Category Archives: Religion

Anime and the Digital Church

More and more, ministries are streaming their services online or making websites where Christians (or people of other faiths) can watch, donate or be a part of the community. Facebook and other social media networks have become the place where hundreds, even thousands, come to share their life, struggles and ask for prayer. Even here at Beneath The Tangles, though it’s not a church or ministry with a pastor, many people read our articles and learn more about our Creator. This may not sound like the typical way church is done*, but it’s a trend that is growing rapidly every year.

There are actually several anime that highlight this format, and the two (there are more!) that I would like to mention are .hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. Each one is about people who log on to a server where they play an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and build community with one another. Each player has an avatar that looks like a person, or sometimes part human and part animal that they can use to talk with each other, fight, and even romance. Each episode shows the dynamics of the game actually start to affect the characters emotions and spill out into the real world.


For example, Kirigaya Kazuto and Yūki Asuna, whose avatars are famously named Kirito and Asuna, fall in love through the playing of the game and become romantically involved in real life. Their digital life affected their real lives, which can be also said for people who were in comas or died because of the game in both series.

.hack//Sign main characters Subaru and Tsukasa deal with real life situations that are sometimes resolved online or vice-versa, plan strategies or literally hack servers to stop people from going into comas induced by the games headgear. They even become very close friends and talk about their IRL (In Real Life) problems and get advice on them as well, just like many of us do online. This not only makes you feel for the character and the player, but often times as you watch the anime you forget that the avatars are being controlled by people outside the game. This can happen to us on social media or games, where we might blend the two aspects together and forget that these are real people we are talking to, not just text.


The .hack//Sign team all together!

Now, being part of a digital community of fellow believers isn’t a bad thing but there will always be that need to physically be a part of a group that share the same faith. Let’s face it, there are things that you would not share online nor are you accountable to anyone either. You can post lots of Christian posts, messages or verses but who is checking up on you when you are alone or going through life? Are you obliged to report to someone or at least have a one-on-one with an admin online?

Not at all. Read the rest of this entry

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 11

In episode 11, our beloved host, Charles/TWWK (wait… what?), will be interviewing JP/Japes featuring questions about Japan submitted by you, our readers and listeners! Just like last month, JP is still working in Japan, and so this episode will focus on his impressions based on his time in Kanazawa.

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 – 0:54
Otaku Diet – 1:25
Q&A – 5:13
Closer – 1:00:36
Blooper – 1:01:25

Direct Download

And check out the pictures below from JP’s time in Japan – many match the sites he mentions in this episode:

The courtyard at my school. The school, despite being a college, looks just like the stereotypical Japanese high school!

The courtyard at my school. The school, despite being a college, looks just like the stereotypical Japanese high school!

Kenrokuen, probably the most famous tourist spot in Kanazawa!

Kenrokuen, probably the most famous tourist spot in Kanazawa!

Kanazawa Castle... or what remains of it anyway.

Kanazawa Castle… or what remains of it anyway.

Read the rest of this entry

Gaming With God: The Kingdom Of Hearts


Xion, Roxas and Axel (from left to right). The whole gang enjoying the sunset.

One of the greatest games of all time has been the Kingdom Hearts series. Disney and Square Enix came together to create with themes of light and darkness, finding your purpose, and the bond of friendship, which have never been more prevalent than in this series. The title in this series that I will be highlighting is the lesser known Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days. It came out on the Nintendo DS and is now available as part of the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix collection, so I was finally able to get my hands on it. The downside is that the game is completely done in cut-scenes so you can’t play it, but with the HD graphics and story line didn’t disappoint.

The interaction between Axel, Roxas and Xion (the main characters) is such a touching yet sad story that every Kingdom Heart fan must experience. Learning about trust, friendship and why we are here are topics that are highlighted throughout. For those that are unfamiliar with these characters and the game, let me give you the details.

Sora, the protagonist of the series, has fallen into a deep sleep to recover his power and strength. During that time, his memory has become Roxas who looks very much like Sora. Xion is what Sora remembers of his friend Kairi and Roxas is Sora’s personal memories, so they are both just representations of Sora. The antagonists, Organization XIII, created Xion to absorb and copy Sora’s power by being close to Roxas. In this way, they would be able to gain the power of the Keyblade which is the ultimate weapon in the Kingdom Hearts world.

Instead of going exactly as Organization XIII planned, Xion ended up developing her own memories and became friends with Roxas and Axel, members of the organization. Together they would eat sea salt ice cream at the top of a tower and relax, watching the sun set over the town. Little by little, Xion began taking away power from Roxas and they were both confused as to what was happening. They would be in and out of deep sleep and would have flashbacks of Sora’s own memories, not knowing who he was or why they were having these dreams.

As anyone would, they began seeking answers as to who they really were, what Organization XIII’s plans are, and who Sora truly is. Xion decided to leave and find Namine, the witch who was protecting Sora during his recovery process. Namine and Riku, Sora’s close friend, revealed individually to Xion what was happening to her and how she needed to become one with Sora once again so he can awaken. Not knowing what was the right decision to make, she leaves to face Axel who was pursuing her but eventually gives up her life and her memories are released back to Sora.

Xion reminded me of every human being searching, seeking, and desiring to know their reason for living. The most widely sought out question in humanity is why am I here. God has an answer though, and we find it in changing the way we think. Read the rest of this entry

OreGairu 2 Episode 12: Change is Complicated

So…are we back to square one?

No, but it feels a little like that, as Hiki, Yukino, and Yui face another obstacles on their path toward finding themselves in growing their relationships with one another.

Episode 12 of OreGairu 2 (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO) starts out innocuous enough with everyone preparing for Valentine’s Day. Hayato is unwilling to accept chocolates from anyone, so the idea is hatched that the student council will host an event in which Yukino will teach students how to make homemade chocolates; Hayato will attend and get to taste the creations, thereby accepting chocolates from Iroha and Yumiko.

All of their expressions...

All of their expressions…

But tensions seethe beneath the surface for our trio.  Even though there’s been some progress, their “genuine bond” hasn’t truly formed.  Hachiman knows as much and it’s intimated that Yui and Yukino feel the same.  Shizuka, in her always surprising wisdom, points it out as well.  But of course, it comes erupting forward through Haruno’s sharp words, who declares that the group is not “genuine” – and that becoming genuine may not even be possible.

Indeed, the problem is that each member of the volunteer club continues to deal with the same struggles they did before Hachiman’s speech: Yui doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, and is willing to be deceitful to others and herself to preserve happiness; Hachiman is becoming open to being honest and establishing meaningful relationships, but only bit by bit; and Yukino remains trapped between the expectations of her and finding who she really is.

How can they all still not get it? Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Noragami Religion, Hopeless Black Butler, and Persecuting Naruto

The past two weeks have been overwhelming in terms of just how many articles have been posted relating to anime and religion/spirituality.  There’s so much to dig into – I hope you have as much fun reading through these articles as I did!

Are you headed to SuperCon at the end of this month?  If so, check out our own Samuru’s panel, “Finding God in Anime and Video Games.” [Gaming and God]

Part of what makes Noragami a fascinating series is how it tells us quite a bit about modern religion in Japan. [Fantastic Memes]

In times of weakness and pain, there we can find strength in something (or hopefully, someone) greater. Just see Iwasawa from Angel Beats as an example. [Old Line Elephant]

Speaking of Angel Beats, the most direct reference to God in the show is from Takeyama, who wants people to call him “Christ.”  Mmm…not so fast. [2]

Ciel from Black Butler believes that some people are beyond redemption…but the Bible and many examples from within (like Job) and without (St. Augustine) prove otherwise. [3]

The complete story of Oscar, as presented in Rose of Versailles, reminds us of the value of life itself. [Mage in a Barrel]

In response to Anime Reporter’s essay on homosexuality and the referendum for marriage quality in Ireland, aniblogger JekoJeko takes the question from a Christian point of view [Unnecessary Exclamation Mark!]

D.M. Dutcher offers some advice for Christian speculative fiction writers using Bubblegum Crisis as a basis. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

For Christians who feel persecution, they might find an odd bedfellow in Naruto. [Lady Teresa Christina]

The world of Haibane Renmei without a doubt shares some ideologies with Christianity. [Kidd’s Anime Blog]

I’m a month late on this article, but it’s more than worth linking to

Oregairu’s Hayato as Satan? In a sense… [Christian Anime Review]

Wiseman from Sailor Moon perhaps has some similarities to 2 Thessalonians’ man of lawlessness. [2]

Episode 3 of Re-Kan! gives us that common anime scene of a character who refuses to cry, then breaks down.  But why the resistance?  After all, “Jesus wept.” [3]

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.

Silver Spoon: The Importance of a Different Perspective

I had lunch with a friend last week, with whom I talked about how hard it is to shake loose your cultural upbringing as it relates to religion and really focus on the real message of the gospel.  I mentioned how helpful it is to hear perspectives from others whose upbringings were very different from our own.  I know that for me, even though I frequently take a step back and try to see things from others’ points of view, I still struggle to understand how others think (or to be honest, how they could possibly think what they do).

One of my favorite manga is Silver Spoon, a series I recently picked up after watching the anime with my wife.  There are a lot of strong themes running through the series, but perhaps none more strongly than the idea that when we open ourselves up to other points of view, we’re able to grow.  Hachiken, the distressed city boy, experiences change almost immediately as he adjusts to life at an agricultural high school.  By the end of the anime run and into where the manga is now, he’s transformed even further.  By embracing different perspectives, he’s found himself.

The series also gives many asides from minor characters who comment on how Hachiken has changed them, too.

Hachiken's mom talks to a vendor about the importance of a different voice

Hachiken’s mom talks to a vendor about the importance of a different voice

It’s not so much Hachiken’s experience, though, that moves the student body toward transformation – it’s Hachiken himself.  His earnestness, intelligence, and compassion leads his friends and staff and others to think outside the box.  The greatest example is Mikage, who is given the courage to stand up for her dream and is motivated to put in the seemingly impossible task of working toward it.

Perhaps Christianity could learn a lesson from this manga.  For a religion that began with a Messiah whose every word was outside the box, it’s distressing how rule-centered and confined Christianity has become in the west.  As a reaction, perhaps, against easy beliefism and wrong theology, many of us have unwittingly become modern-day Pharisees who miss the forest for the trees.  We speak of mercy, but show ungrace.  The hypocrisy can sometimes be unbearable. Read the rest of this entry

Kenny Ackerman: the Pursuit of Fulfillment and the Power of Testimony

Note: This is a guest post from Casey Covel, whose work we’ve featured here a number of times through our Something More column.  She’s editor-in-chief at Geeks Under Grace and goes by cutsceneaddict in the cosplay world.  I hope you enjoy her submission…it’s the first of many from Casey that you’ll be seeing here on Beneath the Tangles.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait until 2016 for the second season of Attack on Titan and scooped up the manga ASAP to pursue the story. If you’re not like me, and you have the patience of Job to wait on that elusive second season, then I suggest you avoid this article for the time being, as there are some rather titan-sized spoilers within.

**In case you didn’t get that, I’ll say it again: huge spoilers below**

attack on titan 5aColored by AnimeFanNo1

As I impatiently awaited this month’s new chapter, I found myself reflecting back on the landslide of storyline from Attack on Titan chapter 69. Amidst such plot-relevant giants as the revelation of Levi’s childhood, the crowning of Queen Historia, and death of a certain ornery uncle, Kenny’s relationship with Uri is nearly forgotten. Admittedly, though, it’s perhaps the one reveal in the chapter that haunted me long after reading. As a Christian, I can only say that’s because it resonated with my faith so frighteningly well.

In chapter 69, it’s revealed that Kenny, having discovered Uri’s identity as true king of the human race, tried to kill him, but Uri initiated his titan form and caught his would-be assassinator off-guard, capturing him in a deadly fist. Despite Rod’s demands that Uri crush Kenny then and there, however, Uri released him and—even as Kenny pierced the king through the wrist with his blade—bowed hands-and-knees to his attacker, asking Kenny for forgiveness for the genocide of the Ackerman line.

This act of humility so affected Kenny that he found himself unable to end his enemy’s life, even with Uri face-down on the ground and his finger ready on the trigger.

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

“A king with so much power bowed down to someone as lowly as me. That titan left me speechless… More importantly, I felt something in me waver at that moment.”

Kenny and Uri went on to form an inseparable bond of friendship. All the while, Kenny’s insatiable curiosity for Uri’s unique ideology continued to grow. By the time of Uri’s death, Kenny had not yet unlocked the mystery of his friend’s inner strength, but—determined to achieve it for himself—went about seeking fulfillment in other ways in order to acquire Uri’s “power.” Gaining notoriety as a serial killer to preserve his family, raising his deceased sister’s child, earning a captain’s rank within the Military Police, striving to attain the power of a titan shifter and, thus, a god—all these routes Kenny pursued, and all of them left him unsatisfactorily empty.

Flashing forward to the present, Levi comes across a wounded Kenny—now burned and bleeding beyond saving—following his encounter with Rod Reiss. The two hold a final conversation, in which Kenny ponders the motivations of those he’s met throughout his life.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

“They all had something they were drunk on,” he concludes.

I find it fascinating that this word drunk is specifically used here because it means to be “dominated by an intense feeling” to the point of “behaving in an unusual or improper way.” Furthermore, I think it’s a highly-appropriate word to describe the state of our world today, outside of Christ.

We live in a restless world—one that seeks to attain peace and fulfillment through a variety of outlets. Human beings are born with an instinct to worship—to fully dedicate themselves to something or someone, even if it is ultimately their own selves. Until we come to Christ, we carry a God-shaped hole in our beings—one that cannot be filled by anything else, and yet one that we continuously try to fill with worldly things (which can only satisfy us for a short amount of time). Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: An Ode to Surprisingly Good Anime

If I had to describe the Spring 2015 season of anime in one word, it’d be “surprises”. A number of shows I knew I would love from the start—the sequels to Kinmoza, Oregairu, and Baby Steps, plus Sound! Euphonium and My Love Story—but what I was surprised by was how many other shows I followed this season surpassed my expectations. I will inevitably talk about some of those shows in more detail in the Spring 2015 reviews, but for now I would like to pay a little tribute to the pleasant surprises of Spring 2015, and of anime in general.

I would categorize “surprise” anime into two general types. The first type is the “breakout hit”, in which a show has a premise that sounds dumb or unappealing, but once you start it up, you find that the show is actually really good. For me, the best example of a breakout hit is Show by Rock. As a tie-in anime to a mobile game developed by Sanrio (of Hello Kitty fame), I was not expecting much more than cute girls playing music, but the opening episode was a rollercoaster of insanity with some hard rock to it, and it completely drew me in. Some past shows that fall into this category include Humanity Has Declined, AKB0048, Kotoura-san, and Inari Kon Kon.

The second type is the “late bloomer hit”, referring to shows improve significantly over time. A lot of shows this season have been like this to some degree, and there’s quite a lot of variation with the specifics. Some shows start out only okay but end up being rather enjoyable, while others start out already very solid but grow into amazing, top-tier shows. Some shows improve gradually, while others improve drastically thanks to one incredible episode. And, of course, some shows bloom earlier rather than later, and for some shows like this, the quality of the show still varies from episode to episode, but my overall opinion of the show has gone up over time.

For late bloomer shows from this season: Re-kan! already started off as a solid slice-of-life comedy about the spirit world, with some good emotional moments, and as it developed those emotional moments more, it has since become one of my favorites this season, with episode 6 being the real blooming point. Likewise, I had always enjoyed The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan for its alternative exploration of characters from the Haruhi franchise, but episode 10 brought the show to a whole new level of awesomeness. On the other hand, Wish Upon the Pleiades and Mikagura School Suite are both more gradual bloomers, slowly winning me over with their charm over time. As for some past shows in this category, there’s Outbreak Company, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Log Horizon, and Invaders of the Rokujyouma.

Whose lap is she in? You'll have to watch the show to find out, of course.

Not gonna lie; I nearly teared up during this scene. (From Re-kan!, episode 11)

Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Christian Anime Fans and Responsible Freedom

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.

Attack on Titan is great for many reasons, but it's not for everyone. I try to remember that not everyone should watch the kind of violence in this show, so it's not something to recommend without qualifications. (Screenshot from ep 16)

Attack on Titan is great for many reasons, but it’s not for everyone. I try to remember that not everyone should watch the kind of violence in this show, so it’s not something to recommend without qualifications. (Screenshot from ep 16)

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

TBT Readers Choice Winner: Natsume Yuujin-Cho

A month ago, TWWK offered all of the readers on this blog the opportunity to decide what anime you wanted me to review. I am stunned at the result. I never imagined that Natsume Yuujin-Cho would win, especially against Sword Art Online. Well anyway, prepare yourselves as I am about to begin.

Natsume Yuujin-Cho (aka Natsume’s Book of Friends) is a series I have watched twice and read four times. The story revolves around an orphaned boy named Natsume Takashi who has basically spent his entire childhood being passed from one family member to the next over and over again. He has spent his life being rejected and living in fear, when suddenly he is invited to stay with the Fujiwara’s. The Fujiwara’s are a childless older couple with distant family relation who choose to take Natsume in and want to care for him.

Natsume Yujin-cho 2


Natsume, however, tries to keep them at a distance as he fears that if they find out about his ability, they will get rid of him. Natsume’s ability is to see and be able to interact socially with yokai (or spirits.) This also means that they can interact with him and since he has such spiritual ability they perceive him as being tasty to eat. This causes lots of problems as other people can’t see the very real threats he deals with and describing them makes Natsume seem crazy. Then on top of all of this, there are a number of yokai out for revenge against him. Natsume comes to find out, after releasing the super powerful yokai named Madara, that he has inherited a book from his grandmother, who could also see yokai, in which she wrote down the names of the yokai she deceived. She wrote down their names and basically enslaved them. She however died very young, and Natsume inherited her book and her powers. Instead of using the names to control yokai, he with the help of Madara (aka Nyanko-sensei) give the names back. Natsume must do all of this while trying not to be eaten and not draw suspicion from his school friends and the Fujiwara’s.

I originally decided upon watching Natsume Yuujin-Cho after reading a review of one of the anime seasons written by Annalyn in 2012. I remember being really intrigued by her review, so I decided to give it a shot. The series did not disappoint. The show is slower than many other shows that I like, but in the case of Natsume Yuujin-Cho, it helps the audience learn about the characters and feel the effects of Natsume’s personal struggle. The muted art style allows for an almost poetic feeling of harmony, while the action sequences contrast the art and create a stronger effect without having to be flashy. The show flows smoothly between episodes and stories, but there is also a large amount of emotional tension. This tension is the driving force that keeps the audience engaged, waiting for whatever may be coming, like the flow of tension and release in a symphony piece. Natsume Yuujin-Cho remains one of my favorite anime because of the depth of character each character possess and the extraordinary amount of character growth through both personal and interpersonal ways. The story is really well written, and it carries the feel of a redeemable tragedy, that is leading into something more hopeful.

Read the rest of this entry


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