On the Communion of Saints

I’ve tried twice to write the present article.  Neither scribbling quite satisfied me, and so I just decided to ramble and hope for the best.  Through the prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose natalis we celebrate today, may this ramble on the Communion of Saints benefit my dear readers!  Speaking of my dear readers, thanks to those who commented on my last article and made me think more deeply about the points I tried to make.  Your thoughtful observations rendered the comments section more interesting than the article itself!

All-Saints

At any rate, how are Christians benefited by the Communion of Saints?  And who makes up the Communion of Saints?  All the Faithful make up this body, whether on Earth, in Heaven, or in Purgatory.  (Protestants and Orthodox included, as to be baptized is to be made one with the Body of Christ.)  The Communion of Saints forms a bulwark against worldliness.  Meditation on the example and desires of the saints insulate us both against worldly desires and the despair which often threatens us during grave trials.

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That the Communion of Saints keeps our eyes fixed on the King of the Saints, Our Lord Jesus Christ, may especially be seen in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Those familiar with his life know that chivalric literature influenced St. Ignatius as a youth to seek military glory.  His brave career as a soldier ended at the Battle of Pamplona, where a cannonball wounded him in both legs.  This led to a long period of recuperation and agonizing surgery, which he endured most manfully.  While convalescing,  he wished to read more books on chivalry, but was told by his caretakers that they place where he stayed only had the Bible and the Lives of the Saints.  He read these and soon found himself fired by the love of God and the desire to imitate the saints.  He wrote down the words of Jesus Christ in a red pen and the words of St. Mary in blue in order to make them a constant meditation.  Upon recovery, he forsook a life in the world in order to pursue one of prayer, fasting, and poverty.  Eventually, St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, whose members, the Jesuits, stand as one of the most prominent religious orders in the Church.

st-ignatius-of-loyola

We, like St. Ignatius, are born into the world and find ourselves influenced by it.  It is very easy for us to become enmeshed in mere daily living and worldly desires.  The end result is losing all taste for religion.  After all, does not BIBLE stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?  Heaven can wait.  We have decades before we need to meet our Maker!  We can put off prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for later.  A person with such attitudes has already been enmeshed in the world, and stands the chance of losing eternal life.

lastjudgement

After St. Ignatius’ conversion, he never looked back.  The reason is because he took up the desires of the saints.  The saints’ desire for holiness and eternal life replaced his desire for worldly glory.  Though the latter part of his life was spent in society (Ignatius lived as a hermit for a short while), keeping mindful of God and the Saints preserved him from adapting the desires of secular persons.  As he writes in his Spiritual Exercises:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.

Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.

Ignatius always remembered that he was a child of God with an eternal inheritance.  In comparison to eternal life, all else is dross.

Though intimate with the King and noble society, St. Thomas More valued riches and status as nothing compared to God and the Truth.  A great example of living in the world but not being of it.

Though intimate with the King and noble society, St. Thomas More valued riches and status as nothing compared to God and the Truth. A great example of living in the world but not being of it.

The whole trick to living in the world but not being of it resides in remembering to which community we belong.  Though we love and respect our secular friends and wish for them to gain the same end we hope for, it is necessary for us to avoid falling into the same errors as they do–especially the error that religion holds no relevance to everyday life.  The words and deeds of the saints–and indeed the saints themselves–can be brought into our daily lives.  In our imitation of the saints, the charity and virtue we show may even be instrumental in drawing secular persons to our society.

May St. Ignatius pray that we all arrive where he and the other saints praise Our Lord through the ages of the ages.  Amen.

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Kisara’s Revenge: Right or Wrong?

Here’s one last article on Black Bullet and the Spring season of 2014.  Like most of you, Kisara’s utter obliteration of her treacherous brother took me by surprise.  I thought that she would let him off with the loss of his legs, but I suppose cutting off a limb is always the prelude to giving the killing stroke–whether one is considering Japanese or Western martial arts.  Anyway, the parricidal villain got what he deserved.

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Or did he?  Kisara laughs maniacally after his death and claims that she is evil and that only evil can eradicate evil.  These two claims strike one as shocking, especially for someone from a culture where filial piety is so esteemed.  (And no, evil cannot eradicate evil.  Only justice and mercy can.)  When one takes that into account along with the traditional belief that the victims of murder will not rest in peace until they have been avenged, I’d say that most Japanese would think badly of her had she not killed Kazumitsu Tendo.

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So, whence arises the idea that she did wrong?  I am tempted to think Kisara’s words as purely rooted in the emotion of the moment.  To a person of integrity, killing is always ugly and painful even if justified.  Or does she feel that she ought to have left Kazumitsu’s punishment to the authorities?  But, one has already seen the degree of corruption in both the police and the government, and Kisara no doubt took this into account when she undertook extralegal means to avenge her parents.  Using a duel to execute a murderer is hardly ideal, but neither is Black Bullet‘s society.

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I’m pretty sure this did not enter into Kisara’s mind at all, but in the spirit of this blog let’s ask this question: was it unchristian to kill her brother?  The Faith does recommend mercy.  Kisara could have stopped short of killing him at least, right?  But, four things must be taken into account when judging this matter: 1) Kazumitsu thinks nothing of taking human life–even the lives of his parents; 2) merely maiming him does not prevent him from continuing to use his political power or influence to cause grave harm; 3) the corrupt government might acquit in a trial, thus allowing him to continue to take human lives or endanger society for his own ends; and 4) Kazumitsu would no doubt be using his power to eliminate witnesses should he be arraigned.  I think that there exists a hierarchy of compassion in Christianity and prudence partially governs how mercy is given.  As the Glossa Interlinearis, a 12th century Biblical gloss by Anselm of Laon, states: “Justice and mercy are so united that one ought to be mingled with the other; justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice profusion…” (Gloss to Matt. 5:7).  Permitting Kazumitsu to live in society places the life of a murderer above his potential victims.  To have compassion on the murderer in this case is to lack compassion for the innocent.  Giving the lethal blow to Kazumitsu falls more under Katsujinken (“the life giving sword”) than Satsujinken (“the murdering sword”).

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If anything could have rendered Kazumitsu’s death a moral wrong, it would be if Kisara had arranged the duel in the belief that she was doing wrong.  It is possible to render something objectively right evil by having the wrong intention.  For example, giving money to the poor in order to be praised by others or telling truth for the purpose of delighting in another’s pain on hearing it.  The ugliness of the deed certainly struck her after the fact, but she did not have any doubts about whether she should fight Kazumitsu beforehand.  The preparations before the duel evince her sense of righteous indignation.  But, if there be any truth to Kisara’s belief that she’s evil for avenging her parents, it could only be because she undertook the revenge believing that she was doing wrong.

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You couldn’t be more wrong, Kisara.

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Nevermind, you could be.

But, what do my dear readers think?  Was Kisara’s action laudable filial piety?  The only way to stop a dangerous malefactor?  Erroneous vigilantism?  Or wrong because Kisara acted against her conscience from the beginning?

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Drinking in Early 19th Century America

I have a couple of comments on my recent article On Vanity about the per capita drinking rate of early nineteenth century America.  According to their calculations, people would only be drinking three ounces of pure alcohol per diem if the per capita rate of drinking were 18 gallons of pure alcohol.  And if everyone from the age of fifteen onwards only drank only three ounces of alcohol per diem, it strikes one as crazy that any sort of Temperance movement would start.

But yes, many temperance ladies were crazy anyway.

But yes, many temperance ladies were crazy anyway.

So, I decided to examine how 18 gallons of pure alcohol would translate across the spectrum of beer, wine, and hard liquor (most probably rye whiskey, rum, or gin at that time) in terms of bottles and cases.  Now, look closely at my math and see whether I’m correct in my calculations.  My specialty is Classical languages after all, not mathematics.  But if I am right, early Americans must really have been having a good time!

tavern

Continue reading

Izumi Nase and Bearing Too Many Burdens

Having recently finished Kyoukai no Kanata, the character of Izumi Nase stands out to me as the most interesting character.  She heads the Nase clan of Dreamshade slayers (Dreamshade being the favored translation of youmu), which makes her responsible for all supernatural phenomena in the city where she resides and its environs.  Her younger brother and sister also have major parts to play in the story, but they do not bear the same burdens as Izumi Nase.  In essence, they get to lead normal high school lives; yet, they are not unwilling to involve themselves in dangerous situations for the sake of their friends.  *Spoiler Alert in effect from this point on.*  Izumi would have done well to involve them more thoroughly in her struggles, for one suspects she would have made fewer errors of judgment.  For two of which, Izumi Nase loses the respect of her brother and enters a self-imposed exile.

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Though I refer to Izumi’s deeds as errors of judgment, one would be hard pressed not to consider her a villain.  Despite us seeing several Dreamshades who strike us as rather human, she considers all Dreamshades as crops to be harvested or game to be bagged.  (In her defense, most Dreamshade hunters hold to this attitude.)  Also, she orchestrates the worst obstacles our heroes need to overcome.  Hiring Kuriyama to assassinate Akihito, causing Akihito to lose control of the Dreamshade inside him, and necessitating Akihito to rescue Kuriyama from a sealed world effectively peg her as the main villain.

Fire Illumination

Yet, one cannot help but see good intentions in these dark deeds.  Her intense sense of duty as the head of the Nase family leads her to act in the way she does.  But, she places too much responsibility on her own shoulders.  One is reminded of Kenshin Himura.  However, a crucial difference between the two lies in Kenshin separating himself from his dear friends in order to prevent them from coming to harm, while Izumi has no qualms about risking even family members for the sake of what she deems to be the greater good.

(Couldn’t resist adding this clip from Hot Fuzz.  A spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie.)

That duty has an excess might strike one as surprising, especially if one has the same mind as Robert E. Lee: “Duty is the most sublime word in the English language.”  But, perhaps the best example of the misdeeds caused from an excessive sense of duty might be one of Lee’s most famous opponents, John Brown.  The evils of slavery gnawed at Brown’s soul.  His frustration with the seeming permanence of the institution led him to move from legitimate actions like influencing public opinion against slavery and aiding the Underground Railroad to the crimes of murder and fomenting an unsuccessful slave revolt.

Akihito, like most people in this awesome show, is quite an oddball.

Akihito, like most people in this awesome show, is quite an oddball.

In a similar way, Izumi sees the danger posed by the Dreamshade residing in Akihito’s soul.  As a Dreamshade living in her town, taking care of this monster falls under her jurisdiction, and inaction never appears as an option for her.  The Dreamshade must be destroyed to prevent it from emerging one day and wreaking havoc upon humanity.  If it Akihito should one day lose control of it, the destruction it causes will lie on her head!  She deems merely keeping a close eye on Akihito and sealing back the Dreamshade when necessary too dangerous.  Although, Akihito neither has done anything deserving of capital punishment nor wishes to unleash his Dreamshade on the world, Izumi’s lack of faith in others and divine Providence impels her to ensure the destruction of Akihito and the Dreamshade at all costs.  (Of course, the anime never mentions Providence, but people who worry too much forget that not even a single hair falls from our head without God’s knowledge.)  Like John Brown, her sense of responsibility spills into hubris.

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On the other hand, what saved Kenshin from using unjust means–resorting to his manslayer self–during his battle with Shishio?  Other people.  Without his friends telling him not to turn over to the dark side for an illusory strength, he would have fallen to the temptation.  Izumi, on the other hand, stands tragically alone.  She does not delegate authority in such a way as to give people freedom of action nor does she confide in others about her plans.  Therefore, she herself turns to the dark side in both taking in a Dreamshade into her own body and resorting to assassination to solve problems.

Izumi's last stand

Yet, her very misguidedness calls for forgiveness.  The world we live in does not forgive weakness, which leads to people falling into the trap of relying on themselves too much.  As a matter of fact, that her own brother rejects Izumi at the end almost corroborates her notion that she rises or falls on her own strength.  A brother should be more inclined to forgive a sibling than disown them!  One can only hope that Izumi discovers that she cannot rely entirely upon herself in her exile.

On Vanity

Though the Lincoln Island episodes (I love the nod to Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island) of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water stand as some of the most ridiculous and boring episodes of anime (John Samuel even advised me to spare myself the pain of watching them), they at least inspired the present article on vanity.  You see, Nadia has an absurd attachment to her vegetarian and technophobic ways.  Now, there is nothing wrong with with either declining to eat meat or preferring low tech or archaic things.  These are personal choices, the first perhaps makes for a healthier lifestyle and the latter less slavery to technology.  Problems arise, however, when the person ceases to believe that these things are personal choices, but rather the only correct choices for everybody.  In the anime, we see Nadia calling Jean a bad person for eating meat and exclaiming that Marie is on her way to fiery damnation for her carnivorous ways.

nadia angry

It sometimes surprises me that Nadia can be so likable with all her vanity and pride, but elevating one’s personal preferences to the objectively best manner of thinking is a common fault.  In the Gospels, we see the Pharisees do this when they complain of the Apostles eating with unwashed hands as if they have committed a terrible transgression.  In our own time, we can point to various snobs who vaunt their peculiarities over the erring ways of the rest of humanity: vegans, vegetarians, non-smokers, teetotalers, hybrid car drivers, anti-hunters, anti-gunners, literary snobs, wine snobs, health fanatics, exercise fanatics, tea connoisseurs, fountain pen connoisseurs, art enthusiasts, classical music enthusiasts, people who use organic foods only, cigar snobs, cosmopolitans, nationalists, intellectuals, otaku, lengthy anime series haters, popular anime series haters, and the list might go on forever.  All the above are personal inclinations–no more that that.  If someone tries to argue that these choices are clearly superior to other choices, intelligent people can easily peg them as a snob.  Why does following a particular fad or predilection so easily make people believe they are superior to people following different fads or predilections?

Captain Nemo

But, my favorite feature of human vanity is the anti-snobbery snob.  This occurs when a person develops opposite habits to those whom he perceives to be snobs in order to further disassociate with them: eating red meat with every meal, never buying organic products, having one beer a day, owning a gas guzzling truck, having animal trophies in every room, refusing to read literature, never touching wine, etc.  Avoiding the arrogance of the snobs often causes one to become a snob oneself–and occasionally to one’s detriment.  When I advised one person to use a glass mug with his craft beer, he deliberately picked up a plastic mug and would not change his mind!  Why?  What pleasure is there in putting one’s lips to a plastic mug rather than a glass one except whatever pleasure anti-beer connoisseur snobbery affords?

Samson playing house

In the case of reverse snobbery, I confess myself to have fallen into such concerning alcohol.  The only creature worse than a wine snob is a teetotaling snob: the wine snob is superior to you because his tastes are more refined; the teetotaling snob claims moral superiority over his fellows.  Reading about the Temperance movement birthed this anti-snobbery.  After all, we see that people in the Temperance movement resorted to violence in order to further their goals, founded religions with teetotalism as a fundamental tenet, lied to influence the passage of Prohibition, and made clearly exaggerated claims against drinkers–such as that drinking was un-American.  (Those German and Irish immigrants were terrible drunks, you know!  But, I don’t think the per capita consumption of 18 gallons of pure alcohol at the beginning of the 19th century can be laid entirely on Germans and Irish.)  Meeting and listening to people whose teetotalism was infected by moral superiority helped my prejudice along.  Only in the last three years have I softened my discrimination against non-drinkers as I met people whose teetotalism was unmixed with hauteur.

Nadia002

However, perhaps the worst forms of snobbery and anti-snobbery find themselves in the realm of religion.  The groups having members most likely to be guilty of this are atheists, militant agnostics, Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants, Anglicans, and Western followers of Eastern religions.  Of course, believers and proponents of these systems can wrongly be perceived as arrogant merely because they believe their ideas are true–especially with the plague of relativism affecting the modern world.  But, some proponents of these worldviews go further than that.  They despise people of other backgrounds as backwards, uneducated, unthinking, unintelligent, unsophisticated, or morally defective.  They say to themselves, “If those people were not so stupid, stubborn, or wicked, surely they would believe what I believe!”  The worst thing about the arrogance of these people is that they drive away people who would otherwise be interested in the Faith.  (For obvious reasons, I am not as concerned about arrogant atheists or agnostics.)  When the stench of arrogance surrounds anything, people not inclined to examine it–whether it be Bordeaux or dogma.

Valkyria’s Limited Experience of Goodness & Invicible Ignorance

St. Thomas Aquinas’ fourth proof for the existence of God has always struck me as his weakest.  The fourth way of the Quinque Via states that we see various degrees of perfection in created beings.  These perfections must have a highest exemplar from which they gain all their perfections, and this highest exemplar with every perfection must be God.  However, the argument already assumes the existence of God: because we know that God is the greatest thing which can be thought, he must also be the highest exemplar of every perfection we find in creatures.  But, one cannot reason for the existence of God from such an argument.  You’re free to dispute this point if you like.

It's hard to tell who was the greater genius, St. Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle.

To use an example from Gokukoku no Brynhildr, Valkyria cannot reason from the beauty of the sunset, the tender kindness of Kuroneko, or the courageous rescue by Chisato to the infinitely beautiful, infinitely loving, and saving God.  Part of the reason Valkyria cannot reason thus lies in her being trapped in a world of evil: Vingulf’s laboratory which experiments on and tortures human beings until they expire or displease their superiors.  The belief that human beings hold intrinsic value stands as a moot point.  Chisato even frankly admits that all lives are not equal.

Valkyria intro

This causes a big problem for Valkyria.  Valkyria’s experience of goodness seems limited to Chisato and Kuroneko for the most part.  She loves Kuroneko because Kuroneko’s almost an exact clone of her, and she looks at Chisato as her god.  Instead of a God who calls every creature good and created human beings as the very image of himself, Valkyria believes in Chisato, who sees everyone and everything as either useless or potentially useless–except for his dead sister anyway.  Valkyria believes Chisato can do no wrong and follows him blindly.

A happy Valkyria

Her obedience even extends to killing Kuroneko, her other self.  She does attempt several times to dissuade Chisato from demanding Kuroneko’s death; but, when push comes to shove, she’s willing even to kill her twin for Chisato’s sake.  Thus, her limited perception of the good constricts to a solitary and morally corrupt individual.  Though, Kuroneko escapes death, Kuroneko might as well be an infidel with a fatwa on her head at that point.

Kuroneko vs Valkyria

However, a pivotal moment occurs when Chisato dies while saving Valkyria one more time.  (The spark of divine goodness reignited in him at the end.)  Valkyria decides to annihilate the entire city and everyone in it at that point.  In her mind, the present situation is none other than Nietzsche’s proclamation on the theological state of the world–though with a slight twist: “God is dead…And you have killed him!”  Valkyria believes that Chisato was the sole good in her life.  Without him, she wants to destroy the entire worthless world.  Fortunately, Kuroneko defeats her, which leads to one of the most perplexing scenes in the manga.

Destroy the World

Upon her death, Valkyria sees Chisato one more time and pronounces his name before disappearing.   Are we to understand this as Valkyria’s salvation at the end?  (Elfen Lied, Okamoto’s prior manga, is patently Christian, and the same ethos is present in Gokukoku no Brynhildr, though more hidden.)  One wonders if it is really Chisato she sees–having been granted salvation though doing the greatest good one friend can do for another–or is it in fact Jesus Christ?  When we think of the genus savior, Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle.  But, the only example of salvation Valkyria knew was of Chisato; hence, at the brink of eternal damnation, she could only recognize the Savior, who desires to rescue all souls from eternal death, as Chisato.  In light of the ultimate Goodness, the last movement of her soul is toward repentance for her evils–which must appear truly detestable in the full light of God–and toward love of God.  Thus, she is saved.

Salvation perhaps

Would this movement of soul would be enough for salvation?  Love of the good which God placed in Chisato and which Valkyria could only recognize as Chisato?  As a Catholic, even if this were enough, I cannot but believe that her crimes would keep Valkyria in purgatory until the end of the world.  Though, the abyss of ignorance Valkyria has concerning God and goodness might indeed be invincible enough for Valkyria to escape the full penalty for her crimes.  May we all be so excused from our sins!

What I’ll be Watching for Summer 2014

After watching many first episodes and reading many blog articles, I have decided on eleven shows from the Summer 2014 season to watch.  Medieval Otaku is mainly a blog for opinions and deep analysis on certain threads and themes found in anime, especially religious themes.  But, my dear readers might be curious to know which shows I’ll be enjoying and on which they’ll likely see some commentary.  Here is the list of shows with minimal commentary:

Akame

1) Akame ga Kiru

I’ll confess that I’m one of those crazed, die-hard Esdese is mai waifu Akame Ga Kiru fans you’ve heard about.  The story has some hard-hitting action, likable characters, and interesting moral dilemmas and other shades of grey.  It’s fun to see the manga animated.  May the pacing and plot be better executed than Gokukoku no Brynhildr, the other manga about whose anime release I had been enthusiastic.

2) Girls und Panzer OVA

3) Aldnoah.Zero

From the same mind that gave us Majestic Prince, it also feels much like that show.  If it can be as good, I’ll be very happy.

4) Psycho-Pass Restart

Only a true Psycho-Pass junkie would wish to see the first season retold with a few additional details.  That pretty much describes me.

Sabagebu!

5) Sabagebu

What’s not to like about girls and guns?  This show has some great humor, awesomely detailed weapons, and fun action sequences (even if they are imaginary).

6) Rail Wars

7) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

8) ARGEVOLLEN

It was great seeing Yomi again--especially as one of the good guys.

It was great seeing Yomi again–especially as one of the good guys.

9) Tokyo ESP

That this show occurs in the same universe as Ga-Rei Zero came as a complete surprise to me.  The first episode is a little slow, and Tokyo ESP has much to live up to in order to be a worthy successor of Ga-Rei Zero.  Anyone else catch the Ryougi Shiki look-alike?

vlcsnap-2014-07-13-01h31m04s86 Ryougi Shiki

10) Hanayamata

I don’t know how this show wound up on my list.  But, I found episode one endearing.  Let’s see how long it lasts.

11) Zankyou no Terror

Haven’t seen episode one of this, so I can’t claim enthusiasm.  Though from what I’ve read, it could be one of this season’s biggest hits.

Captain Earth may or may not be added to this list depending on the quality of the finale episodes.  To tell you the truth, I am rather shocked by how strong the summer season is.  Hopefully, a few shows will be good enough to be considered classics.  Also, I’m still watching El Cazador de la Bruja (I confess to stalling a little on that show) and am struggling through the Lincoln Island episodes of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  May this summer’s anime be ten times more enjoyable than the spring’s!

Saber Marionette J and the Family

You know, its amazing how sometimes an anime can be based on a trite, fanservicey manga and yet contain a great high story.  This is precisely what happened in the case of Saber Marionette J.  (Don’t read the manga.)  I found myself surprised at the conservative tack it took in regard to the family.  As you know, the premise of this series describes a futuristic society on another planet which must survive by cloning.  Unfortunately, no women survived of the original settlers, which means that all clones are men.  In order to keep the memory of women alive, men make androids in the form of women, but these lack emotion–save in the case of our heroines and their opposites, anyway.  How miserable to be a man in a world without women!

A picture of our heroines' opponents for a change.

A picture of our heroines’ opponents for a change.

But, the shogun of Japoness has a plan for bringing women back into society through using the maiden circuits in Lime, Cherry, and Bloodberry.  He tells Otaru very little of his overall plan save that this will be possible once their maiden circuits or hearts have grown.  However, the Shogun insists that the family is mankind’s original form and that man must regain it.  This view diverges greatly from a more popular science fiction anime, Crest of the Stars, which imagines that people can do without the family.  But, would people really be happy without belonging to a family?  Here’s what Theodore Roosevelt says about the importance of marriage, which I quote from the forward of his autobiography: “There is need to develop all the virtues that have the state for their sphere of action; but these virtues are as dust in a windy street unless back of them lie the strong and tender virtues of a family life based on the love of the one man for the one woman and on their joyous and fearless acceptance of their common obligation to the children that are theirs.”  The hardships inherent in forming a good character have their reward in love.  Without love, especially the nearly unconditional love found in the family, people cannot be happy.

Cherry, the most domestic of Otaru's harem.

Cherry, the most domestic of Otaru’s harem.

But, most people follow the Crest of the Stars view that families are not necessary.  People place economic success as the goal of life, marriage and children are accessories rather than what makes for happiness.  But, happiness is an end, and work is obviously a means.  One cannot find happiness in means.  Because work and generating money are not the locus of happiness, Max Scheler, a famous Catholic philosopher of the turn of the twentieth century organizes the spheres of human activity thus, from least to greatest:

  1. Economic
  2. Vital
  3. Aesthetic
  4. Spiritual

The term vital refers to those activities which sustain humanity, especially the family.  Most thinkers nowadays refer to community and family without using the term vital, but we see the use of this term in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, who happens to be one writer to forget that all things are not a matter of utility.  Basically, modern man–or post-modern man, whichever term you think more accurate–places the economic sphere above the rest and does his best to eliminate or infringe upon the value of the rest.

Faust, actually does make the mistake of placing utility over personality--creating a monster android because it is better at battle than his original marionettes.

Faust (pictured in the upper left), actually does make the mistake of placing utility over personality–creating a monster android because it is better at battle than his original marionettes.

The problem with such a reversal lies in that such a mindset never finds happiness.  And our protagonists, poor as they are, would never be happy if it all depended on their economic situation.  Instead, the people of Japoness seek happiness in community, friendship, or art.  But most people would feel incomplete without families.  Saber Marionette J displays this best in the case of Otaru’s sensei, who has a marionette, with whom he has fallen in love despite the fact that she doesn’t have a personality.  Of course, he sees this deficiency and tricks Lime into giving up her heart.  He intends to erase the data on it and install the maiden circuit into his own marionette so that they can essentially live together as husband and wife–as the two haves of humanity should.  Most people need this kind of love.  If this were not the case, marriage would not have been called the ordinary vocation.

SMJ the gang

And so, I shall end my remarks on the surprising conservatism of Saber Marionette J by referencing the Holy Father’s thoughts on the family.  The shogun of Japoness would surely agree: “We were created to love, as a reflection of God and His Love.  And in matrimonial union, the man and woman realize this vocation as a sign of reciprocity and the full and definitive communion of life.”  Would that modern man learn both that happiness is the goal of life and that marriage is integral to happiness unless God has called a person to a life of service–especially as a priest or religious.  No one was created for the sake of merely making money and enjoying pleasurable goods!

My Experience with Anime of Spring 2014 Pt. II

Here I conclude my opinions on the anime I watched from Spring 2014 with my top five shows.  Enjoy!

Black Bullet Enju and Rentaro

5.  Black Bullet – ★★★½

One might characterize this show as having all one would wish for in a shonen anime: plenty of action and brushes with death.  It also had many things one could make fun of: examples may be seen here and here.  The Joker-like villain was a great foe for Rentaro, though I must confess to disliking our hero.  Rentaro’s a little inconsistent.  Shooting someone’s finger off in revenge for cruelty and stabbing someone for threatening to run?  Fine.  Killing a parricidal brother whose actions caused the death of thousands more?  O immane facinus!  In Rentaro’s defense, he might have been more disturbed by Kisara’s conviction that she needs to become evil in order to defeat evil.  She should familiarize herself with Jesus’ sermon on a house divided against itself.  But, I have an article on that scene in the works.

This show has everything an otaku needs: great action sequences, anime lines, likable characters, and a harem with girls fitting any taste.  Worthwhile for any fan of action also.

SDSGU

4.  Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii – ★★★★

I almost feel generous in giving Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii four stars, but it had two of the strongest characters this season.  (Thanks again to Lee Relph for recommending it to me.)  Of the shows I’ve seen, I can’t find a stronger female character than Nike or a stronger male character than Livius.  Normally, I don’t watch romantic shows, but this one had a good dose of court intrigue to make things more exciting.  Nevertheless, the salient features of the show stand as the love between Nike and Livius and the many tribulations they endure for the sake of their love.  The show also has some great humor.

Whether one likes comedy or romance, one should not pass this show up.

Tonari no Panic

3.  Tonari no Seki-kun – ★★★★

This was the most popular short comedy during both this season and the last one.  Its gags are sure to provoke vehement guffaws, and the show contains some likable characters–especially Yokoi.  The way entire episodes are narrated from one point of view, usually Yokoi’s, also make this work unique.  Yokoi’s voice actress, Kana Hanazawa, does a brilliant job of narration–whether it be her thoughts on Seki’s bizarre games or her own outlandish fantasies.

Though there might not be that much to this show besides the comedy, I highly recommend it.

KOS

2.  Knights of Sidonia – ★★★★

Much better than the manga.  This is a particularly dark story where the characters die in great frequency.  One gets the impression that no one is safe, which reminds me of how the makers of the old TV series Combat! would place the characters’ pictures on a dartboard to decide who would kick the bucket in certain episodes.  I thought that Knights of Sidonia had a slow start, which nicely described the atmosphere of Sidonia and humanity’s present existence.  The CG worked perfectly in this high technology setting with backgrounds reminiscent of steam punk anime.  The ending was just about perfect.  Unlike the series mentioned before, this suffered from having somewhat uninteresting characters though the plot and pacing were excellent.  If the characters–especially the main character–were less bland, I could easily see this show as being worthy of a full five stars.

Definitely a great dark, sci-fi, which I would watch again.

Coffin Princess Chaika

1.  Hitsugi no Chaika – ★★★★

I loved that the story was set in the world of Scrapped Princess.  Ichiro Sakaki has his usually deft touch with characters, action, and humor.  This show is much darker than Scrapped Princess, and one can see influences from Strait Jacket, a prior work of Sakaki’s.  (That OVA is not for the faint of heart.)  I must compare this show to Scrapped Princess in that the same kind of trio forms up and soldiers are again seeking to capture a princess; however, it delves more into themes of identity, loyalty, and humanity than justice, trust, and family.

If anything is keeping the show from the higher ratings, it lies in the story not being complete.  Otherwise, it’s a great anime.

Hitsugi no Chaika - 01 -4

Now, I need to figure out what I ought to watch for the summer season–besides Barakamon, Zankyo no Terror, Akame ga Kiru, and Psycho-Pass.

My Experience with Anime in Spring 2014 Pt. I

Dear readers, my overall impression of the shows I watched is coming a little late, but I can say that I found this season fairly enjoyable.  Nothing blew me away, as you shall see from my ratings, but at the same time it was rather entertaining.  The greatest disappointment of the season happened to be Gokukoku no Brynhildr, but that might be laid to the fact that the studio wasn’t able to make a second season.  Perhaps the greatest surprise for me was how high Knights of Sidonia rose in my estimation.  After all, I hate the manga.  It’s far too bleak, miserable, and God-forsaken–like Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat.”

Azusa Tadokoro, who also plays Fino Bloodstone in I Couldn't become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a job, does a splendid job as Kotori.

Azusa Tadokoro, who also plays Fino Bloodstone in I Couldn’t become a Hero, so I Reluctantly Decided to Get a job, does a splendid job as Kotori.

Anyway, without further ado, let me give a brief opinion on these shows, starting with my least favorite.

Funny nude joke

10.  Captain Earth – Unfinished

This show’s episodic villain of the week format worked against it.  Also, the fact that the villains could not die–at least, as of episode 10, they are still supposed to be immortal–made the fights seem less intense.  Also, of the characters, the hero, the “mahou shoujo,” and some of the new villains who popped up were the most compelling, but the scenarios in which they placed these characters were very ordinary for the mecha genre.  Not to say that some of the fights were not exciting, but, compared to everything else on my list, Captain Earth stood as the least interesting.

Watching the end of this might feel like homework, but with only three episodes to go, I’ll finish it.

Kuroneko

9. Gokukoku no Brynhildr – ★★½

After mentioning that Gokukoku no Brynhildr stood as my greatest disappointment this season, you should not be surprised to find it in last place.  (Captain Earth will either tie it or be half a star less depending on its ending.)  The beginning of the show was fun, but one cannot help be frustrated by poor execution of the anime’s plot.  Basically, the pacing should have been more rapid at the beginning to allow for a more time for a satisfying finale.  The show begs the question of why one should bother watching it when the manga is leaps and bounds better.  On the other hand, I found the characters about as compelling as in the manga with the exception of Valkyria–the abrupt finale hurt the development of her character the most.

Will anime ever do a Lynn Okamoto manga right?

Ene

8.  Mekaku City Actors – ★★★

Fortunately, the Overlord Bear encouraged me to watch this show.  Here’s an anime which explores themes of isolation and alienation in a deft manner and has likable characters; however, it suffered from an overcomplicated plot and too much talk.  The animation and verbosity of the show is reminiscent of Bakemonogatari, but Bakemonogatari did it so much better.  Despite that, the intriguing characters’ back stories and problems would have earned it another half-star if not for the ending.

Overall, I’d watch it again, and it was fun–but no Bakemonogatari or Welcome to the N.H.K. for that matter.

The anime's sort of humor in a nutshell.

The anime’s sort of humor in a nutshell.

7.  Mangaka-san to Assistant-san – ★★★

Each week, I began to look forward to this ridiculous anime about the strange misadventures of an otaku mangaka and his harem.  What really helps the show is that the mangaka, Aito, stands as a rather original character.  I can’t point to another character in anime like him.  Though a weird pervert who got into manga in order to draw women’s panties in a socially acceptable venue, he is very supportive of the people around him and is downright hilarious to watch.  Some of the humor was outrageously over the top (I shall never watch the cross-dressing episode again), but it does comedy very well.  And, as Aristotle tells us, comedy requires characters who are inferior to the general populace.  (Not to say that I didn’t love each and every character in the show!)

Basically, it does comedy well, but don’t watch it if you wouldn’t watch Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.

Nanana Pudding

6.  Nanana’s Buried Treasure – ★★★

This show was a lot of fun.  I might have given it another half-star if I knew that another season was in the works.  It suffers a great deal from feeling incomplete.  Otherwise, it boasts likable characters, exciting scenarios, and plenty of slapstick humor.  Juugo himself felt like an uninteresting main character, but his interactions with Nanana and Tensai Ikkyuu make his character come more to life.  To reverse a chauvanist Chinese proverb, Juugo is the broom while Nanana and Ikkyuu form the wall he needs to lean against.  Also, Mamiko Noto, one of my favorite voice actresses, performed well as Yukihime.

This is one of those fun shows I might not mind watching again in the near future, but it does feel rather forgettable.

Not something I would say to someone with no qualms about killing me.  But it was cool to see a pepperbox pistol, which, according to Mark Twain, worked best when all barrels discharged at once!

Not something I would say to someone with no qualms about killing me. But it was cool to see a pepperbox pistol, which, according to Mark Twain, worked best when all barrels discharged at once!

Stay tuned for my top five shows tomorrow!

 

The Fundamental Difference between the Catholic and the Pagan Mind

I have become fascinated by a YouTube channel run by a user called Skallagrim.  (His name is drawn from the father of the eponymous hero of Egil’s Saga, which fans of fantasy novels would surely enjoy reading.)  In addition to the cool weapons and topics he presents, his honesty and cheerful personality make his videos enjoyable to watch.  Recently, I stumbled across this video on how monotheism appears to non-believers.  Christians do well to watch it because it very accurately describes the worldview of agnostics—or agnostic pagans as Skallagrim has described himself, though perhaps only semi-seriously.

After watching that, I found that I disagreed with so many things that I did not know where to start.  My original thought was to write about why his impression of God is distorted from the way He really is.  But then, the obvious question he might ask is why my view is any better than a Lutheran’s, Calvinist’s, Muslim’s, Jew’s, etc.  In meditating before the tabernacle (and no, I did not go to the tabernacle in order to ask God how I should write this article, but the article kept surfacing in my mind), the understanding came to me that the essence of agnosticism, which inflicts the entire modern world, is the belief that one cannot know objective metaphysical truth.  I italicize those words because agnostics obviously can believe in objective reality–and Skallagrim certainly does.  However, trying to discern an objective order to the universe beyond what science can tell one is deemed a fool’s errand.

David Hume

David Hume, the philosopher whose work led to the development of Analytical Philosophy.

The pagans of ancient Mediterranean world believed the same thing.  Relativism was as rampant in the ancient world as it is today.  Disparate peoples compared their pagan religions to one another and found commonalities.  They tolerated other pagan religions.  The idea of fighting about religion was absurd to them.  But, the progress of time caused pagans to be less religious, starting with the upper, educated classes.  This culminated in religion being outward show for the majority by the first century before Christ.

Parthenon of Athens

What destroyed the credence pagan had in their religion?  Obviously, it was not Christianity, which had not yet appeared.  The cause lies in the advent of philosophy, particularly the Socratic philosophers.  Socrates changed the world by seeking definitions of things in order to find out universal truths.  No longer would mere dogma be satisfactory!  Statements cannot be accepted on mere authority!  Plato banned poets from his ideal city-state because he thought they perpetuated the lies found in mythology.  Though Plato believed in a plurality of gods, he believed that the divine must be good and harmonious, not evil and discordant as we often see the Greek gods and goddesses act.  Emphasizing this unity, Plato often refers only to one god.  Aristotle further investigates the ideas found in Plato and posited a single “unmoved mover,” who must be God.

School of Athens

Basically, good philosophy–exemplified by Plato and Aristotle rather than the confusing mess offered by modern philosophies–renders the idea of a plurality of gods as untenable.  Platonism and Aristotelianism point to a harmonious metaphysical realm which includes an unmoved mover who set everything else in motion and uncaused cause from whom all other causes derive.  Isn’t it amazing that philosophy contains the similar truths found in the Catholic faith?  So much so that Christianity has been called “Platonism for the masses”?  St. Augustine describes a Platonic philosopher named Victorinus who believed in Christianity upon reading the Scriptures because of the way they connected with his philosophy.  Yet, he hesitated to be baptized.  When he told the Bishop Simplicianus of Milan that he was a Christian, Simplicianus said that he would not believe him until he had entered Church and received the sacraments.  Victorinus’ succinct comeback “do walls make Christians?” is still remembered today.  However, he did decide to get baptized and become a full member of the Catholic Church.

Augustine

Why is this melding of philosophy and Christianity possible?  It is well known that St. Augustine uses Platonism well to make sense of Christian doctrine, while St. Thomas does the same in his Summa Theologica with Aristotle.  The fact of the matter is that Truth is one and objective.  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle–no doubt with God’s Will–discovered parts of the truth and created systems which facilitated the understanding of Christians.  They also share one commonality with early Christians: their fellow citizens persecuted them.  Socrates was executed, Plato was charged in the same way as his master but fined instead, and Aristotle needed to flee Athens lest, as he put it, Athens commit a second crime against philosophy.

Bust of Aristotle

Bust of Aristotle

So, I would wish modern pagans and agnostics to give objective metaphysical truth a chance–to thoroughly test the metaphysical skepticism preached by analytical philosophy and Logical Posivitism by starting at the beginning of that non-authoritarian school known as philosophy.  Read Plato and Aristotle.  If Aristotle is too dry, read his most eloquent disciple, Cicero.  See whether you’re convinced of their faith in objective metaphysical truth.  (I might also add that one should read St. Thomas Aquinas, as he is more Aristotelian than Aristotle and the Churchmen of his time accused him of relying too much on philosophy.)  See how modern philosophers challenge the Socratic Schools.  Read modern defenders of older philosophical traditions like Peter Kreeft, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Mortimer Jerome Adler.

Despite being a Jew for most of his life, he was one of America's most popular Thomists.

Despite being a Jew for most of his life, Mortimer J. Adler was one of America’s most popular Thomists.

The reason I recommend philosophy so much is because it arms one with the tools to discern good theology from bad.  It is difficult to determine which religious truths don’t hold water, but having the tool of philosophy makes it much easier.  So, do not seek religion for religion’s sake, but examine religions for the sake of the Truth.  As I believe Jesus Christ is the Truth itself, seeing you seek Him will only draw Him faster to you: for all our striving, we do not find the Truth, but the Truth finds us–if only we care.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Not A Spy Anime (2/2)

The second part is even better than the first! Be sure to read this article which describes why Arpeggio of Blue Steel is not a spy anime and speaks about the necessity of dialogue between people of differing beliefs and becoming more adult in one’s relationship with God.

Yaranakya

arpeggio4

In the first part of this post, I presented evidence to the strong Christian undercurrent present in the storytelling of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, complimenting the already broad list of examples medievalotaku presented in his original blog post. Because of those motives, medievalotaku views Arpeggio as a “spy anime”.

However, I have my misgivings about the series being branded as such. On the one hand, I would generally oppose the idea of works of fiction being “spy anything”, since that implies there being only one true interpretation, which is untrue of any kind of deeper fiction. On the other hand, while Arpeggio takes from the Christian worldview to create the foundation of its setting and plot developments, it is not afraid to criticize Christian ideals and discuss the present state of Christianity.

arpeggio5

One of the ways in which Arpeggio transcends being a mere retelling and introduces its own…

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On Submarine Morality (Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio) (1/2)

Cytrus of Yaranakya also discovered Christian themes in the anime Arpeggio of Blue Steel. This article concentrates on the Christian ethos of the work, and is well worth reading. Stay tuned for part two!

Yaranakya

iona1

Spoiler warning: This post discusses the events of Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio / Arpeggio of Blue Steel in detail and contains significant spoilers.

I was late to pick up Arpeggio of Blue Steel last year, but it immediately shot up in the ranks of my favorite anime works from that period. Arpeggio is great fun as a self-contained sci-fi show, but there is also that religious undercurrent to it that I found fascinating. After all, Arpeggio was leaning very closely to classic Western ideas, despite its Japanese staff. Immediately upon finishing the series, I started looking around for a Christian look at the show, and medievalotaku obliged with a highly-detailed reinterpretation of the show as a parallel of the Bible.

As I read the article, though, I was surprised at how different the things medievalotaku noticed were from my own observations on the show. Turns out there was even…

View original post 1,980 more words

Music for the 151st Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

It had been my intentions to come out of the hiatus I announced today, though I could not forbear from writing again on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  My dear readers might be surprised that I keep the memory of the Battle of Gettysburg every year.  (It helps that the battle took place during the three days before Independence Day.)  Two things make me never fail to remember the battle: 1) the feats of heroism displayed from July 1 – July 3, 1863 are some of the greatest in the history of war–as befitting the turning point and bloodiest battle of the war (51,000 casualties in total) and 2) one of my ancestors died from a wound received on the third day of this battle.  I like to think that he died in Pickett’s Charge, but my father neglected to ask the circumstances from the person who told him.

Pickett's Charge

At this point, you may be curious how I intend to connect anime to the American Civil War.  There is a YouTube user who sets various pieces of old ballads and songs to original anime backgrounds.  And Lord Drako Arakis just happens to have a few for this occasion.  Some of the songs he plays can be quite bawdy or profane, and a few might not like his admonition that people who do not enjoy his songs can go into the eternal flames.  (I just find it humorous, which I think he was going for.)  But, I’ll save those for a less solemn occasion.  Here’s a song dedicated to the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, followed by another remembering Vicksberg and Gettysburg.  There is also a song with the opening music from the movie Gettysburg, but it uses steam punk pictures for its art.  Enjoy and remember Gettysburg!