On My Time Reading Rurouni Kenshin

A reader requested that I review some volumes of the Rurouni Kenshin manga.  At present, I’ve almost finished the series and can almost review the antepenultimate volume of the series–i.e. volume twenty-six.  (Yes, I could not resist using the word antepenultimate.)  Now appears a good moment to look back on the series and why I enjoy it so much.  This manga is such a delight that I obtained the complete series in the original language in order to translate it from the original.

IMG_1093

After reading the first two volumes in English, I purchased all of the tankobun volumes.  I must say that the level of Japanese stood far above Inuyasha, which counted as my first exposure to manga and even to translating foreign works.  (Later, I would read Latin poetry, but it required three years of high school Latin before I started reading excerpts of Classical literature.  Conversely, two months of Japanese sufficed for me to plunge into Inuyasha.)  With Rurouni Kenshin, I soon developed a fear of running into boxes of historical digression written in kanji.  Having watched the anime previously, some of the long monologues were much easier to deal with; but, in Rurouni Kenshin, unlike in Inuyasha, most of the fight is cerebral.  Cases where one can sit back and admire pages of action with interjections here and there are seldom found in the pages of Rurouni Kenshin.

Continue reading

Favorite Anime of 2015

vlcsnap-2015-09-22-16h32m29s286

You probably won’t be surprised that my favorite anime of 2015 was none other than Arslan Senki.  The only other anime I rated at four and a half stars was Eden of Grisaia.  Very few anime have parodied the harem genre so well.  I especially loved the hero’s resemblance to Sousuke Sagara of Full Metal Panic! and the show’s finale was nothing short of amazing.  However, Arslan Senki‘s quality animation, fascinating setting, and equally intriguing characters gave it the edge over its competitor.  Also, as an enthusiast for all things medieval, the realistic depiction of chainmail:

vlcsnap-2015-05-12-22h29m48s995

vlcsnap-2015-09-26-12h09m47s947

Continue reading

Opinions on Spring 2015 Anime

vlcsnap-2015-05-26-23h48m32s696

Shinoa’s the Xellos of Seraph of the End.

I have often commented that for a blog to be successful the blogger must read more than write; so, one can only expect that yours truly has broken this rule many times.  This season of anime, my opinions feel rather isolated despite at least three popular shows appearing in my lists.  Yet, I think that I have read plenty of blogs over the past few months.  Perhaps I have not read the right blogs?  But, I thought that I only followed like-minded people!  Shikata ga nai.  Angryjellyfish has six of these shows on his watch list (just missing Danna ga Wakaranai), but I cannot find another blogger with as similar of a list.  The end result is that the following opinions of mine feel more shallow than usual, as there are fewer sources of opinion from which to glean ideas.  Well, there is always next season, and my dear readers can satisfy my curiosity as to which of the following shows wound up as their favorites this season.

Continue reading

“Joe Yabuki isn’t Some Sandbag” : The Greatest Boxing Epic Ever

After watching twenty-nine episodes of Ashita no Joe, the time seems ripe to tell my dear readers about why I have become addicted to it.  In the past couple of weeks, I have only twice turned my attention to other anime: Rolling Girls and Angel Cop.  But, I might be forgiven for my narrow viewing by the fact that Ashita no Joe renders everything else mediocre in comparison–especially more recent anime.  Don’t get me wrong.   Rolling Girls is entertaining, Aldnoah.Zero 2 will likely be quite good, and Yuri Kuma Arashi just might find itself on my watch list.  But, none of these has a prayer of meeting the quality of Ashita no Joe.

Joe vs. Rikiishi

So, what makes Ashita no Joe so great?  It’s strongest suit is the characters.  Our hero might be the worst jerk you’ve ever seen; but, Joe Yabuki feels surprisingly real, and certain moments of his characters development blow one’s mind.  The Aoyama Arc’s conclusion almost made me fall out of my chair!  Sometimes you root for Joe, at other times you pity him, and much of the time you want to see him knocked flat.  With Joe’s proclivity for fighting everyone and everything, one does see that time and time again.  Yet, Joe always gets back up.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Noragami and Witch Craft Works

The realization that I have not written about either Noragami or Witch Craft Works since writing Renuntiato Brevis struck me.  Yet, these are my two favorite shows from the winter season.  Now, that they have ended and the Spring season is impending, the time to write a few final thoughts on these shows is more than ripe.  The following article is a nicotine powered ramble I wrote while enjoying a blend of Latakia, Virginia, and Cavendish pipe tobacco on a beautiful, sunny day.

vlcsnap-2014-01-26-20h29m11s187

The most surprising thing about Noragami is how many of its themes one can tie into Christianity despite its Shinto background.  As a minor example, we have the fact that Yato only takes 5 yen coins for his services.  Spiritual gifts are priceless.  Since they cannot be equated in any way with material goods, money given to religious institutions are rather tokens of good will than amount tendered for particular services.  All the money in the world would not be the equivalent of a single drop of holy water.

vlcsnap-2014-01-26-20h26m16s221

Then, the progression of sin which we see in Yukine follows a very Catholic understanding.  First, he commits slight faults because of his attachment to earthly things.  The effects of his peccadilloes are seen in the small blight produced on Yato, the god to whom he is attached, but this can fortunately be removed by pouring holy water on them.  In the same way, prayer, holy water, and penance remove venial sins through the grace of God.  Then, Yukine moves on to greater offenses until he does something so terrible that Yato is rendered prostrate.  Who can forget that those who do grave sins “are crucifying once again the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:6)?  His offenses lead to him hardening his heart toward Yato so that he needs to be forced to undergo the absolution ceremony, which requires confession.  In the same way, sin hardens our hearts to God and constant mortal sin produces a hatred of Him.  Similarly, absolution must be accomplished with confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I was more than a little surprised by all these parallels.

vlcsnap-2014-01-26-20h31m23s231

Might I add that the final battle is spectacular?  The conflict between Yato and Rabo borrows heavily from Rurouni Kenshin.  After all, Yato is trying to escape his past as a god of calamity by doing good deeds and Rabo’s desire to make Yato a god of calamity again reminds one of Shishio’s wish for Kenshin to revert to his manslayer self.  Well done!

Chronoire Schwarz VI

My favorite character in the series. It helped that Rie Kugimiya voiced her.

Witch Craft Works is as flawed as a Sir Walter Scott novel but about as much fun!  The plot meandered until the end, and the revelation about Takamiya’s condition and the state of the world was scattered as randomly as buckshot throughout the show.  Yet, from Tanpopo Kuraishi to Kasumi to Chronoire Schwarz VI to Kagari, the characters stood as some of the most likable of any show I’ve seen.  Might I add that the end featured a great villain?  Our heroes must have been as tenderhearted as God to let her live!  They could make six or seven more seasons, and I should probably watch all of them.

WitchCraftWorks E1-11-620x

To tell you the truth, I even liked Takamiya.  He’s a hapless dope, but his heart is in the right place.  One of my favorite moments from the Winter season occurs when Evermillion asks Takamiya for his eyes as an exchange for dispelling the petrification spell on Kagari.  Takamiya heartily agrees–happy that he can undo her spell so easily!  Of course, Evermillion admits that she is jesting, but this “I love you more than my eyes” scene touched the Italian part of my soul.

witchcraftworks_ayaka_07

For one more religious allegory, Takamiya and Kagari’s relationship reminded me of a cradle Catholic with the Lord.  Most Catholics are baptized as infants.  Similar to Takamiya’s arranged betrothal, these Christians are not consulted as to whether they want to be joined with Christ’s Body.  Yet, once introduced to Christ at a later age, we become so enamored of His goodness that we accept this relationship, the initiation of which we had no say.  In the same way, Takamiya finds himself ecstatic to be loved by the beautiful, intelligent, and caring Kagari.  But, how lucky we all are to be loved by the infinitely Beautiful and all-Loving Source of Wisdom and Knowledge?

Let’s see whether the new season will provide us with shows this great.

Banner of the Stars II: A Spectacular End to a Slow Series

Oh, what a splendid ending Banner of the Stars II leaves the viewer!  I loved all the strategizing and intrigue surrounding the final interstellar battle.  The search for Jinto, despite the fact that we know from the first few minutes of the show that he will ultimately be found, engrosses the viewer in the other characters’ anguish and uncertainty.  However, juxtaposing the grandeur of the final three episodes to what happened prior (with the exception of the last episode on disc two, anyway) makes one feel that they cheated the viewer: if the animators can create scenes as exciting as what’s found in the the last disc, why couldn’t they do the same prior to it?  Well, I forgive them.  My extreme fondness for the characters allows this series to get away with practically anything in my regard.  I’m waiting for a season where our heroes do nothing but converse at a bar–with the skill they have at writing dialogue, they could get away with it!

2wrkheg

As I said, the first two discs of this 10 episode series (yes, a mere ten episodes) are comparatively dull, but I still enjoyed them because of the amusing conversations and intrigue.  Unfortunately, the third disc so surpasses the first two that the series left me with the feeling of being jipped.  Oh, well.  They’ve hooked a sucker in my case.  But lest I turn anyone away from this franchise, I would like to reiterate that the first two seasons are much better.  Despite also having slow beginnings, the overall quality of the entertainment remains rather consistent throughout.  Perhaps Banner of the Stars II is better told in the light novels than in the anime.

banner_of_the_stars-11126

The last disc included a bonus episode which I must tell you about.  You see, I remember reading a description of a Banner of the Stars OVA which fit this OVA to a T.  It concerns Lafiel’s parents on a mission which takes them aboard an abandoned spacecraft.  The dynamic between the two is most amusing, and the perils of their predicament onboard the ghost ship make for one riveting bonus episode.  Also amusing, we get to see an Abh proposal: “I want your genes.”  (Try that out on your girlfriend and see what happens!)  Basically, if you do want to watch Banner of the Stars II, don’t buy a separate OVA fitting that description!

The proposal seems to have worked.

The proposal seems to have worked.

crest33

Anyway, now I’m looking forward to Banner of the Stars III–no matter how character-driven and lacking in plot it may be!

Before I end this article, let me tell you about one scene which really struck me in this series.  In their search for Jinto, an informant gives them information about where he was last seen.  (A very fanservicey informant.  Banner of the Stars II is the first series in the franchise where fanservice is really pronounced.)  While the soldiers are searching, Lafiel’s sitting in a car with her hands clasped.  If not for the fact that she–like all the other Abh–is an atheist, I would say that she was praying.  Indeed, in such a situation where one is completely powerless, what else is there to do except pray?  I think that one reason for atheism being more widespread nowadays is that people trust too much in their own ability to get things done or wealth, breeding the kind of vanity which makes one feel that they can get by without God.  Yet, atheists must run into some situations where their own helplessness is keenly felt.  So, what does an atheist do in such a situation?

snapshot20090721204037