A year ago, I wrote about how God’s love could be compared to that of a yandere. This year I’d like to make another kind of comparison on the topic of love, but instead of focusing on God, I want to focus on Christians and our love for God. Our love for God is, or at least should be, the greatest emotion we can possibly offer. It is a love which drives us to worship Him, follow Him, strive to be like Him, and serve Him. Anime loves to depict similarly idealistic characters – from the main character who always has to help others to the school idol who is loved by the entire school to the deredere archetype that is just helplessly in love with another. Anime, and people in general, love the idea of love.
But in real life, these ideals often fall apart. Especially in Japan, people who reflect even a fraction of such ideals are hard to come by. It is a sad irony in that although Japanese people can be so friendly on the surface, their hearts are so disconnected from each other. But while they may fail to emulate the type of godly, unconditional love which Christians (should) have, that doesn’t mean similarities don’t exist. And while rare, such a type of love is something which the Japanese are drawn to.
Nowhere have I seen this more than among the Nana Mizuki fandom. Perhaps my view is skewed since, well, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to any other fandom, and as a whole, the otaku culture in Japan has a fascinating difference in lifestyle compared to most other Japanese (but that’s a different topic for a similar phenomenon). In my short time in Japan, with moderate interaction with other Nana fans, I have come to feel that the love fans feel for Nana is similar to the love Christians have for God. Of course, I’d be the first to admit the numerous reasons why it’s an imperfect parallel, but compared to other Japanese people, and even compared to other fan bases, there is something here that reminds me of Christian love, and there is something about Nana that draws people to her in ways that remind me of how people are drawn to God.
Truth be told, this week’s post was intended to be the last regular column of Something More. I felt that especially with an umber of the writers we feature here having recently joined our site, the column had outlived its usefulness. That was still my thought this morning, until I realized just how many spirituality-related articles were posted in the aniblogosphere this week. And so, we continue forward, though it should be noted that Something More may post on more a biweekly schedule from this point forward.
And now, onto this week’s articles!
At Katsucon this weekend? Then you’ll no doubt want to check out Charles Dunbar’s panels on Japan and religion. [Study of Anime]
If you’ve noticed the religious allusions in Death Parade, you’re not the only one – it’s chock full of Buddhist, Shinto, and especially Hindu imagery, and may also have something to tell us in alignment with the last of those three religious philosophies. [Isn’t it Electrifying?]
The first episode of Super Sonico demonstrates to us how fanservice can reveal adulterous desires. [Old Line Elephant]
The concepts of sin and repentance surprisingly find themselves instilled in an ecchi game, Criminal Girls, Invite Only. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
She’ll spend an upcoming post on religion, but even this week’s post regarding queerness, the first in a series on Kill la Kill, makes some mention of Christian imagery and ideas. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]
The wolves in Wolf’s Rain seek a literal paradise, but is that what they need? And how does that compare to what otaku seek? [Black Strawberry]
Episode 3 of KanColle demonstrates to us a principle recorded in the Book of James: tomorrow is not guaranteed. [Geeks Under Grace]
Could a solution to the way women are represented in games be found in the understanding of sinful nature? 
Adam Ledford completes his series on the history of Christianity in Japan by discussing the Shimabara Rebellion and the faith in Japan following the failed rebellion. [Tofugu]
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.
Could this be called a world report version of Something More? This week, we have stories from Japan, of course, but also from Indonesia and, why not, we can say that a KonColle article is international, too! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
In Indonesia, Muslim otaku reconcile their faith and anime, perhaps surprisingly even accepting fujoshi members among them. [The Indonesian Anime Times]
Arima’s feelings about his mother in Your Lie in April bring to mind how Christians have the presence of Christ within them. [Geeks Under Grace]
Christians, too, should carry one another’s burdens, as the girls do in KanColle. [Christian Anime Review]
Look who joined Beneath the Tangles! Medieval Otaku will bring his unique perspective here, while continuing the work on his own excellent site. [Medieval Otaku]
And finally, though not directly anime related, suburbanbanshee has a number of interesting posts this week regarding religion in Japan:
- Japanese Docetism Central [Aliens in This World]
- Japan’s Meiji Period Persecution of Buddhists 
- Someone is Killing the Shinto Trees of Japan 
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. Thank you to Lauren Orsini, whose Otaku Links column provided me with the story about otaku in Indonesia.
Durarara!! is an anime that started airing in 2010. It takes place in a major part of Tokyo called Ikebukuro. To give you an idea about the show’s feel, think of a classical Chinese style epic taking place in a massive modern metropolis. The show focuses on three main characters, but also includes a plethora of minor characters that help move the story forward. This combination of characters help create a structure that allows you to have a better grasp of the three protagonists individual and collective stories.
Although our focus will almost certainly always be anime, we hope to also delve into other Japanese media here on Beneath the Tangles, such as manga and visual novels. To that end, we’re happy to have gaming blogger Michael of Gaming and God guest for us today, as he jumps into a popular JRPG.
If you’re into JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), then you need to check out the Tales Of series. They have been making titles for decades, and one of their more recent games (as of this writing) is Tales Of Xillia. The word that comes after “Tales Of” often has nothing to do with the game, so don’t pay it any mind.
Xillia is a game changer in the series. From the story to the battle sequences, it is a game that’s hard to put down! I spent hours at a time playing through this masterpiece, especially enjoying the interaction the characters have with each other.
Character development is always a strong characteristic of most Tales games. The fact that we get to see anime cut scenes (few and far between but they are there) and a lot of voiced over dialogue really helps to connect with them. Instead of reading tons of text, you are treated to many optional conversations throughout the game play and you can see the unique personality of each character come to life. It’s enjoyable to see the two main characters, Jude and Milla, going back and forth with each other. Read the rest of this entry
Happy New Year, all! To kick off the year, Kaze and our other writers would like to invite you to join us in a live streaming event. We want to converse with you, our readers, and so we’ll be taking questions and otherwise discussing whatever is on your mind – anime, manga, religion, or anything else. We hope you’ll join us starting at 8:00 PM ET tomorrow, Friday the 2nd, on Ustream.
We recommend you head over to Ustream and register now, so that you’ll be able to better interact with us and so that you’ll receive a notification for each of our events.
See you tomorrow on our Ustream channel!
Anime Expo is always a crowded, good time, filled with fun events, including the Masquerade, a competition featuring choreographed, costumed performances. Beforehand, groups are able to play a short introductory video. For one group, cosplaying as Magi, that video gave them an opportunity to showcase their message:
You are loved just as you are.
Based in Orange County, the group, Jesus Otaku, focuses on “creatively modeling the love of Jesus to bring otaku and the church together.” Sssociated with Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren, Jesus Otaku is an active group of about 15 members who cosplay and attend area conventions where they purpose to let anime fans know just what they expressed in that video – that they are loved just as they are.
Jesus Otaku was co-founded by Jonathan and Cecilia, each impressed upon by God to start a ministry for otaku. Emphasizing Saddleback’s church planting (including a church in Tokyo), the idea for such a ministry had been in Cecilia’s mind for years, though everything came together when Jonathan returned from a mission trip and independently announced his ideas for something similar. And from there, a ministry was born.
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.
As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.
While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.
As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.
In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.