Survival of the Weakest in Attack on Titan Dec15

Survival of the Weakest in Attack on Titan...

Forget the proverbial answer to the universe hidden in the Yeager family basement; I’m more curious about the T-rex in Season Two’s opening cinematic. Whether as a reimagining or reflection of the real world, Attack on Titan’s Germanic culture and firearms place it firmly in postdiluvian days, despite all those giants on the earth. Aside from the military’s trusty steeds, little more than an occasional forest creature dares to show its face betwixt all the blood and brimstone. But when a T-rex literally comes marching over the horizon in Season Two’s intro, I’m completely pulled out of my deadlocked immersion, brain scrambling to make sense of this world-building idiosyncrasy. True strength, as Attack on Titan echoes through Marco Bodt, is “knowing what it is to be weak.” As the “king of the tyrant lizards” tramples over waves of ant-like human armies, accompanied by the show’s intense theme music, it becomes symbolic shorthand for misconstrued social Darwinism: survival of the strongest. The Beast Titan leads the dinosaur, along with a herd of other assorted creatures (each the largest species of their respective animal kingdoms), becoming an icon of unchallenged rule—as the most ruthless, most powerful, and most intelligent of his kind. With his nearly human, ape-like features, the Beast Titan poses as the missing link between monkey and man. And in a world where what it means to be human is the oft-posed, existential question, this makes him even more terrifying as Season Two’s archvillain. “Strength preys on weakness. It’s a very straightforward arrangement actually,” Armin introspects, likening local bullies to the cannibalistic titans that keep humanity trapped within a walled city. From the moment Eren watches his mother get eaten alive because he isn’t physically strong enough to lift a house off of her,...

Depression Comes in Like a Lion Dec13

Depression Comes in Like a Lion...

Rei Kiriyama is a zero. Literally. The kanji for “Rei” means “zero” in Japanese. It’s an apt description for how the main character of March Comes in Like a Lion feels about himself. Although he’s a well-known and celebrated prodigy at shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, Rei is depressed and sullen. His parents and sister died when he was young, and he was adopted into a family led by a father who obsesses over shogi and envisions Rei as succeeding in a sport where his children failed, creating disharmony in their home. Without a loving family, and having even been told by relatives that he’s “nothing,” it’s no wonder that Rei finds it difficult to value himself. I know what it’s like to feel like a zero, where I couldn’t see my own worth. After graduating high school, my life plans were destroyed (at least in my teenaged mind). For months, because of my shattered dreams, I was unable to find the energy to do the simplest tasks or spend time with people who cared about me. Ultimately, though, it was those loving people who helped bring me out of depression. Rei experiences something similar. The Kawamoto family, comprised of sisters Akari, Hina, and Momo, and led by their grandfather, welcome Rei into their home just as he hits rock bottom. In the ensuing months, Akari, the eldest sister, frequently texts Rei, inviting him to their house for meals. He also spends holidays and other special occasions with the family, even experiencing very personal moments with them, such as when the sisters honour their deceased mother. This new, makeshift family isn’t always comfortable for Rei. But the bonds of love between him and the Kawamatos are strong and secure. The love the girls...

10 Anime to Watch if You’ve Never Seen Anime Sep22

10 Anime to Watch if You’ve Never Seen Anime...

Anime is the neglected stepchild of geekdom, a category widely considered nerdy, but one that many geeks don’t know much about. If you’re interested in the rich, cartoon worlds Japan has to offer, but don’t know how to make the transition from geek to otaku, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten anime series that will speak to your nerdy soul. 1. Big O A millionaire playboy defends a shadowy city under the cover of another identity; he’s also assisted by a butler and working together with a city law enforcement officer. This may sound and look like Batman, but this is Big O, where the main character, Roger Smith, operates a giant robot instead of the Batmobile and uncovers the secrets of an amnesiac city. Smith’s aging butler also has an eyepatch and wields massive machine guns. Take that, Alfred. 2. Fate/zero Few hallowed, nerdy franchises is as beloved in Japan as the Fate series, in which mages compete to attain the Holy Grail. In Fate/zero, a prequel which is the most stunning and best of the Fate anime, magicians battle one another by using famed warriors from history and legend, including a bulked-up Alexander the Great, villainous Gilgamesh, and female King Arthur. It’s a violent battle royale that is as heart wrenching as Game of Thrones. 3. Noein: To Your Other Self Here’s a cool idea – instead of just some entity time traveling to the past to alter a timeline, what if two entirely different timelines were warring with one another both in the present and the future? Noein puts a unique twist on the apocalypse with characters in the current timeline meeting soldiers from the future, including possible versions of themselves, who are desperate to save their timeline from Noein, a powerful...

The Danger of Valuing Principles Over People Sep20

The Danger of Valuing Principles Over People...

Growing up, I always tried to be the “obedient kid”—the one who followed all the rules and stayed out of trouble. Coupled with the fact that I usually kept to myself, this made it very easy for me to look down on those who didn’t abide by the same rules I did. I’d engage with people, but I always carefully judged them against my standards. As a result of my constant judgment, I pushed myself further and further into isolation, always keeping my distance from those who didn’t live up to my values. This mindset became very toxic in my mid-to-late teen years. As I got older, my standards grew higher and higher, and I found myself mentally denouncing just about everyone around me. Church groups, circles of friends, school activities—I saw what I believed to be major flaws in all of them, and I used these as excuses to disassociate myself from many of these people. The two main characters of the anime Death Note, Light and L, both adhere strongly to their own ideas about what’s right and wrong. They also each possess the ability to impose their philosophies on the world around them: Light has a notebook with which he can kill anyone just by writing their names, and tries to purge the world of crime by killing convicted criminals. Meanwhile L, who is heralded as the world’s greatest detective and has access to many of the world’s law enforcement resources, views Light’s actions as murder and begins hunting him down. Viewers often take sides with one of these two characters; after all, they’re both driven by seemingly noble goals. Yet, they also share the same crippling flaw: they value their principles more than they value people. They each believe themselves...

Doing Nothing is Not Enough Sep13

Doing Nothing is Not Enough...

There’s always a reason to avoid helping someone. Finances, distance, capability, health, or other obstacles often stand between me and assisting a friend. Maybe they need help moving, but my sprained ankle won’t allow me to lift boxes. Maybe they’re having a rough day, and I can’t take them out for coffee because I’m out of town. Maybe they’re going through financial difficulties, but I have no money to spare. Standing by and doing nothing makes me feel worthless. What can I do when I’m prevented from offering something tangible to those in need? Granny from Summer Wars is intimately familiar with this problem. At eighty-nine years old, there’s not much she can do when a vicious virus breaks out in OZ, the virtual world that connects just about every facet of society. Some of her family are prevented from visiting her on her birthday because of traffic jams; others, because they are dealing with the crisis in their jobs. She could have easily looked at all the things she couldn’t do, and let the situation play out. She could have stayed put, bitter that this event occurred on what was supposed to be a special day. It’s not like there was anything else for her to do—she couldn’t drive out to help direct traffic or volunteer at a hospital. She could have easily looked at all the things she couldn’t do, and let the situation play out. But instead, she decides to encourage. After hearing about the crisis on the international news, she gets out her address books and starts calling everyone she knows who might be involved with the situation—emergency personnel, old friends, government officials. “Don’t lose heart!” she tells them. “This is something only you can do.” “You betcha you can!”...

Why We Glorify School-Age Memories Sep06

Why We Glorify School-Age Memories...

Deep space is fun and fantasy worlds are neat, but my favourite setting for stories is a school. These wondrous places fill me with nostalgia and a romantic longing for youth, innocence, friendship, and learning. I never attended a school that evoked such feelings in real life—the schools I frequented were mostly mundane, brick buildings with minimal landscape design—but somehow, I travel to a past I’ve never lived when I see them on screen. In My Hero Academia, students attend U.A. High, a superhero school where they learn how to use their powers, called Quirks. Although there are hints of a darker storyline early in the series, much of that tension is relaxed by the high school atmosphere. The classmates, who bond over their shared abilities, become close friends by seeing (and sometimes competing with) one another so often. In Japanese schools, a class stays together throughout the day in the same classroom, and teachers are the ones who rotate in, so they learn and grow together. The finale of Season One, however, shatters the sense of wonder associated with the school when the students and staff are attacked within its walls. The aptly named League of Villains appears in force, and while the superheroes-in-training courageously fight back, they’re also very afraid. Kids battle against hardened criminals who are willing to kill. They aren’t in a controlled learning environment anymore; the danger is real. U.A. High is a school that feeds my dreams, led by teachers who are superheroes themselves. This span of episodes brought me out of my comfort zone. I’d fully bought into the goodness of U.A. High; it’s a school that feeds my dreams, led by teachers who are superheroes themselves. Even though the baddies are ultimately repelled, that warm, fuzzy...

Your Words, Your Voice, Your Story Matters Aug28

Your Words, Your Voice, Your Story Matters...

My voice is constantly drowned in a sea of noise. I’ve always been a quiet person. In the past, I would try to speak up at the dinner table and no one would hear me, so I would just stop talking and keep what I had to say to myself. At other times, I’ve felt like what I’ve had to say is somehow less important because someone has had it worse than me or they know how to say it better. If someone seems to lose interest in the middle of what I’m saying, I’ve let the subject die even if it means a lot to me. But I want to be heard. In the anime Terror on Resonance, the two teenagers Nine and Twelve pose as terrorists named Sphynx One and Sphynx Two. They plant bombs in different locations while taking no casualties as they lead Detective Shibazaki and the Tokyo Metro police on a trail to unravel a conspiracy—a conspiracy that wants to crush what Nine and Twelve have to say to the world. Talking about my past might make me feel vulnerable, but if it encourages one person, it’s worth it. Years before, Nine, Twelve, and twenty-four other children were handpicked from orphanages to participate in the Athena Experiment: an experiment to drug gifted children into become savants without the mental challenges. However, the experiment was a failure, so the government decided to erase the evidence of the projects’ existence; that meant destroying all the test subjects. Nine and Twelve were the only ones to escape. They were the only ones left to remember the suffering their friends endured. They don’t want the deaths of their friends to be forgotten, or the murderers to get away with their crime. They want...

Anime’s Racial Representation Aug18

Anime’s Racial Representation...

Racial representation is a very hot subject in Western media. There has been many an uproar about Americans and other western countries misrepresenting ethnicity by whitewashing characters or stereotyping. On the flip side, Eastern media, particularly Japanese, sometimes portrays race in unusual ways. The infamous satire Hetalia portrays just about every race under the sun in the most exaggerated style, but I want to take a look at anime that is taking these racial portrayals seriously. Japanese: In most anime, Japanese characters are animated with a variety of hair colours, as opposed to the realistic sole black (with the exception of hair dye). Kallen Kōzuki in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion has red hair, Light in Deathnote is blonde, Amu in Shugo Chara has pink hair, and so on. However, in shows such as Terror on Resonance and Psycho-Pass, characters with hair outside of black or brown are rarer, possibly because they are targeting older viewers. Chinese: In Black Butler, there are two Chinese characters—Lau and Ran-Mao. Lau is portrayed with black hair and small eyes, while Ran-Mao has larger eyes and black hair. Both are always seen in authentic Chinese garb, though this may also be due to the Victorian time period. Other Chinese characters include: Code Geass’s Xingke Li, Darker than Black’s Hei, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s Ling Yao and May Chang. Vietnamese: In Young Black Jack, the show takes place during the Vietnam War. At one point the characters travel to the Vietnamese front where they encounter many Vietnamese citizens including their translator Phan. The citizens are shown with darker skin as is accurate, but for some reason any Vietnamese spoken is muted then translated by Phan into Japanese. Other Viatnamese characters include: Sakura Wars’ Coquelicot. Indian: Also in Black Butler are the characters Prince Soma and Agni. They are shown...

Stuck Between Two Worlds Aug14

Stuck Between Two Worlds...

Anime is by no means a diverse art form. I sometimes remind myself of this, because when I watch anime, I see diversity. I see characters that share cultural similarities with me in stories taking place near the country where my mother was born. But I also recognize that anime characters are predominantly Japanese; it takes animators who are willing to challenge the norm, like Shinichiro Watanabe, the genius behind Cowboy Bebop, to explore race in media that typically shies away from it. Perhaps that’s why Kids on the Slope, Watanabe’s tale of jazz-loving teenagers in 1960’s Japan, is so easily able to demonstrate diversity sometimes comes with discomfort, a theme that resonates strongly with me. Kids on the Slope features the story of Kaoru, an honours student and gifted pianist, and his budding friendship with Sentaro, a known delinquent and skilled drummer. The two bond over Sentaro’s love of jazz music, and as Kaoru invests in his new friend’s life, he discovers that Sentaro is an incredibly kind and compassionate young man whose troubled life is rooted in mistreatment from his grandmother and adoptive father. The reason for his abuse? Sentaro is biracial, the son of a Japanese mother and a white American sailor. Being taunted as “slanty eyes” or asked if I understood gibberish intended to sound like Chinese drew attention to me. I don’t carve the same big, muscular figure that Sentaro does, nor was I a delinquent, but I am the son of a white military man and an Asian mother. I, too, had to navigate both worlds growing up. It was sometimes confusing. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my Asian features, which are more dominant than my Caucasian ones, and even though I adopted many practices...

Not Afraid of Falling Up Jul03

Not Afraid of Falling Up...

Understanding someone else’s point of view can be difficult when I’m stuck looking out from my own. It’s hard to see the world from the eyes of someone from a different culture, religion, upbringing—or even someone who’s just not me. In the anime film Patema Inverted, the world is divided by two different polarities of gravity. Half of the population are subject to one and the other half to the other. If someone from one side enters the other half of the planet, they are still affected by their polarity of gravity and are in danger of “falling up.” Age’s teachers have taught him his entire life that Inverts are unholy pests. When he stumbles upon Patema, and she’s deathly afraid of falling into the sky, it’s hard for him to empathize with what she’s feeling. Falling into the sky? It sounds ridiculous. To him everything looks right-side up. Not until he journeys to her side of the planet does he finally understand how she feels. He experiences the sensation of falling up and has to rely on her to keep himself grounded. Seeing through another point of view allows me to reach a level of understanding and wisdom that I can’t on my own. I can’t always experience what other people are feeling or step into someone else’s world the same way Age enters Patema’s. And sometimes I don’t want to; I feel like dealing with my own problems is difficult enough without adding someone else’s to the mix. When I visited a close friend while her father was sick with cancer, I felt like I’d been turned upside-down, though it was her normal. Pushing him around in a wheelchair and going on weekend trips to the Mayo Clinic three hours away were...

Moving through the Pain of the Past Jun12

Moving through the Pain of the Past...

“Look at my eyes, Faye. One of them is a fake cause I lost it in an accident. Since then, I’ve been seeing the past in one eye, and the present in the other, so I thought I could only see patches of reality, never the whole picture.” Spike Spiegel, the protagonist of the classic sci-fi anime, Cowboy Bebop, spends the series living in the present but fighting with his past. Formerly a violent member of a crime syndicate, Spike reinvented himself as a bounty hunter, partnering with Jet Black, a former cop, and picking up other crew along the way. And while almost every episode of the series focuses on the present and how the crew of the Cowboy Bebop try to attain bounties, certain episodes are directed toward the past, with a finale that brings Spike into a collision course with his former life. Spike hasn’t been running away from the past, per se; he just hasn’t been dealing with it. Why would he? As dangerous as his life is as a bounty hunter, it’s still calmer than what he had in the syndicate, and Spike seems to feel that he’s risen from the dead for a reason (certainly not to become a gangster again). But Spike’s past keeps drawing him in. The same can be said with the others on crew, but there’s a difference, as each is able to resolve his or her past: Jet moves on from his former love once and for all; Ed and Ein find a permanent home; and Faye accepts that her younger life has passed her by. In some cases, as with Faye, I might not like the answers I find. Faye’s story may be the most intriguing among the crew. She was involved...

My Neighbor Totoro and Exchanging Fear for Wonder Jun07

My Neighbor Totoro and Exchanging Fear for Wonder...

Fear is one of the most difficult things to unlearn. We begin to learn fear at a very young age, but there is a sweet period before children learn to fear. Many little kids have a sense of innocence, curiosity, and fearlessness that’s often lost in adults as our years on this earth teach us to be afraid. During my recent rewatch of My Neighbor Totoro, I was especially enraptured by the fearlessness of Mei. When the little totoros lead her into the tunnel of trees, she follows without hesitation. When she sees the big Totoro, she is only curious. When he roars so loudly at her that her hair blows, she screams in delight at this new marvel. This is a very different reaction than Satsuki’s when she first encounters the great fantastical beast. When she first sees Totoro by a bus stop on a dark rainy night, she’s a little nervous. Despite being a child, she’s still afraid of the unknown. Fearlessness or Foolishness? I also admire Mei’s effort to take her ear of corn to her sick mother. Yes, it was foolish, but the fact that a four-year-old girl would even think to undertake the journey in an attempt to help heal her mother is commendable. She was brave enough to try and that counts for something. To a child, many simple things in life seem absolutely extraordinary. Fearlessness can often be equivocated as foolishness, because children can often stumble into trouble due to their curiosity. But children also see the world through a unique perspective because of it. Instead of seeing the world through a lens of fear, they see it through a lens of wonder and possibility. In my adult life, I could use some of that childlike fearlessness. Fear...

7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity Jun02

7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity...

Fun fact: Only 0.1% of Japan’s population practices Christianity… which makes anime’s fascination with messianic imagery (Evangelion), creepy-cool crosses (Death Note), and kick-butt clergy (Trigun) a bit of a head-scratcher. Though often used as symbolic short-hand or “occult” aesthetic, Christianity’s influence on anime characters sometimes runs deeper than wearing a cross or practicing a pseudo-fantasy variant of the real-world religion (that probably involves vampire-hunting). Looking beyond the obvious examples (such as Kirei Kotomine from Fate/Zero and Rosette Christopher from Chrono Crusade), here are seven anime and manga characters you didn’t know were directly influenced by Christianity during development (and beyond). 1. Mihael “Mello” Keehl, Death Note Bearing a Slavic name synonymous with the archangel Michael’s, Mello decks out his attire (gun included) with crosses, wears a rosary, and keeps statues of Mary and Christ in his hideout (but only in the original manga, where his implied Catholic faith went uncensored). What truly sets Mello apart, however, is the stubborn distinction he makes between the “Almighty” Christian God and shinigami “gods” amidst a nihilistic narrative where most don’t believe his God exists. This insight deepens Mello’s characterization as a rebel determined to spite the ways of the world—far past the point of reason. “I hardly need to remind the reader about the epic battle between the century’s greatest detective, L, and that grotesque murderer, Kira. Looking back, I can only surmise that the gods [shinigami] smiled on Kira for their own vain amusement. Perhaps these gods actually wanted a blood-soaked world of betrayal and false accusation. Perhaps the entire episode exists as a lesson to teach us the difference between the Almighty and the shinigami.” – Mello, in his self-authored light novel, Death Note: Another Note 2. Rin Tohsaka, Fate/Stay Night At a glance, the...

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...