Category Archives: Religion
One of my favorite anime antagonists is Shishio, the evildoer from the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin. Shishio looks like a mummy, replaced Kenshin as the battousai, is never really bested by Kenshin with the sword, and in the dubbed version of the show, he’s voiced by always-awesome Steven Blum. What’s not to love (or hate)?
As Kenshin goes on a journey to defeat Shishio, the hero realizes early on that he’s not strong enough as is to defeat him. To gain the necessary skills to stop Shishio, Kenshin returns to his old master, Seijuro, to learn an ultimate skill. His sensei ultimately presses him into developing the technique, Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki (episode 43). But the most interesting thing isn’t the technique itself – it’s how the disciple learns it. Ultimately, it must be learned by using it on one’s teacher in an attempt to break the sensei’s otherwise unbreakable defense. And in doing so, the learner kills his master.
Seijuro lays down his life to teach the technique to Kenshin.
This teaching seems a bit extreme – but this is anime after all. Reminiscent of Unohana’s teaching of Kenpachi in Bleach, there has to be great sacrifice for the result that’s received. And although Seijuro doesn’t actually die – Kenshin is using his reverse blade, after all – is there any question that this noble and hard man wouldn’t be willing to die in this situation, having determined, finally, that Kenshin is worthy of learning it?
Do you have a tiger mom?
My mother isn’t quite of the sort, though I certainly received more discipline and was forced to focus on academics more than most any of my schoolmates. But she wasn’t a tiger mother to the extent that many of my friends’ mothers were. You can often tell which had them by the kids’ accomplishments – excellent grades, perfect SAT scores, excellence at musical instruments, polite to a fault – all signs that you had a tiger mother.
Of course, like another Asian concept, yin and yang, growing up this way isn’t all roses, though it may look so on the outside. Where perfection (at least in the eyes of parents) reigns, the child may be troubled by feelings of disappointment and lack of love, and may end up becoming overly cold or hot and arrogant or self-conscious.
Enter Yukino Yukinoshita.
The beautiful and frigid (matching her name) character for OreGairu can easily be pegged as the result of such parenting from her outward characteristics – all those around her are in awe or envy of her perfection. But we know something further, too – that she’s been oppressed by her mother, whom both her and sister vivacious sister, Haruno, fear. And while worldly success is withing easy reach for the sisters, the more we know of them, the more we see how flawed they are, with the author pointing toward their mother as the instigator of these problems Read the rest of this entry
I previously likened God to a yandere. This time I am likening Christians to a tsundere, a real tsundere, or at least an actually well-written tsundere. I previously alluded to “real” tsunderes being far better than the average achetype we get nowadays, but let’s go a bit more in depth as we explore this comparsion. While not a requirement to the archetype, many tsundere start off with a bad relationship. Like people who do not yet know God or have had bad experiences, they reject everything about their partner and refuse to acknowledge them as equals let alone as potential love interests. However, the comparison only begins once people become interested in Christianity and forming a relationship with God. It is here that people reach an unfamiliar territory and struggle with how to approach this new relationship. From a mixture of pride and embarrassment, tsundere find it hard to admit their true feelings. In a similar way, it is hard for us to acknowledge that we are not in control of our lives, and that we must follow God completely. It is important to remember here and throughout that this is a comparison of Christian believers. Non-Christians are not tsundere for God (though you could make an argument for that based on the “new definition” of tsundere), and thus it is important to keep this analogy in reference to yourself and not impose it on others.
A tsundere is most well known for her abuse of the person she actually likes. It is repetitive to the point of annoyance and no matter how much she apologizes for it, she always seems to fall back into the same habits. While the abuse can vary from simply ignoring the person to something as absurd as violent rampaging that you would only ever see in anime, this repetition can grow to be quite annoying to viewers and is no doubt a reason for the archetype’s negative image. But as you might have already guessed by now, this repetition of hurting the one you claim to love is very reminiscent of how Christians treat God. Even though we have chosen to follow God, there is no one who ceases to sin. We continue to sin again and again; no matter how much time passes, we seem to only be able to stumble yet again. It’s a very repetitive and tiresome process. This constant sinning against God despite claiming that we regret and don’t want to is very similar to the tsundere who always reacts so cruelly despite being in love.
One thing to understand, however, is that while a tsundere constantly hurts the target of her affection, a tsundere also constantly hates herself for this. This is so important and one of the most misunderstood aspects (or rather, most skipped over aspects in writing) of a tsundere because a true tsundere is able to acknowledge her true feelings but is unable to act in accordance with it. More than a cycle of repetitive actions as a result of bad writing, a well written tsundere expresses frustration at herself for this very characteristic. She seeks to overcome her own selfishness and harshness and act according to her true feelings, but for some reason it never goes right and the cycle repeats. The frustration at herself for harming the person she likes is indeed just like how we treat God. This is the same repetitive and sometimes frustrating cycle of the life of a tsundere.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15
“If I was born to die, then what was my reason for existing in this world?” —Konno Yuuki, SAO II.
Sword Art Online II has many faults, and some folks can’t take it seriously as a result. That’s a shame, because SAO deals with big issues that warrant serious discussion. The characters’ conversations in the last episode, especially, demanded my attention, though I decided to wait until it aired on Toonami to write about it.
First, some background (and spoilers):
Konno Yuuki and her mother contracted HIV in the events surrounded her traumatic birth, thanks to an infected blood transfusion. Before they realized what had happened, her father and sister were infected, too. She was able to live normally at first, but in fourth grade, her immune system began to fail. By the time we meet her in SAO, she has lost her entire family to AIDS, and she herself has been hospitalized for years. Virtual reality equipment allows her to escape from her pain and her hospital bed, into ALfheim Online. She is the best swordsman around—partially because she pretty much lives in ALO, and she gets plenty of practice. She appears to be a cheerful, happy girl.
Asuna befriends Yuuki in the game, and they become close, although Yuuki tries to push her away at first. Eventually, Asuna helps Yuuki experience as much of the outside world as possible from her hospital bed. In return, Yuuki encourages her to have a candid talk with her mother.
Yet Yuuki is still dying. In the end, surrounded by her friends in virtual reality, she says this:
“If I was born to die, then what was my reason for existing in this world? Without creating anything, or giving anything to anyone. Wasting so much machinery and medicine, causing the people around me trouble. Suffering, worrying… and if I were just going to disappear in the end, it would be better to die right now. I thought that so many times. “Why am I alive?” I wondered for so long, but… but I finally feel like I’ve found the answer. Even if there’s no reason, it’s okay for me to be alive. Because my last moments are of such fulfillment. I can end my journey surrounded by so many people, in the arms of the person I love.”
So, it’s okay to be alive because… you’re loved and feel fulfilled? Sorry, I’m not satisfied with that. Read the rest of this entry
One of Christ’s most interesting and off-discussed teachings is how he equates are internal hated toward others as murder:
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
– Matthew 5:22 (NASB)
We often project our anger at God or upon others without realizing just how significant our feelings are. And why shouldn’t we? We’re just doing what we feel.
Matthew Newman unravels this passage some as he looks into episode five of Angel Beats. In it, he describes the students’ viciousness toward Kanade, against whom they’ve projected their bitterness, and how Yuri has done the same against God. In both cases, the students are wrong to do so, as are we when we blame God or rage against others.
And taking it in another direction, why might it be that calling someone a “fool” (raka = baka?) would lead us toward hell? As Matthew mentions, we’re taking away the person’s humanity when calling them a fool. Christ’s wording is perhaps alluding to public humiliation of another, where we intend to destroy someone and make them less than human. This kind of anger is the basis of all sorts of evil, included among these, murder and genocide.
And if we can’t understand that, comprehending how our raging against others shows just how hypocritical we are and how much we need grace, then indeed, we are lost.
Check out Matthew’s full article:
And after you read that, check out these other wonderful articles from around the blogosphere:
Revolutionary Girl Utena is chocked full of symbolism, and Taylor begins to unpack it as it has to do with Christianity themes and allusions. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]
Despite presenting an afterlife that is unlike the Christian conception of it, Death Parade brings up ideas and themes that coincide well with Christianity. [Christ & Pop Culture]
Cowboy Bebop reunion panels and cosplay events at Hawaii Con might be able to each us more about family – and Christian family – than we’d expect. [Lady Teresa Christina]
The way in which Nagisa’s carefully laid plans falls part in episode 10 of Classroom Crisis reminds of how ours might not match those of the Creator. [Christian Anime Review]
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.
Episode 14 marks the second episode of our new, streamlined format. The theme of this episode is “How Our Lives and Anime Intersect,” and we had the chance to interview longtime Tangles community member, Tommy from Anime Bowl! This month, JP and Sean talk about their personal interests and how they influence their anime habits.
Thanks for listening! Feel free to stream the episode below, subscribe on iTunes, or check out our RSS feed! Also, be sure to email us with any questions you would like included in our “Listener Mail” portion, including the name you would like stated in the podcast and your website or blog for us to share!
Intro – 0:00
Announcements – 0:35
Otaku Diet – 1:20
Tommy Interview – 16:08
Main Topic: How Our Lives and Anime Intersect – 30:20
Listener Mail – 58:40
Closer – 1:04:28
Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:
- Check out Tommy’s blog, Anime Bowl!
- If you’re as confused about transgender terminology as JP and Sean are, check out our recent article on Hourou Musuko, which give definitions among other things
Fellow Beneath the Tangles writer, Kaze, and I share many things in common, but one always immediately comes to mind: We are both hopelessly critical of what we consume. I think nothing illustrates this more clearly recently than the general reception of Charlotte. I think I can say with relative certainty, albeit having not consulted Kaze before penning this article, that the two of us are unabashed Visual Art’s Key and, by extension, Jun Maeda (the primary writer of the studio) fans. This studio is responsible for bringing some of the world’s best visual novels to us, such as Little Busters! and Rewrite, as well as some of the most well-received anime, like Clannad (a visual novel adaptation) and Angel Beats. Thus, it comes as no surprise that a new original anime (Charlotte) from the esteemed Jun Maeda had us, or at least me, chugging steadily along on the hype train up until it began this summer.
Expectations were high.
And from this point, while I think the two of use more or less agree, I can only confidently speak for myself. And I have been grossly disappointed.
However, while much of the conflict I feel with Charlotte is internal and framed around my high expectations, I find that much of the remaining conflict I feel stems not entirely from the inside, but from profound differences in judgment between myself and the Internet population at large.* It feels that for every negative reaction I feel, be it an undeveloped cast, horrendous directorial timing, and plot points that seem to rise and fall willy-nilly, I can find many directly opposing views. Even our own founder and editor, Charles/TWWK, seems to have a much more positive opinion of the series than I do in his episode-by-episode series.
But the point of this article is not to make the case that Charlotte is not as good as it’s cracked up to be. I’ve noticed something much more important than what score is appropriate for an anime. I’ve noticed just how it feels to disagree so fundamentally with a large group of people on something you feel passionate about.
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.
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.
As expected, Charlotte is rushing toward a surely emotional end. This 13-episode series has no time for long arcs and episode-long resolutions, so in quick order we see Yuu’s recovery (physically and emotionally) and Misa’s finale. But in the midst, we also have a plot point far more significant – that of Yuu’s decision to save everyone.
It’s no surprise that the proposal comes from Tomori, even if she only half-seriously suggests it. And while the suggestion of how to save given to a Christ figure from one I’ll later describe as more representative of humanity doesn’t fit the Jesus allusion, much of the proceeding portion of the episode does, especially when it clicks with us what Yuu plans to do, what it means, and what the ultimate conclusion will be.
What Yuu is Doing
As the strongest mutant, Yuu is perhaps the strongest person on earth, the “best human.” In scripture, Christ is the second Adam, a demonstration of perfect humanity (and perfect godliness). Indeed, while Christ is perfect in every way, Yuu is representative of different people in different parts of the story – the needful, condemned human in the first part of Charlotte and now the powerful savior in the second.
And in that way, it shows Yuu to be the fulfillment of humanity. For Christians, the Bible demonstrates as much – the Old Testament showing our sin and prophesying of the Christ who is to come, and the New telling of Christ’s saving grace. In this show, Yuu is that testament – showing the depths of humanity in his early selfishness, his need for a savior to save him from his sins, and now, like the New Testament, as the Christ who will take on the sins of the world to redeem it.
Which brings up point two:
Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part I: Understanding Gender Dysphoria as a Christian
When the anime version of Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) aired in 2011, much of the reception in the blogsophere was lukewarm. A lot of folks, having anticipated the adaptation, were disappointed in how different it was from the manga. I, on the other hand, without any previous connection to this story of a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy, absolutely loved it. It touched me and made me reconsider how I thought of individuals who identify as transgender.
However, I don’t know if I was ready for it.
I left the story feeling I should change, but I didn’t really. Fast-forward a few years, and my experiences on Tumblr caused me to research the topic, which then led me to read Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Mark A. Yarhouse), a study that informed me even further, and which forms the basis for much of this post and the one that will follow it. Like Eddie Redmayne, “my education continues,” but in the meantime, I want to introduce this topic to our Christian readers, many of whom probably flee from it, like I have my whole life.
Part of my issue that I was totally confused by the terminology – what does cisgender mean? Why would someone prefer to be called they? Is it still LGBT, or have other letters been added to the acronym?
I won’t go into all the definitions, but there are a few important terms that I think will help confused Christians understand this issue better:
- Gender dysphoria – Part of the title of this post, and a term I’ll refer back to, gender dysphoria is the distress an individual experiences when that person does not feel their biological sex matches gender identity.
- Gender and sex – Gender is what it means to be male or female; sex is biologically whether you’re male or female. Note this distinct but significant difference.
- Transgender – As Yarhouse notes, this is an “umbrella term” describing a diverse audience of people who live out a gender different from their sex.
- Cisgender – This is what perhaps most Christians would view as “typical” – the state of gender matching sex.
- Transexual – An individual who wants to or has transitioned from the sex to which he or she was born.
There are a host of other terms as well, like genderfluid, genderqueer, and intersex, which I encourage you to research. But the ones above are a good starting point for getting into the conversation.
It’s also important to note that gender dysphoric or transgender does not equal homosexual. Though one might be both, they are separate things, and many, many people with gender dysphoria are not gay. I remember this first clicking with me when I wrote a post about Hourou Musuko discussing Makoto’s feelings for his male teacher. Because I was vague in addressing homosexuality and never mentioned Makoto at all, a commenter was wondering why I was connecting the show’s transgender themes with homosexual ones, when I had never intended to.
But more importantly than understanding terminology, of course, is to understand people. Unfortunately, a common Christian response to individuals who feel this incongruence between their gender and sex is one of judgment and disgust. It’s taboo almost, an attack on morality for many, representative of all that might go wrong in a person’s life and all that’s gone wrong in culture. That, of course, is wholly the wrong reaction for a people who claim to follow Christ, who taught us to love everyone (and why we should).