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Suzuka Asahina and Yamato Akitsuki: Made For Each Other (And Made Like Me)

As I wrote about previously, I again made my way through Suzuka, a high school romance anime.  Unlike many others in the genre, Suzuka is unique because it features two fairly repugnant leads: Suzuka, who at best is rude to people who are kind to her and worst yells at everyone and anyone and Yamato, a selfish adolescent whose thoughts are entirely focused on how to make Suzuka his girlfriend.  Also, he assaults a girl who’s in love with him.  Charming.

Suzuka anime

I don’t recall Suzuka ever being quite this happy in the series (Art by HAL)

Unlike these two, I tend to like lead characters who are morally upstanding.  They may be boring, but I find in them pieces of who I’d like to be.  Yamato and Suzuka don’t represent any of that, so why do they (and the series) appeal to me?  Perhaps it’s because they’re both similar instead to who I really am.

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Little Busters Episode 20: How to Alienate People & Fall from Grace

Sometimes, the simplest answer is best.

In episode 20 of Little Busters, Rin tries in her socially awkward way to help a lovesick fellow student gain the attention of his crush, Sasami Sasasegawa.  Of course, all attempts fail, and instead, draw him further away from Sasasegawa.  Once simply unknown to her, the boy now becomes becomes hated by her.

Little Busters Sasasegawa

Art by えすれき

As the episode concludes, Rin instead tells Sasasegawa the truth about her attempts and gives the boy the softball star’s phone number, allowing him to text her.  He now has an “in,” and with the truth out there, who knows what will happen?  Certainly, the simplicity of the truth led to far better result than Riki’s cockamamie schemes.

Isn’t it strange how we sometimes work really hard when it’s unnecessary?

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Rescuing Faye Valentine

At last year’s IKKiCON (my first convention experience), I was surprised to see someone cosplaying as Faye Valentine.  After all these years, she remains a popular character for cosplaying.  And why not?  Faye’s looks (and moves) scream femme fatale, while she also has a “sad girl in snow” kind of side.

At the end of “Gateway Shuffle,” the fourth episode of Cowboy Bebop, Faye Valentine more or less invites herself onto the Bebop as the newest member of their crew.  She gives off no air of humility or thankfulness, even though it’s unusually kind for Spike and Jet to take her in after she’s already left them in the dust once, and possibly has a massive debt and other more sinister things hanging over her head.

Faye Cowboy Bebop

It’s not easy finding a picture of Faye appropriate for this blog (Art by Morrow)

Faye may be grateful, but she doesn’t show it.  And honestly, she may not have much reason to.  She knows little about Spike and Jet, except that they really don’t like her.  For Faye, her joining of the crew is temporary.  She doesn’t see it as something permanent, and she certainly doesn’t expect to form bonds with the rest of the bounty hunters.  They are a pit stop on the way to her next scheme.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words when comparing a “sinful woman” to Simon, a religious teacher who was hosting him for dinner:

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.

- Luke 7:47

Faye doesn’t feel “forgiven,” nor does she feel welcomed or loved.  Not yet.  And because of that, she demonstrates little gratitude.

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The 4th Day of Christmas Anime: The Irresponsible Captain Tylor

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor (OVA)
Episode 06: “White Christmas”

For largely being  a slapstick comedy, the original TV series for The Irresponsible Captain Tylor had episodes and scenes with very different tones, including those that were solemn or romantic.  And so, it’s no surprise that the OVA contains an episode involving Christmas that fits these moods.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor White Christmas

Images courtesy of

The setup for the episode is simple.  Yuriko musters up the courage to ask Tylor on a Christmas Eve date.  Tylor agrees, but as usual, causes plenty of trouble and frustration, while serendipitously helping others, on his way there.

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Shinsekai Yori, Episode 10: All Problems Stem from the Human Heart

For all the answers given (and questions brought up) in episode 10 of Shinsekai Yori, perhaps the most intriguing thing to me was the juxtaposition involving Shun.  He, the most powerful of the main characters, has now become powerless to do anything about his fate.

It’s an interesting plot point that Shun must now suffer because he’s unable to control his immense power.  I may not be able to mutate creatures or split the earth in two with my cantus, but my like Shun, I sometimes can’t help but lose control.  In fact, my nature (or else the person I’ve become over the years) is one lacking in self-control.

Without Christ in my life, I would be mired in my self-destructive nature.

Shinsekai Yori

Shun is of course dealing with his subconscious thoughts crawling out through his ability.  He tells Saki that our problems as humans is our inability to control our emotions.  We are able to stop those emotions from becoming actions most of the time, unless you have telekinetic powers, in which case your innermost feelings are realized.

The characters of Shinsekai Yori try to control their cantus through hypnosis and mantras.  We try to control our evil thoughts and desires in other ways.  Either way, we can’t control our sinful nature perfectly.

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Arararararagi’s Cheap Grace

You know what I’ve realized?  I kind of despise Ararararararagi, the protagonist from Bakemonogatari.

I already mentioned how, out of his own choice, he puts himself into tempting situations.  But perhaps more to the point, Araragi is selfish and blind.  Though Senjougahara is anything but perfect (STAPLE!), she’s still a multi-layered, beautiful character who loves him.

Bakemonogatari Senjogahara

Art by キョウ

So what does Araragi do with that knowledge?  He continues to see and, further, flirt with many of the girls in his life, including those that are purposely pursuing him.

I’m reminded of a parable that I’ll paraphrase here (Matthew 18:21-35).   A businessman was settling his accounts and a man who owed him a ton of money was brought in to pay his loan.  Unable to do so, the businessman decided to make good on the consequences of his contract and sell both the man and his family into slavery.  The man begged and pleaded, and moved by it, the businessman forgave him.  Just like that, the debt was erased.

Feeling pretty good about himself, the man ran into another who owed him a much smaller debt.  Yet, the forgiven man shoved, pushed, and choked him, asking for his money.  Unable to afford it, this debtor was thrown in prison when reported by the man.   The businessman’s outraged servants reported the goings-on to their master, who was stunned at the man’s hypocrisy.  Justly, he had the man thrown into jail until the debt was repaid.

We are too often blind to the wonderful things we’ve received, living a life of ungrace.  For me, I’ve been blessed with wonderful, obedient, funny, and outrageous children.  And yet, I harp on them a lot, expecting so much when who they are is already more than enough.

This is a problem of the heart.  Read the rest of this entry

Turn the Other Cheek, Ikari!

Neon Genesis Evangelion is full of memorable scenes.  Among those is an early one featuring Shinji and Rei on an escalator.  Shinji, full of anger toward his father, expresses his frustration.  The mostly emotionless Rei responds in a surprising way – by slapping her fellow pilot.

If Ikari had been a Christian (like Misato?), perhaps he would have literally turned the other cheek.  After all, this was instruction provided by Jesus.  Then again, maybe he would have been interpreting that instruction wrongly.  In his book, Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary, J.D. Greear posits that the cheek was symbolic of relationships to Jews in Jesus’ time.  Striking the cheek meant to break that relationship, while offering the other meant to “reoffer” the relationship.

This reminds me of another scene in Evangelion that happens just a few episodes later.  Shinji, still stung by years of neglect, begins to speak to his father again.  They visit a gravestone commemorating Shinji’s mother and have some tender words (as much as they are capable of).  It would be a monumental step toward reestablishing relationship – toward turning the other cheek – if not for the irredeemable spirit that is Gendo Ikari.

Evangelion Ikari

Art by Siv

Most of the people we come into contact with are quite unlike Gendo; though they may be full of pride, most are still willing to bend somewhat.  And when we understand the radical love that can transform our lives, and how irredeemable we ourselves are, we are able to step forward and offer the other cheek to difficult people we know.

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Kokoro Connect, Episode 10: Wholly Yours

Do you know the story of Elisabeth Elliot?  While she is particularly well-known for her views on dating and marriage, she first came to the public attention because of her husband, Jim.  Along with four other men, Jim Elliot was a missionary to the remote Waodani tribe in Ecuador.  Despite their friendly overtures, Jim and the others were murdered by Waodani warriors.

What happened next is incredible. Elisabeth decided to also go to the Waodani.  She lived among them and evangelized to them; her actions demonstrated a love that eventually helped end the tribe’s violent ways.

This is grace – and this most unexplainable and unnatural action has the power to transform.

In Kokoro Connect, Inaba has spent the entire series hiding.  The whole group, of course, knows that she’s bossy, but Inaba hides her “true self” – a selfish, untrusting, and insecure person.

Kokoro Connect

Art by 蒼林檎

All series long, Inaba has been literally running away.  Read the rest of this entry

Abba Inaba! Kokoro Connect and the Need for Grace

After nine episodes of Kokoro Connect, I still stand by the declaration I made early on – if there’s one character the series is focuses on, it’s Inaba.  Kokoro Connect is about her journey from a guilt-ridden young lady, unable to forgive herself or trust others, to one transformed by grace.  I’m making some assumptions and predictions here, but I do feel this is how the series will turn out.  We’ll see.

Kokoro Connect

Art by ぴぴんた

One thing there’s no doubt about is that Inaba is one tough nut to crack.  In episode nine, while Yui and others get over their Heartseed-inflicted depressions (maybe a little too easily), Inaba remains closed off.  She’s guilt ridden because of her inability to be a good friend to the others, who she sees as so much more selfless than her.  She’s unable to trust them and, as demonstrated in the closing of the last episode (and really, throughout the series), Inaba has romantic feelings toward Taichi; I imagine she sees this as a betrayal of her friendship with Iori.

Inaba’s friends have already forgiven her once, and without complaint.  Even so, Inaba feels as if she is unforgivable.  She’s rotten to the core and undeserving of the love her friends show.  She desperately needs to accept the no-strings-attached love her friends offer, but is unwilling to do so.

Grace is within Inaba’s reach; she only has to stretch out and grab onto it.

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Kokoro Connect 06: Wanting What We Desire

Taking the viewpoint I do in writing for this blog often leads me to view shows from a unique angle.  In Kokoro Connect, I’ve realized that I’m largely watching the series not from either Taichi’s or Nagase’s eyes, but from Inaba’s.  It is she that I most relate to, and it is she that I think is going to take the most powerful and maybe redemptive journey.

Kokoro Connect Inaba

Art by もっけいケイムラコーティング

Episode six brought a new twist to the series.  Though less fun (for the viewers) than the first twist, Heartseed’s new game is probably more difficult for the five friends and certainly more painful.  He subconsciously pushes them to act on their hearts’ desires.

It’s a real good thing we don’t have this problem.  Even though Nagase seems to be embracing it, to an extent, the rest of us might be like the others, fearing the repercussions of lacking self-control.  For me, I’m pretty sure I’d be in jail for one of litany of offenses within the day of Heartseed doing his deed within my heart.

And isn’t that funny?  When I came to Christ, my acceptance of Him as Lord was like saying, “YOU, God, are my heart’s desire”:

This is my desire, to honor you
LORD, with all my heart I worship You

All that is within me, I give you praise
All that I adore Is in You

But…He isn’t all I desire.  Far from it.  At certain times, Jesus is at whole of my heart and mind; and at others, He is far from it, as rage, envy, lust, and other desires compete for (and dominate) my attention.

It’s enough to make a Christian go mad.  Read the rest of this entry