Kotomine Kirei’s claim is this: the unborn are innocent of any evil and can only be confirmed of evil after their birth by considering their thoughts and deeds.

Fate/Stay Night: Realta Nua Read the rest of this entry

Terror in Resonance Episode 10: Fine Line

One week left.  Just one week…

Episode 10 of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) continues to press this ambitious story forward at breakneck speed.  In twenty-something minutes, we get Nine’s arrest, Twelve’s rescue, Shibazaki’s confrontation of Mamiya, Five’s killing of her handler, and Five’s suicide, enough action to fill two episodes.  But somehow, Watanabe is able to keep the series clarity, and it all works to create a tone of desperation and anxiety, a literally explosive ending is on the horizon.

znt five death

What I found most interested in this episode was how the show, which has mildly asked us to ask who the villains are all along, really hits that question hard in this episode.  Some villains are clear, like Mamiya (though perhaps many will find his motive patriotic and honorable, if his actions were reprehensible).  Others are more difficult to put a finger on, like Five, who while killing without abandon and putting innocents at danger, is herself a victim of the worst kind of childhood abuse.

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Terror in Resonance Episode 9: Two-Way Gospel

The rules and structure of the early episodes of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) have long been forgotten.  We’re now on a tense, thrilling ride to the end, where uncovering of the truth and simply guessing what will happen next leads to breathtaking moments as much as the action sequences.

Episode nine of Terror in Resonance follows our three heroes, who only a couple of episodes ago were briefly brought together, as they go separate ways.  Nine speeds up Sphinx’s ultimate plan; Shibazaki finds out the horrible truth; and Twelves dives into a trap to rescue Lisa.

zankyo no terror

First, let’s talk Shibazaki, whose heroics continue to enthrall.  Though his storyline could be mundane and boring, Shinichiro Watanabe uses his character well to uncover the past of Five, Nine, Twelve, and the other children (who we now know did not survive).  It’s a wonderful plot device, as we grow to root for another character whose journey garners our interest, when more conventional anime storytelling would have just revealed the entire background in flashback sequences.

Shibazaki’s investigation in this episode also further reveals the deep, troublesome questions at the heart of the series – the depths of evil that humanity is capable of.  Indeed, the comparison is made to the awful experiments that the Nazis conducted on undesirables, which fits more than just at a surface level.  The older gentleman that Shibazaki and his partner question seems quite reasonable, and indeed, he tries to subtly shift blame for his activities.  But Shibazaki directs a question to him, and to the audience as well – at what point are we complicit, where standing idly by, or just following directions, makes us culpable in wrong?  The depravity of humanity is such that too many people, both in the past (particularly during World War II) and today, cross that line and never turn back.

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Blue Spring Ride Episode 10: Realization and Confession

The more I watch Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), the more I see myself in Futaba.  And that’s unsettling, not because of her faults, but lately because of her strengths, which are more on display in episode ten than in any of the others to date.

This episode begins where the last left off, with the group of five new friends continuing to study at Kou’s residence, though now, Futuba is unable to concentrate as the envy bug has bitten her.  In the last episode, it was Yuri who felt envy at the special relationship between Kou and Futuba, but now it’s the other girl’s turn to feel the same as she wonders what the “nothing” is that the her friend and ex share.  It eats her up inside and, as is her character, Futaba is so consumed with it that she goes back to Kou’s house, after everyone has left, to confront him.  And there she discovers the secret that Yuri had stepped into – Kou’s mother is deceased, and this is the reason for his change in personality.

Ao haru ride

So sly, Futuba, with eyes not looking at the study material. So sly.

This sequence of events is probably something most of us can relate to.  We think one thing of a person and later find out that we failed to realize something else.  For instance, we might honk at a car in front of us who’s driving far below the speed limit, only to pass it and find an elderly person behind the wheel (though to be honest, we might’ve honked even knowing that).  Or we might get mad at a friend who’s late for dinner, only to later discover it wasn’t her fault.

In my life, this episode was timely, as I had just finished having an episode of my own with my wife.  Our fights sometimes work along these lines – one person gets mad at the other for being inconsiderate or not supportive enough, only to find that the other person has a burden of his or her own and just didn’t have enough left to give.  And per usual, once this comes out, understanding abounds and both sides pour out love and forgiveness.

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