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Winter 2014 In Review (Part Two)

TWWK: Yesterday, Goldy and Japes started their review of Winter 2014’s anime. Today, our reviewing pair join together to judge shows that they both watched this past season.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

Love, Chunibyou & Other Delusions – Heart Throb -

Goldy – [8/10]

In the past, I’ve praised Kyoto Animation for creating love stories without going all out shoujo drama, and while they did an excellent job with season one of Chuuni, I had my worries about the second season.
Where could they possibly go with this? Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and the second season delivered a brilliant performance, including all the familiar characters facing their weaknesses and even including some new ones. I like to see characters grow in stories, moving forward despite knowing their faults.
The main story, the relationship between Yuuta and Rika progressed rather well from last season, I thought. It grew at their own pace, which in itself was a beautiful and heart warming thing. I think the two still have a long way to go in understanding each other better, but sometimes baby steps are better than nothing.
I’m a sucker for an excellent love story, though.

Japesland – [7/10]

It took me quite a while to decide what to score Chuunibyou this time around (I rated season one an 8/10), but ended up landing on the 7/10 that you can see above. While I love this series, including this season, I found it hard to rate it anything higher than a 7 considering how little it had to offer beyond what was in the first season. With the exception of a fantastic new character, Shichimiya Satone, the vast majority of the emotional buildup found in this season was also found in the first season. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both, but I was hoping to see either something new, or perhaps something at least a bit more progressive than what KyoAni had to offer us this time around.

With all of that said, however, season two has left me eagerly awaiting a (perhaps more fulfilling) season three. Like Goldy indicated above, baby steps are better than nothing, and KyoAni definitely did not give us nothing.

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Nisekoi, Episode 11: Of Maybachs and Love Languages

Although I was less than thrilled by the the unoriginality of Nisekoi near the season’s beginning, that was mostly because I’ve so enjoyed the show that I want it to be more than it is.  And as it progresses, I’m liking it all the more.

In episode 11, the main characters finally get to know a little bit of what we as the audience have known for a long time – that either Onodera and Chitoge may be Raku’s promised girl (or, a la Love Hina style, I’m guessing they both are).  Onodera reveals that she may be during her date with Raku as the two look for a birthday gift for Chitoge.  The birthday girl starts to reveal as much at her actually birthday.  So while the birthday could have been the centerpiece of this episode, it’s the reveals that take center stage.

That’s not say, though, that the birthday isn’t played up for laughs.

Art by 山吹色 (Pixiv ID 36738768)

Art by 山吹色 (Pixiv ID 36738768)

The invitees and other adore the yakuza heir with birthday gifts, the most notable ones being a Chitoge-like gorilla from Raku and a Maybach from Claude.  The earlier is accepted warmly by the Chitoge, while the Maybach is rejected because, in her words, “I can’t even drive.”

Claude is deflated.  I know the feeling.  In fact, lots and lots and lots of guys know the feeling.  Just as many guys (maybe a smaller percentage of otaku than the general populace) try to help their beloveds by attempting to fix their problems, they also try to make their significant others happy by doting on them with gifts.  Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t – at least not with the gusto that the guy would expect.

I’m guilty of this, too.  When my then-girlfriend used to get down, I would try to solve thing by buying a gift.  And not always with a super expensive one, like Claude’s – I would sometimes sacrifice, whether it meant by going well out of my way or having to use creative muscles I didn’t think I had – to buy or make something that would uplift the soul.  And though I wasn’t outright rejected like Claude, the bright smile I hoped to see wasn’t always (or usually) forthcoming.

I later realized that a lot of this had to do because her love language and mine weren’t the same.  The concept of “love languages” is central to the teachings of a Christian counselor, Gary Chapman.  He identifies five:

  • gifts
  • quality time
  • words of affirmation
  • acts of service
  • physical touch

While we can feel love through all these avenues, we typically feel most loved by one or two.  And chances are that your loved one and you have different love languages.  So if yours’ is “acts of service” and you try to serve your girlfriend, whose love language is quality time, you might not be “filling her love tank.”

It’s a simple idea, but one that my experience, and those of many of my friends’, has rung true.  And it’s a deeply meaningful and powerful idea to demonstrate in a relationship, because not only does it help the one you love be happier, it also helps you demonstrate love by sacrificing to shower the other with the affections they would like, even if that style doesn’t come naturally to you.

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Bungaku Shoujo: A Barrier to Outreach

It has been a long time, but many months ago, someone requested I write a post on Bungaku Shoujo. I have a rather unique relationship with this series, as although it only has a movie and a few OVAs, those were enough to spur me to buy and read the officially translated novels, and I’ve become quite the fan of the series (note that as someone who was already tired of hearing Hanakana’s voice by 2010, Touko is the one role I absolutely adore from her). Aside from Zaregoto (which Del Rey dropped, arguably a good thing), Bungaku Shoujo is the only series I have actually followed official light novel translations for, and its final volume was recently released this past January, unless they choose to translate the side stories too (I sure hope so), though I’d be equally thrilled if they picked up Mizuki Nomura’s latest work.

I’ve pondered a lot about how to tie this series to Christianity. Interestingly, the problem I had was there were just so many things that can be said. Bungaku Shoujo can be classified as a simple romance drama, and the movie shows just that. It is a well done adaptation of the 5th novel and manages to be simple enough that previous knowledge is not required but still maintains the drama of the novel itself. However, while I think the movie is as good as can be for a standalone, it does not do the story justice. In the previous four novels, we meet characters with dark secrets and heavy burdens that are simply not detailed in the movie, making the characters seem far more bland and simple than they really are. The novels are great at detailing such serious topics while balancing with happy moments and comedic relief, slowly developing the characters, all mixed together with classic literature references. So although at first glance the series may appear to be nothing more than a nice romantic drama, the themes and topics it explores have all sorts of serious and potential religious discussion. In the end, I decided to address only one aspect of the climax of the series, which the movie does not cover. Who knows, maybe I’ll write on other aspects later.

Touko

A Fateful Meeting

Konoha Inoue is a seemingly ordinary high school student who carries a big secret. He once published a bestselling novel under the penname Miu Inoue through a story he submitted to an amateur contest on a whim. Unable to handle the expectations the world had for the genius middle school “girl” and rumors spreading about the mysterious author, as well as a certain incident, he suffered greatly and entered high school with no desire to ever write again. And yet, he finds himself caught and dragged around by his upperclassman Amano Touko, a book girl who loves books so much she eats them (and nothing else). Together, they are the only members of the literature club and every day, she requires him to write her “snacks.” As much as he proclaims to hate writing, he finds his life is more enjoyable than he thought possible.

However, his happy days spending time with Touko are not fated to last. Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Love is a Fickle Beast, Indeed

Welcome back, Japes! We’ve all missed you! This month has been painful without you! I’m so happy to see you back in action and cannot wait to read all of your upcoming articles and their brilliance!

Aw shucks… thanks, Japes! I’m glad to be back, too! Japan was great and all, but there’s nothing quite like writing for Beneath the Tangles to itch both my theological and otaku scratches.

Okay, now that I’m done with my inner monologue and attempting to swell my head to a size even larger than it already is, I would like to announce that I have finally returned from my short-term missions trip to Japan! It was an amazing experience, but that explanation is best left for an article in and of itself, so I won’t bore you with it here. However, with that said, the last few days since my return have been crammed with simultaneously trying to get over jet lag, catching back up and getting ahead in my classes, and also getting back on schedule with my anime viewing (I missed something like 20 episodes over the course of the trip and also, and only God knows why, I picked up yet another series with plans to pick up yet a second one after that, bringing me up to I believe 16 this season). With much of my time spent doing all three of these things, I found this week’s topic for Anime Today to be a rather easy one to find… so easy, in fact, that it almost seemed glaringly obvious…

If there is one thing that anime has taught me over the years, it is that love is one of the most, if not the absolute most, irrational and inconsistent of human emotions. Catching back up with more than a dozen individual series in a mere day or two has pounded that into my head with the subtlety of a jackhammer. It seems as though the last two or so episodes of nearly every show I am currently following have featured more angst and romantic confusion than perhaps the rest of the season combined. Between the love triangle of Chuunibyou 2, several love triangles as well as complete irrationality in Golden Time, a rather unconventional love triangle in Nisekoi, the love triangle in Engaged to the Unidentified, what can best be described as a love pentagon with several triangles hanging onto it in Nagi no Asukara, an awkward couple in Silver Spoon 2, an unaccepted love in The Pilot’s Love Song, a somewhat one-sided love in Witch Craft Works, and even a bit of erroneously perceived romance in Tonari no Seki-kun, love has been a hot topic. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Yuta, Rikka, and Satone

Art by 栗原まお (Pixiv ID 42144708)

All of these varied shows featuring love as a primary piece of development, or even as a simple gag, have gone to show only one consistent fact: that love is anything but consistent. Characters fall in and out of love. Characters perform irreversible actions that they would never normally do. Characters succumb to jealousy that they would never normally feel. Quite frankly, in the name of love, everybody seems to take matters into their own hands in such a way that defies rationality in nearly every sense of the word. And all of this is due to love. Love. Love. Love.

Love.

Or so they would have you think.

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The Greatest Love of All…Is a Yandere?

Valentine’s Day, a day considered by many to be the most romantic day of the year. But while this day may be a day of romantic love, perhaps it is more interesting to consider an even greater love. Of course I, as a Christian, believe God’s love to be the greatest love in existence; however, merely making such claims is a rather overused approach. Even though so many Christians preach it, it is something incredibly difficult to truly explain. Praising God’s love will only go so far before common sense leads us to wonder how God could possibly love us with so many apparent inconsistencies. Instead, I’d like to make a comparison, one sometimes made in jest but rarely in seriousness. That is God’s love and love of a yandere.

Let me begin by saying if you have never gone outside the manga/anime mediums, you most likely have a very skewed image of what a yandere truly entails. Sure, there have been characters who display a few yandere characteristics, and there are a few examples of more accurate yandere making their way into anime. Perhaps Yuno or Kanade come to mind, or maybe one very infamous nice boat. However, the truth is the really hardcore yandere do not exist in anime, most likely because what they do can’t actually be shown on TV. The visual novel medium, on the other hand, has its share of legitimate yandere. Not that I have read many as I tend to shy away from them myself, but I have heard some tales and they are quite extreme. Regardless, while a yandere may be incomparable to God at a literal level, the love that it holds might just be something more similar to God’s than at first glance.

yandere VN

the Yandere VN

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Attack on Titan, Chapter 54: Kind Krista to Unhappy Historia

One of the things I’m looking forward to in the eventual next season of Shingeki no Kyojin is watching some of the supporting characters take on bigger roles.  For instance, Historia Reiss (formerly Krista Lenz), one of my favorites, has taken a pivotal role recently.  Chapter 54, in fact, inferences that the significance of her role is no less than that of Eren’s.

Of course, the Historia we know from the manga is very different from the one we last left in the anime.  She’s gone through some painful experiences since then, and we’ve uncovered her traumatic past and felt the pressure that has been put upon her.  She had been masking herself with a facade, which has now been lifted to reveal rotting wood underneath.  Despondent and unsure of herself, Historia asks Eren if everyone is disappointed in the real Historia.

Eren x Krista

It was only a matter of time before Eren x Krista became a thing… (Art by クロバラ子, Pixiv ID 41371983)

What follows is a Naruto-esque assertion from Eren which I think rings rather hollow (Eren’s a better character when he’s a mess than when he inspires).  Because I think what we’ll eventually find out is that Historia is a kind person – not naturally, but because of the influence of her real mother (I’m guessing that’s the woman from the chapter) and some others, like Ymir.  Historia will shine through and do something important,  out of love for those around her.

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Nisekoi: When Fake Love Turns Real

I love a good, simple, cliched romcom, and all the more so in the hands of someone that can take the formula and make it something remarkable.  I’m not sure that will happen for Nisekoi, but it certainly might in Akiyuki Shinbo’s hands, and at the very least, I do believe I’ve found a series I’m going to absolutely love.

Art by あっつん (Pixiv ID 40895649)

Art by あっつん (Pixiv ID 40895649)

Episode two was almost as fun as the first, following Ichijou and Kirisaki as they navigate the mine fields of a first date neither wants to be on.  The “fake love” from the series title is now in all it’s horrid effect for our protagonists.  And while neither generally enjoyed their date, there were of course little feelings each seemed to feel for the other at various moments, particularly when Ichijou finds a way to “save” Kirisaki, even though she felt no need for a savior.  Still, that little act helped move something in her, and the beginnings of a tsundere love seem to have been sparked.

The whole situation in which the two did “dating type things” that didn’t lead to real lovey dovey feelings reminded me of something else.  When many people fall from their faith, or at least struggle with it, they’ll receive the following advice: keep serving at church, because once you stop, it’s hard to go back, or because if you keep doing it, you’ll find your heart matching your actions.

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Madoka Magica The Movie – Rebellion – and Redefining Love

How do you define love?

“Love” carries with it perhaps more meaning than any other word in the English language.  It’s such a powerful, personal concept, that each person connotates it differently from the next, carrying experience, beliefs, hopes, and other items into his or her definition of the word.

A Google search for the concept brings up this simple meaning: “an intense feeling of deep affection.”  On the other hand, St. Paul famously defines it this way:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

- I Corinthian 13:4-7

In other words, love is demonstrating deep kindness to someone without regard to how it affects the lover.  This is largely the meaning for love which I embrace.

Homura Akemi

Art by Mitsu (Illustration ID 40042564)

Akemi Homura, on the other hand, sees love quite differently (Spoilers for Madoka Rebellion after the jump).

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Secret Satan, er, Santa

At my church, we play Secret Santa each year.  It’s done in a very simple manner – we bring a small gift to our Christmas party, and the participants draw numbers for the order in which we select.  Takeaways are allowed.

I absolutely hate this tradition.  And so, I choose not to participate each year.  Bah humbug!

The reason I don’t like it is because without fail, there’s always a person or two that gives an over the top “WUT? WAT A HORRIBLE GIFT” response when opening a perfectly nice present.  I wonder if the giver feels hurt.  I imagine they sometimes do – the giver, who is very likely an overburdened parent (at our church), went out of his or her way to buy something thoughtful, and they get a really crappy response in return.

So of course, I participated in two other Secret Santas this year!

Art by YON (Illustration ID 40161301)

Art by YON (Illustration ID 40161301)

The first is among friends and should go quite well.  The second is usually fun as well – it’s the wonderfully managed anibloggers’ Secret Santa, set up by the lovely folks at Reverse Thieves.

I loved the submissions I ended up receiving.  I hoped that those I submitted would be well-received as well.

Unfortunately, via social media, I’ve found out they weren’t.  I felt terrible for the viewer*, because I didn’t want that person to sit through endless episodes of a pain-inducing series.**  But then, I started to feel terrible for myself, as people piled upon the anonymous Secret Santa.  The Secret Santa (me) was jeered and laughed at, and called names, including my favorite, “Secret Satan.”

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More Lessons from Clannad: Be Like Ushio

For such a fantastical story, Clannad has surely taught me a lot about real life.  It’s emphasize to me the need to be selfless, faithful, and obedient.

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.

Tomoya and Ushio Okazaki

Art by きね (Pixiv ID 7301378)

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