Author Archives: TWWK

Come and See: Do You Evangelize?

Beneath the Tangles isn’t your typical aniblog.  While we certainly discuss anime – lots of it – our purpose goes further than that, “beneath the tangles” of entertainment and animation.  We seek to look at what we believe are spiritual truths as they are demonstrated through anime.  We also want to engage our readers in discussion related to religion and spirituality, to encourage people to dig deeper into faith and question what they believe to be true.

To help accomplish as much, I’ll be doing a biweekly series asking questions related to Christianity, religion, and/or spirituality.  Through November, I’ll post every other Wednesday, posting questions that I hope will give you pause and maybe stir some discussion.

Today’s questions are about evangelism:

  • What are your thoughts on evangelism.  Do you find it necessary?  Annoying?  Improper?
  • What does your faith, if you have one, teach you about evangelism?
  • Do you practice evangelism yourself? How so?

Please comment below with your responses as we engage each other about faith.

 

1,000 Posts!

Well…this milestone snuck up on me.

This post is our 1,000th here on Beneath the Tangles!

A little over four years ago, I began Beneath the Tangles as a way of bringing Christian conversation into the anime community.  The blog was obviously quite different at the time – less personal in tone and more overtly religious.  My very first post was dated September 12th, 2010: My So-Called Virtual Life.

That first year was really about finding my way with the blog.  I did several columns (none of which we now continue), engaged anibloggers in a large survey (from which we received some very positive and very negative response), and grew relationships with readers, mostly within that blogging community.

However, over the years, the tone of the blog changed as we found our voice and reached out to a more general audience of anime fans.  I say “we” because the biggest change of all was the addition of co-bloggers, who have now really taken ownership of the blog – developing their own columns, media projects, and generally making their own way.  Here are the my co-bloggers, with their join dates (because I think they’ll get a kick out of seeing those):

1. R86 (October 10, 2011): A friend before he was a co-blogger, R86 is actually the only one of the writers here I’ve met in person (a few of the others have met each other though).  He remains one of my closest friends, and someone who I can go to for advice, about anime or life in general.

1. Goldy (October 10, 2011): Joining at the same time as R86, Goldy brings a lot of anime-related experience to the blog and has a tone to her writing that I really admire – wise, calming, engaging.  I’ve counted on her to really carry the blog a number of times through the years.

3. Murasaki Lynna (October 18, 2011): Lynna joined shortly after our first two additions.  I was glad to have her join because she’s a wonderful writer and her interests reach out to a different audience than the rest of us.  What I found out later is that she’s also a real sparkplug, adding an exciting energy to our group.

4. Zeroe4 (February 28, 2012): Through the years, a little community of Christian anibloggers has developed – and it may have started with us and with Zeroe4, who was doing “Christian aniblogging,” if that’s a category, for a long while before he ended up crossing over to the dark side our blog.  Very sincere and very helpful, I’ve long counted on Zeroe4 to do a variety of projects/posts for us.

5. Hansha (June 14, 2012): Probably no one convicts me as much as Hansha does through her posts.  I depend on her greatly not only for her writing expertise, but also the content she writes and for the sincerity and honesty in which she delivers it (and in which she lives)

6. Kaze (March 18, 2013): What can I say about Kaze? He’s living the life of an otaku – he’s the best source I know for anime-related news. He also brings a unique viewpoint to our blog, one that I think forces us to think outside of our cozy little Christianese ways.

7. Japesland (September 18, 2013): If you started following our the blog over the last year, it might surprise you to find out that this isn’t Japes’ personal blog for how much he writes!  We’ve grown in a lot of ways through the past 12 months, in large part because of Japes’ energy and dedication.  And oh yes, he’s a good friend, too!

On the other side of the screen, there is you, the audience.  Thank you so much for reading along, whether you’re a recent convert or if you’re among the handful that’s been here since near the beginning.  Ultimately, we’re writing for readers – not for ourselves.  We want to engage you in good discussion, whether it’s encouraging you think about these topics we write about on your own or in public through the comments.  I hope we’ve done well the past four years, and that we’ll continue to deliver thought-provoking content for many more posts to come!

Top 5 + Guest: Our Favorite Sports Anime

It looks as if sports anime are in a revival these days.  Yowamushi Pedal, Free, Haikyuu!, Baby Steps, and Ping Pong are among very recent (and very well-reviewed) sports series, and though very different in tone from past classics, continue with some of the same addicting elements that draw people to these shows, like the ideas/themes of the underdog, growth through pain, the value of teamwork, and of course, the feel of victory!

Below are some of our writers’ picks for their favorite sports anime.  We’re also joined by a real enthusiast of the genre, Annalyn of Annalyn’s Thoughts.  Maybe you’ll find a gem or two below to try out!

R86’s Top 5

  1. Oofuri / Haikyuu! (tie)
  2. Aoki Densetsu Shoot!
  3. Kuroko no Basuke
  4. Major
  5. Plawres Sanshirou

haikyuu 1It’s to no one’s surprise that Oofuri tops my list, with its story about a startup boys’ high school baseball club, covering everything from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat and a lot more besides. Much more surprising was the speed with which recent volleyball anime Haikyuu!! rocketed up my list. And while anime viewers will be familiar with the rapid-paced, almost violently colorful Kuroko’s Basketball, it’s likely that fewer will have heard of soccer anime Aoki Densetsu Shoot! which, like Cross Game, deals with heartbreaking loss as well as striving for excellence. And even fewer will know about Plawres Sanshirou, a 1983 series about a boy who wants only to build the best miniature fighting robot in the world. And Major is unusual among baseball anime for its length, both in the sense of being some 150 episodes long, and in the sense of covering about 30 years of the lead character’s life.

Kaze’s Top 5

  1. Chihayafuru
  2. Daiya no Ace
  3. Ashita no Joe
  4. Ginban Kaleidoscope
  5. One Outs

chihayafuru 1I honestly have not seen many sports anime, so this is closer to a list of sports anime I have seen. At least I can give myself credit for having watched one of the biggest anime classics of all time Ashita no Joe, which is arguably the biggest influence on all modern sports manga/anime. Ginban Kaleidoscope is much closer to romance than a traditional sports anime, which is no doubt why it made my list but where else are you going to get an anime about figure skating? 

TWWK’s Top 5

  1. Cross Game
  2. Oofuri
  3. Bamboo Blade
  4. Free!
  5. Suzuka

cross game 6In anime as well as live action, baseball lends itself to making great drama.  My top two titles are baseball series (and if I added a sixth and seventh, they both would have been a baseball series, too – Taishou Baseball Girls and Touch).  At the very top is Cross Game, which walked the line between being a light-hearted sports series and a sensitive show about loss – it’s a wonderful anime (and even better manga) that I highly recommend.

Annalyn’s Top 5:

  1. Kuroko’s Basketball
  2. Oofuri (Big Windup!)
  3. Cross Game
  4. Haikyuu!!
  5. Daiya no Ace

kuroko 1This list was a product of much deliberation, and the rankings will probably change again within a month. Kuroko’s Basketball had a big boost from its animation. I could watch the characters’ smooth, elegant movements all day long. Kurobas’s studio, Production I.G., also had its hand in Haikyuu!!, Daiya no Ace, and a surprisingly close runner-up, Prince of Tennis. The fact that I remember the studio’s name shows how impressed I am—those details are hard for me to remember.

And with much consternation, I’ll present Japes’ list…

Japesland’s Top 5

  1. Free!
  2. Free!
  3. Free!
  4. Free!
  5. Free!

free anime teamAfter consulting my somewhat monstrous anime list, I discovered that I have actually only seen one sports anime: Free!. I definitely like Free!. I don’t think I love it, but it is easily the best sports anime I’ve ever seen. Hah. Hah. Hah. I also noticed that Redline is apparently categorized as a sports anime. As much as I adore that movie, I hardly think it counts. I’ve also seen two episodes of Yawara and Dan Doh!!, but again I’m left with the issue that Free! is the only sports anime I’ve actually completed. Sad day for Japesland. Sad day…

Now that you’re free from Japes’ list (bwahahahah!) and the others, it’s your turn.  What are some recommendations you have for sports anime, whether from our lists above or those we might have missed?

Sora no Method, Episode 3: You CAN Go Home Again

Sometimes when you go home, you find that you don’t always feel welcome there.  It might be intentional, as with how Shione treats Nonoka in episode three of Sora no Method (Celestial Method).  Or it could just be that you’ve moved past it or no longer feel in sync with a place.

So, then, why go home?

That, in fact, is the question Shione asks of Nonoka.  Already aggressive toward our protagonist, she takes her bitterness to a further level by slapping Nonoka in this episode as the two, along with Yuzuki and Koharu, team up on an extracurricular “orienteering” activity.  Shione has obviously grown resentful over the years at Nonoka for bringing the saucer into their lives and for leaving them.  It’s just like a teenager, I think, to forget about the possibility that Nonoka didn’t want to leave, but as a child who was about to lose her mom, had no other choice.

celestial method

I thought Nonoka was going to lose it…

Still, why come home?  Nonoka obviously moves back because her dad brings her, but is there a deeper meaning to her return?

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Serve Like a Librarian, Arrogant Aldnoah, and Doraemon Temple

The fall season is in full swing!  But the articles below are largely for series from seasons past (not that it’s a bad thing to reflect on shows we’ve already finished).

Frank has been commenting on Hanamayata all season long, and concludes with a post covering Christian themes in the final episodes and the season as a whole. [A Series of Miracles]

Frank also extols the virtue of servanthood, as demonstrated in episode 2 of Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai. [2]

Although not specifically about anime, I”d be remiss to leave out Taylor’s recent post on Legend of Korra and facets of Christian spirituality. [Taylor Ramage's Blog]

Continuing a trend of mixing anime with Buddhism, Doraemon has been painted onto an ancient Thai temple. [Kotaku]

Rob reviews season one of Aldnoah.zero, and adds in some commentary on the value of humility. [Geeks Under Grace]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week 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 if you’d like it included.

Your Lie in April Episode 2: I Stand Amazed

Oh, my.  I think this is the series I’ve been waiting for my whole life.

Kaori Miyazono

Episode two of Your Lie in April takes us past the mere introductions of episode one and shows us what the two main characters are all about.  Kousei is further revealed as a damaged young man, traumatized by his mother’s death (and by her life) – and yet as someone who is intentionally kind.  Kaori, the free spirit, demonstrates both her talent and personality through performance, and shows us a hidden timidity as well.

Kaori’s version draws the attention of everyone in the auditorium – in a negative way by sticklers, but in a very positive way by other judges, the audience, and her friends.  Kousei is especially moved.  Although he find Kaori annoying, and reminds himself of such, that isn’t the conclusion he reaches about her.  Ultimately, he decides this:

She is beautiful.

Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Migi’s Claim of Humans as Demons

Parasyte (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) has been a provocative series.  On a surface level, it weaves together grotesque, hyper-violence with humor and a gentle protagonist, while combining modern anime style with 80’s sensibility.  On a deeper level, it also calls forth significant topics – in episode two, we are introduced to a heavy environmentalist theme, as well as something more philosophical.

The Claim

Shinichi, as you’d expect, is having a hard time getting used to alien living on his hand.  He calls it all sorts of names (other than the one it gives itself – Migi), including “demon.”  But Migi has an interesting response to being called this:

Shinichi, upon researching the concept of demons, I believe that, among all life, humans are the closest thing to it.

The rest of the episode, it seems, does a lot to support Migi’s assertion.

Kiseijuu Migi

Read the rest of this entry

Anime’s Common Grace

Note: This article was originally intended for publication elsewhere.  Read The Life and Death of an Anime Article on an Evangelical Website for the whole story.  This post contains spoilers for Haibane Renmei, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Trigun, and Death Note.

InceptionBlack SwanThe Matrix. These Hollywood hits have a common thread—each was heavily influenced by Japanese animation, aka anime.

Anime has settled in as a permanent part of American entertainment. Besides serving as inspiration for filmmakers, some anime movies—particularly those by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, The Secret World of Arrietty, and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away)—have found a Western audience. Still, it would a stretch to say that Americans have embraced anime. It remains an oddity—a medium filled with large-eyed characters and unfamiliar cultural references.

As with many adults, when I first watched anime as a child, I didn’t know about its Japanese origins. Dubbed versions of Speed Racer and Voltron stood side-by-side with Disney, Looney Tunes, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons as favorites. Years later, in college, I rediscovered anime and became gripped by the medium’s mature themes, fanciful artwork, and yes, the foreignness of it all. Younger Americans, meanwhile, have grown up with anime, from kiddie fare like Pokemon to action series like Naruto.

Many viewers are drawn toward anime’s storylines, which are far different from those in typical American animation. Despite a growing trend to the contrary, American toons are still typically aimed at children. In Japan, animation is produced for both children and adults. Anime films are routinely among Japan’s highest grossing and most adored movies, while most anime TV programming airs during primetime or late at night. Because it is often made for older audiences, the animation, storylines, and dialogue are typically more mature than in western counterparts, often including heavy doses of violence and fanservice (a term usually used to describe the animation of scantily dressed characters). In America, there’s a certain shock value to seeing something like the hyperviolent anime sequence in Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1, because it remains an exception.

Anime also frequently portrays Shinto and Buddhist practices, reflecting the habits of the majority of Japan, where only 1-2 percent identify as Christian. Not unlike American media, it’s more typical to find a vampire-hunting priest or an irreligious Catholic schoolgirl in a show than a Christian character simply living out his or her faith.

Read the rest of this entry

Sora No Method, Episode 2: Conversation and Fireworks

In episode two of Sora no Method (Celestial Method), Nonoka starts school, but the episode isn’t centered around her class – it quickly focuses on a new friendship she develops with Yuzuki, a loud and spunky classmate who enlists Nonoka in her plan to get rid of the saucer that hovers over the island in which they live.

Throughout the episode, as Yuzuki drags Nonoka to different locations in executing her plans, you can see how uncomfortable Nonoka feels.  She does not want to be a part of all this, and is embarrassed by Yuzuki’s unabashed pronouncements over and over again.  And yet, Nonoka continues to follow along.  Certainly, she doesn’t want to hurt her new friend, but even the patient Nonoka is brought to a tipping point.  But strangely enough, it’s when she refuses to go with her friend to the island directly under the saucer, and after the two fall into a lake shortly after deciding to split, that Nonoka is able to have a real conversation with her spastic friend.

Yuzuki Mizusaka

We get to learn a lot about Nonoka’s character in this episode.  Though letting herself being taken along on this crazed journey could be chalked up to a number of things, Nonoka’s kindness at the end of their day’s sojourn can only be the result of a kind heart.  Despite suffering because of Yuzuki, Nonoka remains patient and loving as she listens to her friend.

Read the rest of this entry

The Life and Death of an Anime Article on an Evangelical Website

In the summer of 2012, I had the marvelous idea of expanding Beneath the Tangles’ reach by trying my hand at journalism.  I would approach publications with pitches for articles about anime to see if they were interested in working with me.  I was a bit apprehensive because unlike, say, Lauren Orsini, I have no journalism experience.  Still, I went at it with determination, exploring different websites that might be responsive to pitches, and soon finding that if I wanted to write about the intersection of anime and Christianity, my options might be limited.

If I remember correctly, I submitted to several websites and publications, but in the end, I received just one response.  But like a gift from God, that response came from the major evangelical Christian website, one with a very large readership.  In addition the obvious benefits of writing for a big site, I was very excited on a more personal level.  The website was one of my favorites throughout my twenties.  I was elated that the its culture and media editor was interested in my article.

With the go-ahead given, I wrote the article and was promptly paid by the publication (another pleasant surprise).  We spent about a month revising the article, as my editor patiently guided me in crafting a piece fit for publication.  It was a wonderful learning experience, and I was grateful to have someone patiently shape my writing.

Once we finished, I was notified that the article would likely post around January 2013.  So I waited several months until the new year came.  Eventually, January came and went without a peep.  I contacted my editor again to find that he had left the company.  He directed me to the new editor*, who was immediately less responsive to my writing, and he eventually (though kindly) let me know that he decided to pass on my article.

The rejection was painful.  Although I had mentioned the piece was coming up to a number of people, it wasn’t the embarrassment of getting ahead of myself that pained me, but more the idea that I had achieved something worthwhile, something that made me feel very proud, and suddenly it was no more, taken away in a simple email.  I suppose this is the life of a journalist – one that, with my thin skin, I’m glad I never pursued!

I later tried to find a home for the article elsewhere, but to no avail.  Still, I’m proud of the piece that my editor and I created.  And so, though it’s written for an audience with little knowledge of anime, I’ll post it here on Beneath the Tangles tomorrow for you all to read.  If it couldn’t find its place at the site it was intended for, I’m glad my article at least has this blog to call home.

*This editor is pretty well-known for his writings on Christianity and culture and in an unusual twist, I used some of his material in a course I taught at my church last semester about that topic.