The End of Examining Old School Anime

“Examining Old School Anime” has enjoyed a long run, and now seems like a good time to end it.  Finding theological topics within old school anime proves harder with each show.  The Leijiverse brims with such topics, but sticking to Galaxy Express 999 would deprive this column of variety.  Also, the art style of 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s anime does not appeal to many anime fans.  I once felt the same way, until the hackneyed anime of 2009-2011 caused me to look backward.  If a similar disgust afflicts our dear readers, may you remember Ashita no JoeCaptain Harlock, and other shows covered in this column.

My next one concerns light novels and bears the straightforward title “Examining Light Novels.”  Despite so many of our most beloved (or hated) anime deriving from light novels, few anibloggers write about this medium.  The ninth volume of Spice and Wolf will feature in the first article.  Then, I intend to finish that series before moving onto Slayers and Kara no Kyoukai.  After that, I’ll have to find some new light novels to read.  (You’re welcome to suggest some in the comments.)  Those of you familiar with Spice and Wolf know its unfriendly stance towards organized religion and monotheism.  Expect most of those articles to discuss apologetics–either on behalf of the medieval Church or Christianity itself.

Yet, I don’t intend for this column to be solely apologetic.  In the tradition of “Examining Old School Anime,” it will still extract various Christian themes from these works.  The medium rather than the object of these articles is what has changed.  Though, light novels will open up new areas for reflection.  Film concentrates on what people do while books focus what people think.  People’s thoughts revolve around theology more than any other topic.  Modern history bears this out: try to think of one historical movement since the 17th century which has not been based on religion, used religion, or affected the way people view the relationship between God and man.  These movements molded the philosophies and attitudes of both Westerners and Japanese.  You can bet they appear implicitly or overtly in light novels.

In visual mediums, the attitudes and values inherited from the past are often assumed and unexamined.  The reason for this is because visual mediums concentrate on action rather than reflection.  Reflective TV series and films seldom do well.  However, the opposite holds true with books–even with light novels.  Focusing on the characters’ thoughts makes authors more concerned with why their characters act and think the way they do.  I hope this new column brings out more of the theological baggage of the entertainment we consume as well as inspires you to pick up a few of these novels.

Look forward to the first article of this new column on August 31st!

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13 thoughts on “The End of Examining Old School Anime

  1. I look forward to your new column! While I always appreciate your posts (once I get around to reading them), they’re often the only exposure I have to older anime. Since light novels often have easily accessible anime counterparts, I’ll be able to recognize your references more easily, I think. Also, it’s exciting to see this medium featured here. Light novels don’t get as much attention as other otaku mediums.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad that some of the old school anime interested you. For various reasons, too many fans ignore everything made before the year 2000.

      It is interesting that so many light novels enjoy a popular anime adaptation but not a translation of the novels into English. Kara no Kyoukai counts as one, though I did find a fan translation on a site called “Empty Boundaries.” A far less logical translation than “The Edge of Emptiness” but I give the blogger credit for taking the time to do that. I hope that my column does not disappoint!

  2. First I was like, “Oh nooooooo Medieval Otaku is LEAVINGUSFOREVER!”

    Then I was like, “Oh yessssssssss! Finally, we get light novel coverage!”

    Ever since I joined the staff, one of my “dream goals” for Tangles has been a greater integration of light novels, specifically: (1) a column and (2) a recommendations page. Sounds like we are heading in that direction, and I couldn’t be more excited.

    Light novels are an area I’d personally like to delve into on a regular basis. Not many of them get an official English release, and as I can’t read Japanese, I often find myself in a bit of a pickle. The ones I have read, I have consumed vigorously. Especially for those series which were originally adapted from light novels, I find that, after reading, I am better able to fully grasp the intent and scope of a series that I first enjoyed in anime form.

    I haven’t read many. The longest one I’ve read is Fate/Zero, which is about 1,000 pages all told (spans four books). I recently recommended the anime to a friend, only to have him come at me with questions regarding plot holes and unexplained developments. Having read the light novel, I actually had answers (details inconveniently left out of the anime). It made me realize, and appreciate, not only the difficulty in creating a solid adaptation, but also the importance of grasping the original work that inspires our favorite anime series (much like the concept that “a better understanding of religion leads to a better understanding anime” that we love here at Tangles).

    Of the light novels I’ve read, Fate/Zero certainly has the most room for spiritual integration and analysis, much of which its anime counterpart conveys. There are, however, clearer views of nihilism and fatalism presented, as well as how the church’s role is integrated and portrayed throughout the story. One of the lead character’s Catholic-ish faith is also explored in somewhat greater detail.

    I’ve also enjoyed Fate/Strange Fake (which unfortunately never received translation past the earliest version of volume #1), Death Note: Another Note, L Change the World, and Alice’s Tale (a short light novella about an AI robot who assists a young man in the stock-dealing business–kind of like Planatarian in its setup, though not nearly as well-written). I wrote a review on that one which you can read here:

    I look forward to this new column, and I hope to find some new recommendations along the way!

    Examining Old School Anime had a great run. Thank you for all the awesome work you’ve put in.

    1. HA! I like creating provocative titles like that. Any additional light novel coverage is a good thing. JP asked whether I could recommend any of what I have read to our Christian readers, but Crest of the Stars, Scrapped Princess, Spice and Wolf, Slayers, and a Rurouni Kenshin light novel don’t seem particularly suited for Christian audiences. Maybe Vampire Hunter D is, now that I think about it.

      You might enjoy Spice and Wolf. As far as I know, it’s the only light novel series of more than ten volumes which has been translated until the very end. So, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and become better at translating Japanese; but there are fan translations out there. I found a site which translated Kara no Kyoukai called “Empty Boundaries.” Not my favorite translation of the title, but his prose has good style and accuracy.

      Thanks for your recommendations. Alice’s Tale and Fate/Stay Night sound like works which I’ll have to pick up. I was also thinking of reading the Project Itoh novels, especially the dystopian .

      Thank you for your compliments and encouragement!

      1. Crest of the Stars is one of my favorites. I can definitely second that recommendation; while I agree I’m not sure an average Christian would like it, I think Casey would find it engaging. I’m actually rewatching it at the moment in preparation for finally getting around to the 5th novel.

        1. I appreciate the recommendation for Spice and Wolf and Crest of the Stars. I cannot read Japanese myself (I have a manual translator, but I’d be reading a sentence an hour, haha). I rely a lot on fan translations, which I am utterly grateful for. Fortunately, the Fate fandom has a passionate conglomerate of volunteer translators. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to read any of the light novels from that series… and there are a surprising amount of them.

          I’ll continue expanding my “completed” list of light novels, and perhaps between the three of us (and the other light novel aficionados on staff) we can conjure up that long-in-coming recommendations page.

          1. Those are two excellent series. I hope that you soon have the opportunity to read them!

            The more I think about a recommendations page, the more sure I am that I would recommend Vampire Hunter D. It contains a strong tale about the battle between good and evil and even points to Christian symbols (the Cross in particular) as being effective at warding against evil. But, alas! Most people seem to have forgotten about Christianity and why the Cross effectively wards against evil. Vampire Hunter D’s the mood and setting are also very immersive.

        2. I’m also a big fan of Crest of the Stars. Jinto and Lafiel have to be two of the most likable characters ever to grace a science fiction story. For Christians, the problem with Crest of the Stars is its atheistic and humanistic bent, but the characters, political commentary, and battles make it well worth reading.

          Enjoy your rewatch of that classic!

    1. I have not read too many light novels, but they are a lot of fun and the stories are often more well rounded. The greatest problem with reading light novels is that publishers often stop translating them in the middle of the series. (TokyoPop was downright cruel in only releasing three volumes of Scrapped Princess!) So, knowing Japanese is a real advantage; though, some fans have released their own translations.

  3. Like Annalyn, I enjoyed reading your column when I got around to doing so. Challenging questions and new information about the Medieval church I knew nothing about. That’s why your Medieval Otaku haha 🙂

    I am looking forward to this column as well, as I know little to nothing about light novels. Thank you for mentioning Slayers!!! I am a HUGE Slayers fan, I have seen every season (all 5), and all the movies. I know there are light novels out there but I’ve never touched them, so I would like to see what you have to say about them and if it’s worth it, I will pick them up. If I can get more Amelia/Zelgadis, I’m a happy camper.

    1. Thank you! I have the same problem with keeping up reading other people’s posts, and often end up “binge reading” this site every couple of weeks. It’s a shame that I don’t read more frequently, because reading about the experiences and thoughts of other Christians is good for the soul–especially in today’s world.

      Zelgadis is one of my favorite characters in Slayers. I go back and forth over whether my favorite is him or Lina Inverse. The two greatest things about the light novels are getting to eavesdrop on all Lina’s thoughts (The light novels are written in first person), and how Gourry both knows that Lina thinks he’s dumb and uses her perception of him to mess with her occasionally–while still being generally an airhead. I still need to watch Slayers Revolution and Slayers Evolution; though the first three seasons–especially the second–are awesome.

      1. Yes, Slayers Next was great. Slayers Try wasn’t as good, but I’m a big fan so it’s all good to me haha. Yeah, those two new seasons are great, they still have the same quirkiness and add some new characters and beautiful animation (in my opinion).

        Ah, Lina Inverse….she’s just so crazy, I never really attached myself too much to her. I used to know a friend who acted very similar to her, so when I would watch the show I could understand how my friend acted a little more 🙂

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