When it comes to Christian allusions, Death Note pulls no punches.
Whether it’s an artistic replication of The Fall of Man by Michelangelo, Light’s literal taking of the forbidden fruit, or the Gregorian choirs, crucifixes, and god-complexes, there’s a bit of Christian influence sprinkled across every chapter (and episode) of the series.
Perhaps the most conspicuous allusion, though, is L himself, whose very name harmonizes with el—the Hebrew word for God in the Old Testament. From his self-created trinity, to his seemingly omniscient and miraculous crime-solving abilities, L has the Christ-figure persona down-pat. Death Note director, Tetsuro Araki, even threw an exclusive foot-washing scene into the anime’s 25th episode, just to ensure that the imagery couldn’t be missed.
In the midst of all these iconic allusions to Christendom, though, there’s a subtle reference to Discipleship that gets lost along the way. It’s a shame, too, since it’s one of the manga’s most poignant representations of Christ’s provision.
During their mission to bring Kira to justice, L and his team of police force detectives hit a snag. Namely, that the main force is pulling all support from the secret operation in response to threats from Kira, and that any officers who wish to continue working alongside L will lose their jobs.
L allows his team to come to their individual decisions.
The catch? It’s a test of loyalty.
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 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
Two weeks have passed since Harold Camping’s end-of-the-world predictions failed to materialize. As that day approached, I tried to think of something anime-related to blog about, but I couldn’t find anything adequate to write. Then, I read this entry the other day by the Cajun Samurai on the Christian Anime Alliance boards:
I feel the need to mention that I actually used an episode of “Kino’s Journey” to describe the [recent] “end of the world” prediction made; specifically Episode 3 when the entire population of a city Kino visited believed the world was going to come to an end the next day. Suffice it to say, the world did NOT end, and the explanation the priest gave as to his error was a textbook case of art imitating life.
And so, quite by accident (and two weeks late), I have some comments to share on Camping in relation to anime. Read the rest of this entry
With a plethora of new shows on my plate this season, and in the middle of The World God Only Knows, Witch Hunter Robin, and Ookiku Furikabutte, you’d think I’d have plenty to watch if I was in the mood for anime. And so, which of these did I pick last night?
I started a new one, of course. ;)
Someday’s Dreamers is one of those shows I’ve long wanted to watch, despite knowing little of the premise. The title of the show is about as nostalgic as it can get. It makes me think there’ll be lots of grassy hills, blue skies, forlorn looks, and school friendships in the story (I’m always looking for a tone emulating that of The Place Promised in Our Early Years).
Unfortunately, I accidentally started watching the second anime series instead of the first. Woops. Not the first time I’ve done that.
One episode in, I’m encouraged by the possibilities of this story (and will eagerly anticipate returning to it). But more than that, I’ve quickly connected with the protagonist, Sora. She is both very much still a kid (in ways, reminding my of one of my very favorite characters, Shizuku of Whisper of the Heart), while achieving a level of maturity that most adults don’t have (perhaps because of a wonderful mother and probably similar father). Her maturity is best expressed not so much through words, but by actions which reveal her character. We might get caught up in the plot of the first episode, but the real purpose behind it is not to present a major plot point (though it certainly provides context for the series), but to show us just who Sora is.
Weeks past the tweet and blogfest that was Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica episode 12, I felt the need to add one more piece to the already-considerable pile of writings about the finale. While I’ve already discussed Christian motifs of the episode, and others have commented extensively on its various religious aspects, I wanted to focus on one particular scene in episode 12. It lasts only two to three minutes, but it’s likely to be remembered by most who saw the show. Why?
Because it was awkward.
At least it was awkward in that it was unexpected. The scene I’m talking about is the one where Madoka embraces Homura, with the two clothed in nothing but glittery shadows (you can see a shot of the scene at Ambivalence, or is it ambiguity?).
While the scene projected yuri overtones for the show and the girls’ relationship (forgive me if I’m wrong, but I understand the genre in terms of how John at AnimeNation defines it), I want to focus on the spiritual transformation that occurs within Homura in the scene. It’s a strangely innocent and pure scene – both girls are in their natural states and it is talk of friendship that dominates, not of lovers. Read the rest of this entry
As I blogged about a week or two ago, the anime blogosphere was set ablaze with posts about the final episodes of Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica, with many focusing particularly on the spiritual aspects that were clearly being emphasized. I wrote a post in that vein as well, which coupled with another spiritual post I wrote regarding the series. I just couldn’t get enough of the Christian themes I saw in a series I regard as one of the very best I’ve ever watched.
And the post just keep coming. A few days ago, 2DT wrote a most interesting post analyzing the series and it’s spiritual nature from a viewpoint I would’ve never though of – magical girl dresses. What do the dresses of the girls in the series tell about them? Particularly, what does Madoka’s dress say about her ultimate actions in the series?
Please have a read:
Suffering. Death. Hope. Life.
These themes pervade Magica Madoka, particularly informing the final two episodes. They are also important ideas in religious traditions, namely Christianity and Buddhism. The Buddhist principals expressed in Madoka Magica are so pervasive, that I’ve started to think that the Christlike imagery I immediately saw when viewing episode 12 wasn’t at all planned by the show’s creator. After all, while the burden of sin on the Christ figure in the story is obvious (as are ideas like God living out of space and time and Madoka’s visit with Akemi resembling Jesus’ visits with the apostles and others before his ascension), other actions are harder to reconcile with Christianity. Maybe I’m just being euro centric, applying western thinking to an eastern medium.
Not that I have a problem with that – this is what I do on this blog (spoiler below). Read the rest of this entry
As I try to find the time to marathon Puella Magi Madoka Magica in an attempt to avoid any more spoilers, I had to stop to write about episode seven, in which allusions to and mentions of Christianity are far stronger than in any other episode to this point of the series. Though a few bloggers briefly mentioned the issue, I didn’t read anything in-depth (please let me know if I missed someone’s analysis), so I thought I’d have something to add.
Early in the episode, Sayaka and Kyoko, whose personality and background get far more fleshed out in this episode, discuss the idea of the pact that the girls agree to. They exchange their souls for a miracle. What’s interesting is that this is very much like Christianity, but in a warped way. While Sayaka is pained by and later begins to regret her decision, feeling she’s given up her soul for a miracle (and a relatively trivial one at that), Christianity emphasizes that we give our lives to Jesus when we receive the miracle of eternal salvation. The ideas are similar, though the feelings associated with the transfers are drastically different.
Now, for the meat of the symbolism. Kyoko leads Sayaka to a church and begins the temptation. A church is typically used as a moody setting for a scene (episode 5 of Cowboy Bebop comes to mind), but as should be expected of this high quality show, it becomes much more than that. It also emphasizes the fact that spiritual issues are also at hand. Read the rest of this entry
Characters: Vash the Stampede and Nicholas D. Wolfwood
Occupation: wanted gunslinger and faux priest/assassin
Bible Twins: Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter
On Tuesday, I linked a post to an article entitled “The Gospel According to Wolfwood.” The author of that original piece makes several comparisons between Wolfwood and Bible characters, and I’m expanding on one of her allusions – to Simon Peter, in relation to Vash/Jesus Christ.
In the Trigun anime, Nicholas D. Wolfwood first appears as a traveling priest who is raising money for orphans. But we soon find out that’s he more than he seems as the literal cross he carries becomes a devastating weapon called a Punisher. Wolfwood is a sure shot and a dangerous man, unafraid to kill when the situation calls for it. Read the rest of this entry
In 2003, a wonderful essay about Nicholas Wolfwood was posted in the ToonZone forums. Academic in nature, the essay discusses the Christian themes of sinful nature and grace as they are present in Trigun, particularly shown through Wolfwood. The essay is excellent and gives a lot of insight about the series. It also touches on the idea of why Christianity hasn’t stuck in Japan, mentioning Shunsaku Endo’s Silence, which also focuses on this theme.
Unfortunately, since that time, every other trace of the essay on the Internet has apparently disappeared. You’ve probably experienced this as well as me – you’ve tried to return to something you read or saw once in the past only to find that it’s gone. Poof. And so, I’ve decided to repost the entire essay below. If anyone knows the author or where the original source comes from, please let me know.
Nicholas D. Wolfwood
Violence, Grace and Redemption in Trigun.
This article is an analysis of Nicholas D. Wolfwood from a Christian perspective. It will make most sense if you’ve seen the entire Trigun anime series. Also, it contains serious spoilers for the series. Consider yourself warned. Japanese animation (or anime, as it is called both in Japan and in the West) is an intriguing contemporary art form that, like Japanese culture itself, weaves Western influences and Eastern traditions together in oftentimes strange and unexpected ways. Through its juxtaposition of contrasting cultural elements, anime can provide careful viewers with illuminating insight into both Japanese and American culture. And when anime touches upon religious issues, it offers Christians trans-cultural perspective on their faith. Read the rest of this entry