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...

Prodigals, Parables, and Black-Belt Bunnies May18

Prodigals, Parables, and Black-Belt Bunnies...

Ever laid awake at night wondering what the story of the Prodigal Son would be like if it included Facebook, nuclear threats, and a black-belt bunny? (Yes, you read that right.) Well, put your insomniac wonderings to rest. It’s a thing. Summer Wars is a feature-length anime that includes a shaggy-haired protagonist, furries, feels, and familial ties; it also manages to double as a modern-day parable for the social media generation. In summary, Japan’s proud Jinnouchi family gathers to celebrate its matriarch’s 90th birthday, but the festivities are put on hold when the futuristic, world-wide network, Oz, goes haywire and a virus program threatens to bomb nuclear facilities around the world. (The black-belt bunny comes into play as a virtual avatar meant to combat the virus, in case you were wondering.) Summer Wars is about reconciliation—not just in a literal sense, between a prodigal son and his family—but also on a narrative level. The film attempts to merge two unlikely genres, sci-fi and slice-of-life, and the result is as odd as, well, anime. But it works. Summer Wars also asks many thought-provoking questions: How do we keep technology from replacing face-to-face interaction? How should the new generation embrace the customs of the old one? How does tradition compromise with a world so reliant upon change? How does an estranged family member come back into the fold? Parables are meant to make the listener uneasy with themselves because they demand on-the-spot self-reflection. That last question serves as the emotional crux of Summer Wars. Wabisuke, the youngest son of the Jinnouchi matriarch, takes his inheritance money prematurely and runs off to America to spend it. Years later, the prodigal cleans up his act and returns home to be welcomed by his mother and restored into the...

Art as a Spiritual Power-Up May06

Art as a Spiritual Power-Up...

When I write something without holding anything back, when I wear my words on my sleeve, they hold the realest power. But that also means sporting a bull’s eye for the arrows of criticism and objectification. This is the life of an artist, knowing that putting your work out there means it can be admired or rejected. Maybe I fear others’ evaluations and criticisms of my work a bit too much. I hear a lot of well-meaning “writing advice” meant to keep the metaphorical stomach butterflies at bay, but perhaps the most-recited quip is: “Separate yourself from your work.” I get it. I shouldn’t put my self-worth into something outside of myself. That’s a one-way trip to unattainable perfectionism. Still, I don’t think the line is so clearly drawn between “self” and “art” that I can easily step across it and be protected from all criticism by some magical force-field. My words are an extension of myself. I breathe them to life, ex nihilo-style, and then decide to call them “good.” (After several re-writes, anyway.) Obviously the inky jots on the page come from my experiences, my personality, my nostalgia, my knowledge. Psychologically, I am one with my words, no matter how much I try to convince myself, for my sanity’s sake, that we are separate entities. In terms of artistic passion, where does self end and society begin? Is the true value of art found in creating it or in sharing it? Is the true value of art found in creating it or in sharing it? I didn’t expect to find so many answers in a competitive-swimming anime called Free! Eternal Summer. I hastily judged it as a mix of bromance, muscles, and melodrama, with a protagonist so obsessed with H2O that he’d...

If I Could Erase the Past Apr11

If I Could Erase the Past...

I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, but I do have some regrets. I wish I had spent more time deepening my friendships when I was younger. I wish I had opened up more to people. It seems that every time I look back to my college years, I’m not disappointed about what I did, but rather about what I didn’t do. This especially affects me because I believe my actions have eternal consequences. ERASED features Satoru Fujinuma, an unsuccessful mangaka (manga writer) whose mother has just recently moved in with him. Satoru is a depressed young man, mostly due to repressing memories of an event where his classmates were killed many years ago. He feels he could have personally prevented the murders and the jailing of a man wrongly convicted for the crimes. Even worse, the events of the past catch up with Satoru, as the real murderer fatally stabs his mother. Laziness, timidity, retribution, fear—these are the demons that pull at me. But this is anime, so fear not! Satoru has an ability to jump back in time. Usually, he is only able to move back a few seconds or minutes, but after his mother’s death, Satoru leaps all the way back his childhood. He’s given a second chance to act and maybe save everybody. Satoru, effectively an adult in a child’s body, attacks his task of saving children with a gusto that takes everyone by surprise. He knows the future, and will do anything to prevent these terrible crimes from happening. I am jealous. I want Satoru’s superpower. But since that doesn’t seem likely, what should I—someone who, you know, can’t travel back in time and correct wrongs—do in the here and now? Unlike Satoru, I’m stuck with the consequences of my actions,...

Super Saiyan Humility Mar30

Super Saiyan Humility...

When I was younger, I wanted to be Goku. He was strong and he was kind. What more could a little boy ask for in a role model? For me, living without a father, siblings, or extended family, I yearned for male inspirations I could draw from. I never got into anything harmful or negative in my youth; instead, I turned to anime. Dragonball Z was the one that all us guys wanted to see more of, because it reflected how to be tough while being disciplined. Goku, the main hero of the saga, would always arrive just in time to save the day. Goku is a Saiyan, a warrior race from the planet Vegeta. His home was annihilated by the evil Frieza, who considers himself emperor over the universe. After landing on Earth as a baby, little by little Goku surpassed trial, foe, and competition to become the strongest fighter on the globe. As the episodes went on, Goku transcended his Saiyan form to become a Super Saiyan. With all his strength, Goku kept on saving the Earth and going beyond the Super Saiyan until he passed his limits and became a Super Saiyan god, which is a legendary form never seen before. He needed this power to battle the god of destruction, Beerus, who wanted to destroy the Earth. Everyone wants power and wealth, but sometimes we don’t realize how much harder it is for us to be humble when we get them. Vegeta is the prince of Saiyans and Goku’s constant rival. He also gained the ability to become a Super Saiyan god, but instead of gathering strength from other Super Saiyans as Goku did, he achieved it through training on his own. This gave him an ego boost since he was able to do it...

When Dreams Shatter Mar11

When Dreams Shatter

Kiritsugu is a happy, wide-eyed kid with big dreams. He and his father live near a quaint village on a peaceful island in the Philippines. His best friend (and secret crush) is his father’s research assistant, Shirley. One night, while they are standing near a lake and staring at the sky full of stars, she asks him what he dreams of becoming when he grows up. Although he is too embarrassed to tell her, his dream is to become a hero. One fateful night, everything changes. The research his father has been working on, which he thought was supposed to save lives, ends up being nothing more than a means to turn people into zombie-like creatures called Dead Apostles. Worst of all, the first person to transform into one of these horrifying fiends is Shirley. Kiritsugu knows that he is the only person who can keep his father from harming another person ever again, so he kills him. This is Kiritsugu’s story in the anime Fate/Zero. It is heartbreaking to watch the young boy forced to choose between his father and the good of humanity. After killing his father, Kiritsugu’s expression becomes vacant and his personality robotic. No one should have to make that kind of decision, especially as a child. He has failed to reach his dreams, but he has one last hope. Kiritsugu still wants to be a hero more than anything and becomes determined to stop all of the evil in the world. He trains under a formidable mage and assassin named Natalia. She becomes like a mother to him as they hunt down evil men who threaten the innocent. In time, Kiritsugu masters his trade of killing dangerous mages to the point that he earns himself the title “The Magus Killer.”...

Lessons of a Pork Bowl Mar04

Lessons of a Pork Bowl...

I love my father to pieces, but sometimes I wonder how we get along at all. We’re fundamentally very different people. Growing up, I would spend most of my free time reading novels or watching TV, while my dad enjoyed maintaining the car and doing lawn work. When he would ask me to help change oil for our old Ford, I would politely reply, “No thanks,” and return to my books. Getting sweaty and dirty working on a contraption I knew nothing about seemed like misery to me. It was wholly out of my comfort zone. I was a lot like Yugo Hachiken, the bookish protagonist of Silver Spoon who is in his first year attending an agricultural-focused high school. Hachiken is completely out of his element at the institution, where he dirties his hands working with livestock, crops, and farming equipment from dusk ‘til dawn. Almost everything at the school is a challenge for Hachiken, who previously responded to trials by keeping stress bottled up inside or by running away. He can do neither at Ooezo Agricultural High School—not if he wants to succeed. And though it’s rough going, Hachiken discovers something I wish I had known when I was his age–by getting out of your bubble, you’ll grow into a person you never knew you could be. It wasn’t until years later that I realized all this running away had molded me into someone I didn’t want to be. This theme is illustrated very early in the series. Shortly after his arrival at Ooezo, Hachiken begins to care for a runt piglet he encounters during a practicum. Learning that it supposedly won’t grow large enough to sell as high quality meat, he decides to prove everyone wrong and raise it himself, waking...

A Living Patchwork Mar02

A Living Patchwork

Sutures cross his torso like train tracks. A particularly nasty scar splits his face between his vibrant red eyes. “They are living proof that I am a patchwork,” Hazama Kuroo says, tracing a gash in his shoulder. It’s an effective opening for Young Black Jack. I’m instantly plagued with questions, but given no answers until later in the show. At age eight, Hazama was caught in a bombing blast, but saved by a miraculously skilled doctor who Frankensteins him back together. Inspired by his saviour, Hazama (who later goes by the undercover name, Black Jack) pursues a career as a surgeon, eventually rejecting medical school in favour of becoming an unlicensed doctor. That’s because, in his experience, the law often does more harm than good when it comes to saving lives. Think Batman, but with more scalpels (and a stylish red bowtie). Hazama’s early life is spent crawling on all fours like an animal, learning how to walk again. It’s spent without his mother, who was mortally wounded in the blast, and without his father, who abandoned them both on their death beds. But it’s through this painful time of rehabilitation that Hazama’s origin story shapes him into the legendary “Surgeon with the Hands of God.” Like a temporary stitch, mortal “doctors” can only hold me together for so long. I love a good origin story, but I’m not sure I’d want to live through one by anime standards. I might end up making a deal that literally costs me an arm and a leg, getting injected with monstrous powers, or solely surviving the fiery aftermath of a Holy War. But it’s the thought of being blown to pieces, Hazama-style, that makes my skin crawl most. I can’t imagine what it took to piece...

Humanity’s Kindest Soldier Feb24

Humanity’s Kindest Soldier...

“Let me ask you something: as a Levi fan, why do you think the ‘courtroom scene’ is so significant to his character?” I was decked out in full Levi cosplay (Wings of Freedom and all), and I was totally unprepared for this question. Maybe the fact that the person asking was Lauren Landa, the voice actor for Annie Leonhardt, didn’t help my composure. In a trial for lead character Eren Yeager’s life, Levi intervenes at the last moment, brutally kicking the bound protagonist until he’s a bleeding, gurgling mess. It’s a stunt—one meant to save Eren from the custody of the Military Police—but I still cringe every time I see this scene. In pondering a response to the question, directed at me during OMNI Expo’s 2015 voice actor meet and greet, a million answers raced through my mind. The scene definitely showcased Levi’s intelligence; it hinted at the brutality that characterized his thug days; it made viewers wonder if he was a decent human being. But none of these generic answers described what his actions in that moment meant to me and what they meant to Levi. The Love of a Captain Despite his ability to drop 15-meter titans like flies—a quality that makes him untouchable by lawman and layman alike—Levi strikes me as neither a reckless rebel nor a cold-hearted sociopath. However, his ability to grasp people’s inner feelings and empathize with them makes him willing to play the “bad guy” as the need arises. No doubt a part of that willingness stems from his lifelong hostility to the government, but also I believe Levi is one of the few characters capable of showing true, selfless love for others. Sometimes that love appears masked by viciousness, dislodging molars and morals alike in the...

The Last Words of Konno Yuuki Feb12

The Last Words of Konno Yuuki...

Drama king. Yep, that’s me. My wife nods her head every time I apply that name to myself. I don’t try to be, it just comes naturally. Usually it involves “feeling something very strongly,” which compels me to either awkward dancing or a watering of my beard. Both of which are key to healthy hair, by the way. However, in the last hours of Sword Art Online’s second season, my occasional and modest tearing up had turned into some unstoppable torrent. The first hint of trouble to come starts when Asuna makes a new friend named Yuuki and joins her group of adventurers in Alfheim Online (ALO), a team that calls themselves The Sleeping Knights. After a stunning victory against all odds, the group announces they are disbanding, and Asuna is shocked. The news makes her recognize what she has thus far only felt: Yuuki and The Sleeping Knights have become so dear to her. Yuuki and the others give only a silent goodbye, offering no reasons for their permanent departure. Asuna, who has come to love them, can’t stand the tears she causes when she pleads for reasons why. Their sadness is incomprehensible to her. “I was born to die, so what was my reason for existing in the world?” Yuuki suspects, and rightly so, that Asuna won’t be satisfied without answers, and will search high and low for her in the real world. Maybe, just maybe, the impossible would happen and Asuna would find her. It’s all Yuuki wants and it is exactly what she is trying to stop. She doesn’t want Asuna to know why she must leave; Yuuki doesn’t want to cause Asuna pain. But Asuna’s stubbornness brings her to Yuuki’s doorstep at the hospital. It’s a surprise, though many...