Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rewind: Silver Spoon

I still haven't finished the second season of Silver Spoon, though I liked the first season well enough. Since there was a gap between seasons, I consider them separate enough to write about the first season as a finished product. 

Silver Spoon, like Fullmetal Alchemist, is based off a manga by Arakawa Hiromu. I can see the similarities in the characters' looks. But similarities end there (or at least, the obvious ones do). Silver Spoon is a slice of life anime set in an agricultural school without an alchemist or soldier in sight. 

There were several aspects I liked about Silver Spoon. For example, the main character, Hachiken, is a city boy, and he has a lot to learn about rural farm life. City folk are fun to watch outside of their native environments. (Yes, Hachiken, eggs comes from hens' backsides. Where did you think they came from?) I'm no farmer, but I'm comfortable in small or rural communities. I've ridden horses, eaten eggs from my grandparents' chickens, and learned basic wildlife safety. Thus, I find it fascinating to see city folk, real or fictional, adjust to rural life. 

But I didn't spend the entire show chuckling at Hachiken's antics. I enjoyed getting to know him and the other characters. Like many teenagers, Hachiken doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. After middle school, he needs to escape the traditional system (and the pressures that come with it). His new agricultural high school does wonders for him as he learns about the world and himself.

Hachiken spends his break at a classmate's farm. In episode 6,
they run into a bear and take it home to butcher for food. Very
amusing--and the fact that Hachiken doesn't mind the situation is
an important sign of growth.


Basically, it's another story about growing up and high school. It's not shallow about it--there are many unique, informative, and fun aspects to this anime. But there still isn't enough suspense or excitement to keep my attention for very long. I was content at the end of the first season, and I'm not sure if I'll ever finish the more recent installment.

---

Looks like I'm a minute late with this. Whoops. Lost track of time. I'll try to be better about scheduling my blogging time when school starts back up next week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rewind: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

It too me two years to finish Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood... and that's only counting the second time through. I feel sheepish admitting this. I'm an anime fan, and FMA Brotherhood is a highly acclaimed series. Why didn't I watch it earlier? I enjoyed almost every minute of the show, so it's strange that I went months--even years--without clicking on the next episode.

Ed and Al, pre-tragedy (flashback from ep 26). Love the character
development in this show.

For whatever reason, during my first attempt at FMA Brotherhood, I only made it through about thirty episodes. I started it up again in 2012. After twenty-three episodes, I wrote out a few of my reactions in a blog post. The characters in this show are magnificently done, so I dwelled on them in another post after the 28th episode. By the time I reached the 44th episode, the conflict was heating up, character stories were coming to light, and I was pretty excited about all of it.

I didn't get much further than that episode before I stalled the show. I'm not sure why--maybe, as my freshman year of college picked up pace, I was too busy and stressed to watch Brotherhood. That happens, sometimes, when I care too much about an anime's plot and characters. I eventually went to Hulu to watch the next episode... only to find that Funimation had taken most of the episodes down. Last month, almost two years after I last watched Brotherhood, I found it on Netflix. It didn't take long for the show to suck me right back in. And this time, I stuck with it.

There are a lot of dark, serious elements to Brotherhood. There are parallels to the Nazi regime, including genocide. Human experimentation has connections both to the Nazis and to modern ethical questions. And this is only a small fraction of the tough topics Arakawa Hiromu tackled in her manga-turned-anime. But it's not all dark. Somehow, there's just enough comic relief to keep this show from being completely depressing, without undermining the gravity of each situation.

[Big Spoilers next section]

Brotherhood is fascinating in all areas, including the mythology Arakawa develops in the show. God does not exist in this anime (there is a being described as "god," but it is not, by any stretch, like the God I know). Edward Elric is an atheist, and there are atheistic themes throughout. This is especially apparent near the end, after Father absorbs the "Eye of God," becoming, by all appearances, the most powerful being known to man.

Of course, our heroes don't have much respect for anything claiming to be all-powerful. Edward's the type to march up to the deity at the Gate of Truth and demand whatever trade he thinks is fair. Mustang and other characters are similarly bold, due to a combination of ambition, pride, and faith (whether in another god, like the Ishvalians believe in, or in humanity). So they face Father head-on, defeat him, and make a statement about how humans are basically the masters of their fate (with a slight bow to natural law) and can take care of themselves without the intervention of a divine being (in fact, in this show, they're generally better off on their own).

[Spoilers over]

Clearly, secular humanism plays a big role in this anime. The abilities of humans are lifted up, while supernatural or otherworldly beings--such as homunculi, deities, or deity wannabes--are systematically undermined and/or defeated. This is a popular worldview, and if you keep an eye out, you'll recognize its influence, especially in Western media. But it's not just the worldview in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It's one of the reigning themes.

As a Christian, I must recognize when secular humanism is being promoted and reject the fallacies that come with it. There is an all-powerful God, and he is involved in our lives. He is our Creator, and he made the world--and humans in particular--to be in a relationship with him. As such, we are not better off on our own, and we can not completely solve our problems on our own--especially since the biggest problem any person can have is separation from God.

At the same time, there are glimmers of truth in humanism. (In fact, there's a branch known as Christian humanism, but I'm ignoring that term here, since it could confuse the compare/contrast of secular humanism and a Biblical worldview.) Humans are pretty special. Out of all Creation (including angels), we're the only ones created in the likeness of God. He gave us reign over everything else on earth (Genesis 1:26-29, Psalm 8). And if we believe in God, and in his son, Jesus Christ, then we will even be glorified with Christ, as co-heirs with him (Romans 8:14-17). I could spend an entire post on the blessings God gives us. But I won't. And, before I continue, I'd like to emphasize that everything that makes us special is a gift from God, and does not come from some human-generated ability. God is still infinitely greater than us in every way, which is what makes his love for us even more amazing.

Basically, we've been put in an enviable position... which brings me back to Brotherhood.

[Some spoilers through ep 54 ahead]

In episode 54, Ed cuts to the heart of Envy's envy.

Meet Envy, the vain, shapeshifting homunculus. I don't have a screenshot of his preferred form, but, by the end of his battle with Ed, Mustang, and the others in ep 54, he's just a little green monster, both literally and figuratively. Until his defeat, he had power than most humans can only dream of. If he'd left Mustang's friends alone, or at least concealed his part in Hughes's murder and hightailed it out of the country, he could have been immortal. And yet, he's jealous of humans. Why?

In Brotherhood, we see many things humans have that Envy doesn't. Most notably, there's the relationships, which provide not only love, but support and strength. We may be weak at times, but, together, we can pick each other up and succeed (note the humanism in that statement). We have a warmth and a depth, a wellroundedness, and an ability to rule that Envy and the other homunculi don't.

When I saw Envy's envy, I though of Satan, a vain, jealous (now fallen) angel. He tried to set himself up as God, and was then cast out of heaven. We humans are much closer to what he covets that he will ever be, for the reasons I outlined above the screenshot.

... I want to go on, but I'm out of time.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Rewind: KamiNomi

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai, aka The World God Only Knows, is about a dating sim addict who treats real girls like routes to be conquered. He gets them to fall for him, kisses them, and ditches them.

That sounds offensive. Does it help if I say that Keima, the addict, has to treat girls like this, in order to save them from the lost souls that dwell inside them? Trust me, he doesn't want to kiss 'n ditch... he prefers to avoid real girls altogether, actually.

Obviously, we're dealing with a dysfunctional main character. He spends every moment possible playing his dating sims--including in class. He can be very rude about it, actually. And yet, he's relatable. Many of us have enjoyed the thrill of 2D romance, be it through anime or game. Not to mention the thrill of mastering a game, using our minds to conquer a challenge. And sometimes (particularly, I think, in high school), these 2D adventures seem a lot more palatable than real life.

Keima's dedication to 2D girls has paid off, and he is acknowledged as the master--nay, "god,"--of dating sims. There's another piece that caught my attention when I first watched KamiNomi. While I wouldn't want to be called a "god" of anything, I do fantasize about being acknowledged as the best--or at least very good--at some skill (yeah... I struggle with pride sometimes). I can experience some of that through characters like Keima.

I also fantasize about my hobbies becoming very useful in the real world. That's what happens with Keima, which I enjoy.

[Oh, dear... I'm running out of time again... let's rush the rest]

Keima and Shiori, episode 10.

Anyway, KamiNomi is basically just a fun show, with some sweet moments. My favorite arc is the one with the shy library girl, Shiori, since I find her so relatable. Keima reaches out to her, helping her speak up for what's important to her.

For more of my thoughts, see what I wrote when the third season came out last summer.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rewind: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club was one of the most talked-about anime in Summer 2013. It sparked swooning, debates, and a lot of fan art. I participated in none of it. As far as I understood, Free! was just a shallow anime filled with girl-oriented fan service. Still, I'm a dedicated sports anime fan, so I tried half of the first episode. The story and characters failed to grab me, and I had no need to stare at barely dressed men for twenty minutes. I dropped the show.

Then, I got a Tumblr account. I was exposed to more Free! fan art than ever before, even when the show was actually airing. And when the new season started? My defenses against everyone's favorite swimming anime really took a hit.
Ain't that an inspiring phrase? It's from episode 12. I took more
screen shots in that episode than in others... but not because it
inspired me.
Eventually, I mused that "Skin and Speedos couldn't get this level of fangirl passion on their own... right?" A follower assured me that there really was more to the show. 

So, I decided to try Free! again. My optimism held through the fifth episode, as I recorded on Tumblr:

Congratulations, Tumblr. You got me to start Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
There is more to it than fanservice. It hasn’t awed me, but I am curious about some of the characters’ backstories. And it has some of the normal sports anime trappings: a team of unique guys, old-teammate-turned-rival, cute manager, training camp… enough to assure me that, as a sports anime fan, I’m in for a bit of fun. 
Of course, the fanservice still exists, catered toward girls… especially, it seems, yaoi fangirls. Some scenes practically write the yaoi fanfiction themselves. 
I’m more a fan of pure, deep, brotherly friendship. So I ignore the invitations to read into the characters’ relationships. Instead, I enjoy the friendship, just like I do in all my favorite sports anime...
Unfortunately, my opinion of the show quickly dropped from "this is somewhat enjoyable" to "this is too sappy." On the same night as I wrote that last Tumblr post, I wrote another one about the sixth episode, stating, "I can handle 12 eps of sappiness, methinks, for the sake of the sport and the story." 

My skepticism increased as the show went on. I hoped that the swimming, at least, would be fun for me. Sports anime usually give me plenty to enjoy in the competitions and everything leading up to it. The sport in Free! should have given it an extra edge--swimming is the one sport I pay attention to and enjoy during the Olympics. My Dad's a swimmer, and I was with him when Michael Phelps won that record-breaking gold medal in 2008. Dad's enthusiasm was contagious, and I caught it.

My experiences watching Olympic swimming with Dad did help Free! a little. I soon forgot about the skin-showing part of the fan service, since the characters' swim gear made me remember watching the pre- and post-race Olympic coverage. I also understood a little bit about each stroke, so I could imagine how the characters strategized breathing, stroke length, and muscle strengthening. That actually helped my interest in the show increase--Free! contained very few details on training or strategy. There weren't even any annoying journalists or ignorant spectators to help explain the sport, so I had to fill in the gaps myself.

Despite the training camp and the many pool scenes, it seemed that Free! Iwatobi Swim Club was not actually about swimming. Or competition. Or determination, or diligence, or respect.

Free! was all about the drama. Basically, four guys used to be friends. One of them, Rin, aspired to be an Olympic swimmer. Back in grade school, he knew the importance of camradarie, and he convinced the other three kids to be in a medley relay with him. Then he went off to Australia for middle school, to study at some academy with a great swimming program. He finally came back during the second year of high school... but not to the same team, or even the same school, as the other three boys.

So, Rin was back in Japan, but he was kinda a callous jerk to his old buddies. He eventually joined one of their rival swimming teams, but he was still obsessed with being on the same team as his old friends. It was kinda like in TV shows where the girl is still totally in love with her ex, but gets a new boyfriend anyway, only to cheat on him with the ex... who also has a new significant other, so he's cheating, too.


[big spoiler ahead]

No, really. That's basically what happens in the season finale. Rin says he's quitting swimming. Then he cries about how he actually wants to be on a team with Haruka, Makato, and Nagisa again. They already have a fourth teammate, named Rei, and they're planning to swim the medley relay together. But Rei, being an understanding, enabling kohai, backs out and says that Rin can take his place in the butterfly portion of the relay. Rei was really looking forward to this race, too.

Rin takes advantage of Rei's selfless gesture, and the original four compete in the relay and win... Of course, they're disqualified afterward, because Rin is from a different school, but that's okay because they all got to swim together, and it creates a warm fuzzy feeling for fans and friendship is magic and stuff.
Rei looks on as Rin, Makoto, Haruka, and Nagisa celebrate their
victorious race. Poor guy.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking that they have terrible sportsmanship.

I wrote out my thoughts when I first finished the 12th episode:

This is overdramatic, and I'm laughing. If I take these dudes seriously, I'll get annoyed at Rin for being a drama queen. I'll also scold the others for enabling him... and being mini drama queens themselves. Guys, get over yourselves! Rin, if you wanted to swim with your friends, you should have enrolled in Iwatobi to begin with. Duh. If you're going to be as emotional as a stereotypical, hormonal teenage girl, then at least be honest with your feelings. Don't pull selfish, irrational stunts like this as tournaments. Sheesh. Go watch some real sports anime. 

[end of big spoiler]

Obviously, I have little patience for drama queens. I prefer to save that patience for any drama I encounter in real life. I mean, I do want to love these characters. I'm pretty fond of Makoto and Nagisa. I sort of like Haruka and Rei. And, if I think of him as a child going through a dramatic phase, I can care about Rin.

It's not like I disliked the first season of Free!. But I didn't particularly like it either... Although I did enjoy the ending sequence. It was like a music video, with each character acting a part, the way members of a real band would.

I suppose I can understand why some people like Free! so much. I might watch the second season, Free! Eternal Summer. It's not exactly a priority for me, though. I have plenty of other anime to keep me busy during my precious free time.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Ranma, Tell Akane She's Cute

I'm watching Ranma 1/2. It's enjoyable, but I have a serious issue with it. Can you guess what it is?

It's not the nudity, although I dislike that element.

No, not the gender-bending part of it, either, although I think that's why I initially marked it "won't watch" on Anime-Planet.

I take issue with the way Ranma treats Akane.

He attacks her femininity almost constantly. His most common insult is "you're so not cute."

Ranma and Akane walk to school together for the first time in episode
2. They're both frustrated about the whole arranged marriage thing,
and they take it out on each other. This setting becomes a common
one for their spats.
I know what you might think.

It's just an anime, Annalyn. Tsunderes and insensitive boys are always throwing out insults they don't mean. You should be used to it by now. 

Ranma just says those things because he's immature and can't process his true feelings. He's bashful. "You're not cute" means "you're adorable."

Akane isn't innocent, either. She calls him "baka" ("stupid") all the time, even though we all know that "baka" is practically a love confession. 

I've told myself the same things. Here's my response to the second and third defenses: Yes, the audience knows what's really in the characters' hearts. But the characters don't. Those are hurtful words.

It's just anime, you say? You're not wrong. So, why am I so annoyed by this very common comedic device?

Because I think Akane really believes she isn't cute, that she's boyish and not a desirable wife. I think she gave up on being "truly" feminine years ago, because she doesn't have traditional beauty, interests, or skills, like her oldest sister does. Sure, the guys at school are all after her. But they treat her like a trophy to be won, and they miss her heart. She's raised her defenses around her heart and invested her whole being into martial arts, because that's safe.

Yes, it's just an anime. Akane and Ranma will probably live happily ever after. I doubt that Ranma 1/2 will deal with the self-confidence and image issues that often result from these kinds of insults.

But what about the real Akanes? How many girls and women believe that they have somehow failed at womanhood? How many believe that they aren't cute, pretty, beautiful, or otherwise desirable? How many believe that they will never be married, because no one could possibly love them that much? How many married women believe they still don't measure up?

When Ranma tells Akane that she's not cute, or that she's otherwise unfeminine, he tells a lie. It's not a lie just because he really thinks she's cute. It's a lie because she is a woman. The mangaka, Takahashi, created her to be lovely. And he created her in the image of real women, who are all the more majestic, because we were created by God himself, in his image. 

God created man in his image, too, and men are thus amazing. But that's a different topic.

We're women. We're beautiful by nature, both on the outside and inside, although we don't always feel like we can show it. We're not just desirable. We're desired and loved by God. Each one of us. No exceptions. It doesn't matter if we, like Akane, can beat up boys, and it doesn't even matter if we've beaten up boys we really shouldn't have. We might, like Akane, spit out insults we shouldn't, call people baka or worse… we might not always be graceful, or merciful, or sweet. We're not perfect. We need salvation. But we're still feminine. We're still beautiful. We're still passionately loved and pursued by God.

And anyone who says otherwise, about any of us, is a liar. I don't care if they mean it, and I don't care if the perpetrator is just an anime character.

Because girls need to be told that they are lovely. We're strong, but we're also breakable. Too many women have been broken with the lie, "you're not enough of a woman." Some try to harden themselves to the insults, and when they do that, they deny part of who they are. They deny their need to know that they are beautiful and loved.

Let me speak to the women reading this blog: your need is real. Never feel silly for wanting to know that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are womanly. If you doubt that any of this is true about you, and you're hurting because of it, then please, know that your hurt is real, and it is worth crying over.

You don't have to believe the lies.

I'm a little more passionate about this topic than usual, probably because I just read Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. This book, written by John and Stasi Eldredge, has been popular for years now, and rightly so. It's not like they have all the answers, but they seem to have a pretty Biblical perspective on who women are and what we need—not what we should be doing, but what we desire and why. This book hasn't told me very much that's new, but it's affirmed what I already know about myself and other women. It gives a little extra confidence to what I'm writing in this post. Here's a taste of what I read in the chapter called "Beauty to Unveil":

"Beauty is what the world longs to experience from a woman. We know that. Somewhere down deep, we know it to be true. Most of our shame comes from this knowing and feeling that we have failed here. So listen to this: beauty is an essence that dwells in every woman. It was given to her by God. It was given to you" (p. 131, italics theirs).

Essence. That's something internal, unremovable. It cannot be gained with cooking skills, makeup, or a quiet demeanor. It can, however, be covered up, as the Eldredges explain. That's why beauty is something we unveil. We are image-bearers of a beautiful God, but sometimes our beauty gets hidden, even from ourselves. Our doubts get in the way. We hide our beauty, or try to put on artificial beauty, or otherwise raise our defenses.

If beauty is our essence, that means it's a core part of us. In order to unveil more of our beauty, we have to unveil who we really are. We have to be vulnerable and open.

In the first couple dozen episodes, Akane is rarely emotionally vulnerable. She's beautiful, and that can't be completely hidden, but she doesn't feel safe enough to share her heart and essence with those around her. And how could she? She doesn't feel desired or deeply cared for—in fact, Ranma repeatedly tells her that she is undesirable.  Her beauty, her essence is constantly called into question by herself and others, because it doesn't always show up in the traditional way. She's constantly on the defense around the guy her father betrothed her to. She won't show how much the insults hurt her, so she can't be herself.

She's not at rest.

One of my favorite moments in Ranma 1/2 is when Ranma goes a little nuts and believes he's a cat. In that moment, he is honest about his feelings. He curls up on Akane's lap, content to be with the one he loves.
Kitty Ranma curls up on Akane's lap in episode twenty-three.

And when he is an honest kitty, Akane is safe. She calls to him, holds him, and treats him tenderly. Cat Ranma won't reject her. So she can unveil more of her beauty.

She is at rest.

Her beauty also shows up when she defends her friends (or even her "pig"). She holds nothing back, she doesn't bother with the opinions of those watching, and she kicks the offender into the next zip code. She's too busy being beautiful to hide.

Of course, the deepest rest, the strongest confidence, comes through a relationship with God.

God isn't written into most anime or manga. Instead, the writers create love interests to clumsily take over God's affirming role. When a girl knows that she is loved, that she is desirable, she can be a little more at rest.

It would be nice to say women don't need affirmation from anyone. It doesn't matter if anyone says we're beautiful, as long as we think we are. But that's a lie. We're relational creatures. At the very least, we need affirmation from God, and we have that—we just might not realize it. We aren't cut out to be self-reliant anymore than man is (I'm thinking of Genesis 2, when God said "It's not good for man to be alone," right before he made Eve).

In a world without God, such as an anime, women must turn to others to affirm who they are. They must know that they are desired, that someone desires to really know them, not just the veneer they wear to keep themselves safe. That is how they find true rest, how they begin to unveil more of their beauty.

That's partially why Ranma annoys me. He doesn't help Akane to be really at rest. She can't trust in his acceptance, and she can't trust in her own beauty.

If I were talking about a real couple, I'd encourage Akane to turn to God for affirmation. By drawing closer to God, she could find the love and peace she needs to let down her defenses. Then I'd turn my attention to Ranma, who would still need to man up. Since this is anime, not reality, I'll skip straight to the Ranma part.

What's with our shape-shifting protagonist, anyway? Why won't Ranma acknowledge Akane's beauty? Is he afraid he won't measure up, that he can't gain the heart of a beautiful, confident woman? Does he fear the responsibility of caring for her heart? If it's that last one, then here's a newsflash: as a man as a human being, he already has the responsibility of watching out for her heart to at least some degree. Frankly, he's failing at that right now.

Perhaps Ranma believes that Akane's words are true, he really is a "baka," and she'd like to break off their engagement.

For obvious reasons, I know less about men than women. But I've picked up on a little. Love is just as vulnerable for men as for women. Perhaps Ranma doesn't have the confidence to tenderly pursue her or to enjoy her, just as she doesn't have confidence to invite him. Perhaps he believes he'll have a better chance when he breaks his curse and becomes "fully man." But, at this rate, waiting to break his curse looks like a bad idea. And, honestly, he doesn't need to wait. Even if he stops turning into a girl every time he gets a splash of cold water, he won't magically become all the man he's created to be.

Instead of waiting to have everything figured out, Ranma needs to man up now and tell Akane that she's cute—or, more honestly, downright beautiful.

When he finally does, Akane needs to affirm him for the compliment, rather than call him stupid. That might be hard for her at first, but eventually she'll start accepting his encouragement. She can invite him (and, in a different way, others) to get to know her and her beauty, encouraging him to be all of the man he is made to be. And he must pursue her, offer his strength as her defender, not only in combat, but also as a defender and pursuer of her heart.

I believe that, since God created us in his image, he gave us the opportunity to reflect who he is through our relationships with one another. We can show love, beauty, and bravery—and, through that, hopefully point to God. Or we can hide from who we are made to be, and show only hate and fear. In the first chunk of Ranma 1/2, Ranma and Akane often lean more toward hate and fear than beauty and bravery. They throw insults that would chip away at anyone's confidence—or cause them to harden their hearts. It's all the more irritating because I've seen glimpses of who they could be without those insults, if they'd only stop.

So, Ranma, tell Akane she's cute. Stop wounding her heart, and start defending and delighting in it.

And Akane, know that you're beautiful, that you're loved. And let that knowledge transform you.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rewind: Gargantia

I've been meaning to write about Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (aka Suisei no Gargantia) for a long time. It was never a candidate for my All Time Fave list, but the visuals were beautiful. In fact, when I watched the first episode, "Ooo! Pretty colors!" was one of my first reactions.

Of course, I wouldn't still think about Gargantia a year later just because of the colors. It stirred thoughts about the value of human life. In fact, it already inspired one post about what it means to be human.

But there's more. For the sake of brevity, I'll focus on the fourth episode in this post. Maybe, someday, I'll write more about episode ten, which really stirred me up.

You see, Ledo, the main character, grew up in the Galactic Alliance, where a person's worth is decided by his ability to move the society toward its goal: eradicating the enemy. In Ledo's home in outer space, individuals and their activities must be efficient, and that extends to relationships. Families are considered "inefficient" and "unnecessary" and no longer exist. So he is doubly surprised to hear his new acquaintance, Amy, talk about her frail little brother, Bevel. "In the Galactic Alliance, frail humans are eliminated and disposed of," Ledo tells her. "Humans who cannot participate in battle are useless."

Such a cold, cutthroat society sounds horrific, as it's supposed to. Humans' worth should not be judged by their usefulness—most of us can agree on that.

Bevel examines, then plays, the flute Ledo made, reminding Ledo
of the reason he makes these flutes. For the first time in years, he
remembers someone who made these flutes, but who was weak, and
thus eliminated.

So, what does make a person valuable?

Bevel does not believe he is unnecessary, even though he cannot do much. His big sister needs him, he says. And more importantly, he needs himself. He isn't needed because of some objective—rather, he is needed because of his relationship with others, and because he values himself.

That answer is more palatable to us than Ledo's. But, as Ledo points out, it's unclear. And, frankly, I don't like Bevel's answer myself, although it's certainly better than the philosophy running the Galactic Alliance.

When you think about it, Bevel's answer—that people are valuable to each other and themselves in rather intangible ways—is almost as scary as what the Galactic Alliance says. It still pins a person's worth on their usefulness to someone. If no one loves or needs them, and they don't love or need themselves, then they have no reason to live. Their life isn't worth fighting for.

When I see Bevel, I don't just see a wonderful little brother—although he is that. I see a precious human being. Even if his sister died, and even if no longer felt he was necessary, he'd be precious.

I'll ask again: what makes a person valuable? What makes a human life worthwhile?

Contrary to Ledo's belief, a person's abilities don't define his or her value. Contrary to Bevel's beliefs, other people's emotional attachments don't define a human's value. Nor does one's self esteem.

Human beings are inherently valuable because of God.

He created each one of us. We're not mass-produced, either. Our Creator knows every detail of each of us, body and soul (see David's words on this in Psalm 139:13-16).

God created many other things, too—from the biggest star to the tiniest micro-organism, everything originates with him. But only humans are made in his image. Now, this doesn't mean we're self-portraits. As far as I know, God doesn't walk around shape-shifting into people with brown or blue eyes, frizzy or tame hair, or inny or outy belly buttons. God gave each of us far more than just his looks. "In his image" isn't just about the visuals; we have a bit of who God is in each of us. We reflect God's personality (when sin doesn't get in the way and muck things up). Don't misunderstand: we're not all part of God. He's a separate being. But he made us a little like himself. That's an incredible honor—and part of why every person is so precious.

Of course, we're still not God. Compared to him, we're utterly useless. Relatively speaking, none of us have any power, we're always encountering pain, and our lives are extremely short. That doesn't matter. God still cares for each of us. Our lives are valuable to him, and he wants us to get to know him and love him. He gives us value in relation to others, too. We have opportunities to bless others, even when we don't see what we're doing.

It doesn't matter if we're healthy and can work. It doesn't matter if we're old or young, or how long we have left to live. Some of us can climb mountains, and others can't even get to the bathroom. All of us have value to God, and he has given us value for others.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees this. Not everyone takes the time to sit with people like Bevel, to listen to their wisdom, or to simply enjoy the presence of another wonderfully created being. Ledo's Galactic Alliance isn't as far from reality as we'd like to think. Already, we judge people's worth based on a synthesized "quality of life" we think they are capable of having. Already, those with disorders like Down's Syndrome are deemed less worthy of birth and loving care. A culture is developing where life is not always worth fighting for… if I had time, I'd dive into more examples.

For now, I'll just state that we need to see the inherent value in each human life, to come together, much like Amy, Bevel, and others in their fleet do. We can't just create our own criteria for what makes life worth supporting.

Gargantia makes statements about humanity and the value of "unproductive" things like beauty and kindness. Ledo learns more about the identity and value of people, and it's downright heartwarming at times. This anime shows that people are precious, and I applaud the creators for that. But they couldn't explain why every individual human is important. And how could they? It's rather difficult to grasp the full value of created beings without talking about their Creator.


This is NOT a Swamped Post...

This is an announcement. This week's Rewind post will be a full day late.

You: "Uhh… It's already Saturday, Annalyn."

Me: "Pffftt… not in Hawaii, it's not."

You: "But you don't live in Hawaii."

Me: …

You: …

Me: "Whatever. I'm sorry, okay? This important thing is that there will be a Rewind post up in less than 24 hours. And it will be a good one. A thoughtful one about Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. And it may spawn other posts. Actually, I've been procrastinating on this Gargantia post for about a year, so using it for Rewind is a good, low-stress way to get the ball rolling."

You: "Okay, I'll come back later today—or perhaps tomorrow."

Me: "Thank you, my dear, patient reader. I look forward to hearing your thoughts."

So, there you have it. This is an announcement, not a swamped post. Although I have been fairly swamped—tomorrow (err… today) will be my first real day off in almost two weeks… and I'll probably still end up doing a couple work-related emails.