The Difficulty of Interior Change

Recently, I have been watching You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle.  Those of you who watch the show know that one character named Aoi is a transvestite/trap, who gives no indication of masculinity save for his height.  In episode six, a former superior who knew Aoi when he transitioned shows up and tries for a second time to make a man out of him.  He puts Aoi through judo and other tough training in order to accomplish this, but Aoi persists in being more feminine than the female heroines.  In the end, this superior gives up, and assumes that Aoi is fine living the way he does.

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Here, I don’t want to discuss the ethics of changing a transvestite to conform to their sex.  Instead, this episode reminds me of the difficulty of changing one’s ways–whether they be habits, opinions, vices, or sins.  A friend once told me that a man doesn’t change much after reaching the age of twenty-five.  (Though, many great saints experienced conversions around this age.)  I assume the same rule applies to women.  There is a strong likelihood of retaining all the evil habits one has acquired by this point to the grave; though, they will naturally ameliorate or worsen depending on our recognition of these faults and our attempts to overcome them.  Sometimes, one does succeed in uprooting a vice entirely through time, effort, prayer, and the sacraments.  During the long period of struggle, victory seems impossible as the long force of habit draws us again and again to sin–even over the course of decades.

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Quick Takes: Turkish-style Coffee and Other Things

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Welcome to a suitably random series of quick takes, as you can tell from the first topic.  Those who wish to read a random assortment of things about yours truly are encouraged to continue.  Which reminds me, there are two award posts I should do in the near future from Josh W and Lynlynsays.  Look forward to them!

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I’ve determined that my favorite method of brewing coffee is the Turkish method: stirring very fine coffee grinds into some water, simmering it for five minutes (I try to keep it between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit), and then stirring before pouring it into a cup.  My grandmother uses this method, though I never employed it myself until the past month.  One interesting thing about this method is how one can stir up the grinds on the bottom of one’s cup to heighten the flavor.  The end result is very strong–especially with the Death Wish Coffee (the most caffeinated coffee in the world) I’m using now.

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Off on Pilgrimage

My first day of vacation starts tomorrow.  I put pilgrimage in the title because Montreal includes part of this vacation, and I cannot imagine that we shall visit that fascinating city without stopping by St. Joseph’s Oratory.  This oratory was made famous by the miracles produced there and its association with St. Andre Bessette, who might have called himself St. Joseph’s doorkeeper.  He was famous for thousands of miraculous cures, which he attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph.

Since it is late, and I do not want to spend too much time writing (I wake at 3 AM on the morrow–four hours from now!), I decided to briefly list some highlights of my anime hobby and spiritual life.  I hope you find some of them interesting.

  • Watched Girls und Panzer: This is the Real Anzio Battle.  I greatly enjoyed it.  It felt like a longer TV episode but still had a great tank battle.  The following is my favorite quote from the OVA:
Only in a perfect world!

Only in a perfect world!

  • Akame ga Kiru stands as a faithful adaptation of the manga.  Things will really pick up once Esdese appears.  (I prefer the fan naming system and will stubbornly stick to that until the official naming system becomes more universal.)  The great thing about Akame ga Kiru is that it essentially turns shonen on its head: we have the same kinds of happy-go-lucky and quirky characters, but they’re thrown into a really corrupt, dark, and bloody world.  This is why so many people like myself enjoy the show.
  • The first three episodes of Aldnoah.Zero really took the cake in terms of the setting and action.  I hope that the quality of the characters catches up soon.
  • I’m somehow still finding the motivation to fit in an episode of El Cazador de la Bruja here and there.  It’s a rather mediocre show, but the characters are enjoyable enough that I find myself continually drawn back to it.  It will probably take me as much time as I took for Bodacious Space Pirates for me to complete.
  • Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is one of the best comedies this season.  The oddball characters are splendidly amusing to watch, and I like the fact that the hero is a shoujo manga artist, which makes many of the episodes’ plots revolve around him finding material for his comics.

No law Breaking

  • Gintama is one of those shows which I can put down for a while and then pick up again.  The quest to capture the aliens who were running amok turning people’s bodies and body parts into screwdrivers didn’t grab me, but the arch where Shinpachi gains a pen pal was more hilarious.  This show goes everywhere from toilet humor to maudlin to boring to hilarious to epic.  One just needs to wait for the best stories.
  • Many bloggers loved the first season of Hamatora, and I’m enjoying the show thus far.  Episode four, where the desire to own a gun was portrayed as rooted to evil desires, irked me to no end.  Cannot people get that some people love tools?  Especially men?  Guns are tools and a lot of fun to shoot.  People enjoy shooting at paper targets, cans, bottles, abandoned houses, cardboard boxes, etc.  Wishing to have a gun by itself in no way means a person is inclined to violence.  Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.
  • For some reason, I’m really enjoying Hanamayata.  I suppose my identification with Hana (she’s also from NJ) goes a long way, but somehow I find this slice of life comedy still a lot of fun.  I have a an article in the works for it.
  • Did you know that Mushibugyo has an anime adaptation?  I didn’t, and this decently animated adaptation is a lot of fun to watch.  Perfect for a lover of samurai shows.

Jinbee strikes

  • I’ve kind of stalled Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  At this point, Nadia, Jean, and Marie have met back up with Senora Grandis and company, which means the action should improve.  Man, the Island arc was exhausting!
  • I don’t exactly know how, but a friend of mine finagled me into watching Nisemonogatari.  I couldn’t even finish episode one of Nisemonogatari the first time around, despite being a fan of Bakemonogatari.  But, I find myself at episode four and wanting to know more.  (By the way, Nisemonogatari essentially decided to put Holo in its story via Shinobu.)
  • Many bloggers like despising Rail Wars!  But, I’m enjoying how the characters deal with the obstacles each episode.  It reminds me a lot of You’re Under Arrest, and even if it doesn’t hold a candle to season one of You’re Under Arrest, it’s certainly better than season two thus far.
Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

  • Sabagebu! stands as one of my favorite shows this season.  This is pure comedy gold.  The action can get rather nuts; but if you liked Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, or Pani Poni Dash, I can practically guarantee you’ll love this show.
  • Concerning ARGEVOLLEN, the show is nothing special, but I’m enjoying it, and there always exists the chance that it will get better.  Basically, if I drop anything this season, it will be this show.
  • Tokyo ESP‘s not bad.  It’s doing everything well so far, and it feels a little similar to Samurai Flamenco‘s first half so far in that we have ordinary people who suddenly conceive that they have a duty to repress the darker elements of society.  However, it still has a long way to go in order to surpass Ga-Rei Zero, in which series’ world Tokyo ESP exists.  And I love how Leonidas has a cameo role. xD

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  • Somehow, I haven’t been able to get into Zankyou no Terror.  I loved how they referenced the Sphinx and the fact that there are two riddles according to mythology.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure “What walks on two legs, then four, then three?” was an invention of later writers.  Classical authors loved to mess around with mythology and add their own improvements on the canonical version.)  Yet, somehow, the story doesn’t grab me.  Like Sky Crawlers, it’s probably too intellectual for my tastes.

That sums it up for my anime watching.  I still owe you guys some manga reviews, so expect that around St. Edith Stein’s feastday (Aug. 9th).  Speaking of saints, I find St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea a constant source of inspiration.  There are almost four hundred pages of commentary on Matthew before I can move to the Gospel of Mark, but St. Thomas Aquinas’ ability to draw so many relevant Church Fathers on each passage of Scripture is nothing short of amazing.  Also, I’m reading George MacDonald’s The Seaside Parish.  George MacDonald is a genius of the spiritual life and every page contains something quotable.  Why don’t people read him anymore!!?  I’ll be right alongside C. S. Lewis in thanking George MacDonald for his works when I get to paradise.

Until August 9th, you’ll be seeing no more articles unless I am so lucky as to find a wi-fi hotspot.  But, I should be able to respond to commentary.

Simplicity and Identification in You’re Under Arrest

About one year ago, I discovered You’re Under Arrest, a very amusing series by Kousuke Fujishima who is also famed for Ah! My Goddess!  It excels in showing spectacular car chases, amusing plots, likeable characters, comedy, and even has a very believable and nice–though frustrating at times–romance for those of you who care about that facet of storytelling.  (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m sometimes a sucker for that too.)  This TV series began with a four episode OVA, which became popular enough to warrant a series.  However, I consider the OVAs to be the weakest episodes of the first season, to which the OVA was attached, with the exception of the OVAs having better animation quality.  But, the comedy and the plots of You’re Under Arrest only improved from there.

On the other hand, the second season started pretty strong.  Saori’s entering into Bokuto Station with a ton of youthful rigor made for some splendid comedy as our heroes and their comrades tried to restrain her high ideals.  Saori is eventually relegated to a desk job.  (By the way, if you’re presently seeking the next animated masterpiece, don’t watch You’re Under Arrest.  This show is best for those who wish to enjoy some light comedy without being bombarded by fanservice.)  Everything was proceeding as normal until the series introduced a love triangle and showed Kobayakawa distancing herself from her partner Tsujimoto.  Usually, more conflict increases the value of a show, but a show needs to know what kind of conflict is suitable for it.

In the case of a show like You’re Under Arrest, interpersonal conflict among friends and dark, internal struggles ruin the work.  Instead of the lighthearted fun and likeable characters for which the viewers watch the show, we see Kobayakawa become steadily more detestable as passion draws her closer to a mechanic aged thirty-something and his daughter(a nice guy, but one should avoid unequal relationships in general).  This causes extreme suffering for her long time love interest, Nakajima, and leads to her getting into a serious fight with Tsujimoto, even slapping her at one point.

Now, in a certain book on novel writing (The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall, I think), the author commented on how he hated simple characters.  They’re boring, uninteresting, and more like children than adults.  How is an adult supposed to relate to them?  No doubt, Kousuke Fujishima thought like this when he decided to introduce these difficulties: that these struggles would result in the story becoming more interesting.  The case is rather that this stands as one of the dullest, saddest five episodes stretches in the history of anime.  I felt that several of the episodes past the middles of the second season were weak, but these were downright depressing!

If one thinks about it, much of the “complexity” we see in adults derives from sin.  Adults wish to improve their situation in life and feel envy toward those who are above them either in terms of their position or of wealth; they have difficulty remaining faithful to one person because they think that indulging their lusts would be more pleasurable; they constantly want more stuff; they do not trust God and so suffer from many phobias and constantly fear being injured.  Shall I go on?  All these things make for complex characters, and several good stories have been made where plot centers on the main character overcoming his defects; but who would not prefer to be simple?

The simple man considers his station in life sufficient unless a true need arises, he does not bear ill will toward his superiors, he treasures his relationships, and fears nothing.  If there is anything in his character which strikes others as an idiosyncrasy, he does not consider it as a cause for pride.  Again, who would not rather be this person?  Ah, such perfection is rarely achieved!

Which reminds me, one of the chief reasons a viewer likes or dislikes a story lies in whether he can identify with the characters.  Interestingly, this identification occurs either because a character’s personality approximates the viewer’s or the viewer would like to become similar to that character.  In the former case, we cheer the hero on, hoping for him to overcome all the obstacles.  Sorrowing when he fails or rejoicing when he succeeds as if we ourselves rise or fall with him.  In the latter, we see a model for us to attain.  Seeing the greatness of this character, we are on fire to attain his virtues.  The point of having the two kinds is so that one can see both the goal and how miserable it is to be away from the goal!  The first spurs us by its beauty and the latter by revulsion.

To tie this back into You’re Under Arrest, Nakajima seems very much like myself.  Even though he knows how to respond to matters well when it concerns his job, he procrastinates and is terribly unsure of himself when it comes to his human relationships.  But, at the same time, he has a degree of reflection which usually prevents him from hurting other people–at least, by commission.  Nakajima needs to learn more from Tsujimoto, who simply sizes up problems and does whatever she thinks is right.  An example of simplicity very much worth following!

To wrap up with a more practical matter, I just need to decide whether I should go on to the third season.  Considering that most of the characters are women, the first two seasons showed remarkable restraint when it came to fanservice, but this did increase over the course of the second.  Does anyone have any opinions concerning how tolerable the third season is?  Also, the episodes plots tended to be subpar in the second season.  Does the third season offer an improvement in this area?  Comments please!  Especially if this article brought you some intellectual delight!