Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter 2015: What I'm Watching

Yeah, I'm late on this, because I've first been finishing up all the 2014-ending shows I was behind on before catching up with all of this season's new shows. (I'm still behind on a number of shows that started last year and are continuing into this season.) For now, though, let's look at this season's new shows. Since I'm doing this so late, this post will double as a sort of mid-season impressions post.

And yes, there's only one part this time; I only picked up nine new shows, so I figured I would just put them all in one post.

You can jump to any show directly by clicking on the links below:

Assassination Classroom
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Death Parade
Dog Days''
Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Kamisama Kiss Season 2
Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
The Rolling Girls


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I am now a writer for Beneath the Tangles!

Time for some special news. I am now officially part of the writing team for Beneath the Tangles!

Beneath the Tangles is the anime blog that inspired me to do my own blogging about Christian themes in anime, and I have been a big fan of the site for a while, so I am definitely honored to join their team. If you have not checked it out yet, I definitely recommend doing so.

As for what this means for this blog... well, it will still continue, although I plan to move continual coverage of ongoing shows to that site. This blog will move somewhat toward being more of a personal blog about my anime experience, though faith-based posts will not entirely disappear; they will probably be geared more toward older series, though. I will post links to any posts I write on that site here, too.

All that said, for all my readers, thank you for reading my blog and I hope you continue to join me in my exploration of Christian themes in anime, both at Beneath the Tangles and here. And if you have found this site from there, welcome!

Like A Good Shepherd? The Nature of Selflessness

So I've finally been able to finish A good librarian like a good shepherd (a.k.a. Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai), and it ended up being quite good. It certainly has its flaws, but it tells a solid story with likable characters, it can do emotional scenes well, and it's just overall one of the better visual novel adaptations I've seen. It also has some interesting things to say about the nature of selflessness.

Be warned: this time around, there are major spoilers after the jump.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Case for (Culinary) Sensuality

Perhaps one of the more unusual aspects of Koufuku Graffiti, a.k.a. Gourmet Girl Graffiti, are the rather... sensual eating scenes. Especially compared to the innocent look of the rest of the show, those scenes can come off to some Christians as unsavory, due to having just a bit of an erotic feel to them (Kirin even says so in the first episode about Ryou's eating style). As far as I am concerned, though, I think these scenes work well for the show. For a show that's all about food, they really highlight just how much the girls are enjoying the taste of the food. The "sensuality" is definitely there, in the sense that they are an attempt to evoke the sense of taste visually, moreso than being sexual in nature. As far as "fanservice" scenes go, it's actually quite... tasteful.

(Yeah, go ahead and throw tomatoes at me now. Fresh tomatoes please, though.)

You do realize every post about this show will start with a screencap of food, right?
Whether or not you approve of this show's displays of culinary sensuality, I think "sensuality" is an interesting topic worth considering for Christians. The Bible does have some strong words against sensuality, such as in 2 Peter 2, though according to the ESV Study Bible's notes, the actual original Greek word used, "aselgeia", refers to "lack of self-constraint" or "abandonment to immoral behavior", and usually refers to sexual sin, though it can certainly apply to eating habits as well. Eating with no self-constraint leads to all sorts of health problems, and as we are called to take care of our bodies to be temples for the Holy Spirit, having self-control with regards to food is an important thing.

That being said, the "sensuality" I'm talking about here, which is represented in Gourmet Girl Graffiti, is not unrestrained eating, but rather, simply enjoying the flavors of food. And that is a part of eating food that I think we all take for granted. How often do we just stuff food in our mouths, chew it, and push it down our throats without giving more than a couple thoughts to how the food tastes?

God could have made the world with only a minimally-functioning sense of taste, enough to warn us when we're about to eat something poisonous and nothing more. Instead, He gave us a sense of taste that allows us to greatly enjoy the process of eating. Eating moves from just being a bodily function we need to perform to survive to a way of experiencing pleasure on a regular basis without potentially causing serious harm (as long as we are careful and keep things in moderation).

Savoring our food's flavors has all sorts of advantages. By directing our attention to what we're eating instead of how much we're eating, we can more easily move toward eating better food (unless you really think McDonald's is gourmet fare), and with the right mindset, we can be satisfied with smaller portions. More importantly, while we are eating, we can praise God for great flavors and for making eating an enjoyable experience.

Like all good things, though, culinary sensuality can be taken to bad extremes. There's a difference between enjoying your food and demanding that your food be only of the highest quality. Even without going to that extreme, there is no reason to break your budget for taste; culinary sensuality is not a license to eat at fancy restaurant every night. And while this can also apply to other sensual experiences such as enjoying a visually-impressive anime or listening to great music, it clearly should not be applied to certain experiences, such as drug use or sexual immorality.

All that being said, I would wager that our problem is less likely that we enjoy food too much, and more likely that we do not enjoy our food enough, or at least, not in a truly God-glorifying way. In that way, Gourmet Girl Graffiti, in all its sensual glory, is a good reminder to savor our food every now and then.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Assassination Classroom and Great Teachers

If there's one show this season I was not quite expecting going in to love as much as I do, it would definitely be Assassination Classroom. I had heard that it would be a fun little romp about a crazy, tentacled teacher and his students' attempts to kill him, but I was not expecting the show to also have a deeper side to it, one that has quite some heart to it as it explores the relationship between teacher and student. Sure, the hyper-powered Koro-sensei is going to destroy the world in a year, and sure, he has invited one classroom of thirty kids to try to assassinate him before he does so, but as it turns out, Class 3-E is no ordinary class; it is a class of low-performing students at a prestigious prep school, and as such, many of the students have all sorts of issues with self-esteem and the like. As it turns out, though, Koro-sensei takes his teacher duties seriously, and in addition to dodging his students' attacks at Mach 20, he also helps them out with both homework and their personal growth. The complete contrast between the assassination attempts and the teacher-student relationship building seems like it should not work at all, but it sure does, and makes for a wonderful viewing experience. No wonder the original manga is so popular in Japan right now.

Homework help? Attempted murder? Who said the two don't go together?
Now that I think about it, there are actually quite a number of anime and manga series that involve teachers, oftentimes of unusual sorts, and how they connect with their students. There's Great Teacher Onizuka, which sees a former gang leader try to become a teacher as he ends up with a class of problem children. Negima! features a ten-year-old take on teaching duties while all sorts of magical hijinks go on. For more "normal" stuff, there's Doki Doki School Hours, and the upcoming anime adaptation of Denpa Kyoushi will feature a NEET who gets thrown into teacher work. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples, too. It's pretty clear that there is an appeal for these types of stories, where teachers are shown going beyond their teacher duties to really connect with and help their students.

In many cultures, teachers are well-respected in general, while at the same time stories of especially nasty teachers also frequently appear. It is as if we realize that there is quite a lot of weight and responsibility that goes with the teacher role, such that a bad teacher can be absolutely ruinous, but a good teacher is absolutely irreplaceable.

Christianity also gives teachers a lot of respect, and places a lot of responsibility on them. The fact that Jesus was frequently referred to as a teacher is already a good indicator of how respected teachers are, as well as how really good teachers care about those they teach. At the same time, the Bible is full of warnings against false teachers, because nothing is worse than a person in a respected position of instruction spreading falsehoods to people who generally do not know better to question him. James 3 warns that not everyone should be a teacher: the teacher role comes with an extra strict judgment because of how influential it is.

Great teachers, though, are truly worth celebrating. They can not only help children learn important things for their future, but they can also help those children through the various difficulties they encounter growing up. Shows like Assassination Classroom are not just fun, entertaining shows, but are also celebrations of great teachers. Even if said teachers are trying not to get killed by their students.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It has begun...

The page for the Best of Anime 2014 is up! You can find it on the header.

I'll be doing things a bit differently this time around. Everything will be on that one page (except for the actual Top Anime of 2014, which will still be full blog posts), and the page will be updated as I write more entries. Entries will have shorter explanations and will not include pictures, to keep this project from overwhelming me like it kind of did last year. But, there are some new categories this year, so look forward to those!

I still have some shows from 2014 to finish up, so it might be a while before things get fully updated. I do have the Best Opening Episodes of 2014 up, though, and the Best Opening/Ending Themes/Animations will be up sooner rather than later. So with that said, get ready to make fun of my weird tastes in anime... or something.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Koinonia Graffiti

Think about your favorite meals from last year--those meals that were so delicious, you still remember them long after you've eaten them. (If your memory doesn't go back that far, just think about your favorite meals from the holiday season.) What did you have during that meal? What flavors can you recall?

And... who did you eat those meals with? Family? Good friends? That guy/girl you have a huge crush on?

For me, I most remember the various meals I had in Japan, a lunch on Thanksgiving Day, and various holiday meals. The Thanksgiving meal was with friends, while the others were with family. Of course, the foods themselves were great (sushi from nearby a wholesale fish market is the best), but even then, I doubt I would have remembered them as much as I do if I had eaten them by myself. Something about food just tastes better when eaten with people you care about.

And that is what Koufuku Graffiti, or Gourmet Girl Graffiti, is all about.

The obligatory cute-girls-doing-cute-things show of the new anime season, Gourmet Girl Graffiti is a Studio SHAFT production that is equal parts cute and hunger-inducing. Ryou Machiko had been living by herself for a year since her grandma died, and while she enjoys cooking, she finds that nothing she's been making is tasting good. Things change, though, when her second cousin, Kirin, visits for the weekend, and suddenly, the food she's making tastes good again. As Kirin explains, it's because she had been eating alone all this time, when dinnertime is supposed to be a time spent with loved ones.

No foxes were harmed in the making of this dish; it's just udon with fried tofu.
The importance of fellowship and food is also something that the Bible mentions when describing the first Christians:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)
The Greek word for "fellowship" here is "koinonia", which is perhaps one of the more well-known Christianity-related Greek words out there. And this fellowship does seem to be connected with "the breaking of bread", referring to both the observance of the Lord's Supper and general group mealtimes. The early Christians seemed to recognize that there was something about food that is worth enjoying together, just like what Ryou discovered with her food.

If you do find yourself eating alone, though, don't worry, because you are never truly alone: you can always enjoy your meal with God. Things like saying grace before a meal and receiving your meal with a glad and generous heart can help, as can taking the time to savor your food to praise God over it. Of course, this doesn't mean you should forego fellowship meals with loved ones; Christianity was never a faith to be followed alone, after all.

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Gourmet Girl Graffiti is definitely is looking to be my favorite show of the season. Aside from its cuteness and charm, it's a show that makes me think about food--not just eating it, but also what role food has in my life and my relationship with others and God. As such, expect more posts about this show and about food. And yes, I realize this show has some rather... sensual eating scenes. In fact, that will be the topic of my next post on this show.

If food is something important to your life, too, then I think this is a show worth watching. Whatever the case, though, I hope this post and the rest to come will encourage you to think more about your food. Bon appetit!