Christianity

My Continued Thoughts on Akame Ga Kill, episodes 4-8; Death As A Plot Device; I Am So Triggered!

So, now that I’ve continued watching past the first few episodes, I have happened upon the episode which has finally made the reasoning behind the anime’s reputation as a gut wrenching death show, clear to me. For those who have not seen the show, I shall leave the names out of it for the sake of spoilers, but throughout the first six episodes, a certain character was being slightly developed, with a sudden spike in development in episode 6, which was well received by me. I liked the character, and the development given her. In episode 6, this character is shot, bisected, and dies suddenly, and sacrificially, an event which would increase the motivation of the revolutionary faction which the main character is a part of, which is called Night Raid. This character who died protecting another Night Raid Member, was my very favorite character in the show til then, due to the amount of pathos written into her. The fact that this character was finished off so quickly, suddenly, and without showcasing her full powers, or even fulfill her full story arc before dying, seemed like such a slap in the face to me, that I am tempted to think that the writing of Akame Ga Kill is less than exemplary, rather it is somewhat to be deplored after a certain fashion. It is taking a viable favorite character of many people, and making her an “expendable crewman,” to make people understand that the situation is serious. I understand that this death gives the plot a bit more weight, and adds one more reason why the main characters should bear a grudge against the antagonists, but having more character development, and even just a bit more screen time for this person would have drastically improved the emotional impact of their death later, and left me satisfied with her death. To prove this point, another member of Night Raid dies some episodes later, yet that was not anywhere near as traumatic to the viewer, nor such a smack in the face, as the death of the previous member, owing to the fact that this next character got at least 8 episodes worth of character development, each with active screen time in each episode to give them depth. (Sigh) It may be that my liking the character that died in episode 6 somewhat clouds my judgement, but I also liked the second character who died, and yet I was OK with it. They both were really interesting, lovable characters with cool designs according to my taste; the one just got a cool, mournful, noble death while the other got a sudden, disruptive, and somewhat humiliating one, being too quick for me to really appreciate what’s happening, and too bitter for the audience to be able to actually move on from their death. This is what I would call, a cheap way to engage the audience. “Introduce a really interesting, lively character with a backstory which could be awesome when fully revealed, but only reveal a tiny bit of it, get everyone interested, and then kill them off before anyone knows what hit ’em. Yeah, that’ll get the viewers cryin’. I can hear the money just pourin’ in.” Well, I can hear some television-mob bosses quoting those words even now. But if one were to take one quick look on IMDB for episode 6, entitled “Kill the Absolute Justice,” ( by the way, yes all the episodes are entitled with “Kill the-” at the beginning,) one would quickly find that this episode, where a lovable character is killed off too quickly for us to appreciate them, is rated at least a whole point higher than the episodes immediately before or after it! This ploy, which I know from American television is an old, tired, and despicably cliched plot device, is one which invariably works. Lost did it, Breaking Bad did it, and now The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are doing it. Now, the thing is, this tactic definitely immediately freezes that scene, that episode, the characters, and basically the rest of the show in your mind, making the show immediately a memorable one, if for the wrong reasons. I must remind myself that this tactic is not always a horrible one. If done right, it can cause a show to feel truly perilous, like no one has plot armor, and who knows what might happen next. I feel like Attack on Titan, which I actually really like as one of my favorites, (that tells you something about me) actually did do this plot device justice, because while people continuously died left and right, there was always a disturbing reason for it, and the fact that people died did not always serve the plot, but it served the reality of the world. It gave you the feeling that this is a place and a situation where humanity, while safe for the moment, is being put in the position of imminent extinction by horrible monsters, and no-one knows why or how it is happening, so sudden, meaningless deaths are a matter of course, just like in real war. Also, another thing these quick-emotional-deaths have going for them in AoT, is that all of the characters who die are secondary characters who you are immediately able to empathize with, no matter how much development is given them, and also, if they are given development, then it is always enough for you to be able to properly feel like you’ve known the character long enough now to let them go. You are never forced to accept the sudden death of a close companion of the main characters, and I have not yet had to accept the death of my dear glutton Sasha, at leat, not yet. But, for that character that just died in Akame Ga Kill, I’m still burning with anger that I was not able to see much more of her in the show as she so desperately deserved and needed as a character. Now, while all that negativity has been said, I still was not put off by this death enough to make me want to quit watching it, it did not disgust me to that degree. I immediately understood the type of show that this would be from here on out, one which murders its beautifully crafted characters with extreme prejudice for the purpose of plot convenience and quick thrills, and if they can use this trope more effectively, then I am still up for the ride. Indeed, in the very next story arc there was another death of a very close member of the cast, and yet that one was done with elegance and grace, giving you at least two more episodes to prepare you for what was to come. Will this show be able to keep up that elegance and grace? We shall see, next time. Thanks for reading and joining me on my viewing experience.

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I’m Watching Akame Ga Kill; Is it a Classic Fantasy, or Just Another Over-hyped Anime?

So, this post in-particular should indeed be shorter than is my wont. That is due to the nature of it being about the fact that I am just watching Akame Ga Kill, right now, and little else. We’ll see how that goes by the time I stop writing it. I decided to watch Akame Ga Kill on a whim recently, as I usually do with anime, and not because of a review I watched, or a recommendation I listened to, which does sometimes happens but more rarely. As I slowly grow the amount of blogs I write, and attempt to become more aware of my tastes and decisions, I realize that I have been mainly watching fantasy anime as of late. This has not always been so. I had finished Sword Art Online, and Log Horizon almost three years ago, and felt a little burnt out by the RPG, Fantasy, Isekai genre in general. Since then I have remained in the realms of supernatural thrillers, mysteries, horrors, and comedy, without any further dives (SAO reference) into another fantasy world. That was until what I might term another “SAO killer” came along to put a shot in the already holey and steroid ridden arm of fantasy anime called, Re:Zero. After finishing that first 2016 season, which is useless when it comes to plot conclusion or emotional closure, (at least for me) I craved even more of this Fantasy genre, this thing which I did not know I had been starving for. That is when I actively began searching out more anime like Re:Zero, and ran across Danmachi, and then Konosuba, and you can read my thoughts on those elsewhere on my blog site. Now, I know for certain that I am a very mystery oriented person; any Sherlock Holmes story is my favorite short story over anyone else’s, and I have watched almost every iteration of Holmes in cinema that I could, so I did enjoy myself while taking a hiatus from fantasy to focus on the more dark and mysterious side of anime between Log Horizon and Re:Zero. To be honest though, I am so much more happy analyzing and agonizing over points of logic or plot when it comes to fantasy themes than I am with mystery when it comes to anime. Maybe it is because of the supposed lack of big mystery oriented anime in the medium, I don’t know. Now I’m kind of caught up in the whirlwind of second rate but enjoyable fantasy shows, which I am thoroughly enjoying while also able to thoroughly enjoy criticizing heavily. I also watched an exorbitant amount of Fate/Zero while in this mindset, and even that show was enjoyable for me to watch, while being one of the most vacuous stories I have ever seen. This is the state of mind I am in, OK. So now, while sitting on the couch, waiting for another episode of Attack on Titan 2 to come out, I stumble across an anime that My Anime List has been recommending to me ever since I told it that I liked Mirai Nikki and Tokyo Goul, that being Akame Ga Kill. The main things which drew me to the show when I first came across it were the facts that it was a thriller type, something like Mirai Nikki, which I liked for its plot and action. I liked that it had cover art and character design which I viewed (and still do) as being incredibly interesting and beautiful according to my tastes, and yes, that it was a fantasy. (I do always get sort of excited when I see the cover art for this show, even now, and the design for Katana Wielding Akame is absolutely brilliant.) This is a show however that I had sort of unwillingly decided to avoid based on reviews alone, because almost all of these reviews had nothing but negativity with which to describe it. “It’s a harem anime, don’t be fooled by the action. It’s so bloody no normal person should be able to stomach it. The animation is so inconsistent it might as well be Fate/Stay Night,” and so on and so forth. All of these things hit home with my perspective of morality I bring to anime, which states that the reasons to not watch shows are determined by them being too sensual and fan-servicey, being too gory or violent, or having a very shallow or meaningless plot. So, I hesitantly turned a blind eye to Akame Ga Kill, believing it to be another over-hyped, over-rated crowd-pleaser show, with no depth. That is, until now, and to be honest, I still don’t know if I will like this show in the end, because I am only a few episodes in, but I can tell you right now, that two things it is not; badly animated, or shallow plot-wise. Yet again, I must stress the importance of expectations when it comes to entertainment. If I had jumped on the bandwagon of hype and marketing which surrounded it in the Summer of 2014, declaring it the apparent savior of anime, I might have been disappointed with the somewhat obvious direction which Akame Ga Kill goes in, in its first arc. But hey, that first episode, while bloody, illogical and ridiculous, was still incredibly enjoyable, strangely enough, as well as fascinating, and by the third episode, you are finding depth you never expected to find in a show of this sort. Is it a classic? Well, again, I don’t know, but I am not put off from the idea that it might be, even if it is a bit like pulp-fiction for the masses. The fact that something is flawed does not preclude it from becoming a classic. So, the titular question of is it a classic, or just some more over-hyped anime trash, is one that I hope to answer by watching, and blogging. So far, I am liking it, despite its obvious flaws, and if you care to follow along in the ride of my thoughts on the subject, I shall be posting more of those thoughts as they come, and as I watch. God Bless!

Is it Inappropriate for Christians to Enjoy Konosuba?!

Greetings friends! As always, I shall be going on a long rant about morality in anime, so bear with me. The last thing I wrote about was an isekai trope in DanMachi, so I might as well continue the tradition with just about the most popular isekai anime show of twenty sixteen, “Konosuba, God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!” Immediately after the first season aired, and perhaps even during its run, I was already seeing memes, videos and clips of it everywhere on the internet, largely based on the more interesting of the secondary protagonists, Megumin the Mage. The amount of praise is overwhelming, and even critics of it gave surprisingly positive scores across the board. Online praise for anime is a strange beast; sometimes a show will get high scores just because it is a huge fan-service show with good animation quality, and sometimes a show will get low scores for the exact same thing.
Every show in the isekai (other world) genre usually receives fair to mixed reviews, with large constituents on both sides arguing how bad or good a show is. This seems to infer to someone like me that this genre is dominated by shows which ride on their premises or popularity rather than more critical or technical considerations. Each show is unique though, so such generalizations are a bit vulgar, but at the same time, the argument should be made that shows in the fantasy genre over all, get pretty mixed reviews these days. People still love Sword Art Online, and Ordinal Scale is making a killing, but the critics usually tend to pick this series apart til little left can be seen of it than the shreds of charisma, wonder, and simple, thoughtless emotion that birthed it. Konosuba however, being a simple comedy and not even a serious fantasy drama, the first isekai show to be a comedy only, blows that generalization out of the water, taking home scores of nothing less than 8/10 most of the time, even though it does not take itself seriously in the slightest.
This overwhelming positivity was enough to peak my interest for a while, but I could never get around to watching it until now. Within five minutes of viewing, I was surprised to find its killer charm tugging me into it. The characters. The characters are what carry Konosuba, like a high level tank champion character, who is able to take all of the damage which a low-level team of adventurers would otherwise be destroyed by. The development of the shut-in NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) Kazuma and his off the wall, unexpected and unsatisfying journey to another world, was pathetic just as it was hilarious, being an extreme parody of all the MC tropes isekai has ever given us. Meeting the seemingly graceful and self-absorbed goddess aqua, and seeing her transform into a weeping mess of helpless chibi when in a pinch, was reminiscent of the brilliance which came of Umaru’s otaku-tantrums in “Himoutou! Umaru Chan.” Megumin’s incredibly iconic chunibyo obsession with explosion magic, and finally Darkness the knight girl’s literally sadomasochistic desire to take punishment for the team, was all kind of magical adventure in well done character study.
Everything else however, during and after the first five minutes of the first episode, left me confused and disturbed when trying to justify the sensual overtones of its comedy. So, in any anime in which a character goes to a world of RPG fantasy, one should always know that some amount of fan-service is expected, right? Well, Konosuba takes that fact and runs with it in such a blatant and in your face way that the comedy goes from innuendo, to straight sex jokes and incredibly bouncy animated breasts, in the blink of an eye. This anime is not listed as a harem show, yet the main character attracts a large retinue of exclusively female adventurers, all of which either have some strange sexual fetish, or are scantily clad. All of this comes from the desire to mock the subliminal and offensive fan-service in other isekai shows, by having fanservice which is even more over the top.
If you know me, and if you have visited my My Anime List profile, (https://myanimelist.net/profile/CharlesQBanks) you will know that I base the score for any anime I’ve seen off of a Biblical, Christian ethic, with a large chunk of the score being dedicated to moral considerations. Every show I watch, I watch it both for my own enjoyment, but also to analyze its moral implications, and what it tells me about the human race and psyche of modern people groups. This is what interests me about Anime in general, since Japan has such a different moral and ethical background that it makes this kind of analyses even more interesting.
I’m usually pretty capable of figuring out the overall moral of a story and whether or not young’ins or old’ins should be watching them, but when it comes to things like Konosuba, I find myself conflicted, because while I intensely enjoyed its characters and satirical treatment of the isekai genre, I could never imagine myself recommending it to anyone whom I respect as having a gentlemanly sense of humor. Questions such as, “What is OK to watch, and what isn’t?” tend to become rather simple to answer when given a Christian worldview, and especially with the Scriptures to help along in that regard. “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial,” says the preacher, and based on the wealth of knowledge the Lord gives us through the Bible for daily living, we can easily divine which is which in any situation. There is still the issue of subjective personal conviction, and only God can judge in that department. One Christian may have no qualms watching all seasons of the Walking Dead, an incredibly graphic and violent series with little to recommend it to conservative audiences but for extremely intense relational drama, but at the same time utterly condemn the low-key iyashikei (healing) show Mushishi for being too demonic, morally neutral, and spiritually dark.
This type of situation is pretty much a matter of very specific delineation between morally gray boundary lines which are completely relative to a person’s walk with God. What this comes down to in the end is, like I said, personal conviction. Your conscience will always tell you if you begin to watch something displeasing to God, but it is your choice as to whether or not you listen to Him. This is what is meant by Paul in Romans when he speaks of Christians with stronger/weaker faith. One may eat meat and feel guilty about it and condemn themselves, another may eat meat and be completely justified in themselves because of the blood of Christ. The one condemns themselves because they felt convicted about it yet chose to eat anyway, and the other is free from condemnation, not because they didn’t consider the situation, but because their conscience was not telling to not eat it under the Grace and freedom of God.
All of what I just said is to explain differences in dealing with very morally subjective situations which are matters of detail, like eating meat sacrificed to idols or not, but when it comes down to something like fan-service, the line is a little more clearly drawn than. “But Charles!” I hear you say, “You’re a Christian, and yet you watched Konosuba! If you had such objections to it, why’d you keep watching it, huh?” When it comes down to how I feel about Konosuba, it has to do with the fact that I actually enjoy it. The reason I get conflicted about it, is that I know that it is not an appropriate show for Christians or gentlemen to watch, and yet I did enjoy it, not because of the fan-service or innuendo, but in spite of it, because of all the other good things in it.
The only other reason I can justify having watched it, is that I was not necessarily tempted by its displays of sexuality, merely disgusted by it, and I know that many indeed would be tempted by it, even if I was not. It is, I would say, an objectively enjoyable anime; that is to say, that if you love anime, and are familiar with the anime sub-culture, you will indeed enjoy this show, whether you are a Christian or not. There comes the rub, that according to the Christian ethical code, it is unhealthy, and defiling to indulge in such smutty entertainment. The problem with sexual innuendos and sex jokes, is that they dehumanize people; mankind, womankind, and the human body, in a way that makes fun of that which brings forth love, life, and intimacy, as well as the image of God itself. So when it comes down to thinking about healthy sexual embarrassment and what sex is, it means nothing but a joke to the secularist, because according to the them, we should not be embarrassed about sex, and sex and gender roles can be casual nothings, swept into the dust bin of history as something outdated and obstructive to human freedom. The atheists will always advocate for free love, even the intellectual atheists, and that in itself is degrading to inherent human nobility, given only by God. That in itself is what secular people like about sex jokes, and what people would like about Konosuba’s humor, it brings down the common denominator between people, and makes anything that is taboo out to be basically a joke.
I feel I must explain the sort of subculture of person I’m talking about more specifically, because saying that people will like Konosuba for its smuttiness is obvious, but also an oversimplification. So, in example, admitting that pornography is a proud part of your life, is an embarrassing and shameful social suicide, and very well should be. However, in the secular otaku world, admitting that you visit porn-sites regularly seems to be a rite of passage for the community. So, to the worldly, Konosuba is quite a step forward in advocating for that sort of accepted state of unembarrassed perverseness they all desire. Again, I feel I must qualify, that not all otaku or secular people have this mindset; there are definitely anime lovers who have a more nuanced moral code to their anime viewing, even if they are not Christians. That being said, Konosuba is not written for those type of people, but the former, who love the idea of coming out of the proverbial closet to express their sincere feelings; that they are people who are sexually perverse.
This is why I will not recommend Konosuba to Christian audiences, and to answer my question, while it is not inappropriate to enjoy Konosuba’s plot or characters, it IS inappropriate to enjoy its humor unequivocally.
Something that a friend commented to me about this blog when I mentioned it to him, was the fact that two out of three of the anime blogs that I’m going to have written once this gets out will have been negative diatribes about anime that are examples of the perverted stereotypes I always thought anime to be, because for a while, I thought anime was just for children or perverted adults. Now, I want to prove that stereotype wrong by talking about the fact that my past stereotype of anime as perverse is an over-generalization which brushes to the wayside a whole crowd of morally acceptable, great anime which actually exist out there, and bring these to Christians online.

There are always bad or immoral parts or additions to any given medium, and it is the duty of the discerning consumer, and especially the critical thinker, to find and praise the best, and to find and warn the world of the worst. The funny thing about these particular anime that I’ve been criticizing, is that all of the more fan-service focused shows, are Isekai shows. SAO was a fan-service-like show, Re;Zero was a mildly fan-service show, DanMachi is a certain kind of fan-service show, and Konosuba is definitely a fanservice show, and it definitely does not help my case that Konosuba definitely fulfills the perverted stereotypes. The common denominator among all of these isekai shows, is that they all share a negative problem with anime in general; fan-service. The world may say, oh sexual fan-service can be good if it is done the right way, but for upright, self-respecting, morally minded people, especially Christians who have their reasons for moral standards given to them by God, fan-service is never right, and no amount of enjoyable content can make blatant sexual objectification OK.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, I am impressed by you. Keep on keeping on, watching anime in the goodness and grace of God.