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

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  • 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.

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A Fortunately Lackluster Season?

I tried to write a proper post on the 2014 Spring season, but I have not found an anime season so depressing since the Spring season of 2012.  Of the nine which I have listed below, I find myself most interested in Mekakucity Actors and Gokukoku no Brynhildr.  The first anime because Overlord Bear is thrilled about the series, and the second series because it comes from the pen of the author of Elfen Lied.  That’s a solid recommendation.  Here’s the list with parenthetical commentary where I please:

Mekakucity

1) Knights of Sidonia

2) Black Bullet

3) Mekakucity Actors

4) Captain Earth

5) Gokukoku no Brynhildr

6) Fuun Ishin Dai Shogun (Can’t the Japanese get over the fact that they lost WWII?)

7) Hitsugi no Chaika (I can’t resist picaresque tales.)

8) Nanana’s Buried Treasure

9) Abarebou Rikishi!! Matsutaro (From the mangaka of Ashita no Joe.  I really want to watch that classic one day.)

Nadia Secret of the Blue Water

My lack of enthusiasm for the new season makes me feel like I’m going through an anime doldrums.  (I might even eventually drop all of these shows.)  But, I am still keenly interested in Kill la Kill, Witchcraft Works, NoragamiHajime no Ippo: Rising, and Tonari no Seki-kun.  Then, certain shows are on my watching list which I should plow through when I get the chance, like El Cazador de la Bruja, Infinite Stratos II, and Bodacious Space Pirates.  (I still need to write my opinion of the last show in that list.)  Then again, Cajun Samurai managed to get me interested in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, which now happens to be streaming on Hulu.  I expect this old anime to contain disappointments, but it sounded like enjoyable.

So, this season’s main benefit to me is that I can catch up on all the old shows which I have wanted to watch but not found the time for.  Anyone have a more positive view of the upcoming season?

El Cazador de la Bruja and the Spirit of the World vs. the Spirit of Christ

Today, I started pondering why so many people become atheists, agnostics, and deists in their early twenties. I concluded that they must have been deceived by the spirit of the world—the most dangerous of our three foes. I wish to illustrate exactly how the spirit of the world conflicts the spirit of Christ through using episode eleven of El Cazador de la Bruja.

Nadie

This episode features a con artist who poses as a witch to deceive people into giving donations to a phony religion. *Spoilers ahead, but only pertaining to this episode.* Our heroines, Nadie and Ellis, enter the town when the witch is placed in a bind.  Fortunately for her, Ellis releases her power in such a manner as for the witch to use it to protect her hold over the villagers.  In gratitude, the witch allows them to stay a few days at her place. Once inside the house, the witch confesses that she had been a con artist in her younger days, but that she does have one real power: reading people’s memories—not very lucrative. After Ellis and Nadie leave, she reports Ellis to the government, hoping to gain some money from the government as well as protection for all three of them. She honestly believes that she can work out a deal such that all three of them can live in a house in Beverly Hills! However, some shady individuals murder her for placing the call.

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From my description of the episode, it is apparent that the witch places the highest value on money. Authors like George Bernard Shaw reveal that the spirit of the world might be known from how it quantifies everything. Nothing can be enjoyed for its own sake. Rather worldliness looks at things on a scale of how they benefit us. It can even infect the way our relationship with friends, family, and oneself such that we become incapable of enjoying them.

A picture of George Bernard Shaw.  Sinister looking, isn't he?

A picture of George Bernard Shaw.

The reason that worldliness afflicts the spirit especially around the age of twenty lies in the fact that people start to be evaluated for the marketplace and desire to impress other people. It is important to earn a living, but the market operates strictly on the principle of efficiency. People are weighed and often found wanting. They discover that worldly people are considered cool, and try to lift their status by befriending them. Realization of the benefits of money drive people to seek money and compare people on the basis of their possessions and earnings.

decrease surplus population

But, the great problem with the spirit of the world lies in that this manner of quantifying everything and entering into relationships for what another person can offer rather than for their own sake.  This is counter to the spirit of Christ. How can a system of weights and measures comprehend an infinite God? And so, Matthew 6:24 states: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” After all, what can we give God that he does not already have? Someone might say that we can serve Him by good works and supporting the cause of religion. Well and good: God has seven billion people who can do it better. Sure, God-fearing people are God’s instruments for spreading His reign, but His alone is the grace that actually converts hearts. He could turn a stone into a child of Abraham and spread the gospel more effectively with this instrument than any of us!

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As much as other people find us weighted and wanting, how much more easily might God do the same when every sin has infinite consequences. We are all infinitely unworthy of salvation and infinitely worthy of the wrath of God. For a Christian of a spiritual mind, this possesses no problem; but, it depresses the mind of a worldly Christian. This realization of one’s uselessness and culpability in the sight of God can allow such bitterness to enter into devotion that the crucifix turns from being a sign of hope and reconciliation to a sign of condemnation. The bitterness of God’s justice chokes the sweetness of devotion. A wrathful God takes the place of a loving God in his imagination. Then, he looks at the evils in the world and finds fault with God. Bitter toward God and suffused with an ideology of weights and measures, he decides that God is a figment of the imagination: the seed of faith sown among thorns has choked.

most-interesting-man_02

Yet, the desire for love never quits a human being—however warped his understanding of love becomes. Even as the witch I mentioned earlier desires her two friends to be kept safe from harm in the same breath as she hopes for riches. Another sharp difference between the spirit of the world and the spirit of Christ lies in that worldliness desires to have while the Spirit of Christ desires to give. While the worldly man sees himself as furthest from God and the cross as a reproach, Christ is cut to the quick for this lonely and isolated soul. Christ cries “I thirst!” for the soul of this man so that he might not thirst eternally in hell. Does the soul proceed to lead others away from Christ and heap up sins upon itself? Christ fights ever more desperately for a soul in proportion to its misery and sins. Then, you say, God is unhappy because He does not have our love—that solves the problem of what God gets out of saving us! No! “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). God’s happiness is unchanging and eternal, but He is happy in making us happy! Moreover, He does not wish to be happy without us being happy too! All our sins and sufferings Christ bore both on the cross and throughout his life so that He might share our miseries completely. Christ did not measure the blood He shed but emptied Himself so that He might be an ocean of mercy for poor sinners.

sacredheartjesus

In the final moments of the El Cazador de la Bruja episode to which I alluded, my heart ached to watch the final moments of the witch alone in her house. Happiness seems to have eluded her for her entire life: she grew up knowing little save the pursuit of money, this pursuit prevented her from pursuing her individuality, and she had just tasted a few drops of love before having her life cruelly extinguished. Why does God allow such cruelty? Especially perhaps the cruelest joke that her pursuit of money brought no happiness at all? One can only hope that God will say to such people who are so spiritually impoverished along with Lazarus: “…and Lazarus [received] in like manner evil things; but he is comforted here…” (Luke 16:25). For without love, no amount of possessions can make someone happy. One might ask: “Would God really care about the welfare of a soul which spent itself in the pursuit of money?” Well, would you take care of a weeping child who appeared on your doorstep? Then, how much more would God take care of one of His weeping children no matter how wayward!

Dreaming of Girls with Guns

During National Blog Posting Month, I listed many different articles which I wanted to write, and barely scratched the surface of them.  One of the projected articles concerned Koichi Mashimo’s Girls with Guns Trilogy–Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja.  At last, I have turned my attention to writing this article, which describes why I loved these series so much–at least the first two.  El Cazador de la Bruja doesn’t pack as much of a punch.

Noir_014

First, do not let the nickname “Girls with Guns” mislead you into thinking that these shows provide vapid entertainment.  These series stand as some of anime’s most intellectual.  Its plots are shrouded with mystery and stick to the technique of gradual revelation.  Authors like Hemingway and Dostoyevsky are alluded to in Noir.  (For the life of me, I can’t remember if Madlax contained any similar allusions.)  The first and best, Noir, presents the story of two assassins.  One of them, Kirika, enlists the aid of another assassin named Mireille in order to discover her identity.  During their missions they discover the existence of Les Soldats, a mysterious organization which wants to use Kirika’s talents for their own ends.  The second, both chronologically and in greatness, Madlax, covers the relationship between its titular assassin and a young girl with whom she is mysteriously connected.  The last, El Cazador de la Bruja, stands higher than most of what’s being produced currently, but I managed to get sidetracked from it.  I blame the blogosphere for making me focus on what’s currently popular. 🙂

El Cazador de la Bruja

The first thing which strikes the viewer about these shows is the quality of the music.  I could listen to Coppelia’s Casket and Nowhere all day.  They are very addictive!  During the episodes, Mashimo relies heavily on music to set the mood of the scenes, which is a weakness in some directors; but the quality of the music means no complaints will be forthcoming from me.  Few series excel so well at immersing the viewer in the countries where the action take place, and the musical score along with the detail of the backgrounds allows for this complete sense of immersion.

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Also refreshing is how rich in character the heroines are.  Contemporary anime, perhaps more than other mediums, employ stock characters to a disturbingly high degree.  This was one of the things which made me–someone who cares more about original characters than plots–for the most part quit watching new shows from 2009 – 2012.  (My longtime followers might remember this article, which marks the beginning of me becoming interested once again in contemporary works.)  In Noir and Madlax, men play the scantest roles.  (The thing they do best is getting shot.)  This makes having dynamic, multifaceted female characters necessary.  Many people dislike Mireille, but I find her a charming bluestocking with a zest for life.  (It also happens to be very easy for me to like leggy French blondes with blue eyes.)  She loves fine food and wine and quotes Hemingway in the second episode of the series, a series which, with its laconic dialogue and strict adherence to show don’t tell, is very Hemingwayan itself.

Might as well admit that I pretty much fell for Mireille.

Might as well admit that I pretty much fell for Mireille.

Kirika, despite being as blue the the titular character of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, provides the viewers with some awesome gunfights.  Who can forget the popcorn scene in particular?  She, along with Mireille and Madlax, have a tendecy to take out their targets with one shot; though, Kirika is more than willing to use more–as you’re supposed to.  Amusingly, Mireille even calls Kirika vulgar once for the way she offs a certain villain.

Kirika's easily the most dangerous assassin in any of these stories.  That's a henchman's tie she's hanging from, by the way.

Kirika’s easily the most dangerous assassin in any of these stories. That’s a henchman’s tie she’s hanging from, by the way.

Though, if any character in the series raises assassination to an art form, it would be Madlax.  She occasionally wears an evening gown as she takes down her enemies.  The scene where she downs people in moving vehicles with a pistol at over 100 years takes the biscuit as one of the most outrageous anime gunfights ever.  But, Madlax is perhaps the most lovable character in any of these series.  She combines the best traits of Kirika and Mireille: Madlax has Kirika’s efficiency and quietude and Mireille’s aesthetic sensibility and beauty.

I must confess that I also fell for Madlax--and Vanessa and Limelda for that matter.

I must confess that I also fell for Madlax–and Vanessa and Limelda for that matter.

From what I have seen of El Cazador de la Bruja, it stands as the weakest show, though I find the main characters very amusing to watch.  Imagine Kirika with a sense of humor and a quick tempered and less suave Mireille, and you’ll have a good picture of the two main characters.  I also liked the change from assassins to bounty hunters as the profession of the main characters.

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Anyway, Koichi Mashimo directed two original classic series and one rather enjoyable picaresque romp.  Be sure to put the first two under your anime watching belt at least!

Un Programme d’Articles pour Novembre

My dear readers, having taken a three day break from writing posts, I have decided to scribble one of my favorite posts: the kind which lists several prospective articles.  Looking back at other posts where I have done this indicates that I usually write about 90% of these articles if not more.  I have had the good fortune of landing some work at UPS, which means that my struggle to write daily will increase; but, as my alma mater avers, virtus tentamine gaudet.  (“Virtue rejoices in trial.”)  The order of the articles is about the same order in which I hope to write them, and they shall be divided into anime or religion–though, you know that my favorite thing to do is to combine the two subjects.

Madonna And Child

Religion

1.  An editorial or review on The Names of Christ by Luis de Leon

2.  Book of Proverbs: timeless wisdom

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Anime

1.  How Kill la Kill Demonstrates that wealth and pride breed solitude and unhappiness (might contribute this one to Beneath the Tangles)

2.  Solty Rei and Hard Boiled Anime

3.  A review of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye

4.  Tower of Druaga and the Jason-like hero

5.  Short Manga reviews of Fuyu no Hanabi, Tripeace, A Bias Girl, and Seishun For-get

6.  World Embryo and my love of Daisuke Moriyama’s work

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7.  Corpse Princess and my history with horror films and anime

8.  My fascination with Kouichi Mashima’s female assassins (Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja)

9.  My opinion of Bodacious Space Pirates

10.  Ys: an enjoyable 90’s fantasy anime

11.  A review or editorial of Soukou no Strain

Well, that’s a huge list, but it will provide me with only two weeks of articles if I’m good!  Of course, I reserve the right to include different articles, especially if they are about currently running anime.  Feel free to say which articles interest you most!

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