When it comes to Christian allusions, Death Note pulls no punches.
Whether it’s an artistic replication of The Fall of Man by Michelangelo, Light’s literal taking of the forbidden fruit, or the Gregorian choirs, crucifixes, and god-complexes, there’s a bit of Christian influence sprinkled across every chapter (and episode) of the series.
Perhaps the most conspicuous allusion, though, is L himself, whose very name harmonizes with el—the Hebrew word for God in the Old Testament. From his self-created trinity, to his seemingly omniscient and miraculous crime-solving abilities, L has the Christ-figure persona down-pat. Death Note director, Tetsuro Araki, even threw an exclusive foot-washing scene into the anime’s 25th episode, just to ensure that the imagery couldn’t be missed.
In the midst of all these iconic allusions to Christendom, though, there’s a subtle reference to Discipleship that gets lost along the way. It’s a shame, too, since it’s one of the manga’s most poignant representations of Christ’s provision.
During their mission to bring Kira to justice, L and his team of police force detectives hit a snag. Namely, that the main force is pulling all support from the secret operation in response to threats from Kira, and that any officers who wish to continue working alongside L will lose their jobs.
L allows his team to come to their individual decisions.
The catch? It’s a test of loyalty.
A pretty significant anniversary for Beneath the Tangles has come and gone. As of September 12th, this blog is officially five years old! We’ve come a very long way since my first post on the site, as I tried to establish a brand new, unique presence on the web.
I’ve reminisced and reflected on changes for the blog a number of times in the past, so I’ll spare you today. However, I do want to thank our readers, especially those who’ve been with us for months or years, whether you comment or not. Your mere presence is encouraging. We write for you here, as opposed to simply getting our thoughts out for ourselves, so you are absolutely necessary to us.
I also want to encourage those who follow us or support our values and beliefs to consider become a patron of our blog. Any donation would be helpful, though we ask for $2 a month. This small donation is multiplied when added to others and under our careful spending to spread our blog to a larger audience.
Thank you again, and here’s to another five years!
I’m always happy to link to aniblog posts that touch on spirituality, but sometimes this column is just chock full of amazing articles. I hope you’ll dig into the links below – they’re worth your read, starting with Matthew Newman’s post on Hare Kon and marriage.
For those unfamiliar (which included me until I read Matthew’s article), Hare Kon is a manga about a young lady who marries into a polygamous marriage. A really interesting concept, right? The post’s focus in on the marriage ceremony, in which the presiding pastor mentions the following with regret:
…God is weeping. Though God is lenient, He may not recognize this marriage…still times are changing…at least those of us who are here shall approve this.
This idea that the marriage occurring in the church in this manga is municipally-approved, but not necessarily God-approved, reminded me of the idea that Christians often fall into a hypocrisy they don’t realize, saying that God is the authority for all matters while forming a lifestyle that ultimately places a morality they’ve formed as a mix of culture, religion, family, etc. as the backbone of their lives. For instance, many will will protest about gay marriage, but I think for many that’s more a problem with their feelings of disgust toward homosexuality rather than reverence toward God’s word. After all, a state-mandated union is, well, mandated by the state; it doesn’t mean it’s a marriage in God’s eyes (and the same would certainly go for many – perhaps most – “traditional” marriages as well).
If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and is God is who he says he is and you’ve submitted to him as the ultimate king and authority in your life, let the Bible guide you. Dig into it. Treasure it. And study it – don’t let surface level readings determine your theology, but respect the word of God as something dynamic, deep, and multi-faceted that should humble you as you realize that it, and God, are far more complex than you had imagined.
Read Matthew’s thoughts on Hare Kon:
Here are other articles from around the blogosphere:
You’ve heard the theory that My Neighbor Totoro is about death, right? The writers at Lady Geek Girl investigate the claim in detail, looking at how this interpretation relates to the Shinto aspects of the story. [Lady Geek Girl]
We live like we play video games, seeking treasure to store here during our short time on earth. Maybe we should live like Sword Art Online’s Kirito, with a different treasure and different destination in mind. [UEM!]
If you’ll remember, when Pokemon was all the rage, many Christians pastors starting preaching against it as the work of the devil. However, Kelly Bornstedt, who very personally experienced such a sermon, instead finds a lot of Christ-affirming ideas in the franchise. [Geeks Under Grace]
Kiryu’s story in Classroom Crisis brings to mind that of Joseph, the boy with the many-colored coat who would become a commander over Egypt. 
Aniblogger Lazarinth replies to a blogger award with a rant on the silliness of faith (warning: contains foul language). [Fantasy and Anime]
Chagum puts his faith in Balsa to protect him in Moriboto, while we, too, have a guardian – but this once infallible and invincible. [Lady Teresa Christina]
Very initial planning for a “Christian Anime Con” is in the works. [Anime Revolution]
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.
I had a conversation with a college guy from my church this past week. We talked about how important it is to be straight with people inside and outside of the congregation. Too often with the latter, we’re guilty of “playing church,” rather than truly loving our brothers and sisters in Christ with the harshness that love sometimes demands. I think similar things could be said in a lot of different contexts – we would rather skirt around issues than really dive into difficult territory, even as we claim to love those that might be sinking in the troubles of life or in sin. But why would our simple discomfort keep us from loving people to our utmost?
The answer in some situations – and specifically with church – might be that we’re just not convinced enough, either of the truth of the situation, the need someone has, or even of our love for others.
In Charlotte, Nao Tomori is none of these things. She’s convinced a) of the truth that these students with special abilities are in danger; b) that they are in need of assistance only she and her student council members can provide; and c) that despite their faults, none of them deserve to go through what her brother did.
That last point about her brother in the one that certainly seems to be the motivating factor that’s moved her forward. She was a witness of what occurred – maybe not of the experimentation itself, but of what her brother was once like and how he changed afterward. She is utterly convinced of what these scientists are going to do to other students with powers. Nao has no doubt that her rescue attempts must be done. Even when other students assault her because of her bluntness, even when she is almost killed by those she wishes to help, Nao continues to do her work because she must.
Today is the final day of our Patreon Drive. Thank you to those who have supported so far – your contributions have set the stage for greater development at Beneath the Tangles as we seek to deliver stronger content to a wider audience.
Ultimately, our goal here to establish genuine community on the blog – no small feat seeing as we occupy a very niche portion of the aniblogosphere and face head-on the controversial topic of religion. But in the years of this blog, a feeling of community has grown, and I know I see our readers – those visible and those not – as vital parts of our site, making Beneath the Tangles work. It’s through this collective that we’ll be able to move in readers’ lives, using anime as a medium to transform thinking and how we view both what we watch and how we view faith.
If you haven’t given yet, please consider donating – we’re asking for just $2 per month. And thank you for all your support, financial or otherwise!
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.
Dream Eater Merry takes place in the real world and the dream world. The dream world is inhabited by dream demons who come over to the real world by using humans as vessels while they visit the world during their sleep or by opening up a daydream.
Once a dream demon takes a vessel, they cannot return to the dream world and the human cannot be separated from them without dire consequences. This is because dream demons don’t just enter the dreams that humans experience each night but into the dreams they have about their lives, their jobs, their relationships, their future, etc. The dream demon connects to this part of the human and rests in that power.
Do you know the saying, “God works in mysterious ways?” I really felt that to be true a few weeks ago when Casey Covel (Geeks Under Grace) and I started chatting about her taking a role with Beneath the Tangles. What I haven’t told anyone until now was that her work was at the forefront of my mind the days before she reached out to me, and I wondered if I should invite her to join even before we spoke. Coincidence, possibly, but I think of it as something more divinely arranged.
In short, Casey has joined our staff here at Beneath the Tangles, and we are thrilled! Check out our interview below and please welcome her to the community!
TWWK: How did you become a fan of anime and manga?
Casey: Growing up, anime influenced a lot of the media I enjoyed, primarily my video games, many of which had anime-inspired art styles (Fire Emblem, Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Ace Attorney, etc.). I always found the anime art style attractive because it captured… something… that American cartoons did not–emotions, drama, original designs, bold storytelling, and other assorted wonders I couldn’t put a name on back then. When I was a child, I began watching Pokemon, but was quickly told not to by my parents (this was back when churches were cracking down on the Pokemon craze, and my parents were likely being cautious). It wasn’t until several years later that I actually began watching anime again, and to be honest I’m grateful that I waited that long. I believe anime is a beautiful medium of entertainment and art, but I don’t think I was spiritually mature enough to enjoy it until a few years ago.
TWWK: What are your favorite types or genres of anime/manga? How about favorite series?
Casey: I’m a bit of a psychology/philosophy buff, so I particularly enjoy anime that challenges me to think differently or to question my values. Watching anime that asks hard questions or acts as an animated microcosm for a social issue is like consuming a delicious tray of assorted sushi to me. Death Note–despite its storytelling flaws–is my absolute favorite series thus far. I also enjoyed the examination of dark issues in Attack on Titan and the bittersweet, poetic charm of Your Lie in April. Currently, I’m going on adventures with Vash in Trigun… and developing a craving for doughnuts for some reason. Read the rest of this entry
Faith is a funny thing. It seems so easy to keep right up until the moment it is tested. It’s fine and dandy to trust when things are going good and I know exactly what is happening, but I always surprise myself by how quickly that faith can wobble when things get a little tough.
Kotoura goes through something similar with Manabe during one of their summer breaks when she does not know what he is doing. While Kotoura is used to rejection, she is not accustomed to not knowing what’s going on. Her psychic abilities allow her to hear the thoughts of everyone around her as if they were being spoken out loud.
Throughout her life, people have avoided and hated her for expressing their thoughts out loud. Even her parents reject her after her power causes trouble at school and she exposes that each of them is being unfaithful to the other.
The opening theme song in Baby Steps (both this season and last) includes three English words: “Believe in yourself.” Last year, I didn’t pay close attention to those words. In this season, the phrase “Believe in yourself” becomes more important than it did before. It’s a trite phrase, one we often repeat to each other, but I think it’s worth reconsidering, especially as a Christian.
Last season, Maruo Eiichiro started playing tennis because he needed the exercise. By the end of the first 25 episodes, he decided that he loved tennis enough to become a pro player. His parents were a little uncertain about the decision, so he agreed that if he didn’t win the next All Japan Junior tournament, he’d give up the dream and focus on studies. To that end, his coaches arranged for him to train in America for two weeks. Baby Steps 2 begins with his first days at the training facility.
Ei-chan (as his crush and I both prefer to call him) has been playing tennis for less than two years, and he’s already training alongside new pros and players who have been aiming for pro since before he started playing. It’s not easy. As he starts playing against all these excellent players, he settles into a “losing habit” that he can’t seem to break. In the second episode, a young pro, Alex, gives him the advice “believe in yourself.”
Ei-chan’s game starts to improve after his chat with Alex. By the fourth episode, he’s expanded on the advice:
“Believe in myself. I’ve come this far.”
“Believe in myself. And trust my instincts!”
The idea is that his training and talent will yield results if he believes in himself. He’s not totally wrong. If he believes he’ll lose, he probably will. Believing in his ability to win is crucial. But that’s not telling the whole story.
Now, I don’t think Ei-chan has a stupid level of self-confidence; he’s teachable, humble enough to see his need to grow, and can gracefully admit defeat. Still, I think it’s worth it to step back and reconsider the true place of self-confidence in the big picture. Read the rest of this entry
There’s a distinction between a Christian in name only and one in practice. You don’t have to proclaim yourself a Christian to know as much – those outside the faith can see the actions of, say, the Westboro Baptist Church and without much knowledge still firmly state that these folks are not practicing the faith as Jesus taught it. It’s only a skip and a beat to Christian characters in anime, who aren’t there to preach the gospel to a nation that’s 99% non-Christian, but rather to color a series by bringing in a background that might provide for interesting storytelling. And so when you see a priest character, like Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun, you understand as a viewer that this character is probably developed as a Christian in name, not in spirit.
What’s interesting about Trigun, though, is that Wolfwood is saved spiritually in part through the words of an unbelieving plant. And even more surprising is this – that “plant,” Vash the Stampede, is a better example of faith than his seemingly spiritual counterpart.As we delve into the topic of faith, it’s probably a good idea to get a good definition of it. The writer of Hebrews defines it as such:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
– Hebrews 11:1
This definition is significant in a variety of ways. Since many might focus on the idea that we “do not see” when it comes to faith, one could easily make the assumption that having “faith,” in a Christian sense, means that you believe blindly. That’s an easy conclusion to make, but it would be a wrong one. Not being able to see doesn’t mean making irrational jumps based on emotion and upbringing and whatever else leads one blindly to religion – it means trusting in one’s belief even if you can’t see it right now. Even when the road is difficult and you’re in despair, a strong faith will lead you to lean on your belief even when you can’t see it played out in action.