Monthly Archives: January 2011

Orphans That Never Knew Their Names: Haibane Renmei and the Power of Names

And now we’re grown-up orphans
That never knew their names

We don’t belong to no one
That’s a shame

But you could hide beside me
Maybe for a while
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ‘em your name

Rakka

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we flipped through books and clicked through dozens of webpages to find the perfect name for him.  It had to sound right – together with our last name, together with a middle name, and in context of what was acceptable today.  We went through a similar ritual with our second child.  Most importantly for us, the name had to mean something.

In western culture today, the meaning of names has lost much of its importance.  For instance, my name means “strong and manly,” but I would never use those adjectives to describe myself, except in jest.  In certain homes in the west, and in other countries around the world, name meanings are considerably more important.  For instance, names in Asian countries like Japan and Korea have long held significance for the individual and his or her family. Read the rest of this entry

Wandering Son Episode 02: Graceful Takatsuki

As many of us suspected, Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) is turning out to be something quite special indeed.

Episode 2 of the series could be summed up in one word: forgiveness.

Chiba and Takatsuki’s relationship probably connects deeply to many of us.  While we may not have been in such a difficult love triangle, where strong friendships are torn apart, we can all understand the deep divide that can develop in friendships when one or both parties refuses to forgive.

Wandering Son Chiba Saori

Pixiv Member 9898357

The saying goes that when a person refuses to forgive, the only one that’s hurt is him or herself.  This is true to some extent – how many times do we fume, for instance, when a person cuts us off in traffic, when it’s likely that the offender has already forgotten about us?  We become angry and fall into a bad mood, while the awful driver hums along on his way.

But the saying isn’t entirely true, especially when the two parties are close to one another.  Typically, both friends get hurt, and as time goes by, bitterness usually increases. Read the rest of this entry

Take Me Out To The Ball Game: Big Dreams and the Unknown God in “Major”

We Americans think of baseball as our “national pastime,” and perhaps rightfully so. But it would be equally true to say that the Japanese have adopted baseball wholeheartedly, and made it their own. I know of no other Western sport with an authentic Japanese name, written in kanji (野球 yakyuu, or if you will, “plains ball”), with other authentic Japanese terms for “base,” “pitcher,” and so on.

Amongst baseball anime, Major is unique in following the life of a single character, Honda Goro (later Shigeno Goro after his adoptive parents), from infancy through his late twenties. In a way, Goro is the simplest character you will ever meet. He has but one dream:  to become a major league pitcher and play professional baseball in the US. He will face any obstacle, make any sacrifice, and push himself to any limit, to achieve this. Single-minded, constant hard work to achieve one’s lifelong dream: that is what this show is about. Read the rest of this entry

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Buddha and Religious Criticism

Today in his House of 1000 Manga column at Anime News Network, Jason Thompson describes Osamu Tezuka‘s epic work, Buddha.  As one who rarely watches anime or reads manga created earlier than the 1990s, I know Tezuka only by reputation and not by experiencing any of his works.  As such, and I think this may be true for many of us, I didn’t know about this manga.  Thompson does a wonderful job of describing it, as usual.  The manga sounds very interesting – not what one would expect out of a religious story.  I was also pleased to see Thompson’s mention of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha in the column, since I’ve read the novel (though admittedly, I admire it rather than enjoy it).

On thing that catches my attention in the column that, as with his discussion on the manga Jesus, Thompson’s criticisms of the manga come across as criticisms of a religion:

From the perspective of a nonbeliever like myself, it can sometimes seem like a depressing religion; after all, one of the core teachings is that life is suffering (“Kill or be killed! That’s the world! That’s life!” says Devadatta), and that Nirvana isn’t heaven or paradise but nonexistence, an end to it all.

Thompson’s language isn’t offensive – in fact, in both of the columns discussing religious manga, he approached the subjects with tact and respect.  But when it comes to faith, one can quickly and easily become defensive (Christians moreso, I think, than Buddhists). 

My first reaction was that Thompson should’ve avoided any criticism of religion at all, no matter how mild in tone.  But…that would make me a hypocrite.  After all, my faith embraces the idea that there is only one God, and that all other gods or faiths are, bluntly put, wrong.  When push comes to shove, defending my belief criticizes others.

What do you think?  Are you skittish when critizing religion?  Are you defensive of your own (or lack of)?

Read the entire column: Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga Episode XXXIX: Buddha

No Need for the Past: Goodbye, Tenchi!

Last week, I auctioned off my Tenchi Universe collection on eBay.  I had mixed feelings about letting the series go.  I hadn’t watched it for many years and it was just collecting dust.  And it’s really not that great of a series…it’s very mediocre, only made interesting because of its characters.  Its two best contributions, in my mind, were the addition of Kiyone (my first anime crush) and one great episode, “No Need for Memories,” which was a non-canonical (as was the entire series) dip into Tenchi’s past with his mother.  Besides this…the show is pretty forgettable.

Tenchi girls

As usual, there's no need for Tenchi

But…you see, Tenchi Universe is the series that made me into an anime fan.  For sure, I’d seen a lot of anime as a child (particularly Speed Racer and Voltron) and I used to watch Digimon, even with the embarrassment that comes with viewing a “kid’s show” as a teenager.  But it wasn’t until Tenchi Universe (I’d seen this series in its entirety before the OVAs) that I became gripped by an anime series to the point that I wanted to find out more about it and to seek other anime I might like.

But alas, it was time to let go. Read the rest of this entry

Anime Recommendations for the Christian Viewer

One thing that’s been tricky in this whole blogging experiece for me is to write for two very different audiences – Christian fans of anime, and non-Christian fans of anime.  Mostly, I write to the latter while still keeping an emphasis on Christian spirituality.  However, the Resources section of my site emphasizes both.  Today, I’m adding a new element to that section that is particularly for Christian viewers, and specifically those who may be new to anime or are otherwise wondering what kinds of shows they might consider “Christian anime.”

Please take a look at Six Anime Recommendations for Christian Viewers.  It contains six shows that I would consider excellent pieces for Christian anime fans to view in light of their faith.  The list is also a work in progress, and I hope to eventually populate it with additional series and movies.

Of Kami and Buddhas: Tokyo’s Anime Temple!

CNNGo reported today about the Ryohoji Temple in Hachioji, which has become an anime temple.  That’s right: anime temple, complete with a theme song, anime character, monks praying to the anime character, and…a maid cafe.

What?!

The 16th century temple began its transformation when the chief monk tried to get young people to come to it.

Since then though, the temple has become known as “Moe-dera” (“newly budding temple”), a reference to  “moe”  — a feeling of attraction to a blossoming young girl, usually a manga character — while “dera” means “temple.

Moe Buddhism…WHAT?!

I’ve gotta say…I think I’m only surprised because of my personal connections with my faith, which I take seriously (sometimes too seriously).  In Japan, religion is a “practical religion,” with plenty of room for syncretism and, in this case, the inclusion of pop culture.  In other words, this is soooo Japan.

Go to CNNGo for the article in its entirity.  Also, check out the temple’s website, which has the to be the most commercial website EVER for a religious institution.

Edit: I’m apparently years behind on discovering this.  Please forgive me. :P

Of Kami and Buddhas: Domo, er….Shalom?

The Old Testament concerns itself, largely, with the story of the interaction between the 12 tribes of Israel and their God.  This is oversimplifying the matter, but when the Assyrian Empire conquered Israel, ten of the twelve tribes of Israel were lost to history.  Today, we refer to these tribes as the “Ten Lost Tribes.”

Recent scholarship and speculation has led many to believe that perhaps one or more of the tribes scattered to the east; some may have ended up in Japan. 

That’s right – many Japanese people may be of Jewish descent.

I came across a video from an investigative Japanese television program.  If you’ve ever seen Asian programs of this sort, they’re terribly entertaining, but must be taken with a grain of salt.  “Oooohs” and “aaaaahs” often cover a lack of hard evidence.  Such is the case with the following videos.  They make connections between the Israelites and Japanese based on a number of similarities, including: Read the rest of this entry

Spiritual Dryness and Haruhi’s Melancholy

mel·an·chol·y  

[mel-uhn-kol-ee]
noun, plural -chol·ies, adjective
–noun
1. a gloomy state of mind, esp. when habitual or prolonged; depression.
2. sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.

–adjective
4. affected with, characterized by, or showing melancholy; mournful; depressed: a melancholy mood.
5. causing melancholy or sadness; saddening: a melancholy occasion.
6. soberly thoughtful; pensive.
(Source: Dictionary.com)

Suzumiya Haruhi is one of the most recognizable characters in anime today and the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya solidified her popularity. Sure, on the surface she’s just a strong-headed tsundere with a knack for bending everyone around her to her will, but on a deeper level her melancholy peaks through and displays itself as the root of her eccentricity. Her dissatisfaction with reality and her perception of it as bland is what drives her to ferociously seek phenomena greater than herself that her own logic cannot contain (aliens, time travelers, and espers. As we all know from her famous introduction line, she won’t accept anything less). However, the irony of this entire set up is that extraordinary phenomena occur around her simply because she wants them to exist, but she can’t see them despite the fact that they’re right in front of her in the form of Nagato Yuki (alien), Asahina Mikuru (time traveler), and Koizumi Itsuki (esper). So, Haruhi fervently seeks what she can’t see before her, believing such things exist while grappling with her underlying sense of insignificance and refusal to accept her life is average.

Haruhi sky

In Haruhi’s character, we have a reflection of one aspect of Christian spirituality that is often overlooked or treated as a problem that’s easily solved: spiritual dryness. We get into a state of dissatisfaction with the mundaneness of our lives, so we adamantly desire proof of greater things at work in the world. All people feel this at some point, but in a specifically Christian context, we seek a sense of God-given purpose or some kind of infallible sign that we’re an important part in the story of the universe. Of course, just as Haruhi can’t see the extraordinary phenomena right in front of her, so we can’t see the work of God in front of us and we become increasingly burdened by a sense of monotony while desiring a place in something greater than ourselves.

Read the rest of this entry

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Fractale System as God

Fractale just started airing in Japan (lucky for us, Funimation is simulcasting the series, with episodes appearing just hours after premiering!).  The first episode was nothing at all like I expected, which isn’t entirely a bad thing.

One surpring element in the first episode had to do witht he idea that the Fractale system had become a god in society.  Not only reminiscient of organized, state-required religion (there are similarities to Islam in religiously conservative countries like Saudi Arabia), the system also reminds me of North Korea, where the divine leader is even projected as part of a triune God – Kim Jong-Il is the “son,” his father (and the first leader of North Korea) is the “father,” and the state is the “holy spirit,” if I remember correctly.

Ghostlighting of We Remember Love goes into further detail about the religious ideas (and other themes) from the first episode.  Take a read!

Fractale 01: The Looming End of Our Fantasies