Monthly Archives: December 2010

Of Kami and Buddhas: Holy Anime!

While watching episodes for my 12 Days of Christmas Anime series, I noticed a word pop up time and time again – holy.  It seemed out of place – a very religious, archaic-sounding word in a medium that was anything but.  What does this word mean, particularly in context of Japanese culture and in comparison to Christendom?

There are a number of varying definitions for “holy,” but perhaps the two we most connect with it are that it has something to do with divinity (a supreme God) and that whatever is described in this way is venerated as if sacred.  There’s something other-worldy, heavenly, and pure about a holy object.

The Japanese word for holy is sei (see Kanji character below) and is often combined with other characters to make a compound word.  For instance, in Japan, there are holy men (hijiri), holy mountains (seizan), holy relics, holy communities and holy names (note: forgive me if my terminology is off regarding the Japanese language).

In fact, as I researched this word, what surprised me most was that a word which seems very western to me is probably used more commonly in Japan.  The definition of sei is similar to that of the American counterpart – sacred, holy, and pure.  And in Japan, too, where kami abound and religion is woven into the everyday lives of almost all individuals, there is a godly connotation.

Kannagi goddess

I wanted to know why, in particular, the word is used when discussing Christmas in anime. Read the rest of this entry

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: 78%: “Christmas is an Attack on Chinese Culture”

Sankaku Complex gave a short report on a real telling survey whose finding showed that 78% of those polled agreed that Christmas is an attack on Chinese culture.  As with Japan, it seems that China may celebrate the holiday in a very non-religious fashion (no surprise – after all, the “Christian” churches in China are show churches, while the faithful must practice their beliefs in underground communities).  I find the adoption of western practices in the east terribly interesting, not least of all because of the struggle and tension between ideologies and forces, including traditional and ancient culture, differing religious traditions (Japan, southeast Asian countries, etc.), Communist ideology (China and Vietnam), and tensions with foreign ideas and with U.S. military presence (Korea and Japan).

The results can obviously be compared to a conservative U.S. xenophobia.  But the additional connection I see is with Japan’s rejection of Christianity in the late 1500s.  As with China, the Japanese Christians had to practice their religion underground for fear of persecution.  Also, the attack wasn’t so much on the religious aspects of Christianity.  In Japan, the worry was that the Portuguese and others might be trying to make economic and political gain by using Christianity.  In China, my assumption is that xenophobia and patriotism go hand in hand, as the Chinese want to maintain their position near or at the top of the world economically.  The Chinese (the government officials, certainly) don’t want their chief competition, the United States, to gain any more foothold than the county already has. 

Read the entire post: 78%: “Christmas is an Attack on Chinese Culture” | Sankaku Complex.

The Thirteenth Day of Christmas Anime

I couldn’t resist including just one more anime episode (from one of my favorite series).  Enjoy!

Honey and Clover
Episode 4, “Actually, I don’t like Christmas all that much…/The boy and girl are swayed”

The Christmas Story
The episode begins with reminiscing – Takumi thinks about Rika, and Rika and Shuji think about their past time together.  Hagu, meanwhile, is feeling pressure to succeed in her art and becomes ill.  Yuta helps her and finds out she’s been physically ailing lately because of the stress.  Later, Shinobu, dressed as Santa, deliver invitations to a party on Christmas Eve.  Yuta and Hagu go out to shop for the party, and he relates to her that he doesn’t like Christmas much, as he spent many of them in the hospital with him mom, a nurse.  At the party, Takumi arrives late and speaks to Shuji about Rika, who is visiting her husband’s grave.  After the party ends, Shuji takes the girls home, Takumi and Shinobu have a drink, and Yuta sleeps, dreaming of being young and celebrating Christmas with Hagu.

Christmas Gifts
For all the Santas I mentioned in these series of posts, might favorite is probably the mysterious (and hilarious) Shinobu Santa.  There are also decorations, a Christmas cake, and a Christmas party.  Oh yeah, and evil demonic Christmas trees that haunt Yuta’s mind.  Yikes.

The true meaning of Christmas is…
Finding a bit of happiness in the hardships of life.  I mentioned in my post about Toradora! that it’s Christmas shows helped me think of those who weren’t having a Merry Christmas – Honey and Clover goes even further.  Their characters are suffering from illness, heavy expectations, broken hearts, unrequited love, death of loved ones and the effects of growing up in a single parent household.  Honey and Clover is about as realistic as anime gets, and that’s part of why it’s just so good.  If you’re one of those without a happy home life, I hope that at least you had a bit of joy around Christmas.  There is hope, and it’s found in the reason for the season.

On the day after Christmas, anime gave to me:
Ill-fated romance,
Keitaro on crutches,
Fossilized limestone,
Santa Urd shining shoes,
a bloody day and silent night,
Broken hearts and ornaments,
Mio’s darling dresses
,
Chiyo’s dad as Santa,
Haruka crushing,
a blonde Santa Claus,
a Christmas tree comet,
Paper Sisters birthday,
and Sakura knitting a nerdy dollie.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas Anime

Love Hina
“Christmas Special – Silent Eve”

Naru Narusegewa Christmas

The Christmas Story
Su and Sarah discover a love letter in Naru’s closet, which they and Keitaro assume to be written for him.  Estatic, Keitaro decides to profess his love to Naru on Christmas; unfortunately, his excitement leads him to injure his ankle.  Still, he continues to study hard while working part-time to buy Naru a Christmas outfit she likes, only to discover that the letter isn’t for him.  Dejected, Keitaro wanders through the streets – what will Naru do?  Will she do anything?

Christmas Gifts
RED everywhere.  Some of the girl dresses in particular Santa outfits in this episode, and the outfit Keitaro buys for Naru is classy Santa chic (hehe).  Christmas music, Christmas trees and Christmas decorations abound throughout, and Keitaro is dressed as Santa for what seems like half the episode.

The true meaning of Christmas is…
Getting over yourself and appreciating the one you love.  While no one will mistake this episode for anything remotely religious, to me, it’s still the granddaddy of Christmas episodes, focusing on the romantic love associated with the holiday in Japan.  After watching over a dozen episodes (some for the umpteenth time) in the last few weeks, I’ve still found none as wonderful as this.  Keitaro, our bad luck/maybe perverted/man of steel hero sacrifices and sacrifices, only to be left in the dust by Naru.  This time, however, even the other girls are aghast at how she’s treating him.  But she makes up for it in the best and most emotionally moving confession in the series.  Add to that a nice little side story about Shinobu’s family, and you have what I think is the very best episode of Love Hina.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, anime gave to me:
Keitaro on crutches,
Fossilized limestone,
Santa Urd shining shoes,
a bloody day and silent night,
Broken hearts and ornaments,
Mio’s darling dresses
,
Chiyo’s dad as Santa,
Haruka crushing,
a blonde Santa Claus,
a Christmas tree comet,
Paper Sisters birthday,
and Sakura knitting a nerdy dollie.

Secret Santa: Kino’s Journey

I’m not usually a big fan of Secret Santa arrangements.  In fact, I recently went on a long diatribe about the evil of Secret Santa with my wife (who thinks I’m a Grinch).  But when I’d heard about what Reverse Thieves does each year, I immediately jumped on it.

I was terribly excited, until I saw my recommendations – there was not one anime I had an interest in among my picks!  First, there was Tsukuyomi Moon Phase - a show I had flirted with watching at one time, but really wasn’t too keen on watching.  A second choice, Kino’s Journey, looked dull to me.  So, I settled on a unique-looking series called Kaiba.

It was a little too unique for me.

I stopped halfway through the first episode.  And lucky for me that I did, because the choice I settled on has ended up becoming a new favorite.  Although it took a few episodes, Kino’s Journey got it’s hooks in me and hasn’t let go.

Kino' Journey Hermes

Source: Pixiv Artist 3575733

Like I said, though, it took a bit of convincing.  Prede linked me to an interesting note he wrote about the show on his MAL account, which encouraged me to watch.  But even when I started, I found the animation unattractive and the show too slow for my (typical) tastes.  Perhaps most distracting were the voices, as I saw it with dubs the first several episodes.  While I enjoyed Kelli Cousins’ mature voicing of the lead, Cynthia Martinez’s Hermes sounded so much like Pucchan from Best Student Council that I had a hard time taking the show seriously. Read the rest of this entry

The Eleventh Day of Christmas Anime

Maison Ikkoku
Episode 39, “Love Takes Guts! Godai’s Part-time Job Ploy!”
Episode 40, “A Bittersweet Favor!  Budding Christmas Love?!”

Kyoko Otonashi winter snow

The Christmas Story
As Kyoko is doing some cleaning, she comes upon a rock that has meaning to her, and asks Godai to investigate it.  While doing so, he meets up with Kozue, and realizes that he needs money to pay for gifts and for a Christmas party.  Godai works part-time jobs and buys the gifts.  Later, on the night of the party, Kyoko goes on ahead with Mitaka, while Godai goes to retrieve the stone, which he discovers was a gift from her late husband, and find information about it.  Unfortunately, Sakamoto, who had given the rock to a friend who studies geology, left it aboard a train.  As Godai looks for the stone, Kyoko worries as time passes by at the party.  Will he make it there before it’s over?

Christmas Gifts
Christmas decorations and shoppers, “Jingle Bells” (played like five times), Christmas trees, a winter storm and “Silent Night” played as a slow dance song.

The true meaning of Christmas is…
Sacrificing for the one you love.  Despite his jealousy of Soichiro, Godai goes to great lengths to find out about the stone and to let Kyoko know that it was a meaningful gift.  Although the only mention of Christ is when Kozue and Godai go to a planetarium show about the Bethlehem star, the theme of the two episodes was very appropriate for the holiday, more so than most.  Godai cheerfully, painfully and sacrificially gives for the one he loves, while Kyoko’s budding feelings take the form of paralyzing worry.  This is a particularly brilliant pair of episodes in a brilliant series, and represents the spirit of Christmas very well.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, anime gave to me:
Fossilized limestone,
Santa Urd shining shoes,
a bloody day and silent night,
Broken hearts and ornaments,
Mio’s darling dresses
,
Chiyo’s dad as Santa,
Haruka crushing,
a blonde Santa Claus,
a Christmas tree comet,
Paper Sisters birthday,
and Sakura knitting a nerdy dollie.

Tomorrow’s Forecast
Brave the snow to find your love that perfect gift!  Although to afford a nice coat, you may need to find some part-time work, particularly if you’re a ronin.

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Sacrifice and Arc Rise Fantasia

A plethora of anibloggers (including myself) are participating in the 12 Days of Christmas project, resulting in throngs of fun posts.  One recent such post, by Rakuen at Borderline Hikikomori, mentions an important aspect of Christian spirituality, and one that’s important to think of this season.

In discussing a certain character in the game, Arc Rise Fantasia, Rakuen frames the post around the idea of expressing love through sacrifice.  As he mentions, sacrifice is shown as a high (if not the highest) form of love in the Bible, as well as many other pieces of literature and other forms of media.  This Christmas season, while the focus for most will be on family and gift-giving, I hope we’ll all remember that the holiday is a celebration of Jesus, who came to be a sacrificial lamb, dying in our place.

Please take a look at Rakuen’s terrific post:  12 days of christmas – day 9 – sacrifice

The Tenth Day of Christmas Anime

Ah! My Goddess: Everyone Has Wings
Episode 2, “Ah! The Beleaguered Queen of Vengeance!”
Episode 3, “Ah! I Offer These Feelings on Christmas Eve!”
Episode 4, “Ah! I Want to Fill the World With Happiness!”
Ah! My Goddess Christmas

Wallpaper by Ded 113

The Christmas Story
“Queen” Sayoko sets her romantic sites squarely on Keiichi, who hasn’t been coming to campus with Belldandy, since she is at home preparing a gift for him.   However, a jealous Sayoko and other bumps in the road may prevent Keiichi from getting his gift.  In the next episode, Keiichi sees a ring he wants to buy Belldandy, and with Urd’s help, tries to find a way to earn money for it.  And what role will Sayoko play in this all?  In episode four, Keiichi, Belldandy and friends attend a Christmas party at Sayoko’s estate.  Belldandy become drunk on…Poca-Cola, and causes havoc in the form of spreading too much love around town.

Christmas Gifts
Christmas decorations, lots of lighted Christmas trees, “Jingle Bells” background music, gifts, throngs of Christmas shoppers, and snow falling at emotional moments.

The true meaning of Christmas is…
What you feel with your heart.  As Urd says, “Money won’t buy someone’s heart,” and the episodes revolve around giving gifts and other treasures.  These episodes remind me of the cornyness of the show – but still, all that corn put a smile on my face.  Not too shabby of a message for shows revolving around presents.  Of course, nary a mention of the “Christ” in Christmas is given – that would be too complicated in a show where a Christian God does not exist.  When Belldandy asks what Christmas is, Keiichi says it’s about a guy named  Santa Claus giving away gifts. 

Stocking Stuffers
These episodes can be viewed on Funimation’s Youtube channel.

On the tenth day of Christmas, anime gave to me:
Santa Urd shining shoes,
A bloody day and silent night,
Broken hearts and ornaments,
Mio’s darling dresses
,
Chiyo’s dad as Santa,
Haruka crushing,
a blonde Santa Claus,
a Christmas tree comet,
Paper Sisters birthday,
and Sakura knitting a nerdy dollie.

Tomorrow’s Forecast
With all these flurries, public transportation (including the train) may come to a standstill.  Don’t get caught between a rock and hard place.

The Ninth Day of Christmas Anime

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
Episode 35, “Romanesque”

Lynn Minmay Christmas snow

"Snow is Falling" by jaf1182 (Deviant Art)

The Christmas Story
As Quazmin prepares for an attack on the Macross city, Minmay approached Hikaru in a sad, depressed state.  Her conversation with Hikaru is overheard by Misa, making her upset.  Max and Milia go to intercept Quazmin’s forces as they attack, but can they stop him from accomplishing his mission?  Will Hikaru arrive in time to help?

Christmas Gifts
Santa handing out balloons, a “Merrie Christmas” sign, huge snowflakes, Christmas lights, lots of commercialization of Christmas and a detonation device disguised as Santa Claus.  Oh, and few other surprises (read below).
The true meaning of Christmas is…
A time to celebrate what’s important, namely, life and love.  Dramatically, the episode concludes with a look at the terror of war, as many die from the attack.  Surprisingly, citizens gather at a church on Christmas Eve and sing “Silent Night,” as they celebrate the holiday despite the carnage.  If I hadn’t know it was coming (I watched the episode after reading Ghostlighning’s post, “Christmas Anime Heartbreak“), I would’ve been shocked at the forerightness in which the series tackles the true meaning of Christmas, complete with several minutes of “Silent Night” in the background and imagery of Christ.  I’m only minimally familiar with the series, so the emotional impact of some key scenes are probably lost on me, but the beauty and melancholy on the episode are not.  If you get a chance, watch this episode as an appreciation of classic anime, and one that demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas.  Hulu is airing this episode and the entire series.
Stocking Stuffer
Cosplay of Lynn Minmay in a Santa hat?   Very cute!
On the ninth day of Christmas, anime gave to me:
A bloody day and silent night,
Broken hearts and ornaments,
Mio’s darling dresses
,
Chiyo’s dad as Santa,
Haruka crushing,
a blonde Santa Claus,
a Christmas tree comet,
Paper Sisters birthday,
and Sakura knitting a nerdy dollie.
Tomorrow’s Forecast
It’s getting colder and colder.  You’d be best advised to wear a sweater (maybe a home-knit one from a loved one?).  Alcohol’s also known to warm-up a body – why not go to a Christmas party?

The Eighth Day of Christmas Anime

Toradora!
Episode 17, “Mercury Retrogrades at Christmas”
Episode 18, “Under the Fir Tree”
Episode 19, “Christmas Eve Festival”

Christmas Taiga Minorin Ami

The Christmas Story
These series of episodes are set during Christmastime.  Taiga returns to school after her suspension, and is uncharacteristically excited about the holiday.  In this mood, she decides to play Cupid for Ryuji and Minorin in order to be good for Santa.  Meanwhile, Yusaku announces a Christmas Eve party, and the students work together to prepare for it.  Taiga, who has a special love for Christmas connected with presents, brings in a glass star to top the students’ tall Christmas tree.  Unfortunately, Minorin accidentally destroys it with a stray softball.  Inconsolable, she refuses to go to the Christmas party, despite Ryuji’s entreaties.  As the party begins, relationships begin to evolve with Ryuji at the center of everything.

Christmas Gifts
A humongous Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, a Christmas bear and Yusaku’s semi-naked elf (?) outfit…that exhibitionist!

The true meaning of Christmas is…
Loving others and being witht he one you’re in love with.  If you’re never seen Toradora!, it’s easy to excuse it as another romantic comedy.  But these episodes, especially, show that its characters are far more complex than in a typical series of this type.  A marked melancholy marks these episodes, especially regarding Taiga and, more surprisingly, Minorin.  I think these episodes help remind us that not everyone enjoys the holidays and that it can be a very depressing time.  That said, these episodes are still full of Christmas cheer and touching scenes.  But most of all, I love seeing Minorin’s character development.  Another nice addition is a song sung by Taiga and Ami (below).Stocking Stuffer

On the eighth day of Christmas, anime gave to me:
Broken hearts and ornaments
Mio’s darling dresses
,

Chiyo’s dad as Santa,
Haruka crushing,
a blonde Santa Claus,
a Christmas tree comet,
Paper Sisters birthday,
and Sakura knitting a nerdy dollie.

Tomorrow’s Forecast
Baby, it’s cold outside!  So don’t forget to close your door – you don’t want to let the cold in (or have a love interest see you comforting an idol singer).