Mass Tomorrow!

One of the easiest holy days of obligation for an American–or indeed any–Catholic to miss is the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, precisely because it falls on New Year’s Day.  So, here’s a reminder to go to Mass.  Tomorrow, let us thank God for coming down to earth by Christ Jesus taking his body from that most perfect instrument of God, St. Mary and thank Mary for the graces we have received by her intercession.

Remember: now that you have read this, you absolutely must go to Mass unless you have a better excuse than “I’m tired and don’t feel like it.” 🙂

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Medieval Otaku now Has Sponsors

Hello, my dear readers, this blog has come a long way.  Three businesses have approached me within the last few months to advertise for them.  (Maybe four, actually.)  You can see two of them under the Sponsors section, and you might see the third one soon.  At any rate, it behooves me to tell you a little about those two.

MYPIC Japan was the first to ask me to place a link to their website.  (You have no idea of the thrill it gave me to see that someone in Kagoshima, Japan was interested in this blog!)  It has several beautiful anime drawings, mostly of people.  One can actually have a picture made to order by one of their artists.  In the interest of full disclosure, I receive a 5% commission on anything someone buys through clicking the link.

Not an example of MYPIC art, by the way.

Not an example of MYPIC art, by the way. But I would say that their art is about as good.

In the case of the Manga Collectionary, they have offered to advertise this blog on Facebook.  They offer a wide range of manga and anime related products at good prices.  I’m rather impressed with this site, and hope to peruse it more thoroughly in the future.

I’m rather proud of the strides this site has made since its beginning on April 5, 2012.  I could never have persevered without the encouragement provided by the blogging community, and would just like to extend my thanks to all of you.  Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!

Of the cast, I'd say that Kurama is the only one who doesn't look out of place in a tuxedo.

Of the cast, I’d say that Kurama is the only one who doesn’t look out of place in a tuxedo.

The Weight of Traditions

Some of these are awesome traditions!

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Here’s an interesting info-pic about different traditions celebrated by varying cultures around the world at Christmas…

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Traditions can be wonderful but they can also bring the heaviness of the past and a longing to live there. 

I recently finished my Christmas day calls & texts to family and friends. Some are doing well and others have had a rough 2013. Family members and friends separated by varying circumstances including death, traditions once highly valued now gone, have a way of making this day dreadful instead of joyful. I spoke to someone this morning who began to cry while saying she would “be alright in a little bit.” I told her not to make this day anything other than what it was, a hard one, and if the mourning of what has been is needed to get to what is and what will be, then embrace this season of change. 

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  Natale Christi Hilare!  Καλα Χριστουγεννα!  Joyeux Noël!  And since this is an anime blog, I cannot forget:

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inuyasha_kagome_holiday-CopyMy father gave me a beautiful Pelikan Fountain Pen this year.  I almost broke the thing before I figured out its unusual design: it does not take cartridges, but uses the end of the pen as an extractor.  Attached to it was some blood red ink, fittingly named after the bloodiest day of the Civil War–Antietam.  I also received a brilliant translation of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea (The Golden Chain), in which he compiled the Church Father’s commentaries on the Gospels.  A beautiful work!  I might also mention the other nice gifts I received, but they are a little less relevant to the blog.

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But, Christmas is more than gifts; though, one might say that God bestowed on us the ultimate gift at Christmas: Himself.  Joy attaches itself into the season, which I found difficult to enter into both this year and last year.  (I think that article marks me as a stick in the mud, but oh well.)   My Christmas felt more red than green, you might say.  This year, I found it easier to get in the spirit of the holiday.  (I hope the introduction of this article makes that clear!)  But, I confess that I rather needed to work myself up for it: cheerfulness is a virtue rather than something which comes naturally.

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Anyway, the life of a believer hardly counts as all rainbows and sunshine.  One must often find joy in carrying the cross, by which we are drawn closer to Christ Jesus.  One might even need to find joy while the horrifying idea that God has abandoned one crushes the soul.

Yet, we must keep in mind that God died for us.  He loved us first and chose us to be in paradise with Him forever.  We did not first choose Him, but He chose us knowing beforehand all our flaws and sins.  And He came down to earth and accepted not only of the ordinary sufferings of human life but also unfathomable suffering and isolation to redeem us.  He suffered all this to free us from slavery to sin so that we might become His friends for all eternity.  This desire of God stands unchangeable as God Himself.  Thinking about God’s Eternal Love cannot but make one cheer: “Merry Christmas!”

The most beautiful picture of the Nativity I ever found. and it hangs over my bed!

The most beautiful picture of the Nativity I ever found. and it hangs over my bed!

How Anime Loves to Tease

I just finished watching Shikabane Hime, my dear readers.  Let me note here that the entire article after this paragraph contains spoilers.  However, since the anime has been around for four years, you should expect articles chock full of spoilers!  But, anyone who decides to watch this show ought to know about the ending so that their annoyance does not reach my level of vexation.

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So many anime give their viewers unsatisfactory endings.  It may even be fair to say that 70% of anime end poorly.  Either they contain a cookie cutter happy ending (like Outlaw Star), give the viewers a huge dose of tragedy (like Juu Ou Sei), frustrate the viewer by rendering all of the past struggles meaningless (like in Kurozuka–for Pete’s sake, don’t watch that!), or give us a non-ending (like D. Gray Man).  I might be missing a few kinds of frustrating endings, but Shikabane Hime stands guilty of the last of these four.  This kind of ending tries to sucker the viewer into reading the manga, which might go on until the end of the world.  Shikabane Hime offers one of the worst non-endings ever.  After tracking down the arch villain Shikabane Hime, Makina starts pounding her UFC-style in order to knock some humanity back into her.  Or maybe she really wants to exact revenge upon her after all?

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Some villain, eh?  Might give me nightmares.

Some villain, eh? Might give me nightmares.

Anyway, the anime leaves us right there in the midst of the final battle.  How can one end an anime like that???!!!!  A positively fiendish way to end an anime series!  Evangelion ended more completely!   The worst thing is that the DVDs contain an additional OVA episode. So, I initially wasn’t worried.  I said to myself, the ending will be wrapped up in this episode.  Wrong!  It’s a flashback to before Makina became Keisei’s Shikabane Hime.  We see how Isaki and his Shikabane Hime teamed up–and we know that their relationship ended in tragedy!  So, that was hardly a good replacement for a real ending!

Perhaps the worst break up in anime history follows shortly.

Here are the fallen monk, Akasha, and the arch villain, Hokuto. Perhaps the worst break up in anime history follows shortly.

How true it is that we need to suffer for the things we love!   But who would expect that foreign cartoons could cause so much vexation?

Crunchyroll Streaming Rurouni Kenshin!!!

I was ecstatic to learn that Crunchyroll is now streaming Rurouni Kenshin!  One can’t watch it until January 1st if one’s not a premium member, but that’s not a problem in my case.  For a moment, I feared that they would be streaming the European version of the English dub, which is horrible unless one wants a good laugh.  But, I heard the talents of Dorothy Menendez and Richard Hayworth, and my heart was set at ease.  Having heard the dub before the sub, I have developed an aversion to hearing Kenshin voiced by a women.  However, this did not bother me in Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, where I prefer the sub–probably because Kenshin is younger during those events.

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Seeing that announcement made me think that I was running a fever.

Anyway, here’s the thread about it: Rurouni Kenshin Holiday Special.  Cheers to Crunchyroll for the nice Christmas gift!

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A Friendly Post

Well, dear readers, I have recently discovered the difficulty of writing while having a full time job.  Some nights I come home almost too tired to eat my dinner before going to sleep.  This weekend, I had vowed to write several great articles for the blog.  Instead, I found myself sadly indisposed.  I spent most of the weekend reading A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower by Kenneth Henshall and Battles of the Samurai by Stephen Turnbull.  I am rather glad that I read both of these around the same time.  The former is indeed a great history, but the focus on the big picture and the incidents of excessive cruelty by the Japanese during various epochs might lead one to believe that the Japanese are the most savage and soulless people to have ever lived!  Turnbull’s work, on the other hand, focuses more on the examples of heroism and personal qualities of the samurai involved, which makes Henshall’s assertion that the image of a gallant and loyal samurai to have been an invention of the Meiji and Pre-war Japan rather untenable.  Sure, the daimyo were rather self-interested, but the samurai serving them were more interested in honor than power.

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Anyway, you shall read about that in a later article.  I also dropped The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley from my reading list after 95 pages of anti-Christian and anti-Medieval rhetoric surrounding a very long story about marital problems and prophecy.  (Yes, this book’s philosophy thoroughly vexed me and did not provide a fun story.  I can endure the former, but not without the latter also being present.)  Instead, I shall concentrate on Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight and Gene Wolfe’s Latro in the Mist in order to satisfy my love of fantasy.  Both have very high pedigrees and have been very intriguing thus far.

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But, this is an anime and religion blog, right?  So, let me talk a little about my use of leisure on that front.  I’m reading some manga which are worth reviewing and at some point I ought to be able to write the articles which I have promised last month.  I am especially keen on writing about Noir and the series related to it.  In Coppelion, Naruse’s lack of prudence and overindulgence to people who want to kill her and her friends is beginning to bug me.  So, you might see an article soon on this and the Catholic Church’s teaching on how there exists an order of obligation in our relationships with people.

I've lost count of how many times Naruse should have been killed.

I’ve lost count of how many times Naruse should have been killed.

Anyway, here’s to a happy Advent season for you all!

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Matoi and Satsuki: Friends in the Making?

Watching Kill la Kill thus far convinces me that Matoi and Satsuki’s relationship goes beyond that usually shared by the hero and her antagonist.  Satsuki has always displayed a particular interest in Matoi.  I wish to make the case that Matoi is Kiryuin’s closest person to a friend.
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This sounds like an absurd statement, especially since Kiryuin places so many obstacles between Matoi and her goals.  Also, she may have even been responsible for the death of Matoi’s father.  (I rather doubt that, however.)  But, Aristotle called friendship the highest good, and everyone desires friends on one level or another.  Even as early as episode 3, Kiryuin donning a Kamui might be understood as an attempt to create similitude–an almost essential condition for friendship–between Matoi and herself.
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Yet, Kiryuin has a warped understanding of human relationships.  Her relationships are based on power rather than love.  She is surrounded by henchmen, not friends; though, she seems loath to suffer the loss of her top henchmen.  Even episode 6, where she almost abandons Uzu, she quickly forgives his loss to Matoi after seeing a sign of his resolve.  By episode 10, two of her henchmen suffer defeats by Matoi, but they appear confident that they can work their way back to her side.
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Yet, these kinds of relationships do not suffice for Kiryuin.  Perhaps even she thinks that it does, but her spirit must be at variance with this–as is shown by her actions.  After all, she busts her favorite tea cup in order to try to land a surprise attack on Uzu!  I cannot understand this action but through the lens of playfulness.  Uzu, having been conditioned to Satsuki’s quest for power, responds that she did not use her full power.  Who uses their full power in play!?  But, her subordinates cannot believe that Satsuki might just want to play with them.  Indeed, it seems like the closest Kiryuin comes to play is in placing obstacles before Matoi.
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Then, Satsuki offers Uzu a cup of tea at the end of episode 6.  Uzu declines his offer as tea is now too hot for his now heightened sense to endure.  The austerity of this scene suggests how isolated Satsuki is.  She sees Uzu, because he comes closest to Kiryuin in power, as the closest thing to a friend she has outside of Matoi.  One imagines that a pang of regret or doubts about her conduct ran through Kiryuin’s mind at this moment.  One even feels sorry for her.  Why have power if it only causes one grief?
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Under these circumstances, Matoi becomes Satsuki’s best choice for a friend.  And so, we have the fight club episode, where Satsuki attempts to establish equality between the two of them in terms of wealth and understanding the isolation caused by its possession.  Lastly, the tournament between Matoi and Satsuki’s top henchmen sees Matoi equaling Satsuki in her ability to secure the same triumphs as Kiryuin herself has achieved.  And if Matoi succeeds, Satsuki shall bring her into her confidence concerning her father’s death.  Shared secrets are yet another sign of friendship!
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Yet, I only wonder whether Satsuki’s mind has been far too warped in her quest for power.  Is she capable of realizing that perfect equality is not needed for friendship?  That the only result of attempting to gain this perfect equality will lead to the dominance of one party or endless conflict?  Will she even decide to renounce her quest for power and recognize that friendship is a higher good?  These are just a few things which make watching Kill la Kill interesting!

Freezing in Bali: How the Anime Falls short of the Manga

Hisashiburi desu ne, my dear readers?  After too long of a rest from writing, some commentary on Freezing: Vibration offers good warm up before I tackle more difficult articles.  I especially wish to write my article on Kouichi Mashimo’s Girls with Guns Trilogy (Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja).  (To tell you the truth, I did not know that this trilogy bore that nickname until this morning.)  Anyway, the present article will express how the anime handled Satellizer and Kazuya’s adventure in Bali, which spans episodes 5-7.

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These episodes number among the most painful and dark one can watch; though, as is often the case with such tales, the story is quite powerful.  After the Chevalier organization succeeds in disgracing the Mably family in revenge for Elizabeth Mably whistleblowing on the reckless way this organization handled the E-Pandora project, Satellizer sets a course for Bali in order to enlist the aid of the El Bridget family against the Chavalier Organization.  Her half-sister, Violet, runs a resort in this area.  Unfortunately, Satellizer also meets her half-brother, Louis, at this resort.  The meeting is unfortunate because Louis sees Satellizer more as a lover than as a sister, and acts on this desire in a most churlish manner.

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Okay, the preceding remark stands as a gross understatement.  As children, Louis had taken to molesting her and resumes his evil ways at the hotel.  From these experiences in her childhood and early adolescence, Satellizer developed a fear of being touched, from which she earned her nickname at West Genetics of “the Untouchable Queen.”  These three episodes show Satellizer’s struggle to break free of his hold and perform an admirably good job of demonstrating the psychology of both the victim and the fiend.  I especially like the anime’s use of chains to show the hold that Louis has on her.

Oh, I might just mention here that Holly actual has character in the manga, which is completely absent in the anime.

Oh, I might just mention here that Holly actual has character in the manga, which is completely absent in the anime.

As much as these episodes covered that aspect of the story, they portrayed the events quite well.  However, this came at the price of Kazuya and Violet’s character development, and the final victory over Louis seems rushed and less believable than in the manga.  The manga makes Violet a much more developed character.  In particular, she was the person who initially discovered Louis’s harassment of Satellizer and caused her to be sent away from the family house.  At the present time, since Louis, ostensibly at least, has a girlfriend and plenty of time has passed, Violet hoped that Satellizer might reconcile with Louis.

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And the characterization of Kazuya was miserable, as it rather has been for most of the second season.  Two scenes where Kazuya stands up to Louis made me practically cheer when I read them, but appeared trite when watched.  I doubt that this is entirely because I knew what would happen.  Kazuya has been relegated to the role of an air headed harem hero–a Tenchi, if you will.  His character has greater value than that!  The first season of the anime did a much better job in characterizing him.  After all, Kazuya drives most of Satellizer’s changes for the better.  If not for Kazuya, she would still remain the fearful, cold, and diffident character of season one.

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So, I still enjoyed the episodes, but the brevity which which the anime dealt with the story–perhaps that this kind of story could not be narrated as well through the medium of anime–diminished its excellence.  As I said, the interior struggle of Satellizer and the psychology of the victim and the perpetrator were portrayed rather well.  But, they achieved this at the price of not developing the other characters and excising most of the back story, which lent more pathos to the manga’s version.  So, this arc in the anime was okay, but chapters 39-50 were superb.

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