A Fantasy Novel by Yours Truly

Here, I’m going to try my hand at marketing–again.  As you see from the title, my dear readers, I’ve self-published a fantasy novel–a medieval, military, fantasy, adventure novel to be more precise.  The roots of this novel lie in an old manuscript I created at seventeen years of age and completed at nineteen.  The tome, dubbed Ketil’s Saga, stretched for over three hundred Word Document pages, was written in a pompous and abstruse style, and contains one of the most meandering plots never to have been inflicted on the public.  I dream of one day polishing it enough to be presentable trilogy; but, writing a new story set within the same world seems an easier proposition.

All Man’s Clotted Clay might be a familiar title, since this book was submitted to Athanatos Christian Ministries’ 2015 Novel Contest and made the semi-finals.  As such, it has received extensive editing by one of the contest judges and by yours truly–so much so that I developed a disgust for revising it and an irresistible urge to bring it before the reading public.  All Man’s Clotted Clay is set three hundred years before the events of the unpublished Ketil’s Saga.  It concerns the struggle of a heroic pikeman to win the love of his life and defeat the enemies of his country.  (What can I say?  I love romances of this sort–the medieval kind–and am even reading one such tale now: St. George for England by G. A. Henty.)

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The Moe Manifesto

I had the good fortune to win this book in a contest put up by Random Fantasy for a title from Tuttle Publishing.  The Moé Manifesto by Patrick W. Galbraith takes on the misunderstood topics of moé and otaku through looking at the perspectives of people as diverse as mangaka, singers, economists, psychologists, directors, and  self-professed otaku.  The interviews are generally of good quality.  The result is a fascinating work which I finished in practically one sitting.  The introductory chapter, where Patrick Galbraith explains his own views and history with the moé movement, is the most difficult to sit through; but, I would not recommend skipping it, because it holds very cogent information.  The pages turn quickly after that, a speed of reading which is helped by the fascinating and odd pictures included on every page.

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Urusei Yatsura: The Folly of Romance

Here’s a post I originally intended for my column on Beneath the Tangles.  However, I forgot that the site is concentrating on Key visual novels for Holy Week.  But, the article came out decently well and it have a perfect screencap for April Fools’ Day, so I’m posting it here.  Next week, I’ll go back to writing about Ashita no Joe for the column Examining Old School Anime.  Hope that you enjoy it!

This April Fools’ Day, let’s take a break from Ashita no Joe and delve into Urusei Yatsura instead.  I wished to write about something more humorous than usual and figured that romantic love made for the perfect topic.  But, just how is romantic love a religious topic?  Why, moral theology concerns itself with romance, especially the sins of lust, more than any other topic!  Consider that two out of the ten commandments prohibit lust, one of the Six Precepts of the Roman Catholic Church bids us to follow Church laws on marriage, St. Paul singles out fornication as the sin to avoid most (1 Cor. 6:18), fornication was a prominent issue at the very first Church Council in the Acts of the Apostles, romance stands as the chief difference between the ordinary vocation (marriage) and the other three vocations (single, priestly, and religious), and Christ’s very relationship with the Church is described as a kind of romance with the Church as the bride of Christ.

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But, the Church deals with romance as a grave matter; however, that’s the least helpful way to deal with romance in one’s personal life.  Imagine proposing to someone by saying that they wish to marry them in order to build up the Body of Christ and cool the flames of lust.  How quickly would anyone run away from such a proposal!  St. Francis de Sales puts the matter much better: “If a man and woman love each other, they should marry.”  Love itself has been described in Plato as “divine madness.”  When one considers all the absurdities and misunderstandings concomitant with romantic love, the idea of divine madness applies to this form of love more perfectly than the others.  Traditionally, these misunderstandings are said to have been caused by the Fall.  Yet, since Adam and Eve did not realize the simple concept that they should talk over major decisions before making them, the relationship between the sexes could not have been too much better in the state of Original Justice.

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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.

Attack on Titan and Claymore according to Max Scheler pt.2

Here’s the conclusion to the post of two days ago:

The mistake Attack on Titan made was to introduce tragedy before we had ample time to get to know the three main heroes, creating few places for identification due to the hopelessness and harshness of the world in which they lived, and shortly into the series introduced plenty of characters to ensure that we could never truly get to know the protagonists or any of the other characters either. Concerning the former, the very first episode gives us a few places to try to identify with the three main characters: they help one of their number against some bullies and two have a nice family. However, the very situation of being in a walled town surrounded by man-eating giants with technology similar to the Renaissance period of Europe demands that more than this is given to the audience for identification to take place.

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A couple of other things which don’t help is that one protagonist, Eren, wishes to join an elite combat unit designed to kill giants beyond the walls and that his adopted sister wishes simply to follow him wherever he goes. Not many children in modern society are driven to join an elite combat unit designed for what is essentially a Reconquista at the age of fifteen! Also, in modern society, most women don’t set the goal for themselves of meekly following in their brother’s footsteps. Then, any hope of us identifying with them as a family unit is destroyed by a giant killing the protagonists’ mother and the break up of the family following the giants breaking into the walled city.

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An additional charge against this world is that the people are too cruel and cowardice too rampant. The cowardice among military personnel reaches heights never seen in history or present times—at least, among the European nations from where we base our understanding of the medieval world or America, the country with which yours truly identifies most closely. Even if their opponents are giants, military men cringing in fear and running away from the combat for which they were trained sharply differs from the conduct of soldiers from all eras. Furthermore, the majority of the people are shown to be greedy, selfish, and generally sheep to be slaughtered. This kind of attitude dehumanizes people, who are made in the image and likeness of God, because we see a universal lack of virtue by which human beings show their excellence.

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Of course people have faults, but they are less than they should be in this regard. The total lack of virtue makes them less than human, taking away another level of identification. At least in Claymore, we have soldiers in the Holy City who are universally more ready to die than back down before the monsters laying waste to their city. Going back to Attack on Titan, we are greeted to an episode showing how the heroine’s family was killed by slave traders when she was very young so that they might capture the heroine for the child slave trade. Eren, also very young at this point, was forced to rescue her by killing two of the three slavers. The heroine killed the third to save Eren’s life. Most people, due to the extreme horror with which child sex slavery inspires, cannot really identify with a world where people make a living according to this trade. Even though it really exists on this earth, nothing quite so demonstrates the dictum that evil is a deficiency of being rather than a positive existence. Also, children generally do not kill at this age, and this marks yet another difficulty in bringing people to identify with the characters.

Mikasa, my favorite character from this series.

Mikasa, my favorite character from this series.

Claymore‘s technology is less than that of Attack on Titan, also involves monster slaying, tends toward the dramatic, and proffers characters who are essentially superheroes; yet, they succeed in making the audience identify better both with the heroes and villains than Attack on Titan. Claymore almost appears to be a study in identification. The first episode features Raki, a young orphan, meeting Claire, one of the aforementioned superheroes known as Claymores due to the long blades they wield, in a backwater town. Everyone is scared of Claymores, but Raki appears drawn to Claire and accompanies her through his town asking questions. This is all meanwhile the villagers hide in their homes scared of both the monster concealed in the village and the Claymore sent to save them from it! This reminds one of the first principle of love which Scheler describes: “In the spiritual love of the person, a new principle comes to light. For apart from his acceptance of the mere existence of the other person as given…’Persons’ cannot be intuitively understood (by reproduction of their spiritual acts), unless they spontaneously disclose themselves.”1 Claire has a bit of difficulty opening up, since she’s used to being shunned by everyone except other Claymores. Raki seems to have more in common with Claire than the other villagers: his very courage is such that the sight of his family having been just massacred by the monster does not deter him from trying to strike the monster, and he continues struggling against it until Claire comes to save him. Once Claire leaves, the villagers toss Raki out of town, fearing that he might by way of infection become a monster himself!

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Despite this ostracism and the grim nature of the second episode, where Claire must kill a friend who has succumbed to the monster side of hers (It turns out that Claymores gain their powers by grafting the monsters’ flesh into their bodies, giving them a dark side which eventually overcomes them.), the high level of tragedy does not deflect the viewers’ feelings permanently down the road of benevolence. The reason for this is the conversation that goes on between Raki and Claire, whereby they learn new things about each other and come to realize how similar they are. In spite of Claire’s cold exterior, we also see the beginnings of a romantic relationship between the two—more fully realized in the comic than in the anime. By this constant self-revelation, we are drawn to move from the level of identification through all the levels of sympathy until love for the characters is ultimately reached. Therefore, we do not look upon their grimmest hardships with an attitude of mere good will but our emotions become truly entangled in theirs, and the greater the struggle, the more the audience desires to see the victory.

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So, I hope by the juxtaposition of why Claymore succeeded while Attack on Titan failed shows the necessity of love for good drama, especially over an extended period of time. For such love to be reached, the writer must follow the ideas Max Scheler described in order to bring the audience through the lower levels of sympathy to love. If cogent identification cannot be established between the audience and the characters, then the audience can never fall in love with the heroes. Without this love binding the two, the audience would probably rather be in the mood to ask the writer to no longer place his characters in the midst of horrendous suffering than eagerly hope for their triumph.

1p. 101.