Time travel is a common subject in manga. Especially during the Edo period, which I suppose you could compare it to the desire to relive the Victorian years in fiction. Amakusa 1637 is a time-traveling shoujo manga which both adheres to and breaks this mold in ways that are profoundly Christ-affirming.
In modern day Japan, the tomboyish Natsuki and her friend Miyamoto are sparring in a Kendo match. As they fight, a massive earthquake rips through Japan, causing untold devastation and wounding Miyamoto as he shields Natsuki from falling rubble with his body. Flash forwards five years, and the two of them along with four other friends are on a cruise, enjoying themselves and preparing for graduation. Once again, tragedy strikes; the ship is sunk, and Natsuki awakens by herself on a lonely beach. However, there is something terribly wrong.
Natsuki has landed in the Edo of the past, more specifically in the year 1636. The year before the Shimabara rebellion, where oppressed Japanese Christians rose up in revolution against their lords led by Shiro Amakusa.
However, history has changed; Amakusa is thought dead, lost at sea. And Natuski looks exactly like him. Then her friends also begin to show up, but it’s apparent that not all of them landed exactly at the same time as each other. And not all are friends of the Christians…
The Shimabara revolution is a dark time in Japan’s history. About forty thousand Christians were killed, and it led to the complete extirpation of Christianity from Japan. Christianity was suppressed so successfully that the only surviving sects went deep underground into hiding, only to reemerge hundreds of years later when the ban was lifted. The events of it were novelized by Japanese Catholic writer Shusaku Endo in his book Silence, and it’s a horrifying read.
Amakusa 1637 is surprising in that it deals with this very, very respectfully.
Natsuki knows of the rebellion and its horrific toll on life, and she resists her destined role as the one to step into Amakusa’s shoes. But circumstances compel her to save the lives of others, and soon the legend of her as an angel from paradise possessing Shiro’s body and touched by God grow. It’s surprisingly well done, because while the miracles have naturalistic explanations (mostly from technology that made the trip from the future with them) a case can be made that still they only were possible due to the miracle of time travel at all. And unusually, the Christians of the time period are not shrine maidens in disguise, but real believers, who mention when they are baptized and who see the hand of God in action. I don’t think I’ve seen many manga get Christians like this one does.
There’s plenty of historical intrigue, and some intriguing twists due both to the nature of time travel and the six friends each having their own destinies awaiting them in the Edo of the past. There’s also no skimping on the realities of the brutality of the period and the persecution of Christians during that time, either. There’s a lot of sorrow here, and much of it is also a part of the lives of the time travelers as they must adapt to this new, barbaric past. One panel deserves to be put here in full, as Natsuki describes our future to a bunch of children:
That to them, our future is Paraiso, paradise. We live in a miracle, where Christians are not killed for their beliefs, and can celebrate Christ openly. This is not something to be scorned or forgotten in favor of mild slights. Natsuki’s fervent desire is to change history and to prevent the massive slaughter that had happened in Shimabara. And throughout it, even if what are miracles to the people of the past and commonplaces to things like us, the legend of Natsuki as a messenger of God grows.
And there are many parallels to the faith, including a very well-done redemption scene similar to Paul. Walking on water. Daniel in the lion’s den. Paul’s Jailer. Mary Magdalene. Not exact, but you can see the themes even as the situations are different. Not many manga interact with Christianity as well as this one does, and Christians will find a lot to like in it.
I’m only half-way through the story, so I can’t say how it will turn out.
Ratings-it’s going to be R due to some yuri and yaoi hints. Both of them are handled pretty well; the yaoi is due to a specific, tormented individual and is actually used in part to lead him back to God. By this I mean his coerced lover was a Christian who modeled compassion even in those situations, and managed to plant the seeds to his eventual redemption. The yuri attraction is there too, but unusually it is not fulfilled; the person loves Natsuki and is captivated by her, but will not take it beyond that. It’s a very unusual use of those tropes.
It’s also R due to the violence, adult situations, and a scene of nudity. It’s not too graphic, but the persecution of Christians was not something nice or able to be rendered in PG standards. There’s a lot of death, but Natsuki always strives to save life even with her own prodigious kendo skills.
So despite the rating, I’d recommend Christians to read it. Very few manga treat Christianity with this level of respect. For comparison’s sake, two of the most known portrayals of Amakusa or the Shimabara rebellion were the absolutely sick depiction of it in Ninja Ressurection, and Amakusa as a sorcerer and last boss in SNK’s Samurai Showdown series. This is like a breath of fresh air. You can find scans on the net, as I don’t think it was ever brought over to the west.
I’m not really a highbrow anime fan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I choose the worst in the world to watch. Usually though, I can find enjoyment in anime others don’t like, no matter how stupid the premise. I liked Infinite Stratos, Dog & Scissors, and even Wanna Be the Strongest in the World! at times. But now I’ve watched the first episode of Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! and I think I’ve hit my limit. We’re at peak otaku here; a premise so stupid that they can’t even explain it.
Soji is a young teen who has just started a new school year. He really likes twin-tails.
Twin-tails are pigtails pretty much, but in anime they tend to be heavily linked to moe and certain types of characters. Long sharp twin-tails are tsunderes or maybe ojou-sama’s, hot-and-cold girls and queenly girls. Short ones tend to be babyish or cute characters, and there’s some variation to what they symbolize. Soji really, really likes them to the point of monomania.
One day while in his family’s shop with his childhood friend (also a twin-tail, of the tsundere variety) he meets a mysterious woman who begs him to accept a bracelet. It’s soon apparent why, after she transports them both to the site of a sentai (live-action hero show, think Power Rangers) styled invasion of the earth by aliens headed by a lizard man. Their goal? To drain the power out of twin-tailed girls, for reasons that no one explains because its too ludicrous.
Soji is appalled, although the only visible effect seems to be to destroy a person’s desire to put their head up in twin-tails. No really, that’s it; one victim seems perfectly fine after, but has no desire to change her hairstyle back. Whatever the “attribute power” twin-tails had, she’s not missing it. When he is told that he has the power to stop it by transforming due to the bracelet he was given, he enthusiastically does.
Into what looks to be a ten-year old girl.
Now gender-bender anime don’t usually have the strongest explanations why the hero transforms into a heroine. But what’s unique about this episode is that they don’t even bother to explain why. Even Kampfer, which is one of the worst anime of recent years, had a decent explanation why its hero had to become a heroine each time he needed to use his powers. But like the invasion’s need for twin-tail power, this is waved off completely probably because the writers couldn’t find a way to justify it with a straight face.
Soji wipes the floor with the lizard guy, saving the day. Tail Red is now on the scene.
What’s bad about this episode is that it’s not really playing it to parody, but the subject matter is impossible to play straight. There are some elements of parody, mostly in the childhood friend and the way she can’t stand him spacing out over hairstyles. But the series just isn’t as funny as you’d expect, and is sort of an action-comedy.
What’s more is that the jokes just fall flat, beating the twin-tail fetish into the ground. For some reason the villains just aren’t harvesting twin-tail power, they also have a fetish for it; the main villain in this episode has to resist the moe of a grade-schooler in pigtails and asks to touch Tail Red’s twin-tails before he expires. It’s too much to really work, because they keep hammering you over the head with it.
It feels like we’ve hit peak otaku with this episode, because its an anime totally in thrall to the specific fetish an otaku has that it’s not even enjoyable or internally consistent on its own. A moe anime can be moe and still be fun to watch if you don’t care for that style too much, but this is so focused on the singular monomania of liking girls in twin-tails that it doesn’t work as an anime. When you can’t even bother to explain decently why your main protagonist has to change genders just to transform (there’s a very brief response saying “well, this is the price power demands,” begging the question) it’s hard to care about the plot. Even Infinite Stratos had some fun in between Ichika’s denseness and the rotating fetish fuel that was his harem. This one is for die-hard twin-tailer lovers only.
For Christians, it’s PG-13. The women who offers Soji the bracelet in one ludicrous scene offers her large breasts as an incentive for him to take it, but aside from that there isn’t much in the way of offensive content in rating terms. The constant focus on twin-tails as a fetish will probably turn you off unless you really, really, really like the idea.
If the series gets some depth and explains why Soji has such a platonic love for twin-tails that he actually wants to be one, it might be good. There’s actually some commentary about this and in gender-bender anime in general that can make for discussion. What’s unusual about modern gender-bender anime is not that the switch is done for comedy, or for reprisal on a horndog character. It’s done because more or less, the guy is better as or wants to be a woman. He identifies, loves, or is identified with what are perceived as feminine virtues. This might be a subject for another post, though.
Even MORE anime. So many in fact, that I lost count of how many parts I’ve done.
Girlfriend Beta…do you need a waifu? Here’s a collection of a ridiculous amount of them in the guise of a slice-of-life anime. This one killed D.M. at about ten minutes, even though he likes slice of life. Cute girls with cute accents do cute things together. I don’t mind cute girls, though I have a tolerance; something like Is the Order A Rabbit or Kirino Mosaic is too sugary for me. But this anime based on a ridiculously popular smartphone dating sim is just about introducing its cast of waifu material and not much more. Well, unless you want to play “identify the famous voice actress.”
Bonjour Sweet Love Patisserie is five minutes of the opposite extreme. Very fluffy shoujo with reverse harem potential surrounding a girl attending a famous confectionary school on a scholarship. Of course, it’s in a frickin castle, and all the instructors are bishonen boys. The brief running time only lets the cast be introduced in the first episode and little else. I actually think that the five minute length helps this series, because it’s so stereotypical that I doubt it would have made any use of a full 22 minutes.
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis is a lot better than you’d expect an anime based on a CCG to be. After a breathtaking introductory sequence straight out of Final Fantasy where summons battle, we are sped to the present day of a fantasy kingdom. Surprisingly there’s a heavy western influence, with kingdom names like Wyaterp (Wyatt Earp,) western clothes despite using swords instead of sixguns, and an absolutely silly opening chase set to spaghetti western music.
The roguish bounty hunter Favaro is on the run from the ex-knight Kaisar as he does his day-to-day life of collecting bounties. When his tall tale of a secret route to the icy kingdom of Helheim attracts a mysterious woman seeking a guide, he’s about to find his life is going to get a lot more difficult.
This one feels a lot more high-concept than the usual anime, and might be one of the better ones of the season. Shoutout to MedeivalOtaku, this one has your name written on it.
In Search of the Lost Future has the members of an astronomy club help out their school with crisis intervention, as they try to build a planetarium for the school festival and deal with the budding love both open and unrequited between their members. However, tragedy strikes, and the visit of a mysterious girl from an unknown time and place may be the only key to fix things.
It’s unusual because it starts off slice-of-life, and ends of dramatically. Seems to be a fair amount of anime following for better or worse a P.A. Works format; slice of life with group dynamics and science ficton elements. This one might be time travel, might not be.
Laughing Under The Clouds takes us back to the Meiji era, the age of rapid westernization and the end of the samurai. Three brothers living as heirs to a shrine and sons to a famous swordsman eke out a living ferrying criminals to the massive prison in the middle of lake Biwa. However, the skies are clouding over, foretelling a great cataclysm over the land. But more mundane things vex the middle brother Sora-can he ever be as strong as his eldest brother?
It’s got an interesting opening and a hint of troubles down the road. It also has a comic focus to go along with its more serious moments.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis involves a young nobleman, Tigre, who is captured during a blood battle between his nation and the nation of a beautiful War Maiden. Said maiden takes a fancy to him, and makes him her prisoner. Now Tigre must deal with her rather blunt enchantment with him, as well as the reality of being a prisoner and a bit of a performing animal.
Plenty of warfare and intrigue are slightly marred by the fanservice aspects of the War Maidens.
Bounjour is probably G. Typical Shoujo. Laughing Under the Clouds PG, but may hint to more violence later. In Search is PG-13, and Bahamut is probably a hard PG-13 maybe R. Vanadis is R due to anime nudity, and fanservice. Not sure what Girlfriend Beta is, but it’s probably PG/PG-13 at tops; waifu shows tend to be more platonic than anything.
I have to say this batch has the most percentage of hits out of all the anime I’ve seen so far. All of them save Girlfriend and Bonjour have intriguing plots, and this group has a lot more traditional fantasy in it. There’s a fair bit of violence and mature situations to make up for it, though.
1. The silliest wrestling match you’ll ever see.
Watch veteran wrestler Hailey Hatred go against…three junior high school students?
From the Japanese wrestling promotion ICE RIBBON. Cutest wrestling gimmick ever goes to wrestler Neko Nittai, whose entire vocabulary is the word Nya! and who acts like a cat throughout the whole match. Watching her win a tag team championship is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve seen in wrestling. She’s so happy.
It really shows you how tough Japanese wrestling is. These are junior high school students, and yet they are taking more bumps than not only WWE Divas, than even WWE wrestlers themselves. And this is a gimmick match. If you watch some of the other promotions, like Pro Wrestling NOAH, they do amazing things.
2. Getting Chuuni in the hood.
The end theme to Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions mixed up with Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools, some Roots, and some Nujabes. It manages to defy expectations by being awesome beyond belief. It’s scary how well the vocals match the beat.
3. Do not eat!
How does Yeti from Muromi on the Shore get any cuter? She sings.
The entire song is Yeti trying to convince Harpy not to eat Muromi, with Muromi herself joining in the end. Cuter than a box of a hundred kittens. Pi pi pi piiiii.
4. One dedicated crowd.
As if a live-action concert of U’s song Snow Halation from Love Live wasn’t cool enough, it’s front of a massive, fired up crowd. How fired up? At 3:12, the point in the song where in the anime, the lighting on the stage changes, EVERY SINGLE FAN brings out orange glowsticks to reflect it. A football stadium worth of fans.
5. Taking Flight
There’s a cool Christian webcomic called Shelter of Wings that deserves your support. The artist looks to be really talented and draws in an excellent manga style. Worth a look, as Christian manga is few and far between.
Japesland at Beneath the Tangles has a good post up wondering why is it that a vocaloid song can inspire him, but praise seems so mundane most of the time? I know what he means. I actually had planned a larger post about the same feeling, although in a different context. Which is a better church? This?
You’d think it would be easy. The church above is a real church, right? But if you look at it another way, it’s not so simple.
As I write this, it’s 12:15 A.M. Let’s say that for whatever reason, the walls are closing in on me. I want to go out and get some form of Christian edification. Not net stuff, but actually get out of the house. Which of these two things will be more likely for me to be able to go to? The latter of course. Choice Book racks are often found in 24-hour stores like CVS or Walmart, and there’s one less than ten minutes down the road from me. The local church however, will be silent with the doors shut tight. And if you think about it, the available hours I can go to the physical church are often limited to 10 till 2 on Sunday, and maybe 6 pm to 8 pm on a single weekday. So even if I wanted just to go inside to pray, I have four, maybe six hours of the week to do so. But if I wanted just to go out, look at the rack, maybe buy a book on God’s Promises, and pray silently for a few moments, I can hit the rack 24-7.
I’m not trying to make the two equal, but instead I want to make a point about the church as we know it. The problem is that we take the church as something we must adapt to, when church is supposed to serve us.
I don’t mean this in a doctrinal sense. The problem with churches is that they exist on their own schedule and do things according to the way people have always done them. Being only open on Sundays is one aspect of this. It’s incredibly odd when you think of it; I can go and get beer in a store twelve hours a day, but I can only get Jesus in a church for one day a week. Maybe two. The church is still structured around the time when Christianity was so omnipresent in America that we adapted culturally to take Sundays off. Did you know that until 1980, many businesses stayed closed on Sundays, or opened after 2 P.M? You didn’t have to ask for time off to worship, because most of the businesses didn’t stay open. Too many churches think that we are still in this era.
When Japesland writes about his chapel, I get this sense. The songs and hymns are something we are supposed to adapt to, rather than things that are for us. He writes of how something as simple as a new song jolts him awake and brings pleasure to him. This is because for a moment, it’s no longer just a habit you follow because you’re expected to. You’re not just singing the same songs that were written two hundred years ago, nor are you knowing that in five minutes they’ll start announcements and then Pastor Bob will talk about his favorite verse because it’s the last Sunday in the month. The whole system has become narrow, ossified, and designed to show that proper Christianity is done by adhering to habits set hundreds of years ago.
Again, this is not about doctrine. Let me put it this way; you know what would be the best thing that could happen to 95% of small churches out there? If the pastor said one day “We’re not going to do praise and worship or a sermon today; instead, we’re going to out to a popular park, grill some food, and give it freely to anyone who wants it. Then if they ask why, we just tell them because Jesus loves them.”
People would flip their gourds.
This is because it breaks every single habit we’ve erected. Church is kind of a little, big praise-shaped box. It’s little in that we do really nothing at all inside of it. We show up one day a week or less, sit down, sing, and listen. Maybe we pay for it with a little money. All passive. Mostly a habit from a time when the church was mainstream, the only source of culture or transcendence a town could have, and the people worked six days a week with little leisure. I think this is why Japesland might feel the disconnect some. Vocaloid is life on the now, on the cutting edge; it’s something that is uniquely modern and speaks to a modern person. Much of the church and praise we have now is for a world hundreds of years in the past, following a rhythm that’s alien to us. That rhythm became habit, and is passed on to generations who live in a world far removed from it.
There is an aspect of the past that will always be timeless, but there is also the present. The past of Christianity is something that isn’t just something to follow habitually; we can’t just look at things like worship and do it because great-grandfather sang hymns on organs before the Great War. The doctrine and faith is timeless, but things like worship or honoring God are unique to every new generation and human being. When I was a kid, some pastor managed to get the local supermarket to give him use of the parking lot Sunday after the store closed. That pastor held a drive-in service, just like a drive-in movie. Instead of a screen, they had a live band in top of a truck trailer and preaching in the open air via microphone. It’s a startling thing to worship God in the night air under the open sky, and I remember it even today. It’s breaking tradition horribly, but this is the kind of tradition we should be breaking.
What the guys at Beneath the Tangles and the other anime blogs on the net do is something similar. They are trying to reach out and make Christianity and its expression new and startling by their own uniqueness. Japesland talks about reconciling otaku with Christian, but there’s no reconciling. It’s sort of an act of worship to say “God, here is this beautiful thing I love; I look at it and it reminds me of You.” To do so escapes the little big praise-shaped box. It’s not something we do out of habit one day a week, until the words become meaningless. It’s personal, connects with us, and unites God with our daily lives.
* DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating people to skip church because of this. I’m thinking instead that its so important we do assemble that we may want to look at the barriers we make for many people to not be able to do so.
Wow, a lot of anime, and I still haven’t seen them all yet.
Shirobako is the story about a group of friends in an animation club that vow to make a picture together. Flash forwards 2 1/2 years, and they are all now in the animation industry, dealing with the ups and downs of actually making series. Like serious deadlines, and coworker mistakes. It’s dry, and in the first episode they introduce something like twenty people so it’s a bit hard to follow. Might be worth it for animation buffs or lovers of slice of life.
Your Lie in April concerns a young piano prodigy. After the death of his mother, he is unable to keep playing. One day he meets a free-spirited, beautiful, and often violent violin player who might just hold the key of seeing the beauty and color of the world again. That is, if he can avoid random baseballs of death and inopportune panty shots.
The animation’s absolutely breathtaking on this one, full of color and life. An excellent start to a series that has some major potential to it. This one might be the best of the season.
Amagi Brilliant Park involves a young man who has it all; looks, charm, and ability. Except those talents become liabilities when a very odd girl with a habit of pulling muskets out from who knows where ropes him into visiting an old, decrepit theme park. Once there, he finds out his role is to restore it to its former glory. and make it magical again. In more ways than one.
It’s a fun little premise with interesting characters and some injokes. Look for a cameo from a certain series mascot as the star of one attraction. Different than usual from Key’s standard works.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to see Gonna Be the Twintail or any other of Funi’s exclusive titles. We’re starting to hit episode two of most of the beginning series though, and both Dengi-ka and My Husband have managed to deliver some absolutely hilarious episodes. The former introduces the zombie-loving Fu-girl, and the latter has the husband’s trap brother visit, as well as a hysterical meeting with his wife’s friends.
Ratings. Shirobako and Your Lie, a very mild PG. Shirobako has a couple of breast jokes, Your Lie an implied upskirt photo (which is censored in the photo screen!) Amagi is R for a brief scene of standard nudity, which is unusual for Key. No censor or steam. If you’re an anime fan concerned with content, the first two series might be worth checking out. Shiro is the weakest of the three, but might be more of a series that you watch over the long haul.
I haven’t covered any ongoing series like Log Horizon mostly because I haven’t kept up with the series, and usually anyone who watches them knows what to expect.
This is quite a season. It’s going to be tough to pare it down to five to seven series to follow.fa
The series keep coming.
When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace starts with a literature club, an attack of chuunibyou, and a bunch of girls who definitely do not believe the main character one bit. However unlike Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions this time the power is real, and each of the literature club members possesses a supremely powerful gift. Except, of course, for the guy who really really wants one.
The first episode feels like a fun, silly comedy on the level of D-Frag, with a bossy student council president and a hint of an adversary down the road. Unusually, most of the main characters are pretty overpowered, so I wonder if the focus will be on battles at all.
Orenchi no Furo Jiro surprised many people by being four minutes long. A young man finds a merman along the banks of a polluted river, and brings him home. Said merman takes over his bathtub, and hijinks ensue. The characters are done in bishonen style, but four minutes might be too little to tell any reasonable story in, especially since this doesn’t feel like a 4-koma anime.
Akatsuki no Yona is surprisingly good. In what looks to be a past Korea, a princess grows up with little worry besides her unruly hair and whether or not she would be allowed to marry her cousin. Unfortunately things are going to go horribly wrong for her, and it looks like she will gather companions to aid her in fighting for the kingdom she was usurped from.
From the start, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a typical reverse harem series, but the first flashback episode dispels that by making it strong, with a more natural feeling to the tale and good characters all around. Ends on a strong cliffhanger too. It feels more like classic shoujo like Fushigi Yuugi, which is not a bad thing in the slightest.
Trinity Seven is more typical. A young man vows to become a mage in order to find his cousin who vanished before his eyes. However, the only short cut for him to do so is to defeat the Trinity Seven-the school’s seven most powerful (female) mages.
To be honest, it feels like a better Demon King Daimao. That’s not high praise, as Daimao sucks. But it’s very well animated, and there’s a little self-awareness of harem tropes. And of course, seven hot girls that seem to be modeled after the seven sins.
JOKER is an unusual addition. It’s a kid’s anime about the phantom thief Joker, who befriends a lowly ninja down on his luck as they both attempt to rob a dragon orb from an obnoxious owner. Out of all the kid’s animes Crunchyroll has, this one is probably the best. It’s filled with a lot of drama, and the characters aren’t bad at all. But since it’s a kid’s anime, expect hyper-frantic action, super-deformed animated characters, and a lot of implausible stuff.
Parasyte to be blunt I’m not bothering with. I don’t plan to watch this one, as I’ve read the manga. The manga is VERY nihilistic as well as horrifically violent, and I’m not up to that these days. The original manga had aliens that plotted to take over the world by integrating into human hosts, inserting themselves into their bodies and traveling up to their brains. The hero manages to stop one before that, and now he resides in his arm instead. Not sure how the anime series will proceed, but there was a lot of body horror and razor-sharp slicing in the manga, and I’m not keen on watching that animated.
Hi-sCool Seha Girls. Girls who are Sega consoles go to school and interact a lot like the gdgd fairies. This isn’t like Hyperdimension Neptunia, where it’s alluded to; they are named after their respective console and the homages are blatant and often funny. It helps to have been a gamer in the 90s-2000s though. If anything, it can feel a little too random, and a little like a Sega history commerical if anything.
I had to admit laughing when I heard Dreamcast trying to connect to the internet, with modem dial tone and everything, only to fail because it was during the day and it would be a toll call. The amount of injokes and Sega references are astronomical.
Ratings. Joker and Hi-sCool Sega Girls are G, the rest that I watched from PG to PG-13. The season is starting to shape up now, with better and bigger budget series debuting. I’ll try and do a part four once the Funimation simulcasts get released to watch on Hulu.