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Something More: Holy (Menma) Ghost, the Infallible Bishamon, and Joseph Smith Agrees with Jun Maeda

There are so many great articles from the past couple of weeks (as well as a few I listed that I missed linking in the last column). I hope you’ll take some time to peruse the links below.

I want to start with the one that’s most meaningful to me, personally, written by D.M. Dutcher, an author and friend of this blog. Lately, he’s been watching a series called The 35th Anti-Magic Platoon (he is forever watching series or reading manga I’ve never heard of) and found a common trope in anime – that of a group of people who truly support each other, becoming strength for each other’s weaknesses. Unfortunately, the Dave’s experience, and mine, too, has been that those fictional Japanese characters and their relationships are much more real, and much more Christlike, than those found in church.

For me, church was an easy place to leave once I started college. As with Dave, I found it ritualistic and lacking in genuine relationships. Thankfully, God molded me through that time and led me to a church where, actually, I still struggled to find deep friendships, but where I did find people really trying to seek God and, more importantly, the woman who would become my wife; my relationship with her (and later my children) taught me so much more about real relationship with Christ than years of surface level friendships ever could.

God’s word is so clear in how we should seek him and in how we should love each other (the church). But largely, mostly, we’re disobedient, doing things for show or avoiding investing deeply in others. As I grow in my faith, I try to become that person I needed when I was younger, trying to reach out in love and care to those in the church. Because ultimately, if we’re just “playing church,” we’ve become the exact opposite of what God would want of us, and embarrassingly, demonstrate a Christlike life less well than moe anime girls.

Read Dave’s full article at his website, Cacao, put down the shovel!

>> Bear Your Troubles

Here are the rest of the articles I dug up this week!

I really like this article about how Menma of AnoHana isn’t just a ghost – she’s a good representation, as well, of what the Holy Ghost does in believers’ lives.

Sam also watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica recently, and found a strong parallel to poor discipleship in Sayaka and Kyoko’s relationship. He also dived into each of the character, comparing Madoka to a loving Christian, Homura to a legalistic Christian, Mami to a lonely Christian, Kyoko to a discouraged Christian, and Sayaka to a deceived Christian.

Socrates, Buddhism, St. Paul, and Joseph Smith all in Angel Beats? You bet.

Expelled from Paradise deals with the oft-discussed idea of utopian societies, something that the Bible discusses, too, albeit in a very different manner.

I’ve been reading about King Saul lately, so it’s very timely to read Matthew’s post on how the king lost his humanity, like how Lin chooses to do the same in Fullmetal Alchemist and how we do, too, when we choose to sin.

Bakuman is a highly-acclaimed series about creating manga; humans perhaps share a need to be artists in different ways and see art all around us, as demonstrated by the characteristics of the Creator. Teresa Christina also writes about introverts, who often want to retreat into their comfort zones, but spiritually speaking, where should that comfort zone be? And what can characters in OHSHC, Soul Eater, and Naruto tells us about introversion?

Medieval Otaku writes about a topic that’s been on my mind lately as well – the importance of committing information, like Bible verses (or chapters or books) to memory. Rote memorization gets a bad wrap, but as Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation demonstrates, it can actually support critical thinking skills.

The way Kirito is living (and sleeping) when Asuna first encounters him in Sword Art Online tells us much about how we should live in the here and now.

Did you watch the Bishamon mini-arc of Noragami Aragoto? It was very enthralling, and it brought up the questions of the infallibility of the divine.

Grave of the Fireflies should lead us to consider action, rather than simply feeling bad for an hour and moving on with our lives. Well, it’ll lead us to cry first; then we can do.

Not necessarily spiritual-related, but this anime comfort zone post reminded me of the different ways Christians approach media, and how the mindfulness of how we consume culture is maybe more important that what we consume (I think I’m personally Sword Art Online on the scale, btw).

The Egyptian god Medjed can be your romantic partner in a new otome game entitled, Egykoi! Egypt Kami to Koishi yo~. Oh, Japan…

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.

cover image art by みそら | reprinted w/permission

Throwback Thursdays: Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online began airing in 2012 . I was really excited for the show, but I wasn’t quite ready to get my hopes up after I had been so excited for Guilty Crown, which though pretty, wasn’t very good. I started watching the first episode. It was a bit slow until the climax, but I was really excited about the potential. And ultimately, Sword Art Online was amazing. I was blown away at how good the story was. Then the second story arc started, and I almost didn’t watch the second season because of it.

Sword Art Online is an anime adaption of a light novel series (it is the same universe as Accel World). The anime is currently two seasons long, and each season has two story arcs. They are Sword Art Online (SAO,) Alfheim Online (ALO,) Gun Gale Online (GGO,) and then the fourth arc that doesn’t take place in a new world.

sao 2

Spoilers to follow.

The first arc, SAO, is my favorite. Basically, the main character Kirito gets stuck inside a virtual reality game that can’t be exited and will kill you if you die in it. It is all about his struggle to beat the game and help everyone return to reality. In this arc we also get to meet Asuna, who becomes Kirito wife in the game.

The second arc takes place after Kirito and Asuna defeat SAO. Kirito is released from the game, but for some unknown reason, Asuna is not. Kirito finds out via different sources that a person who looks like Asuna is being held in a game called Alfheim Online. Kirito goes into it the despite trauma from SAO and tries to beat the game and rescue her. He also works with the police to find the culprit in the real world. This is the one arc that I really do hate.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Concrete Revolutio’s Moral Relativism, Evangelion’s Atheistic Approach, and SAO’s Virtually Christian Worldview

This past week, Sam, who recently started an aniblog after moving over from doing the same sort of blogging on Google+, wrote a series of articles about how the “family” in Gakkou Gurashi resembles the family of Christ. It reminded me of something that’s oft been on my mind these days – how believers are to take Christ on as a model for how we approach life:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’

– Matthew 16:24

We also imitate Christ’s relationships. As Christ is to the church, so should I be toward my wife; as Christ cares for his disciples, so should I look out for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; as God lovingly parents us, I should shower grace and love upon my children.

A newcomer to scripture, or many of those just unfamiliar with the text, expect to see a book full of rules and may question why the Bible doesn’t tell us how to approach certain situations in life, even those that are most common or critical. But as the Spirit leads, and as we spend more time in the word, we see how complex and dynamic scripture is, and how it does hold the keys to how we live life, no matter the situation, oftentimes expressed through how we see life modeled by the heroes of scripture, and most of all through Christ.

Sam’s article points out some of the ways in which we should act – sacrificially (Kurumi), faithfully (Rii), and joyfully (Yuki). All of these things, of course, come along we develop our relationships with Christ once we turn to him in faith and surrender.

Sam’s article are concise, excellent reads – I would suggest you take a look at his blog as a whole, and especially at this series of articles!  Start with the first in the series:

>> Exploring Family with Gakkou Gurashi (Part 1)

And now, onto the multitude of excellent articles from across the blogosphere the last several weeks!

The opening song to Concrete Revolutio speaks to moral relativism and nihilism, approaches that are very much at odds with a Christian worldview. [Medieval Otaku]

Inuyashiki presents the idea that the “soul” is what makes us human, not the physical, which may present a problem to those who don’t believe in a God. [Ricochet]

The idea of the “hero’s journey” is found in many stories, including anime, and often contain a supernatural element (including those that can allude to the Bible), with InuYasha and Hunter x Hunter serving as examples. [Lady Teresa Christina]

The kindness that Anna finds in Marnie in When Marnie Was There is that which lonely and hurting Christians need from fellow believers, and that which they can find in God. [2]

Neon Genesis Evangelion is often ridiculed for lacking in true substance, but does it really set up a confrontation between scientific and religious mindsets? [The Artifice]

Episode 2 of Young Black Jack demonstrates a Christian idea of sacrifice in an un-Christian circumstance. [Christian Anime Review]

Princess Kudelia wants to experience what it’s like to be among the orphans in G-Tekketsu, analogous to Christ as man. [3]

Yuu continues to press forward, despite terrible circumstances, in the last episode of Charlotte – Christians, too, have reason (better reason!) to do the same. [2]

Speaking of Charlotte, perhaps another reason Yuu was able to do what he did was because of that universal need for redemption. [Unsheathed]

The virtual world of Sword Art Online, and how the characters react to it, perhaps mirror how Christians and non-Christians approach life. [2]

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. Special thanks to Don of Zoopraxiscope Too for notifying me about the Inuyashiki post!

Annalyn’s Corner: Why am I alive?

“If I was born to die, then what was my reason for existing in this world?” —Konno Yuuki, SAO II.

Sword Art Online II has many faults, and some folks can’t take it seriously as a result. That’s a shame, because SAO deals with big issues that warrant serious discussion. The characters’ conversations in the last episode, especially, demanded my attention, though I decided to wait until it aired on Toonami to write about it.

First, some background (and spoilers):

Konno Yuuki and her mother contracted HIV in the events surrounded her traumatic birth, thanks to an infected blood transfusion. Before they realized what had happened, her father and sister were infected, too. She was able to live normally at first, but in fourth grade, her immune system began to fail. By the time we meet her in SAO, she has lost her entire family to AIDS, and she herself has been hospitalized for years. Virtual reality equipment allows her to escape from her pain and her hospital bed, into ALfheim Online. She is the best swordsman around—partially because she pretty much lives in ALO, and she gets plenty of practice. She appears to be a cheerful, happy girl.

Yuuki and Asuna celebrate another win in ALO (ep 24).

Yuuki and Asuna celebrate another win in ALO (ep 24).

Asuna befriends Yuuki in the game, and they become close, although Yuuki tries to push her away at first. Eventually, Asuna helps Yuuki experience as much of the outside world as possible from her hospital bed. In return, Yuuki encourages her to have a candid talk with her mother.

Yet Yuuki is still dying. In the end, surrounded by her friends in virtual reality, she says this:

“If I was born to die, then what was my reason for existing in this world? Without creating anything, or giving anything to anyone. Wasting so much machinery and medicine, causing the people around me trouble. Suffering, worrying… and if I were just going to disappear in the end, it would be better to die right now. I thought that so many times. “Why am I alive?” I wondered for so long, but… but I finally feel like I’ve found the answer. Even if there’s no reason, it’s okay for me to be alive. Because my last moments are of such fulfillment. I can end my journey surrounded by so many people, in the arms of the person I love.”

So, it’s okay to be alive because… you’re loved and feel fulfilled? Sorry, I’m not satisfied with that. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Death in Totoro, Pokemon Preaching, and Kirito’s Treasure

I’m always happy to link to aniblog posts that touch on spirituality, but sometimes this column is just chock full of amazing articles. I hope you’ll dig into the links below – they’re worth your read, starting with Matthew Newman’s post on Hare Kon and marriage.

For those unfamiliar (which included me until I read Matthew’s article), Hare Kon is a manga about a young lady who marries into a polygamous marriage. A really interesting concept, right? The post’s focus in on the marriage ceremony, in which the presiding pastor mentions the following with regret:

…God is weeping. Though God is lenient, He may not recognize this marriage…still times are changing…at least those of us who are here shall approve this.

This idea that the marriage occurring in the church in this manga is municipally-approved, but not necessarily God-approved, reminded me of the idea that Christians often fall into a hypocrisy they don’t realize, saying that God is the authority for all matters while forming a lifestyle that ultimately places a morality they’ve formed as a mix of culture, religion, family, etc. as the backbone of their lives. For instance, many will will protest about gay marriage, but I think for many that’s more a problem with their feelings of disgust toward homosexuality rather than reverence toward God’s word. After all, a state-mandated union is, well, mandated by the state; it doesn’t mean it’s a marriage in God’s eyes (and the same would certainly go for many – perhaps most – “traditional” marriages as well).

If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and is God is who he says he is and you’ve submitted to him as the ultimate king and authority in your life, let the Bible guide you. Dig into it. Treasure it. And study it – don’t let surface level readings determine your theology, but respect the word of God as something dynamic, deep, and multi-faceted that should humble you as you realize that it, and God, are far more complex than you had imagined.

Read Matthew’s thoughts on Hare Kon:

>> Manga and Theology: Unholy Matrimony

Here are other articles from around the blogosphere:

You’ve heard the theory that My Neighbor Totoro is about death, right? The writers at Lady Geek Girl investigate the claim in detail, looking at how this interpretation relates to the Shinto aspects of the story. [Lady Geek Girl]

We live like we play video games, seeking treasure to store here during our short time on earth. Maybe we should live like Sword Art Online’s Kirito, with a different treasure and different destination in mind. [UEM!]

If you’ll remember, when Pokemon was all the rage, many Christians pastors starting preaching against it as the work of the devil. However, Kelly Bornstedt, who very personally experienced such a sermon, instead finds a lot of Christ-affirming ideas in the franchise. [Geeks Under Grace]

Kiryu’s story in Classroom Crisis brings to mind that of Joseph, the boy with the many-colored coat who would become a commander over Egypt. [2]

Aniblogger Lazarinth replies to a blogger award with a rant on the silliness of faith (warning: contains foul language). [Fantasy and Anime]

Chagum puts his faith in Balsa to protect him in Moriboto, while we, too, have a guardian – but this once infallible and invincible. [Lady Teresa Christina]

Very initial planning for a “Christian Anime Con” is in the works. [Anime Revolution]

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. 

Anime and the Digital Church

More and more, ministries are streaming their services online or making websites where Christians (or people of other faiths) can watch, donate or be a part of the community. Facebook and other social media networks have become the place where hundreds, even thousands, come to share their life, struggles and ask for prayer. Even here at Beneath The Tangles, though it’s not a church or ministry with a pastor, many people read our articles and learn more about our Creator. This may not sound like the typical way church is done*, but it’s a trend that is growing rapidly every year.

There are actually several anime that highlight this format, and the two (there are more!) that I would like to mention are .hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. Each one is about people who log on to a server where they play an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and build community with one another. Each player has an avatar that looks like a person, or sometimes part human and part animal that they can use to talk with each other, fight, and even romance. Each episode shows the dynamics of the game actually start to affect the characters emotions and spill out into the real world.


For example, Kirigaya Kazuto and Yūki Asuna, whose avatars are famously named Kirito and Asuna, fall in love through the playing of the game and become romantically involved in real life. Their digital life affected their real lives, which can be also said for people who were in comas or died because of the game in both series.

.hack//Sign main characters Subaru and Tsukasa deal with real life situations that are sometimes resolved online or vice-versa, plan strategies or literally hack servers to stop people from going into comas induced by the games headgear. They even become very close friends and talk about their IRL (In Real Life) problems and get advice on them as well, just like many of us do online. This not only makes you feel for the character and the player, but often times as you watch the anime you forget that the avatars are being controlled by people outside the game. This can happen to us on social media or games, where we might blend the two aspects together and forget that these are real people we are talking to, not just text.


The .hack//Sign team all together!

Now, being part of a digital community of fellow believers isn’t a bad thing but there will always be that need to physically be a part of a group that share the same faith. Let’s face it, there are things that you would not share online nor are you accountable to anyone either. You can post lots of Christian posts, messages or verses but who is checking up on you when you are alone or going through life? Are you obliged to report to someone or at least have a one-on-one with an admin online?

Not at all. Read the rest of this entry

Top 5 + Guest: 5 Best Popular Anime Series

There’s a not-so-invisible chasm on the Internet between folks who tend to mostly watch popular series – such as those that air on American television – and viewers who watch a wider slate of shows.  Unfortunately, I think the latter group sometimes comes off as snobby (oh, your favorite series is Naruto, huh?), even though both sides are equally avid about their hobby.  Further, there are a lot of anime that are both popular and excellent.  And that’s what we’re focused on today – popular anime series that we also consider to be very, very good.

Our guest for today’s column is Anime Reporter, who over the past year and a half has developed a terrific aniblog with a huge index of anime reviews covering series old and new, popular and niche.  Check out his site – the Anime Reporter puts a lot of work into his excellent reviews!  And he also put a lot of work into his contribution below – one much lengthier than those we normally post from guests, but it’s worth the read (and maybe somehow appropriate when we’re talking about some series that have 10+ seasons in the books!).

Anime Reporter’s Picks

  1. Death Note
  2. One Piece
  3. Pokémon
  4. Attack on Titan
  5. Naruto

death note 1For me, a good anime is a good story, or at least one that resonates with the viewer personally. While each of my choices on this list were chosen primarily as top examples of popular anime series, each of them also ranks highly on my overall list of anime. Here’s why: Death Note is the immediate go-to when I want to draw a non-anime fan into the wonderful world of Japanese animation. Death Note is dark and driven, it’s twisted and tragic and it has exactly the right mix of psychological thriller and supernatural suspense to draw in viewers who are used to seeing the likes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead on Western television. Death Note is the top of this list because it’s not only a phenomenal example of a popular anime, but an exemplary piece of storytelling. Full stop.

One Piece is next on my list because it’s a great piece of anime in exactly the areas that Death Note isn’t. In all respects, it meets the criteria to be a pretty traditional Shonen. It’s got the virtuous, though not too bright hero, the seemingly impossible quest that makes up his life-goal and a series of intense, escalating battles. What sets it apart from other series is the blend of sheer hilarity, dysfunctional but deeply likeable characters and an acute awareness of exactly how and when to take itself seriously. The One Piece story spans years, even decades and it’s still very much the simple tale it was at its beginning but its characters and their goals have been allowed to grow and develop without dragging the story back. Good clean fun and a story that grows over the years, what more could you want?

Read the rest of this entry

Top 5 + Guest: Most Overrated Anime

There are a lot of really great anime out there.  There are a lot of really bad series, too.  And then there’s that subset of anime that are held in high esteem, but don’t deserve all the praise or popularity that they receive.  For our Top 5 + Guest post this month, we’re tackling those series that get a lot of love, but maybe deserve to get a little more hate.

Joining us today is Tommy of Anime Bowl.  A long-time aniblogger, Tommy’s unique site combines his passions of anime and sports.  He’s recently started a Toonami podcast and has just finished up his annual March Madness character tournament (I was defending champion in the pick ’em, but came in dead last this year).

And as always, tell us below how we messed up and what shows would make your list!

Tommy’s Picks

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  2. Attack on Titan
  3. Sword Art Online (I)
  4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
  5. Durarara!!

fma 4All my picks are incredibly popular shows which have appeared on Toonami/Adult Swim recently; shows that are household names amongst otaku, yet ultimately missing something that causes them to fall into mediocrity. The top choice is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which failed to live up to the reputation of its predecessor due to a reliance on deus ex machina – which will be a recurring theme amongst my choices. Over and over again, Edward Elric, who was a very well-developed character in the first series, ends up in Brotherhood somehow always magically making the right choice no matter what, making him as close to a Gary Stu as you can get. And while I love how Brotherhood ends – I rank its final episode second only to Cowboy Bebop’s “The Real Folk Blues” – the major conflict is resolved by a dose of deus ex machina reminiscent of Frozen (just “love,” Elsa!). Next are Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online, which are two peas in a pod. Both suffer from a never-wrong shonen lead (like Edward Elric, to an extent), and both never live up to the over-the-top hype they received upon airing. Both make heavy uses of deus ex machina – in particular SAO. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a tough one to criticize; it’s got lots to like, and it has some really strong characters. However, if your bar is set at “Evangelion,” anything short of “masterpiece” is to fall short. (Plus my heart was ripped out in the finale. NIA!!!) Finally, Durarara!! doesn’t really fit anywhere amongst these, but I can’t figure out why everyone else loves this one. I watch it asking, “am I just watching people chat in chatrooms? How is this entertaining?” So while I do enjoy all these series, they ultimately fall short of the hype. Except Durarara!! – I can’t enjoy that. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Crucifixion in Anime, Wolfwood’s Tithing, and Religion in Pokemon

Christmas is just under a week away? In terms of aniblogging, that means lots and lots of reflective posts – and a good number of them involving religion.  This is likely the last post in this column until next year, so enjoy your quota of terrific articles about anime and spirituality!

Trigun’s traveling preacher, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, provides us a lesson about tithing and the heart of giving. [Old Line Elephant]

Christmas Eve deaths in Log Horizon symbolize the dark before the dawn. [A Series of Miracles]

Check out the comments on a Reddit board discussion about anime and religion this past week. [TrueAnime]

The Pokemon games and religion go hand in hand – did you know? [Did You Know Gaming?]

Among the many symbols anime has adopted from Christianity is use of the cross, specifically in crucifixion scenes. In the mood for a review of such scenes? Be warned, you might find it offensive, or really funny, or both. [Isn’t It Electrifying?]

D.M. Dutcher is through with visual novel-based anime, in large part because of how Christians should view suffering as entertainment. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Though explicitly mentioned religion seldomly, Angel Beats is full of theology from various religions. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Kit ruminates on a number of titles for a series of reflective posts, including one on the Shinto-inspired Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. [Study of Anime]

Actions of the cast of the new arc of Sword Art Online resemble Christian thought of keeping the eyes on the prize. [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.  Thanks to Seasons for pointing us toward the Reddit article and to Alexander for the Pokemon one.

Something More: Magi Love, Christian Lessons from Naruto, and Kill La Kill Buddhism

While shows like Your Lie in April and Wolf Girl and Black Prince continue to give great material for spiritual discussion, it’s interesting that some series with big moves on the horizon – Naruto with a final movie upcoming and Digimon with a return of it’s season one characters – also provide opportunities to discuss religion in posts this past week.

Magi’s Mogamett is a complex character, not least of which because the love he demonstrates isn’t in line with an active, kind love, as discussed in Paul’s famous writing about the topic in I Corinthians 13. [Anime Monographia]

Buddhist principles of breaking cycles of suffering and power can be found in Kill la Kill. [Anime Commentary on the March]

Takayama Ukon, who was a Japanese general some 400 years ago (and who has been featured as a character in several anime), could be up for beatification next year. [Aliens in This World]

Kit reports that her Shinto panel at Nekocon went well, and that the inaugural issue of Kotoshiro, a Shinto journal, is accepting submissions. [Fox of Hearts]

The folks at Geeks Under Grace reflect upon Naruto, whose manga run just recently ended, and the Christian lessons it helped instill in them. [Geeks Under Grace]

Cooper finds scant religious content to expound upon in his review of Digimon Adventure, which “failed to meet some of [his] expectations but exceeded in others.” [2]

The reveal of Princess Serenity in Sailor Moon Crystal speaks of an individual’s awakening to their own sin in light of grace. [3]

Kousei’s faith in Kaori might mirror a Christian’s faith in Christ. [4]

Meanwhile, his lament about the piano in episode five of Your Lie in April reminds us of the importance of each gift we’re given. [Christian Anime Review]

Erika and Sata’s relationship in Wolf Girl and Black Prince brings to mind the Parable of the Sower. [2]

How does “honor your mother and father work” when they’ve stepped over some boundary, as with Asuna defying her mother in episode 19 of Sword Art Online 2? [3]

Christian disciplines, along with marathoning Daily Lives of High School Boys and Meganebu!, are among the things Annalyn does for refreshment. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

In the Answerman column, Justin Sevakis rants about how many rally against voice actors, convention guests, and others, with Vic Mignogna (well known for his “conservative Christian” stances and thoughts) as the prime example. [Anime News Network]

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.  Thanks to Medieval Otaku this week – it’s through his blog that I found the Kill la Kill article]


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