Rating the Anime of Fall 2016, Part 2

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(Here is the second part of my fall 2016 review.  Enjoy!)

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3) Izetta: the Last Witch – ★★★★

This show successfully combines elements from Strike Witches and Maria the Virgin Witch.  It provided us with two of the best heroines from this season.  (Only Kyouka of Bungo Stray Dogs struck me as a better heroine because of her greater moral struggle.)  The action was top notch, and all the WWII vehicles very realistic.  Aside from the magic, only a few moments in the show struck me as unrealistic: things like soldiers being able to provide Izetta with shorts while on campaign and Germanian guards being armed with Lugers rather than Mausers or MP 40s.  In other words, the show seldom rocked me from my suspension of disbelief.

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Happy Thanksgiving and Some Thoughts on Psycho-Pass

May all my dear readers enjoy a happy Thanksgiving!  Today, we celebrate a feast established by the Puritans of Plymouth Rock in order to give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings.  In their case, they were blessed to see the beginnings of their colony’s prosperity.  Like them, we ought to give thanks to God for all the ways that He has caused us to thrive over the course of another year.

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Sometimes it is difficult to see graces and blessings among the difficulties of life.  Yet, we ought to thank God even for the difficulties, over which He means us to triumph.  Even if it seems like they get the best of us, our character still grows from them.  Without such trials, you can bet that we’d be less human and even less happy.  As the protagonist’s father in Dostoyevsky’s The Adolescent says: “Life would not be worth living without these little annoyances.”

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Perhaps that’s one of the points Psycho-Pass 2 wishes to make with its theme of eustress.  (I write from the perspective of the first six episodes.  Please tell me if the last ones contradict what I’m about to write.)  Eustress is the idea that stressful or discomforting situations, when overcome, bring people feelings of accomplishment and purpose.  Without any dragons to slay, life can devolve to a meaningless and frightful monotony, leading to the state of those poor depressed individuals we see in episode four.  Kamui claims to offer a way of giving life purpose through doing evil deeds which give the appearance of power–sort of like how Raskolnikov kills two people with in ax in Crime and Punishment in order to feel like Napoleon.

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But, how greatly do people miss themselves if they need to resort to sin and crime in order to gain an ephemeral sensation of fulfillment!  What truly makes us happy lies in our own souls, and fulfilling our dreams provides as many challenges as we could wish for and often more than we’d like.  However, rather than an ephemeral and false joy, overcoming these obstacles produces peace of soul.  This is similar to how Akane can endure so many reverses and tragedies without her psycho-pass becoming clouded.  Bringing criminal masterminds to justice is her virtue.  Even if the end looks distant, she can calmly perform her duties as she works toward an eventual triumph.

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More than Akane, let us imitate St. Faustina, who not only thanked God for His graces, but even the darkness, spiritual dryness, persecutions, and temptations, knowing that God meant for her happiness and the glorification of His Name through it all.

Nisemonogatari and Being a Phony

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I mentioned in my post before I traveled across half the country that I was watching Nisemonogatari, which might be translated as “Tale of the Fakes” or “Tale of the Phonies.”  Watching through episode seven made me ponder just what a phony was in Nisemonogatari’s book.  The ideas surrounding the issue reminded me of this great passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  Razumihin begins berating Raskolnikov by saying:

“Well, go to hell then,” he said gently and thoughtfully. “Stay,” he roared, as Raskolnikov was about to move. “Listen to me. Let me tell you, that you are all a set of babbling, posing idiots! If you’ve any little trouble you brood over it like a hen over an egg. And you are plagiarists even in that! There isn’t a sign of independent life in you! You are made of spermaceti ointment and you’ve lymph in your veins instead of blood. I don’t believe in anyone of you! In any circumstances the first thing for all of you is to be unlike a human being!…And if you weren’t a fool, a common fool, a perfect fool, if you were an original instead of a translation…”

Only Dostoyevsky could pose this problem so well: “If only you were an original instead of a translation…”  The reason Raskolnikov stopped being human is because he murdered an old woman for money and a sense of power.  His crime destroys his humanity.

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One character in Nisemonogatari who fits the same description is Kaiki the con artist.  Sin detracts from our humanity and thus from our originality.  Of course, “errare est humanum,” but sins are sins because they make us less than who we were meant to be.  Our Lord came to deliver us from sin, and we slowly walk, slip, fall, and stand back up again on the way of perfection until we see the image and likeness of God made perfect in us in heaven.  In our perfection according to God’s image and likeness lies our originality.

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But, I do think Nisemonogatari distinguishes between two kinds of fakes: the completely fake and the almost original.  Kaiki, because of his preference for money over the service of God and his fellow man, is a complete phony.  He introduces himself as Kaiki with the kai spelled as the clam/kai in “a mound of clams” and the ki as the ki/tree in “a dead tree.”  This brings to my mind Our Lord’s cursing of the fig tree.  The fig tree did not produce fruit when our Lord needed it, so it was cursed with barrenness.  Kaiki imitates the clam in its refusal to offer itself: Kaiki refuses to offer his talents for the good of his fellow man.  Also, like a dead tree, he bears no fruit.  A perfect name for a villain!

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Yet, a different sort of fake is symbolized by Karen Araragi.  She is almost original in that we see her using her talents for the good of others.  Where she lacks originality, as her brother aptly notes, is that she has appropriated other people’s desires and does not know what she really wants.  She merely plays.  But, her play reveals that her talents are genuine, which indicates that her true calling is not far from her play.  One day, she shall discover the true purpose her martial talents and give up her play as a seigi no mikata–ally of justice.

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And the majority of humanity undergoes the same struggle as Karen in finding their true purpose.  People try to advise us to take one path or another, but we can ever only truly find our path through looking at our own hearts and praying to the God who made us all originals.