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Sword Art Online, Shingu, and Second Halves

Although I start each season watching about a dozen series, I ultimately end up completing only two or three.  This season, I’m watching Golden Time, Noragami and Nisekoi.  Three is about the most I can keep up with, even though I’d like to watch more.  So you can imagine how aggravated I feel when a series I’m enjoying ends up having a terrible second half.  I feel like I wasted a precious slot that I could have used for another series!

Even worse is when a series starts out so good that you think you may have found a new favorite.  This happened to me with Shingu.  I was totally charmed by the character design, tone, and music from the series, that I was almost ready to go purchase it.  Then the show devolved into a boring, generic sci-fi series.

shingu secret of the stellar wars

Oh, what might have been! (Art by ちゃん☆みり/Pixiv ID 2820537)

Another such show for me was Sword Art Online – and maybe it’s the best recent example for many.  I absolutely loved the first half.  Despite its issues, I was totally gripped.  But the second cour stunk to high heaven.  It did almost everything wrong.

Our lives are the same way.  The start doesn’t matter as much as the ending.  Even if we have a wonderful childhood, adolescence, and college experience, it’s all for naught if we ultimately end up living selfish, rotten lives.  What good was the start if our finish was so weak?

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Reader Response: Judging An Anime By It’s Name?

Log Horizon

After a meeting with the rest of the Beneath The Tangles staff, a couple of us started talking about our anime viewing habits. I was really surprised to hear that we all chose what shows to watch each season in very different ways. My personal preference is to watch as many anime a season that I can. First, I cut out anime that I personally have problems with, this includes ecchi anime, anime based around sexual themes, and especially little sister anime. Second, I find shows that I think I will really like and make those the first priority for watching. Third, I watch whatever is left. Once each new season starts, I watch all these anime. If an anime seems to have no potential, I drop it. If I hear good things from other ani-bloggers, I might pick it up again.

Last season, I made a mistake. I did not watch an anime called Log Horizon, because the name sounded dumb and the synopsis sounded like a remake of Sword Art Online. After hearing many good things about it, I finally decided to try it out. It has been only a couple of days since and I am now having to wait till Saturday for a new episode. I love the fact, that the show is intelligent, where as Sword Art was much more emotion based. It is like a video game version of international politics, and I love that. I am going to keep watching this one.

I do not believe that judging an anime by its name is bad though. I made a mistake this season by starting episode one of Recently, My Sister is Unusual. It seemed interesting with the sister fainting on the steps, but then it quickly went placed I didn’t expect… I dropped it right away. This is one of the reasons, I do not start certain anime and do judge them before hand. Most of the time I don’t use only the name; I use the synopsis. (Though these can be incredibly vague.)

How do you watch anime and choose what to watch? Anything you won’t watch? Any shows that changed your opinions?

When Have You Been Humbled?

I’m on a huge social media kick lately, trying to bring Beneath the Tangles to varied and larger audiences.  One platform I’ve joined is Tumblr – a unique place for sure, and one that can be very addicting.

Yesterday, my post on Kirito as Jesus was reblogged and commented on by user, James:

This argument largely falls apart when you realize the miracle kirito performed (surpassing the system) is performed by Asuna 3 seconds before him. And several episodes previously (LN spoiler: Asuna rescuing kirito from kuradeel is also breaking the system.). As we learn later, this is the beginning of the incarnate system, using pure strength of will to alter the seed environment. As we’re shown later in Underworld (also based on the SAO seed) almost any one with a strong soul can use the incarnate system.

Also, kirito doesn’t die. You’re told point blank by kyaba that death in any world is death, and that he created your “heaven” to talk to asuna and kirito one last time. Meaning as such he kept their nervegear from frying their brains when their avatars die because they showed him something as amazing as surpassing the system was possible. The only one of the three that dies is Kyaba himself, who dies with Aincrad.

When you take away the singularity of kirito’s “miracle” and his death and rebirth, the Christ analogy falls rather flat.

Um, well, yeah!  So…um…yeah…you’re pretty much absolutely correct, Tumblr Person.  This is what happens when you try to write a post over an episode you barely remember and didn’t bother rewatching. -_-’

It’s not easy to take bite of humble pie, but its something we all need sometimes (and since we’re imperfect, it’s something that happens to all of us).

What about you?  When’s a time when you’ve been given a heavy dose of humility, on the Internet or otherwise? 

Feel free to share in the comments below or chime in on our Facebook page!

The Invisible God in Sword Art Online

Easter, the most holy of Christian celebrations, is only a few days away.  And so, in light of that, I thought it would be very appropriate to talk Sword Art Online.

That’s right – Sword Art Online.

Sword Art Online

Artist: うさこ@ついった (Pixiv)

Kirito, SAO‘s lead character, plays the role of a savior, and as such, it’s not much of a stretch to compare him to Jesus Christ. Comparing an anime lead to Jesus is nothing knew (think Goku of Dragonball Z), but still, Kirito stands out among a crowded field of shonen saviors for a number of reasons (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Kirito Performs Miracles (Including the Greatest One)

As the first season ends, Kirito fights the “villain” Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of the Sword Art Online game. As he is about to die, Kirito re-materializes and instead becomes victorious. He miraculously breaks the programmed rules of the game. A “miracle” is the breaking of rules of nature, and Kirito does the same within the rules of SAO.

The larger miracle comes afterward, though, when Kirito rises from the dead. This is nothing new to anime, but it’s particularly emphasized here. Kirito and Kayaba both die, and they find themselves in what appears to be SAO Heaven. This is a really interesting parallel with Kirito now in “Heaven,” because the title of the previous episode, where Kirito encounters the enemy, is “The Depths of Hell.” He’s gone from hell to Heaven, reflecting the belief by some that Jesus descended into hell following His death. And further, and more significantly, Kirito wakes up from SAO in real life, although he shouldn’t have according to the rules of the game. He has risen from the dead.

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Sword Art Online, Episode 25: Oh, Mercy!

As Kirito Kazuto rushes to the hospital to meet Asuna, he faces one final challenge – the real Sugou, just as crazed as his video game self, but armed with a very real knife.  Of course, Kazuto, who surpasses Sugou in physical strength as well as game skills, wins the fight.  He holds the knife at Sugou’s throat, apparently ready to end the life of the one who had taken so much from him and had taken Asuna’s body and mind hostage.

Of course, Kazuto decides to be merciful, and lets Sugou go to face judgement in a court of law.

SAO characters

Art by Spark

I was reminded of the story of a man I work closely with.  As a teenager, he was the lone survivor of a horrific act of mass murder during the Rwandan Genocide.  Many years later, he returned to his country and came face to face with one of the perpetrators of the horrible act.  The man begged his forgiveness, even as my co-worker held a gun to his head, wanting to take his life.  In the end, my friend was merciful and let his enemy go.

We may never face a moment such as these, where there’s a real life and death struggle involved and where we have an opportunity to take or spare our enemy’s life.  But there are small moments in our day, involving people who are certainly not enemies, whom we have the opportunity to be merciful toward.

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Something More: Pornoviolence in Sword Art Online, Mythology of Tsuritama, and the Kingdom of iDOLM@STER

Nick describes the conflicting issues of pornoviolence in our beloved games and anime, and points to a specific example in this past week’s episode of Sword Art Online. [A Rather Silly Blog]

Click writes about his adoration of mythology and how Tsuritama is a modern take on the Japanese myth of Ryūjin, the water dragon. [Pretense with Glasses]

Omo compares iDOLM@STER and his growing interest in the franchise to Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. [omonomono]

Shinmaru dives into The Laws of Eternity, a Happy Science anime, for a 12 Days of Christmas post. [The Cart Driver]

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As part of the Something More series of posts (formerly Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere), 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. 

 

My Favorite Things (2012)

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Christmas songs are ubiquitous during the holiday season.  In my household, we have Michael Bublé, Martina McBride, Andrea Bocelli, and MercyMe playing constantly.  The music of the season has become part of the holiday tradition for many families.  A lesser tradition here on this blog is my rewording of a song that has become a holiday classic – “My Favorite Things.”

Chihaya is only a few weeks away;
Anime tropes even if they’re cliche;
Saber rises above the other kings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Art by スロウス@ついったは住み家

Art by スロウス@ついったは住み家


Mawaru Penguindrum
coming on Blu-Ray;
Kiritsugu finally fights against Kirei;
Rikka to Yuta with a pinky clings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Yuta and Rikka

Art by 鳩

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TWWK’s Top Anime of 2012

2012 is ending in a whimper, at least for me, as there are few series I’m absolutely loving this fall.  That seems to apply to the year as whole.  Looking back at my list of best anime from 2011, there were a number of series that jumped into select company among my very favorites, including Hourou Musuko, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Usagi Drop, and Mawaru Penguindrum.  I had yet to see Steins;gate or the first season of Fate/Zero at the time of that posting, but they would have been included in the group as well.

Because of the lack of great series this year, I’m not giving as many shows on the following list.  I dropped dozens of series this year, too; they didn’t interest me enough to continue watching, failed to keep my interest for the entire season (ex. Accel World and Eureka Seven Ao), or were dropped for other reasons.  I also want to note that didn’t see a number of critically acclaimed series this year, skipping out the likes of Space Brothers, Jorgumand, Kimi to Boku and the latest Natsume Yuujinchou,and stalling on Psycho Pass.

And because I didn’t complete too many shows in 2012, this end-of-year list functions more to show my favorites than those I judge the best.  Let me know your favorites in the comment section below.

Merely Okay: 3 to 4 Stars

Little Busters

First, the bad: the series has been, well, boring.  It also has way too many girls who act like they have some psychological condition.  Luckily, the show has been trending upward lately, and I’m eagerly anticipating the second season.  There are also some fun characters (mostly male). Read the rest of this entry

Sword Art Online, Episode 19: Here and There, Always the Same

The plot thickens!  I guess.

As Kirito and Leafa continue their march toward Asuna, a group of well-strategized players attempt to block their path.  Kirito turns into a giant creature (of course), and slices and eats them up (of course).

Afterward, Leafa does the logical thing and tells Kirito that he should join the baddies and kill her.

Sword Art Online Leafa

Art by うえはら

I’m being snarky here, but actually, what Leafa says makes some sense in terms of the game.  She gives Kirito a way out, and put in that same situation, perhaps many of us would make the choice to leave their short term alliance.  After all, it’s just a game, right?

But Kirito doesn’t see it that way.  Consistently throughout this game (and in Sword Art Online), Kirito has demonstrated that he is who he is.  He grows in the course of time, but he remains a person of high character throughout.

Games give us the opportunity to take on a role and be someone else.  We’re acting out parts, and so, the kindest of people could play a devilish character.  That’s part of the story.

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Sword Art Online, Episode 16: Rumors of Another World

Ah, Kirito, I’d forgotten how awesome you were.

In episode 16 of Sword Art Online, Kirito enters a new game, intent on finding Asuna, who is apparently being held captive therein.  He doesn’t have much time to find her before she is forced to marry (*closes ears and ignores another silly plot point*).  Lucky for him, then, that Kirito’s awesomeness transfers from Sword Art Online to ALfheim Online (not to be confused for a game featuring a fuzzy life form from the planet Melmac).

Kirito’s new quest begins when he sees a mysterious picture of Asuna and then learns of ALfheim – a brand new video game world.

Kirito and Asuna

Art by Fransumaru

I’m reminded of a world Christians believe in, but which is invisible to the naked eye – that of Heaven.

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