Category Archives: Otaku

Untangled: Christian Panel at an Anime Con

One of my favorite parts of administering this blog is occasionally receiving emails from our readers.  A week or two ago, we received a request from Michael.  Here’s how he began:

Hi, I am so blessed to have found your blog, and here’s why. To keep it short, I am a Christian in Miami, FL and just went to my first anime con (Animate! Miami) in January and felt from Holy Spirit to bring Gods Kingdom to our otaku/video game culture[...]I submitted to do a panel at the biggest con in FL, Supercon. I want to do a panel about spirituality and anime but focusing totally on our Father God and Christ, and the impact God has on anime in general…

A lot of times, I don’t have a good answer for our readers.  But thankfully, I now have a little insight into this request after recently conducting a panel at IKKiCON, the anime convention in my local Austin community.

Michael went on to write the following:

I am making my presentation and wanted to get your much needed advice. I want to connect with the Christian otaku community and get ideas as to how to make this presentation great and an opportunity to bring souls to Christ.  Any advice or suggestions as to which amines I should focus on, or maybe just topics I should stick to? I have to present for an hour, and will throw in some games too to keep it interesting.

Michael, thanks for coming to us with your question – I’ll help you as best I can!

I think you first need to consider who your audience is, if you haven’t already.  It seems like you may be wanting to focus on Christian otaku.  In that case, you might consider that your audience will be unique – you may have a mix of those of different religious backgrounds who attend, not only within the Christian tradition, but possibly others who have an interest in religion.  I also found that a number of young people, attending with parents, came to my panel.

If you intend to make the panel evangelistic in nature, aimed at non-Christians, I would definitely think about what it is I can offer my audience in terms of my topic.  As with Paul and his teaching on being everything to everyone, your panel should appeal to anime fans, offering them something about anime that they can learn from and/or be entertained by.  Otherwise, they may feel they’re getting the old bait and switch, which might accomplish the opposite of what you intend.  Even if you carefully weave a gospel presentation into your panel, some will be offended and most may not be open to it.  In that case, I might suggest passing them to another resource they could consult, whether it’s your own or another, when they get home from the con and think back on your panel.

And I’ll mention one more consideration – this one on a more general level.  Others who visit our blog (and even a couple of other writers) have more to offer in the way of tips, but I’ll offer just this one – time flies when you’re doing your panel, so if you’ve packed your 60 minutes to the brim, you probably won’t be able to cover all that you’ve wanted.  Adjust accordingly.

Good luck on your panel, and please let us know how it goes!  And for all those reading this post, what advice might you also offer Michael?

If you have a question for us, please click on the “Ask the Staff” button on the top menu of our blog.

Out Of My (Head)Canon

One thing I think all of us anime fans can agree on is that this medium stimulates our imagination like few others we have encountered. The idea that we see what we want to see in the anime that we watch, for better or worse, has a lot to do with the particular “lens” we bring along when we watch — which naturally differs widely among anime fans.

Lately, however, I’ve come across the idea of “headcanon.” I take this word to mean the individual fan’s ideas of back story, or character qualities or experiences that we never actually see “on camera.” The word seems to stand opposite to “canon,” which as we all know refers to things explicitly seen or stated “on camera,” or included in the authentic back story to the show in question.

Now surely the development of headcanon is nothing new. I was not around when the original Star Trek series aired, but I would hardly be surprised to learn that the personal history and back story for every character from Capt. Kirk to Uhura, from Spock to Dr. McCoy, were entirely worked out — if not by the original authors, then by the fans. And I would likewise be certain that there were heated and impassioned conversations about the characters’ personal histories, likes, and dislikes among Star Trek fans of the 1960s, just as there are for Naruto fans today.

The idea of headcanon took on an entirely new level of applicability once I joined the Vocaloid fandom a couple of years ago. I have been involved in synthesized or digital music as a hobby for some 25 years, which means only that I approach the Vocaloids as primarily a hobbyist and a programmer. I see them as musical instruments. But of course this is only half of the interest in Vocaloids to the fandom, or perhaps only a quarter of the interest. In addition to the songs themselves and the voice banks that are used to make the songs, there are also the anime-character-like manifestations of each Vocaloid, most of which derive from the original box art. And where such box art was lacking (as with VY2) or mostly lacking (as with the new ZOLA voice banks), fans quickly stepped in and made their own art to express what they thought their favorite imaginary pop singers looked like.

vocaloid-group-wallpapers-vocaloid-fanclub (29)

Whether you are a fan of the Kagamine twins, Luka, MEIKO, KAITO, Gakupo, or Miku, your headcanon is probably as different from mine as our favorite songs are.

Of course, we cannot get to know the Vocaloids through any anime series — only through their songs, and through what other fans say about their songs. While this idea is not original with me, I’m fond of saying that Vocaloids are very much like actual living pop stars. For example, like Justin Bieber, Kagamine Len has a discography, as well as a worldwide network of producers that write songs for him, and an even larger worldwide network of fans. Perhaps the most important difference between Kagamine Len and Justin Bieber is that Kagamine Len doesn’t actually exist.

We Vocaloid fans are unable to resist plunging into the realm of headcanon, it would seem, by making up our own stories about our favorite Vocaloids. I experienced this recently with particular strength when my copy of the ZOLA Project arrived in the mail. Almost before I had them installed on my computer, I had worked out part-time jobs for them, as well as ages that differed from canon but made more sense to me. I was just about to decide which of the three was married when I had to make myself stop.

We anime fans all too often take the same kind of plunge with anime, even though we are given a much larger amount of authentic material to work with. And as with the Vocaloids, your ideas about the characters’ histories and extra-canonical experiences in a particular show may differ from mine, or be more or less developed than mine. But if one thing is clear, it is that we cannot help ourselves. Whether for Vocaloids, Harry Potter, anime, or you name it, we will develop headcanon.

Since I first began to question myself several years ago about why anime had me so deeply in its grip, I have always been fascinated about the effect anime has on my imagination, and apparently not on mine only. I wish I were able to come up with smarter-sounding reasons as to why these things we call anime characters draw us in, to the point that we make fanart, write fanfiction, and of course develop headcanon. So far the best answers I can come up with are Because we love these characters and Because we find it enjoyable to imagine such things, but I am certain that people better educated in psychology and literature can come up with better answers, if not truer ones.

Perhaps the development of personal headcanon is our way as fans to put our own seal on our experience of anime. Whether or not we can explain it, I would suggest that we continue to enjoy it. I am not sure, but I have a suspicion that this too is something uniquely human that we all share, and by which as anime fans we can understand each other, at least to some extent.

Untangled: Why Are the Anime and Cosplay Communities So Preoccupied with Sex?

We invite readers to submit questions to us regarding anime, culture, religion, or most any topic!  We’d love to respond to your queries!

Last week, Torin sent us the following comment:

Hello! I sincerely apologize if this seems inappropriate, but I’ve been trying to find someone to ask about this for quite some time. I have a question regarding the general anime community’s apparent preoccupation with sex. I’ve noticed this both online and at conventions. My question is, WHY? I can write some of it off as hormones due to the high number of teenage anime fans, but I can’t seem to avoid encountering hordes of people whose main interests I consider seriously immoral. I very much enjoy cosplaying but the other fans that I encounter are driving me away from my interests.

Torin, that’s a great question…and a very complicated one.  My immediate reaction is that what we consume, media-wise, is a reflection of who we are.  American culture is definitely moving more toward both the “anything goes” attitude – so showing of “explicit drawing” or reveling in shotacon (<— this REALLY gets to me) is becoming a little more acceptable, especially among our younger generation.

Also, and this is more just our natural condition, we seek fulfillment in things that titillate.  As anime has grown in popularity, it’s no surprise that individual fans would become preoccupied with sexualizing their characters – bizarrely or not.  But with the advent of the Internet and the growth of convention culture, along with that idea I mentioned earlier about more and more acceptance of almost anything, these ideas go from private to public, and take on a life of their own as Tumblr, Twitter, forums and other outlets key on our “consume it now and consume it fast” attitude. 

As for cosplaying, I’m less sure – I’m not really attuned to cosplay and convention culture, honestly.  But certainly, when I attend cons, I’m pretty surprised at what I see (certainly not all of these girls are super fans of Yoko Littner, are they?!).   But I do believe that same connection I mentioned above applies here.  And it becomes very scary because as we push our boundaries further and further, lacking restraint, horrible things can occur.   Isn’t there some connection here to rape culture and the problems that women encounter at anime conventions?

Torin continued his comments with the following: Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Redeeming Arrietty, Shinto Symbol Sasami-san, and 10 Signs You Might Be a Christian Otaku

Conservative Protestant website/publication, Christianity Today, places The Secret World of Arrietty among its honorable mentions in its listing of the “Most Redeeming Films of 2012.” [Christianity Today]

Meanwhile, the first episode of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai has grabbed attention for it’s religious allusions.  Omo gives a great breakdown of the Shinto symbolism in episode one [Omonomono] while Zyl comments on some of these symbols as well [Sea Slugs!]

D.M. Dutcher gives an overview of anime and manga and of what Christians unfamiliar with the medium should be cautious. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

And I’m a week or two late on this one, but I thought it good to include Dutcher’s list of “Ten Signs You Might Be A Christian Otaku,” which includes gems like the following [Cacao, put down the shovel!]:

6. You’ve had to repent of thinking that there is one God of the Wired, and Her name is Lain. You’ve also wondered if when you die,  God might actually look like a bratty Japanese schoolgirl.

__

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. 

IKKiCON 2012: Where I Belong (It’s Not Here)

IKKiCON, the largest anime convention in the Austin area, is concluding today, and I think most of the attendees are probably leaving feeling happy with the guests that showed up, the artists and vendors that were selling, and the assortment of interesting panels – all of which were, to me, as good or better than last year.

This was only the second con I’ve ever attended, so I’m still quite a newbie (contrast Tommy, the con veteran who blogs at Anime Bowl).  A without a real agenda like last year, when I primarily visited to conclude my interview with Caitlin Glass, I felt quite detached from the proceedings.  But because of that, I perhaps had a perspective unlike many others – from the outside looking in.

I Don’t Belong Here

I dressed for the con like I would on a regular workday, and largely because of that, I was the oddball at the proceedings.  As I walked by Haruhi Suzumiya, Vash the Stampede, and lots of Hetalia characters whose names I didn’t know (strangely enough, I spotted zero Sword Art Online cosplayers), I probably looked the part of press, which I technically was, but…well, I’m a blogger, not a reporter.

My age also certainly played a role.  I’m 31.  Most of the people closest to me in age at the con were either organizers or parents walking their children around.

Read the rest of this entry

Princess Jellyfish and Becoming Who We’re Meant to Be

I adore the characters in Princess Jellyfish, particularly the protagonist, Tsukimi. Their awkward tendencies and feelings of wanting to often hide from the world are very relatable.

The show centers around five hermit-like, NEET otaku that live together in an old apartment complex in Tokyo and refer to themselves as the Amars or “nuns.” Their otaku interests range from trains to Three Kingdoms to traditional clothing and dolls to “gracefully aging” men. Tsukimi is the newest member and fits right in, which is a rare thing to happen for her as we learn, with her obsessive affinity for jellyfish. Although Tsukimi enjoys her life and the people she lives with, she admits from episode one realizing she doesn’t think she is what she was meant to be.

Tsukimi’s adorable but painfully awkward and confused look is common.

“Mom, I know I was supposed to turn into a princess, but somehow I became a freak.”

On the surface, she is referring to the way she looks, but on a deeper level I think she feels more should be happening in her life, that she should have become something greater. She is not sure what that thing is, she just knows. Read the rest of this entry

Manga-Style Pope Shirts, Christians Who Hate Otaku, and St. Peter and the Penguins

Pope Benedict XVI…in manga style…on a t-shirt or hoody…need I say more?

Seinime waxes nostalgia, with some talk about faith and prayer, in his narrative-driven post about Usagi Drop.

Taylor concludes her series on Christian symbolism and themes in My Little Pony.

A youtube response to an troll? otaku-hatin’ Christian.

Zeroe4 reminisces about his grandfather’s death and his conversion experience after watching Sket Dance.

And a few weeks late, the beautiful couple of The Untold Story of Altair & Vega discuss the St. Peter figure in episode nine of Mawaru Penguindrum.

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Choosing Anime Over Jesus

2DT wrote a wonderful post about the common separate between anime fans and religious folk on his blog.  Referencing my anibloggers and religion survey from last year, he discusses the idea that it seems most anime fans simply aren’t interested (or are even against) organized religion.  2DT postulates that a reason for this is that there are “so many more exciting fictions” available than those presented in the Bible.

Please take a look through the comments below the survey.  It was exciting for me to read commentary by some of my favorite bloggers and commentators, Christian and otherwise.

Ave Fabulae: Looking for the God of Anime Fandom

Aniblogger Testimony: Can Anime and Religion Coexist Peacefully?

This is the first in a series of Aniblogger Testimony posts, where select writers will discuss their personal faith.  This post is by the always-amazing Lauren Rae Orsini of Otaku Journalist.

When I think about the intersection between anime and religion, my thoughts always turn to Katsucon 2010. For those who weren’t there, this was the weekend that both Katsucon and Family Life’s Christian Values Summit were held at the Gaylord. 

Now, you’ll hear a lot of fantastic stories from convention attendees about crazy culture clashes that supposedly happened there, but my favorite wrap-up of the weekend came from a Vienna, VA woman who was attending the summit with her husband. She wrote:

As you can imagine, some of our fellow W2R attendees were not only confused, but horrified. Not understanding this culture, and what was going on created a disconcerting feeling in your gut. And now that I’ve done further research, I have to say I better understand the appeal, but remain concerned.

As for the staff of Family Life, you may be surprised to learn that Dennis Rainey & his wife (who founded FL) encouraged the W2R attendees to engage with these kids, ask what’s going on, & show them love, rather than judgmental looks. After all, they are the generation of the future!?

While it’s unfortunate that this particular Christian woman’s first brush with anime involved more Elfen Lied than anyone should have to experience, her reaction was exactly what anime fans often fear. The Christian group did their best not to be judgemental, but as you can see from her account, it was pretty difficult for them to be accepting. Imagine what they must have thought of Katsucon’s several Jesus cosplayers! Read the rest of this entry

Cons Join Together to Create AnimeAid

AnimeAid is among the latest groups in the U.S. otaku community that are playing a visible role in raising funds for the Japanese earthquake victims.  A joint venture between major conventions in the Washington DC area, AnimeAid seeks to commit “to the task of assisting fan based support initiatives throughout the area to maximize the impact  in assisting the people of Japan.”  The group’s activities include:

  • aiding organizations in sharing their plans with others
  • helping to  consolidate activities to allow for effective outreach
  • and mitigating the costs involved in charitable efforts

The AnimeAid website provides further details, including contact information and details about campaigns and initiaitives the organization is supporting.  If you’re interested in working with AnimeAid, please visit the site.

Thanks to Lauren Orsini for informing me about this wonderful venture.