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Untangled: Facing Opposition for Your Faith

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email that brideofdracula recently sent us:

First of all I love your blog! I think it’s awesome how you connect anime and religion.

My question to you is kinda personal: recently, I moved to America from a muslim country. I am a practicing Muslim and I currently am enrolled in a liberal arts college. My problem, is I face alot of criticism from atheists. They see me, see my hijab, and start criticizing me, my religion, my Holy Book. I don’t have a problem with atheists,  but I HATE it when they start mocking me. I’m asking you this because as Christians, you must have faced such opposition.  What should I do? Should I stop wearing my hijab?

Please answer. I don’t think I can stand any more girls stuffing The God Delusion in my face. (Sorry about my English. It’s not my native language.) Thanks.

Thank you, first of all, for reaching out to us even though we’re of a different faith than you.  We definitely want our community here to cross religious boundaries, and some of that can occur when find common ground, such as criticism or persecution.

I think it must definitely be harder for you as a Muslim than for most Christians because through you hijab, you make your faith much more visible than others might.  Besides wearing, say, a cross necklace, Christians don’t usually express their faith by the clothing they wear.  Maybe that’s why when I attended a liberal arts university in a very liberal city, I never went through what you’ve had to endure.

I think that the best advice I could give you is this: make your everyday actions based on the bigger picture on what you most believe in life.  Sometimes, we have an idea of what we value most, but when suffering comes along and we’re tested by fire, we get to know where we really stand on those tenants we hold most closely to our hearts.  When you meditate on the bigger picture, it’ll help you determine the choices you make for issues like whether to continue wearing your hijab.  For example, if I were in your shoes, I would hope that I would be able to use a hurtful situation and turn it around, demonstrating the kindness, love, and grace that Jesus demonstrated to me through the gospel, which is at the core of my life.

I’d like to also open this up to our readers – do you have any recommendations for our brideofdracula?

Untangled: Manga Recommendations for Christians?

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email that Stephen recently sent us:

I just stumbled across your site while looking for Christian manga reviews. I like what you’ve got here: Do you also do manga as well as anime?

We do, Stephen!  Though to be honest, we don’t touch on manga nearly as much as we should, probably because only a few of us read manga as actively as we watch anime.

One thing we are working on is a “Manga Recommendations” section for Christians to go along with other such sections, accessible through our toolbar.

Stephen went on to recommend two manga series to us:

1) Holyland: There’s just enough subtle symbolism to make this series powerful but not preachy. One of the main characters receives a cross in a church at one point, and later on, at a critical moment, grabs the cross and cries out (apparently to God), “Tell me what to do!” Lots of violence (it’s about martial arts after all), and maybe four scenes in the whole series with very brief nudity. For a mature reader, I think it’s well worth the read.

2) Hikaru no go: Perhaps the only manga I’ve read with absolutely nothing inappropriate, apart from the occasional swear word. One of the themes that crops up periodically is Sai, the ghost, meditating on why God has him remain on earth and appear to Hikaru, rather than going immediately to the next stage of the after life. Both Sai and Hikaru learn lessons, making Sai’s experience a sort of Purgatory. The emotional movements of this series are excellent, at least through the first story arc.

Thanks for sharing those titles with us, Stephen!  And now, I want to open this up to our readers – are there manga you specifically recommend for Christians?  Why?

Anime Today: When Narrative Breaks Down

As the summer 2014 season winds down, I’ve recently been reflecting on my thoughts over the last few months of anime. Although this season has been one of the more enjoyable of the past year or so, it seems to have also been one of the most disappointing. But how can that be?

The answer is simple, and it comes down to let down expectations. If you’ve been following Anime Today, you are probably aware of how excited I was to see everything pan out this season. However, if you have been following Anime Today or listened to episode one of our podcast, you are also probably aware of how few of these entries have lived up to my artificially-raised expectations.

Without getting into too much detail (that’s what our live stream is for this Saturday!), between the overall poor production of Persona 4 The Golden Animation, Sword Art Online, Aldnoah Zero, and Captain Earth, to name a few, each week has been a question of how I am going to be let down. Why could I be so disappointed in these entries that originally excited me? With the exception of the possibility that I had simply misappropriated my preconceptions above and beyond what I should have expected, I place the majority of my blame on an inconsistency in writing and other production.

Aldnoah Zero is a prime example of this. With Gen Urobuchi at the writing helm (responsible for renowned shows such as Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica), expectations were high. And to be quite frank, expectations were met. Aldnoah Zero absolutely, wonderfully delivered.

Slaine Troyard

And then Urobuchi departed from the writing staff, and the fall into mediocrity commenced (this is not to say that Aldnoah Zero has been bad, per se, as much as it has just been closer to average than originally anticipated). The narrative shifted from what was an original, well-produced, thrilling, and thought-provoking exposition, to nothing more than an average mecha with a few interesting plot twists.

Read the rest of this entry

The Wheat and the Weeds in Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass follows Unit One of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division in a futuristic Japan. The most notable thing about this futuristic world is how most things in a person’s life are determined by the program SIBYL and the person’s psycho pass, meaning basically their mental state. A bad psycho pass with a “crime coefficient” that is too high can land someone in jail or at a facility with no options, labeled as a ” latent criminal.”

One latent criminal’s life, Shusei Kagari, was over at 5 years old when the system labeled him as such.

pp

The way the system is set up made me think of the parable of the wheat and the weeds and how it is sometimes interpreted in real life. In the parable, a man is growing a field of wheat when his enemy comes and scatters seeds of weeds throughout the field. When the weeds start growing, the man tells his servants to leave them with the wheat until the harvest. After they are collected and separated, one goes in the storehouse and one goes in the fire. The wheat and weeds of course symbolizing good and bad people. Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Claymore Teresa’s Only Thing to Live For

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

Warning: Today’s post is part of a HUGE spoiler from recent chapters of Claymore.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Teresa, Claymore extraordinaire and perhaps the greatest of all her type (until her shocking demise).  In chapter 150, Teresa has returned as someone transforming from within Clare, and during these sequences, she has a conversation with former protege:

Teresa of the Faint Smile

So, the claim is this: If God exists, in Teresa’s view, she has only one thing for which to be thankful. Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Post-Modern Monogatari

*Note: This article has been written in such a way to be completely SPOILER-FREE. Read without fear of spoilers!*

Christianity has, in the past few decades, had a confusing relationship with the post-modern movement and its refutation of objectivity. On one hand, many Christians agree with post-modernism’s skepticism of modern culture, skepticism of everything really, and acknowledge the possibility of many different existences or ideas. However, on the other hand, many Christians simultaneously disagree with these same notions that nix the possibility of one true objective belief and one true objective God. A sticky situation (and one that I’m sure most post-modernists would love to discuss for that reason!).

My goal here today is not to sway you one way or the other, but rather to reflect some of my appreciation for the healthy dose of skepticism and reliance upon symbolism and metaphor that post-modernism has either caused, or at least brought to society’s (relatively) recent attention.

In the scheme of anime and otaku culture, the recent release of Hanamonogatari, the latest entry in the Monogatari (or 物語, literally meaning “Story”) series well-known for its “off-the-beaten-path” directing style, reminded me of this modern skepticism that pervades today’s culture. In no other series will you find the same kind of dialogue, story-writing, art direction, and cinematography together in one piece of media. In fact, Shaft (the studio responsible for the series) has turned the Monogatari series into something of a trademark of theirs, to the extent that any other work of theirs, even from before the first entry in the Monogatari series, Bakemonogatari, can be traced to it in some fashion.

And what word best describes this inimitable (though oft-attempted) style?

Symbolism.

hanamonogatari 1

Not actually faceless, yet they are still represented as such.

Though perhaps not as overt as it is in the Monogatari series, symbolism is something that forms the very basis of the works that we collectively refer to as “classics.” Literature like Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings… the list goes on. Although symbolism is still employed in modern works, it is perhaps less of a lost art (though it seems to me that it sees less attention in modern writing than it once did) as much as it has lost appreciation, or maybe simply an audience interested in appreciating it.

And thus I draw a comparison between biblical imagery and Hanamonogatari.

Read the rest of this entry

The Purpose of Trials in Fruits Basket

I have a tendency to shirk away from challenge. Complacency is a hole I feel I constantly find myself climbing out of. If I can avoid it or procrastinate, I usually do. It’s much easier to shove something into a metaphorical box and go watch Youtube videos then actually work through it.

Spiritually in my life, this is something God will tolerate for only so long. As always, God cares much more about me than I do about myself and wants me to have life in abundance, even if that means significant challenge.

There is one scene in Fruits Basket between Kyo and his master/father figure Kazuma that made me think about how sometimes God’s plan for my life and my desire to not deal with challenge, ever, come to a head.

As the cat of the zodiac, Kyo is the most cursed of all of the Sohmas. As part of his curse, he turns into a horrific beast if he doesn’t wear a set of beads and will be confined to a place on the Sohma estate for the rest of his life after high school. He copes with this situation by focusing all of his hurt and frustration on Yuki the rat, the most privileged of the zodiac that was said to have tricked the cat long ago, and keeping almost everyone is his life at a distance.

Kazuma confronts him about this one night.

Capmmmmmmmmmmmture

Kazuma: Is this the way you intend to go on living for the rest of your days? Ears plugged, eyes closed, hiding behind your hatred for Yuki? Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Confessions of an Exclusivist, Christian Otaku

For as long as I can remember, back even to my elementary school days, I recall always desiring to be different or unique. I can even remember my public school teachers all hammering that message into my and my classmates’ collective heads. “Be yourself” seemed to be the key phrase (and considering my years of work in IT for public education, and consequent time spent in public schools, seems to still be the key phrase) tossed around like an inflatable volleyball on the beach, for it floats easily and just seems to fit the setting.

Now before I continue on any further, I must qualify the rest of this article by saying that I do not disagree with this statement in the slightest. While it should perhaps not be taken at face value (some happy medium must exist behind the conservative convention that being oneself gives way to a lack of moral objectivity and consequent slippery slope of moral degradation and the liberal convention that moral subjectivity declares being oneself the path to defining morals themselves), there is redeemable value in those simple words, “be yourself.”

blue spring ride futaba

Ao Haru Ride has been, in part, about learning to be oneself

And with that explained, I would like to delve deeper into my personal experience with this concept of individuality.

As I mentioned in sentence one of this article, my personality has always been one governed by popular opinion. Governed not in that I blend in with society’s trends, but rather the opposite, that I purposefully have gravitated toward that which is not popular. This is a part of myself that I have determined through reflecting on past decisions, from decisions as minor as deciding a video game class based on looking up polls on which ones were used, and selecting the least popular, to decisions as major as choosing not to share some of my interests in fear of accidentally making them more popular and thus removing myself from the category of “unique.” This latter example is where I would like to spend the majority of my time today.

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Untangled: How Do You Choose Which Anime to Watch?

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Here’s an email sent by Mason a few days ago:

How do you guys go about choosing your anime?  I don’t watch a lot but I like watching currently airing ones (because I have something to look forward too) so I would like to know how you guys go about finding anime :)

TWWK: Mason, I think most of us on staff here have a good idea of what we want to try out before each new season begins.  I usually check out a season preview post or two and choose the shows I want to try.  As for older series, I have a backlog that’s developed over the years.  Whenever I read about a series that interests me, I add it.  So I would say that typically I find anime by word of mouth.

Hansha: A lot of times, I’ll get suggestions from friends or they’ll start fangirling over one and insist I watch it. Other than that, I usually go through Hulu, Netflix or Crunchyroll and read descriptions. I’ve also gotten interested in a few anime because of cosplays I’ve seen at a convention or on different pages of cosplayers I follow. I think others on staff are more plugged in than I am though.

Japesland: I’ve gone through stages. At first, I based what I watched completely on word of mouth. Then I began looking online for recommendations, particularly from Beneath the Tangles (shameless plug for our Anime Recommendations and Anime Movie Recommendations pages). Then, I returned to word of mouth and friends’ recommendations and built up an enormous backlog, much as Charles mentioned (I marathoned a LOT of anime in the course of two years to get through that monstrosity!). Now, I’ve seen enough that I am generally able to find anime that I like myself, which is good because most of what I watch is currently airing nowadays! I recommend either asking friends, or checking blogs like ours as we write about new anime that we’re watching.

Kaze: I watch a lot of mediocre shows that I know are going to be mediocre, but I imagine most people aren’t weird like that. In terms of shows that I actually hope will be good, I rely on a few things. First is word of mouth, but particularly from people whose opinions I trust and tend to agree with. This is most useful when friends are familiar with the source material and can give you some concrete opinions rather than blind guessing. I also look at the staff and studio behind the anime. For example, P.A. Works tends to make very similar originals, so people tend to either like or dislike most of their work. I’ve also reached the point where I will watch anime for the seiyuu (voice actors), which as strange as it may sound to some, I don’t see how it is different from people watching TV shows for their favorite actors. Finally, while it probably isn’t helpful to you right now, the more you watch, the more easily you can identify shows which are going to be a flop or not, at least for you personally, because you start to see the trends and tropes. 

TWWK: Also, a shout out to our friends at Anime-Planet.  They were the first anime recommendation source on the net, and they’re still going strong.

And now, I’ll open it to our readers – how do you choose which anime to watch?

Fact Check: Aldnoah.Zero’s Sins

Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity.  It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.”  Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, 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 that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito.  When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:

Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.

The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.

Fact Check

Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them.  I think perhaps few would dispute this portion.  Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions.  From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide.  But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.

In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words.  He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five.  And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.

Read the rest of this entry