I’m often asked to give recommendations for anime I think people should watch. While that’s a simple request, the answer is maybe a little more complicated for myself and our writers at Beneath the Tangles. We have series that we think are beneficial for our readers to watch; those that are both beneficial and entertaining; and series that are fun, but not necessarily ones we’d recommend because we’d consider them “morally gray.” This final group of anime are comprised of shows you generally wouldn’t see us discuss here and that many of writers might avoid because of excessive fanservice, nihilistic themes, graphic violence, themes that don’t jive with our beliefs, etc. Still, there’s still value in many of these shows, and they might be worth the watch, which is why we’ll be giving our top five lists of morally gray anime today. But, of course, viewer beware.
We’re blessed to have iblessall joining us as our guest today. You know him from Mage in the Barrel, a wonderful and very active anime blog. I highly encourage you check it out – and perhaps very germane to our discussion today, click over and see iblessall’s critique of Maria the Virgin Witch.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo
- White Album 2
- Junketsu no Maria
- Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere
For me, making a decision on whether or not to recommend a show to someone usually comes down to one particular question: do the good things about this show outweigh the bad to make it worth watching? In truth, I’m not sure any of the shows on this list are conclusively among those whose troubling elements override the good pieces (most shows like that I never even bothered to finish), but all of them certainly exist much closer to the line than my favorites do. Anyone familiar with the first two titles on my list should understand why they’re there, but the final three merit a bit more explanation. White Album 2’s ending troubles me a great deal because, although the story as a whole functions a cautionary tale, the lack of offered alternatives or even the faintest hint of possible reconciliation makes the show feel incredibly nihilistic and hopeless to me. Junketsu no Maria (on which I’ve written elsewhere and will write again) worries me with both its portrayal of Catholicism and its dangerously simplistic morality, traits that sadly compromise the quality of its likable cast. Finally, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere boasts mostly boilerplate ecchi, but it’s so copious and so egregious that I always have to pause before recommending.
- Oretachi Tsubasa wa Nai
- Monogatari Series
- Perfect Blue
- Shokugeki no Souma
OreTsuba is one anime I will always praise and never recommend. It’s less grey and more black, with an obscene amount of fan service, especially the uncensored version. But the storyboarding? Top notch. This is an amazing example of a really well adapted VN. The Monogatari series is perhaps plenty infamous already, but between fan service, toothbrushes, and the like, it’s tough to rec this to others. Morally grey aside, it is also extremely conversation based, and relies heavily on Japanese culture and language puns, making it even harder to rec. Baccano has a different kind of problem, with it being overall a very violent show, which some Christians may have problems with, but I rate the show very highly. Perfect Blue, like many works by Satoshi Kon, is wonderfully directed, but the content is most definitely mature and has a couple disturbing scenes. The last one you might notice only just started airing, so I might be jumping the gun, but I thoroughly enjoy the Shokugeki no Souma manga and consider to be a surprisingly well done shounen. But that fan service is really extreme. Read the rest of this entry
Code Geass is in my book a classic anime. Not classic in the sense it is old, but classic in the sense that it was popular and at the same time polarized the people watching it. I loved the show. This was the first anime that I was ever hooked on, and it quickly became one of my favorites. Never before had I seen such a complex story mixed with beautiful and intense design. To this day, I love how the main characters and their relationship pushed and at times pulled the story along. Nothing felt wasted, nothing seemed to fanciful.
Code Geass starts in an alternate world. In this world, the Roman Empire failed in their conquest of The British Isles. This was because of mysterious powers known as Geass. Our story takes place at what would be modern day Tokyo. Britainia has conquered the Americas and is now based out of the USA (only it never became the USA.) About seven years before this story, Britania invades Japan and colonizes it and re-names it Area 11. However, in the past a Prince and Princess of Britania were traded to Japan and become stranded after the war. They are known to be dead, but aren’t really. They are in hiding. The prince, Lelouch, gains the power of Geass and thus begins his war of vengeance against Britania. His every move though is checked by his old friend and bitter rival Suzaku, who is fighting to change the system from the inside. What ensues is basically Death Note fused together with Gundam 00.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann literally means, “Pierce the heavens, Gurren Lagann.” This strange title is used as a common phrase to inspire and build up the main protagonist of the series, Simon. If you haven’t realised by now, I love it when an anime series breaks off the norm and the stereotypical and does something new. Gurren Lagann does this, while paying homage to old school mecha anime and even traveling through different generations of mecha anime. It does this without even telling you in the process.
The true genius of the show comes not from the reflections of past series of the genre, but rather the emotional tie that the audience develops with the characters. In the beginning, we are introduced to Kamina and Simon, who live in a small underground city that has forgotten about the surface of the earth. This episode introduces these two characters as well as the setting. The second episode throws you into the constant struggle above ground and the struggles as Simon tries to live up to Kamina’s expectations. From the end of the second episode, you are either into the show or aren’t. The slow increase in plot does not last long. If you make it past the painful tribute to fan-service that is episode 6, you will not be able to drop the show as episode 7 catapults you at full speed into the spiraling depths of emotion from which you cannot return. At this point you will love the show or will hate the very thought of it’s existence. In most of my experience, the first is more often the case. Read the rest of this entry
Today marks to beginning of the Lenten Season. Although I’m not Catholic, and have never observed the tradition of giving up a vice or practice for Lent, I certainly understand that this custom holds significance for many (Medieval Otaku, one of our newest writers, could certainly tell you more). There’s also an increasing trend of Protestants practicing this custom, including a number of college folks at my own church. And on social media, a quick search reveals the idea of many perhaps giving up anime for Lent.
Although mostly tongue in cheek, I would be surprised if many Christians weren’t sincerely thinking of doing so, especially in light of how common media and social media fasts have become. And although we aren’t separatist in our beliefs here, instead really focusing on all the good there is to be seen in anime, both on a surface level and on a deeper, thematic level, there could be very good reason to dump anime for the next 40 days. Here are five reasons why you might consider doing so:
1. You Feel Convicted To
Sometimes we’re compelled to take action on things in our life, often without strong rhyme or reason. It could certainly be that the voice you’re hearing isn’t a simple back and forth in your head, but rather the Holy Spirit convicting you to do something. Or perhaps a trusted peer had suggested to you that it might be a good idea to let anime go until Easter. Although prayer discernment is always recommended, conviction certainly plays a role in a Christian’s decision-making. Read the rest of this entry
In our Untangled feature, we answer questions posed to us from our readers. For today’s post, we received the following from Projected Realities:
My heart had been kind of hurting because of Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”… not so much because of what it did to the Biblical story (that much I can deal with and ignore, though Noah ended up being a jerk) but because of how much I really felt like it pushed the limits of its PG-13 rating in ways that I’m really not comfortable with. And I was wondering if any of you guys had ever had to do that with a story, where you otherwise enjoy said story but have to make your “yes or no” opinion of it more complex than it should have had to be, because the sometimes-otherwise-good story includes various pieces of objectionable content that run the risk of making it really offensive.
TWWK: Thanks for the question! As a Christian watching anime, I’m almost exclusively watching series in that category (ha!). Well…maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly sometimes feels that way. Some anime are so objectionable that avoid them entirely, but many walk that fine line. Those are the series where I need to really make a discerning decision – what’s the value of this series? How is it affecting me? Should I continue watching?
We probably all have a lot of anime series that fit this category. And in fact, the movie Noah might fit here for me as well.
Japesland: I actually quite like Noah, and I think many people don’t realize that it gains much inspiration from extra-biblical texts of the same flood account. But considering your sentiments on it, that obviously is not your issue (as you stated). That aside, however, I can definitely empathize with your situation, and I can think of one Scriptural passage with two real life applications of my own.
The passage you probably know all too well is I Corinthians 10, in which Paul addresses the topic of eating meat sacrificed to idols. To some this was sinful, while to others it was not. The deciding factor here was that it was sinful based primarily on their individual reactions and attitudes toward it.
The two shows of this that come to mind in my personal life are Game of Thrones (sorry, not an anime!) and the Monogatari series.
Something More: Spiritual Truths in Your Lie in April, Encouragement of Covenant, and Jeanne D’Arc’s Last Temptation
After our holiday hiatus, Something More has returned! Today’s column features a smattering of wonderful posts from this past week and a few before, as the holidays marked the end of one anime season (and now the beginning of another).
Does the style in which lolita characters, including Taiga and Enju, presented in anime pose spiritual problems for Christians viewers? [Jesus Geek!!!]
Jeanne D’Arc’s temptation in Shingeki no Bahamut–sine dubio reveals lessons about temptation of the virtuous. [Medieval Otaku]
Oz’s treatment toward Gil in Pandora Hearts mirrors that of a different master and servant – Christ and the church. [Old Line Elephant]
Episode 8 of Hi-sCoool! Seha Girls emphasizes a biblical idea little loved in western culture these days – modesty. 
The forming of a “covenant” relationship in the last episode of Encouragement of Climb is very fitting for the series. [A Series of Miracles]
Among other things, Aoi Hana tells Christians a bit about how to treat homosexuals. 
The theme of difficulties in one culture relating to another in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is and important one for churches to note. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]
Takeshi’s view of Kousei as a fallen hero, revealed in episode 11 of Your Lie in April, speaks to us truth about the human condition. [Christian Anime Review]
Takeshi also teaches us about adversity, spritual and otherwise. 
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
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.