Category Archives: Religion

Charlotte, Episode 9: When Eyes Can’t See

Alright. Didn’t expect that to happen.

Feeling like X-Men more than ever, most of episode nine of Charlotte treats us to a flashback of Yuu’s former life, which turns out to be an incarceration, along with Ayumi, in a facility such as that which once contained Nao’s brother. The episode was storytelling at it’s best in the series, fast-paced yet carefully bringing the viewer along, even as it introduced new, major characters and gave primary roles to others with smaller ones thus far.

charlotte 9a

Part of what was so exciting in this episode, too, was how the audience kept gaining new insights into the show and the characters’ histories, even as Yuu was learning the same. Not until the end of episode nine, and not even then fully, could Yuu see all that was happening and all that had occurred. In fact, the episode used a lot of eye symbolism throughout (Shuu must see to be able to time leap; Yuu is unable to “see” the events of his past; and Shuu’s sight is gone in the modern time – as is Sala’s). That make me think about how for a creature which is often proud of its vision (see technology today and yesterday, cough, Tower of Babel, cough), we’re very limited in what God lets us view.

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Because Nao Tomori Has Been There, Yuu, and Because There’s No Other Response

I have the worst habit of writing quickly, proofreading more quickly (or not at all), and turning in work as fast as possible. All through my youth, I raced to be the first one done in anything school-related. It’s not a good compulsion, and it shows with my blog posts sometimes, as I often forget to make points vital to my main idea.

This rings true for my last two posts about Charlotte, and so I want to take the opportunity to revisit episodes seven and eight and emphasize a couple of points I missed the first time around.

> Charlotte, Episode 7: Ends of the Earth

Addendum: She and HE Can Relate

When Yuu draws near the point of no return (taking drugs is considered super taboo in Japanese culture, as explained by Kaze), there’s only one person that can talk him out of it. Nao is physically able to challenge Yuu, mentally able to trick him, and, as evidenced by Yuu later remembering her words of guilt, emotionally able to connect to him as well. There’s no one else who is able to remotely reach him – not a family member, other student council members, violent thugs, or his past crush. Only Nao.

charlotte 7b

When we drown in our sins – whether in the dregs of depression or the heights of hallow hedonism – we might feel that God is remote. Without having a dynamic relationship with Him, it’s easy to imagine Him as such. Why turn to God when He’s so distant? And if He’s holy as the Bible says, how much more should we hide away? Like a harsh, upright father, God would never understand or have compassion on an unruly son.

But scripture says otherwise:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

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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. 

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 13

Congratulations to The Tangles for its 13th episode and one entire year of podcasting! We’re very excited to share our first year anniversary episode with all of you, and we hope you enjoy the new format we have developed for it!

Episode 13, mentioned above, is the first episode of our new, streamlined format. The theme of this episode is “The Year in Review,” and we had the chance to have Lauren Orsini back on the show for an interview that investigates her last year’s accomplishments! For this month’s panel, JP, Sean, and Charles discuss some of the “otaku media” that have consumed and how it has affected their lives in meaningful ways.

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!

Time Stamps:
Intro – 0:00
Announcements – 0:56
Otaku Diet – 1:39
Lauren Orsini Interview – 11:09
Main Topic: The Year in Review – 27:50
Listener Mail – 52:47
Closer – 1:02:42
Bloopers – 1:03:30

Direct Download

Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Yo-Kai Watch and Contextual Demons

August has been a month for discussing context here at Beneath the Tangles, and I highly recommend looking at both articles recently written on this subject: Annalyn’s article about historical/cultural context, and Kaze’s article about man’s context VS God’s context. Here, I’ll be adding my humble contribution and completing the proverbial “Context Trinity.”

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Growing up in the 90s, while attending a private/Christian school, I received my first taste of franchise demonizing. The school faculty sent out word that anything Pokémon—be that lunchboxes, trading cards, action figures, or even roleplaying during recess—would henceforth be banned at the school on account of the series’ demonic influence and focus on evolution.

Fifteen years later, I’m witnessing the advent of Yo-Kai Watch, a game-turned-anime-and-manga franchise about a boy with the ability to see and tame yokai with the help of a magical Yokai Watch. The new series has already overtaken Japanese audiences (and surpassed Pokémon—its spiritual predecessor—in popularity), with an official Western release scheduled for the games and anime next year.

00_bigger_version

Recently, I saw a post on my Facebook feed that I couldn’t scroll past. A fellow Christian acquaintance had posted about Yo-Kai Watch, warning other Christians that it was demonic and that children should stay away from it. They referenced an article written by Gamesradar+, which stated, “There’s a real playfulness to each of the [yokai’s] designs, most of which are based on Japanese folklore demons, otherwise known as yokai.”

That terrible word “demon” is like a red flag to Christians. I can understand why reading this single article about the series might raise serious concerns in someone’s mind, but this particular Christian was mistaken in that they assumed the word “demon” was cross-cultural—that Eastern and Western demons were compatible entities.

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What a Christian Can Learn from “Demonic” Video Games: The Brilliant Narrative of the “Souls” Series

Without fail, every year my grandmother on my mother’s side takes my two older brothers and myself out Christmas shopping when December rolls around. I remember when I was younger I always looked forward to the day Grandma would take us out and she would spend twenty whole dollars on each of us. That was just about any toy I could have wanted in my pre-pubescent years, and almost any used video games I could have wanted in the years following. Fast forward a decade and… well, twenty dollars doesn’t seem to buy as much as it used to.* But it remains that my grandmother still takes my adult brothers and my adult-ish self out Christmas shopping.

The other part of this story that remains a part of the Christmas shopping experience with my grandmother consistently every year is the “demonic stuff” she buys us. Many years ago, my brother desperately wanted a Darth Maul birthday cake (this was around when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace had come out), and at his insistence my parents obliged. My grandmother’s eloquent and well-informed response was, “Why is the Devil on your birthday cake?!” Ever since this, our playful joke has always been that her gifts indulge our “demonic” influences, from the Fable video game she bought my brother one year, to the $6.66 price tag of a comic she bought the next.

Fable_-_Microsoft_Game_Studios

Okay, so the cover IS a little creepy. The kicker with my grandmother, though, was that she thought the sword was sticking IN his back, not strapped to it.

While this is all a fun and games in my family, I’ve grown up with friends in Christian families that often were more serious about “demonic” influences in their media. From Pokemon to Harry Potter, nothing is left untouched. Now this can be a touchy subject, which I know quite well, so I will attempt to tread with caution here. But please note that I am also sharing my personal convictions on the matter. Every person and every family has a different level of tolerance, and it is not my place to tell you what you can and cannot handle, but I can provide a bit of my own perspective on the matter.

How_the_Irish_Saved_CivilizationI was recently reminded of this matter by finishing a book by Thomas Cahill entitled, How the Irish Saved Civilization. Besides being simply a great book about ancient and medieval history, it also provides an interesting perspective on an oft-ignored group of Christians responsible for much of modern Christianity: the Irish. The reason I raise this seemingly unrelated point is that the Irish underwent one particular practice that often reflects my own view on media consumption. The Irish Christian movement (or the Celtic movement) accomplished one enormous task missing between the fall of Rome and the rise of the Dark Ages: preserving literature. The Irish monks, according to Cahill, furiously recorded and copied literature of all kinds, valuing the importance of literacy to the illiterate age. Part of this movement included the copying of pagan literature, with which the monks openly disagreed.

 

But here’s the kicker. The monks openly disagreed with the messages of pagan literature, sometimes even noting this in the literature itself, but they still copied it. That is, with proper discernment, anyone can consume media that sets itself against the readers own beliefs… or at least that’s what the Irish believed… and what I believe.

This drawn-out introduction brings us to the meat of today’s article, and the topic referenced in the title: the brilliance of the “Souls” video game series (this is probably the first time this video game series has been introduced by a personal story about someone’s grandmother followed by the history of the Celtic movement).

Demons souls NTSC

Grandma: “Why do I always have to buy you these demonic games??”

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Charlotte, Episode 8: Response

Episode eight of Charlotte was full of emotion, music, and responses. Almost every thing a character did in the episode was a response to something else. Yuu responds to Sala’s rambling. Sala responds to Yuu’s kindness. Charlotte responds to Yuu’s phone call. Kazuki responds to Sala’s voice.

One after another, events transpire as a result of responses.

charlotte 8a

Life can be a seen as a series of responses, too. I think for those in the working world, we see this very clearly – we respond to our boss’ demands, and if we have people working under us, they respond to what we require.

But on a grander level, we all live life in response to something (or a number of things). We might be reacting to the draw of money or pleasures. We might live according to principles driven into us by incidents or by people with whom we’re intimate. Or – and if we’re willing to admit it, many of us fit this category – we might be like a reed swaying in the wind, moving as the culture dictates.

Of all the responses in this episode of Charlotte, one is on that larger scale, and it’s been in motion ever since episode one, and maybe most fully expressed here. It’s of Yuu’s reply to truth – the truth of his selfishness, the uncovering of his powers, and the kindness shown by Nao.

And in particular, Yuu has learned something significant. He has learned what love really is.

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Annalyn’s Corner: Working!!! and Communicating Across Personalities

So, we finally found out why Yamada Aoi ran away from home. I wondered how they’d weave serious backstory into this lighthearted show, but they actually did it pretty well.

Spoilers ahead, in case you didn’t guess.

Basically, Aoi’s mother isn’t good at talking. She overthinks everything, and when she finally opens her mouth, very few of those thoughts come out. When Aoi’s father was alive, he could interpret his wife’s miniscule expressions. He kept the family in a more stable state. Once he was gone, his already communication-challenged family had extra emotional burdens to process. He left a”Top Secret Mom Manual” for his kids, but reading it was not their first priority. Aoi didn’t even notice she got one. Instead, her relationship with her mother broke down. Aoi felt misunderstood and pressured to do well in school. She felt no sympathy—no emotion at all—from her mother, and she came to hate studying. Her mother, on the other hand, felt awful. She wanted to encourage Aoi to do well, and to comfrot her when she failed her entrance exams. But the words didn’t come out. Instead, she just bought more study books to help.

Clearly, there was a communication problem. The mother didn’t even communicate that she’s struggling to talk. Aoi shouldn’t need a manual to tell her that. Meanwhile, it may have been helpful for Aoi to confront her mother, to speak her own feelings instead of being isolated within them—or at least to enlist her brother’s help.

Aoi and her mother finally embrace. It took the help of many friends—including a conversation with a lost

Aoi and her mother finally embrace. It took the help of many friends—including a conversation with a lost “stranger” on the street—but Aoi is finally ready to try understanding her mother, and her mother is finally taking the initiative to search out her daughter. (ep 7)

The problem stemmed partially from differences. Aoi and her brother are expressive. If they’re happy, sad, angry, or excited, the world knows it. Their mom isn’t as expressive… but that doesn’t mean she’s emotionless, let alone that she doesn’t care. She expresses the only way she can—through subtle changes in her eyes, changes her husband could interpret, and that her son understands now that he’s read the manual.

Most of us don’t have such extreme communication issues in our families. But even in the healthiest, most understanding relationships, we often misunderstand each other.
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Charlotte, Episode 7: Ends of the Earth

A lot of things can drive us away from God. Most are subtle, as we replace God in our lives with money, success, lifestyle, relationships, or usually a combination of many things. And sometimes, an event pushes us away from God, as we purposely, in full realization, run away from our maker.

In episode seven of Charlotte, Yuu makes a run for it, hiding away from the world, from his life, from truth, from pain, but most purposely, from Nao.

Angel Beats is not going to make you feel any better, Yuu...

Angel Beats is not going to make you feel any better, Yuu…

I don’t think any of us probably watched this episode thinking that what Yuu was doing was fantastic or absurd. We realize how difficult the time is for him, and how hard it is to bounce back from a tragedy like he endured. Those with anxiety or other difficulties and illnesses probably understand Yuu’s condition even more deeply – once you’ve been pushed over the edge, it feels like an impossible task to do what people are telling Yuu to do – to move on with life.

And so, Yuu runs. He runs away from Nao and the student council, so that they won’t bring him back to the heavy weight of reality. And he runs to a place where he can simply satisfy his basic animal desires, to indulge in things that will keep him from the reality of life. In this way, Yuu reminds me of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); though some tragedy didn’t push the prodigal to rebel, he did squander the money given him and breathed in “wild living.”

In the end, the prodigal returned to the father – not necessarily out of humility, but just for a place to go. Yuu is still running at the end of the episode, but knowing that he’s never likely to return, his “god” has to meet him more quickly than God met the prodigal.

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Something More: Christian Yo-Kai Watch, Turning Nao’s Cheek, and The Cat Returns (with Purpose)

I think one of the hardest things for a Christian aniblogger to do is to write to a general Christian audience rather than straight to Christian geeks. The level of acceptance and openness in the latter group can be diverse, but the spectrum is much, much wider with the more universal population. In her informative article about Yo-Kai Watch this week, Casey Covel (who also writes for us!) describes the franchise and details items that might be of concern for this more general audience of Christians.

When our bloggers give recommendations or write general information articles, as we did this past week with our manga recommendations, we’re also looking at a broader audience. But I think a further goal is this – we’re trying to educate and bring some Christians along who either are just discovering anime or have a very set-in-stone view about anime and other media that espouses cultural or religious ideas that are counter to Christian ones. And really good articles about media, like Casey’s or those in Christianity Today, accomplish as much, and in doing so, help break down some of the legalistic walls we might have in our hearts.

Check out Casey’s article:

>> What Christians need to know about Yo-Kai Watch

Here are other articles regarding anime/manga and spirituality from around the blogosphere:

The Cat Returns supports the scriptural principle that each of us has purpose and meaning in our lives. [Lady Teresa Christina]

Adding more fuel to the fire that today’s Christian praise isn’t all that great is this song from Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny, which could be argued gives better praise than many songs sung in today’s churches. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What should Charlotte’s Nao do when getting slapped in the face by her classmates? Turn the other cheek, of course. [Christian Anime Review]

The abandonment by many students of A-TEC in episode three of Classroom Crisis recounts a piece of proverbial wisdom. [2]

Rob notes that Nagi no Asukara might be a good anime for Christians parents to show their children. [Geeks Under Grace]

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. 

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