Category Archives: Otaku
A couple weeks ago, I wrote that Christian anime fans need to consider other believers as they watch and discuss anime. But other believers only make up a fraction of those who read our comments, tweets, and feeds. Many of our followers and friends are not Christians. They don’t know Christ, very few of them have read any of the Bible, and their perspective on our Lord and our beliefs comes primarily from… us. Wherever we go, and wherever we post, we’re ambassadors for Christ. We’re on a mission we can’t run away from, a mission we signed up for the day we became Christians: to spread the Gospel in word and action, so we may glorify God as part of the growing Church. That brings another set of responsibilities, including some that, at first glance, seem different from those I wrote about before.
In my last post, I focused on 1 Corinthians 8. Two chapters later, Paul returns to a similar topic, now focusing on what to do when presented with food sacrificed to idols. This time, he transitions with statements that relate to practicing freedom with others’ benefit in mind:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Cor 10:23-24)
As Christians, we don’t have to follow the long list of laws from ancient and orthodox Judaism. On multiple occasions, Paul rebuked Jewish Christians who tried to enforce laws about unclean food (a different issue than food sacrificed to idols) or circumcision. And we don’t exactly have new laws, either. New expectations? Yes. A difference between sinful and righteous acts? Absolutely. That’s been around since long before the laws listed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy (most of which apply specifically to that ancient theocracy, and/or to the covenant between God and Israel… and many of which address things that were sins anyway, much like any nation’s laws do). But there are no nit-picky rules about media, diet, dancing, etc. Instead, we’re reminded to seek the good of others—related to the most important commandments, to love God and our “neighbors.”
What “neighbors” are Paul talking about? Not only Christians. Paul seems to use it in the more general sense, much as Jesus’s definition of “neighbors” crossed ethnic and neighborhood lines. And what good should we seek for them? Again, the definition is bigger than you may first think. Yes, of course, there’s their health, prosperity, and the pleasure they get when you give them the last cookie. But most of all, we must seek to point them toward God. Nothing compares to knowing, loving, and worshipping God—an eternal life where “eternal” means something much, much richer than “immortal.” That is the good we’re seeking for them. Read the rest of this entry
Christians are free to watch anime rated TV-MA. Violence, swearing, portrayals of demons, and even ecchi are not, technically, off limits, and least not in a general sense. Nor are anime that convey atheistic, shinto, or Buddhist belief systems. We are free to watch everything, and we are free to do so in many ways… but that doesn’t mean that we should just dive in. I’m not just talking about our personal limits, either. We don’t usually watch and respond to anime in isolation, so we shouldn’t act like we do. Rather, we must consider the consciences of those around us.
I love the online anime community partly because of the demographic diversity. Thirteen-year-old girls and fifty-year-old men are suddenly on the same footing, especially if they aren’t obvious about their age. On Beneath the Tangles alone, I think our youngest writers are around 21, give or take a year, and we were teens when we started aniblogging (I was seventeen when I wrote my first guest post here). Our oldest writer could be my father. We have Protestants of various denominations, and we have one Catholic. Some of us have been strong Christians for decades, or as close to two decades as we can get in our young lives. Some of us struggled with faith until just a few years ago. And that’s just our regular writers! Readers, guest writers, and the wonderful folk who contribute through comments vary even more in age and background. Then there are the anime fans we interact with from across the net… My point is this: we are a varied community. And that means that when any of us—including you, dear readers—post, comment, Tweet, reblog, update our MAL or A-P, or even make our YouTube “Liked Videos” playlists public, we could have a varied audience.
Even the Christian portion of our audience alone is varied—and that’s the portion I’m going to focus on in this post, for the sake of brevity (or the closest to brevity I can get). We watch, learn from, and mimic each other. We’re not responsibile for each other’s choices… but then again, to some extent, we are. As Christian anime fans, we navigate a subculture that some Christians dismiss as “heathen” and avoid at all costs. We’re newer to this subculture. Our pastors and evangelical leaders don’t talk or write much about it yet. So we lead each other. We recognize that we are free to watch anime of various kinds. But we must also recognize the influence each of us have—even those of us with fewer followers or internet friends—and the responsibility we have to use that influence wisely. Read the rest of this entry
One Winter 2015 show that I finished but did not get a chance to review in the end-of-season reviews was The Megumi Kato Show. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it’s better known as either Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, or its official English title Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. In this show, after a fateful encounter with a girl, an otaku guy gets inspired to make a visual novel, and gets some otaku girls he has a history with to help him out. However, when he meets that same fateful girl again, it turns out she is Megumi Kato, a completely average girl who has no presence and is in many ways the complete opposite of a visual novel heroine. As such, the guy takes it upon himself to try to shape Megumi into a proper heroine.
It’s a fun show that also explores some of the conflicts serious otaku can encounter with creators and with the non-otaku world. However, what really allows the show to be as strong as it is, instead of collapsing under its own weight from trying too hard to be both a parody of otaku rom-coms and a serious story, is Megumi Kato. While she is supposedly a “boring” girl, I instead find her to be by far the most interesting character, and easily one of my favorite anime characters of the year. She has very normal reactions to all the craziness around her, avoids falling into obvious stereotypes, and serves as a bridge between the sillier parts of the show and the more down-to-earth parts. And in addition to all of that, she is just a great girl overall.
It’s especially interesting to see what role she plays in the visual novel-creating team. Compared to Tomoya’s as the director, Eriri as artist and Utaha as scenario writer, Megumi initially seems to be little more than a model to stand around and serve as the inspiration for the work where appropriate. Just like she has no presence among her classmates, she also has no presence in the team.
However, as the story goes along and she starts to learn how visual novels work and the potential of the stories behind them, she decides to start helping out in more notable ways. In episode 11, she starts helping with the scripting of the visual novel, connecting Utaha’s written story, Eriri’s character art, and other elements of the software together. As she does not have any specialized talents, she decides to contribute to the project in whatever small ways she can. I love that about her; I too sometimes feel like I am not suited to the major jobs in any project I’m in, so I also look to help out in smaller ways. And I believe her spirit of helping where she can is not just a great trait of hers, but also something Christians can learn from.
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.
While I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the singing duo, I am nonetheless sad to see ClariS become merely Clara. Alice has reported that she is leaving the unit and singing as a whole to concentrate on her studies. The duo debuted with in 2010 with OreImo’s opening “Irony.” However, what exploded their popularity was Madoka’s “Connect.” Since then, they’ve performed several other songs all while keeping their real identity a secret – they have reported even their interest in anime is a secret from personal friends. Since they were only in middle school at the time of debut, that would mean right now is pretty important time with exams and preparing for university, so I must admit it to be a wise decision. Clara has not yet made a statement on her future plans
My anime fandom really began when Toonami was in it’s heyday with Tenchi Muyo, still one of my favorites, anchoring the block. In an exciting, but strange piece of news, Kajishima Misaki will help develop Ai Tenchi Muyo!, a new series planned as 50 5-minute shorts in an effort to boost tourism in Takahashi City, the Japanese locale in most of the series’ media. While it would be hard to find a fan who would like that the new episodes will be “short” format, there’s still plenty to be excited about – not in the least is that we can start theorizing and fantasizing about what the show will focus on. There’s plenty of artwork and wording from Kajishima and others to fuel the speculation of the plot, which frankly, can’t be any worse than what we saw in the 3rd OVA.
Although the upcoming release of the Girls und Panzer‘s tie-in Vita game is not recent news, the promotional videos (such as the linked one above, featuring voice actress, Mai Fuchigami) have really been rolling in this month in preparation for its June 26th Japanese release. Speaking as only a moderate fan of the series, I have been anticipating this release as I have been reluctant to join any video gaming tank action, mostly in the form of World of Tanks (but when anime girls are involved, who can turn it down?!). If you have any knowledge of the Japanese language and would like some practice, this seems to be a great item to import as the language skills necessary are lower than that of your standard Japanese RPG or other common import title. Regardless, be prepared for some fun “tankery” action on June 26!
Los Angeles’ annual anime convention Anime Expo will be hosting a Kill La Kill event, featuring the English dub premier, as well as several Japanese guests including writer Kazuki Nakashima, character designer SUSHIO, producer Yosuke Toba, and the voice actresses of the main females Ami Koshimizu and Ryoka Yuzuki. If you are a big fan of the series, you’ll definitely want to be there, although tickets may already be sold out by the sounds of it. For those who aren’t fans of the series, perhaps voice actress Ami Koshimizu will ring a bell as the voice behind characters such as Holo, Kallen, and Maou. Anime Expo will also be hosting guests such as Reki Kawahara, the writer of Sword Art Online, and Eir Aoi, who sang theme songs for anime such as Sword Art Online, Fate/Zero, and Kill La Kill.
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.
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.
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.
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!]:
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.