And today, again, I thought about the anime when I was home with my family. I had put the children to bed after a tough day, one in which I was harder with my children than I should been. I immediately regretted how mean my words had been to them, as I was short on patience and self-control.
That reminded me of Tumblr, where many of those who follow me seem to think I’m a great father. Someone sent me a message saying I was a “cool dad.” I wanted to say, “No! You’ve got it all wrong! I want to be a good dad, but I fail time and time again – too many times to count!”
Luckily, my children are so much more innocent, loving, and kind than I am. Often when I lose my temper and admonish them, I’ll go back later and apologize, telling them that I shouldn’t have been so harsh. And without fail, the vocal response I get back is this:
I forgive you.
There are perhaps no stronger words in our language than these, with denote mercy and love. It’s a kind of love that’s difficult for most to give, though in children, we find the opposite to be true. In Clannad, Ushio pushes aside years of neglect and general grumpiness directed toward her to shower her full love upon Tomoya, in effect offering forgiveness to her father both readily and continually. She doesn’t even need to think about forgiving – it just is. Tomoya is her dad, and she loves him no matter what.
I really enjoy these series that dig into the plot, revealing all sorts of mysteries, all the while creating even bigger questions for which the audiences long to find the answers.
In episode four of Kyoukai no Kanata, we learn that Akihito isn’t weak due to his half-blood heritage; instead, he’s remarkably powerful and unable to control his immense strength in times of distress. He isn’t at all what Mirai thinks he is, and perhaps not what the viewers think either.
It’s interesting how in times of trouble, our own inner selves come out as well. I won’t say that our “true selves” bubble to the surface, because we’re more than our innermost emotions, but sides of our personality that we might carefully try to hide often pop up when we’re confronted with events that are dangerous, painful, or stressful.
And it’s in those moments that maybe we begin to understand that we don’t know each other, sometimes, as well as we think we do.
I had a really great conversation today with an exchange student at the university I attended, which is nearby my work. We talked a lot about how one person can have a powerful impact on others just by loving them. Our lives profoundly impacts other lives as we intersect in our relationships. We may not see the fruit these relationships bear – but sometimes, our words and deeds can move people.
Genshiken showed me a similar lesson this week. Truth be told, I’m not the biggest Genshiken Nidaime fan, even if I was reading the manga religiously until recently. I am, however, a huge fan of some of the characters from the original season, including Madarame and Kasukabe, so naturally, I was super excited about seeing the scene between these two in animation form. I was excited for it, and I wasn’t let down.
I remembered the confession scene pretty well from the manga, but one portion I’d forgotten until it aired was Kasukabe’s tearful relief at finally letting go of the pretense that she didn’t know about Madarame’s feelings. Even if her answer would always be “no,” she’d been holding back for long for someone she cared about, that it was a great relief for her for things to finally get settled.
Imagine if Madarame had not said anything? Imagine if he had done what he had always done and given in to the mentality that he had no chance? Not only would he be affected – but so, too, would Kasukabe, having to continue with the strain of holding back.
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.
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.
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.
Where do I begin?
Actually, I’ll start with this. I watched the first episode of the final Oreimo OVA and was, well, neither surprised nor satisfied. However, I intended to finish, especially bolstered by the opinions of a couple of friends, both Christians, who insisted the end was actually pretty good.
Well, the end was a little clever, but it didn’t change my opinion of these episodes or of the series in general. The thing that’s most bothered me about Oreimo, besides the up-and-down quality of the storyline and the INCEST, is how almost all the characters annoyed me at certain points. And I realized that what annoyed me each time was this: the characters acted like they were adults, even though their morals, social development, and other aspects were that of adolescents (maybe even children).
For instance, I originally planned a post entitled, “I Can’t Believe My Sister’s Friends Are This Dense,” in which I would have chastised Kirino’s friends for actually helping her get together with her brother, as if INCEST IS A GOOD IDEA. Great job, friends! How adult of you to accept them for who they are, even if who they are was plain and simply wrong.
True, this feels like the thought process of adolescents, though I wonder if a group of teenager in real life would act similarly. I think they most likely would only if they though that incest was morally okay (which some might) and/or if they lacked a moral compass instilled in them by school, culture, and most importantly, family.
And there’s the point – family. Read the rest of this entry
A Shigofumi is a letter from the dead.
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]
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.
Oreimo is best when the focus shifts away from Kirino and the creepy main storyline and toward the supporting characters. Thus, it’s unsurprising that this past week’s episode was among the best, I think, of the entire series run. It was also a piece of fanservice for me, getting to see two of my favorite characters in the show really interact for the first time – and in a pretty extended sequence, to boot.
Ayase arrives at Kyousuke’s apartment to give him a knife (a nice yandere twist) as a housewarming gift (and because she likes him – otherwise, why not wait until the party?). Sparks (and jealousies) fly when Kuroneko also shows up. The follow-through is gold, as each girl vies for Kyousuke’s attention in their own particular way, while the duo’s exaggerated personalities clash (there’s no way the two could get along even without Kyousuke in the picture).
At one point in their argument, Ayase and Kuroneko temporarily forget Kyousuke and instead focus on their friendships with Kirino. Each claim her as their best friend, with Kuroneko bringing up her reasoning for, apparently, why she loves Kirino more. For you see, she’ll support any choice Kirino makes, with no regard to morality. Ayase represents an opposite point of view – she’s shown that she wants Kirino to retain the perfect image she shows at school, going to desperate means, sometimes, to meet her goal.
I’m reminded of two similarly disparate viewpoints in modern society. There are some individuals who find the highest fulfillment of love in acceptance. Be who you are, no matter what that means. Of course, most people have reasonable limitations, but some do not. Websites that exist to give how-to instructions on self-harm, for instance, would be at the very edge of this kind of thinking.
On the other hand, Ayase reminds me much of conservative Christian culture. Sometimes it’s pharisaical (correction: A LOT OF TIMES), as the picture of morality must be maintained, even if it means achieving actions through underhanded and hateful means. The outside becomes more important than the inside, running contrary to Jesus’ message:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
- Matthew 23: 25-26
Kotonoha no Niwa, or The Garden of Words, is Makoto Shinkai’s newest film. Shinkai always seems to weave in the theme of distance and its effects on love in his stories. Many people like to focus on the romantic aspects but I think to truly appreciate his works, one must consider the overall theme and message that he is trying to convey. While I can objectively say his stories are generally good but nothing special, I do consider his themes to deliver some very powerful and meaningful messages that no other anime does. As such, while I do not have issues if people don’t enjoy his films, I can’t help but get upset when people sum up his stories as “bittersweet romance.” When I read the description for this film, I was incredibly excited because he was tackling a theme that is so readily ignored, or rather, unrealized, by society.
He [Shinkai] said that this is the first time he is making a “love” story — in the traditional Japanese meaning of the word. At one time, “love” was written as “lonely sadness” (koi). Moreover, according to Shinkai, the modern concept of “love” (ai) was imported from the West. While Kotonoha no Niwa is set in the modern era, it will be about koi in the original meaning — of longing for someone in solitude.
Shinkai specifically stated he would be writing a story about lonely sadness as opposed to the Western concept of love but somehow everyone ignored what this could potentially mean and interpreted it as “another love story.” To begin with, I am of the opinion that Shinkai has never meant to write love stories so much as they are simply the only feasible genre to efficiently translate his messages. But for the original meaning of love, that of lonely sadness, there is no romance.
Kotonoha no Niwa is a fairly short film, which relieved me. Children Who Chase Lost Voices was not bad, per se, but for Shinkai who has always placed messages above plot, I felt it deviated too much from his strengths and resulted in something much worse than he is capable of simply due to trying to approach his storytelling from a plot-centered angle. I feel his shorter films such as 5 cm/s and Voices of a Distant Star used all the time that was needed to portray his stories. Anyway, the story begins with the male protagonist, Takao, a 15 year old student, skipping school on a rainy day to visit a park and work on his shoe designs, as he dreams of becoming a shoe maker. There, he meets a mysterious woman skipping work, drinking beer, and eating chocolate. It is a chance meeting and aside from an equally mysterious tanka line she recites to him, there is nothing else to say. Takao skips first period of class every morning it rains. And each time, he meets her there. He talks to her about his life and dreams, and she listens. She does not even tell him her name. These days of simple meetings and we see very small glimpses into their lives. Takao’s family is not exactly picture perfect but it wouldn’t be right to be called dysfunctional either. The woman seems to have her own circumstances of discomfort but we hardly learn much. She simply tells him that one day she had trouble walking on her own. And then the rainy days end.
The second part of 5 Centimeters per Second, with Kanae, takes a step in a slightly different direction, portraying another kind of naive love while still continuing the sad tale of Tohno and Akari. Kanae is a girl who is helplessly in love. Always timing her meetings with him, always so quiet and shy, yet always watching the man she thinks she loves. Frustrated with herself and her inability to convey her feelings to her “ideal guy,” her loss of ability to surf can be seen as her struggle against naivety. Believing she is right, believing that what she feels is true love; believing that she can surf and knowing that she has that ability yet there is a barrier. She spends a large portion of the story struggling against both the waves of the ocean and of her own helplessness. Her eyes are unable to see the truth behind her naivety and as a result, she wanders aimlessly and fails to reach her goals. The day she surfs again is the day she comes to a painful realization of how the man she loved has never once looked at her. What she thought was a possible growing affection was merely a continued meaningless personality of kindness. He was a person who was always looking past her and she had herself convinced he was at least looking in her general direction. Thus they are the opposite of what Akari and Tohno were – close physically but their hearts could not be farther apart. She says she will love him forever – and she probably will, but this was a love of admiration and infatuation. It was her first experience with such powerful emotions and the years she spent investing in them caused them to grow to the point of affecting her as a person; they become a meaningful part of her existence, so while the feelings themselves are for someone who she perceived existed but did not, they are too important to ever let go of.
Then we have Tohno, who is now being portrayed as an apathetic yet kind person. Successful and popular in school, yet a boy who is still looking deep into the past. When he looks at a person, he does not see his classmate, but a past classmate. Everywhere he looks, he sees Akari, the girl who once, and still does, meant the world to him. But that is no more. The exact circumstances are unclear, but the letters stopped. Although he does not know who sent the last letter, the time between letters grew so great that it does not even matter. The distance was far too great and their hearts were no longer in the same place. Time is the most powerful and unstoppable force that can change emotions, feelings, beliefs, and relationships. He is always writing text messages but never sending them. What he writes and who he wishes to send them to is unknown, but it is a clear indication that he once again is isolated like so many years ago before he met Akari. He longs for companionship and a person who can understand him, and this does not necessarily mean Akari. Anyone would suffice, but as no one does, Akari is the only one on his mind. These constant thoughts of her fill his mind as much as he fills Kanae’s, but the effect is something far different. Rather than growing a love out of something that does not exist, he is multiplying one that did. With nothing else to do with his life, with no one else to talk to, the amount of emotional investment he has in Akari reaches something that can only be done over the course of his few but long years. He incessantly compounds his obsession over her yet is unable to do anything to fix the endless gap between them. But he knows the truth: he will probably never see her again, and if he does, she won’t feel the same.
The final part of this story is short and straightforward, but leaves the open-ended interpretation of the true moral of the movie. Tohno has been living an average life of an average person with an average job and average relationships. He recently quit his job and is ignoring his pseudo-girlfriend. Despite his relationships with women, he is still stuck in the past and no surprise there. He spent his entire youth with eyes for only one girl, now a woman. He watched her, waited for her letters, and thought of her, always. She was the one who understood him, but now she is gone from his life, leaving his heart as an empty void that can’t be filled. Akari on the other hand is now engaged, but clearly has not forgotten him. A dream of that day from reading that undelivered letter: she remembers him fondly, but not as a lover. She has come to terms with her naivety at some point and realized she needed to move on. How exactly her adolescent years played out are a complete mystery; we only see the result after many years. She realized that what they had was not real love – it was child’s play. Their broken relationship does not bother her in the slightest because it is all in the past to her. It helped shape her into who she is, as all experiences do, but she understands how futile it would be to regret not continuing their relationship.
But for Tohno, if you deal with child’s play long enough, it can become reality. No matter how naïve and foolish the love was originally, it has become real in the sense that it is unbreakable. However, this does not change the reality he faces. The final scene by the train is a final confirmation of that reality. He recognizes her; he knows it’s her for he has only seen her every day of his life. In his mind, he watched her grow up and knows every feature that she will have. The trains pass as he turns. He cannot look away because he has waited for this moment since that fateful day they parted. But she can. Regardless of whether she did recognize him, regardless of whether she didn’t, it doesn’t matter. He is a memory to her. A good memory, but still just that. She may turn out of curiosity, but she will not give more time than that. The trains are done passing and only he remains, standing, looking at nothing. He leaves, knowing that this is reality. He has always known this reality as well, ever since that day. He turns and smiles, understanding how many years he wasted away with a futile love.
Thus, in the end, 5 cm/s is a story of how 3 people mistook a feeling for love, how they dealt with it, and how it developed them as a person. Tohno dedicates his life to it and ends up unable to love anyone else until he finally accepts reality years later. In comparison, Kanae spends a lot less time investing in her feelings and comes to terms with reality much sooner; however, even so, he is someone she will never forget about. Unlike the other two, Akari does not let one failed hope affect her life. She is able to move on quickly, understanding how naïve her hopes were, and become engaged without letting her past hold her back.