A great piece on hope.
Monthly Archives: March 2014
Freeloader on Facebook
My long time readers know how enthusiastic I am about the upcoming cartoon based on Sean Bishop’s The Freeloader. After all, I’ve written about the comic on four occasions (The Freeloader to be Animated, A Little Review of The Freeloader, Retractio Tabulae Proximae, My First Foray into a Con) and mentioned its creator on one other occasion. For my hard work, Sean Bishop and his writer, Clover SH, have decided to make me administrator of the comic’s Facebook page. I encourage anyone who has an interest in American cartoons–particularly cartoons influenced by anime–to like the page and take a look at some of his fine artwork.
The Importance of the Holy Spirit
While reading Yvain: the Knight of the Lion by Chrétien de Troyes, the more numerous references to the Holy Spirit than to any other person of the Trinity struck me. As a matter of fact, the author seems to refer to the Holy Ghost 90% of the time when referring to a Person of the Trinity, even a Mass is held “for the honor of the Holy Ghost.” Modern Christians do not as often ponder the relationship they have to the Holy Ghost as much as the kind we have with the Father or the Son. Medievals seem more attuned to the role of the Spirit in their lives than moderns.
Once when St. Ignatius of Loyola pondered why he prayed to the separate persons of the Trinity since all the prayers went to same God, he received a miraculous understanding that praying to the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit was like playing three beautiful notes which came together in a brilliant harmony. We ought to recognize the role of each Person of the Trinity in our lives so that we might cultivate a stimulating and beautiful understanding of God. Nothing higher, more sublime, more beautiful, more virtuous, more noble, or more holy may be thought that God Himself. When I consider the role of God the Father in my life, I imagine that He works mainly through Providence: leading me away from physical and spiritual harm, providing my daily necessities, and in other ways guiding the course of my life. God the Son stands the model of the most perfect life, the highest wisdom, and the example of and source of mercy. Our Crucified Lord gives me the grace to turn away from sin and be made into His image and likeness. The Holy Spirit I view as the Person inspires us to every good deed and invigorates us with every virtue.
We can only live our Christian lives through the indwelling and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I once read an atheist’s vexation with Christians, because Christians attribute every good deed to God and refuse to take credit themselves. There is credit in saying yes to God, but we could not even have thought to do any good work without God’s grace. We can neither fear God nor believe the most basic precepts of the faith without the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…” (John 6:44). At the same time, the agency of the Holy Spirit draws men to the Truth.
Not only does the Holy Spirit act through Christians, in whom the Spirit acts to bring us “to the whole measure and fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), but also in people ignorant of the True Faith. The gifts of the Holy Spirits are fear of God, piety, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, understanding, and wisdom. Whenever these are manifested in a human being, I cannot but believe that the Holy Spirit produces these effects. We can only pray that the Holy Spirit will find the conditions right to add faith to these persons now living outside the fold.
If anything has made our relationship with the Holy Spirit less evident in modern times, I would say that it is due to the emphasis on justification over sanctification. The modern man is so burdened by sin that he feels like he cannot overcome vice, but Jesus Christ must save him from the very mouth of hell. It is true that we require God’s salvation lest we perish everlastingly, but part of our salvation is to see the divine likeness growing in us every day. The Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ and under the Providence of the Father accomplishes this without fail in those that seek Him. Here are a couple of prayers to the Holy Spirit which you might find useful this Lent in considering the action of the Holy Spirit in your life.
St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.
St. Bonaventure’s Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
O Lord Jesus,
through You I humbly beg the merciful Father
to send the Holy Spirit of grace,
that He may bestow upon us His sevenfold gifts.
May He send us the gift of WISDOM,
which will make us relish the Tree of Life
that is none other than Yourself;
the gift of UNDERSTANDING,
which will enlighten us;
the gift of COUNSEL,
which will guide us in the way of righteousness;
and the gift of FORTITUDE,
which will give us the strength to vanquish
the enemies of our sanctification and salvation.
May He impart to us the gift of KNOWLEDGE,
which will enable us to discern Your teaching
and distinguish good from evil;
the gift of PIETY,
which will make us enjoy true peace;
and the gift of FEAR,
which will make us shun all iniquity
and avoid all danger of offending Your Majesty.
To the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit
be given all glory and thanksgiving forever.
Anime Hair Colors: What Do They Mean? (An All-in-One Personality Guide)
A cool analysis of anime hair colors.
An article noting rightly that our modern society owes more to Chistianity than people wish to believe.
The odd reality is that the primary figures of the scientific revolution were actually religious men, both protestant and catholic; Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, and Pascal.
Both the scientific figures as well as the enlightenment literary men of philosophy mentioned about have had a massive influence on the way that all western people think. There are in effect three groups of men who had a massive impact on the western modern man. 1) The group of men associated with the scientific revolution, 2) those associated with the enlightenment, 3) and finally those…
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Retro anime: Angel Cop is a much-needed 1980s antidote to moetrash
I have to watch this show now. Nothing like old school anime.
When watching post-2000 anime, you may often feel that you’re overdosing on moe.
You may notice that the cast is 95% female, and that all these females have baby faces even if their breasts are huge and gravity-defying.
You may feel that the show exists only to pump more moe into the culture. That is moetrash syndrome, and the best way to fight it is with harshly anti-moe art styles.
Example: Angel Cop
There are a couple of pretty ladies, but they look like they’re at least 20 years old, and they have bodies like Olympic athletes.
The cast includes OLD MEN, and THEY HAVE WRINKLES. These are not your typical two or three laugh lines like you might find in typical modern anime. These guys look like their wrinkles are harsh enough to use as sandpaper. You could strike blue-tip matches on the beard stubble these guys have.
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A Fortunately Lackluster Season?
I tried to write a proper post on the 2014 Spring season, but I have not found an anime season so depressing since the Spring season of 2012. Of the nine which I have listed below, I find myself most interested in Mekakucity Actors and Gokukoku no Brynhildr. The first anime because Overlord Bear is thrilled about the series, and the second series because it comes from the pen of the author of Elfen Lied. That’s a solid recommendation. Here’s the list with parenthetical commentary where I please:
1) Knights of Sidonia
2) Black Bullet
3) Mekakucity Actors
4) Captain Earth
5) Gokukoku no Brynhildr
6) Fuun Ishin Dai Shogun (Can’t the Japanese get over the fact that they lost WWII?)
7) Hitsugi no Chaika (I can’t resist picaresque tales.)
8) Nanana’s Buried Treasure
9) Abarebou Rikishi!! Matsutaro (From the mangaka of Ashita no Joe. I really want to watch that classic one day.)
My lack of enthusiasm for the new season makes me feel like I’m going through an anime doldrums. (I might even eventually drop all of these shows.) But, I am still keenly interested in Kill la Kill, Witchcraft Works, Noragami, Hajime no Ippo: Rising, and Tonari no Seki-kun. Then, certain shows are on my watching list which I should plow through when I get the chance, like El Cazador de la Bruja, Infinite Stratos II, and Bodacious Space Pirates. (I still need to write my opinion of the last show in that list.) Then again, Cajun Samurai managed to get me interested in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, which now happens to be streaming on Hulu. I expect this old anime to contain disappointments, but it sounded like enjoyable.
So, this season’s main benefit to me is that I can catch up on all the old shows which I have wanted to watch but not found the time for. Anyone have a more positive view of the upcoming season?
Spring 2014 Anime Preview
Caraniel’s Ramblings is the best place to get descriptions of and opinions on all upcoming shows. Is it bad that I’m happy that so few shows are worthwhile? Gotta fix my backlog!
Anyway on to the rather lengthly preview – it’s taken me the better part of a week to do this, my RSI is flaring up again!
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Progressing through New Manga
Here’s an article to remedy the dearth of manga reviews on this site. As you know, manga happens to include some of my favorite light reading–or, if untranslated, not so light, but nevermind that! And so, I wish to give you my opinion of one incredibly popular and four not so popular manga.
1) Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
First, let me get the hit manga out of the way. All of my dear readers must be familiar with this manga on some level. Somehow, I have managed to read 375 chapters of the manga. (Before anyone worries about me being sucked into a Fairy Tail oblivion, I have decided not to watch more of the anime. Almost 400 chapters of manga does not need to be supplemented!) Fairy Tail has taken a dark turn, which might be expected since the villains are honest-to-goodness demons. One torture scene made me particularly uncomfortable. When did Fairy Tail become Akame ga Kiru? Well, that’s an exaggeration but conveys the change of mood rather well.
This manga, even if very fanservicey, still stands as one of the greatest works coming out of Japan. But, what should one expect when the author claims to have been influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien?
2) Break Shot by Takeshi Maekawa
I’m sure that I passed over this manga at one point. Probably without good reason. Anime based on table top games, such as Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou, count among my favorites and billiards is not too far removed. However, the more I read the more I discovered why this manga never gained much popularity: the situations become more contrived as the manga goes on. We almost expect the hero to win in one shot every time. Unlike in go or shogi (my two favorite games next to chess), there are not too many opportunities for reversals. A go game might have as much as 320 moves, and the tide can turn as much as three or four times in a nail biting game. Not so much professional billiards.
So much for a 1987 billiard manga. The characters are rather likable, and I like how it offers tips on how to play pool; but, the games become atrociously dull.
3) Breath of Fire – Ryuu no Senshi by Yakumo Hiroshi
Speaking of retro manga, here’s a fantasy series based on video games of the same name. This is a delightful fantasy romp over the course of six chapters. Breath of Fire features a standard strong, young hero who is assisted in his quest to defeat an evil goddess by a winged maiden, some therianthropic sidekicks, and a half snake sorceress. The message is a very simple “one cannot overcome evil with hate,” but I find few things as enjoyable as a decent 90’s fantasy anime or manga.
4) Hatenkou Yuugi, a.k.a. Dazzle by Minari Endou
This is a fun picaresque tale of a young lady–fourteen going on fifteen–whose father kicks her out of the house so that she might see the world. She quickly befriends a Model 1911 toting albino named Alzeid, who is looking for his father’s killer. Later, a clownish fighter named Baroqueheat joins the group. His favorite hobby seems to be teasing Rahzel, but she takes it in stride and delivers beat downs as necessary. Some of the stories can be pretty dark, and the characters’ banter is at least as humorous as that of Spice and Wolf.
However, I find that I cannot recommend the manga as much as the anime. The anime eschews the manga’s Plautine tendency to make the reader laugh every other panel. That added seriousness better balances the dark elements found in the ten episode anime. Is a second season of this too much to ask?
5) Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami by Yuki Shinkiba
The title translates loosely to “The Death-Loving Girl and the Lonely Death God.” Sounds like a match made in heaven. Somehow, Shinto and Sherlock Holmes must also be a match made in heaven, because the manga is incredibly fun. Our Sherlock Holmes character, Nishigami, moves to a small island. He tries his best not to make friends because those he loves always seem to die. However, this does not stop a popular girl named Akira from following this baneful course. She does indeed die, but the island’s god resurrects her, saying that she can resurrect as many times as possible as long as she remains on the island but that she cannot leave it. A good thing too: for Akira happens to be manga’s most shindere character.
This one is a great deal of fun. The mysteries are complex and the characters rather charming. Nishigami has a particularly brilliant head for deduction. If only I could find chapter 21 somewhere!
Medieval Otaku on Twitter
Hello, my dear readers! I have decided to get a twitter account, since I read this post which recommended the idea. I have the idea that one should approach it like a cocktail party, where one can drift from one conversation to another. Hope to see some more of my fellow bloggers there!
Happy Feast of St. Joseph!
Bona dies Sancti Josephi festa vobis! Today happens to be my name day, and I have always felt a special devotion of St. Joseph. I have admired his silence, courage, and strict adherence to God’s will. Saints throughout the ages have remarked on St. Joseph’s perfect soldierly obedience.
Speaking of soldiers, St. Joseph, along with St. Michael, are often invoked for protection against the evil one. One terrible thing about modernity is that it has downplayed or altogether scoffed at the notion of a rich and varied spiritual world. I remember hearing a homily from one priest who found himself chagrined to speak at the feast of the holy angels, because he did not believe in them. However, studying the scriptures and various theological texts in preparation for the homily convinced him he had been in the wrong.
But, here’s the problem with not believing the devil’s existence: he can lie without detection. People become brainwashed more easy. It is much easier to escape brainwashing when we perceive the propagandist. Then, we can pour out contempt on the propagandist and more easily disdain his efforts. What if we don’t perceive the propagandist and become convinced that his thoughts are actually our own? Then, we couple this thought with the idea that God is somehow responsible for these thoughts? That God does not wish to deliver us from melancholy, depression, lack of faith, or any of the very common mental maladies of this age?
The devil lacks originality–utterly so. The devil’s lies are all the same whether one is in the third century or the third millennium: “God is just, but not merciful! If you think Him merciful, then you hold him in contempt. Your sins are going to drag you down to hell–no help for it. God despises you. God hates you. Religion’s just for old people and women. Heaven is deaf to your prayers. Nothing matters. If there was a God, why are so many people suffering? Why are you suffering so uselessly?”
We see these same ideas in nihilistic and post-modern literature. Even C. S. Lewis while an atheist wrote about how hateful the universe seemed in Spirits in Bondage–the first of Lewis’s works to enter the public domain. Lewis claimed that these poems were “mainly strung around the idea that I mentioned to you before–that nature is wholly diabolical & malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements.” That this came from the pen of the person who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity seems shocking! But, I think that C. S. Lewis had an inkling of what might be going on: Satan is the poem’s first speaker.
So, I would propose St. Joseph as a good friend to have, especially when thoughts against faith or the goodness of God attack us. We have many friends in heaven, both saints and angels in addition to our Greatest Friend God, who never leaves us nor ceases to draw us into His Fatherly embrace.
Shiki’s Post-Modern Myth of Cain and Abel
Before I begin this article, I should like to relate an amusing story with Professor Justin Jackson, whom I mentioned in my prior post. Once, he walked into a classroom to find that another professor had written “Grendel rocks” on the board. Seeing which, Professor Jackson reacted by saying, “Grendel rocks! Seriously? Don’t you know what Grendel means? Evil. A professor of Hillsdale College wrote “Evil rocks” on the board. He should be ashamed of himself!”
Nothing so sums up post-modernism as the phrase “evil rocks.” Shiki contains sections which convey the idea “Grendel rocks,” but I think that the anime ultimately undermines any such ideas. It certainly avoids the diabolic imagination, despite featuring scenes of pure horror, and the events serve to test the viewer’s ability to make moral decisions amidst attempts to make situations less black and white than they are. But, Seishin’s treatment of the Cain and Abel myth did make me worry about the author’s intent.
It’s spoilers galore from here on, but the way.
In my prior article, I argued that Seishin is like the scop in Beowulf. In Seishin’s version of the Cain and Abel myth, the elder brother still kills the younger, but the younger rises as a vampire to haunt the elder. (That’s a neat twist.) More divergences from the original myth come when the younger brother thanks the elder for freeing him from the odious service of God by killing him, and the reason adduced for the elder killing the younger was hatred of self.
I consider this tale self-referential to Seishin, who feels abandoned by God and feels pained by having to serve Him as a priest. It fails when applied to Vampires vs. Homo Sapiens. Abel, while living, hates himself in the same way that the villagers hate themselves–as shown by their refusal to take steps to preserve their own lives and defend their village until the very end. Even people that know about the vampires allow themselves to get sucked dry–like Natsuno. Yet, many vampires come to hate their vampire lifestyle, like Nao and Tooru. The chief vampire, Sunako, also seems not to relish it much, but she wants to live. On the other hand, we have Ritsuko who clings to her humanity and service to the sick even after being changed. These facts indicate that the allegory is imperfect or even wrong.
The problems in applying the allegory beyond Seishin himself serve to test the audience. Do we really believe that one is least free by becoming a slave of God? How can a perfect slave of the Freest Being not also become perfectly free? The person who seemed most free in the story is Ritsuko. She refuses to succumb to external pressures directing her life: she stays in the village because she wants to, she serves the sick because she wants to, and not even her rising up as a vampire can turn her from her desire to be human. In a beautiful death, she chooses starvation rather than betraying her friend in order to sate her appetite for blood. Neither the vampires who make excuses for their killing and kinslaughter nor human beings who refuse to face reality strike one as free.
The fact that Seishin is a priest appears to make him the epitome of a servant of God, but I would argue that the real epitome of a servant of God is Ritsuko. Look at what we know of Seishin’s stories. He writes novels about people who feel abandoned by God and omnipresent divine silence. He advances the cause of atheism rather than the cause of God! He certainly has no words of comfort for Kaori, a frightened teenage girl who feels like Megumi is coming to kill her. His consolations were so pathetic that I wished someone to give him a good thrashing.
On the other hand, Ritsuko tirelessly helps her patients as a nurse and loves doing it. The Christian faith has ever considered caring for the sick as a preeminent good work. One desert father told a colleague that a monk who merely fasted and prayed–holy though this style of life is–could not equal a monk who cared for the sick even if he hung himself up by the nose. The sick and suffering have ever been identified with Our Lord. For example, a certain saint, while caring for a patient, was told that the bishop was here to see him. He responded that he would “see his grace once he had finished attending the Lord.” At any rate, Ritsuko so loves her God-given talent for caring for the sick that she chooses to die rather than to live as a monster. A perfect example of a martyr or a friend of God.
Well played, noitaminA, well played. Even as the case is being set forth for the monsters of the story, it undercuts their philosophy. It probes the viewers on whether we should accept the dark imagination over the light. In giving us a post-modern Cain and Abel, it then reveals its falsity. Of course, I’d love to read an article or a comment which claims that the post-modern view wins out in the story.
Shiki: The Beowulf Connection
I intend this to be the first of three articles on Shiki, a profoundly interesting vampire anime released in 2010. In this article, I’m going to argue that its author retold the medieval epic Beowulf, or at least, that it derives much of its subject matter from this epic. Before some of you decide this idea to be unlikely, don’t forget than the Japanese love drawing from Norse mythology and sagas. Why not also peruse the contemporaneous literature of medieval England? Of perhaps they can arrive at the epic through knowledge of another famous post-modern treatment, John Gardner’s Grendel. But one feature of Shiki makes me feel like they must have read the epic of the middle ages: the prevalence of the most shocking crime to medieval ears–kinslaughter.
The esteemed Professor Justin A. Jackson of Hillsdale college, an avid student of medieval English literature, once lamented that people read Beowulf for the beginning and the end–the slaying of Grendel and the slaying of the dragon. People think of this as a monster slaying story, but this understanding does not go far enough. The prodigious fiends of the beginning and end point to the monsters in human form of the middle: kinslayers. Grendel’s line itself is shown to be descended from the first kinslayer, Cain. Also, Beowulf declaims this baleful rebuke–or rather, smack down–of the quibbling Ulferth:
…I have never heard
such struggle, sword terror, told about you.
Never in the din and play of battle
did Breca or you show such courage
with shining blades–not to boast about it–
though you were a manslayer, killed your brothers,
closest kinsmen, for which you will suffer
damnation in hell, clever though you are. (581-589)
The vampires in Shiki actually go after their closest family members as their first targets. One person even sucks dry her entire family, though none of them rise up.
Another link to Beowulf is the curious mixture of paganism and Christianity. In Beowulf, we are led to initially believe the characters are pagan; yet, once Beowulf arrives, they speak like Christians and care not a wit for pagan gods. Examine the Church in Shiki. We know that it cannot be Christian. There are neither masses nor services, neither Catholic priests nor Protestant ministers. And yet, one window a depicts the martyrdom of a Japanese saint! But a post-modern twist comes in the form of people blaming God for the trouble which comes to their village rather than praising God for freeing them from evil. Indeed, the characters only speak about God–even if Shinto and Buddhist artifacts can ward off vampires.
“Alright then,” you say. “Who is Hrothgar, Beowulf, Ulferth, the scop, Grendel, and Grendel’s mother? There must be some connection to the characters if this is indeed a retelling.”
Beowulf = Tomio Ookawa
At first, I thought that there was no Beowulf. This would go along with the theme of divine abandonment in the show. After all, Beowulf’s entrance into Denmark is shown as coming about through divine providence. But, here is an example of them borrowing from Gardner’s Grendel. Mr. Ookawa fits the idea of Gardner’s Beowulf through his inexorable sense of justice, crazed single-mindedness, and strength. He is certainly of heroic stature!
Hrothgar = Dr. Ozaki
One of the neatest twists in the story is Dr. Ozaki. We originally think him to be a kind of Van Helsing, á la Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But, events make it clear that Dr. Ozaki is not a courageous vigilante against the vampires, but more of a leader. He is helpless at stopping the vampire outbreak, but he can lead others to successfully squash it–the good old Jason-esque hero. As the chief man in the village, he fits the bill for Hrothgar.
Ulferth = Masao Murasako
Ulferth is a blabbering loudmouth just like Masao. Helpless to do anything but complain. No picture for him!
the Scop = Seishin
As a novelist, Seishin approximates a scop, but instead of reciting songs of glory and valor, he writes stories of misery. This fits the post-modern twist I mentioned.
Grendel’s mother = Mrs. Kirishiki
Like the hag of Beowulf, she’s a very powerful vampire. I know Grendel’s mother is pictured as ugly, but witches in continental Europe were also imagined to be beautiful blond women like Mrs. Kirishiki. And this is not the first time Grendel’s mother has been portrayed as a seductress. It was also done in the 2007 Beowulf movie with Angelina Jolie playing this role.
Grendel = Megumi
Surprised? The Sunako Kirishiki would be the obvious choice for Grendel, especially with her attachment to Mrs. Kirishiki. But, I believe that Megumi fits the bill more perfectly. She feels completely ostracized by the village because they mock her predilection for fancy clothing, and she thinks little of Kaori’s attempts to befriend her. Hence she, like Grendel, is already an outsider when the story begins. She dreams of one day leaving for the big city because she hates everyone in the village and everything about that place. Grendel means evil in Old English. The essence of evil is envy or ill-will. What could be more invidious than her cheer, uttered while turning pirouettes: “I love making people I hate suffer!” Amusingly, she does not engage in kinslaughter, but she had already killed the relationship between her and her parents through envy.
But, she also has connections to Gardner’s Grendel in that both the anime and this work attempt to make Grendel a sympathetic character. (At least, I think the former did. The story is told from Grendel’s point of view. But I wanted Grendel to die from page one.) The anime succeeded much better than Grendel in creating a sympathetic monster, and we wish to see Megumi escape at the end–quite unjustly of us, I should think! *BIG BIG BIG Spoiler Alert!* The manner in which Megumi dies, with her first losing her left arm and then being finished off while helpless is reminiscent of Grendel’s demise in the epic poem.
Actually, the story even has a Wiglaf and a dragon in the persons of Natsuno and Tatsumi respectively. Just like Beowulf telling his thanes and Wiglaf that their help is not needed to defeat the dragon, the Dr. Ozaki does not enlist Natsuno’s aid until the end of the story. Yet, he defeats the strongest of the vampires, Tatsumi, who–for his ability to walk under the sun–is considered more than a regular vampire. Natsuno slays Tatsumi when no one had expected it of him.
There you have it! My case for Shiki being a post-modern retelling of Beowulf! What do you think? Has anyone else perceived the connections between Shiki, Beowulf, and Grendel? And be sure to watch the video of the opening lines of Beowulf recited in Old English. It’s pure awesomeness!
Exploring the Waste Land of Sky Crawlers
Though I fail Sky Crawlers as a movie, it provides interesting intellectual fodder. Here’s my little article showing the links between T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and the anime Sky Crawlers. You can find the full text of this fascinating and abstruse poem here. The poem itself starts with a nice mix of Latin and Ancient Greek which translates literally: “For at Cumae, I myself with my own eyes saw the Sybil herself hanging in a jar, and when the boys said to that woman: ‘Sybil, what do you want?’ That woman used to answer, ‘I want to die.'” One might describe the poem as an explanation of why modern man prefers death to life. The same might be said of Sky Crawlers.
The liveliest parts of the movie concern the dogfights. (Major Kusanagi even comments that wars are fought because some people don’t feel alive outside of combat.) Otherwise, the deadness of the characters and scenery strikes the viewer. With the sole exception of Kusanagi’s conversation with Kannami, the dialogue is both awful and dull. One gets the impression that–like everything else–words carry no meaning. War is a game. Sex is a game. You can find an article written by my friend on how The Waste Land shows that the meaninglessness of sex in the second part of the poem.
And one’s own sex is unimportant, which is reminiscent of Eliot’s comment that Tiresias was the central figure of his poem. Sky Crawlers features several androgynous characters. In particular, I was initially horrified when Kannami seems to have had intercourse with another man. (Perhaps I missed them naming her Fuko?) But, fortunately it was a woman after all. Perhaps one might call Fuko the Tiresias of Sky Crawlers. Further blurring the roles of the sexes, being a woman in no way exempts one from combat duty.
If anyone would be the Sybil of Sky Crawlers it would have to be Major Mizuki Kusanagi. (Her first name is the most important link to The Waste Land.) Before the start of the events of the movie, she kills her lover by her own hand. (One gets the impression–or perhaps I nodded off when they explained it. The movie is unfortunately boring–that her lover defected, and she shot him down.) As a Kildren, she never ages–they might be immortal like the Sybil. Knowledge of this causes Kusanagi to dislike her own child at times, who will eventually become older than her. She fills her empty existence by smoking, following her duty, and talking with Kannami, another Kildren.
This brings us to the dilemma of modern man, who cannot perceive the substance of things behind their accidents: “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, /You cannot say, or guess, for you know only/A heap of broken images…/And the dry stone no sound of water” (19-22, 24). The meaning has been taken out of things. One only has dead, dry ideas without the life-giving substance. I have mentioned in a prior post that the pilots are unmilitary. This purposeless war makes no sense, so they lack a sense of camaraderie and purpose which one finds in soldiers at war–at least, if they are striving for victory. In this war, one has no idea why the pilots ever fly except in defending their base.
I mentioned that Mizuki Kusanagi’s first name effectively links Sky Crawlers to The Waste Land. This is because Mizuki might be written with the characters 水希, which mean water and hope respectively. In Kusanagi’s conversation with Kannami after a night bowling, which neither seems to have enjoyed, Kusanagi expresses her frustration that everything seems like a game. She hopes for water, which reminds one of the most memorable lines in The Waste Land:
If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
A pool and a rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But the sound of water over a rock
* * *
But there is no water (346-355, 358)
Yet, one place where Sky Crawlers differs from The Waste Land lies in that it gives the viewer no hope of escape from the dryness of existence. Like sin, the characters are stuck in a meaningless circle of activity. The way out offered by Eliot is “death by water,” i.e. Baptism. Yet, people are told to fear nothing more than this death: “I do not find/ The Hanged Man. Fear death by water” (54-55). The Hanged Man is obviously Our Crucified Lord, Jesus Christ. He appears again in the poem as a hooded figure. Hooded, because modern man does not know Christ. At the same time, only the living water flowing from His side can slake the thirst of modern man for Truth.
“Boys” Manga Created by Women
An article giving excellent examples of female authors who have written successful shojo manga.
If you didn’t know already, shonen is a hugely popular category of Japanese comics and anime. Ask someone who knows even a little about manga or anime and she will most likely recognize shonen mega hits like Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball. The aimed demographic of this monster of a category are boys (shonen is a Japanese word that translates basically to “boy”) and many of these mega shonen hits are created by men. But did you know that there are actually a good number of shonen series created completely by women, many of which are quite popular in their own right? Here’s are some of the shonen manga I’ve read that are created by women:
To Terra… (地球へ。。。)by Keiko Takemiya
To Terra… takes us back to the late 70’s and all its retro manga glory. Keiko Takemiya is one of several female…
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Doubt and the Mind of the Believer
In my reader, I stumbled across this piece on famous people who were admitted into an asylum. The case of John Thomas Perceval interested me most, both because he wrote a book which was helpful to the field of psychology about his time in the asylum, and because the man suffered from a religious mania. I was curious about the specifics of this religious mania. One example of religious mania I read about prior to this occurred in a friend of Samuel Johnson, who would pray at random moments during his day, even in the middle of a public square. Johnson felt that there had been no need to incarcerate him because the insanity was rather harmless. He also opined that people who did not pray at all were more crazy.
Anyway, back to Perceval. His insanity centered around hearing voices which offered him two choices. One of which was alleged to be the voice of the Holy Spirit; yet, making a choice between the two or refusing to do either was always represented later to him as wrong and evidence of his ingratitude to God. He would hastily act or speak at the prompting of these voices. For example, he would hear the voices say “That is Samuel Hobbs if you will. If not, it is Herminet Herbert.” In his book, he says that he began to realize that his inability to accept doubt was part of his malady. He learned to wait for someone else to confirm the person’s name. Three years of treatment, the most effective remedies of which came from within, cured him. Here is his story.
This leads to the question of what part does doubt have in the life of a believer. The tragic flaw of Shinji Ikari in the third Evangelion Rebuild movie comes to mind. (*Spoiler Alert*) Against the command of Misato, he comes to the conclusion that he must pilot an Eva. Furthermore, he doggedly holds to his final mission in the movie despite the doubts which form in his co-pilot’s mind–who actually convinced him to undertake the mission in the first place–and the urgings of Asuka. His co-pilot’s doubts turned out to be well founded, and Shinji’s perseverance on the wrong course produced dire consequences.
The Desert Fathers have named pride as a cause of insanity. Doubt seems to then be part of humility. Our ignorance is abysmal–even in the case of those deemed brilliant. And so, we rely upon others’ advice and the learning process never ends. However, how is doubt reconciled with faith? Many atheists probably think that believers practice a Shinji-esque stubbornness, but this is not actually the case with faith. Believers often have doubts. Once during the sacrament of Reconciliation, a certain young man humiliated himself by admitting that he had doubts concerning God’s goodness. Curiously, the perfection of the priest’s advice coupled with that confessor’s subsequent inability to console his soul convinced him that Our Lord Himself had borrowed the confessor’s lips at that moment–as priests admit occasionally happens.
The point of this anecdote is that God himself acts to remove one’s doubts. Can one imagine how the young man’s confidence was restored by this intervention? God, curiously, wants us to trust Him even when we have no confidence in Him. Our Lord told St. Gertrude that a lack of confidence prevented in no way prevented one from praying “Even if God cast me into hell, He will save me” or “Even if He slay me, I will trust in Him.” This almost seems cruel; yet, it is impossible that the Heart of God can be cruel. Everything will be clear one day. I suppose, as the song goes, one needs to be cruel to be kind sometimes.
Some Haiku from a Novice
I put up some of my haiku for another blog of mine, but I hope that some of my readers here enjoy them.
Here are some of my haiku. I hope that a few give you a good laugh. Those whose humor concerns an in-joke, I introduced with a short paragraph. Enjoy!
Broken, grey concrete
Abutting a frozen wood—
Life’s Promise delayed
Two rare old treasures
Jutting out plainly on the
Shelf—just the date, please.
August moon, kettle,
Shining green rivulet streams
into ivory cup.
In both Richmond and
Kyoto, cherry blossoms bid
A soaked, wet cigar
hanging from drooling lips–Can
he enjoy smoking?
The events in the following haiku derive from a most ridiculous theft. One young man stole a lollipop from another young man, and rendered the theft permanent by sucking on it himself. Some time later, the thief made restitution by giving him a large bag of lollipops.
Merits an abundant return.
This haiku derives from a fan of…
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3am Dangerous Zone and Working With Pride
It’s not often when one finds a manga centered on ordinary life which sounds this interesting. A great review of it too!
My father lost his job this past January, coincidentally while I was paying them a short visit. It did not come as a surprise to him and – although I wouldn’t put it past him to hesitate discussing his emotions with his daughter – he seems pretty happy about retiring for good, puttering around the house playing Myst or Riven for the 15th time or reading The Hunger Games.
One of the reasons he cited for being fairly happy was that he hadn’t liked how his workload had continued to increase in the latter part of his career. He had felt pressure to be on-call at hours outside of his scheduled work time, and had seen others’ personal lives slowly assimilate into their office lives until they were nearly one and the same. Specifically, he had seen this in his younger peers, and assumed that they would hire a…
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Three Things A Christian Geek Can Give Up For Lent
Some excellent advice to Christian geeks. The article has me thinking about exercise. 🙂
A Wrap Up of my 10 Days to 300 Anime
Well, my dear readers, remember the short story I mentioned that I was writing here? Well, it became a novella, and then someone who read the story convinced me to make it a novel; but, I still want one more opinion. (And I wrote a draft for another novella which should be a novel in the meantime. Yes, I’m making myself busy.) And so, much of my time is going toward crafting fiction, but I hope to still have time to write for my blogs. But, I did want to quickly wrap up my series of movies reviews. These will be unfortunately short, but I do think that I shall spend time writing a longer article on Sky Crawlers. Yes, I hated the movie, but it offered some great intellectual fodder. Anyway, here are the reviews:
7) Evangelion 3.0
This film nearly ruined the Rebuild series for me. The film felt incredibly similar to The End of Evangelion, a movie which I hate and makes one love the TV series ending more. The most interesting twist of the film comes when Shinji is ordered never to pilot an Eva again. (Not a spoiler, this happens in the first five minutes.) Amusingly, rather than having the diffident nature we see in the TV series, Shinji is shown to have a contrary nature: telling him to do X makes him want to do Y, telling him to do Y makes him want to do X, which actually causes a catastrophe at the end of the movie. The animation was splendid. The plot rather confusing, especially in the first half hour. But, the ending makes me very curious to see Evangelion 4.0.
Satoshi Kon worked his magic very well in this film. The plot reminds one of Psycho Diver, a great 90’s OVA; but, the dreams in Paprika are simultaneously less dark and have more dire consequences in the real world. The animation is wonderfully surreal, and the characters rather intriguing. Chiba Atsuko and her dream personality of Paprika presents an interesting example of the Japanese separation of honne and tate-mae personalities. Chiba shows herself as a perfect Japanese beauty and office lady. On the other hand, Paprika displays the short red hair common to rebellious Japanese and is much more outspoken than her tate-mae personality. The plot begins when a terrorist group obtains a dream diving machine, and it’s practically a nonstop thriller from there.
9) Sky Crawlers
More than anything else, this film is an intellectual treat, especially if you enjoyed T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. BUT, it fails BIG TIME on the other elements of the story! Besides Kusanagi, all the other characters strike me as bland, melancholy, and–despite their profession–unmilitary. The plot moves in a circle, and they commit the unforgivable mistake of being more boring than Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. (Or is this an achievement?) As I said, its connections to The Wasteland deserve a long article, but, reading the screenplay would have been a more enjoyable experience. Also, some of the dogfights are rather cool, but far too few.
10) The Secret World of Arrietty
This stands as the most heartwarming film of the ten. The imagination employed for displaying the world from the angle of the Borrowers, a.k.a. the little people, was superb. The idea of little people is very Western, which is no surprise since the tale is based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton–a novel which had been published in England almost fifty years before the film. The relationship between Arrietty and the sickly young man (Sho or Shawn depending on the version you watched) is very touching. In particular, it reminded me of the relationship between God and us. We’re not useful to Him at all. We can just take without giving God anything which He does not already have, but God still loves us very much. What does God want of us in return? One, to talk to Him sometimes, 2) not to hurt one another, and 3) to be happy. Likely, the same things we should want if little people took up residence in our homes–unless you’re a stick in the mud. Anyway, you must see this film!