Black Bullet and the Difficulty of Expressing Noble Sentiments

While watching Black Bullet last night, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines in episodes three and four struck me.  Don’t get me wrong: I find the show very enjoyable.  It boasts likable characters and some brilliant animation, especially in the way they draw the characters’ eyes.  Seitenshi has some of the most brilliant blues I’ve seen anywhere in anime.  (Yes, I’ve fallen in love.)  Still, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines and impossibility of surviving certain wounds bother me: having both kidneys pierced and a hole as wide as the Grand Canyon made in one’s abdomen are lethal even in most other shonen anime.

Kage_confronts_Rentaro

Which brings us to the question of the difficulty of showing noble deeds and sentiments in a way which does not strike the audience as corny.  The difficulty is actually quite extreme: authors must be as noble as the ideas they wish to express.  Otherwise, these ideas come across as trite–rather than the writer being an authority on nobility, he thieves from the annals of heroes.  For example, those lines and scenes concerning the ostracism suffered by Enju, Rentaro’s insistence on her value and the value of other cursed children, and the gratitude for Rentaro’s acceptance shown by Kayo struck a chord with me.  Those times where Rentaro exclaims his zeal for saving the world, his condemnation of Kagetane’s actions, his perseverance in suffering through essentially mortal wounds, and risking transforming into a giant monster did not.

I had to fit her in somewhere. :)

I had to fit her in somewhere. 🙂

Everyone would like to write an epic; but those who have not suffered agony, strove nobly, or found their hearts aflame with great ideals cannot be expected to produce epics.  Emperor Augustus asked many poets to write an epic for the glory of Rome, but most excused themselves.  This developed into a tradition where Roman writers would publish their first work of poetry with an apology for not writing epic.  Only Virgil undertook the task, painstakingly composing an average of two lines per day.  And then, as Virgil lay dying, he begged his friends to burn the manuscript, because he thought that the manuscript lacked polish and stood as an inferior work–Virgil’s magnum opus, the Aeneid!

Rentaro

Virgil’s self-doubt points to the second thing necessary to generate sublime thoughts: humility.  As we see Rentaro shrugging off mortal wounds or ripping off an artificial arm bound to his nervous system without hesitation, we become vexed at seeing the unreality of these actions.  These heroic acts lacked the aura of heroism because Rentaro does not display human weakness.  A good shonen anime does show that its characters struggle to overcome human weakness whether it be Kenshin’s temptation to give up living toward the end of his duel with Shishio, the doubts constantly assailing Kiba’s mind, or Inuyasha’s self-hatred and thirst for power.  And we cannot forget the hero of the greatest modern epic, Frodo Baggins, whose determination would have been vain had he not been supported by so many and Providence saved him from his own folly at the critical moment.

Rentaro_tries_out_the_item

One has difficulty identifying with Rentaro as a warrior.  He’s at his best while he supports Enju; but, in combat situations where he should have to struggle with human weakness, he proves to be an Übermensch having no weaknesses to overcome!  Would that the authors have added their own experience of physical suffering into Rentaro’s battles!  They would have been far more moving!

Lynn Okamoto and Reversing a Trend

Since the early twentieth century, Eastern ideals have flowed into the West as Western technology has flowed into the East.  And so, we have authors like Herman Hesse and Rainer Maria Rilke whose works bear a decidedly Eastern influence.  In particular, the 60’s and 70’s saw an increased interest in Eastern religions, especially Hindu, Zen Buddhism, and Taoism–my personal favorite.  People jaded with the rampant materialism in the West highly regard these traditions.  As for Christianity, that bedrock of Western civilization, it has come to be looked at as the cult of the unsophisticated.  Some people are so convinced of Christianity’s provincialism that they are blind to the spiritual richness of the Church: the writings of the Church Fathers, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bonaventure (I especially recommend him to curious Buddhists), St. Thomas Aquinas, and so many others.

Gokukoku no Brynhildr 1

The attitude that the Christian faith lacks relevance and that Western culture is vapid makes Lynn Okamoto stand out among mangaka.  The title of his first major work, Elfen Lied, derives from a poem by Eduard Mörike, a Lutheran pastor and writer of the 19th century German Romantic movement.  And Okamoto’s works are imbued with themes found in traditional Western culture, e.g. original sin, free will, spiritual warfare, salvation by grace, and distrust of the government.  Might I also add that themes of alienation, initiated by Karl Marx and expanded on by writers like Camus and Kafka, are boldly painted in both Elfen Lied and Gokukoku no Brynhildr.

Nana Kowai Me

Someone has obviously just threatened Papa’s life a moment ago. The only thing which can make Nana go berserk!

So, I just wished to mention one Japanese author whom I think is very much in tune with Western values and culture.  This is interesting because of that trend I noted before of many–perhaps the majority–of Westerners believing that the East has more to offer to men’s hearts and souls.  Have you noticed any other Japanese mangaka, novelists, or even screenwriters who display a similar interest in the West?  Especially in showing that they think Christianity contains enough vitality to be relevant to modern man?

Plenary Indulgence This Sunday!

This is a last reminder that this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, offers the Faithful a chance to gain a plenary indulgence.  The conditions are described as follows:

The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).

So, go to confession this Saturday or that Sunday if your Church offers it then, receive communion, have a strong resolution to turn from sin, pray the Our Father, the Apostles’ Creed, and “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Should you die immediately after that, you’ll go straight to heaven without a moment of Purgatory.

teniers-la-crucifixion

How many of my dear readers balked at this bold assertion?  A villain becomes a saint in the space of one or two days?  And quite painlessly?  No, they should have to suffer more!  Forgiveness should be more difficult!  But, we are forgetting the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, where those who worked one hour are given the same reward as those who bore the day and the heat.

We forget one more thing: mercy is unearned.  At least, mercy was not earned by us.  It was earned by Jesus Christ for all that would receive His mercy.  Either through the instrument of His Church or without the instrumentality of His Church, Our Lord can apply mercy to whomever He wishes.  Our very willingness to receive mercy, our tenderness of heart, is something Jesus Christ earned for us.  Therefore, we have no right to be like the Prophet Jonah and sulk because Our Lord shows mercy in a manner which doesn’t meet with our human values.

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But, we are so quick to doubt God’s Mercy and Love for us!  In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father does not have the wayward son weep for a week outside of his door and fast on bread and water before taking him into His house.  Rather, He does so immediately.  To use an example from the life of St. Gertrude, she once wished to gain a plenary indulgence, but illness or business kept her from being able to obtain it.  The Lord asked her if she wished to have it, to which she responded yes.  After the Lord’s blessing, she doubted the very purity which she felt in her soul.  Knowing her doubts, Our Lord recalled to her that the sun can bleach dyed cloth to a pure white.  Our Lord said to her: “If I have given such power to a creature, how much more can I purify souls?”

And so, let us allow the Lord to shine down as much mercy as He wishes upon us two days from now on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy Image

The Kill la-steia: How Kill la Kill borrows from the Oresteia

While offering my final thoughts on Kill la Kill, the similarity of certain features of Kill la Kill to Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy struck me.  Of course, the lack of vengeful goddesses pursuing Ryuko for slaying Ragyo means that it borrows chiefly from the first two tragedies: Agammemnon and The Libation Bearers.  As a Classicist (Yes, in addition to loving the Middle Ages, I also love the Classical Ages.  Viva antiquity!), I become very excited when modern works either retell or incorporate ideas from Ancient Greek and Latin sources.  The fad nowadays seems to favor spontaneous originality.  People want tales and characters which have never been conceived in the mind of man.  (Can you detect my sarcasm?)  Studying classics for so long has made me adopt the attitude of the ancient Greeks and Romans: the best originality occurs when a writer takes prior works and applies his own spin.  Such appropriation shows that one is participating in the Great Conversation which began when Homer exclaimed: “Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, the son of Peleus!”

*SPOILERS GALORE AFTER THIS!*

Ryuko as Orestes

The first striking connection between the Oresteia and Kill la Kill lies in Ryuko’s mission to avenge the death of her father, Isshin Matoi.  We see exactly the same thing in The Libation Bearers.  The flashback to when Isshin and Ragyo were still man and wife reveals the start of their quarrels: Ryuko is sacrificed in an experiment on Life Fibers, whom are essentially the gods of Kill la Kill.  (Though Kill  la Kill’s story does makes it apparent that the Life Fibers are false gods–as Christianity also declares the gods of the pagans.)  This is similar to how Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis.  In the same way as Ragyo sees the progress of the Life Fibers as necessary, Agamemnon sees the progress of the Greek expedition to Troy, which had been held up by Artemis’ wrath, as important to prevent chaos among the Greeks and to avenge his brother’s honor.  So, Agamemnon sacrifices Iphigenia; though, a majority of the versions of this myth state that Iphigenia was spirited away to Aulis, which Euripides treats in his Iphigenia at Aulis.  Simultaneously, Ryuko is both Iphigenia, the innocent sacrifice, and Orestes, the avenger of her father.  Actually, the idea that Junketsu is Satsuki’s wedding garment reminds one of how Iphigenia was initially told that she was going to her wedding instead of the place where she would be sacrificed.  Iphigenia lives in both Satsuki and Ryuko!

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But, an interesting twist lies in the fact that Isshin and Ragyo are not perfect facsimiles of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.  As a matter of fact, the above paragraph makes it clear that the husband is placed in the role of Clytemnestra, while the wife approximates Agamemnon.  But, Isshin is still the murdered father and Ragyo the instigator of the deed and adulteress.  How does she commit adultery?  By binding herself to the Life Fibers and separating herself from her husband!  Curiously, I would claim Nui Harime fulfills the role of Aegisthus.  Even though Nui did not separate Ragyo from her spouse, she does participate in the murder of Isshin, engage in a scandalously lascivious deed with Ragyo (how’s that for euphemism?), and is about as odious as Aegisthus.

Killlakill_ep11_nui_harime

But, that refers mostly to the flashback.  During the main story, we see that Satsuki and Mako might be considered Electra and Pylades respectively.  After all, Electra lives in constant fear of her mother and at the same time wishes to avenge her father.  We see the same desire in Satsuki, though her willingness to off her mother is further bolstered by the fact that Ragyo wants to annihilate humanity.  Also, Satsuki shows the same distaste toward Nui as Electra did toward Aegisthus.  As in The Libation Bearers, both Satsuki and Ryuko combine to defeat their evil mother.

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The figures Orestes and Pylades are renown for their friendship.  I myself have used their relationship as a metaphor in this article.  And Mako undergoes many dangers for the sake of her friend Ryuko, in the same way as Pylades did for Orestes.  As Pylades held a supportive role to Orestes, so does Mako to Ryuko.

matoi-mako-mankanshoku-eat

Well, my dear readers, I hope that you found these parallels as cool as I did!  Now, we need to see the Trigger version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle!  Or does the thought of that scare you? 🙂

The Triduum, Easter, and Divine Mercy Sunday

Well, my dear readers, we have come to the most important time of the year: the time when God’s mercy is celebrated far and wide.  Tomorrow, we recall the painful suffering Our Lord endured for our salvation.  Holy Saturday recalls His descent into hell so that the fruits of His Passion might be poured upon all the dead including Adam and Eve.  How can one neglect the eagerness with which Our Lord must have rushed to Adam’s side to proclaim to him that all was forgiven?  The second reading from the Holy Saturday Office of Readings makes for an edifying read.  In my own case, I am not sure whether anything more profound has been said of God’s mercy outside of the Scriptures.  Indeed, the Magnificence and Magnanimity of God toward us who are burdened by our sins, failings, and the thought that heavy punishment awaits us makes the heart rejoice!

Harrowing of Hell

The one Our Lord is lifting up is Adam and Eve is on his left.

One of the terrible things about this life is that we are constantly tempted to doubt God’s goodness.  There is evil in the world; we suffer evil done to ourselves; and we suffer through evil done by ourselves.  We barely make the slightest progress to amend our wicked ways and often find ourselves becoming worse.  We shout with St. Paul: “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)  We see our sins reflected in the wounds of Christ.  These wounds reflect Our Savior’s undying love for us, but how often does our wickedness crush our souls such that we are tempted to say with St. Peter: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

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But, God does not want to leave us.  When Peter first said that to Christ, Christ responded: “Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”  Then, after Peter could not keep his eyes open to comfort our Lord in His agony in the garden, after Peter denied Him three times, and after Peter avoided Him during His three hours of agony on the cross, Jesus Christ says to St. Peter and the rest of the disciples:

36 …”Peace be to you; it is I, fear not.”

37  But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit.

38  And He said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39  “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have.” (Luke 24)

St. Thomas the Apostle and Our Lord

This is as if to Our Lord is saying: “Be at peace and don’t fear to come to me.  I have really taken your nature upon myself and endured the agony of the cross to bind you to me forever.  Look upon my wounds!  Touch these wounds which I boast of because they redeemed you.  I did not come to condemn you.  I am not angry with you.  Do not be slow to believe that God is Love.  On that painful cross, mercy triumphed over justice so that I can show mercy to whoever comes to me.”

But, God’s mercy did not stop with forgiving us and saving us from eternal death.  He raised humanity above the angels and promised us a glorified body like the one in which He rose on Easter Sunday.  And by the indwelling of His grace, we can come to imitate His divine perfections and His most divine life.  All the above is accomplished through God’s grace.  The sole thing God asks from us is a good will, which He Himself grants and strengthens, to correspond with these graces.

padrepio-lamb

And yet, we are sometimes more willing to suffer for our sins than receive mercy for them.  When life turns difficult, we get the impression that God is punishing us for our sins–how do we know that we suffered X, Y, and Z because of our sins?  Such thoughts only impress upon us the idea that God is a wrathful judge!  Jesus Christ did not undergo the crucifixion so that He can be wrathful, but so that he can show mercy in super-abundance.

Hence, I should like to remind my Catholic readers that, besides our Easter duty to confess if we have committed a mortal sin in the past year and to receive Holy Communion at least once during Lent, we ought to gain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 27).  This is how Our Lord’s revelation to St. Faustina describes it:

Ask of my faithful servant [Father Sopocko] that, on this day, he will tell the world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.

Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy.

Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust!  Such  a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My Goodness.  Even the devils glorify my Justice but do not believe in My Goodness.  My heart rejoices in this title of Mercy.  (Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 300)

Divine Mercy Vilnius

These are the instructions for the indulgence:

The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).

So, go to confession again on Saturday, April 26th, and follow the rest of the instructions.  What do you have to lose?  Don’t say to yourself: “It sounds like cheating.  I deserve to be punished for my sins.”  Such hardness of heart!  Do you think that God prefers seeing you suffer for your sins over seeing you as clean as new fallen snow?  That He rejoices in your pain?  Of course not!  Rather, He would much rather bring you straight into heaven without judgment!  So, focus on God’s Mercy this Easter and celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy in all its fullness.

Hidden Gems of Anime: Soukou no Strain

I promised an article on Soukou no Strain, aka Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry (What a horrible English title!), back in November.  This splendid show of just thirteen episodes came out back in 2006; yet, it wraps the viewer so well in the struggles of its characters that I’m surprised people no longer mention it.  I suppose the singularity of the plot excludes comment?  I cannot think of another sci-fi anime including so much quantum science and portraying a one man quest to annihilate humanity which can only be stopped by his sister!

Soukou.no.Strain

Anyway, the show begins with Ralph Werec departing for the space force in order to train for being a mecha pilot.  His younger sister, Sara Werec, is distraught because the dynamics of sub-light speed travel would prevent them from seeing each other again: she would age and die before Ralph.  (To use an example of how time passes differently for people traveling at or near light speed, my high school professor claimed that if people on earth watched a person traveling at light speed lifting a cup of coffee through a live video feed, you might see the cup move from the table to his lips in fifty years!)  And so, Sara herself later joins the space force in order to see her brother again.  Before she graduates from its Strain pilot academy (they call giant robots Strains), *Spoiler alert* Ralph returns to earth as a traitor and slaughters all Sara’s friends with his Gloire-type Strain.  Sara’s piece of equipment for connecting to her Strain, called a Mimic, is destroyed during the battle.  Her desperation to learn why Ralph betrayed the Union leads to her entering Gambee pilot training under an assumed name.  A Gambee is a less powerful kind of mech which does not require a Mimic to pilot.

Sara and Emily

Might I add that this anime portrays the relationship between big brothers and little sisters more realistically than my dear readers are likely to find in current anime?  Ralph and Sara are closely connected by familial affection rather than romantic feelings.  (If not for shows like Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, I would lack a reason to remark on that.)  This show knows how to play the audience’s heartstrings.  I was watching Soukou no Strain with my younger sister, and this show has a very touching flashback to Lottie and Sara’s time with their respective older brothers.  Once the flashback was over, my sister could not hold back but tearfully rose from the couch to gave me a hug.  (I almost teared up myself–almost.)

The Strain Pilots

Even without this sense of identification, one’s heart would need to be made of stone not to be moved by the characters’ plight.  Sara in particular suffers rejection from her fellow Gambee pilots.  With the betrayal of her brother–her only family, she lost the ability to relate to others.  This betrayal makes her regard herself as trash.  The Gambee pilots interpret her self-hatred as snobbery and harass her accordingly.  Besides confronting Ralph, part of the heroine’s journey involves learning that she is valuable–that her fellows do not treat her as she deserves.

Lavinia certainly thinks that Sara is worthwhile, spawning one of the funniest episodes in the series, "Lavinia's Lovely Plot."

Lavinia certainly thinks that Sara is worthwhile, spawning one of the funniest episodes in the series, “Lavinia’s Lovely Plot.”

Sara’s discovery of Emily, a doll containing a Mimic without a partner, is her first step in discovering her value.  Her daily routine comes to include speaking to this doll, which is located in the workshop of the genius Melchi and his assistant Carmichael.  Discovering that she is somehow compatible with this Mimic, she is able to take off in an experimental Strain when her brother attacks the training fleet to which Sara is attached.  Thereafter, she becomes incorporated into the unit of Strain pilots and her wounds begin to heal.

Lottie and Sara as friends.

Might I add that I love Lottie’s nickname for Sara: “Konjou Onna” or “Gutsy Girl.”

And so, this is a great mecha show with complex, likable characters, strong pathos, and exciting interstellar battles.  You’ll regret it if you pass up on this gem–one of the strongest single season shows ever made!

Elfen Lied and the Causes of Sin

Reading the manga of Gokukoku no Brynhildr inclined me finally to read the manga of Elfen Lied, which is by the same author, Lynn Okamoto.  I will say that the manga Elfen Lied is more violent and sexually graphic than the anime, but it explores its themes more thoroughly.  (Yes, I argue that Elfen Lied is a very intelligent work, though the case can easily be made that the author should have restrained himself in regard to its repulsive images.)  In this article, I shall remark a little on the nature of evil, which appears to be the main subject of Elfen Lied.  The manga focuses on the fact that man is tainted–or, to speak more precisely, in a state of total depravity–by original sin, which we see in the characters’ self-absorption, focus on baser things, and the dehumanization of other people.  Most of the characters are victims of some kind–whether one speaks of Mayu flying from her perverse step-father or Lucy, whom people see as an instrument for breeding Diclonii or–in her earlier years–a fun object to torment.

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The viciousness displayed by the Diclonii are impelled by their forced isolation or their desire to revenge themselves on the human race.  In the latter case, it is important to remember that the general run of people are mirrors: we reflect goodness or ill-will as it comes at us.  Only the truly vicious person does evil things to people who show him goodness.  Only the saint or man dedicated to repentance returns good for evil.  People who have never known love can hardly help reflecting the hatred and malice directed at them.

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Take the famous flashback to Lucy’s past.  She is beaten, tormented, and ostracized by her fellow classmates.  She feels loved only by a puppy.  Once she finally gains a human friend, she discovered that this girl had only befriended her in order to betray her.  With the dog–her sole friend–butchered, she kills her malicious classmates and flees into the woods, producing total isolation.

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As spiritual writers remark, the devil likes to tempt people when alone, whether they are Our Lord Himself, St. Anthony the Great, or my dear readers.  The devil wishes to lead us into sin, especially that most terrible capital sin of invidia or ill-will, often translated as envy.  I am afraid that Lucy is a particularly easy soul to tempt from ill-will to the blackest misanthropy.  Though, the devil commonly appears in Elfen Lied and–I would argue–is the main villain of the show, scientists can’t perceive him.  The scientists come up with the absurd reasoning–which smacks of superstition–that murder is written into the Diclonii’s genes.  If they had not made themselves out to be so righteous, they would have perceived the same affliction in their own natures–original sin!  If murder were really written into the Diclonii’s genes and not the result of scientists exacerbating fallen human nature’s inclination to evil through ill-treatment, then we could not have a Diclonius as sweet as Nana–my favorite character, by the way.

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Indeed, the devil is more apparent than God in the manga because people have forgotten God.  Perhaps this, more than isolation and envy, is the main cause of the crimes committed in Elfen Lied.  Forgetfulness of God means disbelief in the idea that people are created in God’s image and likeness.  As many people aptly argue, ethics become emotivism without God.  The villains of this series are particularly warped and hardhearted.

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But, good exists in the world too, as shown by the love of Nana for her papa and Kouta and Yuka’s willingness to take in homeless people.  (I shall argue in another article that goodness starts to shine more brilliantly as the manga shows evils multiplying.)  In a sense, we’re all wandering and homeless without God.  Though imperfect and marked by frailty, people are often the vehicles for bringing God into other people’s lives.  The recognition Kouta gives to Lucy and Mayu affirms the value of these two persons.  Due to their perception of themselves as lovable and valuable beings, they work to make other people feel valued.  Love, most importantly, the love of God, turns people from selfishness and malice.  Yet, one wonders whether love can save Lucy, who is simultaneously the most guilty and most victimized of the characters?

Kill La Kill: A Love Story

A flawless masterpiece of critical interpretation! The article is the most thorough piece on Kill la Kill’s themes I have yet read. Very long, but worth reading!

Chromatic Aberration Everywhere

In the weeks following the Kill La Kill (KLK) finale, I’ve seen a lot of people weighing in on the show. Given it’s popularityover-the-top theatrics, and symbol-heavy plus textually-dense narrative, this isn’t anything too surprising. I really liked the show, and it’s inspired a lot of really cool discussion around the anisphere. People generally have a widerangeof opinions on any given show, and it’s been fun seeing all the different ways people have experiencedKLK.

That said, I’ve heard a lot of refrains that have been bothering me a little bit, which go like:

  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (TTGL) was just done better…”
  • “I couldn’t really relate to the characters, so I just never got into the story…”
  • “The show was thematically incoherent, so I’m not sure what was the point…”
  • “It was really entertaining, but I didn’t feel emotionally invested…”

And so…

View original post 8,384 more words

Spring Season 2014: Not so Bad After All

Seven out of the nine shows which caught my attention have been viewed so far.  I also added one more: Blade and Soul, due to D. M. Dutcher’s first impressions of the season.  Some of the backgrounds are remarkably beautiful, and the action’s not bad.  On the other hand, the character designs and predominately female cast make this show feel like Queen’s Blade–not that I watched more than two minutes of the show!  (Yes, I ought not even have entertained any hope for Queen’s Blade being a good anime.  But, Grenadier and Freezing are examples of enjoyable fanservicey shows which have more to them than the heroine’s bosom.  So, I felt Queen’s Blade had a chance.)  All the characters in episode one appear disappointingly flat; n.b. I refer to their character, not physique.  But, I am ready to give this show one more shot.  I have yet to find episode one of Mekakucity Actors, and reading about Abarebou Rikishi!! made me more eager to watch Ashita no Joe than the sumo version of a similar story.

Black Bullet

Anyway, the first show to receive my approval was Black Bullet.  The cast of characters are pretty cool–even the frenetic Enju–and the tale seems to be a cross of Psycho-Pass and Mushi-Uta.  (If you haven’t seen Mushi-Uta, watch it when you’re in the mode for something weird and soul crushing.)  Despite the cheerful characters, there’s plenty of darkness surrounding this world, and I expect the story to become darker as the series progresses.

hitsugi_no_chaika

Hitsugi no Chaika seems to be a lighthearted fantasy.  I like the fact that unicorns are treated as baneful rather than cute.  Some have noticed that the hero’s sister is unusually possessive of her brother, perhaps even incestuous.  But, this trait is more an affectation than purposive, as one would find in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei.  For example, she attacks her brother for dining with Chaika and says later, after Toru speaks badly of himself: “Even if you are my honored brother, I will not allow you to look down on the brother I admire so much.”  It’s comedic, not serious!!!  Then, Chaika herself is a fun character with her stilted speech and super-powered sniper rifle/magical rod.  With it’s splendid mixture of comedy, quirky characters, and action, I’m expecting good things from this show.

Multiplication troubles

TWWK made brief comments on Gokukoku no Brynhildr on Beneath the Tangles.  He claimed that the beginning of the episode indicated that the series would be dark and brooding.  It can be, but the characters are too focused on survival and making the best of their fugitive lives for these moods to last long.  From having read the manga, I can say that Lynn Okamoto, the author of Elfen Lied, has improved on his craftsmanship, as the characters are more vivacious and the killing is less–even if this series’ secret government agency is more odious and cruel.  I could barely put the manga down and expect good things from the anime adaptation–still not sure whether they will tone down the blood and gore.

 

Only anime would have a cute gamer for a ghost.

Only anime would have a cute gamer for a ghost.

Nanana’s Buried Treasure promises complex, likable characters.  The story is set on an artificial island dedicated to boarding schools where the author has decided to study.  (That’s one way to make sure parents don’t get in the way of the tale.)  Only, he discovers that he shares his room with the ghost of murdered Nanana–one of the founders of this island.  The characters are so likable that I find myself enthusiastic for this show–despite the little amount of information given by the first episode.

knights-of-sidonia-anime-pilot

Two mecha series looked like they could be fun.  Knights of Sidonia does a beautiful job of employing CG.  They focus on the backgrounds and the scenery rather than on the characters, and I find myself curious to learn more about this world.  Captain Earth has hero for whom I identify greatly.  (Letting one’s studies go in order to research more important things?  Might as well be your humble blogger piloting the mech!)  This show offers a very intriguing opening despite the traditional “Congratulations!  You’re now a mech pilot in charge of saving the world!” scenario.

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But, the main reason I find myself a little leery of the above two shows is because my tastes do not lean toward mecha.  I thank Full Metal Panic for making me interested in the genre.  After all, I started watching anime with shows like Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai: Hunt for the Sword, Inuyasha, Peacemaker, and Samurai Deeper Kyo.  See a common theme here?

Samurai Hunt for the Sword: my introduction to harem anime and boob jokes.

Samurai Hunt for the Sword: my introduction to harem anime and boob jokes.

And let me tell you all you need to know about Dai-Shogun – Great Revolution: it’s horrible and will liquify your brain.  The first episode features a hero who’s only interest is fighting, plenty of fanservice, and a murderess who amputates her victims’ analog stick–to borrow a slang from Gintama–before finishing them off.  Yeah, a show which panders to the base desires.

But, I must retract what I said in a prior article.  I’m impressed so far and hope that this strong start will carry over to a great finish.

Here Comes the Calvary

A nice reflection on Psalm 7. Put in very modern terms.

TheWannabeSaint.com

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“It’s been too long, Lord. Am I even on your radar? Are you paying attention? Do you see what’s happening to me? Am I by myself, fighting this battle alone?

My body aches, my heart hurts, and I am losing ground fast. Please, Lord, help me! Save me! I have no chance without you.

Lift my head, turn my gaze, give light to my eyes and soul or let me die. Let the evil ones dance on my grave if you aren’t willing to stand by my side.

You are the one I am counting on. My spirit is holding out hope your calvary is on its way.

Amen.”

a reflection based on Psalm 7

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blessings,
bdl

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http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Final Thoughts on Kill la Kill: What a Fun Ride!

Trigger’s first great anime proved to be riotous fun and to have a decent high story at the same time.  If one wished, one can delve into Kill la Kill’s themes concerning excessive shame (as I did), the isolation caused by wealth and power (which I still haven’t written about), wealth as a source of corruption (which Japesland wrote astutely about), how people’s excessive concern for appearances strips them of their personhood (as Good Bye Navi touches on), and its hierarchical treatment of friendship.  I was pleased to see that my guess that Satsuki and Matoi would become friends came true.  In many ways, Kill la Kill felt like an Attic tragedy, especially with the internecine conflict among the Kiryuins (someone should compare the main characters to Agamemnon (Isshin Matoi), Clytemnestra (Ragyo Kiryuin), Orestes (Ryuuko Matoi), Electra (Satsuki Kiryuin), and Pylades (Mako) ) and the chorus-like role of Mako.

Anyone else think that Matoi looked extravagantly cool in "Ride like the Wind"--episode 14?

Anyone else think that Matoi looked extravagantly cool in “Ride like the Wind”–episode 14?

Though it was a great show on many levels, the panache and flamboyance of the characters separated it stylistically from most anime released around the same time.  The show offered its audience more twists than any show in recent memory.  I also remember becoming immediately attached to Matoi when I saw that she had the moral courage to run from losing battles in the beginning of the show–very un-Shounen-like, but Orestian!  (Yes, my dear readers, you can see that an article comparing on the Oresteia and Kill la Kill is presently being contemplated.)  In my opinion, the plot’s greatest weaknesses came from its excessive borrowing from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan.  This did establish Trigger’s commitment to epic stories, but their next work can do without aliens, evolution, crazy power-ups, etc.  But, Kill la Kill makes me look forward to their next great work.

Fight Another Day

Review of Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail

Here’s a general review of Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail right after I confessed that writing general reviews was my weakest skill!  But, my efforts to write an article about the references to St. Mary in Roberta’s Blood Trail felt rather contrived.  And so, writing a review piece on this splendid OVA seems best.

Roberta and Garcia Lovelace

By the end of the OVA, I was ready to give it five stars, but the excessive gore convinced me to dock it half a star.  Otherwise, the action was thrilling, even if somewhat unrealistic; but, without this suspension of reality, we would never see things like Roberta shooting a .50 caliber from the hip and taking out a handful of FARC spraying fully automatic fire at her from 20 yards.  The plot of trying to save Roberta from her self-destructive course, on which she propelled herself with hatred, anti-depressants, and alcohol, could move a heart of stone.  Might I add that the magnanimity of the American soldiers Roberta is trying to kill plays a key role in the good guys’ fight to save her?  The NSA gets a bad rap (as it probably deserves), but one enjoys seeing a positive portrayal of American soldiers in anime.

Army Paladin

 

Impressive Collection

Anyway, the events of the OVA are brought about through the NSA assassinating the head of the Lovelace family.  This ignites Roberta’s, aka Terminator Maid’s, decision to take up the Lovelace family’s flintlock heirloom in order to seek vengeance.  (Using a customized flintlock against modern weapons exuded more than a little panache.)  Her quest leads her back to Roanapur in order to take the last of the ringleaders’ heads.  The young Garcia Lovelace travels there with his maid Fabiola in the hope of obtaining Rock’s help in convincing Roberta to return home.  Rock’s past disappointments in trying to help the people who’ve attached themselves to him renders him a little diffident before he at last agrees to help them.  Along with the action, the manipulation and scheming Rock employs to offer the best chances for Roberta to bring Roberta back home keep the viewers on the edges of their seats.  But, will Black Lagoon‘s predilection for tragedy allow for the good luck Rock hopes for come to pass?

Fabiola has a FMA mood about her, perhaps because her personality and height are the equivalents of Edward Elric's.

Fabiola has a FMA mood about her, perhaps because her personality and height are the equivalents of Edward Elric’s.

Relaxing at a Restaurant

While I would argue that the original Black Lagoon is essentially religious with its focus on light vs. darkness, the fallen nature of mankind, and the ardent desire of many characters for salvation, Roberta’s Blood Trail focuses on these themes much more minutely.  The series uses the Problem of Evil to build a case for atheism and people’s inner hunger for goodness, purity, or justice to argue for the existence of Providence.  It is also interesting that three of the characters try to find God inside people: Revy in Rock and Roberta and Fabiola in Garcia.  Roberta is simultaneously the most damaged and most religious character in the show, as we see her engaging in lengthy prayer and invoking St. Mary before initiating battle.  So, is the luck which Rock hopes for the Providence Roberta places her trust in?

The State of Roberta's Soul

The State of Roberta’s Soul

A Familiar Scene

Can’t have a new Black Lagoon without a gun fight at the Yellow Flag. Revy knows the best spot to be.

The animation of the Blu-ray disc is spectacular!  I watched the sub, and the voice actors deliver a marvelous performance, especially Megumi Toyoguchi as Revy.  I love the inclusion of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” as an ending song, because that song describes the main hope of the series.  But, the main pleasure of watching the OVA is seeing the Black Lagoon team back together.  Definitely something one must see!

Two Year Anniversary!

Well, dear readers, somehow I have managed to keep writing about anime and religion for two years.  This blog has narrowed its focus from all my hobbies and interests to mostly anime and religion.  After all, you won’t find articles like this on here anymore: Exploring the Brews of the Victory Brewing Company.  Though, you might find me writing about tea again.  And a couple of my reader’s favorite posts were on literature, but now I write about that in Aquila et Infans.  Here are two examples:

1) Fiction’s Raison d’Etre

2) Encore Une Autre Raison D’Etre pour Fiction

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Reading Froggy-kun’s post about what he looks for in an anime review made me think about my favorite type of article.  I prefer to pick up a thread in a particular anime and run with it rather than giving a thorough review.  When I try to give a review covering all aspects of a show, I usually miss some aspects or the article becomes scatterbrained or dull.  My “Hidden Gems of Anime” series shows this: Gokudo and Innocent Venus.  (You can see that I wrote them back at the time when I didn’t believe in using pictures.  My opinion on that changed a great deal!)  On the other hand, the articles focusing on a particular theme of a show feel like they’re written better, as is shown by the following:

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1) Applying the Feminist and Mimetic Lens to Iria: Zeiram the Animation (My favorite post which hardly anyone read.  Every blogger has at least one.)

2) Mirai Nikki: The Heretic Successor of Elfen Lied (A favorite post which everyone seems to have read at least once. xD )

3) Kiba and Cheza’s Love as Symbolic of Jesus and Mary’s

4) The End of Samurai Deeper Kyo: All About Heart

5) Is Sexuality Natural or Aquired?: No. 6’s Take on the Issue

6) Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

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But, this site also finds itself dedicated to Christian spirituality–specifically Catholic spirituality, but I hope my articles profit my Protestant and Orthodox readers.  (Do I have any Orthodox readers?  Not to my knowledge, but maybe.)  I doubt that Medieval Otaku would be unique without articles such as these:

1) The Problem of Evil and Spiritual Envy

2) De Liberalitate et Peccato

3) Prayer Maxims from a Novice

4) Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker

Ah!  But, I must confess, my dear readers, that I fall so short of my own advice!  I ought to study my old articles again and reapply myself to the devout life!  Along with St. Jerome, I must exclaim: “Hypocrite reader – my fellow – my brother!”  Whatever is good in them is the result of grace rather than from my sinful mind.  I can say without much vanity that some of the articles are indeed very good.  To aid the process of my conversion, I’m going to confession today–perhaps the best way to mark a birthday:

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51)

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Then, I am also grateful to this blog for introducing me to Sean Bishop.  I hope that his cartoon will be ready by the end of this year or the beginning of the next.  And then, I am especially grateful to those who still slog through so many of my lackluster articles to wait for the gems I occasionally produce; especially, TWWK of Beneath the Tangles, Genki Jason of Genkinahito, D. M. Dutcher of Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!, John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin, The Overlord Bear, David A, Zionista, Nami of The Budding Philosopher, Foxfier of Head Noises, Lee Relph of MIB’s Instant Headache, Japesland, Anime Commentary on the March, Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of?, Cajun Samurai, Michelle Joelle of Soliloquies and GoodbyeNavi.  I suppose that’s all the people who have frequently commented on my blog.  I hope I didn’t miss anyone!  Anyway, without the interest shown by all my readers, I should never have continued writing for two years.

But, what would an anniversary post referring to all the above articles be without mentioning How to Weather the Anime Doldrums?  Even if that medium of anime, capable of producing some of the most extraordinary tales, begins to tire us, life is full of many other things to enjoy.

Thoughts on Noragami and Witch Craft Works

The realization that I have not written about either Noragami or Witch Craft Works since writing Renuntiato Brevis struck me.  Yet, these are my two favorite shows from the winter season.  Now, that they have ended and the Spring season is impending, the time to write a few final thoughts on these shows is more than ripe.  The following article is a nicotine powered ramble I wrote while enjoying a blend of Latakia, Virginia, and Cavendish pipe tobacco on a beautiful, sunny day.

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The most surprising thing about Noragami is how many of its themes one can tie into Christianity despite its Shinto background.  As a minor example, we have the fact that Yato only takes 5 yen coins for his services.  Spiritual gifts are priceless.  Since they cannot be equated in any way with material goods, money given to religious institutions are rather tokens of good will than amount tendered for particular services.  All the money in the world would not be the equivalent of a single drop of holy water.

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Then, the progression of sin which we see in Yukine follows a very Catholic understanding.  First, he commits slight faults because of his attachment to earthly things.  The effects of his peccadilloes are seen in the small blight produced on Yato, the god to whom he is attached, but this can fortunately be removed by pouring holy water on them.  In the same way, prayer, holy water, and penance remove venial sins through the grace of God.  Then, Yukine moves on to greater offenses until he does something so terrible that Yato is rendered prostrate.  Who can forget that those who do grave sins “are crucifying once again the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:6)?  His offenses lead to him hardening his heart toward Yato so that he needs to be forced to undergo the absolution ceremony, which requires confession.  In the same way, sin hardens our hearts to God and constant mortal sin produces a hatred of Him.  Similarly, absolution must be accomplished with confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I was more than a little surprised by all these parallels.

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Might I add that the final battle is spectacular?  The conflict between Yato and Rabo borrows heavily from Rurouni Kenshin.  After all, Yato is trying to escape his past as a god of calamity by doing good deeds and Rabo’s desire to make Yato a god of calamity again reminds one of Shishio’s wish for Kenshin to revert to his manslayer self.  Well done!

Chronoire Schwarz VI

My favorite character in the series. It helped that Rie Kugimiya voiced her.

Witch Craft Works is as flawed as a Sir Walter Scott novel but about as much fun!  The plot meandered until the end, and the revelation about Takamiya’s condition and the state of the world was scattered as randomly as buckshot throughout the show.  Yet, from Tanpopo Kuraishi to Kasumi to Chronoire Schwarz VI to Kagari, the characters stood as some of the most likable of any show I’ve seen.  Might I add that the end featured a great villain?  Our heroes must have been as tenderhearted as God to let her live!  They could make six or seven more seasons, and I should probably watch all of them.

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To tell you the truth, I even liked Takamiya.  He’s a hapless dope, but his heart is in the right place.  One of my favorite moments from the Winter season occurs when Evermillion asks Takamiya for his eyes as an exchange for dispelling the petrification spell on Kagari.  Takamiya heartily agrees–happy that he can undo her spell so easily!  Of course, Evermillion admits that she is jesting, but this “I love you more than my eyes” scene touched the Italian part of my soul.

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For one more religious allegory, Takamiya and Kagari’s relationship reminded me of a cradle Catholic with the Lord.  Most Catholics are baptized as infants.  Similar to Takamiya’s arranged betrothal, these Christians are not consulted as to whether they want to be joined with Christ’s Body.  Yet, once introduced to Christ at a later age, we become so enamored of His goodness that we accept this relationship, the initiation of which we had no say.  In the same way, Takamiya finds himself ecstatic to be loved by the beautiful, intelligent, and caring Kagari.  But, how lucky we all are to be loved by the infinitely Beautiful and all-Loving Source of Wisdom and Knowledge?

Let’s see whether the new season will provide us with shows this great.

On Churches Becoming Mosques

Well, late last night, I confess to becoming argumentative with a fellow Catholic on Twitter and have learned–as any fool ought to already know–that Twitter happens to be the worst place to argue.  Twitter’s format encourages one to be cutthroat, as messages of 150 characters hardly allows one’s opinion to come across with clarity.  But, I did respond with cynicism to the news that an old church was being converted into a mosque, which naturally includes the loss of its crosses.  The church had been originally closed due to the merger between two parishes due to “parishioners moving to the suburbs.”  And my interlocutor compared this incident to the loss of Hagia Sophia in 1453.

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But, churches in modern America and the Europe of today do not fall to bloody conquest.  The history of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe include some of the blackest pages in history.  Churches in modern first world countries, however, are lost by apathy and poor religious education.  The Church has to a large extent lost the war for the hearts and minds of the people.  Christians neither attend Churches nor contribute to the upkeep of churches.  For this reason and not essentially because Catholics move, churches are being converted into mosques.

The loss of a building matters little compared to the loss of souls evinced by the loss of the building. It is a great shame to hear that a tabernacle which held Our Lord is now empty, but the tabernacles which Jesus Christ wishes to reside in, the tabernacles he reached through the sacraments offered in the church, are human hearts.  The vicinity of a closed church usually has plenty of baptized persons who can fill churches–unless it truly has been taken by force of arms.  On Sunday, the majority of these persons stay home or feel that they need to work on this day.  The importance of attending Mass was never impressed on their minds.  Even if they love Christ, they cannot connect the importance of the sacraments to their devotion.  This points to a failure in religious education–or perhaps they feel unwelcome?  That the Church is for the elderly or the middle class?

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For whatever reason, the Church lacks the vibrancy to keep their members attending Mass.  (Even my particularly vibrant parish has an attendance rate of less than 50 percent.)  People joke that the surest way to endanger a Catholic youth’s faith is to send him to a Catholic school.  The absence of Catholic culture in films and books contributes to the idea that the Christian worldview is of limited worth.  Thank God for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis!  Sometimes I–and I am not the only one–think that I see more Christian messages in anime than on American television!  The Catholic church in America does have a vibrant center, but they seem incapable when it comes to making the Church’s message palatable to groups beyond the naturally pious.

On the other hand, Muslims, Secularists, and Atheists are so much more motivated to destroy the Faith than its adherents are to build it!  Christianity appears blase compared to their attempts to build a perfect society or a kingdom of God on earth.  But, the riches of Christ are infinitely greater and more beautiful than the beliefs held by our cultural enemies.  With God on our side, the only reason for us to be losing is inaction!  Until more souls become on fire with the beauty of the Gospel, we shall see more churches becoming mosques.  Can we blame anyone but ourselves?

Little-Known Biblical Expressions We Use #1

I had no idea that we got this expression from the Bible.

Aliens in This World

“till it’s coming out of your nose.”

“I have heard you say, “Who will give us flesh to eat? it was well with us in Egypt.”

“So the Lord may give you flesh, and you may eat — not for one day, nor two, nor five, nor ten, no, nor for twenty, but even for a month of days, till it comes out at your nostrils, and becomes loathsome to you; because you have cast off the Lord, who is in the midst of you, and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”” (Numbers 11:18-20)
In Latin, it’s “donec exeat per nares vestras.”

In Hebrew, it’s pretty much the same thing, except in Hebrew. Very exact translation.

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