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Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 31: INFINITY 4 Haruka Tenoh, Michiru Kaioh – SAILOR URANUS, SAILOR NEPTUNE

Review:

Uranus and Neptune may have bailed the other Senshi out of a hard place, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to team up and play ally. After saying as much, they then proceed to attack the Senshi, knocking Usagi unconscious. After she awakens in the Senshi’s base, the girls resolve that they will fight the two newcomers if necessary. Distraught over this, Usagi later encounters Haruka while waiting for Mamoru, resulting in Haruka putting her in another questionable position just in time for Mamoru to show up. This creates tension between Usagi and Mamoru, until Chibi-usa shows up to break the tension by convincing the angry lovers to “help” her with her clay project. Her plan succeeds, and the three spend the night together. On the B-side, Ami is recruited to be a temporary student at Mugen Academy, where her identity as a Senshi is uncovered by the Witches 5. After disabling a security camera, Ami flees and finds herself in a room full of experimental animals, where she is ultimately captured. With her Hostes about to be stolen, she is saved at the last moment by Haruka and Michiru, leading to battle with the latest member of the Witches 5. Outclassed on her own, Ami is rescued by her friends, with Uranus and Neptune joining the fray to ultimately defeat the enemy.

One of the most endearing aspects of this episode is the difference between this incarnation of Chibi-usa and the original 90’s incarnation. While the Crystal version retains some elements (namely, her clinging to Mamoru in season two), this version actually seems to care about the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru—a wise investment, given that her existence depends upon them staying together! It has been quite some time since I’ve watched this portion of the 90’s anime, so it’s possible that Chibi-usa may not have been as bad at this point even in that version, but I don’t remember her having very many redeeming qualities. Of course, the fight itself seems a bit silly as a whole, especially since Haruka was the one forcing herself on Usagi; then again, Usagi did get jealous when she saw Mamoru with Michiru, so perhaps this is a sign that the two of them need to work on their trust issues.

In regards to the second half of the episode, the Ami fan in me was certainly happy to have a focus on her, although the revelation that Mugen Academy is behind all of the attacks seems a little to slow in happening, given that Mugen Academy always seemed to be involved in pretty much every attack that the Senshi have dealt with thus far. There is also the fact that the episode chooses this point to introduce a new plot element without explanation; namely, the so-called “Hostes”. The enemy seems to place a high value on whatever this source is, but we have no idea what it is. On the other hand, Uranus and Neptune seem to finally throw their lot in with the rest of the Senshi, so it’s not all bad.

A Christian Perspective:

Genesis 5:2 – He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were crated, he called them “man.”

During her discourse with Usagi, the subject of whether Haruka is a man or a woman is brought up, to which Haruka asks if it really matters. Based on the above verse, I believe it does. If God created us “male” and “female”, then the distinction is important to make, because God Himself felt it important to make that distinction. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where what people “feel” matters more than what is actually true. A man can simply declare that he doesn’t “feel” like a man, but rather “feels” that he was born as the wrong gender and should actually be a woman. People try to rally around this vain philosophy by declaring things like “sex and gender are different”. Everything comes back to the fact that God created us male and female, though, and our genetics attest to that. A person can say that they “feel” they are a different gender, but their genetics will attest otherwise. If our genetics, our DNA, attests to what God has created us as, then anything else is simply in our minds. Some might argue that God may have created the person this way, but this is wrong, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33a). If God is not a God of confusion, then it would not make sense for Him to create a person with a certain set of genetics and then set that person’s mind on a path to be at odds with the physical evidence of what He created. Such tactics belong to our enemy, Satan, not to God. What all of this “gender confusion” comes down to, then, is at best a state of mental confusion or disorder, and at worst a Satanic deception.

Yes, it really does matter whether someone is a man or a woman, because God so defined it that way. Let’s not be so casual as to discard God’s definitions as “unimportant”.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Cleavage; Uranus and Neptune transformation sequence

Violence: Uranus and Neptune attack the rest of the Senshi; Michiru and Haruka hit two Mugen students; the Senshi do battle with a member of the Witches 5

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Usagi and Chibi-usa are shown sleeping in bed with Mamoru; the magical nature of the Senshi’s attacks

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 30: Infinity 3 – Two New Soldiers

Review:

After Sailor Moon’s unexpected encounter with Sailor Uranus, the Senshi meet to discuss the potential implications of the two mysterious figures. Meanwhile, Chibi-usa tracks down Hotaru in order to return her handkerchief, and the two begin to discuss Hotaru’s condition, at which point Hotaru begins to have an episode and asks Chibi-usa for her amulet. After retrieving the amulet, Chibi-usa produces her Silvery Crystal and provides healing to Hotaru, with the two forming a closer friendship as a result. Outside, Haruka and Michiru show up and offer Chibi-usa a helicopter ride home, while trying to press her for information on Hotaru. Usagi and her friends also have encounters with Haruka and Michiru, ultimately ending up with tickets to Michiru’s performance. Minako uses it as an excuse to see a performance by a prominent pop idol who is only performing at Mugen Academy. Unfortunately, the pop idol turns out to be a member of the Witches 5, who attempts to drain energy from the students. Minako transforms and interrupts the witch’s plan, to be ultimately joined by the other four Senshi. The witch summons three additional monsters, which are dispatched by the two mystery Senshi, with Usagi dealing with the witch.

Before I begin, I really do want to emphasize that I am actually a Sailor Moon fan, and that overall I am actually enjoying this arc in Crystal. That said, I keep finding myself noticing small annoyances. First up are the seeming abundance of lesbian undertones to the series. Usagi is quite obsessed with Haruka’s kiss, complete with blushing, and Chibi-usa also seems to blush quite a bit when it comes to Hotaru. It’s possible that I am just reading too much into this given the presence of Haruka and Michiru in this season, but it certainly feels like those are the undertones present in the series. Another criticism comes in the form of the dreams that the Senshi are sharing. Specifically, one scene shows the Senshi lying dead on the battleground; however, this loses its weight when we consider that the Senshi traveled to the future in the previous season. In other words, we’ve already seen that the Senshi are alive past this point, so the current threat to their lives means nothing. Sure there’s the possibility of the future changing, but since Chibi-usa hasn’t disappeared, that would be unlikely. Again, this is probably thinking too much about it, but from a story telling standpoint the threat death seems to diminish when you involve a future arc, especially when you consider all of the paradoxes that would exist. Finally, my previous criticism from the last episode concerning the simplicity of the fights against the Witches 5 still stands.

As for positive points, this season is taking its time to tell its story. I believe I complimented the second season for the same thing. Future paradoxes aside, the writers are taking the time to tease out the story, and although the fights themselves could stand to have a little more tension, the beginning of this season suggests that doing two-part episodes may not be the best approach. At the end of the day, Sailor Moon Crystal is a great entry in the Sailor Moon franchise.

A Christian Perspective:

1 Corinthians 8:4 – So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”

Yes, I am taking a bit of a cheesy approach here by using the presence of a pop “idol” as a bridge to talk about actual idols; however, much like real idols—false gods that are set up as if they are real—the “idol” in this episode was also a fake, simply an enemy masquerading as a musical performer, rather than an actual performer. As we can see, this came with its own dangers: students were pulled in to hear her performance, which put them in a potentially deadly place. Even Minako, one of the heroines, was not safe from this deception, as she, too, ended up falling prey to the deception. This brings up a good point about how easy it is to fall prey to idols.

While our minds almost immediately conjure up images of crude statues made from wood, stone, gold, etc., the generally accepted principle among Christians is that an idol can literally be anything that takes the place of God in our lives….even anime and/or video games. We get caught up in these things and before we know it we have little interest in God, putting Him off to the side for more time with our favorite games or shows. Truly, these things are “nothing” in the grand scheme of things, whereas God is everything, but our finite human minds are easily distracted and lead astray. We don’t comprehend the concept of eternity and living with it in mind because we are trapped in the reality of living day-to-day, so we think of our immediate gratification more than our eternal souls. And don’t think I speak of any of this as someone who has mastered these things or ascended above these traps—I probably struggle with the concept more most.

That said, I don’t hold to the view that an idol is simply the thing you spend the most time with. I know that some will disagree with me, but we know that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7c) It is completely possible to spend most of our time doing “God stuff”, yet have our hearts be far from Him; conversely, it is also possible to spend little time specifically doing “God stuff”, yet have that small bit of time impact the rest of our day and cause us to reflect on God throughout our various daily activities (perhaps by finding biblical lessons in the anime we watch?). Again, I don’t pretend to even come close to being perfect at this; however, I feel a lot of Christians focus too much on “how much” we do, and not enough about the quality of what we do. Even Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) That’s not to say that long prayers are inherently bad, but they can be if we are only praying long prayers because we believe we are “supposed” to. If Christianity is indeed a relationship with our Creator, then it stands to reason it would grow like any other relationship: we start out spending some time with someone, and as we get to know them we desire to spend more time with them.

Yes, it takes discipline to take time from our fleshly desires and focus on God, but that discipline should lead us into a relationship where we eventually want to spend more time with Him, rather than spending a certain amount of time with him for the arbitrary reasons such as “my pastor said I had to pray for at least an hour”. I speak as someone who has, for a long time, spent long amounts of time in prayer because I felt I “had” to. For instance, I once prayed for two hours, and had convinced myself for the longest time that I always had to pray for at least two hours from that point on, or I was telling God He wasn’t worth it. Only recently have I had the presence of mind to ask Him to help me develop a relationship with Him based not on ritualistic rule keeping (reading enough chapters a day, praying long enough, etc.) but rather on who He is and a desire to know Him better. I haven’t gotten there yet. I struggle with a lot of depression and doubt. But as I sit here typing this, I have a sense of hope that one day He will bring me to that place.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: A “Deity of Destruction” is mentioned

Language: 1 “j**z”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Haruka shows cleavage; Mimi Hanyu’s outfit shows cleavage; multiple female episodes show cleavage

Violence: The Senshi fight monsters

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Haruka kisses Usagi at the beginning of the episode and in a dream; magical nature of Senshi’s attacks

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 28: Infinity 1 Premonition – Second Part

Review:

A new foe is revealed, and as can be expected, their targets are the Sailor Senshi, who ultimately have the power to put a stop to their plans. While Usagi and company plan their investigation of Mugen Academy, Chibi-usa ropes Mamoru into a fun outing to an amusing park, much to Usagi’s chagrin. Despite her protestations, Mamoru reminds her of her obligations and promises to be there should anything go wrong. In order to get into the academy, Usagi uses her disguise pen to dress herself like a Mugen student, granting her access to the building, where she stumbles upon Michiru playing the violin. With cold eyes, Michiru calls Usagi fearless, and warns her that it would be her undoing, just before another student demands to know Usagi’s class and name. Lacking a cover story, Usagi takes off. Outside, Haruka approaches the other four Senshi and warns them to stay away. Meanwhile, Chibi-usa loses her hat while on a rollercoaster at the park. She chases it down, only to discover a mysterious girl who appears to be in pain. During this time, she encounters Usagi, and the two are attacked by a monster. The Senshi transform and defeat their foe just in time to see two mysterious figures watching them from a distance.

I have to say, I am very much enjoying the fact that the show now has a weekly release as opposed to season 1 and 2’s two episode per month schedule. I’m also enjoying the slightly slower pacing. It is always nice when a show decides to take its time to draw out a plot. That said, the pacing didn’t seem to produce much in this episode. We get a little bit of background information on Mugen Academy via exposition, and we get something of an introduction to our new enemies, but that’s about it. Usagi’s exploration of the school doesn’t really produce anything, other than a brief encounter with Michiru, and the amusement park subplot really only serves to introduce Chibi-usa to Hotaru. Beyond that, there isn’t much worth noting in the episode. On top of it all, the episode features another full transformation sequence for all five Senshi, plus Chibi-usa. While this made sense for the first episode—it allowed for a reintroduction of the characters and a chance to show off the new transformations—it just feels like a time sink this time around. Chibi-usa’s animation makes sense, as she is being shown for the first time in this season, but the inclusion of the rest just feels like an excuse to take up time.

On a somewhat more positive note, this season seems to bring back some of the more slapstick elements of the original anime. While Usagi is still less whiny and annoying than her original anime counterpart, the hijinks between her and Chibi-usa combined with the comedic fleeing from enemies is a nice throwback to that era. More of this and less of the time consuming transformations and empty plots would be most welcome in the episodes to come.

A Christian Perspective:

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

Okay, this isn’t the most positive message, but I honestly felt like there wasn’t much to pull from the episode. I already stated my criticisms of the episode above, so I’ll spare you the redundancy of repeating those complaints here, but the episode’s lack of any real substance combined with another drawn out transformation sequence certainly suggests something not done “with all your heart”. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all guilty of this. How often do we go to work and just get through? Or come home and just do the bare minimum? The verse above tells us that whatever we do, we should do with all of our heart, as if we were doing it for the Lord Himself. We may not always know what that looks like, but we should still try our best, and creating a two-part episode where nothing noteworthy happens in the second part is not really our “best”.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: The new enemies are known as the “Witches 5”

Language: 1 “j**z”, 1 “d*rn”, 1 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Cleavage/side-boob: The five main Senshi and Chibi-usa are shown going through their transformations

Violence: Slapstick comedy; the Senshi battle an enemy

Blood/Gore: Chibi-usa has a small scrape on her arm

Other: Magical nature of the Senshi’s attacks; a mysterious girl magically heals Chibi-usa

Review: Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 27: Infinity 1 Premonition – First Part

Review:

The episode opens on a mysterious voice discussing light and how it is the enemy to their darkness. A partial shot of a woman’s face is shown, before shifting to a young girl dreaming of the Senshi being killed. Mamoru seems to share her dream. We then shift to Usagi, who is dreaming of marrying Mamoru before being abruptly awakened. As she scrambles to get ready, Chibi-usa catches a glimpse of the news, where the reporters are talking about a monster attack and theorizing that it may be “reversion”–humans reverting back to a primal state. Usagi and Mamoru meet up, but before they can kiss, they are interrupted by Chibi-usa who ultimately joins her friends. As they finally go to kiss, the scene from earlier replays, giving them both pause. As they part ways, Usagi theorizes that her peace won’t last long. The focus shifts to a swimming girl, and then to a “boy” who is driving a race car. These two, named Michiru and Haruka respectively, are briefly touched upon as being members of Mugen Academy, as well as boyfriend and girlfriend, before the focus shifts back to our main cast, reintroducing us to each one. Usagi and company have a brief encounter with Haruka in the game center, while Mamoru briefly encounters Michiru outside the game center, with an enemy encounter following shortly thereafter. The girls defeat their foe, and begin to draw a connection to the attacks and Mugen Academy.

So begins the arc known as “Sailor Moon S”. Despite the controversial content in this arc (more on that in a moment), this is by far my favorite arc of Sailor Moon (though admittedly, I’ve never read or seen StarS) because of how dark it is. I’m sure that won’t sit well with some, but I believe I’ve said in the past that in reality, a magical girl’s life would not be sunshine and happiness—they are battling forces of evil and putting their lives on the line. As such, a certain level of darkness is appropriate for the setting. Although the new players are barely touched upon in this episode (we only see brief shots of Hotaru, and Haruka and Michiru’s identities are not revealed yet), they will ultimately play a key role in why this arc is so dark.

I mentioned controversy, and I mean that more in the sense that I am obviously writing for a Christian audience. Let’s just be blunt: Sailors Uranus and Neptune are in a lesbian relationship with each other. This isn’t explicitly spelled out in this episode (people believe Haruka is a boy at this point), but the ending credits kind of give it away (if 20+ years of Sailor Moon’s existence hasn’t already). It’s not something I approve of as a Christian, but I also don’t feel it is enough to throw the show away as a whole, especially because Sailor Moon Crystal is its own incarnation of the story, so seeing how everything will play out in relation to past incarnations will be most interesting.

The show does take the time to reintroduce the main characters, presumably in case you are jumping into the series at the beginning of season three. While such approach is not recommended, you will at least get a crash course in who’s who if you have chosen to do so. Each of the five Senshi’s transformations is also shown, and the animators seem to have listened—gone are the awkward CGI transformations, replaced with transformations artwork that is the same as the rest of the artwork. In fact, the artwork as a whole received a complete overhaul, it seems, and while that will make for some awkward transitions if you watch straight from season 2 into 3, the new artwork does certainly feel more appealing.

Other than that, there’s not much to say for this episode, except that it was a good Sailor Moon episode. It was clearly meant to be more of an introduction (or reintroduction) than anything, and it serves that purpose well while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the new plot that will most certainly begin to unfold in the next episode. Ladies and Gentlemen, Sailor Moon Crystal is back, so let’s see how it delivers!

A Christian Perspective:

John 1:5 – The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Okay, okay, I know, this isn’t really the most insightful or groundbreaking connection, but I honestly didn’t have anything else come to mind, while this concept (if not this particular verse) came to mind during the unknown villain’s opening monologue. While there’s not a whole lot I can expound upon (it’s a pretty clear comparison—the villain mentioned how the darkness could not thrive because of the light), it is still interesting to see how biblical concepts make their ways into stories from cultures that certainly aren’t influenced by the Bible. The number of Christians in Japan is low, and Sailor Moon is not exactly a Christian allegory (though I have made plenty of connections in the previous two seasons), yet this concept of the darkness not overcoming the light pops up right at the beginning of season three. It’s like its a natural concept or something, a reality embedded in our very subconscious by a power greater than us…

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: Mars uses talismans in an attempt to exorcise an enemy

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Chibi Usa and Hotaru are shown lying down naked in the intro—their limbs cover their private areas; a bust shot of a naked Usagi is shown in the intro—her hands cover her breasts; Usagi dreams that she is wearing a cleavage-revealing wedding dress; Michiru is shown in a one-piece bathing suit; the five main Senshi all go through their transformation sequences

Violence: The Senshi engage an enemy in combat

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Haruka plays herself off to be male; Sailors Neptune and Uranus are in a lesbian relationship – Neither of these things is explictly shown in this episode, but this is common Sailor Moon knowledge. The ending theme song features Neptune and Uranus exclusively, and includes scenes of them holding hands and lying down, embracing each other.

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 8: Painless Revolution Part 2

Review:

Yabu has returned from Vietnam with an American soldier who is suffering from PTSD. When the pair goes to the hospital for the soldier to be examined, Yabu is surprised to run into Hazama, who has exhausted himself by searching for a cure to Johnny’s analgesia. While Hazama and Yabu talk, Tommy, the soldier with Yabu, goes elsewhere, only to return later and mention that he ran into Johnny, who was a former comrade of Tommy’s. During their conversation, Hazama finds out that Johnny never actually went to Vietnam, contrary to what Johnny had divulged. Realizing that he has been lied to, Hazama returns to Johnny’s room and uses scare tactics to drag the truth out of the injured man. Elsewhere, Professor Risenberg meets with a CIA operative, where they discuss the true causes of Johnny’s analgesia, Risenberg’s secret past, and the implications for Johnny’s future. Afterward, Risenburg approaches Hazama on the roof of the hospital and tears up Johnny’s test results, commenting that Hazama will no longer need them since he is returning to Japan. Risenberg later injects Johnny with a sedative before hooking him up to a machine that restores his ability to feel. Back in Japan, Hazama laments that he was not the one to heal Johnny before finding out that Johnny has now retired from civil disobedience movements.

This episode is unique in the series thus far, as it is the only one to not feature Hazama involving himself in a surgery of some sort. Instead, the focus shifts more to Johnny and Professor Risenberg, with Hazama actually serving as more of a plot element than anything this time around. Instead, the more shocking revelations come in the form of Risenberg’s true personality and the truth behind Johnny’s lack of pain recognition. These revelations, combined with the attitude of the CIA agent, do make one question what the Japanese (or at least the writers of this show) think about Americans.

It is also interesting that everything beyond the first two episodes has stemmed from the Vietnam War (and even the second episode provided the resource needed to get Hazama to Vietnam). While the episodes themselves are largely self-contained (minus the trilogy and duology aspects), this common theme does serve to provide a sense of unity for the series, and the weight of the Vietnam War as a backdrop continues to give the series a historical perspective. This particular episode manages to capture the type of drama you’d expect to find in a live-action medical drama such as House without losing its originality, and it also raises the question of whether previous events will continue to culminate in future plot developments. After all, we did see the return of the CIA agent who is familiar with Hazama’s skills this time around. Young Black Jack has successfully managed to defy our expectations in this installment by following a different path than normal, but whether or not this pattern will continue has yet to be seen.

A Christian Perspective:

The first idea I had was to compare Professor Risenberg to the apostle Paul. After all, both appear to have a murderous background (Risenberg seems to have worked for the Nazis while Paul was a Pharisee who executed the early Christians) prior to changing their lives around and ultimately using them to help people. On the surface, this seems like a good comparison; however, it quickly falls apart with a little thought. For one, we have to consider the culture: Paul’s murdering of Christians was legal, at least by the worldly authority of the Pharisees, whereas Risenberg’s murdering of Jews was seen as a heinous crime. While turning from murder is obviously right in God’s eyes, Paul’s transformation actually went against the governmental authority he was under, so him facing worldly punishment for his crimes was not realistic. Risenberg, on the other hand, should have faced justice, but instead was harbored by the American government in exchange for his research. This is also an abdication of duty by the American government, as they failed to administer appropriate justice when presented with the knowledge of Risenberg’s crimes, and instead profited off of that information. Let’s not forget that God is the One who gives authority (Romans 13:1), though humans do have a tendency to abuse their authority. In the end, Risenberg at least makes some form of repentance by choosing to use his knowledge to reverse Johnny’s analgesia and save the young man’s life, but one must wonder if this is really enough to make up for the fact that he never faced justice for all the lives he took.

In summary, while Risenberg and Paul appear to have similar stories at first, that comparison quickly falls apart when we realize that Paul was murdering with the full support of his government before turning against that to spread the true Gospel, while Risenberg was murdering and committing acts that were considered a crime by pretty much the rest of the human race before turning from those actions and being harbored under a false identity. Paul never hid who he was—everyone knew his past and the miraculous work God did in his life. The same cannot be said of Risenberg.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “sh*t”; 1 “swear to G*d”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Scenes of gunfire and explosions are shown; a flashback shows Johnny having his leg broken by a police baton; Johnny is beaten by several police officers

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Scenes are shown to indicate people being killed by poison gas, but they are represented by shadowy figures

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 7: Painless Revolution Part 1

Review:

Maiko and Hazama take a trip to Chicago in order to watch an acclaimed doctor perform a surgery. While there, they run into an old friend of Maiko’s named Tiara, and they encounter a young man named Johnny who is a big name in the ongoing Civil Rights Movement, a practitioner of peace in a time when activists were resorting to violence. When two violent activists try to force Johnny to join them, things go bad and Tiara ends up shot while Johnny ends up with a broken arm. While Tiara’s wound ends up being non-fatal, Johnny’s opens up a new world of questions when it is discovered that he cannot feel pain. Maiko expects Hazama to seek a solution to the problem, an idea that Hazama has no interest in until it is discovered that Johnny’s condition is not genetic. With only three days left in Chicago, Hazama challenges Johnny to let him find a cure. Elsewhere, Yabu and an unknown man also land in the city.

It is amazing to see an anime tackle historical issues like Young Black Jack has. From the Vietnam War to 60’s Civil Rights, the show has expanded its focus beyond Japan, which is rare in anime. Old school fans may remember Chicago-based anime Gunsmith Cats, but that’s honestly the only name that sticks out immediately. To see an anime depict a cultural struggle in another country is quite frankly different and refreshing. The lack of a stereotypical portrayal of black people is also a nice touch. Many anime seem to fail in this regard (I’m looking at you, Mr. Popo). While the general focus of the episode still remains as Hazama finding a new medical mystery (this is basically House: Anime Edition, after all), the Civil Rights Movement serves as a different back drop, and is given the appropriate respect it deserves as a struggle for fair treatment. The writers even manage to capture some of the tension that would have been prevalent during that time when the four main characters sit in a restaurant where the white patrons clearly are not happy to have them.

While it was previously stated that the episode still ultimately revolved around Hazama discovering a new medical situation, the episode does stray from that a bit. True, it is the penultimate conclusion to this installment (and will probably form the major focus of the next) but there is quite a bit of character drama and development that goes on in between. Finding out that Hazama has a limit to what he will try to “fix” was surprising, to say the least. Of course, the episode isn’t without its shortcomings. A big name doctor allowing two people he doesn’t even know to assist him in surgery (one of whom is still a student, which the doctor makes no effort to discern) kind of puts a chink in the armor of the episode’s believability, and one must wonder if the airplanes shown at the end of the episode are really circa-1960’s. Still, the episode gets far more right than it does wrong, and it may be one of the best installments in the series thus far.

A Christian Perspective:

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I was honestly having a hard time coming up with a Perspective for this episode. Certainly a lot can be said about the Civil Rights Movement, the events leading up to it, and the reason why discrimination is biblically wrong, but honestly that wouldn’t really be unique to this anime, and much has likely been said about these things by men wiser, smarter, more spiritual, and more devoted than I. The best reflection I can come up with is to compare Johnny’s desire to be a peaceful activist as opposed to others who would rather resort to violence with the words of Jesus in the above Scripture. Granted, the reasons for Johnny choosing to be peaceful could be questionable, but whatever the case he has made a decision to not pay back violence with more violence. It seems like such a simple concept, and yet most people seem to not realize that if you respond to violence with violence, it will only lead to even more violence as each side gets more and more angered by each subsequent attack. Staying peaceful in the face of someone being violent towards you is certainly hard, but at some point the cycle needs to be broken.

Content Guide:

Spiritual Content: A woman calls a surgeon’s skills an “advent of God”

Language: 1 “d*mn”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: A flashback shows Hazama shirtless; Maiko’s dress shows a little cleavage

Violence: Hazama throws a knife into a man’s hand; a man fires a gun; flashbacks to Hazama being beaten in Vietnam and to war time violence; Johnny is punched many times; Tiara has a gun put to her head; Tiara is shot

Blood/Gore: Tiara’s gunshot wound bleeds, and blood pools next to her; Johnny’s arm is shown mangled and twisted

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 6: Vietnam Part 3

 

Review:

Hazama and Kiriko operate on a patient with the threat of bombing looming over their heads, determined to complete their surgery. Shortly after, the episode’s timeline rewinds to show the primary characters from this trilogy of episodes going about their lives in the village. Dr. Kiriko helps out with an old man in the village while Bob stands vigil over Steve, with Phan reassuring him that Steve will be okay. While he is alone, Steve wakes up and begins to panic, not knowing where he is, and ultimately wandering off into the fields near the village. Hazama, Bob, and Phan rush off to look for him, and when they find him Bob calls out. Steve, happy to know that everything will be okay, begins moving towards Bob, before stepping on a landmine and being blown up. This throws Bob into a state of mental decline (likely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), causing him to initially deny Steve’s death, then to blame the Viet Cong. When an injured Viet Cong boy is brought into the village, Hazama, Kiriko, and Yabu discuss performing surgery, which angers Bob, and learning that this boy was the one who made it possible for Hazama and company to escape confinement does little to assuage Bob’s anger. While the doctors take the boy into surgery, Bob makes a call to the Army, ordering an air strike on the village. After placing Steve’s remains into a bag, Bob wanders off, and Phan works with the photographer to evacuate the village. The trio of doctors decides to continue operating, racing against the clock as the U.S. air strike looms ever closer….

As has been the case during this trilogy, this episode again exhibits the horror and unpredictable nature of war. The end of the previous episode certainly left us with an apparently false sense of security about Steve’s fate, and although the idea that Steve would die was pretty obvious when his rambling in the field begins, the manner in which he died managed to catch this reviewer off guard. Bob’s subsequent mental decline shows the effects of war on soldiers, though the accuracy of the symptoms shown are likely lost on those with no real knowledge of psychiatry and other related fields. Still, we know historically that soldiers have suffered from PTSD, and that reality seems to be accurately reflected here. While an animated show probably can’t produce the same effect that meeting a real soldier with PTSD could, it is still eye-opening and shocking to see the lengths that Bob is pushed to by his mental condition (which is possibly accelerated by racial tensions already existing from the war).

Of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of Black Jack without a surgery, and though this formula has undoubtedly gotten repetitive, the writers at least manage to make the circumstances surrounding the surgeries (and the conditions during the surgeries) diverse enough to continuously create tension, though it is the circumstances that tend to provide more entertainment than the surgeries themselves, at least in this case. Still, the banter between Hazama and Kiriko make for a moment of amusement, and it adds to the sadness of the short statement about their futures at the end of the episode. Unfortunately, the fact that this is a prequel series does manage to take away from some of the tension brought on by the doctors’ operating under a time limit before the air strike happens; after all, Hazama can’t be blown up in Young Black Jack if it’s the prequel to the Black Jack series.

At the end of the day, the fictitious aspect of the series cannot be overlooked. Even someone with no medical knowledge whatsoever can probably deduce that complicated surgeries being performed in thirty minutes or less is not realistic, but as with most medical or crime dramas a little suspension of disbelief goes a long way in enjoying Young Black Jack. Fans of the original Black Jack manga will also find this episode’s reveal of the parachuting doctor’s identity shocking. Overall, Young Black Jack manages to maintain its enjoyability due to its stellar characters and writing.

A Christian Perspective:

Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The verse above speaks to how those of us who are in Jesus are all one, and that the things that the world defines us by are not to define our true identities. Truly, a diverse background of ethnicities and cultures comprises the body of Christ, from the middle class salaryman in America to the tribesman wandering the plains of Africa, yet should the two ever meet they would see themselves on the same plane as brothers in Christ (or at least, they should). I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that when God looks at those of us who are in Christ, He no longer sees us, but Christ. Given that idea, it further drives home the idea that is expressed in the Galatians verse, as it would mean that God literally sees no difference between any of us.

Likewise, Hazama, Kiriko, and Yabu present a similar viewpoint in this episode. When Ahn is brought into the village, the three doctors immediately begin to examine him and discuss surgery. Bob, angered by the Viet Cong’s mine killing Steve, finds himself appalled by the fact that these doctors would want to help an “enemy”, especially after several of those involved had been imprisoned by the Viet Cong. The revelation that the boy before him aided in he and his comrades’ escape—and that he was probably injured because he was found out—seems to have little impact on Bob, but the doctors refuse to back down. To them, it doesn’t matter if this man is Viet Cong or American, friend or foe. He is a patient, they are doctors, and he is in need of their care. May we take such a view of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not defining them by their ethnicity, background, financial status, or any other characteristic by which the world divides us, but rather by our mutual relationship with Christ.

Content Guide:

Language: 2 “b*stards”, 3 “b*stard”, 4 “sh*t”, 1 “h*ll”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Two men are shown shirtless

Violence: Scenes of war; Steve remembers being shot at; a man steps on a landmine and is blown up; a village is bombed; a man is punched in the episode preview

Blood/Gore: Steve’s wound is shown, and there appears to be blood around it; a blanket is shown with bloody spots on it; a man is shown with blood on his body; a doctor has blood on his glove; a bed and bag are shown with blood on them; a blood bag is shown

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 5: Vietnam Part 2

Review:

Hazama and company are taken to a village by their captors, where they are subjected to torture and eventual imprisonment. The situation looks bleak for all involved, and especially for Steve, who is in great need of proper surgery to repair the damage to his neck. A particularly gross scene shows Hazama flicking maggots away from the wound. When Phan is drug away by the villagers, Bob begins to despair; however, her torture is postponed as the soldiers are called away from the village. In a particularly fortunate turn of events, one of the would-be torturers who had a previously positive experience with Phan slips her a key, which she uses to free herself and her co-captives, enabling them to flee into the jungle. As time passes and the jungle environment takes its toll on the party, they begin to drop into despair before passing out, but are thankfully saved by Yabu, who takes them to a nearby village where he is staying. There, Steve is finally able to get the help he needs from a doctor who answers a radio call for help. While there is some tension between this new doctor and Hazama (who is adamant that Steve is his patient), the two ultimately work together in the surgery before sharing a peaceful moment together.

While the historical accuracy of the scenes shown are up for debate (this reviewer knows nothing about the methods or attitudes of the Viet Cong to determine whether the torture and treatment of Hazama and his cohorts was accurate), it can certainly be said that the episode keeps viewers on their toes. From the beginning, we are left with this question of how the characters would make it out of their captors’ hands, or even if they would. Granted, we know that Hazama would at least make it out since this is a prequel series, but the others were certainly expendable. Even when they do get out, they are left in an “out of the frying pan, into the fire” situation as they wander the jungle with no apparent sign of help. It could be argued that Yabu being the one to find them was a bit of convenient writing, but on the other hand it could also be argued that stretching the search for Yabu out for too long could have become tedious and uninteresting. Prior to this, Young Black Jack had been a fairly concise series with self-contained episodes, so a two-part (going onto three-part) is already a departure from the norm. Having Yabu be the one to ultimately rescue the group would seem to be the best way to resolve the current conflict without dragging out the overall plot for too long.

The episode also deserves credit for managing to display some of the horrors of the main characters’ imprisonment without being overly disgusting. Specifically, the photographer is shown shackled between the other characters and needing to use the bathroom. While he ultimately reaches the point of not being able to hold his bladder, this isn’t explicitly shown, though there may have been sound effects. In fact, the worst thing shown is probably the maggots around Steve’s wound which, admittedly, is a disgusting scene. Granted, there is something to be said for authenticity, but there is also something to be said for being able to convey the horror of a situation without having to descend into disgusting imagery to get the point across. Young Black Jack chooses the latter, and in doing so probably creates an episode that is more accessible to a wider range of viewers.

In discussing this episode, one cannot neglect to mention the doctor introduced near the end, a doctor who seems to be just as fanatical about operating as Hazama himself. While his initial introduction seems to suggest a rival role (Hazama argues that Steve is his patient while the new doctor tells Hazama to get out of the way), the end result suggests something of a friendly relationship between the two. Perhaps this new character will even serve as a mentor to Hazama in episodes to come. As of now, his role is unclear, but Hazama certainly recognizes the other doctor’s skills, and it would seem to be a waste to introduce a highly skilled doctor and not have him play some role in Hazama’s growth. Only time will tell, but that’s one thing that Young Black Jack does well—it leaves you with questions that draw you back for the next episode.

A Christian Perspective:

1 Peter 5:5 – In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Hazama’s behavior when confronted by the new doctor ultimately, if imperfectly, exhibits the qualities shown in this verse from 1 Peter. At first, Hazama certainly seems intent on being the one to perform Steve’s surgery; however, he never seems to pose much of a roadblock to the new doctor getting into the operation. While Hazama does insist on being in the operating room because Steve is “his patient”, he willingly stands back and only gets involved when asked, all the while marveling at the new doctor’s skills. When it all is said and done, the two actually seem to exhibit something resembling friendship, a result that would not have happened had Hazama not humbled himself and instead insisted on his own way.

Much like Hazama, we may sometimes feel like we deserve to be the ones to do something or serve some role within the church, but a church elder may feel that we aren’t qualified for it yet or that someone else is more qualified. We may feel slighted, and feel as though the elder does not know what they are doing. Nevertheless, Peter makes it clear that we are to submit to the elder, although it may not be unreasonable to politely ask the elder to explain why the particular decision was made. The point is to not pridefully insist upon our own way, because that could lead to more problems, much like if Hazama had insisted on his own way with Steve’s surgery. Now, I feel there is probably something to be said if an elder teaches something that is clearly unbiblical, but that is probably a topic for another day.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “bullsh*t”, 2 “cr*p”, 3 “sh*t”, 1 “b*tch”, 1 “d*mn”

Alcohol/Drug Use: Hazama and the new doctor drink something at the end of the episode, but it may just be water

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Hazama is shown shirtless; other men are shown shirtless; Phan’s top shows cleavage

Violence: Hazama is tortured; a man is hit with a rifle; Phan is beaten

Blood/Gore: Steve is shown with blood on his bandage; Hazama vomits; Steve’s bloodied wound is shown, and Hazama is shown flicking maggots away from it; a simulaiton of maggot therapy is shown; Steve’s wound is shown in the operating room; droplets of blood are shown as another doctor cuts into Steve’s neck; two ends of a vein are shown while they are operated on; blood is shown rushing through a vein; the episode preview shows a bloody man

Review: Young Black Jack, Episode 4: Vietnam Part 1

Review:

The episode opens on a war scene. Hazama is thrown by the force of an exploding vehicle, landing some distance away, only to see a soldier get shot in the throat a few moments later. As Hazama’s doctor instincts kick in, he quickly picks himself up, retrieves his bag, and rushes to the man’s aid. At this point, time is turned back to show us how Hazama got himself in this predicament. Apparently Yabu, inspired by Hazama’s achievements, had decided to go to Vietnam and offer his services as a doctor so that he could actually do something productive with his life. Upon hearing news of Yabu’s hospital being destroyed, Hazama takes off to Vietnam to search for his friend, where he meets a freelance photographer. After spending some time with said photographer, Hazama manages to hitch a ride with some U.S. Army soldiers heading to a base in the region where Yabu was last seen. On their way, they are attacked by Viet Cong troops, ultimately bringing the story back to the episode’s beginning. While Hazama ultimately manages to save the soldier, it causes him to be taken prisoner.

Well, it appears that the previous review’s theory that Hazama would end up in Vietnam as a result of his operation on the CIA agent was wrong. As has been the trend thus far, this episode stands apart from any on-going plot, although reference is made to previous episode, and Hazama’s ploy from the second episode does play a role in getting him to Vietnam. A bit of research shows that the original Black Jack manga seemed to also be based around self-contained stories, so it makes sense that “Young Black Jack” would follow the same pattern, though at the same time it clearly combines elements from previous stories, which sort of awards viewers who have been in it for the long haul.

One thing that should be said for this episode is that it does not shy away from the realities of the Vietnam War. While not as graphic or violent as it could be (since war and violence were not the primary focus of the show), there is still plenty of gunfire and blood to put you right in the horror of the Vietnam War, and if you are someone who is sensitive to scenes of war violence then this may not be a pleasant episode for you; otherwise, it is an intense episode that captures the tension of the greater situation while also bringing that same tension in to the more immediate concern: what happened to Yabu. One of the only criticisms that can be leveled at the episode comes in the form of U.S. Soldier Bob, who is initially presented as if he does not speak Japanese based on his short English phrases (spoken by a Japanese V.A., meaning it comes across a bit Engrishy) and need for a translator, only to be shown speaking in Japanese a few scenes later. It’s a minor detail, but still an inconsistency.

Outside of that, there aren’t really any complaints in regards to this episode. The writers have managed to create a situation where we truly care about the fate of the characters involved, and they have also broken the mold that the show has followed up until this point. While Hazama still performs a surgery, the surgery was not the focal point of the episode itself, and the story behind the episode did not neatly wrap up by the end. While Hazama’s survival is not a question (there wouldn’t be a “Black Jack” series if Hazama died in Young Black Jack, after all), it will still be interesting to see how he and his companions will gain their freedom.

A Christian Perspective:

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

As the episode explores the events that ultimately brought Hazama to Vietnam, it reaches a point where it shows Yabu expressing his desire to put his skills to use and not to simply be a doctor who faints at the sight of blood. He expresses that watching Hazama work to help others was his source of inspiration, and that is ultimately what inspired him to go to Vietnam. While Hazama may not have been intending to lead Yabu in that direction, his life and actions set an example that his older friend simply could not ignore. In the same way, the author of Hebrews tells us that we should spur one another on toward love and good deeds. The major difference is that the author seems to be saying that we should do this intentionally—we should “consider” how we may do this. That’s not to say that we may not spur others on unintentionally; after all, a brother or sister in Christ (or a co-worker, family member, friend, etc) could see us doing our best at whatever task we are working on and be inspired by our example to also do their best, but we shouldn’t simply hope that someone will follow our lead. Instead, we should seek to identify the ways in which we can actually spur others on.

Another thing that stuck out to me in this episode was how Hazama worked with a single-minded focus to help the soldier on the battlefield to the point of not being bothered by the bullets flying by or his doctor bag being destroyed. He doesn’t even realize that he is being taken prisoner until a gun is shoved in his face to snap him back to the world around him. This focus reminded me of the single-minded focus we as believers are called to have in our service and commitment to Christ. True, we may often fall short of this, but we are still called to be focused on Him entirely even when life throws temptations, threats, dangers, heartaches, grief, and anything else at us. It is easy—oh so easy—to lose our focus when the bullets of life come flying at us, and in doing so we lose our peace, our focus, and our goal. If Hazama had lost his focus due to the bullets, a soldier would have died. If we lose our focus, then we put ourselves at risk of falling away from the purpose for which we were created and potentially falling out of our communion with Jesus. In either case, the stakes are high, and we should consider the importance of maintaining our focus even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Content Guide:

Language: 2 “sh*t”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A tank is hit with a shell and explodes; men fire guns; a soldier is shot; two people are executed off screen; a soldier hits a man with the butt of his rifle; fighting breaks out between the American and Viet Cong troops complete with gunfire, rocket launchers, and explosions; men are shot

Blood/Gore: A man is shot and blood sprays out; a man has blood coming from the corner of his mouth; Hazama operates on a man, resulting in bloody hands and lots of bloody gauze

Review: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans, Episode 8: The Form of Closeness

Review:

With Tekkadan achieving a decisive victory over the Hammerhead, Naze agrees to hear them out, ultimately siding with the young soldiers and consigning Arkay to work on a Teiwaz installation to pay off the debts he incurred. Afterwards, Orga holds several meetings with Naze, securing a transport route while also requesting that Tekkadan be made a subsidiary of Teiwaz. Orga’s second request requires approval that Naze can’t give, leading them to head to a larger Teiwaz ship. Meanwhile, both Akihiro and Mikazuki devote themselves to improving their combat skills while Atra and Kudelia play with Naze’s children. We are also given a deeper look into the bond that exists amongst the members of Tekkadan, as Naze confronts Orga about it and demands an answer. By the end of the episode, the Teiwaz ship that they are headed for is in sight, meaning that Tekkadan’s next ordeal is about to begin.

The previous episode wrapped up rather swiftly, with Tekkadan shown boarding the Hammerhead and Naze conceding defeat. This episode starts with an extended look at Tekkadan’s infiltration tactics and the methods by which they actually achieved victory. While not a crucial bit of information, the writers certainly deserve credit for fleshing out the details, especially because it helps to make the victory feel more believable. Beyond these opening scenes the episode is pretty much devoid of action, but it still carries itself well and remains interesting despite that, which is something that has sort of become a trademark for this show.

We get to see some subtle growth in our main characters this time around, with both Akihiro and Mikazuki seeming to be a bit humbled by their recent battles. At least, that is the conclusion that one could come to given the fact that they both realize their need for training, and by Mikazuki’s melancholic attitude during his post-battle meal. As the Gundam pilot for this series, Mikazuki is interesting in his own right, as he does not fall into either extreme that seems to be popular in the Gundam franchise—he is neither proud and cocky nor depressive and fatalistic. In fact, Mikazuki’s personality still feels a bit mysterious, though we at least see that he does regret causing problems for others to some extent.

Elsewhere, the dealings between Naze and Orga (and later Orga’s explanation of Tekkadan’s bond) serve as a great way to introduce Naze’s character without it feeling forced while also expanding upon Orga’s character. Although we had some sense of this beforehand, we can definitely say now that Orga was not simply some power-hungry youngster seeking his own fame and glory. His devotion to and care for his fellow members of Tekkadan prove that, although by his own admission he is still a bit childish in his approach, or at least that’s how he ends up presenting himself to Naze. Still, these little character flaws are what make for interesting characters, as we will hopefully get to see Orga, Mikazuki, and the others grow as the series progresses. Whether they grow past these flaws or learn to navigate around them will remain to be seen.

A Christian Perspective:

Matthew 19:5 – And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ (NLT)

I wanted to do something a bit different with this Christian Perspective and talk about marriage. As we find out in this episode, Naze has A LOT of wives. We’re not told how many, but we know that it’s enough to staff his entire ship, so he seems to have sown his oats quite a bit. Certainly we’ve all heard people make comments throughout our lives to suggest the “benefits” of multiple partners, such as the idea that having one woman for the rest of our lives is like having one flavor of ice cream forever while having multiple partners provides a “variety”. As we can see from Jesus’ description of marriage above, though, the God-ordained marriage is one man and one woman, period. It is easy to fall victim to the worldly mentality, especially when you don’t know the truth of God’s Word; I should know, as I speak from experience. Most of my life was spent in sexual immorality, and though I never had multiple sexual partners (thank God for that now), the thought was certainly appealing. It’s not until you see things from God’s perspective (read: the only correct perspective) that you begin to realize the beauty of marriage and having one man and one woman together forever. Without being too graphic or inappropriate, lets just say that when you have one person who knows you better than anyone else, the experience is simply amazing. It’s true that I can’t speak for the idea of having multiple partners, but as a married man I can speak for the idea of having one partner who knows me on an incredibly intimate level, and it is truly an amazing experience.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: Characters drink alcohol in the episode preview

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Women wear cleavage revealing tops

Violence: Ships fire at each other; Orga’s forces fire gas; Naze flicks Orga in the face

Blood/Gore: None