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Holy Week: Noragami and Treating God as a Genie, Part 1

Near the end of the Noragami series, an anime-only antagonist is introduced.  Like Yato, Rabo is a god of calamity, and the series does it’s best to make him seem a match for our laid-back (but occasionally awesome) hero.

Apparently, Rabo has returned after centuries of absence, but in just a short time, he has made his presence felt among the general populace.  One of Hiyori’s friends, Yamashita, mentions that invoking his name in attempt to off somebody is a fad, I guess akin to writing down someone’s name in a Death Note notebook you purchased on eBay.

In this same discussion, the girls have a quick, but meaningful discussion characterizing the gods.  Yamashita tells of all her wishes to the kami, to which Hiyori chastises that she shouldn’t burden the gods with too many wishes.  Yamashita responds, “But that’s what gods are for!”

Yato and Rabo

Art by mime6 (Pixiv ID 41703179)

Although it’s played for comedy, Yamashita’s words reveal how many of us treat God in deeds, if not also in words.  Our head knowledge might know God to be a living spirit who is dynamic and loving and full of life.  But our words indicate that he’s static and idol-like, something to go to when we’re in need.

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Gin no Saji and Accepting Grace

A while ago, I decided to finish watching Silver Spoon, which I had watched during the summer, but hadn’t finished because I’d already been following the manga for several months. I already knew what was going to happen, and while the anime adaptation of Silver Spoon is good, it isn’t really any better than the manga. But there is something to be said for going over a story twice, and because circumstances change, I found that there were quite a few things that I saw differently the second time around.

Yūgo Hachiken

Art by 茶漉し (Pixiv ID 41064116)

In episode 8, something struck me in particular. Jachiken spent his summer working on the Mikages’ farm. All through the one month he had free from his intense work at Yezo Agricultural High School, he works equally as hard, and the Mikages appreciate his efforts. But when the summer starts to come to a close, and everything seems to be going so well, Hachiken forgets to connect a crucial tube that funnels fresh milk into a bulk cooler. Without anyone being around to notice it, the milk spills everywhere, spraying out by the litre and tumbling down the drain. When Hachiken realises just how much money he wasted, he’s understandably filled with guilt.

The Mikages would have every right to be angry with him, but instead they treat him graciously, telling him that what was done was done, and there was nothing he could do. One would think Hachiken would be a little relieved at this, but instead he only seems troubled further, and when they present him with his paycheck, he tries to refuse it.

I think sometimes rejection is our gut reaction when we’re offered something we don’t deserve, whether it’s forgiveness for a single mistake from another human or forgiveness for a multitude of mistakes from God. It’s like we think that by holding on to our guilt, we’re showing responsibility for our actions, or making amends in some way. But as natural as this is, it’s not a very reasonable response. None of us is really gain anything by holding on to our guilt, and trying to punish ourselves does nothing towards healing a wrong. The Mikages see this, and gently convince Hachiken to accept the money. He goes on to use it carefully, not taking their kindness for granted, which shows how we should respond to any kind of grace: by treasuring it. Because grace and forgiveness are worth far too much to be forsaken by our misguided guilt.

Something More: Stella Zen Academy and Grace on Kirino

After having earlier spoken of his disappointment with the series, Frank tells of the many things he enjoyed about Oreimo, focusing especially on the show’s theme of grace. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher gives his first impressions of Stella Girls’ Academy C3, including some discussion of Buddhism toward Christian viewers. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

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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. 

WataMote: Wata We Are Is Wata We Do

I made it through four episodes of WataMote before dropping it.  I genuinely liked the series, Tomoko is a riot, and unlike Richard Eisenbeis, I don’t think the series is mean-spirited, but it’s just a little too discomforting for me to continue to spend time following it.

Some of that discomfort has to do with seeing myself and others in Tomoko.  WataMote‘s lead character is delusional, thinking herself only a step or two away from attaining popularity.  But even in these early episodes, Tomoko seems to realize that she’s not an “easy fix.”  She understands that there are many deep-rooted issues keeping her from being a “normal,” popular girl, and it isn’t as easy to treat as 1-2-3.

Still, she can’t or won’t make that connection into a lasting one.  Tomoko doesn’t quite get it.  Most of the time, she thinks of herself in one way, even though her actions show someone else entirely.  There are plenty of examples of this, but one that sticks out to me is Tomoko’s judgmental attitude.  She throws around the word “slut” frequently (in her mind at least) – this even though her best friend would more than fit into her definition of the term (and even though Tomoko tries to emulate these girls).

Tomoko Kuroki

Art by トライフル2杯 (Pixiv)

When I was growing up, and even still, I found myself heaping judgment down on people – frequently and heavily.  I judged the way people acted, how they dressed, and what they did and believed.  I might have been slightly more socially adept than Tomoko, but I was just as twisted – and I was even worse, because I called myself a Christian.

I know I wasn’t alone in this.  After all, the picture of an evangelical Christian in America may be one of two things – the genial and uncool Ned Flanders or the judgmental, hypocritical right-winger.  We’ve done well to cultivate this hateful image, even if our “Lord” was anything but.

So why don’t we just flip the switch and turn the judgement off?  Well, it’s not as easy as that, especially for a heart resisting change.  As with Tomoko, a few attempts to change actions won’t really change anything.

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Loving your Enemy in Shigofumi

A Shigofumi is a letter from the dead.

The final thoughts and feeling of someone imprinted in a letter and sent to a person of their choosing. Sometimes the letter is angry, sometimes the letter is joyful, sometimes the letter is sent to a cat.
In most episodes of Shigofumi, the main character is sent off to deliver a letter to whomever the deceased person chooses. Most often, the letter is sent to either a loved one left behind and is filled with love or an enemy and is filled with hate and contempt. The letter that struck me the most in the series was one sent to an enemy but filled with unconditional, radical love. It was given to one character’s murderer.
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The victim, Shouta, and the murderer, Asuna, were friends that would often meet and talk about their dreams. After Shouta learns about Asuna’s dark secret, she kills him to protect herself and her family.
In the letter, there is no trace of hate or resentment. There is not really even direct mention of the murder. Surprisingly, there is an apology. Shouta apologizes for not seeing the pain the murderer was in that led to her choices.
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice. All I thought about was myself. I never really thought about what kind of girl you were…”

Saya no Uta: A Reminder of Sinful Nature

Lately everyone seems to be talking about Urobuchi Gen and his recent works: Madoka, Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, and most recently, Gargantia. He has become a popular name ever since Madoka. But honestly, as amazing as Madoka was with its religious themes and correlations, I consider it very overrated even though I enjoyed it greatly. I was not impressed with either Psycho Pass, despite its homage to Kara no Shoujo, or Gargantia. Fate/Zero was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but being a prequel, a lot of the material was a foregone conclusion so it’d be misleading to attribute everything to him. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the rarely mentioned Phantom which aired not even 2 years prior to Madoka; even if it deviated from his original work, he has said he approved of the changes. However, if there is one work most often called his masterpiece, it is the very short VN Saya no Uta. While it may not be the best of the best, it is iconic in its own unique way and an interesting, albeit disturbing, read. Although it has some very questionable content, the themes Urobuchi explores with this is really fascinating.

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta is easily the most…disturbing, disgusting, and immoral thing I’ve ever read, so as a forewarning, I will be mentioning things that readers may not feel comfortable with. Granted, it is an eroge, so some of it was inevitable, but even so, it certainly made me think, “should I really keep reading this?” at certain scenes and I probably would have stopped if not for the fast forward button. The premise of the story is that the protagonist Fuminori was recently in an accident and when he wakes up in the hospital, he finds the world appears completely different. To put it succinctly, his five senses detect everything as decaying, rotting flesh. From the walls of the hospital to the bodies and voices of everyone around him to the smell and taste of his food, everything is something straight out of a horror film. One thing I really liked about the initial set up was that Fuminori, being a medical student, was quickly able to determine that everything wrong with the world was only his perception, and as horrific as it was, he mentally recognized that the problem was with his senses. Nevertheless, the situation greatly affects his mental and physical health as he tries to continue his daily life while keeping his condition a secret. Then the heroine appears before him, a beautiful, innocent-looking girl named Saya who looks completely normal, the first human he has seen since his accident. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here: since Fuminori’s senses have been reversed, Saya is the real monster.

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Something More: AKB0048 Missionaries, Amazing Anime Grace, and Space Brother Dreamin’

Medieval Otaku explores Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and how pride gets in the way from us embracing God’s love. [Medieval Otaku]

Did you know that the musicians of AKB0048 can be representative of Christian missionaries?  Seriously and truly.  [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn shares her personal experiences with depression and the importance of faith and friendship as she examines Nabari no Ou. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Annalyn continues to talk candidly, comparing the big dreams of Space Brothers to her own search for what God wants of her. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Continuing her thoughts, Annalyn extensively compares herself to Mutta of Space Brothers, asking the question of what God wants her to do with her life. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

Frank explores the role that grace plays in Sora no Woto. [A Series of Miracles]

Is there more to be found than just superficial Christian imagery in anime?  Japes believes so. [Japesland]

Japes then looks at Haibane Renmei, Spice and Wolf, and Narcissu: 2nd Side as he examines deeper Christian themes in anime (and visual novels). [Japesland]

Charles Dunbar interviews Nina Matsumodo, a mangaka whose work, Yokaiden, explores yokai folkore. [Study of Anime]

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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. 

Attack on Titan, Episode 07: Grace, Guilt, and Good Ideas

Another week, another terrific episode of Shingeki no Kyojin.  But at this point, everything still feels like setup and context – when do we find out about some of these secrets (looks like very soon)?  When will the troops start fighting back with ferocity (other than Mikasa)?  When do we start getting to know the other characters?

I should sit back and just enjoy the series and all the build-up, I suppose, but my anxiety is that the series will conclude without finishing the run of the manga, and I’ll be left out in the cold.  Well, if that’s the case, at least we got to see some real development for one of Attack on Titan‘s terrific characters, Mikasa Ackerman.

This week, Mikasa addresses the remaining squads with a speech that half inspiring and entirely condemning.  The characters, some reticently, follow Mikasa into battle, but with different reasons in mind, and resulting in different consequences.

Mikasa Ackerman

Art by へび

Note that more than once it’s mentioned that if the troops just stay there, they’ll eventually die.  It’s simply a rational and good idea to take their chances.  There’s also a feeling of guilt – those in the supply depot are trapped and dying, and Mikasa is running into battle by herself, so these elite cadets should at least help, right?  But when reality strikes again, in the form of the ominous giants (and an out-of-commission Mikasa), many of the soldiers begin to crumble, particularly the guilt-driven Jean, who stands frozen in fear while his comrades die.

However, one soldier stands out by being brave, and perhaps it’s a surprising who it is.  Read the rest of this entry

Oreimo, Season 2, Episode 02: Love Plus…Nothing

After last week’s episode of Oreimo, where I continued to emphasize my disappointment with the show, I was advised that I should quit “torturing” myself – that I should drop it.  But despite all my issues with the series, there’s one particular thing that keeps bringing me back – I really like most of the characters on this show.  This week’s episode focused on Ayase – one of the show’s most surprising characters.  She really cracks me up.

Ayase Oreimo

Art by 松竜

Ayase, who like Kirino, fronts with a “perfect girl” vibe, quickly becomes jealous when her best friend is more eager to spend time with her video game girlfriend than with her.  In turn, Kyousuke tells Ayase that she should be like the Love Plus Love Touch girl, spouting similar lines in similar ways.

Of course, Kirino finds this…creepy.  And in the end, despite Ayase’s breakdown, this is exactly the answer she wants, isn’t it?  Kirino is telling her – don’t be like this other (digital) girl – be yourself.  I love you as you.

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Are You Deaf (to Real Love)?!

I claim that this blog covers anime and manga, but in reality, we do little of the latter – mostly because I don’t read much manga.  But yesterday, my attention was drawn to a captivating gif on Tumblr for a manga that I just had to check out.  Entitled Koe no Katachi, the one shot focuses on a middle school transfer student with a hearing disability through the eyes of the class bully.

Nishimiya Shouka

Art by ループ

On the opening pages, the side editorial claims that there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the manga would be published because of its controversial subject matter.  We east Asians are prone to exaggeration, and I assumed this to be the case in this instance, but…no.  The 61 pages were full of painful moments – the kind of cringe-worthy pain only middle schoolers can cause to each other.

But in the midst of suffering, Nishimiya, the transfer student, stands as a beacon.  Throughout all the bullying she faces, she remains almost impossibly kind, even to her greatest tormenter, Ishida.  He breaks her heart (and her hearing aid) by his utter ruthlessness.  But he’s simply the leader; all of Nishimiya’s classmates join in the tormenting.

Without giving too much away, the climax of the tale occurs when we realize just how patient and loving Nishimiya has been all this time, even after she has been removed from the story.  The climactic gesture she makes is not over-the-top (surprise!), but it’s powerful in as a sign of sacrifice and selflessness.

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