Emotion in The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Violet Evergarden

This season, I have been watching Mahoutsukai no Yome and Violet Evergarden and was pleasantly surprised to discover that they explore many of the same ideas.

In Mahoutsukai no Yome, we are introduced to Elias as a character who is devoid of emotion. At the beginning of the series, Elias believes that about himself, but as his relationship with Chise develops, it becomes self-evident that he does have emotions but has not been socialized enough to understand himself or those around him.

Violet, the titular character of Violet Evergarden, is definitely human, but at this point in the series we’re not exactly sure of her backstory. We know that she has been used as a weapon on the battlefield, but it’s unclear what that entailed. Unlike Elias, we know she has definitely been around people for a long time, but she thrived in the military environment of complete order. She works as an Auto Memoir Doll in part to understand what love is, but also largely because it’s the only thing she can do now that the war is over.

While I was initially hoping that Mahoutsukai no Yome would develop differently – I wanted the series to further operate as though Elias was actually devoid of emotion and show the limits of relationships when one side is unable to reciprocate emotionally – now Elias and Violet are both in the thick of it, learning what it means to love and be loved.

I’m sure I will have more profound things to say once both series conclude, but for now, I will simply say that I am hooked.


Comparing Devilman Crybaby and Tokyo Ghoul

This post is very spoiler heavy for both Devilman Crybaby and Tokyo Ghoul. You have been warned.

First it was PewDiePie. Then it was akidearest. And after that The Anime Man and Gigguk also boarded the hype train for “Devilman Crybaby.” So I watched it last night with hubby and after being so amped up for it… It fell short. Really short.

The first two episodes were difficult to watch. It felt like the anime was trying to make up for its lack of an original plot by being edgy. While, for the most part, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the art style, it did keep the graphic sexual scenes from becoming completely impossible to watch. The sex scenes aren’t the “sexposition” type in “Game of Thrones” and they aren’t meant to be arousing. They are meant to disgust you. Disgusted I was and if it weren’t for the hype, I would have stopped watching after the second episode.

“Tokyo Ghoul” explored very similar themes and, in my humble opinion, did it better than “Devilman Crybaby” in almost every single way. The sad thing is, even with all its religious references “Devilman Crybaby” just didn’t go as deep as “Tokyo Ghoul.”

The Root of All Evil

In “Devilman Crybaby,” the devils possess humans at the raves. These parties are dubbed “Sabbath” gatherings, which can be interpreted as a strictly ironic name, but can also be understood as the height of a kind of hedonistic cultural belief that casual sex and drugs is as close as people can come to reaching the divine on earth. This suggests that society at large abandoned religion and traditional spirituality and was instead embracing an artificial, chemically induced kind of religious experience that was focused solely on bodily pleasures. In fact, the only religious characters we see are Miki and her family, who are ill-equipped in the face of pure malevolence; they are so out of touch with the mindset of the general populace that it is no wonder they all die.

Miko is another character whose physical desires corrupt her. She hates Miki for being a faster runner than her. She believes the people around her only value her due to her connection with Miki (which is somewhat true). Miko loses herself spiritually and thinks she must reclaim her identity as the true “Miki” by proving herself to be the physical superior of the two. Miko derives her worth from her body, so it makes sense that she allows Nagasaki to take lewd photos of her while Miki does not.

At the rave, Ryo breaks a bottle and starts attacking people to make the devils appear and begin possessing people, further driving home the point that evil manifests when people operate purely as animals. While Akira had agreed to become possessed to defeat other devils, he remains a good character because he retains his empathy and love for others. This is what sets him apart from Ryo and the other devils; Ryo doesn’t believe in love and has no compassion. On the other hand, Akira does not want to sacrifice those at the rave for the sake of the greater good. Akira becomes a “devilman” somewhat against his will after his body was contaminated (he is forced to drink some alcoholic beverage and swallows some other drug, most likely ecstasy).

In “Tokyo Ghoul,” Kaneki becoming a ghoul is somewhat similar. Kaneki is socially a bit awkward and very innocent. He is attacked by the ghoul Rize on their first “date” (ghouls survive by eating human flesh). Rize dies from steel beams falling on her and the doctor who saves Kaneki decides he’s going to transplant Rize’s kidney into Kaneki to save his life. Like Akira, Kaneki’s body becomes contaminated. However, Akira goes in with his eyes open while Kaneki is blindsided. They both become hybrids; half monster, half human.

In “Devilman Crybaby” the existence of evil in the world is demonstrated to be a lack of compassion for others and surrendering to physical desires. In “Tokyo Ghoul,” the origin of evil is not nearly as straightforward. The existence of ghouls is never explained. Yet, we see characters who take their condition as ghouls in different ways, and their choices of how they manage their urge to eat flesh show their differing moral standards. On one end of the spectrum is the gourmet, who makes a spectacle of finding the best tasting people and eating them, and on the other end are characters like Hinami, who is just a child, and Yoshimura, who takes in wayward ghouls and helps them blend into human society. “Devilman Crybaby” introduces the devils as having a predisposition toward evil. In fact, Silene briefly comments on the sexual depravity of the devils and flippantly asks why they should resist their urges, a point that is never brought up again. Only Akira has overcome those urges and influences others to follow suit. The characters lack depth and immediately flip from evil to good. “Tokyo Ghoul,” by contrast, shows that people (and ghouls) all have the ability to be evil and most only choose to do what they believe to be necessary, though some will go out of their way to cultivate their evil tendencies.

The Price of War

“Devilman Crybaby” and “Tokyo Ghoul” both end with all-out warfare between the “monsters” and the humans. However, the battles begin and end very differently. In the beginning, Kaneki and Akira’s bodies are invaded by evil forces, but Kaneki, who was completely innocent and did not consent to what was happening to him, must recover and almost died from the experience. Akira, on the other hand, knew what he was getting into and actively tries to grapple with the evil in the world and use it to his advantage. (This is the difference between Bilbo stumbling upon the ring and Elrond thinking he can wield the power of the ring without being corrupted, though this does not seem to factor into why Akira ultimately dies while Kaneki lives.)

Side-note: Kaneki is simply more developed than Akira. After Akira becomes a devilman, his personality does not change. Kaneki, however, radically changes as a result of Jason’s torture. Before his encounter with Jason, Kaneki struggles to exist as a ghoul, being too conflicted to eat. After being tortured, he embraces the power that comes from being a ghoul and puts himself on the front lines, eating other ghouls to become stronger, so that he can protect the people he cares about. (I would say this is similar to Frodo using the ring to hide from enemies when he needs to.)

Akira and Kaneki both position themselves as leaders against the “true monsters” they face for the same reason: they both want to protect those they care about. However, the line between good and evil is less clear in “Tokyo Ghoul” than in “Devilman Crybaby.” In “Tokyo Ghoul,” the ghouls that Yoshimura brings together at Anteiku (a coffee shop) regard each other as a family. The viewer sees them as the good guys and they are the ones that end up being attacked by humans – not Aogiri, the ghouls that do not attempt to live peacefully among humans. In other words, the final war is between two sets of people that the viewer believes to be good. The humans are retaliating against all of the innocent people that have died and the Anteiku family are fighting for their right to exist. This is what makes the final battle so heartbreaking.

Conversely, in “Devilman Crybaby,” the final battle still feels like a war between good and evil. As stated previously, the only devils who reclaim their humanity are the ones approached by Akira. Plus, the only human death the viewer really cares about is Miki’s. Sure, the circumstances of Miki’s family’s deaths are quite sad, but it was the situation that was sad, not the loss of any beloved character. Ultimately, there was Ryo/Lucifer, his band of devils, versus the humans, who were misguided but good for the most part.

Both shows have that one human character that is basically Jesus/completely pure and is almost killed for knowing too much fairly early on in the series. In “Tokyo Ghoul,” Hide represents everything that is good and innocent. I don’t think this needs to be explained if you have seen the anime. During the final battle, he is wounded trying to save humanity, of course, at Anteiku: where good and evil meet, literally and figuratively. We don’t know for sure if he dies in the anime but he sure looks dead.

Miki is the sacrificial lamb in “Devilman Crybaby.” While the deaths of Hide and Miki symbolized the inability of the good guys to protect the innocent from the evil of the world, the ending of “Devilman Crybaby” is much more nihilistic. While Hide dies because he inserted himself into the fray (which, perhaps, is inevitable in its own way), Miki has no chance whatsoever. Miki is hunted down by humans because she announced to the humans that Akira is a devilman and that not all the devils are evil. Humanity didn’t want to believe her and just wanted to silence her. People already referred to her as a witch because of how fast she was at running. Both humans and devils wanted her dead and the vast majority of the good guys died trying to protect her.

The final battle in “Tokyo Ghoul” is a purge. The wrongs of the past are wiped out and the survivors have a chance to rebuild and learn from the past. The final battle of “Devilman Crybaby” is the end of the world. Good cannot compete with the destructive nature of evil. Not only does the symbolic representation of good die, but then its strongest defender, Akira, dies as well. Lucifer regrets killing Akira but there is nothing to be done. God finally steps in and destroys the world. Really, though, the world seems to have already been destroyed by the time God pokes his nose in.

While “Tokyo Ghoul” is a cautionary tale that exemplifies the dangers of embracing the evil within and not looking for the good in others, “Devilman Crybaby” laments the unavoidable destruction of all that is good in the world. “Tokyo Ghoul” is a story of hope and “Devilman Crybaby” is a story of mankind imploding due its lack of humanity.

Debunked! – Japanese Week 3

As I mentioned at the end of my first week studying Japanese, learning the language can be quite intimidating. However, most of the hurdles that seem overwhelming really aren’t as bad as they seem initially. I wouldn’t say I’ve been an absolute slave to my studies, but I do feel like I’ve already come a long way. So, without further ado, I want to discuss some misconceptions I had and what I’ve actually learned so far.

#1: Learning kanji is going to be the death of me.
While it is true that there are a lot of kanji, there are tricks to learn them quickly. Radicals, for one, make guessing meanings easier, and thinking of a story for why each character means what it means or is pronounced a certain way helps cement the characters in your mind. Plus, it’s fun; the satisfaction of being able to write such beautiful characters is a very strong motivator to keep going.

Additionally, when I first saw how many kanji characters there are, part of me very irrationally thought that I may as well learn Chinese first. That is a terrible idea for so many reasons!

If you want to learn Japanese, instead of viewing the language as one difficulty after another, think of it as an enjoyable journey that can last for as long as you want it to. It’s only overwhelming if you approach it with that attitude. It’s really not that different from any other language.

#2: There are no spaces between the words. I’ll never be able to read Japanese!
Spaces aren’t necessary in Japanese. Once you have built up your vocabulary, you will be able to differentiate words from one another. For instance, if the sentence ends with the hiragana character for “ka,” it’s probably a question. The different scripts make reading much easier. Practicing reading and writing with no spaces is extraordinarily beneficial for learners, too. Without the spaces, you naturally read and say words faster.

In short, if you’re worried about this when you start learning Japanese, take a deep breath. There are texts for beginners with spaces in them, but you will eventually be comfortable enough in the language that the lack of spaces won’t be an issue.

#3: I need to memorize the stroke order for everything!
While you should practice what you learn correctly, it’s not the end of the world if you write things in the wrong order. As long as you make your horizontal strokes from left-to-right and your vertical strokes from top-to-bottom, it will probably be legible, and that’s the whole point of writing, isn’t it? If you need to look up the meaning of a word you’ve never seen before, or if you have forgotten what a word means, follow the basic guidelines for stroke order and you will probably be able to find it, though it might take a while.

Last weekend, hubby wrote me a note in Japanese that I tried (and failed) to translate (because I don’t have a big enough vocabulary and thus struggled to find the ends of words and his translation was flawed to begin with). However, I was able to find every single kanji character using kanji recognizer. If I’ve been studying for 3 weeks and can find the characters I need, so can you.

#4: Typing in Japanese is insanely difficult. I’m never doing it.
Actually, it’s not that bad. When I had my first personal victory of being able to write sayonara, arigato, and kon’nichiwa in hiragana, I added the Japanese keyboard on my cellphone and texted a friend all those words. Now, as I learn words, I text my hubby and then ask him if he understood what I sent. My experiences, obviously, are pretty minimal, but it is much more intuitive than I thought it would be.

If you don’t know how it works, here’s what you do: you type in everything using your regular English alphabet. You select the correct hiragana for what you are typing as you go along. Then, you select the appropriate kanji when it populates. So, for instance, you would type in ko-n-ni-chi-ha and select the correct hiragana after every syllable. ( sometimes changes from the “ha” sound to the “wa” sound and I learned it that way, so that’s what I’m sticking with.) Kon’nichiwa is typically written in hiragana, so no kanji is necessary. If the process still doesn’t make sense, watch this video.

#5: People are probably going to judge you if you are learning Japanese and like anime/manga.
Does the term “weeaboo” ring a bell? I’ve been waiting for the hate comments, but I haven’t gotten a single one.

For the most part, I’ve actually found that people will support you in your studies and respect your efforts since the language is so complicated, regardless of your motivation to do so. While attempting to learn Japanese from anime/manga exclusively is not a good idea, there’s nothing wrong with supplementing your studies with your favorite series. Most educational resources encourage it!

I, personally, see nothing wrong in wanting to learn Japanese specifically for anime/manga. Why? Because a lot of people learn a little bit of another language specifically for a trip or because they have to for school and then they forget everything they learned afterward. How is learning French so that you can take selfies in Paris any less superficial than learning Japanese to deepen your appreciate for something you actually care about? If you are going to enjoy anime/manga for the rest of your life, then by all means, learn Japanese for that reason and make yourself happy. Just don’t assume you’re an expert on Japanese culture because you watch a lot of anime.

Sailor Moon & Hiragana – Japanese Week 2

I feel so accomplished. This week, all of my hours spent on Memrise and DuoLingo paid off. Now that I can recognize a good portion of hiragana, I can sound out words by myself and guess how they should be pronounced. It might seem like a very small milestone, but I am now able to spell kon’nichiwa, arigato, sayonara, and a few other real Japanese words in hiragana. When I realized that, I went back to DuoLingo for comparison’s sake and was able to look at the hiragana for a few basic words (numbers, colors, etc.) and sound them out and guess how they should be said. Granted, I still haven’t memorized the meaning of those particular words, but I still felt incredibly satisfied.

After saying a few basic phrases to my hubby, we were also able to deduce that the main problem that I am going to have learning the language is mastering my pronunciation. The major issue you will have from learning any language from an application or beginner program is that all of the words are overemphasized so that you can hear the appropriate sounds. If you try to learn to speak from that, you’re going to sound really weird. You have to listen to native speakers and match their pronunciation.

In light of my success with hiragana, I felt spurred on to assign myself a fun project for the week. I have loved Sailor Moon since I was in 4th grade, and I especially adore the theme song. Therefore, to help iron out my fundamentals, I am working on learning to sing the theme song. I also went to memorize what exactly each word means because I know I will remember the meanings if I can place them in the song.

Since I play piano and I already happen to have sheet music for the song, it will be relatively easy to practice, too.

The rest of the week I am devoting to this project, and also to nailing down all the hiragana. In addition to the apps, I have found that these two videos have been the most helpful.

I love this video because it goes through each section of the hiragana chart logically and gives you clever ways to remember what each character looks like. It also shows you what the characters look like in a variety of fonts, which is super helpful.

While this video is much more amateur than the other one in terms of audio quality, I still find it really insightful. This video tackles the hiragana in a different order. Instead of going by their position in the hiragana chart,it goes by how visually similar the characters are. I think this helps differentiate between characters that look really similar. I also like that she writes out everything multiple times so you can see the stroke order.

Overall, I’m really pleased with my progress. I actually feel like I’m making a lot more headway than I would if I were studying in a classroom setting.

I would eventually like to be able to blog in Japanese, but I’m not sure I will ever be able to deal with the frustration that comes with typing in Japanese. We’ll see.


Image credit: Exceel on zerochan.net.

Death Note

A name and a face – imagine if that were all you needed to kill someone.

When I watched Death Note for the first time, I didn’t think I would be like Light if I found a death note. I didn’t think I would ever be able to bring myself to kill someone, even if I could control exactly how it happened. No, I would never bring death upon an enemy (not that I have one), even if I could specify that they would die peacefully in their sleep after having a fulfilling evening with loved ones and a chance for all of them to have closure.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Justice is meant to be impartial – you do the crime, you do the time. And how does having more than one person decide your fate make the process more impartial? And even if the law is carried out as directed, that doesn’t mean the punishment is necessarily just. If a father murders a man that abused and killed his daughter, most juries would let him off easy, but the father would still go to prison and would still be a felon for the rest of his life. The reasoning is that it wasn’t for the father to decide that man’s fate. Instead of the father killing him, the court should have decided to either sentence the man to life in prison, rehabilitate the man so he can become a productive member of society upon release, or assign the death penalty. How is that more fair than the father getting revenge on his own?

Let’s change the example. Let’s say the man was a serial rapist and killer. Is it more just for a victim’s father to kill the man then?

Or let’s say the man was a terrorist and would kill many, many people if no one stopped him.

At what point do you switch from “playing God” to being a hero for taking out a public enemy? At what point does it become morally reprehensible to not kill the murderer when you can do it easily and painlessly?

Maybe your answer is different from mine. But I think Light may have had the right idea from the start.