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