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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!]
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.
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.
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.
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