Category Archives: Manga

Between the Panels: Disciples of e(L) – (Ch. 40)

When it comes to Christian allusions, Death Note pulls no punches.

Whether it’s an artistic replication of The Fall of Man by Michelangelo, Light’s literal taking of the forbidden fruit, or the Gregorian choirs, crucifixes, and god-complexes, there’s a bit of Christian influence sprinkled across every chapter (and episode) of the series.

L biting thumb

art by 真希 | reprinted w/permission (Pixiv Illust: 53028441)

Perhaps the most conspicuous allusion, though, is L himself, whose very name harmonizes with el—the Hebrew word for God in the Old Testament. From his self-created trinity, to his seemingly omniscient and miraculous crime-solving abilities, L has the Christ-figure persona down-pat. Death Note director, Tetsuro Araki, even threw an exclusive foot-washing scene into the anime’s 25th episode, just to ensure that the imagery couldn’t be missed.

In the midst of all these iconic allusions to Christendom, though, there’s a subtle reference to Discipleship that gets lost along the way. It’s a shame, too, since it’s one of the manga’s most poignant representations of Christ’s provision.

During their mission to bring Kira to justice, L and his team of police force detectives hit a snag. Namely, that the main force is pulling all support from the secret operation in response to threats from Kira, and that any officers who wish to continue working alongside L will lose their jobs.

L allows his team to come to their individual decisions.

The catch? It’s a test of loyalty.

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Between the Panels: Armin Arlert will never be Erwin Smith (Ch. 74)

A whopping 74 chapters later, and Armin gets the credit he deserves. Finally.

I can’t be the only one frustrated by this tiny tactician’s utter lack of recognition. When he’s not being replaced by the more statistically popular Levi Ackerman in official franchise artwork, Armin’s either bent on putting himself down or enduring out-lash from others for his less-than-impressive combat skills (we’re talking a 2/10 here).

Armin chapter 74 shingeki no kyojin attack on titan

While many of the characters judge Armin for who he isn’t, though, the readership’s more omniscient perspective offers powerful insight into who he truly is. After all, we’ve seen Armin in action. Much like Commander Erwin Smith, he exhibits frightening collectedness in the midst of crisis, even going so far as to literally pull the trigger and end a life whilst the more combatant-skilled Jean Kirstein hesitates. His ability to all but foresee the unfolding of events and sacrifice for the bigger picture makes him a bite-sized force of terror to reckon with.

Armin is collected, intelligent, compassionate, humble, and—in Erwin’s own stamp-of-approval—“one of our greatest weapons.” It’s that same approval that sees Armin in captain-tier charge of the mission to retake Wall Maria.

So why is it that Erwin’s troops answer with hesitant silence when they’re told to follow Armin’s lead, with one veteran even calling the sudden move “another big gamble”? Why do the soldiers doubt Armin’s competence when he gives an innovative order, forcing Erwin to reinstate authority?

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Between the Panels: Hope and Homecoming

It’s been a rough ride for Eren and his fellow Scouts, but after seventy-three chapters of black-and-blue heartache and falsified hope, he’s finally one step closer to that ever-elusive basement.

Whether due to my vivid imagination or my familiarity with the anime’s sounds, I often hear the Attack on Titan manga as clearly as I read it; chapter 73 is forebodingly silent, to be sure, with nighttime excursions led by lantern light, and only the solid sound of hoofbeats and the whine of ziplines breaking silence with the coming of dawn.

eren homecoming attack on titan

But the moment Eren steps foot on the wall and looks at his homeland for the first time in years, the sounds die completely: it’s a point of precipice—teetering between hope and despair—that allows Eren to have a god’s-eye view of everything he’s been fighting for. Understandably, Isayama dedicates a two-page spread to this single panel.

Themes of homecoming and oppression are inevitably linked in Attack on Titan: explainable, since it’s the oppression of the titans that gives way to humanity’s ultimate decision—fall into despair, or seek hope in the midst of it. It’s a vicious cycle, to be sure, and as the chapter opens, the omniscient narrator reflects on how humanity at first fell into helplessness, believing the titans would dictate their ultimate fate. The panels’ grim sights soon transform into images of hope, however, as the Scouts at long last embark on a journey to retake Wall Maria, and Eren sets foot in his homeland for the first time in years.

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Something More: Shuu’s Sacrifice, Muslim Manga, and ISIS-chan’s Mission

While Charlotte hasn’t broken any new ground or done anything to make us feel it might become a classic like associated previous series and visual novels, it has been entertaining. Recent episodes have especially been good, including the last couple which have been surprisingly intense. In episode ten, we get to see Shun’s sacrifice through his time travels, as well as Yuu’s plundering of that power to go back and save Ayumi.

Rob of Christian Anime Review points out the sacrifices that Shuu made. He had to endure pain and hardship as well as the eventual loss of his eyesight. Rob also points out something interesting, that though the sacrifices are powerful, they can’t live up to that done by Christ. I wondered why this is true? Why are Shun’s sacrifices – fictional as they are – less powerful than Christ’s?

I think that, besides the truth of the gospel message and the fact that God himself did it, the impact of it boils down to whom the sacrifice was for. Yuu going back to for Ayumi is fulfilling for the viewers, but not because of anything moving on Yuu’s part – it’s because Ayumi has been drawn as a very loveable character. We want to see her return. Shuu’s efforts are a little more praiseworthy because, as Rob points out, he’s doing what he’s doing not just for his family, but for so many others as well.

Christ goes further than that – his sacrifice was for all mankind. And moreso, while Shuu certainly knows many of the people he’s saving, Christ knows us more intimately than any person ever could, more than we often know ourselves. He knows our pains, struggles, imperfections – the way we hurt others and the vileness hidden in our hearts.

And still he chose to die for us. That’s the power of the gospel – the perfect one dying for imperfect us.

Check out Rob’s article to read more on his thoughts:

>> Review: Charlotte, Episode 10: Looting

Visit these links to read more insights about anime/manga and religion/spirituality:

Kill la Kill gives us some insight into Christian eschatology, especially the idea that the kingdom of God is both here and yet to come. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

Himouto! Umaru-chan presents a very familiar, and very secular, version of what Christmas is apparently all about. [Old Line Elephant]

Religion will be a key element at the center of the new Ace Attorney 6 game. [Anime News Network]

The Muslim Manga Project seeks to engage both practitioners of the faith and those who simply want to learn more about Islam. [MuslimMatters]

Have you heard of ISIS-chan, the melon-loving anime character who was created to digitally combat ISIS (while respecting Islamic religion)? [DW]

The summoning of Shiva in Final Fantasy games begs the question of whether the inaccuracy in which the Hindu deity is presented is problematic. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

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. 

Between the Panels: Hotaru’s Temperate Touch

“Don’t give up what you want most for what you want right now.” ~ Lynn Mitchell

Self-control’s a cruel irony. It demands we die daily to immediate desires in order to live fully in the dream we aspire toward. That’s like saying “we die so that we may live,” a notion that Christians are no doubt familiar with. Believe me when I say it’s as hard as it sounds.

Anyone who’s struggled to quit a habit, lose weight, obtain a degree or promotion, or improve their skills will tell you that keeping an eye on the prize is the key to achieving it. They’ll also tell you that it’s often easier to cave to your desires in the here-and-now than it is to push them aside in favor of the bigger picture. Who hasn’t divulged in a double-chocolate-truffle-sprinkle sundae and ruined their calorie quota for the day? Or who hasn’t traded a crucial exam-prep-session for a day hanging out with friends?

But what if the stakes were higher? What if even the smallest “cave in” meant your dream was gone forever and could never be obtained?

into the forest of fireflies lights gin and hotaru

In a one-shot manga called Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light), a girl named Hotaru faces these exact consequences. At the age of six, she becomes lost in the woods and meets a mysterious young man named Gin during her annual summer stay at her grandfather’s cottage. When Gin offers to guide her out of the forest, she’s so grateful that she tries to pounce him, but he evades her would-be hugs, warning her that the moment she touches him, he’ll disappear… forever.

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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.


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.

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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!

divider 2

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


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