Blog Archives

Anime and the Digital Church

More and more, ministries are streaming their services online or making websites where Christians (or people of other faiths) can watch, donate or be a part of the community. Facebook and other social media networks have become the place where hundreds, even thousands, come to share their life, struggles and ask for prayer. Even here at Beneath The Tangles, though it’s not a church or ministry with a pastor, many people read our articles and learn more about our Creator. This may not sound like the typical way church is done*, but it’s a trend that is growing rapidly every year.

There are actually several anime that highlight this format, and the two (there are more!) that I would like to mention are .hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. Each one is about people who log on to a server where they play an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and build community with one another. Each player has an avatar that looks like a person, or sometimes part human and part animal that they can use to talk with each other, fight, and even romance. Each episode shows the dynamics of the game actually start to affect the characters emotions and spill out into the real world.


For example, Kirigaya Kazuto and Yūki Asuna, whose avatars are famously named Kirito and Asuna, fall in love through the playing of the game and become romantically involved in real life. Their digital life affected their real lives, which can be also said for people who were in comas or died because of the game in both series.

.hack//Sign main characters Subaru and Tsukasa deal with real life situations that are sometimes resolved online or vice-versa, plan strategies or literally hack servers to stop people from going into comas induced by the games headgear. They even become very close friends and talk about their IRL (In Real Life) problems and get advice on them as well, just like many of us do online. This not only makes you feel for the character and the player, but often times as you watch the anime you forget that the avatars are being controlled by people outside the game. This can happen to us on social media or games, where we might blend the two aspects together and forget that these are real people we are talking to, not just text.


The .hack//Sign team all together!

Now, being part of a digital community of fellow believers isn’t a bad thing but there will always be that need to physically be a part of a group that share the same faith. Let’s face it, there are things that you would not share online nor are you accountable to anyone either. You can post lots of Christian posts, messages or verses but who is checking up on you when you are alone or going through life? Are you obliged to report to someone or at least have a one-on-one with an admin online?

Not at all. Read the rest of this entry

Digimon Adventure: The Skullgreymon in the Room

I recently watched the Digimon live stream of the entire first season. It was a pretty fun, nostalgic watch, especially reading all the live comments from other fans made for a more interesting experience. I realized several things about Digimon that ran counter to my thoughts based on a mixture of nostalgia, realism, and incorrect memories. I initially recall Digimon being slowly paced, but its pacing is actually pretty darn good. While suffering the syndrome of “monster of the week,” each episode provides necessary growth of the characters (in this case, literal digivolving). When you think about it, they put in 5 arcs into 54 episodes, which made for little downtime.

A fun fact I realized is the battle in the real world takes place in Odaiba, and the famous Tokyo Big Sight is featured several times. Since the time period was also early August, this further meant the battle occurred just prior to summer Comiket! The chat had some fun joking that Digimon was really about saving Comiket. Also, apparently the soundtrack abused Bolero a lot more than I recall. Sometimes it didn’t even make sense to be playing such a song but there it was, playing in the background. Aside from obvious usage of stock footage, I also realized Digimon is quite poorly animated at times. Abrupt scene transitions and points where a couple seconds were very clearly cut indicates that there were some production issues, or possibly simply due to episode time constraints and not caring how bad the results looked. There were numerous places I couldn’t help but admit “yeah, this is some really bad animation quality,” but hey it’s Digimon, one of my most nostalgic childhood shows, so whatever.


One of the most impactful moments in Digimon to me as a child was the digivolution of Greymon into Skullgreymon. Rewatching it was…well a lot less exciting than I recall. Instead, a statement later on is made that I must have forgotten. I recalled Taichi’s forced methods as a cause of Greymon’s incorrect evolution. However, the reason was slightly different in that it was an incorrect display of courage – but technically courage nonetheless. Taichi does display a form of courage, what his crest resembles, but it was one where he purposely put himself in danger for the sake of power. It was not the forceful actions but rather a twisted form of courage which gave birth to Skullgreymon.

Christianity is known for many things today, oftentimes bad things. There are too many outspoken people who call themselves Christians while spewing hate and slander towards others. It is amazing that these people can claim to love Jesus and God while wishing death upon others. It is perhaps an extreme, modern example of the Pharisees, except these people today do not even necessarily hold positions of power or education. They are merely people who put others down to raise themselves up, at least in their own minds. This cannot even be called a twisted form of love – it is malice, plain and simple.

But what about more “normal,” everyday Christians? There are plenty of examples of Christians who don’t condemn others. Some might not be able to help judging, but they do have enough self-control to stop themselves from acting on those thoughts. In fact, some Christians are so inclined to avoid conflict, they won’t even bring up these issues with their fellow Christians. And this avoidance is the opposite problem of condemning people who aren’t Christians. It is a problem that probably crosses the mind of most Christians at some point in time, but very few will actually bring the topic up, perhaps afraid of confrontation. Those who do are often quickly shut down with excuses like “it’s not a big deal.” And I’m not necessarily referring to extreme problems like murder but smaller, everyday sins that, while understandable, are nonetheless wrong.

Allowing such actions by fellow Christians to occur right in front of us might be called a form of love for them – we are willing to accept them despite their flaws, forget their struggles with sin, and focus only on loving them for who they are. But in reality, like Taichi’s twisted form of courage, this is a twisted form of love. Read the rest of this entry

The Tangles Anime Podcast: Episode 10

For episode 10, JP (Japes) will be giving a bit of a commentary on his impressions of life in Japan and what it means for a Christian otaku. The episode takes place on the scene, in the mountains of Kanazawa, Japan, and due to this drastic change in topic and formula, the episode is significantly shorter than usual. Next month’s episode, episode 11, will also feature a different podcast layout, but will include both Charles (TWWK) and JP (Japes). Thanks for listening! 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 – 1:05
Otaku Diet – 1:51
Closer – 33:36

Direct Download

Holy Week 2015: Key Anime and Easter

Easter is kind of a peculiar time of year for Christians.  We celebrate it, dress up in our Sunday finest and…search for Easter eggs.  And although we talk about the commercialization of Christmas, many households across the country have made a concerted effort to at least keep that holiday holy.  Easter, on the other hand, feels almost forced as a holy day and certainly only receives a fraction of the attention that Christmas does, even though it’s our most significant holiday.

To try to keep a focus on the magnitude of the events that transpired during the week leading up to the first Easter, and that Sunday itself, we delve into one specific topic during Holy Week each year and discuss it each on the days leading up Easter.  This year, we’re focusing on a topic many of us on Beneath the Tangles adore – Key anime and visual novels.  As a sort of early kick-off to the week, JP, Sean, and Kaze co-hosted a special, extended edition of “The Tangles” last week exploring Key – I highly encourage you to check it out!


For our posts this week, we’ll be focusing on properties we’ve barely touched in the past. Expect posts on Air and Kanon, but most of all, we’ll be diving into another of Key’s beloved properties – I’ll save that surprise and let Kaze reveal which one on Tuesday.

In the meantime, feel free to check out some of our many past articles on Key, particularly their properties’ anime adaptations.  Here’s a selection of them:

I hope you’ll join us this week, but more importantly, I also hope that you’ll spend time this week meditating on Easter and what it means.  And my challenge to you all is this: as we approach Easter Sunday a week from now – attend a church.  Step into the doors of a sanctuary.  Go see what it’s all about, or go back if you haven’t been for some time.  Perhaps you’ll see what we writers on the blog here know – God is good.

Something More: Your Love in April, Virtuous Violence in Akame ga Kill, and TTGL’s Megachurch

Isn’t it funny that when an anime season near its end, we seem to be less excited about finales the shows we’ve invested in than we are to the slate of new series about to arrive?  Or maybe that’s just me.  But it’s good to focus on the here and now – some of the columns below look at shows that have ended their runs in Japan or in the U.S. on Toonami.

Esdeath of Akame ga Kill reminds us that violence in anime (and life) tells us something very important about human nature, and of a need we all have. [Medieval Otaku]

The final episode of Your Lie in April has a lot to say about godly love. [Christian Anime Review]

The previous episode also demonstrates the idea of how brothers and sisters in Christ should encourage one another. [2]

In his review of Gurren Lagann’s finale, Tommy makes an interesting comparison between a devastating scene and a megachurch. [Anime Bowl]

Are you a fan of the “Ask John” column, like I am? If so, you may be interested in knowing it’s columnist has finished a light novel, which among other things is “steeped in Shinto mythology and includes extensive references to literary tradition and religious iconography along with abundant subtextual thematic depth.” [AnimeNation]

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.

Something More: Good Librarians and the Good Shepherd, SAO Friendship, and Moe Buddhist Girl Figures

A new season of anime is here!  Although it may be too early to judge it, at the very least, there’s a lot of excitement in the air for new shows, with fewer sequels and more originals this season, including one that Frank talks about below in our lead-off article this week:

Frank finds a lesson of how Christians should imitate the Good Shepherd in the opening episode of Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai. [A Series of Miracles]

Rob finds that episode 14 of Sword Art Online provides some insight into friendship from a Christian perspective. [Christian Anime Review]

He also looks at the roles of the church body as he reviews episode six of Sailor Moon Crystal. [2]

D.M. Dutcher calls Canon “an interesting shoujo manga with some Christian-friendly themes.” [Cacao, put down he shovel!]

Casey dives into volume one of the Attack on Titan manga, providing a review that’s helpful for discerning Christians. [Geeks Under Grace]

And finally, I forgot to post a link to this article a few weeks ago, but it’s still worth sharing – the moe temple is now selling figures of moe Buddhist anime girls. Yep. [RocketNews24]

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.

Something More: Yuri for Christians, Religion Inverted, and Dostoyevsky in my Nisemonogatari

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. [2]

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. [2]

He provides another review, as well – this one of Tenchi Muyo: The War on Geminar [3]

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.


Blue Spring Ride, Episode 5: Teamwork

When I was about nine years old, I got lost in the woods.  It was one of the most frightening moments of my life.  Thankfully, I avoided Blair Witch or The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon spookiness and backtracked my way to a lake, and then found my way back to the campsite (where I hadn’t even been missed).  Despite my fear, I ended the day feeling proud of myself, as if I had grown up just a little bit – in episode five of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), the main characters, who also become lost in a forest, can feel the same.

The major theme of this episode is “growing together through adversity.”  Our five leadership students start out by participating in mini-games, getting excited and bonding as they do increasingly well.  Then, as they find themselves lost, the group grows even closer as they work together and compromise in trying to find their way out.

ao haru ride

The truths about teamwork are plentiful in this episode:

  • Teammates help each other.  The idea of participation and support occurs right from the get go, when a hesitant Shuko participates in the fruit juice challenge (even if it’s out of selfish reasons).  Her help in the contest is invaluable.  Later, the teammates support one another in more important situations, as when Ko carries Futuba after her injury and encourages Yuri to cross the stream.
  • Teammates will disagree.  As individual parts of a body, there are bound to be disagreements (and maybe arguments) in a team.  Anything otherwise would more resemble a cult.  But hopefully, these skirmishes can be resolved quickly and beyond that, they might even lead to growth and good decisions.  Note that what could have been a volatile confrontation between the boys gets resolved quickly as no one fingerpoints, and a plan is soon thereafter hatched.
  • Teammates contribute their unique strengths.  Each person on a team brings different skills and talents to the table (literally in the fruit challenge, with Ko’s and Shuko’s tastebuds).  Even Futuba, who laments that she is unable to help, functions as encourager in getting the team going and trying her best even when hurt.

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: The World is Still Beautiful and the Corrupt Church

“Anime” and “Corrupt Church” are two terms that, sad as it is, seem to fit hand-in-hand all too well. Nearly anyone who has seen any substantial amount of the medium can list off at least a handful of examples in which a corrupt church is written to be a primary antagonist (without referencing any outside sources I immediately thought of Spice and Wolf and A Certain Magical Index).

Indeed, this has been a point of contention for Christians looking to get into anime for decades, ever since it gained popularity here in the West. However, I often wonder… has anyone really stopped to consider this “demonization” of organized, Christian-based religion?

This week as I was watching The World is Still Beautiful, watching as this “corrupt church” trope was used yet again, I began to contemplate this question yet again, which further raised two more questions. Why is this setup so popular in Japanese fantasy writing, and how should I feel about it, as a Christian?

The priests are always jerks...

The priests are always jerks…

The answer to the first of these two newly-raised questions is rather simple, actually: it makes for an interesting, easy exposition. First of all, Western history proves that organized religion has a history of corruption, particularly political. Since most good fiction has some root in nonfiction, drawing on the unfortunate reality of historical corruption makes for a story that is relatively easier to write and also of decent quality.

Read the rest of this entry


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