Saturday, January 14, 2017

Anime With Shrine Maidens

Shinto Shrines appear in anime fairly often.  If an anime runs long enough you are going to get a visit to a shrine for new years, or after school, or just a place to walk through, or maybe a scene will be even set in one.  They are part of the Japanese landscape and play an important religious role.  When I was visiting Kyoto in 2016 my hotel was near Yasaka Shrine and I wandered through it early in the morning and in the late evening when I was back from touring around.  In the morning, people on the way to work or kids going to school would cut through the grounds, sometimes stopping to offer a prayer or make a wish.  In the evening it was quite dark, even with the lighting on, and the place took on an air of mystery.  There were fewer worshippers and tourists, but you never really felt unsafe, and there was a security guard patrolling the grounds.   
Front Gate, Yasaka Shrine
When a Shinto shrine with shrine related characters is in an anime, the focus is usually on the shrine maiden (miko), rather than the priest of the shrine.  It is usually an opportunity to show a cute female character in the traditional white and red miko garments.  I have to say I kind of find this phenomenon fascinating myself and one of  my favourite characters out of Love Live is Nozomi who is a part time miko at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Akihabara.  Miko help out with shrine operations by cleaning, performing ceremonial dances, and selling fortunes (omikuji) or charms.  This isn't usually a full time job and it is for younger women and teens.  I also like foxes which really helps out when watching anime about Inari shrines which have fox guardians.
You can see how green it is around Yasaka Shrine
Shinto is an interesting religion with deep connections to nature, nature dieties, and especially the Inari shrines relating to good crops.  The religion has also taken quite a beating in Japan during the Meiji era as the central government set out to control Shinto as a way of controlling the deification of the Emperor.  They eliminated thousands of small family run shrines via consolidation and even set up their own administration.  After WWII these restrictions were dropped.  Shinto shrines do not receive government support and are supported by visitors and worshipers, so buy a charm or make an offering.  I've even read some interesting stuff about how some shrines even use an anime affiliation to attract visitors - like Kanda Myojin for Love Live! and Washinomiya for Lucky Star.
Torii Gates
Below is a brief listing of anime which have shrine maidens or have a shrine as a significant setting.  It is by no means comprehensive as there have to be dozens of shows. 
  • Aria
  • Stein's Gate
  • Lucky Star
  • Love Live
  • Sailor Moon
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Tayutama
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist
  • Kannazuki No Miko
  • Kannagi
  • Inu Yasha
  • Gingitsune
  • Lucky Star
  • Kamichu
  • Inari Kon Kon 
Out of these anime, there are three which I really like as they really feature shrines, and I'll cover them below.
Fushimi Inari
I really like this anime about the relationship between a teenage daughter of the priest of a small Shinto Shrine and its resident fox guardian.  The fox is a little cranky, ancient, but rediscovers some of the joys of living when Makoto (the daughter) involves him with some of her adventures.  Makoto is the true successor of the shrine as she has the sight to see Gintarou the giant white fox spirit.
A young girl, Yurie, becomes a kami (kind of like a Japanese god) and learns to use her powers.  The whole show is pretty closely tied to Japanese mythology with kami and of course a local Shinto Shrine where one of her best friends is a shrine maiden and daughter of the priest.  Some of the explorations about the world of the gods and how they interact with us on our plane are pretty good.

Inari Kon Kon
This one is a recent favourite and a great deal of it happens at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.  After visiting the shrine, it is one of my top attractions in Japan as it is just pretty amazing with its thousands of torii gates.  The main character is a girl named Inari Fushimi and she gains the power of being able to transform into another human shape from the resident goddess, Uka, who also happens to like playing dating sims.  The granting of the transformation power eventually gets both Inari and and Uka into trouble and they need to venture into the realm of the gods again to resolve everything.

More anime related posts.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Was a Pretty Good Year For Anime Shows

Looking back on 2016, I have to say it was a pretty darn good year of anime viewing for me.  A number of very memorable shows were on, some of which will be classics in the years to come.
Most of these shows were on Crunchyroll, with a few on Netflix, but Netflix has some awesomely great shows in their catalog.
Love Live Sunshine Display in Akiba
When I thought about what I really liked, these shows really stood out for originality, art, and even their openings and endings.  Great stories and characters sure helped too.  My top three anime (as in what I like) from last year would have been:
  • Izetta: The Last Witch - great story and a witch that flies on an anti-tank rifle that is set in an alternate WWII historical environment.  Izetta and the duchess were great characters with some great scenes of magic versus tech.  Well imagined world and a nice portrayal of magic. 
  • ERASED - great story about a 29 year old guy name Satoru Fujinuma who has the ability to jump slightly back in time (rewind) to save a life.  He gets involved in events that take him back into his 10 year old self to save the life of a girl and fix something that has haunted him since.
  • Re:ZERO Starting Life in Another World. A shut-in named Subaru Natsuki finds himself transported to a fantasy world where he meets a silver haired, half-elf named Emilia.  Their fates are now linked and he finds out that there are some pretty dark forces at work in this world, but he has the ability to restart the day after dying.  Why and how he does this is a mystery, but the story is pretty good, and it is a lot like restarting from the last save point in a video game.
Out of these shows, only Re:ZERO is a longer running one.  When I was in Tokyo in November, it was pretty hard to find any merchandise for any of these shows.  I did notice that there was plenty of merchandise for shows like Gintama (super popular) or a few other long running shows that are still airing, but some shows like Bleach which are done, there was very little to buy.

Then I had a bunch of shows that were super good, really entertaining, and maybe even really close to the top three so they should have been up there.  In this set, there was some mecha love from Mobile Suit Gundam and Schwarzes Marken.  I got to see my home city of Edmonton get some Gundams fighting down on Jasper Avenue (main street).  Schwarzes Marken was pretty cool with the alternate Cold War and having mecha action set in East Germany with the Stasi (secret police) and politics of the time.  GATE just rocked with modern tech versus fantasy as the Japanese Self-Defence Forces fight medieval invaders.  Food Wars! has got to be my favourite food anime, with the tasty food related plots and cooking.  Konosuba was a pretty hilarious take on an otaku trapped in a fantasy game world and who doesn't only practice Explosion magic!  March comes in like a lion was a great character show based on the backdrop of the Japanese chess game Shogi.  Yuri!!! On ICE was a pretty good story with fantastic skating animation.  Inari Kon Kon was an anime I wish I had seen prior to visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine as it makes it a pretty magical place with the red torii gates even more magical.  I always like the stories about kami and shrines.  Finally, Love Live Sunshine was a nice successor to Love Live, but my first love will always be Love Live!
  • Mobile Suit GUNDAM Iron Blooded Orphans
  • Schwarzes Marken
  • GATE
  • Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma
  • KONOSUBA -God's blessing on this wonderful world!
  • March comes in like a lion
  • Yuri!!! On ICE
  • Inari Kon Kon
  • Love Live Sunshine
A bunch of the other stuff I managed to watch and thought was pretty good included:
  • Drifters
  • Brave Witches
  • High School Fleet
  • ReLIFE
  • Flying Witch
  • Alderamin on the Sky
  • Adventures of Sindbad
  • KuroMukuro
  • Heavy Object
  • Yuki Yuna is a Hero
  • Qualidea Code
  • Amanchu!
  • Garakowa -Restore the World-
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride
  • The Lost Village 
  • Myriad Colors Phantom World
  • BAKUON!! 
  • Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon
  • Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Then there was the stuff that I think I'm only going to watch a few episodes:
  • Kaiju Girls
  • ClassicaLoid Beethoven, Mozart
  • Cheating Craft
And finally some stuff I need to watch or have on my to do list.
  • Twin Star Exorcists
  • Blue Exorcist
  • Durarara
  • Lostorage incited WIXOSS 

It is always interesting to look back and see what you watched over the year, even if it was for only one episode.  I probably missed a few too, but this is already a pretty long list.