Monologue: I Can’t Accept This Story Proposal Until You Place It In A High School

A hilarious satire of the excessive use of high school settings in anime.

Perpetual Morning

I’ve looked over your script and I’ve gotta say – this is an amazing job you’ve done with the setting, but I think it would be better if you put it in a high school.

Having an original place for your story to unfold is nice and all, but there’s no way in Hell that I’m going to be invested in a show like that. It doesn’t have the same umph. Do you get what I’m saying? Like, uh, it would have that high school feel to it. Yeah, that’s it. I wouldn’t be interested in this anime because it’s not in a high school.

Trust me on this one, I don’t think you can get away with not having a high school in your anime these days unless you’re some renowned buff like Watanabe-san or something. I don’t remember what he does. He’s already lost me because my…

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News – ‘Akame ga Kiru!’ Manga to Get Anime Series

Looks like the manga I just wrote about will be animated. That sounds like fun.

Mahou Tofu

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I’ve waited for this moment for a while. Out of the few manga series that I actually read, Akame ga Kiru! is the most intense, violent, and downright gruesome of them all. Since its release, it’s received a reputation for brutally offing its own characters with very little remorse. It’s kind of similar to Shingeki no Kyojin, but the characters in Akame ga Kiru! are much more likable and interesting.

Summary from ANN:

The dark action fantasy manga follows the title character, Akame, a girl who was bought, brainwashed, and raised by the Empire as an assassin. After meeting Akame, a boy named Tatsumi vows to stand up to the evil of the Empire.

I think my favorite thing about the series is how the two major groups are divided up into the Night Raid assassins (“the good guys”) and the Empire’s Jaegers (“the bad guys”). However, actions and motivations…

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Akana ga Kiru: Love Makes the World Go Round

Well, my dear readers, Akane ga Kiru happens to be the latest manga to capture my imagination.  However, the villains are downright fiends.  Some of the atrocities they commit make it easier to think of them as demons or monsters than human beings.  The violence often reaches the level of Hellsing (and the artwork of Akame ga Kiru is incredibly reminiscent of that work) and occasionally the level of the Berserk manga (don’t read that for Pete’s sake!); so, I only recommend it to the thickest skinned of my readers.  I find myself skipping pages and examining each page for foreshadowing of the gruesome so that I can avoid scenes reminiscent of the worst passages of Terry Goodkind’s novels.

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Then, why read Akame ga Kiru?  Any lover of dark stories will tell you that one reads dark stories for the light contained therein.  The surrounding darkness makes the light seem that much more precious and lovable.  If dark stories contain no light, they fall to the level of trash or poison—the product of a diabolical or melancholy imagination.

Speaking of diabolical, the attitude of treating people as cattle is pretty much rampant among the upper class of this society,

Speaking of diabolical, the attitude of treating people as cattle is pretty much rampant among the upper class of this society,

The point of light which seems most precious because it shines most precariously is romantic love in Esdese, our heroes’ greatest opponent.  Objectively speaking, she’s a vile sadist, but I cannot help but be fascinated by her–nay, she’s actually my favorite character right now.  Her desire to fall in love separates her from the majority of the villains.  And who else should she fall for but the hero?  During a tournament instigated by her to find the sixth member of her Jaeger team, Tatsumi steals her heart, and she drags him from the field in a manner reminiscent of a caveman claiming a bride.  They pass the night debating philosophy–Aristotle vs. Nietzsche, you might say.  Like Thrasymachus of Plato’s Republic, she claims that Tatsumi’s notion of justice derives from weak people: the strong only need to act to their own advantage.  All the while, Tatsumi tries to convince her to defect from the Empire and join the Rebel side without admitting that he has already joined the Empire’s most infamous enemy: Night Raid.

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Esdese seems pretty cute until you get to know her.

During a hunting exercise, he escapes her grasp.  She tells the Jaegers that they do not need to offer Tatsumi mercy should they meet him in combat; yet, she still pines for him.  She even refuses the evil Prime Minister’s offer to find a similar man for her.

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Why should this be significant?  Even bad people love others.  That’s natural, isn’t it?  But, love is intimately bound with happiness, the chief end of human beings.  If love were not so bound with happiness, the family would not be the chief unit of society.  The most effective governments try to foster the health of the family through fostering peace and justice.  Essentially, Esdese, by desiring love, also wishes for the flourishing of peace and justice unless she wants a sham love–the mere indulgence of her feelings.  If she opts for true love, she must become the enemy of her current employers.  (Oh, what a beautiful moment that would be!)  The rampant cruelty and injustice infecting the country hardly fosters the creation of happy households.

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But, many things war against her defection: her vicious character first and foremost.  Her subordinates are incredibly loyal to her because she shows them affection; however, her show of affection is motivated by the desire to make them good subordinates, i. e. tools.  Aristotle claimed that the wicked can only have friendships of utility, and all of Esdese’s relationships belong to that category.  Her relationship with Tatsumi stands as the sole exception, but if she begins to view her relationship with Tatsumi according to usefulness or pleasure, that will shatter her ability to find real love, where the beloved is loved for his own sake.  Then again, the heroines have taken a shine to Tatsumi, and he could easily break Esdese’s heart by choosing one of them over her.  At which point, Esdese might forsake love altogether.  Thirdly, the Japanese concept of karma would certainly deny Esdese the right to real happiness.  The manga takes a grimly realistic view of humanity.  I’d have to say that Dostoyevsky’s underground man had a greater chance at salvation than Esdese.

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In the meantime, I shall follow with rapt attention Esdese’s standing on the fence.  Shall she fall on the side she naturally leans towards and snuff out the little bit of light in her soul?  Or shall amor, with all its demands, sacrifices, and true joys, truly omnia vincit?

Dreaming of Girls with Guns

During National Blog Posting Month, I listed many different articles which I wanted to write, and barely scratched the surface of them.  One of the projected articles concerned Koichi Mashimo’s Girls with Guns Trilogy–Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja.  At last, I have turned my attention to writing this article, which describes why I loved these series so much–at least the first two.  El Cazador de la Bruja doesn’t pack as much of a punch.

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First, do not let the nickname “Girls with Guns” mislead you into thinking that these shows provide vapid entertainment.  These series stand as some of anime’s most intellectual.  Its plots are shrouded with mystery and stick to the technique of gradual revelation.  Authors like Hemingway and Dostoyevsky are alluded to in Noir.  (For the life of me, I can’t remember if Madlax contained any similar allusions.)  The first and best, Noir, presents the story of two assassins.  One of them, Kirika, enlists the aid of another assassin named Mireille in order to discover her identity.  During their missions they discover the existence of Les Soldats, a mysterious organization which wants to use Kirika’s talents for their own ends.  The second, both chronologically and in greatness, Madlax, covers the relationship between its titular assassin and a young girl with whom she is mysteriously connected.  The last, El Cazador de la Bruja, stands higher than most of what’s being produced currently, but I managed to get sidetracked from it.  I blame the blogosphere for making me focus on what’s currently popular. 🙂

El Cazador de la Bruja

The first thing which strikes the viewer about these shows is the quality of the music.  I could listen to Coppelia’s Casket and Nowhere all day.  They are very addictive!  During the episodes, Mashimo relies heavily on music to set the mood of the scenes, which is a weakness in some directors; but the quality of the music means no complaints will be forthcoming from me.  Few series excel so well at immersing the viewer in the countries where the action take place, and the musical score along with the detail of the backgrounds allows for this complete sense of immersion.

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Also refreshing is how rich in character the heroines are.  Contemporary anime, perhaps more than other mediums, employ stock characters to a disturbingly high degree.  This was one of the things which made me–someone who cares more about original characters than plots–for the most part quit watching new shows from 2009 – 2012.  (My longtime followers might remember this article, which marks the beginning of me becoming interested once again in contemporary works.)  In Noir and Madlax, men play the scantest roles.  (The thing they do best is getting shot.)  This makes having dynamic, multifaceted female characters necessary.  Many people dislike Mireille, but I find her a charming bluestocking with a zest for life.  (It also happens to be very easy for me to like leggy French blondes with blue eyes.)  She loves fine food and wine and quotes Hemingway in the second episode of the series, a series which, with its laconic dialogue and strict adherence to show don’t tell, is very Hemingwayan itself.

Might as well admit that I pretty much fell for Mireille.

Might as well admit that I pretty much fell for Mireille.

Kirika, despite being as blue the the titular character of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, provides the viewers with some awesome gunfights.  Who can forget the popcorn scene in particular?  She, along with Mireille and Madlax, have a tendecy to take out their targets with one shot; though, Kirika is more than willing to use more–as you’re supposed to.  Amusingly, Mireille even calls Kirika vulgar once for the way she offs a certain villain.

Kirika's easily the most dangerous assassin in any of these stories.  That's a henchman's tie she's hanging from, by the way.

Kirika’s easily the most dangerous assassin in any of these stories. That’s a henchman’s tie she’s hanging from, by the way.

Though, if any character in the series raises assassination to an art form, it would be Madlax.  She occasionally wears an evening gown as she takes down her enemies.  The scene where she downs people in moving vehicles with a pistol at over 100 years takes the biscuit as one of the most outrageous anime gunfights ever.  But, Madlax is perhaps the most lovable character in any of these series.  She combines the best traits of Kirika and Mireille: Madlax has Kirika’s efficiency and quietude and Mireille’s aesthetic sensibility and beauty.

I must confess that I also fell for Madlax--and Vanessa and Limelda for that matter.

I must confess that I also fell for Madlax–and Vanessa and Limelda for that matter.

From what I have seen of El Cazador de la Bruja, it stands as the weakest show, though I find the main characters very amusing to watch.  Imagine Kirika with a sense of humor and a quick tempered and less suave Mireille, and you’ll have a good picture of the two main characters.  I also liked the change from assassins to bounty hunters as the profession of the main characters.

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Anyway, Koichi Mashimo directed two original classic series and one rather enjoyable picaresque romp.  Be sure to put the first two under your anime watching belt at least!

Freezing Vibration: Don’t Bother

A short time ago, I finished off Freezing VibrationMy other article noted that the anime’s Bali Arc was rather inferior to the manga’s presentation.  The only thing the anime did better was fanservice, quem flocci non facio. (“Which I don’t value at a hair.”)  They did do an excellent job making one feel for the E-Pandoras, Elizabeth, and Satellizer’s struggle to overcome her brother’s hold on her; yet, most of the other characters’ development was sacrificed.  Kazuya in particular was treated as an extra number.  Also, Chiffon’s supreme moment felt rather hollow compared to the pathos one felt while reading this scene in the manga.

They also did do a good job on Charles Bonaparte, but I don't particularly like this character--though she has shown a better side of herself in the latest chapters of the manga.

They also did do a good job on Charles Bonaparte, but I don’t particularly like this character–though she has shown a better side of herself in the latest chapters of the manga.

Of course, one of the main reasons to see an action manga animated is the fights, but these don’t hold a candle to those first season.  The fights in the first season gripped the viewer such that the fighters’ clothing being torn to shreds went unnoticed.  Somehow, they built up a degree of suspense in these fights which the second season was unable to duplicate.

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So, there you have it.  The sequel fell far inferior to the first season of Freezing.  If they do make a third season, I’ll wait for the season to be reviewed before jumping in.

But, here’s to you Chiffon Fairchild!  One of the noblest exists an anime character could wish for!

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ABC Awards Nomination!

abc-awardWell, I find myself quite humbled and honored by Naru’s nomination of me for the ABC Award.  Please check out her blog, which is written with such humor and good style that you might find yourself sucked in for an hour or two.  And thanks to all my dear readers who keep me motivated to write!

Since some of you might have read my Liebster Award post and my Medieval Interrogation. I promise to try to make this, my 200th post, contain new information about me.  Some of which is a bit silly, but hopefully humorous.  Without further ado, let me paste the rules:

1. Download the award logo and add it to your acceptance post.
2. Nominate a few fellow bloggers and share the award.
3. Since the award is ABC, take each letter of the alphabet and use it to tell something about yourself.

Here goes:

A: Arcueid Brunestud.  My ideal woman.  I’m fairly certain an Arcueid doesn’t exist in real life, but one can dream–and no, it has nothing to do with her being a vampire. >.<

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B: Baltimore.  This city holds a place in my heart for two reasons: 1) the first ancestor of mine to come to America settled in this city in 1775 and 2) this city holds the seminary where I went and where my classmates still are.

C: Cats.  I love cats.  Since I moved out of my parents’ house, I haven’t gotten a chance to own one; but, I love visiting to see these two characters:

Dexter

Dexter

Cindy

Cindy

D: Despondent.  The virtue which I most want is none other than cheerfulness.  But, as a writer, it is no wonder that I should have to carry the cross of the blues.  However, for now, I’m doing pretty good at saying “Jigoku e ochiro!” to depression.

E: Escaflowne.  The techniques displayed in the mecha fights in Escaflowne seem to come right out of medieval fencing manuals.  As a lover of swords and medieval combat, these fights always carry me into the sublime.

F: Fathers of the Church.  Catholic spiritual writers don’t write like they used to.  The early Church Fathers have the most interesting vision of religion followed by the mystics of the Middle Ages.

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G: Games.  I love Chess, Go, and Shogi above all; but, board games of all sorts delight me–as long as they’re not ridiculously complicated.

H: Historian.  I love history, as is likely apparent from my similes and references.  There is nothing like warfare in particular to show forth the best qualities of people, and the people who are remembered most fondly in history are also those people who are most original.  So, I find the study of history a continual delight.

I: Imprimis.  This is the name of the newsletter of my Alma Mater: Hillsdale College.  Going here was perhaps the best experience in my life.  All my best friends studied here with me.  You might also call the college a cathedral to Western Heritage.  It’s hard to believe that it will have been five years since I’ve graduated come this May!  How time flies!

J: Jimmy Stewart.  He happens to be my favorite actor.  It is rare to find such modesty in Hollywood!

This image is from Winchester '73.  I might also mention that I love old movies and Westerns.

This image is from Winchester ’73. I might also mention that I love old movies and Westerns.

K: Kind.  I am a very kind person, though my timidity often prevents me from opening up to others.  Just imagine Robert E. Lee or George Washington.

L: Liberty.  One of the dearest concepts to the human heart.  By writing, I hope to fire people for the desire of true liberty: liberty under the law and under God.  Additionally, I want to squash the notion that liberty equals license and freedom from pain.  True liberty involves struggle each and every day.

M: Mustache.  During college, I discovered that a handlebar mustache rather suited me.  Now, a much simpler one adorns my face but I still consider going back to the handlebar.  My real hope is one day to grow a fine looking beard.

Jeb Stuart: Owner of the most perfect beard ever to grace a man's face.

Jeb Stuart: Owner of the most perfect beard ever to grace a man’s face.

N: New Jersey.  The state of my birth, from which I have just succeeded from escaping again.  May I remain here in Virginia!

O: Oblomov.  The eponymous hero of this work by Ivan Goncharov does nothing but sleep and eat all day and refuses to visit other people.  As such, he dies in miserable obscurity even though he had the chance to escape isolation.  Nothing worked so well in convincing me to break out of my shell; though, its literary merits are indeed questionable.

P: Plaid.  Though I may not have a drop of Irish or Scottish blood in my veins, I love plaid.  From pajamas to flannel shirts, I try to stock my wardrobe with as much of it as possible.

Q: Quizzical.  This word refers to my personality.  I eschew being easily defined.  At best, this mysterious quality makes me interesting.  At worst, people label me an odd fish.  Someone’s best attempt at definition was to say that I “was a creature who subsists on tea.”

By typing in "creature who subsists on tea" on google search, I found a great way to play a prank on someone.

By typing in “creature who subsists on tea” on google search, I found a great way to play a prank on someone.

R: Reflective.  I am a retiring and meditative sort of person.

S: Seafood.  I prefer fish over meat.  This makes it very easy to be Catholic during Lent, but I sometimes wonder whether I should avoid fish too on Friday in order to make it more penitential.

T: Tolkien.  Dumas might be my favorite author, but within my genre of choice, Tolkien is the writer whom I most wish to emulate.  Terry Brooks is my second favorite writer in the Fantasy genre.  Despite certain accusations against Brooks, he is one of the least derivative modern fantasy authors–until he returns to Shannara in the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara.  Yet, in those books, he is mostly culpable for copying too much from his prior works rather than the works of others.

U: Utawarerumono.  Best harem anime ever made.  One might validly place Tenchi Muyo in this place, but I’d disagree.  It doesn’t have Towa or Karura.

Look up awesome in the dictionary, and you'll see a picture of Karura.

Look up awesome in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of Karura.

V: Venus.  My favorite planet.  (Can you tell that I’m running out of ideas?)  How can one not love a planet whose temperature reaches 462ºC and can melt our strongest probes in half an hour?

W: Wizards.  From Allanon to Gandalf to Walker Boh, wizards tend to be my favorite characters in fantasy novels.  I suppose because they are so learned–something which I hope to be.

X: Xenophile.  Looking through the two pages of X words under the dictionary, I only found one which related to me.  A xenophile is one who is attracted to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures.  All my dear readers know that, but might I also add that I find foreign women attractive?

Y: Yukon.  One day, I want to visit the frozen vasts of Alaska, though I would settle for the Yukon territory.  You might say that Jules Verne and Jack London fired my imagination enough as a kid to want to see the frigid north.  I also want to take down a moose: I hear they taste like fillet mignon.  And, if I can see wolves in the wild, that would be icing on the cake.  (I won’t shoot the wolves!  Don’t worry!)

Wolves are too cute looking to shoot. :)

Wolves are too cute looking to shoot. 🙂

Z: Zinfandel.  My favorite table wine for three reasons: 1) It’s very American, 2) few other wines are as jammy and full, and 3) even the best ones are inexpensive comparatively.  Want a great Cabernet Sauvignon?  Spend $200.  Want an awesome, top class Zinfandel?  Spend $45.  Of course, the $9 – $15 dollar range in Zinfandel is better than the same range in any other grape.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed that!  Now, for me to nominate some people:

Dusty Thanes

Beneath the Tangles

Rayout

Feidor S. LaView

Black Strawberry

Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!

Caraniel’s Ramblings

Anime Commentary on the March

Pacificparatrooper

MIB’s Instant Headache

New Links!

I have some new links for you, my dear readers.  The list of blogs I follow increases more rapidly than it should as I find more interesting writers.  This makes the times when I finally get around to updating my links feel rather like a chore–at least, by the end of list.  You see, I have three blogs, and have just finished updating the links on all of those sites.  One in particular, Aquila et Infans, actually did not have a list of links until today!  How I could have been so remiss!  Keshikaran!  Mattaku keshikaran!

Tsukikage Ran famously says "Mattaku Keshikaran" whenever she becomes irritated, which translates to "Competely inexcusable."

Tsukikage Ran famously says “Mattaku Keshikaran” whenever she becomes irritated, which translates to “Competely inexcusable.”

Another thing I find almost inexcusable is how many blogs which I have followed and then read extremely little of them.  Of course, it’s rather easy to lose touch in the blogosphere.  Amusingly, I usually catch the laziest blogger out there, Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of, when she starts blogging again, but recently managed to miss her when she displayed the rare industry to write a 12 part post in December!  But life is funny that way.

Killua is Naru's latest avatar.

Killua is Naru’s latest avatar.

I suppose my new year’s resolution should be to not lose touch with the people I know, either online or offline, right?

The Final Crate

My good friend wrote an short story which offers an intriguing vision of a world at the edge of an apocalypse. One also can’t help thinking about A Canticle for Liebowitz as one reads it.

The Dusty Thanes

I have added as a page a new short story. It is called The Final Crate (go figure) and it isn’t that long, you should read it 🙂

The other story, The Frame Shop, is still available at the top on the ‘My Works’ tab… if you feel like reading that one too.

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Kill La Kill and Putting on the New Man

Watching the conversation between Matoi and Senketsu in episode 13 of Kill la Kill reminds me of how Christ might speak to a Christian who has fallen into a vicious cycle and can’t seem to bring himself up.  From the above statement, you probably figure that the allegory is tenuous; but, let’s see how far we can take it, shall we?  First, my dear readers, let’s start with Matoi’s status as a hero.  People look up to her.  Then, she loses her cool, her kamui devours her, and she is saved by someone who hardly counts as a fighter–Mako.  This might be analogous to a young man or woman who strongly practices the faith, which always leads people at least to marvel at them for not skipping church and disobeying the other precepts of the Church as most of their colleagues do.  But, such people always endure the sharpest temptations: they are scoffed at by the majority and weighed down by the desires of the flesh.  If none of these bring them down, then the devil tries to bring darkness and confusion into their lives.  Against this onslaught of evil, it is not surprising that some fall and even fall so deeply that they do not want to get up.

Matoi sleeping life away.

Matoi similarly does not want to rise–even from her bed.  (How I know that feeling!)  She dares not to put on Senketsu and even feels embarrassed to speak to him.  She has witnessed how monstrous her nature and lack of self-control can be.  To compare her to a Christian, imagine someone who had immense confidence in Christ, but forgot the limitations of human nature and fell.  What they thought was confidence in Christ turned out merely to be confidence in themselves.  Is Christ to be blamed for this deplorable state of events?  Of course not!  “Pride goeth before a fall.”  Whenever people fall greatly, they have forgotten humility and the fear of God.  Pride inhibits the working of grace, which is why St. Augustine told someone that the three main virtues of Christianity are “humility, humility, humility.”

St. Augustine

Curiously, Senketsu hanging on the closet reminds me of a crucifix.  Many Catholics have them hanging in every room.  Negatively, this means we cannot avoid suffering.  Positively, this means that we cannot avoid Christ who is always aids us in our suffering.  Perhaps, the line of Matoi’s which most easily brings one’s thoughts to the crucifix are when she tells Senketsu that the memory of Senketsu’s tears brought her the most pain.  In perfect repentance, a soul repents not merely for the punishment due their sin, but most especially for the pain and disappointment their sin caused Jesus Christ.

The Bed and the Cross--so to speak.

The Bed and the Cross–so to speak.

What is the result of a soul falling into such sin?  They might not feel the confidence of faith as they once did, and Jesus Christ finds that he needs to knock on a door which was once always open to receive Him.  Excuses are tendered.  Self-accusations of unworthiness are offered to avoid having to do God’s will.  Even the accusation that God let one down might be said–but who really believes that?  One wants to ignore the fact that there is a war waging between good and evil and that losing means nothing less than than losing one’s own soul and harming the souls of others.

Kill la Kill II

But, Jesus Christ is patient because human beings are so weak and ignorant.  Like Senketsu, Jesus might remind us that He “was born in order to be worn by [us].”  For, what else is the Christian religion but putting on Christ, the New Man, and fulfilling the works he would have us do so that we might crucify the Old Man, our sinful selves?  We all have particular trials to undergo for the love of God.  Christ ardently desires to be with us every step of the way: we must simply put Him on and run our course.

Now, Matoi is saved by her greatest rival.

Now, Matoi is saved by her greatest rival.

Even after agreeing to run again, we might find that we fall to that formidable temptation over and over again–as Matoi fell in battle soon after putting on Senketsu again.  But, St. Theresa of Avila confessed that she even fell occasionally into mortal sin after entering the convent, but she became a great saint through perseverance, i.e. always trying to put on Christ.  Likewise, Christ shall lead us to become great saints as long as we don’t stop trying.

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Tonari no Seki-kun and Saturday Morning Cartoons

As a boy, I always strove to wake up around 6 AM in order to watch Saturday Morning cartoons.  These included shows like Garfield–which ran for a whole hour at one time and often included a TV special, Captain Planet (propaganda, but fun propaganda for all that), various shows on Boomerang, and sometimes a unique animated movie, like The Flight of Dragons.  (I had forgotten the name of this film until google found it just a moment ago through me typing in “dragons logic vs. magic.”  Technology makes things too easy!)  Most were great for a laugh or even rather exciting.

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Ah, nothing like that glorious ancient style of animation!

tonari-no-seki-kun-3411543Recently, Tonari no Seki-kun (I keep wanting to write Tonari no Seibutsu >.<), a manga which was first published in 2010, has been made into a series of animated shorts.  In this article, I claimed that it had a Calvin and Hobbes-like feel.  Watching episode one last night convinced me of how closely related it is to American cartoons.  The anime runs on gags and even the character designs do not seem like they would be entirely out of place in an American comic.  As a matter of fact, Yokoi and Seki-kun seem like they could fit in among the Peanuts characters.  Then, that ending theme with Seki-kun playing a beat on his school supplies with Yokoi tapping along enveloped me in a wave of nostalgia.

peanuts1So, I have to ask whether this nostalgia is peculiar to me or if anyone else has felt it?  Do you think that this semblance to American cartoons is deliberate on part of the manga-ka or the animators or not?

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Arpeggio of Blue Steel: A Spy Anime?

If you have not watched Arpeggio of Blue Steel, I might advise you not to read any further.  Not only because this article is chock full of spoilers, but because I think that such shows are best enjoyed without one perceiving their purpose until the end or even upon another viewing.  But, if you have my own nonchalant attitude toward knowing all about a story before watching or reading it (in my case, an attitude fostered by the study of the Classics), read on by all means.

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Anyway, Arpeggio of Blue Steel stands as the latest “spy anime” if you will.  This has nothing to do with espionage of the Cold War sort.  Thompdjames, a close friend of mine and blogger of Dusty Thanes, once told me about term “spy novels,” which he defined as novels which were clandestinely Christian in order to be read by the general public.  Selling around 150 million copies, The Lord of the Rings stands as the most successful novel of this type.  Few on the first reading would realize that it is a Christian fairy tale.  I wish to argue that Arpeggio of Blue Steel is of the same class.

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Now, not everything in this series is explicable through the lens of the Bible.  In particular, I have no idea how to explain the initial scenario of intelligent robots coming down to earth and taking over the seas.  This scenario merely offers a field for Christian ideas to play out.  If anyone thinks the coming of the Fog refers to the fall of the angels, I wish instead to argue that the Fog represent the Jews.  This claim has neither to do with the origins of the Fog nor their being ships.

Maya never looks that cool in the anime.

Maya never looks that cool in the anime.

So, how do the Fog represent the Jews?  They run their careers according to a series of orders, which stopped coming at one point.  This is similar to how the Jews have 613 Mizvot, to which they have neither added or subtracted since the times of Moses if they are Orthodox.  And so, the Fog symbolizes humanity under the Old Covenant.

This is not a bad place to be; however, it cannot compare to the Law of Love found in the New Covenant: “This is my command: love each other” (John 15:17).  The New Testament requires love as the basis of our relationship toward God rather than strict justice, though love is both just and yet goes beyond justice so that our “righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law” (Matt. 5:20).  This is because under the Old Covenant people were slaves of God, but the New Covenant makes people friends of God: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). 

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Gunzou, the Christ figure of this anime, illustrates this concept that Christians are joined in friendship with their Lord.  Gunzou assembles a very diverse group of friends who are all one in his group: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  Whether playing at the beach or fighting against the Fog, one sees that friendship binds them together.  Also like Christ, Gunzou brings division: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).  But, is it Christ’s fault that He brings division?  That most amiable and lovable of persons who strove to reconcile all human beings with God?  Of course not!  One who seeks to reconcile people cannot be the cause of discord.  The enemies of Christ rage against the Cornerstone and are crushed (Luke 20:18).  In the same way, U-400 and U-402 strive to sink Gunzou’s ship and are lost themselves.  Gunzou’s near sacrifice of himself for Iona is reminiscent of Christ’s death on the Cross.  Lastly, the fact that Gunzou is the Captain of the U-401 mirrors the relationship of Christ to the Church, as Christ is the Head of the Church.

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Indeed, the amount of resistance among the Fog to Gunzou’s desire to reconcile them to humanity resembles the resistance of the Jews to the message of Christ.  In particular, Kongou’s resistance to Gunzou’s offer of friendship reminds one of the Pharisees’ refusal to accept Christ due to their hardness of heart (Mark 3:5)–if we take the mental model’s cores to symbolize their hearts, what else is Kongou’s leaving her core aboard ship but the refusal to give Gunzou her heart?  One almost imagines Kongou, after seeing how much Gunzou’s crew is enjoying themselves, asking: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?” (Matthew 9:14)  Like the Pharisees toward Jesus, Kongou finds herself attracted to Gunzou, but prefers the old wine of the law to the new wine of friendship (Luke 5:39).

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Shortly thereafter, we see the collusion of the Fog to kill Gunzou, which reminds one of the Sanhedrin’s plan to assassinate Jesus Christ.  Interestingly, Kongou ends up chained for her zeal in desiring U-401’s demise.  Who else is Kongou like except St. Paul, whose zeal for the traditions of his fathers and led him to “[breath] out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1).  The genius of having such a Pauline character makes the series.

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Unlike St. Paul though, Kongou breaks of the chains of the Fog’s directives but without accepting the friendship of Gunzou.  What has she done?  With neither the Law nor Love to steer her course, her own envy drives her quest to destroy U-401.  She even goes so far as to destroy her allies ships so that she can gain all the glory of destroying the U-401.  This reminds me of how the enemies of the Church are attracted to what the Church has and yet wish to destroy it at the same time.  As George MacDonald wrote in his Weighted and Wanting: “The world had given her the appearance of much of which Christ gives the reality.  For the world very oddly prizes the form whose informing reality it despises.”  Those outside the Church have no idea how happy the treasures of faith would make them.

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This event leads to the final confrontation between Kongou and Iona.  Iona gives her all to save Kongou from her envy.  The vast battery of firepower unleashed on Iona to prevent her approach imitates the way worldly people attempt to drive Christ away from them.  The frosty blades with which Kongou attempts to cut down Iona and the force field placed around the Fog’s place of meeting all show the hardness and coldness Christ is shown by the same people.  Yet, it is not Gunzou, whom I referred to as this series Christ figure, who approaches Kongou on this occasion, but Iona.  This refers to the fact that Christ acts through his members to bring people to salvation.  I am not sure whether it might be more appropriate to say that Iona is a Marian or apostolic figure.  She is certainly Gunzou’s most perfect follower.  Yet, we view St. Mary as being a more quiet and contemplative figure; yet, in the orthodox and medieval tradition of the Church contemplation and prayer considered far more active in bringing people to Christ than missionary work–though, we obviously need missionaries.  Why?  Because contemplatives have chosen the better part with another St. Mary (Luke 10:42): love purely focused on Christ.

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Be that as it may, Iona is sent as a lamb to a wolf (Matt. 10:16).  Kongou has become truly warped by her hatred of Gunzou, which leads to such hatred of herself that she warps the form of her ship and even wishes to destroy herself along with Iona.  Her envy is such that she cannot bear to see another person happy, since she believes that happiness does not lie in store for her.  But, Iona manages to touch Kongou’s heart, and thus they are saved, which reminds us of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s assertion that no one is saved alone.  The salvation of one always means the salvation of others.  To further the Pauline theme in the case of Kongou, recall Timothy 1:15-16: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.  But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.”  And so, Kongou’s darkness dissipates, her animosity toward Gunzou and his crew vanishes, and her Death Star-like airship returns to her true battleship form, events which show that she loves others now and loves herself truly.

Remember!  One can't properly love others unless one loves oneself.

Remember! One can’t properly love others unless one loves oneself.

So, what do you think of my evidence for Arpeggio of Blue Steel as a “spy anime”?  Am I correct or did I read too much into the show?  I think this might be the longest article I’ve ever written outside of the papers for school I have posted here!  I hope that everyone got to the end!

Japanese Film Posters for 2013 Releases

Here is a great compilation of Japanese movie posters of the past year, which has been put together by Genkinahito. With the amount of work he puts in at his blog, he is certainly very “genki.” His posts on Japanese cinema are always a treat.

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Moteki WallpaperEvery week I write a trailer post compiling all (or most) of the latest Japanese films released in Japan every weekend. There were lots and lots of Japanese films released in Japan this year. Lots. So many. So many I often wondered whether I might be better of collaborating with other writers to create these posts. If I wasn’t having fun I would have stopped. Fact is I’m a cinephile and a bit of a Japanophile so getting all of that information was fascinating and interesting. Plus I like drooling over Japanese actresses like the above. More importantly it has made great conversation points when talking to friends from the UK, Japan and elsewhere.

So, lots of films means lots of trailers and lots of posters and so I thought I’d compile all of the posters into a single article so people can see what was released and how cool the…

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Manga for the New Year

It seems like no matter how busy one is, there is always time for manga.  Also, one occasionally finds that rather little known titles are quite good.  As such, a large assortment of manga finds itself on my reading list.  The only problem with manga is that they are the madeleines of fiction: if one’s brain is not sufficiently satisfied with heavier works, no amount of manga is going to fill one up.  I suspect that one day I shall only read manga in Japanese–as I am currently doing for Busou Renkin, which counts as my second favorite manga from Nobuhiro Watsuki, the author of Rurouni Kenshin.

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Be that as it may, I would like to suggest these eight manga to enliven your new year.  Some are a little old, but you may not have stumbled upon them.  Without further ado. here is my list of short reviews:

fuyu-hanabi-36839251) Fuyu Hanabi by Hara Hidenori

The title translates to “Winter Fireworks” and relates a romance between a washed up actress and a boxer trying to come out of retirement.  They meet at Gon’s gym, where the heroine, Maki, shall learn a thing or two about boxing.  Their relationship starts off rocky, as Gon whacks Maki on the head with a slipper for coming into the gym with her boots on and smoking therein.  They gradually are drawn to one another as they learn to respect each other’s work and to feel comfortable around each other.  This manga lasts a mere 9 chapters, making this touching and humorous manga a good way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon.

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2) Zippy Ziggy written by Kim Un-jung and illustrated by Hwang Seung-man

This manwha stands completed at 86 chapters.  Korean comics can often be about as interesting as manga if not more.  This comic features a true anti-hero whose motto is that it is better to seem good than to be good.  (Please, no one follow that logic!)  However, this starts to change after he starts falling for a girl who moves in next door and she discovers that he is not the perfect student he makes others think that he is.  In return for keeping his dark side a secret, he must train in her mother’s dojo, which becomes necessary anyway after all the enemies he rapidly makes.  The heroine hopes that the martial arts can excise the vices from his personality.  (The Japanese belief that martial arts can perfect the soul might be seen from such schools as Aikido, whose syllables, despite the kanji’s meaning of “Way of Harmonious Energy,” could also be understood as “Way of Eternal Love”–as any die-hard Aikidoka could tell you.)  This rather fanservicey and somewhat standard shonen manwha separates itself from the pack in the quirkiness of the humor and often outrageous antics of the anti-hero.

Here's your creepy image of the day.

Here’s your creepy image of the day.

3) Tripeace by Maru Tomoyuki

Before I begin this review, let it be known that I dropped this one.  I included it here, however, because the manga does not appear objectively bad–just not my cup of tea.  At any rate, it concerns an immortal human being, who joins a peculiar organization with the goal of finding a way to end war.  Somehow, cross dressing gives him extra courage in battle and makes him more liked by one particular female in the organization, who believes the male and female versions of the protagonist to be two separate persons.  The battles are suitably outrageous and the protagonist often uses his wits or good luck in order to save the day.  Some of you might like it–some.

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4) Tonari no Seki-kun by Morishige Takuma

This high school comedy has a very Calvin and Hobbes like feel to it in that one wonders whether the action does not all derive from the overactive imagination of the heroine and narrator Yokoi, who sits next to the eccentric Seki-kun in class.  Seki-kun is always playing some random game rather than paying attention in class.  He brings in mechs to form a robot family, has chess pieces face off against shogi pieces, and follows his over-active imagination wherever it leads him.  These games always become ridiculous and Yokoi interferes in them occasionally.  This one was recommended to me by Sean Bishop, the author of The Freeloader, who had learned about it from his writer.  And am I glad that he recommended it!  Read this one for a good laugh.

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5) Seishun For-get by Mikabe Sesuna

Why the hyphen?  I have no idea.  This stands as a rather short romantic comedy at only 20 chapters.  It concerns the struggles of Natsuki to make the girl he has fallen for remember him.  You see, after saving his life and hearing Natsuki’s proposal that they become girlfriend and boyfriend, she readily agrees; however–like the heroine of Ef – A Tale of Memories, she cannot remember anything which happened the previous day.  The constant struggle of Natsuki to make Hinata remember him and the reversal which occurs in the second half of the manga make this a very fun and hilarious read.

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6) Psycho Busters written by Aoki Yuya and illustrated by Nao Akinari

This numbers among standard shonen fare, but, for all that, it’s very entertaining to read.  (Perhaps why some mangaka produce nothing but standard shonen manga.)  A high school student named Kakeru is impressed into a group of psychics by a pretty girl for whom he falls.  This happens while his family is away vacationing or working overseas–conveniently fitting in two weeks and 32 chapters of manga.  Among the psychics, he discovers that he happens to have the most powerful psychic ability, which is integral to him saving the world from destruction.  Yep, this manga is as standard as they come, but the characters are very likable and the plot well orchestrated.

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7) The Breaker: New Waves written by Jeon Geuk-jin and illustrated by Park Jin-hwan

Another somewhat standard shonen, but the intrigues of the martial arts’ world adds an extra dose of fun.  Basically, a young man who had been training under a famous master leaves martial arts because his ki center gets destroyed.  But, the Sun-woo clan discovers him to be the heir to the leadership of their clan, thrusting him back into the world of martial arts.  This forces him to undergo martial arts training despite his broken ki center if he wants to survive.  A hot-headed young lady named Jinie is assigned as his bodyguard both at and outside of school, which stands as a very entertaining relationship.  The series excels at the fights and contains a moderate level of fanservice made better by the artist’s skill in describing the contours of a woman’s body.  Anyway, I highly recommend this one.

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8) Youkai Apato no Yuuga na Nichijou by Kouduki Hinowa and illustrated by Waka Miyama

(As a side note, will someone please explain to me how a Japanese person can have the syllable “du” in his name?  I checked three websites to see whether this was a mistake, but they spelled it the same way each time.)

This one falls into your introspective supernatural category.  (Something about ghosts seems to make the Japanese reflective.)  Inaba, a college student eager to be liberated from his foster family, has the misfortune of having his dorm burn down.  This would mean that he would have to commute from home and the loss of liberty if he cannot find some place with an affordable rent.  He finds an apartment for 25,000 yen per mensem; however, the catch is that the apartment is haunted–very haunted indeed.  Fortunately, most of the ghosts are rather cool.  The kinds of stories here range from sentimental to spooky to action packed.  Most have a vein of humor running through them and are very enjoyable.

Favorite Anime of 2013

Well, the year 2013 is now past.  It offered many fun and interesting shows, and bloggers are writing about their favorites–either by genre or overall.  They are also looking at some of their favorite moments.  In my own case, I shall limit myself to declaring my favorite anime of 2013.

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The best anime Japan produced during the past year was Psycho-Pass, running from October 2012 – March 2013.  I love dark stories if they are done well and found the villain particularly fascinating.  (In case you were curious, Makishima Shogo also provided probably my favorite scene *spoiler alert* this year when he turned down the Chief’s offer for him to join the Sybil System.)  The writers also succeeded in adding many gray areas to the story which rendered it more intriguing: one wonders at times whether the society or the villain are more evil.  Then, the series’ allusions to literature rather than merely other anime and the way the characters question their current society make for an intellectual treat.  Finally, the characters all seemed rather unique, and the story shrouded itself with enough mystery that it kept the viewer on the edge of their seats wanting to pierce this veil.

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In brief, the above reasons make Psycho-Pass stand head and shoulders above all the anime produced last year.  Shin Sekai Yori also gave us a unique vision of a dystopia, but the characters are hardly as interesting and certain episodes almost bore me to tears, which explains why I have stalled at episode 10.  (But, it has an awesome ending song–I’ll give it that.)  I also thought about giving Majestic Prince or Dog x Scissors this honor.  (Yes, I enjoyed the latter show more than is healthy, but everyone needs a guilty pleasure or two.)

Happy New Year to all my followers!  May the new year offer us many new great anime!