Land of the Lustrous: Mine Eyes Have Seen Much

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 Land of the Lustrous anime.

So there’s many little details in Buddhist art and imagery that are actually supposed to signify something important in Buddhism — symbolize some value that the religion itself teaches. Study the iconography of any buddha sculpted or painted, and you might notice that they’re depicted doing something funky with their hands. It turns out that how a buddha’s hands are positioned determines what kind of  Buddhist value is being communicated. A buddha depicted with an open palm forward communicates reassurance to the onlooker from suffering. A buddha depicted with a finger touching the ground communicates the realization by the figure of enlightenment. The same weighty symbolism can be said about a buddha’s eyes, which if you think about it, are often depicted in a manner that doesn’t reflect how people’s eyes normally look. They look like a combination of stoic and placid, and they’re supposed to represent what a person’s eyes would look after they reach enlightenment: aware, mindful, and content.

Of course, eyes have significations outside of Buddhist ones. Eyes attached to a face appear different between the developmental stages of infancy and adulthood. Illustrators and animators have played with how to depict eye composition and movement. Eyes are often said  to be windows to the soul in adage.  Eyes can reveal much about a person’s emotional state upon psychical study. They are associated with qualities related to people in stasis. They also convey qualities about people in action. The condition of Phosphophyllite’s eyes changes over the course of Land of the Lustrous, from wide and doey to narrow and sharp. In fact, the gem’s latter eye set looks positively buddha-eyed. Based off of the show’s more-than-flirtatious usage of Buddhist iconography, I don’t think this resemblance is a coincidence.

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Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- and Save Scumming

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 Re:Zero anime.

So there’s a number of games floating out there that market themselves on their permadeath mechanics or ironman modes. A member of your team or party dies, you make a misjudgment that locks you into an end you didn’t want, or something otherwise unfortunate happens during your run. If he/she doesn’t want to start a new game, all the player can do in response is suck it up and plow forward. The appeal of these punishing features is a sense of engagement, a sense of challenge that’s absent in a system that would allow you to re-do a serious mistake.  If death gives life meaning, then its threat despite your best efforts at the time makes the lives of protagonists and friendly NPCs that much more precious, when combined with a narrative that makes them likeable, relatable. Of course, permadeath mechanics and ironman modes aren’t appealing to everyone. Not everyone sits down to play a game so they can get stressed from harsh challenges. Some of them want to relax. Some of them want to feel heroic.

My excuse was story. I’m not going to make a game unnecessarily hard on myself, I says. It’ll get in the way of me enjoying the narrative, I says. There are those games though, like Dark Souls, where the difficulty of the challenge and the appreciation of the story is intended to be inseparable from each other. Every normal playthrough of Dark Souls functions as an ironman-style run, and in the process of dying and reviving over and over during one of them, I began to scrutinize why I played like a save scummer. I would characterize myself as one. I often returned back to moments in games just before I made what I perceived to be a grave error. Thing was, though, the mistakes I made in Dark Souls never ended with a “Game Over” screen. The game would acknowledge where you perceived that you failed, resurrect you somewhere, and carry on — with all the consequences your failure would realistically entail. I wasn’t so much being locked out of the game’s narrative as I was stumbling into a new narrative branch, one where, for example, I did let someone die. Out of multiple narrative possibilities, that possibility became my narrative. Those kinds of narratives always troubled me though, and as I sought to reset the run, it occurred to me that, like Re:Zero’s Subaru Natsuki, I also tend to roleplay.

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The Garden of Sinners: Breaking Stones

Management: Management: While my opinion of the show is quite positive overall (broken records all around), this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay, in particular, is about Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin, though it does reference other movies in the series, the most notable being Mirai Fukuin: Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2).

Kara no Kyoukai 1

The Kara no Kyoukai, or Garden of Sinners, series has an official epilogue, a conversation between the heads of the two main characters that serve little else save to clarify character identities and relationships, plus the more convoluted plot points of the show. For me, it’s admittedly not the most fulfilling method the show could have used to wrap up the series, which is why, among other points, I was eager to see the curtains redrawn with the following “side story” to Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin, or Future Gospel. It turned out that I preferred it. To me, it was the better, albeit unofficial, epilogue in two respects.

In the first respect, the show revisits the world of Kara no Kyoukai via Mirai Fukuin several years after Kara no Kyoukai: Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2), or Murder Speculation (Part 2). However, as is somewhat characteristic of Kara no Kyoukai’s style of storytelling, the show begins somewhat chronologically misaligned. The “side story” takes place first in the past, some time before the events of Satsujin Kousatsu (Part 2) before transitioning to the future. If the past and the future were two different stories taking place in the same setting, that would seem to indicate the former as the “side story” and the latter as the “epilogue.” If they were unconnected.

In the second respect, Mirai Fukuin acts as the thematic capstone, the thematic epilogue, to the overarching themes of the Kara no Kyoukai series, as embodied in Shiki’s constant internal struggle with her actions and Mikiya’s tireless attempts to support her in her internal conflict.

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Hair and Hana | Hanamonogatari, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching. For clarity’s sake, I’ll emphasize this: the review isn’t meant to be so much holistic as it is coverage of what I believe is of core importance to the show.

Monogatari Series 33

When it came to the Monogatari Series, Shaft seemed to have this unspoken rule designating atmospheric shifts in mood with color coding. The show also seems to have a similar preoccupation with hair styles, most notably hair length. Someone from the creative staff may or may not have a hair fetish, but there’s a point to it. It’s a marker of character development having taking place, and Hanamonogatari makes that explicit, with flowery words as well as flowers.

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Monogatari: Is She My Sister?

Management: While I overall hold a positive opinion of the Monogatari Series, this piece in no ways serves as a comprehensive review of the series, but rather an articulation and analysis of an interesting set of ideas brought up.

I’ve also written a response to this. Check it out.

Monogatari Series 2

A Peculiar Adult Threesome 

A particularly enduring presence in a lot of recent anime is the lack of presence of a certain, rather important demographic of the human race… adults. Much of the time, if any adults are present, they’ll appear in limited numbers, with limited screening time and limited spoken lines.

Monogatari plays a bit with this trope, a demonstrable lack of any adults appearing in the show at one time, not because the show itself only seems to fleetingly recognize the existence of the adults in the everyday. It’s because the main protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, only fleetingly recognizes the existence of adults in the everyday. In fact, it’s a habit of his not to realize anyone aside for himself and his immediate circle of loved ones, his sisters featuring rather prominently. Karen and Tsukihi, after all, people that he would protect and, if it comes to it, die for.

The lense we, the audience, look through when watching the show comes not from a impartial third party, but rather from an unreliable narrator. Everything we perceive in Monogatari Series: First Season (Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari: Kuro, and Kizumonogatari, whenever in the far future it comes out) and parts of Monogatari Series: Second Season (Kabukimonogatari and Onimonogatari), in other words,  is what Koyomi perceives, and perceptions are something that tend to be colored by the perceiver. Whenever we watch a story in Monogatari with Koyomi as the narrator unfold, we aren’t seeing the story on its own unfold before our eyes. We’re seeing the story unfold through Koyomi’s eyes, who tells us the story as he sees it. And what he sees may not match up with other people see, such as adults. Something like that is immediately apparent upon beginning Monogatari Series: Second Season.

The exception to this peculiar world view of his comes from three even more peculiar adults who happened to be colleagues from university. They’re adults, sure, but they leave such an impact on Koyomi that he has really no choice but to acknowledge them. Well, that might not be entirely true for one of them. One of them’s a friend of his, Meme Oshino, that he spends the better part of Bakemonogatari working with.

Monogatari Series 5

The other two, on the other hand, leave indelible marks on him from limited contact.

The con-man, Deishu Kaiki…

Monogatari Series 3

…and the hero of justice, Yozuru Kagenui.

Monogatari Series 4

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Of Epistemological Positions: Monogatari and the Death of Gods

Management: While my overall opinion of the Monogatari Series, is quite positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review. It is rather an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. Much of this essay draws from elements of Sigmund Freud’s and especially Friedrich Nietzche’s thoughts. That being said, the inclusion of those elements are not meant to be a total affirmation of everything they believe.

Monogatari Series 1

The Truth That Matters

When it comes to epistemology, broken down to its etymological roots as the study of knowledge, we ultimately end up having to ask or being asked some derivative of the question… What is truth?

What is it? It may be useful to inquire first truth’s opposite, namely, falsehood. Falsehood, in layman’s terms, are lies, and lies can be characterized as deceit, deception, and delusion. I’m asked why the sky is blue, and rather than answer “because it’s the oxygen in the atmosphere,” I reply “because it’s an ocean propped up by an invisible dome erected long ago.” That doesn’t work like that, or that never happened, or that is not. It isn’t real. So what does that mean for truth, and how is that meaning relevant to us, no less to a show like Monogatari?

Because what matters to us, boiled down, what we tend to say, what we tend to do, how we tend to lead our lives, is what’s real. It’s what’s is. Whether we are conscious of it or not, people orient themselves to the fulfillment of some meaning or purpose, of how we ought to live our lives. It’s the objective way of living. It’s what we feel will make us happy. It’s what’s natural. It’s what’s proper. It’s what makes us feel whole. In many organized religions, that means obedience and/or communion with some sort of deity or deities, constituting in sum things such as omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience… the highest rungs of what can be considered fulfillment or wholeness. It is the absolute, ultimate truth, and being part of that truth, theoretically, is supposed to make us happy. Philosophy trims the divine aspects of theology, but nevertheless leaves the theological concept, in function and even name, intact. Our absolute, ultimate truth is our god, and there is no god but ours. Truth’s naturally exclusive that way.

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War Specters and Former Soldiers | Chaika, The Coffin Princess, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching. For clarity’s sake, I should mention… the review isn’t meant to be so much holistic as it is coverage of what I believe is of core importance to the show.

Chaika 2

One morning, a  man is out in the woods, gathering nuts and berries and things from the ground that are edible and not poisonous, minding his own business. Then one evening, he’s surrounded by the governmental equivalent of peace officers, renouncing peace, by the way, and declaring he would bring war to this peaceful earth, if it comes to it.

An irresponsible statement to make, perhaps, but it’s doubly irresponsible to simply deride him as simply villainous if all he was doing earlier was minding his own business. So what compels him then to risk himself and risk war?


Yes. Chaika.


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