Wolf Children and a Mother’s Sacrifice May15

Wolf Children and a Mother’s Sacrifice...

Hana from Wolf Children is the ultimate mother. After unexpectedly becoming a single parent, she gives up everything to take care of her two babies, Ame and Yuki. She gives up university, living in the convenience of the city, and the entire direction of her life to ensure that her children grow up healthy and happy. Her sacrifice and perseverance touches me deeply and I can’t help being reminded of my own mother. My mom took care of my sister and me while she was in an unhappy marriage so we could grow up with a father in our lives. To me, that sacrifice is as big as raising us as a single mom. She chose to live unhappily so her children could live happily. When Ame and Yuki were babies, Hana barely had time to sleep or eat or do anything for herself while she took care of them. She too lived unhappily for a time for the sake of her children. To give us more freedom in our education, my mom homeschooled us. Much of the research she did herself to provide the best education she could while also letting us grow up with plenty of extracurricular activities and time for fun. Similarly (somewhat), Hana researched everything she could to ensure she could raise Ame and Yuki as both humans and wolves. She wanted to give them the freedom to choose which path they wanted. Both of these mothers gave their children the freedom to choose their future paths and did so without judgement. When my sister and I grew into our teenage years, our relationship with our dad became strained to the point my mom felt like we should leave him. In a matter of days, she packed up everything and moved...

Attack on Titan Reminds us to Value Our Origins May10

Attack on Titan Reminds us to Value Our Origins...

I come from a region known for ignorance and stupidity. In media, residents of the Southern United States are often portrayed as unintelligent people with thick accents. I can’t tell you how many cartoons I’ve seen with a character in overalls, a piece of wheat hanging from his mouth, driveling with an obnoxious southern drawl. Because of this stigma, in the past I’ve detested using southern words like “y’all” or “buggie.” I didn’t pick up the southern accent on purpose. Sometimes I’ve wished I was from somewhere else, so I didn’t feel like I had to continuously prove that I’m not an idiot. Attack on Titan’s Sasha Braus felt the same way about her humble beginnings. She grew up with her father in the woods, struggling to find food that they hunted with bows and arrows. She also adopted her father’s deep southern accent. When she decided to join the 104th training corps in the military, she changed her accent, carefully choosing her words to make sure no one knew what she really sounded like and thus disguising where she came from. The places I came from formed who we I am and will always be a part of me no matter where I go. At one point, one of her fellow trainees, Ymir, calls her out for “acting too nice,” accusing her of covering up how she feels and being a fake. Another trainee named Krista Lenz defends Sasha, saying that she likes how Sasha talks and that “her words are her own.” In Season Two, Sasha is forced to return to her village to warn her people of an oncoming titan attack. Memories rush back to her about her home and who she is. There she finds a young girl trapped by...

Your Name Demonstrates Love over Distance May08

Your Name Demonstrates Love over Distance...

In a number of east Asian countries, there’s a concept known as the red string of fate. Frequently portrayed in anime and manga, it’s a red cord, invisible to the human eye, connecting two people, usually in a romantic sense. No matter how far apart they are or what obstacles stand in their way, the pair’s fingers (and hearts) are always linked. It’s a charming idea, but one that doesn’t seem to fit in this modern world. I wonder, what would happen if that antiquated string was traded for a digital thread? Would modern technology change the way we view love? Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), the animated film from Makoto Shinkai that became one of Japan’s all-time highest grossing movies, explores the ideas of romance, fate, and digital technology. It features an unlikely pair: Mitsuha, the eldest daughter in a family tied to a rural community’s Shinto shrine, and Taki, a boy who lives in the megacity of Tokyo and works part-time as a waiter and bus boy. Tied together through a supernatural and cosmic phenomenon, the high schoolers begin switching bodies on a regular basis; the only way they can communicate with one another about the situation is by leaving messages on notepads, scribbling marks on their own bodies, and more typically, typing in a journaling app on their phones. I can work to love those people in my life that are otherwise separated from me. Their odd way of communication is played for laughs as they chronicle their days, often laying down ground rules and leaving snarky remarks, for each other. That surface-level conversation reminds me of my own smartphone habits. I’m frequently in dialogue with friends through Facebook, Twitter, and other apps, and though I communicate with more people...

Rage Against the Humanity May01

Rage Against the Humanity...

Mira is the combination of the best parts of humanity and robot. That’s what the live action film Ghost in the Shell opens by saying, anyway. She combines the mind of a human with its ability to think for itself, respond to changing environments and reason out solutions with the strength and durability of a robotic frame. But is the mind the best part of what it means to be human? The human mind can do some extraordinary things. It has the ability to take in and sort stimuli from multiple sources in a near instant. It can decide on its own what to pay various levels of attention to, and even how to interpret that attention from the gentle touch that tickles to the sharp pain of a cut. It can also use that information to formulate plans that can be changed on the fly. The brain can set out to accomplish a task and as information comes in, alter, change, or completely rewrite the plan to accomplish a goal. Memory and humanity are linked. This is the ability that Cutter is after when he implants Mira’s brain into a robotic shell. He’s looking for a robot that adapts to meet a changing battlefield. He wants a weapon that has instinct, a machine that can serve him not based on logarithms and if/then statements, but with the natural ability of a human being. The problem with his plan, though, is that the human brain is not just an adaptive algorithm computer. It contains something else, something strange and beautiful that makes a human a person: a soul. In the movie, this phenomenon is referred to as a “ghost.” Whether you call it spirit, soul, ruach adoni, or ghost, it is the thing that...

Who Is Mira Killian? Apr17

Who Is Mira Killian?

In the live action version of Ghost in the Shell, Mira Killian believes she understands her purpose. She and her parents drowned when their refugee boat was sunk by techno terrorists. Her parents’ deaths were final, but Mira is granted a second life through the miracle of robotic technology. Her brain—the only salvageable part of her original being—was implanted in a new robot body. Motivated by her own tragedy and a desire to stop future attacks, Mira works tirelessly for the anti-terrorist bureau called Section 9. Within a year, she’s promoted to the rank of major and responds more readily to her rank than her name. Her job is her identity. Her world starts to shift when a terrorist hacker beings killing high-level employees of Hanka Robotics, the company that built her body. While working the case, she begins experiencing glitches—brief visual hallucinations—that leave her feeling uneasy. Her creator, Dr. Ouelet, erases the glitches and assures Major that they are nothing to worry about. She also encourages Major to keep taking the medication that keeps her flesh brain from rejecting her robot body. In a reflective moment in Dr. Ouelet’s lab, Major says, “Everyone around me, they feel connected to something… connected to something I’m not.” It’s the first time that Major gives voice to the idea that she might be on the wrong path—that she might not be fulfilling her proper role. She might have benefitted from the insight of theologian and author Parker Palmer: Today I understand vocation quite differently—not as a goal to be achieved, but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. So long as she doesn’t really...

Through the Mist: Patience and Ronja Mar20

Through the Mist: Patience and Ronja...

I want to have good friends, but sometimes I forget to show my friends the same virtues I wish they would show me. One of those is patience, specifically when a friend is going through a hard time and they start acting unlike themselves. They stop laughing at the same things, they’re more sensitive about certain subjects, and maybe they’ve even taken up harmful habits. It’s hard to be around someone who is suffering. I just want to swoop in and fix all their problems. But most of the time, those problems aren’t something I can fix. They might be dealing with an external issue, like a fight with a family member or stress at their job; or they might be facing an internal problem that only they can change. A particular instance from Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, a new animated series co-produced by Studio Ghibli, illustrates similar frustrations with friends. If I respond with patience, maybe I can help a friend avoid getting caught in the mist. When Ronja, the child of a bandit chief, and her friend Birk, the son of a rival clan chief, traveled through the forest one fall day, mist clouded the way. Mist children danced within the fog, tempting unsuspecting travelers with their siren song to become forever entrapped in the fog. Ronja fell under this spell and started to follow the mist children. Birk tried to stop her, but she fought him. Instead of letting her go because of her harsh protests, he held on and finally embraced her to hold her in place. Ronja scratched and bit him, but he still held her through the pain. Later when she snapped out of this trance, she didn’t remember what happened and asked him where his injuries came...

Lonely Like Naruto Jan27

Lonely Like Naruto

Feeling alone in a crowd is the worst. At events, parties, or even just walking through a mall, I’ve watched people laughing with their friends and wished mine were there with me (my two best friends live hundreds of miles away and I only see them twice a year). I’ve watched a daughter holding hands with her father, and wished my father had behaved that way with me. I’ve seen families play together at the park and wished I was the daughter with the grin on her face, looking up at two parents who are still together. Many people believe that loneliness means you don’t get out of the house much or you’re craving a romantic relationship, but the sort of cure for loneliness I’ve wanted in my heart is simple, innocent companionship. This is a desire that Naruto understands. Naruto grew up surrounded by people, but not by friends. He became an orphan within the first hour of his birth. He longingly watched families happy together. He wished for friends, but the kids around him neglected him. He was shunned for a past he had no knowledge of. They treated him as a parasite. In retaliation, Naruto began acting out to make people stop ignoring him. He played juvenile pranks and became the outspoken class clown. This gained him attention, but it didn’t gain him what he truly wanted: friendship. “The pain of being alone is completely out of this world, isn’t it? I don’t know why, but I understand your feelings so much, it actually hurts.”  —Naruto Uzumaki I didn’t act out for attention as a child, but I wanted friends. I had a few in middle school and high school, but after we moved I lost most of them. When distance...

A Quiet Suffering Jan23

A Quiet Suffering

Happiness is more attractive than sadness. This was an idea instilled into me from a young age. No one should know my problems, so I should hide them behind a smile and dodge answers when someone asks how I am. Growing up, I tried my best to keep up appearances. When my friends were on the way over and my dad had just been verbally abusive, I had to mask my feelings. If a friend called on the phone, I tried to cover the fact that my dad was bullying my sister in the background by moving to a different room. On the way to church, I had to listen to my parents scream at each other, then dry my tears and sing in worship and read Bible verses like it never happened. But it did happen, again and again and again, and it hurt so deeply. Pretending everything okay was destroying me. No one should know my problems, so I should hide them behind a smile and dodge answers when someone asks how I am. Lady Bishamonten is a very tenderhearted god of fortune in the anime Noragami. She has taken in more regalia (former wandering spirits now bonded to a god) than any other god, giving them a home safe from phantoms. When a regalia sins or feels negative emotions, it affects their god, therefore one of Bishamonten’s spirits, Kazuma, urges his fellow regalia to hide any bad feelings they have for one another. The regalia disguise their fears, sadness, and worries behind smiles. But instead of creating an area of peace, this incites even more discord as they tried harder and harder to cover up how they feel. Eventually, these bottle feelings poison Lady Bishamonten. Ironically, their attempts to stop a...

Anime Plots Badly Described Jan20

Anime Plots Badly Described...

Your friend finally asks you the most dreadfully exciting question in the entire world: “What’s [insert your favorite anime title—possibly mispronounced] about?” Like a would-be author suddenly faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch the publishing company of her dreams, you have about 15 seconds to sell your curious questioner on the most sugoi anime ever (potentially, their first anime ever). This could be their gateway to the medium—the beginning of their lifelong pursuit of all things otaku; the beginning of feels and final forms and chimera memes…! No pressure, right? You could recite the plot synopsis that you memorized from the back of your Blu-ray collector’s edition box set… or you could give them a hook so weird that it’ll haunt their memories until they binge watch. These anime summaries may not make the best elevator pitches, but they might just be… different enough… to snag the attention of that special someone you’ve been pestering for the past two years. Can you guess these badly described anime? Answer key is at the bottom. A hunchback with a sugar obsession tries to stop a college student with a potato chip obsession from writing in his diary. While screaming and zip-lining, an angry German kid takes on a tribe of deformed, naked cannibals who won’t let him go to his basement. A mercenary (who somehow manages to smoke more often than the barrel of his gun) teams up with a cross-dressing King Arthur against a failed artist, a starving student, a bug addict, a Catholic, the recipient of the 1994 Worst Father of the Year Award, and that professor you had in college, in a battle to the death over a wine glass. An unemployed bald guy, who punches stuff and goes to the supermarket for...

An Apocalyptic Beginning Dec14

An Apocalyptic Beginning...

The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear “apocalypse” is the end of the world. But really, when an apocalyptic event occurs in books or on film, it’s usually presented not as the end of the world, but rather as the end of the world as we know it. The earth may be devastated and existence is diminished, but somehow life goes on. Aboard the command ship of a mission to colonize a new world, a young woman named Rem teaches two boys—who are actually aliens resembling humans—about the limitless potential of humanity and the goodness of which they are capable. One of the boys, Vash, admires Rem and binds her words to his heart. His brother Knives, on the other hand, victimized by Rem’s colleagues, becomes bitter and vengeful. He eventually sabotages the ships in an attempt to kill all the humans before they reach their destination, but because of a self-sacrificial act by Rem, not only do Vash and Knives survive, so do many of the colonists. After the survivors leave their pods, they struggle to build lives in an unforgiving world. But despite the hardship resulting from Knives’ vile act, their response isn’t to curl up and die; they instead move forward. These are the events that set up Trigun, the classic sci-fi western based on Yasuhiro Nightow’s manga. The humans populate the desert planet, and by the time the main events of the show take place, they have begun to thrive in communities that depend on “plants” (alien energy sources resembling giant light bulbs). They didn’t give up. I admire that tenacity, that toughness and grit demonstrated when people band together and spit in the face of extreme hardships. It’s a mentality that runs deep in many...

Choosing Peace In Nausicaa’s Wake Dec05

Choosing Peace In Nausicaa’s Wake...

Princess Nausicaa is cut from the Studio Ghibli tradition of strong, female heroines. Even her appearance challenges the stereotypical princess, as she has short hair and wears aviator gear instead of a ball gown. Nausicaa is more at home flying a glider and repairing a windmill than she is meeting perspective suitors. Respected and adored by her subjects, she cares for their well-being and safety. She’s confronted by a rival kingdom, who storms into the peaceful village and quickly conquers it, killing Nausicaa’s father in process. In a rage, Nausicaa defeats the enemy soldiers and nearly murders all of them. However, the village is still in danger from another threat. A thousand years before, civilization collapsed as ancient, mythical warriors destroyed the earth. It is strongly inferred that these gigantic creatures punished mankind for its poor treatment of the environment. Indeed, the Valley of the Wind is at the edge of a toxic jungle that’s spreading poisonous spores and inhabited by gigantic bug-like creatures called ohm, which can be incredibly destructive when they sense a threat. Even out of poison and dirt can grow a most marvelous thing. Threatened by another kingdom and by the ohm, the village seems to be at the end of its life, another victim of the ancient apocalypse that beset the planet. But Nausicaa, a lover of nature who can communicate with and tame the powerful ohm, has discovered that beneath the human-poisoned jungle are clean running waters. There is yet a chance at life. A lot of times, the challenges in my life come through my own doing. I behave in ways I know I shouldn’t, but do so anyway out of pride or blindness. A white lie here, a corner cut there, a deceitful response, a bitter...

The Gift We Can’t Earn Nov14

The Gift We Can’t Earn...

There is a word that is perhaps the most offensive one I know; it strikes at my sense of justice, at the idea that wrongdoers should get what they deserve instead of receiving forgiveness. But when I try hard enough to embrace this beautiful concept and remember how much it’s turned my life around, I’m able to remember the awesome power that it has. That word is “grace.” In Clannad After Story, the second season of the Clannad anime series, Tomoya graduates high school, goes straight from there into the workforce, and marries the series heroine, Nagisa. Their romance is a moving one—Tomoya helps Nagisa develop meaningful friendships for the first time in her life and she helps him overcome the emotional scars he’s incurred from years of abuse and neglect at the hands of his father. But their fairy tale romance ends tragically when Nagisa passes away giving birth to the pair’s daughter, Ushio. Depressed and heartbroken, Tomoya pours himself into his work and lets Nagisa’s parents raise Ushio. He becomes bitter about life and rarely sees his daughter, finally visiting only because he’s tricked into it. Tomoya begrudgingly then takes his daughter on a short trip, but it’s tough going as he continues to struggle with the bitterness he feels toward Ushio and with his own inadequacies as a parent. It’s that second struggle that becomes significant when Tomoya realizes that the place he’s taken his daughter to is near his own grandmother’s home. There, Tomoya learns more about his dad, who he’d grown to hate, especially after his father broke his arm during an abusive episode (and thereby destroying his dreams of becoming a professional athlete). But now, Tomoya hears a different perspective, one of a man who was also dealing...

After Being Burnt by Friendship Oct14

After Being Burnt by Friendship...

You wouldn’t guess it by the title, but My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, otherwise known as OreGairu, tackles the complex topic of genuine relationships versus shallow ones, and what it takes to connect people at a meaningful level. Hachiman Hikigaya is the class pariah (and one who wears that title as a badge of honour). A teacher forces him to join the school’s “service club,” where the members assist fellow students with their personal problems. The club is also comprised of Yukino, a beautiful genius with a biting tongue and, apparently, a frozen heart, and Yui, a bubblehead whose kindness for others is only matched by her anxiety. As the show moves forward and the service club takes on student requests, the three club members develop relationships with each other. But it’s frequently one step forward and two steps back as they become closer to one another before drawing away again. For Hikigaya, the pushing away is because he’s built a shield around himself, having developed the defense mechanism of criticizing the ideas of friendships and cliques while promoting a selfish, hedonistic existence. But as we see from his frequent asides, the real reason that Hikki doesn’t want friends is that he’s been burnt frequently in the past. His experience has been that taking chances to know others more intimately causes pain, and he’d rather do without. I totally feel Hikki. If I build a wall around myself and keep everyone at arm’s length, I will keep myself safe. During my college years, I began to drive myself to get to know others and be there for them in their times of need. I enjoyed it a lot at first, but as years passed, I found myself likewise scorched from those relationships. I learned...

One-Punch Man and Knockout Obsession Sep05

One-Punch Man and Knockout Obsession...

In the anime world of One-Punch Man, superheroes are selected through standardized testing, supervillains tote socio-satirical names like Vaccine Man, and city-wide destruction is just part of the daily forecast. Saitama (age: 25; status: unemployed) is fed up with society’s standards. Tossing aside his blue-collar jacket, he suits up in banana-yellow spandex and decides to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a super hero (not an uncommon career choice in the world of One-Punch Man). Saitama follows a mega-strengthening routine until his hair falls out. He bashes baddie after baddie until he can nail them in a single, anti-climactic punch. It’s all fun and games… until it isn’t. What begins as an act to spite society quickly becomes an obsessive spiral into isolation for Saitama. His appearance becomes so comically bland that even his shiny rubber boots and bald head fail to leave an impression. He lives alone in a cheap apartment he can hardly afford, watching B-movies and chasing bargains at his local supermarket. “I’ve become too strong,” he admits, with a blank expression that has inspired memes across the internet. “In exchange for power, maybe I’ve lost something that’s essential for a human being?” I risk becoming a mindless consumer whose passions will eventually separate me from others. It’s said that self-recognition means you aren’t too far gone, but I think that only counts if you actually act on the realization. As Saitama’s obsession with becoming the world’s strongest man grows, so too does his separation from others, despite his half-hearted efforts to connect with them. Surprisingly, despite his boredom, Saitama doesn’t turn full-time supervillain in an attempt to reach new heights of power and recognition. That seems to be the M.O. of all the villains in this anime: they consume their...

Bunny Dropped into Love Aug10

Bunny Dropped into Love...

In fiction, life as an orphan is often not a rosy one. Harry Potter lives as a second-class citizen with the abusive Durleys. The BFG sweeps Sophie away from a difficult life in a children’s home. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny flee their murderous custodian, Count Olaf. Although strife is always involved when children transition into adoptive homes or foster case, the end result can be extraordinarily positive. A child doesn’t need to experience the fantastic or extraordinary lives of Harry, Sophie, or the Baudelaires to find his or her place in the world. Sometimes, and more applicable to real life, simple relationships are those that make a difference. And the picture of love in adoptive bonds is profound. Bunny Drop, a 13-episode anime, revolves around one such relationship, that between Daikichi, a single adult, and Rin, the six-year-old girl he adopts. Daikichi first meets Rin at his grandfather’s funeral. There, the family is stunned to discover that the young girl was apparently fathered out of wedlock by the deceased. The family also finds out that the mother is out of the picture, and soon negativity spreads among the attendees who quickly assert that they will not take the girl into their homes. Knowing how much pain will result, why would anyone adopt a child? It’s almost out of spite that Daikichi finally speaks up, deciding to care for Rin. Aloof and career-focused, Daikichi looks like the last person who would consider rearing an orphan, but he’s the only one willing to speak out for a child in need. It’s not an easy road for the new family—after all, relationships are hard work. To expect two people of any kind to get along seems to be wishful thinking. Even familial relationships, joined by blood, sacrifice,...

Pain Can’t Keep Us Together Aug05

Pain Can’t Keep Us Together...

Anime likes to try different keys on the lock of “world peace.” The inherent goodness of humanity. The many over the few. The postdiluvian utopia. Reincarnation. Giant asteroids. Perhaps the only thing they all have in common is that these “solutions” don’t tend to work. Occasionally, they even end in fire and brimstone. In Kiznaiver, seven teens are linked by shared pain. Everything from bruising to heartache travels from person-to-person like an electric shock (sometimes literally). Toting the weighty “world peace” clause as its greater good, the nightmarish Kizuna experiment (which ironically means “bond” in Japanese) strips these participants of their freewill and throws them into “do-or-die” scenarios where bonding is a mere by-product of their survival instinct. Unsurprisingly, the system aims for empathy but hits apathy, and the experiment falls apart after the seven participants grow “close” enough to begin hearing each other’s thoughts. Rather than emphasize the dangers of human omniscience with the ineffectual take-away that some things are truly best left to the imagination, however, Kiznaiver uses the routine to satirize the risks of counterfeit empathy. Despite its premise, Kiznaiver is not so much about pain as it is human connection. Certainly, pain shapes our personal boundaries, causes us to give the plights of others a double-take, and brings us together when disaster strikes; but to view pain as the “ultimate connection” is to faultily assume that pain is necessary to the human condition and that strife alone is what connects people. I believe the mark of true empathy is not whether it is present during crisis, but whether it is present during peacetime Despite it being a universal phenomenon, pain is a temporary solution to a more permanent problem. This concept is explored through the protagonist, Katsuhira, whose connection to...

A Level Up in Perseverance Jul18

A Level Up in Perseverance...

Perseverance is difficult enough when it’s short term. Running a five-kilometer race, surviving an illness, applying for jobs until you finally get hired… these things take determination. But what about persevering over days, months, and years? Kirito, Asuna, and the other survivors of Sword Art Online know exactly what this feels like, having to persevere when they were trapped inside a virtual reality game for almost three years. Imprisoned by the creator of the VRMMORPG, many of the other players who logging in that fateful day couldn’t handle life away from their families, their friends, and the outside world. They had no hope the game’s 100 levels would be cleared and they would be able to return. Thousands jumped off virtual cliffs in despair, killing their bodies in the real world. Many more accepted that they would never leave the game and it became their new reality. Others let their entrapment taint their hearts and turned to destroying others to fill the void. A tough time we persevere through will level us up for trials to come. But not Kirito. Kirito was determined to return home. Though he began this herculean journey in pursuit of beating a game worthy of his skill, he grew to know other players who were determined to help each other escape the game, and he joined them in their goal. Kirito persevered through impossible battles, through losing his friends, through times of discouragement, through betrayal by his guild members, and even through near death. At one point he even considered just settling down in the game and living a life with Asuna, accepting that he’d never leave, but they both knew they had to go on. The task was daunting. Clearing 30 of the 100 levels took SAO players...

Reaching for the Sky Jul04

Reaching for the Sky

There’s a trope in anime where a character–usually an honest and kind girl–will look up into the sky and stretch her hand toward it, reaching out to something invisible. That scene represents the character’s distance from some faraway, seemingly impossible goal. But in that moment, I’m encouraged to think that she will achieve her aim, no matter how difficult. She only needs to persevere. Anime teaches me that sincerity and determination are the keys to making my dreams come true. My real life experience, though, has been that sometimes no matter how hard I try, no matter how much time, energy, and resources I put toward a goal, I still fail. Honey and Clover, the classic series about art school students trying to navigate the trials that come with romantic relationships, final projects, and life itself, breaks the anime mold and shows us that dreams don’t always come true, no matter how sincere we might be. But in the wake of our efforts, and even in our failures, we might be left with something unexpected. In an ensemble piece comprised of a memorable cast, the Honey and Clover character I identify most with is Yuta, perhaps because he’s the most “normal” one. Yuta is even-tempered, industrious, caring, and skilled in woodworking. He’s the kind of character that’s easy for me to root for, one that I just know will overcome his obstacles and, since he’s part of a love triangle, am rooting for to get the girl at the end. Hearts are broken, love isn’t written in the stars, and characters fail to achieve their aspirations. But Honey and Clover is a different type of anime. In it, hearts are broken, love isn’t written in the stars, and characters fail to achieve their aspirations....

Fit for a Servant: Fate/Zero and Deviant Leadership Jun29

Fit for a Servant: Fate/Zero and Deviant Leadership...

King Arthur is female. Gilgamesh is blonde. Alexander the Great is seven feet tall. At a glance, Fate/Zero seems determined to spite history buffs, but deviancy is the name of the game in this alternate version of Japan, where magi summon ancient heroes in a bloody war to obtain the wish-granting Holy Grail. Tired of swinging swords at each other (or chucking them, in Gilgamesh’s case), the three monarchs agree to talk things out and determine the victor by status rather than strength. Arturia (that’s fem-Arthur—keep up!) quickly becomes the odd-king-out in the debate, and not just because the testosterone-fueled tyrants outnumber her altruism two-to-one. She’s ashamed to have ever pulled the sword from the stone and become ruler of Camelot. Throughout Fate/Zero, Arturia constantly returns to her inner mindscape—alone, atop a hill of slain knights; her back and head bowed beneath regrets as numerous as the corpses under her feet. If Alexander represents the human power fantasy (dream large, live larger), and Gilgamesh the epitome of a utopian dictatorship that would make even Machiavelli blush, then Arturia is a crash course on the dark side of servant leadership. Conceptualized as a counter movement to traditional “worker management,” servant leadership inverts the hierarchical pyramid, putting the leader in a supporting and mentoring role. In many ways, it’s a leadership style as deviant as gender-bending Britain’s famous king. History expects its leaders to reign from above, like Gilgamesh, or from up front (to “laugh louder and rage harder” in Alexander’s own words). Perhaps it’s the many misconceptions of servant leadership that keep potential adopters from fully embracing it and its benefits. In the realm of influence, servant leadership is an all-powerful leveler. Arturia saw her rule as an act of service—to restore Britain through her...

Hidden Jun10

Hidden

“I don’t understand that at all,” I complained to Sensei after he tried to answer my umpteenth question about a technique we were practicing. He had made a correction to my form that seemed completely contrary to what he had told me before. It was counter-intuitive and suddenly made the movements awkward. Now, I totally appreciate how fortunate I am that my martial arts instructor is not only patient and an excellent teacher. Thankfully, unlike the protagonist of Mamoru Hosada’s anime fable The Boy and the Beast/Bakemono no Ko (2015), my Sensei is nothing like Kumatetsu—a giant, anthropomorphic bear with a foul temper and poor hygiene. But when young Ren struggles to comprehend his teacher’s first vague and cryptic lesson in swordsmanship, I still can empathize with his frustration. As a martial artist, I found it gratifying to see Ren following Kumatetsu’s every move (however insignificant it seemed) to “become him” and learn from the beast, despite all the misgivings and rebellious skepticism the boy had. It showed a great deal of humility on Ren’s part to acknowledge that he was weak and that there were things that he could learn from Kumatetsu in spite of their differences. Just because Kumatetsu didn’t know how to teach him didn’t mean the bear had nothing to teach. Eventually Ren discovers, to his surprise, that he is not only able to mimic, but can actually anticipate his teacher’s footsteps without even seeing them. How much am I missing that’s hidden in plain sight in the world around me? It’s not that Kumatetsu meant to keep his techniques secret from his student. It’s that he simply understood that some kinds of knowledge are difficult to comprehend until you have lived it. The problem is, being expected to do something...