Archive for the ‘Spirituality/Religion’ Category


Stole this example straight from another blog.

(Note: For the purpose of this article, fanservice refers to mildly sexual content: pantyshots, beach episodes, skimpy clothing and the like. Actual hentai/animated porn is excluded, as is “cute/cool but otherwise pointless” content.)

I used to hate fanservice.

The issue first came up for me around late primary school/early junior high school. I hated fanservice for two general reasons. The first one was that of self-interest, or my own convenience. You see, the existence of fanservice-heavy series somewhere out there had no genuine effect on my own viewing habits. If I had little interest in that kind of stuff, it was enough to watch something else, any one of the seemingly infinite supply of titles which did not at all rely on fanservice content. Fanservice “slipping into” otherwise top notch content probably happened from time to time but was ultimately irrelevant to the weight of those works as a whole. It was a time when I watched things that aired on the TV, too, so if there was anything actually disturbing, it would probably get cut out.

The existence of fanservice did matter to other people, though. The media and the church would roast anime for being in equal parts sex, Satan and the Pikachu. Occasionally, they would raise valid points: bringing attention to problematic scenes, like that one time in early Dragonball when Bulma agrees to flashing her panties in return for a favour. But most of the time, their claims were based on complete ignorance and used to make unfair generalisations, to the point where it seemed dubious if those people had ever watched a single anime episode in their lives.

I thought at the time that if fanservice did not exist at all, we would be rid of most of those people. They would lose ammo for their arguments, and so the social standing of anime would improve. That I would like very much, since it would make my life significantly easier by allowing me to be more honest and open about my interests. Getting rid of fanservice for that purpose seemed like an insignificant price to pay, and so I advocated getting rid of those lesser elements from all series.

The second reason for my hatred of fanservice was at least a more genuine one: I was and largely still am a prude. I did think that some of the scenes contained in anime were improper and potentially dangerous to people of my age (how a teenager analyses what is improper for teenagers is another matter that did not bother my precocious mind). Ever a stickler for the rules, I knew that while I might choose to avoid fanservice scenes, many of my friends would not. And there is also the quandary that you can only turn off some of the questionable stuff after you have seen it, which might already be moot.

Image result for anderson hellsing

Come here, sinners…

My approach to the above two points has now changed, mostly because I have realised how limited my perspective was, based as it was only on personal experience. First some data to give context to this discussion. The following numbers represent the state of affairs for Poland, my country. Most of the numbers ought to be similar for your country if you live in the West. I do encourage you to research specifics for your own region if you have never done so.

Over 50% of children have their first contact with pornography by the age of: 11 years

Average age of sexual initiation: 18,5 years

Average age of marriage: 29 years

Surveyed admit to pre-marital sex: 90%

Christian (Catholic) population: 89% (87%)

The bottom half regarding pre-marital sexual activity in a Christian-dominated society is there just to show that we are masters of not practising what we preach. I was genuinely not aware of that as a teenager, and so I had to bring this up. But I do not intend to dwell on this point too much. It is just that you should take a limited-trust approach to any moral preaching – odds are the authors are guilty of exactly what they speak against.

More important is the upper half. I was shocked to discover late in junior high that the majority of my class were experienced smokers and experimented with drinking alcohol when they could get away with it. If statistics are to be believed, more than half of my classmates also willingly and regularly accessed porn on the internet. We are talking real porn here: vivid and often violent images delivered by real-life actors.

I was worried anime fanservice could adversely affect us at that age, but that sounds like a joke in light of the above data. Anime fanservice is borderline infantile: guys tripping up and nose-diving into female chests, super-wind providing pantyshot support and revealing swimsuits in beach episodes. Anime characters will start screaming about getting pregnant after an accidental kiss. If any minor willingly watched through any one porn flick in existence, nothing of what the average non-hentai anime delivers will make them lift an eyebrow. The levels are just too different.

So is fanservice content entirely irrelevant from a parent’s perspective? Not exactly. But if a child is being exposed to or actively seeks out porn, you can bet they will not be consulting their parents about it. Thus many children are indefinitely exposed to potentially toxic portrayals of sexuality. If your kid wants to read something like Hayate or Negima, and you let them place those titles on their shelf, you actually get a chance to segue into a discussion of what you read when their age and how you acted when you were the age of the characters portrayed. I know people are afraid of talking. It is difficult and embarrassing to talk. Which is what this whole duality is supposed to serve: decry materials that deal with sexuality as evil and forbid them entirely, and you no longer have to discuss anything; pretend there is no inevitability of exposure to those materials or tacitly accept their consumption within the shadows, and there is no need to discuss anything either!

Beyond a certain point, I now see the idea of completely shielding minors from exposure to sensitive material as unfeasible and potentially even dishonest. And with that out of the way, the other reason I used to hate fanservice was for the sake of anime’s good name. This one does not even deserve a long-winded paragraph. Let us just be real about it: anime is only a medium and all kinds of stories will be told through that medium, regardless of their value or our preferences. People who want to cherry-pick and complain about some titles will always find what they need. We can somewhat affect what gets the spotlight or is considered mainstream. Everything else we have to take in stride.

So, with both my reasons gone, how has my approach to fanservice changed over the years?

Image result for chisaki nagi asukara old uniform

Actually a great scene.

Well, I still dislike fanservice. I suppose it is no longer “hate”.

Again, I have two reasons. One is that fanservice is a major pain when it comes to sharing your favourite series. I would very much like to show and discuss anime more with the common folk, my family etc. and there are plenty of series deserving this, but there is no point if you are just making people uncomfortable. As far as sexy men and women are concerned, the average Hollywood flick might have more of that than the average anime. But anime fanservice will often involve minors or even children, and I can only understand how that makes people queasy. I will defend those scenes when they are an integral part of what is being expressed. Madoka and Homura drifting through imaginary space in their birthday suits during the finale of Madoka Magika is not meant to turn you on. Youngsters treated as still possessing sexuality in Made in Abyss is in tune with the naturalistic approach of the series. I have shown both to my family. But much as I would like to, I can not find a good enough excuse for naked loli shower scenes in Rou-kyu-bu or the unnecessarily detailed bodies in the Nanoha movies’ transformation scenes, except for the honest: “they probably appeal to ‘that’ kind of audience”. It is such a waste.

The second gripe I have against most fanservice is purely artistic, and therefore more important. To put it bluntly: fanservice is a waste of time. Any scene, sound or shape in anime is intended – you do not accidentally capture things on camera in this medium. As such, every detail contributes in some way to creating the setting, atmosphere or plot. And those contributions are by nature indirect. Anime might resort to a few seconds of direct narration, when the viewer is informed of some elements of the setting. But when a group of thugs enter a tavern, they do not announce themselves as thugs – you can more often tell from their nasty smirks, dirty clothes and missing teeth. Necessary information will likewise be slipped into natural conversations between characters, for the viewer to pick up on their own without being addressed directly.

Fanservice does not work like that. As the name suggests, it is about providing “service” directly to the fans. It is a form of fourth-wall braking. If the viewer likes (is stimulated by) the eye-candy, then great. If they do not, then it is bad news, as the scenes often serve no other purpose, failing to further the narrative or develop anything – a waste of time. To keep the fanservice tangentially related to the characters and plot at hand, anime will often resort to tried-and-true tropes, like the aforementioned trip-and-grope ordeal. Notice how the carbon-copy scenes are set up in such a way that we learn next to nothing about the characters even as they supposedly interact – if the guy trips, it is just bad luck. He might or might not try to apologise, but the heroine will reflexively slap him before any actual conversation can take place. That ends the scene in a supposedly humorous way. The template works for 90% of all characters, so do not worry about having to adjust or develop your characters.

[Randomacts] Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS - 02 (BDRip 1280x714 x264 FLAC) [338FC6A4].mkv_snapshot_21.10_[2018.06.01_12.28.52]

However, we are still talking about art, and nothing in art is ever a completely lost cause. Remember that scene in Nanoha Strikers when Caro and Erio first meet? Trippity-trip and the boy ends on top of the girl with his hands square on her chest. And then what? She apologises (first!) for causing the two of them to fall. He apologises for possibly causing her embarrassment. Two seconds later and they are over it and starting off a good friendship. Sometimes I wish we all had the emotional maturity of those fictional 10-year-olds.

So while bad fanservice is the death of storytelling, you can get plenty of fanservice past my radar as long as it actually serves a purpose within the story OR occurs simultaneously with something else that is worthwhile. The gear-users of Symphogear wearing skimpy or tight clothing barely ever bothers me in any way because there is usually too much action going on-screen to think about such things. Or if a character is a seductress, then yes, you better expect them to dress the part.

And then you have the holy grail: fanservice which makes a scene or series better. Fanservice that is storytelling. After years of watching anime I experienced at least one series that made me admit that such a thing exists (and I might be a harsher judge of other fanservice because of it). I hope to introduce that in my next, much shorter, article. Until then, feel free to guess what series it is, or tell what your take is on the best use of fanservice in anime. Until then!

Read Full Post »


Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero is a story notable for several reasons, one of them being its portrayal of a semi-theocratic society. We are shown hints of the setting’s god-tree religion affecting the education system and government, and obviously religious undertones would make into the everyday lives of ordinary households and leave a mark on the naming patterns of children. In fact, every character in the show bears some mark of this religious influence.

Starting from the Washio generation:

Tougou Mimori’s name means simply "beautiful forest".

Minowa Gin’s name means "silver", which is formed with the "metal" and "root" radicals. The "root" reference probably doubles as an indication of Gin’s role in the group as the one keeping the other two safe.

Nogi Sonoko’s name refers to a "garden", which is most understandable if you imagine Japan’s extensive shrine and temple gardens. As a sacred space, the gardens create a small world to house the Japanese gods. On the one hand, this represents the inner sanctum that the Nogi family, as one of the most influential Taisha families, is responsible for. On the other hand, the Shikoku barrier can be seen as a miniature garden – a place of purity cut away from the impurity (death and destruction) of the world outside. In this sense, Sonoko’s name represents all the beauty left in the world as well as humanity’s hope.

During her time spent with the Washio family Mimori’s name was changed to Sumi. It is a special name insofar as it makes sense for it to be given with a clear cut purpose in mind. If you ignore the kanji and just look at the reading, the name refers to "purity", hinting at Mimori’s role as a miko/shrine maiden to the god-tree. As regards the kanji, the "su" part once more refers to Mimori’s "duty", while the "mi" part signifying beauty is borrowed from her original name.

For the younger generation.

Inubouzaki Itsuki’s name is the "great tree" straight out of the god-tree compound.

Miyoshi Karin has the "two-branch tree" radical slipped into the second kanji of her name, "rin", meaning "elegant, of stern or highly composed demeanor". Interestingly, that is the older variant of the kanji, with the newer one having a "shrine" radical in place of the "two-branch tree".

Yuuki Yuuna’s name seems to have no trees in it at first glance, but that is because the upper part of the "na" kanji was simplified along the way. With the kanji originally composed of a "tree" over a "shrine", the original meaning was that of a "fruit offered to the gods". The fruit in question was offered when seeking guidance from the heavens, so the kanji also meant *what should be done?". With the two "yuu" kanji in her name referring to "bringing people together" and "friendship" respectively, Yuuna seems to ask the question and provide the answer all in one.

Inubouzaki Fuu is a mystery to me. If you dig far enough back, the kanji for "fuu" seems to have originated from the same inscription as the 鳳 kanji referring to the divine bird (phoenix), which was considered a messenger from the gods. The contemporary form of the kanji replaces the "bird" radical inside for what is now most often known as the "bug" radical, which in this case represents reptiles; as beliefs changed, people came to believe it were dragons, rather than birds, that lived in the skies and controlled the winds.

But a "fuu" name could have contained a god or tree reference much more easily just by sticking a "tree" radical to the "wind" kanji discussed above to get the "maple" kanji 楓 – the reading can stay as-is. Whether this was intentionally avoided (to point to Fuu as the one least loyal to Taisha, especially towards the end of the story?), or whether there was some other reasoning for this particular name/writing, I cannot be sure.


The last names in Yuyuyu also matter, especially with the Washio generation. Other than the Nogi last name meaning “of the tree”, making them the obvious big-shots in this world, there are many significant real-world references packed in there:

  • Mimori likes being called by her last name, Tougou, because it tickles her history-otaku and nationalist fancy. She happens to share her last name with the famous Japanese admiral Tougou Heihachirou.
  • Sonoko shares her last name with Nogi Maresuke, a famous Japanese general
  • The above two lived in the same times, known as the “Nogi of the land and Tougou of the sea”, and were acquainted with each other… whether the two got along is a different matter
  • When general Nogi died, he was deified as a god of war (and education and marital affairs) and a shrine was built for him… partly for the purposes of the Japanese army’s propaganda
  • The above happened when Tougou was still alive, and Tougou was appalled to hear that the navy planned to do the same to him to regain the balance of power between the land forces and the navy. He strongly expressed his objection to the idea… but was deified anyway after his death (there are three shrines bearing his name)

Readers can probably see how the above parallels the story of Yuyuyu with Mimori learning that Sonoko was turned into a god for the Taisha’s benefit, only to be set on the same track against her will. Yuyuyu questions whether in creating heroes, we are not taking advantage of people for our own benefit.

Additional Notes:

Minowa Gin’s short, one kanji name gives off a somewhat boyish image.

I particularly like the usage of the “ko” ending in Sonoko’s name. In contemporary usage, the “ko” ending for female names ended up being so popular that around 1960, almost all women had names ending that way. That in itself became so clichéd that now parents often actively avoid adding “ko” to names. For this reason, the “ko” ending in anime is perfect to create “average Jane” background characters.

However, historically, the “ko” ending was reserved only for females of the highest social class, holding offices at court and in administration. The later popularity of the name came exactly because the “commoners” envied the image of sophistication and prosperity the ending carried.

With Yuyuyu bringing back social elements of Japan’s past, Sonoko’s name carries with it the elegance and dignity of the well-bred part of society. 

Read Full Post »


A short rundown of 2014 anime shows containing commentary on religious/spiritual matters, for anyone interested in the topic matter and wondering what shows they should catch up on from the year gone by. The list is organized in alphabetical order of the English titles and only contains those 2014 series I had a chance to watch, so feel free to suggest other titles in the comments.


Amagi Brilliant Park

Religion: Shinto

Plot relevance: Medium

Problem matter: god-believer relationship, contemporary forms of worship

Notes: Religion started out with the idea that God created man. Then the skeptics said man created fictional gods as part of his imagination. Then there is hybrid concept, widely popular in contemporary Japanese fiction, that gods do exist… as long as they have enough believers. And the god’s influence is directly proportional to the number of believers.

Historically, the idea might stem from the country’s WW2 experience. The god-emperor had the entire nation put their lives on the line throughout the conflict, but his influence disappeared overnight when he was forced to broadcast a declaration he was in fact human.

In Amagi Brilliant Park, all the supernatural creatures are like kami of entertainment – they can only continue to exist in this world as long as people find them entertaining. Change the series-specific term animus to faith, and the parallels are pretty clear.

Interestingly, the people coming to the park are convinced everything they see is an empty charade… and perfectly satisfied with it, unaware of all the real miracles going down behind the scenes. This is reminiscent of Japan’s (and not only) contemporary approach to religion, which assumes near universal participation in religious rites and events with little actual belief or emotional attachment required.    

Black Bullet

Religion: Christianity, Buddhism

Plot relevance: Medium

Problem matter: temptation, sin, forgiveness, purity, justice

Notes: Black Bullet often attempts to divide the right from wrong, good from evil, and in this search for a clear-cut division it presents a typically Christian approach (see my previous post on temptation in the series, or medieval’s posts on justice and other aspects of the series).

The weird thing is that the series wants to be at least superficially Buddhist in nature – the lotus flower, a Buddhist symbol of purity retained despite the filth of the surrounding world, is discussed openly within the series and shows up as the first kanji in the main character’s name (the ren in Rentarou).

Invaders of the Rokujyouma?!

Religion: Christianity, General

Plot relevance: Low/High (depending on character arc)

Problem matter: god-believer relationship, divine workings in everyday life, intercultural and interreligious understanding, essence of faith vs. its nomenclature

Notes: Rokujouma no Shinryakusha has the main character facing all kinds of supernatural events and characters and coming to terms with how they become a part of his everyday life. How much those events focus on religious matters depends on which character a given arc focuses on, with Sanae (ghost) and Yurika (magical girl) being standouts in this matter.

Sanae’s arc sees a transition from a “cheap” view of the divine, focused on talismans and other occult trinkets, to a genuine interpersonal relationship defined by mutual trust.

Yurika’s arc showcases how a benign and self-sacrificial power is constantly at work in our lives, protecting and aiding us from the shadows… only to be met with stubborn denial, disbelief and hypocrisy. The conclusion of the arc also calls from a separation of “good” from any one name or set of beliefs.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions: Heart Throb

Religion: New Religions, General

Plot relevance: Medium

Problem matter: faith as a source of strength in everyday life, religion as a source of moral principles and guidance

Notes: The second season continues to present faith as a source of strength to change for the better, though the theme is not as central to the developments as it was in the first season.

Sanae’s search for religious guidance continues in this season, at one point leading her astray as she falls into the clutches of an impostor of her idol. (This is treated humorously, even though it parallels very difficult real-life problems.) Ultimately, the series seems to imply that relationships between people are more important than any concepts or ideals those people might seek. While I have nothing against Sanae and Shinka deepening their friendship, I was somewhat saddened to see Sanae’s spiritual search “diverted” and unresolved this way, considering how her religious/ideological zeal is such an important part of her character.

Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea

Religion: Shinto, Pagan religions

Plot relevance: Medium-High

Problem matter: god-believer relationship

Notes: Nagi-Asu is notable for presenting the relationship between a god and his priest, particularly during strained and difficult moments when faith, love and personal convictions are all at odds with each other. Nagi-Asu avoids a dismissive or cruel portrayal of the divine, while choosing to present the main god of the story as a flawed but dynamic being with its own passions and goals to achieve.

No Game No Life

Religion: General (monotheistic)

Plot relevance: High

Problem matter: god as the source of moral order, god’s influence on the world, individual and societal self-improvement, proper worship

Notes: Possibly a criticism of real-life religions. The god in this series is physically present in the lives of mortals and doing his/her job by preventing anyone from using violence to achieve their means, while otherwise being content to give everyone their freedom as long as they play games and have fun.

It is telling that this benign One God took control of the world not because he/she was particularly powerful, but because all the other gods killed each other, leaving the only non-participant of the war the only divine being alive and at full power.

This god hands down ten commandments to all the creatures of his/her world, allowing them to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. The ban of violence does not end up quite as revolutionary as viewers would assume, though. For the more powerful races, it is an annoyance limiting, but not eliminating all the ways in which they can dominate their lesser brethren. The commandments do not stop the rivalries between races and individuals – the race to take away the others’ resources in a struggle for survival – it merely changes its form.

It is curious, then, that Sora and Shiro, the two most irreverent characters in the show, end up being the gods greatest prophets. Only they see the god of games as an individual with a plan in mind, and are therefore able to see the true meaning behind the commandments and the world of peace they may one day allow to create. They are the closest one’s to fulfilling the god’s will, even as they openly issue a challenge to the deity. Their relationship with the god is personal, something shared between thinking beings and not weighed down with veils of uncomprehending worship, fear and empty gestures.

The fictitious religion of No Game No Life might be superficially different from real-life religions, but the lessons learned in the show still ring true in our world. The commandments of any religion are not restrictions we are to work our way around. They are supposed to be a path, and any path has its final destination. Turning a blind eye to this means not seeing the wood for the trees.     

Riddle Story of Devil

Religion: Christianity, General

Plot relevance: High (but focused on closing episodes)

Problem matter: the faith vs. certainty dilemma, God’s will vs. free will, love and sacrifice, the relationship between the living and the departed

Notes: I must be somewhat jaded, for I did not really expect this series to discuss spiritual matters, the devil in the title notwithstanding. It was a pleasant surprise when the show chose to subvert my expectations.

The final episodes of the series show how an unrelenting attachment to free will and certainty ultimately require the characters to tear down the things they want to believe in. Is it better to hold onto love with faith as the only guarantee, or to destroy and know for sure, even if it leads to regret? The characters’ decisions are also a question directed at the viewers, who, often unknowingly, make the same decisions throughout their everyday life.   

Saki: The Nationals

Religion: Shinto, Shamanism, Atheism, General

Plot relevance: Medium

Problem matter: interreligious communication

Notes: As always, Saki presents a battlefield of worldviews and beliefs clashing against each other. The theme of interreligious dialogue comes into focus particularly through Nodoka’s matches, when the vice-captain’s hardheaded atheistic ways collide with all sorts of miracles and magic. But the other characters offer some other tasty bits, like a demon-controlling miko bewildered at the idea of the existence of an exorcist clan.

With Buddhism/Shugendo playing an important part in Achiga-hen, and Christianity recently discussed in the manga, Saki seems intent on collecting as many of the world’s religions as possible.

Sword Art Online II

Religion: Christianity

Plot relevance: Medium (final arc)

Problem matter: family and region, the meaning of suffering

Notes: Kawahara offers a brief but tasteful description of how Christian teachings affected one girl’s life in the Mother’s Rosario arc of this popular franchise. 

Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero

Religion: Shinto

Plot relevance: High

Problem matter: government and religion, family and religion, god-believer relationship

Notes: YuYuYu is particularly notable for its portrayal of a theocracy-based social order. The setting’s economy and survival are almost entirely dependent on the existence of the God-tree, and so the government and the country’s educational system are geared towards producing child-martyrs to fight against the God’’-tree’s enemies.

Showcasing both the power religion has to shape society as well as its perils, YuYuYu takes a complex approach to its portrayal of the God-tree cult. The religion might seem exceedingly cruel at times, like when we learn that the characters’ parents actually agreed to send their children to war, but there is also no doubt that it was the religious order that allowed Shikoku to survive the hundred years of total apocalypse.

At the end of the day, YuYuYu warns that the power of faith is great, but can be misused if the human factor is forgotten.  

Read Full Post »


In the first part of this post, I presented evidence to the strong Christian undercurrent present in the storytelling of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, complimenting the already broad list of examples medievalotaku presented in his original blog post. Because of those motives, medievalotaku views Arpeggio as a “spy anime”.

However, I have my misgivings about the series being branded as such. On the one hand, I would generally oppose the idea of works of fiction being “spy anything”, since that implies there being only one true interpretation, which is untrue of any kind of deeper fiction. On the other hand, while Arpeggio takes from the Christian worldview to create the foundation of its setting and plot developments, it is not afraid to criticize Christian ideals and discuss the present state of Christianity.


One of the ways in which Arpeggio transcends being a mere retelling and introduces its own ideas is through its female lead: I-401 Iona. Unlike with Gunzou, the obvious Christ figure of the show, it is not easy to pinpoint which Biblical figure Iona resembles the most. I pointed out how. at times, she works as God’s messenger dove – the Holy Spirit. Yet there is certainly a master-student relationship between her and Gunzou more reminiscent of that between Christ and his apostles. Either way, as medievalotaku points out,    “[s]he is certainly Gunzou’s most perfect follower”.

If there is something unusual about Iona as a follower of Christ, though, it is that she is… a declared atheist.

– This is a navy graveyard.

– Graveyard?

– A place where we mourn the dead and where we let their souls rest.

– The dead? Those whose life functions have ceased? Is there any meaning to mourning the dead?

Like her sisters, Iona was born without a predefined belief system, except for the priorities established by the Admiralty Code. As such, she values reason and logic above all else. For her, the graveyard is “just a place”, while the actions of mourners are “meaningless”.

Viewers might be used to that kind of thinking from other science-fiction works involving machine-like intelligence. But it does not take long for the conversation to take an unusual turn.

– Meaningless, huh? But I think human progress might be all about finding meaning within those meaningless actions.

– …It is similar to how a growing system allows for irregular noise to maintain diversity and avoid the inevitable corruption of data throughout successive copying.

Iona’s parallel seems to surprise Gunzou at first, but he soon responds with a smile.

Through the conversation between Iona and Gunzou in episode three, Arpeggio shows the ideal of a relationship between a Christian and an atheist/agnostic.

Iona honestly admits the differences in their beliefs. However, Iona’s denial of Gunzou’s ideas, no matter how direct and to the point, does not become a personal attack. This is because at this point in the series, she holds an absolute devotion to Gunzou. There may therefore be no doubt that while she denies her captain’s words, she does not deny him as a person. We are not usually connected with each other in a special way like this. But, as fellow humans blessed with the same free will and reason, we should still at least be able to respect each other regardless of differences in belief.

The above-mentioned respect is often put into practice in the form of a no-touch policy. But like Iona and Gunzou, we should not be afraid to ask questions, and, when questioned, we should answer to the best of our ability.

Why is the above necessary? Partly because it is an opportunity for self-reflection. As they say, a teacher needs to know his stuff thrice as well as the regular person. But mostly, it is necessary for what Iona was able to do in the end – the forming of bridges and parallels.

It is worth it to look at the conversations as a win-win scenario, where both sides win to the extent they can gain an understanding of the other. It is crucial to realize, and accept, that our current positions are different, sometimes to the point of being mutually exclusive. But more often then we realize, we come from the same places, aiming for the same things. After all, we all share the same basic needs as human beings. The key, therefore, is to seek similarities and understanding even while acknowledging the differences.


It is not immediately obvious what point the series is making with its messiah-atheist combination. But the answer comes in the second part of the same episode, with the crew of I-401 invited to a dinner party by an army/government official.

His demand: hand I-401 over to the government. His reasoning behind the demand: we are the government, our soldiers have proper training and you cannot trust that monster submarine in the first place.

Gunzou’s answer is negative, his reasoning equally simple: Iona, my crew and I have been risking our lives and achieving results; your army has failed to do anything for the last seven years, their “proper training” notwithstanding; I trust Iona much more than I could ever trust you.

On a superficial level, Gunzou and the official would seem to share a lot of similarities. They represent the same race, the same nationality and the same military background. They are similar to two people of the same religious denomination. Had it been the official who saw Gunzou offering the flowers in the graveyard, there would be no need to explain whether there is any meaning to mourning the dead.

But there is a great chasm separating the two men. That chasm can be described with a single phrase: “delivering the goods”. For all their ideological differences, Gunzou and Iona have no secrets between each other. On the battlefield, they can have absolute trust the other won’t betray them. Can Gunzou say the same about the official?

It is not difficult to see how empty the man’s arguments are. At no point does he mention what the government intends to do once they get their hands on I-401 or what great strategy they have in mind to beat back the Fog. In fact, complying with his request would require Gunzou to abandon his quest to deliver humanity’s last-hope superweapon to America. Add the fact that there is some obvious power struggle going on in the background between the navy and ground forces, and it can be guessed that the official represents some small clique who want to benefit from the possession of I-401, and his top priority is not necessarily the good of humanity as a whole.

The law is on our side, the official says, without thinking about the ultimate purpose of the law. Our troops had proper training, he says, without thinking what purpose the training was supposed to serve. His goals are the same as Gunzou’s, but in shape only – they are empty on the inside.

Unfortunately, that description might sound familiar. The official represents people of faith who have lost sight of their own core values in favor of formalities and appearances. The Church is on our side, they say, forgetting that the Church is there for the salvation of all people and God’s glory, and meaningless without that purpose. We attend mass and take part in all the proper rituals, they say, forgetting that the rituals are there to foster spiritual growth and lend them strength to do the right thing with their lives. Reduced to motions and appearances, the actions hold no value.

Gunzou rejects the man’s invitation and sides with Iona. There are times when Iona cannot understand his thoughts and motivations. The only thing she can offer him are her best and honest intentions, as well as actions carried out in accordance with her own reason and consciousness. But that, Gunzou realizes, is the only thing that counts.

Good is good, evil is evil. It does not matter whether the hand that performs the act belongs to a Christian, atheist, or whoever else. Virtue and sin make no exceptions based on plaques and connections. Arpeggio of Blue Steel aired in 2013, the same year Pope Francis assumed his duties. Pope Francis caused quite a buzz in the Christian world when he declared that atheists may be good people, and that if they walk the path of good, they walk the path towards Christ. That same message is contained in Arpeggio: to praise all good, and condemn all evil.


Perhaps the most important scene of the anime as a whole is the birth of the titular Ars Nova ship: Gunzo and Iona’s struggle for survival after being sunk by Fog submarines and Takao’s sacrifice to bring them both to safety. Medievalotaku only offers a brief mention of the scene, perhaps because Gunzou’s readiness to sacrifice his own life for the crew seems so obvious a parallel of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. However, it is exactly because the parallels are so obvious that the discrepancies contained in this portrayal are so striking. And taking a closer look at those discrepancies is key to understanding the message Arpeggio is trying to get across.

First and foremost: Gunzou does not die. Why? Because his fleet and followers would not let him. The episode is not only an opportunity for Gunzou to show his selfless ideals, it is an important character development moment for two other characters.

First and foremost is I-401 Iona. Her efforts to save Gunzou are entirely in character and come as no surprise. Iona identifies herself most strongly as Gunzou’s ship and adheres to all his commands. It is early on in the series where she realizes, on her own accord, that she exists "not to let Gunzou die”. All is in perfect order then, until the moment when Gunzou orders Iona to sacrifice him. Iona hears the order… and refuses.


Gunzou’s orders are Iona’s one Absolute Principle, her First Law of Robotics. It is through her refusal of the order that she proves herself a free and thinking being, human in all the ways that actually count. It is through her refusal that she achieves her greatest moral victory, because Gunzou’s orders are a test of fire that proves that Iona’s principles are genuine and hers alone. And yet, surprisingly, it is also through that refusal that Iona’s principles are proven to be the same Gunzou holds. Gunzou considers Iona’s life worth sacrificing his own, and Iona responds in turn. She looks beyond what Gunzou says, and sees what he stands for.

This is a powerful stab at Christianity, which values the moral growth of an individual… up to a point. Unfortunately, obedience often takes precedence over sound judgment in terms of Christian virtues. In what is one of the most troubling biblical passages. God demands that Abraham kill his son as a human sacrifice to Him in a test of faith. Interpretations differ, but Abraham passes the test, willing and ready to kill his son until God stops him at the last moment. Murder is, of course, a vile and grave sin. And Christianity makes no allowance for sins in thought – they are as evil as sins through action. Thus God orders His follower to sin, and Abraham does so, resolving to undertake one of the most repugnant deeds imaginable. (Logical somersaults follow to justify that.)

Had Abraham thought like Iona, he might have realized that God and evil do not mix, ever. He might have refused, and stayed true to what God stands for, rather than to whatever was whispering in his ear at the time. It might have been the Devil, after all, taking advantage of blind obedience like he does with human stupidity. But Christianity tells its followers they cannot fathom God’s will and urges them to suspend their judgment in favor of following others, be they priests or charlatans.

Iona proved herself human, and there comes a day when we must all prove ourselves adults: not doing as we are told forever, in sweet ignorance, but thinking about our actions for ourselves, so that we may take responsibility for them, learn from our mistakes and take pride in what we represent.


But there is another lesson contained in that scene, and to pick up on it, we need to return to the starting point. Gunzou does not die. Why? Because his followers will not let him.

Christ spilled His blood and offered His body for the sake of His followers. You might expect Gunzou to do the same here, but surprisingly enough, the roles are reversed. As Gunzou is under threat of freezing to death (and/or suffocating), it is Iona who is slowly bleeding herself to death as she keeps a sinking ship fully operational to maintain life support. And, in the titular scene of the episode, it is Takao who offers her body to guide Gunzou to safety. It is only through this reversed sacrifice of body and blood that master and followers ultimately reach salvation.

This is a wake up call for Christians out there. Christ died for your sins once already. Now it is time for His followers to return the favor and carry His cross for Him. There are plenty of opportunities out there, every single day. 

The Fog ships passed the test. What about humanity?

Read Full Post »


Spoiler warning: This post discusses the events of Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio / Arpeggio of Blue Steel in detail and contains significant spoilers.

I was late to pick up Arpeggio of Blue Steel last year, but it immediately shot up in the ranks of my favorite anime works from that period. Arpeggio is great fun as a self-contained sci-fi show, but there is also that religious undercurrent to it that I found fascinating. After all, Arpeggio was leaning very closely to classic Western ideas, despite its Japanese staff. Immediately upon finishing the series, I started looking around for a Christian look at the show, and medievalotaku obliged with a highly-detailed reinterpretation of the show as a parallel of the Bible.

As I read the article, though, I was surprised at how different the things medievalotaku noticed were from my own observations on the show. Turns out there was even more Christian material in Arpeggio than I thought! (But that possibility was one of the reasons why I wanted a more knowledgeable blogger to tackle the issue, of course.)

The following are my own thoughts on the religious themes contained in the show. While not a direct response to medievalotaku’s article, reading both should be interesting as a comparison of two perspectives on the issue.


The Holy Feather

While medievalotaku became sure of the Christian undercurrent to the show in the couple final episodes, I found it impossible to ignore the evidence presented at the midpoint of the series.

Episode six of the show sees battleship Haruna, a competent and powerful member of the Fog, in a pinch in her battle against the human armed forces. The irony of her predicament is that, weakened though she might be at that point, she is not losing because of a lack of power. Rather, she is dead set on shielding the human child Makie, and thus finds herself in a hostage situation. Her best bet would be to kill the foot soldiers first, then go after the people controlling the artillery, but Haruna has just been taught that it is wrong to kill, and she chooses an uphill struggle of disabling her opponents without killing them. The army going after her has no concerns regarding any of the above points, obviously.

What we see, therefore, is Haruna getting punished for doing the right thing, for her love and her mercy. And while her newfound moral principles would not be enough for most people to throw away their lives, it seems increasingly likely with every second of the episode that Haruna will refuse to throw away either her moral integrity or the life of her friend – not even resorting to the lesser evil approach of prioritizing the life of her defenseless companion over the lives of their assassins.

Play nice and you will get punished, the scene says. It shows the thorny path awaiting those who choose to carry the burden of ideals. And in the final moments before receiving that cruel judgment, Haruna does something quite unlike a Fog warship: she closes her eyes and prays.

Somebody. Anyone. Please help us. Please save us. Somebody!

And then, with the wonderful “SAVIOR” soundtrack heralding it, help descends from the sky. With overwhelming, but precisely controlled power, the I-401 submarine Iona takes control of the situation. As user suburbanbanshee helpfully points out in their comment on medievalotaku’s article, Iona’s name can be traced back to the Latin word for dove, which also happens to be the Blue Steel crest. As Gunzou is the Christ-figure of the show, Iona arrives as the Holy Spirit – the messenger of Christ descending to aid the believers in their darkest hour.


– Haruna, what are you doing here? 

– I am… We are trying to protect Makie… our friend.

– Is that so? Then I will help you.

Just a moment before, Haruna was still trying to tell herself that she only needs Makie to survive for the Fog’s purpose. Haruna wanted to believe she was acting according to cold reason, confused as she was to the newfound feelings in her heart. But Iona forces her to come clean and face the true motivation behind her actions. And once everything is laid open, Iona offers her unconditional help.

– 401, why did you help me?

– Because I heard your voice.

– What?

– ‘Please help,’ you said. And so I came to help.

The events of the scene parallel the promise existing between Christ and His believers. Christians are not promised escape from suffering. Indeed, the holy path is one of thorns. But Christ promises that in our most difficult hour, when a believer closes their eyes, speaks out and reaches out with their hands, Christ and the Holy Spirit will be there, listening and ready to offer help. The help Christ offers is unconditional, and comes with no price attached. The only thing asked in exchange for answering a prayer is a true and open heart.


Submarine Morality

There are many more Arpeggio scenes that parallel those found in the Bible, and medievalotaku mentions many of them. Perhaps even more important than any single scene, though, is the fact that the setting of Arpeggio adheres to some basic tenets of the Christian worldview, even where this is against Japanese tradition.

One attractive feature of anime and other Japanese works, for me and many others, is that they often show human beings as capable of both good and evil at all times. Remember that psychopathic murderer from Fullmetal Alchemist who ends up saving the main character at the end “just because”? The Japanese proficiency at such portrayals of the gray areas in our morality might stem from the fact Japan lacks the tradition of the good/evil duality supported by the church in the West.

Still, the Japanese attachment to moral ambiguity also means that anime works will rarely take a definite stance on whether humans, by nature, lean more towards good or evil. Christianity has no doubts in this regard: everyone is a sinner, but God intended everybody to be good. Provided that they have the honest will to seek the light, God promises to support everyone in their spiritual growth towards good and, eventually, salvation.

This way of thinking obviously requires that we assume the existence of a universal morality, a concept avoided in most Japanese works, but present in Arpeggio, and how so! Universal morality not only exists, it seems to be infectious and jumping from one victim to another faster than the virus in the latest zombie flick!

Arpeggio can embrace the concept full on because of its unique cast of characters. The fleet warships are fully developed mentally, in the intellectual sense, but they are blank slates in the moral sense. Each of the mental models is therefore a small social experiment: will the pure mind sway towards love or hatred?

If you bet on love, you won big time. Haruna needs some three days to turn from a heartless weapon to the selfless pacifist described in the first part of the article. Hyuuga does not mind getting dismantled for the greater good. Takao likewise sacrifices herself to save the other members of her fleet. Kirishima… Kirishima likes playing the tough girl, but she is all plushy on the inside. (Hah!)

Those people all met while blasting supercavitation torpedoes at each other, and they were not throwing any punches! But the smallest bit of kindness is enough to attract them to the path of light. For the Fog warships, the concepts of good and evil are something completely new, and so, they are not immediately able to properly discern between the two. But this does not matter in the least, because good seems to be like a powerful magnet, pulling them towards the right path at every opportunity. By the point Haruna starts wondering how she came to possess moral principles in the first place, she is already an example to follow in terms of moral integrity.


But while the outstanding moral qualities are still understandable, storytelling-wise, among those warships which join the protagonists, it is the antagonist side that proves beyond a shadow of doubt that the power of good is universal, and not to be trifled with!

Iona’s sister ships, I-400 and I-402, are very careful not to get within range of the good-magnet. This does not seem to help them any, though. Within minutes of moral small talk with Iona, I-402 can no longer remain professionally indifferent. Shaken, she demands that Iona explain her incomprehensible principles. There is outrage there, on the surface, but beneath it lies a desperate need to understand that great secret which Iona got hold of. The spiritual distance between the two is growing shorter than I-402 might realize, and this is reflected in her cutting down the physical distance between their avatars and reaching out her hand to touch, and try to understand, Iona. If God’s morality is indeed universal, it must be natural even to those who have never heard of God, even to those who have been taught a different brand of good and evil. This is the kind of good Arpeggio portrays – an irresistible force that attracts all without exception.

I-400 steps in to stop the talk between the two, but it is already too late. Mere moments later, I-402 will be making her first moral choice, and one which consists of throwing away her life to protect her sister. I-400 is outraged at seeing that act of sacrifice, accuses I-402 of being no different from Iona, and rushes at the Blue Steel submarine in a blind rage. She does not notice, of course, that she is getting entangled in the web of good. It is not rage that is the opposite of love, but indifference. I-400 can feel rage because she can feel hurt. And she can feel hurt at seeing her sister sunk by a torpedo because she can feel love.

The battle between the submarines soon ends with Iona’s victory. When I-402 apologizes to her sister for being unable to protect her, I-400 asks her why she would apologize. Then she reaches out her hand in a gesture of… Forgiveness? Acceptance? Or is it the same desire for understanding as was the case between I-402 and Iona before? Death claims I-400 before we can make sure of the answer.

The real heart-breaker, though, comes immediately after. As Iona cries for the loss of her two sisters, I-402 asks her why she would cry. Then she tells Iona that all Iona did was fight her enemies and sink them. When Iona tries to protest, I-402 cuts in: That and nothing else.

This might seem like I-402 berating her sister for her lack of logic, a stubborn rejection of emotion until the very end. But because this is the same I-402 that shielded her sister with her own body and still felt guilty for not being able to protect her, a different interpretation comes to mind.

From a logical perspective, there is no point in conversing with Iona at that point. But I-402 uses her last moments to absolve Iona of her guilt. Her insistence that Iona is not to blame is the only gift she can leave behind, the only way she can lessen the burden Iona will have to bear. I-402 shields Iona‘s heart no differently then she shielded the body of her other sister minutes before.


It might seem surprising that while the Fog warships prove capable of extraordinary moral feats and astounding moral progress within moments from being exposed to the power of good, there are plenty of human characters in the series who are evidently short-sighted and concerned only with their personal interests. The key difference, I think, lies in the fact that the Fog warships are all like children. This is why their emotional reactions are all so intense, why they learn so fast, why Kongou’s seemingly deep-rooted hatred disappears like mist after a simple hug. It is no coincidence that Haruna’s thoughts and moral development are shown at one point to perfectly mirror that of Makie.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to children, and it is a great challenge to retain childlike faith even as we grow up, and encounter the temptations and gray areas of adult life. Many of the grown ups of the Arpeggio world apparently lost their way. And the road ahead of our Blue Steel fleet will not be easy either. As the world balance switches from one where the Fog was firmly in control to a more even distribution of forces, there will come times when they will have to choose sides and make difficult choices.

But well, if they cannot pull through, who possibly could?

Read Full Post »

[Ohys-Raws] Black Bullet - 08 (AT-X 1280x720 x264 AAC).mp4_snapshot_11.13_[2014.06.23_23.40.17]

No, wait, not the kind of temptation pictured above.

If you have been watching the show, you know that Black Bullet took its riveting setting and has been going weird places and doing weird things ever since the first arc ended. Still, it has its moments of brilliance. One of those was the commentary on temptation contained in episode eleven of the show.

[Ohys-Raws] Black Bullet - 04 (AT-X 1280x720 x264 AAC).mp4_snapshot_04.23_[2014.06.23_23.47.25]

The episode treats us to a reunion with our favorite villain pair from the first arc. The show never tried hiding that the Hiruko pair are both evil and completely insane, nor that where they now stand is where Rentarou might end up should he lose to the anger and despair in his heart. Kagetane urges Rentarou to join him from the very beginning, offering Rentarou various incentives as well as showing him the dark sides of the society Rentarou has sworn to protect.

However, during that first arc, there was little doubt that Rentarou would be refusing the offer. While the government’s neglect led to many deaths among the Cursed Children, Kagetane’s alternative was that of killing even more people in much more direct ways while spouting clichéd villain lines. This, of course, made sense as generating bad publicity was in Kagetane’s job description at the time.

[HorribleSubs] Black Bullet - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.47_[2014.06.24_00.20.12]

But Rentarou’s recent meeting with the pair was nothing like those before it – there was no shouting or fighting involved. To the contrary, it was a moment of respite in a dangerous journey.

In many ways, Kagetane’s timing could not have been better. Rentarou has just been betrayed by the system he protects. He was punished for doing what he thought was right, and the people in charge were not subtle about turning his family and teammates into hostages. He is sent alone on a suicide mission, one he might accepted anyway if provided with the proper support. But the language of threats seems to be the official one in this world.

Rentarou’s mission is about to meet its premature end – godly as his offensive abilities are, half of his body is still human. And as Rentarou climbs out of a river, wet, tired, wounded and about to become dog food, the Hiruko pair arrive just in time to save the day. It seems that for once, Rentarou has had enough and decided to give up on it all – and the two heard that and responded to the call.

[HorribleSubs] Black Bullet - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.36_[2014.06.23_23.38.42]

In Rentarou’s darkest hour, the “other option” the Hiruko pair represent might have come to his mind. But of course, the two before him are flesh and blood. They bring with them power and destruction, necessary to get Rentarou out of his pinch, but also the warmth of a fireplace, the safety of mutual protection, the sweet scent of food and the bandages to cover Rentarou’s wounds.

It is a great irony that for that one moment, Rentarou’s only light in the world comes from the darkest part of his soul. But then, is it not the wat temptation works for all of us?

Each person has their own weakness. We can tell right from wrong when confronted about the issue directly – like Rentarou confronted his foes in the first arc of this story. But when we are lost on the way, betrayed, hurt, hungry, exhausted… that is when our weaknesses sneak up on us. And they offer comfort and healing.

Me? I reach out for sweets when lady luck seems to hate me, and for condescension when people do not think or act the way I would like them to. Those are two different vices, both with their own hazards, but they both feel good in the short term.

The question is, will we be able to wake up next morning, and walk away from that fireplace?

[HorribleSubs] Black Bullet - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.09_[2014.06.23_23.38.04]    

Like with Rentarou’s new little troupe, the power of temptation lies not in direct confrontation with the force of our will, but in the fact that, quite accidentally, it always seems to be heading in the same direction we are.

Read Full Post »


Thanks to medivalotaku for nominating me for the Liebster Award. It’s always a now-or-never thing for me with such community projects. If I put it off once, I’ll never get to it at all. Forgive me, then, for the simplicity of my answers/questions.


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!)


1. Do you watch the Olympics?

I tend only to watch the Olympics/other sports events together with my family. Most of the time, however, I live elsewhere and do not have access to a TV at all. In terms of sports I sometimes watch for personal pleasure, what comes to mind is volleyball and snooker.   

2. Who is your favorite historical figure?

Gautama Buddha. Thomas Aquinas.

3. Vikings vs. Samurai. Who wins on a level playing ground?

I’m no history buff, but my vision of the Vikings is that of an army wielding axes and the like, plundering some poor British village, while my vision of the Samurai is Nobunaga’s armies with firearms and stuff.

Samurai? Easily???  

4. Do you like Jane Austen’s books?

They are lovely. I remember reading about the frolicking of “young, gay soldiers” and wondering how the main character could be certain the soldiers were indeed gay.  

5. If you were marooned on a desert island with little possibility of rescue, which five books would you want to have with you?

Give me whatever survival tutorials of practical value that you have. Other than that admission of being a geek with no idea how to survive getting stranded?

The Dune, The Little Prince, Umineko (text-only printout is fine), some unfinished light novel to keep me hoping for more, one empty book for my own writing.    

6. Also, a lifetime supply of what drink would you want to have with you on that island?


Provided that water is abundant, tea. Or apple or orange juice. 

7. Have you ever thought about joining the military or joined it?  Which branch?

I have thought about how not to join the military. Thankfully, they didn’t really want me, either.

I still remember the questionnaire lady asking us questions after our meeting with the military commission. She got to “What is your stance towards military service?”, and my expression must have been telling enough, because after a moment’s pause, she continued with: “Yes, you can say ‘negative’.” 

8. If for one night you could dine with anyone–living or dead, who would it be?

Albert Einstein. 

9. If for a fortnight you could be transported into a fantasy world before returning to the real world, which one would it be?

Damn, I hate you xD. My practical side tells me to pick any fantasy world with magic-medicine developed and reliable enough for me to reap lasting benefits from those two weeks.

Even I can’t deny the temptation for a little bit of adventure here, though. A ticket to the Touhou-verse sounds most alluring. Even if I would likely end up serving as a hungry loli’s dinner before the fortnight is up. 

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?

I could, who would stop me? I see no point, though. The longest I’ve gone without shaving is less than a week, I think. 

11. What’s your favorite sea creature?

enguarde_02Teh Swordfish, ‘nuff said.

Fun facts

1. My grandmothers from my father’s and my mother’s side are sisters. There is some anime-esque not-related-by-blood stuff going on that makes the resulting diamond-shaped family tree legal and morally sound (???).

2. I can swim, ski and all that, but I first rode a bicycle a couple years ago, aged 22. I can now kind of keep the devilish invention going straight, but I’m not nearing any traffic with my current level of skill!

3. I was brought up in a “somewhat Catholic” household, like most Poles. By the time I was a teen, I was pretty no-no about the faith, but me and my mother agreed I would take part in the confirmation rite before doing whatever I wanted with my faith and ideology from then on.

The fun part of confirmation is that you get a third name (or second, if you never had that), which you get to choose from a list of saints. The choice is free, but you have to explain it to a priest first. My third name ended up being Boniface, for the patron of converts. I was able to tell the priest that my faith is not all that, and the support from Boniface might be necessary to help me.

I did not mention the other reason for the choice: that Boniface happened to be the name of a certain lazy cat…

bonifacy4. The number four is my favorite/lucky number, which often gets me awkward glances from my Asian acquaintances, many of whom link the number to death. (The words “four” and “death” share the same/similar pronunciation in both Japanese and Chinese). Then again, I always felt some kind of affinity for the necromantic side of force in fantasy/rpg settings.

5. I cried at a work of fiction thrice in my life:

  • Dracula: Dead and Loving It, when the titular character dies
  • Dragonheart, see above
  • Pokemon, near the end of the first season, when Ash loses to his friend in the league 

All those were in my childhood, and apparently at some point I’ve lost the ability to cry at fiction. Doesn’t mean I don’t get the feels from watching/reading stuff – I can be a real softie.

6. There is a Japanese textbook out there for Polish learners of the language with the entire grammar part of the book written by yours truly. The request for that came on a “by the way” basis, since my main job on the book was in proofreading, editing and romanization. “By the way,” my boss said at the end of the project, “could you also write a few pages explaining Japanese grammar? ASAP, please.”

The book apparently sold well enough, and it’s one of the rare cases where I’m happy not to be credited for my work. (Hint: try explaining the grammar of any language within the limit of about five pages and a two days’ deadline).

7. Through the years of writing anime-related stuff, I’ve had the pleasure of getting my work plagiarized, translated into foreign languages and adapted into animation.

A fellow fanfiction.net writer plagiarized large portions of Piko Piko Trouble. I don’t think he had any idea what he was doing, as he copied a surreal description of wind gradually breaking out of a time-frozen space straight into his own scene of an everyday conversation, but it was still funny.

Many of the character profiles for ISML2011 are available in Chinese. As far as I can tell with my basic grasp of the language, some of those translations are quite loose, but I hope to be able to read them properly one of those days. (I should probably put more effort into my Chinese.)

Finally, one of my readers came to me asking whether they could animate Twisted Equilibrium. I was like “Huh…? Um, go ahead?” The result was a Microsoft Paint slide show summarizing the story in a surrealistic manner. I regret not downloading the video from youtube at the time, as it is no longer available.

8. During my first year of high school, a piece of paper started circulating the classroom during a physics class, with the single question of: “Have you ever studied German?” and two columns of names underneath. Little did we know that the piece of paper would be used to decide who would qualify where… for the English beginner and advanced classes. Cue in people starting the language from scratch getting sorted to the same group as people with nine years of language study under their belt.

High school is an amazing place.

9. My mother isn’t sure whether she knows what anime is all about, but the few series me and my sister exposed her to “taught [her] that no one is ever fully good or fully evil”. Yay.

10. I was class representative (or vice-representative, or class something) for six years straight, starting from 4th grade until the end of junior high. Other than my close friends, classmates probably saw me as something akin to a half-teacher, and so I either learned about something first, or dead last. Towards the end of junior high, I accidentally discovered that half my class were smokers, and I had no idea until then. Something similar went down in high school – I know there were people doing drugs there, but nobody even bothered trying to invite me to join the club.

Should I feel left out, or just glad for the trouble it saved me?

11. One of my Japanese friends comes from Nishinomiya, and graduated from North High – the same high school Kyon & co. attended in the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. He was kind enough to give me and a couple friends a tour of the city, and our last stop was the high school itself. The idea was to ask the guard for permission to enter for a few minutes, but since it was summer vacation, no guard was present and the gate wasn’t locked, we, uh, slipped in for a bit xD?

The photos from that are my treasure, right next to K-On high school photos – but those were taken without breaking any laws.


The Huge Anime Fan


A Thousand Years From Now

Anime Soup

Marusera no Sekai


1. The world will blow up in an hour. What do you do with your final hour?

2. Aliens come and want to know whether Earth is worth saving – they ask you to show them three works/things/places/facts to convince them. What do you choose?

3. The same aliens offer you a deal: they will save Earth if you can beat them at a (fair) game. What game/sport/challenge do you choose?

4. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten/drunk in your life?

5. Name one thing somebody did for you that you are most grateful for.

6. Has your opinion on a subject ever changed 180 degrees after years passed/something happened/you learned something new? If so, what was it?

7. You happen to reincarnate as an animal of your choice, what animal do you pick?

8. Choose one anime character for president of your country.

9. Pick one book school forced you to read, and now you’re glad about it.

10. What is the ultimate form and kind of cheese?

11. Cat person? Dog Person?

Read Full Post »

kami to hotoke


Tell me! Share Buddha’s compassion with me, a god!

Hajime of Gatchaman Crowds’ fame went down to meet a god as an equal, but the same show would later present a “God is dead” speech through Sugane. Scenes like that always remind of the feelings of betrayal and disillusionment still deep in the Japanese psyche – how many nations were forced to hear their god announce himself to be human?

And yet, there were as many as two series this year which called for compassion for god. Both of them present god as something of a prick and somebody who messed up plenty along the way, which is very telling, but both also stand up for the divine being: he did the best he could.

Kyousougiga and Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyoubi, are the two shows just a coincidence, or do they signify a slow change in the Japanese approach to god?

Read Full Post »

kokoro no matenrou



Then build it in your heart.

The skyscraper in your heart will never crumble.

People sometimes complain about young anime characters not acting their age, but I find those scenes and characters most delightful.

In primary school, I would pester my teachers with philosophy during lunch breaks, skyscrapers and all.

Read Full Post »


Straight from reading Japesland’s views on Sunday Without God – I see some anime fans (Japesland included) dissatisfied with the relative lack of God discussed straight out in the show. But while Sunday Without God was definitely designed to be unfinished and its themes unresolved – it is but the beginning of the story, and it is crucial that Ai not know the answers to her questions at this point in time – I thought it offered plenty regarding theological musings.

The first arc opens up with the long fought question: is God’s world indeed the best world possible? Humans get an opportunity to replace some of God’s rules with those of their own… and the result is not exactly pretty. But the personal story of Humpnie is more striking here. Only when his wish gets granted does he realize it was not what he wanted to begin with. Unlike God, man does not even have a perfect understanding of what is good for him or his own true desires. It is telling that at the end of the arc, Humpnie gives himself up to the original (God’s) order of things, even if it requires him to part with his long-lost daughter.

The second arc explores a society where the undead are kept stable and coexisting harmoniously thanks to science. Is death infinitesimally similar to life through science equal to life, or can something man-made never equal a divine miracle? Real-life parallels range from anything like in vitro technology to prospective cloning tech. At the same time, we see that God’s “absence” brings about the decay of morality as a whole – Ulla asks “Is death evil? Am I evil?” and that is indeed a question without an answer in that world, because with the values of life and death in flux, concepts such as murder and manslaughter likewise lose their moral meaning.

The third arc is all about perspective. The confrontation between Ai and her blind friend stands at the core here, with Ai wanting to save her, but the girl not wanting to be saved. Sounds familiar? Before the night of the escape, Ai takes the same position God does – waiting on the other side of the door with her arms open, but unable (unwilling) to take away the free will of those inside the room, and therefore forever waiting for them to extend their own hands. The girl being blind, and Ai becoming her guiding light is not likely a coincidence, and neither is the fact that the girl considers voluntarily remaining a prisoner of the school, like man remains prisoner of his sin. That her explanation for her actions is that “she is not worthy of her parents’ love, because she only causes them trouble” is just icing on the cake – “I’m a sinner anyway, so it’s not like God could love me”, anyone?

The fourth arc is a rejection of peaceful eternity, and therefore a call for the necessity of tears, death and despair in our lives as potentially building experiences that allow us to move forward. Rejecting all of those could only come with rejecting all change and progress – like Alice’s class living unaware in their eternal loop merely to turn their eyes away from the loss of a classmate.

Again, the show intentionally choses not to give straight answers to many of the issues raised above, which us understandable. Not only is this the opening act of the story, but admitting there are no clear answers to some of those fundamental questions is a sign of worthy humility on the author’s part. Will Ai find her own answers to those questions further along her way? I certainly want to find out, which is why I hope to get my hands on the novels at some point in the future.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »