Thursday, August 4, 2016

On Moving to a Wordpress Account

To those of you that haven't already heard: Thanks to some constructive criticism from my three friends Hannah, Micah, and Sam, I have taken the liberty to move to a Wordpress account and narrow my focus. This new blog can be found at https://teatimewithsenpai.wordpress.com and is primarily a site for anime and faith-based discussion. Realizing I might occasionally blog about something other than these two subjects, I have decided to keep this blog up for all other personal thoughts. Please let me know if you have any comments or concerns, and if you would, head on over to my new blog; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Spiritual Observation –Orange: Letter From the One Who Knows Our Future

The world outside the blogosphere has been chaos for me lately, but I'm more than overdue writing a post on here... Last time we talked, the spring season of anime was wrapping up and Kiznaiver was high on my list of favorites. Since then, I binged through Shonen Maid, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and started four out of the many anime currently running. One of these is Orange, a show I've been anticipating since December and have not been let down by yet. Besides the obvious appreciation for the animation style, I found myself wowed by the approach to writing the story took on. Its metaphors were beautiful; its similes fantastic! The way in which scenes were shot also grabbed me right from the get-go. Every episode seems to hold something interesting in this regard, wether it be a repeated shot of the main character's bento bag to represent the fact that it was constantly on her mind, or the just as jumbled cut of the rock, paper, scissors duel in episode three. The fact that I usually never pay attention to this kind of stuff in anime really says something about Orange –that there is more to just the story than subs and character design, and today, I'm going to dive deeper into discovering what that actually is.


For those of you that haven't been following the summer anime season, let me give you a brief synopsis of the show to fill you in:
Naho Takamiya is a girl of much uncertainty and many regrets. To stop her life from continuing in such a manner, she does what any of us would do if we had the chance –she writes a letter to her past self. Through the complicated workings of a reverse time capsule, the letter goes back and arrives to her ten years before. Among other things, it includes a detailed list of her life experiences and as Naho reads, she watches situation after situation unfold before her very eyes. The letter includes advice about many of her foretold responses and one very special warning about a boy named Kakeru Naruse.
The theme that revolves around such time travel-like stories always gets me thinking, "What would I do if I had the chance to rewrite my past?" Unfortunately, the technology doesn't exist to explore this question in actual detail, so we might never know the answer. However, there's a Power that transcends all time and understanding, and by listening to it, we can discover how to live all over again, and our lives will change as a result.


Now let me stop and explain before I get too ahead of myself. I may not have a special reverse time capsule to go back and rewrite my past like Naho, but I know someone who does. The God of the Bible wrote a plethora of letters for this sole purpose –so that we may review them and reexamine our lives accordingly. Those that reject such advice from The One Who Knows the Future, may be called foolish and simple-minded, but sadly this describes our generation far too often. Not only do we loose sight of the potential to improve our life beyond the world's standards, but as Christians, we also frequently loose sight of our future as children of the Heavenly Father. How often we forget that if there's someone there on the other side writing to us, it means no matter what happens, we'll be okay. For Naho, this is not necessarily a promise of getting through life without bruises and scars, but it is a sign that, ten years from now, she will still be living and breathing all the same. For believers in Jesus Christ, much the same message applies. Physical suffering and mental anguish are a given with any life on earth, but letters from an Almighty God guarantee that those who have accepted His free gift of eternal salvation will get through it nonetheless (Psalm 34:19).

So have faith in that person on the other side of that letter. They exist to help you and guide you through trials and temptations of this life, and it all starts with reading the Word that was written to you. For Naho, this was easier said than done. No matter what happened, she'd still be alive, yes, but that didn't mean her future was going to necessarily be any brighter. In the case of a born-again believer, our future is more than predictable. The Bible promises that life on the other side of that letter is one of healing and full-body renewal, and we should do everything in this life according to its guidelines to guarantee our safe arrival on the other side (Revelation 21:4).

I think Max Lucado said it best when he said, "Heeding God's Word is fighting God's War. Conquest happens as the covenant is honored." If you want to live a life without regrets, the best advice I can offer is to follow that of the Bible. Your present self may not see the wisdom in this, but I assure you, your future self will thank you all the more.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Kiznaiver's Guide To True Happiness

Time for my weekly (or not-so-weekly) Kizna update! I just watched episode 11 of Kiznaiver, and though it wasn't as impactful as some previous episodes, I still came away from it with something new in mind.

The underlying theme of this episode seemed to be happiness. What can one do to achieve it, and how can one make it last? Sonozaki has an answer for this, but it's not pretty.


It's true pain makes us who we are today, and as a Christian I believe God lets us experience painful situations so we can ultimately find greater joy. My favorite verse, James 1:2-4 says,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Well, Sonozaki sure seems to get this. Her pain has made her wise beyond her years, and she adds to her previous comment with a shrewdness that could only come from one who's been through so much.



Though at first glance the thought might seem kind of morbid, I later found that I agreed. Everyone needs someone to share their burdens with and visa versa...After all, that's what friends are for, isn't it? Consider the Ultimate Friend who carried the Ultimate Burden, and you'll see what I mean.

This episode contained one more instance that really hit home on the whole "finding true happiness" thing, and to be honest, it provided a pivotal point in my relationship with Jesus. 



Here Sonozaki speaks nothing of pain or the burdens that come with it, but that simply connecting with others can bring pure joy. Think about it. Sometimes just being there for someone, even if you dont understand what they're going through, even if you can't fully empathize with them, is what it takes to bring them through to the other side. And you know what? Their example of endurance and persistance will bring happiness back to you and on and on until that happiness finally runs out. 

But I know a secret well of happiness that never runs dry –someone I can connect to on a deeper level than anyone else in this entire world, and His name, ladies and gentlemen, is Jesus Christ. Jesus may be the Ultamite Kiznaiver, yes, but the times when I felt His presence most deeply was not when reflecting on His sacrifice or the burden He carried, but when I was down in the deepest, darkest of places, crushed under the weight of my own soul. He connected with me then, and many times since, in a way that was so simple and so plain that it was nothing short of spectacular. He was there for me when His silence said more than words and He is here for me today all the same. As a result of both connections, I found happiness that never wavers unless I take my eyes off the prize.

You see guys, it doesn't take much to make others happy, and it doesn't take much to find true happiness either, you just have to know where to look. And the place to run to is straight into the Lord's arms and His Loving Word. 

Strangely enough I was reading Psalms yesterday and the footnotes at the bottom of my Bible repeatedly mentioned happiness. One, regarding Psalms 1:1 said this,
"The truly happy person is happy because God showers him with love."
So there you have it folks, let God shower you with love, and you'll be happy! But you gotta let God know that's what you want, or else you may never get the chance to fully experience it. I shared with an internet friend this week much the same message –you can't just expect more from Jesus without first accepting what He initially gave you (James 4:8).

The process is simple, really. All you have to do is get on your knees and ask forgiveness to the One who died for your sins. Accept His free gift of salvation and ask Him to come into your heart so that you may continue to pursue a relationship with Him and live for His Glory and His Glory only all the days of your life. It's important to note that no amount of works or prayer could ever save you. It's your faith that in Jesus Christ that does. But once you find it my friends, you are on the very big road to discovering what true happiness is like.

I'm not saying everything will be perfect or even easy from here on out, and as a person who struggles with anxiety and depression on a very real level, I can vouch for this with everything I have. I guarantee you though, you'll find so much more happiness with the One who stands by you and shares your pain, than you ever could on your own (Psalm 34:19). And that, my friends, is what makes such a connection truly worth it in the end.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Letter To My Future Self

Dear Future Greenville Student,

What an awesome experience you have ahead of you. Can you believe in just 70 some days your life might change completely? You will be out of the house and on your own, living with a roommate other than your sisters for the first time in your life. You will make new friendships and learn new things –hopefully both of which will stay with you forever. But while so many changes are going on around you, you will be the same old girl that I've always known. The same girl who takes pleasure in reading a book in the afternoon shade, who is convinced there are never enough hours in the day. The same girl who has a passion for art and a passion for God...And, oh! How you'll grow. I can't wait to see all the many ways in which God shapes and molds you into His Glorious Design! Stay bright, stay beautiful; don't let the devil get to you. Most importantly though, never forget, that if you ever need someone to talk to, I'll be right here.

Best Wishes,
You

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Kiznaivers Aren't The Only Ones Who Share Pain

In my last post, I explored how the currently running anime, Kiznaiver, deals with the topic of pain.

The show is a SciFi of sorts, where a town-wide experiment is conducted on individuals called Kiznaivers. Kiznaivers have the special ability to share one another's pain on an emotional as well as a physical level. The ultimate goal of this experiment then is to accomplish world peace, as individuals become more aware and sensitive to one another's pain. 

Well, a couple weeks ago, I commented on different aspects of this general theme, including the way in which the show handles emotional pain. It's presentation was far from anything seen on a day-to-day basis, and to say the least, I was very impressed. However, I'll venture to say that I'm even more impressed with the discovery I made relating to Kiznaiver this week!

It came about in a rather dull way, if I do say so myself. I was lying motionless in my bed, reading Elizabeth Elliot's Passion and Purity, when something struck me as a bit odd. The story of the Kiznaiver, the sharing of pain, it had all been done before. 

Let me share with you an excerpt of the reading, so you can see where I'm going with this:
It is one thing to feel another's pain. We are to bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill Christ's law. He bore all our griefs, infirmities, and sorrows.
Are you getting the picture now? Christ is the original Kiznaiver! He was broken and bent over our sin, and because of that connection, He felt with emotional anguish as well as physical torment. This connection wasn't broken when He died, though. If you pick up the line, you're sure to find He's waiting on the other side!

The thought of that makes me grin like an idiot. But you know what makes that grin even wider? If we are to follow in His footsteps and be Christ-like, that means we are also Kiznaivers! Elizabeth Elliot put it this way:
But we are told also to bear our own burdens. This must mean to shoulder them bravely, to think twice before laying them onto the shoulders of others who may be more heavily laden than we are.
Don't you see? What an exciting part of an experiment we are! Elliot recognizes this, and as the scientists who set the Kiznaivers into motion, she also realizes the importance of sensitiveness to others and awareness of one's own self. Additionally, such actions, if carried out under the right advisement (that of our Lord and Savior), could potentially lead world peace. As you go about the rest of your day, I ask you to remember one thing that follows this line of thinking –if Christ bore the pain of the world, isn't it the least we could do to help bear the pain of just a few?

~~~~

Elliot, Elisabeth. Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life under Christ's Control. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984. 116. Print. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Anime Deals With Pain In an All-Too-Real Way

Just a few days ago I was swooning over the awesomeness of Re:Zero. Today I stand before my fellow bloggers as a changed woman.

I have, totally and completely, fallen head over heels for the currently running series Kiznaiver.


The show is like reading a book itself. It's a dystopian fiction, not quite like all the others, and the characters are unbelievably developed and completely relatable. For those of you who aren't that familiar with the anime, here's a short synopsis to give you guys a little background on the series:
Sugomori City is an experimental town where groups of unlikely companions are brought together not only in a literal sense, but in a physical sense as well. Each of these individuals are linked by the common bond of one another's pain, and thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, this link has been distributed evenly to all members, which by the way, are called Kiznaiver's. Through several tests and missions, we learn that the purpose of this experiment is ultimately to unite individuals and promote world peace, but as the plot continues to unfold, one begins to wonder if there is an ulterior motive.  


To say the least, I was surprised to find a show dealt with such hard topics in such a real way, and when episode 6 rolled around, and emotional pain was explored, well I just couldn't pass up writing an article! As someone who's dealt with quite a bit of emotional pain myself, I fully stand by when I say that this episode made some pretty valid points about the invisible scars in our lives.

For one thing, the show identifies emotional pain as a real and serious issue. Even the show's side-character Hisomu (who is addicted to physical pain) admits emotional pain has the exact opposite affect –it repulses him.


But through the physical link that connects the Kiznaivers, we learn that pain (especially that of the emotional kind) brings people together, and sharing it with others is perhaps the best solution to relieve a portion of the burden. Some people aren't as familiar with this process of working through pain, however, as is the case with the series' main character, Agata. For as long as he can remember, Agata hasn't been able to feel pain the same way as others.


The fact that such a prevalent character feels this way says something profound about the human race –that pain (especially emotional) often goes unrecognized, and it leaves people feeling helpless as a result. Thus, the series makes an important point of familiarizing people with the topic and in turn creating awareness.

The series doesn't just educate it's audience, however; it also offers up solutions to help. When another of the series' characters, Maki, is hurting, one of her fellow companion's, Yuta, encourages her to open up and share her pain with others.


Though she fails to take his advice, we learn about her past nonetheless, and as we learn more about her on an emotional level, we learn more about her in general. We are given a premise to define her actions as well as a basis for that of the other characters and our own. Here, the audience is shown that if one knows the extent of another's pain, maybe they won't cause as much harm as they once would've.

This episode taught me a lot about how hurt can be caused and how to avoid it. Who's to say if the Kiznaiver's will be successful in conquering pain and bringing about world peace, but I have the feeling the anime in itself has the potential to change hearts of millions around our world. Thanks to this show, awareness and prevention of emotional harm can be spread in a way that's not only educational, but entertaining as well. I'm sure I don't have to say it again, but this anime is going places, people, so watch out for it!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Spiritual Observation of Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World

It's been a while since I blogged about anime, but that in no way means I've been out of the anime loop. In fact, that's as far from the truth as it can get. In the past few months, I've consumed more anime than ever before, and I'm proud of it! Since winter, I have got into the habit of watching currently running anime; and let me just say, the experience has been thrilling! As you've heard, in many 'a posts, Erased was the main contributor to the start of all this, but since the show's ending and the spring season's beginning, I have found quite a bit of enjoyment in the following series: Mayoiga (otherwise known as The Lost Village), Flying Witch, and perhaps most importantly, Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World.


The show is a mix between horror and fantasy, and to put it simply, I quite like that about it. It's compelling, and has that medieval-guild-kind-of-feel to it and it's what you wished Sword Art Online would be, only better. Anyhow, going through the latest episode of Re:Zero has revealed to me a bit about the Christian faith, so it's time for another Spiritual Observation of an Anime!

In Episode Six we hear the story of the The Red Ogre and the Blue Ogre, a story I'd heard in Ore Monogatari!!, but have only just come to realize is a legitimate Modern Japanese Folktale.


For those of you who don't know, the story goes something like this: Once upon a time, there lived a red ogre and a blue ogre. The red ogre wanted to befriend the people of the village his home overlooked, but the people were frightened of him. One day when conveying this to his friend, the blue ogre came up with a plan. He said, "Why I go down to the village and stir up a ruckus? Then you come down and save the villagers from me and they'll have no choice but to treat you with the upmost honor and respect." The red ogre liked this plan very much, and as soon as they could, the two ogres went through with it. Well, it worked splendidly, just as the blue ogre had predicted, and from then on the red ogre spent his days in delight, befriending villager after villager. But after a while, the red ogre began to miss the blue ogre, so he went up unto the mountain where they used to live. What he found there was not his friend, but rather a letter written by his friend saying that he had packed up and left because if the secret friendship between the "good ogre" and the "bad ogre" were discovered, the villagers would never trust the red ogre again, and he would loose all he had gained with them. As the story goes, the red ogre was broken-hearted, but never was he to see his friend, the blue ogre, again.

As I was reminded of this story, something struck me. It was the self-sacrificing attitude of the blue ogre towards his friend, the red ogre.


He had foresight on what would happen, not only with the villager's acceptance of hero, but also with their rejection of a villain. Despite this, the blue ogre still saw his friend through accomplishing his goals. Because of this, in many ways, the blue ogre reminds me much of a Christ-figure. The blue ogre put his life on the line for the well-being of his friend, just like Jesus did in dying on the cross for us. Additionally, the blue ogre sacrificed his own reputation to perfect that of his friend's, just like Jesus' blood does for our sins.

Towards the end of the episode, Ram (the pink-haired twin maid) tells Subaru her thoughts on the story –that she thinks the whole thing is foolish and both of the characters made terrible decisions.


Her view towards the story reminds me of the view of many towards Christianity. She can't understand why the red ogre would give up what he had just to gain so little (a subtle illustration of our sin and perhaps a tie to the Prodigal's Son). Neither can she comprehend the blue ogre's self-sacrifice and why he did what he did even though he knew what was going to happen (a picture of the Father's love and how He lets us go so that we may find our way back to Him).

To those who haven't experienced the love of the blue ogre themselves, the story can be very confusing.


Two individuals gave up all they had and received nothing in the end; how is that a conclusion people would want to hear? But that's the beautiful thing about the story, dear friends. The blue ogre didn't need anything in the end, and the red ogre did. The blue ogre was happy to let his friend have what he wanted and the red ogre came to realize all he wanted was the one who gave him everything; isn't the blue ogre the kind of friend you would want?

Well, as the scene concludes, Ram asks Subaru much the same thing: Which of the two ogres would you rather be friends with?



Subaru, who perhaps understands the story better than most of us do, chooses both ogres, illustrating both the love of Christ and a love for Christ. He chooses the red ogre, because like the blue ogre, Subaru has a Christ-like love for the ungrateful. On the other hand, Subaru chooses the blue ogre, because like the red ogre, he realizes a need for such compassion in the real world. 

Ram doesn't get Subaru's answer, and many won't, but as you continue about your daily life, I challenge each and every one of you to ask yourself –really ask yourself– which ogre you'd rather be friend's with. And for your sake, I hope your answer is much like Subaru's –a living example of Christ that realizes a need for Christ. And really, that's all there is to it.