John Harju
Podcaster and Musician

It’s anime April, everyone.  This is where I get to fly my poser flag.  The fact is that I really don’t know a lot about Anime, but I know what I like.  So… I know more than the average guy, but I am the low man on the totem pole in the geekdom.  With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk.  Cool?

A couple of days ago, the Moras asked me to write an article about my favorite Anime and why.  I flat out told them that it was extremely easy for me and could pound that out in no time.  I also sometimes say things without really thinking first as well.  I blame my improv classes in High School Drama.  Naturally, when I stepped back and really let the synapses fire on the subject, I realized my dilemma: I absolutely cannot choose between 2 particular series.  I’ve spent the day grinding on it, and in the end, I determined that I am going to talk about both of them and make a spiritual connection with them.

Let’s go back to my initial response.  When I was asked to write this, the first thing that came to mind was Samurai Champloo.  I love, love, LOVE this show.  I was first introduced to it by a friend of mine named Josh by way of the Kill Bill movies.  He had explained to me that the people who did the animated backstory for Oren Ishii also make a show called Samurai Champloo, and it is ridiculously good.  I checked it out on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, and he was right. 

Aside from the palpable carnage that the series didn’t shy away from (sorry, when it comes to Samurais, I am a bit of a gorehound), I was intrigued by the narrative.  It almost was a Freudian allegory.  The three main characters illustrate Freud’s model of the human psyche very well.  First, you have Mugan.  He is a free-wheeling sword for hire who does whatever he feels like at the given moment. He wants nothing more than to satisfy whatever his current desire is at the given moment.  He would be the Id in this scenario.

On the other hand, you have the reserved and disciplined Jin.  He exercises great patience and attention to his moral code, careful to act in a very prudent, circumspect manner. This would be our superego. Finally, between the two of them, we have Fuu. She is the neutral party who is trying to make the best out of whatever situation she is handed.  She isn’t particularly impulsive, but she isn’t overly disciplined either. She doesn’t go out of her way, but she isn’t averse to bending the rules when needed.  She caps off my model as the Ego.  It is a FANTASTIC moral play to watch these three representations of the human condition interplay with each other.

 Now, It will be difficult for me to talk about the second Anime because it is BEST seen completely cold.  I will, however, endeavor to discuss what I can.  Please bear with me and know that I only have your best intentions in mind as I do.

I want to talk about Trigun.

Trigun I love for very similar reasons to Samurai Champloo, but they are a bit more nuanced.  To talk about the reason why I got into Trigun would be to discuss why I also refer to myself as an anime poser.  I have a moral guideline when it comes to anything I watch.  I heard a former pastor of mine say it to his kid once, and it stuck with me: “Blood and Guts, no Boobs and Butts.”  I apologize if this statement is a bit too racy for you; it has kept me above reproach for a long time.

Anyway, I used to be in a band called Burning Clean (feel free to look us up on YouTube, we have a music video called Amma).  Our bassist, Ethan, was into Anime a bit.  Not like REALLY into it, but he could talk shop with the REAL anime geeks.  At practice, one day, he was talking about Attack on Titan.  I complained to him that I was frustrated with Anime because all of the stuff everyone likes has nudity or sexual situations in them, so I am always left out.  Ethan is to blame for my second pick on the list. 

He told me that Trigun doesn’t have any nudity in it and only briefly circles being pervy a couple of times. I could deal with that.  Well, one day, friends and neighbors, I had injured my back and needed to be horizontal for the day.  I binged the majority of the series, and what a treat it was!!  You have Vash the Stampede, trying to spread love and peace, but calamities just keep happening around him for which he is blamed.  You have the two insurance ladies (pardon me, their names escape me at the moment) who begin to realize the truth about Vash and his true desire for peace. OH, and the pastor…. how I love the pastor, with his big cross so full of mercy.  I really don’t want to give too much away on the plot because it takes some turns that I don’t want to spoil, but there is a moral play here about perception and reality.  Sometimes, we can only do the good in our immediate area, affecting the small few around us while the whole world is crashing down, but though it may seem like we haven’t accomplished anything at all, it will mean everything to those people.

Now, do you want to know my dark little secret?  Despite owning both series, I have never finished either of them.  Pretty lame, right?  I’ve watched them both down to the last five episodes, but I can’t bring myself to complete them.  I have a hard time finishing shows I love.  I don’t want them to be over.  I want the characters to live on forever in my mind.  I know, though, that I eventually will finish them (and it probably will be this year), but it will be a rough ride for me.  I think this is really what defines a great anime series: characters beyond fictional tools to deliver a plot point, but friends with whom you shared an adventure. I promise you that these adventures are worth having, and you will learn to love the friends you make along the way.

Much in the way that my reasons for loving Trigun were more nuanced and less defined, so too were my spiritual ties.  Did you find them? I hope so.  You are loved.