Seven Anime for All Souls’ Day

You’ve probably read many posts about which anime to watch in celebration of Halloween. I missed the boat on that, but Halloween is actually part of a three day observance.  An alternate name for Halloween is All Hallows’ Eve, referring to it being the night before All Saints’ Day.  Today, after All Saints’ Day, comes All Souls’ Day.

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And so, we ought to be thinking about the afterlife over the course of these days.  While Halloween’s original purpose in time immemorial may have been for people to prepare for All Saints’ Day, the ghoulish costumes along with the emphasis on horror movies in October brings to mind hell rather than heaven.  On November 1st, we think of the blessed in heaven.  Today, we think instead of the poor souls who yet await the final cleansing of their souls before they enter the Pearly Gates.

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On Forgetting God

Now, your humble aniblogger has at last caught up with all of the Fall 2015 anime on his watchlist.  Expect a post covering my general impressions of these shows and another on what I intend to watch from this season.  In a way, it’s useful to come late to a new season: people have sorted the trash from the mediocre and the good.  So, I reap the fruits of their efforts and time—spent or misspent as the case may be.

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At any rate, the idea for the present article comes from a thought which struck me as I watched the second half of Noragami Aragoto, which, like the previous season, ended on a spectacular note.  Others have likely also been struck by how easy it was for Hiyori to forget Yato, and how much of the conflict revolved around Hiyori retaining the memory of him.  This became especially poignant in the latter episodes where Nora succeeded in separating her and Yato for over a month.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Renuntiatio Brevis

Here’s just a brief summary of what I’m watching this season.  Also, I just finished the first draft of a short story.  A nice piece set in a familiar fantasy world of mine.  Once I have it edited and checked over by certain readers, I intend to hit the 2014 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and see who might take it.  If no one wants it or the publication doesn’t mind me publishing it in other venues, I’ll post it as a page here for those of my dear readers who like fantasy.

This image rather fits the tone of the story I wrote.

This image rather fits the tone of the story I wrote.

At any rate, my favorite anime this season has been Noragami, a fantasy anime set in modern times.  It follows the episodic adventures of a daemon (i.e. low level and unnoticed god.  I can’t resist using classical terms.) named Yato and two people who meet him in his quest to become the most important god in Japan.  The episodes tend to be quite funny.  The animation is the most beautiful I’ve seen this season.  Episode four promises that a main plot might develop down the road, but I’m enjoying the crazy adventures and references to other anime.  In particular, elements of this series remind me of Samurai Deeper KyoHell Girl, and Rurouni Kenshin.  I’d place it as my clear favorite for this season.

Yukine wins the award of most awesome katana of the season, I'd say.

Yukine wins the award of most awesome katana of the season, I’d say.

Witchcraft Works stands as my second favorite.  It deals with a young high school boy who learns that a class of witches want to steal a magical component in him, but Kagari, the most popular girl in school and a puissant witch on the side of law and order, takes him under her wing.  The two protagonists tend to be rather straightforward in their relationship, which is rather refreshing.  The show is incredibly lighthearted, all the characters are extremely likable, and the episodes get better every week.

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Next, I highly anticipate episodes of Tonari no Seki-kun.  These shorts are always incredibly amusing and carry the zany ambiance of the manga.  It’s a comedy that covers the ridiculous games a school girl’s classmate, Seki-kun, plays on his desk.  You absolutely must make time to watch these shorts!

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Then, Wizard Barristers edges out The Pilot’s Love Song by dint of being more original.  I’ve never seen an anime where a lawyer is the main character.  Several things annoy me about the plots in Wizard Barristers, but it has the chance to become more interesting.  If not, I might drop this one.  Similarly, The Pilot’s Love Song needs to become a little more original.  Something needs to separate it from Last Exile, but we’ll see.

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Of the shows I would still like to check out, Strange+ and Magical Warfare make me the most curious.  (Then again, I still need to see Unbreakable Machine Doll.  No one I know really blogged about this show, which could be why I failed to pick it up.)  I might give Nobunaga the Fool a second chance, but everything I’ve heard about the Nobunaga of history has rather made me despise him.  So, there’s only the slimmest chance of me identifying with this hero.  (I’m more likely to cheer for his opponents.)  Lastly, certain bloggers have written good things about D-Frag, so I might watch that.