Thoughts on Various Anime and November

National Blog Posting Month and NaNoWriMo have come to a close.  Regarding the former, Medieval Otaku for the first time has managed a post for each day of the month–even if I had to resort to reblogging.  (I suppose next year’s goal will include only posting articles written by yours truly; though, I do have fun introducing people to some of the bloggers I follow.)  Regarding NaNoWriMo…well…I wrote one chapter and started the second.   All my inspiration was siphoned off to various channels.  Now, I shall see if I can deliver on my hope of writing a second novel by the end of the year.

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Yet, the title promises some thoughts on various anime.  Below are blurbs on select themes in each show or my overall impression of them.

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1) Akame ga Kiru

The sharp deviation from the manga we see in the last few episodes of Akame ga Kiru increased my interest in this show.  Unfortunately, I have an idea of what to expect: everyone except Tatsumi dies before the Prime Minister and Esdeath are taken down.  Or, will the animators find a way to surpass my expectations with the last few episodes allowed to them?

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That the anime never became popular in Japan leads to this precipitate ending.  The weakness of the first six episodes–with the possible exception of the first–hurt this shows ratings.  They should never have set out to produce an exact replica of the manga, but people in the entertainment industry are often lazy.  Also, though there have been a few excellent battles, the uneven quality of the fights with some being downright poor must also have turned away some action fans.  Despite that, I’m looking forward to watching all my favorite characters die in tragic fashion.  If they make their deaths epic enough–especially should they reach Kikuchiyo of Samurai 7 level epic, I’ll give the anime four stars out of five.

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2) Akatsuki no Yona

This anime has become a classic tale of  good vs. evil, where the good guys win because the Universe is behind them.  Despite how common such a story is, who does not delight in seeing the weak and downtrodden conquer the wicked and powerful?

And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty. (From the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

Yona is like the Blessed Virgin Mary in her lowliness, but, because Yona has the Mandate of Heaven, she shall trod a powerful tyrant underfoot–as did St. Mary.

akatsuki

The flashbacks have hurt the advancement of the plot.  However, I believe that the following episodes will concentrate on the progression of Yona to becoming a powerful general until the eventual downfall of Soo-Won–not out of revenge, but because the deed is just.

Upside down

3) Chaika the Coffin Princess: Avenging Battle

This show has been a lot of fun.  I have not let down my suspension of disbelief enough to do more than enjoy Chaika, but I love how much more solid the plot is in this season.  The episodes have focused on leading up to a final battle between the red and white Chaikas, and that battle will be fun to see.  Among the characters, Akari and Frederica especially shine for their quirky personalities and humor.

akari et Frederica

ICUWMHIS

4) I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying

Touching and funny adequately describe this anime.  A several episodes speak less about otakudom and more about the vicissitudes of married life.  The point of the show seems to be encouraging salarymen and salarywomen to stop being concerned only with their careers, otaku to stop focusing merely on anime, and both to seek the joys of real romance and married life–including children.  Japan really needs more shows with a message like that: in fifty years, the Japanese will be an endangered race at this rate.  More need to marry and have children–people of European descent too for that matter!

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5) Madan no Ou to Vanadis

I’m impressed by the author’s love for the Middle Ages.   Sure, it contains a few errors, but the battles feel authentic (except for the occasional use of magic, of course!), and the embattled feel of the Middle Ages is well replicated.  It must be remembered that Vikings, Celts, Saxons, Muslims and other barbarians all attempted to carve up Europe during the Middle Ages.  It is amazing that European culture survived.

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I like how the anime refers to the Muslim invasions in episode eight by refering to the invading army as name Muozinel.  Muslim armies often outnumbered their Christian opponents, but Christians often carried the day through a combination of better armor, tactics, and sheer courage.  (I remember reading about one Christian victory in Spain where the Christians won despite entire units being annihilated during the battle.  Like in episode eight of Madan no Ou to Vanadis, victory was achieved through the Muslims routing after the death of their leader.)  Muslims menaced Europe from the 8th century until the Battle of Vienna, which was fought from September 11, 1683 – September 12, 1683 and ended Turkish campaigns against Christendom.  My mother’s family comes from Croatia, which earned the nickname “the Wall of Christianity,” due to the Turks’ inability to conquer the country entirely.  You can bet that I loved watching episode eight. 🙂

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6) Psycho-Pass 2

I’m convinced that this is the best show of the season.  Some people accuse it of having an incoherent plot or being too similar to the previous season, but such people have not adequately suspended their disbelief. 😛  We knew that the characters would fight against the Sybil System again, and having another antagonist who wishes to take it down is the most obvious way for this plot to begin.  Besides, the last episode indicates that the Sybil System will actively turn against Akane in the future.  Don’t you want to see what happens when Akane becomes Public Enemy #1?

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7) Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

A commentator warned me about the religious syncretism and the scantily clad angels.  Sure enough, episode six felt rather jarring to me.  If the angels are gods, they’re no longer angels.  The only parallel between Christianity and the religion of Shingeki no Bahamut is the inclusion of Joan of Arc–but, she’s pagan, which does not mesh with the idea of a Catholic saint!  Also, as the aforementioned commentator said, there is a theme of gods and demons–good and evil–vs. choas.  This doesn’t work!  Despite D&D’s inclusion of a lawful evil category, evil is chaos!  God created an ordered whole–a cosmos–when he created the universe.  Satan was the first to try to disrupt this order when he declared himself God.  Even now, the devil principally fights against God by inducing human beings to disorder and perversion.  A brief look at the Seven Deadly Sins reveals that they are all disorders.

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That aside, the show is spectacular!  The characters are interesting, and each episode offers surprises to the audience.

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Hyouka: Whole-Series Reflection

The Infinite Zenith

“Never do anything yourself that others can do for you.” —Agatha Christie

Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of the Hyouka (literally “ice cream”) novel was released in 2012, following one Houtarou Oreki’s reluctant agreement to join his high school’s Classic Literature club at his older sister’s request to prevent the club from being disbanded. Though he initially finds their activities to be an unnecessary use of his time, together with Eru Chitanda, Satoshi Fukube and Mayaka Ibara, he nonethtless lends his natural capacity for deducing the solution to problems the club encounters, ranging from the mysteries behind Eru’s grandfather, events associated with the school’s Kanya festival or the infamous “Juumonji” case during the Kanya festival itself. Each mystery is down-to-earth and realistic, being set in a self-contained arc that flows reasonably well into the the subsequent arc, with much of the anime being about the cultural festival itself. Judging from the mundane…

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Winter Season 2015: A Season for the Classics

Of late, my interest in anime has grown less as I’ve turned more to history and literature–especially fantasy fiction.  Anime used to be the last thing I did before hitting the hay.  Now, I find myself devouring Frank Herbert’s Dune, Douglass Hulick’s Among Thieves, or The Lord of the Rings.  It’s the fourth time I’m reading the Lord of the Rings, but Tolkien never gets old.  In the near future, I’ll probably pick up E. R. Eddings The Worm Ouroboros and Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin, which one of my friends tells me has inspired him to finally start writing fiction.

Book before Bed

 

And so, Caraniel’s Winter 2015 Preview delighted me by revealing that the upcoming season is as bland as steel cut oatmeal.  You ask why I’m delighted?  Because only two new shows, Rolling Girls and Aldnoah.Zero 2, have sparked any interest in me, which encourages me to catch up on my backlog.  In particular, I find myself excited for the following three shows:

I have never heard of Colorado-style shooting.  Anyone else?

I have never heard of Colorado-style shooting. Anyone else?

1) Angel Cop

This very violent and anti-Communist show was recommended to me by my brother.  I usually don’t care as much for the style of animation seen here, but episode one was exciting and pleasantly diverged from the tone, characters and plot lines we see in contemporary shows.  Essentially, our heroes belong to an anti-terrorist force which tries to foil the leftist Red May terrorists.

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2) Urusei Yatsura

A friend of mine in college frequently recommended this show to me.  He would always say that recent stories from the pen of Rumiko Takahashi paled in comparison to shows like Ranma 1/2 and earlier.  I have been enjoying manga from the Rumic Theater, so it seems like the time is ripe to try Urusei Yatsura (literally, “Noisy Guys”).

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3) Ashita no Joe

Man!  What a great opening set of episodes!  The male protagonists actually have character!  The animators actually know how street fights work!  It’s amazing!  Concerning the fighting, I was shocked to see out main hero, Joe Yabuki, actually run away in order to gain a more favorable position in order to deal with large groups of opponents!  How often do we see our hero standing in the middle of a mob and somehow managing to deal with all of them coming from all sides rather than positioning himself so that he only has to deal with one or two at a time?  And the fights are hard-hitting to boot!

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You can tell that I’m all in on watching the transformation of Joe from a roguish thug to a world class boxer.  If Ashita no Joe continues to be so entertaining, the show shall surely enter my top ten.

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In the meantime, I need to finish Denno CoilEl Cazador de la BrujaHyouka, and Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  Once that happens and I finish all the shows which I think will end this season, my watch list for the first quarter of the new year should look like this:

  1. Akatsuki no Yona
  2. Aldnoah.Zero 2
  3. Angel Cop
  4. Ashita no Joe
  5. I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying
  6. Psycho-Pass 2
  7. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
  8. Urusei Yatsura

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Of course, I could not find accurate information for the projected length of certain of those shows.  So, if any of my dear readers notices that certain shows of the present season which will not run into the next, please tell me.  If I find more time or if any of the above shows have a shorter broadcast period than I thought, I’ll add The Flying Ghost Ship and Captain Harlock to this list.  What winter 2015 shows grabbed your attention?  Anyone else so disappointed with the upcoming season that they will end up watching shows on their backlog in preference to new shows?

Happy Thanksgiving and Some Thoughts on Psycho-Pass

May all my dear readers enjoy a happy Thanksgiving!  Today, we celebrate a feast established by the Puritans of Plymouth Rock in order to give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings.  In their case, they were blessed to see the beginnings of their colony’s prosperity.  Like them, we ought to give thanks to God for all the ways that He has caused us to thrive over the course of another year.

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Sometimes it is difficult to see graces and blessings among the difficulties of life.  Yet, we ought to thank God even for the difficulties, over which He means us to triumph.  Even if it seems like they get the best of us, our character still grows from them.  Without such trials, you can bet that we’d be less human and even less happy.  As the protagonist’s father in Dostoyevsky’s The Adolescent says: “Life would not be worth living without these little annoyances.”

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Perhaps that’s one of the points Psycho-Pass 2 wishes to make with its theme of eustress.  (I write from the perspective of the first six episodes.  Please tell me if the last ones contradict what I’m about to write.)  Eustress is the idea that stressful or discomforting situations, when overcome, bring people feelings of accomplishment and purpose.  Without any dragons to slay, life can devolve to a meaningless and frightful monotony, leading to the state of those poor depressed individuals we see in episode four.  Kamui claims to offer a way of giving life purpose through doing evil deeds which give the appearance of power–sort of like how Raskolnikov kills two people with in ax in Crime and Punishment in order to feel like Napoleon.

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But, how greatly do people miss themselves if they need to resort to sin and crime in order to gain an ephemeral sensation of fulfillment!  What truly makes us happy lies in our own souls, and fulfilling our dreams provides as many challenges as we could wish for and often more than we’d like.  However, rather than an ephemeral and false joy, overcoming these obstacles produces peace of soul.  This is similar to how Akane can endure so many reverses and tragedies without her psycho-pass becoming clouded.  Bringing criminal masterminds to justice is her virtue.  Even if the end looks distant, she can calmly perform her duties as she works toward an eventual triumph.

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More than Akane, let us imitate St. Faustina, who not only thanked God for His graces, but even the darkness, spiritual dryness, persecutions, and temptations, knowing that God meant for her happiness and the glorification of His Name through it all.

Shut Up Juice

Here’s a good article on one of the problems with modern debate, which one especially sees on Internet sites.

Frederation

This is a reprint of one of my posts from the Speculative Faith blog a couple of years back. It’s a parable about civilized discourse, something of a lost art these days. Instead, the preferred way to engage someone on the opposite side of an argument is often a personal attack that ramps up its intensity until the target is either silenced or shunned.

If that doesn’t yield enough satisfaction, the internet offers all sorts of creative ways to destroy someone’s reputation, and the people who deal in this flavor of bullying tend to hunt in packs. They cut a bloody swath through the science fiction and fantasy community in the past few years, facilitated by a culture that turned a blind eye to character attacks so long as they employed the proper rhetoric and focused on the correct set of issues. By the time it became clear the community was enabling individuals devoted to systematic, sadistic brutalization of vulnerable people, and somebody identified…

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A First for Medieval Otaku: Cigar Reviews

Sometimes blogging brings about some interesting surprises.  An employee of Cigars City, an online tobacco retailer, discovered my article, Danna ga Wakaranai and Smoking, and then contacted me to see if I would be willing to do a couple of cigar reviews.  Who am I to turn down free cigars?  I accepted immediately, even though my expectation was to be sent something along the lines of “Cuban Magic cigars” or “Papa Bubba’s stogies.”  Instead, he sent me two fine cigars indeed: Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve and and Partagas 1845 Toro Grande.  The former company is especially renown for being Winston Churchill’s favorite–the Cuban ones anyway.  The Romeo y Julieta cigars sold in American come from Nicaragua, which happens to be my favorite cigar producing country.  Partagas, having been established in 1845, also has a long history.  It’s tobacco seems to primarily derive from the Dominican Republic, another country with prolific cigar production.

Apothecary smoking

And so, I shall endeavor to write two reviews worthy of these cigars.  Let’s start with my favorite of the two.

1) Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve (toro size)

I recently wrote about the need to wait and ponder an anime series before coming to a well-founded opinion.  Cigars differ not at all from that: the first part is called the bitter, which does not tell how good a cigar will be.  Eventually, one hits the sweet spot, whose flavors will sometimes evolve over the course of a smoke.  And most people will throw the cigar away upon reaching the label, though I often like to smoke a cigar to the point where I can only take two puffs before it gets too hot.

churchill with thompson

So, let me begin by saying that the bitter lived up to its name in this cigar.  Still, many cigars have had worse bitters.  My palate has not been as well formed for tasting cigars as for judging alcohol, but I discerned some white bread and cedar notes in the sweet spot.  The aftertaste evinced white pepper notes alongside of a leathery sweetness.  Overall, I thought that this was a great cigar.  Once which I would hand out at a celebration or in meeting a friend I have not seen for a while.

While my initial light was somewhat uneven, the burn evened out somewhat through the sweet spot.  The draw was very smooth until towards the end, where it tightened up a little.

Now for some suggested beverage pairings:

Scotch – Bowmore 12 or Glengoyne 17

Cognac – Courvoisier VSOP (Courvoisier happened to be Napoleon’s favorite cognac, by the way.)

Bourbon – Eagle Rare 10 Year Old

Wine – a slightly sweet and nutty amontillado (Hartley & Gibson’s Amontillado perhaps?  I haven’t had it in a while, so I might be wrong.) or Sandeman’s Rainwater Madeira

Beer – Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot Barleywine (Barleywine goes very well with cigars.  I might have also recommended Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale, but they stopped producing it!  Quel dommage!)

One of my favorite anime cigar smokers: Sir Victoria Hellsing

One of my favorite anime cigar smokers: Sir Victoria Hellsing

2) Partagas 1845 Toro Grande

Unlike the Romeo y Julieta which features tobacco exclusively from one country, the Partagas features an Ecuadorian Habano Wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder (Yes, some of the most famous tobacco is grown in Connecticut), and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobacco.  A good smoke, but I cannot say that the cigar impressed me too much.  It lacked the complexity of the Romeo y Julieta.  I’m not sure whether I would buy it, but it does make for a good casual smoke.

To my surprise, the bitter was slightly sweet.  The draw felt a little tight, but nothing to complain of or capable of marring the experience–at least, until I got toward the end of the cigar, where it tightens up considerably.  It burned unevenly with the bottom burning faster than the top portion.

At any rate, the sweet spot revealed bread flavors like the kind made by mixing wheat and white flour.  The smoke also included some leather flavor.  The two flavors are not an unpleasant combination in a cigar.  (Sort of like how iodine and seaweed can be found in a good Islay Scotch.)  The aftertaste possessed a sweet walnut flavor–tasty, but not very complex.  I would like to reiterate that the Partagas is a good cigar, just not one I would seek out.

Nico of Earl and Fairy as he enjoys some scotch.  He's possibly the most awesome cat in anime

Nico of Earl and Fairy as he enjoys some scotch. He’s possibly the most awesome cat in anime

Scotch – Macallan 12, Glenlivet 12, or a Glenfiddich 15

Cognac – Pierre Ferrand Ambre

Bourbon – Woodford Reserve

Wine – Alvear’s Cream Montilla (Very tasty stuff!)

Beer – I’m going to recommend Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot again.  (It’s about time for me to get over the last unpleasantly chocolaty barleywine I had and to start drinking them again!)

Well, that’s my opinion of the cigars.  I hope that you liked the reviews and that the cigar smokers among you will be on the lookout for the Romeo y Julieta.  Will there be other cigar reviews on here in the future?  That depends on whether any of my dear readers have found this interesting and whether Cigars City or other people find this review done well enough to warrant sending me more free stuff.

30DAC – Day 23: Favorite Attack Someone has Used in an Anime

This article brings back memories. Kurama is my favorite character in Yu Yu Hakusho, and this article covers one of my favorite moments in the show.

The Anime Madhouse

Seed of the Death Plant – This move is horrifying. Kurama only needs a quick opening to shoot his seed into the opponents body…

Oh grow up!

And…that’s it. He wins. You die. That’s not the worst part. You die…from having a huge flower bush grow inside of you incredibly quickly and then burst out of your body like a bunch of xenomorphs.

Couldn’t find clear screenshots from the show, so here’s the manga version.

The only downside is that it does take a little bit of time to take root and feed from Kurama’s energy in order to bloom once Kurama wills it, so it’s not a quick end, but he’s definitely strong enough to hold his own for a few minutes against any opponent while it grows, so it’s just insanely scary. You could be dead and not even know it. And it’s never been shown if there’s…

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On the Will of God and Poverty of Spirit

Akatsuki no Yona, with all its talk of Tenmei–literally, “the Will of Heaven”–has got me thinking about the Will of God.  This is often difficult to determine in our lives, and I have heard one Catholic commentator state: “The Will of God is inscrutable.”  But, not everything which happens by God’s Will or permission outstretches our understanding; otherwise, we should simply not understand God in the slightest and not be able to have a relationship with Him.  In general, He commands all people to follow the moral law and exercise charity towards each other.  On a more particular level, the Will of God may be communicated to us through our talents and desires.  Do you have an extraordinary talent for the most abstract arithmetic imaginable?  Perhaps, God wishes for you to become a university professor.   Do you love someone of the opposite sex profoundly?  Do not be surprised if God wishes you to marry that person.

SaintSimon

Yet, desires can be a very tricky thing, and people are often mislead.  The particular Will of God for us is based in the individuality which God gave us.  It subsists in the core of our being.  Only by being true to ourselves can we be true to God and find happiness.  However, we are surrounded by many happy people in the world, and we might think that by having what they have we shall also be made happy.  Besides this, the world itself offers many things–especially money–which it claims will make us happy.  But, you cannot serve God and mammon!  The more you listen to the noise of the world the less you shall discern the whisper of God.  To one who has become too worldly, God can no longer whisper: He must shout!

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As C. S. Lewis tells us, pain is often the means by which God tells us something is wrong.  We suffer anxiety, depression, and vague feelings of unhappiness.  Should our response to these feelings be seeking worldly distractions, God may sever us forcibly from the pleasures of the world with the blade of poverty.  Impoverished, we lack the means of spoiling or distracting ourselves with external goods.  All we have left are those talents and desires which we ignored in our prosperity.  In running away from our talents, our individuality, and our specific manner of serving our brothers and sisters, we have become less human.  We struggle for a while in attempting to regain our status, but the Mercy of God prevents it while we yet ignore God’s voice and rely solely upon ourselves.  At last accepting our fate, the vanity of worldly pleasures (many perhaps good in themselves but evil when they stand in the place of God) becomes apparent and the memory of them bitter.

St. Francis of Assisi. with his father having demanded that he return everything he "stole" from him, doffed even the clothes he wore.

St. Francis of Assisi. with his father having demanded that he return everything he “stole” from him, doffed even the clothes he wore.

Despite these many pains, poverty or very frugal circumstances are not signs that God hates us.  Instead, God calls the poor blessed–both the materially poor and the spiritually poor.  The fact that religious orders often include a vow of poverty indicates the link between the two.  Why are the poor blessed?  Because they contend less with the noise of the world and focus more on the Will of God and the intrinsic goods God has given them to share with others.  The poor in spirit are capable of great things because their only concern is the Will of God.

grant

Though, I could use the example of many saints to show the sanctifying effects of poverty, I’d like to instead use the example of Ulysses S Grant.  Who can doubt that the man was born to be a soldier?  He was the only Union general with the competency to avoid losing ground to General Lee and the dogged tenacity to make a war of attrition successful.  The happiest times of his life coincided with his military service.  After resigning from his first period of service, he relied on the charity of his father-in-law until the outbreak of the Civil War.  After the Civil War, his name was smeared by the presiding over the most corrupt administration in history until modern times.  Afterwards, he did the unthinkable action of trying to break with Washington’s precedent in order to run for a third term!  A sore loser, Grant bore a grudge against James A. Garfield for winning the nomination–even though Garfield not only did not seek the nomination but even was horrified to gain it!

garfield

Compared to the humble, frank, and unambitious man of prior times, Grant the politician seems a different man–a monster!  Here is a description of Grant just after the Civil war by General Richard Taylor from Destruction and Reconstruction:

The officers of the army on duty at Washington were very civil to me, especially General Grant, whom I had known prior to and during the Mexican war, as a modest, amiable, but by no means promising lieutenant in a marching regiment. He came frequently to see me, was full of kindness, and anxious to promote my wishes. His action in preventing violation of the terms of surrender, and a subsequent report that he made of the condition of the South – a report not at all pleasing to the radicals – endeared him to all Southern men…His bearing and conduct at this time were admirable, modest and generous; and I talked much with him of the noble and beneficent work before him. While his heart seemed to respond, he declared his ignorance of and distaste for politics and politicians, with which and whom he intended to have nothing to do, but confine himself to his duties of commander-in-chief of the army.

GenGrant

That is exactly the man who commanded the Army of the Potomac and the one who wrote the most famous memoir of any participant in the Civil War–a memoir which a friend tells me affected modern American prose more than any other work!  (Grant’s memoirs do read like something our of the 20th century rather than the 19th.)  But, politics, power, and fame almost ruined Grant for good.  When Grant wrote his memoirs, he had been reduced to desperate poverty, which I have no doubt was God’s method of restoring Grant’s character.  The Hound of Heaven will resort to any means to prevent people baptized in His name from perishing everlastingly.

Good Shepherd

So, people suffering from want or various forms of misery need not despair.  Pain is often the sign that one is still united to Christ Crucified and often purifies the soul to a salutary poverty.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”  The share of the Kingdom of God we have on earth is performing the Will of God, which, though it may be a gentle whisper, rings loud and clear to the poor in spirit.

The Horror of Humanity in Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames

This is an excellent article on Garo, which was probably the hardest anime for me to cut from my watch list. The author points out what makes it unique among other stories in the tokusatsu genre.

Anime Monographia

Leon Transform

Where there is light, shadows lurk and fear reigns…yet by the blade of Knights, mankind was given hope.

-Opening line to Garo TV series

This fall’s been shaping up to be a very good season for anime.  While popular sequels to franchises like Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and Psycho-Pass are certainly carrying the mainstream wave, Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames (Honoo no Kokuin) has been a hit, pleasantly adding a much needed spark of diversity in a market swollen with hyperactive moe girls, uninspired shonen fights, and cookie-cutter harems.

Not that the tale that Garo tells is anything original.

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Philosopher Fridays: Pascal’s Ambiguous Wager

Here’s an well-written article on Pascal’s Wager–one of the best known arguments for belief in God.

Stories & Soliloquies

Welcome to Philosopher Fridays, where I aim to expose the academic underpinnings of my thoughts on story-telling and writing. In this series I make no attempt to give a comprehensive view of any of the philosophers I tackle, but instead pick out and explain what draws me back to their works again and again. 

For the next few weeks I’ll be exploring the tenuous relationship between faith and reason in a sub-series I’m calling “Expecting Ambiguity“. My aim is to explain how philosophical arguments for the existence of God are not as concretely determinate (and thus as easy to dismiss) as they are often cast, but that they instead offer as much insight into the limits and powers of subjective human knowledge as they do into religion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaise_Pascal#mediaviewer/File:Blaise_Pascal_Versailles.JPG

PASCAL: Born in 1623, Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, inventor, theologian, and philosopher until his death in 1662, when he was just…

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Advent time coming early

Never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Be sure to listen to the excellent Croatian Christmas song in the post.

Traveli(gh)te

Radio show inspired me to write a text on Christmas way. The question was is it to early for city decoration. It started in November, earlier than year before so host show wondered is this festive decoration coming sooner and sooner each year. Comments  could be grouped in two major categories: the ones who think it is to early and that consumerism is stronger and stronger and the other one inclined towards good spirit that comes with this Christmas time and that if that means that people will be better for longer lets celebrate Christmas all year around. So I decided to write about our customers here during this time.

So lets start with this advent period meaning “season before Christmas” (old English), ), from Latin adventus “a coming, approach, arrival,” in Church Latin “the coming of the Savior,” from past participle stem of advenire “arrive, come to,” from ad –…

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A Danger of Aniblogging: Turning Leisure into Work

This post of Annalyn’s highlighted an oddity about aniblogging: it adds a degree of stress to a formerly relaxing activity.  Anibloggers naturally need to have opinions in order to write, yet this leads to people approaching Excel’s Saga like it’s Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Hemingway’s The Man and the Sea.  (Yes, my dear readers, I’m guilty as charged.)  This approach to anime exhausts one after a while, and I often find myself turning off my critical mind.  I’m a fan before I am blogger!

aniblogger

Like eating, there are three distinct steps to creating an informed opinion: tasting, chewing, and digesting.  How many judgments can I make while still tasting the story?  Five really: I love it, like it, don’t dislike it, dislike it, or hate it.  Purely emotional judgments which do not elucidate anything about the show itself!  The next step lies in chewing on the show: What led me to the reaction I had?  What themes does the story seem to be pursuing?  How well does the animation compare to other shows?  Is the soundtrack anything special?  What are the characters’ motivations?  Does the show seem to be alluding to other works of anime or literature?

Don't think that I could say something intelligent about Excel Saga if I tried.

Don’t think that I could say something intelligent about Excel Saga if I tried.

The reason I cannot do episodic reviews is because I’d hate to have to ask the above questions every episode.  Instead, I watch episode after episode chewing on these ideas and waiting to see if something strikes me about the show–which mode of viewing leads to the kinds of articles you see written here most often.  It might take many episodes indeed before I can stop chewing on the show and it begins to settle in my mind.  Sometimes, I never get to that point.

There's a girl who eats so fast that she neither tastes nor chews!  I should revisit Slayers at some point.

There’s a girl who eats so fast that she neither tastes nor chews! I should revisit Slayers at some point.

It is in the digestive stage where good objective judgments are formed.  Certain stories even resist digestion until the second viewing!  (“To read a text once is not yet to begin to read a text,” as Professor Jackson used to tell us.)  In order to facilitate my digestion, I will read what other bloggers are saying about the show.  So that I do not merely echo, I compare their judgments to mine and consider what their reasoning behind that judgment might be.  You’ll find that bloggers will criticize a show based on the expectations they made for it or praise it merely for the visceral pleasure it gave them.  I will not claim to be immune from either fault!

IB

And so, it takes me a coon’s age before I lay down a final judgment on a show.  (Otherwise, I write a negative article like this only to have the show grow very high in my estimation.)  Most bloggers have already given their opinions on a season long before I give mine.  I am certain that my judgments would be deficient if I wrote sooner: “…in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:4).  

So, what do you think, my dear readers?  Does blogging take some of the fun out of watching anime?  Does it make you more prone to be cutthroat in your evaluations?

Takayama Ukon to Be Beatified Next Year?

Here’s a cool story. It’s not often that a Japanese Daimyo is up to be beatified by the Catholic Church!

Aliens in This World

The story is in the English language version of Asahi Shimbun, and was praised by Get Religion.

Currently, he’s Venerable Justo (or Justus) Takayama Ukon.

His Christian name was Justo, and Western Christian sources called him “Dom” (Portuguese for lord). Takayama is his family name, and Ukon was his office name that he went by as an adult. Other names are Hikogoro (his baby name, which Japanese back then usually changed upon becoming boys or adults) and Shigetomo (his young man name).

He was a great general, but also waged peace. He loved Japan but died in exile. His life story is full of twists and turns, but he seems to have lived it all with honor and good sense.

The man has his own “Dom Justo Takayama Ukon” TV Tropes page. It’s a good explanation page. Just don’t follow the links if you want to do…

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Gunslinger Girl Ends with a Bang!

What a great ending to a rather original series!  The last volume of Gunslinger Girl finally found its way to my shelves.  For the past couple of years, it’s been the only manga I’ve purchased translated.  On returning home, however, I discovered that I had never read the penultimate omnibus!  But, unwilling to wait for that book to arrive through Amazon (I don’t recall ever seeing that volume in a bookstore), I read those chapters in an online reader before turning to the last volume.

GSG opening

Despite how boring most people find the anime version of this work, the manga never bored me, and the anime hooked me until the end–even when it got slow.  The last three volumes of the manga, which have yet to have an anime version (But, I can still hope), blew me away by their non-stop action.  The last three volumes include more gun fights and agonizingly suspenseful situations than the other twelve volumes combined!  This even includes the fight between Triela–my favorite character–and Pinocchio, whose arc still stands as my favorite and features in Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.

A picture of Triela.  The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

A picture of Triela. The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

Part of the fun of Gunslinger Girl is how the cybernetically modified young girls in the service of the Italian government contrast the vision of human beings with cybernetic parts found in Ghost in the Shell.  (Nota bene, I have not seen more than a few episodes Ghost in the Shell, but draw the following ideas from two essays in Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin: “The Making of Killer Cuties” by Christie Barber et al. and “Just a Ghost in the Shell?” by Angus McBlane.  That’s a book well worth owning!)  Basically, where Ghost in the Shell offers a future where cybernetics allow mankind to overcome human weakness, the heroines of Gunslinger Girl are still weighed down by their humanity as the machines inside them drain away their lifespan.  Henrietta, Triela, and the rest still retain the hopes and dreams of girls their age, but are forced to suppress them as they are mere tools of the Social Welfare Agency.  The author of this manga, Yu Aida, leaves one with the impression that the bad consequences of modifying human nature might outweigh the benefits.

Alfa Romeo

The struggles of the heroines to make the most of their limited lives create some very deep characters and engross the reader in their fates.  Few mangaka do characterization so well!  This, along with the great action of the final volumes, almost caused me finish the remaining chapters in a single sitting.  Indeed, they would have had not something important torn me away from them!  I might also add that Yu Aida is incredibly literate and well-versed in Western culture.  Gunslinger Girl contains allusions to the Bible, Thomas Macaulay, Beethoven, and others.  Few manga combine action with learning so well!

Triela with shotgun

 

Pale Moon / Paper Moon, As the Gods Will, Crimson Pledge, Black Butler: Book of Murder, Expelled from Paradise, Peeping Life WE ARE THE HERO, Tanikawa-san, Please Create One Poem and Other Japanese Film Trailers

Genkinahito

Hello dear audience!

I hope you’re all in good health.
This has been a pretty movie filled week for me and I feel somewhat The World of Kanako Tsumabukienergised because of it. I started the week with What Time is it Over There? and Rampo Noir and that was quickly followed by Nightcrawler and at the end of the week I watched a selection of Koji Shiraishi films like Occult and Cult. By the time this post goes live I’ll be in work and after that I am heading to my favourite cinema with an acquaintance from Japan to watch the British film, Mr Turner.

I mentioned my need to crank up the speed with which I review things and I can confirm that I have two film reviews completed with one more almost finished and they all come in at less than one thousand words. You’ll have to be the judge as…

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From Princess Kaguya to… Sailor Moon?

I’m a fan of allusions to folktales, mythology, and literature in anime. John Samuel notices an interesting connection between Sailor Moon and Kaguya-hime. Hmm….Now I’m wondering if Kurage-hime (Princess Jellyfish) also played with that folktale? At least, the names almost sound similar, don’t they?

Pirates of the Burley Griffin

Princess Kaguya - Wikipedia Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_the_Bamboo_Cutter

Faery tales are funny things that never quite die in the collective consciousness. The same applies to folk tales and classic mythologies.

They may get reimagined, reworked, rebadged, but the common core remains in the foundations of a culture.

You can see this in Lord of the Rings with acknowledged influences from Nordic, Germanic, and Finnish mythology[1] (among others)[2].

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A Post of TWWK’s You Should Read and Some Rambling

Though I dropped Your Lie in April, what people are writing about it intrigues me.  TWWK of Beneath the Tangles wrote an excellent reflective post on episode six, and I recommend Your Lie in April Episode 6: Changing Seasons to all my dear readers.

aprillie

Until I reblogged that post incorrectly, I was going to leave it at that; but since I have already written at length, why not continue to ramble?  I had mentioned previously that I’ve entered the next round of the Athanatos Christian Ministries Writing Contest.  They provide a helping hand to any author who writes a good novel.  At this point, the judges become editors and help one to polish one’s novel so that it can become as well-written as possible by the time the final judging occurs.  And, the editor–at least so far–kindly and helpfully criticizes the novel.  So, here’s my encouragement to the Christian fiction writers among you to try your hand at next year’s contest.

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Looking at Amira, I cannot help but be reminded of what Charles II said to his two friends who accompanied his betrothed, a princess of Portugal, back to England: “Gentlemen, you have brought me a bat.”

 

One of my dear readers was curious about how Shingeki no Bahamut pulled of its combination of Christian and pagan mythos.  As of episode five, the combination intrigues rather than offends me.  I think that it describes pagan gods and devils pretty well, though I imagine angels a little differently.  When it comes to St. Joan of Arc, iblessall says that its the most accurate anime representation of the saint she has ever seen.  I’ll take her word for it as I also imagine St. Joan of Arc to have been a courageous and rather serious individual from what I’ve heard about her.  The show has made me more interested in that person and reminds me that I must read Mark Twain’s biography of her–by all accounts, the greatest biography of the saint ever penned.  All in all, the combination of pagan and Christian lends an epic and fantastic feel to the anime which has worked out well.

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I have no idea where Inou Battle Within Everyday Life is going, but the show is still great for a few laughs.  The characters are particularly endearing.  I am happy that Hitsugi no Chaika seems to have more focus this season.  You already know my opinion of Akatsuki no Yona and I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying.  Now, I ought to spend the rest of the night getting caught up with the rest.  Cheers!