[Update] Christmas and New Year’s in Japan

Non-management: Baby, it’s cold outside… no, it really is cold outside. It’s really freaking cold inside too. It’s cold in Japan now. I mean, it’s probably not as cold here compared to other places in the world. It’s probably not as cold here compared to other places in Japan. I think that it’s cold though, and because of that, I’m thankful for my kotatsu. And I guess I’m grateful for other things too.

Gratitude. Thankfulness. I was asked in the waning days in the year at my junior high school to talk about Christmas in America. I decided to center my presentations around the things that people are grateful toward, the folks that people are thankful for. Looking at it one way, what I said may have been a little disingenuous. I didn’t talk about the rampant commercialism of the season. I didn’t talk about the religious origins of the holiday. I did talk about the food, trees, presents, cards, gatherings… simple things. I talked about how those things brought friends and family together. I talked about why friends and family are important on Christmas. I mentioned the coming winter. I mused about the enveloping darkness, the food scarcity, the biting cold. I made my case: amidst difficult times, Christmas was about being thankful to those who love and support you. I… think that only half of my students got what I was saying.

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Panties and Cults Are the Punch Line

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Punch Line anime.

You think that a show that front loads the first-time viewer with shots upon shots girls flipping up their skirts wouldn’t have anything sophisticated to say. You would be mistaken though, because it’s Kodaka Uchikoshi of the Zero Escape game series that’s behind the show’s writing. You’d also be off, in my opinion, assuming that Punch Line’s narrative strength ends at being a compelling mystery. The popular mystery game writer has inserted strong sleuthing elements to the show, to be sure, but the show’s ultimate puzzle pales in complexity to the games of his that I’ve played before. More than its mystery and certainly more than its panties, the depth of Punch Line lies in how well it sets up its commentary on how people are attracted to and fall into cults.

Portrayals of manipulative and millenarian religious cults have featured fairly frequently in anime ever since the 1995 Sarin Gas attacks on the Tokyo Subway line by the notorious Aum Shinrikyo. In the aftermath of those attacks, novelist Haruki Murakami put together a book containing an essay on his musings about the event and interviews he conducted with those involved in some capacity with Aum Shinrikyo: Underground. It’s the same book that I referenced a while back in a write-up on Psycho-Pass and the muted Japanese reaction to developing disaster. Compared to Psycho-Pass ‘ treatment of the average citizen, I’m more interested in the embattled cultists of Punchline, and most specifically Guriko. How is it that of the experimental orphans three, Pine, Chiyoko, and Guriko, Guriko became the antagonistic cult leader? In contrast, Chiyoko and Pine became heroes and protagonists. Didn’t they grow up together? Weren’t they once all good friends? How did they become so different?

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