Category Archives: Japan

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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. 

KanColle: The Biggest Trend is Still a Trend

It’s been just over 1 year since the release of Kantai Collection, or Kancolle, a browser game centered on moe anthropomorphisms of historical World War II ships. For those who still aren’t aware, it’s a simple game based largely on rng and micromanagement, leveling cute ship girls as you progress through maps. At the time of release, this game planned for a small player base – no more than few ten thousand. It was just meant to be an addition to the website’s other games. However, it didn’t take long for the servers to over-flood with new players, quickly surpassing its expected maximum and beyond. Registration had to be controlled through lottery admissions as new servers were opened one at a time (in fact, after some 9 months, new players still must pass through a lottery to play). Fan art exploded, official merchandise began to be created; manga and anime were started. It invaded everything: events, crossovers, collaborations, and more, and is often compared to Touhou, a fanbase which took years to establish. In this short year, KanColle has proven to be the most explosive fandom in otaku culture history.

Art by 墨洲

Art by 墨洲

But the question is whether all this popularity is just a remarkably popular fad or actually the birth of a new fanbase here to stay. No one can really say either way, and the game developers are surely going to be playing a large role in that as one big mistake can ruin everything. Personally, I don’t see it ending for awhile, but I also don’t think it will have the longevity that Touhou has proven itself to have. As one of the many people trapped in its addictive gameplay, I must say one of its best features is the ability to play with constant breaks. Between waiting for your resources to naturally regenerate, ships being repaired from damage, or ships recovering from being “tired,” it makes breaks almost a requirement. Granted, if you are really hardcore, there are ways to get around it to still play 24/7, but you can still make significant progress without investing constant attention.

On a less technical side, its vast popularity no doubt truly stems from all the different ship girls. With over 100 girls, the art, personalities, and voices have enough variety that at least one will probably appeal to you. And with the marriage system in place, you can be sure all otaku are quite glad to marry their favorite girl(s) (yes, harem is possible too). Coupled with the fact the game is free for the most part, it is only going to get more popular for the time being. Regardless, in the end, it is a trend, and no matter how long or short it takes to die off, it will eventually lose popularity.

The idea of fads applies to religion, too.  Of the many things said against Christianity, one of them is that Christianity was just a trend. Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Buddhist x Buddhist, Noragami Catholicism, and Manga in a Buddhist Temple

Our site is of course focused on finding Christian allusions and themes in anime, and oftentimes this article finds the same in other sites doing the same kind of work.  And so I’m glad that this week’s links provide a little more diversity when it comes to spiritual conversation and anime:

Annalyn explores Buddhist and other religious allusions in recent episodes of Hunter x Hunter. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

An exhibition of Buddhist art by manga artists is on display at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. [The Asahi Shimbun]

Medieval Otaku reposted an article from March in which iblessall outlines a Catholic viewing of Noragami. [Life, and Anime]

Rob continues his Christian-centric reviews, digging this week into Brynhildr in the Darkness [Christian Anime Review], The World Is Still Beautiful [2], and One Week Friends [3].

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: Baby Steps Christian Coaching, One Week Friends’ Bible, and Divinity of the Japanese Language

I’ve skipped posting this column for the last several weeks – apologies!  Thankfully, we’re returning this week with a number of very engaging articles and reviews:

Frank makes some wonderful connections between Kaori’s journal in One Week Friends and the most significant book for Christians, the Bible. [A Series of Miracles]

In Hunter x Hunter‘s moral ambiguity, Annalyn sees an analogy to postmodernist views of right and wrong. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

D.M. Dutcher has a problem with Baby Steps, suggesting that a coach could serve Ei-chan well, which isn’t a whole lot different from what Christians also need. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

The Oxford Dictionaries blog delves into the Japanese idea of kotodama, a divinity of the country’s language. [OxfordWords Blog]

Rob reviews recent episodes of a number of shows, including The World Is Still Beautiful [1], The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Moral Behavior [2], and One Week Friends [3]. [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. 

Supernal Liberty Review

Nana Mizuki released her 10th album on April 16th, so I’ll be doing a little review of it. Although I’m hardly a music critic and am obviously quite biased with anything involving Nana, so it will be mostly my own ramblings. I actually already made my predictions when the setlist was announced earlier, and I was right on about half of them. Also, it managed to top the weekly charts with zero competition. Ironically, her actual sales dropped significantly compared to her previous albums, which had to compete with some of the most popular artists, but she still easily picked up the top spot.

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1. VIRGIN CODE

The album starts with a very disturbing sound to my ears. I may be the only Nana fan who thinks this but the very first few static noises that are essentially just background noise and ignored by most were very recognizable to me. It reminded me very distinctly of A World Where Nothing Happened from Little Busters! the track which sent chills down my spine when it played during certain scenes which were just so depressing to read. So it was a really bad way to start the album lol. Anyway, afterwards comes a pretty fast paced song, with a beat that almost never relaxes. Fast paced, powerful songs are what I love from Nana, and with this, one of my predictions was correct that this was would be one of the best songs of the album.

2. GUILTY

This song is sooo catchy with a lot of Engrish. I sort of felt like this was something I’ve heard from BoA but it also has quite a Koda Kumi feel to it. The Engrish may be jarring to some, but I honestly find it just irresistibly catchy. The major downside to this song is it doesn’t even reach 3.5 minutes, at a length of 3:18. That’s pretty rare for Nana songs. As a result, GUILTY ends up being a repeat of Get My Drift? from Rockbound Neighbors – both are incredibly catchy with a lot of Engrish but disappointingly short.

3. アパッショナート  Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Idols in Ishinomaki

As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.

While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.

As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.

Wug Minami Katayama

Art by 馬の助 (Pixiv ID 40903644)

In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.

Read the rest of this entry

Anime Japan 2014

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Confession time. Until just recently, I had never been to an anime convention. That being said, I can now say I have. On March 22nd, I attended Anime-Japan 2014 in Odaiba, Tokyo. It was crazy. Having never been to a convention before, I was invited to go with a friend who has been to conventions in the USA and even volunteered at some. This was her first convention in Japan. She was very surprised at how normal everyone looked. There were very few cosplayers.

The entire convention was highly organized and no one was just laying about. I was just excited to be in Odaiba. We were directed completely around the convention center to the back doors, which happened to be the entrance to the event.

DSC00471There are some experiences you never forget. One is riding in a crowded subway or train in Tokyo. Another would be the experience of being pushed around inside of a Japanese convention. It was hectic for a introvert like myself, but I was amazed at the number of people who came. I traveled through the entire convention, avoiding certain sections I did not feel comfortable with. I struggled to take pictures in the crowd, but still I found many wonderful things.

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I discovered Super Heroes

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and Robot Boys

DSC00517and Mechas

DSC00522and drawings from the artists at Bones

DSC00530Sabers

DSC00557and Tachikoma

DSC00549a storyboard

DSC00493these guys

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and a robot cat.

However, the thing I discovered that was by far the best wasn’t robotic, 2D, or even popular. It was time spent with a friend on an adventure, getting confused by the trains, crushed by currents of people, and fighting lines in konbini. It was a wondrous adventure. I recommend going with someone, because even if you don’t like the madness, you can enjoy the company.

I loved seeing how much people appreciate anime, but the event itself reflected a loneliness that I have often sensed here. Thousands of people in two gigantic rooms and almost all of them looked like they felt alone. In a way, this event is about more than anime. It is about money, but it works because of a longing in people to be drawn to other people who value what they value.

If there is one thing I regret about this event, it is that I was so worried and focused on my own thing, that I forgot to look at the value of the people around me. I forgot to look at them the way God does. God loves them. I let my fear rule me for a time, but I am not supposed to live in fear. I am not supposed to feel alone, and neither is anyone else who was there. I wish now that my focus had been on the people instead of the event. Next time, I want to go to meet people instead of just seeing anime booths.

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