A Review, or Rather Excoriation, of Blood C

This is not the my first review of Blood C.  There exists a prior draft to this article, but the extreme animosity expressed therein toward this show alarms even me.  So, I offer you another review of this show written with equanimity.  Those of my dear readers who liked Blood C may be surprised that it aroused so much hatred in me,  but, as this review progresses, you’ll probably concede that it could not but have produced such a reaction.

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I base this review on the ten episodes which I watched, and the first seven were rather pleasing to me.  I like the homey atmosphere of the town and school during the daytime hours.  Saya has such a sweet and pleasant personality coupled with stalwart courage and devotion to duty.  I enjoy the hard-hitting nature of the fights.  Concerning these things, I have nothing but praise for this show.

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But, around episode five or six certain darker aspects of the show came into focus and eventually led to themes and ideas which would have led to its authors being burned at the stake in any European country prior to the 18th century–even though they expressed no doctrinal heresy.  But, I think that these writers are heretics in a larger sense: they belittle the human spirit and despise the sacredness of the person.  If anyone were to act according to these things, their psyche would come to positive harm.

Not the best way to catch a person falling from a tree.

Not the best way to catch a person falling from a tree.

Of course, what ought to have tipped me off is the copious amounts of blood spilled in this show.  But, so many other anime use blood either for the sake of realism (most of them) or for the sake of emphasizing certain themes (e.g. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal to emphasize the darkness of Kenshin’s way of life) that I confess to overlooking the gratuitous manner in which Blood C has the heroine covered in blood or has blood pouring out of her foes and victims.  It is human to enjoy hard struggles and feats of courage; it is inhuman to delight in simple bloodshed.  As for why I ignored such an obvious tip off, see the second paragraph.

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What finally convinced me of the show’s perverse character was episode 9, where Saya’s entire class is massacred by a monster.  (Except two anyway–one of whom perishes in the next episode.)  A few people die before Saya decides to draw her blade and fight the monster.  Now, a true heroine does not sit back and calmly decide whether or not to attack a murderous monster.  She immediately attacks the thing.  Worse yet, the monster avoids Saya to prey on her classmates and friends and kills each one of them, as they piteously cower in terror .  Finally, when there are no more students to kill, Saya goes into vampire mode and cuts down the monster.  (Should this not have happened after the first death?)  As a matter of fact, of all the opportunities Saya has to save someone, I don’t think that she ever succeeds and, in certain cases, she waits for the monster to have its fill before acting.

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What kind of artistic vision is this?  One cannot justify this slaughter as part and parcel of tragedy, because tragedy acknowledges human emotion.  Another thing which escaped my notice until episode 9 was how detached Saya was to the deaths of her friends, and how ineptly the anime rendered emotion.  The series can show happier emotions, but even these seem to be vacuous.  Of the deeper emotions of grief, love, and magnanimity, it shows a few tears shed by Saya and she gets headaches when she remember her past or the deaths of her friends; yet, it cannot convey the inner reality of these emotions to the audience, and your humble blogger wonders how much the concepts of grief, love, and magnanimity mean to the creators.  In regard to her lack of pathos and inability to understand romantic love in particular, I cannot but compare Saya to the insensible protagonist of Albert Camus’ The Stranger.

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Then, episode 10 came, where Saya allowed her boyfriend and penultimate school friend to be devoured.  Ought not Saya be shown a little pity?  At the same time, ought not Saya have shown more grief for the demise of yet another friend and have shown more solicitude for his survival?  Having finished end of this episode, I decided that I had had enough of the way this show trampled on everything true, good, and beautiful and could not bring myself to watch the last two episodes.

But, how do other of my dear readers feel about this show?  Do I go overboard in my criticisms?

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Links up to date and the Transience of Anime Blogs

At long last, all my links are up to date.  All the links which I wished to post are posted.  I hope that my dear readers enjoy this selection of worthy blogs and find a few new writers to follow.

ImageBut, going through the my list of followed blogs reminded me of the sad fact that so many blogs are discontinued.  Either life gets too busy, people lose interest in their field, or certain bloggers do not receive enough encouragement in the form of interested readers.  I felt sorry for the loss of about three or four bloggers, who had not posted in two months or more–by which point I assume a blog must be dead. 

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The Eagle and Child tavern, where the Inklings met.

Oh, well.  I believe that the keys to success are simply to try to make one’s blog look as attractive as possible visually, write often, sharpen one’s craft, and simply to branch out into the wider blogging community.  Along with perseverance in the beginning, those simple rules are enough to gain a measure of success.

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Once more, I thank everyone who has commented, liked, followed, or reblogged articles from this site.  Without your support, I would have have become discouraged long ago.

So, let me end this post by wishing all you new bloggers out there good luck, the inspiration of the Muses, and perseverance!

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Forgetting One’s Sins

Dear Readers, the idea for this article came from my reminiscences about my Alma Mater, Hillsdale College.  I feel that I was too shy to take proper advantage of the great minds and personalities which surrounded me there.  Among my reminisces, one professor stands out: Dr. Reist.  He was a hoot.  A professor not easily forgotten.  I’ll never forget the first time he walked into my classroom:

He says: “My wife broke her leg.”  The students collectively gasp.  Then, Dr. Reist says: “I told her having sex standing up was dangerous.”

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That’s a masterful way to break the ice!  One day, when he noticed people were not participating or had not done the readings, he told us that we weren’t free.  Which is an interesting way to put it!  And sealing one’s lips as one looks down at an unfamiliar text hoping that the professor won’t call on one may be compared to slavery.  After all, how much more preferable is it to be able to gaze steadily upon the teacher confident in being able to provide an answer to any question and being free to participate or not as you list?

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This professor, a fellow New Jerseyan, had once been Catholic but converted to a variety of Protestantism–even became a minister.  I suspect the reason for his conversion lay in that he felt Catholicism’s emphasis on faith and works placed too much emphasis on personal merit than on God’s election.  (But, even our merits are God’s gifts to us.  The idea of cooperation between grace and free will tends to overcomplicate matters from most Protestant perspectives.)  However, he seemed grateful for many of the lessons he learned as a Catholic.  For example, he once told us: “Do you know that it’s a sin to forget your sins?”

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And it certainly is: the sin of pride.  In our unending process of repentance, we ought always remember where we have been and all the patience God has shown us and continues to show us despite our iniquity and lack of amendment.  Even if we claim that we have progressed far from where we once were, that does not cancel out the fact that we did not deserve to be extricated from our wicked ways of living–that it was pure Mercy which brought us out of each vicious circle.  Even after confession where our guilt is washed away, can we ever stop mourning for the wounds we have placed on Christ’s body or forget that we still deserve temporal punishment and have deserved everlasting flames?

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So, whenever a non-believer claims that Christians have a nonchalant attitude toward sins because God is so ready to forgive, you can tell him that this is the attitude of the proud or the ignorant.  An educated Christian knows that he ought never stop pouring tears into his pillow or cease remembering the wounds of Christ until Christ himself has wiped away every tear  and welcomes us into Our Father’s house.

Attack on Titan and Claymore according to Max Scheler pt.2

Here’s the conclusion to the post of two days ago:

The mistake Attack on Titan made was to introduce tragedy before we had ample time to get to know the three main heroes, creating few places for identification due to the hopelessness and harshness of the world in which they lived, and shortly into the series introduced plenty of characters to ensure that we could never truly get to know the protagonists or any of the other characters either. Concerning the former, the very first episode gives us a few places to try to identify with the three main characters: they help one of their number against some bullies and two have a nice family. However, the very situation of being in a walled town surrounded by man-eating giants with technology similar to the Renaissance period of Europe demands that more than this is given to the audience for identification to take place.

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A couple of other things which don’t help is that one protagonist, Eren, wishes to join an elite combat unit designed to kill giants beyond the walls and that his adopted sister wishes simply to follow him wherever he goes. Not many children in modern society are driven to join an elite combat unit designed for what is essentially a Reconquista at the age of fifteen! Also, in modern society, most women don’t set the goal for themselves of meekly following in their brother’s footsteps. Then, any hope of us identifying with them as a family unit is destroyed by a giant killing the protagonists’ mother and the break up of the family following the giants breaking into the walled city.

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An additional charge against this world is that the people are too cruel and cowardice too rampant. The cowardice among military personnel reaches heights never seen in history or present times—at least, among the European nations from where we base our understanding of the medieval world or America, the country with which yours truly identifies most closely. Even if their opponents are giants, military men cringing in fear and running away from the combat for which they were trained sharply differs from the conduct of soldiers from all eras. Furthermore, the majority of the people are shown to be greedy, selfish, and generally sheep to be slaughtered. This kind of attitude dehumanizes people, who are made in the image and likeness of God, because we see a universal lack of virtue by which human beings show their excellence.

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Of course people have faults, but they are less than they should be in this regard. The total lack of virtue makes them less than human, taking away another level of identification. At least in Claymore, we have soldiers in the Holy City who are universally more ready to die than back down before the monsters laying waste to their city. Going back to Attack on Titan, we are greeted to an episode showing how the heroine’s family was killed by slave traders when she was very young so that they might capture the heroine for the child slave trade. Eren, also very young at this point, was forced to rescue her by killing two of the three slavers. The heroine killed the third to save Eren’s life. Most people, due to the extreme horror with which child sex slavery inspires, cannot really identify with a world where people make a living according to this trade. Even though it really exists on this earth, nothing quite so demonstrates the dictum that evil is a deficiency of being rather than a positive existence. Also, children generally do not kill at this age, and this marks yet another difficulty in bringing people to identify with the characters.

Mikasa, my favorite character from this series.

Mikasa, my favorite character from this series.

Claymore‘s technology is less than that of Attack on Titan, also involves monster slaying, tends toward the dramatic, and proffers characters who are essentially superheroes; yet, they succeed in making the audience identify better both with the heroes and villains than Attack on Titan. Claymore almost appears to be a study in identification. The first episode features Raki, a young orphan, meeting Claire, one of the aforementioned superheroes known as Claymores due to the long blades they wield, in a backwater town. Everyone is scared of Claymores, but Raki appears drawn to Claire and accompanies her through his town asking questions. This is all meanwhile the villagers hide in their homes scared of both the monster concealed in the village and the Claymore sent to save them from it! This reminds one of the first principle of love which Scheler describes: “In the spiritual love of the person, a new principle comes to light. For apart from his acceptance of the mere existence of the other person as given…’Persons’ cannot be intuitively understood (by reproduction of their spiritual acts), unless they spontaneously disclose themselves.”1 Claire has a bit of difficulty opening up, since she’s used to being shunned by everyone except other Claymores. Raki seems to have more in common with Claire than the other villagers: his very courage is such that the sight of his family having been just massacred by the monster does not deter him from trying to strike the monster, and he continues struggling against it until Claire comes to save him. Once Claire leaves, the villagers toss Raki out of town, fearing that he might by way of infection become a monster himself!

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Despite this ostracism and the grim nature of the second episode, where Claire must kill a friend who has succumbed to the monster side of hers (It turns out that Claymores gain their powers by grafting the monsters’ flesh into their bodies, giving them a dark side which eventually overcomes them.), the high level of tragedy does not deflect the viewers’ feelings permanently down the road of benevolence. The reason for this is the conversation that goes on between Raki and Claire, whereby they learn new things about each other and come to realize how similar they are. In spite of Claire’s cold exterior, we also see the beginnings of a romantic relationship between the two—more fully realized in the comic than in the anime. By this constant self-revelation, we are drawn to move from the level of identification through all the levels of sympathy until love for the characters is ultimately reached. Therefore, we do not look upon their grimmest hardships with an attitude of mere good will but our emotions become truly entangled in theirs, and the greater the struggle, the more the audience desires to see the victory.

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So, I hope by the juxtaposition of why Claymore succeeded while Attack on Titan failed shows the necessity of love for good drama, especially over an extended period of time. For such love to be reached, the writer must follow the ideas Max Scheler described in order to bring the audience through the lower levels of sympathy to love. If cogent identification cannot be established between the audience and the characters, then the audience can never fall in love with the heroes. Without this love binding the two, the audience would probably rather be in the mood to ask the writer to no longer place his characters in the midst of horrendous suffering than eagerly hope for their triumph.

1p. 101.

Attack on Titan and Claymore according to Max Scheler Pt. 1

I have a professor who doesn’t mind when I mix anime and philosophy.  I wrote this prior post on Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal for his class.  This particular post relies on a Schelerian reading of Attack on Titan and Claymore.  Max Scheler’s ideas about the importance of how levels of sympathy build upon one another will be discussed below in two posts.  Enjoy!

The Five Levels of Sympathy and Drama

Max Scheler adamantly insists that levels of sympathy build upon one another and that the higher cannot exist without the lower. Similarly, the best drama relies on the viewers truly loving the main characters and being engaged in all their experiences. Therefore, many dramas contain a modern setting, which allows for easy identification: the characters live in the same environment and have the same experiences we do. On the other hand, when an author wishes to place a drama in a different time, he must pay particular attention to the realm of identification so that the audience can be more easily brought up to the higher realms of sympathy and desire to feel and experience what the characters do. To show this, I propose to juxtapose two animated series: Claymore and Attack on Titan. The first succeeds in creating an atmosphere for the audience to identify with the characters, while the later fails.

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First off, we ought to note that both Claymore and Attack on Titan are fantasies. Most of the time, fantasies are stories of adventure meant to transport our minds from our humdrum existence and provide a bit of fun. Very rarely will one come across a fantasy which describes a serious plot and even more rarely will one come across a tragic plot. Attack on Titan decided to do the later and also in the monster slaying genre— very rare choice for drama. Indeed, the only other serious monster-slaying show which comes to mind is Claymore, but I would not place it at the level of a tragedy—no matter how grim the story becomes.

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Max Scheler writes in his chapter describing the dependency of the levels of sympathy upon one another: “It seems to me that identification underlies vicarious feeling in the (timeless) order of functional dependence…”1 Therefore, one must identify with characters before one can begin to imagine what the characters must feel like, i.e. the vicarious state of sympathy. But, fantasy itself places many hindrances on the audience identifying with the characters, especially the nearer the setting approximates the medieval world: the technology is well beneath what we are used to, the political system differs, death more frequent, the scope of medieval people’s worlds is much smaller, their lives much harsher, religion more ubiquitous, etc. Many times, anachronism is employed to try to make the characters more modern. For example, the characters in The Lord of the Rings smoke pipes, and a knight offers his pupil a cigarette in the short story The Fifty-First Dragon. But, primarily, identification between moderns and medievals must occur on universal human experiences: family, romance, friendship, parties, and the whole host of events which humans experience in every age. The protagonist ought to have a love interest, good friends, some family troubles, and personal foibles. If the author cannot establish good identification between the audience and the characters, he had better realize that he ought eschew drama in order to write a story which relies on the audience reaching the vicarious level of sympathy, such as a fun, entertaining monster slaying show. The audience can then escape into fun daydreams about slaying dragons and ogres without being troubled by a serious storyline.

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And so, when we are introduced to characters at the beginning of a story, we seek out the ones with whom we naturally identify. From here, we generally grow in liking or disliking them according to what they further divulge about themselves through word and deed. Max Scheler writes this about the subject: “If a man is to achieve his full realization of his ideal capacities, his various emotional powers must all be cultivated…There can be no full development of the higher, though necessarily rarer, emotional powers in man, where the lower but more common ones have not been fully cultivated.”2 In the same way that one cannot achieve the higher states in oneself without utilizing the lower, one cannot love another person without having moved from identification, vicarious feeling, fellow-feeling, and benevolence toward them.

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Interestingly, suffering may become a barrier to truly loving someone if the other emotional states have not been cultivated prior to suffering. For example, one felt sorry for the people of Japan when they were hit by the earthquake and tsunami, which motivated many people to donate money to them as an act of benevolence. But, how many people would wish to become further involved in helping these people? For that to occur, there must be an active love already established between oneself and the Japanese people. The saying about one laughing with the world and weeping alone applies here. Many wish to share in one’s good qualities and good company, but few wish to share in the sufferings one undergoes. The only people who wish to share in these pains are those who have known one for a long time and do all they can to deliver one out of one’s sufferings. This lies in the fact that the previous and more personal levels of sympathy have all been established prior to this point.

1Scheler, Max. The Nature of Sympathy. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2009: 98.

2pp. 103-104

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The next part will delve into how these two shows succeeded or failed in bringing the viewer to the highest level of sympathy: love.  Part II will be posted on Tuesday.

Attack On The Flowers of Originality

Here’s a nice post concerning the styles of animation one finds in anime, focusing in particular on how Aku no Hana is breaking the usual boundaries of animation. He rightly points out, however, that each show contains a unique style and that one cannot simply claim that anime follows a rigid style.

Anime September

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So, Aku no Hana. And it’s art style.

It’s unique art style.

The two major camps in the reactions to it, seem to be divided as either “it’s great that something is challenging the sameness of anime, and everyone who hates this is a moefag” or “This one is not just different or artistically ugly, but badly executed, so we are hating it anyways”

I’m going to ignore that second defense now, since I neither know, nor care enough about the details of animation technology to decide whether Aku no Hana is “objectively bad”. Let’s just talk more about the first problem, whether or not we need more originality in animation styles, than what we usually have nowadays.

Two seasons ago, I wrote a pair of posts about originality and clichés, shown through the first episodes of Zetsuen no Tempest, and K. Using K as an example…

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

One of the things which I admire about anime is that when one feels like one has seen the same plot a million times over, the same characters ten million times, and the same school classrooms a hundred million times over, a show will surface to blow one’s expectations and remind one why anime was so appealing in the first place.  This little one season show, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, stands head and shoulders above most anime for the profundity of its message.  I feel an eternal debt of gratitude toward Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime for intriguing me enough to pick it up.  Among its themes, the refusal of its heroine to acknowledge her dark past and believing that she should be loved less if the hero discovered it reminds me of the folly of pride which believers can enmesh themselves in relation to God.

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia has an interesting portrayal of pride in the mind of Yuuko, the ghost for whom Niiya, the protagonist, falls in love.  She has a light side which has expunged all the memories of suffering, bitterness, and hatred which she suffered in her past, and a dark side which remembers only these painful moments and can only feel these negative emotions.  This split is so complete that they appear as different persons.  We, dear readers, similarly have darkness and light within us; but most of us, however much we may minimize this darkness, never fall into that greatest temptation of pride: to cast off this dark side from our consciousness and to distort reality to the extent that we consider ourselves angels.

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But, Yuuko does have more of an excuse than most of us.  After all, she was sacrificed by superstitious pagans so that an epidemic might cease. (Perhaps superstitious is an unneeded modifier.  Can one truly be a pagan without being superstitious?  Oh, well.  That’s a question for another blogger.)  Nor was this a quick death: she was left to die alone of suffocation or of starvation in pitch blackness while suffering the agony of a broken leg at around 15 or 16 years of age.  All of this while thoughts of envy toward her best friend and hatred toward those who abandoned her there swirled in her mind.  That’s a memory I’m sure most of us would desire effaced!

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Yet, we are not walking according to the truth if we disown our suffering, evil thoughts, and dark deeds.  And do we not own our dark side more truly than than our good side?  After all, we cannot maintain the least virtue, perform a single good deed, or have one good thought apart from God, who aids us by His own divine life.  On the other hand, we can do all sorts of sins on our own and would even plummet into utter vileness if not prevented by His grace.  St. Philip Neri once remarked as he saw a condemned man passing him on the road: “There goes Philip Neri but for the grace of God.”  Nor is this arrangement unfair: how many sins have I myself committed despite receiving the grace to will otherwise?  How many times have I consented to sin without lifting up a single prayer so that I might will good instead of evil?  Or did pray, but never wanted to form the wholehearted will to shun what might be more delightful to the senses or sweeter to my ego?

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At any rate, Yuuko further compounds her darkness by believing that Niiya won’t love her if she has any darkness or suffering in her.  This is not true: we are all loved by the people in our lives in spite of our defects.  How much more ought we trust that God loves us in spite of our wickedness?  As believers love to repeat, God’s love is unconditional.  Even in the midst of mortal sin by which we deserve to be sent straight to hell, God does not cease loving us and strives to turn us to repentance.  Yet, I believe people growing in goodness are more susceptible to this form of pride than outright sinners.  Somehow, the delusion intrudes that God loves us because of our good deeds rather than simply because He made us and thought it delightful that we should be with Him in paradise forever.  Then, we start forgetting our wicked deeds or minimizing them under the delusion that God somehow loves us more infinitely for being good!

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Yuuko’s desire to forget her painful past becomes so extreme that she further effaces her memories of Niiya.  You see, Niiya had absorbed the dark side’s, Shadow Yuuko’s, terrible memories and Yuuko cannot help reliving them when she touches Niiya.  Therefore, she blocks Niiya’s presence from her vision.  Even though she strongly desires to see him again and stays in the same vicinity as him, she cannot see him.  At last, the only way that they can communicate is by writing notes to each other in a notebook.

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Is this not rather like a Christian who in his mad drive to forget the memory of his sins even avoids the sight of a crucifix?  I think it no accident that in one episode we see two images of a cross: one made by Niiya and Kanoe’s shadows crossing and the other one of light.  For, the cross is painful because we see our sins in the wounds of Christ, but these very wounds bring us in the light of Christ’s presence.  And Niiya and Yuuko exchanging notes is rather like how a Christian soul, when frustrated at not feeling God’s presence, will turn to the Scriptures–all the while yearning for the embrace of the One who loves her.

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Then, that beautiful scene occurs in their club’s room, the Paranormal Investigation Club.  Niiya takes a bat and begins shattering everything in the room in order to get Yuuko’s attention.  Furthermore, his actions bring Shadow Yuuko into focus for Yuuko at the same time.  This is reminiscent of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

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In this scene, we find that Niiya wishes especially to speak to Shadow Yuuko and embraces her, saying that he loves Shadow Yuuko too, because Yuuko and Shadow Yuuko are the same person.  In the same way, though Jesus hates the least speck of sin in our souls, He loves us entire.  He wishes to love us in pain as well as in joy, which is so plainly figured in the cross as Jesus endures all the pain caused by pain and suffering in our lives out of pure love for us.  The confession of love by Niiya allows for both halves of Yuuko to come together, forming Yuuko into a complete person.

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Since God loves us as a complete person, there is no need to attempt hiding our sinful selves from Him.  Rather, let us contemplate the Crucifix in which we clearly see our sins in the holes in Christ’s hands and feet, the pierced side, the crowning of thorns, and the anguished expression on His countenance, knowing that it is through means of these wounds that we are bound to Him forever.

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Speaking of forever (Big spoiler coming!  If you’re the kind of person who absolutely cant’s endure them, don’t read on!), I expected Yuuko to disappear in the last episode–the natural end for ghost stories like this.  And indeed, with her regrets being solved and the integrity of her person, she does disappear for a while, leaving Niiya in great sorrow.  Does this not remind us of how we desire heaven, where we shall be reunited with our loved ones and love shall endure in perfection forever?  It seems, however, that Niiya’s last kiss produced a new regret in Yuuko: she now desires many more kisses.  Truly, love is never exhausted!  Since this is a love story first and foremost, Catullus 5 powerfully comes to mind:

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

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Attack on Titan or Titan Smorgasburg?

Attack on Titan has produced many articles and no doubt much expenditure of midnight oil on the blogosphere.  Certain reviews claimed that it has a slow start, but overall positive things have been said about this rather unique show with a high production value–if the animation is anything by which to judge.  During a period of boredom one day, I decided to give this show a shot, especially since the monster-slaying genre is so dear to my heart.

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At any rate, I remember delighting in the great visuals and animation provided by this show.  The frequent use of still images was interesting to see and contained beautiful detail.  While I found the characters to be rather mundane, the setting and plot made up that defect; though I confess that Mikasa was an interesting childhood friend character.  I quickly came to the conclusion that this show was a cross between Claymore and Chrome Shelled Regios, both of which I enjoyed–the former greatly and the latter to a small degree.

claymore_1_640The second episode allowed us to see a scene of carnage as countless victims fall to the titans’ vicious attack, including the protagonist’s own mother.  I became embroiled in the protagonist’s anger toward the titans and his desire to rid the world of these monsters.  So, it was with great expectancy that I endured the boot camp episodes.  (I say endured because its impossible to enjoy a boot camp filled with stock characters.)  How I waited to see the main character’s revenge!  However, my perseverance ended with episode five.  Rather than a rousing counterattack by our heroes, we find that they themselves are getting slaughtered as a repeat of the second episode ensues.  Even the hero gets swallowed and loses an arm!  This resulted in my desire to see the humans mount a counteroffensive fizzle out.  A writer can only torture the audience so much.

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Another thing which irritated me was the ridiculous method they devised to slay the titans.  Going after them on wires as if they are in a Kung Fu movie!  Seriously?  An easier solution with their technology would have been to form masses of pike men supported by people wielding powerful two handed weapons: pole axes, claymores, true two handed swords, halberds, battle-axes, etc.  The pikemen should form bristling, coruscating forests of 30 foot pikes in order to halt the titans’ movements and give the other men cover to cut down the titans’ Achilles tendons so that the titans fall to the ground where they may be more easily dispatched.  Also, the roads of these towns should be booby-trapped so that whenever something with the weight of a titan steps on it, they fall into a pit of sharpened steel rods so that they can be finished off.  They should also be willing to set the towns on fire whenever the titans invade in order to stall their movements.  (They can’t be impervious to fire, can they?)  As you can tell, I’ve given too much thought about this, but it comes of being a medievalist.

1336937170375Imagen7aBut, it was mostly the utter hopelessness of these five episodes which made me decide to drop the show.  All the hero’s hopes and oaths turned out to be mere bluster.  It seems as if the humanity of this world is about to be wiped out, and the show failed to make me care deeply enough about their fate.  But, if it does get more hopeful after episode five, please let me know.  I’m not a masochistic reader!

A famous monster slayer, St. George!

A famous monster slayer, St. George!

Where’s the Anime Gone?

Some of you may be wondering whether I still watch anime or if I have become disenchanted with modern anime and started to focus solely on manga, like xxxHolicWing of Chronical Holic.  May she find reasons to get excited about anime again, since I have always enjoyed reading her articles–though I admit having to catch up.  Fear not, my dear readers!  I have a tidy list of shows which I happen to be watching on and off.  You may expect some reviews in the near future.  Also, a few more for manga: Bartender, Break Blade, Fuyu Hanabi, Guardian Dog, Gunka no Balzer, and Hinekure Shisho no Mikaiketsu Jikenroku have caught my attention in particular.  I might have reviewed Break Blade already though.  I’ll check later.

My favorite current manga for its dynamic characters, period detail, and political intrigue.

My favorite current manga for its dynamic characters, period detail, and political intrigue.

At any rate, Girls und Panzer and Future Diary provided excellent entertainment with the later raising some interesting moral questions.  I rather enjoyed both, though I admit to Future Diary being somewhat of an acquired taste.  At least, the points where I disagree with it furnish apt material for editorials.  Unfortunately, I can’t write anything else about Girls und Panzer besides what people have already written: it’s a unique show which excels at action.  Watch it!

Who knew that a show combining high school girls and tanks could be so fantastic?

Who knew that a show combining high school girls and tanks could be so fantastic?

Having been intrigued by a review of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia written by Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime, searching for a good comedy yesterday finally led me to watch it.  Three episodes into the show, the comedy has remained spectacular, the fanservice not over the top, and the overall tone wonderfully touching.  So, you can expect an article from me on the show in the future.  On a friend’s recommendation, I have started to watch the Break Blade movies.  As a fan of the manga, I was happy to see that they have kept the story faithful to the original story and that the animation is quite stunning.  Then, there are a couple of other shows which bloggers’ articles have led me to watch: Charles of Beneath the Tangles recommended Kotoura-san, and John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin’s series of articles on Bodacious Space Pirates drew me to watching that show.

Another surprisingly good show led by high school girls, the ambassadors of Japanese culture.

Another surprisingly good show led by high school girls, the ambassadors of Japanese culture.

Then, there are a few others which I’m currently enjoying: Gintama, Hunter x Hunter, Inuyasha: the Final Act, Psycho-pass, and Ys.  Gintama rates highly among comedies, as its six season run attests.  It’s a rather frenetic show, going everywhere from high-class, dramatic series of episodes to episodes of low-brow toilet humor.  Sometimes I wonder whether a different show has insidiously taken Gintama‘s place.  I’m watching the original Hunter x Hunter, and just can’t seem to find the time to finish it.  If I did, I’d probably turn to the remake, which has received a lot of good press.  Inuyasha: the Final Act shows remarkable improvement from the original show in regard to animation quality, and I can’t wait to see the demise of Naraku in color.  Psycho-pass has frequently horrified me by the bloodiness of the crimes, and, in the last episode I watched, outraged me with the scene showing a brutal murder in a crowd with the onlookers merely spectating.  Yet, it offers an interesting view of human nature alongside its utopian society.  I should pen an article for it pretty soon.  Lastly, the fantasy Ys deserves a very harsh, mocking review.  It proves that not every anime from the 90’s is as good as I’d like it to be.  The characters’ actions are so artificial that it makes me feel like I’m watching video game cut scenes!

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Oh, and I have also been watching Shin Sekai Yori.  That sums up my anime watching history over the past few months.  Look forward to some nice reviews!

Many New Links to Peruse

Well, dear readers, my selfishness is causing me guilt: there is a whole host of blogs which I follow and have yet to offer links for them.  Starting today, these blogs are being listed under the links section, and my progress has reached the letter L as of this posting.  At points, this feels like busywork, and I apologize if any of the descriptions of the blogs seem overly general.  That’s purely the fault of my laziness:  all of these blogs are written by unique personalities with intriguing perspectives.

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Enjoy.

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Long Awaited Manga Reviews

Remember how I promised  that other half of manga reviews a very long time ago?  Here they are!  My promise of that time and the one made just a few hours ago doubly bound me to write these reviews, and I hope that they shall be to your pleasure.  If not, may you enjoy your displeasure.

Picture of good ol' Revy.

Picture of good ol’ Revy.

The titles which I propose to review are Genshiken, Kurenai, Sengoku Youko, and Hanako to Guuwa no Tera.  The last one is a horror manga which I highly enjoyed.  Horror stands as one of my least favorite genres nowadays.  In the past, I used to get a kick out of watching Hammer Films’ Dracula films and werewolf movies of all sorts.  It was fun commenting on how the movie makers would mess with the lore attached to these creatures.  I loved the Gothic style of the vampire genre, and the fright of a big bad wolf coming at one with your only hope being a well placed silver bullet.  Now, horror movies are overly gory, and I find myself less intrigued by them.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Hanako to Guuwa no Tera by Sakae Esuno attracted me from the start because they melded horror with the private eye genre.  Our hero runs  an agency dedicated to ridding the world of harmful “allegories.”  These allegories are based in Japanese folklore or the fads of popular culture.  The interesting thing about the monsters here are that they derive from people’s unbalanced states of mind.  The detective, Daisuke Asou, has collected a couple of allegories in his line of work, some of which give him power.  One, named Hanako, acts as his information gatherer.  Our story begins when Kanae Hiranuma seeks Asou’s help in ridding an allegory which has been haunting her: the axe man under the bed. For this reason, she has not been able to sleep in days and is petrified to stay in her own room.  Doesn’t it sound childish?  This haunting begins a long, happy relationship for the two of them.

Don't worry.  It's available in English.

Don’t worry. It’s available in English.

This story really shines in the way the author delineates relationship between the characters.  This draws one into all the struggles which they endure against allegories, and the wide variety of opponents keeps the reader turning pages.  This manga has ended in 2010, and consists of just nineteen chapters.  The manga also really shines in creating a likable couple.  Too many series have rather annoying couples, which make one wish that the author had not bothered with a love interest.  But, Kanae is quite capable, and there is the right amount of tension between the two to make for an interesting dynamic.  I recommend this better than average manga to you horror fans out there.

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Now to review the most problematic manga for me: Genshiken.  As many of you know, this manga focuses on the otaku lifestyle of the club members of a club known as Genshiken, which means Society for the Study of Modern Visual Porn–I mean, Culture.  My biggest problem with this manga must lie in that I am not otaku enough to relate to any of the characters.  As a matter of fact, Saki is my favorite character, and she only joined Genshiken so that she could hang out with her lover, Kousaka.  I can’t help but feel sorry for her in that Saki must endure the porn and ero-game loving ways of her partner.  Now, this makes for great comedy, but a guy has absolutely no excuse for using pornography if he has a lover.  After all, is not having the thing better than a mere vicarious experience?  Anyway, Saki herself brought up this complaint.  She has the patience of a saint when it comes to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of her boyfriend.  (Not that  I approve of sex before marriage, but such relationships at least offer the chance of leading to marriage, while pornography is engaging in an empty activity.)

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At any rate, a college freshman named Sasahara is brought into the group and enmeshed into their otaku lifestyle of ero-games, anime, conventions, porn, and video games.  The story often succeeds in being hilarious; but there are too many problems of identification for me, and their preoccupation with porn irritates me.  So, I won’t be getting the second omnibus volume.

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Even bald men deserve to be loved.

Kurenai is a real joy for me to read.  The fights are very well done, and the humor driven off of the harem situation is most amusing.  Women can’t seem to help falling for the strong, modest, reliable Shinkuro.  But, the author presents us with some very likable characters, even if some characters are rather stock–heck, all of them might be stock characters to tell you the truth; but, that only speaks to how well the humor and plot are executed.  This show also uses a favorite trope of mine: a young man is in charge of taking care of girl much younger than himself.  (Perhaps the reason for my predilection lies in that I have a sister 10 years younger than myself, so identification is easy.)

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Shinkuro works as a dispute mediator–more like a dispute finisher considering most disputes are ended with his fists–for a capable, mysterious woman named Benika.  At the start of the manga, we already know that he’s been taking care of Murasaki, a young girl from a powerful, incestuous family.  You see, she’s been destined to marry his older half-brother.  She warms up to Shinkuro because of his gentle and strong nature.  However, her family comes after her, and Shinkuro must display all his martial skill to finally free Murasaki from this fate.  Then, the action turns toward a criminal syndicate, which decides to make Shinkuro himself a target.

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Besides the fights, this manga excels in delineating the relationships between the characters, i.e. Shinkuro and his ever expanding harem.  The manga manages to balance the romance and slice of life chapters very well with the action packed ones, which means that the reader is never bored.  Everything works to keep the reader turning pages, and I look forward to each new chapter of this ongoing manga.

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Lastly, I was fortunate to find the manga Sengoku Youko.  This is another ongoing manga, but it’s set in fuedal Japan as a historical fantasy.  This manga is a very character driven work, the fights and the plots are rather simplistic.  The characterization goes a long way to make up for these flaws though.  I must comment that the setting feels much like Inuyasha: youkai and samurai are juxtaposed to each other during the Sengoku Era.  Also, traveling is a major part the action, and the side characters all display prejudices of some kind or another, human-hating youkai or youkai-hating men.

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Our heroes, Jinka, Tama, and Shinsuke, meet while the first two were on a bandit hunt.  Tama unsuccessfully tries to convince the bandits that they are leading an immoral life.  At which point, Jinka, a hanyou, is forced to beat them all down.  Jinka has a strong prejudice toward human beings, while Tama, a fox youkai, believes humans and youkai must be judged on an individual basis.  Their adventures lead to them picking up one more party member and discovering an insidious plot by Tama’s mom and her human lover.  This is a great manga for light reading, especially if you liked Inuyasha.

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I hope that you enjoyed these reviews.  Pressing work will deter me from blogging for at least a week.

Review of Steel Boat, Iron Hearts

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, hasn’t it, dear readers?  Well, I have a couple of articles for posting today: one on history and the other on manga.  I decided to start with my review of a work of history: Steel Boat, Iron Hearts by Hans Gobeler.  I have always been fascinated with memoirs of submariners.  Mostly, I read works about U. S. submarines in WWII and carried my fantasies about them so far that at one point I even wished to have a career serving on Navy attack submarines.  I even learned the game of cribbage after reading about how figures like Captain Dick O’Kane and Captain Mush Morton were into the game.  They played it so much that Dick O’Kane even managed to draw the perfect 29-point cribbage hand one game (5-5-5-J with the starter being a 5 of the same suit as the jack) and had all the participants sign the cards, which he framed.

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Anyway, most of submariners’ memoirs are written by officers.  Steel Boat, Iron Hearts (as well as my favorite memoir: U. S. S. Seawolf: Submarine Raider of the Pacific with J. M. Eckberg) separates itself from other memoirs in that it was written by the enlisted man put in charge of the diving manifold station, which made him privy to all the action which the U-boat saw.  Gobeler stands as a very interesting figure for his patriotism and honesty.  The person he collaborated with in writing the book, John Vanzo, told him to take certain parts out in order to make him seem more favorable to the readers; but Gobeler refused.  He wished this to be as accurate a portrayal of his service as possible, warts and all.

Young Hans Gobeler

Mr. Vanzo’s worries were unfounded: Hans Gobeler comes across as a very patriotic German rather than as a rabid Nazi.  If I were in any kind of service, I would like to have such a principled, courageous, and fun-loving person in my unit.  I retain this impression of him despite Gobeler doing things like joining the Hitler youth program, blaming the British for starting the war, and tenaciously believing that the Germans would win the war even as late as when his crew was captured by a Navy task force on June 4, 1944.  He wanted to be in the submarine force because this was the most prestigious outfit in the German Navy, and he had even tried to enlist in the war as early as fifteen.  His father had served in WWI on the Russian front, and his experiences there made him very anti-Communist, which resulted in him being blacklisted by Communist run unions in Germany until the Nazis came to power and ended this.  (I find it odd that so many people in Europe thought they had to choose between Fascism and Communism, which are nearly the same, instead of some third alternative.  I suspect a very famous chess champion, Alexander Alekhine, became a Fascist for the same reason.)  Prior to U-boat training, he had fallen in love with English literature and took courses in this language and would read William Shakespeare and Robert Stevenson while on patrol.  Also, he took a black Bible with him on patrol and strongly wished to honor “family, country, and God” by his service.

During his time aboard U-505, he served under three captains.  The first and the last were outstanding, while the crew likely wished to kill the second captain more than sink Allied shipping.  The first of these captains was Captain Lowe, who was half Dutch and unsuccessfully attempted to instill a taste for tea into his coffee loving crew.  (The crew knew so little about tea, that the chief cook made Lowe a batch as if making coffee.  I can sense some of your grimacing at the thought of this black brew of pure tannic acid.)  He was very laid back, and brought the most success to U-505 until he had the misfortune of sinking a schooner with a Colombian diplomat, which caused Colombia to declare war on Germany.  (They don’t teach you that in history class.)  Lowe showed remarkable humanity toward the survivors of the ships he sank and offered as much aid as he could to them before sailing away to find other targets.

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After this, they had another captain transferred to their ship by the name of Zschech, who brought a cohort of rather domineering officers with him, including an executive officer with whom the crew suspected Zschech was romantically involved.  (Whether same sex or not, this cannot be a confidence booster.)  These officers, especially the captain, treated the crew and even the officers who had served under Lowe disdainfully and cruelly.  Reading the account of mandatory army drills, unwarranted hazing, and just plain nastiness makes it a wonder the crew did not mutiny.  Unfortunately, they had very little success during Zschesh’s captainship: I recall only one ship going under, but there may have been one more.  During Zeschesh’s first patrol, the U-505 had the terrible luck of having a depth charge dropped directly onto their ship while running on the surface.  Incidentally, the blast from this depth charge destroyed the plane which dropped it on them due to it diving too too closely upon them.  (Memories of Aces over Europe are coming to mind.)  Despite Captain Zeschesh calling for them to abandon ship, the engineering officer basically told the captain that he could abandon ship if he wished, but that he would stay on the repair her.  And repair her they did: U-505 was the most damaged U-boat to return to port during the war.

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This was followed by long periods in port, exasperated by the saboteurs always managing to force U-505 to return.  But, reading about Gobeler’s times in port stands as another thrilling part to this work.  His times at drinking parties, the crew revenging themselves on sycophantic petty officers, arresting a saboteur, and other things interested me almost as much as his time at sea, which is fortunate.  The saboteurs gave this vessel their undivided attention, which brought the officers’ and crew’s morale to great lows.  The captain is particular was hard hit by all the times he needed to return to port during test dives.

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The stress suffered by Captain Zschech resulted in his replacement with another captain, Harald Lange, who had experience in the merchant marine and had begun his career as an enlisted man.  Like Captain Lowe, he had a laid-back, confident style which won the approval of the crew.   Unfortunately, his career aboard U-505 was very short.  He was captain when the U-505 was captured on June 4, 1944–the first enemy vessel the U. S. Navy captured on the high seas since the War of 1812.  This was the result of the engineering officer in charge not doing his duty in setting the charges for scuttling the boat during the evacuation.  But, this turned out happily for us: you can still see this U-boat in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  I also need to see the man-eaters of Tsavo, which are on display in the Field Museum of Chicago.

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