Blog Archives

Something More: Barakamon Christianity, Valkyria’s Salvation, and the Rapture of Tenchi Masaki

In the first two episodes of the Barakamon, Frank finds important points that all experienced Christians should probably take under consideration. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher finds an analogy for the rapture in Tenchi Forever, and examines why that film captures the essence of the rapture better than explicitly Christian depictions of it do. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

What does Saber Marionette J have to say about the value of family? Plenty, and even from a Catholic perspective. [Medieval Otaku]

Medieval Otaku also explores that unusual path and perplexing salvation of Valkyria in Brynhildr in the Darkness. [2]

Finally, he explores Nadia’s vanity in Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, and discusses snobbery in a number of different groups, including that of the religious. [3]

Rocklobster reviews Rurouni Kenshin (TV), and is perhaps one of the few to really enjoy the story arc featuring Japanese Christians. [Lobster Quadrille]

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. 

Terror in Resonance, Episode 2: You Reap What You Sow

While the first episode of Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror) introduced us to and focused on the terrorists, Nine and Twelve, along with their new accomplice, Lisa, episode two largely moves the focus toward the police.  It’s an interesting shift, especially with the terrorists playing good bad guys and the police playing the role of bad good guys.

Little by littke, Shinichiro Watanabe begins to unravel a story while burdening the audience with evermore questions, particularly as they have to do with Nine and Twelve’s pasts – who are they?  What was done to them?  Why?  Who were all involved?

And whatever “VON” is, it’s quite shady, judging from the terrified looks on the faces of various characters in-the-know.  They’ve done something mightily wrong.  And this episode is all about showing that the police – and perhaps larger forces involved – have it coming to them.  The variation of the Riddle of the Sphinx emphasizes the judgment the guilty must pay, ultimately ending in judgement upon the police at the end of the episode.

Toji Hisami 12

I spy a favorite trope – awful things done to little kids. (Art by みずのえ@スタンプ, Pixiv ID 44726975)

These ideas of justice, revenge, and karma are found in heavy doses in Watanabe’s works (think of almost all the episodes involving Spike and Vicious in Cowboy Bebop).  In fact, they figure prominently in many anime – no surprise seeing how deeply ingrained these ideas are in Japanese culture, history, and religion.  Of course the bad guys must pay for their evil deeds at the hands (or on behalf) of those that suffer.  That’s justice.

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Free! Eternal Summer, Episode 3: When the Going Gets Tough (Rei Gets Going)

Free! fans were all a-flutter (and a bit concerned) when last week’s episode ended with a preview which intimated that Rei was going to quit the swim team.  But when episode three rolled around, the circumstances were, of course, not quite what they seemed.  Though he was approached by the track captain about returning to his former sport, Rei never seriously considers the entreaty.  It’s less than a side note to him, because instead of being discouraged by being unable to do any stroke other than the butterfly, Rei is instead motivated to get even better.  It’s really an unusual move for Rei, who sometimes become discouraged and is quite emotional.  But it makes perfect sense in terms of the series, because as we know, his swim team is something quite special.

The idea of “team” works well in all sorts of analogies.  We certainly call for the closeness of a sports team when we team up at work or at play.  And we all get it – there’s something magical and powerful about the way people can come together and work for each other.  There’s almost nothing like it.

Rei Ryugazaki

Art by 平井ゆづき (Pixiv ID 44755335)

One place that the team concept is sometimes often an awkward fit, though, is with church.  Sometimes the analogy is weird (we’re a team and Jesus is the quarterback!).  And sometimes we can’t seem to muster the same feelings as with sport (I’ve read or heard the lament of “Why can’t we get as excited about church and for a football game?” many times in my life, including today).

Yet, the comparison is apt, I think, and particularly in terms of what we can learn from the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club:

Team and Church Demonstrate Accountability

One of my favorite scenes in episode three of Free! Eternal Summer is when Makoto declares that he won’t let Rei quit, and the others support his assertion.  Makoto is sensitive to his teammates’ needs and is mild mannered, so the declaration is particularly emphasized and rings true -  he won’t let Rei get away.

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Blue Spring Ride, Episode 2: Tension

When you last had to make such a moral choice, did you do what was right or what was convenient?  In episode two of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Futuba makes that decision spurred on by the words of Kou from the previous episode, when he said that she was merely “playing at friendship” with her two close friends from class.  And with her mind all a flutter after speaking with Yuri, and realizing their similarities run deeper than she imagined, Futuba scornfully rejects the faux friendship she had developed.

This climax, though, happens about midway through the episode. What’s interesting, then, is that the rest of the show focuses on the fallout and on Futuba embracing her decision.  She blurted out what she did almost involuntarily, and even apologizes for it, which hardly shows a determination to make change.  It’s only through accepting that it was a good decision as days (weeks?) pass by that Futuba accepts what she did as right and is able to move forward.

This tension that Futuba deals with isn’t much different from that we might face in our everyday lives.  We’re sometimes confronted with choosing between doing what we know is right and what we’d rather do.  And if there isn’t some anchor that holds us steady, it becomes way too easy to choose, well, the easy way.

In Blue Spring Ride, Kou functions as Futuba’s anchor in her decision.  He whispers truth to Futuba, and Futuba responds as she does, taking the hard road.

ao haru ride

We also got some more back story in this episode! (Art by RINriri – Pixiv ID 44608476)

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Free! – Eternal Summer, Episode 1: Rin Matsuoka, the True Believer

The second season of Free! arrived with a splash yesterday (hardy har har), helping to launch a new season of anime.  No less than a phenomenon, at least among American anime fans, the first season ended with hopes and anticipation of the second, but after so many months of waiting, I think the series snuck up on a lot of Free! aficionados.  But by day’s end, however, my Tumblr dashboard was packed full of Free! related posts (and by almost an equal amount of “There’s so much Free! I can’t stand it” posts).

Free! Eternal Summer

Art by ぐる (Pixiv ID 35786668)

This season looks like it won’t disappoint either.  A storyline is set (further competition and consideration of the future for the seniors), a new rival arrives, and the same manic energy returns.  We also see a continuing growth of the characters, most emphatically for Rin.  If you remember, he was a tortured, angry youth for most of last season before Haru and the rest helped to show him a sight he’d never seen before.  The finale ended with Rin apparently moving on and transforming into someone more confident and kinder, reclaiming the compassionate and friendly personality that marked him in his youth.

What interested me most about the first episode in Eternal Summer, then, was just how far Rin has come in such a short time.

Early in the episode, we note that Haru has grown a teensy bit, though outwardly he’s just the same.  The rest of the Iwatobi High School group remains largely the same (all had their “growth” moments in season one or, in Nagisa’s case, had no real development at all).  But Rin – Rin has changed completely: He greets his old friends; he gives Haru a high five at the end of their race (instead of marching away sullen); he treats his kohai, Nitori, like a brother; and most telling of all, he transitions responsibly into the role of captain.

Rin’s growth reminded me that in real life, transformation isn’t something to be taken for granted.

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Banning Child Pornography in Japan and the Slippery Slope Otaku Walk

What is is that most of us live for?  It certainly varies from person to person, but if we dig down and analyze our habits, thoughts, and actions, a few items might arise – family, job, faith, money, comfort, and entertainment.  For otaku, entertainment may be at or near the top of the list.  We don’t just enjoy anime – we revel in it.

For Christians, this can be especially problematic.  A conservative approach to anime would deem the entire form as something evil and immoral.  Rob of Christian Anime Review recently tweeted me the video below, in which a pastor discusses various nerdy entertainment, including anime, and how these forms influence us.  I don’t disagree with all he has to say.

Of course, the viewpoint of the writers on this blog is that there are a lot of fundamental truths that we can mine out of anime – ideas that capture the most significant tenets of Christian faith and impress them in such a way that might move us, encourage us to explore, and even transform us.  And on simpler level, we approach anime simply as fans watching an art form, while hopefully using sound judgment as to what we should avoid.

Still, it’s not that simple.  Anime is a medium developed in a very non-Christian country, inherently presenting challenges to Christian viewers.  Among them are how the characters are drawn and depicted.  For me, the one of the two most uncomfortable questions you could ask me (because they perhaps point out my hypocrisy!) is “Are you okay with how anime depicts minors?”*

I would hazard to say that most anime fans would agree with me when I say it’s despicable and harmful to present very young characters in sexual situations (though anime loves to get around this by presenting age-old characters in kids’ bodies**).  But what of teenagers and pre-adolescents?  They’re underage, too, after all, and they are frequently depicted in fanservice-y ways, sometimes for comic relief, but often for the viewer’s pleasure in less virtuous ways.

This week, Japan finally succumbed to pressure and outlawed possession of child pornography.  No kudos to the country for taking so long in doing so, though perhaps this will help change the culture a bit in a positive direction.  But of note is that anime, manga, and light novels can still operate as they are.  I’m sure many an anime fan breathed a sigh of relief at this exception.

But what should Christians think?  And not just of this development, but how we respond to the depiction of underage individuals in anime? Do we believe in the whole 2D is 2D and 3D is 3D, and the earlier cannot harm the latter?  Certainly that’s among the questions that have been asked and will continue to be.

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Vocaloid as Artistic Expression

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

Right off the bat, I feel compelled to say that Vocaloid is an enormous passion of mine. From Hatsune Miku to Megpoid, from Supercell to Jin, I adore what the Vocaloid movement has become since its pick-up in 2007.

In case you are unsure of what Vocaloid is exactly, Vocaloid is a voice synthesis engine created by Yamaha that has, over the last several years, been used to produce music sung by fictional animated characters (this was not the original intent of Vocaloid software, and I could probably write an entire post on the history of Vocaloid alone considering I have done an hour-long lecture on the same topic, but considering this is the Internet it would probably just be easier for you to look here than to read a long post by me, though perhaps I will consider writing such a piece in the future, and while I’m doing this I might as well add a few more commas and make this sentence as long as possible,,,,). For an example of Vocaloid in action, see the clip below from a relatively recent live concert featuring the most popular of the Vocaloid characters, Hatsune Miku.

What I would like to address here, however, is not the origin of Vocaloid, but its validity as an artistic expression. What do I mean by that, you ask. Why, thanks for asking, I’ll tell you exactly what I mean!

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Untangled: Christian Panel at an Anime Con

One of my favorite parts of administering this blog is occasionally receiving emails from our readers.  A week or two ago, we received a request from Michael.  Here’s how he began:

Hi, I am so blessed to have found your blog, and here’s why. To keep it short, I am a Christian in Miami, FL and just went to my first anime con (Animate! Miami) in January and felt from Holy Spirit to bring Gods Kingdom to our otaku/video game culture[...]I submitted to do a panel at the biggest con in FL, Supercon. I want to do a panel about spirituality and anime but focusing totally on our Father God and Christ, and the impact God has on anime in general…

A lot of times, I don’t have a good answer for our readers.  But thankfully, I now have a little insight into this request after recently conducting a panel at IKKiCON, the anime convention in my local Austin community.

Michael went on to write the following:

I am making my presentation and wanted to get your much needed advice. I want to connect with the Christian otaku community and get ideas as to how to make this presentation great and an opportunity to bring souls to Christ.  Any advice or suggestions as to which amines I should focus on, or maybe just topics I should stick to? I have to present for an hour, and will throw in some games too to keep it interesting.

Michael, thanks for coming to us with your question – I’ll help you as best I can!

I think you first need to consider who your audience is, if you haven’t already.  It seems like you may be wanting to focus on Christian otaku.  In that case, you might consider that your audience will be unique – you may have a mix of those of different religious backgrounds who attend, not only within the Christian tradition, but possibly others who have an interest in religion.  I also found that a number of young people, attending with parents, came to my panel.

If you intend to make the panel evangelistic in nature, aimed at non-Christians, I would definitely think about what it is I can offer my audience in terms of my topic.  As with Paul and his teaching on being everything to everyone, your panel should appeal to anime fans, offering them something about anime that they can learn from and/or be entertained by.  Otherwise, they may feel they’re getting the old bait and switch, which might accomplish the opposite of what you intend.  Even if you carefully weave a gospel presentation into your panel, some will be offended and most may not be open to it.  In that case, I might suggest passing them to another resource they could consult, whether it’s your own or another, when they get home from the con and think back on your panel.

And I’ll mention one more consideration – this one on a more general level.  Others who visit our blog (and even a couple of other writers) have more to offer in the way of tips, but I’ll offer just this one – time flies when you’re doing your panel, so if you’ve packed your 60 minutes to the brim, you probably won’t be able to cover all that you’ve wanted.  Adjust accordingly.

Good luck on your panel, and please let us know how it goes!  And for all those reading this post, what advice might you also offer Michael?

If you have a question for us, please click on the “Ask the Staff” button on the top menu of our blog.

Anime Today: Idols in Ishinomaki

As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.

While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.

As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.

Wug Minami Katayama

Art by 馬の助 (Pixiv ID 40903644)

In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.

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EF: A Tale of Theology

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

As I watched through the Ef series (particularly A Tale of Melodies, the sequel to A Tale of Memories), I was immediately struck by how astoundingly deep it was. Whether looking at it from a pure artistic standpoint, a written standpoint, or a theological standpoint, Ef provides quite a lot of interesting material to chew on, especially for me. Because of this, Ef: A Tale of Melodies (the stronger of the two seasons of the series in my opinion) has easily become one of my favorite anime.

Now, because of my Christian faith and the emphasis on religion (particularly with the inclusion of the oft-seen church setting), I felt compelled to put together a short piece detailing my thoughts on the theology present through A Tale of Melodies (since it provides more of an emphasis on the spiritual and religious aspects of the drama).

CAUTION: There will be spoilers below.

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