Reasons to Watch Scholagladiatoria

Matt Easton of the YouTube channel Scholagladiatoria recently posted a video thanking those who’ve spread the word about his channel to bring the total number of subscribers up to over seventy thousand.  Those of you who’ve clicked on my Guide to Becoming a Scholar of Swords and Swordplay page know that I place this channel above all the rest in terms of the accuracy of information one finds there and the breadth of Matt Easton’s knowledge.  But, let me do my part here by sharing some awesome videos of his with you, and I hope that many of you who have an interest in the Middle Ages or fencing will subscribe if you haven’t already.

The following video explains how to accurately grip a Viking sword.  More people grip a Viking sword incorrectly than any other blade.  While one can often get away with a wrong grip in the case of other blades, doing so with a Viking sword will cause the pommel to jab into one’s wrist when cutting, which leads to the user hating a perfectly good sword.  One cannot but admire the facility with which Easton shows that he can wield the blade when gripped correctly.

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Medieval Otaku’s First (and Possibly Last) Quick Takes

Nami of the Budding Philosopher’s Quick Takes have given me the inspiration for this kind of post.  As I understand it, the object is to quickly apprise one’s readers of the things uppermost on the blogger’s mind, which works for me.  You see, I won’t be writing another post until February because of a certain project I have underway.  But, I hope that these tidbits will tide you over until I am able to write a more polished article.  I’m even departing from my usual modus operandi by typing this out without relying on a prior handwritten draft.  At any rate, here are my seven quick takes for the week.

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Only five days separate me from the deadline for revisions in Athanatos Christian Ministries’ Novel Contest!  The other finalists promise to give me some stiff competition in my quest to take first prize, but I shall give it my all.  Since the Christmas season began, I’ve procrastinated because work has gotten busier, but I finally feel that I have the urgency necessary to dedicate enough time to the novel.  Pray for me and wish me luck!

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Some Cool Videos on Medieval Weapons and Swordfighting

For a large chunk of time today, I found myself spellbound watching YouTube videos on medieval sword fighting and weapons.  (A pleasant break from anime.)  The coolest one, which blew my mind, is the following video on Viking sword and shield fighting.  I knew that the Vikings used their shields actively in battle, but I had no idea that it was to this extent:

In particular, it solved the question I had about viking shields having a single handle without a strap to keep the forearm firmly attached to the shield, which would be more secure.  Also, I learned that the shield strike and the sword strike are given with the same movement.  There’s no such thing as blocking and then striking, which gives one a very different vision of sword and shield fighting.  If only Hollywood or anime would catch up with what we now know about medieval combat, there could be some really amazing fighting sequences.  (Or not, those techniques could end a fight very quickly.)

Then, the following video also offers some great insights into the use of shields and bucklers.  The only inaccuracy I caught in the film was the way they described the Viking “spread eagle.”  They said that it was conducted on defeated foes while still alive.  In reality, we have no recorded incidents of Vikings performing the spread eagle on living persons.  It involved hacking the ribs off the spine and pulling the lungs out the person’s back.  (Yeah, some Viking had too much free time on his hands when he thought that up.)  But, the video offers some great historical information and sparring:

While browsing through various videos, I stumbled upon a great channel called Skallagrim.  The name–the name of the Viking Egil’s father– should be sufficient to tell you that the guy’s awesome.  He loves posting videos on swords and other weapons.  In particular, he has great videos about bronze age weapons, a category more sword enthusiasts avoid.  They have advantages over iron and steel swords which I would not have thought of:

Well, I hope that you enjoy those videos, and I’ll be back to blogging about anime shortly.

Swords, Sorcery, and Spears: A Little Review of Seirei no Moribito

Here’s an anime which I want to recommend to old and young.  This show contains many elements which most anime fans and even their parents may appreciate.  (For those anime fans living with their parents, these kinds of shows are good to know.  Who knows what sort of ideas may run through your dear father and mother’s heads if you’re never willing to share what you watch?)  The characters tend to be older than the teenage heroes filling most anime, which allows older audiences to identify with them better.  Our heroine, Balsa, is a twenty-seven year old wandering bodyguard who wishes to expiate the deaths of eight men by saving eight others without killing anyone in the process.  True, the idea of a hero refusing to kill has been done before in many series, like Trigun, Rurouni Kenshin, Grenadier, Black Cat, and Trinity Blood; however, this trope usually makes a show more interesting–with the exception of Trinity Blood, where Abel’s aversion to killing comes out of nowhere.  (I remember thinking to myself: “Didn’t you just crush some vampire’s heart a few episodes ago?”  And yes, the resolution not to kill even renders Grenadier more interesting, but don’t expect me to recommend it to you!)  Balsa becomes involved with the Crown Prince of the New Yogo Empire, Prince Chagum, when she saves him from drowning in a spectacular rescue.  Chagum’s mother, one of the emperor’s consorts, brings her into the palace under the pretext of thanking Balsa by proving a sumptuous dinner and luxurious accommodations.  Which reminds me of my favorite quote from the series: “If you have money, life ends up being the same no matter where you go.  However, if you don’t have money, you learn to live your life according to where you are.”

In the middle of the night, Balsa is summoned before Chagum’s mother.  (In this political system, it feels a stretch to call her an empress.)  His mother begs Balsa to take Chagum away with her and to guard him from assassins.  You see, dear readers, Prince Chagum is an embarrassment to the state due to him carrying about a water spirit inside of him; so, his own father, the emperor, is sending assassins after him who are trying to make his death look like an accident in order to prevent the dynasty from losing face and possibly causing civil unrest.  Balsa thinks that she has no choice but to accept; however, she consoles herself with the fact that this mission will atone for her eighth life.  After burning down the prince’s quarters to delay pursuit, she exits the palace with Prince Chagum in what will be a long bodyguard assignment.

Seirei no Moribito‘s plot ranges from slow, character building episodes involving the maturing of Prince Chagum and gathering information about Chagum’s spirit to moments of extreme danger and action as Chagum’s pursuers clash with Balsa.  So, while the heroine’s spear does remain sheathed much of the time, the viewer never lapses into boredom: either we are kept at the edge of our seats by imminent danger and spear-play or we enjoy the interaction of the characters, who are incredibly likeable.  Perhaps because Moribito derives from a series of light novels, the world of this series is remarkably detailed and enjoyable to learn about: the culture, myths, imperial customs, and the interaction between the spirit world (Nayug) with the ordinary world add interest without bogging down the viewer in too many details.

Further, the series has a distinct intellectual appeal due to the maturity of the characters and its use of parallelism.  The characters all seem very real, as if some of the people we know were somehow transported into a fantasy setting.  However, they have to work in a world where honor and strict social morays influences everything they do.  At the same time, Moribito resists the temptation to over-psychoanalyze.  Concerning parallelism, character’s roles and their actions are constantly being juxtaposed by the plot: we compare Balsa to Chagum’s mother, Balsa to the man who raised her, Balsa’s father to Chagum’s mother, Chagum to the young Balsa, etc.  This serves to render the plot and the characters that much deeper.

This show also features some great animation.  The backgrounds portraying forests, mountains, and the world of Nayug can be particularly breathtaking.  Character animation stands above average, while the use of CGI is limited to large troop movements and other large bodies of people, which stands out as the weakest part of the animation.  Fortunately, the animators do not employ CGI enough to detract from the overall effect of the splendid animation.

Overall, the only anime fan to whom this series would not appeal is the kind who thrives on action.  The action sequences, though awesome, are fewer than one would find in a standard action/adventure anime.  If you cannot stand seeing characters’ weapons sheathed, by all means watch Jubei-chan II.  (This little mentioned show has some of the best sword fights ever animated, while at the same time having some of the blandest characters, most failed attempts at comedy, and weakest plot of any series.  But, the fights are worth the agony of sitting through the other stuff.)  So, take the time to enjoy this show, and, if possible, ask your parents to watch it with you–you just might convince them that anime’s not completely weird.