Lynn Okamoto and Reversing a Trend

Since the early twentieth century, Eastern ideals have flowed into the West as Western technology has flowed into the East.  And so, we have authors like Herman Hesse and Rainer Maria Rilke whose works bear a decidedly Eastern influence.  In particular, the 60’s and 70’s saw an increased interest in Eastern religions, especially Hindu, Zen Buddhism, and Taoism–my personal favorite.  People jaded with the rampant materialism in the West highly regard these traditions.  As for Christianity, that bedrock of Western civilization, it has come to be looked at as the cult of the unsophisticated.  Some people are so convinced of Christianity’s provincialism that they are blind to the spiritual richness of the Church: the writings of the Church Fathers, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bonaventure (I especially recommend him to curious Buddhists), St. Thomas Aquinas, and so many others.

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The attitude that the Christian faith lacks relevance and that Western culture is vapid makes Lynn Okamoto stand out among mangaka.  The title of his first major work, Elfen Lied, derives from a poem by Eduard Mörike, a Lutheran pastor and writer of the 19th century German Romantic movement.  And Okamoto’s works are imbued with themes found in traditional Western culture, e.g. original sin, free will, spiritual warfare, salvation by grace, and distrust of the government.  Might I also add that themes of alienation, initiated by Karl Marx and expanded on by writers like Camus and Kafka, are boldly painted in both Elfen Lied and Gokukoku no Brynhildr.

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Someone has obviously just threatened Papa’s life a moment ago. The only thing which can make Nana go berserk!

So, I just wished to mention one Japanese author whom I think is very much in tune with Western values and culture.  This is interesting because of that trend I noted before of many–perhaps the majority–of Westerners believing that the East has more to offer to men’s hearts and souls.  Have you noticed any other Japanese mangaka, novelists, or even screenwriters who display a similar interest in the West?  Especially in showing that they think Christianity contains enough vitality to be relevant to modern man?

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Elfen Lied and the Causes of Sin

Reading the manga of Gokukoku no Brynhildr inclined me finally to read the manga of Elfen Lied, which is by the same author, Lynn Okamoto.  I will say that the manga Elfen Lied is more violent and sexually graphic than the anime, but it explores its themes more thoroughly.  (Yes, I argue that Elfen Lied is a very intelligent work, though the case can easily be made that the author should have restrained himself in regard to its repulsive images.)  In this article, I shall remark a little on the nature of evil, which appears to be the main subject of Elfen Lied.  The manga focuses on the fact that man is tainted–or, to speak more precisely, in a state of total depravity–by original sin, which we see in the characters’ self-absorption, focus on baser things, and the dehumanization of other people.  Most of the characters are victims of some kind–whether one speaks of Mayu flying from her perverse step-father or Lucy, whom people see as an instrument for breeding Diclonii or–in her earlier years–a fun object to torment.

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The viciousness displayed by the Diclonii are impelled by their forced isolation or their desire to revenge themselves on the human race.  In the latter case, it is important to remember that the general run of people are mirrors: we reflect goodness or ill-will as it comes at us.  Only the truly vicious person does evil things to people who show him goodness.  Only the saint or man dedicated to repentance returns good for evil.  People who have never known love can hardly help reflecting the hatred and malice directed at them.

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Take the famous flashback to Lucy’s past.  She is beaten, tormented, and ostracized by her fellow classmates.  She feels loved only by a puppy.  Once she finally gains a human friend, she discovered that this girl had only befriended her in order to betray her.  With the dog–her sole friend–butchered, she kills her malicious classmates and flees into the woods, producing total isolation.

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As spiritual writers remark, the devil likes to tempt people when alone, whether they are Our Lord Himself, St. Anthony the Great, or my dear readers.  The devil wishes to lead us into sin, especially that most terrible capital sin of invidia or ill-will, often translated as envy.  I am afraid that Lucy is a particularly easy soul to tempt from ill-will to the blackest misanthropy.  Though, the devil commonly appears in Elfen Lied and–I would argue–is the main villain of the show, scientists can’t perceive him.  The scientists come up with the absurd reasoning–which smacks of superstition–that murder is written into the Diclonii’s genes.  If they had not made themselves out to be so righteous, they would have perceived the same affliction in their own natures–original sin!  If murder were really written into the Diclonii’s genes and not the result of scientists exacerbating fallen human nature’s inclination to evil through ill-treatment, then we could not have a Diclonius as sweet as Nana–my favorite character, by the way.

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Indeed, the devil is more apparent than God in the manga because people have forgotten God.  Perhaps this, more than isolation and envy, is the main cause of the crimes committed in Elfen Lied.  Forgetfulness of God means disbelief in the idea that people are created in God’s image and likeness.  As many people aptly argue, ethics become emotivism without God.  The villains of this series are particularly warped and hardhearted.

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But, good exists in the world too, as shown by the love of Nana for her papa and Kouta and Yuka’s willingness to take in homeless people.  (I shall argue in another article that goodness starts to shine more brilliantly as the manga shows evils multiplying.)  In a sense, we’re all wandering and homeless without God.  Though imperfect and marked by frailty, people are often the vehicles for bringing God into other people’s lives.  The recognition Kouta gives to Lucy and Mayu affirms the value of these two persons.  Due to their perception of themselves as lovable and valuable beings, they work to make other people feel valued.  Love, most importantly, the love of God, turns people from selfishness and malice.  Yet, one wonders whether love can save Lucy, who is simultaneously the most guilty and most victimized of the characters?

Two Year Anniversary!

Well, dear readers, somehow I have managed to keep writing about anime and religion for two years.  This blog has narrowed its focus from all my hobbies and interests to mostly anime and religion.  After all, you won’t find articles like this on here anymore: Exploring the Brews of the Victory Brewing Company.  Though, you might find me writing about tea again.  And a couple of my reader’s favorite posts were on literature, but now I write about that in Aquila et Infans.  Here are two examples:

1) Fiction’s Raison d’Etre

2) Encore Une Autre Raison D’Etre pour Fiction

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Reading Froggy-kun’s post about what he looks for in an anime review made me think about my favorite type of article.  I prefer to pick up a thread in a particular anime and run with it rather than giving a thorough review.  When I try to give a review covering all aspects of a show, I usually miss some aspects or the article becomes scatterbrained or dull.  My “Hidden Gems of Anime” series shows this: Gokudo and Innocent Venus.  (You can see that I wrote them back at the time when I didn’t believe in using pictures.  My opinion on that changed a great deal!)  On the other hand, the articles focusing on a particular theme of a show feel like they’re written better, as is shown by the following:

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1) Applying the Feminist and Mimetic Lens to Iria: Zeiram the Animation (My favorite post which hardly anyone read.  Every blogger has at least one.)

2) Mirai Nikki: The Heretic Successor of Elfen Lied (A favorite post which everyone seems to have read at least once. xD )

3) Kiba and Cheza’s Love as Symbolic of Jesus and Mary’s

4) The End of Samurai Deeper Kyo: All About Heart

5) Is Sexuality Natural or Aquired?: No. 6’s Take on the Issue

6) Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

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But, this site also finds itself dedicated to Christian spirituality–specifically Catholic spirituality, but I hope my articles profit my Protestant and Orthodox readers.  (Do I have any Orthodox readers?  Not to my knowledge, but maybe.)  I doubt that Medieval Otaku would be unique without articles such as these:

1) The Problem of Evil and Spiritual Envy

2) De Liberalitate et Peccato

3) Prayer Maxims from a Novice

4) Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker

Ah!  But, I must confess, my dear readers, that I fall so short of my own advice!  I ought to study my old articles again and reapply myself to the devout life!  Along with St. Jerome, I must exclaim: “Hypocrite reader – my fellow – my brother!”  Whatever is good in them is the result of grace rather than from my sinful mind.  I can say without much vanity that some of the articles are indeed very good.  To aid the process of my conversion, I’m going to confession today–perhaps the best way to mark a birthday:

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51)

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Then, I am also grateful to this blog for introducing me to Sean Bishop.  I hope that his cartoon will be ready by the end of this year or the beginning of the next.  And then, I am especially grateful to those who still slog through so many of my lackluster articles to wait for the gems I occasionally produce; especially, TWWK of Beneath the Tangles, Genki Jason of Genkinahito, D. M. Dutcher of Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!, John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin, The Overlord Bear, David A, Zionista, Nami of The Budding Philosopher, Foxfier of Head Noises, Lee Relph of MIB’s Instant Headache, Japesland, Anime Commentary on the March, Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of?, Cajun Samurai, Michelle Joelle of Soliloquies and GoodbyeNavi.  I suppose that’s all the people who have frequently commented on my blog.  I hope I didn’t miss anyone!  Anyway, without the interest shown by all my readers, I should never have continued writing for two years.

But, what would an anniversary post referring to all the above articles be without mentioning How to Weather the Anime Doldrums?  Even if that medium of anime, capable of producing some of the most extraordinary tales, begins to tire us, life is full of many other things to enjoy.

Mirai Nikki: The Heretic Successor of Elfen Lied

Well, dear readers, I finally broke down and decided to watch Mirai Nikki due to my sister’s insistence.  I have seen about thirteen episodes of this well known series thus far, and find it rather enjoyable.  The first thing to strike me was how similar it seemed to Elfen Lied: the insane, pink-haired, crazed killer, many violent, bloody deaths, and the abnormal fighting abilities of the contestants.  Despite these similarities, there is a difference in mood between the two shows, which boils down to the variance with which they treat the concept of evil.  (I can see it all now: people who consider Elfen Lied a vacuous show are going to hate this article.)

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Haven’t you noticed this yourselves?  The plot of Mirai Nikki is centered around a game prepared by “the god of time and space” in which the contestants annihilate each other in order to gain the god’s title.  Creating the setting of a game does much to minimize the effect of the atrocious crimes committed therein.  All the casualties become pawns in a chess game.  This takes away from the impact of say killing scores of school children, taking invalids hostage, wretchedly treating prisoners, and even creating a twisted young child to be killed for the purposes of the game–I’m referring to a diary holder.

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Conversely, Elfen Lied causes us to feel sorrow whenever someone is slain or even when they are merely struck.  The sinfulness of the action strikes us.  I believe this involves the fact that Lynn Okamoto was probably influenced by the religion of the Lutheran minister who wrote the eponymous poem.  So, we are struck by a sense of sin pervading the show.  Lives are lost; but, the wickedness of these acts are not lost on us, as they tend to be in Mirai Nikki.  So, the main divergence between the two shows appears to be religious: the Christian God in Elfen Lied–albeit, with the Lutheran conception of the depravity of man tainting the world–vs. the rather Assyrian god of Mirai Nikki, who enjoys playing with other people’s lives.

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The curious case of #9, Uryuu Minene, offers the most striking example of how Mirai Nikki‘s world misunderstands the problem of evil.  We are introduced to this character as a monster who’s willing to sacrifice school children in order to achieve her goals.  To speak plainly, she’s rather loathesome, right?  Then, she fails in her object due to Yukiteru taking out her eye, she suffers greatly in making her escape from the police, and endures humiliation, pain, and betrayal from the “justice” besotted contestant (the conception of justice held by this character makes one fear for how the manga-ka views justice himself), and goes on to become perhaps the most likeable character in the show–at least, in my case.  (Could it be a perceived resemblance to Revy of Black Lagoon?)

Then again, I might be reaching too hard or nostalgic for an old favorite.

Then again, I might be reaching too hard or nostalgic for an old favorite.

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How is it that we can so easily warm up to a character who’s first shown us committing heinous crimes?  The suffering which followed her debut might be said to partially atone for her wrongs, but can they really be enough?  Her character even undergoes a change as she becomes level-headed, and we only rarely glimpse her maniacal smile.  And so, evil seems to result from insanity rather than malice.  We cannot really hold an insane person guilty, therefore no need for atonement.

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By the deep seated guilt of many of the characters, Elfen Lied acknowledges that, no matter what evil influences have twisted a person’s personality, they still sin by their own free choice.  This visibly taints their souls and places a burden of judgment upon them.  We, the viewers, sense this and develop true antipathy toward certain characters.

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An exception to this rule in Elfen Lied is Lucy herself.  Her very guilt makes her sympathetic.  She would like to obtain forgiveness, and Kohta tries to give it to her.  However, Lucy knows in her heart of hearts that murder cannot be taken back, that the blood tainting her soul can’t be brushed aside or blamed on anyone else.  The only person who can erase such a thing is found in the lyrics of the opening song to that show: “O Lord, O Sacred Fire, have mercy!”  For God alone can forgive sins.  Excuses based on one’s mental state or tragic background don’t cut it.

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Ultimately, Elfen Lied‘s biggest failure in understanding human nature is the doctrine of total depravity which runs through the show.  But, it still knows human nature better than Mirai Nikki.  This makes it the better show of these rather similar works.  So, what do you think, my dear readers?  Which show really has a better perception of human nature and the mystery of evil?

A Medieval Interrogation

Having read several articles based on this series of chain posts, the thought that someone would select me as part of it never crossed my mind.  But, Marlin-sama of the blog Ashita no Anime has tagged me, so I will do my best to answer his questions and find people to tag.  Here are the rules:

Introduction

  • Each person is supposed to follow the rule of fives. You are allowed to ask 5 questions, after which you can tag up to 5 bloggers by hyper-linking to their blog; 5 questions because it’s not too many to flood another blogger and occupy too much of his/her time, but yet a large enough number to ask your most important questions, and 5 bloggers to avoid spamming. Hence, prioritize your questions, and who you wish to ask!
  • Those tagged are obliged to answer the questions in a blog post, and after which, they are entitled to create their own 5 questions and tag 5 other bloggers, so on and so fourth. You should answer your own 5 questions as well. You are allowed to tag the person that tagged you in the first place. Also, copy and paste this section on your blog so others can understand how the game goes.
  • In the case where a blogger strongly refuses to answer a question, he/she must instead post a nice anime image, wallpaper or cosplay picture, et cetera in response to that question.
  • To make things interesting, a blogger can include wildcards in his/her 5 questions by placing an asterisk, (*), after which those tagged are obliged to reveal something interesting about themselves that others did not previously know. There is no limit to the number of asterisks one can place (which means there can be up to 5 wildcard questions).
  • Anyone can feel free to start the game; you don’t necessarily need someone to tag you. Just create your 5 questions and tag your 5 people of choice. However, the catch is that you must answer your own 5 questions as well.
  • To potentially prevent an endless game, this round of games will end on the 8th September 2012, 12pm JST (GMT +9). After which, no more bloggers can tag others to answer their questions.

Here follows the questions and my answers to them:

Q1. What is your favorite anime of all time?  Then, objectively speaking, what do you think is the best anime of all time?  Explain why you chose these anime (especially if you chose the same anime for both questions).

For me, Rurouni Kenshin stands as my favorite anime.  This is the show which propelled me into anime, so I might be a little biased; but I’ve yet to find an anime which has better characterization or discusses its themes better.  This series does have drawbacks: overlong speeches, too many flashbacks, the first and last seasons are rather episodic, and the final season was badly done and not based on the manga.  (I consider that season as unworthy of being accounted with the first two seasons.)  But the first two of these drawbacks help the viewer to benefit from the technique of parallelism, which Nobuhiro Watsuki employs to great effect in delineating his characters and highlighting the themes.  I especially enjoy how similar the villains are to the heroes; but the villains deviate slightly from the right path, often having high ideals which are slightly twisted.  This makes the difference between the heroes less black and white and the characters more interesting to examine.

The fights of Rurouni Kenshin and the animation are also very beautifully done.  Kenshin vs. Saito is considered by many otaku to have been one of the greatest fights ever animated.  The tension between the two combatants is palpable, and the whole fight comes across as very realistic.  Qualities which bring the audience to the ends of their seats and makes them feel every blow.  The overall animation for the show is top notch, and the audience is treated to the bonus of seeing characters which look more Japanese than one finds in the usual anime.  May I add that this show weaves in historical detail better than any other anime?  So much so that many people (your humble blogger included) have passed Japanese history tests from what they learned on this show.

You’re going to think me very provincial; but, for my objective best, I’m choosing Samurai X: Trust and BetrayalSamurai X has more focus than the TV show, thus eliminating many of the drawbacks found in the TV show.  Also, the atmosphere is much darker and more tragic: Rurouni Kenshin makes one wish they were born a samurai and could participate in duels; Samurai X makes one frightened even to pick up a katana.  When people get cut down, the viewer feels their agony.  The swords even seem to emanate cruelty.  This atmosphere is very fitting for the dark days of the Meiji Revolution.  By the way, let me also say that AnimeNfo agrees with me in ranking this OVA as the best anime.

Q2. Same as question 1, but for your least favorite anime and what in your objective opinion is the worst anime of all time (for this question try to choose an anime for which you’ve actually watched a respectable number of episodes and try to avoid small titles that nobody has ever heard of).

My least favorite anime is Cat Soup.  My dear readers might have even been able to guess my response.  I remember reading a review that claimed anyone’s who’s not a religious nut would love it.  Though that puts it a little harshly, the term aptly fits me.  It contains a rather reprehensible depiction of God, I didn’t care for the animation, and it consists of a series of scenes rather than a story.  Fortunately, most of the details have long since been forgotten.

My first choice for objective worst would have been Ghost Hound had it not been for the stipulation that the show be well known.  That show entices the viewer by its weirdness, gives him enough interesting details to inspire hope that the show will become good, and makes one suffer through one dull episode after another before one is forced to throw in the towel.

If four episodes may be considered respectable, I choose Dragonaut: the Resonance for objective worst, which tries to lure the viewer into continuing to watch through having well-endowed women all over the place and a modicum of action.  Nothing else to it.

Q3. What initially led you to anime and what keeps you interested in anime?  Do you think it will continue to be a lifetime passion?  Why or why not?*

As an avid lover of pre-modern pagan cultures, such as Rome, Athens, the Vikings, and Japan, it was only a matter of time until I discovered anime.  My father used to be an avid practitioner of Karate, has a great interest in Eastern philosophies and religions, and was dubbed an honorary Asian in college.  Naturally, some of his tastes, especially for martial arts and its philosophy, were impressed on me.  In addition to martial arts, I loved watching samurai movies.  These cultures all seemed to have a strong moral bent, which especially attracted me to them.

Then, I discovered that certain shows belonged to a genre called anime.  I saw Rurouni Kenshin on Toonami, discovered the manga Inuyasha, and found myself hooked.  As for whether it will remain a lifelong hobby, I must confess to having an aversion to clinging to anything–no matter how pleasant.  Despite the fact that I do very much enjoy anime, several of my other hobbies have been pushed aside for anime, and I want to make more time for those.  So, while I can see myself remaining an otaku for several more years, I hesitate to say that it will be a lifetime passion.

Q4. Do you think it’s possible to integrate or use ecchi content or themes to enhance a story rather than simply as fanservice that detracts from the overall work?

Easily, but it’s not advisable.  For me, the best example of nudity put to good effect was in Elfen Lied, where it highlighted Lucy’s deep-set desire for innocence.  In the Garden of Eden, the nudity of Adam and Eve symbolized innocence.  Here, the fact that so many terrible things happen around nude people stresses that innocence is nowhere to be found in this world.  But, many people cannot see through the characters’ bare bodies to perceive this theme.  For them, nudity turns them away from the show.

Such a pleasant face.

Freezing is a perfect example of ecchi elements ruining a show.  Frankly, this is a spectacular show.  The only drawbacks to it lie in that the plot was rushed and not enough details about the setting were given to the audience.  It has strong, likeable characters, stunning fights, outstanding animation, a touching relationship between the hero and the heroine, and several gut-wrenching situations.  Despite all of this, several people absolutely despise this show.  They become totally oblivious to this show’s good points in the face of all that fanservice.  Amusingly, I remember one reviewer who claimed to have been enticed by the fanservice before becoming so wrapped up in the show’s action that he ceased to notice it.  How much more popular would this show have been if only they had toned down or even eliminated the fanservice?

Q5. I think many would agree that some otherwise respectable anime have been let down by lackluster endings.  What anime do you most want to change the ending—not because you disagreed with it, but for quality purposes.  Then how would you change it and why?  (I understand spoilers may be unavoidable when answering this question)

Well, the ending of Scrapped Princess seemed a little unnatural and ludicrous to me–the triangle of land and sea on which the remnant of humanity lived fitting back into the world and everything.  I would have had it end with a final showdown between the aliens who had imprisoned humanity and our heroes.  It seemed a little inconclusive in that we never meet the original foes of humanity.  Also, Leopold would get the girl and ditch the Mr. Soopy suit: the ending had me feeling too sorry for him.

Amusingly, I discovered that AngryJellyfish has also tagged me into the game with a set of five questions.  So, let me answer those five before going on to mine.

1. Which anime protagonists (if any) do you feel you’d be able to do a better job than if you were in their situation?

Well, there are plenty of wimpy heroes or harem protagonists I could do a better job than.  (I tend to be decisive and stubborn about things, which would come in handy in many situations.)  But among a slightly higher class of protagonists, I’ll select Kai Kudou of E’s Otherwise.  Basically, he lacks any kind of good sense.  Give me his power and place me in the same situations, I’d probably do better–except that I’d be a lot more boring to watch.

2. Which popular anime series do you not like, or find overrated?

Any of the Big Three.  Even if they are entertaining, how can one justify creating a series of several hundred episodes without any closure in sight?  Why would one give so much of their precious time to just one series?  It appears absurd to me.

3. What manga or anime series would you like to see fansubbed/scanlated in your language, or licensed in your country?

Americans have it too good.  It seems that everything is sooner or later available to us.  So, I’ll have to go with the classic Ashita no Joe as a series which I’d like to see licensed in this country.  It’s very highly regarded among the Japanese, seems to have really strong characters, and Hajime no Ippo, which I highly enjoy, was likely based on this–the main difference being that Ashita no Joe has an anti-hero, while Ippo’s your perfect hero.  So, if Funimation or another company were to license boxed sets of this, I’d be one of the first to buy it.

4. What series would you recommend to someone who has never watched any anime?

That series would be Fullmetal Panic Fumoffu.  I’ve successfully hooked several people on anime through this show.  You see, most people expect cartoons to be centered around comedy, which is why Fumoffu, a show which nearly makes the viewer die laughing, offers a great introduction.  From there, you can expand their perception of the stories a cartoon may convey.

5. Do you have any weird anime watching habits?

Well, I always have to be drinking something when watching anime.  This beverage is usually tea.  Sometimes, I see it as a good time to break out some hard liquor or port–even if the anime does not require it.  If I have friends around, I’ll offer some kind of alcoholic drink.  Though, this turned out to be a big mistake one night, when a friend of mine and I were watching the sequel to Geobreeders.  I’m not sure whether it was the two bottles of wine or the fact that we were talking too much, but we did not remember a single thing about the OVA the next day!  Which may mark the only time alcohol has caused me to forget things.

If I’m not drinking something, then I’m oiling go stones, which certainly counts as weird.  However, it’s not as much fun to play go if the stones aren’t shiny!

Now for my questions and answers:

1.  How else are you involved in Japanese culture?

In my case, I love martial arts philosophy and used to practice Judo and Aikido, the latter of which I’d like to return to someday.  I study the Japanese language, read light novels both in Japanese and English, and would love to graduate to more sophisticated Japanese literature.  I also enjoy Japanese teas and wish to study their tea culture more.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido

2.  What anime turned you into a fan?

In case, you forgot.

3.  Who are your two favorite Japanese VA’s (one male and one female) and two favorite English VA’s (also one male and one female)?  For the English VA’s, you can substitute actors in another non-Japanese language.

I used to be more into this facet of fandom than now.  But, here are my favorites:

Ken Narita, especially for his roles as Sesshoumaru of Inuyasha, Jeremiah Gottwald of Code Geass, and Durand of Le Chevalier D’Eon.  I particularly love deep and powerful voices.

Megumi Toyoguchi, especially for Revy of Black Lagoon, Yao Sakurakouji of Miami Guns, Layla Ashley of Avengers, Honoka of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye, and Reni Vikuro of Innocent Venus.

Kirk Thornton for his roles as Hajime Saito of Rurouni Kenshin, Jin of Samurai Champloo, and Brandon Heat of Gungrave.

Laura Bailey for her roles as Michel Volban of Glass Fleet and Sylvia Ban of Solty Rei.

4.  Out of the shows you’re currently watching, which is your favorite?

For me, the answer’s Hunter X Hunter.  I love how much intellectual prowess the fights and the obstacles placed before our heroes require.  This makes is different from the run-of-the-mill shonen.

5.  What is your favorite era for anime and why?

My answer combines two time periods usually separated, but I feel that the earlier one still strongly influenced the latter: the late 90’s through the early 2000’s.  Some of my favorite shows were produced during this period.  Also, computers played less of a role in the animation of these days than now, and I particularly like the human touch one sees in these shows.
Of course, the anime of prior eras relied even less or not at all on computers, but the character designs were not as elegant.

Well, that’s enough writing for one post.  I’m trying to think of people who haven’t been tagged yet.  Here it is:

ChibiOtaku010

Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of?

John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin

SnippetTee of Lemmas and Submodalities

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I hope that you enjoy this little game!

Fiction’s Raison D’Etre

Quite a long time has passed since anything has been posted, hasn’t it?  I can only excuse myself by saying that my attempts at writing a profound article on Elfen Lied have all failed thus far.  Some of you would likely reply to me that writing a profound article on Elfen Lied is like trying to write a profound article on Battle Vixens; that Elfen Lied made its name with gratuitous nudity and violence; and that it offers little besides that.  On the contrary, my article would reveal that the writer uses such things not simply in order to shock, but in order to highlight themes about the fallen nature of the world and humanity’s overwhelming desire for innocence.  Yet, despite the excellent material at my disposal, the article comes out flat.  Imagine me as a carpenter with all the materials necessary for a luxurious mansion, and yet, after all my hard work, a lean-to stands as the end result.  Then, a scruple keeps running through my mind: do I really want to convince anyone to watch it?  You see, even though the show contains many positive attributes, they truly do go too far with violence and nudity.  If this work were written as a novel, I should have no problem; but, the viewer must naturally see everything, and might find themselves tempted to lust or have their souls damaged in some other way.  Or is my scruple excessive?

Now to progress to the article proper: why do we bother reading or watching fiction?  Concerning books, a writer in the New York Times announced that fiction is dead.  Even though one still sees a sizable following, moderns do tend to prefer their newspapers and true accounts.  (I’m reminded of how Albert Camus said historians would describe the 20th century man: “He fornicated and read the newspapers.”)  We are much more greatly attracted to the exact truth than people of prior ages.  Where we use exact quotations, our ancestors of earlier historical epochs preferred indirect quotes and, if they used direct quotation, they used it to make passages more lively and were satisfied as long as they captured the general import of what the speaker wished to say.  Then, there’s also a religious bias against fiction that has existed since St. Augustine wrote his Confessions.  Why bother with fables and falsehoods when the Bible suffices?  In general, the modern man prefers his newspapers, books about current events, and history to a good novel or play–and even though fictional movies and TV shows are very popular, might not reality television and slice-of-life shows eventually win out?

So, what’s fiction’s major draw?  Entertainment?  I must say that the thought that one only watches such stories to be amused has bothered me of late.  Please note that the verb amuse derives from an Old French word meaning “to stare stupidly.”  If staring stupidly into a book or television screen sums up this activity, would it not be better to kill it in our lives and render it as dead as the writer from the New York Times claimed it to be?  History features plenty of entertaining personalities.  Travel narratives tell of many fascinating places around the world.  Would we not be better served reading these things for entertainment?  We should at least acquire the real benefit of enriching our minds about the world.

Aristotle and C. S. Lewis appear to give the most compelling reasons for us to continue this hobby.  Aristotle claims that fiction (yes, his Poetics concern tragedy, but the mythological tragedies he refers to are all fictional) stands superior to history because it teaches general truths, while history relates particular truths.  For example, a novelist will usually portray virtue as preferable to vice; on the other hand, history may relate the life of a ruthless individual who gained every material good before dying peacefully in his bed.  Certainly, the general truth of crime not paying is a better lesson to inculcate than the idea that backstabbing, lying, murder, adultery, and theft may offer a way to material happiness!  But, religion and philosophy also teach such truths, so this seems like an insufficient excuse to justify fiction’s existence–especially so since religions offer the combined knowledge of some of the most brilliant minds over the course of millenia.  The input of one flawed human being pales in contrast to that!

But, I do believe that C. S. Lewis gives us the best reason.  He states that we read in order to see the world using another mind.  In doing so, our own minds become larger.  Of course, one does prefer to read those who hold the same opinions one has, and it might be argued that certain authors may poison the minds of those reading them.  Although, the latter group tends to be formed of a small group of vicious men whom a well educated individual would have little trouble in perceiving–except in one case at any rate.  I mention the exception because most moderns have been subverted, and advocates of this poison have little trouble luring the majority of people into its net.  I am speaking of fornication.  If you don’t believe this can poison people, just watch the anime School Days.  It might offer a good perspective for those who have accepted the post-modern idea that fornication is not evil.

So, C. S. Lewis says that we ought to broaden our minds as much as possible by seeing it through other minds.  Each person is completely unique, and it is worthwhile to try to understand how they think.  Lewis went so far as to remark on how wonderful it would be if dogs could write so that we could see the world from their perspective as well!  Merely knowing someone’s philosophy does not suffice in giving us enough knowledge about him.  I might add that knowing only our own philosophy does not give us enough information to know ourselves either.  People are also a tangle of emotions, fears, idiosyncrasies, experiences, and God’s grace.  Only in fiction do we see how a man’s rational nature interacts with his intuitive/emotional nature.  One may know perfectly well that he should stand his ground combat and that flight is shameful; but, seeing one person after another mowed down, having bullets narrowly miss him, being deafened and shaken by the eruption of shells, and–worst of all!–watching someone else run for his life might have the accumulative effect of causing him to run.  An officer with understanding will think that this gentleman has a chance to recover and perform better in his next action.  One without this quality may have him shot.

Also, it’s easy to hate factions.  For example, one easily sees why a monarchical government is evil, and that anyone who supports it over a republic is a blithering idiot.  However, if we read books like Sir Walter Scott’s novels we might understand why a monarchy might appear attractive to someone, and we shall not only not hate such a person, but even take pains to bring such a person to our point of view rather than treating them as an idiot.  We might recommend some Alexandre Dumas to show how treacherous and bloodthirsty a monarchy can be.  And indeed, a novel might be more persuasive than a historical account.  For example, some people believe than Marxism can still work despite Communism killing about 94 million people in the 20th century.  Reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward might make them have second thoughts.  In summary, fiction is more useful than other modes of writing for helping us understand the psyche and allowing us to consider matters with emotion and intuition rather than just reason, which is why it refuses to die.  The entertainment we also receive is only a bonus.

So, does my reasoning miss the mark or did I get it about right?  I hope that you enjoyed this overlong article and that it makes up for my long hiatus!