Tag Archives: God

What if I had never gotten into anime?

Have you ever wondered where you’d have gone if you hadn’t become an anime fan?

I’ve always wondered if I hadn’t gotten into anime, what would’ve happened to me?

If you had met me back then, you would’ve met a very different person.

The year was 1995, when I graduated high school, the best year of my teenage days. I went to the prom with a pretty good looking gal, hung out with friends in a limo, ate at an expensive French restaurant (aren’t they all), and then went on a nice retreat the next day.

I was a high school senior: a veteran of the war of adolescence, battling shyness, struggling with my feelings for the opposite sex, avoiding  bullies, shutting myself off some times, and dying to be a club maniac at other times. You know, the usual stuff that almost all adults go through in their younger days.

I remember right after graduation, after we tossed our hats in the air, and I was on my way home with my parents, on our way to a Chinese restaurant for celebration. I knew exactly what I wanted to listen to on our way; I inserted the cassette tape (wow, did these even exist) of Top Gun’s soundtrack; I had already fast-forwarded it to the Top Gun Anthem. I felt like I was going to soar into the sky.

Somewhere in the sky, my dream, whatever it was, was waiting for me. I was flying somewhere, or so I believed.

I was not outgoing, but I was not reclusive. I knew how to be, for a lack of better word, ippanjin (can be translated as normal crowd, perhaps). I was pretty positive about life because I had became a Christian one year earlier, and I had gone to Life ’95, a huge Christian party, in Orlando, Florida. Filled with positivity, I knew how to tell a good story—my favorite was the one about how my prom looked disastrous but worked out well in the end, and I attributed its success to God’s blessings.

I simply believed then.

Fast-forward (3x the normal speed), and here I am, in 2012. I’m rather cynical about life, less hopeful, have weak faith, don’t know how to act like an ippanjin, am an otaku, and watch anime as my primary means of entertainment.

I’ve gone through years of alcohol addiction; I wasted my college years drowning in booze, porn, and a lot of 90’s anime. I was once wealthy, but now technically in the category of being poor (but far from it in reality). I’m no longer simply trusting.

All this time, two things have always accompanied me, and they have almost never been at odds with each other, oddly enough. These things are anime and God.

I’ve always wondered why God allows me to watch anime, and he doesn’t tell me to get off of it. After all, anime has very little or nothing to do with Christianity, or at least I still believe that today. People would probably tell me Eva this, Alucard that, Trigun this, or whatever.

Once again, oddly enough, I’ve learned a lot of Christian lessons through different moments in different anime. Some of these anime were funny, but most were serious (without taking themselves too seriously, thank God), and almost none of them said a direct word about God, Jesus, or Christianity. Actually, most of them had nothing to do with religion. They were simply great works of animation. Great stories.

I’ve always wondered about that. Why is it that there are Christian anime watchers, and even Christian otakus (is that an oxymoron?). Recently, I even met a woman (no, we’re not dating, just working on a project together) who shares a very similar background in that she grew up in Taiwan, went to the US to study for college and graduate school, and watches anime as entertainment.

I wonder if it will take a lifetime to discover why.

Or is the question “why” even relevant at this point in my life, with our (Mike, Jeremy, me, Linda, MLM, Dan, and a group of awesome folks) site, Anime Diet, being a major indie press in the US and our Facebook page having close to 8,700 likes.

I am wondering exactly this: if I were to meet the me that just graduated from high school, toe to toe, in the middle of Rockville, Maryland, what would I say to him?

I take all that in with another gulp of beer, and I’ll leave you with that and bid you good night

or good day.

Claymore 20 – There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.

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“There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope. Our enemy is ready, his full strength gathered…” Gandolf, from Lord of the Rings.

I’ve never seen such a close to realistic war drama in anime. NEVER. In movies, sure. The first thing that comes to my mind is Saving Private Ryan. Even for that, I was told that if a human is shot with these machine guns he’d be charred meat (as told by my army and marine friends; this was back in States), instead of just having his guts cut open. Another “war drama” was Lord of the Rings, written by someone who’s been through 2 world wars, one he fought, the other one he witnessed.

The odds are so stacked against these claymores, so much so that it looks like even Miria’s command ability will not matter in the least bit. 3 awakened defeated? So what! Try to defeat 27 of these including one Priscilla and one Abyssal.

However, is there hope after all? I really don’ know.

One very strange event greatly puzzled me (PLEASE, I know everyone who has kindly left comments are pretty restrained but once again I will ask please NO SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION) : The reaction of Priscilla and (obviously) Isley toward Raki.

I thought the same way with probably most people, Raki is now food for the Awakened/Abyssal One. But very strangely, Priscilla hasn’t even tried to eat Raki at all (neither did Isley). She…almost seems to really like him similar to the way a character from peanuts likes his blankie. Why? Priscilla’s behavior kind of reminds me of when she first became an awakened. She skipped past Clare without so much as to acknowledging Clare’s existence. There was Clare, having fresh and young guts. But Priscilla didn’t even bother to look at her. And here’s Raki, having fresh and young guts, and Priscilla isn’t treating him as food at all. But her feelings toward Raki is stronger. Isley’s explanation is that Raki smells like the south, where Priscilla comes from. I just can’t quite buy it.

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There’s something about Priscilla…

I read in the manga that Clare thought (we don’t know what went through Priscilla’s mind except perhaps – “want…guts…now”) that she was so insignificant and worthless that Priscilla probably couldn’t be bothered with her. OK, I don’t know if that’s true, but this time around, Raki, who looks like a healthy boy, should be a decent meal for her.

Not at all. Priscilla is glad to hold on to him and be comforted like a little girl next to her older brother or even her father. Because of that reason, even Isley, the demon king of north, is willing to teach Raki how to fight with a sword. Not that it will matter at all – since it takes a lot of yoki in the claymore world to be effective against anyone. Unless the author pulls off a classic shonen stunt – that the weakest character in the show often has the greatest hidden powers. But, somehow I don’t think Norihiro Yagi (the author of the manga) and studio Madhouse’s director for this show would be that conventional. Anyway, Clare is kind of like that character already. So in the end I suspect that it won’t matter how strong Raki’s sword technique will become. But at that moment, I almost wish it would.

So what’s the significance here? I guess I’ll find out soon. My theory is that somehow, Raki’s encounter with Isley and Priscilla will save at least Clare. Although that may not be the case at all.

Let’s go back to “the close to realistic war drama in anime bit.”

Everyone’s scared, just in different ways, no surprises here. What is surprising is why different people got scared. The people who seemed most daring or indifferent (stoic) or have it all together, turn out to be the most scared or worried about (gasp) death! Some of the rest, however, are more afraid of something people in real world aren’t afraid of – having more power and turn to mindlessly violent…wait, I take that back. I’m sure some soldiers in Vietnam, Iwajima/other Pacific fronts in WWII, and even Iraq were or are afraid of turning into killing machines without conscience.

Mike will probably do a better analysis about powers and God and other stuff in the future. Here, I offer my observations and thoughts.

I was simply shocked (though I suspect a lot of other people saw this one coming) at what Deneve discovers in the back of the supply house – that Undine is really scared of death, and she has a really frail and feminine body just like most other Claymore ladies!!! Holy Shit I was just shocked!!!

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To me, Deneve plays 2 roles: 1. The role of the curious audience – who wants to see what’s wrong with Undine. 2. The person who truly understands and knows that Undine has to be confronted and talked exactly at her weakest moment. I never thought I’d say this, but (blush) the real, vulnerable Undine is kind of…cute! No, I’m not strange. You have seen the episode, you know. As part of the curious audience, Deneve barged into the backroom, and she found Undine sitting on the floor crying and shivering, without her bulging muscles. She’s just a scared young woman, ooooh (just kidding).

I was so shocked that I almost fell out of my chair. Undine acts so fearless in the last episode that I didn’t think anything would faze her. Not true. There are two reasons why she seems so brave. Reason 1 has something to do with her past. But, let’s look at the second role that Deneve plays.

Deneve knows a scared person when she hears one. In a war, it’s very important to help a comrade, especially if that comrade happens to be your captain. Deneve goes to the store house. Inside, she hears Undine yelling at her and commanding her to get out.

Knowing what a person sounds like when she pretends to be commanding and tough but in reality needs a lot of comfort and help, Deneve takes a chance and walks into the backroom, with the other sword that Undine has in hand.

Undine has two swords. However, one of these isn’t hers. Deneve figures out why.

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In this sequence, I learned why Claymore is such a good drama. It portrays fear realistically. No some guys with their jaw dropped and utters “uh…uh…uh…” for 50 seconds. No “OH MY GOD HE’S IMPOSSIBLE! I MUST FIGHT HARDER, LET MY BLOOD BOIL!” crap. Just some realistic fears against impossible odds and an almost certain death.

Without a God or any other deities to help out. Not at all. You’re on your own and no amount of good luck is likely to get you out of this one alive.

In short, Deneve shares her story with Undine with a somewhat flat voice. Half of the story involves the death of her family, the other half involves her best friend, Helene, who’s very realistic about fear.

Oh god (or Mr. Yagi) please don’t kill Helene or Deneve!

What Undine says in some way mirrors the sentiment of an older soldier who lived through WWI, even though it’s not quite the same. The old soldier said (about his experience about the death of his friend): “Yes, we were war buddies. But when the shell blew up my buddy and not me, my first thought, as disgusting to me as it’ll be later, was that I was glad that it wasn’t me.”

Deneve, after the death of her family, specifically her sister, who used her own life to protect her, decided to become a defensive Claymore and not an offensive one. Those who know the show enough just think about it and you will realize her cowardice.

Or maybe she’s not a coward. She’s just human. Just like Helene said.

Let talk about our protagonist next.

Here’s another good scene that I just have to talk about – Flora confronting Clare. The character I want to talk about isn’t actually Clare or Flora. It’s Jean.

It seems like Flora have been wondering about Clare, specifically Clare’s right arm for some time, and she isn’t going to trust Clare without some good explanation, or at least a good fight. She thought Clare got the arm of Irene using dirty methods.

I can’t blame her. Clare never bothered to explain how she got Irene’s only remaining arm to anyone. I’m sure since Irene had only one arm left, that arm must be precious to her. Yet Clare has that arm now. Therefore I can’t blame Flora being very suspicious about why Clare has that arm.

Thinking that Clare used an improper method to obtain that arm, Flora decides to challenge her.

Jean steps in. Her reason for stopping Flora from challenging Clare is simple.

“Clare saved my life and therefore I can’t forgive anyone who pulls a sword on her.”

I don’t know what to say except old fashion values still touches my heart, even though I’m the demon king (Ma-oh) of cynicism and jadedness. Jean is the perfect portrayal of a classic warrior. I applauded again.

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Knowing that trusting and working in harmony with the others is important in this war, Clare tells the whole story – It seems obvious to me that Clare still thinks that Irene is still alive, and Clare is trying to hide that fact as long as possible. Clare has no intension of telling the story until Flora tells Jean and her that she simply can’t fight with a person who she can’t trust, and that she is going to get Clare kicked off the team.

After Clare tells her story and her intension, which is to make sure she doesn’t lose what she wants to protect and for making up for what she has lost, and she wants to cut off Priscilla’s head. She gained the trust of Flora. Whew! That’s a relief. The three (Clare, Jean, and Flora) crosses their swords a swears an oath that they will survive. This scene happens thanks to no small part of Jean stepping in. Clare probably didn’t want to get Jean involved in a senseless fight. Although here, Clare is definitely not the best character.

This moment is so touching in a warrior kind of way that I can’t help but be touched. I also can’t help but wonder if Yagi-sensei have read novels like Lord of the Rings or some kind of samurai stories after all.

Even someone as jaded as I am is a sucker for these types of stories. In LotR, when they send Boromir’s body away by the boat I shed silent tears. There, I said it.

Next, after Undine surly forgives and purposely forgets what her team members have said, we get to see Helene and her seemingly silly way of comforting a scared Claymore (I feel bad I don’t even know who this one is). Helene talks about food.

But you know what? Sometimes you just have to cheer someone up with seemingly really silly things. In a war where death lurks very near in every corner, even simple things can be so encouraging. Even if it’s just an apple.

Just as Helene says, “Of course, we’re human, too!” While trying not so obviously to comfort that scared Claymore.

Again, the author somehow knows something about war. Next, we come to Miria.

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she doesn’t show much emotions after all. But she whispered a silent prayer, to…nobody? She prayed “If possible, let not one soldier here perish.”

(I cried again. There, I said it again.)

It’d be nice if God were real. Alas, at least in the Claymore world, there is no God. Only the fighting spirit of the warriors are keeping them alive. Their only hope is their own strength.

Miria is a little embarrassed and self conscious about her prayer, and saying something about that even though there is no God to pray to.

So why bother then?

Miria discusses the bleak possibility, which is coming into truth, that these claymores have no chance if Isley gets serious.

He does.

With Raki passed out, Isley meets with the scout who reports back, and then he issues an order to utterly destroy the town of Pieta.

Leave nothing alive. To sum up what he says. Nothing living is allowed to be left behind.

The future is looking impossibly bleak indeed. I know this is only an anime but I’d pray for these Claymores if they were real people.

But prayers won’t save them.

This episode is 100% recommended for your daily anime diet even though the only action is Isley demonstrating his sword fighting skills and Raki practicing his useless sword technique. I can’t be more impressed with this episode even if I tried.

P.S. one issue that a lot of recent shonen anime talk about – one person tries to do everything on his (in this case her) own, because someone he (she) really cared died because he (she) was powerless. The solution? Deneve said it the best: “Your comrades are here. what you can’t achieve by yourself, we’ll help you achieve it. So don’t force yourself too much, Captain Undine.” (tears again for me. There, I’ve said it for the 3rd time.)

P.S. 2 I really hate to predict this (DON’T read if you don’t want to feel I gave you the spoiler) but Jean, Miria, Helene, and probably Deneve is probably not going to come out alive. I’ll probably scream like Shinji when Jean dies…Man, that will suck so bad…