Saturday, September 28, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 9/27/13 The Ramblings God Only Knows Edition


Today’s ramblings concern two shows with “God” in their titles, and as such will have more God-related content than normal. They will also contain major spoilers for the ends of those series involved, so this will be the first Ramblings post to have spoiler protection. After the jump, there will be one large picture for each of these two shows, first one for Sunday Without God and then one for The World God Only Knows later on. If you only want the spoilers for the latter show, scroll down to the end of the post and then back up to the picture.
 
Warning: Major spoilers for Sunday Without God and The World God Only Knows after the jump!
 
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Spoilers for Sunday Without God start after the pic.

Yeah, this post was just an excuse to use this adorable picture. Art by 藤夏.

 The last episode of Sunday Without God was good, albeit perhaps rather confusing. If Alice was the guy that was dead all along, why was Dee a ghost? Why couldn’t Scar tell that Alice was dead? How did Ai bring Alice back to life? And why on earth do Julie and Alice have girls’ names, anyways?
 
Some answers from the light novels themselves may help with the first three questions. I found this post from the AnimeSuki forums, which explains a fair amount that the anime left unexplained, so go there if you're interested.

As for the last question, I have no idea. On the other hand, this means that in this season, there are two characters of different genders named Alice and two characters of different genders called Ai...
 
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The “concept” behind Sunday Without God is that God (clearly not the Christian God, as it has its own, vastly different creation story, even though it shares the “seven days” aspect) abandoned the world at some point, which has left the souls of the dead unable to move on until they have been properly “buried” by a Gravekeeper. However, even this concept is challenged by one character early on, who posits that rather than God abandoning the world, God simply decided to grant people’s wish of not dying, and later providing Gravekeepers when they started wishing that they could die properly. This view seems to be supported by the various instances where characters are granted wishes, whether or not they like the result.
 
This concept of God, as a somewhat apathetic but perhaps well-meaning deity that grants what people want and lets them deal with the consequences, is an interesting one. It’s still not the Christian God by any means, but there are some similarities. There are people who believe that God has abandoned our world, citing the prevalence of war, poverty, and other various injustices as things God would not allow if He actually cared about us. In a way, the reality is that God is letting us have what we want: ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve, humanity has desired to rebel against God, and because God wants us to love Him out of our own will rather than His forcing us to, He allowed us to live how we wanted, with all the consequences of rebellion against God that came with it.
 
That said, God is not an apathetic deity sitting on the sidelines while humanity rebelled against Him. He set in motion a plan that would ultimately allow those who desired to love and follow Him to be able to do so without the problem of their sin getting in the way, and He is also actively working in various ways to win over the hearts of those rebelling against Him. Speaking of a “god” actively working to win hearts, though…
 
End spoilers for Sunday Without God.
 
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Spoilers for The World God Only Knows start after the pic.

The girl where it all began. Art by

サレコウベ.


The concept for The World God Only Knows is that Keima, the “Capturing God”, named such because he could “capture” any girl in any Dating Sim, uses that knowledge to win the hearts of real life girls. In the first two seasons, it’s because they have “loose souls” or Weiss inside them, which if left alone could cause problems for the world, but which can be forced out if the host falls in love. In the Goddesses season, it’s because they have goddesses inside them that need to be awakened through The Power of Love in order to save the world from the threat of Vintage. One way or another, the circumstances of this world have forced Keima to orchestrate things so that girls fall in love with him.
 
Complicating matters for the final goddess host, Ayumi, is that she’s actually been told that Keima is just trying to seduce her and doesn’t have actual feelings for her, although at the same time, she is also told that he has his reasons for doing so. Even Keima himself confirms that he has no feelings for her. And yet, as angry as all of this makes Ayumi, she nevertheless states that she is still in love with him, and that moreover, she chose herself to fall in love with him, therefore she all but forces Keima to complete her conquest.
 
We don’t oftentimes think of falling in love as a personal choice. We tend to think more like Elvis Presley, in that we can’t help but fall in love with whoever we fall in love with. And yet, while we cannot always control to which people our bodies physically get attracted to, we do most certainly choose what to do with that attraction. We can choose to ignore it, or dwell on it and let that attraction grow into infatuation, and from there we can choose to let it go and grieve over it, or continue to dwell on it until we have completely fallen in love with the person. (In addition, we can, to an extent, change who we are attracted to; that’s outside the scope of this particular rambling, though.)
 
I find the whole “can’t help falling in love” mentality problematic; it is so often used as justification for an affair or a divorce (“I can’t help it; I just fell in love with someone else), or as justification for being in a poisonous relationship, all while playing the victim for anyone that dares to rebuke them. That is why I rather like Ayumi’s (and Chihiro’s) approach towards love that takes more personal responsibility towards their feelings of love. She may know that nothing good can come out of holding such feelings, but that is her problem and she will deal with it.
 
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That said, on one hand, we have Ayumi taking personal responsibility for her falling in love with Keima. On the other hand, Keima has all this time been orchestrating things to make sure that Ayumi falls in love with him. This must be this show’s own rendition of the “free will vs. divine ordination” paradox.

On the one hand, God has made the decision to love and follow Him a decision of personal responsibility. On the other hand, God actively works in people’s hearts to soften them and lead them back to Him, in a way somewhat similar to a dating sim player setting up all the right flags to make the girl fall in love with him. So just how is falling in love with God is a choice made of our own will while also part of God’s sovereign plan? That is not an easy question to answer, but perhaps by looking at Ayumi, we can understand some of this paradox better.
 
Of course, God is rather different from Keima, especially in how God loves us far more than we love Him back. Keima, on the other hand, has kept his own feelings for the girls neutral. Or at least, that’s what he has tried to do. And yet, one of the things I love most about this season of The World God Only Knows is that Keima grows to care for his capture targets as real people, understanding their pain when he must ultimately keep them at arm’s length for their safety (and also perhaps starting to develop feelings for one of them himself). He starts having regrets over some of the things he says and overall becomes more empathetic towards them—quite a change from the detached dating sim player he used to be. Somehow, through these real-life interactions with real girls, the “Capturing God” becomes truly more God-like.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Anime Hall of Fame Induction: Nichijou

In my Anime Hall of Fame series, I highlight shows that I enjoyed a lot and think are worth trying out. Click the "stardf29's Anime Hall of Fame" tab at the top of the page to see a list of all the inducted anime series so far. More anime series will be inducted over time, and this post will be updated with any new information for this series.


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Nichijou

JP Vol. 1 manga cover. Deer not included.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 9/20/13 Weekend With God Edition

I'm posting this week's ramblings early, in that it's technically not Friday yet here (though it probably will be by the time anyone gets to read this), but yes, it's the Weekly Ramblings.

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Here’s a bit of news from last week that I somehow forgot about: Tokyo has won the bid to host the 2020 Olympics! This of course is interesting news just from a news perspective, but as this is an anime blog, how this affects the world of anime is the question to ask here. Will we see more sports anime as the event gets closer? Will moe sports girls become the mascot for the event? (Fun fact: Doraemon was a representative mascot for when Tokyo was pulling for its bid.) Will Tetsuo awaken to his psychic powers and destroy Tokyo the year before? (It is interesting how Akira predicted the Tokyo 2020 Olympics way back in the early 1980s…)

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Subtitled-only Blu-rays has long been something most US anime companies did not do. Companies like Viz and Funimation dubbed everything and refused to release anything if they could not profit from it with a dub. Sentai Filmworks developed a policy where they would only release on Blu-ray titles that they would dub, since the price of producing Blu-rays was much higher and they felt only popular shows (that would also mean they were dub-worthy) would make up the difference. The high production cost has even kept a company like Nozomi Entertainment from doing Blu-ray releases. Currently, the two major companies that have sub-only Blu-rays on the market are NIS America (and they have a lot of them) and Aniplex of America (not counting their import releases, they released sub-only Blu-rays of Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari).

However, more and more companies are starting to try out sub-only Blu-rays. Earlier, I mentioned that Sentai will be experimenting with this format for a couple of titles in December. Now, also planned for December, Funimation will also try releasing their own sub-only Blu-ray/DVD release (I’m not counting their Ghost in the Shell: Arise import release, which they do plan to release a dubbed domestic version of anyways). The most notable thing in this case is that with this release, Funimation is officially breaking their “dub everything or don’t sell it” policy, which has already stirred up the extremist dub fans, but which is a move I definitely support, as I did with Sentai’s sub-only Blu-rays.

The title in question is OniAi, short for Onii-chan dakedo Ai sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne! That is Japanese for “As Long As There’s Love, It Doesn’t Matter If He’s My Brother, Right?” …yeah, it’s an incest comedy. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and most of the first episode is pretty amusing with the brother rebuffing his sister’s advances, but then other girls come in and turn the show into a harem, at which point the show devolves into a rather bland harem show, which I could not get past the second episode of. (It’s also a very fanservice-heavy show.)

Still, if you are a fan of the show, I definitely encourage you to buy Funimation’s  Blu-ray/DVD release, even if there’s no dub for it. The release itself comes with an artbox and has a significantly cheaper ARP of $50 (compared to $70 for a similar release with a dub). More importantly, this could mean more home video releases of shows that might not otherwise get one (I’m looking at you, Minami-ke).

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With a handful of shows having already finished, I’ve decided to watch my way through one more of this season’s shows: the sacrilegiously named Sunday Without God (Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi). The show presents a fantasy world where because God “abandoned the world”, the dead do not die properly, but instead continue on as if they were alive (albeit not without potential issues), and can only move on to the afterlife with the help of a Gravekeeper. The show works quite well as a speculative world, exploring the ways the world works and how morality might change accordingly.

That said, the main reason I'm loving this show a lot is because of its main character, Ai. She is adorable, headstrong, kind, has just the right amount of spunk, and can be quite contemplative, and in many ways I feel like I am learning about the world alongside her. If the show itself is otherwise solid but not spectacular as a fantasy work, Ai really helps make the show memorable.

Ai is love. Art by

けむけむ.


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Anyways, the reason I'm posting this early is because I'll be gone this weekend on a church retreat, during which I have no Internet access. I like to use this particular yearly retreat as a time to abstain from various electronics; the only electronics I use would be my phone (for contact purposes) and the Bible on my Kindle. It's a nice change of pace, and it's something I actually rather look forward to.

As for missing some episodes of anime... eh, I can catch up with all of that when I get back home Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Joining An Airsoft Club Won't Make You A Better Person


Among the many shows I’m following this season, one other show has stood out as one of the better shows this season: the lengthily-named Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3, which has the equally lengthy Japanese name of Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jo-Gakuin Koto-ka C3-bu. For both your sanity and mine (as well as not having to use the superscript button all the time), the show will henceforth simply be referred to as C3-bu.
The premise seems awfully simple. A shy girl named Yura enters Stella Women’s Academy and encounters the school’s rather off-beat airsoft club, the titular C3-bu. Wanting to break free of her past of always being in the shadows and having no friends, she decides to join the club, thinking that it will allow her to become more outgoing and give her proper friends.
In other words, it’s the classic story of a person deciding to participate in some tough activity in order to change and become a better person, right?
Well, the “change” part is right. The “become a better person” part… not so much.
Warning: Major spoilers after the jump!
This is a shy girl after airsoft. (Art by 

とろひ)


Friday, September 13, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 9/13/13 Moe Didn't Change Edition

It's weekly rambling time again. News, commentary on stuff I'm watching, and other random stuff, it's all here. And again, "kin'youbi" is Japanese for Friday.

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So, some time ago, the following picture made its way around Tumblr:

Actually, pre-moe Bones is still pretty moe.

Now, cherry-picking one not-moe-looking title from a studio's earlier portfolio and one moe-looking title from their recent portfolio does nothing to make any sort of point, so I was amused to see the following image, composed by Mike Toole of ANN's The Mike Toole Show:

Cue "Lupin is so moe!" comments.
The point is, shows about cute girls have been around forever, and aren't a recent phenomenon. That said, I'm not going to pretend there isn't some upward trend regarding moe, but what exactly that trend is is hard to pinpoint.

But hey, as a fan of moe, I'm perfectly fine with it.

(And for the record, this week's subtitle is based on this OVA. Which I have not seen, but hey, it provides a good title pun.)

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Being incredibly late to the party, I've finally started watching Space Brothers and the current rendition of Hunter x Hunter. I've seen two episodes of each so far, and I figure if I watch at least two episodes of each a week... I probably won't catch up before the shows stop airing. Perhaps a marathon or two are  in order.

Well, one way or another, both have interested me so far, so onwards I go with these long-runners.

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It's frequently amusing when shows make a shout-out to something, especially when it's something pretty out there that you weren't expecting a shout-out to, for example, Space Brothers making a reference to the Zidane headbutt incident in world soccer in 2006.

The most recent episode of Chronicles of the Going Home Club also had a reference to a sports incident, in this case, the 2012 Olympics badminton match-throwing scandal. I certainly wasn't expecting that.

Something else I wasn't expecting to be referenced: IV breeding and EV training in Pokemon. Pokemon references are common in anime, but IV breeding and EV training are obscure aspects of the game that only concern the most competitive players.

Moving on to WataMote (which Going Home Club also referenced via a magazine page featuring both shows), the latest episode of that had Tomoko talking about eating lunch in the bathroom, before deciding against it because only losers do it. This is actually a reference to original mangaka Nico Tanigawa's earlier manga, Choku!, in which the lead male does exactly that. Choku! isn't quite as black or depressing as WataMote, being more of an absurdist comedy involving a girl who claims to be the guy's friend/girlfriend, but has no idea how to actually go about it. It's a fun manga, though, if you want to look it up.

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The first of the many shows I'm following this season has ended: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. It's a fun show that I enjoyed a lot. There were some fun actions scenes, some fun comedic scenes, and while there were some aspects that emphasized the real danger that the girls were in, it avoids being a dark show, making it a good show if you want a more light-hearted magical girl romp.

And the best news is, it's not over! The end of the last episode reveals that production of a second season, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei, has been greenlit. Which means, in due time, there will be more of Illya and Miyu in this alternate Fate-verse. So that's definitely something to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Seriously Vulnerable


This is my second post about Silver Spoon in a week. Did I mention lately how much I love this show?

One plot that has become a major part of Silver Spoon this season revolves around Yuugo as he finds himself attached to one of the school’s piglets. Knowing, though, that said piglet will eventually end up in someone’s stomach, he gives him the name “Pork Bowl”… though that doesn’t keep him from forming an attachment to the cute little guy.

Piglets are so moe. (Art by )

To the other students at the agricultural school, this is silliness. They grew up in an environment where animals are killed for food, so they are used to all this and know that forming attachments to these future food products would not be productive. For Yuugo, who is new to this whole world, though, he knows no better, and simply chooses to struggle through his newfound, conflicted feelings about eating livestock.

When he returns from summer break, he encounters yet another trial: Pork Bowl has grown up and will soon be shipped out, but due to malnourishment, he is currently “off-grade” and would not sell for much at all. Somehow, from this Yuugo comes to the conclusion that he must fatten up his little buddy, or else he will regret it, and starts going the extra mile to make sure that Pork Bowl is fed properly. Then, after successfully helping Pork Bowl towards at least reaching a “medium” grade, he talks with his classmates about his conflicted feelings over the fact that the very reason these animals are born is to later be killed and eaten.

This is not a post about the morality of eating animals, though. Rather, it is about the perspective of various staff and older students about him. Upon overhearing Yuugo talk about this, one staff member says he just needs to “change gears”, implying he either needs to get over it or get out. However, it is the words of the next person, in response to this, that will be the focus of this post:

"He could just pretend to deal with it, to get himself through school. But instead, he takes it seriously and is honest about it with the people around him."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 9/6/13 Attack on Yuyushiki Edition


Sentai Filmworks has licensed the currently-airing Gatchaman Crowds. This comes as no surprise, at least not to anyone that knows that they had already licensed the original Gatchaman and that they have a deal with Tatsunoko Productions to release a number of their works (which I talked about in my Anime Expo coverage).
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Some sad news: this past Wednesday (Sept. 4, 2013), US anime voice actor Jerry Russell passed away at age 77 from surgery complications. Jerry Russell was mostly involved in Funimation productions, with notable roles as Tim Marcoh in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Papa in the Funimation dub of Initial D, and others. He will also appear in the dubs of Jormungand (as Chen Guoming) and Wolf Children (as Grandpa Nirasaki), which have yet to officially be released on DVD. Prayers and condolences go out to his family, friends, and fans.
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The Summer 2013 season is wrapping up with a couple of weeks to go. However, the first official show of the Fall 2013 season is already about to start. The show is called Super Seisyun Brothers, described as follows by Anime News Network:
"...the story of siblings and their new love. There are two sets of strange siblings — each with an older sister and a younger brother. Because they are so similar, they are all friends with each other. It is a slice-of-life story with a lot of mishaps. The two sets of siblings' lives are full of comedy and otaku humor in this slice-of-life story. Each set of siblings thought they would only have each other, but birds of a similar feather flock together to create this comedy."
Meanwhile, there is a short promotional video for the series here.
The show debuts next Friday (September 13th). It remains to be seen how long each episode will be, or if the show will be legally streamed anywhere.
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I'm a bit short on ramblings this time around, so to make up for it, here's some fan art of an Attack on Titan x Yuyushiki crossover. (All art by 海月).



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wasted Talents and Different Paths in Life


It is unfortunate that humans tend to value each other by their talents , capabilities, and potential, rather than on the simple fact that they are fellow human beings.
Certainly, there is an extent to which we must evaluate the actions of other people so we know whether we can trust them or not; nothing wrong with making sure a potential friend isn’t really a serial killer waiting to murder you in your sleep. But at a certain point, the evaluations we make for other people stop being for the protection of our own boundaries and start trespassing on others’ boundaries.
This kind of trespass—and the reactions to those being trespassed on—can be seen in a couple of recent episodes of this season’s anime. In Servant x Service, we have Yutaka Hasebe, a civil servant and one of the main characters, and his old friend Jouji Tanaka, who has had a very one-sided competitive relationship with him. Jouji had unsuccessfully tried to beat Yutaka at anything, and resentful of how Yutaka is better than him at everything, gives a drunken rant to Lucy about how much of a waste it is that Yutaka is only working as a mere civil servant.
And for hitting on a "plain girl" like Lucy, insulting two people for the price of one! (Art by 

ねぎた)

Meanwhile, in Silver Spoon, we have Shingo Hachiken, the older brother of the protagonist Yuugo Hachiken. Shingo is an incredibly smart and talented brother who was accepted into Tokyo University (which is the top university in Japan, requiring the highest scores on the nationwide college entrance exam for acceptance), and whom Yuugo unfortunately lives under the shadow of. However, Shingo ended up quitting the university to pursue a job as… a ramen chef (and without much success). A phone conversation later reveals that his getting into Tokyo University was entirely because his parents pressured him to get into a good school, and that as soon as he was no longer under parental control, he quit the university “to piss them off”.
Shingo, trolling over-controlling parents like a boss. (Art by BlackFoxes)

Being told that their life is a waste and being forced by others to walk a certain path in life: both are significant trespasses of personal boundaries, the first trespassing on self-worth, and the second trespassing on self-responsibility. Both are related in that when these trespasses happen, it is frequently because the person trespassed on is being valued for their talents, capabilities, and potential than for being a human.