An Image of the Noonday Devil from Rurouni Kenshin

 

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A couple of days ago, I wrote an article on the vice of acedia, which recalled itself to my mind while reading the twenty-fourth volume of Rurouni Kenshin.  Within its pages, I found a perfect image of the noonday devil.  This character perfectly described the end goal of this demon.  Permit me to translate liberally the scene below.  Forgive me if the picture quality of the images isn’t perfect.  It’s impossible to get a tankobun to lie flat!

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Sunshine Award and National Blog Posting Month 2015

Happy All Saint’s Day!  Here comes that time of year where I attempt to write one post per diem in honor of National Blog Posting Month!  Last year marked the first time I managed to write or reblog one article every day.  This year, I’d like to keep up that tradition.  The post, Some Articles Percolating in My Mind, will give you an idea of what you may expect over the course of the coming month.  You should also see posts on volume 24 of Rurouni Kenshin and a biography on the Black Prince coming soon, which I should have written last month.  (See Candlemas Resolutions in the post mentioned above)  Prompted by Luminas in my last article, I intend to write a narrative about my pilgrimage to the relics of St. Maria Goretti, which were exhibited in Duluth, Georgia on October 27th.  The veneration of relics strikes Protestants and others as a weird thing Catholics and Orthodox Christians do, but we can at least claim a long history for it: “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:12-13).  So, the New Testament records the great power of relics; in this case, third class relics, which are of the kind I gained from this event.

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But, “Sunshine Award” is in the title!  Yours truly has received three nominations for the Sunshine Award and two sets of questions.  Thanks to Jusuchin, InfinityZenith, and Animecommentary for their nominations!  Each one has a truly  unique blog.  I encourage avid fans of military hardware and anime to check out A Journey Through Life, enthusiasts for detailed reviews of an eclectic assortment of anime and video games to look at The Infinite Zenith, and connoisseurs who like deep episodic anime reviews and reviews of classic old cartoons and movies to take a look at Anime Commentary on the March.

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A Great Series on the Katana

Recently, I discovered a new YouTube Channel called “I am Shad” through Shad’s video on the Kite or Norman shield.  Shad is about as entertaining to watch as Skallagrim and as factually reliable as Matt Easton–though, not with that gentleman’s depth of knowledge.  Shad’s excellent sense of humor and solid interpretation of the facts manifest themselves well in “The TRUTH about the Katana.”  This series delves into the strengths and weaknesses of the katana’s forging process and its design in the most even-handed manner I’ve yet seen.  I found myself hooked on this series as soon as he used Rurouni Kenshin for a reference point.  Few anime fans don’t have an interest in katana, so I encourage all my dear readers to check out this series.  Parts one through four are short enough to be watched in tandem, however the last video is almost fifty minutes long.  Enjoy!

The TRUTH about the Katana, part 1: Introduction

The TRUTH about the Katana, part 2: What it is Made from

The TRUTH about the Katana, part 4: Differential Hardening

The TRUTH about the Katana, part 5: Design and Shape

Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

Today is my last quote for this challenge, and I can’t help but make it anime related.  It is also the pithiest.  Thanks again to akkoanime for selecting me as a participant.

The Rules:
  • Post one quotation a day for three days (they can be from other sources or one of your own).
  • Nominate 3 other bloggers to participate per post.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
Hajime

You can see the kanji in the left paragraph, second line.

Quote for the Third Day

Aku Soku Zan–Slay evil at once!

-Hajime Saito

This was the motto of the Shinsengumi, but Saito Hajime’s use of the quote in Rurouni Kenshin probably stands as the most famous instance of its use.  The first thing which comes to my mind upon hearing this is the end of Psalm 137: “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”  From a literal reading, this verse sounds messed up.  Blessing someone who smashes Babylonian children against a rock!?  How barbaric!  

However, there is always a spiritual manner of reading everything in Scripture.  The curses in the Psalms are no longer applied to the enemies of Israel, but the true enemies of the Church: demons.  If we take the Kingdom of Babylon to refer to the Kingdom of Evil which opposes the Church, the spiritual meaning of the above verse is quite clear: blessed is the man who dashes small vices against the rock of true doctrine.  One is blessed if one stamps out vices while they are yet small so that he will not have to contend against them when they have become established evil habits or addictions.  Don’t even give them a chance–Aku Soku Zan!

My Nominees:
  1. Josh W of Res Studiorum et Ludorum
  2. Japes of Japesland
  3. Tobby of The Overlord Bear’s Den

Nihongo no Hon #3: Rurouni Kenshin Volume 23

The twenty-third volume of Rurouni Kenshin forms part of the Jinchuu Arc and distinguishes itself for its two duels: Saito vs. Yatsume (Literally, “eight eyes,” but typing it out in English makes it look like “the damn guy.” xD) and Kenshin vs. Enishi.  Yatsume is one of the assassins who originally tried to kill Kenshin in the trap set for him by the Tokugawa gov’t during the last days of the Shogunate, but Yatsume fled after Kenshin thrust a wakizashi through his hand.  He felt disappointed not to fight Kenshin first, but you can be certain that Saito was more than a match for him–a very exciting duel indeed.  We learn about the origins of both Yatsume and Enishi’s prowess; though, I could not help but feel underwhelmed with the “pirate martial arts” of which Enishi boasts.  After all, English pirates beat Wakou in one famous encounter.  Perhaps, George Silver’s English martial arts is superior to both Watou-jutsu and Hitenmitsurugi-ryu?  Anyway, you can tell that I’m annoyed with this made up martial art.  Let me continue with the article.

Saito, the most awesome character in manga, levels insults almost as well as Alucard.

Saito, the most awesome character in manga, levels insults almost as well as Alucard.

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Liebster Award Again!

Medieval Otaku has once again nominated for a Liebster Award, my dear readers!  At first, I thought that I would have to refuse since my site now boasts more than two hundred followers, but the rules have been amended since last I received the award.  This time, I must thank three fellow bloggers for their nominations: Masq of Behind the Masq, Tobby of The Overlord Bear’s Den, and Josh W of Res Studiorum et Ludorum.  (I love that pretentious Latin title.)  Masq nominated me back in February, but I kept putting off this post.  The other two nominated me recently, and so reminded me.  I shall answer all of their questions and hope that this post amuses you for the two hours or so it will take to read.  (Just kidding!)

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Let me post the most current rules for the Liebster Award, which Wording Well displays on that site:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Hajime Saito

To my mind, it seems more orderly to list the random facts about myself first.  Here they are:

1.  I love swords.  I currently own four of them: a Norman sword (a broadsword which favors the cut but has enough of a point to stab with), a viking sword, a Catalonian sword (circa 14th century.  A light sword which cuts as well as it thrusts.), and an O-katana (a katana with a thirty-six inch blade–the kind only carried by the strongest samurai.)

2.  My favorite composer is Antonio Vivaldi, especially for his La Stravaganza.

3.  My favorite work of Tolkien’s is The Hobbit.  I like that book so much that I even bought the Latin translation of it, Hobbitus Ille.

4.  Despite my avatar being Sven Vollfied, I’d have to say that my favorite anime character is Hajime Saito of Rurouni KenshinAku Soku Zan!

5.  My first experience of the Japanese came through watching WWII films, from which I concluded that the Japanese were the most lousy, underhanded, and cruel race upon earth.  If not for my interest in martial arts, I might have retained that unfortunate opinion–only applicable to certain Japanese of the Second World War.

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6.  My favorite Japanese actor of all time is Toshiro Mifune, especially for his samurai roles.  He became an actor by his friends applying to a “new faces” contest in Mifune’s name without his knowledge!

7.  I learned Japanese so I would not have to wait for Viz Media to translate Inuyasha.  They’re abominably slow, I tell you!

8.  One work in my possession, The U.S.S. Seawolf: Submarine Raider of the Pacific, was a Christmas gift to me from my grammar school library, because no other student wanted to take it out.

9.  Arizona is my favorite state.  I hope to be able to retire there if I cannot find a way to become a permanent resident sooner.  My brother’s beating me to it by going to law school there.

10.  I am part of a very small minority who not only likes Lost Universe, but considers it one of their top twenty anime.  As a matter of fact, the existence of another such person is highly improbable.

11.  When I was young, I used to be part of the Sea Cadets.  At the time, I hated the experience, but it gave me many fine stories to tell and made me a little less shy.

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Now, onto the bloggers’ questions!  Here Masq’s list with my answers:

1. Why did you start blogging?

My dream has always been to write fiction, particularly fantasy fiction a la Tolkien.  But, the desire to write fell dormant after I won placed third in Athanatos Christian Ministries’ Short Story Contest for The Death of St. Magnus of Orkney until the writing bug hit me again two years ago.  This blog covered all my hobbies with the hope that my writing muscle would become stronger by doing so.  Now, my writing serves an aspiring cartoonist, and I hope to have a couple of novels out before the end of the year–sans blague!  (That’s French for “no kidding!”)

2. What is your favorite anime to date and why?

Rurouni Kenshin.  The characters have great personalities and compelling back stories, the animation is beautiful, the fights are awesome, the story arcs mesmerize the viewer, the characters defend interesting philosophies with both their blades and their words, and it gives surprisingly accurate historical information on Meiji Japan.  I doubt a better anime will ever come out of Japan!

3. What is your favorite video game and why?

Crusaders of Might and Magic.  Ask my brother and he’ll tell you that the frequency with which I replayed this game drove him nuts.  I loved Drake, the noble mercenary who defies a powerful necromancer as he foils all the necromancer’s plots.  It’s an old game and somewhat simple, but I loved the story and the combat.

4. You discover a Pokemon egg in your room.  It will hatch into whatever Pokemon you wish.  What do you choose and why?

An Arcanine.  I never got into Pokemon, but that one looks cool.

Arcanine

5. If you were to give advice for someone trying to start a blog, what would be the one tip you’d give them?

Be sure to read and comment on other blogs.  That’s the most important thing.  It’s better to write once a fortnight as long as one is active in the blogging community than to write frequently in obscurity.

6. Apples or Oranges?

Oranges.  They taste better and are used for more cocktails–especially the Old Fashioned!

7. What is your favorite non-anime TV show?

Magnum P.I.  Tom Selleck plays a great Hawaiian P.I. with a very complex history and persona.

8. Name one old TV series that should not be rebooted.

The Brady Bunch.

9. What board game should Michael Bay turn into a movie next?

Shadows over Camelot.  It would be fun to see how he weaves the game’s features into Arthurian legend–especially whether he shall include a traitor among the Knights of the Round Table.

10. What is your favorite Animal?

Wolves.  I have always been fascinated by how wolves run a kind of society and they are beautiful creatures.

Two Wolves

Now for Tobby’s questions:

1. What sort of music do you like?

J-pop, Classical, and 80’s music.

2. Is there a foreigner-made artwork that you really like?

I have a print of Jesus during the agony in the garden signed by Vicente Roso.  I believe this is the same Roso who’s famous for the comic Florita, but I might be wrong.  I love how the picture displays the world lying in darkness while Jesus is the light which will scatter this darkness.  In addition, Christ appears alone against all this darkness–even the three apostles lie in a deep sleep, but He is looking up to show that He has confidence in His Father’s plans for Him.

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3. Is there a fictional story that you would like to recommend?

Having read the comment that no one reads Sir Walter Scott anymore and determined that experience shows this to be true, I want to recommend Quentin Durward to my readers.  It focuses on a young Scot who travels to France to join King Louis XI’s Scottish bodyguards.  It also features the character Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy and stands as the most fun and easy to read of Sir Walter Scott’s works–at least, to my knowledge.

4. What do you usually do when you’re in the Internet?

I suppose blogging or playing on chess.com occupy most of my web browsing.

5. Have you ever had to deal with a really short-tempered child?

No, thankfully.

6. Do you think that you are an optimist?

Yes, sometimes I think that I’m crazy for being one, but I still am.

7. What is your preferred way of dealing with people who hate you?

I pray for them and stay out of their hair.  If I were a better Christian, I would greet them with smiles, but I confess to being rather lousy!

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Padre Pio, one of my favorite models for leading a Christian life.

8. Do you think that the death penalty is a good way to curb crime?

Yes, it prevents repeat offenses.  At any rate, there seem to be a certain set of people who are either impenitent or will repent at nothing less than the threat of their own demise.

9. Who is the family member that inspired you most?

I believe that my mother, father, grandfather, and grandmother have all inspired me greatly.  Of all of them, I feel most inspired by my grandfather, who had several languages under his command, was a great student of European history, and led a very interesting life in Croatia during the Second World War, under the Communists afterwards, and when he emigrated for America in 1967.

10. In three to five words, what are your values?

Wisdom, Knowledge, Compassion, Patience, Loyalty.

11. What is your favorite food?

A stew based on a family recipe known as gumbo, though the concoction of pasta sauce, barbeque sauce, Tabasco, peppers, garlic, onion, chicken, and hot Italian sausage does not count as a traditional gumbo.  Over spaghetti with the right amount of heat, nothing else is so good!

Inuyasha and Ramen

Now for Josh W’s questions:

1. Prog rock or punk?

Definitely progressive rock!

2. What book(s) are you reading right now?

I have the horrendous practice of perusing many works until a particular work absorbs my interest and I read through it.  At the moment, I’m reading the following: Virgil’s Aeneid (in Latin, of course.  Translations of this work are lame.), The Lord of the Rings, St. Thomas Aquinas’ On Prayer and Contemplation, Aquinas’ Catena Aurea: Gospel of Matthew, Michael Dirda’s On Conan Doyle, Kipling’s The Light That Failed, volume one of Churchill’s history of WWII, Vikings: A History of the Norse Peoples by Martin J. Doughty, and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.  I might also add that I listen to Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities or Stevenson’s Treasure Island while driving or occupied such that I cannot focus on a printed book.  I could also add various manga, but that list is already long enough.

3. If you could instantaneously become fluent in one language which you are not already, which would it be?

Might as well pick a language I feel is beyond my capabilities: Classical Chinese.  Then, I would read the Four Great Classical Novels in the original form: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber.

4. Name one piece of media, literary, musical, visual etc. which you believe has had a significant effect on your life.

Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk by Fr. M. Raymond.  This is the most profound work I’ve ever read.  It teaches about the importance of each individual person in the history of salvation, and I would highly recommend my fellow Catholics to read it.

SSOTM

5. Has your worldview ever undergone dramatic changes? How many times?

I suppose that reading Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk counts as the first.  Oblomov convincing me of the importance of friends stands as the second.  I can think of other changes, but they do not seem as dramatic to me.

6. Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest?

Never played Dragon Quest, and so I must go with Final Fantasy–especially Final Fantasy VIII.  I remember the days when the graphics of that game held me spellbound!

7. Favourite kind of verse?

Classical love poetry.  Ovid is my favorite poet, and I would heartily recommend his Heroides and Erotic Poems.  Concerning the latter, the seventh poem in book three has to be the funniest poem I’ve ever read–and not rated X, I assure you!

8. Are you a bot pretending to be a human? Please type: rI45yeARal3

Aquinas Bot

9. Favourite short story collection?

Of anything which I have read, nothing beats Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes.  I’ll just put The Complete Sherlock Holmes here.

10. Is it obvious that I am straining to come up with questions at this point?

It was obvious at #8.  I’ll be in the same boat shortly.

11. Would you rather be in Agamemnon’s army, or Odysseus’ crew?

Agamemnon’s army.  The chance for glory on the battlefield seems greater than finding it by risking death from cyclopes, oblivion by way of opium, or walking off a roof with a hangover.

Diomedes

My nominees:

Gaikokumaniakku

A Journey Through Life

Croatia by Us

Fox Diary

GAR GAR Stegosaurus

Gentlemanotoku’s Anime Circle

Yaranakya

Viking History with C. J. Adrian

The Null Set

Pretense w/Glasses

Head Noises

I hope that you enjoyed reading my answers in this oppressively long article!  Now, I shall wrap up with the questions I have for my nominees, which may not significantly differ from the questions I answered above.

  1. Do you watch the Olympics?
  2. Who is your favorite historical figure?
  3. Vikings vs. Samurai.  Who wins on a level playing ground?
  4. Do you like Jane Austen’s books?
  5. If your were marooned on a desert island with little possibility of rescue, which five books would you want to have with you?
  6. Also, a lifetime supply of what drink would you want to have with you on that island?
  7. Have you ever thought about joining the military or joined it?  Which branch?
  8. If for one night you could dine with anyone–living or dead, who would it be?
  9. If for a fortnight you could be transported into a fantasy world before returning to the real world, which one would it be?
  10. (For men) If you could grow a beard like JEB Stuart’s, would you?  (For women) If you could be any height you wished, what would it be?
  11. What’s your favorite sea creature?

And here’s a picture of Jeb Stuart if you are unfamiliar with his glorious beard:

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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!

Chronoire Schwarz VI

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.

Day One of 10 Days to 300: Tokyo Godfathers

The first time this movie came to my knowledge was during junior year of high school.  The disease known as otakuism just infected me through Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin.  The magazine Anime Insider became my second favorite monthly publication after American Hunter.  (Due to our father never taking my brother and I shooting, Anime Insider soon became my first.  That which one can realize is ever superior to that which one must dream about!)  When the new issue of Anime Insider was released, the most important task of the day was to absorb all the material it contained from the Editor’s Letter to the Parting Shot; though, I confess that The Death of the Month was my favorite recurrent feature.  Around this time, the magazine must have praised Tokyo Godfathers.  And so, I recommended to my father that we watch this movie.  (He had become interested in anime through Vampire Hunter D, Princess Mononoke, and Rurouni Kenshin.)  However, the inclusion of a transvestite among the main characters caused him to strike down this recommendation.  Being an obedient child, I decided that this was sufficient cause never to watch this movie myself.

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After ten years of hearing praise concerning this film, I included it among the choices for the present series, “10 Days to 300.”  A part of me was surprised that it made it to the #1 spot in the poll, but after watching the film, I can see why so many people love this movie.  The presence of the transvestite bothered me a little at first until I accepted the character as he was.  Hana is the highest minded of the three characters, which is shown by his knowledge of Dostoyevsky and predilection for composing haiku on the fly.

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The thing which surprised me most about he movie was the degree of action it contained.  Gin, the bearded protagonist, remarks that he’s no action movie hero.  Naturally, he later features in some of the hairiest situations in the film.  As expected, the film probed human nature, had great characters, and featured excellent comedy.  Miyuki, the runaway, gives some of the best laughs.  Aya Okamoto does a superb job voicing her, which makes it a shame that she has not done any other anime roles and seems to have retired from acting after Metro ni Notte (2006).

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Overall, the film stands as a great work.  It earns high marks for its story and characters, each of whom has an interesting story about how they wound up on the streets.  Themes of family and forgiveness run throughout–important for a country which seems to dislike the positive use of the verb yurusu “to forgive.”  These themes were rendered yet more touching by the action being set on Christmas.  Also interesting is the theme of Providence–that Kiyoko is especially blessed by God.  I must say that the climax of the movie and that Gin’s relationship with her causes him to come into possession of two bottles of Hennessy V.S.O.P. certainly prove it!

Who says the two shall never meet?

Who says the two shall never meet?

If any of my readers have not seen this film, I recommend them to do so–nevermind Hana!

Crunchyroll Streaming Rurouni Kenshin!!!

I was ecstatic to learn that Crunchyroll is now streaming Rurouni Kenshin!  One can’t watch it until January 1st if one’s not a premium member, but that’s not a problem in my case.  For a moment, I feared that they would be streaming the European version of the English dub, which is horrible unless one wants a good laugh.  But, I heard the talents of Dorothy Menendez and Richard Hayworth, and my heart was set at ease.  Having heard the dub before the sub, I have developed an aversion to hearing Kenshin voiced by a women.  However, this did not bother me in Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, where I prefer the sub–probably because Kenshin is younger during those events.

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Seeing that announcement made me think that I was running a fever.

Anyway, here’s the thread about it: Rurouni Kenshin Holiday Special.  Cheers to Crunchyroll for the nice Christmas gift!

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Samurai X and St. Bonaventure

This is interesting.  I got the option to combine Anime and Philosophy on a paper a while back.  Despite a certain stuffiness of style inherent in all such work, some of my dear readers might appreciate it.  Especially how it remarks on the Christian themes found in Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal.  You might want to read St. Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind to God before reading it, and I congratulate beforehand anyone with the stamina to go through it all.  : ) Let me just remark that much of St. Bonaventure’s work relies on the idea of steps leading the mind up to God as symbolized by a six-winged Seraph bearing a crucifix.  Each of the wings is a different step with the Cross, or the Mercy-Seat, being the highest step.

Here’s to a long academic article with pictures!

Turning one’s countenance to the Mercy-Seat: A Bonaventurian Reading of Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal

This essay will concern the Bonaventurian theme of the importance of the Mercy-Seat between the two Cherubim and meditation on the Passion and Death of Christ in healing the wounds in our nature as found in the movie Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal. Set in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate just before the onset of the Meiji Era (circa 1864), the film begins by presenting the problem of evil and questioning how to cure it. The two divergent paths offered by the characters for curing the ills afflicting society are justice and mercy. Overall, the film offers mercy and forgiveness as the best ways to overcome the wounds caused by evil. Specifically, it points to the reconciliation brought about by Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross as the best and only way in which this is effected. The main problem with justice is that it relies on human beings who have flawed notions about how to distribute justice. Ofttimes, murder passes for justice in certain cases, particularly in our hero’s mode of being an assassin. Instead, mercy is more effective and more divine, the last attribute being made most apparent by the film beginning with a cross and ending with a cross.

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The very first words of the film, spoken by Kenshin’s master shortly before they meet, are “They are sick, the times and men’s hearts.” He goes on to lament that not even a man of colossal power could fix it, which I believe begins to point to the fact that only God can bring salvation. While Bonaventure does not delve much into the fallen state of the world, he does note the personal sins and vice affecting men’s souls and how it is necessary to polish them in order to enter contemplation: “Wherefore, it is through groans of prayer through Christ Crucified, in whose blood we are cleansed from the filth of the vices, that I first of all invite the reader.”1 The film powerfully shows the corruption afflicting mankind at the same time as Kenshin’s master laments it. Bandits slaughter the caravan in which Kenshin travels during this monologue, and Kenshin’s master only arrives in time enough to save Kenshin himself.

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The wounds on the people seem to reflect the wounded nature of men’s souls and the ugliness of the wounds clash with the beauty and goodness with which nature was created. To highlight this, this animation contains many views of beautiful scenery, which the characters often praise and which are sometimes juxtaposed to the murders which happen against this background. For example, when Kenshin joins the revolution as an assassin, he cuts down his first mark amidst a beautiful forest on a sunny day. This seems to deliberately attempt to show that men’s sinfulness goes against the goodness of creation. To highlight the discordant nature of the act, this scene is accompanied by some rather mellow music. (This is the case in the original soundtrack: the American release often dubs in music which are more in accord with the darkness of the action than the nature of the scene.) This ties into Bonaventure’s theory on the musical nature of the universe—drawn from St. Augustine’s work, which is found in chapter two of Journey of the Mind to God. God creates the world as a beautiful symphony, and men are supposed to align themselves within this symphony.

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In the case mentioned above, to a comrade’s praise for for not cracking during his first kill. Kenshin responds by saying that he does not feel anything. Rather than allowing the beauty of nature around him to understand the ugliness of his action, he hardens his heart against this inclination, which shows how contemplation does not suffice for bringing people to conversion.

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To return to Kenshin meeting his future master of swordsmanship, the wandering master leaves Kenshin to find a family to adopt him—a rather callous thing to do to a young boy. Yet, the master returns one week later to this same area in order to bury the bodies of the slain to find a field of crosses at that place. Kenshin decided on his own to bury all the slain, peasants and bandits, without exception. Not only did he owe nothing to the bandits, but he was actually a slave to those in the caravan. The sword master is so impressed by this act that he decides to adopt him as his pupil. This scene is the first time we see the cross, the Mercy-Seat, and it is accompanied by an act of mercy. This kind of mercy and forgiveness can heal whatever rancor Kenshin felt against both parties. His master will often remark on how pure Kenshin is during their years training.

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Unfortunately, Kenshin forgets the superiority of mercy and walks down the road of justice—or, more properly speaking, human justice (jinchuu in Japanese). At this point, Kenshin is a capable swordsman of about fourteen. (Very young, but it must be remembered that in American colonial times fifteen was the age one entered the militia.) In a scene reminiscent of the story of the prodigal son, he urges his master to let him participate in the conflict against the oppressive Tokugawa Shogunate. His master tries to dissuade him, noting that he shall become a pawn for one of the factions in this battle and that they shall use him for murder. Kenshin still insists upon how joining such a faction would help the suffering, and so his master lets him go.

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It is interesting to note that this training took place on a mountain top, and that Bonaventure’s contemplation of St. Francis’s vision of the six-winged Seraph took place on a mountain, and he often refers to mountains as a place for contemplation: “the mountain height where the God of gods is seen in Zion.2 Kenshin goes wrong when he decides to leave from the mountain, and it is not until later, when he has stained his hands with the blood of so many of his political opponents, that he again ascends a mountain and arrives at a level of peace in his soul and the realization that he had been doing wrong. Both the film and Bonaventure place a high regard on contemplation and removing oneself from the press of daily life. But, the methods of contemplation employed by Kenshin never goes beyond the second wing of the Seraph, which points to its insufficiency in completely healing his soul as I shall speak of later. Rather, he must perceive his wounded nature and bring it to the cross.

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After a while at this work, Kenshin runs into a target with a couple of body guards during the midst of night. The last one of them alive, a young bodyguard who is betrothed to a girl in his hometown of Otsu, wounds Kenshin on the cheek before succumbing to Kenshin’s prowess. Two remarks from the film are notable concerning this wound, both of which are delivered by the person in charged of cleaning up the scene of the crime. In the first, he remarks that he had never thought to see a wound on him. This wound symbolizes the interior wounds he has and will lead him out of the self-assurance he has that he kills justly. This is not the kind of attitude one must bring to meditating on God’s goodness, which must be sought by “the humble and pious, the contrite and devout.”3 Kenshin severely lacks any of these qualities in his current state, two years into Lord Katsura’s service.

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The first motion we have of Kenshin’s interior change comes when his associate says his second remark. When Kenshin’s wound randomly reopens, he tells him that superstitious people would say that the spirit of the bodyguard is seeking revenge. Kenshin’s eyes widen, and for the first time we see that he is capable of fear—fear that he might have done something worthy of punishment. This salutary fear may be compared to fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom. If the seven chapters of Bonaventure relate to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the first of which being the fear or awe of God, then Kenshin has finally reached the first step in the ladder of divine ascent.

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He reaches the second when he meets the heroine, Tomoe, for the first time. They meet right as Kenshin kills an assassin who had been sent after him, causing blood to fall on her apparel. In a state of intoxication, she tells him that he made the rain bleed. This seem to be an reference to how the fall caused nature itself to be corrupted, and Kenshin, by sinning in Adam, has further added to the fallen nature of the world. At any rate, Tomoe passes out and Kenshin charitably decides to bring her to the inn where he states, where she soon finds work and they develop a rather stiff relationship—Kenshin is not the most approachable individual.

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After his faction loses power in Kyoto and all the member must go into hiding, Kenshin and Tomoe are asked by Lord Katsura to escape the city and reside far in the country pretending to be husband and wife. Tomoe, who had left her family in Otsu, agrees. Through living in the country upon his mountain home and performing an honest living, Kenshin gradually begins to hate the life he had led, and promises to quit the life of an assassin. At the same time, the pseudo-couple falls completely in love. While love is not expressly named as a step of contemplation, it is surely the fastest way to having a fuller understanding of God, who is Love and who’s very Love led him to die for us on a cross.

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At this point, the stage is set for the Passion. Purification cannot be complete without contrition and meditating on the Passion. One morning, Kenshin awakes to find that Tomoe has left and his comrade waiting for him at the door of their cottage. This comrade had actually turned traitor ere this point and is now working for the Shogun. He tells Kenshin that Tomoe was the fiance of the bodyguard who wounded Kenshin. Upon learning this, Kenshin’s wound opens up again—as if to say that no amount of spiritual healing is complete without the blood of Christ. And so, he sets off to find her.

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At the same time, Tomoe, who has long since forgiven Kenshin’s crime, reports to the Shogunate soldier who is responsible for Kenshin’s dispatching that Kenshin is still as formidable as ever. (They had been hoping that his skill would worsen during this time with his lack of practice and the softening of his heart.) This particular soldier refuses to believe her, and Tomoe fails in her attempt to kill him with a dagger she carries about her person.

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In a scene reminiscent of the Agony in the Garden, the Shogunate official reminds her of the justice owed her fiance and how the strict order imposed by the Shogunate, which restrains man from acting on their baser self, needs to be preserved through killing its opponents. And so, we see how the other side of the political spectrum also resorts to a flawed idea of justice. He eventually leaves her in the Shinto shrine where they had met, where she is tormented by visions of her former fiance, which seem to demand justice.

At the same time, Kenshin undergoes his own suffering as he feels betrayed by Tomoe and seems to relive the past on his march to where the Shogunate official has set his trap. This march is reminiscent of the Agony in the Garden due to his mental anguish. Also, at the end of it, he shouts, “Let’s go to Otsu!” This indicates that he does not wish to avenge himself on Tomoe, but to be reconciled not only with her but even perhaps with her family. So, we have the beginnings of the triumph of mercy over justice. This symbolizes the mercy which heals men’s souls.

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After taking wounds defeating the henchmen who ambush Kenshin on the way, he finally meets the powerful Shogunate soldier in a duel and almost loses. He puts all his strength into one final, blind, and futile strike. What saves him from certain death is that Tomoe rushed in front of the dagger heading toward Kenshin to block it and is unfortunately cut down by Kenshin simultaneously with the Shogunate soldier. We are left with two more images of the passion as Tomoe lies in Kenshin’s arms in a way recalling the Pieta and Tomoe, as her final act, makes a cross on Kenshin’s cheek by cutting perpendicularly to the cut made by her fiance. At the end of the film, Kenshin vows to live a life repenting for his misdeeds.

In conclusion, the film seems to showcase Bonaventurian ideas pertaining to the necessity of penance and meditation on the Passion before the soul stained by sin can meditate on the natural world and arrive at a true understanding at the nature of things. While justice is important in ruling individual lives, preference is given to mercy in restoring the order of creation, which had been damaged by sin. Thus, the Mercy-Seat holds the prime place in both the philosophy of St. Bonaventure and the creator of Samurai X.

1St. Bonaventure. Journey of the Mind to God, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993), 2.

2Ibid., 8.

3Ibid., 2.

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.

 

A Medieval Interrogation

Having read several articles based on this series of chain posts, the thought that someone would select me as part of it never crossed my mind.  But, Marlin-sama of the blog Ashita no Anime has tagged me, so I will do my best to answer his questions and find people to tag.  Here are the rules:

Introduction

  • Each person is supposed to follow the rule of fives. You are allowed to ask 5 questions, after which you can tag up to 5 bloggers by hyper-linking to their blog; 5 questions because it’s not too many to flood another blogger and occupy too much of his/her time, but yet a large enough number to ask your most important questions, and 5 bloggers to avoid spamming. Hence, prioritize your questions, and who you wish to ask!
  • Those tagged are obliged to answer the questions in a blog post, and after which, they are entitled to create their own 5 questions and tag 5 other bloggers, so on and so fourth. You should answer your own 5 questions as well. You are allowed to tag the person that tagged you in the first place. Also, copy and paste this section on your blog so others can understand how the game goes.
  • In the case where a blogger strongly refuses to answer a question, he/she must instead post a nice anime image, wallpaper or cosplay picture, et cetera in response to that question.
  • To make things interesting, a blogger can include wildcards in his/her 5 questions by placing an asterisk, (*), after which those tagged are obliged to reveal something interesting about themselves that others did not previously know. There is no limit to the number of asterisks one can place (which means there can be up to 5 wildcard questions).
  • Anyone can feel free to start the game; you don’t necessarily need someone to tag you. Just create your 5 questions and tag your 5 people of choice. However, the catch is that you must answer your own 5 questions as well.
  • To potentially prevent an endless game, this round of games will end on the 8th September 2012, 12pm JST (GMT +9). After which, no more bloggers can tag others to answer their questions.

Here follows the questions and my answers to them:

Q1. What is your favorite anime of all time?  Then, objectively speaking, what do you think is the best anime of all time?  Explain why you chose these anime (especially if you chose the same anime for both questions).

For me, Rurouni Kenshin stands as my favorite anime.  This is the show which propelled me into anime, so I might be a little biased; but I’ve yet to find an anime which has better characterization or discusses its themes better.  This series does have drawbacks: overlong speeches, too many flashbacks, the first and last seasons are rather episodic, and the final season was badly done and not based on the manga.  (I consider that season as unworthy of being accounted with the first two seasons.)  But the first two of these drawbacks help the viewer to benefit from the technique of parallelism, which Nobuhiro Watsuki employs to great effect in delineating his characters and highlighting the themes.  I especially enjoy how similar the villains are to the heroes; but the villains deviate slightly from the right path, often having high ideals which are slightly twisted.  This makes the difference between the heroes less black and white and the characters more interesting to examine.

The fights of Rurouni Kenshin and the animation are also very beautifully done.  Kenshin vs. Saito is considered by many otaku to have been one of the greatest fights ever animated.  The tension between the two combatants is palpable, and the whole fight comes across as very realistic.  Qualities which bring the audience to the ends of their seats and makes them feel every blow.  The overall animation for the show is top notch, and the audience is treated to the bonus of seeing characters which look more Japanese than one finds in the usual anime.  May I add that this show weaves in historical detail better than any other anime?  So much so that many people (your humble blogger included) have passed Japanese history tests from what they learned on this show.

You’re going to think me very provincial; but, for my objective best, I’m choosing Samurai X: Trust and BetrayalSamurai X has more focus than the TV show, thus eliminating many of the drawbacks found in the TV show.  Also, the atmosphere is much darker and more tragic: Rurouni Kenshin makes one wish they were born a samurai and could participate in duels; Samurai X makes one frightened even to pick up a katana.  When people get cut down, the viewer feels their agony.  The swords even seem to emanate cruelty.  This atmosphere is very fitting for the dark days of the Meiji Revolution.  By the way, let me also say that AnimeNfo agrees with me in ranking this OVA as the best anime.

Q2. Same as question 1, but for your least favorite anime and what in your objective opinion is the worst anime of all time (for this question try to choose an anime for which you’ve actually watched a respectable number of episodes and try to avoid small titles that nobody has ever heard of).

My least favorite anime is Cat Soup.  My dear readers might have even been able to guess my response.  I remember reading a review that claimed anyone’s who’s not a religious nut would love it.  Though that puts it a little harshly, the term aptly fits me.  It contains a rather reprehensible depiction of God, I didn’t care for the animation, and it consists of a series of scenes rather than a story.  Fortunately, most of the details have long since been forgotten.

My first choice for objective worst would have been Ghost Hound had it not been for the stipulation that the show be well known.  That show entices the viewer by its weirdness, gives him enough interesting details to inspire hope that the show will become good, and makes one suffer through one dull episode after another before one is forced to throw in the towel.

If four episodes may be considered respectable, I choose Dragonaut: the Resonance for objective worst, which tries to lure the viewer into continuing to watch through having well-endowed women all over the place and a modicum of action.  Nothing else to it.

Q3. What initially led you to anime and what keeps you interested in anime?  Do you think it will continue to be a lifetime passion?  Why or why not?*

As an avid lover of pre-modern pagan cultures, such as Rome, Athens, the Vikings, and Japan, it was only a matter of time until I discovered anime.  My father used to be an avid practitioner of Karate, has a great interest in Eastern philosophies and religions, and was dubbed an honorary Asian in college.  Naturally, some of his tastes, especially for martial arts and its philosophy, were impressed on me.  In addition to martial arts, I loved watching samurai movies.  These cultures all seemed to have a strong moral bent, which especially attracted me to them.

Then, I discovered that certain shows belonged to a genre called anime.  I saw Rurouni Kenshin on Toonami, discovered the manga Inuyasha, and found myself hooked.  As for whether it will remain a lifelong hobby, I must confess to having an aversion to clinging to anything–no matter how pleasant.  Despite the fact that I do very much enjoy anime, several of my other hobbies have been pushed aside for anime, and I want to make more time for those.  So, while I can see myself remaining an otaku for several more years, I hesitate to say that it will be a lifetime passion.

Q4. Do you think it’s possible to integrate or use ecchi content or themes to enhance a story rather than simply as fanservice that detracts from the overall work?

Easily, but it’s not advisable.  For me, the best example of nudity put to good effect was in Elfen Lied, where it highlighted Lucy’s deep-set desire for innocence.  In the Garden of Eden, the nudity of Adam and Eve symbolized innocence.  Here, the fact that so many terrible things happen around nude people stresses that innocence is nowhere to be found in this world.  But, many people cannot see through the characters’ bare bodies to perceive this theme.  For them, nudity turns them away from the show.

Such a pleasant face.

Freezing is a perfect example of ecchi elements ruining a show.  Frankly, this is a spectacular show.  The only drawbacks to it lie in that the plot was rushed and not enough details about the setting were given to the audience.  It has strong, likeable characters, stunning fights, outstanding animation, a touching relationship between the hero and the heroine, and several gut-wrenching situations.  Despite all of this, several people absolutely despise this show.  They become totally oblivious to this show’s good points in the face of all that fanservice.  Amusingly, I remember one reviewer who claimed to have been enticed by the fanservice before becoming so wrapped up in the show’s action that he ceased to notice it.  How much more popular would this show have been if only they had toned down or even eliminated the fanservice?

Q5. I think many would agree that some otherwise respectable anime have been let down by lackluster endings.  What anime do you most want to change the ending—not because you disagreed with it, but for quality purposes.  Then how would you change it and why?  (I understand spoilers may be unavoidable when answering this question)

Well, the ending of Scrapped Princess seemed a little unnatural and ludicrous to me–the triangle of land and sea on which the remnant of humanity lived fitting back into the world and everything.  I would have had it end with a final showdown between the aliens who had imprisoned humanity and our heroes.  It seemed a little inconclusive in that we never meet the original foes of humanity.  Also, Leopold would get the girl and ditch the Mr. Soopy suit: the ending had me feeling too sorry for him.

Amusingly, I discovered that AngryJellyfish has also tagged me into the game with a set of five questions.  So, let me answer those five before going on to mine.

1. Which anime protagonists (if any) do you feel you’d be able to do a better job than if you were in their situation?

Well, there are plenty of wimpy heroes or harem protagonists I could do a better job than.  (I tend to be decisive and stubborn about things, which would come in handy in many situations.)  But among a slightly higher class of protagonists, I’ll select Kai Kudou of E’s Otherwise.  Basically, he lacks any kind of good sense.  Give me his power and place me in the same situations, I’d probably do better–except that I’d be a lot more boring to watch.

2. Which popular anime series do you not like, or find overrated?

Any of the Big Three.  Even if they are entertaining, how can one justify creating a series of several hundred episodes without any closure in sight?  Why would one give so much of their precious time to just one series?  It appears absurd to me.

3. What manga or anime series would you like to see fansubbed/scanlated in your language, or licensed in your country?

Americans have it too good.  It seems that everything is sooner or later available to us.  So, I’ll have to go with the classic Ashita no Joe as a series which I’d like to see licensed in this country.  It’s very highly regarded among the Japanese, seems to have really strong characters, and Hajime no Ippo, which I highly enjoy, was likely based on this–the main difference being that Ashita no Joe has an anti-hero, while Ippo’s your perfect hero.  So, if Funimation or another company were to license boxed sets of this, I’d be one of the first to buy it.

4. What series would you recommend to someone who has never watched any anime?

That series would be Fullmetal Panic Fumoffu.  I’ve successfully hooked several people on anime through this show.  You see, most people expect cartoons to be centered around comedy, which is why Fumoffu, a show which nearly makes the viewer die laughing, offers a great introduction.  From there, you can expand their perception of the stories a cartoon may convey.

5. Do you have any weird anime watching habits?

Well, I always have to be drinking something when watching anime.  This beverage is usually tea.  Sometimes, I see it as a good time to break out some hard liquor or port–even if the anime does not require it.  If I have friends around, I’ll offer some kind of alcoholic drink.  Though, this turned out to be a big mistake one night, when a friend of mine and I were watching the sequel to Geobreeders.  I’m not sure whether it was the two bottles of wine or the fact that we were talking too much, but we did not remember a single thing about the OVA the next day!  Which may mark the only time alcohol has caused me to forget things.

If I’m not drinking something, then I’m oiling go stones, which certainly counts as weird.  However, it’s not as much fun to play go if the stones aren’t shiny!

Now for my questions and answers:

1.  How else are you involved in Japanese culture?

In my case, I love martial arts philosophy and used to practice Judo and Aikido, the latter of which I’d like to return to someday.  I study the Japanese language, read light novels both in Japanese and English, and would love to graduate to more sophisticated Japanese literature.  I also enjoy Japanese teas and wish to study their tea culture more.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido

2.  What anime turned you into a fan?

In case, you forgot.

3.  Who are your two favorite Japanese VA’s (one male and one female) and two favorite English VA’s (also one male and one female)?  For the English VA’s, you can substitute actors in another non-Japanese language.

I used to be more into this facet of fandom than now.  But, here are my favorites:

Ken Narita, especially for his roles as Sesshoumaru of Inuyasha, Jeremiah Gottwald of Code Geass, and Durand of Le Chevalier D’Eon.  I particularly love deep and powerful voices.

Megumi Toyoguchi, especially for Revy of Black Lagoon, Yao Sakurakouji of Miami Guns, Layla Ashley of Avengers, Honoka of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye, and Reni Vikuro of Innocent Venus.

Kirk Thornton for his roles as Hajime Saito of Rurouni Kenshin, Jin of Samurai Champloo, and Brandon Heat of Gungrave.

Laura Bailey for her roles as Michel Volban of Glass Fleet and Sylvia Ban of Solty Rei.

4.  Out of the shows you’re currently watching, which is your favorite?

For me, the answer’s Hunter X Hunter.  I love how much intellectual prowess the fights and the obstacles placed before our heroes require.  This makes is different from the run-of-the-mill shonen.

5.  What is your favorite era for anime and why?

My answer combines two time periods usually separated, but I feel that the earlier one still strongly influenced the latter: the late 90’s through the early 2000’s.  Some of my favorite shows were produced during this period.  Also, computers played less of a role in the animation of these days than now, and I particularly like the human touch one sees in these shows.
Of course, the anime of prior eras relied even less or not at all on computers, but the character designs were not as elegant.

Well, that’s enough writing for one post.  I’m trying to think of people who haven’t been tagged yet.  Here it is:

ChibiOtaku010

Naru of What is this “Culture” you speak of?

John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin

SnippetTee of Lemmas and Submodalities

Exiled2Oblivion

I hope that you enjoy this little game!

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!