Medieval Otaku Takes a Holiday

Well, dear readers, as you can see from the title, I have decided to place this blog on hiatus until the 151st anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.  (To write more succinctly, July 1, 2014)  My posts feel belabored of late.  This means I need to perfect my hurricane before I can serve some refreshing articles to you.  After all, my best articles require me to make connections between anime, literature, and religion.  This leads me to the conclusion that I must use my leisure to study these things more; but, I want to leave you all with a final ramble.

Medieval Feast

While reading St. Thomas Aquinas’ On Prayer and the Contemplative Life, I discovered the three etymologies he offered for religion.  He draws the first from Cicero, who gives relegere, “to read again,” as the basis for the word religion, since the religious man reads things pertaining to worship repeatedly.  The next two come from the hand of St. Augustine, who claims that religion either derives from religere, “to choose again,” orthe most famous derivation–religandum, “binding again.”  The religious man chooses again those things which he has lost by his negligence–prayer, charity, virtue, holiness, etc.–and binds himself once more to the divine.  The three words above recall that religion is about perseverance.  If someone could be virtuous and follow all the precepts of the Church without effort, would we call them religious?  Maybe, but the man who falls and continues to turn back to Christ and metanoiein–to have a change of heart–every day strikes me as more religious.  Even Our Lord and Lady struggled in the maintenance of their spotless characters.

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People mess up, but God is always ready for our repentance–yet another important religious concept beginning with the prefix re-.  Let us use the month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, to once again study His life, choose again the virtue, wisdom, knowledge, and grace contained therein, and bind ourselves yet again to the Fire of Divine Love emanating from this Heart.  We have already celebrated the feasts of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  Let us now prepare ourselves to remember Corpus Christi (June 22) and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Then, this month will end with the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 27), Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 28), and Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29).  Let us remember the two hearts which love us best and the Church through which the fruits of Christ’s Sacred Passion purify and make fervent the hearts of believers daily.

WolfwoodVash

Besides my wish to study more some literature and religion, I hope to do away with my need for watching anime with subtitles by the end of the month.  In my last experiment, I found Manga-san to Assistant-san to easy to understand, Nisemonogatari ranging from average to impossible, and, at the beginning of Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii episode 9, I just caught the word tabi, “journey,” and realized that it was too hard.  May that give you an idea of my present listening skills!  To the end of improving them, I’ll study my kanji learner’s dictionary and read Busou Renkin and Slayers.  (I read only the finest literature, you see. 🙂 )  If I want to add something hard, Kinoko Nasu’s Kara no Kyoukai or Natsume Soseki’s Within My Glass Doors will find their way on my reading list.

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You’ll still see me posting about literature and poetry on Aquila et Infans or American history and politics on Aquilon’s Eyrie.  Hopefully, these efforts will generate more interesting things to read by July 1st.  Should some kind individual claim that my articles are still interesting, I must also confess to wanting a break from this blog–even if just for about a fortnight.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus bless and keep you all!

My Writing as a Hurricane

Well, dear readers, the lack of inspiration hitting me at the moment has caused me to ponder the ingredients in my writing style.  Why aren’t the juices flowing?  These thoughts and Froggy-kun’s article How Does Anime Influence Your Writing Style have engendered this article.  I have decided that the perfect metaphor for my writing is the hurricane.

Now, this is not the kind which destroyed New Orleans, but something of restorative value which is popular there: the fruity, tropical cocktail which my sister chides me for imbibing.  I needed to pick this cocktail because my usual choices are far too simple: a gin and tonic, a salty dog, a martini, a manhattan, a negroni, or a scotch and soda contain too few ingredients.  (I listed these just to show you that I do usually tend to masculine side of the cocktail spectrum.)  The complexity of the hurricane seems to capture each facet of my writing without exceeding the number of ingredients–as would be the case in the Original Singapore Sling.  (I really want to order that one day!  Probably annoy the bartender unless he’s on the order of Ryuu Sasakura of Bartender.)  Here’s the recipe:

I prefer the Bacardi 8 year old myself.

I prefer the Bacardi 8 year old myself.

Continue reading

The Literature and History Blog Up and Running

I’ve had the chance to write a few posts for my new blog: Aquila et Infans.  This is Latin for “The Eagle and Child,” which you Inkling fans out there will recognize as the name of the pub where that group had their meetings.  I intend this blog to concentrate on literary and historical articles so that I can concentrate purely on anime and religion here.  I hope that those of my dear readers who are book lovers will find this a great site to follow.

www.aquilaetinfans.wordpress.com

Smoking-Pipes

Planning a New Blog

For a while, I have been thinking about how scatterbrained this blog often is.  You just need to look at this blog’s subtitle: “Commentary on Anime, Books, Religion and History–the Important Stuff in Life.”  Formerly, “booze” also made up part of the title, but those articles received the scantest readership of any on this site.  My articles on tea were better received!  With due regard for the voice of my dear readers, I have decided that Medieval Otaku ought to focus on anime and religion–particularly where the two intersect.  Of course, I promise to continue writing about tea when good opportunity affords itself.  For example, I have received a new Dooars (similar to Assam), Darjeeling, Keemun, Yunnan, and a Genmai cha sample (roasted rice green tea) which ought to be reviewed as soon as enough leisure is given me to enjoy them all.  Though, I can tell you right now that the Dooars was unimpressive.  It takes milk and sugar really well (my least favorite way to have tea), but lacks some of the complexity of a good Assam–which connoisseurs know are never that complex to begin with.

Trinity Blood, one of the best unions of Catholicism and anime in recent years

Trinity Blood, one of the best unions of Catholicism and anime in recent years

So, expect a modification of the subtitle soon.  I haven’t yet decided what to call this new blog, but I shall release the name as soon as the blog looks presentable, i.e. a couple of starter articles, an about page, and some nice decorations.  It will focus on history and literature.  Incidentally, I have another blog which I work on in collaboration with some friends of mine called Aquilon’s Eyrie.  It concentrates on topics concerning American culture, history, and politics with a decidedly conservative slant.  (If any of my dear readers feel like knowing this side of me would cause them to love me less, please eschew reading these articles!)

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Oh, I might be submitting a short story to the Christian Short Story and Poetry Contest 2014.  Of course, that link is for the 2013 contest, but my friend informs me that they begin accepting submission for the next one on September 4, the day after their Christian Novel Contest ends.  The curious thought of writing the 80 Word document pages necessary to fill their recommended length for the novel contest seems tempting, but the inspiration to write a new piece of that length has yet to come to me.  At any rate, you’ll be able to read the short story after I discover the fate it meets at the judges’ hands.

TeamDaiGurrenDrills

Thanks for reading!  Oh, and I found something rather amusing about Japan: the Liberal Democratic Party has nearly a two-thirds majority in their parliament.  However, these Liberal Democrats endorse a stronger military and more pro-business laws.  How’s that for upside down?

Feeding Frenzy at the Book Sale

Hello, dear readers!  I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting as regularly as I used to on this website.  So, I promise a few more serious articles in the future.  At the moment, there’s a book sale going on at the Eastern Branch Public Library in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.  They shall be running this book sale until the end of this week.  After reading what I deemed a sufficient amount of Plato and a book on the Hellenistic Age, I went down to browse the books here.  On the way in, a sign saying “one dollar per bag” intrigued me.  When I asked the cashier to explain precisely what this meant, she replied that all the books I could fill in a rather large bag would cost one dollar.  In a most abrupt manner, I snatched a bag and began perusing the books.  It began with a volume of Wordsworth’s poetry and ended like this:

IMG_0562Well, three of those books I got for other people.  My sister dreams of going to Switzerland and has an interest in designs of all sorts.  Therefore, that book on how to design gardens and the one on Switzerland were for her.  Then, the picture book on Bl. Pope John Paul II was given to my grandmother.  The rest intrigued me in one way or another, and one day I intend to read them.

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The books on Tokyo, Japan, and Ireland I got for myself, thinking that one could at least walk about the streets of Akihabara, admire the cherry trees of Kyoto, and be seated in a classic Dublin pub vicariously–even if yours truly finds it doubtful that such a trip can be made any time soon.  Though, a good friend of mine also dreams of going to Japan, and it might be possible to pool together enough money in a few years.

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Some of these other books demonstrate my eclectic tastes.  I’ve always wanted to read Theodore Dreiser, if only to see why his books have been added to the list of perennials.  So, you can see Sister Carrie in the second picture.  I also love histories of war.  People show their true colors when placed in such stressful circumstances.  As Joshua Chamberlain said: “War makes good men great and bad men worse.”  So, I have a history of an American Civil War battle, WWII in the Pacific Theater, the Roman Civil War toward the end of the Republican period, and Theodore Roosevelt’s account of his actions in the Spanish-American War.  Also, I couldn’t resist adding Walter Lord’s account of the sinking of the Titanic to my collection, A Night to Remember.  I’ve also read his history of Midway.

The rest of the items on the table reflect my tastes in literature.  I’ve always loved Dryden’s wit and want to read more of him.  I picked up the Dorothy Sayers work because I want to give her another chance.  I found her writing style a bit pretentious and overly judgmental in the first work of hers I read.  If I don’t like it, I’m sure I can find someone else who will.

So, has anyone else gone on a book shopping spree lately?

Still Alive and a Little on the Inferno

Well, it has really been a long time since I’ve posted here.  One of my biggest problems being that I tried to write about The Inferno several times and failed.  Writing about The Inferno carries three problems for me: 1) I don’t really understand some passages; 2) certain references are too abstruse for me–especially in the iPhone edition I was using; and 3) I don’t get any particular enjoyment out of reading about hell.  For me, the strong point about The Inferno is the wonderful relationship between Virgil and the narrator–whom most refer to as Dante himself.  It’s wonderful to see how Virgil protects Dante through so many perils, and how Virgil stands up to demons, knowing that nothing can obstruct the will of God that Dante be permitted to examine hell.  I suppose the work might also be a way to meditate on how the vices present in one’s soul may lead one to hell and how to correct them.  On a final note, William Wordsworth translated the work in a beautifully poetic fashion.  I have no desire to write more than that, but I will give the work a second chance to grow on me later on.

dante's inferno image

In any case, I hope to enjoy The Purgatorio more. A professor I had, Bradley Birzer, told me that this work was the best part of The Divine Comedy, while The Paradiso was the weakest.  I hope that circlecitadel won’t be too disappointed.

The Forgotten Socrates

I just finished the Memorabilia by Xenophon.  Xenophon is more known for his work Anabasis, which concerns Xenophon’s taking a Greek army of mercenaries, known as The Ten Thousand, who try to aid Cyrus the younger in taking the throne from his brother, Artaxerxes II.  This ended in disaster, and Xenophon along with two other elected leaders must march this band of mercenaries 400 miles through enemy territory before they can find passage back to Greece.  (This provided the idea for the 1979 movie The Warriors.)

A bust of Xenophon.  Isn't that a very honest looking face?

A bust of Xenophon. Isn’t that a very honest looking face?

What people tend to forget about Xenophon is that he provides our second major perspective on Socrates in the Memorabilia.  The main reason for people neglecting Xenophon lies in both Plato providing more material on this figure and that Plato’s Socrates is often more brilliant.  For example, Xenophon’s aristocratic station influences his Socrates’ topics of conversation to focus on things like politics, military campaigns, and hunting.  Also, Socrates’ Xenophon tends to be more moralistic–some people have called him Victorian.  But, the directness of Xenophon’s Socrates comes as a welcome change from the heavy use of Socratic irony we see in Plato; though, I did notice several instances in Xenophon’s work where Socrates seems to make several jumps in logic.  (This can happen to the best thinkers–with the exception of St. Anselm of Canterbury.)  One almost roots for his interlocutor to turn the tables on Socrates or put up some resistance rather than the usual, “yes,” “truly,” “it seems so,” etc.

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Bust of Socrates

At any rate, Xenophon’s main point, much like Plato in his Apology and other early works, was to defend Socrates against his detractors.  Against the charge that he was impious, Xenophon showed how devout Socrates was and how much faith he had in divination.  Against the charge that he corrupted the youth, Xenophon shows us a person who was profoundly interested in improving the moral character of his associates.  In regard to the latter charge, Xenophon also defends Socrates’ association with Alcibiades, who notoriously betrayed Athens during the Peloponnesian War.  Plato passes over this association, but Xenophon defends Socrates by saying that Alcibiades never listened to Socrates’ instructions and was more interested in the political power he might gain through mingling with Socrates’ friends.

Plato on left.  Aristotle on right.

Plato on left. Aristotle on right.

One of the most interesting relationships described in the work is between Socrates and Euthymius.  Euthymius interests himself in gaining wisdom, so he visits Socrates and plays close attention to the conversations.  However, he never says a word, which irks Socrates.  One day, Socrates takes it upon himself to show Euthymius the error of not engaging in debate and twists Euthymius’s brain with some of the best sophism the world has ever witnessed.  The end result is, after all the books which Euthymius has read and all the people he’s listened to, Euthymius admits that he knows nothing.  This is perhaps the only example in Xenophon of Socrates playing a sophist.  But after this humiliation, Euthymius actually continues to visit Socrates–this time participating in the debates.  This is a happier result than we ever see when Plato’s Socrates destroys someone in an argument!

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I highly recommend everyone to read the Memorabilia.  The work contains some great moral philosophy, several humorous moments, and is well worth comparing to Plato’s works.

Happy All Saints Day & National Blog Posting Month

Happy All Saint’s Day!  I hope that all you Catholics went to church today.  The Feast of All Souls is celebrated tomorrow, so I encourage everyone to remember their departed friends and relatives or the holy souls in purgatory generally on that day.  Even if you believe your loved ones are in heaven by now, prayers for the dead are never wasted: if one prays for a soul already in heaven, the Church on earth benefits.  This is also a simple way to perform a work of mercy.

Anyway, I’ve been very neglectful in posting for the past while, but I recently got a message about it being National Blog Posting Month; so I’m going to turn over a new leaf.  Each and every day will have some sort of post for the entire month–no matter how short of an article.  There have been a few ideas for posts churning in my brain, though I have not found the time.  Here are some examples:

1.  The relationship of Kiba and Cheza as symbolic of the bond between Jesus and Mary

2.  A review of No. 6

3.  A post about St. Leo the Great before his feast day on November 10th

4.  A review of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which I’m reading for the first time

5.  A review or more thoughts on Weighted and Wanting by George MacDonald

6.  A review of Humanity Has Declined (two episodes to go)

7.  Impressions of Fairy Tail, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, and Samurai Deeper Kyo manga

8.  Some information about Baltimore

9.  A Report of the Eucharist Congress held by the Diocese of Trenton at the Garden State Arts Center (where you may learn interesting facts about the blogger in addition to the Congress)

10.  Reviews of certain teas and beers

So, this ought to be an interesting month on this blog, provided that I can write the five substantial papers also due this month.

Encore Une Autre Raison D’Etre Pour Fiction

Excuse the French title, dear readers, but this article is related to another rather popular article on this site titled Fiction’s Raison D’Etre. The title was proofed by the former French teacher who resides next door to my room, so you may be assured of its grammatically correct nature. (It’s so nice living next to a former French teacher. I’ll have to try my best to benefit from this propinquity in order to master French before he leaves us next semester.) Beginning to watch Hell Girl again and reading George MacDonald’s Weighted and Wanting have prompted me to write this article. Both works have certain Christian themes—especially this novel of George MacDonald, who was also a great influence on C. S. Lewis—which helped to highlight the other reason to read fiction: repentance.

First, I shall summarize the basic premise of Hell Girl, the eponymous young heroine of which is also known as Enma Ai. Enma Ai was cursed with the eternal duty of aiding those who were seeking revenge by dragging their tormentors to hell. The sufferers contact her through a certain website called the Hell Link, at midnight—merely typing in the name of their tormentor. She appears to them holding a doll with a red string, pulling which string seals this contract: she’ll send their tormentor to hell with the catch that the person who initiates the contract must also go to hell upon their death. (A surprisingly large number of people agree to such terms.)

You wouldn’t have guessed, but this girl was one of the most eager to pull the red string.

This premise provides us with some great scenarios for character study, a favorite genre of the Japanese. As I mentioned in the prior article on fiction, character study aids us in understanding other people. On the other hand, it is a more useful tool in bringing us to understand ourselves—especially in cases where we cannot see our faults. How can we repent unless our shortcomings are present to us?

That’s unrepentant for you.

Hell Girl excels at bringing to light various faults, particularly since all the episodes employ modern settings with commonplace situations. This makes it highly probable that we shall find ourselves in one of the antagonists. (As I did in episode ten of the second season. Despite its edifying nature, watching how Tetsuro Megoro’s lack of constancy led to his demise was rather painful to watch.) People often possess faults of which they are unaware or faults in which they have justified and excused themselves for so long as to produce hardness of heart, i.e. they no longer see a need to change. By holding fictional characters with the same faults before our eyes, our identification with them will hopefully reveal how we have gone wrong and the necessity of our repentance. Otherwise, we shall be like the tormentors in Hell Girl, claiming our innocence despite the heinousness of our offenses and dying with final impenitence on our souls. (From which, may God preserve us!)

So says the detective who used his position to stalk and harass a high school girl, attempt to murder her, actually murder his partner, critically wound the girl’s father, and is presently attempting to finish the job.

It is interesting to note that all the antagonists are offered the opportunity to own up to their guilt: final impenitence in grave sin—at least, according to the Catholic Faith—is the only way to be damned. Perhaps, Ai would be unable to fulfill the contract should the sinner admit his guilt. One imagines God intervening on behalf of the repentant lest such a one be eternally damned. We never know if such would be the case, because no one ever repents in the show at that point; though, I do remember a few rather inoffensive people being condemned—perhaps to cast doubt on Ai’s role as the savior of the oppressed.

The last thing they see before falling headlong into perdition: flowers.

Weighted and Wanting so far is less drastic in the consequences for people’s faults, which tend to be various forms of worldliness and vanity. But, the fault of mine with which I am reminded in this work recalls part of a lecture given at my old Alma Mater by the renowned Dr. Justin J. Jackson (if you care to hear give a beautiful convocation speech, click here):

“And how do we treat our families?”  When no one ventured to give an opinion, he replied for us: “Horribly!”

Needless to remark, no one gainsaid this opinion. But, does this shock any of my dear readers? Is there not a tendency to fear offending our families less than offending our friends, because forgiveness is so readily available? Instead, we ought to be less inclined to offend our family members due to their readiness to forgive us.

n.b. this is George MacDonald, not my former English Professor.

George MacDonald portrays the elder brother in the Raymount family, Cornelius, as suffering from this defect in regard to every member of his family save his father, who governs how his children shall inherit his property. Cornelius enjoys deriding his sister Hester at most every opportunity, though Hester isn’t perfectly innocent of this defect herself, and, on the whole, treats his friends and business associates better than his family. Yet, Cornelius is rather intelligent in a way: if we treated our friends the same way as we treated our family, we should only have the latter left to us. However, one cannot be too hard on oneself: the members of our families often take our good will for granted, increasing the chances of us sinning through impatience or wrath itself!

Illustration from one of his works. MacDonald was most famous for his fantasies.

So, one walks into the confessional with more offenses against one’s family than against one’s friends. But, cognizant of this fault and with the help of God’s grace, we can work to overcome it. Having been patient with the defects of my friends and associates, we can attempt to apply the same patience to the defects of my family members. Depending on the vision of George MacDonald, Cornelius’s lack of respect for his family and inability to consider this a fault may lead to his downfall.

Therefore, the next time one feels moved to deride another person or even a fictional character for their faults, one ought to first consider how oneself may be guilty of the same fault.

World’s Most Popular Vet

As I was reading through James Herriot’s The Lord God Made Them All, the question of just how popular Herriot’s works are today occurred to me.  My mother is particularly fond of these works, and I picked up a fondness for them from her.  Herriot’s literary skill, the many surprises contained in these stories, the genuineness of his character, and many hilarious moments combine to make these great fun to read.  He also employs a frame story to great effect in his works so that we do not become bored with a barrage of veterinary cases.  He most often resorted to his experiences in the Second World War to provide a main narrative, from his time in basic training to his career in the Royal Air Force.  In the one I’m presently reading, he uses a sea voyage he takes to Russia on a Danish merchant ship during the Cold War as a main narrative in which he intersperses his veterinary practice.

Let me end this post by giving you an example of how amusing the stories are.  During one chapter, he describes a barber who is willing to trim people’s hair during his stay in the pub at the cost of one pint per hair cut.  The guy can cut hair pretty well up to four pints; however, they start getting a little messy after that: seeing one farmer with a missing side burn, Herriot comments that it must have been a 10-pint job.

Anyway, this barber brings his little mutt named Venus to him, because she got into the garbage pail and began eating some chicken bones, one of which lodged itself across the roof of her mouth.  An easy fix, but the dog struggles so much that Herriot suggests the use of anesthesia.  The owner leaves and Herriot extracts the bone from the sleeping dog without any trouble–except that he realizes that the dog stopped breathing!  Now, her heart is still beating and everything, but that won’t last long if she doesn’t breathe again!  He tries every method possible in the examining room until he rushes outside in order to use the approved method for resuscitating a small dog in the ’60’s.  He grabs the dog by her hind legs and spins her around in a circle while raising and lowering the dog!  His son, who had watched all the proceedings, nearly died laughing.  After several attempts and the world around Herriot spinning, the dog starts breathing again, and Herriot is able to return Venus alive to her owner.

Oh, I will offer a review of The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, but I decided to read that work again before writing up a review.  Expect it in one month or less!

How to Weather the Anime Doldrums

In every otaku’s career, he arrives at a point where anime no longer satisfies: all the characters, plots, gags, and backgrounds seem to have been used 1,000 times over.  The show we’re presently watching seems like a cookie-cutter copy of the last one.  Unless you’re a certain kind of viewer, you have only three options available to you in order to break out of this rut: 1) attempt to learn new things about Japanese culture; 2) revert to an old hobby; or 3) learn about a new culture.

But first, let’s start with the case where it’s one’s own fault.  I confess to have fallen into the second fault, which caused the first period of anime doldrums.  Your ennui is your own fault if you’re the kind of viewer who 1) only watches what’s mainstream; 2) sticks to a particular genre; or 3) only watches new seasons.  As at one point being a samurai genre only fan, I can say that the best solution for the second case is to find a new genre.  If you believe that you’d only watch shoujo with a gun pointed to your head, watch Fruits Basket or even Sailor Moon–you might be pleasantly surprised.  Those of you who stick with slice-of-life shows need to give Full Metal Panic a try; those favoring mecha anime Rurouni Kenshin; and those with a predilection for comedy Wolf’s Rain.  Those of you carried away in mainstream need to find an off-beat show, and you’ll likely find one that speaks particularly to you.  For example, Book of Bantorra or Kara no Kyoukai might be up your alley.

Also, I know the joy of introducing one’s friends to the next great anime, but modern shows suffer from a lack of creativity (increased commercialization of a form of media always does this), and they tend to have a similar style of animation.  A fan like this needs education from an old otaku—one who has been a fan since the days when anime was considered a subculture.  (Fortunately, these are quite numerous and often in their early twenties.)  However, if one cannot find such a fan, there are many works, like Anime Classics Zettai by Brian Camp and Julie Davis, which are quite handy in providing a list of great old shows.  The magazine Otaku USA has many contributors from the subculture days who are only too happy to encourage appreciation for the classics.

Anyway, now to offer advice to those of you who find yourselves legitimately bored of anime.  Those of you who wish to quickly restore your interest in anime ought to take the option of learning new things about Japanese culture, particularly by learning Japanese.  Some of you may consider this an overwhelming task, but learning basic Japanese is not too difficult.  Learning new syllabaries (We have an alphabet, the Japanese have two syllabaries: katakana and hiragana) is a fairly simple task, Japanese is incredibly easy to pronounce, particles make determining the function of words in the sentence simple, and Japanese incorporates many English loan words.  The difficult part comes in learning kanji, the more complex verb forms, and translating long sentences by ear–which subjects you may tackle whenever you feel ready.  (You see, the Japanese arrange ideas differently from us, particularly in cases where we use relative clauses.  Instead of having a relative clause following the noun it describes, they place the relative clause as one long descriptive phrase before the noun it modifies.  By the time the English speaker has made sense of this and reversed the order of the noun and its clause, five lines of dialog have gone by.)  But, having a beginner’s level of knowledge of Japanese will make it sound like a real language rather than “pera-pera” (the Japanese version of “derka-derka”), one can begin to see the liberties the translators take, and one can consider how they themselves would have translated certain lines.  All of this adds another level of enjoyment to your favorite pastime.

For those of you who still find this idea too daunting, try studying Bushido, Zen, Taoism, martial arts (i.e. through books unless you wish to really immerse yourself), their literature, or history.  Any of these fields will allow you to see deeper into the Japanese mind, and understand more cultural references.  Reading Yagyu Munenori’s The Life-Giving Sword will help you understand the talk about the life-giving sword vs. the death-dealing sword in Rurouni Kenshin.  Some other good books are Miyamoto Musashi’s  The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, Nitobe Inazo’s Bushido: The Soul of Japan, Okakura’s The Book of Tea and his The Ideals of the East.  Reading about Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of Shotokan Karate) and Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido and perhaps Japan’s greatest martial artist) also make for great reading.  On the more literary side, Natsume Soseki (the father of Modern Japanese literature) wrote a very popular work called Botchan and  Jun’Ichirou Tanizaki is famed for his dark heroines (any time you enjoy watching a dark heroine in anime, you can thank him).  You can also read classics like Genji, Tales of the Heike, orThe Tosa Diary.

But option two, reverting to an old hobby for a few months, is perhaps the surest way to weather the anime doldrums.  People thrive on variety.  Also, one likely has a more difficult hobby which has been put aside for the easily attainable highs of anime.  After a month or two away from anime, it will seem much fresher.  One of your friends will have been apprised of your situation.  One day, he shall walk through the door with some awesome new title which will restore your interest.

Since a human being is often greater than the culture he dwells in, one should not focus on just one particular culture for too long.  One feels constricted after a while.  Did you know that many of the people who were interested in Japan during the twentieth century were Classicists?  There are many parallels between the Classical Antiquity of the West and pagan Japan.  For example, Stoicism feels much like Bushido, so you might benefit from reading Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, which will allow you to examine these ideas using a different perspective.  Even in Roman history, we find characters who act like samurai.  For example, Livy documents the example of the General Regulus.  Regulus was captured by the Carthaginians and sent back to Rome in order to be exchanged for Carthaginian prisoners and to convince Rome to ask for peace.  Instead, he argues against these things before the Senate and, even though he could easily have broken his oath and not returned to Carthage, he does so only to be tortured to death by these people.  Your humble author, a Classicist himself, could go on ad nauseam.

However, one may also stick close to Asia and read about the Chinese.  All of Asia was greatly influenced by this country.  Chinese Classics like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms are still very popular in Japan.  As another option, I do believe an anime fan would find themselves very comfortable among Norse Sagas.  Pagan cultures tend to have many similarities–like having a tendency toward tragedy.  Then again, one can really broaden one’s perspective by studying a completely disparate culture.

While I do hope that none of you are presently in this state, may these ideas come in handy at some point in the future!

Ever Read a Jules Verne Novel?

Reading The Mysterious Island marks the third work of Jules Verne which I’ve completed.  It concerns five Union prisoners who escape from Richmond in 1864 by using the confusion of a passing hurricane to steal a balloon.  You likely can already see a problem developing, right?  Going up in a balloon during a hurricane!  This action, while freeing them from the Confederates, at the same time leads to them flying all to way to an uninhabited and uncharted island in the South Pacific!  At least the confines of their prison have been enlarged from a POW camp to an island.  This is a true Robinsonade (named after the incomparable novel written by Daniel Defoe): these five prisoners, of varying backgrounds, must survive off the land and build a civilization from scratch.  Various obstacles ranging from jaguar attacks to orangutangs capturing their dwelling place to pirates all try to impede them from this goal.  Overall, this was a very entertaining work: only the overabundant digressions into scientific topics detract from it–interesting to be sure, but it does almost feel like a text book at times.

Here’s a picture of the island where our five heroes find themselves.

The other two works comprising my experience of Jules Verne are Around the World in Eighty Days and the little known Adventures of Captain Hatteras, which concerns an English expedition to the North Pole.  (The latter is particularly memorable for me because of the footnotes pointing out phallic jokes; however, I would never have caught these jokes if not for the footnotes in the Oxford edition!  Which almost makes me think the translator was making them up, no matter how good his arguments.  Whenever you see a footnote which makes you say “Why’s that there?”, you might just have read a phallic joke.)  Though Verne’s ability to create tales brimming with scientific information is what makes him most famous, his real strong suit is his ability to create unique, likeable characters.  As a matter of fact, I seem to have enjoyed the novels more which delved less into science, ranking Around the World in Eighty Days first, Adventures of Captain Hatteras second, and The Mysterious Island last. The Mysterious Island does have one great bonus to reading it: we learn how a famous character of Jules Verne ends his days–I refuse to say who!

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!