What is is that most of us live for? It certainly varies from person to person, but if we dig down and analyze our habits, thoughts, and actions, a few items might arise – family, job, faith, money, comfort, and entertainment. For otaku, entertainment may be at or near the top of the list. We don’t just enjoy anime – we revel in it.
For Christians, this can be especially problematic. A conservative approach to anime would deem the entire form as something evil and immoral. Rob of Christian Anime Review recently tweeted me the video below, in which a pastor discusses various nerdy entertainment, including anime, and how these forms influence us. I don’t disagree with all he has to say.
Of course, the viewpoint of the writers on this blog is that there are a lot of fundamental truths that we can mine out of anime – ideas that capture the most significant tenets of Christian faith and impress them in such a way that might move us, encourage us to explore, and even transform us. And on simpler level, we approach anime simply as fans watching an art form, while hopefully using sound judgment as to what we should avoid.
Still, it’s not that simple. Anime is a medium developed in a very non-Christian country, inherently presenting challenges to Christian viewers. Among them are how the characters are drawn and depicted. For me, the one of the two most uncomfortable questions you could ask me (because they perhaps point out my hypocrisy!) is “Are you okay with how anime depicts minors?”*
I would hazard to say that most anime fans would agree with me when I say it’s despicable and harmful to present very young characters in sexual situations (though anime loves to get around this by presenting age-old characters in kids’ bodies**). But what of teenagers and pre-adolescents? They’re underage, too, after all, and they are frequently depicted in fanservice-y ways, sometimes for comic relief, but often for the viewer’s pleasure in less virtuous ways.
This week, Japan finally succumbed to pressure and outlawed possession of child pornography. No kudos to the country for taking so long in doing so, though perhaps this will help change the culture a bit in a positive direction. But of note is that anime, manga, and light novels can still operate as they are. I’m sure many an anime fan breathed a sigh of relief at this exception.
But what should Christians think? And not just of this development, but how we respond to the depiction of underage individuals in anime? Do we believe in the whole 2D is 2D and 3D is 3D, and the earlier cannot harm the latter? Certainly that’s among the questions that have been asked and will continue to be.
I recently re-watched Oretachi ni Tsubasa ha Nai with some friends. The first time I watched, I was impressed with it, but the second time, I could really appreciate just how amazing this anime is at times. So why have so few people seen it, even fewer people enjoyed it, and even fewer recommend it? Well, because it’s an anime that’s pretty bad at first glance. And second glance, and third glance. In fact, you could watch half the episodes and still think it’s absolute trash, and for good reason. This show is filled with fan service and not just your normal amounts of fan service, but levels that make you forget there is any semblance of plot.
Wait, what plot?
If there was plot, then maybe people would put up with the absurd amounts of fan service, but a show with no plot and pure service is bound to only attract a certain kind of audience. Indeed, its reputation is overall quite negative, and I honestly can’t deny it.
OreTsuba follows the lives of 3 different male protagonists and divides the screen time between them. While slowly showing their daily lives with multiple girls, you get all kinds of fan service from panty shots to half naked girls, and an extra side of obscene sexual jokes. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is quite random and other than even more random asides that make little sense, there is little hint of any logical plot. It goes so far as to even have sex. Magic forest sex, in fact. There are no dolphins here. But don’t worry; you’ll drop it before then. Truly this show takes fan service to a whole new level (granted, it wouldn’t be the first to do so) and thus you get a show which would never be worth your time, in addition to just having content that can leave you feeling anywhere from annoyed to disgusted, depending on your tolerance.
And yet despite the obscene levels of fan service and sexual tendencies, despite the initial lack of any logical plot, despite everything that would stop someone from continuing to watch, OreTsuba, at its core, is one of the best storyboarded anime in recent times and one of the most impressive VN to anime adaptations. I can’t say anything without spoiling it, but after that second watch, I could really see how much thought was put into making this anime, and it was incredibly well done. There are a surprising number of relevant things that you would normally never notice amidst the cesspool of content and to see it all slowly come together in a way that is truly extraordinarily done made the watch worth it, at least for me.
Two weeks ago on his Answerman column, Brian Hanson posted responses to a question he posed a week prior:
Has a particular title ever gone ‘too far’ in terms of its content for you?
I immediately thought, ELFEN LIED!, and wrote a response that didn’t make it in (though thankfully, someone else mentioned that irredeemable [or is it?] series).
But what about you, readers?
What anime or manga “crossed the line” for you? Why was the content too much for you?
Something More: Pornoviolence in Sword Art Online, Mythology of Tsuritama, and the Kingdom of iDOLM@STER
Nick describes the conflicting issues of pornoviolence in our beloved games and anime, and points to a specific example in this past week’s episode of Sword Art Online. [A Rather Silly Blog]
Click writes about his adoration of mythology and how Tsuritama is a modern take on the Japanese myth of Ryūjin, the water dragon. [Pretense with Glasses]
Omo compares iDOLM@STER and his growing interest in the franchise to Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. [omonomono]
Shinmaru dives into The Laws of Eternity, a Happy Science anime, for a 12 Days of Christmas post. [The Cart Driver]
As part of the Something More series of posts (formerly Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere), 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.
Truthfully, I find it hard to write about a series like Medaka Box. From even before it aired, one could already tell this anime was going to cater to fanservice. Yet, this series first caught my eye with its sharp and flamboyant art style, as well as the fact the manga was written, though not drawn, by light novel author Nisio Isin (Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari), so I decided to give it at least a first episode watch; maybe it would have an okay story.
Now, I avoid excessive sexual fanservice like the plague. I’ve never seen any worth in it at all, nor in any of the series that use it to attract fans. Yet, Medaka Box didn’t annoy me, despite having more than a little sexual fanservice (that was caused by the main character, as you can probably judge from her picture). In fact, even in spite of this, I found the main character quite interesting and rather noble.
Medaka Kurokami, of course, is our main character. She definitely has a enough huge presence to be a main character, as well as the fact she’s….well, she’s made out to be perfect. I recall reading a blog post about halfway through the series airing, complaining about Medaka being such a perfect Mary Sue character. And in truth, she is painted in that light.
Not only is she the student council president, but she is talented in EVERYTHING it seems, from martial arts to swimming, to having the perfect body and perfect personality.
Actually, her personality is what is the most interesting. It’s seemingly impenertrable. Nothing can phase her with her through the roof self esteem and she’s outgoing towards everyone.
Yet, while the show does appear to be all about her, it’s really about how everyone is affected/changed by her. Read the rest of this entry
I avoided watching Code Geass for a long time, partly because I am picky about character design in anime (I happen to like my characters to be somewhat under eight feet tall), and partly because I had watched two episodes without beginning to care about any of the characters. In the end, two things made me change my mind. One came from the preparations I made before creating my anime fanart group at deviantART, in which I learned that Lelouch Lamperouge ranked third in the Anime-Planet poll for character all-time popularity (an influx of votes for Kakashi-sensei has since lowered Lelouch to fourth place). Granted this is not the most scientific poll in the world (nor does it claim to be), but when over twenty thousand named characters got ranked in that poll, scoring so high must mean something.
The other reason I gave Code Geass a second chance was TWWK’s earlier post on this series, in which he was clearly quite exercised, even appalled, at the violence later on in the series. I couldn’t help being curious about the show that elicited this response from him. Of course, since TWWK wrote this essay with a backdrop of real violence happening too close to home, and since he didn’t know Code Geass would go in that direction whereas his post gave me the benefit of being prepared for it, there was no possible way I could react as he did. Still, I am holding off watching the last two episodes in the first season, so as to put myself in as similar a position as possible to TWWK’s when he wrote his post.
(SPOILER WARNINGS for Code Geass, Death Note, and Steins;Gate below!)
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Crown Shuu with Crowns and Song, Fan Service in Church, and Rick Santorum Talks Boku no Pico
I grew up singing “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” but never a version like this! The multi-talented Emily of Altair and Vega sings Draggle’s reworked lyrics to the hymn, conveying events in Guilty Crown episode 19 that paint Shuu as a Jesus figure. [Draggle's Anime Blog]
Abilene Christian University professor, Richard Beck, discusses what might be viewed as fan service in the church. [Experimental Theology]:
Because it seems to me that a lot of churches are so beholden to American consumerism that they are almost wholly given over to fan service, if only to attract the ‘spiritual shopper.’
Inushinde pokes a little fun at Rick Santorum and his opinions on homosexuality through a satirical piece involving the presidential candidate and Boku no Pico. [Shinde Iie Anime Blog]
Jay gets a deal on Haibane Renmei and finds the show to be full of interesting commentary on sin. [Jays' Tee Vee]
On his personal blog, our own Zeroe4 completes his “Last Requiem” series regarding death, briefly referencing Eden of the East. [Zeroe4]
Jordan reviews the Jesus anime film, “My Last Day.” [The Otaku HQ]
And finally, though I’ve largely avoided discussion of Asura’s Wrath on this blog, I found Marlon Votta’s article about the game and it’s detractors (on religious grounds) to be interesting and worth mentioning. [INENTERTAINMENT]
As part of the Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere 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. Special thanks this week go out to Draggle, who tweeted me about Professor Beck’s post.
The only show this season which I was looking forward to with great anticipation was Nisemonogatari. It hasn’t disappointed so far, revisiting old friends and hooking us with wonderful wordplay and dialogue, not to mention the amazing direction and music.
But while watching episode 2, I became very uncomfortable for obvious reasons – it was so ecchi. I didn’t remember Bakemonogatari containing so much sexual charge, though I know it certainly had more than most shows I’ve seen. As I looked through others’ posts, I realized that this particular episode was heavy in this content (here, here, here, here, and here, among other places). I will say that it really wasn’t so fanservice in nature, as Akiyuki Shinbo was resourceful in using eroticism as part of the story.
I have a feeling this episode was especially intended to be heavy in ecchi content and possibly (hopefully – at least for me) the high point of it in the series. But really, besides being bothered by the innuendos and skin (which I avoid, honestly, because I find it appealing – I want to avoid it for my relationship with my wife and with God), the other thought which came to my mind was this – Araragi is far stronger than most real life males. He finds himself in several tempting situations with attractive girls, but besides some playful words (and glances?) he stays completely and utterly faithful to Senjogahara. Read the rest of this entry
Itsudatte My Santa!
Original Video Animation, Episode 1
- The OVA is focused entirely on Christmas, so seasonal items and such are plentiful, including Santas, decorations, a reindeer (named Pedro), and…fanservice?
The true meaning of Christmas is…
Celebrating the birth of Jesus – really! Mai and Santa say as much in the OVA. Shocking, but nice to hear in what’s a short and touching scene in which Mai says people are celebrating for the depressed Santa, as well. Of course, that’s just a short interlude between the overall theme, which is that it’s about happiness (not bad) and a magic, genie-like Santa that, in effect, takes the place of God (not quite on the dot). For all the corniness (a requirement for Christmas shows, I believe), badness (the show was pretty poorly received) and just plain wrongness (don’t get me started on Mai’s inflating breasts), the quiet moments of touching dialogue stand out and mark why Ken Akamatsu has gained a legion of fans (including me) and why he does Christmas like few others.
Conditions in Tokyo Jupiter…unknown.
Everybody and their momma has been commenting on episode four of Ore no Imoto ga Konna ni Kawaii wake ga Nai (OreImo), with many making judgment that the series is now becoming what everyone thought it would become. Some like where it’s headed (Seanver has been tweeting all day about it). Others, not so much. A number of bloggers and others have commented on Kyousuke’s irrational subservient attitude. Some see the grope scene as more a blip on the radar of gooey goodness. Shin felt the episode was misogynistic.
For me, I’m still enjoying it. Is there a hypocrisy between my faith and enjoying this series? Perhaps – I’ve been known to be a hyprocrite. I have a line drawn in the sand…but as with many lines, it’s subject to shifting with the wind and it’s not clear exactly where that line is. With each week, OreImo draws closer to the line, but it’s still far away.
Here are my thoughts on that “boy falls on girl and gropes her” scene and on the possibly impending siscon relationship in the series: Read the rest of this entry