Category Archives: Christianity
For as long as I can remember, back even to my elementary school days, I recall always desiring to be different or unique. I can even remember my public school teachers all hammering that message into my and my classmates’ collective heads. “Be yourself” seemed to be the key phrase (and considering my years of work in IT for public education, and consequent time spent in public schools, seems to still be the key phrase) tossed around like an inflatable volleyball on the beach, for it floats easily and just seems to fit the setting.
Now before I continue on any further, I must qualify the rest of this article by saying that I do not disagree with this statement in the slightest. While it should perhaps not be taken at face value (some happy medium must exist behind the conservative convention that being oneself gives way to a lack of moral objectivity and consequent slippery slope of moral degradation and the liberal convention that moral subjectivity declares being oneself the path to defining morals themselves), there is redeemable value in those simple words, “be yourself.”
And with that explained, I would like to delve deeper into my personal experience with this concept of individuality.
As I mentioned in sentence one of this article, my personality has always been one governed by popular opinion. Governed not in that I blend in with society’s trends, but rather the opposite, that I purposefully have gravitated toward that which is not popular. This is a part of myself that I have determined through reflecting on past decisions, from decisions as minor as deciding a video game class based on looking up polls on which ones were used, and selecting the least popular, to decisions as major as choosing not to share some of my interests in fear of accidentally making them more popular and thus removing myself from the category of “unique.” This latter example is where I would like to spend the majority of my time today.
After getting so down on Futaba last week, I was really glad to see an entire episode dealing with her dilemma and her real desire to tell Yuuri the truth. But further, episode seven of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) continue to showed Futaba’s shortcomings, which are the same we all have.
The show opens as episode six left off, with Kou having stepped off the train to be with Futuba, who has come to terms with her “love” for him. He notices the scent of her hair. She falls even more for him and decides she must tell Yuuri that she, too, loves Kou.
But in between, something interesting happens. Futuba runs into her best friend from middle school. If you remember back in episode one, Futuba compared herself to Yuuri, having been ostracized during middle school as Yuuri was during high school. Futuba’s middle school friend had been her only companion, but eventually abandoned her, too, and here we find out it’s because she thought they both liked the same guy. Futuba makes the connection with Yuuri and Kou and becomes more distressed, wondering what effect all of this will have on their relationships.
What Futuba fails to realize is that her lack of honesty is already having ripple effects. Yuuri is worried about Futuba, and so hidden feelings are having an outward impact. And what if Futuba failed to tell Yuuri about her feelings for Kou until they exploded out into the open? What kind of effect would secrets revealed have then?
A long-running project of mine is to get my wife to become an anime fan. It started when we were dating and I got her to fall in love with Studio Ghibli. Over the years, I’ve shown her a number of series, too, and they’ve been a hit (mostly): Clannad, Kids on the Slope,
Attack on Titan (I went for the jugular and FAIL), Kimi ni Todoke, and now, Honey and Clover.
Each character in Honey and Clover is wonderful, but my very favorite is Ayumi Yamada. For whatever reason, I connected with her best, and felt as much empathy for her struggles as with any of the others. Also, clay. Ayumi’s talent is my favorite among the cast’s.
There’s something soothing and beautiful about pottery making, isn’t there? The idea of a sole person turning a block of clay into something smooth and beautiful and useful with just hands and wheel is idyllic. The same imagery wasn’t lost on the Bible writers, who made frequent comparison of God to the potter:
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
The comparisons between God and a potter are plentiful:
- God cares. As the potter must carefully and skillfully manipulate the clay to stay from ruining it, God is gentle with us. His patient and grace are abundant with a people that are far more stubborn than clay.
- God is creator. The potter and clay metaphor brings to mind the creation story. As clay comes from the earth, Genesis explains that humans, too, come from the dust of the earth. God breaths life into humanity, as the pottery shapes life into pottery.
- God shapes us. Ten potters can be handed the same size and type of clay, and each create some wholly different piece. But the similarity is that the potter guides the entire process to make the clay into something more than it was.
And it’s that last point that most presses upon me. Today, I was reminded what a sinner I am, how vicious I can be, and how inhuman (or perhaps how very human) I am at my worst. At my lowest, I turn to God, because who else can I turn to? Friends and family don’t have the power to change me, and I’ve found that I don’t have the power within to transform myself. But the Holy Spirit can empower us to change and to become far more than we are – nearer to image of Christ.
And in that sense, when we feel like clay – something buried in the earth, lower even than dirt – we know that we are being shaped, molded into the image of Christ. And in that sense, there’s nothing else better to be.
While Barakamon continues to provide Christian bloggers with some juicy themes (how am I not watching this series?), a number of writers visited older titles this week as they talked spirituality:
Courtney tackles the question, “Should a Christian watch anime?” [Geek Meets World]
Medieval Otaku looks as the falsehoods shown in Nisemonogatari and what role sin and purpose can play in being phony (or genuine). [Medieval Otaku]
Frank reexamines Sakura Trick and whether yuri anime can have redeeming value for Christian viewers. [A Series of Miracles]
He also looks at episode 5 and 6 of Barakamon and finds in them wisdom for Christian living. 
Lazarinth points out the theme of fear and religion in a review of Patema Inverted. [Fantasy and Anime]
Rob tells of an unexpected experience he had when apologizing on behalf of Christians at Otakon. [Geeks Under Grace]
Michael analyzes Manga Messiah and shows us it’s gospel presentation. [Gaming and God]
D.M. Dutcher tells how Barakamon demonstrates the healing power of the church. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
Dutcher also gives his Christian-centered review of Love Live School Idol Project. 
He provides another review, as well – this one of Tenchi Muyo: The War on Geminar 
As part of the Something More series of posts, each week 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 if you’d like it included.
Periodically, I like point back to some of the more than 900 posts we’ve written here on Beneath the Tangles. “Mileposts” is about blogging milestones – those little breakthroughs when posts hit certain numbers of significance in terms of hits. Three articles recently hit such mileposts.
Sword Art Online, Episode 10: You Complete Me
Milepost: 40,000 Hits
While a new season of SAO brings up it’s own set of interesting spiritual themes, the first season had me writing episode after episode, including this post, in which I spoke of the relationship between Kirito and Asuna and a little bit of my own marriage:
And note Asuna’s words; she will protect Kirito “forever.” The completeness of marriage is not only in two becoming one; it is also in the contract that is born – one that is meant to last. Kirito will stay with Asuna “until the end.” Asuna will stay with Kirito “forever.” They will create a whole and complete marriage.
Oreimo Finale: I Can’t Believe My Series End Like This (Wait…Yes I Can)
Milepost: 5,000 Hits Read the rest of this entry
Anime Expo is always a crowded, good time, filled with fun events, including the Masquerade, a competition featuring choreographed, costumed performances. Beforehand, groups are able to play a short introductory video. For one group, cosplaying as Magi, that video gave them an opportunity to showcase their message:
You are loved just as you are.
Based in Orange County, the group, Jesus Otaku, focuses on “creatively modeling the love of Jesus to bring otaku and the church together.” Sssociated with Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren, Jesus Otaku is an active group of about 15 members who cosplay and attend area conventions where they purpose to let anime fans know just what they expressed in that video – that they are loved just as they are.
Jesus Otaku was co-founded by Jonathan and Cecilia, each impressed upon by God to start a ministry for otaku. Emphasizing Saddleback’s church planting (including a church in Tokyo), the idea for such a ministry had been in Cecilia’s mind for years, though everything came together when Jonathan returned from a mission trip and independently announced his ideas for something similar. And from there, a ministry was born.
If that bullet could also kill a player in the real world, and if you didn’t shoot them, you or someone you loved would be killed, could you still pull the trigger?
I won’t lie. Sword Art Online 2 has kept me entertained all season long. The Alfheim Online arc burned me so bad that I’ve lost the absolute love I once had for the series, but it’s starting to come back. I’ve even begun to accept Kirito and Sinon in all their post-traumatic stress syndrome glory whilst just two weeks ago, I felt that the latter’s back story was too contrived.
I thought episode six, however, did an especially good job of demonstrating to us that these two characters had real fear and real pain from the past. Their situations are more extreme than a typical person’s – they aren’t the hurts that most of us can relate to. But they’re perhaps the kind of hurts that it might be good for us to reflect upon.
Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity. It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.” Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality. And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.
Today’s claim comes from that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito. When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:
Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.
The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.
Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them. I think perhaps few would dispute this portion. Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions. From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide. But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.
In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words. He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five. And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.
14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
2 Samuel 6:14-23
Well this is the first time I’ve used such a long passage of Scripture in Anime Today, much less right off the bat!* However, at the risk of falling into the camp of “stereotypical evangelical writer,” it seems to fit well today, as well as make for a nice change of pace in regard to the more regular composition of Anime Today.
If you have been watching Hanayamata lately, then you know that it is nothing if not a normal moe anime about dancing (or to be more specific, Yosakoi)… but if you have ALSO been reading Anime Today, then you know that I am a sucker for exactly that! Regardless of my personal tastes, though, it is always a joy for me when I come across a way to connect one of my more outlandish pleasures with my faith. And in that light, as I reflected on the latest episode of Hanayamata (episode five), I realized that the main characters shared one particularly distinguishing trait with the ancient king of Israel, King David: being undignified.
First, what exactly does it mean to be undignified? Simple language study puts together the prefix “un” (not) with the word root of “dignity”. Without dignity. Thus, undignified essentially means shameless. In the context of the biblical passage, King David was so overjoyed for the ark’s (one of the most, if not the most, significant single object in Hebrew’s history, regarding as acting as the “seat of God”) coming to Jerusalem** that he stripped to be nearly naked and danced in front of his subjects completely full of sheer joy.
The king of Israel. Danced. (Nearly) naked.
In front of his subjects.