Category Archives: Manga

Something More: Death in Totoro, Pokemon Preaching, and Kirito’s Treasure

I’m always happy to link to aniblog posts that touch on spirituality, but sometimes this column is just chock full of amazing articles. I hope you’ll dig into the links below – they’re worth your read, starting with Matthew Newman’s post on Hare Kon and marriage.

For those unfamiliar (which included me until I read Matthew’s article), Hare Kon is a manga about a young lady who marries into a polygamous marriage. A really interesting concept, right? The post’s focus in on the marriage ceremony, in which the presiding pastor mentions the following with regret:

…God is weeping. Though God is lenient, He may not recognize this marriage…still times are changing…at least those of us who are here shall approve this.

This idea that the marriage occurring in the church in this manga is municipally-approved, but not necessarily God-approved, reminded me of the idea that Christians often fall into a hypocrisy they don’t realize, saying that God is the authority for all matters while forming a lifestyle that ultimately places a morality they’ve formed as a mix of culture, religion, family, etc. as the backbone of their lives. For instance, many will will protest about gay marriage, but I think for many that’s more a problem with their feelings of disgust toward homosexuality rather than reverence toward God’s word. After all, a state-mandated union is, well, mandated by the state; it doesn’t mean it’s a marriage in God’s eyes (and the same would certainly go for many – perhaps most – “traditional” marriages as well).

If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and is God is who he says he is and you’ve submitted to him as the ultimate king and authority in your life, let the Bible guide you. Dig into it. Treasure it. And study it – don’t let surface level readings determine your theology, but respect the word of God as something dynamic, deep, and multi-faceted that should humble you as you realize that it, and God, are far more complex than you had imagined.

Read Matthew’s thoughts on Hare Kon:

>> Manga and Theology: Unholy Matrimony

Here are other articles from around the blogosphere:

You’ve heard the theory that My Neighbor Totoro is about death, right? The writers at Lady Geek Girl investigate the claim in detail, looking at how this interpretation relates to the Shinto aspects of the story. [Lady Geek Girl]

We live like we play video games, seeking treasure to store here during our short time on earth. Maybe we should live like Sword Art Online’s Kirito, with a different treasure and different destination in mind. [UEM!]

If you’ll remember, when Pokemon was all the rage, many Christians pastors starting preaching against it as the work of the devil. However, Kelly Bornstedt, who very personally experienced such a sermon, instead finds a lot of Christ-affirming ideas in the franchise. [Geeks Under Grace]

Kiryu’s story in Classroom Crisis brings to mind that of Joseph, the boy with the many-colored coat who would become a commander over Egypt. [2]

Aniblogger Lazarinth replies to a blogger award with a rant on the silliness of faith (warning: contains foul language). [Fantasy and Anime]

Chagum puts his faith in Balsa to protect him in Moriboto, while we, too, have a guardian – but this once infallible and invincible. [Lady Teresa Christina]

Very initial planning for a “Christian Anime Con” is in the works. [Anime Revolution]

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. 

Manga Recommendations for Christian Readers

Fruits Basket

While our aim is to reach out to readers of all faiths (or none at all) with articles about anime and Japanese culture that spark discussion about spiritual issues, we also want to serve as a resource particularly for Christian audiences.  As such, we’ve developed recommendations pages for Christians interested in anime series and movies and in visual novels.  And today, we’re proud to launch a new page providing manga recommendations for Christian readers:

Manga Recommendations

As always, our recommendations are not based on series that explicitly talk about the Christian faith, feature Christian characters, or even wholly support Christian values.  We applaud series that point readers toward scriptural truths, even as they are presented apart from a Christian context.  As such, these series feature topics like grace, sacrificial love, and humility.  And with an understanding that many Christians are not as willing to dive into all sorts of manga as our writers are, we’re also cognizant of content that some may find offensive in this material, which helped guide our choices (and which we note in our recs).

Take a look at our page if you’re looking for recommendations, and please join in the discussion by mentioning your own recs for Christian readers in the comments section for future visitors to peruse through as well.

Between the Panels: Your Lie in Legalism

Don’t let that big word scare you. Legalism is just a formal word for “excessive adherence to law or formula.” In other words: following every jot and tittle of the rulebook.

In addition to countless 1st-place medals for his peerless piano playing (try saying that five times fast), Kousei Arima would likely be a candidate for “most legalistic of the year” if such an achievement existed. His uncompromising adherence to every note, rhythm, and annotation of his sheet music eventually leads his rivals to call him “robotic,”—a “mirror” who perfectly reflects the original intensions of a piece.

This might be a complement if not for the dark story behind Kousei’s formulaic performance. It’s revealed that the protégé pianist’s mother drove him to painful lengths in order to ensure his abilities, even restricting his sleep, food, and freedom. Due to his mother’s terminal disease, however, Kousei dutifully endured her abuse with the mindset that performing well would heal her.

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But with each performance, Kousei made a mistake—one small enough for only his mother to notice—and eventually, after a particularly bad presentation, his mother publicly beat him, Kousei spoke to her in hatred, and whatever remnants of a relationship they possessed began to dissolve.

Even when his mother dies shortly afterwards, however, her influence on Kousei lingers. Unable to live up to his mother’s perfect expectations—her demands that every note be flawless and every performance identical to the composer’s original intent—Kousei loses his ability to hear his own playing and finds himself irrevocably bound by his mother’s standards whenever he makes an attempt.

Music, once a joy in Kousei’s life, becomes tainted with the oxygen-masked face of his mother’s ghostly visage.

This hopeless quest to gain perfection through following a system of rules is legalism at its finest, and it’s a trap that the protagonist of Your Lie in April metaphorically falls into. It’s the same trap that many Christians find themselves ensnared in—including yours truly.

Read the rest of this entry

Between the Panels: Keith Shadis’ Extra-ordinary Worth

I’m Casey, known to the cosplay and geek realm as Cutsceneaddict, and I’m the newest writer here at Beneath the Tangles. “Between the Panels” is my monthly column on manga, so I encourage you to read along with me as I draw spiritual applications from your favorite series. I assure you that if I can analyze something, I will over-analyze it, though I’ll do my best to keep things within that comfortable 1,500-word range. In any case, find a cozy couch, grab a box of Pocky, and enjoy!

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I told myself I would write about any franchise besides Attack on Titan for my first “Between the Panels” entry, primarily because my first guest post at Beneath the Tangles covered the events of chapter 69. Naruto, Your Lie in April, Kingdom Hearts, Trigun—I considered writing about any one of these franchises. But, lo and behold, that fated time of month rolled around, and with the release of a new chapter in the Attack on Titan storyline, I found myself struck with a tsunami of inspiration that I couldn’t keep bottled up.

For better or worse, here it is:

Attack on Titan spoilers below! If you haven’t “read ahead” via the manga, and only seen the anime, then please read at your own risk. Believe it or not, some characters in the series die, and they’re named here. Also, manga scans. Lots of them.

Chapter 71 is about the start of a new arc, the backstory of Keith Shadis, and the interwoven history of Grisha Yeager. But more importantly, it’s about worth—the worth we place on ourselves, the worth with which others label us, and the worth we are inherently born with.

Eren goes to his one-time, crotchety drill sergeant for answers about his father, but what he gets instead is a lengthy inferiority narrative about Shadis’ personal struggles as a military commander.

keith shadis one act of merit Read the rest of this entry

Silver Spoon: The Importance of a Different Perspective

I had lunch with a friend last week, with whom I talked about how hard it is to shake loose your cultural upbringing as it relates to religion and really focus on the real message of the gospel.  I mentioned how helpful it is to hear perspectives from others whose upbringings were very different from our own.  I know that for me, even though I frequently take a step back and try to see things from others’ points of view, I still struggle to understand how others think (or to be honest, how they could possibly think what they do).

One of my favorite manga is Silver Spoon, a series I recently picked up after watching the anime with my wife.  There are a lot of strong themes running through the series, but perhaps none more strongly than the idea that when we open ourselves up to other points of view, we’re able to grow.  Hachiken, the distressed city boy, experiences change almost immediately as he adjusts to life at an agricultural high school.  By the end of the anime run and into where the manga is now, he’s transformed even further.  By embracing different perspectives, he’s found himself.

The series also gives many asides from minor characters who comment on how Hachiken has changed them, too.

Hachiken's mom talks to a vendor about the importance of a different voice

Hachiken’s mom talks to a vendor about the importance of a different voice

It’s not so much Hachiken’s experience, though, that moves the student body toward transformation – it’s Hachiken himself.  His earnestness, intelligence, and compassion leads his friends and staff and others to think outside the box.  The greatest example is Mikage, who is given the courage to stand up for her dream and is motivated to put in the seemingly impossible task of working toward it.

Perhaps Christianity could learn a lesson from this manga.  For a religion that began with a Messiah whose every word was outside the box, it’s distressing how rule-centered and confined Christianity has become in the west.  As a reaction, perhaps, against easy beliefism and wrong theology, many of us have unwittingly become modern-day Pharisees who miss the forest for the trees.  We speak of mercy, but show ungrace.  The hypocrisy can sometimes be unbearable. Read the rest of this entry

Kenny Ackerman: the Pursuit of Fulfillment and the Power of Testimony

Note: This is a guest post from Casey Covel, whose work we’ve featured here a number of times through our Something More column.  She’s editor-in-chief at Geeks Under Grace and goes by cutsceneaddict in the cosplay world.  I hope you enjoy her submission…it’s the first of many from Casey that you’ll be seeing here on Beneath the Tangles.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait until 2016 for the second season of Attack on Titan and scooped up the manga ASAP to pursue the story. If you’re not like me, and you have the patience of Job to wait on that elusive second season, then I suggest you avoid this article for the time being, as there are some rather titan-sized spoilers within.

**In case you didn’t get that, I’ll say it again: huge spoilers below**

attack on titan 5aColored by AnimeFanNo1

As I impatiently awaited this month’s new chapter, I found myself reflecting back on the landslide of storyline from Attack on Titan chapter 69. Amidst such plot-relevant giants as the revelation of Levi’s childhood, the crowning of Queen Historia, and death of a certain ornery uncle, Kenny’s relationship with Uri is nearly forgotten. Admittedly, though, it’s perhaps the one reveal in the chapter that haunted me long after reading. As a Christian, I can only say that’s because it resonated with my faith so frighteningly well.

In chapter 69, it’s revealed that Kenny, having discovered Uri’s identity as true king of the human race, tried to kill him, but Uri initiated his titan form and caught his would-be assassinator off-guard, capturing him in a deadly fist. Despite Rod’s demands that Uri crush Kenny then and there, however, Uri released him and—even as Kenny pierced the king through the wrist with his blade—bowed hands-and-knees to his attacker, asking Kenny for forgiveness for the genocide of the Ackerman line.

This act of humility so affected Kenny that he found himself unable to end his enemy’s life, even with Uri face-down on the ground and his finger ready on the trigger.

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

Kenny and Uri went on to form an inseparable bond of friendship. All the while, Kenny’s insatiable curiosity for Uri’s unique ideology continued to grow. By the time of Uri’s death, Kenny had not yet unlocked the mystery of his friend’s inner strength, but—determined to achieve it for himself—went about seeking fulfillment in other ways in order to acquire Uri’s “power.” Gaining notoriety as a serial killer to preserve his family, raising his deceased sister’s child, earning a captain’s rank within the Military Police, striving to attain the power of a titan shifter and, thus, a god—all these routes Kenny pursued, and all of them left him unsatisfactorily empty.

Flashing forward to the present, Levi comes across a wounded Kenny—now burned and bleeding beyond saving—following his encounter with Rod Reiss. The two hold a final conversation, in which Kenny ponders the motivations of those he’s met throughout his life.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

I find it fascinating that this word drunk is specifically used here because it means to be “dominated by an intense feeling” to the point of “behaving in an unusual or improper way.” Furthermore, I think it’s a highly-appropriate word to describe the state of our world today, outside of Christ.

We live in a restless world—one that seeks to attain peace and fulfillment through a variety of outlets. Human beings are born with an instinct to worship—to fully dedicate themselves to something or someone, even if it is ultimately their own selves. Until we come to Christ, we carry a God-shaped hole in our beings—one that cannot be filled by anything else, and yet one that we continuously try to fill with worldly things (which can only satisfy us for a short amount of time). Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Redeeming Kenshin, Protestors at Fanime, and Plastic Memory Moments

The title character’s quest for redemption in the Rurouni Kenshin OVA’s contrasts sharply with the Christian idea of our own lack of power in redeeming ourselves. [Lady Hannah Beth]

I’m a few weeks late in this linking , but since you’ll see Anime Reporter on this blog later today, it’s relevant to post a recent editorial he wrote about Ireland’s marriage equality referendum. [Anime Reporter]

The importance of living for the moment, as emphasized in episode 8 of Plastic Memories, reminds of the immediacy of salvation. [Christian Anime Review]

Is OreGairu’s Hayama a Pharisee? Perhaps… [2]

Speaking of OreGairu, the Bible warns of people like the collaborating student council’s crazy hands man. [3]

The Droid’s FanimeCon 2015 experienced started as many conventions do – with religious protestors at the event’s entrance. [AniRecs]

Casey Covel enjoyed volume 2 of Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and also finds that Christian readers may be able to relate specifically well to it’s diminutive lead. [Geeks Under Grace]

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.

Letter from the Editor: Bleach, Church Retreats, and Powering Up

Dear Readers,

Have you been keeping up with the happenings in Bleach?

The manga has become fairly intense, and after all this time, the story’s become exciting again.  I haven’t been a fan of the series since early in the arc involving Aizen, but I just can’t help but to consume the manga in chunks every half a year or so just to keep up with the characters I once followed so closely.  Right now, the world (as the Soul Reapers know it) is coming to an end after the death of one specific character.  But never to fear, because of course, Ichigo is here!

And as is the tradition for a shounen, fight ’em series, he comes to maybe probably certainly save the day after having done some training.  Rukia and Renji have done the same. Maybe Chad and Orihime, too, though to be honest, I’m not clear on their storylines.

Rukia and Renji

It’s no surprise that we see this type of storyline again and again in anime and manga – whether it be for physical breakthroughs, as in Dragonball Z or Naruto, or more emotional ones, as you might see in “training camp” retreats in series like Oofuri or Bamboo Blade.  The opportunity to get away from the world leads one to cut out distractions and focus on a specific task at hand.

For Christians, there’s an added element.  Not only can you cut out the noise, but in the quiet and stillness of a retreat – both from the environment outside and in one’s heart, you can perhaps hear God.  What is he saying to you?  What does he want you to do?  And how will you respond?

Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Mikasa’s Cruel World

Anime is full of references to religion, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this column, 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 Mikasa Ackerman during a flashback scene in episode six of Attack on Titan, “The World She Saw.”  Perhaps the most famous quote from the popular series (well, except for Levi’s interesting remark about trees), these words arise during Mikasa’s fight for survival against a band of bandits when she was young:

The world is cruel, but also very beautiful.

The claim is very straightforward: this world is both painful and stunning.

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Fact Check

Attack on Titan is sometimes difficult to follow, partially because we’re introduced to so many significant characters early on and are encouraged to root for them without getting to know them.  Among the main characters, the Shiganshina trio – Eren, Mikasa, and Armin – it’s Mikasa that we know least about in the first half of season one.  Not until episode six do we learn her back story.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Pandora Sins, Avatar Religion, and Your Friendship in April

Christmas is less than two weeks away!  I can hardly wait!  On Beneath the Tangles, we’ll be doing the special series of posts we do every year, and I hope that the anime blogosphere will deliver some thoughtful posts about the season as well.  Until then, visit the great trio of wonderful articles linked below:

The very existence of Oz Vessalius, as told to him in Pandora Hearts, tells us about the nature of sin. [Old Line Elephant]

The last of three Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel trilogies, The Rift, explores the question of ancient tradition in a modern world. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Episode 6 of Your Lie in April demonstrates the special friendship between Tsubaki and Kousei, one that reflects the sacrifical call of loving friendships in the Bible. [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.

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