Category Archives: Japan
Welcome to the first of our more sporadic version of Something More. The blogosphere has been resplendent in it’s spiritual-related articles the last couple of week, regarding anime series both current and classic.
Christian symbolism runs rampant in Kill la Kill, as do opportunities to discuss Christian themes and ideas, particularly as they relate to clothing, in the series. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]
The Spice and Wolf light novels paint God as malicious, but does this really to his true character? [Medieval Otaku]
Christianity plays a role, at least superficially, in countless anime series, as Eugene Woodbury states:
At the same time, in terms of theology, the suggestively Catholic Haibane Renmei can stand beside any of C.S. Lewis’s work as a powerful Christian parable. The same is true of anime such as Madoka Magica and Scrapped Princess, though you may have to look harder to see through the metaphors.
But he also goes on to suggest that the Japanese view toward the faith may rather reveal a positive view for many of the country’s feelings toward religion as compared to western ones. [Eugene’s Blog]
Speaking of Madoka, Woodbury recently explained that the series is “an exploration of the doctrine of universal reconciliation.” 
Is Mushi-shi a fatalistic series? Perhaps quite the contrary… [Organizational ASG]
To the tune of Christian themes, there’s more to A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd than meets the eye. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
Sailor Moon draws more than merely character names from Greco-Roman mythology. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
And continuing with Sailor Moon, episode 14 of Sailor Moon Crystal emphasizes the power of prayer…even if it is to the Crystal Tower. [Geeks Under Grace]
The dividing of the girls in episode 5 of KanColle brings to mind the discomfort the early Christians must have felt as they started their mission. 
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.
A year ago, I wrote about how God’s love could be compared to that of a yandere. This year I’d like to make another kind of comparison on the topic of love, but instead of focusing on God, I want to focus on Christians and our love for God. Our love for God is, or at least should be, the greatest emotion we can possibly offer. It is a love which drives us to worship Him, follow Him, strive to be like Him, and serve Him. Anime loves to depict similarly idealistic characters – from the main character who always has to help others to the school idol who is loved by the entire school to the deredere archetype that is just helplessly in love with another. Anime, and people in general, love the idea of love.
But in real life, these ideals often fall apart. Especially in Japan, people who reflect even a fraction of such ideals are hard to come by. It is a sad irony in that although Japanese people can be so friendly on the surface, their hearts are so disconnected from each other. But while they may fail to emulate the type of godly, unconditional love which Christians (should) have, that doesn’t mean similarities don’t exist. And while rare, such a type of love is something which the Japanese are drawn to.
Nowhere have I seen this more than among the Nana Mizuki fandom. Perhaps my view is skewed since, well, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to any other fandom, and as a whole, the otaku culture in Japan has a fascinating difference in lifestyle compared to most other Japanese (but that’s a different topic for a similar phenomenon). In my short time in Japan, with moderate interaction with other Nana fans, I have come to feel that the love fans feel for Nana is similar to the love Christians have for God. Of course, I’d be the first to admit the numerous reasons why it’s an imperfect parallel, but compared to other Japanese people, and even compared to other fan bases, there is something here that reminds me of Christian love, and there is something about Nana that draws people to her in ways that remind me of how people are drawn to God.
Truth be told, this week’s post was intended to be the last regular column of Something More. I felt that especially with an umber of the writers we feature here having recently joined our site, the column had outlived its usefulness. That was still my thought this morning, until I realized just how many spirituality-related articles were posted in the aniblogosphere this week. And so, we continue forward, though it should be noted that Something More may post on more a biweekly schedule from this point forward.
And now, onto this week’s articles!
At Katsucon this weekend? Then you’ll no doubt want to check out Charles Dunbar’s panels on Japan and religion. [Study of Anime]
If you’ve noticed the religious allusions in Death Parade, you’re not the only one – it’s chock full of Buddhist, Shinto, and especially Hindu imagery, and may also have something to tell us in alignment with the last of those three religious philosophies. [Isn’t it Electrifying?]
The first episode of Super Sonico demonstrates to us how fanservice can reveal adulterous desires. [Old Line Elephant]
The concepts of sin and repentance surprisingly find themselves instilled in an ecchi game, Criminal Girls, Invite Only. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
She’ll spend an upcoming post on religion, but even this week’s post regarding queerness, the first in a series on Kill la Kill, makes some mention of Christian imagery and ideas. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]
The wolves in Wolf’s Rain seek a literal paradise, but is that what they need? And how does that compare to what otaku seek? [Black Strawberry]
Episode 3 of KanColle demonstrates to us a principle recorded in the Book of James: tomorrow is not guaranteed. [Geeks Under Grace]
Could a solution to the way women are represented in games be found in the understanding of sinful nature? 
Adam Ledford completes his series on the history of Christianity in Japan by discussing the Shimabara Rebellion and the faith in Japan following the failed rebellion. [Tofugu]
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.
Could this be called a world report version of Something More? This week, we have stories from Japan, of course, but also from Indonesia and, why not, we can say that a KonColle article is international, too! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
In Indonesia, Muslim otaku reconcile their faith and anime, perhaps surprisingly even accepting fujoshi members among them. [The Indonesian Anime Times]
Arima’s feelings about his mother in Your Lie in April bring to mind how Christians have the presence of Christ within them. [Geeks Under Grace]
Christians, too, should carry one another’s burdens, as the girls do in KanColle. [Christian Anime Review]
Look who joined Beneath the Tangles! Medieval Otaku will bring his unique perspective here, while continuing the work on his own excellent site. [Medieval Otaku]
And finally, though not directly anime related, suburbanbanshee has a number of interesting posts this week regarding religion in Japan:
- Japanese Docetism Central [Aliens in This World]
- Japan’s Meiji Period Persecution of Buddhists 
- Someone is Killing the Shinto Trees of Japan 
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. Thank you to Lauren Orsini, whose Otaku Links column provided me with the story about otaku in Indonesia.
Durarara!! is an anime that started airing in 2010. It takes place in a major part of Tokyo called Ikebukuro. To give you an idea about the show’s feel, think of a classical Chinese style epic taking place in a massive modern metropolis. The show focuses on three main characters, but also includes a plethora of minor characters that help move the story forward. This combination of characters help create a structure that allows you to have a better grasp of the three protagonists individual and collective stories.
I’ve had an unsteady relationship with Shirobako this season. On one hand, the series provides great insight into the animation process (with a few asterisks, to be sure). It’s also produced quite well, as is normal with most of PA Works’ productions. However, it’s also a bit difficult to follow. Shirobako includes what appears to be a main protagonist, but it jumps around to so many different characters that it is rather difficult to definitively dive into the consciousness of one and truly relate.
Yet despite this, one major theme of the series remains constant: working can be both difficult and rewarding.
You might be familiar with the Japanese expectation of work. Whether that is the high educational standards through compulsory education, or salarymen literally working themselves to death, work in Japan is no joke. Shirobako reflects this, and if you’ve been watching and and have been surprised by the long hours, overtime, and all-nighters that characters have pulled, it is no exaggeration. But while overwork is obviously an issue of concern, what exactly is a Christian to do when developing a belief on the nature and importance of work. Should people really be as invested as the animators and other employees in shows like Shirobako? Is working that hard even ethical in the first place? Let’s take a look from a biblical perspective, starting with the foundation of the Judeo-Christian work ethic.
First, is work even a good thing at all (or was it intended to be, anyway)? Read the rest of this entry
In the United States and Canada, Christmas is considered one of the single most important events of the year. However, in Japan Christmas is a much smaller holiday.
Growing up in the US, I was always excited about Christmas, because it meant that I would have time off from school and every three or four years, I would get to travel during the break. Here in Tokyo, only some international schools take time off and public schools take no time off for Christmas. Christmas is a working holiday and more of a shopping holiday than a cause for celebration.
People purchase Christmas cakes and fried chicken (often at KFC.) There is a belief that westerners celebrate Christmas with turkey which is very hard to come by in Japan, so fried chicken replaces it. Also, during the 1980’s KFC launched a massive advertising campaign that turned this into a national belief. Grocery stores start putting out brochures in November to advertise cakes you can buy. This idea comes from the fact that Christmas in the west represent Jesus’ Birthday and we eat cakes for birthdays. Christmas cake is a special type of cake similar to the white spongy cakes we call vanilla cake. It is normal adorned with frosting and strawberries.
When Christmas is celebrated, it is normally celebrated by couples on Christmas Eve. Basically a gift exchange, some KFC, and a bit of cake while hanging out or going on a date.
Christmas is a little overshadowed by the fact that December 23rd is the Emperors Birthday. Also, New Years on January 1st is traditionally one of the most celebrated holidays outside of possibly the holidays of Golden Week in May.
As a sort of tangential follow up to a post I wrote months ago, I’d like to highlight recent developments in the otaku culture. I wrote a bit about this before, but here’s some repeated notions as a reminder. Like it or not, a large portion of the otaku culture is visual novels, which are nearly all sexual in content. Despite containing such R-18 material, this is not a quality which discounts the VN medium from being able to produce meaningful stories. Indeed, it can be argued that some of the best stories in VNs have the most forced, out-of-place sex, because creators are trying to appeal to the larger otaku audience. As such, VNs are arguably the hardest area to get into as a Western – and Christian – otaku because almost no one wants to have to deal with the adult content just to get what is supposedly a good story. It’s understandable, even admirable, that such people stick to their beliefs and know where to draw the line. But if you want to minister to otaku, you can’t simply ignore such a huge part of the culture. You can try to read the clean ones, and there are a few, as listed on our very own visual novel recommendations page. But there are still many more which are so great yet have certain content which immediately stops any interest – again, for good reason.
Visual novels have a very niche market in Japan, and while there are console exports which results in removal of sexual content, these were thought never to be marketed toward foreigners. Recently, the company Sekai Project announced plans to release the entire Grisaia trilogy in English. Visual novels have historically had a proportionally small market in the West; Mangagamer and JAST have released a number of popular titles, so it’s wrong to say that official VN translations and sales are unheard of. However, the issue of Christians not wanting to deal with the sexual content remained unchanged – or so I thought. Grisaia is planned to be released as the all ages version. Perhaps it is not a huge surprise they chose Grisaia; it is after all, the current best selling VN on Amazon Japan. To clarify, Grisaia is still very sexual in tone, containing a large amount of sexual jokes and language, which may very well result in people responding the same way they did to the anime despite my (now dead) hype. But there is something to be said about specifically bringing over the all ages versions – they are clearly demonstrating that they want to expand the readership to those who are offended by sexual content.
Initially, Sekai Project mentioned they would be bringing over only the first game’s all ages version. A large number of people questioned the need to remove sexual content (to be fair, partly misunderstanding that all sexual jokes would be removed, which would be quite absurd indeed; it seems only the very extreme ones will be altered) and in fact, a small number of people were outraged at losing out on sexual content (at least they’re being honest). While I as a Christian disagree wholeheartedly with such thoughts, I can sort of understand why people questioned that the all ages version is being brought over. We are talking about something from the most otaku of the otaku culture – not anime, not manga or novels or fanart, but visual novels which are made almost universally with sexual content. Is there really a need to bother with what is arguably a non-existence market of Westerners who are both 1) interested in visual novels and 2) greatly offended by sexual content? Even I don’t think so, but Sekai Project thinks otherwise.
While shows like Your Lie in April and Wolf Girl and Black Prince continue to give great material for spiritual discussion, it’s interesting that some series with big moves on the horizon – Naruto with a final movie upcoming and Digimon with a return of it’s season one characters – also provide opportunities to discuss religion in posts this past week.
Magi’s Mogamett is a complex character, not least of which because the love he demonstrates isn’t in line with an active, kind love, as discussed in Paul’s famous writing about the topic in I Corinthians 13. [Anime Monographia]
Buddhist principles of breaking cycles of suffering and power can be found in Kill la Kill. [Anime Commentary on the March]
Takayama Ukon, who was a Japanese general some 400 years ago (and who has been featured as a character in several anime), could be up for beatification next year. [Aliens in This World]
Kit reports that her Shinto panel at Nekocon went well, and that the inaugural issue of Kotoshiro, a Shinto journal, is accepting submissions. [Fox of Hearts]
The folks at Geeks Under Grace reflect upon Naruto, whose manga run just recently ended, and the Christian lessons it helped instill in them. [Geeks Under Grace]
Cooper finds scant religious content to expound upon in his review of Digimon Adventure, which “failed to meet some of [his] expectations but exceeded in others.” 
The reveal of Princess Serenity in Sailor Moon Crystal speaks of an individual’s awakening to their own sin in light of grace. 
Kousei’s faith in Kaori might mirror a Christian’s faith in Christ. 
Meanwhile, his lament about the piano in episode five of Your Lie in April reminds us of the importance of each gift we’re given. [Christian Anime Review]
Erika and Sata’s relationship in Wolf Girl and Black Prince brings to mind the Parable of the Sower. 
How does “honor your mother and father work” when they’ve stepped over some boundary, as with Asuna defying her mother in episode 19 of Sword Art Online 2? 
Christian disciplines, along with marathoning Daily Lives of High School Boys and Meganebu!, are among the things Annalyn does for refreshment. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]
In the Answerman column, Justin Sevakis rants about how many rally against voice actors, convention guests, and others, with Vic Mignogna (well known for his “conservative Christian” stances and thoughts) as the prime example. [Anime News Network]
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. Thanks to Medieval Otaku this week – it’s through his blog that I found the Kill la Kill article]
*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?
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.