Categories
Anime Reviews

Review: Godzilla 2: City on the Edge of Battle

Distributor: Toho/Netflix
Directors: Kobun Shizuno & Hiroyuki Seshita
Writer: Gen Urobuchi
Composer: Takayuki Hattori
Starring: Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, Junichi Suwabe, Kenta Miyake, Kana Hanazawa
Genre: Science Fiction, Anime
Rating: TV-14

The story continues following this spring’s Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters as the survivors of Earth’s destruction at the hands of Godzilla desperately attempt to retake the planet from the King of the Monsters. After their initial failures the surviving team must learn more about what survives on the Earth in order to figure out a way to destroy Godzilla once and for all.

Content Guide

Violence: There are explosions, shooting, and characters depicted as being in severe pain.

Language/Crude Humor: No severe language.

Sexual content: Several characters are dressed in revealing outfits.

Drug/Alcohol Use: No concerning material.

Spiritual Content: An alien race is depicted as believers of a largely disregarded religious cult.

Other Negative Themes: The colonists are depicted living in a dystopian society where members are regularly killed by their leaders for political reasons and where starvation is rampant.

Positive Content: Strong depiction of righteous indignation and the desire to see justice.


Review

****The following contains spoilers for the first part of the Godzilla anime trilogy Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.****

When we left off the story of the Godzilla anime trilogy, the crew of surviving humans sat in orbit above the earth 20,000 years after the human population was decimated by rampaging monsters. The landing crew attempted to surface on the planet only to come into contact with Godzilla and have the majority of their force obliterated. As the story begins, Haruo is one of the last survivors of the initial attack on Godzilla, and has come into contact with a strange, young woman. The film largely builds off the setup of the flawed, but conceptually interesting, first film, and adds more to the story by drawing upon classic concepts from Godzilla lore.

Problematically, the film intermittently blows over some of its worldbuilding ideas and delves so deeply into others that they become extremely complicated. The  tribe of surviving humans don’t end up providing much in this film and will probably end up being a bigger deal in the third film, Godzilla 3: The Planet Eater. What ends up being the major conceit of the film is a long digression into a mysterious city constructed at the former place that MechaGodzilla had been launched from during the war. The highlight of this ends up being the late battle between Godzilla and MechaGodzilla, and the surviving humans deploy mechs to fight Godzilla at close-range. The film really builds up Godzilla’s sense of invincibility. This film really wants you to know this is the most powerful Godzilla ever. The monster after 20,000 years is an elderly creature that has grown and aged with the Earth. Its skin is meters deep, its roar is hollow and ear-piercing. Its nuclear breath is more controlled and destructive than ever. The image of the enormous lumbering beast as it walks slowly towards the city produces one of the best bits of visceral excitement in the film. It comes with the same primordial fear you get from something like It Follows, as a nigh-unstoppable creature crawls towards you at all times.

What compromises the central drama of this film is a bizarre ethical debate about the viability of fusing human bodies with nanotechnology as a means of defeating Godzilla, and whether it would be worth it in the long run. In theory, the conflict could form a much more interesting moral battle about moral comprise and transhumanism for the duration of the film to explore and debate. In practice this ends up being a last minute conversation during the final minutes of the film to add some shoehorned stakes. It’s an excellent example of what characterizes the problems in this trilogy. There are tons of interesting ideas from the worldbuilding to the character dilemmas, as such a small crew is desperate to survive in the face of oblivion. Everything from the totalitarian government, to the post-apocalyptic setting, the transhumanist themes and alien cult could make for themes an entire film might break down and explore. Here, they all build up individual scenes and never come into play again. The characters get more to do in this film, especially towards the end when different ideologies and priorities start kicking in, but it’s too little, too late.

It’s clear now that the entire Godzilla trilogy is meant to function as a kind of five-hour-long film. We won’t know for sure what this is all ultimately building to until The Planet Eater drops later this year, but until then what we have is a messy story that misses out on the potential to explore a ton of interesting themes and characters set against an interesting setting. This premise offers up so much opportunity to explore and deconstruct the nature of Godzilla as a character in a new way. While it’s clear the writers are trying, they’re missing huge opportunities to create new insights into the character and imagine what the final battle between Godzilla and mankind could be like. The last live-action film, Shin-Godzilla, offered an intense new take on the character that retold the original Gojira morality play in a world where Japan has to deal with the anxiety of nuclear meltdowns and international military strife they aren’t allowed to engage in. It’s possible the third chapter could pull everything together in an emotionally powerful way. However, it’s more likely it will be in line with the first two films.

 

Categories
Anime Community Articles

Anime: Dubs VS Subs

Here we are, gingerly approaching the final hunting ground—a battlefield where friendships are torn asunder and morality breaks like fingers. The proverbial land where angels fear to tread… Anime: Do you prefer to watch it in the original Japanese with subtitles, or in its dubbed, American counterpart?

Welcome, geeks, lolis, ladies, and grumps, to this month’s harrowing anime collaboration, where we, the resident otaku of GUG, brace ourselves against the tidal emotions and opinions which inevitably spurn to life from this conversation. The argument of dubs vs subs has raged since the early days, and it shows no clear signs of stopping in 2018. Still, we wanted to weigh in on the subject, because this is the internet and public opinions are currency here.

Please note, when this idea was pitched to the team, it was deliberately vague. As such, each opinion here is formed with independent agendas and perspectives on the subject. No one person represents the opinions of the anime department, least of all the entire Geeks Under Grace staff (or our special guest from Beneath the Tangles). As an institution, we do not have a formal stance on this and encourage everybody to pursue anime in the way which is best for them.

Michael Morejon

Michael is a teacher who is a life-long gamer. When not conquering distant worlds via console, he can be found reading, watching anime or Netflix, writing for Beneath the Tangles, or just enjoying life as a geek in the city. He aspires to travel to Japan and possibly… never leave.

I grew up watching anime with dubs. There were no subtitles when a show aired, so for a long time, I wasn’t even aware there was another format. When I finally saw anime in Japanese with English words being displayed below the characters, I was in shock. Seeing the same show but with a different voice, music, and having to read was different for me. One anime went so far as to change the names of most of the characters, so it was very hard to figure out who was who when their name was given (I’m looking at you, Yu-Gi-Oh!).

I know many fans of this medium don’t like dubs because they can be terribly done, especially the first ones ever produced. Going back to watch an episode of One Piece or Digimon is not easy for me because of how poorly the translation was handled from Japanese to English.

What is great about dubs though, is the fact that I don’t have to read anything! That may sound lazy, but the truth is I personally don’t always have the time to watch a lot of anime. Having to read what is going on means I must stay focused and cannot divert my attention elsewhere. While I am doing chores, eating or doing something else I could be listening to the dialogue and still follow along. There are many scenes in anime that you don’t really have to watch, since characters are just having a conversation or walking from one place to another.

Subtitles aside, when I do get some time to watch a few episodes of an anime, I much prefer it in Japanese. Nothing is changed from its original context, and I get to practice listening to a new language outside my culture, which is fun to try and memorize. The music in the openings and endings can be catchy, so I like looking those up to add to my playlists as well.

Depending on the situation, subs or dubs work for me. I am not a hater, and I am glad that anime is even getting money to pay voice actors to translate these works of art to English and other languages. I hope that either format isn’t seen as better than the other, just a different way of experiencing anime.

Eric Perez

From people I’ve talked to about this subject, I’ve found, generally, there are three main factors that determine whether or not they watch with subs or dubs:

1) Accurate translation to English

2) Voice acting ability

3) Distraction

The first two tilt the scale towards subs, because translation to English isn’t always perfect, and some anime fans can be pretty particular about how well the English voice actors perform and interpret the original voice actors’ performances (English voice acting seems more heavily critiqued than the original). So, typically, if the viewer wants a more accurate representation of the content, and/or they can’t get past an English voice actor’s performance, viewing with subtitles is the preferred choice.

The third factor above is how you watch anime and what you want to focus on, such as the artwork itself. If there’s constant text that you’re having to read at the bottom of the screen, your attention is divided and you could potentially miss the fullness of the artwork and little nuances that the creators put in.

Also, familiarity of English voice actors can help some people take in the content easier and connect with the story and characters more, being in the native tongue.

Finally, one of my friends said that she tends to watch anime while doing other tasks, so for instance, it would be harder to constantly be reading something while doing dishes vs being able to focus on dishes while at the same time listening to what the characters are saying.

So all that being said, my personal preference is to watch with dubs, if available. I tend to connect more with the story and characters due to the familiarity of them speaking in English, and I feel that it does help me take in the full picture and artwork if I don’t have to pay attention to text during dialogue. I do understand the desire for accuracy, and some of the voice acting would probably be better coming from the original voice actors, but for me that doesn’t weigh as heavily as watching it how I would watch a Pixar or Disney animated film.

Robert Miller

The subject of subs vs. dubs has been a long-debated topic among anime fans, ranging from fun, lighthearted barbs among friends, to full-blown arguments about which is better or even which makes you a “true” anime fan. Like many things in life, I’m a moderate when it comes to this topic—I enjoy both subs and dubs, and make my decision based on varying factors. One of the biggest factors tends to be if a dub is available. Generally speaking, I watch subs for currently airing shows, unless Funimation has picked them up on its simuldub service. I also prefer subs when a dub is just unbearable, such as with Cardcaptor Sakura, which I’m currently watching. If a dub is available for a show, I will usually opt for that avenue, simply because I enjoy multi-tasking, which usually amounts to either gaming while I watch anime or working on a model of some sort. Obviously this sort of multi-tasking isn’t possible if you have to read subtitles. There’s also the fact that I have a toddler, so it’s a lot easier to divide my attention between anime and parenting when I can process what’s being said without having to read subtitles. If I’m watching a subbed show, it’s usually while I’m eating, since that’s an activity where I can multi-task while reading.

Honestly, the only times I’m really opposed to dubs are: (1) When the acting is simply terrible and (2) when the dub changes the names of characters and/or removes cultural references to make the show seem more American. The infamous “jelly-filled donut” scene from Pokemon is applicable here. Rather than call it onigiri (rice ball), which is what Brock is actually eating, the dubbing company chose to call it a jelly filled-donut… despite the fact that it looks nothing like a donut. I believe the culture of the shows should be left alone, especially because it never hurts for kids to learn things about other cultures, and it irks me when dubbing companies try to “Americanize” these shows. Inappropriate pronunciations of names and honorifics also bother me, but not enough to turn me away from a dub that is otherwise well-done. (I will continuously make comments about the poor pronunciations, though.)

I think this is a topic where “to each their own” is the best approach. People on both sides of the argument are passionate about their stance, but at the end of the day we’re all anime fans and our passion for the medium should overshadow our passion for how we partake of the medium. True, anime isn’t as much of a niche was it was 10-15 years ago, when finding another anime fan was like finding a shiny Pokemon, but anime fandom is still something of a community, and I believe we should be able to get along on that basis, whether we watch our anime in Japanese or English (or the native language of our non-Japanese country).

Cooper D. Barham

I’m historically inclined to seek harmony when two opposing ideologies or philosophies collide. I have an aversion to “extreme” beliefs, and don’t fancy putting all of my eggs in one basket, so I will be approaching this argument in the same way. For full disclosure, I do prefer subs more often than not, but I was raised on dubs and believed myself capable of arguing both sides even before doing research in preparation for this article.

If I wanted to create a synopsis for the paragraphs to follow, it would be that this is probably more complicated than you expect, and there is not a right answer. But what I really hope to accomplish is to strengthen the reasons you may have for preferring dubs or subs, while dismantling some of the more hackneyed and incomplete arguments I’ve seen against both sides. I ultimately don’t care which one you prefer, but I cringe every time somebody labels one as superior and then defends that opinion with an argument which is, at best, a contrived, knee-jerk protective maneuver and, at worst, damaging to the community at large.

I’ll strike at the easiest targets first, because they don’t hold much water and will be the quickest resolution. On at least a dozen occasions, I’ve heard three memorable arguments against watching subs:

  1. Why bother watching anime if you need to read the dialogue? You might as well just read a book.
  2. Reading the dialogue distracts from one’s ability to appreciate the art.
  3. Watching dubs is better because it allows you to multitask.

Now, I could break off from just these three fragile arguments into long-winded exposition. Like, books are great, I love reading books. But books are fundamentally different creatures from anime (and manga), far beyond just the fact that you can consume each by reading. That, however, could be an entire series of articles breaking down the creative, industrial, and logistical decisions behind each medium, so I won’t approach that territory any further. Similarly, most anime (especially older ones) are comprised heavily of static images as a form of cost-cutting measures. Most of these static images are broken only by occasional bodily movement and shifting lips for dialogue, meaning you don’t miss most art by reading, because the art doesn’t often change in those scenes.

Naturally, there are exceptions to these, but again that is breaching a whirlwind of complicated sub-points and nuances which do not align with my broader purpose in writing this article. So let’s move on.

My largest issue with the above arguments is that they are usually accessories to one another. If somebody believes one, more often than not, they believe at least one other as well. For example, “you might as well read a book” and “dubs allow you multitask” will naturally cancel each other out if you rely on them too heavily. If you’re multitasking, then you wouldn’t be reading a book, either. You might as well be listening to audiobook or podcast, both of which are, in turn, completely different creative endeavors with different idiosyncrasies from every medium named thus far.

I won’t dig too deeply into each individual argument, because I can understand why somebody would use them as a personal anchor for supporting dubs. But please don’t swear by any of them as conclusive, end-all-be-all’s for why dubs trump subs. There are better arguments for that.

Time to play the balancing act and give dubs a little love. From this point forward, act under the pretense that when I say “dubs” I mean the collective modifications to a series intended for an American audience. This is an important distinction, because rarely does only the voice acting change when a licensed property moves overseas. More often, there are a slew of other direction and production elements which also undergo adaptation to the target audience.

Let’s begin with Cowboy Bebop. There’s no shortage of reasons this series is famous both in and outside the anime community, but for our purposes the most significant value is in arguing for the overall potential of a strong English adaptation. Shinichiro Watanabe, the director of Bebop, is credited for his notorious opinion that the dubbed version of his show is better than the subbed (whether this is true or not is a bit of a conspiracy, as there are many interviews which have not been translated, so it’s hard to prove or deny). This is shored up by legions of like-minded fans from both sides of the proverbial fence. I’ve seen both versions (not all of the subbed, however), and I am among this population, as well.

The reason this is important is because, even if you believe the subbed version is better, and that just because the director says one is superior over another doesn’t mean it’s true (which is fair), it’s still hard to argue against such a collective opinion without acknowledging there must be some merit to it. This alone breaks down the idea that either side of the argument is always, absolutely better than the other. While that may sound like a radical stance to take, it is not rare, so I must address it.

If you’ve been consuming anime for a greater length of time (if not, welcome to the fold, we’re glad to have you), you’ll notice it’s hard to ignore the fact that dubs have been improving since their introduction to our Western market. A lot of lingering ill-will towards dubs is rooted in the pre-2000’s era of anime, where dubs were a fledgling idea with minimal budget and commercial prospects, only striking upon gold in rare instances. As anime has grown in acceptance among global and American crowds, the crews which adapt the dubs are taken more seriously. Voice actors are generally more skilled, better writers and translators manage the dialogue, and production value improves to match the original version as much as possible. Even if you fall on the subs side of the fence as I do, it’s hard not to acknowledge this change taking place. For a good point of comparison, I’d like to refer you to the original dub of Ghost in the Shell, where the voice acting performances are so flat and uninspired, you’d swear they were intentionally speaking like robots reading a transcript.

Also, voice actors are just more fun to make character connections with in English. That’s a 100% objective, truer than true fact, and anybody who argues with me is so wrong that we don’t even have a word for how wrong you are. Chris Sabat is the VA for 80% of all characters, including—but not limited to—your mom.

While improved they might be, modern dubs are obviously not perfect. We are about to get to the section of my essay entry where the lines really begin to blur, so buckle in.

There are about a million different kick-off points to start this next part, but I can’t think of any better place to begin than One-Punch Man. OPM, for better or worse, has gotten Mt. Fuji-levels of attention in the last couple years, drawing in more Western fans to the throes of anime than ever before. This means a lot of people watched it in English, to which I have mixed feelings. Mixed, not because I’m a subbed enthusiast, but because the dubs themselves are a salad of brilliance and mediocrity. Take Saitama, for example. Saitama is voiced in the dubs by Max Mittelmen, whose astonishing indifference compliments the personality and intonations of Saitama’s language to a T. It’s perfect. Platinum award.

On the other hand, we have Lord Boros, the final opponent of One-Punch Man‘s first season. The voice-over for Boros is done by Chris Jai Alex, and you can feel the reservation in his performance. Boros is a loud, roaring presence on screen, and Alex doesn’t seem to own that character. In other words, the veil between his acting is thin. You can tell he’s struggling with the screams and bombastic monologues, probably because he fears they will be cringe-inducing. They are, though that’s probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. Contrast this with the sub actor, Toshiyuki Morikawa, who struts into the role of Lord Boros and nails it. He sounds like he believes himself to be a monstrous demigod, which comes through in his delivery.

And please don’t believe I think Alex failed the rendition of Boros strictly because that type of character is hard to take seriously in dubbed anime. While I do largely hold that opinion, the existence of the Anti-Spiral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is evidence that a similar character to Boros can be done astonishingly well if the English voice actor doesn’t hold back. In fact, the entire TTGL dub is pretty solid (Except Nia. She’ll make your ears bleed in both languages).

Let’s keep voice acting in our pocket for a second while we transition into the treacherous realm of translations (Did you see that alliteration just now? I live for that stuff). This, probably more than anything else, is where the real divorce in opinion dredges from. Many subbed die-hards are most vocal about this point of contention, because unlike performances—which can be hit-or-miss depending on the actor—a poor translation can scandalize the entire series. A narrative’s entire thematic purpose can be altered. Scenes can be rewritten with different focuses. It’s not hard to do this. The entire abridged community thrives on how easy it is to superimpose dialogue over the original animations.

(Before we proceed, I’d like to make a brief note that subbed series can technically do this too, if the written translation is wrong. But for some reason that is usually seen as charming? I mean, there’s an entire Facebook page dedicated to anime screenshots taken out of context, which showcases weirdly written translations. On this point, at least, there’s a double-standard.)

I listen to an anime podcast called “Shonen Chumps,” which calls out Attack on Titan as being representative of this problem. Having not watched the dub of Attack on Titan myself, I was not aware of how much more vulgar the dub was made to be. Not only were sentences replaced in meaning, but they were stacked with increased negative emotions and profanity. They gave many examples which I didn’t have the presence of mind to jot down at the time, but this video should get the point across. Not only does Eren swear more in English in this clip, but he accuses Armin of being a “parasite,” which is an entirely different noun than “wimp.” It might just be my bias showing, too, but with this specific example, the dialogue and performances seemed far cornier. There’s better dubbing jobs than this.

My Hero Academia might be even more guilty than Attack on Titan, though. I originally went through this series subbed, but I went back through the dubs for my GUG review of Season 1, and there were considerable differences between the two. To save on space, here’s a video which exemplifies a large part of my argument, in that, like with Dragon Ball’s Goku, Izuku Midoriya was reskinned into a completely different character (that video is pretty explicit, so if you don’t want to subject yourself, just take my word for it). But another thing I noted was the modified philosophy found in mega-hero extraordinaire, All-Might.

In the dubs, All-Might is called the Symbol of Peace and Justice. If you haven’t watched the dub, you already know what the problem is. By adding “and Justice,” as a recurring theme, the translation is fundamentally rewriting the metanarrative of the series. All-Might does not brand himself on the shoulders of justice, nor do the following story arcs lend to that narrative, either. Peace and Justice, while often used in tandem, are not the same thing. By introducing “justice” as an important motivational tenant of one of the most significant characters in the series, you are creating more work for the writers to retroactively alter the story so the theme can be maintained where it doesn’t normally belong. This can be done, but it will be very difficult and could threaten to make the logic and consistency of the dubbed series implode if not handled masterfully, or removed altogether.

Some final thoughts: I want to shout-out studio director Makoto Shinkai for a creative decision he made on the American production of his colossal hit film, Your Name. Here is an example of caution and consideration being exercised for an international market. Shinkai made the executive decision to work alongside the band RADWIMPS (who helped compose several of the musical pieces from the movie) so there would be different music for both the English and Japanese versions of the film, each to help the audience better grasp the movie in the way Shinkai believed would be best, even if that meant changing the languages and spending more money. This little nugget is both brilliant and heartwarming, and helped propel Your Name to the heights it has achieved.

Throughout this entire article, I’ve ignored one last argument often lobbied against dubs. I don’t want to crack it open too wide, because there’s many more layers left unfurled if I do, but I want to take a drive-by glance at it.

One of dubs’ greatest faults is the selective nature of the process. Because dubbing a show into a different language adds a whole new level to the production process, it’s not something which can be reasonably afforded to everything that shows up on the market. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem, as all of the major series and films will get the proper attention to keep them relevant. However, I recently watched, loved, and reviewed Made in Abyss, a series which only has a sub. At the time of writing this article, there is no news of a dub adaptation in the works. If this were a random series I saw and enjoyed, that’d be one thing, but it’s not. This series was nominated by many sites and services in the anime industry as a contender for 2017 Anime of the Year, including Crunchyroll (which it won). The leading streaming service for Western audiences has nominated Made in Abyss for multiple categories, and there is no way to watch it in English, meaning if you are adamant about not watching anything without an English dub, you are automatically excluded from enjoying one of the best series of last year, with no certainty that will ever change.

I don’t say this to convince you, but just to provide a wider scope. There are many other series you could watch in MiA’s stead, but you have to make peace with the fact that you could be missing out on something special (or just go read the manga).

Either way, love what you love, just please don’t inject defensive pride into that love by swearing allegiance to one mode of operation over another. And even more than that, refrain from enforcing that venomous love on the opinions of others. This inevitably creates division and pushes us further away from what we all want: a community of people who understand each other.

As always, we hope you enjoyed, and thanks for reading. Please look forward to our next collaboration, where we discuss our favorite comedy in anime! Until then, God bless, and take care.

Categories
Comics/Books Non-Fiction Reviews

Review: A Geek In Japan

61A7AwDxAdLAuthor: Hector Garcia
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction; Geek
Page #: 160 pages
Price: $10.99
Released: June 10, 2011

I found this book on Amazon once while looking for any geek books I could find. After reading the reviews, checking out its table of contents, and researching it a bit more, I purchased it. A Geek in Japan turned out to be the best book on Japan and geeks I have ever read (not that I have read many). I truly enjoyed it and gained so much knowledge by reading it. You will learn about the lifestyles and habits of the Japanese along with all the geeky interests that you may have (anime, movies, video games, etc.).

The author himself lives, works, and studies in Japan. His name is Hector Garcia and he is actually from Spain. Being Hispanic myself (not from Spain, but I’m 100% fluent in Spanish) I went to his blog and checked out his posts. It’s a great site because Hector shares lots of great photos on the life of an everyday resident of Japan. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, check it out for the photos!

Content Guide

This book is fairly clean in its images, and you will not find anything sexual or offensive in the pictures. Be warned though, as there are comments made on the sex life of the Japanese and several mentions on alcohol and why it’s consumed in Japan. In the book’s defense, everything is stated as cultural and not for shock value.

Regarding Christianity, you get a few pages scattered throughout that explain religious beliefs in Japan. Their history with Christianity isn’t discussed in much detail but is mentioned. Remember that Christianity is a very small percentage in this country (though growing, it’s about 1% as of this writing).

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Presentation

There is so much awesome in the pages of this book. It’s a chapter book so you can skip if needed. But it does read like someone was hired to fill in some gaps, as it seems to lack character to the writing. In other words, when you read sections that are informational it feels like your reading a Wikipedia article, but it is chock full of great facts and details of Japan and their way of life.

If you’re a geek, then be sure to skip ahead to the chapters on Anime, Manga, movies, and Japan Today. This will tell you all about the otaku culture, how anime and video games started, and obscure topics like Visual Kei and Meido fashion. Manga-lovers (otaku) will love to know more about Osamu Tezuka, the origin of manga and how their popularity has grown from the Metropolis of Nippon to overseas.

The life of students, women, and salarymen are interesting and very different than America. Japan’s entire way of living is like another world, from how children are raised to the grueling hours and stress that is placed on society to be the best they can be to their longevity and health.

Age in Japan is directly proportional to respect, and young people must address their elders in very formal language.”

On page 96-97, there’s a Japanese Popular Culture Chronology. It’s cool to see how it all started, and where Japan is today. Whether it’s Pokemon, Ayumi Hamasaki or Astro Boy, Evangelion to Akira, knowing how some of our favorite icons and shows began helps you appreciate them more.

Conclusion

This has been my favorite book on Japan, especially since I’m a geek. Having a love for the country and the people there, not only was I able to learn more about their lifestyle and habits, but also the origins of manga and anime. Come on, what more do you want?

As a Christian, it still pains my heart to know that there is so little Christian influence there. Many Japanese have never heard the gospel of Christ because they outright rejected missionaries and evangelists that have gone there ages ago. Christianity is an ancient relic in Japan due to the lack of churches and little knowledge of how to bridge cultural differences with the Bible.

Personally, I think a book like this is a great resource for Christians to use if they would want to evangelize to the Japanese. You can learn so much about their culture that, honestly, the gospel would not be difficult to present. Everyone is seeking purpose, what happens when we die, and forgiveness from sins that no temple or religion can offer. Sharing the eternal hope that humanity has in Jesus Christ is a gift that crosses any culture, language, or nation.

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I hope you pick this book up if you’re interested in Japan or want to learn the origins of manga and Japanese film. You won’t regret studying this fantastic and detailed book.

Purchase here

[amazon template=thumbnail&asin=4805311290]

Categories
Anime Community Articles

Naruto: a Dedication to 15 Years

It’s been about a week since iconic manga smash-hit Naruto has drawn to a close, ending a fifteen-year era of shinobi and leaving a space in the hearts of its many readers/watchers.  There are several of us at Geeks Under Grace who would like to extend a gesture of thanks to Naruto and Masashi Kishimoto, relating our lives and Christian walks to the story and characters crafted within such a harrowing, and sometimes sobering, tale–the tale of a boy whose world was small, but whose dreams were massive: the tale of a ninja.

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JP FRANCO:

I remember the first time I was introduced to Naruto. It was 2003, and I went to hang out at a friend’s house. While I was there, I met my friend’s older brother who happened to be watching a subtitled episode of Naruto on his computer. I asked what he was watching.  He quickly got excited and said, “I have to show you this!” He pulled up a fight from the Chuunin Exams arc, and it was from that point on that I started my journey with Naruto.

For a literature class, I once had to do a research paper on the topic of folklore. One of the biggest takeaways from my research was that, often times, folklore is used to instill and encourage the beliefs, values, and practices of a person or group. After learning this purpose, I started analyzing the media I take in–the comics I read, the movies or shows I watched…  Was there a connection between the values I have and why I like certain characters or shows?

Naruto instills and encourages the beliefs and values that I have. Yes, even as a Christian, a ninja anime has the ability to remind me of God’s Truth (which shows just how great He is that He can use a cartoon to bring us closer to Him). For example, Naruto is one of the most sacrificial characters I’ve ever seen. I love that his devotion to his friends is mostly unconditional to the point that he would rather die fighting for them than give up. His sacrifice and devotion are two character qualities that I personally hold dear, and I find myself encouraged when I think about how consistently he displays these two qualities on his journeys.naruto-artbook-scan1

Aside from the main character, there are so many relatable characters that we can connect with in different seasons of our lives. Whether it’s Hinata’s growth from feeling she was only a burden to having self-confidence, Lee’s unwavering determination despite all odds, or Gaara’s journey from villain to hero, these evolving characters can serve as inspiration as we develop our own character.

Though the story is ending, I’m glad I’ve been able to grow up with it. I’m thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned and how much fun I had feeling like a Konoha ninja while journeying through all of it! Dattebayo!

Josh Mors:

I personally started watching Naruto when I was in 4th grade, and that was the year 2006. I remember it airing on Cartoon Network at the time. I really enjoyed watching it, and started watching more of the anime. Once I got caught up with the anime I started reading the weekly chapter that would go up every week depending on the day. Sometimes early chapter releases would go up on Tuesday, but the regularly scheduled one was always on Wednesday. Then, over the past couple weeks, some of the chapters got released on Thursday

Anyway, enough rambling on about that. Naruto has meant so much for me as a whole. It showed me to never give up on anything–to try to pursue your goal in life and the dreams that you want to accomplish. This has been helpful for me in my Christian walk because I’m never going to stop believing in Him despite the persecution that I may face in the future. Naruto overcame his enemies, and spoke such wise words from what he learned from his teachers. He also taught me to love and care for others despite what others may think of you. Naruto-naruto-shippuuden-17324234-2560-1838When Naruto was younger he had to deal with a lot of pain because he didn’t have any parents, and many people didn’t really accept him for who he was. Later on, however, he showed them what he was made of, and he started caring for others. His comrades realized that once he protected the village from being attacked, and also after the war. He also kept pursuing after his friend, Sasuke, who rebelled against his village, and he still wanted Sasuke to come back, despite all the pain he had caused. All the pain that Naruto faced shaped him to be a better person in the end. In our daily Christian walk, we will go through hurt, shame, or even pain, ourselves, but we know that God uses those things to help us become a better person. It can be hard in the moment when you’re experiencing trials, but you’ll be rewarded for what you’ve gone through in the end… just like Naruto.

Casey Covel:

It may seem unusual—or perhaps even psychologically unsound—to say that fictional characters are sitting among pastors, parents, teachers, Jesus Christ, Michael Jordan, Dietrich Bonoeffer, C.S. Lewis, and a host of other real persons on your list of inspirational people. But, with Naruto, this is most certainly the case for me.

0c0fa370bbf0b499c53131d02ebc95b0I found Naruto during a bit of a turbulent time in my life and never imaged that the show would provide me with role models who would inspire and better me as an individual.

Naruto is a franchise that breathes. The characters—fantastical and far-fetched as they are—have a pulsing humanity about them. As a fan of the show (that’s how I primarily enjoyed the series), I was exposed to struggles that I had never before seen presented through animated television—childhood abuse, the blunt futility of vengeance, the power of a love that longs for revenge but chooses to forgive, social stigmatization, survivor’s guilt, the power of a kind word, the ability of one person to change a life, and the dual nature of mankind and the way in which even the vilest among us have genuinely human tendencies and concerns. For the first time since I’d begun watching television, I was presented with an array of characters facing debilitating social, psychological, and physical barriers. Even more importantly, though, these characters overcame their setbacks in thoroughly poignant and believable ways that left an impact—not only on how I viewed myself—but also on how I began to view others.

A few of the characters that left an enormous impact on me:

  • Iruka changed a life by being the first teacher—and first person—to recognize and treat Naruto with kindness; this simple act of kindness sets off a chain of events that forever change the course of the ninja world.
  • Gaara transformed his hatred into love, becoming the savior of his village and the commander of the shinobi alliance.
  • Rock Lee overcame his learning disabilities with nothing but relentless hard work and the encouragement of his sensei.
  • Hinata transformed her greatest weakness—her gentleness—into her greatest strength, even finding the courage to do something a majority of characters never could: confess her love to another.
  • Tsunade pressed past her fear of blood and the loss of her brother and fiancé, dedicating her life to protecting the Hidden Leaf Village.
  • Kakashi found strength through loss at a young age—his father committed suicide and his best friend died before his eyes, among other tragedies—using his own sorrow and experience to empower others. He swears loyalty to his comrades and goes so far as to offer his life to preserve the village.
  • Naruto overcame the social isolation of an entire village, fought against a world’s worth of naysayers, overcame his weaknesses, learned the power of forgiveness and offered it to everyone who ever wronged him, defied a world that said “you can’t,” and became the savior of all shinobi and the ninja world at large.

As a Christian, I often saw the teachings of Christ presented through this show, which surprised me. As lessons of forgiving your enemies, sacrificing for your friends, and showing kindness, integrity, and virtue in your day-to-day life were delivered on an almost episodic basis, I found myself feeling empowered by the series.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANaruto is not a weak show. It doesn’t shy away from blood, pain, suffering, loss, and the harsh brutality of life. Characters see friends and family killed before their eyes. Some are put through psychological and physical torture. Others tell of horrendous atrocities that befall them—parents who wished them dead, villages who disowned them, horrific injuries that they endured… and yet for all that, whenever I walked away from an episode of Naruto, what I left with was not the cruelty, the violence, the blood, or the despicable evils that befell the characters. What I walked away with was the moment where one mortal enemy forgave another, where a character endured pain and suffering for the sake of a friend, where loyalty, sacrifice, kindness, and hope embodied truly breath-taking and realistic moments that made these virtues real in true, biblical fashion.

When I walk away from contemporary films, I often find myself with images of the film’s more dark and unsettling content in my mind. With Naruto, despite it possessing even more intense, unsettling content than a majority of western animated films (and even some live-action films), I only ever walked away with positive, wholesome thoughts on my mind. Very rarely did a negative, unsettling thought ever crowd in amidst the empowering ones. This, in practice, is very hard to achieve through film, especially considering Naruto’s unflinching adherence to reality in terms of painful physical, mental, and emotional wounds.

All that to say this: I would not be the person I am today without Naruto. It has easily been one of the most powerful, fictional influences on my life. The series coming to a close is a bittersweet reality. It’s a long-running series that has proudly and unashamedly marched through the anime/manga genre without faltering… for fifteen years. Not an easy feat, by any means. I look forward to what the future holds for Naruto and his friends, beginning with The Last: Naruto the Movie.

Allow me to leave you with this quote, oft-said by Kakashi Hatake:

“In the ninja world, those who break the rules are scum, that’s true, but those who abandon their friends are worse than scum.”

Cooper Barham:

There are so many things I could say, so many things I have learned, that I do not know how to start talking about Naruto.  I have been following this series since the tail-end of sixth grade, over eleven years ago.  When it started, I was almost exactly the same age as Naruto and his friends, so it was easy for me to relate and get absorbed into their world.  Having practically completed case-studies on this series, I could say with some confidence that I would be comfortable teaching entire courses on Naruto and all of the details therein.  On top of that, the sentiments and wisdom found within reflected back on my own life, encouraging my personality to develop in ways that it would not have otherwise.  Through Naruto, I have learned a little bit more about friends, family, patience, and even the nature of Christ, shown through these characters.

I’d thought about doing an entire series of articles fully realizing lessons and philosophies to be found in Naruto, complete with related stories from others and examples from personal experience.  Someday, I still might.  The series is so long, and so full of stories, characters, moral altercations, devastation, reconstruction, transformation, and redemption, that I am at odds with myself over the limited space I have to talk about everything.

It’s hard to start people on Naruto, especially with friends and acquaintances my age.  Like I said, it was easy when I was Naruto’s age, and I could connect seamlessly into their exciting, but lonely fiction.  Naruto has very childish roots, but those roots delve into a much more sophisticated and human fabric of storytelling.  There have been many criticisms of Naruto throughout the years, some admittedly more valid than others, but, overall, the series has made a home in many hearts and still exacts inspiration on our generation, as I expect it will for years to come.Naruto_and_Jiraiya

Naruto reinforced many ideals for me, in ways that I didn’t grasp until they were conveyed using characters I understood and appreciated: being happy for somebody in spite of your own efforts or feelings, knowing how to find value in losing and humility in victory, patiently accepting that you will be mocked for your convictions, loving and protecting those who would not do the same for you, sacrificing your entitlements and respect for the sake of people who will never understand your actions, never giving up on the goodness that can be found in the hearts of others, turning loneliness and anger into a weapon to forge yourself anew, standing up for the weak, never shouldering all the responsibility by yourself, forever and ever, etc.

Perhaps more than anything else though, there are two preeminent messages delivered in the Naruto narrative.  The first is an obvious, increasingly insurmountable tale of brotherhood.: brotherhood between Sasuke and his biological brother, Itachi, and brotherhood between Naruto and Sasuke, who are kin only by the mutual struggle they have shared.  The other message is a little more complicated, a little more Christ-like, and a little more powerful.  During some of the later arcs of the story, Naruto is tasked with finding the “cure to hatred” by a couple of people, including his master, Jiraiya.  Obviously, in a world so stricken by malcontent and conflict, this is a pretty daunting task.  However, through several sub-plots, the sacrifice of multiple characters, and some of the best storytelling the series has to offer, Naruto does finally find his answer, as does his friend and companion, Gaara.  A simple word, sometimes with exceedingly difficult applications: forgiveness.

Amidst a sea of character revelations and moral underpinnings, the author goes out of his way to make special mention of the power of unconditional, seemingly illogical forgiveness towards our fellow man, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean you get along well afterwards.  This is one of the quintessential messages of Christ, and is something I am extremely thankful to find in my favorite series ever.

So again, thank you, Naruto, for being a friend and inspiration in spite of the confines of fiction.  Thank you to the entire cast of characters forged by Kishimoto’s pen, mind, and heart.  Thank you for the music, thanks for the battles, thanks for building my mind and playing my heartstrings, and thank you for doing the same for millions of others as well.

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God bless you, Masashi Kishimoto, and best wishes on your next work.  We look forward to it.

(Featured image credited to “chopper-nx” on Deviantart. http://chopper-nx.deviantart.com/)

VERSE OF THE DAY: James 5:10-11
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

SONG OF THE DAY: “Heaven Shaking Event” – Naruto Shippuden OST