Rating the Anime of Fall 2016, Part 2

izetta-vi

(Here is the second part of my fall 2016 review.  Enjoy!)

izetta-iv

3) Izetta: the Last Witch – ★★★★

This show successfully combines elements from Strike Witches and Maria the Virgin Witch.  It provided us with two of the best heroines from this season.  (Only Kyouka of Bungo Stray Dogs struck me as a better heroine because of her greater moral struggle.)  The action was top notch, and all the WWII vehicles very realistic.  Aside from the magic, only a few moments in the show struck me as unrealistic: things like soldiers being able to provide Izetta with shorts while on campaign and Germanian guards being armed with Lugers rather than Mausers or MP 40s.  In other words, the show seldom rocked me from my suspension of disbelief.

Continue reading

Thoughts on The Wind Rises

At last, I have managed to watch Miyazaki’s latest, but no longer final, film, and my biggest regret is not to have seen it in theaters.  The animation and sound effects held me spellbound.  I also loved the manner they included foreign languages and how they intimated that the characters communicated in a foreign language even though Japanese is spoken on screen: one or two lines would be spoken in the foreign tongue, but then the characters would conclude the rest of the dialogue in Japanese.  My friend found this method jarring, and it did take a little time to accustom myself to it; but, it was a nice technique overall.  Most striking for me was that the Italian lines were spoken with heavy accents, while the seiyuu spoke German pretty fluently.  Despite the sounds of Romance languages being closer to Japanese, the seiyuu’s pronunciation of Italian produced snickers while their skill with German produced awe.

WR1

Many of my dear readers remember the controversy surrounding The Wind Rises when it was released.  The film was accused of glossing over Japanese war crimes and its complicity in starting WWII.  To the critics’ defense, most of the blame for the war is placed on German’s head, while Japan is characterized by Jiro Hirokoshi’s best friend as a poor country trying to become as prosperous as Western nations.  Neither of these assertions are strictly true, save for the fact that Japan had been seeking parity with Western countries since the advent of the Meiji Era.  But, they had generally succeeded by Hirokoshi’s day.  Remember that Japan had wiped the floor with Russia during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).  This was contrary to many predictions that Russia would prove victorious.  Also, Japan, in imitation of the powerful nations of the West, had established colonies across the Pacific and into Asia prior to WWII–not exactly something of which a poor country is capable.

Japanese Empire

Continue reading

Nobi – Fires on the Plain (1959)

Through a boot

I first came across Nobi – Fires on the Plain and its director, Kon Ichikawa, through the site Genkinahito.  To my knowledge, there’s no better blogger when it comes to contemporary Japanese cinema, and I can’t recommend his blog enough.  Curiously, I became interested in this film based on an article Genkinahito wrote about the remake of Nobi; but, hearing that it was a remake, I naturally opted to find and watch the original first.  The movie is a bleak representation of the hardships facing Japanese soldiers during their last days occupying the Philippines and the barbaric steps those individuals who were cut off from the main army took to survive.  Usually, I don’t like movies which are this gloomy, but this one has enough guts and human spirit to make it more than palatable–sort of like certain stories of Ernest Hemingway.

New Guinea

So, I heartily recommend it and will try to watch the remake and more films of Kon Ichikawa in the near future.  Tomorrow, my dear readers may look forward to that article on a biography of the Black Prince which I have promised.

Links to Anime Season Reviews and the Battle of Gettysburg

At this point, I’d usually review the anime I’ve watched from this season and rate them from one to five stars.  This sort of season review might still come about on Medieval Otaku, but I already have reviews up for every show except Seraph of the End.  You’ll find these reviews scattered over three posts on Beneath the Tangles: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.  In the first part, Kaze gives Seraph of the End the same rating I’d give it.  The second part features an amusing picture of Hestia with a caption added by yours truly.  I found the picture particularly endearing because of it’s resemblance to the “Kilroy was here” image used by the Allies to mark their progress in WWII.

vlcsnap-2015-06-14-00h07m47s795

Let me remind my dear readers, as I did last year, that we celebrate the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1st – July 3rd.  Lord Drako Arakis created a beautifully drawn and tragic music video to commemorate last year’s anniversary, and I hope that he has one planned for this year.  (His latest video is a ribald song not at all in the spirit of the battle, but click here if that doesn’t bother you and you want a good laugh.)  At any rate, July 2nd saw one of the most thrilling fights of the war on Little Round Top.  This was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine’s most famous victory, which he wrote about in the article “Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg.”  I highly recommend the article for how well Chamberlain immerses one in the action on that fateful day.  Also, Chamberlain stands as the greatest hero to serve in the ranks of the Army of the Potomac and is worth learning about the Battle of Little Round Top for that reason alone.

This picture commemorates the famous bayonet charge lead by Col. Joshua Chamberlain.  At the center, Chamberlain captures a Confederate at saber point whose revolver either misfired or was out of ammo when he tried to shoot Chamberlain.  Chamberlain simply said to him:

This picture commemorates the famous bayonet charge lead by Col. Joshua Chamberlain. At the center, Chamberlain captures a Confederate at saber point whose revolver either misfired or was out of ammo when he tried to shoot Chamberlain. Chamberlain simply said to him: “You are my prisoner.”

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!)

liebster2

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.

Anti-Japan2

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.

sunset-in-oak-creek-canyon-in-sedona-arizona-USA-1600x1066

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.

image

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!

padrepio-lamb

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:

jeb_stuart1

 

 

Review of Steel Boat, Iron Hearts

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, hasn’t it, dear readers?  Well, I have a couple of articles for posting today: one on history and the other on manga.  I decided to start with my review of a work of history: Steel Boat, Iron Hearts by Hans Gobeler.  I have always been fascinated with memoirs of submariners.  Mostly, I read works about U. S. submarines in WWII and carried my fantasies about them so far that at one point I even wished to have a career serving on Navy attack submarines.  I even learned the game of cribbage after reading about how figures like Captain Dick O’Kane and Captain Mush Morton were into the game.  They played it so much that Dick O’Kane even managed to draw the perfect 29-point cribbage hand one game (5-5-5-J with the starter being a 5 of the same suit as the jack) and had all the participants sign the cards, which he framed.

playing cards

Anyway, most of submariners’ memoirs are written by officers.  Steel Boat, Iron Hearts (as well as my favorite memoir: U. S. S. Seawolf: Submarine Raider of the Pacific with J. M. Eckberg) separates itself from other memoirs in that it was written by the enlisted man put in charge of the diving manifold station, which made him privy to all the action which the U-boat saw.  Gobeler stands as a very interesting figure for his patriotism and honesty.  The person he collaborated with in writing the book, John Vanzo, told him to take certain parts out in order to make him seem more favorable to the readers; but Gobeler refused.  He wished this to be as accurate a portrayal of his service as possible, warts and all.

Young Hans Gobeler

Mr. Vanzo’s worries were unfounded: Hans Gobeler comes across as a very patriotic German rather than as a rabid Nazi.  If I were in any kind of service, I would like to have such a principled, courageous, and fun-loving person in my unit.  I retain this impression of him despite Gobeler doing things like joining the Hitler youth program, blaming the British for starting the war, and tenaciously believing that the Germans would win the war even as late as when his crew was captured by a Navy task force on June 4, 1944.  He wanted to be in the submarine force because this was the most prestigious outfit in the German Navy, and he had even tried to enlist in the war as early as fifteen.  His father had served in WWI on the Russian front, and his experiences there made him very anti-Communist, which resulted in him being blacklisted by Communist run unions in Germany until the Nazis came to power and ended this.  (I find it odd that so many people in Europe thought they had to choose between Fascism and Communism, which are nearly the same, instead of some third alternative.  I suspect a very famous chess champion, Alexander Alekhine, became a Fascist for the same reason.)  Prior to U-boat training, he had fallen in love with English literature and took courses in this language and would read William Shakespeare and Robert Stevenson while on patrol.  Also, he took a black Bible with him on patrol and strongly wished to honor “family, country, and God” by his service.

During his time aboard U-505, he served under three captains.  The first and the last were outstanding, while the crew likely wished to kill the second captain more than sink Allied shipping.  The first of these captains was Captain Lowe, who was half Dutch and unsuccessfully attempted to instill a taste for tea into his coffee loving crew.  (The crew knew so little about tea, that the chief cook made Lowe a batch as if making coffee.  I can sense some of your grimacing at the thought of this black brew of pure tannic acid.)  He was very laid back, and brought the most success to U-505 until he had the misfortune of sinking a schooner with a Colombian diplomat, which caused Colombia to declare war on Germany.  (They don’t teach you that in history class.)  Lowe showed remarkable humanity toward the survivors of the ships he sank and offered as much aid as he could to them before sailing away to find other targets.

survivors

After this, they had another captain transferred to their ship by the name of Zschech, who brought a cohort of rather domineering officers with him, including an executive officer with whom the crew suspected Zschech was romantically involved.  (Whether same sex or not, this cannot be a confidence booster.)  These officers, especially the captain, treated the crew and even the officers who had served under Lowe disdainfully and cruelly.  Reading the account of mandatory army drills, unwarranted hazing, and just plain nastiness makes it a wonder the crew did not mutiny.  Unfortunately, they had very little success during Zschesh’s captainship: I recall only one ship going under, but there may have been one more.  During Zeschesh’s first patrol, the U-505 had the terrible luck of having a depth charge dropped directly onto their ship while running on the surface.  Incidentally, the blast from this depth charge destroyed the plane which dropped it on them due to it diving too too closely upon them.  (Memories of Aces over Europe are coming to mind.)  Despite Captain Zeschesh calling for them to abandon ship, the engineering officer basically told the captain that he could abandon ship if he wished, but that he would stay on the repair her.  And repair her they did: U-505 was the most damaged U-boat to return to port during the war.

u505_17

This was followed by long periods in port, exasperated by the saboteurs always managing to force U-505 to return.  But, reading about Gobeler’s times in port stands as another thrilling part to this work.  His times at drinking parties, the crew revenging themselves on sycophantic petty officers, arresting a saboteur, and other things interested me almost as much as his time at sea, which is fortunate.  The saboteurs gave this vessel their undivided attention, which brought the officers’ and crew’s morale to great lows.  The captain is particular was hard hit by all the times he needed to return to port during test dives.

u505-1

The stress suffered by Captain Zschech resulted in his replacement with another captain, Harald Lange, who had experience in the merchant marine and had begun his career as an enlisted man.  Like Captain Lowe, he had a laid-back, confident style which won the approval of the crew.   Unfortunately, his career aboard U-505 was very short.  He was captain when the U-505 was captured on June 4, 1944–the first enemy vessel the U. S. Navy captured on the high seas since the War of 1812.  This was the result of the engineering officer in charge not doing his duty in setting the charges for scuttling the boat during the evacuation.  But, this turned out happily for us: you can still see this U-boat in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  I also need to see the man-eaters of Tsavo, which are on display in the Field Museum of Chicago.

u505-2