Nihongo no Hon #1: Nanatsu no Taizai Volume One

In this series, I have started out with something easy: the first volume of Nanatsu no Taizai in the original language.  The level of the Japanese ranks even below Inuyasha in terms of difficulty.  Inuyasha happens to be the first manga I recommend beginners for testing their ability to read Japanese.  In Nanatsu no Taizai, the only thing remotely amusing about the Japanese is the name of Meliodas’s pet pig, ホーク or hooku–the closest the Japanese can transliterate the English word “hawk.”  However, I had no idea the author was going for “hawk”; instead, I took it as a play on the way one would transliterate the word “pork”–ポーク.  As you can see, the same characters are used, but the latter one has an accent marker to tell you that the character should be read “po” rather than “ho.”

Pardon my desk lamp.

Pardon my desk lamp.

Now, I should give my opinion on the story as one sees in volume one.  Many of my dear readers likely remember my prior remarks on the show, and I shall try to embellish on them here.  Volume one of the manga begins with Elizabeth convincing Meliodas, our hero, to seek the members of his gang, the Seven Deadly Sins, in order to oppose the Holy Knights.  Then, the hero fights a few battles (admittedly well done) against a Holy Knight and some henchmen before he meets Diana of the Seven Deadly Sins and the manga ends on a cliffhanger.  One already sees the common trope of the heroes wearing black while the villains wear white.  This is a fine trope which reminds the audience that they must always look beneath appearances in order to perceive people’s true intentions.  However, one needs to be as skilled in using it these days as Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, Richard Donner in Ladyhawke, or at least Akimine Kamijyo in Samurai Deeper Kyo.  (The last author happened to take the trope too far in Code: Breaker, and the reversals became silly.)  When the reversal of the usual symbolism lacks subtlety, it grates on the viewer.  Then, the concept our heroes going on a journey in order to find lost comrades and to overthrow the organization which has usurped authority in the kingdom has been done many times before.

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The Low Down on Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology

Having read through one hundred and twelve of the topics in Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas, an accurate enough opinion of it has formed in my mind.  The book–as anything written on St. Thomas’s theology–is quite dense, so I abandoned my hope of reading through its 366 pages in a month.  I cannot help but admire how Kreeft either draws passages from the Summa Theologica easily applicable to everyday life or shows the relevance of more esoteric theology to living a good life.  The prose and philosophy are both clear and direct, as may be expected from a Thomist.  Besides St. Thomas, Kreeft quotes a wide variety of other Christian thinkers on these topics, especially C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald.  He also seems most at home with the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

Kreeft's Prac-Theo

Though, in regard to Plato, Kreeft often harps on a fallacy in Platonic philosophy: the idea that sin is only caused by ignorance.  Plato believed that if ignorance were removed from a human being completely, he would not sin.  We even see this idea a little in medieval philosophy when St. Bonaventure writes that Christ was like us in everything “except sin and ignorance” (See St. Bonaventure’s Tree of Life).  However, Kreeft remarks that people sin despite knowing that it will make them miserable.  Ignorance of goodness is not the only cause of sin.  As Kreeft points out, we are all a little insane in cleaving to those things which cause us misery.  Eliminating ignorance by doing things like reading philosophy and theology only goes so far: we need grace and the practice of virtue.

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Thoughts on C. S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image

Here is yet another of the articles I promised as part of my Candlemas Resolutions.  I have only four days to review the theological work and the Japanese one; otherwise, I shall fail to keep my resolutions in the very first month I made them!  And I should send little e-mail to TWWK ere then too.  Vae!  Sunt multa facienda, sed tempus fugit!  

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At any rate, let me get on to C. S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image.  This work marks the last book of Lewis’s published while he still lived.  These two hundred and twenty-three pages refreshed my knowledge of Medieval Model of the universe.  Lewis both delineates the major features of the model and offers details which will please readers more versed in the Middle Ages.  By the way, medievals and yours truly have much in common, and I think that highlighting these similarities as I write about the major points of The Discarded Image will amuse my dear readers.

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Medieval’s Manga Recommendations for February

Here is the first article to derive from my Candlemas Resolutions.  You might expect the article on C. S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image soon, which shall meet another of these resolutions.  By the way, comment not only on the manga, but if you feel like there’s a better way for me to write these recommendations.  I’d like to make these posts as interesting as possible now that I’ll be doing them on a monthly basis.

Hachi Wan

1) 81 Diver by Shibata Yokusaru

You can read my thoughts on the series in this post.  (Incidentally, it seems like that post influenced D. M. Dutcher to do his own version of Quick Takes.  Click here for his post.)  Unfortunately, a Japanese person uploading 81 Diver was arrested.  If he was the only one, who knows if more chapters shall ever be released.  Actually, looking at the copious numbers of Japanese arrested for this crime is appalling.  Check out all the links under that article too!!!  Almost makes me want to stop reading manga online.  At least, Crunchyroll has a decent selection of legal manga.

cerberus-cover

2) Cerberus by Fukui Takami

This stands as the only horror anime on my list.  Certain elements of the manga remind me of Bleach, but it has a darker mood than that popular show.  Evil demons/monsters/youma/youkai/whatever-you-prefer named kuzure (Never heard of them before) are intent on devouring human beings.  Our hero, Kei, and a childhood friend suffer the misfortune of meeting one of these monsters while exploring a grave site.  But, within that graveyard is a grave protector named Yukifusa, with whom Kei makes a contract in order to save the life of his childhood friend.  Now, Kei becomes tasked with the mission of destroying kuzure lest his powers deplete, which will cause his demise.

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“Looking down with Malicious Intent”: How a Remark in Spice and Wolf Volume Six has Irked me

Those of you looking for an enjoyable light novel need look no further than Spice and Wolf by Isuna Hasekura.  The translation put out by Yen Press reads quite easily and still manages to have a lot of character.  In particular, one of anime’s most beloved characters, Holo, can be read in all her sly wisdom, cunning repartee, archaic usage, culinary enthusiasm, and love of liquor.  Besides Holo, the other characters, especially the protagonist, feel compelling.  I cannot but love how the medieval setting reminds one of the Baltic Crusades and how Hasekura attempts to create a merchant hero who adheres to the code of contract law.  (Very interesting and unusual.)  Also, the novels cover more adventures than the anime ever will.

Lawrence and Holo

However much fun these novels are, they never fail to needle me a little.  The tales are written from an atheist’s perspective, which varies from disdain to curiosity in regards to monotheism as practiced by the Church.  This Church is reminiscent of the medieval Catholic Church, but their theologies don’t square perfectly.  One of my favorite pot shots has to be Holo’s “The universe is too big for it to have been created by a single god.”  How limiting the word kami must be on the Japanese theological imagination!

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Laughing into the Abyss: the Role of Laughter in Ashita no Joe

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The desire to write another article on Ashita no Joe has chaffed me for a long time.  Considering that Ashita no Joe contains as many themes as Hamlet or King Lear, I have no fear that I shall exhaust the topics I can use for my upcoming column on Beneath the Tangles.  Before I get into the idea of laughing into the abyss, watch the following clip–it’s short.

Frightening and insane, isn’t it?  About thirty percent of all the laughter in Ashita no Joe partakes of some insanity, another thirty percent strikes the ears as pathetic, and much of the rest is derisive.  The laughter is not happy because few of the main characters are.  Our heroes struggle against nihilism after obstacle after obstacle is placed in their attempt to realize a truly human life.  Before the eyes of Joe Yabuki, whose heart has taken a glacial hardness, and before the eyes of Danpei Tange, whose everyday life revolves around draining saké bottles, there lies a great and unfathomable abyss.  These two heroes start out at rock bottom.  The very uselessness of their lives renders Danpei’s laughter pathetic and imbues Joe’s with scorn.

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Nickelodeon

This sounds like an interesting manga. I might have to try it out–especially since it’s reminiscent of Azumanga Daioh.

Contemporary Japanese Literature

Nickelodeon Blue

Title: Nickelodeon
Japanese Title: ニッケルオデオン (Nikkeruodeon)
Artist: Dowman Sayman (道満 清明)
Publisher: Shōgakukan (小学館)
Publication Dates: 11/2010 – 10/2014
Volumes: 3 (赤・緑・青)

I sometimes feel as if I’ve spent the past ten years of my life trying to find another Azumanga Daioh: a set of girl-centric stories that are weird and funny and touching without being male gazey. I love Azumanga Daioh‘s cute artwork and bizarre situations and perfect ratio of dark to sweet humor. Having read my way across a large swath of its many, many imitators, I’ve come to the conclusion that Azumanga Daioh is one of a kind. But I’ve found something close, yet different – and just as enjoyable.

Dowman Sayman’s Nickelodeon series is, on the surface, nothing like Azumanga Daioh. Each of the manga’s stand-alone stories is exactly eight pages long; and, aside from a few inconsequential crossover references, they…

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Paradise Lost

THE LADY AND ANIME

In a previous post, I discussed watching older anime series rather than focusing on currently running series. When I first started with this blog, I tended to blog about finished shows. Somewhere along the way, I started blogging about series that were currently running. I cannot remember why there was this switch. But I’ve decided to go back to my blogging roots and the first show I’ve started on is Wolf’s Rain. It originally ran from January 6, 2003 – July 29, 2003. I was watching anime during this time but I hadn’t gone hardcore. My anime watching consisted of what was on Adult Swim at the time.

Image from: WhiteSpiritWolf Image from: WhiteSpiritWolf

Wolf’s Rain was produced by Bones Studio, created by Keiko Nobumoto and directed by Tensai Okamura. I tend to not read the descriptions or summaries of a completed anime before I watch it to avoid spoilers. So I…

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The Comeback Kid; Introducing Tomorrow’s Joe

Here’s an awesome post on Ashita no Joe. I hope to write some good posts on the series myself in the future. Has to be one of the best shows I’ve ever watched.

Isn't It Electrifying?

tomorrow's joe1

This is how the legend begins: a man wearing a grey coat, his red hat shading his face. Behind him stands the Tokyo Tower, in front the seemingly infinite slums of the city. Tokyo’s outskirts are a wasteland, its dust and grime staining his clothing. This man is truly alone, an enigma, but as he crosses the bridge into the slums he whistles a familiar tune.

So begins Ashita no Joe, one of the most beloved comics ever drawn. You know the sports manga drill: average boy is introduced to a sport by a friend or role model. Boy encounters rival, takes him on and just barely wins/loses. After strenuous training, boy enters tournament and fights opponent after opponent, each with a story of his own. Repeat strenuous training. Rival appears again, boy fights rival, the results are dramatic. Repeat for as many volumes of manga, or episodes of anime, as…

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Monty Oum — 1981-2015

This is very sad news. America has lost one of its best animators. Requiescat in pace.

The Cajun Samurai

2015-02-02 23.19.17Hey guys, Samurai here, and I have some solemn news for you. News broke earlier today that Monty Oum, the creator of, among other things, the ground breaking animated series RWBY, passed away due to medical complications at the age of thirty-three.

Admittedly, and somewhat embarrassingly, I only became acquainted with Mr. Oum’s most recent works in the last year, having picked up RWBYin Walmart on a whim. However, it was a whim that was worth acting on as RWBYturned out to be one of the best animated shows I’ve come across in quite a long time. Heaven knows I didn’t understand all of what was going on in this series (still don’t really…blame my short intention span), but dawg gone it, I enjoyed the ride and the characters that took me on it. There will truly never be another show like it, and there will never be another…

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Candlemas Resolutions and Joining Another Blog

For a long time, I have admired the work TWWK does on Beneath the Tangles and have been subject to equal admiration on his part.  (Much more than your humble otaku deserves.)  Our rapport has led to several guest posts, which are really quite good:

  1. How The Swan Princess Demonstrates that Lies are the Foundation of Evil
  2. Buddhist Detachment in Shikabane Hime vs. Christian Charity
  3. Suisei no Gargantia and How One’s Goal Dignifies One’s Life
  4. Contra Divitias: Kill la Kill’s Opprobrium of Wealth

Fight Another Day

For some reason, I have not guest blogged on Beneath the Tangles since the post on Kill la Kill.  This is a shame, because writing for another blog compelled me to make the extra effort to write polished articles.

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