Day Six of 10 Days to 300: My Neighbor Totoro

Watching this film makes me see why it is such a beloved movie!  The feeling one gets from watching it is akin to reading a good myth or a George MacDonald novel.  If you have yet to read George MacDonald, be sure to place his Phantasies and Lilith on your reading list.  Here’s some stuff I’ve written about his influence and I have mentioned him here, here, and here.

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The feeling which I’ve alluded to above is the feeling of touching the sublime or the fantastic.  In My Neighbor Totoro, we follow the wanderings of of two girls, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the country with their father.  People accept the world of fantasy as a matter of course, and the best human attitudes to its existence are playfulness and enjoyment.  For example, Mei’s response to finding totoro, a giant creature which combines the traits of a bunny and a bear, is nothing less than giggling delight.  Similar scenes and reactions to the fantastic make this a very heartwarming film.

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At the same time, the film does note that Japanese folklore can be pretty dark as well.  This darkness is especially well conveyed when Mei becomes lost in her desire to visit her sick mother.  The searchers find a small shoe in a body of water and try to uncover her body therein.  How much does one want to bet that, if Mei should have been found dead, the villagers would have claimed that a kappa got her?

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Then again, the movie displays superb animation and a wonderful family atmosphere.  You can see how tightly knit the family is from the way the children interact with their father, particularly during their bath together when they laugh and scream away their fear of the the storm raging outside.  I mentioned that Satsuki and Mei’s mother was ill earlier.  Other than play with Totoro, the children desire their mother’s return more than anything else.  This lends just enough tension to atmosphere of the film.  And so, I gave it a full five stars.  You might think that a bit generous, but My Neighbor Totoro is a wonderful film.

Overall Ratings for the Ten Movies

Yay!  I can now say that I have watched 300 anime!  It was a fun journey, and I very much enjoyed all of the films–even the one I didn’t like.  Thanks again to those who recommended the movies to me.  Using the star rating system, this is how I felt about the films.  In my case, half a star translates to an abomination (an honor shared by Cat Soup and X: The Movie); one through one and a half stars to a terrible film; two to two and a half stars to uninspiring; three to three and a half stars to this was pretty good; four stars to a great film which I’ll definitely watch again; and four and a half and five stars to a masterpiece.

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1) Tokyo Godfathers ★★★★1/2

2) Kiki’s Delivery Service ★★★1/2

3) Royal Space Force: Wings of the Honneamise ★★★★★

4) Wolf Children ★★★★

5) Whisper of the Heart ★★★★1/2

6) My Neighbor Totoro ★★★★★

7) Evangelion 3.0 ★★★

8) Paprika ★★★★★

9) Sky Crawlers ★1/2

10) Secret World of Arrietty ★★★★★

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Except for two of them, they were all great movies.  And of those two, Evangelion 3.0 suffered in my estimation for making the viewer feel lost much of the time–particularly in the first half hour–and feeling far too much like The End of Evangelion, a movie which makes one appreciate the TV series’ ending more.  But, the last five minutes of Evangelion 3.0 went a long way to redeeming the film and making me look forward to the final installment.  Sky Crawlers, though being a melancholy, boring, angsty, boring, unrealistic, and boring film which makes Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade look like a fast paced thriller, provides much food for thought.  Actually, a pretty good article should come from it.

Stay tuned for some reviews!  I should be able to place some up soon.

A Comparison of The Pentalogy of Otaku Media

Here’s Deluscar’s link to an article written by the same blogger on the different mediums enjoyed by otaku. A very instructive and enjoyable piece.

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HOJAQCwA Comparison of The Pentalogy of Otaku Media

A guest post I wrote for Nabe!!, where I discussed some fundamental differences, and pros and cons between the pentalogy of otaku media – anime, manga, games, visual novels and light novels.

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Gin no Saji and the many worries of Hachiken

Here is a great article on Hachiken, the protagonist of Gin no Saji. I might have to watch this show now. 🙂

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Hachiken has gradually grown and matured as a character during the first, and now second seasons of Gin no Saji, he has taken a proactive approach to his life by attending Yezo Agricultural High School, despite having no knowledge or experience of working in agriculture. Watching Hachiken come to terms with the idea of killing animals for food – an obvious fact, but one that is kept at a distance by most consumers who appear to take the various cuts of meat, and other meat products for granted – thus beginning to understand the realities of working on a farm. Furthermore, we see Hachiken change the way he views school work, as he may be very good at studying within the rigid, and predictable Japanese exam system, but he has little, and in some cases no real knowledge of the physical labour required to keep a farm running. These discoveries…

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Day 4 & 5 of 10 Days to 300: Wolf Children and Whisper of the Heart

Well, I’ve been delinquent, haven’t I?  I find myself behind three posts due to a lack of inspiration for anything besides fiction.  Conveniently, Wolf Children and Whisper of the Heart contain similar themes.  And so, I shall briefly write about them in the same post.

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Curiously, Wolf Children is a werewolf movie, but it’s does not fall in the horror genre.  As a matter of fact, I should prefer to call the Wolfman an ookami no youkai.  This story reminds me of a Japanese fairy tail about a kitsune no youkai (fox spirit, fairy, demon, whatever translation pleases you) who is saved by a certain peasant, marries him, and bears him several children by way of gratitude before returning to the wild during the man’s old age.  Unfortunately, the demise of Ookami happens immediately after they have their second child.  Ookami is most unceremoniously done away with, leaving Hana the care of their two children.

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Before I talk about how beautifully animated the movie is and how much we cheer for the main characters, I just want to get a few things off my chest: 1) If one likes someone enough to have them bear their children, they should marry.  You know, to prevent any social stigma from falling on their beloved in case one should die or something.  2) Once we have established that Hana fully accepts Ookami for who and what he is, having Ookami embrace Hana while in wolf form before they make love destroys any gravity the writer intended to convey in the said scene.  3) Despite being a single mother, Hana’s virtues, especially her cheerfulness, work ethic, kindness, and youth, ought to have gained her as many suitors as Penelope.  The film doesn’t speak about this, though Hana obviously becomes very popular with her neighbors in the countryside.  Admittedly, the film might have become less focused if they had included this matter, but it would have added more realism to the film unless Japanese men hold single mothers in utter disdain.  4) Snow is cold.  One doesn’t roll around in snow while barefoot and in pajamas.

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Besides those things, Wolf Children is a spectacular movie about self-sacrifice and finding your place in the world.  I loved its portrayal of rural Japan in particular.  There was both a spirit of self-reliance and community blossoming there, and the backgrounds were downright gorgeous.  Hana leads an incredibly hard life, and we cheer for her as she raises children who need to be watched around the clock.  Ame’s struggle to accept himself as more wolf than human was very compelling.  An excellent film!

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On the other hand, the only matter which I might complain about with Whisper in the Heart lies in its plot not being very imaginative: a high school girl struggles to find her dream and falls in love on the way.  However, the artful way they crafted the story and characters within this ordinary scenario–such that the viewer is not bored for one moment–deserves great praise.  The antique shop, Shizuku’s imagination, and the wandering cat, Moon, do succeed in adding that level of fantasy which we are used to seeing in Studio Ghibli films.  One might say that they displayed remarkable restraint in giving us a story set in a very ordinary world, where one needs to examine it closely in order to perceive the magic within it and its people.

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Indeed, the level of reality in the film is so impressive that one might find themselves in certain of the characters or even their own family in Shizuku’s.  I especially enjoyed the way the film handled the conflict between Shizuku and her family over Shizuku’s dream, which conflicts with the ordinary path taken by Japanese children.  One needs to watch this remarkable film!

Day Three of 10 Days to 300: Wings of the Honneamise

Royal Space Force: Wings of the Honneamise is one of those films which reminds me of why I got into anime in the first place.  This film cannot be considered as less than a masterpiece–worth five full stars!  I am grateful to John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffith for recommending that I watch The Right Stuff before watching this feature.  One sees that Wings of the Honneamise owes much to this earlier film which concerns the rush to break the speed of sound and the space race.  (Can I add that it is amazing to see Fred Ward, Ford Harrison, and Ed Harris looking so young?  Pretty soon, I’m going to sound like my parents: “Is that so-and-so?  Ah, he looks so young in that movie!”)  But, whereas The Right Stuff concerned freedom, being who you are, and having the courage to brave any obstacle; The Wings of the Honneamise studied the divisions between people and asked the question of whether these divisions can ever be mended.  I must warn you that there are spoilers ahead, but, like anything worthy of being considered a masterpiece, one’s enjoyment of such a work actually increases by knowing the themes running through this kind of work.

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At any rate, the world of the film is very divisive: man and woman, nation and nation, civilian and military, rich and poor, secular and religious, and city and country are sharply contrasted.  Each side only considers their own advantage and refuses to take the point of view of the other.  A particular triumph of the film is how they were able to focus on the larger problem through the relationship of Shiro and Riquinni.  They meet one evening as Riquinni passes out religious pamphlets.  He decides to see her the next day under the guise of talking about religion.  Nevertheless, she inspires him with the idea that going into space is a holy mission for which he has a special calling.

That's a picture to boost an astronaut's confidence!  There was a similar scene in The Right Stuff.

That’s a picture to boost an astronaut’s confidence! There was a similar scene in The Right Stuff.

The begins a process of reconciliation between the two which frames the story of the Royal Space Force’s struggles in making the first successful launch into space.  You might say: “What do you mean by reconciliation?  Reconciliation happens after one or two parties have been wronged, right?”  But, according to Riquinni’s religion–just like in Christianity–there has been an Original Sin from which all the suffering and division which human beings now experience may be attributed.  Riquinni and Shiro both suffer from its effects:  one is too high and the other is too low.  Shiro is a secular, rich, and military man.  Riquinni is a religious, poor, and civilian woman.  The first part of their reconciliation occurs when Shiro starts to listen to Riquinni’s religion.  The second follows shortly as he pleases Riquinni by telling her that he is a soldier who doesn’t kill.  (As if there is something wrong with a soldier that kills the enemies of his country.)  As a matter of fact, he even begins to study her holy book.

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But, the problem is that Riquinni wishes to remain high–so high that Shiro can’t reach her, as was pointed out in her batting away his hand when he went to hold it.  I am reminded of Samuel Johnson’s quote: “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner on his table than when his wife speaks Greek.”  Events come to a head the night after Shiro helps Riquinni pass out some pamphlets.  Shiro is thoroughly stressed by negative media coverage, protests, and all the other hurdles those in the Space Force endure.  He goes to her for hugs and kisses and gets the usual hospitality, which depresses him as he lazes about on the floor.  Idleness ever sows harmful ideas in one’s head, and Shiro sexually assaults Riquinni as she changes for bed.  Fortunately, the attempt is foiled by Riquinni bashing him on the head.

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The next day, he sheepishly apologizes to Riquinni, who responds that he must forgive her; otherwise, she could not live with herself.  Shiro is nonplussed, but I think that she more wants his forgiveness for her other-worldliness and coldness than for bashing him on the head.  In his last attempt to visit her, he’s about to return to base without having seen her.  Riquinni steps onto the train’s boarding platform as Shiro steps up into the train.  They see each other and bid each other good bye as the train departs.  One might wrongly view this as a final separation, but it actually marks their reconciliation: Riquinni has come down and Shiro has climbed up.  Riquinni will still be there when Shiro returns from space.

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As war breaks out between Shiro’s land and their greatest enemy, Shiro risks his life to get into space.  While in space, he leaves a message for mankind.  Essentially, he hopes for reconciliation between all peoples, but only God can bring this about.  He calls prayer the humblest and noblest action a man can do, because one reveals one’s utter need of God and trusts in Him.  People are helpless in the face of ignorance, sin, and division, but God can solve all of these problems.

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So yes, your life is not complete until you have seen this film.  Stay tuned for my review of Wolf Children!

Day Two of 10 Days to 300: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Hmm…I find myself rather underwhelmed by Kiki’s Delivery Service.  The film features a solid story and spectacular animation, but it failed to click with me.  Perhaps your humble blogger is to old for it?  The movie is essentially a coming of age story, where an adolescent witch named Kiki must find her own town in which to reside.  She discovers the city of her dreams, some good friends, and many obstacles to overcome.  The characters all stand as very likable.

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Hence, this is a solid film, but not too appealing for me.  *Spoiler Alert*  Kiki’s loss of her magical powers stood out as my favorite part in the movie.  I found her conversation with the artist during this trial especially interesting.  The artist compared magic to the creative impulse, saying that God is responsible for inspiring our hearts and that art as well as magic must be original.

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And so, this is a wonderful movie for children, adolescents, and their parents.  But, in my case, I had a lack of identification with most of the characters.  It needs to be more otaku-ish for viewers like me, I suppose.

Day One of 10 Days to 300: Tokyo Godfathers

The first time this movie came to my knowledge was during junior year of high school.  The disease known as otakuism just infected me through Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin.  The magazine Anime Insider became my second favorite monthly publication after American Hunter.  (Due to our father never taking my brother and I shooting, Anime Insider soon became my first.  That which one can realize is ever superior to that which one must dream about!)  When the new issue of Anime Insider was released, the most important task of the day was to absorb all the material it contained from the Editor’s Letter to the Parting Shot; though, I confess that The Death of the Month was my favorite recurrent feature.  Around this time, the magazine must have praised Tokyo Godfathers.  And so, I recommended to my father that we watch this movie.  (He had become interested in anime through Vampire Hunter D, Princess Mononoke, and Rurouni Kenshin.)  However, the inclusion of a transvestite among the main characters caused him to strike down this recommendation.  Being an obedient child, I decided that this was sufficient cause never to watch this movie myself.

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After ten years of hearing praise concerning this film, I included it among the choices for the present series, “10 Days to 300.”  A part of me was surprised that it made it to the #1 spot in the poll, but after watching the film, I can see why so many people love this movie.  The presence of the transvestite bothered me a little at first until I accepted the character as he was.  Hana is the highest minded of the three characters, which is shown by his knowledge of Dostoyevsky and predilection for composing haiku on the fly.

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The thing which surprised me most about he movie was the degree of action it contained.  Gin, the bearded protagonist, remarks that he’s no action movie hero.  Naturally, he later features in some of the hairiest situations in the film.  As expected, the film probed human nature, had great characters, and featured excellent comedy.  Miyuki, the runaway, gives some of the best laughs.  Aya Okamoto does a superb job voicing her, which makes it a shame that she has not done any other anime roles and seems to have retired from acting after Metro ni Notte (2006).

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Overall, the film stands as a great work.  It earns high marks for its story and characters, each of whom has an interesting story about how they wound up on the streets.  Themes of family and forgiveness run throughout–important for a country which seems to dislike the positive use of the verb yurusu “to forgive.”  These themes were rendered yet more touching by the action being set on Christmas.  Also interesting is the theme of Providence–that Kiyoko is especially blessed by God.  I must say that the climax of the movie and that Gin’s relationship with her causes him to come into possession of two bottles of Hennessy V.S.O.P. certainly prove it!

Who says the two shall never meet?

Who says the two shall never meet?

If any of my readers have not seen this film, I recommend them to do so–nevermind Hana!

Time to Start the Movie Series!

Thanks to all my dear readers that participated in the poll!  The ten movies I’ll be watching are:

1) Tokyo Godfathers

2) Kiki’s Delivery Service

3) Wings of the Honneamise

4) Wolf Children

5) Whisper of the Heart

6) My Neighbor Totoro

7) Evangelion 3.0

8) Paprika

9) Sky Crawlers

10) The Secret World of Arietty

I listed them in order of the choice’s popularity.  Tokyo Godfathers was the clear winner.  So, I shall start with watching that movie right now.  Expect a brief review tomorrow!

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A Reminder to Vote on the Poll!

I just wanted to remind my dear readers that this poll concerning what movies to watch in a series expires tomorrow at 6 PM EST.  I currently have a four way tie for 10th place, so I might have to draw cards or something unless the results become more definite.  So far, it looks like Tokyo Godfathers, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Wolf Children, and Whisper of the Heart will certainly be among the movies I’m going to watch.  Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, Kara no Kyoukai, The Secret World of Arietty, and You’re Under Arrest are those tied for tenth.  Thanks for your participation!

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Broken Blade and Meditations on Human Misery

As many of you know, I’m incredibly fond of a manga called Broken Blade or Break Blade.  I just finished watching the superbly animated series of OVAs based on the first part of that manga.  They follow a protagonist named Rygart, who’s considered useless for his rare inability to use magic.  Somehow, this very deficiency allows him to pilot an ancient mech discovered around this time.  This fortunate event comes of the heels of war being declared against the kingdom ruled by Rygart’s best friends from college: King Hodr and Queen Sigyn.

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The mech transforms this useless and disappointing guy into a hero.  However, even all the talent he has for piloting this mech avails naught against General Borcuse.  *Spoilers ahead!  You have fair warning!*  In the final battle of the series with everything on the line, Rygart fanatically attacks Borcuse’s larger and more powerful mech with his now ragged looking mech.  All his weapons break and Borcuse toys with him.  At last, Rygart is given a curious looking weapon–which doesn’t work!  At least at first, but through swinging it around enough times, he gains the victory.  YOU MUST WATCH THIS FIGHT!!!!  ITS AWESOMENESS DEFIES EXPLANATION!!!!

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*Ahem*  Now, that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can begin tying the above to human misery.  Rygart’s situation in the OVAs parallels a believer’s in many ways.  We are hounded by our sense of misery, incapacity, and guilt: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).  Though we make great strides in faith and virtue, at last we find a difficult opponent who mocks us by our failure to conquer him.  We overcame large faults, but grow melancholy under nickel and dime temptations; or, we gain little virtues, but have a great fault that downs us often.  Our prayer and penance, by which we conquered our other foes, don’t eradicate this new enemy.  We get tired and frustrated.  Our hope wears thin.  Each prayer and penance seems a joke: our lower soul wishes to burst out laughing perhaps in the middle of prayer for humility, chastity, patience, peace, piety, hope, industry, or magnanimity as our higher soul mourns our infidelity.  Our efforts fall into Einstein’s definition of insanity.  Essential acts strike us as absurd.  Yet, their very absurdity is no argument for their discontinuation!

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Human misery, even if we focused on a single person, gapes as an unfathomably terrifying abyss.  We have no reason to “believe in ourselves” as the popular mantra goes, and many reasons to distrust ourselves.  These powerful foes or nickel and dime temptations I mentioned earlier cannot be escaped by dint of effort–especially the smaller temptations which attack us like annoying flies.  We need to patiently endure every hour of the day and carry these temptations even to our beds, knowing that victory is not in our hands, but in God’s.

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Yet, let not the struggle depress anyone: what more perfect edifice has God’s Infinite Mercy to build upon than unfathomable human misery?  Indeed, God’s Mercy shows its very infinitude by filling up human misery with its grace, forgiveness, and strength.  Like Rygart, we must swing the weapons of prayer and penance unceasingly.  We feel like asses in our inability to perceive the benefit of these actions, but we must also imitate the donkey in our stubbornness.  In patience, we shall possess our souls!

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I have borrowed from St. Francis de Sales for the above paragraphs, and would heartily recommend his Introduction to the Devout Life or Jean Pierre Camus’s The Spirit of St. Francis for anyone interested in learning more of his wisdom.

Ten More Anime to 300 and a Series of Films

Well, I only need ten more anime to make the total number of works I have watched reach 300.  And so, I have decided to start watching one movie per diem beginning on Friday.  The next day, I’ll give a brief review of the film.  And so, I would like to conduct a poll to see which movies would interest my dear readers most.  The top ten movies by 6 PM EST on Valentine’s Day will be reviewed by yours truly.  I hope this also reminds me to wish my sister a happy birthday on the same day!

Have fun with the poll!  You can pick up to ten choices!

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The Reach of Selfishness

TheWannabeSaint.com

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Often times we think of selfishness as something we do for ourselves but it can also be something we do to others.

Whether it is an overbearing parent planning out the future for their child, a spouse pushing their loved one up the corporate ladder, a friend always giving unsolicited advice, or a boss refusing to hear an employee’s innovative idea. Selfishness says; “my way or the highway, I know best, I do not suffer fools lightly,” and of course the foolish ones are those who do not share their vision of how life should be.

In the end it’s all about control. Selfishness comes from a place inside of us which demands our present and future, and those we claim to care about, go according to our plans.

Selfishness never leads to contentment , only to frustration and loneliness.

blessings,
bdl

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The Catena Aurea and the Importance of Authority in Biblical Interpretation

Having read five chapters of commentary on the Gospel of Matthew,  I would like to recommend St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea to my dear readers.  This work was perhaps the best present I received around Christmas, especially since Scripture somehow seems less enlightening of late.  (The fault lies with my own pride.)  The Catena Aurea parses passages of the Gospels with passages from the Church Fathers on the Gospels and doctrine.  The doctors St. Thomas Aquinas draws from most frequently are St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Remigius, and St. Leo the Great–my Confirmation patron.

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I mentioned that my perusing of Scripture has not been as penetrating as formerly, which reminds me of how the Bible has been called God’s “Closed Book” while nature is God’s “Open Book.”  This derives from the fact that the meaning of the Scriptures must be revealed by the Holy Spirit.  One might believe that they can gain a literal understanding of the Scriptures without the Holy Spirit; but how often does one hear things like “I stopped believing when I saw that Scripture passages contradicted themselves” or that someone takes a literalistic view of scriptures and does something that Scripture did not intend–such as when Origen castrated himself so that he might enter the kingdom maimed rather than tossed whole into everlasting flames.  The best thing that a Christian can do in order to perceive the true meaning of the Scriptures is to follow the pronouncements of established authority.

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The Christian faith, unlike philosophy, relies on authority.  The great difficulty of Protestantism is that it acknowledges an authoritative work–the Bible, but has no authoritative interpreters.  Once when I boasted to a Lutheran friend of mine that I should have no trouble passing myself off as a Lutheran by merely agreeing with Luther, he countered that I would be discovered right away: a good Lutheran holds points of contention with the founder, and my friend thought the very name “Lutheran” actually misleading.  But, even among Protestants, there are recognized authorities, even if they might be cast off should they conflict with one’s personal interpretation.

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Never thought you’d see a picture of Martin Luther on this site, did you?

Catholics have it easy: the Church councils, the pope speaking ex cathedra, and the bishops acting in concert and in communion with the Pope have infallible interpretative authority.  They are guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that they cannot err.  In order of authority, the Doctors of the Church come after this.  These men strove to uphold the truth of Christian doctrine and remain loyal to the Church.  By adhering to authority, they tended to be on the side of the right, though they were occasionally wrong when the Church had not clarified doctrine completely or needed to confess ignorance on certain questions.  Most famously, St. Augustine was unsure whether original sin was placed on newly created souls by God, passed on by the souls of the parents, or derived from the taint of lust during conception.  Now, we know that the first view is correct, but this remained an unsettled question during the time of St. Augustine.  Next in authority come other saints, clergy, theologians, religious teachers, and lastly us ordinary lay people.

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That’s right.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably with me on the bottom of the totem pole as the least reliable interpreters of Scripture and doctrine.  For example, I imprecisely held that baptism removed original sin from the soul.  Rather, it removes original guilt from the soul, i.e. we still suffer from the effects of original sin (concupiscence), but are no longer denied entrance into heaven.  Of course, I knew that concupiscence existed, but I thought that this derived from the fact that we have physical bodies in an imperfect state.  Live and learn!  Unless we subscribe to an authority, especially the most perfect authority of the Church, we ought to always keep in mind that our understanding of Scripture and doctrine might be incorrect.  Humility is God’s favorite virtue, and we should quickly become proud should we believe in our own infallibility.

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People joke that Catholics do not read the Bible, but Catholics do read works written by people adept at Scripture and have a pastor interpret the readings of the Mass every Sunday.  This priest himself relies on the Office of Readings, other theological works, and a period of education and training typically lasting from 6 to 12 years.  (Priests called “lifers” go to high school seminary, college seminary, and then theological seminary.)  Even more than Newton, Christian teachers must stand on the shoulders of giants, especially the colossal figures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

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Then again, there is a second kind of authority important for the ordinary Christian: the lives of the saints and servants of God.  By looking at how they applied Scripture and doctrine to their lives, we can apply the precepts of Scripture more accurately to our own.  The Golden Legends stands as my favorite collection of saints’ lives, but Butler’s Lives of the Saints probably has a wider following and contains fewer passages requiring one to take a grain of salt.  For more modern examples, the lives of Padre Pio, Mother Theresa, St. Guiseppe Moscati, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati are remarkably edifying.

Feeling the weight of my own ignorance upon me, I shall probably decline from writing spiritual articles for a while.  However, I shall work on expanding my understanding through the clear vision of the Fathers and might write an article with stuff I steal borrow from them.  My the Holy Spirit enlighten the minds of us all!

An Apology for Savagery: Explaining the Crime-Ridden yet Pure Soul of Esdese

I’ve been pondering the character Esdese from Akame ga Kiru for a while now, because her character eludes explanation.  It seems impossible that such a bad character can appear so innocent when the manga takes us away from her job.  Her terrible crimes seem to call for judgment, and yet one almost wishes her to get off scot-free.  I described her worldview as Nietzschean in my prior article, but the more I read the more apparent it becomes that she does not base her worldview in a philosophy.  Rather, her understanding of right and wrong derives from her coming from a savage society, and having these ideals rather confirmed by living in a “civilized” society which has been reduced to a state of nature.  I would recommend reading Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Society if any of my dear readers find the points I am about to make interesting.

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When we are first introduced to Esdese, we hardly come off with a good opinion of her: she subjugates some rebels with fierce reprisals, forces a certain rebel to lick her boots, and later she gives pointers to some torturers on how to increase human suffering.  Shortly after the last scene, she greets the king and prime minister in the throne room.  Upon being asked whether she has any new goals, she declares–in complete incongruity with her prior actions–that she wishes to fall in love and produces a ridiculous list of  desired traits for her lover.

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Seryuu actually disturbs me quite a bit more than Esdese.

I must confess, I did not much care for Esdese until she produced that list.  At the same time, I did not know what to make of it.  Love should be the last thing a person of this sort wants.  None of the other hardcore villains desires love!  And yet, outside of the scenes where she inflicts pain on others, she can be heartwarming and cute.  Which brings me to the point I made earlier: how can cruelty and kindness exist in the same character and appear authentic?

Pardonnez la fanservice.

Pardonnez la fanservice.

The solution to the enigma of Esdese lies in her being a savage.  (Kudos to the mangaka for making an blond haired, blue eyed savage!) She dresses like a Nazi, which perhaps first led me to compare her ideas to Nietzsche, but perhaps a deerskin shirt and breeches would suit her character better.  She hales from the frigid north of the Empire and was raised to believe that it was natural for the strong to do whatever they liked to the weak.  Her father tells her not to feel sad that her mother was killed–’tis natural–nor to feel pity for the live animal they harvest some organs from–’tis natural.  (I’m sure she first develops a taste for torture here.)  Lastly, he even tells her not to grieve for his own death as he lays dying with their tribe annihilated!  That’s quite natural too!

Esdese young

In the movie Ulzana’s Raid, Burt Lancaster’s character claims that hating an Apache because he is cruel is like hating the desert because it has no water.  Similarly, Esdese was brought up in a state of nature and displays its values: “Life is nasty, brutish, and short,” as Thomas Hobbes says.  In the above named essay, Adam Ferguson writes that Native Americans tortured those of their enemies they found brave.  It was actually an insult to be killed quickly!  In certain cases, they would even remember fondly the guts a certain warrior displayed under torture!  (Couldn’t resist the pun.)  One wonders whether Esdese believes that she is showing regard for her defeated foes’ bravery when she shows them the same treatment.

Here's a scene from when she picked up her special weapon.  She overcame these temptations without losing her mind.

Here’s a scene from when she picked up her special weapon. She overcame these temptations without losing her mind.

Her person reminds one of the part in the Gospels where Christ says that someone who ignorantly does something worthy of a severe beating will be beaten lightly (Luke 12:48).  Esdese’s simplicity (she was an incredibly docile child) and ignorance of civilized morals–which are even more obscured due to the present state of affairs–make one think of her as a lion: beautiful, strong, graceful and yet would think nothing of mangling any animal smaller than it.  We don’t blame lions for ferocity.  Nor can we blame Esdese that much even though she does things truly horrible.  Instead, we wish for this savage to become civilized–or at least to metamorphose into a knight.  Tatsumi concludes that there is no saving her, but plenty of other violent races have become gentle through religion or philosophy: Christianity made the Vikings and Native Americans gentle and Buddha’s teachings changed Tibetans for the better.  So, one hopes that Esdese can realize that there is a better way to live than in the state of nature.  At any rate, I find it impossible to hate this cruel, charming, bloodthirsty, cute savage.

Akame ga Kiru

Renuntiatio Brevis

Here’s just a brief summary of what I’m watching this season.  Also, I just finished the first draft of a short story.  A nice piece set in a familiar fantasy world of mine.  Once I have it edited and checked over by certain readers, I intend to hit the 2014 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and see who might take it.  If no one wants it or the publication doesn’t mind me publishing it in other venues, I’ll post it as a page here for those of my dear readers who like fantasy.

This image rather fits the tone of the story I wrote.

This image rather fits the tone of the story I wrote.

At any rate, my favorite anime this season has been Noragami, a fantasy anime set in modern times.  It follows the episodic adventures of a daemon (i.e. low level and unnoticed god.  I can’t resist using classical terms.) named Yato and two people who meet him in his quest to become the most important god in Japan.  The episodes tend to be quite funny.  The animation is the most beautiful I’ve seen this season.  Episode four promises that a main plot might develop down the road, but I’m enjoying the crazy adventures and references to other anime.  In particular, elements of this series remind me of Samurai Deeper KyoHell Girl, and Rurouni Kenshin.  I’d place it as my clear favorite for this season.

Yukine wins the award of most awesome katana of the season, I'd say.

Yukine wins the award of most awesome katana of the season, I’d say.

Witchcraft Works stands as my second favorite.  It deals with a young high school boy who learns that a class of witches want to steal a magical component in him, but Kagari, the most popular girl in school and a puissant witch on the side of law and order, takes him under her wing.  The two protagonists tend to be rather straightforward in their relationship, which is rather refreshing.  The show is incredibly lighthearted, all the characters are extremely likable, and the episodes get better every week.

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Next, I highly anticipate episodes of Tonari no Seki-kun.  These shorts are always incredibly amusing and carry the zany ambiance of the manga.  It’s a comedy that covers the ridiculous games a school girl’s classmate, Seki-kun, plays on his desk.  You absolutely must make time to watch these shorts!

tonari

Then, Wizard Barristers edges out The Pilot’s Love Song by dint of being more original.  I’ve never seen an anime where a lawyer is the main character.  Several things annoy me about the plots in Wizard Barristers, but it has the chance to become more interesting.  If not, I might drop this one.  Similarly, The Pilot’s Love Song needs to become a little more original.  Something needs to separate it from Last Exile, but we’ll see.

Cecil

Of the shows I would still like to check out, Strange+ and Magical Warfare make me the most curious.  (Then again, I still need to see Unbreakable Machine Doll.  No one I know really blogged about this show, which could be why I failed to pick it up.)  I might give Nobunaga the Fool a second chance, but everything I’ve heard about the Nobunaga of history has rather made me despise him.  So, there’s only the slimmest chance of me identifying with this hero.  (I’m more likely to cheer for his opponents.)  Lastly, certain bloggers have written good things about D-Frag, so I might watch that.