What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
If you’re American, this is a question you’ll probably ask (and be asked) dozens of times over these next few weeks. There’s a lot of easy answers to this question: delicious food, family you haven’t seen in a while, old and new friends, fun experiences, good books, good times, good shows.
It’s interesting, though—the things that we give thanks for in our lives always tend to be things that we like. We’re thankful for people we like spending time with, but not so thankful for the ones we don’t. We’re thankful for books that we enjoy reading, but not so much for books that unsettle or challenge us. We’re selective with our thankfulness, picking and choosing the sorts of things we want to be thankful about. It reminds me of the Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” In other words, we’re not called to love the right people; we’re called to become loving people.
Shouldn’t it be the same with thankfulness? We’re not called to be thankful for some things, but instead to become thankful people: thankful in all circumstances and for all sorts of things.
So this Thanksgiving, inspired by a TangleCast episode from a while back, we at Beneath the Tangles gather around the table to share some shows that we’re thankful for—but not because we liked them. In fact, some of the shows we’ll mention are shows we didn’t make it all the way through, or shows that we made it through and still disliked. But instead of harping on the things we disliked about these shows, we’ll share why we’re thankful that we watched them, in hopes of becoming more thankful people in the process.
Now, without any further ado, let the feast begin!
Gaheret’s Worthy Yet Tyrannous Opponent
What have I watched that I’m most grateful for, yet haven’t liked? The original Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a strong candidate for that odd honor. 162 episodes (110 plus the OVAs) and a great tapestry of human passions, ethics, politics and fascinating takes on historical events all make this a truly impressive anime—the best, for some very exigent critics as our own Kaze. Rose of Versailles, Abel Gance’s Napoleon or Tolstoy’s War and Peace are works that come to mind (Medievalotaku links it to Thucydides), and yet, it’s also fun. It’s fast, it’s warm, it’s human. It cleverly references a hundred times and places, from Yi Sun-sin and Alexander the Great to Joseph McCarthy and Franz Joseph II. WWI, Napoleon, WWII; it’s all there. And thus, it manages to give us a very convincing historic take on Star Wars material (rebel Galactic Democracy vs. autocratic Galactic Empire) with all the complexities of a clash between two sincerely held ideologies. The solemn, operatic, faux-historic pace with which it unfolds, while not losing focus on its legions of human and relatable characters, is a remarkable achievement.
Taking history as a reference, it is also quite unpredictable. Major characters may die, and solid institutions may fall or be transformed in any direction. But I think that LOGH suffers from three great flaws. Firstly, it cheats plot-wise at an important point. Secondly, it ultimately glorifies blatantly immoral tyranny, being overly indulgent toward a few characters whose “shadows” the plot conveniently kills when they become obstacles. And lastly, it does that by positing, in Neronian fashion, a grotesque caricature of the Church as a nest of cardboard villains, complete with evil laughter, who behave nonsensically at the plot’s convenience, justifying all sorts of atrocities by the heroes against the “fanatics”, and even explicitly mirroring the imagery of the Roman persecutions. Religion and transcendence are clearly the enemy of action and science here. This show can spark fascinating discussions. Its themes have inspired some of my own works, and its characters will stay in my memory. Thanks, LOGH. But I will go somewhere else for the deep, resonant truths that I often find in many humbler anime.
Josh Gives Digimon the (Re)boot
Okay, you guys know I’m the resident Digimon fan here on Beneath the Tangles. So when I first heard that we would get a reboot of the first series, Digimon Adventure, I was SO FREAKING EXCITED. I mean, a retelling of the original story with the same characters? I’m always down for that! Let’s go! I needed something to get excited about in 2020! Then the show came out and in the beginning it was nice! I really enjoyed the reimagining of Our War Game, the first half of what we know in the US as Digimon The Movie and some of the Digital World stuff was good…but it was around mid-way in the series when I started noticing that this show was turning into “The Taichi and Yamato Show.” It seems like every other episode focused either on Taichi or Yamato doing something or going somewhere while the others just served as comic relief, or, in the case of my boy Koushiro, the provider of so much exposition and techno babble. Where was the character development that I loved so much in all the earlier Digimon series? Who are these characters? What makes them act the way they do? How have their adventures in the Digital World changed them? In the original series, I could point to any one character and tell you exactly who they are, what their motives are, and how much they’ve changed from episode one. Not with this one.
But…all that being said…I am thankful for this series because, well, I LOVE these characters. I love these adorable dorks, no matter how bad a story is being told with them. I grew up watching these floppy socked dorks and their digital companions for years now, and having the opportunity to watch them again was great, even though the story being told bored me to tears. So thank you Digimon Adventure 2020…and do better next time, mmkay?
Oh, and by the way, I’m thankful to Girlfriend, Girlfriend and Rent-A-Girlfriend for giving me all those delicious views on my first impressions. I can honestly say that’s the best thing I could’ve ever gotten from those shows. 🙂
Laura Thinks Eden’s (More Than) Zero
“If you find friends who are willing to shed tears for you, you have to cherish them forever.”
I never imagined how impactful this statement would be when watching the beginning of Edens Zero! While Edens Zero is an anime I didn’t continue watching after the first episode due to some of the fan service, that first episode has stuck with me months after watching the premiere. It was an episode that not only made me cry, but spoke to me about how friendship can extend past ideas placed upon people or a society by someone else. How friendship can grow and continue to bloom despite religious belief, skin tone, college education, and more.
While there are definitely no bots or machines in our world that can befriend us the same way Shiki befriended machines in his world, his earnest and firm belief that the bots were his friends was almost crushing in light of how his friends treated him in that episode. While they may be machines with no heart, their actions spoke that they had a heart that bloomed from the lifetime of love and care that Shiki showed them every day as the only human who would take care of them and repair them. It was a powerful episode that showed the lengths that a real friend will go to for another. With how fast topics can lead to heated debate and burned bridges with lifetime friends in our world, it was a moving reminder to value the friends I have in the now and a picture of what Proverbs 18:24 looks like in action. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The Melancholy of Jeskai’s Gratitude
The concept for this post challenged me, because when I dislike an anime, I tend to more or less forget it exists. There aren’t many shows where I A. remember it exists, B. disliked it, and C. still somehow appreciate it. But I realized there is one that qualifies: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. In particular, I found the title character to be extremely unlikable, an obnoxious bully whose arrogance and cruelty repeatedly hindered my ability to enjoy the series. And yet I do appreciate it nonetheless. You see, I quite enjoyed the spinoff series The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. The thing is, Yuki-chan would probably be just an okay or slightly above average show on its own. But it’s brilliantly hilarious if you’ve first watched Suzumiya and can appreciate all the references and in-jokes. So, if asked whether I “like” Suzumiya, I’d have to say I don’t. And yet I am grateful to it for all the laughs it contributed to as I watched Yuki-chan. I would even consider watching it again someday as prep for rewatching Yuki-chan, which isn’t something I can say very often about shows I dislike.
sleepminusminus’s Watery Dish
I’ve realized that my anime tastes are perpetually in flux, prone to change at the slightest whim. The first casualty to this whimsy was A Lull in the Sea, a 2013 P.A. Works show about sea people and land people who hate each other until the power of friendship, politics, and teenage angst lead them to hate each other less. I actually love this show’s soundtrack, and P.A. Works don’t miss with their settings. But the story’s appeal dried up quickly for me; the melodrama rose to the surface of the waves, and I found that I didn’t care all that much about the characters or the things they cared about.
Still, I’m grateful for A Lull in the Sea. It was one of the first anime I ever watched, and the first one I watched with friends. It’s fun to remember the love polygons we drew trying to figure out the relationships in this show (seriously, some of that stuff gets really complicated) and all the aesthetic and absurd screenshots we saved. I’m also grateful to this show for stirring in me a love of grand, living worlds: worlds that serve as stages for characters to live out their lives, struggle and laugh together, and find themselves along the way. It’s a love which has continued to this day, and I owe it to the quirky denizens of Shioshishio.
Samuru’s Cells Are Working Well, He Hopes
When I drop an anime, I try to forget about it. After looking through my Anime-Planet list, Cells at Work! Code Black fit the bill as one of those. For the unfamiliar, it’s similar to the original Cells at Work!, but has a darker tone, more blood, and a lot of cleavage. It follows a red blood cell delivering oxygen to the body among other missions, all while traversing various organs and learning about them as he goes along. It tackles subjects like alcohol, smoking, disease and even reproduction. What has always stood out though about either series are the descriptions that are given in every episode. The narration explains different organs and their functions, types of cells, scientific names of bacteria, and other human anatomy facts. Learning while watching anime makes me smile because I am a certified school teacher, so I’m glad to see the media I enjoy also sharing biological facts. Sure, at times it’s over-exaggerated, but it’s anime, so I’m having fun watching white blood cells defend the human body with samurai swords.
I lost interest though because as informational and well done as it is, there just wasn’t enough there to keep me engaged for the long term so I ended up just watching a few random episodes then dropping it. I can say that I did learn how dangerous bacteria can be and the functions of cells that I wasn’t aware of, so thanks for the anatomy lessons!
stardf29’s Disappointing Dessert
Few things leave as bad taste in your mouth as a bad dessert. It’s the last thing you eat at a big meal, and any bad taste will linger in your mouth for a while afterwards. Likewise, a terrible ending to an anime you were enjoying can spoil your enjoyment of that anime. For me, this was very much the case with OreImo. It was bad enough for the show to go down the route it did (though all things considered, given the full title of the series, it should have been obvious), but the way it trampled over the other characters in the process really left that terrible soggy-apple-pie taste in my mouth.
It’s such a shame, too; the anime up until that point was actually a rather nice story of a brother reconnecting with his estranged sister, while forming bonds with a good supporting cast. Any incest overtones were toned down enough (more so in the first season) that I could appreciate it as more of a relatively wholesome family story. And after some time, looking back on the series, I could still appreciate what the series did well earlier on, and even now I can still say I am thankful for watching the series. I’m even kind of thankful for that terrible ending, for showing me that a bad ending doesn’t have to ruin an entire series for me. Sure, it will leave a bad aftertaste, but it doesn’t change how tasty the main course was.
And now, for you, dear viewer. What shows are you least thankful for? What makes you thankful that you watched them? Let us know in the comments, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
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