Another Little Break

Dear readers, there are so many articles I wish to write and so little time!  This lack of time has been exacerbated by my new iPhone.  Prior to this, I had a phone which was so antiquated that it prompted the Verizon employee to comment “That’s one hell of an upgrade.” My fascination with this new phone has led me to waste countless hours, especially the fact that one can use the iBooks app to collect a library of free books on one’s phone!  Mine includes the Douay-Reims version of the Bible, The Imitation of Christ, several works of Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge’s biography of George Washington, several works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, several from Mark Twain, several from G. K. Chesterton, several from Xenophon, and others.  At the moment, I’ve basically compelled myself to stop collecting books.

Today, I’m going on a spiritual retreat, so you won’t have any new articles for your perusal until Saturday at least.  The rules for what I can bring on this retreat are rather amorphous: I know I may bring a bicycle and that I should bring swim trunks for the pool.  Sounds more like a little vacation, right?  But, there is Mass every day, spiritual talks twice a day, and confession on Tuesday.  Concerning extraneous items, I’ve decided to limit myself to a kanji dictionary, certain grammars, certain religious works, and a couple of notebooks.  All of which, I judge will not detract from the experience and prevent me from going bonkers.

But, here’s what to look forward to afterwards:

1.  The next three articles of my Advice on Prayer series (the retreat should help)

2.  A Review of Jules Verne’s The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (I know, I’ve put it off for too long!)

3.  Tea reviews (a fun change from beer reviews)

4.  A little article expressing my disbelief at seeing Suzaku Kururugi being so high in Anime Planet’s Loved Characters list (#136) and so low in the Hated Characters list (#20) 🙂

5.  How Kenshin Himura of Rurouni Kenshin qualifies as a Christ figure

6.  Some thoughts about the first two seasons of You’re Under Arrest and the Virtue of Simplicity

Well, those are the articles which have been on my mind for a while now.  Pray that I find some time for them!

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A Recipe, One Cider, and a Laundry List of Beers

For a change, I’ll be giving a cider review alongside my beer reviews.  I enjoy cider as an eminently quaffable, uncomplicated, and refreshing beverage.  It also features as part of my favorite seafood recipe, which I gleaned from Mark Bittman’s magnum opus. The Best Recipes in the World.  So, let me start by giving you that recipe.

Cider Poached Red Snapper/Cod

Ingredients

Salt and Pepper to taste

Half a Stick of Unsalted Butter

2lbs of Cod/Red Snapper Fillet

1 Large Onion, diced

Plenty of Portobello Mushrooms, sliced

Enough Cider to cover the fish (have at least two bottles handy, one may suffice)

(How do you like my precise measurements?  🙂 )

Continue reading

I promised an article on Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic. I felt that it was most appropriate on this blog, which features several writers who are superior to me. I hope that you enjoy this article and that a few others catch your eye.

Aquilon's Eyrie

A while back, I completed Candice Millard’s engrossing work on James A. Garfield’s assassination and subsequent medical treatment titled Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President.  This book fascinates the reader with the unique characters surrounding this president, the president himself, and how awful the condition of medical knowledge and practice was at this point–even for the President of the United States!  The British surgeon, Joseph Lister, had already introduced antiseptic theory and practices in Europe at this time; though, he did have a difficult time convincing fellow European doctors concerning the effectiveness of his techniques until the greatly reduced mortality rate and overall cleanliness of his hospital forced them to admit its usefulness.  American doctors–since they did not see its effectiveness with their own eyes, I suppose–persisted in old methods, refusing to believe in germs.  In the case of…

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The Best of Basho

The time seems ripe to take a break from my little series on prayer.  I wonder how many of my dear readers were even able to read through the last article?  So, here’s some incredibly amusing haiku from the famous poet Basho (1644-1694).  Usually, we think of haiku as abstruse, pithy poems containing a good insight or a beautiful image, which often fail to reach the sublime in amusing ways.  Here, I have no doubt that Basho meant these to provoke laughter, probably in order to prevent readers from falling asleep midway through one of his volumes of poetry.  Enjoy!

A snowy morning–/by myself/Chewing on dried salmon.

As for the hibiscus/on the roadside–/My horse ate it.

Many nights on the road/and not dead yet–/the end of autumn.

Clear water–/a tiny crab/crawling up my leg.

The jars of octopus–/brief dreams/under the summer moon.

In the fish shop/the gums of the salt-bream/look cold.

Year after year/on the monkey’s face/a monkey’s face.

A fishy smell–/perch guts/in the water weeds.

My summer robes–/there are still some lice/I haven’t caught.

Fleas, lice,/a horse peeing/near my pillow.

The dragonfly/can’t quite land/on that blade of grass.

A group of them/gazing at the moon,/not one face beautiful.

Teeth sensitive to sand/in the salad greens–/I’m getting old.

Still alive/and frozen in one lump–/the sea slugs.

The morning glory also/turns out/not to be my friend.

Having no talent,/I just want to sleep,/you noisy birds.

These days/summer underwear brings comfort–/the fourth moon.  [Actually from a friend of Basho’s named Shohaku]

Advice on Prayer: Necessary for Salvation

As I mentioned in the introduction, thoughts about why people fall away from the faith led me to write this series of articles.  I arrived at the answer that all people are justified and preserved in faith through the action of God’s grace.  So, anyone’s perseverance in faith may be attributed to God’s grace and providence acting on the human intellect and will with such precision as to prevent that person from either losing faith or otherwise dying in a state of mortal sin.  So, all the elect owe their salvation to God’s mercy.

But, the thought still comes to me that there must be something we can do to contribute to God’s efforts: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phillipians 2:12-13).  He did give us free will after all, and it is certain that no one is saved against one’s will.  However, we do require His grace to will anything good.  Each sin is a refusal to act according to the grace given to us.  But if all good thoughts, good words, and good deeds both originate in God and are carried to completion through His grace, it seems that a human being can do nothing to advance his salvation.

But, if that were the case, then God would also be the cause of the damnation of the reprobate rather than this occurring through their own sins, which–with due deference to any Calvinists who may be perusing this–is the blackest heresy.  So, I shall say along with St. Alphonsus de Liguori: “Whoever prays is certainly saved. He who does not is certainly damned. All the blessed (except infants) have been saved by prayer. All the damned have been lost through not praying. If they had prayed they would not have been lost. And this is, and will be their greatest torment in hell: to think how easily they might have been saved, just by asking God for His grace, but that now it is too late – their time of prayer is gone.” (From The Great Means of Salvation)  Even if virtue, faith, or perseverance is not present in us, God always gives us the grace to pray for these things.  And from employing this one grace, which he does not deny to any, the grace to persevere in faith or virtue will be obtained.  Remember that the unassisted human will or intellect will fall without God’s aid.  So, all serious falls may be attributed to people trusting too much in themselves or being too proud to beg.  (The Latin verb for to pray, orare, also means beg.)  Remember Martin Luther’s last words: “We are beggars.  This is true.”  And especially in our reliance on God, nothing is more true.  Nor should we despair of gaining the object of our prayers, especially if we pray “(1) for [ourselves]; (2) things necessary for salvation; (3) piously; and (4) with perseverance.”  (From St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica Second Part of the Second Part, Question 83, Article 15)  Did not Christ say: “And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13)

Perhaps this seems too simplistic to some of you.  Perhaps many of your prayers have gone unanswered.  But remember the four conditions above: you must be praying for yourself, things necessary for salvation, piously, and with perseverance.  Sometimes, God does not answer prayers because they do not further our salvation, we demand rather than beg, we want things done in our own way, or we do not ask with perseverance.  The latter three are perhaps the most common reasons why certain former Christians, even though they were praying for faith, were unable to retain their faith.  So, I advise those of you who find themselves of this category to resume praying for faith so that God may grant it to you.

“But,” you may say, “how can I even pray without faith?”  Remember the story of the father whose son Jesus cured of an unclean spirit in Mark chapter 9?  The father said: ‘”But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”’ (Mark 9:22-24)  Jesus was able to heal his son with a word.  I wish to contrast this with the passage in Mark where Jesus is rejected at Nazareth.  The end result: “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6).  So, it does not seem that unbelief, as merely a state of not being sure, can prevent the action of God’s grace.  Rather, only the willful refusal to believe hinders the action of God’s grace.  That’s why Jesus was able to help the father, even though he was in a state of doubt, while he was unable to help his neighbors in Nazareth.

And, when one considers human misery–how utterly ignorant we are of some things and how powerless we are to do certain things which we would like or prevent those misfortunes which we would wish, why should the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, who did not spare himself for the sake of poor sinners, not have compassion on people who would like to believe, even though they find it impossible at the moment?  There was one section of St. Faustina’s Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, where Jesus temporarily removes some graces from her soul, and she wrote that she felt extreme difficulty believing even some of the most basic precepts of the faith until He again restored these graces.  This increased her fervor to pray and to make sacrifices for poor sinners.  But, if such a great soul as St. Faustina’s almost fell into disbelief, how much more do we require them?  Pray like this:

“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for my sins and to receive the gift of faith.”

Even someone with great doubts may pray in this manner, and I doubt that anyone who seriously recited it everyday would fail to attain salvation.  But, if it is impossible for one either to pray this or to pray this seriously, one can always ask a friend or relative to pray for them.  Our Lady of Fatima says that too many souls perish for lacking someone to pray for them, implying that even this may be sufficient to effect a person’s salvation.

Yet, someone might still be scoffing at the idea of prayer’s necessity: “Surely, reason alone ought to be all that’s needful to convince someone of the truth or falsity of religion.  Whichever side has the stronger argument will naturally prevail.”  Of course, such a person believes that religious people are ignorant, stubborn, or arrogant.  The scientific worldview and modern philosophy has done enough to discredit belief in a Supreme Being.  But, is that the real reason behind certain people having religion and others being without it?  But then, one would expect that people with the same background, intelligence, education, and experience would have the same opinion on the matter.  However, the truth stands that: one intelligent man believes, a comparably intelligent man does not; one rich man believes, another does not; one poor man believes, another does not; one person with X personality type believes, another X type does not; one scientist believes, another does not; one fisherman believes, another does not; one man of integrity believes, another virtuous man does not; one person raised in a religious family cleaves to the faith, another falls away; one person raised as an atheist converts, while another does not; one person raised in a lukewarm household becomes fervent, another remains lukewarm; etc.  When one considers that none of these things by itself induces perseverance in faith or perseverance in disbelief, it becomes apparent that a person’s talents, background, good fortune, experience are almost immaterial.  Even if we found two characters extraordinarily similar in most respects, they might still diverge on the matter of faith.  God’s mercy and grace alone allows the Faithful to remain true and non-believers to convert.  The infallible means open to all persons of obtaining grace is prayer.

Now to deal shortly with how prayer prevents us from falling from grace or at least of regaining the grace of justification should we fall.  Let me here note that no influence can force the will to decide one way or another; however strongly a habit of vice or virtue inclines the intellect toward a certain set of actions.  Yet, once a habit of vice has been established, it is only God’s grace which can deliver anyone.  After the danger of dying while in a state of grave sin, the dangers of constantly giving in to such sins are lukewarmness, i.e. losing the desire to amend, or losing faith altogether, especially if one has struggled for a long time to overcome a particular sin.  They reason that, if God existed, God could surely prevent them from falling.  So, continued falling into grave sins and getting worse for them can only be attributed to God’s absence.  And so, their own sinfulness leads to them losing faith.  Truly, it is only by resisting the passions that we are set at peace and confirmed in our election.

One of the least lascivious images of St. Anthony the Great’s temptations.

One must see this conflict between virtue and vice as a battle with our foes, the demons, who constantly try to lure us away from Jesus Christ by love of the world or the flesh.  Often when we give in to base desires, instead of thinking of this as the battle it is, we think about the “benefits” or “advantages” which an evil act will bring us.  By looking at the immediate “gain” which the sin will bring, we put off all thoughts of the Just Judge from our minds.  For, who would sin thinking that they would surely go to hell in the next instant?  Even if this thought comes to our minds, we then say “Surely we’ll have time to repent” or “But I  just can’t resist” or “I don’t like the consequences of not sinning” or “This person has it coming to them.”  And then, we fall.  The good news I have for us is that only those who cease repenting, who cease continuing to fight, are lost.  For, Christ is infinitely merciful.

These vices may only be conquered through mortification, avoiding the occasions of sin, the sacraments, and prayer; full and frequent confession is particularly salutary since absolution makes us desirous to preserve our souls’ purity and Jesus adds special graces to the absolution for us to persevere in virtue.  But, how difficult is it to deny oneself after constantly giving in to oneself?  To avoid occasions of sin when we’ve been seeking them?  To pay not heed to all the phantoms and fears the devil throws at one in order to prevent one from confessing one’s sins?  And if we do not confess, how shall we eat the Bread of Life, the Life of Souls?  All the grace necessary for us to overcome this habit of vice is available in prayer.  Prayer produces true repentance in the soul and leads one to the confessional and then to the Holy Eucharist.  God, now dwelling in  the person’s soul, enables it to hate sin and persevere in good works.

The battle continues after this point, and our foes may strike at any time.  Virtue and Prayer are our chief methods of fending them off, but the former is not fully formed in the newly repentant, and even those who have long persevered in virtue may find themselves hard pressed.  Especially consider times when we seem to be in the throes of a temptation, and our minds are deluged with the “advantages” and “benefits” of sinning.  If we dally only with these evil thoughts, our will shall eventually give way.  To escape, we must turn to God in prayer, begging Him to deliver us from evil, thinking of the heavy punishment awaiting those who commit these crimes, and considering that every sin of ours increased the suffering of Our Lord during His Passion.  Often, people try turning to an earthly remedy when combating these passions, but God alone “is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).  Any remedy outside of or without prayer is certain to fail.  St. Anthony the Great, whenever he had to suffer many temptations, would often pray the Psalter for days without sleep until his enemies broke down in tears and admitted defeat.  But, grace alone gives us this resolves and prayer is often the only means we have available to beseech God to pour sufficient grace into our hearts.

On the scroll, it says that St. Anthony saw the traps of the devil spread out on the ground. When he wondered how anyone could escape all these traps, he heard a voice say “Humility.”

But more will be said on how to pray in later articles.  Pray without ceasing!

Advice on Prayer: Introduction

Well, dear readers, I’d like to give a little introduction to the series of articles which will be posted here.  For a little while, my thoughts dwelt on why so many people either fall away from the Faith or become lukewarm.  In the modern world, things like fear of man (aka human respect), being brought up in a religiously ambivalent environment, and either having a poor religious education or being seduced by secular ideologies tend to be some of the most prominent culprits.  But, greatly influenced by St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s The Great Means of Salvation, the greatest error of those who have fallen away is that they did not persevere in prayer.  Of course, you might be better served by reading that wonderful work; but I must warn you that, besides encouraging the Faithful to pray, this book is a work of Counter Reformation apologetics, including many arguments against the Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s theologies.  If you would be put off by all those arguments to which St. Alphonsus adds the backing of several Fathers of the Church, stick with my series of articles.  Despite being written from a Catholic perspective, they should prove useful to all Christians and even other Monotheists.  My articles wish to show:

1) The Necessity of Prayer

2) How Not to Pray

3) What to Pray

4) Troubleshooting, or How to Overcome Certain Obstacles in Prayer

Feel free to pick and choose from the advice I give.  For example, however much I should wish it, Protestants are not going to pray to saints.  (Though, might I encourage you to speak to your guardian angel sometimes?  God did provide them with the mission of watching over us, and they deserve some acknowledgement!)  Also, I might just plain be in error on some points, so listen to the advice of someone older and wiser if possible.

Devout persons, people who barely practice religion, those in a state of doubt, and those who would like to believe form my target audience.  For those who are happily atheists, agnostics, and apathiests, please do read the first article then consider whether you arrived at your respective conclusions rightly.  If yes, read no further.  If no, read on.  And comments about how I could improve my arguments will be greatly appreciated.  But, the main thrust of them will be that people are saved sola gratia, “by grace alone,” and that “Prayer is the key which opens the Heart of God” (Padre Pio).  I hope that you enjoy these articles!

Holo Rocks!

Ah, dear readers, I have a confession to make, which you’ve very likely guessed.  Anyway, my hope to write several rough drafts over vacation came to nothing.  Guilt for being far too idle is weighing on me, but I did accomplish some reading.  Expect reviews of Jules Verne’s Adventures of Captain Hatteras and Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic soon.  For now, please be content with my little endorsement for Spice and Wolf.  I say endorsement rather than review because I tend to be the kind of reviewer C. S. Lewis referred to as a cheerleader.  (Or was it G. K. Chesterton?  By all means correct me if I’m wrong.)  Basically, the reasons one should read something or those respects in which a work excelled interest me more than those in which it did not, and I do not wish to waste time excoriating anything–unless someone makes a request, anyway.  That doesn’t mean I’ll completely pass over its negative aspects; otherwise, the review would be rather meaningless, and certain of my dear readers would feel that I convinced them to waste their time.  But, you’re probably used to this proclivity of mine by now.

Anyway, most people know Spice and Wolf from watching the anime based on this series of light novels by Isuna Hasekura.  This series draws most people in by its unique plot, setting, and the ever amusing Holo, the Wisewolf of Yoitsu.  Checking up on her ranking on Anime Planet, it seems that she’s only 82nd, which I find quite surprising.  In the world of anime, which finds itself flooded with stock characters, she stands as truly unique–prompting the title of this post!  Holo used to be worshiped by the people of the village of Pasloe as the Goddess of the Harvest until being replaced by the farmers’ preference to rely on recent agricultural technology.  In this state of neglect, she meets a merchant named Craft Lawrence as she lies naked among his cargo of furs.  (Don’t worry.  Holo is often naked before and after transforming into a giant wolf and does not have human standards of modesty, but any eroticism here hardly goes beyond innuendo, which itself is few and far between: Lawrence possesses impeccable chastity.)  After convincing Lawrence of her identity, they make a deal for Lawrence to bring Holo to her fatherland–I mean, homeland!–Yoitsu (Germany in Japanese is Doitsu.  Hasekura did not employ too much creativity in this name!) in exchange for her helping him with his business and Holo paying off any debts incurred by her overindulgence in good food, beer, wine, brandy, etc. and the clothing he has to buy for her, though Holo never has more than two outfits at a time.

However, Lawrence gets somewhat more than he bargained for in his companion.  Lawrence, always being alone on the road, had also been suffering from loneliness.  Holo completely alleviates this feeling and is often very astute when it comes to business negotiations, giving Lawrence unexpected windfalls.  The price for all this is constantly being teased by Holo and often having to placate her wrath for all sins of omission or commission against Holo’s delicate sensibilities.  The enjoyable banter, conversation, and all sorts of verbal traps stand as one of the most enjoyable features of the work.  Hasekura does have to take care lest he overdo the precious nature of some of the dialogue, though, lest it become repetitive, and Lawrence needs to come out the victor once in a while for a change of pace.  I have read up to volume four; though Lawrence achieved much glory for fabricating the method for the good guys to win in this volume, he completely lost all his verbal jousts with Holo.

The setting approximates the High Middle Ages, except that paganism is more widespread and the Church is not precisely Christian or Catholic, except that volume four mentions a “Holy Mother” without giving any explanation for why such a figure exists in the monotheistic religion most prominent in the southern part of these lands.  This church is described as being rather worldly, but the criticisms of this Church and monotheism in general are not overwhelming bitter.  The ecclesiastical structure of this religion is closely based on the Catholic Church, but very seldom is the theology detailed.  The fact that Holo is a former goddess means that Lawrence and Holo need to be wary of Church authority and keep Holo’s identity a secret.  This causes several problems for Lawrence and Holo in the first two volumes, but this pair’s cleverness and Holo’s trump card, the ability to morph into a giant wolf, brings them victory.

So, very many people find this series, either the anime or the light novels, unique and entertaining.  The only drawback will be for those who like hard-hitting action.  Our protagonists only resort to this as a last resort, so this series is not for those looking for good fights.  The battles can bring the audience to the edge of their seats, but are mostly mental and include intricate details about currency, contracts, merchant protocol, and Church politics.  Yet, losing any of these battles can result in imprisonment, death, or loss of livelihood for our duo of travelers.  So, please give this series a try: if you enjoy the voice talents of Ami Koshimizu or Brina Palencia and others in the cast and want to view those scenes with action rather than read them, watch the anime.  (Ami Koshimizu has a more mischievous, cute take on Holo’s character, while Brina Palencia’s is more seductive and mature.  Both did an excellent job.)  But if you want to know all the intricacies of the scheming, laws, culture, and characters’ thought processes as well as learn about the stories not covered in the anime’s meager two seasons, the light novels are for you.  Or, one can peruse both.  Enjoy!

Swords, Sorcery, and Spears: A Little Review of Seirei no Moribito

Here’s an anime which I want to recommend to old and young.  This show contains many elements which most anime fans and even their parents may appreciate.  (For those anime fans living with their parents, these kinds of shows are good to know.  Who knows what sort of ideas may run through your dear father and mother’s heads if you’re never willing to share what you watch?)  The characters tend to be older than the teenage heroes filling most anime, which allows older audiences to identify with them better.  Our heroine, Balsa, is a twenty-seven year old wandering bodyguard who wishes to expiate the deaths of eight men by saving eight others without killing anyone in the process.  True, the idea of a hero refusing to kill has been done before in many series, like Trigun, Rurouni Kenshin, Grenadier, Black Cat, and Trinity Blood; however, this trope usually makes a show more interesting–with the exception of Trinity Blood, where Abel’s aversion to killing comes out of nowhere.  (I remember thinking to myself: “Didn’t you just crush some vampire’s heart a few episodes ago?”  And yes, the resolution not to kill even renders Grenadier more interesting, but don’t expect me to recommend it to you!)  Balsa becomes involved with the Crown Prince of the New Yogo Empire, Prince Chagum, when she saves him from drowning in a spectacular rescue.  Chagum’s mother, one of the emperor’s consorts, brings her into the palace under the pretext of thanking Balsa by proving a sumptuous dinner and luxurious accommodations.  Which reminds me of my favorite quote from the series: “If you have money, life ends up being the same no matter where you go.  However, if you don’t have money, you learn to live your life according to where you are.”

In the middle of the night, Balsa is summoned before Chagum’s mother.  (In this political system, it feels a stretch to call her an empress.)  His mother begs Balsa to take Chagum away with her and to guard him from assassins.  You see, dear readers, Prince Chagum is an embarrassment to the state due to him carrying about a water spirit inside of him; so, his own father, the emperor, is sending assassins after him who are trying to make his death look like an accident in order to prevent the dynasty from losing face and possibly causing civil unrest.  Balsa thinks that she has no choice but to accept; however, she consoles herself with the fact that this mission will atone for her eighth life.  After burning down the prince’s quarters to delay pursuit, she exits the palace with Prince Chagum in what will be a long bodyguard assignment.

Seirei no Moribito‘s plot ranges from slow, character building episodes involving the maturing of Prince Chagum and gathering information about Chagum’s spirit to moments of extreme danger and action as Chagum’s pursuers clash with Balsa.  So, while the heroine’s spear does remain sheathed much of the time, the viewer never lapses into boredom: either we are kept at the edge of our seats by imminent danger and spear-play or we enjoy the interaction of the characters, who are incredibly likeable.  Perhaps because Moribito derives from a series of light novels, the world of this series is remarkably detailed and enjoyable to learn about: the culture, myths, imperial customs, and the interaction between the spirit world (Nayug) with the ordinary world add interest without bogging down the viewer in too many details.

Further, the series has a distinct intellectual appeal due to the maturity of the characters and its use of parallelism.  The characters all seem very real, as if some of the people we know were somehow transported into a fantasy setting.  However, they have to work in a world where honor and strict social morays influences everything they do.  At the same time, Moribito resists the temptation to over-psychoanalyze.  Concerning parallelism, character’s roles and their actions are constantly being juxtaposed by the plot: we compare Balsa to Chagum’s mother, Balsa to the man who raised her, Balsa’s father to Chagum’s mother, Chagum to the young Balsa, etc.  This serves to render the plot and the characters that much deeper.

This show also features some great animation.  The backgrounds portraying forests, mountains, and the world of Nayug can be particularly breathtaking.  Character animation stands above average, while the use of CGI is limited to large troop movements and other large bodies of people, which stands out as the weakest part of the animation.  Fortunately, the animators do not employ CGI enough to detract from the overall effect of the splendid animation.

Overall, the only anime fan to whom this series would not appeal is the kind who thrives on action.  The action sequences, though awesome, are fewer than one would find in a standard action/adventure anime.  If you cannot stand seeing characters’ weapons sheathed, by all means watch Jubei-chan II.  (This little mentioned show has some of the best sword fights ever animated, while at the same time having some of the blandest characters, most failed attempts at comedy, and weakest plot of any series.  But, the fights are worth the agony of sitting through the other stuff.)  So, take the time to enjoy this show, and, if possible, ask your parents to watch it with you–you just might convince them that anime’s not completely weird.