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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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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.

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Halfway In or All In the Genshiken

About six years ago, my wife and I left our church, hoping to find a body of believers that were in a similar life stage as us.  We visited several churches, apprehensively going through the doors on Sundays and trying them out.  It was a strange sensation – and uncomfortable one, as we nitpicked and wondered if these churches were right for us.

The new characters in Genshiken must feel the same awkwardness.  Hato, Yajima, and Yoshitake are trying out the club, and the anxiety they feel (at the least for the latter two) is obvious.  It mirrors Sasahara’s feelings of “Should I join or not?” in the very first episode of the original series.

Genshiken Nidaime 2

Art by えび

The decision for the group is a big one, after all.  This is the circle they’ll be spending time with throughout college.  And in Genshiken and the other circles, you can’t be a background member.  You’ll be spending time with these folks day after day and forging deep bonds with them.  You’ll be preparing for and participating in events and be giving much of your youth to these people and this club.  It’s a heavy commitment.

I wonder if many of us think of church in those terms.  We attend, but are we committed?  Read the rest of this entry

Genshiken: Church for the Broken (Otaku)

I’m so happy that there’s new Genshiken, even if the voices are different (and some are hard to get used to).  Even the Oguie/Sasahara arc was skipped.  Even if I didn’t really like the initial chapters of the Genshiken Nidaime manga.

It still felt like visiting old friends I hadn’t seen in years and not losing a beat.

And of course, there are new characters in the mix:  Yoshitake, the self-admitted “rotten” otaku; Yajima, the frumpy fujoshi; and Hato, the fudanshi who dresses like a woman.  They’re all fun characters and fit right into Genshiken.

Well, I think they do.  The club president, Oguie, isn’t quite sure.  Throughout the episode, we get insights into her worries about what the club is beginning and her trepidations at attracting these three new recruits, none of whom she seems to be particularly high on.

It seems that Ogiue has forgotten her humble beginnings.

Ogiue Chiba Genshiken

Art by マ~さん

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Interview with Voice Actor Vic Mignogna

When I attended A-Kon 24 at the beginning of June, I went in with a mission.  One thing I hoped to do was to sit down with Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire, and talk to him about his profession and his faith.  Thankfully, the helpful staff at A-Kon set up our interview, and we had a chance to speak at length and very plainly about his thoughts regarding a great many things, including the church, the entertainment industry, and the well-known rumors that have spread about him.

vic mignogna a-kon

Vic grew up in a Christian environment – his grandfather was a pastor and his parents were heavily involved at church.  As he puts it, “I literally was born in a pew. ”  At the age of 13, after hearing his youth pastor relay a message about how many who claimed to be Christian would find themselves left out of Heaven, Vic accepted Christ.  He continued to be heavily involved in church, and at one time, led worship at Houston’s First Baptist Church.  When I asked Vic about bad experiences with Christians regarding anime, he referred to his service there:

I got called in one day to a board room in the church and there were five or six people sitting around the table. And one of them said, “Vic, I saw online that you play this character in a show.  You play this teenage boy who’s rebellious, agnostic-atheist young boy, and he does magic and alchemy [Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist].  Now, Vic, we can’t have someone like that on stage at our church. What kind of example are you showing these kids?”

I sat across the table from this man and I started to tear up.  And I said, “You have no idea how many people I’m able to reach for Christ because these kids like my work.”  There are kids – tens of thousands of them – that my pastor will never reach. They will never darken the door of First Baptist Church or any church, but they like Ouran High School, or they like Fullmetal Alchemist, or they like Dragonball Z, and they will listen to me talk and share my faith and share God’s love for them because they like my work.  I sat there and I said, “Are you serious, really?”  First of all, I’m an actor.  It’s a role I’m playing.  It’s not me, and anyone who has have a brain knows that you’re playing a role.  It’s not indicative of who you are.  And number two, my job in anime has opened so many doors for me to get to share my faith with tens of thousands of people who would never otherwise be open to it.  And I was literally removed from leading worship because the powers that be felt that, you know, felt that it was not a good example for someone that was involved with anime and voicing characters like this.

Vic went to to mention another problem the leadership had with him:

They said, “We’ve seen a lot of pictures – drawings of you and your characters on a place called deviantART.  Vic, deviant!  What kind of place is that for a believer, Vic?  Deviant? That’s a bad word.”  I just, I kinda just sat back in my chair and threw my hands up.  I’m like, you 65-year-old guys – you have no idea what you’re talking about!  First of all, I have nothing to do with deviantART.  If some fan wants to draw a picture and put it on deviantART, what does that have to do with me?  That would be like me going into a bookstore, taking a Bible off the Bible rack, and walking over and putting it in the adult book rack.  I mean, just because it’s there doesn’t mean that the Bible has anything to do with the books around it any more than somebody drawing a picture of a character of mine or whatever, putting it on deviantART. There’s nothing wrong with that.  But these guys are so uniformed and some of them – and this is Christianity in general – there is a faction of Christianity that is so steeped in their legalism and their strict rules and regulations and their separatist view of being separate in every way, shape, and form, that they are of no value to the kingdom of God.  They’re not reaching anyone.  In fact, they’re turning people off.  They’re doing exactly the opposite. What did Apostle Paul write? “I am become all things to all me that by all means I might save some.”  That was the goal.  That’s the priority.  Doing whatever you can, with whatever you have, to reach whoever you can.  That’s the goal.  I don’t know where that got lost.  I don’t know at what point and time the church got the impression that God’s main purpose for the church was to build a little wall around itself and throw rocks and people outside the walls, you know what I mean?  And even attack their own.

…there is a faction of Christianity that is so steeped in their legalism and their strict rules and regulations and their separatist view of being separate in every way, shape, and form, that they are of no value to the kingdom of God.

I asked Vic if this experience dampened his own feelings toward the church, and institution he had so intimately been a part of his whole life:

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A-Kon 24: Going to Church

Yesterday, I attended A-Kon for the first time.  It was a wonderful experience, and certainly the best I”ve had at a con.  There were certainly minor issues (and maybe major ones I’m unaware of), but that’s to be expected.  Overall, I had a tremendous time with staff, guests, and attendees.

I tried to reflect a bit on why I enjoyed the con so much.  Certainly, being the largest convention I’ve attended (for the uninitiated, A-Kon is a Dallas metroplex convention and the largest in Texas), there was just a lot of stuff to do.  And I liked being lost in a sea of people and felt comfortable both because of the large crowds and because I noticed a lot of people my age or older.

But another reason for the comfort was simply the people.  I felt that despite age and interest gaps, there was a celebration here that was common.  Charles Dunbar has written on conventions as pilgrimages.  They don’t definitely are, but I additionally felt a church vibe from A-Kon, as well.  At the least, I felt there was a general tone that I hope to see in my own church and that I hope other churches capture as well – a welcoming, loving, inclusive attitude.

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Something More: Giant Christian Robots, Jesus Anime App, and The Curses of Magi and Little Busters

What do mecha tells us about the Christian faith?  Quite a lot, actually. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Ty-chama addresses Old Testament generational curses, and how Little Busters and Magi demonstrate that we can overcome our lots in life. [Watashi wa Bucho!]

Tsunderin points out Hindu allusions in her review of the 3 x 3 Eyes manga. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

“My Last Day,” the anime short about Jesus, is now available through the YouVersion Bible app. [Examiner]

Inushinde discusses the lack of subtlety in the portrayal of the church in episode 9 of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. [The Cart Driver]

D.M. Dutcher includes notes that my be of particular concern to Christians in his review of Venus Versus Virus. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Something More: No One Suspects the Anime Inquisition

Only a couple of religion-tinged aniblog posts this week – come on, blogosphere!  Point out those religious allusions!

Sumairii discusses the church’s accusations (and annoyance with them) in episode 8 of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha [Sushi GoKart]

TWWK (wait…) discusses how his fandom and faith intersect. [Study of Anime]


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. 

Kokoro Connect: Michi Random and How a Body Functions







It felt like a belated Christmas gift to return to anime viewing this week and find that the remaining four episodes of Kokoro Connect had been released.  It was among my favorite series this year, and as you can see above, just grew in my eyes with this additional arc.

Nagase’s suffering, which I found to be more adolescent angst than the others until this point, comes full front in the Michi Random episodes.  When Heartseed makes it so that the emotions (or thoughts) of the characters are transmitted to various members of the group at random (or not quite random?) times, Nagase, whose whole life is fraudulent, breaks.

Nagase Inaba

Art by ものくろあくたー。

Of course, the group is so tightly knit – even more so after their experiences with Heartseed – that they are affected as well.  Nagase’s hurts, as Yui states, are their own, if to a lesser extent: Aoki struggles to find how to comfort Nagase.  “Every bit of [Yui's] heart is exposed” as she is desperate to come out of shell and assist Nagase.  Inaba screams out in her head, “I’m scared! I’m scared!” as she considers disbanding the club.  And Taichi…well, Taichi gets his heart handed to him on a platter.

More than that, the entire school is affected.  This class and others start rumors, people are hurt and, well, more people get hurt, particularly later on in the show.

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The Importance of Unity in Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail is filled with wizards, exaggerated characters and the worst bouts of motion sickness I’ve ever seen, but one aspect of the show I really noticed was the theme of unity. In Fiore, the wizards are split up into guilds that take on jobs. These guilds become strong, tight knit groups that support one another through their lives and hold together with an untouchable unity.

It really made me think about how I need to be treating other Christians. For me, this lesson on unity has been a looong one that God has been teaching and re-teaching over the years. I’m a pretty opinionated person and those opinions have always tended to be pretty rigid. That trait can be good in some situations, but not so much in a situation that requires cooperation, like a church. Read the rest of this entry