One of my favorite anime antagonists is Shishio, the evildoer from the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin. Shishio looks like a mummy, replaced Kenshin as the battousai, is never really bested by Kenshin with the sword, and in the dubbed version of the show, he’s voiced by always-awesome Steven Blum. What’s not to love (or hate)?
As Kenshin goes on a journey to defeat Shishio, the hero realizes early on that he’s not strong enough as is to defeat him. To gain the necessary skills to stop Shishio, Kenshin returns to his old master, Seijuro, to learn an ultimate skill. His sensei ultimately presses him into developing the technique, Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki (episode 43). But the most interesting thing isn’t the technique itself – it’s how the disciple learns it. Ultimately, it must be learned by using it on one’s teacher in an attempt to break the sensei’s otherwise unbreakable defense. And in doing so, the learner kills his master.
Seijuro lays down his life to teach the technique to Kenshin.
This teaching seems a bit extreme – but this is anime after all. Reminiscent of Unohana’s teaching of Kenpachi in Bleach, there has to be great sacrifice for the result that’s received. And although Seijuro doesn’t actually die – Kenshin is using his reverse blade, after all – is there any question that this noble and hard man wouldn’t be willing to die in this situation, having determined, finally, that Kenshin is worthy of learning it?
Do you have a tiger mom?
My mother isn’t quite of the sort, though I certainly received more discipline and was forced to focus on academics more than most any of my schoolmates. But she wasn’t a tiger mother to the extent that many of my friends’ mothers were. You can often tell which had them by the kids’ accomplishments – excellent grades, perfect SAT scores, excellence at musical instruments, polite to a fault – all signs that you had a tiger mother.
Of course, like another Asian concept, yin and yang, growing up this way isn’t all roses, though it may look so on the outside. Where perfection (at least in the eyes of parents) reigns, the child may be troubled by feelings of disappointment and lack of love, and may end up becoming overly cold or hot and arrogant or self-conscious.
Enter Yukino Yukinoshita.
The beautiful and frigid (matching her name) character for OreGairu can easily be pegged as the result of such parenting from her outward characteristics – all those around her are in awe or envy of her perfection. But we know something further, too – that she’s been oppressed by her mother, whom both her and sister vivacious sister, Haruno, fear. And while worldly success is withing easy reach for the sisters, the more we know of them, the more we see how flawed they are, with the author pointing toward their mother as the instigator of these problems Read the rest of this entry
I previously likened God to a yandere. This time I am likening Christians to a tsundere, a real tsundere, or at least an actually well-written tsundere. I previously alluded to “real” tsunderes being far better than the average achetype we get nowadays, but let’s go a bit more in depth as we explore this comparsion. While not a requirement to the archetype, many tsundere start off with a bad relationship. Like people who do not yet know God or have had bad experiences, they reject everything about their partner and refuse to acknowledge them as equals let alone as potential love interests. However, the comparison only begins once people become interested in Christianity and forming a relationship with God. It is here that people reach an unfamiliar territory and struggle with how to approach this new relationship. From a mixture of pride and embarrassment, tsundere find it hard to admit their true feelings. In a similar way, it is hard for us to acknowledge that we are not in control of our lives, and that we must follow God completely. It is important to remember here and throughout that this is a comparison of Christian believers. Non-Christians are not tsundere for God (though you could make an argument for that based on the “new definition” of tsundere), and thus it is important to keep this analogy in reference to yourself and not impose it on others.
A tsundere is most well known for her abuse of the person she actually likes. It is repetitive to the point of annoyance and no matter how much she apologizes for it, she always seems to fall back into the same habits. While the abuse can vary from simply ignoring the person to something as absurd as violent rampaging that you would only ever see in anime, this repetition can grow to be quite annoying to viewers and is no doubt a reason for the archetype’s negative image. But as you might have already guessed by now, this repetition of hurting the one you claim to love is very reminiscent of how Christians treat God. Even though we have chosen to follow God, there is no one who ceases to sin. We continue to sin again and again; no matter how much time passes, we seem to only be able to stumble yet again. It’s a very repetitive and tiresome process. This constant sinning against God despite claiming that we regret and don’t want to is very similar to the tsundere who always reacts so cruelly despite being in love.
One thing to understand, however, is that while a tsundere constantly hurts the target of her affection, a tsundere also constantly hates herself for this. This is so important and one of the most misunderstood aspects (or rather, most skipped over aspects in writing) of a tsundere because a true tsundere is able to acknowledge her true feelings but is unable to act in accordance with it. More than a cycle of repetitive actions as a result of bad writing, a well written tsundere expresses frustration at herself for this very characteristic. She seeks to overcome her own selfishness and harshness and act according to her true feelings, but for some reason it never goes right and the cycle repeats. The frustration at herself for harming the person she likes is indeed just like how we treat God. This is the same repetitive and sometimes frustrating cycle of the life of a tsundere.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. – Romans 7:15
A pretty significant anniversary for Beneath the Tangles has come and gone. As of September 12th, this blog is officially five years old! We’ve come a very long way since my first post on the site, as I tried to establish a brand new, unique presence on the web.
I’ve reminisced and reflected on changes for the blog a number of times in the past, so I’ll spare you today. However, I do want to thank our readers, especially those who’ve been with us for months or years, whether you comment or not. Your mere presence is encouraging. We write for you here, as opposed to simply getting our thoughts out for ourselves, so you are absolutely necessary to us.
I also want to encourage those who follow us or support our values and beliefs to consider become a patron of our blog. Any donation would be helpful, though we ask for $2 a month. This small donation is multiplied when added to others and under our careful spending to spread our blog to a larger audience.
Thank you again, and here’s to another five years!
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
– John 15:13 (KJV)
I recently heard a wonderful sermon on the value of friendship by Tim Keller. He spoke of how when it comes down to it, friendship is about a person choosing to be intimate with you. Christ called us friends, and took that love to the ultimate end point – death in place of us.
In the final episode of Charlotte, Yuu acts as that friend for all the children with the Charlotte disease, taking their illnesses upon himself and saving their lives. And yet, despite his noble act, Yuu isn’t the best of Christ figures – but maybe that’s because he’s not only an image of Christ, but also an image of us.
Yuu as Christ
As I mentioned before, Charlotte treats the mutations as a disease. Because of its origin, there’s no X-Men/Marvel style debate here – it’s something that needs to be cured. And as Christ took our sins upon himself at greatest personal cost, Yuu plunders the users’ and carriers’ abilities, knowing that it may destroy him.
Episode 13, though, gives us I think a unique insight into Christ, one that scripture only sparingly shows us – that of what Christ must have felt when he died in our place. No, he didn’t forget himself (or us), nor do I think he had to remind himself of why this was happening to him. But the physical and emotional toll upon Yuu might make us think about what Christ went through.
I’ve heard it said that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t much of one at all, him being God. On the contrary, though, I say it was far more so because of who he is. Perfect and pure, like the purest lamb, he was butchered (physical pain) and taken for the first time ever out of his perfect loving relationship with the Father, the only perfect relationship and the only one ever justified (emotional pain). Christ’s agony was demonstrated by his cries on the cross, and the distress upon him pictured by Yuu’s weariness and loss of himself when taking in everyone’s diseases.
But unlike Yuu, Christ never forgot. Christ cried that “it is finished” when he was about to die, fully knowing that the tortured he endured was for reason and done as he had planned. Sin nailed Christ to the cross – but Christ always, fully and consciously, allowed it to happen.
Nitori is Not Going to Hell For Wanting to Wear a Bra, Part II: A Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria
Last week, I dove into gender dysphoria, explaining what it is and hopefully helping fellow Christians understand that individuals who are confused regarding their gender or who don’t identify with traditional gender roles are just as in need of love and grace as anyone else – they’re not some suddenly created outcast group that God doesn’t care about. We, too, should, must care for them.
But how do we care for them if we think they’re constantly living in sin? Or are we approaching them from the entirely wrong angle?
Mark Yarhouse, referred to in my last article as really developing my outlook on this issue, tells of three frameworks regarding gender incongruence. Most evangelical Christians might fit into the first, which identifies people who see gender dyphoria as simply wrong. Others might see gender incongruence as a disability (Nitori’s sister, for instance, says about her brother, “He’s sick.).” And finally, there are those that would celebrate it and even to a radical extent, try to wholly deconstruct sex and gender.
Instead, an integrated approach, Yarhouse suggests, makes most sense when approaching the issue. It also allows us, I think, to break our own walls of hypocrisy and pride and to graciously approach individuals on the transgender spectrum with love.
But how does such an approach work within a Christian perspective? I think we can see part of that answer in Hourou Musuko, where the main characters are looking to establish relationships and community with people that understand them. Unfortunately, gender dysphoria mixes with teenage angst to make it difficult for Takatsuki and Nitori. Neither is particularly happy as they struggle with their gender identities.
Indeed, gender dysphoria by definition is a struggle, a wrestling with feelings – often very heavy and painful ones – that one’s sex doesn’t match his or her gender. It reminds me of other conditions that we might deal with, like anxiety or depression. When we’re overcome by these conditions, are we sinning? Are we more specifically dealing with the repercussions of the fall?
Perhaps this lack of connection between gender and sex isn’t always willful rebellion, cultural influence, or any type of choice, but a mismatch resulting from the condition our world suffers from – sin. An imperfect world leads to imperfect conditions, such as the feeling that one doesn’t belong in his or her body. Then, having feelings of gender incongruence might instead be approached with empathy, since we all live in this imperfect world.
And with that in mind, we should engage these folks with the gospel message as we would anyone else. They are no more or less in need of grace than anyone. But we must be careful to not hoist our biases and expectations on them as we minister. We must treat them similarly as we do others. We can’t flip the message for this group and expect transformation before salvation, when the latter must always precede the first.
If we have a heart for the lost, for those dying without Christ, we must approach transgender individuals and those working through gender dysphoria with the gospel, as much as any other group. But first, we need to earn our way into the debate, demonstrating compassion, kindness, and caring. Otherwise, we’ll never be given a chance by a individuals that already often feel lonely, maligned, or hated.
One of Christ’s most interesting and off-discussed teachings is how he equates are internal hated toward others as murder:
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
– Matthew 5:22 (NASB)
We often project our anger at God or upon others without realizing just how significant our feelings are. And why shouldn’t we? We’re just doing what we feel.
Matthew Newman unravels this passage some as he looks into episode five of Angel Beats. In it, he describes the students’ viciousness toward Kanade, against whom they’ve projected their bitterness, and how Yuri has done the same against God. In both cases, the students are wrong to do so, as are we when we blame God or rage against others.
And taking it in another direction, why might it be that calling someone a “fool” (raka = baka?) would lead us toward hell? As Matthew mentions, we’re taking away the person’s humanity when calling them a fool. Christ’s wording is perhaps alluding to public humiliation of another, where we intend to destroy someone and make them less than human. This kind of anger is the basis of all sorts of evil, included among these, murder and genocide.
And if we can’t understand that, comprehending how our raging against others shows just how hypocritical we are and how much we need grace, then indeed, we are lost.
Check out Matthew’s full article:
And after you read that, check out these other wonderful articles from around the blogosphere:
Revolutionary Girl Utena is chocked full of symbolism, and Taylor begins to unpack it as it has to do with Christianity themes and allusions. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]
Despite presenting an afterlife that is unlike the Christian conception of it, Death Parade brings up ideas and themes that coincide well with Christianity. [Christ & Pop Culture]
Cowboy Bebop reunion panels and cosplay events at Hawaii Con might be able to each us more about family – and Christian family – than we’d expect. [Lady Teresa Christina]
The way in which Nagisa’s carefully laid plans falls part in episode 10 of Classroom Crisis reminds of how ours might not match those of the Creator. [Christian Anime Review]
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.
It’s been a rough ride for Eren and his fellow Scouts, but after seventy-three chapters of black-and-blue heartache and falsified hope, he’s finally one step closer to that ever-elusive basement.
Whether due to my vivid imagination or my familiarity with the anime’s sounds, I often hear the Attack on Titan manga as clearly as I read it; chapter 73 is forebodingly silent, to be sure, with nighttime excursions led by lantern light, and only the solid sound of hoofbeats and the whine of ziplines breaking silence with the coming of dawn.
But the moment Eren steps foot on the wall and looks at his homeland for the first time in years, the sounds die completely: it’s a point of precipice—teetering between hope and despair—that allows Eren to have a god’s-eye view of everything he’s been fighting for. Understandably, Isayama dedicates a two-page spread to this single panel.
Themes of homecoming and oppression are inevitably linked in Attack on Titan: explainable, since it’s the oppression of the titans that gives way to humanity’s ultimate decision—fall into despair, or seek hope in the midst of it. It’s a vicious cycle, to be sure, and as the chapter opens, the omniscient narrator reflects on how humanity at first fell into helplessness, believing the titans would dictate their ultimate fate. The panels’ grim sights soon transform into images of hope, however, as the Scouts at long last embark on a journey to retake Wall Maria, and Eren sets foot in his homeland for the first time in years.
As expected, Charlotte is rushing toward a surely emotional end. This 13-episode series has no time for long arcs and episode-long resolutions, so in quick order we see Yuu’s recovery (physically and emotionally) and Misa’s finale. But in the midst, we also have a plot point far more significant – that of Yuu’s decision to save everyone.
It’s no surprise that the proposal comes from Tomori, even if she only half-seriously suggests it. And while the suggestion of how to save given to a Christ figure from one I’ll later describe as more representative of humanity doesn’t fit the Jesus allusion, much of the proceeding portion of the episode does, especially when it clicks with us what Yuu plans to do, what it means, and what the ultimate conclusion will be.
What Yuu is Doing
As the strongest mutant, Yuu is perhaps the strongest person on earth, the “best human.” In scripture, Christ is the second Adam, a demonstration of perfect humanity (and perfect godliness). Indeed, while Christ is perfect in every way, Yuu is representative of different people in different parts of the story – the needful, condemned human in the first part of Charlotte and now the powerful savior in the second.
And in that way, it shows Yuu to be the fulfillment of humanity. For Christians, the Bible demonstrates as much – the Old Testament showing our sin and prophesying of the Christ who is to come, and the New telling of Christ’s saving grace. In this show, Yuu is that testament – showing the depths of humanity in his early selfishness, his need for a savior to save him from his sins, and now, like the New Testament, as the Christ who will take on the sins of the world to redeem it.
Which brings up point two:
… and if you don’t realize these truths, you’re going to hurt others, as Takeo does in Ore Monogatari, and as I’ve done with my family.
“You matter,” my sister told me, as my built-up stress finally burst out in tears and complaints. “Your needs and feelings matter… We love you, and we want to understand you better… just let us know if you’re uncomfortable with something.”
I was living with two married couples and a baby. I’m usually pretty confident with my close family, but my thinking went sideways this summer. I wanted to be considerate of the couples’ privacy, ways they wished to use the family room, and their wish for as-much-neatness-as-reasonable-with-a-baby-around. How nice of me, right? Uh, no. My “consideration” came largely from my desire to avoid any uncomfortable conflict, and to be thought of as a helpful—or at least pleasant—member of the household. And my definition of “consideration” morphed into “don’t interfere in others’ conversations, even if you’re uncomfortable, and don’t use any noisy media—including the family TV—downstairs if others are awake, because the bigger groups’ recreational choices are more important than yours as the only single adult.”
Fast forward a few months, and my little sister—one of the married folks—informs me that I’ve been looking at my place in the household all wrong. If I’d talked to her about this earlier, I could have avoided a couple misunderstandings and deepened my relationship with family members. Instead, I assumed I knew what they wanted from me. Eventually, pent-up frustration burst out in words that I’m sure hurt at least one of them.
Lesson: Don’t assume you know what others think about you or want from you. Sometimes—especially with those you’re closest to—it’s better to just ask. Otherwise, being “considerate” may cause you to hurt them.
I feel like I come back to this topic too frequently, albeit from slightly different angles each time. But humility/vanity and Wrong View of Self are rampant themes in anime and in life. Read the rest of this entry