Quick Takes for June 2018

Three weeks is a long time to go without me writing on Medieval Otaku.  The Muse has gone quiet on me, and I can’t but think it has something to do with how preoccupied I have been with work and everyday cares.  I am reminded of the one whose faith is sown among thorns: “And he that received the seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless,” (Mt. 13:22).  My writing has been anything but fruitful of late.  Deo iuvante, this will change in the near future.

Steins 1

But, human beings are mutable  The curious thing about the states Christ describes in the Parable of the Sower is that a person might go through all four conditions in his life: that of having his faith taken away by the devil’s blandishments, withered by persecution or fear of man, choked by the cares of the world, or bearing fruit many times over.  What matters is for us to become good seed in the end by constant renewal.

Dances 10

Having written that, let me begin my seven quick takes, which may be described as seven random items of interest.  Use the search bar to see just how random my quick takes can get.  What’s written below will be no exception to that rule; though, perhaps less random than my ABC Award.

 

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Divine Comedy

I’ve never read Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Sure, I’ve read The Inferno, and I hated it thoroughly.  Part of the reason, no doubt, derives from my hatred of hell.  Ignorance also plays a part of my dislike.  The verses are abstruse, and most of the damned count as personal enemies of Dante whom the world has forgotten.  It is hard to make a simple translation of Dante’s verse.  Prior to now, I had not gone further than ten cantos into The Purgatorio–no matter how many attempts I made to read it.

Purgatorio

Depiction of Dante’s conception of Purgatory as a mountain with seven levels.

As a lover of Catholic medieval culture, I feel guilty for not being able to appreciate Dante.  This might be akin to a Frenchman not being able to appreciate The Song of Roland.  But, I recently found a lucid translation in Allen Mendalbaum’s version of The Divine Comedy.  At present, I’m more than halfway through The Purgatorio and am well on my way to paradise.  So, I’d like to recommend this work to anyone who has wished to read The Divine Comedy but been overawed by the difficulty of the work.


-2-

Full Metal Panic Invisible Victory

Anyone watching the newest installment of Full Metal Panic?  While watching The Second Raid, I felt that the series was done for.  The mood of FMP changed completely, and the dialogue turned downright vulgar.  However, the new season, while still grimmer than the original, manages to be far and away more palatable.  My only complaint is how they save money by recapping the series after every four episodes.


-3-

Wolf and Parchment 1

Did you know Isuna Hasekura is writing a new series called Wolf and Parchment?  A reader convinced me to give it a shot though I have not yet finished Hasekura’s Spice and Wolf series.  Spice and Wolf offers what feels like a very fresh perspective of the Middle Ages in that it derives from a Japanese lover of the Middle Ages who makes observations from a Shintoist/Atheistic perspective.  (Hasekura’s opinions reveal a strange combination of atheism and paganism–part of what makes him interesting.)

Wolf and Parchment 2

In Wolf and Parchment, Hasekura appears to adopt the perspective of his sources: his critiques of the Middle Ages sound more Protestant than Shinto.  His critique of priestly celibacy and how no priest or monk fulfilled this ideal reminds me of Martin Luther on the subject of chastity.  (While writing to some nuns, he had this to say: “Though womenfolk are ashamed to admit to this, nevertheless Scripture and experience show that among many thousands there is not a one to whom God has given to remain in pure chastity. A woman has no control over herself. God has made her body to be with man, to bear children and to raise them as the words of Genesis 1:1 clearly state…”)  Luther did not believe that God gave any person outside of elect individuals in Scripture the grace to remain chastely celibate.  Similarly, the priests in Wolf and Parchment consider the vow of chastity to be something of a joke.

Wolf and Parchment 3

If you look at Catholic literature from the Bible to the present day, you’ll see that quite a different opinion holds.  St. Augustine is the saint most famous for having a penchant for the sins of the flesh prior to his conversion.  In his Confessions, he describes how he was not being able to do without sex, but he also writes that he did not then know the power of grace.  Here is where Catholic teaching diverges from Luther’s teaching.  (I hesitate to say “from Lutheran teaching,” because Lutherans do not agree with everything Luther wrote.)  Catholic teaching states that grace builds on nature: thus grace will strengthen virtue and weaken vice, but a very special grace is required to completely uproot vice without previous effort.  Chastity is a supernatural virtue, but it needs the foundation of modesty in dress, thought, and conduct.

Wolf and Parchment 4

To pray for the grace of chastity while dressing provocatively and drinking in the beauty of the opposite sex at every opportunity is rather to tempt God than to draw closer to purity.  Also, where lust has guided one’s thoughts and actions by long habit, one may expect the road to purity to be long also.  But, if one does eventually develop chaste habits, it is accomplished by the building up of nature through grace.  Grace brings about a change in the person impossible to achieve through willing alone.  Soli Deo gloria!

At any rate, I dropped Wolf and Parchment one-third of the way through.  The reasons above and that I don’t sympathize with our two new protagonists render Hasekura’s new series less enjoyable than his original one.


-4-

Story of Kullervo

I recently read two unpublished works of Tolkien: The Story of Kullervo and The Fall of Arthur.  Though criticizing a work an author never meant to publish is rather unfair, I must say that The Story of Kullervo in its final form counts as the worst thing Tolkien ever wrote.  (I could interview people in the foothills of Appalachia near where I live and hear a better story of about a family feud.)  Anyway, don’t buy it and don’t read it.  It’s apparently based on the Finnish epic, The Kalevala, and I’m sure that this epic is far better than Tolkien’s short and unfinished manuscript.

Fall of Arthur

On the other hand, it counts as a real shame that Tolkien never finished The Fall of Arthur.  I can’t recall a better original poem which reproduces the meter and rhyme if Beowulf.  On Goodreads, it was voted the best poem of 2013 with very good reason.  A friend of Tolkien’s strongly urged him to finish the work, but the master storyteller never got around to it.  You won’t go wrong in picking up The Fall of Arthur, but I’d recommend borrowing over buying such a short work.


-5-

A friend of mine recommended the following video on the present state of anime.  It kind of depresses me in that otaku/anime enthusiasts no longer have a canon of great anime which everyone knows and can discuss.  Nevertheless, it does a great job contrasting the way the anime fandom used to be with the way it is now.


-6-

1475052345_934599_1475062338_noticia_fotograma

I don’t know too much about Spanish television, but Netflix currently offers a fascinating show called El Ministerio del Tiempo.  In 2015, our hero is roped into working for a top secret government agency called “The Ministry of Time.”  Their goal is to prevent history from being changed: the chance of making a better future is not worth the risk of making it far worse.  Alonso, a Spanish soldier from the 16th century recruited to work with the ministry, is my clear favorite of the three main characters.  I highly recommend this show to fans of time travelling stories or people who enjoy Spanish history.  You end up learning quite a bit with each episode.

 


-7-

Crunchyroll released an interesting little map about the most popular non-sequel anime in America right now:

Crunchyroll Map

Wow, look at how popular Megalobox is!  To put its popularity into perspective, if a presidential candidate had won those same states, they would have 345 electoral votes–75 more than is needed to win the presidency.  My favorite is Golden Kamuy, which seems to only have a majority of Crunchyroll users watching in Georgia and Vermont.

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14 comments on “Quick Takes for June 2018

  1. negativeprimes says:

    Glad you’re finally making headway with Dante! It took me about four complete reads before I started to connect with and make sense of it.

    I beg to differ in your assessment of the Tolkien book. The worst thing he ever wrote was Mr. Bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gaheret says:

    The Kalevala is a very interesting work. It has a peculiar pace, but I´d say it perfectly illustrates Tokien´s comment about “the potency of the words, and the wonder of the things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine”. And and against every critic I know (Lewis included), Dante´s Inferno was something I more or less endured, I liked the Purgatory and the Paradise with its lights and spheres is my favorite part. And I agree about the Fall of Arthur: it´s glorious. I copied some verses years ago and reread them often in my computer.

    I think I´m more of a canon guy about anime, always looking from there for the best regarded and commented ones in Beneath the Tangles, and then searching for lists which include my previous favorites. For now, it´served me well. On the other hand, I haven´t watched Ministry of Time, and I´m sort of afraid to do so: for some reason, nowhere else (except perhaps France and England) is the story of Spain more ignored and vilified that in Spain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Kalevala is something I should read. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a negative assessment of the epic. I agree that The Inferno is something which one endures rather than enjoys, but I’ve read through it twice now. Maybe I’ll enjoy The Inferno the next time I read it at some future date.

      With The Ministry of Time, I’ve watched four episodes. It does not seem like an unpatriotic TV series. Alonso is a true blue patriot and is shown a lot of respect by the other characters. Sometimes his military demeanor comes across as overbearing, but he’s an energetic, crafty, and honorable character overall. Still, I may have to watch a little more before I make a final judgment over how the show treats Spanish heritage. Within these four episodes, they do bring up Torquemada and Francisco Franco in a naturally unflattering light. Emphasizing all the evils of a country’s past and overlooking the good seems to be a widespread ailment in the West.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That Gigguk video was a nice retrospect. Somewhat depressing, as we can never go back in time, but other parts hopeful for the places we’ve yet to go. Glad to hear from you again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I do remember those good old days with fondness. I became a fan right when things transitioned from the old school, canonical style fandom to the present anime fandom. (I think that this transition happened between 2005 and 2007.) Hopefully, you will hear a lot more from me in the near future.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kullervo is a fascinating but repellent character, and his story has a lot in common with the Welsh story of Nissyen and Evnissyen. Basically, what do you do when the “hero” has legit beefs, but is a total, unrepentant jerk?

    Sometimes the legendary answer is, “You put him in a bag and kick him to death.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kullervo’s arrogance is off-putting indeed. In that respect, he reminds me somewhat of Turin from Tolkein’s The Children of Hurin. But, The Children of Hurin is a more complete story and we get to see some redeeming qualities in Turin. Kullervo’s personality does not strike me as having any redeeming features. Maybe Kullervo could have been made into a more sympathetic character, but Tolkien did not have the time to do that before his demise.

      Like

  5. I find it funny how you bring up the Crunchyroll map after the Gigguk video. (lol NMex). It’s hard to believe sometimes that it’s been about a decade since I got back into anime.

    I think there still is a cannon, it’s just not as big anymore. Surely you’ve seen SAO, Log Horizon, or Attack on Titan. Every year there seems to be at least one major hit that people are talking about. Heck, the Crunchyroll map is evidence of this. That said, it’s true these popular anime tend to go on the back burner, but not by much. I still talk to people about stuff like Madoka Magica, A Certain Magical Index (the universe, that is), and Stein’s;Gate.

    Then there are some true classics like anything by Miyazaki, now Your Name, and maybe some lesser known but valuable treasures like Clannad and Last Exile. Anime that were worth the investment usually got a second season, even if they finished up in the first.

    That said, anime is no longer a weird nerd thing, and that’s nice. Peculiarly enough, we might get to the point where the popularity and diversity of anime separates us as fans. After anime becomes “normal entertainment”, those who like “action” will form their circles, those who like “slice of life” will form their circles, etc. to the point where you might feel subconsciously excluded from social circles based on your preference in anime. And then some anime companies will just target those markets, and we’ll get those weird diehards that try to determine the definition of a genre (like those quacks who started labeling RPGs as “action adventure” and think RPGs are supposed to have a specific set of mechanics). And then Amazon and Google will start labeling you by your genre interests and pollute your search results with monatomic results. Good thing we aren’t there yet.

    Like

    • Sorry that it’s take me so long to respond! There might be a new modern canon of anime. But, it’s hard to say that anything currently popular will be considered an enduring classic. I’d say that if people still want to watch something after twenty years, you might call it an enduring classic anime. Anime like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Berserk, Lupin the 3rd, and Dragon Ball Z fit that mold. Some of the true classics you mention also do. I’m much less sure about SAO, Log Horizon, or Attack on Titan–but, we have to wait and see.

      Anime becoming almost mainstream is the best thing about being a fan these days. There are so many people one can talk to on the subject. It will be interesting to see where anime goes from here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True. I think it’s becoming harder to make a classic, esp since so many things have been done before. One issue is possibly that animators are afraid of doing anything too risky, and when they try, it’s half-baked like Kinsnaver (sp?). Another is definitely time-factor. If you don’t have time, you won’t write good scripts, make good scenes, have good directing, etc. The anime world is too rushed.

        I’m curious to see if other countries get off the ground with anime. Obviously, asian countries have the benefit of cheap labor (well… benefit for the producers), but 3D is growing. There’s Rooster Teeth, aymk, but I haven’t seen their stuff. There’s some company out of Spain trying to use Blender. Not that I’m a huge fan of 3D, but they didn’t get away with it in Kancolle.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s true. Anime seems to always be drawn from some popular manga or light novel before its produced in animated form. So, they do tend to choose from what’s already popular. It’s always nice to see when they take a chance on an original anime, but those are indeed risky. I thought Kiznaiver was fun, but the overarching plot felt like it had some holes.

        Korea already animates much of the anime which airs in Japan. And, some Chinese shows are being lumped into anime of late. I’ve seen parts of Spiritpact, Fox Spirit Matchmaker, and To Be Heroine. I’ve also watched all of Bloodivores. Sadly, all of them had an average or poor plot. So, I’m not too hopeful about China equaling the quality of Japanese anime storywise.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Luminas says:

    Dante’s Inferno is a freaking weird book in my opinion, and that’s largely because it reads as essentially Biblical fanfiction. It’s as if Dante is the world’s most articulate sixteen year old, ranting about all of his deep loves and petty grievances to anyone who will listen. Dante admired Virgil, and so of course Virgil is his mentor and guide. And I think what this largely comes down to is that Dante was probably a very selfish man, but a very good writer— writing in a time when all of his themes and habits were new rather than old.

    I saw that anime video, and generally agree that Things Are Different…but that may not really be bad. I came of age during the transition between the “Golden” and “Silver” ages of anime fandom, and find my heart gladdened by how much of it there now is compared to what it was. And yeah, there are still True Classics hidden in the muck.

    Liked by 1 person

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