Blog Archives

Anime Today: One Week Sinners

Wow, has the Spring 2014 anime season started off with a bang. I have already picked up 10 new shows that I plan to watch through to completion, in addition to the two I was already watching from last season (Nisekoi and Tonari no Seki-kun), and I have not been disappointed. While a number of what I have picked up so far will most likely be duds, the greatly hyped Mushi-shi sequel and Mekakucity Actors have both so far lived up to my expectations, and brand new ones like The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior and One Week Friends have thus far been quite promising.

The last of these mentions is the show I would like to focus on today, and while I would love to spend the rest of this article gushing about my feelings and opinions of what we are going to be seeing the next few months in the anime world, that is something to be left for another piece.

With that said, One Week Friends has really gotten me thinking over the past two weeks since it began airing. I’m always a bit nervous for this column, “Anime Today”, when a new season rolls around, lest I not have enough material within the first few episodes of each new series, but One Week Friends immediately struck me in terms of writing motivation.

If you are not yet familiar with it, One Week Friends (or Isshuukan Friends) is a middle school drama/romance that seems, in most ways, to play out akin to its many (many, many, many) slice of life brethren, with one major catch: the female interest, Kaori, of the male lead, Yuuki, has a memory problem that causes her to lose the memories of her close friends every Monday.

one week friends

Art by coma (Pixiv ID 42777163)

This is not a new concept. Simply looking at anime like Ef: A Tale of Memories, or even in the western world, a movie like 50 First Dates (something I think I saw at a friend’s house nearly a decade ago and have no intention of watching again), one will find many comparisons in existing media. However, the setup has not been out used. In fact, I would claim that it still comes across as something rather creative among its anime contemporaries, despite many past instances of this memory loss “trope”, mostly because it is being used as something less amnesiac, and more regular and constantly debilitating.

Even only two episodes in, the entire situation does a great job of pulling at your heart strings. I like to compare One Week Friends to a fantastic merging of two of my other favorite anime, Ef: A Tale of Memories (which I already mentioned) in its memory-loss driven romantic drama, and Usagi Drop in its general animation and writing style, as well as focus on wholesome relationships.

All of this culminates in a seriously captivating story of a boy and a girl trying to maintain a relationship that suffers strains unlike any other.

Read the rest of this entry

Nisekoi: Copying from the Best (But It’s Best to Not Only Copy)

It seems that these days, the trend with anime romantic comedies is to stick with a tried and true formula, but insert some semi-unique element that works as a major plot device.  Nisekoi is doing just that this season with the “rival gangs” plot point, while relying on some of the best all-time anime romcoms for story development.  In fact, the last few weeks have shown just how much this series is relying on the past, with an early-season “save the drowning girl during a weird swim competition” episode straight out of Toradora and both the “girl falls on top of the boy” trope and “there are two promised girls” complication from Love Hina.

Chitoge Kirisaki

Art by PeaCh (Pixiv ID 41579416)

I’m a little saddened by the complete lack of imagination, since I’ve been pinning all of my hopes this season on Nisekoi, but I’m also not too disappointed, as the two classic series I mentioned are perhaps my favorite romantic comedies.

And there’s a lot to be said for imitating something really that’s already really well done.  But while doing such smashes creativity in animation, there’s a good connection to real life, where imitation of what is good is part of the Christian life.

Read the rest of this entry

The Gospel According to a Pink-Haired Meganekko

The Gospel message is simple, and yet many people misunderstand it or are simply ignorant of it.  And thus, it’s sometimes helpful to use a familiar cultural artifact or form to illustrate the message.  In this case, I’ll be using one of my favorite series of the 2013 fall anime season – Beyond the Boundary.

While the series as a whole – and even the primary episode I’m analyzing (episode 11) – could hardly be called a strong biblical allegory, certain aspects of it are beneficial for understanding what Christianity is all about.

Sinful Man is Bound for Death

One of the major themes of the Old Testament is that man is constantly in rebellion with God.  While this is obvious in stories like the Tower of Babel, it’s more practical when we realize that falling short of holiness, of God’s standard, leads to sin.  And sinning is rebellion against God.  It’s, in a way, telling God that our way is better than His.  And like a dirty white cloth can never become clean magically on it’s own, we, too, stained with sin, can do nothing to become holy and clean by our own power.  This is significant because of the outcome – a unholy creature cannot be in the presence of God, who provides life; thus, he or she is bound for a place without God, a place of death.

In Beyond the Boundary, the title demon has latched onto Akihito at some point and he carries this weight around with him.  Akihito, on his own, would not be able to remove this disease from his body.  It’s a weight that changes him into a terrible creature and which leads to death.

Akihito Kanbara

Art by まっつ@29日シ81a (Pixiv ID 265)

Read the rest of this entry

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 5: Love Hina

If there’s one thing that anime Christmas episodes have in common, it’s romance.  Most of them involve a romantic element, with the usual involving some Christmas date presented with some anime misunderstanding or angst.  Christmas cakes are also involved, as is snow and shopping.

With this in mind, the other day I asked my Tumblr readers if they considered Christmas to be a romantic holiday.  They responded with an emphatic no.

Maybe anime has gotten to me, but in my mind, Christmas has become more and more romantic, right up there with New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.  And my favorite Christmas anime is a romantic one – the Love Hina Christmas special.

art source unknown

art source unknown

Read the rest of this entry

Uchouten Kazoku: Familial Love in Christ

I rarely ever write about a currently airing anime, Space Brothers being the only exception. Part of that reason is because I’m relatively new to Beneath the Tangles and have been slowly digging my way through ideas that have been floating in my head for the past few years. The other reason would be I like to have a very clear and established view and understanding of whatever I am writing about; I want to encapsulate the work as a whole rather than a certain episode. That’s just how I am as a writer. However, Uchouten Kazoku has impressed me so much the last few weeks that I decided to write about a select couple of episodes.

At the beginning of summer season, Uchouten Kazoku was not even on my radar. Nonetheless, I picked it up on its first episode for the sake of watching it with one of my good friends. It was interesting but nothing special. It was slow but not boring. It was clearly establishing a world of tanuki, tengu, and humans, but I had no idea how it planned to go from there. Uchouten Kazoku is by the same author as Tatami Galaxy, so on that note, it had a plus. Still, it was an anime made by P.A. Works, a studio that has a fairly bad reputation, particularly when it comes to adaptations. With their most recent failures of Another and Red Data Girl, I was still going in just waiting for them to mess up. Pessimistic, for sure, but that didn’t mean I would hate on it for the sake of hating on it. Indeed, the world building was done well and entertaining, not to mention Noto’s amazing performance as Benten. And when I was just starting to get bored of the slice of life, they pulled out some amazingly well written and executed drama.

Art by むど@mudo34

Art by むど@mudo34

Spoilers ahead, but it is revealed near the end of episode 7 that on the night their father was killed (captured by humans and eaten in a tanuki hot pot), one of the four brothers Yajirou had become drunk with him and essentially left him alone and presumably defenseless. Perhaps not directly, but surely indirectly causing the death by irresponsibly leaving his drunken father alone, he is filled with guilt and abandons life to become a frog in a well, literally. The oldest brother, Yaichirou, breaks down in tears with all kinds of emotions while the third son Yasaburou (I know, these names are so confusing) is left unsure how to feel. The youngest brother is left uninformed.

The following episode was absolutely beautifully done, and the show shot up as one of my favorites this season. We learn the last thing their father wanted was for his children to separate or be on bad terms. We learn of their father’s final words to his tengu friend, confirming that he was quite content with his life and even accepting towards his death. His final request was for his friend to take care of Yasaburou, which had been seen plenty in past episodes. He plainly states his death was a cause of his “idiotic blood.” When the brothers go home, their mother reveals she had known all along why Yajirou had chosen to live in the well simply because “he’s my son.” Although Yaichirou is implied to have anger and disappointment towards his brother, he responds “I understand him; that’s why it hurts.” The episode ends with Yasaburou narrating that the only thing holding together the four brothers were their love for their mother and the departure of their father.

This parallels the Christian idea of loving each other as family very closely, albeit not perfectly. The brothers are as different as can be and are described as each inheriting only one aspect of their father. However, they are able to stay connected as family because of their love for their mother and the departure of their father. As Christians, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but while some get along great, others of us have more clashing opinions than we can count. But if there is one thing to connect us, it is our love for God and the death of Christ. Furthermore, it is not as if the brothers’ love is shallow as something to please their mother. They honestly love each other as brothers. However, they maintain their solidarity with each other despite their differences and disagreements because of the strength of their connection: their parents. They could have gone their separate ways with no ill will but they stay together. As Christians, we don’t have to agree with every Christian and love every single aspect and never ever feel even slightly negative about each other; that is not possible. If such a thing were to happen, we would lose the individuality that God gave us. However, we are called to treat and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Just like these brothers, we are connected together by our love for God and the death (and resurrection) of Christ, if nothing else. And a connection through God is the strongest connection we can have with others.

Art by Myk

Art by Myk

As a result, while we may not agree with every action or opinion of our siblings in Christ (For example, some may have strong negative opinions regarding anime culture), we are expected to understand each other through God’s eyes and wisdom. Yaichirou, in a state of complex emotions that we can only infer, says that he understands his brother and that’s why it hurts. No matter how angry or disappointed he may or may not feel toward his brother, he also understands the pain and guilt. In the same way, Christians should be able to understand each other, put aside our many differences, and commune with each other through our largest common factor: our belief in Christ and love for God. Yajirou was already an outcast of sorts who was said to a failure of a tanuki. After the guilt of causing his father’s death, he chose to hole up in a well saying he has no right to call himself his mother’s son. And yet, she still does, just as God calls us sinners his children. Regardless of our sins and the sins we will continue to do and regardless of our opinions and views on what is right or wrong, we are all connected as siblings through Christ. And it is through Christ that we can best understand each other because it is the strongest connection we can have with each other. If we cannot understand our siblings in Christ, how much less will we understand those who aren’t?

While the familial love of the Shimogamo household is certainly one to admire and appreciate, it is not without problems. With the head of the household gone, there is a family feud between them and their cousins, who they never got along well with in the first place, over who the successor will be. Arguably, they do not share the connections the brothers have and symbolically are not a part of the family. However, their father wanted reconciliation between himself and his brother and surely considered them to still be a part of his family. In the same way, while we may not be siblings in Christ, we are all children of God, and there is no reason not to love each other as such. We my lack a spiritual connection, but we can still find connections with people in other ways, such as our love for anime. How Uchouten Kazoku will resolve the problems remains to be seen. Regardless, I look forward to the final stretch of the show with great anticipation. If it keeps up this quality, it might just be my favorite of the season.

Something More: Christ’s Sacrifice > Madoka’s, Oukoku Christian Game, and AnoHana and the Supernatural

I didn’t update “Something More” last week, so today’s links include two week’s worth.  Sorry for the delay!

Japes looks at the supernatural in AnoHana and how we might approach the topic from a Christian point of view. [Japesland]

Nick Calibey responds to a post that argues that Madoka’s sacrifice in Puella Magi Madoka Magica was greater than Christ’s. [A Rather Silly Blog]

D.M. Dutcher previews Oukoku Game, a manga with a really interesting concept involving Christianity. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

D.M. Dutcher also reviews several works for Christian viewers/readers:

__

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included. 

Something More: Medieval Maoyuu Maou Yuusha Church, The Last Temptation of Madoka, and Samurai Deeper Christ

Nami dives into the themes of redemption and Christ symbolism in Trigun. [The Budding Philosopher]

Medieval Otaku compares Demon Eyes Kyo to Christ and examines some Christian themes and symbols in Samurai Deeper Kyo. [Medieval Otaku]

D.M. Dutcher of the Cacao, put down the shovel blog continues “A Christian’s Guide to Anime and Manga,” posts providing information and recommendations, with a series of articles detailing:

  • specific anime-related definitions [Part 2]
  • the definitions and warnings for “moe” and “lolicon” [Part 3]
  • how Christians should consider approaching anime and manga [Part 4]

JoeAnimated compares monasticism and the Middle Ages to the church guarding knowledge in episode 3 of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.  [Anime Audiolog]

Usny also mentions the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages in relation to Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, and in an aside, gives thoughts about the rise of fall of the Church’s influence [Desu ex Machina]

Jay notes a scene reminiscent of the temptation of Christ in his review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. [Jay's Tee Vee]

__

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included. 

Re-Viewed: Angel Beats! Episode 04 and Friends in Need

Of all the interesting characters in Angel Beats!, my favorite is one who is one of the most normal – Hinata.  Episode four of the series deals with a baseball game, as we get a glimpse into the former high school baseball player’s past, one in which a simple error cost his team a chance at Koshien and led him to experiment with (and maybe later die from) drugs.

Hideki Hinata Angel Beats

4. Hinata (Art by 妃杈)

Hinata reminds me a lot of a friend I had in middle school.  He was older than me, cooler than me, more popular than me, and more mature than me.  In spite of it all, this friend not only spent time with me – he actively sought me out, day after day, and watched out for me.  He was also the first young person I knew who not only claimed to be Christian, but who lived a life largely free of hypocrisy.  Read the rest of this entry

Re-Viewed: Angel Beats! Episode 03 and Choosing Your Way

For me, the height of Angel Beats! was episode 3.  Although I enjoyed most of the rest of the show, this particularly episode moved me and ended with a mystery that, unlike in many other anime of the same vein, actually made me think and wonder.

The episode is simple in nature and in fact, reflects a recurring setup – one group infiltrates while another baits Angel.  In this case, Yuri’s group, including a new recruit who insists on being called Christ, tries to enter the “most holy place,” the computer desk in Angel’s dorm room (the temple), where she meets with God.  But by the end of the episode, whatever Christian motif might have taken place all seems incidental, as discoveries are made about Angel lack of angelic power and Iwasawa becomes one with the universe, apparently by her own will.

Still, I think an important lesson was reemphasized to me while viewing Iwasawa’s story, which was my favorite in the show.  The past Iwasawa and the present are two opposites in how they approached their lives.

Girls Dead Monster

3. Iwasawa (Art by popurara)

Read the rest of this entry

Re-Viewed: Angel Beats! Episode 02 and the Problem of Pain

When I first watched episode two of Angel Beats!, my emotions were mixed.  One one hand, I found Yuri’s background a little over-the-top and and the events of her past didn’t strike a chord with me.  On the other, I started liking Yuri as a character and embraced her as the centerpiece of this series.

The second time around, things are certainly different.  I went in knowing that Yuri isn’t really the heroine of the series.  I listened to her words more closely.  And I allowed her story to resonate with me…well, more than it did originally.

Yuri’s tale is a difficult one – her failures lead to the violent deaths of her siblings.  I’ve certainly never experienced anything of the sort, but all of us have experienced pain that we consider unfair.  Twice, Yuri calls her circumstances this – she can’t get over the injustice of it all, probably as much for herself having to go through this experience and live on (at least for a few more years) as her innocent siblings dying in a terrifying way.

Nakamura Yuri

2. Yuri (Art by はる)

And who does Yuri blame?  Well, a most natural source.  Towing the line between agnostic and believer (though probably more accurately a believer who has troubles with her faith), Yuri places her blame on God.  She wants to “defy God, if he’s really there.”  After all, why would a loving God allow all this tragedy to occur?

This is the problem of pain.  Read the rest of this entry