Category Archives: Anime
Each year on Beneath the Tangles, we celebrate the Christmas season by discussing some of our favorite anime Christmas episodes. Beginning tomorrow, we’ll be posting about an anime Christmas episode each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. I hope you’ll read along and maybe even view some of these episodes as we go through them – what better way for an otaku to get into the Christmas spirit?
Ready for more pain?
The third Madoka Magic movie, subtitled Rebellion, pushes angst to extreme highs (or lows), as Gen Urobuchi puts his cast of cute magical girls in heartrending situations and weaves an unexpected tale that will leave viewers breathless.
Continuing where the first two movies, adaptations of the original series, ended, Madoka Magica The Movie – Rebellion eases us into a familiar world, but one that shouldn’t exist. Madoka’s sacrifice seems to have never occurred, as this new world finds her along with the entire cast in existence, though a few have slightly altered personalities, including villains from the previous works. But what is this world? Why does it exist this way? And can Homura discover the secrets behind it?
This third and (possibly) final installment of the Madoka Magica series divides nicely into three parts. The first functions as a quizzical introduction. Viewers are left scrambling, wondering why things have turned out this way. Did we misunderstand what occurred in the finale? Meanwhile, we’re treated to Akiyuki Shinbo’s always interesting directing style, as uncomfortable backward head slants and dichotomous visuals mark the landscape of the film. But with a budget far surpassing that of the series, he is able to match his direction to some of the most beautiful and stunning animation scenes ever developed; it’s pure pleasure to watch the magnificent scene when the magical girls team up to take down their enemy. The same can be said of the scenery, as Shinbo treats us to some of his most intense or creative artwork during scenes of exposition or silence, ensuring us that despite a nearly two-hour running time, we won’t be sitting through a soporific movie.
Adding a further dimension is Yuki Kajiura’s score, which is almost a character in itself, adding voice to scenes throughout the film and at times affecting it as much as the animation and script. Truly cinematic, it is perhaps the beautiful scoring that particularly makes the movie one that should be enjoyed in theaters as much as the outstanding visuals do. The new opening and ending, “Colorful” by ClariS and “Kimi no Gin no Niwa” by Kalafina, respectively, are memorable and further add to the film’s scope, which is as large as to be expected.
Indeed, we fall further into understand the enormity of the story (emotionally more than physically) as the second phase of the tale follows Homura, poking and prodding in true tough-girl detective style, often coming to blows with her friends, to find out the truth. And what a truth it is.
Certainly, many fans will be shocked, more than once, by the final act of this supposed final film. It takes the story in a direction that is appropriate for the series, which has always been a mind bender, but it also alters significantly how we think about the franchise’s characters and the grand narrative. While I found the movie to offer a strangely comforting answer in a discomforting finale, others will feel quite differently. Certainly many in the crowd at my theater were shocked, and after the credits rolled, almost all were silent, perhaps both in confusion and awe.
And that’s both a strength and the weakness of the movie, as it perhaps tries to give too much story, working our minds like a steam engine, while denying us the enjoyment we could have in seeing a slightly less dizzying finale. This perhaps tells how fine the film is, though, that I would nitpick about the movie forcing us to use our minds.
I will say that Madoka fanatics may perhaps find other, more considerable flaws in the film, though if they’re there, I almost don’t want to know what they are. Please just leave me alone. I want to be free to soak in the most visually and musically impressive and compellingly scripted animated film I’ve seen in quite some time.
Related articles and reviews
Today’s article is a guest post by a friend to both me and the blog, Medieval Otaku.
Those of you who read my blog may be familiar with my article Un Programme d’Articles pour Novembre. (Why French? Because most things sound better in French, obviously.) Therein, I promised to write an article on Corpse Princess and my history with horror films and anime, but a more interesting topic came to mind. I became curious with the way the show presented Buddhist ideas of detachment, which ultimately led to me contemplating on how detachment differs with Christian charity.
Those familiar with this delightfully action packed and soap opera-ish anime called Corpse Princess, a. k. a. Shikabane Hime, know that the heroes are affiliated with a Buddhist sect. This sect uses certain undead young women, known as Shikabane Hime, to eliminate undead monsters. They boast that their monks have reached enlightenment, and therefore have no attachments to this life. This makes it impossible for them to become undead themselves, since the undead enter that state because of intense regret and attachment. The hero, Ouri, resists Buddhist principles of detachment, particularly in regard to Makina, his role model’s Shikabane Hime. He does this despite both Makina and others telling him to treat Shikabane Hime as tools and aberrations—not as people.
How different is the Kougen sect’s attitude from Christianity, whose essence is charity! Charity, at its heart, desires to unite all things and make them whole. The more charity enters one’s heart, the more one wishes that broken relationships heal and the more one’s own happiness depends on others being happy. We have the example of Christ: “’I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!’” (Luke 12:49-50) This baptism is His Passion and Death, by which He would free the world from sin and death. Because He saw that the whole of humanity would be consigned to hell without this baptism, He felt agony in this baptism’s delay—Jesus did not wish to be happy without humanity being happy. Read the rest of this entry
As a follower of Christ, one of my favorite things is seeing God in areas where you least expect Him. This is especially true in anime, and writing this column, “Anime Today,” has been wonderful practice in seeking out these appearances in modern form. Although many Christians make the mistake of believing God to only show His hand in exclusively “Christian” media (I use that term loosely), as an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God, throughout history He has proven Himself to use people from every walk of life to present His truth (just look at the interactions of ancient Israel with the gentile nations). With this in mind, Gingitsune has continued to prove itself a testament to both general biblical principles as well as specific teachings of Jesus Christ during his ministry.
As usual, some of the most edifying themes I identify in media such as anime are not overt, but the more subtle ones that can often be missed. This is the case with the topic of today: trusting in an invisible God.
One of the more intriguing, yet less central, characters of Gingitsune is Makoto’s father, Tatsuo. A kind, unassuming Shinto priest, Tatsuo carries out his duties diligently from episode to episode, all the while caring for his daughter and Satoru. In the midst of his day-to-day activities, however, exists an inspiring character from which a believer can gain much. In particular, I was finally struck in episode nine by something that is easy to miss: his loyal devotion to the heralds (and gods) he serves.
Although Makoto and Satoru receive the majority of the show’s writing attention, Tatsuo continues to serve in the background with no complaints. This in itself could be a topic of discussion, but what is particularly striking about it is that he does all of this without the ability to even see the heralds he is even serving. Although his late wife could see them, and his daughter Makoto can now see them, Tatsuo has (assumingly) lived a life blind to the supernatural. However, this does not stop him from not only serving the supernatural, but also wholeheartedly believing in it.*
Stopping here provides an adequate presentation of what it means to follow a power that we cannot see, something that many Christians struggle with (myself included), but Gingitsune does not stop here. In fact, as I have seen throughout the series, Gingitsune follows through with some of its minor presentations by providing a more full picture of what the writers want to say.
At this point in the series, not only are we reminded of an undying devotion to an invisible (Shinto) power, but we are given the flip side of this faith: the perspective of the divine. Although not a god himself, Gin has his own views of Tatsuo and his faith. Despite being perhaps less focused than your average Shinto priest, Gin seems to give him great trust. In fact, this even extends to giving him more leeway than perhaps is normal for a herald-priest relationship (this is especially exemplified in Gin’s reaction to Haru’s dissatisfaction with Tatsuo).
This relationship reminds me greatly of many figures throughout the Old Testament. For instance, in the case of Abraham (Abram at first), on many occasions Abraham performed actions that were less than pleasing in God’s eyes. In one case, he lied to Pharaoh about his relationship with Sarah (Sarai at first) as his wife, saying that she was his sister (which wasn’t entirely a lie considering she was his half-sister, but I digress) in order to protect his own skin. Despite God’s displeasure with this sin, because of Abraham’s great faith in his God, God still delivered him from trouble by cursing Pharaoh. Another instance of this comes in the form of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba. Despite being a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), he still fell to the sin of adultery. However, due to his great faith and repentance, God forgave him and continued to work through him.
Unless something else is revealed later in the story past what has been released as of writing, Gin’s treatment of Tatsuo seems to parallel this attitude to an extent. Tatsuo shows great faith, faith that could even be considered greater than Makoto’s due to the difference in their ability to “see,” and this shows. This, then, causes Gin to act appropriately.
Christians can learn much from this image as, again, Gingitsune continues to reflect principles applicable to every believer.
How do you define love?
That one word carries with it perhaps more meaning than any in the English language. It’s such a powerful, personal concept, that each person connotates it different from the next, carrying experience, beliefs, hopes, and other items into their his or her definition of the word.
A Google search for the concept brings up this simple meaning: “an intense feeling of deep affection.” On the other hand, St. Paul famously defines it this way:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
- I Corinthian 13:4-7
In other words, love is demonstrating deep kindness to someone without regard to how it affects the lover. This is largely the meaning for love which I embrace.
Akemi Homura, on the other hand, sees love quite differently (Spoilers for Madoka Rebellion after the jump).
At my church, we play Secret Santa each year. It’s done in a very simple manner – we bring a small gift to our Christmas party, and the participants draw numbers for the order in which we select. Takeaways are allowed.
I absolutely hate this tradition. And so, I choose not to participate each year. Bah humbug!
The reason I don’t like it is because without fail, there’s always a person or two that gives an over the top “WUT? WAT A HORRIBLE GIFT” response when opening a perfectly nice present. I wonder if the giver feels hurt. I imagine they sometimes do – the giver, who is very likely an overburdened parent (at our church), went out of his or her way to buy something thoughtful, and they get a really crappy response in return.
So of course, I participated in two other Secret Santas this year!
The first is among friends and should go quite well. The second is usually fun as well – it’s the wonderfully managed anibloggers’ Secret Santa, set up by the lovely folks at Reverse Thieves.
I loved the submissions I ended up receiving. I hoped that those I submitted would be well-received as well.
Unfortunately, via social media, I’ve found out they weren’t. I felt terrible for the viewer*, because I didn’t want that person to sit through endless episodes of a pain-inducing series.** But then, I started to feel terrible for myself, as people piled upon the anonymous Secret Santa.
The Secret Santa (me) was jeered and laughed at, and called names, including my favorite, “Secret Satan.”
Yesterday, I gave numbers 6-10 on my list of the ten best Christmas anime. Today, we’ll complete our countdown!
5. Maison Ikkoku
I don’t think any anime series has ever done angst better than Maison Ikkoku, which balances that teeth-clenching feeling of “Why don’t they get together?!” with writing and character development that keeps us interested, still, one hundred episodes in. Episodes 39 and 40, one of a number of Christmas episodes in the series, is no different. Godai spends the episode tracking down an important rock (yes, rock) for Kyoko, and we see what each means to the other as the countdown to the Christmas party ticks away.
4. Chrono Crusade
I really dislike Chrono Crusade – I never made it to the end because I found it terribly boring. Episode 12, however, is an exception. While perhaps drifting into cheesy territory (though isn’t cheese acceptable during the holiday season?), the episode does a wonderful job of both being heart-warming and reminding us that not everyone feels happy this time of year, focusing on Azmaria and her sad past while demonstrating the power that we have to make the holidays special for those in need.
3. Love Hina
Without fail, I watch the Love Hina X’Mas special every year. Originally airing as a 44-minute TV special, the episode is the most romantic of the series (and quite possibly my favorite single episode of any anime), pushing past the pair of other episodes involving Naru’s confessions of love. Surely inspired by the aforementioned Maison Ikokku episode, the plight of poor Keitaro and the over-the-top pain that Naru puts him through makes the end of this episode all the more delightful.
2. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
A melancholy episode, much like Read or Die’s, episode 35 of Macross involves pained feelings of romance against the backdrop of war during Christmastime. What sets the episode apart is how heavy it gets. As the violence of war leads to civilian casualties, there’s a poignant scene at the episode’s end in which townsfolk gather together, in an impromptu manner, to sing ”Silent Night” at a bombarded church – a surprising and emotional way to end a superb episode.
And…at number one…
1. Tokyo Godfathers
The anime that tops my list is the only one that isn’t from a series – it’s a standalone movie from masterful director (and sorely missed) Satoshi Kon. The classic follows three homeless individuals who are trying to track down an abandoned baby’s mother on Christmas Eve. Though gritty and vulgar, the movie manages to be far more meaningful than most sappy Christmas fare, presenting several redemption stories amidst the violence and suffering of the streets. If you haven’t seen the film, by all means, please check it out this Christmas season.
So that does it for my list! Here are the entire top ten:
- Tokyo Godfathers
- Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
- Love Hina
- Chrono Crusade
- Maison Ikkoku
- Read or Die
- Big O
- Kimi ni Todoke
Now it’s your turn to chime in. What did I miss? What would be your number one? Or if you’d like, just give us your entire top ten in the comments below!
Thanksgiving has past and Christmastime is now upon us. For me, that traditionally means watching Christmas shows and movies. In recent years, I’ve added Christmas anime, which have become as ubiquitous as anime beach episodes, to my regular holiday viewing list. I’ve now watched dozens and dozens of Christmas anime episodes – many are certainly terrible, but there are a plethora of good ones as well. I’ll be giving you what I believe are the ten best, starting with numbers 6-10 today, and concluding with the top five tomorrow.
Toradora has three episodes set around Christmastime (17, 18, and 19). Although there’s nothing particularly special about how Christmas is presented in them – parties, trees, presents, love – the episodes are notable for pushing forward the romantic plot of the story and developing the characters of Taiga, Minori, and Ami, sometimes through unexpected events, like Minori’s baseball/tree mishap.
I’m not a huge K-On! fan, but even I can’t deny that episode seven of the show is possibly the most popular Christmas episode of any anime. Shown largely from Ui’s perspective, the episode follows the gang as they have a mini-talent show as part of a friend-centered Christmas celebration. One of our writers, Goldy, particularly connected to sisterly connections in this episode.
Matching the sweet tone of the series, Kimi ni Todoke’s Christmas episode (22) focuses on Sawako’s pure heart. She’s been invited to a Christmas party and wants to attend to celebrate with Kazehaya and all her friends, but is conflicted because the day is very important to her family, particularly her dad. It’s a very nice episode, both heart-warming and romantic.
7. Big O
An example of a series that actually uses Christmas to further it’s plot, episode eleven of Big O hits a surprisingly cheery note for a post-apocalyptic series, and it does it in a way only Big O can: Santa is there, though he’s a bit crazed; Roger plays the role of Scrooge; there’s gift shopping, though it’s done by an android instead of a human; and the “reason for the season” is revealed in a dialogue that reminds viewers of the characters’ lost memories.
6. Read or Die
Even if you haven’t watched the series of OVAs, like me, you’ll find episode 10 of Read or Die to be an absolute treat. Focusing on the Paper Sisters, the episode subtly emphasizes the importance of the holiday through imagery and mention of Christ and Santa, while also impressing the nicely emotion story of how the sisters came together.
Come back tomorrow as we run down the rest of the list!
Nagi no Asukara is easily one of the most beautiful and simultaneously unassuming anime this season. Masquerading as a generic slice-of-life drama, Nagi no Asukara presents a wonderfully crafted world that is similar enough to our own to be relatable, yet different enough to present an intriguing mystery. And while it’s doing all of this, it teaches valuable lessons on how to treat others who are different from yourself!
Much like Gingitsune this season, Nagi no Asukara has continued to reinforce to me that Shinto-inspired settings and stories can often have extremely practical and applicable Christian values throughout (in many cases, even more so than anime that actually feature Christianity as a key plot builder). The Shinto inspiration in this case comes in the form of Uroko-sama, the “lord of the village” (who is also referred to as a god by Manaka). In another comparison to Gingitsune, particularly Gin as a herald, Urok0-sama seems to serve as a sort of deified representative for some greater god (who has yet to be fully explained as of episode seven, or the time of writing). Uroko-sama’s relationship with the villagers of Shioshishio as herald or god opens up quite a number of possibilities for Christian application.
In terms of application, as I mentioned, the end of episode seven affected me particularly (warning: minor spoilers).
At the end of this episode, Hikari and his older sister Akari are abandoning their home of Shioshishio in retaliation to the village’s rule of outcasting those who seek a relationship with a land dweller. The offender in this case is Akari, who finally decided that being with her love and acting as a mother to Miuna is worth the cost of being ostracized. Being fed up with it all, Hikari and Akari confront Uroko-sama and their father in Uroko’s shrine just before making their ascent to land. However, not content with allowing them to leave so easily (in addition to there existing some not yet revealed importance to their family in relation to the village), Uroko-sama sends a sort of underwater blizzard to freeze their surroundings (and them) and to halt their progress, keeping them within the confines of the village. All of this is done under watchful eye of their father.
That is, until he finally breaks down and pleads with Uroko-sama to let them go.
All of this results in a rather impactful and emotional scene of a father’s love for his children, but more importantly (or at least from my perspective), of a man pleading to his god.
Now, over the past semester I have had the privilege to volunteer my time through a program in my university called the Prayer Center. Here I have spent several hours a week reading through prayer requests collected through email, text, phone calls, Facebook, and in-person communication, and then interacting them. Sometimes this has come in the form of emailing the requestor with words of encouragement, writing them a card, or simply praying for them silently regarding whatever struggles they are going through. This, honestly, was quite a struggle for me, as I have always tended to be a skeptic of the tangible effects of prayer. However, I came to realize over the course of the last several months that prayer matters. The Bible exhorts us to pray and promises us that God hears our prayers and acts upon them (Mark 11:24, Philippians 4:6-7, John 14:13-14, and so, so many others). Although we ourselves are powerless compared to the omnipotent God of Christianity, the Bible teaches us that through our prayers, God will make a difference.
Getting back to my main point, Hikari’s exemplifies the desperate believer pleading, praying to God. At the end of the episode, when Hikari and Akari seem to be at the point of no return, their father requests Uroko’s mercy on his children. And he gives it.
Sadly, all analogies break down. Uroko-sama is obviously not an accurate picture of God, as he is simply a representative for some greater power, does not seem to show any semblance of omniscience or omnipotence, and is quite volatile in his position*. Also, it is unclear if Uroko’s answer to this “prayer” is actually in the best interest of all those involved. However, I still could not help but be struck by this comparison.
If you are to gain one thing from this message conveyed via Nagi no Asukara, it is that praying for others is a serious matter. It is not pointless and it is also not a sort of superpower. It is us genuinely connecting with God on a personal level and asking for mercy for those we care about, and through that, making all the difference.**
And if you are not watching Nagi no Asukara yet, I pray*** that you change that right now.
I have this fragile sort of love for Golden Time. As each episode progresses, I’m almost afraid to admit to myself how much I enjoy the show – enough to be among my favorite series – because I also see flaws that lead me to think the entire show will eventually come crashing down. The last two episodes tested me particularly, because I thought they were both pretty abyssal.
However, I’m back on the path to cautious
schoolgirl-like glee optimism. While Koko plays a minor part in this episode (perhaps that’s a good thing), character development does progress as we hear a lot more of dead Banri, who narrates a large portion of the episode. It could be confusing, but it isn’t as Banri’s former self guides us through a flashback that shows more of Linda’s feelings toward him and just how lovestruck Banri was (is?). By the end of the episode, we also find that perhaps spirit Banri can physically affect new Banri.
There’s a hint of melancholy in this and previous episodes as we dig into Banri and Linda’s past. It doesn’t hurt that Linda is the most likeable character in the series, and that she seems to be hurting as much as anyone because of Banri’s memory loss. She’s lonely, but so, too, is Banri in some fashion. He has a new girlfriend, a new best friend, and a new school, but truth be told, he barely knows any of those. Heck, he barely knows himself.
Most of us will experience this ironic sense of loneliness in life as we’re surrounded by people. When thrust into new relationships because of life changes – a move, a new job, a complete and total memory loss – we find ourselves at once excited and scared, befriended and depressed.
It’s no different for new Christians. While teaching a class at my church, I mentioned the idea to my students about how when we become new converts, we sometimes put up a wall, intentionally or otherwise, with our pre-Christian friends. We start hanging out less with them and have less to talk about. We may even become snooty toward them, further putting up a divide. At the same time, we’ve gained a church family, but a new one that doesn’t know us like our longtime friends do. It’s a strangely friendless situation in which to be.