My First Foray into a Con

Sorry that this articles is a little delayed, dear readers. My memory of events may be slightly fuzzy, but there’s enough left for me to write an amusing account of this trip. The dearth of anime paraphernalia disappointed me a little, and I felt somewhat lost among the various American comic books—but, I still enjoyed the convention.

A friend of mine drove me over in his car. I count it fortunate that he intended to become a comic artist at one time in his life. He actually spent a semester at college for the study of art. Among the comics he described to me, Valiant comics seemed to offer the most interesting stories. (The one concerning the Visigoth invasion of Rome in which aliens help the Romans in defeating the Visigoths particularly caught my attention.) With this tenuous background, I hoped to be able to navigate the convention to a certain extent.

When we arrived in Baltimore, we were chagrined to find that parking cost seven dollars an hour at both of the parking garages we found—at least, for the first two hours of parking. I was hoping that the Old Bay garage, being owned by a prosperous company, would be cheaper than the other one. And this was true after the first two hours, but we still wound up paying $17 for three hours of parking. After this experience, I began to understand how Dante could place usurers in hell.

Although I understood that my friend was unable to purchase a ticket online because he was uncertain whether he would be able to attend the convention, buying a ticket here turned into an adventure in itself. You see, even though I had a ticket myself, I did not desire to explore the convention floor on my own. (Another friend of mine was down there, but I possessed doubts whether I should find him among the throng of people.) So, I waited on line with my friend—at which decision, one of the staff marked on how good a friend I was. The magnanimous quality of my decision finally impressed itself on me after I waited forty-five minutes on line! (I believe I told some people that the wait was one hour and twenty minutes, but I’m convinced that this is an exaggeration. At least, I hope and pray that is an exaggeration, but it sure felt that long at the time.)

But, standing on line had certain benefits: several interesting cosplayers passed by, we discussed comics and anime some more, and Stan Lee himself passed right next to us! I think that might have been worth the price of admission alone. It has been several years since I found myself so close to a celebrity—unless Catholic bishops count as celebrities anyway. So, I enjoyed seeing the man responsible for Spider Man, the Hulk, the X-men, and others, even if I could not afford the ticket to attend the special panel he headed.

After our friend and I were squared away, we on a short round of the booths, specifically looking for #1805, which contained the illustrious Scott Snyder. (My friend informed me that he was a very down-to-earth guy and everything, but one had to wait on line for over an hour before seeing him!) In this short round, I felt rather lost: very little anime or manga in sight besides the copies of Usagi Yojimbo. (Nevermind: I thought that this counted as a manga, but it seems to have been created in America. At least, it made me feel a little less lost.)

Due to my excellent navigation skills, we soon found the exorbitantly long line leading to Scott Snyder. Fortunately, my other friend was on a nearby line to another famous comic artist. So, I chatted with him for a little. He had purchased a poster of Batman from the aforementioned Scott Snyder, and I could not but marvel at the fineness of the detail. Rarely have I seen the musculature of a strong man’s back portrayed so perfectly.

This friend, being unable to guide me himself due to having to attend a previous engagement after getting some more signatures, realized that the thought of waiting on any of these lines was repugnant to me—especially after waiting on line for the ticket, so he directed me to the part of the con which contained the anime. The thought that somewhere there existed some anime products which I had missed delighted me. I hastened to search the area where he directed me only to find that I had been there previously, and, like everywhere else, it rather lacked the presence of anime. During my search, I did see a booth containing stuffed anime dolls, but I’m not into that element of the fandom. (I did consider purchasing a Kirara doll for my sister, though.) Anime was so lacking that the sight of a Naruto shirt made me happy—the only time that has happened.

I did enjoy seeing the variety of American comics. Somehow, I could never get into American comics, yet the artwork has always fascinated me with its attention to detail. There were also plenty of comics from which I had to turn my eyes. Among these, however, there was one comic which caught my eye: Freeloader by Sean Bishop. A strong urge to speak with this gentleman came over me, but my Nakajima nature prevented me. After looking this gentleman and his work up, I realized how silly I was: he’s a Rurouni Kenshin fan, from New Jersey, and his story contains two disparate bounty hunters who are forced to work together. I rather enjoy the humor that derives from such scenarios. If only I had spoken to him! I might have actually purchased a comic from the Comic Con.

Also drawn by Sean Bishop.

At some point, I consumed some food and sat around until my friend finally obtained an audience with the renowned Scott Snyder. At which point he returned to show me a poster stand were I found several anime posters. On our way there, I saw someone cosplaying as Yoko from Tengen Toppa Gureen Lagaan. She did a great job, but one doesn’t have to work very hard on putting together that costume. 🙂 So, posters of Trigun, Hetalia, and Neon Genesis Evangelion are now offering something more interesting to look at than my room’s white walls. In return, I showed him the booth selling stuffed anime characters, where he contemplated buying someone a joke gift. At this point, we were thoroughly exhausted by the convention and returned to our dormitory.

 

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Simplicity and Identification in You’re Under Arrest

About one year ago, I discovered You’re Under Arrest, a very amusing series by Kousuke Fujishima who is also famed for Ah! My Goddess!  It excels in showing spectacular car chases, amusing plots, likeable characters, comedy, and even has a very believable and nice–though frustrating at times–romance for those of you who care about that facet of storytelling.  (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m sometimes a sucker for that too.)  This TV series began with a four episode OVA, which became popular enough to warrant a series.  However, I consider the OVAs to be the weakest episodes of the first season, to which the OVA was attached, with the exception of the OVAs having better animation quality.  But, the comedy and the plots of You’re Under Arrest only improved from there.

On the other hand, the second season started pretty strong.  Saori’s entering into Bokuto Station with a ton of youthful rigor made for some splendid comedy as our heroes and their comrades tried to restrain her high ideals.  Saori is eventually relegated to a desk job.  (By the way, if you’re presently seeking the next animated masterpiece, don’t watch You’re Under Arrest.  This show is best for those who wish to enjoy some light comedy without being bombarded by fanservice.)  Everything was proceeding as normal until the series introduced a love triangle and showed Kobayakawa distancing herself from her partner Tsujimoto.  Usually, more conflict increases the value of a show, but a show needs to know what kind of conflict is suitable for it.

In the case of a show like You’re Under Arrest, interpersonal conflict among friends and dark, internal struggles ruin the work.  Instead of the lighthearted fun and likeable characters for which the viewers watch the show, we see Kobayakawa become steadily more detestable as passion draws her closer to a mechanic aged thirty-something and his daughter(a nice guy, but one should avoid unequal relationships in general).  This causes extreme suffering for her long time love interest, Nakajima, and leads to her getting into a serious fight with Tsujimoto, even slapping her at one point.

Now, in a certain book on novel writing (The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall, I think), the author commented on how he hated simple characters.  They’re boring, uninteresting, and more like children than adults.  How is an adult supposed to relate to them?  No doubt, Kousuke Fujishima thought like this when he decided to introduce these difficulties: that these struggles would result in the story becoming more interesting.  The case is rather that this stands as one of the dullest, saddest five episodes stretches in the history of anime.  I felt that several of the episodes past the middles of the second season were weak, but these were downright depressing!

If one thinks about it, much of the “complexity” we see in adults derives from sin.  Adults wish to improve their situation in life and feel envy toward those who are above them either in terms of their position or of wealth; they have difficulty remaining faithful to one person because they think that indulging their lusts would be more pleasurable; they constantly want more stuff; they do not trust God and so suffer from many phobias and constantly fear being injured.  Shall I go on?  All these things make for complex characters, and several good stories have been made where plot centers on the main character overcoming his defects; but who would not prefer to be simple?

The simple man considers his station in life sufficient unless a true need arises, he does not bear ill will toward his superiors, he treasures his relationships, and fears nothing.  If there is anything in his character which strikes others as an idiosyncrasy, he does not consider it as a cause for pride.  Again, who would not rather be this person?  Ah, such perfection is rarely achieved!

Which reminds me, one of the chief reasons a viewer likes or dislikes a story lies in whether he can identify with the characters.  Interestingly, this identification occurs either because a character’s personality approximates the viewer’s or the viewer would like to become similar to that character.  In the former case, we cheer the hero on, hoping for him to overcome all the obstacles.  Sorrowing when he fails or rejoicing when he succeeds as if we ourselves rise or fall with him.  In the latter, we see a model for us to attain.  Seeing the greatness of this character, we are on fire to attain his virtues.  The point of having the two kinds is so that one can see both the goal and how miserable it is to be away from the goal!  The first spurs us by its beauty and the latter by revulsion.

To tie this back into You’re Under Arrest, Nakajima seems very much like myself.  Even though he knows how to respond to matters well when it concerns his job, he procrastinates and is terribly unsure of himself when it comes to his human relationships.  But, at the same time, he has a degree of reflection which usually prevents him from hurting other people–at least, by commission.  Nakajima needs to learn more from Tsujimoto, who simply sizes up problems and does whatever she thinks is right.  An example of simplicity very much worth following!

To wrap up with a more practical matter, I just need to decide whether I should go on to the third season.  Considering that most of the characters are women, the first two seasons showed remarkable restraint when it came to fanservice, but this did increase over the course of the second.  Does anyone have any opinions concerning how tolerable the third season is?  Also, the episodes plots tended to be subpar in the second season.  Does the third season offer an improvement in this area?  Comments please!  Especially if this article brought you some intellectual delight!

Kenshin as a Christ Figure

Recently, the desire to write about how Kenshin Himura of Rurouni Kenshin fulfills the role of a Christ Figure has been swirling in my mind.  I am unfamiliar with another article delving into the similarities between the two, though several forum goers and bloggers have touched on this idea.  The two published articles I have read which discussed Kenshin’s character, Brian Camp’s in Anime Classics Zettai (every otaku should own this book) and another one in Otaku USA, both remark on the extreme nobility of Kenshin’s character.  Here’s a quote from Brian Camp’s article: “In fact, Kenshin is so likeable and perfect that he runs the risk of being a little too abstract to be entirely plausible, but it’s the small human moments with the others that bring him down to earth and anchor the series in a kind of reality” (324).  In a similar way, Jesus Christ stands infinitely above everyone, but loves the company of little children and performed that most human of miracles at the wedding feast of Cana.  (Might as well point out here that Kenshin also loves children very much and often plays with Ayame and Suzume, Dr. Gensai’s granddaughters.)  The more I consider the similarities, the more I am convinced that Kenshin Himura was not based principally on Kawakami Gensai, despite Nobuhiro Watsuki’s claim that he based Kenshin on this assassin of the Meiji Era.  The physical design of Kenshin’s character may have been, but not his personality.

One might as well start with the most apparent connection: they’re both wanderers.  Kenshin wanders Japan, while Christ wandered Israel.  Of course, we run into the difference that the former traveled in order to learn and hide from his notoriety, while the latter, the source of all wisdom and knowledge, went about publicly in order to teach.  But, you can say that they were both impelled by humility: Christ humbly obeyed the will of His Father and imparted spiritual wisdom from his meek and humble heart; on the other hand, Kenshin, as a mere man who may be mistaken about his opinions, prefers to learn and encourages others to find their own way.  Interestingly, the main topic on which they preach is repentance.  Kenshin, a sinner like the rest of us (Few people will create a Christ figure who’s entirely flawless, after all), usually confines himself to elaborating on why he goes about repenting; but, to certain villains who are obviously in need of repentance, he’s quick to advise them to practice it themselves.  The Heart of Jesus, infinitely good and perfect and therefore having no need to repent himself, constantly advises others to repent so that they might find happiness.

Happiness itself is another theme about which both often speak.  One might say that the ultimate goal toward which the advice and teachings of these persons is happiness; however, the philosophy of Kenshin tends toward Epicureanism.  Oddly enough, this Epicurean form of happiness, at least shares a few features with Christian happiness, such as disinterest in wealth, hatred for the world, and a clear conscience.  The poverty of Rurouni Kenshin‘s heroes, the disdain shown by all toward the millionaire Takeda Kanryu, and Kenshin’s lecturing Misao about the wrongness of theft–even when one is in poor circumstances–stand as sufficient examples of idea of wealth’s unimportance.  Especially in Kanryu’s case, where his downfall makes it evident that “Wealth is useless on the day of wrath, but virtue saves from death” (Proverbs 11:4).  As for hatred for the world, the series has several examples of people who become corrupted through their desire for power, whether it be through physical strength or political power, and the time when Kenshin refuses General Yamagata’s offer to make him a government official show how much the characters wish to remain unstained by the world.  Most of the villains who disturb Kenshin’s idyllic life at Kamiya dojo have a lust for power, and desire for power always leads to a bad end.

The necessity for a good conscience is perhaps shown most clearly in the duel between Kenshin and Soujiro.  Soujiro becomes angry with Kenshin because he thinks that Kenshin is deluded in his desire not to kill.  Because delusion is a sort of disease, it truly ought to make Kenshin an inferior swordsman.  According to Zen Principles, any sort of delusion or anything which would disturb the purity of one’s mind should prevent the execution of good swordsmanship–especially the superior kind which Kenshin possesses!  But Soujiro’s frustration at the idea that he himself might be in the wrong prevent him from overcoming Kenshin, who believes himself to be in the right.  I suppose that it would be superfluous to provide examples of how Jesus advises us not to serve mammon, to avoid worldliness, and practice virtue in order to maintain a clear conscience, right?

Then, we have Kenshin’s vow not to kill which reminds me of this verse: “The Son of Man did not come to condemn the world, but to save it” (John 3:17).  In a similar way, none of Kenshin’s antagonists die by his hand, but rather by their own refusal to turn from their evil deeds.  The two best examples being Jin-e Udo’s suicide and how Shishio’s stubbornness works his own death.  As St. Faustina avers in her diary, whoever goes to hell, goes there by their own will, not because Jesus Christ wishes anyone to perish (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).

And in the second season, is not Kenshin’s journey to Kyoto reminiscent of Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem?  Even the true object of the journey is rather similar: just as Christ wished to put the old man to death in us so that we may have life in Christ, Kenshin wishes to put the man slayer side of himself to death.  Also, Shishio is pretty much Satan, whom Christ defeated by His passion and death.  Then again, Kenshin’s friends constantly remind us in this arc especially how he tries to carry everyone’s burdens on his shoulders, which–though it stands as manner he resembles Christ–is actually a fault in his case.  Only God can bear everyone’s burdens.

A picture of Kenshin from his days as an assassin in the Meiji Revolution.

But, this is my favorite line exhibiting the similarity between the two because many are apt to miss the connection, but it really slams the fact that Kenshin is a Christ figure on one’s head.  Sanosuke says: “Kenshin isn’t using the weak as food to feed his power like you [Shishio] are.  He’s willing to protect their happiness and become food for their power.”  This is about as inspired a line as one can find in anime.  (Surprisingly, it is not found in the manga.  I checked.)  Essentially, this is Eucharistic imagery!  Shishio, like evil, consumes those who fall prey to him; on the other hand, Kenshin is being described as food for the weak, and Christ feeds us weaklings with His body and blood each mass so that we remain in Him so “that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).  If not for Christ offering Himself as food for us, we should all fall to sin.

Well, I hope that this little discussion of how Kenshin’s character compares to Jesus Christ will deepen your experience of the show!