Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Tangles Anime Podcast, Episode 5

Some of you might know (or have figured out) that I am a big fan of Beneath the Tangles, which was my inspiration for blogging anime from a Christian perspective. So I was both honored and pleased to be a guest on their most recent podcast.

Check it out here!

Be sure to listen to the end for your chance to access a special collection of music from Key's various works (Kanon, Clannad, etc.), played on saxophone by Beneath the Tangles's Japesland!

And if you found this blog because of that podcast, welcome!

And, of course, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Aoi Hana/Sweet Blue Flowers (Reverse Thieves Secret Santa Anime)

I participated in Reverse Thieves's Secret Santa event, where various bloggers suggest anime for each other to review. One of my suggestions was Aoi Hana, known as Sweet Blue Flowers in English, and perhaps best known for being a full-on yuri show. Whether or not the suggestion was based on my previous posts on the possible value of yuri shows for Christians, I figured I would take up that show both in the interest of looking at more yuri shows, and also because at only 11 episodes, I could finish it pretty quickly.

As it turned out, I rather enjoyed the show on its own merits. Even beyond the yuri elements, the show works well as a slice-of-life with moderate drama.

I'll avoid any major spoilers in this review, but do be warned that there will be some minor spoilers as well as some spoilers in the form of "this is what the show does not do". The full review follows after the jump.

The four main girls. From right to left: Akira, Kyouko, Yasuko, and Fumi.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Eve: Death on the Horizon of Salvation

Warning: This post is full of spoilers for Log Horizon's second season. This intro post has a notable spoiler from the first episode of the new season, so if you want to avoid all spoilers related to this series, do not read past the image.

Log Horizon is a show that really surprised me with how much depth it has. With equal parts worldbuilding and character development, it's pretty much everything I want from a videogame-inspired fantasy series. As such, I was very much looking forward to the second season. And despite starting off a bit weird, it soon proves its worth as it develops both the lead Shiroe and his ninja companion Akatsuki.

Christmas Eve is a great time to spend by an ethereal lake with your favorite ninja.
The first episode ends on a bit of an ominous note, with an unexplained time jump and a reveal that both Akatsuki and Shiroe have died in-game, and on Christmas Eve, too. The episodes afterwards reveal the circumstances which lead to their first game deaths, as well as what happens when they revive. As it turns out, for both Akatsuki and Shiroe, their death is a learning experience, and a start of significant character growth for both of them.

It's quite interestingly (and perhaps unintentionally) symbolic that they both died on Christmas Eve--the day before Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Further spoilers for later episodes follow after the jump.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Inside the Mind: Sternberg's Trianglular Theory of Love

Psychology is one of my favorite subjects, because of the great insights it gives into the behavior of both real people and fictional characters. In my "Inside the Mind" series, I will talk about a topic in psychology and connect it with some examples from anime.

Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love (not to be confused with a love triangle) was an attempt to categorize different types of loving relationships, ranging from loving couples to family to close friendships. His published findings broke "love" into three basic components:

  • Passion: This refers to the physical feelings of love, primarily referring to sexual arousal and romantic attraction. As an extension, it could also apply to any relationship driven strongly by emotional reactions or some kind of inexplicable "chemistry".
  • Intimacy: This refers to the attachment and connectedness formed between two people. In contrast to passion, which oftentimes grows quickly and effortlessly and fades away pretty fast, too, intimacy takes time and effort, but grows steadily over time without dropping.
  • Commitment: This refers to conscious choices to care for a person, such as marriage commitments or commitments to family ties. These can be short- or long-term, and can change suddenly as they are determined by conscious decisions.
The key behind the triangular theory of love is that these three components can be present at different levels of strength in all sorts of different loving relationships, and that these relationships can be categorized by which element or combination of components are most prominent relative to each other. Also, the strengths of these elements can change over time, which can cause relationships of one category to move into another over time. These categories can be thought of as different parts of a triangle with corners of passion, intimacy, and commitment, as seen to the left. The categorizations are as follows:

Non-love: Low passion, low intimacy, low commitment
This is a basic category to include any relationship in which the three elements are non-existent or otherwise insignificant. Casual interactions with acquaintances fall into this category.

Infatuated love: High passion, low intimacy, low commitment
These relationships describe highly passionate relationships formed over minimal commitments, and without any true intimacy built, due to lack of time or effort. If you've seen two characters suddenly and instantly fall in love at first sight with each other, to the point where you wonder what they even see in each other besides looks, you're probably looking at infatuated love. Such love, absent of intimacy or commitment, can quickly flame out and end up with the two people going back to non-loving acquaintances.
Example: The romance between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask definitely starts out like this; you can't say there's anything between them other than raw chemistry (and some kind of reincarnational hijinks).

Liking/Friendship: Low passion, high intimacy, low commitment
Straight-up friendship falls in this category, defining two people who feel a close connection with each other without strong romantic feelings or particularly strong commitments past a basic commitment of friendship.
Examples: Naru and Hana of Hanayamata; Haruka and Makoto of Free!. Describes most anime friendships well.

Empty love: Low passion, low intimacy, high commitment
This category fits any relationship where all the "love" comes from a conscious decision to care for each other, absent of physical feelings or emotional connections. Family members who are not particularly close but will still lay down their lives for each other will fall in this. This category can also include those in an arranged marriage, in which case "empty love" may be just a starting point from which the relationship can grow into one of the categories below.
Examples: Sakura and Touya of Cardcaptor Sakura; Ranma and Akane of Ranma 1/2 starts out like this.

Romantic love: High passion, high intimacy, low commitment
This category encompasses romantic relationships with both strong physical feelings and emotional connection, but without particularly strong commitments, perhaps past the basic "going steady" extent.
Examples: Futaba and Kou of Blue Spring Ride (far from the only shoujo example)

Fatuous love: High passion, low intimacy, high commitment
This can include two people so strongly infatuated with each other that they rush into a commitment. Conversely, it could also include those put together in an arranged marriage but feel an instant romantic attraction to each other. In both cases, the passion can flame out fairly quickly, reducing the relationship to empty love, or intimacy can be built to help stabilize the relationship.
Example: I'm sorry, but I cannot see Kirito and Asuna's relationship from Sword Art Online as anything but this, at least at first.

Companionate Love: Low passion, high intimacy, high commitment
This category describes a close, intimate friendship which also has an element of a deep commitment to each other. This category can be used for extremely close friendships, close family members, and also romantic relationships for which the passionate romantic feelings have either faded or just aren't that prominent. (As a side note, studies have shown that companionate love is a better indicator of the long-term satisfaction of a marriage relationship than romantic love.)
Examples: Sae and Hiro of Hidamari Sketch; Kousuke and Kirino of Oreimo toward the end of the first season and up until *that* ending of the second season; arguably, Ryuuji and Taiga of Toradora! are more like this than anything else.

Consummate Love: High passion, high intimacy, high commitment
Oftentimes considered the ideal relationship in fiction, consummate love features all three components of love prominently. It's something that is generally only present in married couples, though some fictional romances may be depicted as a somewhat scaled-down version of this. And even in married couples, in reality this form of love is not always present all the time, perhaps even ultimately fading out as the passion goes out and the relationship transitions into companionate love (which, all things considered, isn't the worst thing in the world).
Example: Tomoya and Nagisa of Clannad After Story

This theory is interesting enough as it is, though it is far from perfect or complete. Still, it's a great starting point for thinking about character relationships in terms of the different ways love can manifest in those relationships. We can also think about how those components play a part in our own relationships.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Looking Back: Love Live! School Idol Project (and School Idol Festival)

I'm back to blogging! And what better way to return than to look back at a series that I had enjoyed quite a lot over its first run, but only truly came to love after experiencing it through other media?




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blogging break (and an ask.fm plug)

I'm afraid that, lately, all this blogging has been wearing me out. So I've decided to take a two week break from blogging to give me a chance to recuperate and have a chance to watch anime without having to worry about writing about it. I'll be back after Thanksgiving, perhaps with some scaled-back posting (like making 3-for-3 a bi-weekly column instead of weekly, and likewise making coverage of A good librarian like a good shepherd bi-weekly too). I'm definitely not going to stop blogging, because when I watch something I like, I naturally want to talk about it; still, it has been getting a bit much for me lately.

In the meantime, the What I'm Watching page has been updated if you want to see what I think about all the various shows I'm following this season.

Also, I'd like to plug my ask.fm account, where you can ask me all sorts of questions and I'll answer them there and on my Twitter. (I might even post some of the responses here on this blog when I get back.) It's a way to keep in touch with all my readers while I'm on this break. Otherwise, I'll be back after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

3 for 3: 11/8/14 Edition

In this new weekly column, I will write three paragraphs each on three currently-airing shows. These paragraphs will cover thoughts on the show's execution as well as personal reactions, just like a standard aniblog post. Two of the three shows will consistently appear every week in a season, while a third show will be a "show of the week" that might change from week to week, depending on which show I feel like talking about that week.

Each show's write-up will contain spoilers. To jump to a specific show's write-up, click on one of the links below.

Celestial Method (Ep. 5-6)
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Ep. 5)
I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying (Eps. 1-6)


Friday, November 7, 2014

Encouragement of Climb, S2 Ep. 15: Walking With You

This will be a relatively short post regarding episode 15 of the second season of Encouragement of Climb. There will be mild spoilers, so I'll add in the jump as usual.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 4: Good Intentions, Growing Hearts

Looking past the obligatory bath scenes, cosplay scenes, and general harem antics, A good librarian like a good shepherd continues to be a very enjoyable show with fun and meaningful character interactions. A significant focus of the episode is on Senri Misono, known as the school’s “Song Princess”… a title that she is not very fond of, as she believes others only treat her well because of her fame. Meanwhile, Golden Week is coming up, and Kyotaro must soon decide whether to continue helping Tsugumi with her Shiomi Happy Project or not.

You've heard of fanservice... this show introduces catservice.

A major theme here is what it really means to do something with good intentions, even when the end result is not the best. Moderate spoilers follow after the jump.


Monday, November 3, 2014

3 for 3: 11/2/14 Edition

In this new weekly column, I will write three paragraphs each on three currently-airing shows. These paragraphs will cover thoughts on the show's execution as well as personal reactions, just like a standard aniblog post. Two of the three shows will consistently appear every week in a season, while a third show will be a "show of the week" that might change from week to week, depending on which show I feel like talking about that week.

Also, due to things being busy, there will be no normal Weekly Ramblings this week. Consider this post an extended set of ramblings.

Be warned that spoilers are in every show's post.  If you only want to see my comments on one particular show, click one of the links below.

Celestial Method (Sora no Method)
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)
Shirobako

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Celestial Method: Episode 4

Like most people, Noel finds it uncomfortable when a lot of strangers stare at her.

How much you will like this show will depend on how much you are willing to tolerate and understand Yuzuki’s immaturity. I personally have no problem with it, as the show makes it pretty clear why Yuzuki is acting so distraught; that, combined with her being a middle schooler and likely dealing with everything that entails, provides all the framing I need for me to consider her character believable, if not necessarily likable. Even her slap was more understandable than Shione’s, because the feeling of betrayal is much clearer in her case.

In many ways, Yuzuki’s character is a tragic one. Because the saucer brought about some changes she didn’t like, she decided to try to rally up opposition against it, but as a child, people generally didn’t listen to her. Only her best friend Koharu tried to help her, but the first sense of being betrayed came about when her brother tried to convince Koharu to stop helping her. After this, she ends up in a vicious cycle of sorts where all she knows to do is act in impulsive ways that only push others further away from her, ending in Koharu finally telling her that what she’s doing is useless. The cruel irony is, the one supporter she has left is Noel, who she does not know is the very saucer she hates so much.

The question, of course, is how the others will help Yuzuki finally come to her senses. The others are definitely concerned for her; a talk between Nonoka and Souta shows that Souta himself wants to find a way to make things better between the two of them, especially before he goes to study abroad after middle school. However the group plans to help her out, though, it does look to continue in this show’s gently-paced yet emotional feel that makes it work so well.


When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Episode 4


Awesome-sounding names make Jurai go all Gamagoori.


While the powers themselves aren’t on display much, I am definitely loving how this show uses the concept of these supernatural powers to tell a very natural, human story. This episode features a very simple story: Chifuyu has a normal friend, Madoka “Cookie” Kuki, who feels left out because she hangs out with the high schoolers in the Literature Club so much. Of course, she has a reason for doing so; in addition to liking the group a lot, she relies on them as fellow people with supernatural powers. However, she can’t tell this to Kuki, and as a result, the two get in a fight, with Kuki begging Chifuyu to stop hanging out with them.

The particulars might be unusual, but the story is a very real one, one that anyone who hangs out with an “unusual” group of people because they feel a special connection to them can relate to, especially if they’ve had to deal with other friends who question their involvement with such friends. And on Kuki’s side, it’s that feeling of loneliness and fear of abandonment when a close friend seems to have a secret that they just cannot tell. Jurai’s heart for helping his friends comes out again as he tries to help explain things to Kuki in a way that maintains their secret, and while his attempt to portray himself as a lolicon probably only succeeded in making a spectacle of himself (Kuki’s reaction suggest she doesn’t believe his claim), it’s ultimately Chifuyu’s actions that finally bring the friends back together.

There are plenty of smaller moments elsewhere in the episode that help it a lot. We understand how Chifuyu first came to hang out with the Literature Club, as well as how Satomi-sensei had been taking care of her as her aunt while her mother is somewhere else. And segments like the cosplay segment are still lots of fun, while providing some interesting looks at the characters within; it’s particularly interesting to see Tomoyo be the one that wants to try on bikini armor, instead of being the one that has to deal with the lewd suggestion of others.

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Shirobako: Episode 4

Even when off work, they're thinking of work.
As the group of high school girls from the start of the show now meet up as adults, this show reveals how this current story connects with that flashback of the past. Each girl has her own field of specialization, whether it be voice acting, animation drawing, 3D graphics, scriptwriting, or production, and all of them are likewise pursuing a career in that field. They’re all pretty new to the field, though some of them are further along than others; Shizuka is still trying to land a major voice acting role, and Midori is still in school learning how to be a scriptwriter. However, with the exception of Aoi, all of them are still holding on to their high school dreams of working in the animation business, paving the way for the show to focus on how these girls achieve their dreams, and the balance between ideals and reality they must face.

The exception is Aoi, who we find out in this episode isn’t quite as enthusiastic about being a renowned producer as the others are in pursuing greatness in their own fields. It’s also noteworthy in that Aoi is arguably the furthest along her career path among the girls, having already taken up one significant production work and with more to come. We don’t know a lot about why she feels that way; is she starting to get jaded by the grim realities of anime production, or simply feeling comfortable in the role she has as a production assistant? Whatever the case, this is the first sign this show has given us of some significant characterization, which bodes well for the remaining twenty episodes (yes, this show looks to be 24 episodes).

In the meantime, the little moments continue to make this show enjoyable from episode to episode. From Shizuka practicing her lines on the train (and weirding out those listening to her) to Aoi’s parents suffering through an episode of Exodus just to see their daughter’s name in the credits, plus the continued looks into what goes on behind the scenes of anime production, this show continues to work well as a thematic slice-of-life. Of course, the show being at least somewhat realistic, it means we have to deal with incompetent co-workers like Tarou, who is every bit as insufferable in this show as similar people are in real life, especially as next episode seems to be about cleaning up the mess he made. Still, this show has shown itself to be yet another show I would consider one of my favorites of the season.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick update

The "What I'm Watching" page has been updated with thoughts on all the shows I'm currently watching this season. I'm using a new format now, as I've gotten rid of the running scoreboard in favor of a simple tier-based ranking system.

Also, while I was thinking of writing something for the latest episode of Mushishi -The Next Passage-, Japesland over at Beneath the Tangles has written a far better post than I ever could, so this week I shall just point you over there to see what he has written about the cycles of life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yama no Susume Season 2: Discouragement of Climb

Some great news came out earlier today when Crunchyroll announced that they have gotten the go-ahead to simulcast the rest of Yama no Susume Second Season, a.k.a. Encouragement of Climb Season 2, and have already added all of the previous episodes as well. For anyone who has been waiting for a legal stream of those episodes, this is your chance to catch up with one of the best shows from the summer, as well as the "second part" of the YamaHanaBara story for which Hanayamata was the first part and Barakamon was the third part.

In celebration of this, expect a number of posts on recent episodes of the show, as well as continuing regular coverage of the show on this blog from here on out. This post will cover material up to and including episode 12, and will naturally contain spoilers from those episodes. If you haven't watched this show up to that point yet, go ahead and do so. Don't worry, this post isn't going anywhere. Or just hit the jump if you really don't care about watching this show, and don't care that you're missing out on one of the best shows currently airing.

You'd also be missing out on these adorable Li'l Fuji dolls, and you wouldn't want that, would you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 3: Guided or Controlled

Episode 3 is a visual novel adaptation in all its glory: romcom hijinks, a bit of fanservice, and setup for character-specific plots are all in this one. They also squeezed in references to memetic music videos as a bonus.

As it turns out, in Japanese culture the fox does have its own onomatopoeia, making the song even more meaningless.
Throughout all of this, though, the mysterious Shepherd continues to direct the members of the Library Club to certain people, and then directs those people in turn to the Library Club. This, of course, brings the Library Club to start trying to find out who exactly this Shepherd is, and why they seem to be controlling them in this way...

Minor spoilers after the jump.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Industry Talk: Dub-I-Dub

Let's talk about dubs this week, specifically why some shows get dubbed while others don't. All of this should be common knowledge to longtime fans, but it's something that I want to put out for newer fans as it is important for them to know if they care about what gets dubbed or not.

Sentai Filmworks recently put out their February 2015 release slate, which includes a fairly well-known title that has been a long time coming: Space Brothers. However, this first 13-episode set of the series, and likely the rest of the 99-episode show, will not be dubbed. Meanwhile, also on the slate for that month is a re-release of Leviathan: The Last Defense, released sub-only earlier this year, but now with a dub. A number of fans have gotten quite riled up that a "crap" show like Leviathan is getting dubbed (and re-released with a dub, at that!), while a "masterpiece" show like Space Brothers gets the sub-only treatment.

So I think it's time to set some things straight. First of all, I think Leviathan is a perfectly okay show. Sure, it's exceedingly average and not something I'd consider "good" by any means, but if you're looking for a brainless, fun fantasy action show, it's perfectly fine. But that's pretty much irrelevant to all of this.

Anyway, why do some shows get dubbed while others are sub-only? Simple: dubs cost money. A lot of money, too; I don't have the exact numbers, but the numbers I've seen point to a cost of several thousand dollars per episode. Let's say it's $5,000 an episode; for a 12-episode series, that's $60,000 the show has to be able to profit in order to make up the dub cost! What this boils down to is this: a dubbed show has to sell really well.

Now, certainly, dubs increase sales. A number of anime fans are only interested in or largely prefer dubbed titles to sub-only titles, for various reasons. And anime companies wouldn't dub shows if they didn't think there was at least the possibility to bring in so much more sales with a dub that the cost of the dub is worth it (especially since dubs help improve the long-term value of a show, as well as the overall image of the company itself). However, the question comes down to this: can a show bring in enough additional sales to cover the cost of the dub?

If not, the sub-only treatment makes sense; rather than lose money on a dub, they'd rather lose some sales but still sell enough to the smaller but devoted customer base that's fine with buying sub-only shows to make a profit. And in some cases, like Leviathan, if the sub-only release turns out to sell well beyond expectations, to the point where the company can feel like a dub might be profitable, they can always go back and re-release the show with a dub.

The most important thing to remember is this: whether a show gets dubbed or not has nothing to do with how good it is. It has everything to do with how well it can sell with the crowd that primarily or exclusively buys dubbed releases. Now, there are all sorts of theories for what titles are popular with that crowd and what titles are not; generally, action-heavy shows are more likely to get dubbed, while slice-of-life shows are very likely to not be dubbed. Also, longer shows like Space Brothers are disadvantaged by the greater cost of having to dub a lot of episodes (if you thought dubbing 12 episodes was expensive, consider having to dub 99 episodes!).

The thing is to not get angry over a show you really like not getting dubbed, or a show you think is bad getting dubbed. These companies are just trying to do what makes the most business sense, and for various reasons, the shows that sell the best aren't necessarily the best-quality shows. If you really want to try to get shows you like dubbed, your best bet is to try to promote the show while it is airing and increase the streaming numbers, as those are one of the indicators companies use to determine whether a show might be popular enough to be dubbed. And sometimes, you just have to resign yourself to the fact that great shows like Non Non Biyori and Engaged to the Unidentified just will never be dubbed... at least, as an eternal fan of slice-of-life shows, that's the reality I have to live with every month...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 11-12: Going Home and Going Back

This post has been long overdue. Let's go straight into it.

Preferably before Seishuu's mom goes all JoJo on her son.

This post contains moderate spoilers after the jump.


3 For 3: 10/25/14 Edition

In this new weekly column, I will write three paragraphs each on three currently-airing shows. These paragraphs will cover thoughts on the show's execution as well as personal reactions, just like a standard aniblog post. Two of the three shows will consistently appear every week in a season, while a third show will be a "show of the week" that might change from week to week, depending on which show I feel like talking about that week.

Be warned that spoilers are in every show's post.  If you only want to see my comments on one particular show, click one of the links below.

Celestial Method (Sora no Method)
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)
Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 2)

Time to cover the second half of the new shows I'm following this season. It's worth noting that I have one other show under consideration: Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru; however, my impression of the first two episodes is that I'm going to need to give it the 3-episode rule. If I do decide to add it in, I'll probably do so as a Weekly Rambling.

There are a number of direct sequels in this part. In fact, so far, overall the sequels have given the strongest offerings so far, though that's not unexpected; whereas the new shows are still building their foundations and setting up for what could be strong payoffs, the sequels are building off what their initial seasons have already proven to be their strengths. So while I have a good feeling about a number of the new shows, the sequels are currently what I'm liking most. But that could very well change as the other shows develop.

Once again, here are some links to each show in this part; they will take you directly to the show in question below.

In Search of the Lost Future (Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete)
Mushishi -The Next Passage- 2 (Mushishi Zoku Shou 2)
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mushishi -The Next Passage-, Ep. 11: Where I Belong

It's your lucky day: instead of just my usual weekly ramblings, you get a full blog post from me today!

Mushishi is definitely an incredible anime series. I have really come to fall in love with this show and the various ways it explores the human condition, as well as the overall atmosphere of the show. Perhaps one of the best, and yet somewhat more underrated aspects of the show, is how its lead character, Ginko, reacts to every situation he encounters. He may approach every case as a relatively objective outside perspective, but he is by no means a stoic, unemotional presence; he has his own reactions to everything, and over the course of the show we get to see his own personality unveiled and even develop. As the one constant between every otherwise (mostly) stand-alone episode, he is a very important part of the show, and what ultimately makes it more than just a "mushi of the week" show.

It was then to my joy that I found that the first episode of the second half of the second season (listed as episode 11 of -The Next Passage-), which just aired last Saturday, focused on Ginko as a child, after his encounter with the Tokoyami (which we first saw in episode 12 of the first season), but before he officially becomes a mushishi. It's a very welcome opportunity to learn more about Ginko himself, and how he has come to be who he is now. And the episode most definitely did not disappoint on that count, providing what has been the best episode of Mushishi yet.

Ginko as a kid. That cigarette actually makes mushi-repelling smoke, but of course, we still can't show minors smoking on TV.
And if that was not enough, the episode gives some very thoughtful concepts of interest to Christians. Warning: Some moderate spoilers follow after the jump.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 1)

It's that time again to go over all the shows I'm watching this season. Yes, I'm doing this a bit earlier than normal. That's mainly because I've decided on my final watchlist earlier this season. The shows this season that I had the most initial interest in have shown themselves to be worthy of my interest, and others that I've tried out have also show to have quite some potential. The result? A massive list of 16, possibly 17 new shows that I'll be following this season. (There's one show that only just aired that I haven't gotten to watch yet; if I decide to follow it, it'll be added to Part 2.)

So without further ado, let's get to the first eight shows that I plan to be following.

As a new feature, if you want to skip to a particular show's introduction, click on one of the links below. (Edit: They're working now.)

Amagi Brilliant Park
Celestial Method (Sora no Method)
Chaika -The Coffin Princess- Avenging Battle (Hitsugi no Chaika Avenging Battle)
Denki-gai no Honya-san
A good librarian like a good shepherd (Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai)
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Le Fruit de la Grisaia (Grisaia no Kajitsu)
Girl Friend BETA (Girlfriend (Kari))


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 2: A good trash collector like a good shepherd

So yeah, I'll be regularly blogging this show. It's a show I'm enjoying quite a bit, for the reasons I mentioned in my last post on the show, and also because there are a lot of fun and interesting character interactions in this show. It also has a cat that randomly speaks Engrish. What's not to love?

How do you say no to that face?
At any rate, it's a show that isn't getting a whole lot of attention elsewhere, with most of the attention it is getting being negative, so I figure I would give it some positive coverage here. Regardless of whether or not you plan to watch the show yourself, the show does have some interesting themes of worth to Christians, so there's that, too.

(I'm keeping with the Japanese title because it's shorter and I already did the first post with it and want to keep continuity.)

In the second episode, Tsugumi kicks off her "Shiomi Happy Project" by helping clean up trash around the academy, and inviting others to do so as well. It's a seemingly small step in her plan to bring happiness to the students on campus, but in many ways, it's a step in the right direction, especially for Kyotaro and the others as they help out.

(More after the jump. Spoilers? They're so minor, I don't think they can even be counted as spoilers.)


Monday, October 13, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 11-12: The Grand Finale

It's time to cover the grand finale of Hanayamata, looking at themes found not just in those episodes, but also in the entire show overall. In the meantime, though, we can certainly enjoy how this show plays out its final episodes. The final dance might not be quite as nicely-animated as one might want (I'll blame that on people not giving the show enough of a budget), but story-wise, everything comes together in these last two episodes in such a nice way, including during the dance itself, that this finale is still a very strong one.

This is quite possibly the single best split-second in anime ever.
This final post will, of course, contain moderate spoilers.


Looking Back: Myself; Yourself



Go figure that, in a show about multiple girls, the most memorable moment involves the friendship between two guys.

(Note: This Looking Back post is free of all but the most minor of spoilers.)


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 1: Like The Good Shepherd

I can understand if you're raising an eyebrow as to why I'm blogging about an episode of this show, of all things. After all, in a season full of promising shows, including a number of other potentially interesting visual novel adaptations, why waste my time talking about (or watching) a seemingly mediocre harem visual novel adaptation that spends much of its first episode over an accidental grope? Well, Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, also known by the English name A Good Librarian Like A Good Shepherd (although the show doesn't have an official English name yet, for some reason), certainly won't be winning the praise of any critics, but I for one actually enjoyed its first episode quite a bit. It has a unique setting (the mega-academy is rather underused as a school-type setting), a cast of characters that is fairly archetypical but works well enough and has some signs of depth, and an overall premise that looks like it can go interesting places.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show's premise is the presence of the "Shepherd", who is guiding things from behind the scenes, as well as the hint of a "Shepherd Test" and the suggestion of having lead male Kyotaro take that test. Even beyond that, though, is the fact that Tsugumi Shirasaki, with the help of the Library Club, is looking to bring happiness to the students of the massive Shiomi Academy through some kind of project. In a way, she is trying to become a shepherd herself, leading the rest of the academy to happiness. It is a rather daunting task, because she herself is very much like a sheep: meek, powerless, and just one of many other "sheep" at the academy (there are over 650 students in just one classroom!). But she wants to challenge herself and grow through the experience, so she's doing it.

These are rather interesting words in and of themselves, potentially worth a blog post on their own.
In all of this, the whole Shepherd aspect offers a potential connection to Christianity; after all, God is frequently referred to as a shepherd, leading His people, the sheep, to where He wants us to go. The analogy of us as sheep highlights how helpless we are without Him; without a good shepherd to lead us, we're prone to wandering off into dangerous territory and getting ourselves eaten by wolves. Thankfully, God is more than willing to serve as a shepherd to us, patiently guiding us and keeping us safe.

But if part of the Christian walk is becoming like God, then that means, to an extent, we too are to become shepherds. We might not have to lead all the Christians in the world like God does, but we are called to make disciples, which is a miniature shepherding role in and of itself. For those who are called to become leaders, especially pastors, the role of a shepherd takes even more meaning. But even if all we shepherd is one "sheep" at a time now and then, that is enough reason to seek to become like the Good Shepherd.

It can be a daunting task, though; after all, we are in many ways still sheep ourselves. And the idea of a sheep becoming a shepherd sounds weird no matter how "good" the sheep might be. But that is why we have God as the Good Shepherd that we look to, to give us what we need to do what we cannot do by ourselves (such as fellow sheep who can help us along the way). It's similar to how Tsugumi not only has the rest of the Library Club, but also the mysterious Shepherd who brought the Library Club together (even if his methods are a bit suspect).

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I don't know if I'll be blogging this show regularly like I did for Hanayamata and Barakamon last season. Even if I did, this show is probably not going to be a top-tier show like those two were, even with how much I liked the first episode. Nevertheless, it is definitely one I'll be keeping an eye on, and which I may just revisit on this blog in the future. (It's likely to join the upcoming "3 for 3" feature I have coming up, at least.)

At the very least, perhaps I ought to write something about how being a good librarian can help in becoming like the Good Shepherd?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

No weekly ramblings, but...

Sorry for the lack of weekly ramblings this weekend. I sent my laptop in for repairs, and wasn't in the mood to try to compose something on my iPad. And while I have the laptop back now, I don't really have it in me to compose anything like a Looking Back post.

Instead, I took the time to update my What I'm Watching page with final scores and thoughts on all of the Summer shows I watched, plus initial impressions of the Fall shows I've watched so far. Check it out by clicking on the page link above... or if you're lazy, just click here.

Final posts for the last two episodes of Hanayamata and Barakamon will be coming eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later. Also expect further coverage of Encouragement of Climb Second Season (despite the continued lack of a legal stream) as well as possibly a new show that I'll be covering during the season, plus a new feature called "3 for 3". What does that mean? You'll have to wait and see...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Barakamon: Eps. 9-10: Inspired

Yeah, I'm late on this post, and the last two episodes have already aired; I'll get to those later (probably next week). For now, though, I'll be doing these two episodes. I actually don't have much to say on them; they're fantastic episodes as always, just being a bit more focused on the charms of Seishuu's island life than trying to push any real lessons. And that's fine, too.

Well, not sure I'd call impromptu Tarzan re-enactments as "charms".
This post will contain decent spoilers after the jump.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Looking Back: Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?

Note: My weekly ramblings will now be divided into various different types. "Looking Back" is where I look at a show that I have finished, either recently or in the past, and talk about my personal reactions to the show. "Industry Talk" will involve random ramblings about the anime industry, usually pertaining to the North American industry. "Anime Talk" is for most other general anime ramblings. I may add other categories later, too.

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"...invaded my heart instead."

Of all the things I thought this show might turn out to be, the one thing I did not expect was for it to be genuinely good.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Locodol: Living For Something Greater

Among all the great shows that have aired this season, one more show has come up to be one of my favorites: Locodol. I've talked about this show's intimate charms when I brought it up during my seasonal "what I'm watching" post, and the show has continued to maintain that special charm throughout its run. What makes this show so special is how the Nanako and Yukari, who form the Nagarekawa Girls core idol group, and Yui and Mirai, who take turns playing the town mascot Uogokoro-kun, are doing their "idol" work not for personal fame, but to promote their hometown, both to give the town's residents a greater appreciation for their home and also to bring attention to the town to outsiders.

If their national debut causes their grandparents to buy a big-screen TV with full sound system, that's just a bonus.
This provides a significant contrast to other idol shows, where the focus is on drawing attention to the idols themselves. This focus on the hometown that drives the Nagarekawa Girls is also something that can be notable to Christians. Warning: Moderate spoilers after the jump.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 9-10: Losing My Yosakoi

After last week's cliffhanger, we find out in this episode that Naru was able to recover and continue dancing with the help of her friends. However, from there, the focus shifts to Machi, the student council president and younger sister of yosakoi club advisor Sally-sensei... at least, if the yosakoi club was actually official, which it unfortunately is still not as Sally is only a temporary teacher, and thus cannot be a club advisor.

Can we expect Hanayamata cameos in the upcoming Girls ind Panzer film? (Probably not, but still.)
With the focus on the Tokiwa sisters for these episodes, they will be the source of the lessons I will draw for this post. Expect minor spoilers after the jump.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Yama no Susume Second Season, Eps. 1-4: Mountain of Faith

Unfortunately, Crunchyroll has yet to put up anything past episode 1 still for the second season of this show, despite it already approaching its second cour. I can only hope that the holdup last no longer than the start of the Fall season, because this show has been amazing so far, right up there with its YamaHanaBara counterparts Hanayamata and Barakamon. At any rate, with what looks to be a wonderful second half coming up, I want to at least put up something for the first four episodes of the show (equivalent to two full-length episodes).

For those still waiting for official streams for this show, be warned that this post contains decent spoilers.

Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler; it's from the first minute of the show.

Monday, September 15, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Looking Back at Visual Novel Adaptations

Visual novel adaptations, at least of bishoujo games featuring routes for multiple girls, have been surprisingly rare as of late. The most recent such adaptations that I've watched go way back into Fall of last year, with White Album 2 and Little Busters! Refrain. Overall, the number of visual novel adaptations any given season seems to max out at two, with no more than five in any given year.

This is a bit jarring for me, as around the time I seriously started getting into anime (around 2007), visual novel adaptations were pretty much the standard non-manga anime adaptation source (kind of like how light novels are now). That, combined with the fact that many of my first anime around that time were of such visual novel adaptations, and my eternal love for cute animated girls, make visual novel adaptations among many of my favorites at the time.

I bring this up because next season has an abnormally large number of such visual novel adaptations. Sure, four might not seem like a lot, and wouldn't be if it were 2007, but now, especially after such a drought of them recently, it's definitely notable. These four are Grisaia no Kajitsu, Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, and, of course, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, in case you forgot that was originally based on a visual novel (in fact, the original anime adaptation aired in 2006, right in the middle of the golden age of VN adaptations, though I hope this new adaptation is better than that one was...). Aside from Fate/stay night, I'm not familiar with these visual novels, though they all look interesting enough and I've heard good things about the original Grisaia no Kajitsu visual novel.

But since I don't have anything to say about what's coming up, I'll talk instead about some notable visual novel adaptations I've seen in the past.

Of course, when talking about visual novel adaptations, the big ones are the ones adapted from Key/Visual Arts works: Air, Kanon, Clannad, and more recently, Little Busters!. All four are favorites of mine, being well-crafted and emotionally powerful works that really make the most of adapting the medium (though some might contest that for Little Busters!).

Aside from the top-level works of Key/Visual Arts, there are some other VN adaptations that I enjoyed. Among my first was D.C. ~Da Capo~, part of a large franchise that has only recently appeared legally in the US when Da Capo III was streamed, though the original remains my favorite of the series. The first half isn't much to speak of, but once things get serious and some revelations about the nature of the eternally-blooming sakura tree that is at the center of the series are revealed, things get serious and even tragic, making for some great moments. That show is pretty much my baseline for what makes a good VN adaptation.

Some VN adaptations I enjoyed that are available for streaming currently on Crunchyroll are Myself;Yourself and H2O ~Footprints in the Sand~. I'll have more to say on those later, but feel free to check them out on your own in the meantime.

Visual novel adaptations tend to follow a pretty basic pattern. There are multiple girls, and one at a time, the show goes down each girl's "route", exploring some of the issues of each girl (and of the guy as well) and ultimately resolving them, either happily or tragically. Eventually, the show might settle on a "main girl" that will be the male lead's official love interest for the adaptation. Various shows might mix up the basic formula in various ways, but generally speaking, the quality of a visual novel adaptation lies not in originality but in execution: having a good, varied cast of girls to be emotionally invested in, and then writing out their story lines (and where applicable, romance) well.

Of course, with the saturation of VN adaptations during that time period, there were just as many stinkers as there were solid works. (The original Fate/stay night anime is a good example of such a stinker.) And going into the four shows coming up this season, there's definitely the chance that one or more of them will turn out to be pretty bad, too. Still, as a former (and in many ways, still a current) fan of visual novel adaptations, I am hoping that these shows can turn out to be good.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yuri Subtext, Bromances, and Heavenly Friendships

One potential criticism Christians (and others) may have of many "cute girls doing cute things" shows (which, if you have not figured out already from reading my blog, is one of my favorite types of shows) is that they are filled with yuri subtext, frequently teasing romantic attractions between girls (albeit never quite forming any definitive romantic relationships). Of course, this is part of the draw of such shows for their targeted fans, but for others, especially Christians who consider homosexuality a sin, it can be a distasteful distraction from the rest of the show.

The purpose of this post is to explain why I am personally okay with the yuri subtext in these shows. I am not aiming to make some blanket statement that yuri subtext is okay; I am simply sharing my own perspective. And while this post is related to my previous posts on the potential worth of yuri anime for Christians, this post will specifically focus on cases of yuri subtext, in which the relationships do not explicitly cross into romantic territory.

And while this post focuses on romantic subtext between girls, it by all means applies to romantic subtext between guys as well. Such "bromances" have gained their own popularity thanks to the female anime fandom which loves shipping males together in all sorts of shows, and shows like Free! which target that fandom gleefully. And in fact, to illustrate my perspective, I will be looking at one particularly close pair of males... straight from the Bible. I am, of course, talking about David and Jonathan.

Pictured: Nanoha and Fate of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and one of the most famous really close two-girl friendships in anime.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 7-8: Share the Wisdom, Share the Love

So I talk about how Barakamon might be close to being a Christian anime, as the Gotou Islands it takes place on has a history with Japan's few Christians. I wrote that before episode 8 aired... and naturally, episode 8 was titled "Onde: Buddhist Chanting and Dancing."

This is why I shouldn't be allowed to make claims about anything being a Christian anime, right?

Well, to be fair, I probably should not be too surprised that Buddhist traditions exist in the Gotou islands culture. The islands are located right between Japan and China and likely had a significant Chinese (and thus Buddhist) population before the Japanese Christians took refuge there. What has likely happened is a mixture of different faith traditions and cultures to form the islands' current culture. And if the fact that Hiro was dragged into taking part in the onde because they were lacking people is of any indication, it's possible that the onde has become a cultural relic that is performed mainly for following tradition than out of any actual belief in the ritual itself (and hence, fewer people feel the desire to actually perform the ritual).

But that's enough hypothesizing about the show's anthropology. Let's talk about the actual content of the episodes themselves, and the Christian themes found within.

In which the show suddenly becomes tsuritama.
Spoiler warning: Nothing major this time; just the usual minor stuff.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 7-8: When Things Fall Apart

Things are not exactly going well for our yosakoi girls. Yaya has just learned that her band has failed her audition, and that's just the beginning of her troubles. Meanwhile, the group's first performance at a department store event draws closer... and the girls are gaining weight. Thankfully, a surprisingly positive message comes out of that last one.

Not all weight gain is bad weight gain. (Especially if it's muscle weight.)

However, things are getting serious for these girls. Take a look at what we can learn from them after the jump, but beware of some fairly major spoilers.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Looking Back at The Devil is a Part-Timer!

Even the Demon King needs 10000-yen bills.
There isn't much to say about this show, except that it scores very high marks in overall execution and pure entertainment factor.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Osananajimi Series, Part 2: PDA

It's been a long while since I initially started the Osananajimi Series, where I look at one of anime's favorite romantic interest archetypes and how it reminds me of the relationship between God and a Christian who has grown up in the church. This time, what I will be talking about is pretty applicable to all Christians, and there won't be a specific anime series that I will be drawing from, instead drawing from the osananajimi archetype in general.

The subject of this post is PDA. However, it does not stand for Public Displays of Affection here, but rather, Promises, Deeds, and Attributes--what childhood friends have to do with them, and what they have to do with our relationship with God.

It's a promise that transcends... well, you'll have to watch Kanon to see.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Looking Back at Fruits Basket

One thing I will sometimes do during these weekly ramblings is pick a show from my anime history and look back at it. (In other words, like Annalyn's Rewind posts at her blog.)  This will be separate from my Hall of Fame Inductions as the focus is less on recommending the show to others and more on what it means to me personally. Of course, I will very likely induct eligible shows I cover here properly into the Hall of Fame.*

For my first post of this nature, I thought I'd pick a show that was particularly influential to my anime history. I had a number of options, but after reading this article on Anime News Network on some "gateway anime" choices, as well as some other blog posts on the show (beware spoilers!), I decided on Fruits Basket.

Now, while Fruits Basket was among my first anime series I finished, it was not truly a "gateway" show in that it neither introduced me to an anime (or even to the shoujo genre, as Cardcaptor Sakura took that technically) nor was it the show that got me particularly interested in anime; nevertheless, it was a pivotal show that I watched during an important period of my anime history, and to this day it remains a show that holds a dear place in my heart.

I'll be doing a proper Hall of Fame induction of this show soon, so I'll be talking more about the show's qualities then. As for what the show means to me, there are a number of things that this show did for me.

Probably what really made this show so important to me was its various messages about life. They were very nice and positive messages that show that there is good in this world, and really helped me enjoy the show on a greater level than I had for most other shows I had watched until then. It helps that those messages were naturally incorporated into the show itself, thanks to a very nice protagonist in Tohru Honda, an optimistic and cheerful girl that sees the good in everyone. (She is also one of the major reasons I'm a big fan of her Japanese voice actor, Yui Horie.) She's one of my favorite characters in anime (although I like her even more in the manga; more on that later).

Of course, I have to talk about the other characters in the show, specifically the members of the Zodiac. They're a fun and varied bunch (well, most of them; Hiro was pretty insufferable in the anime), from the cool but soft-hearted Yuki to the tsundere Kyo, and fun side characters like the cheerfully childish Momiji and the crossdressing Ritsu and the absolutely adorable Kisa (one of the few girls among the Zodiac members). In addition to them, Tohru also has some good friends that play significant roles, too.

With a great cast, good messages, and a solid plot overall, plus some great comedy helped by some fun artistic direction, this show has pretty much everything it needs to be a top-tier show. I gave it a raw score of 9/10 (an A-) and a personal score of 9.7/10.0, both of which place the show cleanly among my favorites. If there's one particular thing I didn't like about the show, it was how it was cut short compared to the manga. While the anime does have a decent conclusion in and of itself, it is ultimately just a prelude to an even greater story found in the original manga. After enjoying the anime so much, I started reading the manga, and Fruits Basket also became the first manga series I bought in its entirety, even as it was being released in the U.S. by Tokyopop.

The manga is my all-time favorite manga series, and for good reason. It takes the foundation shown in the already excellent anime series and develops the characters and plot to further depths, introducing some Zodiac members the anime didn't have time to cover, providing more insight into the story's "villain", Akito, and showing that for all of Tohru's goodness, she is far from being "too perfect" (a complaint that is easy to make about the anime's Tohru, though it never bothered me too much). Unfortunately, it doesn't look like a reboot of the anime to cover the rest of the manga material will be coming, which is unfortunate, as if the anime could cover the entire story, it would probably be in my top 5 anime of all time. As it is... it's still in my top 20 and a show I remember fondly.

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News Corner

Sentai Filmworks has announced their December slate of releases. It includes a number of things, including some new licenses such as Reideen, the Queen's Blade OVAs, and The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, as well as the bilingual limited edition Blu-ray/DVD release of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! The releases are all available for pre-order on RightStuf, and will also start appearing for pre-order on other sites.

And in a particularly big bit of news, the original CLANNAD visual novel will be coming to Steam! Fans of the anime (which personally is my 2nd favorite anime of all time) will definitely want to check it out.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 5-6: Live Like A Main Character

With Tami now part of the Yosakoi club, all Hana and Naru need to do to make the club official is to get Yaya to join the club (even if only in name), and then get Sally-sensei to be their advisor. Of course, that is exactly what happens, and before they know it, the Yosakoi club is officially a thing, and suddenly everyone is seriously practicing and thinking of logos and going to public yosakoi performances for inspiration.

Also, confusing their fathers with their sudden cheerfulness.
First of all, I should mention that I love it when others blog about the shows I love, such as this show, especially when other Christian anibloggers talk about the Christian themes in these shows. After all, I do not intend these posts to be comprehensive looks at every Christian theme in these shows, and there are certainly themes that I've missed. Alternatively, they save me some of the work of writing these posts if they cover an episode I haven't covered already, which is a good thing, right? Anyway, if you haven't already, do check out Japesland's post on Hanayamata (specifically episode 5) over at Beneath the Tangles.

Before I talk more about these episodes myself, I guess I'll use this part where I make my normal spiel about being careful of spoilers after the jump, and mention that now I will be noting just how spoilerrific the post will be. Spoiler Warning: The very end of this post will have a fairly major spoiler, so stop at the second picture if you don't want to see it. Otherwise, just the usual minor spoilers are after the jump.


Monday, August 18, 2014

One Week Ramblings: The Actual Church of Barakamon

I've been very enthusiastic blogging about Barakamon, one of the best shows this season and definitely the one I would most readily recommend to anyone. One of the reasons why I love this show so much is how it presents Christian values in every episode--it's what I'm blogging about it, after all--which I had thought at first to be incidental rather than intentional, like most cases of Christian values I find in anime. However, these Christian values might not be as incidental as I thought.

While it was probably mentioned before, episode 7 of Barakamon confirms that the show takes place on the Gotou Islands off of Nagasaki. And if you read the Wikipedia entry I just linked to, particularly the Demographics section, you'll find out, as I did, that the people of the islands are descended from a Christian sect that escaped there during the persecution of Christians in the 1600s, and that there are many Catholics and Catholic churches on the islands, making it one of the most notable Christian communities in Japan. This is especially notable given that Japan has a very small Christian population, at supposedly less than 1% of the entire population--in anime, this means that very few anime are actually about Christians and Christian values; as I mentioned before, most cases of Christian values in anime are completely incidental.

Now, I cannot say for sure that the author of Barakamon is intentionally drawing on Christian values, or that the characters living on the island are Christians; nothing directly related to Christianity is shown, outside a picture of a cathedral as one of the tourist spots one of Seishuu's off-island friends wants to visit. Nevertheless, it is very clear that the people of the island live according to Christian values, in their sense of hospitality, grace, and overall friendliness, and knowing the Christian background of the islands, it now makes much more sense that their culture is steeped in those values, regardless of their actual beliefs.

All this is to say that Barakamon is probably the closest thing to an actual Christian anime airing on TV in a long time. Christian anime fans like myself who are long used to having to find redeeming values in a definitively non-Christian field of media should be glad to know that there is at least one major series for which the Christian faith is, if not a core part of the show, at least a significant factor in it. It certainly has given me a new appreciation for what was already one of my favorite shows of the season.

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News Briefs:

Lots of anime movies have their Blu-ray and DVD listings solicited.

Two Studio Ghibli favorites are appearing on Blu-ray for the first time: Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. In addition, Hayao Miyazaki's most recent (and probably last) work, The Wind Rises, is now available for pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD.

In addition, Patema Inverted and Welcome to the Space Show are also available for pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 5-6: Past Victory

As I continue my biweekly coverage of this show, I am glad to see other bloggers covering this excellent show. If you have not yet already, do check out D.M. Dutcher's post on how the people of the island can represent what the Christian Church should be like. I would also highly recommend checking out Takaii's continuing coverage of the show at Random Curiosity.

Special thanks to Random Curiosity for the Barakamon screencaps. Have a delicious oyster shell as thanks!
Of course, I am still covering this show as part of my YamaHanaBara series. In these episodes, our exiled calligrapher Seishuu Handa has had plenty of time to get accustomed to the ways of the island. Can he show some of his old friends and calligraphy acquaintances how he has grown when they visit? I probably don't need to say it at this point anymore, but expect minor spoilers after the jump.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sakura Trick: Yuri for Christians, Revisited

Some time ago, I wrote a post asking the question of whether or not yuri shows like Sakura Trick were good for Christians to watch. In this post, I will look back at that specific show and what, if any, are its good points for potential Christian viewers, as well as what pitfalls it might have.

Posting a picture of manga art because I actually like it over the anime art in this case.
As a reminder, this post addresses things from the perspective of Christians who consider homosexuality a sin, but who, in the name of love, do not judge others who are in same-gender relationships. Others with differing views are welcome to comment on this post, of course. For all commenters, please be respectful of others regardless of differing views.

Also, there are some small spoilers after the jump, as usual.


Monday, August 11, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Raw Scores and Personal Scores

As a reminder, the Weekly Ramblings series now features my talking about something anime/manga-related, with various news at the end.

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Recently, I have implemented a new scoring system to complement my existing scoring system for anime. This new system, the Raw Score, follows a straight 1-10 scale (technically 0-11, but only one show will get an 11 and I'll never give out a 0) with no decimals, and scores are determined more by the shows own strengths and weaknesses than on my personal preferences and biases. For more information on raw scores, click here.

I have also updated my MAL page, such that raw scores are used for Score, while personal scores are under the Tags. As you can see, by and large my Personal Scores are higher than my Raw Scores, sometimes by quite a lot, and are pretty much never below the Raw Scores (assuming that a 10/10 raw score corresponds to a personal score of 9.7/10.0).

There are some interesting things on my end regarding how much higher Personal Scores are than Raw Scores. There are two shows, for instance, which have a Raw Score of 6/10 (a barely above average B-) but a Personal Score of over 9.0: Sister Princess and Dog Days (both seasons). I wrote a blog post on the former and have inducted the latter into the Hall of Fame under special conditions, but in both cases, I am well aware that, while I greatly enjoyed both shows, it was for reasons that go well beyond how good the shows themselves are (you can read about those reasons in the links given). In a sense, I consider them my "guilty pleasure" shows, though I believe both shows are at least good enough that they can be recommended to fans of similar shows.

On the other hand, while I will probably never hand out a Personal Score lower than a Raw Score (by and large, my personal preferences make me like a show more rather than less), I do have some shows where the Personal Score is exactly the same as the Raw Score. Probably the most notable example is Attack on Titan, which is a 8/10 (B+) show that I scored an 8.0/10.0. (Actually, all of my current examples of Personal Score = Raw Score are 8's.) I have mentioned in the past that Attack on Titan is really not my type of show, so the enjoyment I get out of it is pretty much entirely my appreciation for how well-done the show itself is; this is reflected in how my score for the show is entirely made up of its Raw Score. (The same can be said for Gunslinger Girl, another show scoring 8.0 on both scales. As for the third, Crest of the Stars, that has more to do with my withholding full judgment on the show as I have yet to see the sequels.)

Overall, I place more weight on Personal Scores than Raw Scores, though Raw Scores are good for what I choose to recommend to others--and will be a major part of an update to the Hall of Fame section of this blog.

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News Briefs:

- Cardcaptor Sakura will start streaming on Crunchyroll on Tuesday, though only the first 6 episodes will be available for free. All 70 episodes will be available for subscribers, and all episodes will be available both subbed and with the Animax dub.
- Funimation had plenty to announce during Otakon. They have officially scheduled Cowboy Bebop's Blu-ray release for December, and will have two unique Premium Editions, exclusive to Amazon and Funimation's site, respectively, each with different premium items and packaging. They have also license-rescued The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (both seasons, plus the shorts, but not the Disappearance movie) as well as Lucky Star, as well as the movies for Strike Witches and Steins;Gate.
- An impromptu Q&A session on Sentai Filmworks' Twitter (amusingly tagged #Notakon due to Sentai not being at Otakon but the session essentially being their "panel") has a couple of noteworthy notes. Most notably, No Game No Life has been confirmed to be getting a dub, and the Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Premium Edition box set is scheduled for December release.
- Finally, it's been a long time coming, but Season 3 of Working!! (known in the U.S. as Wagnaria!!) has been greenlit! The original manga will come to a close soon, but it remains to be seen whether the anime will be able to cover the rest. Nevertheless, I for one am glad to see one of my favorite comedies get another season, and I know some others will be too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hanayamata, Episodes 3 & 4: No Regrets for Those Chosen

Hanayamata continues to impress me with how well it is working in character development into what would normally be just another cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. Though it is also plenty cute, for anyone who likes that (like me).

Cute even when in boy's clothes.
This post will be focused more on episode 4 than 3, since episode 4 has more of the connections with Christianity than episode 3 does. Episode 3 was still a great episode, though, as it continues to look into Yaya's jealousy as this time, she gets to interact more with Hana and understand things from her end. Meanwhile, episode 4 explores the relationship Naru has with Tami, a childhood friend of hers whom she looks up to as a big sister and someone like a princess (given Tami's high-class upbringing). I probably don't need to say this anymore at this point, but expect some spoilers after the jump.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Sporting Behavior Edition

I will be doing something new with the Weekly Ramblings, where I will be talking about a random subject related to anime and related media. Various news will be included at the end of these posts.

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Last season introduced two new sports anime series, both of which have continued into this season. Both are very good shows that I am enjoying quite a lot, and are easily recommended for sports anime fans as well as anime fans interested in trying a sports show. What is interesting, though, is how these two shows excel in two very different ways due to the nature of the sports involved.

These two shows are Haikyuu!! and Baby Steps.

Haikyuu!! is about volleyball, and chronicles one team's journey into the tournaments. Volleyball is very much a team sport, something the show makes very clear as it highlights each different player's role. As such, one of the show's greatest strength is in the development of the relationships between the players, as they learn to work with each other to defeat their opponents.

On the other hand, Baby Steps is about tennis--singles tennis, specifically--which means matches are one-on-one. Correspondingly, instead of teamwork, the show focuses on one player as he grows in his tennis skill. This show, then, excels in the individual development of that one player through each match.

A team sport about teamwork, or an individual sport about individual growth? Both are great at what they do, and really, a lot of it comes down to simply whether you like team interactions or individual development better (or, more simply, whether you like team sports or individual sports better). I personally like team sports more, so Haikyuu is the one I'm liking more at the moment, though I'm really enjoying both shows, so I'm quite happy either way.

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News Briefs

Here's a show I was not expecting to get a sequel, but am quite glad it is getting one: Kamisama Hajimemashita, known as Kamisama Kiss in the US. It's a show that I enjoyed quite a bit and I am definitely looking forward to more of it.

In more unfortunate news, Studio Ghibli have announced that they are considering dismantling their production branch, meaning we might not see much of any new works from the studio.