Two weeks have passed since Harold Camping’s end-of-the-world predictions failed to materialize. As that day approached, I tried to think of something anime-related to blog about, but I couldn’t find anything adequate to write. Then, I read this entry the other day by the Cajun Samurai on the Christian Anime Alliance boards:
I feel the need to mention that I actually used an episode of “Kino’s Journey” to describe the [recent] “end of the world” prediction made; specifically Episode 3 when the entire population of a city Kino visited believed the world was going to come to an end the next day. Suffice it to say, the world did NOT end, and the explanation the priest gave as to his error was a textbook case of art imitating life.
And so, quite by accident (and two weeks late), I have some comments to share on Camping in relation to anime. Read the rest of this entry
With a plethora of new shows on my plate this season, and in the middle of The World God Only Knows, Witch Hunter Robin, and Ookiku Furikabutte, you’d think I’d have plenty to watch if I was in the mood for anime. And so, which of these did I pick last night?
I started a new one, of course. ;)
Someday’s Dreamers is one of those shows I’ve long wanted to watch, despite knowing little of the premise. The title of the show is about as nostalgic as it can get. It makes me think there’ll be lots of grassy hills, blue skies, forlorn looks, and school friendships in the story (I’m always looking for a tone emulating that of The Place Promised in Our Early Years).
Unfortunately, I accidentally started watching the second anime series instead of the first. Woops. Not the first time I’ve done that.
One episode in, I’m encouraged by the possibilities of this story (and will eagerly anticipate returning to it). But more than that, I’ve quickly connected with the protagonist, Sora. She is both very much still a kid (in ways, reminding my of one of my very favorite characters, Shizuku of Whisper of the Heart), while achieving a level of maturity that most adults don’t have (perhaps because of a wonderful mother and probably similar father). Her maturity is best expressed not so much through words, but by actions which reveal her character. We might get caught up in the plot of the first episode, but the real purpose behind it is not to present a major plot point (though it certainly provides context for the series), but to show us just who Sora is.
Weeks past the tweet and blogfest that was Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica episode 12, I felt the need to add one more piece to the already-considerable pile of writings about the finale. While I’ve already discussed Christian motifs of the episode, and others have commented extensively on its various religious aspects, I wanted to focus on one particular scene in episode 12. It lasts only two to three minutes, but it’s likely to be remembered by most who saw the show. Why?
Because it was awkward.
At least it was awkward in that it was unexpected. The scene I’m talking about is the one where Madoka embraces Homura, with the two clothed in nothing but glittery shadows (you can see a shot of the scene at Ambivalence, or is it ambiguity?).
While the scene projected yuri overtones for the show and the girls’ relationship (forgive me if I’m wrong, but I understand the genre in terms of how John at AnimeNation defines it), I want to focus on the spiritual transformation that occurs within Homura in the scene. It’s a strangely innocent and pure scene – both girls are in their natural states and it is talk of friendship that dominates, not of lovers. Read the rest of this entry
As I blogged about a week or two ago, the anime blogosphere was set ablaze with posts about the final episodes of Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica, with many focusing particularly on the spiritual aspects that were clearly being emphasized. I wrote a post in that vein as well, which coupled with another spiritual post I wrote regarding the series. I just couldn’t get enough of the Christian themes I saw in a series I regard as one of the very best I’ve ever watched.
And the post just keep coming. A few days ago, 2DT wrote a most interesting post analyzing the series and it’s spiritual nature from a viewpoint I would’ve never though of – magical girl dresses. What do the dresses of the girls in the series tell about them? Particularly, what does Madoka’s dress say about her ultimate actions in the series?
Please have a read:
Suffering. Death. Hope. Life.
These themes pervade Magica Madoka, particularly informing the final two episodes. They are also important ideas in religious traditions, namely Christianity and Buddhism. The Buddhist principals expressed in Madoka Magica are so pervasive, that I’ve started to think that the Christlike imagery I immediately saw when viewing episode 12 wasn’t at all planned by the show’s creator. After all, while the burden of sin on the Christ figure in the story is obvious (as are ideas like God living out of space and time and Madoka’s visit with Akemi resembling Jesus’ visits with the apostles and others before his ascension), other actions are harder to reconcile with Christianity. Maybe I’m just being euro centric, applying western thinking to an eastern medium.
Not that I have a problem with that – this is what I do on this blog (spoiler below). Read the rest of this entry
As I try to find the time to marathon Puella Magi Madoka Magica in an attempt to avoid any more spoilers, I had to stop to write about episode seven, in which allusions to and mentions of Christianity are far stronger than in any other episode to this point of the series. Though a few bloggers briefly mentioned the issue, I didn’t read anything in-depth (please let me know if I missed someone’s analysis), so I thought I’d have something to add.
Early in the episode, Sayaka and Kyoko, whose personality and background get far more fleshed out in this episode, discuss the idea of the pact that the girls agree to. They exchange their souls for a miracle. What’s interesting is that this is very much like Christianity, but in a warped way. While Sayaka is pained by and later begins to regret her decision, feeling she’s given up her soul for a miracle (and a relatively trivial one at that), Christianity emphasizes that we give our lives to Jesus when we receive the miracle of eternal salvation. The ideas are similar, though the feelings associated with the transfers are drastically different.
Now, for the meat of the symbolism. Kyoko leads Sayaka to a church and begins the temptation. A church is typically used as a moody setting for a scene (episode 5 of Cowboy Bebop comes to mind), but as should be expected of this high quality show, it becomes much more than that. It also emphasizes the fact that spiritual issues are also at hand. Read the rest of this entry
Characters: Vash the Stampede and Nicholas D. Wolfwood
Occupation: wanted gunslinger and faux priest/assassin
Bible Twins: Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter
On Tuesday, I linked a post to an article entitled “The Gospel According to Wolfwood.” The author of that original piece makes several comparisons between Wolfwood and Bible characters, and I’m expanding on one of her allusions – to Simon Peter, in relation to Vash/Jesus Christ.
In the Trigun anime, Nicholas D. Wolfwood first appears as a traveling priest who is raising money for orphans. But we soon find out that’s he more than he seems as the literal cross he carries becomes a devastating weapon called a Punisher. Wolfwood is a sure shot and a dangerous man, unafraid to kill when the situation calls for it. Read the rest of this entry
In 2003, a wonderful essay about Nicholas Wolfwood was posted in the ToonZone forums. Academic in nature, the essay discusses the Christian themes of sinful nature and grace as they are present in Trigun, particularly shown through Wolfwood. The essay is excellent and gives a lot of insight about the series. It also touches on the idea of why Christianity hasn’t stuck in Japan, mentioning Shunsaku Endo’s Silence, which also focuses on this theme.
Unfortunately, since that time, every other trace of the essay on the Internet has apparently disappeared. You’ve probably experienced this as well as me – you’ve tried to return to something you read or saw once in the past only to find that it’s gone. Poof. And so, I’ve decided to repost the entire essay below. If anyone knows the author or where the original source comes from, please let me know.
Nicholas D. Wolfwood
Violence, Grace and Redemption in Trigun.
This article is an analysis of Nicholas D. Wolfwood from a Christian perspective. It will make most sense if you’ve seen the entire Trigun anime series. Also, it contains serious spoilers for the series. Consider yourself warned. Japanese animation (or anime, as it is called both in Japan and in the West) is an intriguing contemporary art form that, like Japanese culture itself, weaves Western influences and Eastern traditions together in oftentimes strange and unexpected ways. Through its juxtaposition of contrasting cultural elements, anime can provide careful viewers with illuminating insight into both Japanese and American culture. And when anime touches upon religious issues, it offers Christians trans-cultural perspective on their faith. Read the rest of this entry
The Warrior Nun series had a long life in the American comic book scene. It’s popularity led to additional projects, including planning of an animated series and a manga released in Japan. The manga, while featuring a similar-looking main character, is quite different from it’s American predecessor.
The story revolves around Sister Sakura Mizutakchi (renamed from Shannon Masters, the look alike from the original series), a new teacher at a Catholic school. However, she’s more than a simple sister. Sister Mizutakchi is a warrior nun, which immense physical (and spiritual?) powers which she uses to rescue a student from the hands of a sinister demon.
The story is much more traditionally manga in format than Dunn’s comics. The series is black-and-white and the characters always look like manga characters, unlike the mishmash in Warrior Nun Areala. The setup, too, is familiar, as our hero is surrounded by snobby girls and an injured, mysterious, and antisocial one. The end of the manga reveals that there are secrets within the school and that Sister Mizutakchi may be surrounded by unexpected enemies.
Unlike volume one of the Dunn’s original series, the manga doesn’t focus on giving too much background (or providing too many characters) in its opening. And as such, it works well as the opening tale for a series, providing a fun protagonist, and antagonist that may return (she is identical to Lillith from Warrior Nun Areala), and hooking us for future volumes. Unfortunately, like I mentioned, the series appears to have been discontinued. Dunn himself, in the manga’s opening, claims that he doesn’t know much about how well the comic sold in Japan.
Another nice touch is that Antarctic Press, while printing in the left-to-right style, provides several pages in the conclusion that show how the series looks in the traditional right-to-left manga format. It’s interesting to see the reflection of images and how the words fit into the different styles.
We’ll never know where this story was headed or if the the magaka would have continued to craft an interesting tale. But for what it is – a short introduction to the series – Warrior Nun volume 1 delivers as a fun and captivating read.
Summary (from back cover)
Once per generation, the Valkyrie-turned-angel Arela embodies herself in a worthy sister of the Warrior Nun order. Warrior Nuns are an elite class of warrior for the Vatican. Areala’s purpose is to battle the forces that would seek to destroy her church and Mankind.
Join Arela as she’s sent to New York City, where she must confront a mad Roman magician/emperor who wants to sacrifice the entire city to his Lord, Lucifer.
And time is running out.
In my Junior year of college, I took a survey class in Japanese history. One tidbit that stuck out to me was the existence of warrior monks, which struck me as quite amusing. But even those rugged men would find their hands full with Ben Dunn’s warrior nuns.
The Warrior Nun Areala series, created by Dunn and published by Antarctic Press, began in 1994, though the character first appeared in a 1987 volume of Ninja High School. I’d never heard of it, but the series and its continuations have quite a following.
The first volume of the original series introduces us to Sister Shannon Masters, a highly trained warrior nun who is thrown into battle against more than one group of demons after taking a post in New York City. She becomes the title character, a kind a “reborn” version of a great warrior nun.
Much of the tone is somewhat campy in the first story in volume one. After all, you have to take the manga with a grain of salt when it’s heroine is a warrior nun with a cybernetic arm and one of her enemies is a neo-Nazi. The second story in the volume, though, is really where the meat is at. It introduces interesting villains, hints at a vast backstory, deals with the idea of non-Christians in Areala’s Japanese family, and moves along at a nice pace.
Perhaps the most interesting concept about Warrior Nun Areala is that, unlike manga, this manga-style series uses Catholic imagery in an affectionate way. The nuns are heroes; the church cares; and Bible verses are used throughout. It’s quite different from what a typical anime or manga fan is used to. But that doesn’t mean the series is a perfect representation of Christianity. The theology is sometimes questionable – no more than when former warrior nuns make the decision to send a dead sister back to earth, stating that “heaven is only for the worthy.” There are issues galore with that last sentence.
Conservative Christians may also take offense at the material, which is certainly not G-rated and Serenity-like. After all, these are warrior nuns. Violence (including a number of pierced eyeballs) occurs on most every page and cursing is frequent, including the use of God’s name in vain. Also, our heroine shows a lot of skin, but that’s only part of the abundant fanservice (though Dunn responded to complaints with a more modest costume in a later volume), which includes a partial look at some of the sisters’ bare necessities. -_-’
Thus, this volume doesn’t simply walk a fine line – it crosses back and forth completely over and over again. As such, I think that particularly conservative Christians may find issue with the series. However, as I mentioned above, the Catholic church is painted with affection, though also as an institution with problems (after all, humans are imperfect). Besides physical representations of Christianity, the volume is infused with other Christian themes. For instance, one character says to “never underestimate the enemy” in talking about Lucifer. Another lesson is to place more trust in God than in man. The volume also stresses the power of the meek in an important scene involving Sister Masters. Because of this emphasis on Christianity, those who have a disdain toward the faith may also want to avoid the series. Others, however, may enjoy the religious focus of the story.
The volume is in full color, which is obviously more in American comic book style than in manga style. And the meshing of these styles goes beyond color – the characters are sometime drawn more like typical comic book characters and at other times resemble manga characters; this movement back and forth can become distracting. The lush colors of the illustrations, however, are a feast for the eyes.
Warrior Nun Areala is quite a ride. It brings us into a world that is unique in manga-style publications, and beginning with the second story in volume one, also delivers on presenting an interesting tale. If you read it, I guarantee you this – you’re in for a most interesting experience.