Author Archives: TWWK

Something More: Plastic Religious Memories, Steins;gate Heaven, and Sinful Pokemon

A new season of anime is upon us!  And it’s been…underwhelming?  Still, there are interesting series here and there, and a few that provide us with something a little deeper to think about as well.

Jimmy Kudo’s transformation into Detective Conan teaches us about humility and servant leadership. [Kendall Lyons]

The Steins;gate of that named series makes an interesting metaphor for Heaven. [Famous Rose]

Yuri of Angel Beats! declares her hate for God, but underneath, is she looking for the hope that God provides? [Old Line Elephant]

Medieval Otaku is taking a hiatus from blogging (including from here on Beneath the Tangles), but unsurprisingly, leaves us with some Christian wisdom in a post that discusses Ashita no Joe, Maria the Virgin Witch, and Gokukoku no Brynhildr.

The Japanese’ pragmatic and syncretic approach to religion applies to in anime as well as in real life, with Devilman and Evangelion shining as examples. [Ogiue Maniax]

Draggle wasn’t impressed with the theology expressed in Maria the Virgin Witch. [Draggle’s Anime Blog]

Dee mentions Buddhist themes among those that complicate Plastic Memories. [The Josei Next Door]

Plastic Memories can also be approached through a Christian perspective, particularly in light of what scripture tells us about giving love. [Geeks Under Grace]

The opening episode of Re-Kan! provides a example of faith can be. [Christian Anime Review]

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the flap this week in which a site claimed that the much-derided Creflo Dollar (he of the “my congregation should buy me a new jet”) espoused the evils of Pokemon in a sermon.  Although a number of outlets picked up on the story and had fun with it, the source article never links to such a sermon. [Christnews]

As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.

Wolfwood and Vash: A Contrast in Faith

There’s a distinction between a Christian in name only and one in practice.  You don’t have to proclaim yourself a Christian to know as much – those outside the faith can see the actions of, say, the Westboro Baptist Church and without much knowledge still firmly state that these folks are not practicing the faith as Jesus taught it.  It’s only a skip and a beat to Christian characters in anime, who aren’t there to preach the gospel to a nation that’s 99% non-Christian, but rather to color a series by bringing in a background that might provide for interesting storytelling.  And so when you see a priest character, like Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun, you understand as a viewer that this character is probably developed as a Christian in name, not in spirit.

What’s interesting about Trigun, though, is that Wolfwood is saved spiritually in part through the words of an unbelieving plant.  And even more surprising is this – that “plant,” Vash the Stampede, is a better example of faith than his seemingly spiritual counterpart.

Vash and Wolfwood

Reprinted with permission [http://bit.ly/1FQJW89]

As we delve into the topic of faith, it’s probably a good idea to get a good definition of it.  The writer of Hebrews defines it as such:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

– Hebrews 11:1

This definition is significant in a variety of ways.  Since many might focus on the idea that we “do not see” when it comes to faith, one could easily make the assumption that having “faith,” in a Christian sense, means that you believe blindly.  That’s an easy conclusion to make, but it would be a wrong one.  Not being able to see doesn’t mean making irrational jumps based on emotion and upbringing and whatever else leads one blindly to religion – it means trusting in one’s belief even if you can’t see it right now.  Even when the road is difficult and you’re in despair, a strong faith will lead you to lean on your belief even when you can’t see it played out in action.

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Something More: Maria the Inaccurate Witch, Guslinger Augustine, and the Divine Satsuki

It’s that time of the year again when new anime come out to play!  We’ve got one post on a new series below, and number about shows that have completed their runs.

Taylor zeroes in on Satsuki of Kill la Kill as a divine figure. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

Medieval Otaku dives into the medievalness of Maria the Virgin Witch, discussing how accurate the series was to that historic time, including how the show portrayed “heretics.” [Medieval Otaku]

Romance is discussed often in the bible, the absurdities of which are on full display in Urusei Yatsura. [2]

Nameko Families, an anime about anthropomorphic mushrooms, can tell us a lot about Christian love and forgiveness in a marriage. [Old Line Elephant]

A Christian newspaper in Japan is featuring a religious slice-of-life manga, whose protagonist is named Pyuuri-tan. [Kotaku]

Did you catch the St. Augustine quote in the first episode of Gunslinger Stratos? [Aliens in This World]

iblessall saves her lowest rating of the 2015 winter anime season for Maria the Virgin Witch, largely for it’s misrepresentation of Christianity. [Mage in a Barrel]

The finale for KanColle evokes teachings about the body of Christ. [Christian Anime Review]

As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  Thanks to Laura of Heart of Manga for pointing me toward the Pyuuri-tan news!  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.

 

Top 5 + Guest: Most Overrated Anime

There are a lot of really great anime out there.  There are a lot of really bad series, too.  And then there’s that subset of anime that are held in high esteem, but don’t deserve all the praise or popularity that they receive.  For our Top 5 + Guest post this month, we’re tackling those series that get a lot of love, but maybe deserve to get a little more hate.

Joining us today is Tommy of Anime Bowl.  A long-time aniblogger, Tommy’s unique site combines his passions of anime and sports.  He’s recently started a Toonami podcast and has just finished up his annual March Madness character tournament (I was defending champion in the pick ’em, but came in dead last this year).

And as always, tell us below how we messed up and what shows would make your list!

Tommy’s Picks

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  2. Attack on Titan
  3. Sword Art Online (I)
  4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
  5. Durarara!!

fma 4All my picks are incredibly popular shows which have appeared on Toonami/Adult Swim recently; shows that are household names amongst otaku, yet ultimately missing something that causes them to fall into mediocrity. The top choice is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which failed to live up to the reputation of its predecessor due to a reliance on deus ex machina – which will be a recurring theme amongst my choices. Over and over again, Edward Elric, who was a very well-developed character in the first series, ends up in Brotherhood somehow always magically making the right choice no matter what, making him as close to a Gary Stu as you can get. And while I love how Brotherhood ends – I rank its final episode second only to Cowboy Bebop’s “The Real Folk Blues” – the major conflict is resolved by a dose of deus ex machina reminiscent of Frozen (just “love,” Elsa!). Next are Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online, which are two peas in a pod. Both suffer from a never-wrong shonen lead (like Edward Elric, to an extent), and both never live up to the over-the-top hype they received upon airing. Both make heavy uses of deus ex machina – in particular SAO. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a tough one to criticize; it’s got lots to like, and it has some really strong characters. However, if your bar is set at “Evangelion,” anything short of “masterpiece” is to fall short. (Plus my heart was ripped out in the finale. NIA!!!) Finally, Durarara!! doesn’t really fit anywhere amongst these, but I can’t figure out why everyone else loves this one. I watch it asking, “am I just watching people chat in chatrooms? How is this entertaining?” So while I do enjoy all these series, they ultimately fall short of the hype. Except Durarara!! – I can’t enjoy that. Read the rest of this entry

Requested: Questions About Anime and Religion!

Have you ever heard this one?  Three Christians and an atheist walk into a…

Oh wait.  That’s actually not a joke – it’s our next podcast episode.  At the end of this month, I’ll be joining The Tangles’ hosts, Japes and Sean, and a special guest as we talk about anime, religion, and the intersection between the two.

This is where you come in.  We need your questions to help stimulate discussion for the podcast.  Please leave one or two (or more) below. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Questions about Christianity, atheism, or anything else related to religion – feel free to get personal if you’d like.
  • Questions religion in anime, whether superficially or thematically

Thanks in advance, all!

Producing Anime/Christian Products: An Interview with Inside Surrendering

As anime grows increasingly popular and etches its place in popular culture, more and more individuals and groups have focused on what we do here – finding an intersection between anime and Christianity.  Besides the multitude of blogs that now explore this arena, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs are developing products that bring together anime and faith, crossing creativity with a mission mindset.  Inside Surrendering is one such venture, offering “entertaining and purposeful products, art and stories that best represent what the true Gospel is all about: Love, Grace, and Truth.”

I recently interviewed Tim and Yavanna, the company’s founders:

inside surrenderingTWWK: This is a pretty unique idea for ministry – how did you come up with the idea?

Tim: We originally came up with the idea for Inside Surrendering back in October of 2013. Yavanna and I had met earlier that year in April, and we almost immediately knew we wanted to do ministry together – we just weren’t sure what kind of ministry it would be. I myself was very familiar with the anime convention scene and already had a desire to one day start a convention ministry. Once I learned about Yavanna’s own desire to minister to people through her art, it just made sense to start something like this.

Yavanna: Tim and I originally had a lot of ideas of how we wanted to go into ministry. We were kind of all over the place, and maybe a little too ambitious about wanting to reach EVERYBODY in the world. We even had the idea of starting a church at one point. In the end, what it came down to was focusing on what gifts we had, and who we could reach with those gifts.  We love Jesus, but we’re also huge nerds, and combining those two passions is what led us to wanting to go into a ministry of reaching out to fellow nerds, geeks and otaku.

TWWK: Did you have any hesitation about diving into this venture?

Tim: I wouldn’t say that there was much hesitation in the beginning, but there was a lot of doubt. Christianity is very misunderstood among our fellow young people today, maybe even more so in the otaku community. So we weren’t sure how to go about presenting the Gospel to them, or how well it might be received, if at all.

Yavanna: There was a little bit of hesitation. I mean, personally, I questioned and doubted myself a lot. I wasn’t sure if I could bring glory to Jesus with my art, if it was good enough, or if it would even help people. And there were quite a few times where Tim and I were discouraged by the world we live in, and wondered if we could even make a difference. But, thankfully, Jesus has always been there to pull us through.

Read the rest of this entry

Kanon: Rising to Life

As much as I enjoy Clannad (I’ve written more than a half-dozen articles on the series), it’s not my favorite Key anime. My very favorite series of theirs, and one my favorites period, is Kanon.  As probably is the case for a lot of you and your top series, it’s difficult for me to explain why I love the show so much. I know I like the wintry setting. I like the “sad girls in snow” thing that’s going on. And most pronouncedly, I like angel-winged Ayu Tsukimiya, who stands as one of my favorite two or three characters in anime. Despite, or maybe cause of, her foibles (thief!), faults, and childishness, I find her character irresistible.

But the central character in Kanon, as with other Key anime, is not the girl – it’s a guy. Yuichi Aizawa, our hero, is a good lead – he’s kind and has a lot of personality. The story begins with him moving to a slightly mystical town to attend school and live with his aunt and cousin.  He’d lived here as a child, but a traumatic event led him away (and caused him to lose part of his memory). As the story progresses, Yuichi meets (or reconnects) with a cast of characters, and one by one, he helps them with their sometimes supernatural issues. (Warning: Spoilers Ahead).

Kanon

And that’s most of the show – Yuichi helping these girls with their problems. He’s compelled to aid them by a sense of kindness, and with maybe only Nayuki being an exception, he helps bring a modicum of healing to them all – physical, emotional, spiritual. Yuichi’s presence and instigation helps resolve these young ladies’ deep-seated problems.

Of course, the most dramatic path of all is the one that’s left for the end – Ayu’s story. As the pieces come together – little hints here and there that showed us Ayu wasn’t quite present – we find out that she and Yuichi are connected in the most painful of ways. Read the rest of this entry

Revisiting Clannad and Fathers

One of my most popular posts on this site was for a personal piece I wrote regarding Clannad After Story and fatherhood.  I revisited the post recently, and it struck me both how much time has passed, as the article marked a time – now seemingly long ago – when my kids were practically babies, and how the challenges remain the same.  In the article, I mention how being a parent is so very hard.  It can be very lonely and painful when you want to do the best for your child but can’t, either because it’s out of your control or because you’re out of control.

But as I read the essay, I was reminded of how Clannad demonstrates God’s love for us through the relationships involving fathers.  The comparisons are remarkable:

  • Tomoya’s dad sacrificed his life for his son in terms of career and motivation and energy.  We’re like Tomoya, who didn’t realize what his dad had done for him, and what sacrifice he gave for one who didn’t comprehend that love.
  • Tomoya is like a prodigal father, aided by Ushio, who helps him see that even though he left what should have been precious to him because of his own demons and desires, there is a childlike forgiveness available.  A grown-up Ushio maybe wouldn’t forgive a dad who only reluctantly tried to reinsert himself into her life, but the little girl loves him tenderly and shows such affection that Tomoya’s heart is changed.  He realizes the awfulness in what he did in abandoning her, and changes his life to be the father he should have been all along.

ushio

The Father’s love is without borders.  We are never at the point of no return.  Today is Good Friday, a time to think upon how Christ took the penalty we deservedm just as how Tomoya didn’t deserve forgiveness from Ushio, and laid down his life, just as Tomoya’s dad sacrifices his to raise him, so that we could live.  I hope you’ll think about this awesome love today, especially, and if you haven’t surrendered to that love, consider doing so, for your story isn’t over yet.  Your “after” story can be one, too, filled with grace and a heart changed forever.

To read my original article, visit the link below:

Diary of an Anime Lived: The Selfless/Selfish Daddy

Holy Week 2015: Key Anime and Easter

Easter is kind of a peculiar time of year for Christians.  We celebrate it, dress up in our Sunday finest and…search for Easter eggs.  And although we talk about the commercialization of Christmas, many households across the country have made a concerted effort to at least keep that holiday holy.  Easter, on the other hand, feels almost forced as a holy day and certainly only receives a fraction of the attention that Christmas does, even though it’s our most significant holiday.

To try to keep a focus on the magnitude of the events that transpired during the week leading up to the first Easter, and that Sunday itself, we delve into one specific topic during Holy Week each year and discuss it each on the days leading up Easter.  This year, we’re focusing on a topic many of us on Beneath the Tangles adore – Key anime and visual novels.  As a sort of early kick-off to the week, JP, Sean, and Kaze co-hosted a special, extended edition of “The Tangles” last week exploring Key – I highly encourage you to check it out!

key

For our posts this week, we’ll be focusing on properties we’ve barely touched in the past. Expect posts on Air and Kanon, but most of all, we’ll be diving into another of Key’s beloved properties – I’ll save that surprise and let Kaze reveal which one on Tuesday.

In the meantime, feel free to check out some of our many past articles on Key, particularly their properties’ anime adaptations.  Here’s a selection of them:

I hope you’ll join us this week, but more importantly, I also hope that you’ll spend time this week meditating on Easter and what it means.  And my challenge to you all is this: as we approach Easter Sunday a week from now – attend a church.  Step into the doors of a sanctuary.  Go see what it’s all about, or go back if you haven’t been for some time.  Perhaps you’ll see what we writers on the blog here know – God is good.

Guest Post: Tokyo Ghoul and the Nature of Repentance in the Midst of Sin

I’m proud to present an article today on Tokyo Ghoul from KnightofCalvary, a graduating seminary student and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserves and former A.D. Vision partner through Suncoast and Anime Central.  If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, send us a pitch via email.

As a concept, I don’t typically watch anime with the level of violence and gore that Tokyo Ghoul has. However, I’m also not entirely opposed to doing so strictly on the basis of the level of violence. Rather, I’m often left with feelings of disappointment from such anime due to shortfalls in storytelling or character development. Tokyo Ghoul definitely sets itself a part in that respect. It is both heavily violent and well done in terms of storytelling and development of its characters, particularly the main character, Ken Kaneki.

Spoilers to follow.

Poorly fortuned Kaneki is turned into a human eating ghoul following what can only be described as the worst streak of bad luck ever. After surviving an encounter with a female ghoul that attempts to eat him, he ends up in the hospital following the attack and ends up with her organs being transplanted to him to save his life. This results in Kaneki becoming half-ghoul and half-human. The remainder of the first season is spent dealing with Kaneki’s newly found identity issues, integration as a ghoul, conflicts with the police enforcement agency specializing in tracking and destroying ghouls and in the middle of all of this, struggling to maintain some sort of humanity. This effort to remain true to his human half however ultimately fails due to his overwhelming desire to protect those he cares about in the season 1 finale.

Tokyo Ghoul 1

Picking up with season 2, Kaneki has fully embraced his new ghoul qualities and powers, however his desire to protect his friends leads him to something forbidden even for a ghoul which is cannibalism, that is a ghoul eating another ghoul. All this leads up to a fight at one point between Amon, an “anti-ghoul” investigator that Kaneki previously showed mercy to and himself. Now at this point in the story, Kaneki’s cannibalism has led to a rage like lack of self control and Amon says during the fight, “That’s all, right? An ordinary ghoul is all you are, right? That’s all, right?!” This snaps Kaneki out of his blind rage and after regaining his self control, he says “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. I was left with this powerful impression of our daily and constant struggles with sin.

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