Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal

rurounikenshinova114rn0fn5Lady Bacula has already talked about Rurouni Kenshin before here and we have a couple other posts on the subject as well. We really love us some Rurouni Kenshin on this blog. However, we seem to have neglected its prequel, Samurai X. I personally have never gotten very far in the original manga, and so Samurai X pretty much consists of all my Rurouni Kenshin knowledge. Watching the prequel before moving onto the actual series is what put me off to the original story. I had trouble reading Rurouni Kenshin and following along with all its quirky humor, because I was so used to Samurai X, which is completely joyless. The prequel is entertaining and really well made, but it is not a fun film. It is exceedingly serious, but that’s probably a good thing considering its subject matter.

Spoilers after the jump, in case there’s actually someone out there not familiar with the story.

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Fan Appreciation: Anime Music Videos

I’m of the opinion that we don’t appreciate the fans of shows as much as we could here. While we do have Fanfiction Fridays, we also have Follies to go with it. And when we usually refer to fandoms as a whole, we wind up critiquing them in some form or another.

As you’ve probably noticed, I don’t “do” fanfiction. I don’t like the idea of changing things that are canon. Anime Music Videos, or AMVs, are different, and I really enjoy watching them. AMVs usually take the content of the anime, mix it up, set it to a song, and use that to cast more light on a specific part of the story. They can be funny or sad. Sometimes they point out things that you’ve never noticed about the anime before, such as the connections between different characters.

As not-the-most-tech-savvy person, I marvel at some of the things people can do with computers. I also can’t draw, so some of these AMVs really amaze me. Some of these aren’t true AMVs, as at least one isn’t clips taken from anime (making it a Fan Music Video, or FMV).

So for the moment, I’d like to share some of the fun things that fans are doing. Enjoy!

This one is from six years ago so the quality isn’t as good. And while it’s not the best, it was the first AMV I ever got addicted to.

Although this one is from seven years ago and it doesn’t have nearly as many problems.

Have any more good ones? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World

Let’s talk about crap, you guys. Because this is total crap.

Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World is a book containing two stories. The second story was the entire “Tsunan and Sanosuke try and resurrect the Sekiho Army with grenades and Kenshin stops them” thing that was in the manga, so I’m not going to focus on it. The first story is about some kid who loses a book (wrapped in a cloth) and has to find it so that he is allowed back into his sensei’s house. The cloth that the book was wrapped apparently had some sort of code in it and Kenshin had to find the cloth in order to prevent somepony else from overturning the Meiji government. I shit you not, this was a topic of a story. There’s been higher quality Naruto filler.

The reason I can’t give you more details about the content of the first story is because the author tended to explain the wrong things. I can tell you the entire history of beef pots in Tokyo, but I cannot tell you who that sensei was (I think he might have been a historical figure).

Besides the unnecessary descriptions of stupid details and no details about the important parts, the writing style is terrible. There are so many awkward phrases that it’s ridiculous. While the dialogue in the manga sometimes comes across as petty and immature, written in text, it’s ten times worse. And don’t make me mention the action sequences that came across so gracefully in the manga were artless.

The translation did not help things. Everything was insanely wordy. And if something only required one verb, the text used two. I got the vibe that the translation was way too literal. Japanese nuances come across as wordy in English, and that was really evident in this book.

In short, don’t read this.

Manga Mondays: Rurouni Kenshin Restoration

So I recently read the first chapter of the re-release of the Rurouni Kenshin series that Lady Bacula promised us so many moons ago.

Going into it, I was super confused. It’s been a while since I read the series (goddamn, has it really been almost six years since high school?) but I wrote my undergraduate senior thesis partially on Rurouni Kenshin, and so I just watched the whole anime last year. (Ah, research.) And I don’t remember pretty much anything happening in the show or original manga the way it happened in Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Christianity in Anime

As with any situation where some people try to represent a tradition they don’t really know that much about, the Japanese are pretty ace at reimagining Christianity in the weirdest of ways. (Disclaimer: Yes, I know America does the same thing when they make every Buddhist monk a master of kung fu or something, I know as far as Christianity is concerned Christians have some of the least space historically to complain about appropriation, but that’s not what I’m gonna focus on today.)

Christianity first came to southern Japan with the first merchants during the European age of exploration, circa the 17th century. The Japanese government had finally restabilized itself following the Warring States era, and the ruling Tokugawa family decided that the foreigners’ religion (among other foreigner things) was a threat to the nation, and implemented a closed-borders policy, where no foreigners went in and no Japanese went out. Part of this policy made being a Christian a capital offense. This went on for over two and a half centuries, until the Tokugawa regime was toppled, America bullied Japan into reopening, and a new government was established. To this day, the population of Christians in Japan is about 1% of the total number of Japanese.

tl;dr: Historically and currently, Japan doesn’t have a lot of Christians and the Japanese in general (yay sweeping generalizations) don’t really get or care about getting a grasp on the meat of the doctrine, since they mostly all follow a vaguely atheist mix of Buddhism and Shintoism.

In part, because of the fact that Christianity isn’t really understood, there are a lot of really crazy anime that involve Christianity since it can make a theoretically great backdrop for anything with a supernatural plot. You may remember my Manga Mondays review of Hellsing? Well, it’s my honor to start there.

Hellsing’s main characters are English Protestants fighting vampires, and good god are they bloodthirsty, but not as bloodthirsty as the amoral and nigh-sociopathic forces of the

Catholic Church’s Division XIII, the Iscariot unit. They are basically a holdover from the most vicious and brutal of Crusaders—willing to kill anything—human or supernatural—that doesn’t profess the Catholic faith. At one point in the story, the Pope (who may or may not be JPII) gives permission for actual Catholic crusader armies to level London, as the first step in a Reconquista of the heathen Protestant islands. Yikes. The Church is by no means perfect, but I’m pretty sure that the Vatican does not have legions of crack soldiers for this sort of purpose.

Also, there’s, y’know, the gun.

There are also a lot of misconceptions about religious life. For example, Sister Esther of Trinity Blood and Sister Rosette of Chrono Crusade both have romantic interests in their male companions, Father Abel, a priest, and Chrono, a demon, respectively. Rosette’s also drawn in a super fetishistic way—thigh highs and garter belts under that habit? Of course there are. Trinity Blood also goes against current Catholic doctrine with a female Cardinal, but Caterina’s so badass that I don’t give any bothers about that.

In Rurouni Kenshin filler as well as in Samurai Champloo, the main characters encounter secret Christian groups in southern Japan, and they often wield plans to take over Japan like real Christian groups wielded rosaries.

A particularly strange case is that of Saiyuki—the story is based on a founding myth of Mahayana Buddhism, for cripe’s sake, and the main character is a Buddhist priest, but in the anime at least, we see statues of the Virgin Mary protecting a town from demons in a way that nothing Buddhist can.

And there are dozens of anime, mostly romantic (they’re a particularly common setting for shoujo-ai like Maria-sama ga Miteru) that are set in Catholic schools, but where the chapels are more of a place for a dramatic scene change than a place for worship.

I could go on for a long time, here. But I won’t. There are certainly anime that represent Christianity more reasonably. In the new anime Kids on the Slope/Sakamichi no Apollon, the main character moves to Kyushu and the friends he makes are Christians. In general, he has a typical Japanese reaction—he doesn’t get it, but he doesn’t resent them or try to convert them or anything either. They just happen to be Christian, with no guns, demons, or corny, chaste, and over-dramatic girls-love involved. To be fair, this is a slice of life anime and most of the rest I mentioned are fantasy in some way, but nevertheless, it was a breath of fresh air to see it.

What other anime do you know of with weird religious overtones or themes, readers? Let me know in the comments. For now, though, that’s a wrap on this week’s Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus.

Tune in next time and get some religion!

Rurouni Kenshin… Again

So maybe all of you readers out there remember that I wrote a Manga Mondays post on Rurouni Kenshin? Well, if that was not enough Rurouni Kenshin for you, I am happy to inform you that Watsuki is bringing it back. That’s right, he is writing the same series twice (you can check out the crunchy roll article here if you still do not believe). This new series will be coming out monthly in Jump SQ alongside Blue Exorcist and D. Gray-man.

All things considered, his new art style looks pretty awesome, so no complaints there. And considering the success (or lack thereof) he had with his other series Buso Renkin (that review is coming in Manga Mondays, I promise), maybe it isn’t the worst idea to do the same series twice; it did work the first time.

Manga Mondays: Rurouni Kenshin

Before I write this thing, I need to have a disclaimer: this is the anime that got me into anime. Yeah, I watched DBZ and Pokémon, but Rurouni Kenshin was what got me into anime as opposed to just watching random shows that happened to be anime. Disclaimed completed.

Rurouni Kenshin is the best. Written by Nobuhiro Watsuki a while ago, the series is about a wandering samurai named Kenshin who wanders his way into a dojo owned by pretty Karou just ten years after the Meiji Revolution. There, he meets friends like feisty Yahiko, bitter Sanosuke, and foxy Megumi. Now the Kenshin philosophy is “swords kill people but I don’t like that so I won’t”, which (shockingly) conflicts with every other swordsman’s philosophy. Since Kenshin likes saving the day in order to atone for the fact that he used to be an assassin in the Bakumatsu for the Ishinshishi. That past comes back to haunt him through his various enemies.

First reason why this series is cool: Aoshi, the calm, cool, and collected one who goes from mercenary to cray-cray to noble badass. The guy is awesome: who else do you know has the goal in life to vanquish all of the shadowy evil ninja things? I don’t know anybody besides Aoshi. He’s also an extremely good fighter, using dual kodachis, or medium length katanas. He pretty much kicks arse.

Second reason: Saito, the former Shinsengumi captain turned cop. Also a badass. My favorite fight in the entire series was the Usui versus Saito fight in the Shishio ark, and Saito kicks ass likes nobody’s business. He fights alongside Kenshin although they don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on methods. When he and Kenshin work together, nobody can stop them.

This face or some variation thereof is in practically every manga.

This entire series has a very nice balance of silly with serious. There are a lot of philosophical discussions in this anime, most in regard to whether or not killing is right/allowed/justified, but it still has some good laughs and is rather lighthearted for a fair portion of time. Misao (see face above) is a very fun character and makes the series brighter when it starts getting pretty dark.  Kenshin also does a pretty good job at not being serious with his faces and use of the word “oro”.

So I started watching this from the beginning as an anime; I didn’t even know manga existed as a form at the time. So when I saw all of the awful episodes about sumo wrestlers and pirates and heard Kenshin say “yes-indeed-I-do”, I thought that was canon and the way it was supposed to be. And then I read the manga and I learned the true awesomeness of this series. Over the course of twenty-eight volumes, Watsuki creates so many different, interesting, and exciting characters and he has a real ability to balance light and dark, fun and deeply philosophical. This series is a classic, and they are even turning it into a live action movie. So you should read it so you can understand what’s going on!