Category Archives: Religion

Guest Post: Tokyo Ghoul and the Nature of Repentance in the Midst of Sin

I’m proud to present an article today on Tokyo Ghoul from KnightofCalvary, a graduating seminary student and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserves and former A.D. Vision partner through Suncoast and Anime Central.  If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, send us a pitch via email.

As a concept, I don’t typically watch anime with the level of violence and gore that Tokyo Ghoul has. However, I’m also not entirely opposed to doing so strictly on the basis of the level of violence. Rather, I’m often left with feelings of disappointment from such anime due to shortfalls in storytelling or character development. Tokyo Ghoul definitely sets itself a part in that respect. It is both heavily violent and well done in terms of storytelling and development of its characters, particularly the main character, Ken Kaneki.

Spoilers to follow.

Poorly fortuned Kaneki is turned into a human eating ghoul following what can only be described as the worst streak of bad luck ever. After surviving an encounter with a female ghoul that attempts to eat him, he ends up in the hospital following the attack and ends up with her organs being transplanted to him to save his life. This results in Kaneki becoming half-ghoul and half-human. The remainder of the first season is spent dealing with Kaneki’s newly found identity issues, integration as a ghoul, conflicts with the police enforcement agency specializing in tracking and destroying ghouls and in the middle of all of this, struggling to maintain some sort of humanity. This effort to remain true to his human half however ultimately fails due to his overwhelming desire to protect those he cares about in the season 1 finale.

Tokyo Ghoul 1

Picking up with season 2, Kaneki has fully embraced his new ghoul qualities and powers, however his desire to protect his friends leads him to something forbidden even for a ghoul which is cannibalism, that is a ghoul eating another ghoul. All this leads up to a fight at one point between Amon, an “anti-ghoul” investigator that Kaneki previously showed mercy to and himself. Now at this point in the story, Kaneki’s cannibalism has led to a rage like lack of self control and Amon says during the fight, “That’s all, right? An ordinary ghoul is all you are, right? That’s all, right?!” This snaps Kaneki out of his blind rage and after regaining his self control, he says “I…don’t want to eat anymore…”. I was left with this powerful impression of our daily and constant struggles with sin.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Your Love in April, Virtuous Violence in Akame ga Kill, and TTGL’s Megachurch

Isn’t it funny that when an anime season near its end, we seem to be less excited about finales the shows we’ve invested in than we are to the slate of new series about to arrive?  Or maybe that’s just me.  But it’s good to focus on the here and now – some of the columns below look at shows that have ended their runs in Japan or in the U.S. on Toonami.

Esdeath of Akame ga Kill reminds us that violence in anime (and life) tells us something very important about human nature, and of a need we all have. [Medieval Otaku]

The final episode of Your Lie in April has a lot to say about godly love. [Christian Anime Review]

The previous episode also demonstrates the idea of how brothers and sisters in Christ should encourage one another. [2]

In his review of Gurren Lagann’s finale, Tommy makes an interesting comparison between a devastating scene and a megachurch. [Anime Bowl]

Are you a fan of the “Ask John” column, like I am? If so, you may be interested in knowing it’s columnist has finished a light novel, which among other things is “steeped in Shinto mythology and includes extensive references to literary tradition and religious iconography along with abundant subtextual thematic depth.” [AnimeNation]

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.

Anime Today: Death Parade and Skating Idols

TWWK filling in for Japes today, who has been working hard at our podcast (tune in tomorrow!) and special themed posts for Holy Week next week!  I’m glad to have the opportunity to write this article, as I’ve just finished catching up with Death Parade and have a lot on my mind, particularly in regards to the most recent episode, Memento Mori.

Chiyuki’s life, as illustrated in episode 11, tells us a lot about hope and it’s opposite, hopelessness.  Her back story is surprising – both for how happy it begins and for how quickly it deteriorates.  Chiyuki is a happy girl with a warm family, surrounded by loved ones and supported by a strong foundation of love.  So when her skyrocketing career is derailed by knee problems (Chiyuki = Sada meets Kerrigan?), I assumed that she would somehow bounce back – this couldn’t possibly be leading to suicide, could it?  Chiyuki is too well-grounded and happy for that!

Of course, it does turn down that path, frightfully and quickly.  And not, as Chiyuki assures, because of her drive for figure skating.  It’s because she feels an extreme loneliness, a disconnect from everyone else, and in that, a loss of hope.  When there’s literally no hope in a person’s life, there’s no reason to live.

Chiyuki Death Parade

But it shouldn’t have been that way – not for Chiyuki.  Her parents are both supportive and loving.  And it’s love that provides hope.  In all the struggles we go through and all the hurt we endure – some far more than others – love shows us that in the midst of it all, there’s something to which we can cling.  But when signs of that love are dim, either because we’re met by so much unlove in our lives or because we’re blind to it because of the heavy fog of difficulties in our lives, we lose that hope.

Then again, some of us are more like Chiyuki, who wasn’t battered by months and years of pain.  Read the rest of this entry

Untangled: Maria the Virgin Witch and Being an Ezekiel in Christian Society

In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers.  Today’s question/comment (revised) comes from a long-time reader of our blog:

Junketsu no Maria 7 won’t leave my mind. Here we have Ezekiel berated for the sins of love and mercy. And he (she?) does deeply regret ignoring Heaven’s orders… only he hates the idea of killing the innocent so much more!  Ezekiel pleads he cannot act because he does not understand the main character’s sin.

“I didn’t make you to think,” the archangel Michael refutes Ezekiel’s doubts. “My words are the words of Heaven.”

It is a dead-end street for Ezekiel. His mind will not dare blame the religious authority, his heart will not cast away love and mercy. What is there left for him but to blame himself for… for what?

I feel like Ezekiel’s plight perfectly reflects the tribulations moral and thinking people go through in a Christian/Catholic society. We are called upon to hate, abandon and destroy in the name of God. That’s maniacal heresy, certainly, but words of hate and division are sweet indeed, especially when spoken from a position of heavenly authority. As the poison spreads, many an Ezekiel is born. Those poor souls retained their sanity and suffer for it in solitude and silent doubt: might they be the insane ones?

The reader goes on to give examples, mentioning a priest decrying My Little Pony as satanic and the church as “spawning internal conflicts by delving into politics and dishing out the tried and true ‘you are with us or against us.'”  He concludes with this:

The will of Heavens is unfathomable, the Church will say – the end-all of any discussion, the all-answer. But wait a moment longer and you will be told exactly what the Heavens want you to think and do. “My words are the words of Heaven.” That is most unfathomable!

I think of the Ezekiel curled up silently by the riverside, and wonder what words I can offer him. And I tell him, if you do not doubt God, make sure you doubt that Archangel.

My response? Hallelujah!

Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: But I’m not an Anime Hero!

Everyone loves self discipline. The hard work, the daily routine of sweat and blood, the power to resist temptation, the success—all this gives a sense of satisfaction that resounds deep in our hearts. It might require pitching practice until his fingertips are bloody, running when his legs already feel exhausted, or writing at the same time every day, no matter how she feels. No matter what the exact daily challenge entails, there’s something inspiring about it.

Yes, self discipline is a great spectator sport. I enjoy the training sequences in sports and action anime almost as much as the games and fights. But actually practicing discipline on a daily basis? I’m not sure about you, but I’m not that great at it. Sure, I’ve instituted some routines for homework, but they come with a crutch: if I’m not at one of my specific study spots, the homework probably won’t get done. And what about my other goals? When people suggest I (or their audience in general) set aside time to do something every day, my instinct is to protect myself from certain failure.  For example:

“If you’re serious about writing, make time for it every day. Or at least every weekday.” —many published writers

“If you want to grow in Christ, I really recommend daily devotions.” —various pastors, writers, and other wise Christians

“But I can’t!” —me

Whoa there, “I can’t”? Hmm… focus and daily effort don’t come easily, but “I can’t” seems a little strong. And whether or not I can do something, as soon as I say “I can’t,” I really can’t. If I give up instead of persevering through something that’s difficult, if I don’t have the discipline to continue trying, then I won’t make progress.

When I watch anime, I expect the protagonists to face the impossible without backing down. Whether it means tracking down a stubborn friend, killing a Colossal Titan, or beating the Generation of Miracles, these heroes must never give up. Instead, they train hard and fight hard.

Kuroko and Kise face off in the eleventh episode of the season.

Kuroko and Kise face off in the eleventh episode of the season.

[Kurobas spoilers next paragraph only]

Right now, in Kuroko’s Basketball, the Kaijo and Seirin teams are in the final minutes of an intense game. Kaijo could have lost after Kise was subbed out. But the captain didn’t give up, and neither did the rest of the team. They played hard enough to slow down Seirin. Kise himself could have accepted his injury and his coach’s protection, but he felt responsible as the team’s ace, so he came back on the court earlier than planned. Now, Seirin must find the fortitude to maintain their lead. If they doubt themselves, then Kise will easily beat them with his Perfect Copy. But if they refuse to give up, if Kuroko finds a way to defend against Kise’s new moves, they have a chance. They just have to persevere through the next few minutes… and before this? They persevered through daily training. Without the discipline to train their bodies and minds, they wouldn’t even be at the Winter Championship.

Yes, but that’s anime logic. Read the rest of this entry

Kaori Miyazono’s Letter: Your Grace in April

What’s the deepest you’ve ever loved someone?  Was it for your parents?  Friends?  A spouse or lover?

Have you ever loved someone so much that would have pursued them, even if you knew you only had months left to live?

Your Lie in April is full of love stories, ranging from a typical high school romance to sacrificial, serving love.  But it’s not until the finale of the series that we see the grandest love of all – that of Kaori Miyazono for Kousei Arima.  With her time short, she pours all that she has left into loving someone who didn’t know she even existed, and in doing so, changes his life forever.

april 22a

The letter that Kaori leaves to Kousei is heartwrenching – it’s an emotional note that was a perfecting ending to this beautiful series.  But it’s also stunning, as it reveals so much we didn’t know about Kaori, who was always a bit distant as a character, a little outside of the group, a mover of events if not a participant.  But with her last words to Kousei, we see her heart and the lengths she went through to show it.

Who knew that Kaori was bespectacled and reserved?  Who knew that she was too shy to approach Kousei?  And who knew that she had been chasing him since she was five years old?

And the moment he played the first note, he became the object of my admiration.  Playing notes as colorful as a 24-color palette, the melody began to dance.

Kousei didn’t know any of this – he didn’t know that he was always in Kaori’s heart. Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April, Episode 22: Why Look to the Sky?

Warning – plenty of spoilers ahead.  Please watch episode 22 of Your Lie in April before reading this article.

The final episode was Your Lie in April was wonderful – a heartwarming, moving second half joined together with a beautifully animated, wonderfully musical first half to create a memorable finale.  Indeed, it was a tale of two halves, with that inevitable event separating them.  I’ll wax more on the second half in a follow-up post, but first, let’s talk about the first 12 minutes of episode 22.

As Kousei performs his piece, putting all his heart into the performance, he imagines Kaori playing next to him.  It’s a wonderful, happy scene, as we get to see Kaori’s frenetic playing for the first time in many episodes – many months for us as an audience – accompanying an emotional Kousei, who is optimistic that he will play with Kaori once again.

april 22c

But in the midst of the performance, as he stares at the image of Kaori in his head, Kousei realizes that she will not survive.  In some “red string of fate” way, he even feels their connection severed, as if Kaori literally died on the surgery table with doctors working over her while Kousei (probably) wins the recital as he plays over the piano keys.  Kaori completes her playing and she slowly fades away into oblivion, as Kousei can do nothing but break down and cry as he finishes his own piece.

Kaori is gone.  The series plays her death in a beautiful, symbolic way with their final song together – a duet instead of a solo and accompaniment.  But perhaps this tender way of letting Kaori go tells us something more.  Maybe it tells us that Kousei must go on, that he will go on, and that Kaori has prepared him so. Read the rest of this entry

Annalyn’s Corner: Ookami-san and a Favor that’s Impossible to Return

I’ve been meaning to watch Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi (Okami-san and her Seven Companions) for a while. This twelve-episode anime draws heavily on fairy and folk tales, and my love for these classic stories never dies. I finally watched it this past week. It was… decent, once the narrator’s voice stopped annoying me. The title character, Ookami Ryoko, is part of Otagi Bank, a school club that does favors for “clients,” with the expectation that said clients will return the favors when called upon. The characters go on adventures of varying difficulty (the delinquent school in town provides danger), and it’s generally a fun club anime that unapologetically mixes tropes, stereotypes, and well-known tales.

Otagi Bank members help their schoolmates out for a cost, but they have their fair share of trials themselves. The fourth episode, “Ōkami-san and Otsū-senpai’s Favor Repayments,” confronts the idea of favors among friends. One of the secondary characters, Tsurugaya Otsuu, is obsessed with returning favors. When Ryoushi, the main male character, saves her from from getting hit by a stray baseball, she insists on becoming his maid… and I don’t mean just doing a bit of housecleaning, either. After all, Ryoushi saved her. She goes above and beyond, even sleeping in his little one-room apartment so that she will be available to tend to every perceived need. Ryoushi is so uncomfortable with this arrangement, he can’t sleep. Yet she is too worried about returning the favor to realize that he really just wants her to let him sleep in peace.

Otsuu-senpai in episode two. Even when she isn't obsessing about repaying Ryoushi, she dresses as a maid.

Otsuu-senpai in episode two. Even when she isn’t obsessing about repaying Ryoushi, she dresses as a maid.

Otsuu has a tragic back story to go with her obsession: when she was younger, an older brother figure died saving her from being hit by a car. She can never repay him for his sacrifice. Instead, she is determined to repay all other perceived debts in her life. Otsuu overworks herself trying to repay Ryoushi. He goes to the Otagi Bank’s president with the problem. The group of friends comes up with a plan: do so many favors for Otsuu, even she can see that it’s impossible to repay them. The first step of the plan? Dress up as maids and wait on her hand and foot for an entire day. Of course, at the end of the day, she says that she’ll try to repay each of them for what they’ve done. They tell her that it’s impossible, and even if she did manage to repay the favor, they’d do even more for her, so the cycle would never end. They explain that since they are friends, helping each other out is only natural. Otagi Bank might be founded on a system of favor and debt, but the group’s members themselves need no such thing. There are no favors between friends.

This plot idea isn’t new. Many anime, movies, and TV shows include characters who are too proud or insecure to get help from others, or who feel they must repay every nice thing that’s done for them. (Arakawa Under the Bridge comes to mind, though I’ve only seen an episode or two of that.) They don’t know how to accept kindness with no strings attached. After years of watching these characters learn about friendship and kindness, I’ve finally realized how much I have to learn myself. Among my family, I don’t hesitate to ask for anything. But I’m more awkward with friends and classmates: If I accept an offer of food, but never give food in return or offer further friendship, is that rude? If they write me a note on my birthday, or just because they want to encourage me, doesn’t that mean I have to do the same? If I write a kind note or do something else for them, will they see it as more than passing kindness? I really can’t offer much companionship as a friend right now! Will I make them feel obligated? I don’t expect anything back, not even deeper friendship, I just want to do this one thing.

It’s kind of ridiculous. Read the rest of this entry

Letter from the Editor: Bleach, Church Retreats, and Powering Up

Dear Readers,

Have you been keeping up with the happenings in Bleach?

The manga has become fairly intense, and after all this time, the story’s become exciting again.  I haven’t been a fan of the series since early in the arc involving Aizen, but I just can’t help but to consume the manga in chunks every half a year or so just to keep up with the characters I once followed so closely.  Right now, the world (as the Soul Reapers know it) is coming to an end after the death of one specific character.  But never to fear, because of course, Ichigo is here!

And as is the tradition for a shounen, fight ‘em series, he comes to maybe probably certainly save the day after having done some training.  Rukia and Renji have done the same. Maybe Chad and Orihime, too, though to be honest, I’m not clear on their storylines.

Rukia and Renji

It’s no surprise that we see this type of storyline again and again in anime and manga – whether it be for physical breakthroughs, as in Dragonball Z or Naruto, or more emotional ones, as you might see in “training camp” retreats in series like Oofuri or Bamboo Blade.  The opportunity to get away from the world leads one to cut out distractions and focus on a specific task at hand.

For Christians, there’s an added element.  Not only can you cut out the noise, but in the quiet and stillness of a retreat – both from the environment outside and in one’s heart, you can perhaps hear God.  What is he saying to you?  What does he want you to do?  And how will you respond?

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Maria Watches Over Japan, Eschatology of Korra, and a New Christian Anime Forum

As another anime season draws to an end, it’s time to get excited about new series around the corner! But before that, we have season and series finales coming up, and with the importance that ideas like salvation, grace, and transformation play in many anime, it’s a rich time to dig into spiritual topics as expressed through some of our favorite shows!

Many Christian geeks will proudly display their Naruto gear, but aren’t so open about faith. What does say about them? What’s the response? [The Budding Philosopher]

And on that tangent, why do Christians often separate the nerd side of themselves from the “Christian” part? [Believers and Fandoms]

In shows like Maria the Virgin Witch and Maria Watches Over Us, we get a glimpse into how much the Japanese know of Catholicism, and how they view it. [Eugene Woodbury’s Blog]

The Legend of Korra tackles eschatology, or the religious perspective on end times. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

The “Sneak Entry” arc of Bleach contains some religious content and themes (perhaps not enough) for Christians, if you like the series enough to look past it’s shortcomings. [Geeks Under Grace]

Episode 17 of Your Lie in April demonstrates the way Christians should show friendship to one another. [2]

And speaking of Your Lie in April, have you noticed it’s similarities to Kids on the Slope?  Not least of all is a Christian message of sharing love. [Famous Rose]

D.M. Dutcher highly recommends Figure 17, and finds it mostly safe to watch for Christians. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

A new Christian otaku community has sprung up.  Here, the founder reflects on the significance of “wholesome” anime. [Christianime]

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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