The Virtue of Bloody and Violent Tales

For this post, my dear readers, I’ll let you into the workings of my scrupulous mind.  You see, for a long time now, I worried whether manga like Akame ga Kiru and Silencer actually carry a benefit to the reader.  In general, a fascination with blood and violence for their own sakes obviously manifests a disorder of the soul.  At the opposite extreme, squeamishness at the sight of blood and the refusal to countenance the existence of violence must also count as defects.  So, do Akame ga Kiru and Silencer fall in the mean between these two extremes?  And if they are in the mean, what is their particular virtue?

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A couple of quotes I found recently appear to show the value of such works.  One derives from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse and the second from one of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries.  After describing a horrific and monstrous scene from the French Revolution. Kuehnelt-Leddhin writes the following:

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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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Rating the Anime of Fall 2014

Since we verge upon the beginning of a new season, it’s high time for me to give you my opinions on the eight shows I watched.  If not for The Banner Saga sucking me into its world, this post would no doubt have been published sooner.  But, anyone with a love for the Viking age, RPGs, and games of frustrating difficulty would be sucked into such a beautifully animated game!  But, let me go on to my ratings.

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8) Akatsuki no Yona – no rating

As you know, I forbear from rating a show until seeing how it ends.  Akatsuki no Yona boasts some great characters, beautiful backgrounds, good fights, and great comedy.  It also engages some interesting moral themes.  However, its vexatious and profuse use of flashbacks would earn it a three star rating if I were to rate it now.  The audience does not need to have complete knowledge of each character’s backstory!  Other than the Blue Dragon’s, they all contain information we’ve gleaned through watching the interaction of the characters in the present.  By resorting so frequently to this device, the writer gives the impression of being far too timid or greatly underestimating the audience’s powers of deduction.

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Despite how the flashbacks slow the pacing, I love this anime, and look forward to more of Yona’s struggle to become a worthy leader, Yun’s sarcastic remarks, Hak’s relentless teasing, and the final battle between Soo-Won and Yona.

 

 

Surprise Hak

Hak is hands down the best male character this season.

 

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7) Inou Battle Within Everyday Life – ★★★½

Kudos to Trigger for making what should have been a dull and forgettable harem story into a fun and sensitive tale of high schoolers with supernatural powers.  A friend of mine has noticed that it did not know whether it wished to be a fantasy, harem, or slice of life story.  I must agree: the story went all over the place.  Many episodes ignored the fantasy elements entirely, and the premise of fairies giving certain people supernatural powers for their entertainment seemed rather thin.  Only the last episode weaved in all these elements successfully.

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Be that as it may, I loved the characters and would watch Inou Battle Within Everyday Life again.  They even managed to make a harem lead interesting!  Though, Hatoko with her placid demeanor concealing a heart capable of great passion steals the show–especially after her rant in episode seven–a rant second only to Kei Kugimiya’s fanservice rant in episode 12 of Majestic Prince.  (Can’t find a link to that on YouTube.  Shikata ga nai.)

 

Don't dare to trifle with Hatoko!

Don’t dare to trifle with Hatoko!

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6) Psycho- Pass 2 – ★★★½

It saddens me that this sequel cannot be rated higher.  The original show came to be my favorite of 2013, after all!  The second season has an incredibly exciting middle but failed to separate itself more sharply from the plot of the first and gave us a dull ending–I almost want to call it a non-ending for how many loose ends it left us.  People want to blame Tow Ubukata for how Psycho-Pass 2 fell flat, but the studio’s wish to create a movie afterwards likely limited Ubukata’s options for the kind of ending he could make.  For me, a satisfying ending to the second season would necessarily have involved Akane Tsunemori toppling the false god of the Sybil System.  But then, the studio could no longer make money on this franchise, could they?

And Shimotsuki wins the award for most pathetic character this season.  Somehow, I could not hate but only despise this treacherous sycophant of the Sybil System.

And Shimotsuki wins the award for most pathetic character this season. Somehow, I could not hate but only despise this treacherous sycophant of the Sybil System.

However, the element of the show which annoys me the most was the shoddy logic applied to the Omnipotence Paradox.  The very fact that God cannot create a stone too heavy for him to lift proves His omnipotence.  To say that God lacks power because He cannot create a rock which he cannot lift is like saying that a being must be both omnipotent and omni-impotent in order to have the quality of omnipotence–an assertion which is obviously insane.  Though Akane’s solution works well enough in predicting the action the Sybil System eventually takes, that system is not omnipotent–as much as totalitarian systems of government do try to stand in the place of God in the minds of their subjects.  At any rate, I hope that this element of the show harmed no one’s ability to reason logically. 🙂

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5) I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying – ★★★★

Others may be surprised by how high this series is rated here, but the main characters related to me very well.  Also, this comedy caused me to laugh so hard that I nearly fell out of my chair once or twice.  The show also surprised me in the sensitive way it handled the issues facing young people in Japan over whether to marry and have children.  Danna ga Wakaranai  is not as epic or complex as other anime, but it knew what it wanted to accomplish each episode, executed the stories well, and even developed the characters more in 39 minutes than many series accomplish in twenty four episodes.  Who knew a series of shorts could boast dynamic characters?

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Each week, I found myself looking forward more to this show than any other anime with the exception of Akame ga Kiru.  An accomplishment which reminds me of Tonari no Seki-kun.

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4) Madan no Ou to Vanadis – ★★★★

Were it not for the creator’s obvious love of medieval history, this show would have merited a slightly lower rating.  It had many problems, ranging from certain scenes displaying poor CG animation to Tigre transforming from a dynamic and interesting character to a dull harem lead.  His archery became boring to watch too as every arrow never failed to find its mark–there needs to be some uncertainty to create suspense!  Also, the hole in the center of the knights’ helmets annoyed me to no end–almost as if they placed a bull’s-eye on their helms for Tigre to hit!

Tigre with Bow

 

 

Nevertheless, the characters, intrigue, and battles made up for these defects.  If only they had improved on Tigre’s character, this show might have been better!

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3) Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – ★★★★

This show could have become a classic.  It had plenty of originality and great characters.  The only show more quirky than it this past season was Shingeki no Bahamut.  Resorting to a deus ex machina for the ending is probably what keeps me from giving it a slightly higher rating.

Best expression of stunned surprise in an anime ever.  But, considering what happens at the end, I cannot blame them in the least!

Best expression of stunned surprise in an anime ever. But, considering what happens at the end, I cannot blame them in the least!

 

But, it did boast some great characters.  If I were to create a top five characters list for this season, Akari and Frederica would both find themselves on it.

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Red Chaika was not so bad either, but Akari and Frederica stole the show.

 

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2) Akame ga Kiru –  ★★★★

As an aficionado of the manga, I started watching this show hoping to see a masterpiece.  However, the anime suffers from a grave defect: it does not adapt the story convey the mood of the manga in the medium of anime.  When reading the manga, one does not have the impression that it means to be The Game of Thrones of manga.  It is more like the series Combat!! (probably the best WWII TV series ever made), where the fortunes of war may turn against any particular character but the deaths always come out of the blue.  A hundred death flags do not pop up before a character kicks the bucket!  Also, the manga is much grimmer, though there are certain parts of the manga which I was happy not to see again.

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But, not fitting the story to the medium seems to be a ubiquitous problem.  Studios feel like success is sure as long as they don’t deviate from a successful source.  Occasionally, this is true, as with manga like Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin, but these are exceptions to the rule.  Gokukoku no Brynhildr failed because they thought that they could animate the manga panel for panel.  The writers of Akame ga Kiru were forced to deviate from the original source for the last several episodes, and the results were rather pleasing–especially the last two episodes.

Akame's Warning

For all that, Akame ga Kiru was a lot of fun to watch.  The voice actors were well chosen, and certain fights were great.  The fight between Akame and Esdeath has to be one of the ten best anime swordfights I’ve seen.  The ending was also more satisfying than most other shows.

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1) Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – ★★★★½

Here’s the only show from 2014 to earn four and a half stars from me.  Shingeki no Bahamut boasts a shocking amount of originality for an anime based on a card game.  Despite the heavy use of pagan symbolism, many of the show’s themes convince me that this was a Christian fairy tale.  My dear readers have already perused one article linking the show to the Christian worldview, and I have another in the works.  The first draft of the upcoming article even mentions two works by C. S. Lewis–one fiction and one non-fiction.  Fans of C. S. Lewis are welcome to guess which two works these are.  One of them happens to be perhaps the least popular work he wrote after his conversion.

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This anime excelled very well on all levels.  It just lacks some nebulous quality which prevents me from giving it a full five stars.  You’ve truly deprived yourself if you have not watched this show!

Yes, that's Bacchus riding upon a magic duck.

Yes, that’s Bacchus riding upon a magic duck.

“Kikuchiyo of Samurai 7 Level Epic”: How the Last Episode of Akame ga Kiru Met My Expectations

I do not often write a post immediately following an episode, but it’s not every day that one of my wishes for a currently airing series comes true.  And, I have already given myself a week off.  Time to start blogging again!  Major spoilers for both Samurai 7 and episode 23 of Akame ga Kiru to follow.

Akame's Warning

For the most part, this week’s episode of Akame ga Kiru provoked much laughter as every cliche from shonen anime featured in one of its scenes–from Tatsumi gaining strength through the memory of his friends to the emperor having a nervous break down in his mech.

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Anyone else reminded of Escaflowne's Dilandau?

Anyone else reminded of Escaflowne’s Dilandau?

Ran appears to have transformed into a facsimile of Suzaku Kururugi–though several times more palatable–with his claim to have wanted to reform the empire from the inside.  And I expected Leone’s fight with him to be her last.

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It never works, man.  Neither in Code Geass nor in Akame ga Kiru.

It never works, man. Neither in Code Geass nor in Akame ga Kiru.

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However, this episode happily surprised me in two ways: 1) Leone did not kick the bucket (Yay!); and 2) Tatsumi did indeed reach Kikuchiyo’s death level epicness.  Let’s compare the two of them:

How do you stop a giant air battleship?

How do you stop a giant air battleship?

With a giant katana of course!

With a giant katana of course!

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Kikuchiyo explodes from overheating, but not before sapping the giant airship of the momentum it needed to destroy the village.

 

And down it plunges.

And down it plunges into a canyon.

All that's left of Kikuchiyo

All that’s left of Kikuchiyo

I had the same reaction.  The saddest death in the anime!

I had the same reaction. The saddest death in the anime!

Kikuchiyo’s death still tops Tatsumi’s; but, Tatsumi still managed to pull off one of the greatest deaths of any anime character.  No mean feat!

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Requiescas in pace, Tatsumi!

Requiescas in pace, Tatsumi!

Now, the last episode will feature a duel between Esdeath and Akame–perhaps the two most popular characters in the anime.  The first half of the show was remarkable for its poor swordplay .  The second half has shown a marked improvement, but will they be able to create a final duel worthy of the two expert swordswomen?  I’m rooting for the triumph of Esdeath, but I won’t hold my breath: as soon as Esdeath gets nicked she dies.  At least, I can hope her death won’t play out thus: Esdeath thinks that she has Akame beaten, but it turns out that Akame landed the slightest of cuts and Esdeath falls dead!

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At any rate, may they exceed my expectations once again!

A Character as Loco as Esdeath: A Theory on the Inspiration behind Akame ga Kiru’s Most Beloved Character

As my dear readers know, drawing connections between anime and other works–whether it be Arpeggio of Blue Steel and the Bible or Beowulf and Grendel with Shiki–stands as one of my favorite hobbies.  But, anime more often references itself, and part of the joy of watching anime is discerning various allusions and appropriations within the medium, e.g. Kill la Kill and Blazing Transfer Student.  Rather than destroying creativity, such borrowing can add to the intellectual pleasure one gleans from a story by creating another perspective.  Classical authors, for example, did this all the time–even in fashions which would be thought of as plagiarism nowadays–and were admired for it.  No one is going to toss aside a copy of Virgil’s Aeneid, complaining that Virgil borrows too much from Homer!  What is considered most original is often just a refreshing combination of old ideas.

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This understanding of creativity applies very well to the character Esdeath, who combines various traits which may be seen as contradictory.  While musing about Esdeath’s character, I pondered whether she had any equivalents in anime.  I found various similarities in other characters: Erza Scarlet (overwhelming power), Shishio (Social Darwinism), and Maestro Delphine (contempt for the weak and poor).  However, these all have one or two similarities to Esdeath rather than approximate personalities.  Esdeath may still be considered sui generis.

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However, I have hit upon a character who shares many similarities to Esdeath.  She has so many parallels to her that the direct contrasts in their characters just further highlight their connection.  I’ve kept my dear readers in suspense long enough!  This character is Koko Hekmatyar of Jormungand.

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Of course, the first thing one notes is the similarity of their features: pale complexion, blue eyes, and frost-colored hair.  (A quick google search shows that I’m not the first to notice this, but I don’t think anyone’s written a proper article on the two yet.)  Koko hails from Sweden, and Esdeath was born in the northern climes of the empire.  Both lead a squad of highly trained soldiers and become very attached to males younger than they are–though, it must be confessed that Koko’s passion for a child soldier is more creepy.  They are also highly attached to their subordinates–even when they discover that their subordinates have failed or betrayed them.

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With those similarities out of the way, the real fun begins.  Koko, a merchant of death, sells weapons for the sake of world peace.  Esdeath, a suppressor of rebellion, uses her office to incite the whole empire to war.  Both have no qualms about using insane methods to achieve their goals, as the lives of unknown human beings mean nothing to them.  This disregard for the value of human life drives both Tatsumi and Jonah away from their love interests–and it remains a question whether the former shall escape his love interest’s madness.

Jonah

Into their respective plans, however, a wrench named Cupid is thrown.  Love threatens to undermine both their schemes and worldviews, and the conflict revolves around whether they shall suppress love for the sake of their misguided goals or shall amor omnia vincit?  Both seem unbending, yet Koko bent to the desire of her beloved.  Will Esdeath do the same or is her heart too hard?

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Well, you need to read the manga in order to find out!  At any rate, do you think that I make a good case for Esdeath being based on Koko?

My Experience with the Anime of Summer 2014

As you know, I wrote that I would try to marathon the anime which I stalled this season.  Having watched straight through episodes 8 – 12 of Aldnoah.Zero, I’ll be able to add my assessment of it to this post–making for a total of five anime.  Expect the reviews of the others to be published singly or in pairs.  Let me start with the two anime which I’m unable to rate due to their series not being finished.

One of the most beautiful images of the season of one of its most charming ladies.

One of the most beautiful images of the season with one of its most charming ladies.

1) Aldnoah.Zero – no rating

Quel finale!  If they had not promised to return for the winter season of 2015, I would have rated it 3 1/2 stars just for crushing the audience’s souls at the end!  (And before the last few minutes and finding out that it would get a second half, I thought about giving it 4 1/2 stars!)  The action sequences were truly awesome, the animation beautiful, and the plot compelling.  The characters were nothing to write home about, but Slaine and Inaho made for great protagonists and even the princess started to grow on me.

I cannot but confess that I found this takedown very cool.

I cannot but confess that I found this takedown very cool.

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As others have noted, certain parts of the anime evinced bad writing.  A few of the characters’ decisions made little sense, especially *MAJOR SPOILER* Rayet killing the princess.  But, that might play into the theme of envy and hatred being motivators for war.  I know Inaho disagreed, saying that there were always other main causes for war.  But, anger and hatred make war especially bitter and often increase the destruction of war and the willingness of nations to begin them.  Just think of Great Britain and France.

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FUTURE POST ALERT: How envy influences Martian politics lines up nicely with a book I’m reading titled Leftism by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.  So, the role of envy in modern politics and how envy squelches liberty and diversity will certainly feature as a post in the future.

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2) Akame ga Kiru – no rating

Akame ga Kiru got off to a slow start, but I feel that the second half of this season was much more exciting than the first–just as the case was in the manga.  I must confess that the manga does several things better; but, the way that the show handled the presentation of Esdeath’s character was rather adroit.  (I still prefer the fan translation name, Esdese.  That seems more like a girl’s name than that of an allegorical character, doesn’t it?)  Some of the fights could have been better, but episodes 6 and 11 more than made up for them.  You also need to love Akame ga Kiru‘s style.  It exudes a Renaissance setting, but a million anachronisms fill its scenes–especially the modern style of the clothing and the presence of modern firearms.

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Despite certain flaws in presentation, the adaptation made the pages of the manga come alive.  The voice actors in particular were very well chosen.  I look forward to the second season!

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FUTURE POST ALERT: Also, despite Esdeath being a unique character, I believe that I have discovered the base for her character.  Be sure to look out for my post on which character appears to have been the inspiration for Esdeath!

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3) Rail Wars! – ★★★

The likability of the characters save this show from being rated 2 1/2 stars.  In some respects, especially the tsundere, Aoi Sakurai, many of the characters fall into tried and true character types.  Yet, each character feels unique, e.g. the hoplophile ways of Aoi or Naoto’s obsession with trains.  As a matter of fact, even though Naoto feels like a the weak willed protagonist of a harem anime, he shows guts when the occasion demands them of him, which was another good point to this show.  The character relationships were also done quite well, even if those episodes which focused on this facet of the show tended to be rather fanservicey.

Rail Wars

Though the series can’t be called action-packed, episodes 10 and 11 stand out for the excellence of the fights, and who can forget the train ride from hell in the seventh and eighth episodes?  On the other hand, the final episode annoyed me quite a bit: in a 12 episode series, who needs an episode dedicated to saying good-bye to the characters?  At least, it had more to do with trains than many of the prior episodes.

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In case you were wondering, yes, I would certainly watch this again!

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4) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – ★★★★

A well-deserved four stars for this comedy!  I loved how closely the manga covered the process and struggles of writing good manga.  Like Rail Wars!, it boasts a great host of characters who are oddballs in one fashion or another.  As iblessall writes, this show’s ability to tag different people as tsukomi each episode stands as one of its salient features: each person has a turn at playing the straight man as others act ridiculous around them.  Though, Sakura seems to hold this position more than most of the other characters.  A truly great comedy!

Seo

I’ll also admit that I fell for Seo.  Watching her blunt honesty and inability to adjust to the feelings of others was a trip!

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5) Sabagebu! – ★★★★★

I bet you were not expecting me to grant Sabagebu! five stars and a place on my top fifty list!  Yet, it does so many things to make it the most brilliant comedy this year.  Unlike Nozaki-kun, this is a black comedy; so, I can’t recommend it to people who want nothing atrocious to happen to characters.  One needs to be able to laugh at characters who suffer everything from other characters shamelessly using them to shooting them dead in amusing ways.  (Fans of Looney Tunes are sure to love this kind of comedy.)  Our lead character, Sonokawa, in particular has no qualms about using others as stepping stones on her road to victory.  Fortunately, the violence and death only occurs in the characters’ imaginations–most of it anyway.

Sabagebu Sonokawa

But, this show could not have reached five stars had it not been for the excellence of the gun fights and its ability to parody 80’s action movies.  (The parodies of Predator and Mad Max made for some of my favorite scenarios.)  Episode twelve presents a mind-blowing finale to the show.  I must add that Miou was my favorite character; though, Sonokawa’s vengeful deeds are very fun to watch!

sabagebu winter gear

Those are my thoughts for these five shows!  Stay tuned for more!  What was your favorite show this season?

“It’s Time to Enjoy Yourselves”: Taking a City by Assault Before Modern Times

The flashback to Najenda and Esdeath’s past in episode nine of Akame ga Kiru reminded me of a book I read recently titled Furies: War in Europe 1450 – 1700 by Lauro Martines.  The sack of the rebel town juxtaposed the two in my mind.  In sinister fashion, Esdeath orders the soldiers to do whatever they like to the rebel civilians.  Najenda is so horrified by the brutality of the rape, murder, and pillage that she quits the Imperial Army.  (Though, as an officer and a general, she should certainly have had some ability to mitigate the crimes suffered by the rebel civilians, which is the weakest part of the flashback.)  Esdeath has no pity for the weak and believes that the soldiers have a right to do as they please with the inhabitants.

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Curiously, by historical standards, Najenda has the most unusual reaction to the sack.  The standard features of a sack consist in rape, murder, pillage, arson, torture, and other vile crimes.  (Bernard Cornwell writes a great description of a sack in the beginning of his novel 1356, but I confess to being put off by the violence.)  Many people paint the Crusaders in dark colors because of the Sack of Jerusalem, which led to a massacre of the defenders and civilians.  But, that’s what happens when a city is taken by assault.  Muslims did exactly the same thing in the Sack of Constantinople in 1453, yet no one declaims against the villainy of the Turks.  And Renaissance soldiers committed very violent sacks also.  Sacking a city invites the worse parts of human nature run rampant.  The only bloodless sack I can think of is the Vandals’ Sack of Rome in 455.  However, in this case, an agreement had been drawn up between Genseric and St. Leo the Great (my confirmation patron saint) to spare the lives of the inhabitants.  Though, if an enemy army bursts into a city by force, anything goes.

Assaulting a Town

Generals and the officers of the Renaissance, the era to which the world of Akame ga Kiru most closely corresponds, were certainly complicit in giving their men permission to sack a city.  Sometimes sacks would last as long as two to four days before the officers would reign in their men.  During that time, thousands of civilians would be murdered.  The officers would restrain their men from the most violent crimes if they were present, but they themselves pillaged and took nobles as hostages to be ransomed later at high cost.  Many officers recorded in their diaries and memoirs that they were shocked by the brutality committed against poor civilians, but, unlike Najenda, they never thought of quitting the army just because of that.

Disillusionment

Why were the rank and file so brutal?  In Renaissance armies, condemned men often had their sentences commuted to military service in a time of war, and these were no doubt the worst perpetrators.  However, the violence was general enough that one cannot only blame convicted criminals.  For a moment, imagine being a soldier in a besieging army.  For weeks or months, those infernal defenders had been shooting arrows or lead into one’s friends, pouring boiling oil over one’s head, slinging insults from the walls, and doing whatever else they could to make life unpleasant.  Prior to a successful assault, many messages calling for the city to surrender would have been refused.  During a siege, a soldier’s life was filled with squalor, disease, and other privations–including a maddening feeling of hunger every day.

Fallen in Battle

At last, the day comes when one breaks into the city!  Now, defenders throw themselves at one’s mercy!  Is a soldier going to be inclined to offer them quarter?  Balderdash!  They had perhaps three months to surrender peacefully if they had wished!  Revenge is the order of the day.  One kills until one can lift the sword no more, finds some plunder to sift through, or a good meal to consume.  That’s an awful reality, but reality all the same.

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Still, Esdeath takes things too far when she delights in the cruelty of the sack.  And without a long siege, I doubt that her soldiers could have been whipped up into the same frenzy I described above unless part of her men numbered among the Imperial Army that had been defeated in the prior expedition.  Those might indeed have been feeling murderous towards the inhabitants!  Yet, it is an officer’s duty to try to alleviate the misery suffered by the civilians, but Esdeath thinks that the strong have the right to do as they please to the weak.  Historical sacks show that many of the common soldiers possessed the same attitude, though officers would not give their men rights beyond the right of taking booty.  At the same time, the officers accepted that they could not prevent their men from committing grave offenses against the populace while they were not present.  No one would have thought of it as a good reason to resign from the service like Najenda, but I suspect that she was more disgusted with Esdeath than anything else.

The manga, as usual, conveys the moods and characters much better.

The manga, as usual, conveys the moods and characters much better.

How Not to Animate Sword Fights: Episode 8 of Akame ga Kiru

I have remarked on Twitter that watching Historical European Martial Arts and Oriental Martial Arts videos has made it more difficult to enjoy anime sword fights.  Either the fight needs to be outlandish enough for me to completely suspend my disbelief–like the fights in Jubei-chan II–or bear a significant degree of realism–like those of Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran.  (No, I’m not going to spoil any of the fights for my dear readers.  You must watch the show if you haven’t seen it!)  On the other hand, the eighth episode of Akame ga Kiru went to neither extreme, which left me cringing at their bad techniques and scientifically impossible feats.  The bad techniques went far beyond General Liver and Bulat standing in place and exchanging lightning fast cuts and parries in a manner reminiscent of the later fights in DBZ.  I know that Akame ga Kiru is fiction and that I should not expect moves out of the Codex Wallerstein–as awesome as that would be; but, bad swordplay will detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the fights.  A friend of mind who cares nothing about HEMA even noticed that the fight was badly done!

Face-off

But, let’s start here in my highlight reel of bad swordplay:

Three on OneIf you remember the fight, Bulat takes out the fighters behind him with kicks and bisects the opponent before him simultaneously.  There are many problems with this nonsense: 1) One does not stay in the middle of multiple opponents, but attacks the closest one and attempts to tangle up his foes by out-positioning them (e.g. 4:40 into this video); 2) Two side kicks delivered simultaneously would have no power; 3) the bearded enemy to Bulat’s front, being closer, should have been struck down first no matter how you look at it.  Tatsuki ogles at Bulat’s awesome technique, but I look at this scene as pure laziness by the animators.

Next one’s a doozy:

Ridiculous High JumpRemember how high Tatsumi jumped to deliver this strike?  Akame ga Kiru loves showing these ridiculously high jumping attacks, but they should all be epic failures.  Remember when you caught fly balls in little league?  Essentially, that’s how devil kid should have approached this situation and taken Tatsumi out with a strike to his back.  Who in their right mind would block a strike that started a hundred feet high?  Also, Tatsumi misses his first chance at slicing off devil kid’s fingers.

The third one stands as the worst shot of the whole fight:

Bad BlockIf you watched the footage carefully, you’ll notice that Tatsumi blocked well ahead of the strike, and the devil kid obligingly attacks his sword.  Why?  Tatsumi’s arms are actually ahead of his weapon and a much easier target!!!  This was just wrong, I tell you!

And we have a good parry from Tatsumi, but…

Great Parry…he neglects the obvious counter-cut and the fight continues.  Nevermind, this is a terrible parry.  See how far Tatsumi needs to extend his arms?  They’re even locked, which is a huge error!  How much easier to simply draw back a little, let the strike pass, and deliver a solid cut in the opening left by devil kid’s attack?

Three things need to be said about this picture:

If Tatsumi was competent, that awed expression would be the last one on that villain's face.

If Tatsumi was competent, that awed expression would be the last one on that villain’s face.

Lindybeige has an excellent video on this very common position which we see in movies and TV shows.  There’s an additional point to make here that the devil kid’s fingers have no protection whatsoever.  Tatsumi could easily slice them off!  Then, let me reiterate two more points Lindybeige makes: 1) This is a very bad and unnecessary position to be in–whoever moves first wins; and 2) Tatsumi should have half-sworded into his foe’s neck.  Yes, you can grab a sharp sword with your bare hands–you really can!

The following pictures suffer from the same defect:

vlcsnap-2014-08-24-15h29m03s250 vlcsnap-2014-08-24-15h29m38s89Neither of the fighters’ swords have proper hand guards.  Bulat’s cut should have traveled down the blade and through Liver’s fingers.  In the second, either opponent has that option.  A guard of some kind, even a simple cross guard, must be part of a sword if one means to bind with it.  Ancient swords had no guards because they were always used in conjunction with a shield.  And no, it is not unchivalrous to cut your opponent’s fingers off!  We see it in European manuals, and the world of Akame ga Kiru has no chivalric code to speak of!

What the...?  Send that sword back to the Kung Fu movie set where you found it, Bulat!

What the…? Send that sword back to the Kung Fu movie set where you found it, Bulat!

That concludes the glaring defects I found in this battle.  Did anyone like the fight?  Sheele’s final battle in episode six is so far the best fight in the series.  It followed my rule of being so outlandish as to suspend my disbelief.

Terrifying words, but at least one character believes in having a proper guard on their weapon!

Terrifying words, but at least one character believes in having a proper guard on their weapon!

Pruning the Watch List

You know, my dear readers, the past two seasons, precisely because they have contained a surfeit of good shows, have convinced me that I’m not the sort of person who can benefit by watching ten or more currently airing shows at once.  I’m no Angry Jellyfish.  My inspiration for writing about anime peters out as it becomes divided over so many shows.  Not only that, by my other interests seem to suffer.  (Admittedly, it’s likely not anime’s fault, but it can be the scapegoat here.)  And so, I have found myself tempted again and again to quit blogging for a while or to abandon watching current series.  Of course, if I quit watching currently airing seasons entirely, then who would read my articles?  Moreover, how could I properly enjoy other blogs?

Don't worry Tokyo ESP.  When the season's done, I'll come right back to you!

Don’t worry Tokyo ESP. When the season’s done, I’ll come right back to you!

The solution lies in cutting back on the number of currently airing shows I’m watching.  And so, I have decided to stall all of them save for the following four–four seemed a good number:

  1. Akame ga Kiru
  2. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
  3. Rail Wars!
  4. Sabagebu!
Aldnoah Zero, another show I'm dropping so that I can properly savor it.

Aldnoah Zero, another show I’m saving for when I can properly savor it.

That the last three do not contain serious subject matter at all (unless you include Sabagebu’s hunting and airsoft regulations, anyway) works to their benefit.  More serious shows often have more complex plotlines, hence they deserve more focus than viewing them on a weekly basis can provide.  This might be less of an issue if I kept an anime commonplace book, where I included quotes, episode commentaries, and glosses.  My current method is to wait for inspiration to hit while watching the show and then to write enough drafts until I am satisfied with the final product.  But, an anime commonplace book does sound like a good idea, doesn’t it?  Does anyone else have such a book or take notes after watching episodes?

Hanyamata girls

Hanayamata: proof that even I can be snared into a show featuring cute girls doing cute things.

Akame ga Kiru still remains on the list for a different reason.  Having read fifty-two chapters of the manga, latent topics for articles have been rolling around in my head.  (Here’s my favorite one of the articles I’ve written concerning that show.)  Also, I would not exactly call Akame ga Kiru a show brimming with complexity; though, various circumstances cast doubt on the efficacy or righteousness of Night Raid’s actions, and Esdese herself is one of the most complex and interesting characters I’ve seen in a long time.  (On the other hand, some people consider her stupid and uninteresting, but I want nothing to do with those Philistines.)  As a matter of fact, I have an article brewing on the past episode’s fights, which annoyed me greatly.

ARGEVOLLEN's not as bad as people say it is...and I'll prove it later, I swear!

ARGEVOLLEN’s not as bad as people say it is…and I’ll prove it later, I swear!

Of course, this shall not prevent me from reading articles on other shows, even if they contain spoilers.  Shocking twists and turns are not where my interest lies in a story.  I’m happy to go along with the story’s steady revelation, to enjoy the hero’s journey, and to wait for interesting themes to drop from the author’s genius.  The nice thing about this attitude is that stories can hold an almost endless interest for one as the reader constantly uncovers new themes.  I apply this even to anime, but perhaps I hold the medium in too high of an esteem?

Zankyou no Terror is perhaps the only show which risks being stalled permanently.

Zankyou no Terror is perhaps the only show which risks being stalled permanently.

Violence in Anime and Society

Sadly, a wrench was thrown into our vacation plans to visit Montreal, but my brother’s move to Indiana and our time spent at both Richmond and the Cedar Point Amusement Park were all quite successful.  In addition, I was able to see one of my best friends, thompdjames of The Dusty Thanes, for a few hours in Indiana.  The joy of meeting him after a little over three years is worth a thousand Montreals.

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But, Richmond produced my most interesting meeting of the trip.  This particular old gentleman was most voluble touching his life spent in the South.  One story he told concerning one near and dear to him, however, shocked and infuriated me.  Six abandoned and wicked men committed an unspeakable crime against a man and his fiancee–let it suffice to say that this crime would not be out of place in the pages of Akame ga Kiru.  One might read of such a crime in the papers, but one never expects to meet someone of such close propinquity to it.

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For the most part, crimes of shocking villainy seem far removed from us.  Even more unreal is the experience that some people would find inflicting traumatic mental and physical pain on others great fun.  Akame ga Kiru has many people just like that; but, there’s no way we would actually meet such villains as those in our lives, right?  We live in states far from the southern border, out of the traditionally violent South, and separate from crime-ridden major cities.  There’s no chance of extreme violence happening to us in civilized societies!

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Yet, why not?  What prevents us from becoming victims besides the Providence of God?  And we know that evil things happen to people despite their decency, virtue, and innocence.  The case is, as Akame ga Kiru shows, that people are targeted by the predatory elements of society merely because their intended victims seem weak.  Episode one featured a family who targeted hapless people from the countryside.  In the world of Akame ga Kiru just being weak ensures that one will meet a gruesome end.

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In modern society, there similarly stands no guarantee of us escaping a confrontation with violent men during our lifetime.  People take steps to eliminate or compensate for their weaknesses.  In forty of the U. S. states, people often carry firearms concealed or openly, practice using them, and take classes on the legal ramifications of self-defense with a firearm.  Where firearms are not permitted either to be owned or carried about the person, people take up the study of martial arts.  (Great Britain was the best example to come to mind.)  Stringent gun laws give the citizens of most major cities no other option, unless they’re the sort to rely solely on the police for protection.  Yet, a famous court case did rule that the police have no responsibility to protect individual citizens–just to maintain public order.  Translation: If they can help you, they will.  But, if they can’t and you get murdered, robbed, etc., the police are not liable.  Do you really want to count on the police now?

Nothing inspires confidence like a policewoman who's no more than a waif.

Nothing inspires confidence like a policewoman who’s no more than a waif.

It is a shame, however, that stringent anti-gun policies, inadequate anti-crime policies, and other factors make for dangerous inner city environments.  That city dwellers cannot use firearms as a means of self-defense and need to take up martial arts reminds one of feudal Japan or medieval Europe, where the constant threat of violence in their societies also required them to study the art of combat.  One cannot help but wonder that the people who would benefit most from concealed carry are usually denied it!

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To conclude, the threat of violence posed by nefarious individuals in society is not as remote as one might think.  This practically makes learning how to defend oneself a duty, despite a loss of leisure.  Of course, one can also take no precaution and live in the hope of never being targeted.  Crime in the U.S. is on a steady decline after all; but, the best policy is always to be prepared.

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I hope that you enjoyed this ramble!

Off on Pilgrimage

My first day of vacation starts tomorrow.  I put pilgrimage in the title because Montreal includes part of this vacation, and I cannot imagine that we shall visit that fascinating city without stopping by St. Joseph’s Oratory.  This oratory was made famous by the miracles produced there and its association with St. Andre Bessette, who might have called himself St. Joseph’s doorkeeper.  He was famous for thousands of miraculous cures, which he attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph.

Since it is late, and I do not want to spend too much time writing (I wake at 3 AM on the morrow–four hours from now!), I decided to briefly list some highlights of my anime hobby and spiritual life.  I hope you find some of them interesting.

  • Watched Girls und Panzer: This is the Real Anzio Battle.  I greatly enjoyed it.  It felt like a longer TV episode but still had a great tank battle.  The following is my favorite quote from the OVA:
Only in a perfect world!

Only in a perfect world!

  • Akame ga Kiru stands as a faithful adaptation of the manga.  Things will really pick up once Esdese appears.  (I prefer the fan naming system and will stubbornly stick to that until the official naming system becomes more universal.)  The great thing about Akame ga Kiru is that it essentially turns shonen on its head: we have the same kinds of happy-go-lucky and quirky characters, but they’re thrown into a really corrupt, dark, and bloody world.  This is why so many people like myself enjoy the show.
  • The first three episodes of Aldnoah.Zero really took the cake in terms of the setting and action.  I hope that the quality of the characters catches up soon.
  • I’m somehow still finding the motivation to fit in an episode of El Cazador de la Bruja here and there.  It’s a rather mediocre show, but the characters are enjoyable enough that I find myself continually drawn back to it.  It will probably take me as much time as I took for Bodacious Space Pirates for me to complete.
  • Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is one of the best comedies this season.  The oddball characters are splendidly amusing to watch, and I like the fact that the hero is a shoujo manga artist, which makes many of the episodes’ plots revolve around him finding material for his comics.

No law Breaking

  • Gintama is one of those shows which I can put down for a while and then pick up again.  The quest to capture the aliens who were running amok turning people’s bodies and body parts into screwdrivers didn’t grab me, but the arch where Shinpachi gains a pen pal was more hilarious.  This show goes everywhere from toilet humor to maudlin to boring to hilarious to epic.  One just needs to wait for the best stories.
  • Many bloggers loved the first season of Hamatora, and I’m enjoying the show thus far.  Episode four, where the desire to own a gun was portrayed as rooted to evil desires, irked me to no end.  Cannot people get that some people love tools?  Especially men?  Guns are tools and a lot of fun to shoot.  People enjoy shooting at paper targets, cans, bottles, abandoned houses, cardboard boxes, etc.  Wishing to have a gun by itself in no way means a person is inclined to violence.  Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.
  • For some reason, I’m really enjoying Hanamayata.  I suppose my identification with Hana (she’s also from NJ) goes a long way, but somehow I find this slice of life comedy still a lot of fun.  I have a an article in the works for it.
  • Did you know that Mushibugyo has an anime adaptation?  I didn’t, and this decently animated adaptation is a lot of fun to watch.  Perfect for a lover of samurai shows.

Jinbee strikes

  • I’ve kind of stalled Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  At this point, Nadia, Jean, and Marie have met back up with Senora Grandis and company, which means the action should improve.  Man, the Island arc was exhausting!
  • I don’t exactly know how, but a friend of mine finagled me into watching Nisemonogatari.  I couldn’t even finish episode one of Nisemonogatari the first time around, despite being a fan of Bakemonogatari.  But, I find myself at episode four and wanting to know more.  (By the way, Nisemonogatari essentially decided to put Holo in its story via Shinobu.)
  • Many bloggers like despising Rail Wars!  But, I’m enjoying how the characters deal with the obstacles each episode.  It reminds me a lot of You’re Under Arrest, and even if it doesn’t hold a candle to season one of You’re Under Arrest, it’s certainly better than season two thus far.
Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

  • Sabagebu! stands as one of my favorite shows this season.  This is pure comedy gold.  The action can get rather nuts; but if you liked Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, or Pani Poni Dash, I can practically guarantee you’ll love this show.
  • Concerning ARGEVOLLEN, the show is nothing special, but I’m enjoying it, and there always exists the chance that it will get better.  Basically, if I drop anything this season, it will be this show.
  • Tokyo ESP‘s not bad.  It’s doing everything well so far, and it feels a little similar to Samurai Flamenco‘s first half so far in that we have ordinary people who suddenly conceive that they have a duty to repress the darker elements of society.  However, it still has a long way to go in order to surpass Ga-Rei Zero, in which series’ world Tokyo ESP exists.  And I love how Leonidas has a cameo role. xD

Tokyo_ESP_Manga_01

  • Somehow, I haven’t been able to get into Zankyou no Terror.  I loved how they referenced the Sphinx and the fact that there are two riddles according to mythology.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure “What walks on two legs, then four, then three?” was an invention of later writers.  Classical authors loved to mess around with mythology and add their own improvements on the canonical version.)  Yet, somehow, the story doesn’t grab me.  Like Sky Crawlers, it’s probably too intellectual for my tastes.

That sums it up for my anime watching.  I still owe you guys some manga reviews, so expect that around St. Edith Stein’s feastday (Aug. 9th).  Speaking of saints, I find St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea a constant source of inspiration.  There are almost four hundred pages of commentary on Matthew before I can move to the Gospel of Mark, but St. Thomas Aquinas’ ability to draw so many relevant Church Fathers on each passage of Scripture is nothing short of amazing.  Also, I’m reading George MacDonald’s The Seaside Parish.  George MacDonald is a genius of the spiritual life and every page contains something quotable.  Why don’t people read him anymore!!?  I’ll be right alongside C. S. Lewis in thanking George MacDonald for his works when I get to paradise.

Until August 9th, you’ll be seeing no more articles unless I am so lucky as to find a wi-fi hotspot.  But, I should be able to respond to commentary.

Progressing through New Manga

Here’s an article to remedy the dearth of manga reviews on this site.  As you know, manga happens to include some of my favorite light reading–or, if untranslated, not so light, but nevermind that!  And so, I wish to give you my opinion of one incredibly popular and four not so popular manga.

Happy Grey

1) Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima

First, let me get the hit manga out of the way.  All of my dear readers must be familiar with this manga on some level.  Somehow, I have managed to read 375 chapters of the manga.  (Before anyone worries about me being sucked into a Fairy Tail oblivion, I have decided not to watch more of the anime.  Almost 400 chapters of manga does not need to be supplemented!)  Fairy Tail has taken a dark turn, which might be expected since the villains are honest-to-goodness demons.  One torture scene made me particularly uncomfortable.  When did Fairy Tail become Akame ga Kiru? Well, that’s an exaggeration but conveys the change of mood rather well.

This manga, even if very fanservicey, still stands as one of the greatest works coming out of Japan.  But, what should one expect when the author claims to have been influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien?

The jump shot is still one of my favorite moves.

The jump shot is still one of my favorite moves.

2) Break Shot by Takeshi Maekawa

I’m sure that I passed over this manga at one point.  Probably without good reason.  Anime based on table top games, such as Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou, count among my favorites and billiards is not too far removed.  However, the more I read the more I discovered why this manga never gained much popularity: the situations become more contrived as the manga goes on.  We almost expect the hero to win in one shot every time.  Unlike in go or shogi (my two favorite games next to chess), there are not too many opportunities for reversals.  A go game might have as much as 320 moves, and the tide can turn as much as three or four times in a nail biting game.  Not so much professional billiards.

So much for a 1987 billiard manga.  The characters are rather likable, and I like how it offers tips on how to play pool; but, the games become atrociously dull.

28

3) Breath of Fire – Ryuu no Senshi by Yakumo Hiroshi

Speaking of retro manga, here’s a fantasy series based on video games of the same name.  This is a delightful fantasy romp over the course of six chapters.  Breath of Fire features a standard strong, young hero who is assisted in his quest to defeat an evil goddess by a winged maiden, some therianthropic sidekicks, and a half snake sorceress.  The message is a very simple “one cannot overcome evil with hate,” but I find few things as enjoyable as a decent 90’s fantasy anime or manga.

Hatenkou Yuugi Cover

4) Hatenkou Yuugi, a.k.a. Dazzle by Minari Endou

This is a fun picaresque tale of a young lady–fourteen going on fifteen–whose father kicks her out of the house so that she might see the world.  She quickly befriends a Model 1911 toting albino named Alzeid, who is looking for his father’s killer.  Later, a clownish fighter named Baroqueheat joins the group.  His favorite hobby seems to be teasing Rahzel, but she takes it in stride and delivers beat downs as necessary.  Some of the stories can be pretty dark, and the characters’ banter is at least as humorous as that of Spice and Wolf.

hatenkou_yuugi[1]

However, I find that I cannot recommend the manga as much as the anime.  The anime eschews the manga’s Plautine tendency to make the reader laugh every other panel.  That added seriousness better balances the dark elements found in the ten episode anime.  Is a second season of this too much to ask?

shindere_shoujo_to_kodoku_na_shinigami

5) Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami by Yuki Shinkiba

The title translates loosely to “The Death-Loving Girl and the Lonely Death God.”  Sounds like a match made in heaven.  Somehow, Shinto and Sherlock Holmes must also be a match made in heaven, because the manga is incredibly fun.  Our Sherlock Holmes character, Nishigami, moves to a small island.  He tries his best not to make friends because those he loves always seem to die.  However, this does not stop a popular girl named Akira from following this baneful course.  She does indeed die, but the island’s god resurrects her, saying that she can resurrect as many times as possible as long as she remains on the island but that she cannot leave it.  A good thing too: for Akira happens to be manga’s most shindere character.

This one is a great deal of fun.  The mysteries are complex and the characters rather charming.  Nishigami has a particularly brilliant head for deduction.  If only I could find chapter 21 somewhere!

An Apology for Savagery: Explaining the Crime-Ridden yet Pure Soul of Esdese

I’ve been pondering the character Esdese from Akame ga Kiru for a while now, because her character eludes explanation.  It seems impossible that such a bad character can appear so innocent when the manga takes us away from her job.  Her terrible crimes seem to call for judgment, and yet one almost wishes her to get off scot-free.  I described her worldview as Nietzschean in my prior article, but the more I read the more apparent it becomes that she does not base her worldview in a philosophy.  Rather, her understanding of right and wrong derives from her coming from a savage society, and having these ideals rather confirmed by living in a “civilized” society which has been reduced to a state of nature.  I would recommend reading Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Society if any of my dear readers find the points I am about to make interesting.

3

When we are first introduced to Esdese, we hardly come off with a good opinion of her: she subjugates some rebels with fierce reprisals, forces a certain rebel to lick her boots, and later she gives pointers to some torturers on how to increase human suffering.  Shortly after the last scene, she greets the king and prime minister in the throne room.  Upon being asked whether she has any new goals, she declares–in complete incongruity with her prior actions–that she wishes to fall in love and produces a ridiculous list of  desired traits for her lover.

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Seryuu actually disturbs me quite a bit more than Esdese.

I must confess, I did not much care for Esdese until she produced that list.  At the same time, I did not know what to make of it.  Love should be the last thing a person of this sort wants.  None of the other hardcore villains desires love!  And yet, outside of the scenes where she inflicts pain on others, she can be heartwarming and cute.  Which brings me to the point I made earlier: how can cruelty and kindness exist in the same character and appear authentic?

Pardonnez la fanservice.

Pardonnez la fanservice.

The solution to the enigma of Esdese lies in her being a savage.  (Kudos to the mangaka for making an blond haired, blue eyed savage!) She dresses like a Nazi, which perhaps first led me to compare her ideas to Nietzsche, but perhaps a deerskin shirt and breeches would suit her character better.  She hales from the frigid north of the Empire and was raised to believe that it was natural for the strong to do whatever they liked to the weak.  Her father tells her not to feel sad that her mother was killed–’tis natural–nor to feel pity for the live animal they harvest some organs from–’tis natural.  (I’m sure she first develops a taste for torture here.)  Lastly, he even tells her not to grieve for his own death as he lays dying with their tribe annihilated!  That’s quite natural too!

Esdese young

In the movie Ulzana’s Raid, Burt Lancaster’s character claims that hating an Apache because he is cruel is like hating the desert because it has no water.  Similarly, Esdese was brought up in a state of nature and displays its values: “Life is nasty, brutish, and short,” as Thomas Hobbes says.  In the above named essay, Adam Ferguson writes that Native Americans tortured those of their enemies they found brave.  It was actually an insult to be killed quickly!  In certain cases, they would even remember fondly the guts a certain warrior displayed under torture!  (Couldn’t resist the pun.)  One wonders whether Esdese believes that she is showing regard for her defeated foes’ bravery when she shows them the same treatment.

Here's a scene from when she picked up her special weapon.  She overcame these temptations without losing her mind.

Here’s a scene from when she picked up her special weapon. She overcame these temptations without losing her mind.

Her person reminds one of the part in the Gospels where Christ says that someone who ignorantly does something worthy of a severe beating will be beaten lightly (Luke 12:48).  Esdese’s simplicity (she was an incredibly docile child) and ignorance of civilized morals–which are even more obscured due to the present state of affairs–make one think of her as a lion: beautiful, strong, graceful and yet would think nothing of mangling any animal smaller than it.  We don’t blame lions for ferocity.  Nor can we blame Esdese that much even though she does things truly horrible.  Instead, we wish for this savage to become civilized–or at least to metamorphose into a knight.  Tatsumi concludes that there is no saving her, but plenty of other violent races have become gentle through religion or philosophy: Christianity made the Vikings and Native Americans gentle and Buddha’s teachings changed Tibetans for the better.  So, one hopes that Esdese can realize that there is a better way to live than in the state of nature.  At any rate, I find it impossible to hate this cruel, charming, bloodthirsty, cute savage.

Akame ga Kiru

Akana ga Kiru: Love Makes the World Go Round

Well, my dear readers, Akane ga Kiru happens to be the latest manga to capture my imagination.  However, the villains are downright fiends.  Some of the atrocities they commit make it easier to think of them as demons or monsters than human beings.  The violence often reaches the level of Hellsing (and the artwork of Akame ga Kiru is incredibly reminiscent of that work) and occasionally the level of the Berserk manga (don’t read that for Pete’s sake!); so, I only recommend it to the thickest skinned of my readers.  I find myself skipping pages and examining each page for foreshadowing of the gruesome so that I can avoid scenes reminiscent of the worst passages of Terry Goodkind’s novels.

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Then, why read Akame ga Kiru?  Any lover of dark stories will tell you that one reads dark stories for the light contained therein.  The surrounding darkness makes the light seem that much more precious and lovable.  If dark stories contain no light, they fall to the level of trash or poison—the product of a diabolical or melancholy imagination.

Speaking of diabolical, the attitude of treating people as cattle is pretty much rampant among the upper class of this society,

Speaking of diabolical, the attitude of treating people as cattle is pretty much rampant among the upper class of this society,

The point of light which seems most precious because it shines most precariously is romantic love in Esdese, our heroes’ greatest opponent.  Objectively speaking, she’s a vile sadist, but I cannot help but be fascinated by her–nay, she’s actually my favorite character right now.  Her desire to fall in love separates her from the majority of the villains.  And who else should she fall for but the hero?  During a tournament instigated by her to find the sixth member of her Jaeger team, Tatsumi steals her heart, and she drags him from the field in a manner reminiscent of a caveman claiming a bride.  They pass the night debating philosophy–Aristotle vs. Nietzsche, you might say.  Like Thrasymachus of Plato’s Republic, she claims that Tatsumi’s notion of justice derives from weak people: the strong only need to act to their own advantage.  All the while, Tatsumi tries to convince her to defect from the Empire and join the Rebel side without admitting that he has already joined the Empire’s most infamous enemy: Night Raid.

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Esdese seems pretty cute until you get to know her.

During a hunting exercise, he escapes her grasp.  She tells the Jaegers that they do not need to offer Tatsumi mercy should they meet him in combat; yet, she still pines for him.  She even refuses the evil Prime Minister’s offer to find a similar man for her.

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Why should this be significant?  Even bad people love others.  That’s natural, isn’t it?  But, love is intimately bound with happiness, the chief end of human beings.  If love were not so bound with happiness, the family would not be the chief unit of society.  The most effective governments try to foster the health of the family through fostering peace and justice.  Essentially, Esdese, by desiring love, also wishes for the flourishing of peace and justice unless she wants a sham love–the mere indulgence of her feelings.  If she opts for true love, she must become the enemy of her current employers.  (Oh, what a beautiful moment that would be!)  The rampant cruelty and injustice infecting the country hardly fosters the creation of happy households.

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But, many things war against her defection: her vicious character first and foremost.  Her subordinates are incredibly loyal to her because she shows them affection; however, her show of affection is motivated by the desire to make them good subordinates, i. e. tools.  Aristotle claimed that the wicked can only have friendships of utility, and all of Esdese’s relationships belong to that category.  Her relationship with Tatsumi stands as the sole exception, but if she begins to view her relationship with Tatsumi according to usefulness or pleasure, that will shatter her ability to find real love, where the beloved is loved for his own sake.  Then again, the heroines have taken a shine to Tatsumi, and he could easily break Esdese’s heart by choosing one of them over her.  At which point, Esdese might forsake love altogether.  Thirdly, the Japanese concept of karma would certainly deny Esdese the right to real happiness.  The manga takes a grimly realistic view of humanity.  I’d have to say that Dostoyevsky’s underground man had a greater chance at salvation than Esdese.

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In the meantime, I shall follow with rapt attention Esdese’s standing on the fence.  Shall she fall on the side she naturally leans towards and snuff out the little bit of light in her soul?  Or shall amor, with all its demands, sacrifices, and true joys, truly omnia vincit?