Joyful Christmas Music

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May all my dear readers be enjoying a happy Advent season!  Last week marks our final week to prepare for the great celebration of Christmas.  Buy those presents, decorate your abode, participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, meditate with wonder on the Incarnation, show extra kindness and patience, and, first and foremost, be joyful!  Buying presents for those near and dear to us in itself helps make us happy as we look forward to the smile on their faces.  Many people complain about the spirit of commercialism that runs through Christmas, but this applies mostly to businesses and may easily be avoided as long as we don’t focus on buying things for ourselves.  When else do so many people spend so much of their time and treasure in order to bring a smile to other people’s faces?

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During some years, however, people can get wrapped up in various misfortunes–suffering, sickness, over-absorbing work, stress, worry, financial strain, death of loved ones, etc., which prevent us from entering into the spirit of joy, love, wonder, generosity, and peace that is Christmas.  Also, like me, your environs might show none of the expected hallmarks of the season.  Nothing says Christmas as much as seeing a panoply of Christmas lights and decorations against a snowy background.  Without snow, it is incredibly difficult for me to think about the holiday.  Snow always brings to mind the following verses, which describe Christ’s mission: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

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Without the aid of the environment, song provides the best avenue for entering into the spirit of the season.  But, Christmas music, which begins mid-November, has lost its charm by this time.  What was intended to bring us into the joy of the holiday now annoys us.  I’ve discovered a trick this year: if English Christmas music bores you, you might simply listen to other countries’ Christmas music.  They convey the same joy and sound fresh even if we’ve already heard the English version of a song one hundred times.  ( Zvončići sounds great even though I don’t want to hear Jingle Bells until next year.)  Check out any of the playlists below.  Croatian, German, and Latin are my favorite languages for Christmas music.

And there's one of my favorite German anime characters: Satella Harvenheit.

And there’s one of my favorite German anime characters: Satella Harvenheit.

Croatian Christmas Songs

Danish Christmas Songs

French Christmas Songs

German Christmas Songs

Italian Christmas Songs

Latin Christmas Music

Spanish Christmas Music

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Finally, Lord Drako Arakis has combined several fine Christmas songs with pictures drawn in the anime style.  Their selection of Christmas music is great and much cleaner than many of his other pieces.  I have picked through the following songs, but have a care if you explore his channel!  Enjoy!

If you want to hear a sad and touching song, you can listen to the following:

Also, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

 

Finished Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water

Well, I have at last finished watching Hideaki Anno’s interesting take on Jules Verne.  The long course of time over which I watched this show renders me less able to give a comprehensive review, so you might want to check out Cajun Samurai’s three part review (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) for a more in-depth take on the series.  On this blog, the show managed to inspire a post on vanity and another on unlikely animal lovers.  The greatest problem with rating Nadia overall is that the parts which are good are really good, while the parts of it which are bad are really bad.  The Lincoln Island arc and even the episodes following until the final four episodes make for a very painful memory.  While slogging through them, I was ready to give the show a 6/10.

NSOTBW

However, the nail-biting action and gripping drama of the last four episodes saved the show’s rating.  How did the studio ever allow the show to get so far off track?  If they had compressed the events of episodes 23-35 (Yes, it was that long of a slog) into two or three episodes, I would gladly have given this show a 9/10 or even a perfect score.  But, I just can’t ignore what must be deemed the worst sagging middle in all of anime.  And I thought Glass Fleet had a terrible sagging middle!  But, it does not even compare to Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  I am never watching that part again!

Samson on left.

And so, the great story arcs, moments of striking originality, and the likable characters of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water–especially Samson, Hanson and Senorita Grandis–merit for this show an 8/10.  I found myself a little annoyed by the show’s alternate history of the human race, but, as I mentioned above, this does come from the director of Neon Genesis Evangelion.  The similarities between the two shows will delight the fans of Evangelion–as would watching Gunbuster, amuch more focused and of higher quality work of Hideaki Anno’s than Nadia.  Even if you’re not a fan of Evangelion, you might want to give this show a shot–if reading Cajun Samurai’s adverse and more critical opinion does not put you off.

Not Ordinary

Originally posted on TheWannabeSaint.com:

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This quote, by beloved author C. S. Lewis, begs the question; “who have I, who have you, helped today?” Have we assisted or hindered each person we’ve been in contact/connected with as they seek to discover, follow their path?

We often have such a low view of ourselves and each other. We see one another as tasks to be dealt with or obstacles to deal with so we can complete our tasks. What if we truly believed; “there are no ordinary people, that we have never talked to a mere mortal?” Would this realization, paradigm shift, change our interactions with folks we’ve known forever, those with whom we’ve shared only a moment?

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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“Kikuchiyo of Samurai 7 Level Epic”: How the Last Episode of Akame ga Kiru Met My Expectations

I do not often write a post immediately following an episode, but it’s not every day that one of my wishes for a currently airing series comes true.  And, I have already given myself a week off.  Time to start blogging again!  Major spoilers for both Samurai 7 and episode 23 of Akame ga Kiru to follow.

Akame's Warning

For the most part, this week’s episode of Akame ga Kiru provoked much laughter as every cliche from shonen anime featured in one of its scenes–from Tatsumi gaining strength through the memory of his friends to the emperor having a nervous break down in his mech.

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Anyone else reminded of Escaflowne's Dilandau?

Anyone else reminded of Escaflowne’s Dilandau?

Ran appears to have transformed into a facsimile of Suzaku Kururugi–though several times more palatable–with his claim to have wanted to reform the empire from the inside.  And I expected Leone’s fight with him to be her last.

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It never works, man.  Neither in Code Geass nor in Akame ga Kiru.

It never works, man. Neither in Code Geass nor in Akame ga Kiru.

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However, this episode happily surprised me in two ways: 1) Leone did not kick the bucket (Yay!); and 2) Tatsumi did indeed reach Kikuchiyo’s death level epicness.  Let’s compare the two of them:

How do you stop a giant air battleship?

How do you stop a giant air battleship?

With a giant katana of course!

With a giant katana of course!

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Kikuchiyo explodes from overheating, but not before sapping the giant airship of the momentum it needed to destroy the village.

 

And down it plunges.

And down it plunges into a canyon.

All that's left of Kikuchiyo

All that’s left of Kikuchiyo

I had the same reaction.  The saddest death in the anime!

I had the same reaction. The saddest death in the anime!

Kikuchiyo’s death still tops Tatsumi’s; but, Tatsumi still managed to pull off one of the greatest deaths of any anime character.  No mean feat!

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Requiescas in pace, Tatsumi!

Requiescas in pace, Tatsumi!

Now, the last episode will feature a duel between Esdeath and Akame–perhaps the two most popular characters in the anime.  The first half of the show was remarkable for its poor swordplay .  The second half has shown a marked improvement, but will they be able to create a final duel worthy of the two expert swordswomen?  I’m rooting for the triumph of Esdeath, but I won’t hold my breath: as soon as Esdeath gets nicked she dies.  At least, I can hope her death won’t play out thus: Esdeath thinks that she has Akame beaten, but it turns out that Akame landed the slightest of cuts and Esdeath falls dead!

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At any rate, may they exceed my expectations once again!

Kabukimonogatari

medievalotaku:

It seems like the Monogatari series has yet another installment. MIB gives an excellent review of this short OVA. Since I’m still plodding through the beginning of Monogatari, I’ll have to reserve this pleasure for later.

Originally posted on MIB's Instant Headache:

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Kabukimonogatari (Cert 12)

1 Disc (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 99 minutes approx.

Release Date: December 15th     

This latest slice of surreal verbose mind-bending madness from the Monogatari universe is once again a singular arc culled from the twenty-six episode Monogatari Series Second Season, which originally made up chapters 7 to 11 including the recap episode which is included in the extras.

It hasn’t been explained quite why we’ve been afforded this unique release method – one can only assume that since the show is very hard work to watch with its verbal and visual onslaught that releasing it in small doses is to benefit our sanities, which is fine by me!

On to this latest adventure which is partially based around Mayoi Hachikuji, in that she is the catalyst for the supernatural exploits which occur. A quick reminder for those of you with either short…

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Thoughts on Various Anime and November

National Blog Posting Month and NaNoWriMo have come to a close.  Regarding the former, Medieval Otaku for the first time has managed a post for each day of the month–even if I had to resort to reblogging.  (I suppose next year’s goal will include only posting articles written by yours truly; though, I do have fun introducing people to some of the bloggers I follow.)  Regarding NaNoWriMo…well…I wrote one chapter and started the second.   All my inspiration was siphoned off to various channels.  Now, I shall see if I can deliver on my hope of writing a second novel by the end of the year.

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Yet, the title promises some thoughts on various anime.  Below are blurbs on select themes in each show or my overall impression of them.

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1) Akame ga Kiru

The sharp deviation from the manga we see in the last few episodes of Akame ga Kiru increased my interest in this show.  Unfortunately, I have an idea of what to expect: everyone except Tatsumi dies before the Prime Minister and Esdeath are taken down.  Or, will the animators find a way to surpass my expectations with the last few episodes allowed to them?

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That the anime never became popular in Japan leads to this precipitate ending.  The weakness of the first six episodes–with the possible exception of the first–hurt this shows ratings.  They should never have set out to produce an exact replica of the manga, but people in the entertainment industry are often lazy.  Also, though there have been a few excellent battles, the uneven quality of the fights with some being downright poor must also have turned away some action fans.  Despite that, I’m looking forward to watching all my favorite characters die in tragic fashion.  If they make their deaths epic enough–especially should they reach Kikuchiyo of Samurai 7 level epic, I’ll give the anime four stars out of five.

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2) Akatsuki no Yona

This anime has become a classic tale of  good vs. evil, where the good guys win because the Universe is behind them.  Despite how common such a story is, who does not delight in seeing the weak and downtrodden conquer the wicked and powerful?

And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty. (From the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

Yona is like the Blessed Virgin Mary in her lowliness, but, because Yona has the Mandate of Heaven, she shall trod a powerful tyrant underfoot–as did St. Mary.

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The flashbacks have hurt the advancement of the plot.  However, I believe that the following episodes will concentrate on the progression of Yona to becoming a powerful general until the eventual downfall of Soo-Won–not out of revenge, but because the deed is just.

Upside down

3) Chaika the Coffin Princess: Avenging Battle

This show has been a lot of fun.  I have not let down my suspension of disbelief enough to do more than enjoy Chaika, but I love how much more solid the plot is in this season.  The episodes have focused on leading up to a final battle between the red and white Chaikas, and that battle will be fun to see.  Among the characters, Akari and Frederica especially shine for their quirky personalities and humor.

akari et Frederica

ICUWMHIS

4) I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying

Touching and funny adequately describe this anime.  A several episodes speak less about otakudom and more about the vicissitudes of married life.  The point of the show seems to be encouraging salarymen and salarywomen to stop being concerned only with their careers, otaku to stop focusing merely on anime, and both to seek the joys of real romance and married life–including children.  Japan really needs more shows with a message like that: in fifty years, the Japanese will be an endangered race at this rate.  More need to marry and have children–people of European descent too for that matter!

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5) Madan no Ou to Vanadis

I’m impressed by the author’s love for the Middle Ages.   Sure, it contains a few errors, but the battles feel authentic (except for the occasional use of magic, of course!), and the embattled feel of the Middle Ages is well replicated.  It must be remembered that Vikings, Celts, Saxons, Muslims and other barbarians all attempted to carve up Europe during the Middle Ages.  It is amazing that European culture survived.

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I like how the anime refers to the Muslim invasions in episode eight by refering to the invading army as name Muozinel.  Muslim armies often outnumbered their Christian opponents, but Christians often carried the day through a combination of better armor, tactics, and sheer courage.  (I remember reading about one Christian victory in Spain where the Christians won despite entire units being annihilated during the battle.  Like in episode eight of Madan no Ou to Vanadis, victory was achieved through the Muslims routing after the death of their leader.)  Muslims menaced Europe from the 8th century until the Battle of Vienna, which was fought from September 11, 1683 – September 12, 1683 and ended Turkish campaigns against Christendom.  My mother’s family comes from Croatia, which earned the nickname “the Wall of Christianity,” due to the Turks’ inability to conquer the country entirely.  You can bet that I loved watching episode eight. :)

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6) Psycho-Pass 2

I’m convinced that this is the best show of the season.  Some people accuse it of having an incoherent plot or being too similar to the previous season, but such people have not adequately suspended their disbelief. :P  We knew that the characters would fight against the Sybil System again, and having another antagonist who wishes to take it down is the most obvious way for this plot to begin.  Besides, the last episode indicates that the Sybil System will actively turn against Akane in the future.  Don’t you want to see what happens when Akane becomes Public Enemy #1?

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7) Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

A commentator warned me about the religious syncretism and the scantily clad angels.  Sure enough, episode six felt rather jarring to me.  If the angels are gods, they’re no longer angels.  The only parallel between Christianity and the religion of Shingeki no Bahamut is the inclusion of Joan of Arc–but, she’s pagan, which does not mesh with the idea of a Catholic saint!  Also, as the aforementioned commentator said, there is a theme of gods and demons–good and evil–vs. choas.  This doesn’t work!  Despite D&D’s inclusion of a lawful evil category, evil is chaos!  God created an ordered whole–a cosmos–when he created the universe.  Satan was the first to try to disrupt this order when he declared himself God.  Even now, the devil principally fights against God by inducing human beings to disorder and perversion.  A brief look at the Seven Deadly Sins reveals that they are all disorders.

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That aside, the show is spectacular!  The characters are interesting, and each episode offers surprises to the audience.

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Hyouka: Whole-Series Reflection

Originally posted on The Infinite Zenith:

“Never do anything yourself that others can do for you.” —Agatha Christie

Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of the Hyouka (literally “ice cream”) novel was released in 2012, following one Houtarou Oreki’s reluctant agreement to join his high school’s Classic Literature club at his older sister’s request to prevent the club from being disbanded. Though he initially finds their activities to be an unnecessary use of his time, together with Eru Chitanda, Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara, he nonethtless lends his natural capacity for deducing the solution to problems the club encounters, ranging from the mysteries behind Eru’s grandfather, events associated with the school’s Kanya festival or the infamous “Juumonji” case during the Kanya festival itself. Each mystery is down-to-earth and realistic, being set in a self-contained arc that flows reasonably well into the the subsequent arc, with much of the anime being about the cultural festival itself. Judging from the mundane…

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Winter Season 2015: A Season for the Classics

Of late, my interest in anime has grown less as I’ve turned more to history and literature–especially fantasy fiction.  Anime used to be the last thing I did before hitting the hay.  Now, I find myself devouring Frank Herbert’s Dune, Douglass Hulick’s Among Thieves, or The Lord of the Rings.  It’s the fourth time I’m reading the Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien never gets old.  In the near future, I’ll probably pick up E. R. Eddings The Worm Ouroboros and Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin, which one of my friends tells me has inspired him to finally start writing fiction.

Book before Bed

 

And so, Caraniel’s Winter 2015 Preview delighted me by revealing that the upcoming season is as bland as steel cut oatmeal.  You ask why I’m delighted?  Because only two new shows, Rolling Girls and Aldnoah.Zero 2, have sparked any interest in me, which encourages me to catch up on my backlog.  In particular, I find myself excited for the following three shows:

I have never heard of Colorado-style shooting.  Anyone else?

I have never heard of Colorado-style shooting. Anyone else?

1) Angel Cop

This very violent and anti-Communist show was recommended to me by my brother.  I usually don’t care as much for the style of animation seen here, but episode one was exciting and pleasantly diverged from the tone, characters and plot lines we see in contemporary shows.  Essentially, our heroes belong to an anti-terrorist force which tries to foil the leftist Red May terrorists.

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2) Urusei Yatsura

A friend of mine in college frequently recommended this show to me.  He would always say that recent stories from the pen of Rumiko Takahashi paled in comparison to shows like Ranma 1/2 and earlier.  I have been enjoying manga from the Rumic Theater, so it seems like the time is ripe to try Urusei Yatsura (literally, “Noisy Guys”).

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3) Ashita no Joe

Man!  What a great opening set of episodes!  The male protagonists actually have character!  The animators actually know how street fights work!  It’s amazing!  Concerning the fighting, I was shocked to see out main hero, Joe Yabuki, actually run away in order to gain a more favorable position in order to deal with large groups of opponents!  How often do we see our hero standing in the middle of a mob and somehow managing to deal with all of them coming from all sides rather than positioning himself so that he only has to deal with one or two at a time?  And the fights are hard-hitting to boot!

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You can tell that I’m all in on watching the transformation of Joe from a roguish thug to a world class boxer.  If Ashita no Joe continues to be so entertaining, the show shall surely enter my top ten.

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In the meantime, I need to finish Denno CoilEl Cazador de la BrujaHyouka, and Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  Once that happens and I finish all the shows which I think will end this season, my watch list for the first quarter of the new year should look like this:

  1. Akatsuki no Yona
  2. Aldnoah.Zero 2
  3. Angel Cop
  4. Ashita no Joe
  5. I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying
  6. Psycho-Pass 2
  7. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
  8. Urusei Yatsura

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Of course, I could not find accurate information for the projected length of certain of those shows.  So, if any of my dear readers notices that certain shows of the present season which will not run into the next, please tell me.  If I find more time or if any of the above shows have a shorter broadcast period than I thought, I’ll add The Flying Ghost Ship and Captain Harlock to this list.  What winter 2015 shows grabbed your attention?  Anyone else so disappointed with the upcoming season that they will end up watching shows on their backlog in preference to new shows?

Happy Thanksgiving and Some Thoughts on Psycho-Pass

May all my dear readers enjoy a happy Thanksgiving!  Today, we celebrate a feast established by the Puritans of Plymouth Rock in order to give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings.  In their case, they were blessed to see the beginnings of their colony’s prosperity.  Like them, we ought to give thanks to God for all the ways that He has caused us to thrive over the course of another year.

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Sometimes it is difficult to see graces and blessings among the difficulties of life.  Yet, we ought to thank God even for the difficulties, over which He means us to triumph.  Even if it seems like they get the best of us, our character still grows from them.  Without such trials, you can bet that we’d be less human and even less happy.  As the protagonist’s father in Dostoyevsky’s The Adolescent says: “Life would not be worth living without these little annoyances.”

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Perhaps that’s one of the points Psycho-Pass 2 wishes to make with its theme of eustress.  (I write from the perspective of the first six episodes.  Please tell me if the last ones contradict what I’m about to write.)  Eustress is the idea that stressful or discomforting situations, when overcome, bring people feelings of accomplishment and purpose.  Without any dragons to slay, life can devolve to a meaningless and frightful monotony, leading to the state of those poor depressed individuals we see in episode four.  Kamui claims to offer a way of giving life purpose through doing evil deeds which give the appearance of power–sort of like how Raskolnikov kills two people with in ax in Crime and Punishment in order to feel like Napoleon.

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But, how greatly do people miss themselves if they need to resort to sin and crime in order to gain an ephemeral sensation of fulfillment!  What truly makes us happy lies in our own souls, and fulfilling our dreams provides as many challenges as we could wish for and often more than we’d like.  However, rather than an ephemeral and false joy, overcoming these obstacles produces peace of soul.  This is similar to how Akane can endure so many reverses and tragedies without her psycho-pass becoming clouded.  Bringing criminal masterminds to justice is her virtue.  Even if the end looks distant, she can calmly perform her duties as she works toward an eventual triumph.

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More than Akane, let us imitate St. Faustina, who not only thanked God for His graces, but even the darkness, spiritual dryness, persecutions, and temptations, knowing that God meant for her happiness and the glorification of His Name through it all.

Anime Today: When Even One Supernatural Student is Missing (Even if She is Commonplace…)

Originally posted on :

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As carefree of a series as When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de) is, it has rather regularly hit on a rather serious topic, if only briefly. Charles focused on one of these two weeks ago, writing on perhaps one of the most impressive several minutes of anime monologuing in the past year or so. As you can see from the above screenshots (courtesy of Crunchyroll), the literature club’s protagonists are lamenting the disappearance of Hatoko, and the very integrity of the group after her absence.

Although only a brief moment in the episode, and completely dependent upon the events in the previous episode, this immediately struck home for me. To illustrate this point, I will provide two examples. The first of these comes from a piece of my childhood very near and dear to my heart.

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