Category Archives: Japan

Anime Today: Post-Modern Monogatari

*Note: This article has been written in such a way to be completely SPOILER-FREE. Read without fear of spoilers!*

Christianity has, in the past few decades, had a confusing relationship with the post-modern movement and its refutation of objectivity. On one hand, many Christians agree with post-modernism’s skepticism of modern culture, skepticism of everything really, and acknowledge the possibility of many different existences or ideas. However, on the other hand, many Christians simultaneously disagree with these same notions that nix the possibility of one true objective belief and one true objective God. A sticky situation (and one that I’m sure most post-modernists would love to discuss for that reason!).

My goal here today is not to sway you one way or the other, but rather to reflect some of my appreciation for the healthy dose of skepticism and reliance upon symbolism and metaphor that post-modernism has either caused, or at least brought to society’s (relatively) recent attention.

In the scheme of anime and otaku culture, the recent release of Hanamonogatari, the latest entry in the Monogatari (or 物語, literally meaning “Story”) series well-known for its “off-the-beaten-path” directing style, reminded me of this modern skepticism that pervades today’s culture. In no other series will you find the same kind of dialogue, story-writing, art direction, and cinematography together in one piece of media. In fact, Shaft (the studio responsible for the series) has turned the Monogatari series into something of a trademark of theirs, to the extent that any other work of theirs, even from before the first entry in the Monogatari series, Bakemonogatari, can be traced to it in some fashion.

And what word best describes this inimitable (though oft-attempted) style?

Symbolism.

hanamonogatari 1

Not actually faceless, yet they are still represented as such.

Though perhaps not as overt as it is in the Monogatari series, symbolism is something that forms the very basis of the works that we collectively refer to as “classics.” Literature like Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings… the list goes on. Although symbolism is still employed in modern works, it is perhaps less of a lost art (though it seems to me that it sees less attention in modern writing than it once did) as much as it has lost appreciation, or maybe simply an audience interested in appreciating it.

And thus I draw a comparison between biblical imagery and Hanamonogatari.

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Something More: Forgiving Kirito’s Sin, Real Barakamon Church, and Hamatora’s Anti-Christ

The summer season has passed it’s mid-point, and bloggers continue to find great spiritual connections in current series, joining a number of other excellent articles about some more classic ones that posted this week.

Frank finds perhaps an intentional connection to Christianity and Japan’s Hidden Christians in Barakamon. [A Series of Miracles]

Annalyn looks into humanism and Christianity reactions to it and she jumps back into Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

In his continuing investigation into Hamatora, Medieval Otaku finds comparisons between Moral and the anti-Christ. [Medieval Otaku]

Casey Covel gives a high score to volume three of the Death Note manga in her Christian-centered review. [Geeks Under Grace]

Rob sees lessons of forgiveness and healing in episode seven of Sword Art Online. [Christian Anime Review]

Rob also finds an interesting lesson to be learned from Kirito’s treatment of Sinon in episode six of Sword Art Online. [2]

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.

A Christian Guide to Comiket

Summer Comiket 86 has come and gone. While for last Comiket, I wrote a personalized post about my first experience, this time I decided to take a more streamlined and general approach. Comiket, as most of you probably know, is the largest otaku convention in Japan, and subsequently, the world. With roughly 170,000 people attending each of the 3 days at the convention center Tokyo Big Sight, it makes Anime Expo and Otakon look small in comparison, with its lines, lines, and more lines. As such, it can be a daunting experience for a foreigner to try out, especially when one does not even speak the language. So if you are at all interested in eventually attending, here are some things to consider.

Tokyo Big Sight

Tokyo Big Sight

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Fact Check: Aldnoah.Zero’s Sins

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito.  When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:

Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.

The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.

Fact Check

Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them.  I think perhaps few would dispute this portion.  Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions.  From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide.  But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.

In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words.  He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five.  And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.

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Anime Today: Undignified in Hanayamata

14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

2 Samuel 6:14-23

Well this is the first time I’ve used such a long passage of Scripture in Anime Today, much less right off the bat!* However, at the risk of falling into the camp of “stereotypical evangelical writer,” it seems to fit well today, as well as make for a nice change of pace in regard to the more regular composition of Anime Today.

Hana SekiyaIf you have been watching Hanayamata lately, then you know that it is nothing if not a normal moe anime about dancing (or to be more specific, Yosakoi)… but if you have ALSO been reading Anime Today, then you know that I am a sucker for exactly that! Regardless of my personal tastes, though, it is always a joy for me when I come across a way to connect one of my more outlandish pleasures with my faith. And in that light, as I reflected on the latest episode of Hanayamata (episode five), I realized that the main characters shared one particularly distinguishing trait with the ancient king of Israel, King David: being undignified.

 

First, what exactly does it mean to be undignified? Simple language study puts together the prefix “un” (not) with the word root of “dignity”. Without dignity. Thus, undignified essentially means shameless. In the context of the biblical passage, King David was so overjoyed for the ark’s (one of the most, if not the most, significant single object in Hebrew’s history, regarding as acting as the “seat of God”) coming to Jerusalem** that he stripped to be nearly naked and danced in front of his subjects completely full of sheer joy.

The king of Israel. Danced. (Nearly) naked.

In front of his subjects.

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Take Four – July 2014

Fate/Stay Night to Adapt Unlimited Blade Works – Kaze

Unlimited Blade Works, Fate Stay NightAfter much anticipation from fans, it has finally been announced that the Fall 2014 reboot of the Fate/Stay Night anime will be adapting the Unlimited Blade Works route. Since the adaptation will be done by everyone’s beloved studio Ufotable, there is little doubt and much hype about the quality to be expected. While UBW is an enjoyable story when done right, it did leave many fans disappointed at the lack of Heaven’s Feel, which, if nothing else, is most relevant of the routes as a sequel to Fate/Zero. That is, until the live stream announcement ended with a Heaven’s Feel movie trailer. Although a questionable decision as HF is much longer than UBW and thus hardly suited to be contained in a single movie, there is much speculation about the prospect of a series of movies. Ufotable has proven themselves capable of doing justice to Nasuverse adaptations, so hopefully they continue to meet fan expectations.

Dub Cast Announced for The Tale of Princess Kaguya – TWWK

The Tale of Princess KaguyaI’m not a dub fanatic, except when it comes to Studio Ghibli releases. The dubs for Ghibli films, even those not directed by Hayao Miyazaki, are always glorious, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya looks to be no exception.  Headlined by Chloe Moretz, the release will also feature the voices of James Caan, Lucy Liu and, get this, DEAN CAIN.  Very nice.

I’m frankly just looking forward to the film itself.  I’m maybe as big of a fan of Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor the Yamadas, Only Yesterday) as I am of Hayao Miyazaki, and it’s wonderful to know he’s finally directed another Studio Ghibli work.  I can’t wait for the release stateside.  It’s scheduled to hit theaters in the U.S. this fall.

When Marnie Was There Has Disappointing Opening – TWWK

marnieLet’s double dip with the Ghibli news!  You’d expect any Studio Ghibli film to top the Japanese box office upon release, right?  I guess the new norm is that a box office hit for Ghibli is only guaranteed when it’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki, as the company’s latest offering, When Marnie Was There, came in third place during it’s opening weekend (July 19-20).  It had to settled behind the latest Pokemon movie and Maleficent (really?).

This doesn’t bode well for the historic company.  Marnie was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose last directorial effort, Arrietty, debuted in first place in it’s opening weekend.  Ghibli’s previous release, the aforementioned Kaguya, took a heavy loss in the box office, even with Takahata at the helm.  With Miyazaki retired (again), it’ll be interesting to see if the company can weather the storm, financially and creatively.

Alliance for Raising Children Sings “Let it Go” – Japesland

Okay, so this is hardly anime-related. However, it is Japan-related… and it is animation-related! Merely a few weeks ago, Japanese non-profit organization, Alliance for Raising Children, created a parody music video of “Let it Go” (something that seems to be all the rage these days, not only in the United States but also in Japan). While not important in the least, the video shows how some of the bigwigs were willing to put themselves out there and poke fun at themselves in order to encourage Japanese parents to stop stressing themselves out over parenting (and to hopefully improve the declining birth rate). Check out the strangely hilarious video below.

Something More: Barakamon Christianity, Valkyria’s Salvation, and the Rapture of Tenchi Masaki

In the first two episodes of the Barakamon, Frank finds important points that all experienced Christians should probably take under consideration. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds an analogy for the rapture in Tenchi Forever, and examines why that film captures the essence of the rapture better than explicitly Christian depictions of it do. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What does Saber Marionette J have to say about the value of family? Plenty, and even from a Catholic perspective. [Medieval Otaku]

Medieval Otaku also explores that unusual path and perplexing salvation of Valkyria in Brynhildr in the Darkness. [2]

Finally, he explores Nadia’s vanity in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, and discusses snobbery in a number of different groups, including that of the religious. [3]

Rocklobster reviews Rurouni Kenshin (TV), and is perhaps one of the few to really enjoy the story arc featuring Japanese Christians. [Lobster Quadrille]

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. 

Something More: Deva Orochimaru, Humble Kirito, and Bishie Satan

The beginning of a new anime season is always fun!  Anibloggers are most active during this time, with literally a thousand or more anime articles coming out this week.  Luckily, a number of those are spirituality-related, and we have a slate of great articles to link to today!

Frank is excited about the new season of Encouragement of Climb, and compares the previous season’s storyline to that of the Christian moving out in faith and accomplishing what God has purposed him or her to do. [A Series of Miracles]

Syng completes a series on Naruto and Buddhism, diving particularly into the characterizations of Orochimaru, Obito, Madara, and Kaguya [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Speaking of that excellent series, here’s Syng’s first post on Buddhist allusions in Naruto.

D.M. Dutcher tells how a new Christian anime and manga series, entitled Prince Adventures: Anointed, features bishounen characters fighting against Satan (also a bishie). Vic Mignogna, of course, is among those voicing the series. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Oh, and a voice actor for young Jesus has been cast.

Doug, a Buddhist blogger, visits a Mayuka church, home to a native denomination of Japanese Christians. [Essays in Idleness]

Rob continues his Christian-centered anime reviews, with some thoughts about a journey in The World Is Still Beautiful mimicking a Christian’s. [Christian Anime Review]

And while we skipped Something More last Friday, I still want to link to some of the great anime and spirituality articles that bloggers wrote last week:

Michael sees the victory of humility over pride in Sword Art Online as representative of the rule God has established for His kingdom. [Gaming and God]

Earlier, Michael also took at look at Fullmetal Alchemist and dove into the Elric brothers’ thirst for eternal life.

Here’s an interesting comparison – Medieval Otaku sees similarities between the hearts of Lime of Saber Marionette J and Jesus. [Medieval Otaku]

Annalyn weaves a terrific entry about introversion The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, including a note about how her faith. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

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. 

Banning Child Pornography in Japan and the Slippery Slope Otaku Walk

What is is that most of us live for?  It certainly varies from person to person, but if we dig down and analyze our habits, thoughts, and actions, a few items might arise – family, job, faith, money, comfort, and entertainment.  For otaku, entertainment may be at or near the top of the list.  We don’t just enjoy anime – we revel in it.

For Christians, this can be especially problematic.  A conservative approach to anime would deem the entire form as something evil and immoral.  Rob of Christian Anime Review recently tweeted me the video below, in which a pastor discusses various nerdy entertainment, including anime, and how these forms influence us.  I don’t disagree with all he has to say.

Of course, the viewpoint of the writers on this blog is that there are a lot of fundamental truths that we can mine out of anime – ideas that capture the most significant tenets of Christian faith and impress them in such a way that might move us, encourage us to explore, and even transform us.  And on simpler level, we approach anime simply as fans watching an art form, while hopefully using sound judgment as to what we should avoid.

Still, it’s not that simple.  Anime is a medium developed in a very non-Christian country, inherently presenting challenges to Christian viewers.  Among them are how the characters are drawn and depicted.  For me, the one of the two most uncomfortable questions you could ask me (because they perhaps point out my hypocrisy!) is “Are you okay with how anime depicts minors?”*

I would hazard to say that most anime fans would agree with me when I say it’s despicable and harmful to present very young characters in sexual situations (though anime loves to get around this by presenting age-old characters in kids’ bodies**).  But what of teenagers and pre-adolescents?  They’re underage, too, after all, and they are frequently depicted in fanservice-y ways, sometimes for comic relief, but often for the viewer’s pleasure in less virtuous ways.

This week, Japan finally succumbed to pressure and outlawed possession of child pornography.  No kudos to the country for taking so long in doing so, though perhaps this will help change the culture a bit in a positive direction.  But of note is that anime, manga, and light novels can still operate as they are.  I’m sure many an anime fan breathed a sigh of relief at this exception.

But what should Christians think?  And not just of this development, but how we respond to the depiction of underage individuals in anime? Do we believe in the whole 2D is 2D and 3D is 3D, and the earlier cannot harm the latter?  Certainly that’s among the questions that have been asked and will continue to be.

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Something More: Anime Nuns, Childish Religion, and Bye, Bye, Brynhildr

Stinekey explores the depiction of nuns in geek culture. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Lazarinth breaks away from his usual aniblogging to comment on why he feels religion is childish. [Fantasy and Anime]

Rob’s latest Christian-centric reviews includes those for recent episodes of Brynhidlr in the Darkness [1] (which he has decided to drop) and One Week Friends [2]. [Christian Anime Review]

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.