Knowing What It’s Like to be Weak: Leadership and Katsugeki Touken Ranbu Apr30

Knowing What It’s Like to be Weak: Leadership and Katsugeki Touken Ranbu...

“He’s reckless, rough, inexperienced, quick to fight, and in some ways, he seems very unstable.” That’s an appropriate description of Kanesada from Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, and pretty much any new leader, including me. During my first semester of university, I was determined to lead all my group projects, even though I was inexperienced. I learned the hard way that not everyone was as concerned about making deadlines or producing detailed work as I was. Not everyone could attend rehearsals. Not everyone had the same opinions. Not everyone could speak as fluently as the others. And I made a big error as a leader that hurt others and cost me my pride. Doubts and weaknesses are part of being a respectable leader. Kanesada also makes a mistake. As one of the human manifestations of Japanese swords who are sent back in time to protect history, Kanesada is a captain assigned to five other swords. But his mission goes terribly wrong. One member gets critically injured, and they are all called back prematurely. Although history is preserved, many civilians’ and soldiers’ lives are needlessly lost, leaving Kanesada questioning: “Can we really say we’ve preserved history if we’ve failed to protect so many other things?” Blaming himself for the failure of the mission, Kanesada falls into brooding depression, avoiding his teammates and getting angry when they call him captain, because he believes he failed as their leader. He distracts himself by training intensively or burying himself in excuses. He is unable to forget his failure, replaying it over and over in his head: “Did our mission really end the way it should have?” Kanesada finally seeks out the counsel of the oldest sword, Mikazuki. Mikazuki had sensed something more than recklessness in him, which is why Kanesada...

Making Assumptions: Violet Evergarden, Disability, and Imperfection Apr09

Making Assumptions: Violet Evergarden, Disability, and Imperfection...

Leon, a student at Shaher Observatory, is an absolute brat in the anime Violet Evergarden. Despite his good looks and high IQ, he’s disliked by most of his classmates, partly for reasons at first unknown, but his curt words and arrogant attitude contribute to his reputation. When learning that dozens of auto memory dolls, young women who act as ghostwriters, are descending upon the observatory to help make copies of their rare books, he is dismissive. And when he’s assigned to dictate research to Violet Evergarden, he demeans her. Leon is brought to a pause, though, when she removes her gloves to begin typing. Underneath aren’t the silky hands of a gold-digging maiden, but ones made of chrome-like metal that resemble the Terminator’s skeleton. And Leon soon finds that those hands are so effective at typing, the duo bests the 79 others in how quickly they decode and transcribe. Love is sometimes best expressed in relating to one another through our imperfections. Violet Evergarden is structured in such a way that most episodes are told through the eyes of a client, all of whom are suffering in some way: a young princess to be married off to a prince she barely knows; a playwright who is haunted by the death of his daughter; a young lady whose brother returned from war with injuries and has become an alcoholic. And in almost every case, though unintentionally, Violet’s disability opens the way for understanding and discussion. I’ve had a Leon moment before, when my initial assumptions fell flat. As a high school freshman, I remember laughing at a classmate who spoke in a thick accent and wore the same old clothes every day (did I mention I was a brat like Leon, too?). The next year,...

The Ancient Magus Bride demonstrates Happiness and Love are Not Equal Mar19

The Ancient Magus Bride demonstrates Happiness and Love are Not Equal...

The first two rights in the Declaration of Independence, life and liberty, have always been givens for me. But the last, the pursuit of happiness, is something that requires striving for. As a child, I did everything I could to attain it, playing video games, spending time with friends, and of course, always searching for sweets. As an adult, I haven’t changed much. I’m still pursuing happiness, even if candy isn’t what elicits that feeling (well, not always). But happiness isn’t the ultimate goal for everyone, and maybe I focus on it too much. In The Ancient Magus Bride, a moody but absorbing anime about a teenager thrust into the world of magic and fairies, none of the main characters are particularly happy, but neither are they actively reaching for that goal. For them, happiness is rather an occasional by-product of more foundational pursuits. And considering the fleeting nature of happiness, I think these characters have it right. In a world of pain and suffering, the ability to endure and even thrive is a strength I desire to have. As the series begins, an abandoned and defeated Chise, the eponymous bride, has given herself to slave traders who sell her at a magical auction. Elias, a refined but fearsome figure (he has what appears to be an animal skull for a head incised with glowing red eyes), purchases her and tells her that she will become his bride and pupil, learning how to become a magician like him. After he rescues Chise, she quickly grows to care for Elias, though outward expressions of delight are seldom seen between them. Other members of their household find similar contentment. Silky, a banshee who lost the loved ones she previously haunted to a house fire, finds quiet...

A Bird-Man’s Strength: Recognizing Potential in My Hero Academia Feb26

A Bird-Man’s Strength: Recognizing Potential in My Hero Academia...

I was always one of the last kids picked for a team when my friends and I played sports. I wasn’t athletic by any stretch, and my straight A’s and creative awards didn’t help me score goals for my team. While watching the Sport’s Festival in season two of My Hero Academia, I was once again confronted by memories of being overlooked. Hero-in-training Izuku is tasked with putting together the ideal team that will allow him to pass the Calvary Battle challenge. His friend Ochaco joins because of their established bond, overly-ambitious Mei joins because of Izuku’s high marks, but his close friend Iida joins another team for self-improvement, leaving one open slot in their four-person squad. At this point, most of the students have already joined other teams. As Izuku scans the field, considering the strengths of those remaining, he realizes immediately who their team needs. My reaction: “That guy?” Don’t get the wrong idea. I have nothing against bird-men (after all, I’ve been crushing on Hawk King Tibarn from Fire Emblem since I was fourteen). I just knew nothing about Fumikage. However, since Izuku’s strategic prowess had not let me down so far, I trusted that this obscure character would be just right for their team. As the Calvary Battle unfolds, it is clear that Izuku has made a wise choice in Fumikage because of the bird-man’s unique defense capabilities. With his expectations more than exceeded, Izuku praises Fumikage’s quirk: “Your shadow is just what we needed . . . you’re amazing!” Oftentimes, the most gifted individuals are overlooked or don’t realize their own untapped potential. He responds: “You are the one who chose me.” Outside of the immediate feels it gave me, this line stuck with me. At first glance, Fumikage...

The Introvert’s Guide to Joining a Party Feb21

The Introvert’s Guide to Joining a Party...

Kirito is the ultimate introvert. Trapped in the world of Sword Art Online (SAO), an immersive game in which each player’s consciousness is transferred into an RPG world, Kirito chooses to go it alone. It’s a bold decision to make because in SAO, players are unable to log out and when they die in the game, they die in real life. Most players decide to band together into parties for survival, but the naturally shy Kirito keeps to himself. He’s also an elite gamer, so any players teaming with him are likely to slow him down. Early on, he helps a new player named Klein learn the basics of the game, but when the newbie explains that he’s part of a larger group, Kirito abandons him. It would be too difficult to survive, much less complete the game, while helping that many players. A short time later, Kirito participates in a group effort in which players pair up to defeat a common enemy. He fights alongside a strong player, Asuna, but leaves her immediately afterward, despite acknowledging her talent. At this point in the game, Kirito is still focused on his individual journey, and doesn’t even consider teaming with Asuna, despite how strong their tandem could be. Though Kirito is strong, he isn’t arrogant. On the contrary, he’s trying to do the right thing and help as many people as possible. With his skill, defeating the game and releasing all the players from this purgatory is a real possibility, so why not continue to level up on his own, especially when it feels comfortable? As an introvert, I feel similarly, especially in the workplace. I used to work for a very small government agency. At first, the only employees were a part-time administrative assistant...

The View from the Bottom: Weakness in Kekkei Sensen Feb12

The View from the Bottom: Weakness in Kekkei Sensen...

I try to hold back tears when I’m emotional, because I don’t want to seem weak. I often don’t let myself cry even in private, hoping that holding back will make me stronger. Society frowns upon weakness and I feel like people will think less of me if they see me in a vulnerable position. However, I’ve learned the hard way that shoving down my sadness does more harm than good, and even scientific studies have confirmed this. In the anime Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront), Riel is a dimensional alien that Leonardo Watch and Sonic Speed Monkey befriend in Hellsalem’s Lot (formerly New York City). Riel is fragile and an easy target for bullies. He hates himself the way he is because he feels like a crybaby who others ridicule. He wishes he was stronger because that would mean his problems would disappear. “If only I wasn’t so frail. If only I were bigger and stronger I wouldn’t have to deal with this terrible stuff,” says Riel. I’ve tried to put on a mask of indifference, but vulnerability is what creates connections between people. Like Riel, I often find myself wishing that I could power through my problems. I look at other people and envy how strong they seem in a situation and then am hard on myself because I can’t handle something as well as they can. Riel encounters a bacterial terrorist named Gimnimo, who’s even smaller than a flea. He appears to empathize with Riel and offers him what he wants: to be strong. He offers Riel enough power to become a danger to Hellsalem’s Lot. “Power is the only thing that matters in this world. So many people get trampled into the ground and for what? Just so the powerful...

Blame! and the Transformative Power of Music Jan29

Blame! and the Transformative Power of Music...

Reading Tsutomu Nihei’s manga Blame! is akin to being dragged into the abysmal underbelly of someone else’s nightmare. The Megastructure, a self-evolving, sentient world of mechanical dread, keeps me subconsciously fighting for survival and the space to breathe. However, Blame!’s distortion of time and space is its true source of terror. If the spindly-legged Safeguard don’t spear trespassers down for daring to leave their dwindling food supplies and claustrophobic conditions, then a few accidental dives into an alternative universe via black hole is sure to strip survivors of any sense of self they might have possessed. It’s fascinating, then, that though the 2017 Netflix Original Film Blame! features an isolated human colony on the brink of extinction and trapped in a solar system-sized City, the film almost entirely does away with its source material’s morbid madness—largely due to its transformative score. While music cannot take any corporeal action in our universe, it bolsters others to be feelers, thinkers, and performers in its stead. For 41 years of cinema history, movies were silent. The advent of soundtracks brought a reign of melody  to the filmic arts, lending yet another of the powerful five senses to screenplays. Music became a method to convey intangible emotions, meanings, truths, and atmospheres in a story; and, in doing so, revealed the rich inner life dwelling within the narrative and, subsequently, within ourselves. Blame!—much like its wandering hero, Killy—is a narrative about hope. It follows an immortal loner’s thousand-year, extra-dimensional journey to find the elusive Net Terminal Gene and restore power to the endangered mortals that created him. Only music is powerful enough to convey the persona of Killy, a silent, brooding humanoid. Amidst a score crafted by one of anime’s trending dystopian composers, Yugo Kanno, Killy’s theme is the...

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...