Blog Archives

Something More: Kill la Cross, Madoka’s Universal Church, and Sailor Moon Mythology

Welcome to the first of our more sporadic version of Something More.  The blogosphere has been resplendent in it’s spiritual-related articles the last couple of week, regarding anime series both current and classic.

Christian symbolism runs rampant in Kill la Kill, as do opportunities to discuss Christian themes and ideas, particularly as they relate to clothing, in the series. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

The Spice and Wolf light novels paint God as malicious, but does this really to his true character? [Medieval Otaku]

Christianity plays a role, at least superficially, in countless anime series, as Eugene Woodbury states:

At the same time, in terms of theology, the suggestively Catholic Haibane Renmei can stand beside any of C.S. Lewis’s work as a powerful Christian parable. The same is true of anime such as Madoka Magica and Scrapped Princess, though you may have to look harder to see through the metaphors.

But he also goes on to suggest that the Japanese view toward the faith may rather reveal a positive view for many of the country’s feelings toward religion as compared to western ones. [Eugene’s Blog]

Speaking of Madoka, Woodbury recently explained that the series is “an exploration of the doctrine of universal reconciliation.” [2]

Is Mushi-shi a fatalistic series? Perhaps quite the contrary… [Organizational ASG]

To the tune of Christian themes, there’s more to A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd than meets the eye. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Sailor Moon draws more than merely character names from Greco-Roman mythology. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

And continuing with Sailor Moon, episode 14 of Sailor Moon Crystal emphasizes the power of prayer…even if it is to the Crystal Tower. [Geeks Under Grace]

The dividing of the girls in episode 5 of KanColle brings to mind the discomfort the early Christians must have felt as they started their mission. [2]

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.

Your Lie in April, Episode 19: I Offer Devotion

What can you give to someone who’s dying?

Kousei, who’s still merely a boy, doesn’t know what he can give to Kaori – but he knows he needs to give her something.  Sometimes, he brings her a treat; on a grander scale, he delivered her hope in the form of a song in the last episode.  And yet, in episode 19 of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso), he still wonders what he’s able to do for Kaori – in fact, Kousei doubts he’s done anything for her.

And Kousei’s father gives an interesting response to Kousei – he reaffirms what the boy feels, that he hasn’t done anything at all.  But then he quickly follows up by saying, “All you did was show devotion.”

april 19b

Devotion - what a powerful and weak thing.  It can be given by the smallest of children – perhaps presented best by them.  It can be given freely.  But it’s not quantifiable.  Sometimes it’s not even wanted.

But for Kaori, it is wanted.  And it is meaningful.

Read the rest of this entry

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 7

For our seventh episode, we are excited to have Tek7, the founder and president of Christian Gamers Alliance, as our guest. Also, starting officially with this episode, we have established our new permanent podcast hosting team: JP (Japes) and Sean! We have retired the old formula of switching out co-hosts every month, but rest assured, the rest of the Beneath the Tangles team will still show up from time to time! For this episode, we focus our discussion on “Humanism in Japanese Video Games/JRPGS,” but we talk about plenty more, so be sure to give the whole episode a listen!

Feel free to stream the episode below, subscribe on iTunes, or check out our RSS feed!

Also, be sure to email us with any questions you would like included in our “Listener Mail” portion, including the name you would like stated in the podcast and your website or blog for us to share!

Time Stamps:
Intro – 0:00
Announcements – 22:04
Otaku Diet – 23:43
Current Article/Discussion – 37:28
Listener Mail – 1:06:42
Closer – 1:21:58
Bloopers – 1:22:47

Direct Download

Note: Below are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Anime Today: Being Counter-Cultural

The last month or so has revealed something that I once knew, but had long since forgotten: Reading is awesome!

Honestly! As much as I love anime, there is nothing quite like sitting down and flipping through a good book. Visual novels and, to a lesser degree, light novels count, of course… but limiting your diet (your “otaku diet”?) to merely one avenue of media consumption serves only to, consequently, limit your perspective.

Recently I had the pleasure of reading through 893: A Daughter of the Yakuza, by Dr. Robert Cunningham; Silence, by Shusaku Endo; and Shiokari Pass, by Ayako Miura (yes, I know, I know, they’re all about Japan). While all three are great reads in their own rights, Shiokari Pass had a particularly unexpected impact upon my life and my perspective after completing it. I won’t get into detail, as you should go ahead and read the book if you’re interested, but one of the major themes I gathered from it was this: Christianity is at its most fundamental level, counter-cultural.

Particularly in the context of Japan, where else are you going to here themes that clearly drive against the “common sense” of self preservation? The world says, “Love your friends, but seek revenge against your enemies” (Donald Trump is famous for admonishing people to get pre-nuptial agreements and, more importantly, “Get even!”), but the Bible says to pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). The world says, “Everything ultimately boils down to self-interest, even philanthropy,” but the Bible says that the truest for of love is to die for another (John 15:13).

In the Western world, where Christian principles permeate every facet of everyday life, it is easy to forget that Christianity is, in all truth, extremely controversial in its lack of emphasis on self-preservation.

It is because of Shiokari Pass that I had this process of thought reignited within me, and thus, my frame of reference for everything I intake. So, speaking of intake, how does this fit into the anime I’m watching this season?

parasyte 2a Read the rest of this entry

The Power of Kindness in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was one of those shows I was a little unsure about watching. I mean, I watch anime, play video games, cosplay, go to conventions, etc. but…My Little Pony…Really? REALLY?

I didn’t get into the show until after one year at Anime Weekend Atlanta. We were hanging out watching all of the formal cosplays go into the gala. While we were watching, I really and truly saw some of the most breathtaking My Little Pony cosplays. There is so much creativity in the Brony community. It really impressed me and made me curious about the show.

After the con, I watched all three seasons that were available on Netflix and LOVED it. The writing was pretty good, the characters were so likable, and the show did a good job of telling an interesting story without having a whole lot of drama. It was refreshing and encouraging to watch a well done show where characters were building each other up instead of tearing each other down for entertainment value. The show is so positive without feeling forced or fake.

The pony I admire most in the show is Fluttershy.

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She represents kindness in the elements of harmony. I think I am so drawn to her because she has so many qualities key to Christianity that I personally wish would come easier to me. She is patient, understanding, merciful, compassionate and, of course, kind.

Read the rest of this entry

The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, Ep. 6-7: Too Great Expectations?

In the two most recent episodes of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, the focus shifts back to the main trio of Uzuki, Rin, and Mio as they work on their CD debut and prepare for a mini-concert to promote their new CD. Mio is particularly excited about their upcoming concert: she invites all her friends at school and tells them that they should get to the concert site early so they can get good spots. When the concert site turns out to be a stage at a shopping mall, she is worried that all the noise from their concert would disrupt the nearby stores.

Then the actual performance happens, and it turns out to really be just a mall performance: the type of relatively small-scale performance that catches the attention of passersby but does not draw huge crowds or large cheers. And after the concert, there seems to be a look of disappointment on her face, even though as far as we could tell, her performance went off smoothly. (The fact that all her friends were there to cheer for her only made things worse.) As it turns out, she was expecting a major concert, similar to the one she participated in as a backup dancer with established idol Mika earlier in the series. Faced with the reality of her modest debut, compounded with the embarrassment of knowing her friends had been there, she says she wants to quit being an idol.

Not to mention all the broken-glass imagery in the following episode...

What’s a Cinderella-themed story without obvious Cinderella-themed imagery?

As much as Mio’s expectations and disappointment are just typical teenager naïvete, I can relate to her feelings, particularly from a perspective of Christian evangelism. Several Christians hear about how God is all-powerful and ready to bring about a great revival, inspiring us to have faith in God to do big things. However, even though God can do big things, reality is oftentimes a lot more modest than we might otherwise expect. In my case, I help out with my church’s young adult ministry. As our church is relatively new–the young adult ministry even more so–we decided to start up a special monthly service on a university campus. Our goal was to reach out to as many of the students there as we could; a group of us even went the day before to hand out flyers. We handed out over a hundred flyers, in the hopes that a decent portion of those people would stop by for a look.

The next day, the people at the service consisted mostly of existing members of the young adult group, with the number of new people from the university around five or so.

This can definitely seem like a disappointing result; at the very least, it certainly was not the great revival we are told God is capable of. This is just one example of a situation that many Christians can find themselves in when evangelizing, expecting something great but finding results far below our expectations. And while one solution is to simply lower our expectations, for Christians, lowering expectations can feel like saying that God is not capable of great things, when we know He certainly is. So how can we deal with this disappointment? Read the rest of this entry

Fact Check: Mikasa’s Cruel World

Anime is full of references to religion, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality.  And that’s the idea behind this column, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.

The Claim

Today’s claim comes from Mikasa Ackerman during a flashback scene in episode six of Attack on Titan, “The World She Saw.”  Perhaps the most famous quote from the popular series (well, except for Levi’s interesting remark about trees), these words arise during Mikasa’s fight for survival against a band of bandits when she was young:

The world is cruel, but also very beautiful.

The claim is very straightforward: this world is both painful and stunning.

snk 2a

Fact Check

Attack on Titan is sometimes difficult to follow, partially because we’re introduced to so many significant characters early on and are encouraged to root for them without getting to know them.  Among the main characters, the Shiganshina trio – Eren, Mikasa, and Armin – it’s Mikasa that we know least about in the first half of season one.  Not until episode six do we learn her back story.

Read the rest of this entry

Shirobako, Episode 19: Straight into the Future

I can’t remember the last time I watched a series that was as consistently excellent as Shirobako.  I’ve not been let down by any episode – they’re all terrific.  But this week, we might have gotten something a little better, a little more special.  There’s some Shirobako-style fanservice in episode 19, in the image of a young Marukawa, Sugie, and Ookura; the return of Yano; and new relationship dynamics, like that between Yano and Hiraoka.

More significantly, we finally get a breakthrough moment for our main character, Miyamori.  Though honestly, I was a little confused, as I wasn’t sure what the series was trying to tell us about career fulfillment for Miyamori.  Is it that if you go full steam ahead, you’ll find your dream?  Or is it that the dream is in the here and now?  Or maybe it’s that if you find something you love, like how Miyamori feels about anime because of her connections to it, you’ll learn to love it?

For someone like me, who’s already established in a career, another lesson was most striking: when things are difficult, and you don’t know the way – in the big picture or in the small – there is a reason, and as you make wise decisions, there is a good end in sight, even if you don’t know what that good end is.

shirobako 19b

Read the rest of this entry

Your Lie in April, Episode 18: The Love You Take…

Typical shonen series build up a protagonist until he is able to overcome an obstacle, at which point he may be able to save everyone, often at great risk and sacrifice.  Even though friends and mentors help along the way, the hero always has something within him, and it’s ultimately through determination, skill, and talent that he brings out his true potential.  But in Your Lie in April, the formula isn’t quite the same.  Kaori Miyazono is no mere helper along the way – she is the grace that instead of bringing out the best in Kousei Arima, changes him forever.  It’s not the inner Kousei that comes out – he’s a new person entirely.

In episode 18, Kousei and Nagi perform their duet for the world to hear, and more importantly in the case of Kousei, for Kaori to witness.  When he confronts Kaori later, she tearfully has to admit that he’s done what she had closed her heart to – that he brought warmth back into her life and again made her dreams come alive.

april 18a Read the rest of this entry

Five Reasons to Give up Anime for Lent

Today marks to beginning of the Lenten Season.  Although I’m not Catholic, and have never observed the tradition of giving up a vice or practice for Lent, I certainly understand that this custom holds significance for many (Medieval Otaku, one of our newest writers, could certainly tell you more).  There’s also an increasing trend of Protestants practicing this custom, including a number of college folks at my own church.  And on social media, a quick search reveals the idea of many perhaps giving up anime for Lent.

lent 2

Although mostly tongue in cheek, I would be surprised if many Christians weren’t sincerely thinking of doing so, especially in light of how common media and social media fasts have become.  And although we aren’t separatist in our beliefs here, instead really focusing on all the good there is to be seen in anime, both on a surface level and on a deeper, thematic level, there could be very good reason to dump anime for the next 40 days.  Here are five reasons why you might consider doing so:

1. You Feel Convicted To

Sometimes we’re compelled to take action on things in our life, often without strong rhyme or reason.  It could certainly be that the voice you’re hearing isn’t a simple back and forth in your head, but rather the Holy Spirit convicting you to do something.  Or perhaps a trusted peer had suggested to you that it might be a good idea to let anime go until Easter. Although prayer discernment is always recommended, conviction certainly plays a role in a Christian’s decision-making. Read the rest of this entry

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