Blog Archives

Inspiring Praise: Hatsune Miku, Mitchie M, and the Emotion of Song

I’m not sure that I could identify myself as an overly emotional person.

If you know me as well as my immediate family, that statement probably sounds like an outright lie. Growing up, I was always quick to cry (a source of constant frustration, being a male). Even random conversations that resulted in seemingly little in the way of serious repercussions resulted in a teary-eyed mess. Anything from being chastised for being late for work to attending a good friend and co-worker’s pre-funeral viewing, and I was simply put out of commission. I can recall many angry and upsetting conversations around the time I entered college, particularly centered around issues of my waning faith, though surrounded by issues of a changed family situation and self-inflicted doubts and pressures.

But my statement still stands. I’m not sure that I could identify myself as an overly emotional person.

Why is it that I still make this statement, despite the previous paragraph that clearly lays out constructive reasoning for determining why, in contrast, I am an emotional person?

Perhaps this feeling stems back to my view of God and the Christian faith I follow. While I’ve had many emotional experiences relating to my views of God, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve ever directly felt the emotion of God directed toward me (though, perhaps, with the exception of the feeling of peace that said God exists and looks to my best interests). When, during worship songs, people raise their hands high at the apex of a piece of music, I’ve never felt the inclination to join. When I visited Japan on a missions trip, I can’t say I ever felt the oppressive atmosphere that several members claimed to feel in the shrines and temples (that is not to say they didn’t exist as much as I simply did not feel them, though that debate is another topic for another article). I even remember in a psychology class, the professor taking a poll and asking, “Do you believe that God [assuming He exists] is as emotional as people make him out to be?” My overwhelming response, of course, was “no!”

Although the Bible often personifies God with human characteristics, particularly emotions, I have, as I have matured in my beliefs, held fast to the idea that God is not the being that is so often caricatured by modern Christianity. Emotions are, of course, not inherently bad. If that were the case, the Bible would not personify God with them so frequently, nor would they be such integral parts of certain passages. However, He is an indescribable being. He is one without existence in time or space, one without substance that can be analyzed in our limited three dimensions (oh, how I want to reference Ever17!), and surely one that can only be moderately understood through analogies.

Now Japes, all this lofty and pretentious talk of human emotion and the nature of God is well and fine, but where does Miku fall into it? Thank you for asking, attentive reader! Let me direct your attention to one of Mitchie M’s newest Vocaloid creations, “Burenai Ai De”:

Read the rest of this entry

MekakuCity Actors episodes 7 and 8: Konoha’s State of the World and Lost Time Memory

Episode 7: Konoha’s State of the World

I don't get why they didn't just talk about their health problems a bit last episode. Of course she knew--Why else did she think he missed so much school?

Why didn’t they just talk about their health problems last episode? Of course she knew–Why else did she think he missed so much school?

...I had trouble thinking of anything funny to say at all the constant sadness in this episode.

…I had trouble thinking of amusing captions with all the constant sadness in this episode.

The episode opens with us learning that Haruka has collapsed and is now hospitalized. Takane feels awful for leaving him alone, and decides to leave him with Kenjirou and get his things from the school instead of staying with him.

If only that were true.

If only that were true.

Pfft.  Yes, I'm sure that would work out great.

Pfft. Yes, I’m sure that would work out great. Jin, stop trying to ruin my OTP…Please?

She says it like she's talking about herself, don't you think?

It’s almost like she’s talking about herself

As she is wallowing in shame, she runs into Ayano, who has also been attending supplementary summer classes. They talk about school and Shintaro, and eventually Ayano confronts her about her fear of being rejected by Haruka, and encourages her to tell him how she feels.

If only she hadn't been such a Tsundere, maybe she could have had her wish.

You shouldn’t have been a Tsundere, huh?

Oh hey, if is itsn't [spoiler omitted]

Oh hey, if is itsn’t [spoiler omitted]

Takane thought about what she said, and realised that Ayano was absolutely right. Unfortunately, she collapsed soon after, likely due to her condition, and then weird things started happening. When they were over, she was no longer human. Read the rest of this entry

Vocaloid as Artistic Expression

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

Right off the bat, I feel compelled to say that Vocaloid is an enormous passion of mine. From Hatsune Miku to Megpoid, from Supercell to Jin, I adore what the Vocaloid movement has become since its pick-up in 2007.

In case you are unsure of what Vocaloid is exactly, Vocaloid is a voice synthesis engine created by Yamaha that has, over the last several years, been used to produce music sung by fictional animated characters (this was not the original intent of Vocaloid software, and I could probably write an entire post on the history of Vocaloid alone considering I have done an hour-long lecture on the same topic, but considering this is the Internet it would probably just be easier for you to look here than to read a long post by me, though perhaps I will consider writing such a piece in the future, and while I’m doing this I might as well add a few more commas and make this sentence as long as possible,,,,). For an example of Vocaloid in action, see the clip below from a relatively recent live concert featuring the most popular of the Vocaloid characters, Hatsune Miku.

What I would like to address here, however, is not the origin of Vocaloid, but its validity as an artistic expression. What do I mean by that, you ask. Why, thanks for asking, I’ll tell you exactly what I mean!

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Mekaku City Actors, Episodes 3 and 4: Mekakushi Code and Kagerou Days

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that you must watch up until the third or fourth episode of an anime to be able to tell if it’s any good or not. With that in mind, I watched these next two episodes knowing that if they were terrible, most people would stop watching.

Episode 3: Mekakushi Code

Happily, Mekakushi Code didn’t disappoint me in the least, which surprised me, since the song by the same name doesn’t have any sort of complex plot (though it is very catchy) and I didn’t especially care for this part of the manga.
Momo Kisuragi

The episode begins with Momo being confronted by Kido. Momo thinks she’s one of her fans, and so is understandably a bit nervous.
Kido introduces herself, and then sets out to recruit Momo to the Mekakushi Dan.

Kido Tsubomi, actually. Kido, Kano, and Seto all go by their family names.

Kido Tsubomi, actually. Kido, Kano, and Seto all go by their family names.

 

GOOD QUESTION. Why must all secret societies be so secretive that they only confuse those they want to recruit?

GOOD QUESTION. Why must all secret societies be so secretive that they only confuse those they want to recruit?

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Take Four – March 2014

Hanamonogatari Announcement and Promo – Kaze

hanamonogatari
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

vocaloid

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.

Take Four – February 2014

New Legend of the Galactic Heroes Anime – Kaze

Licht und Schatten

Art by むしゃ草 (Pixiv ID 10218312)

Considered by many to be one of, if not the best anime of all time, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is getting a new anime. It is emphasized that this is not a remake but a new adaptation, meaning we can expect things to be different this time around. However, anything different from the masterpiece of the original is probably going to be a mistake. I don’t expect this to be an improvement, let alone even on par with the original; however, having watched the series twice and with the intent to re-watch more in the future, I’ll give it a try to make a fair judgement. If nothing else, maybe this will spark some interest in the original series that although old, is no doubt the pinnacle of truly epic anime.

Mekakucity Actors Anime Gets More Voice Actor Announcements – Japesland

Kagerou Project

Art – Pixiv ID 39645829

Although the Mekakucity Actors anime is not terribly new in terms of its announcement, it has continued to gain attention as continuous updates, particularly in the area of voice actors/actresses (seiyu). The anime releases this spring season, and it is of particular excitement seeing as it is the next step in the Kagerou Project that began with two Vocaloid albums by (my favorite) Vocaloid producer, Shizen no Teki-P (Jin). Since then, several light novels and manga have also been created as part of the series, culminating in Shaft’s anime follow-up.

Peter Travers Gives The Wind Rises 3.5 Stars – TWWK

Kaze Tachinu

Art by ちろる (Pixiv ID 37410096)

The critical reception for The Wind Rises has been excellent so far.  Though it doesn’t rate as well on Rotten Tomatoes as Spirited Away or Ponyo (really?!) did, it matches Howl’s Moving Castle and has received excellent reviews from some of the country’s most respected critics.  Peter Travers writes, “It’s a big story, and in this landmark film Miyazaki is up to every demand. Sit back and behold.”  Of course, I didn’t need to hear all this buzz to get excited about the film, as I’m a pretty die-hard Miyazaki fan.  I’ll be in the theaters tonight watching!

ELISA makes North America Debut at Sakura-Con – Kaze

japanese singer

ELISA

The singer ELISA will be attending Seattle’s Sakura-Con on April 18-20, her first performance in North America. ELISA made her singing debut with ef’s opening song Eurphoric Field in 2007. She quickly gained popularity with it and was invited to perform at the following Anisama Live, the largest anime concert in Japan. Since then, she has performed theme songs for anime such as Hayate, TWGOK, Railgun, and Valvrave, although she did take a hiatus at one point. I have actually followed ELISA since her debut, so while I’m not a huge fan, I am pretty excited about this. She does try to interact with her fans, and her English, while not great, is definitely above average for Japan. I recommend anyone in the area to take the chance to meet and hear her and show her some support.

Take Four – January 2013

While Beneath the Tangles has aimed to be primarily a place for Christian analysis of anime, we also don’t want it to be a place where Christian discussion is a necessity. In an effort to expand the scope of the blog , one of the first things we are introducing is a short monthly anime news series. We will be introducing and commenting on a few recent happenings in the otaku world which caught our personal interest and hopefully yours, too!

KanColle Nendoroid Petit Figures Announced – Kaze

kancolle Shoukaku

Art by わだつみ (Pixiv ID 39932159)

If you have been paying any attention to Japanese otaku culture in the past few months, you should’ve at least heard of Kantai Collection, or KanColle for short. As the fastest growing game in Japan right now, KanColle continues to feed on its unprecedented popularity with the release of 6 nendo petit figures. Chosen by popular vote, the results are hardly surprising: Kongou, Haruna, Kitakami, Kaga, Zuikaku, and Shoukaku. I for one am delighted to see Shoukaku finally make her way into the KanColle merchandise. With an anime already in the works, along with countless other products, its popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, but I do wonder how long this will really last.

In America, when we hear an anime is going to made into a film (Battle Angel Alita, Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, etc.), we take it with a grain of salt.  Of course, it’s entirely different in Japan, where Attack on Titan is a go for adaptation into a live action film.  To further wet fans’ appetites, Shinji Higuchi (the movie’s director) and his staff worked on a commercial for Subaru featuring three titans, including the one that chomped down on Eren’s mom and the Colossal Titan.  These designs may not be used in the final film (I hope not – I was a little underwhelmed), but still, I’m sure SnK fans (myself included) are now excited for the movie, if we weren’t before!

What is this?! I see no anime in this piece of news! Well, that may be true, but as most otaku can attest (except for perhaps Charles, ahem,) Vocaloid and video games are two media that tie in ever so intimately with Japanese animation. As a Vocaloid fan and an addict of the Project DIVA series, the newest entry, releasing on March 6 in Japan for PS3 and Vita, has been a massive source of hype for me these past few months… and this new trailer did nothing but add to my excitement! If the language barrier is keeping you from becoming involved in the series, fear not, as I originally played the series with absolutely no knowledge of the language, so it is quite import friendly.

Black Lagoon: On Toonami – Zeroe 4

 

Revy and Rock

Art by おまる (Pixiv ID 17238303)

Starting March 22, the Toonami block of Cartoon Network will be airing the anime Black Lagoon. I watched Black Lagoon and its sequel last year and very much enjoyed the series. I did watch it subtitled and not dubbed, but I don’t think that will detract from the show in any way. The story revolves around a Japanese Salary Rokura Okajima “Rock” who ends up getting stuck working for contract pirates in the South Pacific. I think anyone who liked anime like Jormungand, Psycho Pass, or other intense and somewhat violent anime will like this one. 

Out Of My (Head)Canon

One thing I think all of us anime fans can agree on is that this medium stimulates our imagination like few others we have encountered. The idea that we see what we want to see in the anime that we watch, for better or worse, has a lot to do with the particular “lens” we bring along when we watch — which naturally differs widely among anime fans.

Lately, however, I’ve come across the idea of “headcanon.” I take this word to mean the individual fan’s ideas of back story, or character qualities or experiences that we never actually see “on camera.” The word seems to stand opposite to “canon,” which as we all know refers to things explicitly seen or stated “on camera,” or included in the authentic back story to the show in question.

Now surely the development of headcanon is nothing new. I was not around when the original Star Trek series aired, but I would hardly be surprised to learn that the personal history and back story for every character from Capt. Kirk to Uhura, from Spock to Dr. McCoy, were entirely worked out — if not by the original authors, then by the fans. And I would likewise be certain that there were heated and impassioned conversations about the characters’ personal histories, likes, and dislikes among Star Trek fans of the 1960s, just as there are for Naruto fans today.

The idea of headcanon took on an entirely new level of applicability once I joined the Vocaloid fandom a couple of years ago. I have been involved in synthesized or digital music as a hobby for some 25 years, which means only that I approach the Vocaloids as primarily a hobbyist and a programmer. I see them as musical instruments. But of course this is only half of the interest in Vocaloids to the fandom, or perhaps only a quarter of the interest. In addition to the songs themselves and the voice banks that are used to make the songs, there are also the anime-character-like manifestations of each Vocaloid, most of which derive from the original box art. And where such box art was lacking (as with VY2) or mostly lacking (as with the new ZOLA voice banks), fans quickly stepped in and made their own art to express what they thought their favorite imaginary pop singers looked like.

vocaloid-group-wallpapers-vocaloid-fanclub (29)

Whether you are a fan of the Kagamine twins, Luka, MEIKO, KAITO, Gakupo, or Miku, your headcanon is probably as different from mine as our favorite songs are.

Of course, we cannot get to know the Vocaloids through any anime series — only through their songs, and through what other fans say about their songs. While this idea is not original with me, I’m fond of saying that Vocaloids are very much like actual living pop stars. For example, like Justin Bieber, Kagamine Len has a discography, as well as a worldwide network of producers that write songs for him, and an even larger worldwide network of fans. Perhaps the most important difference between Kagamine Len and Justin Bieber is that Kagamine Len doesn’t actually exist.

We Vocaloid fans are unable to resist plunging into the realm of headcanon, it would seem, by making up our own stories about our favorite Vocaloids. I experienced this recently with particular strength when my copy of the ZOLA Project arrived in the mail. Almost before I had them installed on my computer, I had worked out part-time jobs for them, as well as ages that differed from canon but made more sense to me. I was just about to decide which of the three was married when I had to make myself stop.

We anime fans all too often take the same kind of plunge with anime, even though we are given a much larger amount of authentic material to work with. And as with the Vocaloids, your ideas about the characters’ histories and extra-canonical experiences in a particular show may differ from mine, or be more or less developed than mine. But if one thing is clear, it is that we cannot help ourselves. Whether for Vocaloids, Harry Potter, anime, or you name it, we will develop headcanon.

Since I first began to question myself several years ago about why anime had me so deeply in its grip, I have always been fascinated about the effect anime has on my imagination, and apparently not on mine only. I wish I were able to come up with smarter-sounding reasons as to why these things we call anime characters draw us in, to the point that we make fanart, write fanfiction, and of course develop headcanon. So far the best answers I can come up with are Because we love these characters and Because we find it enjoyable to imagine such things, but I am certain that people better educated in psychology and literature can come up with better answers, if not truer ones.

Perhaps the development of personal headcanon is our way as fans to put our own seal on our experience of anime. Whether or not we can explain it, I would suggest that we continue to enjoy it. I am not sure, but I have a suspicion that this too is something uniquely human that we all share, and by which as anime fans we can understand each other, at least to some extent.

Something More: Madoka v. Jesus, Kirino Acts Like a Christian, and Christ the Stampede

It was quite a week for spiritual and religion tinged articles in the anime blogosphere, headlined by Alexander’s still on-going series entitled, Madoka > Jesus.  Here are his posts thus far:

Nick Calibey responded to Alexander’s post with his own article. [A Rather Silly Blog]

Stardf29 reviews episode 3 of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and makes connections between the importance of “thank you” and life lived less legalistically. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher compares Kirino’s treatment of her otakuness in Oreimo to how Christians often treat their faith. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

In another post, he makes some great comparisons between the humorous hero, Vash the Stampede, and Christ, as well as to scenes in Trigun: Badlands Rumble and the “problem of pain. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Dutcher also advises Christians in his reviews of Aoi Sekai No Chuusin De and season one of Oreimo.

Japes, who guest-blogged for us earlier this week, is off and running on his own aniblog, beginning with an introduction of his theology. [Japesland]

Japes also brings his faith into a defense of Vocaloid as an artistic expression. [Japesland]

Medieval Otaku points out Christian theology and themes in his review of several manga, including Superior and Vinland Saga. [Medieval Otaku]

So…the Jesus and Buddha characters of Saint Young Men are now being used to market fashion merchandise.  Interesting. [Anime News Network]

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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.