Kisara’s Revenge: Right or Wrong?

Here’s one last article on Black Bullet and the Spring season of 2014.  Like most of you, Kisara’s utter obliteration of her treacherous brother took me by surprise.  I thought that she would let him off with the loss of his legs, but I suppose cutting off a limb is always the prelude to giving the killing stroke–whether one is considering Japanese or Western martial arts.  Anyway, the parricidal villain got what he deserved.

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Or did he?  Kisara laughs maniacally after his death and claims that she is evil and that only evil can eradicate evil.  These two claims strike one as shocking, especially for someone from a culture where filial piety is so esteemed.  (And no, evil cannot eradicate evil.  Only justice and mercy can.)  When one takes that into account along with the traditional belief that the victims of murder will not rest in peace until they have been avenged, I’d say that most Japanese would think badly of her had she not killed Kazumitsu Tendo.

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So, whence arises the idea that she did wrong?  I am tempted to think Kisara’s words as purely rooted in the emotion of the moment.  To a person of integrity, killing is always ugly and painful even if justified.  Or does she feel that she ought to have left Kazumitsu’s punishment to the authorities?  But, one has already seen the degree of corruption in both the police and the government, and Kisara no doubt took this into account when she undertook extralegal means to avenge her parents.  Using a duel to execute a murderer is hardly ideal, but neither is Black Bullet‘s society.

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I’m pretty sure this did not enter into Kisara’s mind at all, but in the spirit of this blog let’s ask this question: was it unchristian to kill her brother?  The Faith does recommend mercy.  Kisara could have stopped short of killing him at least, right?  But, four things must be taken into account when judging this matter: 1) Kazumitsu thinks nothing of taking human life–even the lives of his parents; 2) merely maiming him does not prevent him from continuing to use his political power or influence to cause grave harm; 3) the corrupt government might acquit in a trial, thus allowing him to continue to take human lives or endanger society for his own ends; and 4) Kazumitsu would no doubt be using his power to eliminate witnesses should he be arraigned.  I think that there exists a hierarchy of compassion in Christianity and prudence partially governs how mercy is given.  As the Glossa Interlinearis, a 12th century Biblical gloss by Anselm of Laon, states: “Justice and mercy are so united that one ought to be mingled with the other; justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice profusion…” (Gloss to Matt. 5:7).  Permitting Kazumitsu to live in society places the life of a murderer above his potential victims.  To have compassion on the murderer in this case is to lack compassion for the innocent.  Giving the lethal blow to Kazumitsu falls more under Katsujinken (“the life giving sword”) than Satsujinken (“the murdering sword”).

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If anything could have rendered Kazumitsu’s death a moral wrong, it would be if Kisara had arranged the duel in the belief that she was doing wrong.  It is possible to render something objectively right evil by having the wrong intention.  For example, giving money to the poor in order to be praised by others or telling truth for the purpose of delighting in another’s pain on hearing it.  The ugliness of the deed certainly struck her after the fact, but she did not have any doubts about whether she should fight Kazumitsu beforehand.  The preparations before the duel evince her sense of righteous indignation.  But, if there be any truth to Kisara’s belief that she’s evil for avenging her parents, it could only be because she undertook the revenge believing that she was doing wrong.

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You couldn’t be more wrong, Kisara.

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Nevermind, you could be.

But, what do my dear readers think?  Was Kisara’s action laudable filial piety?  The only way to stop a dangerous malefactor?  Erroneous vigilantism?  Or wrong because Kisara acted against her conscience from the beginning?

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My Experience with Anime of Spring 2014 Pt. II

Here I conclude my opinions on the anime I watched from Spring 2014 with my top five shows.  Enjoy!

Black Bullet Enju and Rentaro

5.  Black Bullet – ★★★½

One might characterize this show as having all one would wish for in a shonen anime: plenty of action and brushes with death.  It also had many things one could make fun of: examples may be seen here and here.  The Joker-like villain was a great foe for Rentaro, though I must confess to disliking our hero.  Rentaro’s a little inconsistent.  Shooting someone’s finger off in revenge for cruelty and stabbing someone for threatening to run?  Fine.  Killing a parricidal brother whose actions caused the death of thousands more?  O immane facinus!  In Rentaro’s defense, he might have been more disturbed by Kisara’s conviction that she needs to become evil in order to defeat evil.  She should familiarize herself with Jesus’ sermon on a house divided against itself.  But, I have an article on that scene in the works.

This show has everything an otaku needs: great action sequences, anime lines, likable characters, and a harem with girls fitting any taste.  Worthwhile for any fan of action also.

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4.  Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii – ★★★★

I almost feel generous in giving Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii four stars, but it had two of the strongest characters this season.  (Thanks again to Lee Relph for recommending it to me.)  Of the shows I’ve seen, I can’t find a stronger female character than Nike or a stronger male character than Livius.  Normally, I don’t watch romantic shows, but this one had a good dose of court intrigue to make things more exciting.  Nevertheless, the salient features of the show stand as the love between Nike and Livius and the many tribulations they endure for the sake of their love.  The show also has some great humor.

Whether one likes comedy or romance, one should not pass this show up.

Tonari no Panic

3.  Tonari no Seki-kun – ★★★★

This was the most popular short comedy during both this season and the last one.  Its gags are sure to provoke vehement guffaws, and the show contains some likable characters–especially Yokoi.  The way entire episodes are narrated from one point of view, usually Yokoi’s, also make this work unique.  Yokoi’s voice actress, Kana Hanazawa, does a brilliant job of narration–whether it be her thoughts on Seki’s bizarre games or her own outlandish fantasies.

Though there might not be that much to this show besides the comedy, I highly recommend it.

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2.  Knights of Sidonia – ★★★★

Much better than the manga.  This is a particularly dark story where the characters die in great frequency.  One gets the impression that no one is safe, which reminds me of how the makers of the old TV series Combat! would place the characters’ pictures on a dartboard to decide who would kick the bucket in certain episodes.  I thought that Knights of Sidonia had a slow start, which nicely described the atmosphere of Sidonia and humanity’s present existence.  The CG worked perfectly in this high technology setting with backgrounds reminiscent of steam punk anime.  The ending was just about perfect.  Unlike the series mentioned before, this suffered from having somewhat uninteresting characters though the plot and pacing were excellent.  If the characters–especially the main character–were less bland, I could easily see this show as being worthy of a full five stars.

Definitely a great dark, sci-fi, which I would watch again.

Coffin Princess Chaika

1.  Hitsugi no Chaika – ★★★★

I loved that the story was set in the world of Scrapped Princess.  Ichiro Sakaki has his usually deft touch with characters, action, and humor.  This show is much darker than Scrapped Princess, and one can see influences from Strait Jacket, a prior work of Sakaki’s.  (That OVA is not for the faint of heart.)  I must compare this show to Scrapped Princess in that the same kind of trio forms up and soldiers are again seeking to capture a princess; however, it delves more into themes of identity, loyalty, and humanity than justice, trust, and family.

If anything is keeping the show from the higher ratings, it lies in the story not being complete.  Otherwise, it’s a great anime.

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Now, I need to figure out what I ought to watch for the summer season–besides Barakamon, Zankyo no Terror, Akame ga Kiru, and Psycho-Pass.

Picking on Black Bullet Again

Ah, these days, I have a hard time finding ideas for articles.  And so, I’ve decided to pick on Black Bullet for some things which excited my interest or peeves in the last three episodeswhich I watched on Crunchyroll.  I already wrote an article accusing Black Bullet of feeling trite or corny.  There were a few examples of that in these three episodes, but I prefer to concentrate on some other things.  Ready for a rambling rant?

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First, what is it with the Japanese obsession with numbers?  Especially as related to either chances of success or power levels?  (We all know that a plan which has a 0.0001% chance of success cannot possibly fail, right?)  In episode seven, Miori tells Rentaro that he has a power level rating of 2,200%, while Enju has one of 8,600% and Tina 12,900%.  While this is supposed to create a certain amount of suspense before the fight, one cannot get out of one’s mind that Rentaro will fight a little girl less than half his size.  It is very hard to make the audience enthusiastic about such a bout or to make the blond haired, blue eyed Tina appear that threatening.  (She’s not Balalaika, you know?)  In their defense, the fight was exciting, but I could not help feeling sorry for Tina when she got struck or thinking that Rentaro was more like a 13,000% than a 2,200% for that matter.

Tina vs Rentaro

Then, the scene immediately after the fight frustrated me on several accounts.  You had that punk attempt to execute Tina, as two persons with less strength than is in Rentaro’s index finger bring him to heel.  Rentaro just defeated terminator girl and allows himself to get manhandled by some losers?  Come on!  Before Tina is riddled with bullets, Seitenshi appears and rescues Rentaro and Tina by the might of her auctoritas, promoting Rentaro to #300.  Upon which, Rentaro shoots off the punk’s finger.  The hero just off and mutilates someone and Seitenshi, who’s all about peace and unity, just looks on.  Not saying that the punk did not deserve it, but what kind of society is she trying to build where cruel and unusual punishment is condoned?

Seitenshi

Another thing which annoyed me is well known to people that understand Japanese: the Japanese language and ordinary Japanese discourse is mostly free of curses.  If a Japanese person wants to insult someone, he mostly resorts to rude variations of the word “you” (temee, kisama, and omae) or prefixs kuso or bakato a person’s name.  And there are various forms of name calling, mostly revolving around whether someone is ugly or stupid.  But stuff that hardly counts as foul language!  And so, why does Yuyuki’s partner drop the f-bomb according to the subtitles?  He certainly doesn’t say the word, though he is speaking rudely to Rentaro.*  Surely, there was a more creative way to show his contempt for Rentaro?  The only place I recall anime characters actually using the f-word–an English loan word, by the way–is Black Lagoon.

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And there was one place, I do think the subber ought to have placed a pejorative where he did not.  As Rentaro is destroying Tina’s targeting sensors, he says, “Mittsu-me.”  This is simply translated as “three.”  But, you know, Rentaro often strikes me as a bland fellow.  Most other heroes would say “San-biki,” using the counter for a small, insignificant animal rather than the neutral counter –tsu.  It would really have added much more color and emotion to Rentaro if the subber tried to included the sense of the suffix -me by translating mittsu-me as “three of the damn things.”

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But, Black Bullet is a great show for what me and my friends affectionately term “anime lines.”  To understand what we mean, consider the following:

“I am going to kill many people and destroy many things, then my sister will be happy, and I will be satisfied. – (Full Metal Panic)

“People that dare to disturb a duel shall be run over by a tank!”
-Ritsuko (from Those who Hunt Elves)

“Our guns are useless against moving targets”
-Captian Romius (Gundam Seed)

“The 120 students that depend on baked goods sold on site will starve. The results are all too clear. Riots and pillaging. Moral decay. Order within the school will surely plummet.” -Hayashimizu (Full Metal Panic Fumoffu)

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You get the idea.  An anime line is a line so bizarre or random that one would only hear it in anime.  Take this one delivered by Rentaro to Tina: “When I met Enju, her eyes were even colder and more vacant than ours.” xD  Rentaro!  Do you really have no better object of comparison than your present selves?  Does this mean you believe both Tina and you have been divested of human warmth and emotion?  Then, Sumire’s “translation” of Rentaro’s promise to help Tina secures her position as my favorite character in the anime: “You’re a vital part of my little girl harem plan, there’s no way you’re getting away.”  I think her translation is perfect.

Black Bullet Sumire

I hope that you enjoyed this little ramble!

*Edit: I must thank AngryJellyfish for pointing out that the subbers did not needlessly add the curses, but that both Katagiri siblings actually did drop the f-bomb.  So, they provided an accurate, unbowdlerized translation.  For me needing several passes before I finally heard it, I accuse the Japanese voice actors of bad pronunciation. xD

Black Bullet and the Difficulty of Expressing Noble Sentiments

While watching Black Bullet last night, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines in episodes three and four struck me.  Don’t get me wrong: I find the show very enjoyable.  It boasts likable characters and some brilliant animation, especially in the way they draw the characters’ eyes.  Seitenshi has some of the most brilliant blues I’ve seen anywhere in anime.  (Yes, I’ve fallen in love.)  Still, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines and impossibility of surviving certain wounds bother me: having both kidneys pierced and a hole as wide as the Grand Canyon made in one’s abdomen are lethal even in most other shonen anime.

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Which brings us to the question of the difficulty of showing noble deeds and sentiments in a way which does not strike the audience as corny.  The difficulty is actually quite extreme: authors must be as noble as the ideas they wish to express.  Otherwise, these ideas come across as trite–rather than the writer being an authority on nobility, he thieves from the annals of heroes.  For example, those lines and scenes concerning the ostracism suffered by Enju, Rentaro’s insistence on her value and the value of other cursed children, and the gratitude for Rentaro’s acceptance shown by Kayo struck a chord with me.  Those times where Rentaro exclaims his zeal for saving the world, his condemnation of Kagetane’s actions, his perseverance in suffering through essentially mortal wounds, and risking transforming into a giant monster did not.

I had to fit her in somewhere. :)

I had to fit her in somewhere. 🙂

Everyone would like to write an epic; but those who have not suffered agony, strove nobly, or found their hearts aflame with great ideals cannot be expected to produce epics.  Emperor Augustus asked many poets to write an epic for the glory of Rome, but most excused themselves.  This developed into a tradition where Roman writers would publish their first work of poetry with an apology for not writing epic.  Only Virgil undertook the task, painstakingly composing an average of two lines per day.  And then, as Virgil lay dying, he begged his friends to burn the manuscript, because he thought that the manuscript lacked polish and stood as an inferior work–Virgil’s magnum opus, the Aeneid!

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Virgil’s self-doubt points to the second thing necessary to generate sublime thoughts: humility.  As we see Rentaro shrugging off mortal wounds or ripping off an artificial arm bound to his nervous system without hesitation, we become vexed at seeing the unreality of these actions.  These heroic acts lacked the aura of heroism because Rentaro does not display human weakness.  A good shonen anime does show that its characters struggle to overcome human weakness whether it be Kenshin’s temptation to give up living toward the end of his duel with Shishio, the doubts constantly assailing Kiba’s mind, or Inuyasha’s self-hatred and thirst for power.  And we cannot forget the hero of the greatest modern epic, Frodo Baggins, whose determination would have been vain had he not been supported by so many and Providence saved him from his own folly at the critical moment.

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One has difficulty identifying with Rentaro as a warrior.  He’s at his best while he supports Enju; but, in combat situations where he should have to struggle with human weakness, he proves to be an Übermensch having no weaknesses to overcome!  Would that the authors have added their own experience of physical suffering into Rentaro’s battles!  They would have been far more moving!