Ask Sensei! School Life Edition

The start of a new term seems to bring a fresh start for teachers as well as students. It’s an opportunity for all of us to be honest about what hasn’t worked so well in the past, while still retaining habits of mind and lifestyle that we have found helpful. For us teachers, it’s always worthwhile to consider trying some new approaches — particularly if those lecture notes are looking particularly yellowed with age.

This time, Pallav asks via Facebook, What’s your take on the emotional connection between real life and anime? I find some anime to be quite reflective of my life and emotions, and I think that I am not alone in this matter.” I suspect, Pallav, that you’re onto something that comes up time and again in the work of anime bloggers, and for good reason. I believe that this emotional connection you’re talking about is one of the main aspects of anime that drew most or all of us in. In the past I’ve described anime as being like a magic mirror, in which to some extent we see ourselves, and to some extent we see what we want to see. Not that I understand it, mind you. I don’t know what it is about having these animated characters come between us and the voice actors that somehow makes anime so compelling. Yet I do have my suspicions that Japanese voice actors have, through decades of taking ownership of this truly Japanese phenomenon, somehow mastered the art of entering into these 2D characters and imbuing them with particular expressiveness. Whatever the case, Pallav, if you’ve been surprised at times by how strongly your emotions have responded to particular moments in particular anime series, I can pretty much guarantee you that you’re not alone. Or perhaps I should say that we’re not alone, since I definitely know from experience what you’re talking about.

And Joshua asks, What would you say about the levels of violence in anime? For me, I don’t mind anime that uses gore as part of the narrative (making a serious moment)…. How would you explain it to someone who typically doesn’t like any blood at all? How would you show the severity of scenes?” It’s a thoughtful question. You cite One Punch Man and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, of which I have seen the former but not the latter. I can add to this list Mirai Nikki, Deadman Wonderland, Btooom! and Gantz, of which I can recommend the first three with the expected disclaimers. Although all three are quite violent, in all of them I would say that the violence furthers the plot, as you indicate. Gantz goes beyond that, in my opinion, to the point that the violence and the sexual content are wanton and gratuitous, much as I normally enjoy that realistic art style. (I omit the obvious Elfen Lied because I cannot bring myself to attempt watching it, based on its reputation.) Where each of us draws the line between “acceptable” and “wanton” will of course differ from one person to another, and perhaps we can get some kind of thrill from discovering where that line might lie. I do think, though, that skillful storytellers and anime producers can leave a great deal of violence to our imagination, with the imagery itself being more understated. I could be remembering wrong, but it seems to me that Death Note and Code Geass, while both plenty violent, nevertheless communicated a significant amount of violence by closeups of witnesses’ faces, very long-distance shots, and similar means. But then again, having just played the first two Danganronpa games, I’m not sure my idea of “understated” has much meaning at the moment.

Finally, asocial_ambivert asks via Instagram, Will the NerveGear be invented during the same date as it was in SAO?” It’s always enjoyable to try to guess what future technology might hold, and when certain things might appear. I would only make the following two cautionary statements: First, that new technologies always seem to have some aspects that we’d never have been able to predict; and second, that even when we correctly predict new technologies, they usually appear sooner than we expected. For instance, in the 1970s and 1980s we were pretty sure that there would one day be some kind of mobile handheld device replacing the telephone. However, we didn’t count on cell phones being able to do so many other things, and we certainly didn’t expect such technology to be available so near the turn of the millennium. Likewise, although current VR technology still seems to be in its infancy, I am fairly certain that within 5-10 years our current web browsing experience will be very different indeed, even if not quite so directly plugged into our cerebral cortexes. And when I say it’ll be different, what I mean is that it’ll be different in ways we can’t imagine right now. In any case, if you enjoy pondering such things as I do, a YouTube search for such terms as “futurology” and “technology” will give you plenty of material.

And now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have to write an exam. Does it surprise you to learn that, even after twenty years, I am still nervous every time I give an exam? But this too is part of life — all of us find ourselves on the giving and receiving end of tests of some kind.

I wish all of you the best with whatever is testing you at the moment.

9 thoughts on “Ask Sensei! School Life Edition

            1. Well…that could mean a lot of things. If you’re asking in the framework of God testing us, I would refer to 1 Peter 1:7, which states that we’re put through trials and tested by fire so that our faith “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” These tests reveal what our faith is all about, and as we go through them and exit them and learn from them, our faith increases, which honors God and is also for our own good. I cringe as I look back with tests and trials in my life because they were painful, but I”m so glad for them because I’m grown, I feel, many many times over because God took me through them.

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