Blog Archives

Blue Spring Ride, Episode 9: Friends and Lovers

As Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) progresses, so, too, do the relationships in the show.  Unlike other series, Ao Haru Ride throws five characters together who are fairly new to each other.  There is some history there, but none of these people have been in any others’ social group before.  We’re getting to see a quick evolution of a group of friends, and for some, a growth into something further.

Much of the continued emphasis in episode nine is on the love triangle between Kou, Futuba, and Yuri.  The familiarity between Kou and Futuba remains, and this worries a jealous Yuri, who thinks that Kou might already be in love with his former crush.  So in turn, Yuri tries to get closer to Kou, and perhaps does in some way, though both Futuba and the audience is left in suspense as to what (and what did not) occur.

But even with an emphasis on romantic relationships, the friendships are still an important part of the plot in this series.  In this episode, Kominato’s deepening friendship with Kou is on full display, as he aggressively defends his friend when some arrogant former classmates of Kou’s harangue him over a perceived lack of intelligence.

Kou Mabuchi and Kominato

Kou is taken aback by Kominato standing up for him (as much as the “stoic” Kou can be).  It’s a powerful witness when someone stands up for you, taking on the potential blame, insult, punishment, and pain to help you.  We’ve probably all been in a situation where someone has acted in that way on our behalf; how great it feels to have someone else put themselves on the line for us!

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Something More: Deva Orochimaru, Humble Kirito, and Bishie Satan

The beginning of a new anime season is always fun!  Anibloggers are most active during this time, with literally a thousand or more anime articles coming out this week.  Luckily, a number of those are spirituality-related, and we have a slate of great articles to link to today!

Frank is excited about the new season of Encouragement of Climb, and compares the previous season’s storyline to that of the Christian moving out in faith and accomplishing what God has purposed him or her to do. [A Series of Miracles]

Syng completes a series on Naruto and Buddhism, diving particularly into the characterizations of Orochimaru, Obito, Madara, and Kaguya [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Speaking of that excellent series, here’s Syng’s first post on Buddhist allusions in Naruto.

D.M. Dutcher tells how a new Christian anime and manga series, entitled Prince Adventures: Anointed, features bishounen characters fighting against Satan (also a bishie). Vic Mignogna, of course, is among those voicing the series. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Oh, and a voice actor for young Jesus has been cast.

Doug, a Buddhist blogger, visits a Mayuka church, home to a native denomination of Japanese Christians. [Essays in Idleness]

Rob continues his Christian-centered anime reviews, with some thoughts about a journey in The World Is Still Beautiful mimicking a Christian’s. [Christian Anime Review]

And while we skipped Something More last Friday, I still want to link to some of the great anime and spirituality articles that bloggers wrote last week:

Michael sees the victory of humility over pride in Sword Art Online as representative of the rule God has established for His kingdom. [Gaming and God]

Earlier, Michael also took at look at Fullmetal Alchemist and dove into the Elric brothers’ thirst for eternal life.

Here’s an interesting comparison – Medieval Otaku sees similarities between the hearts of Lime of Saber Marionette J and Jesus. [Medieval Otaku]

Annalyn weaves a terrific entry about introversion The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, including a note about how her faith. [Annalyn's Thoughts]

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. 

Something More: Butt Attack Punisher Christian Magical Girl

Spiritual-related posts have been sparse the last few weeks, and it’s the same for this one as well, but I do have a few interesting articles to link you to.

D.M. Dutcher laments the lack of entertainment written for Christians, though he saw a glimpse of what might have been in a few scenes of Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gautaman. That was before it all went downhill.  Here’s his description of that OVA’s plot [Cacao, put down the shovel!]:

Mari is a Christian who is about to attend the Perfect Religion Academy, a place where the religious members of tomorrow are trained. She befriends Saori, a Hindu girl who becomes her roomate. Unfortunately she gets kidnapped by the evil Black Buddha cult, and there’s only one way she can get her back.

As she prays for help, none other than Buddha appears. He gives her a sacred sumo belt that turns her into said Gautaman. Now she has to use her butt to defeat the evil Black Buddha cult, the members of which include an evil newspaper deliveryman, a sumo wrestler wearing a Darth Vader mask, six very ugly freshmen, a panty-exposing samurai, and more…

Rob’s compares the love of Livius and Nike have for each other in The World is Still Beautiful to that of Jesus for us, illustrating it with the parable of the lost sheep. [Christian Anime Review]

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. 

Jesus Loves Otaku: Prayer Meeting at Fanime

Subtly, Christianity has entered the realm of anime conventions over the last several years.  Lauren Orsini post about the time a Christian convention was held in the same venue as Katsucon.  Charles Dunbar writes about the time a con Jesus walked into an Easter service (to a surprising response).  Fans of Vic Mignogna and Caitlin Glass know that the two often hold worship services at cons they attend.  And there are those of us who are doing panels about the intersection of Christianity and anime.

But while those examples might bring a genuine interest and a positive tone toward the faith, this weekend’s meeting of anime convention + Christian religion surely won’t.  FanimeCon, taking place this weekend in San Jose, draws tens of thousands of otaku, geeks, cosplayers, and other fans in one of the largest anime conventions in the country.  Although it’s mostly fun and games, Fanime also draws religious protestors who are, as far as I can tell (I’ve never attended) are part of a group called Cry to God.  The response toward them has been notable and this year is sure to bring more of the same as I’m sure many attendees continue to prepare a response in anticipation of the protests.

fanime jesus protest

Christian con-goers are certainly put in a predicament because of the protestors – how does this reflect on their faith?  What position should they take?  And how should they respond?  While some have made responses behind the scenes, others plan to be more visible.

I received an email from Gwen, an anime fan who in response to the protests, has planned a prayer meeting.  Here’s some more information about the event:

Anyone else bothered by the man who pickets FanimeCon every year saying “turn to Jesus or burn in hell”?

It’s like he’s saying: either you’re a Christian or you’re a pagan anime fan. It polarizes people and creates an us versus them mentality.

I don’t believe that’s true.

God loves all of us, particularly the outcasts (as geeks traditionally were), and God especially loves everyone at FanimeCon.

Unfortunately, with all the picketing, I think a lot of people don’t see that side of God at FanimeCon. Let’s get together do something about it!

I encourage all of you who are attending Fanime this weekend to check out the prayer meeting and see what Gwen and her group are up to.  If you’re Christian, I definitely encourage you to participate and show a maligned group (of which you may be a part) that Christians can and should reach out in love.

You can find more about the prayer meeting through the group’s Meetup page.

KanColle: The Biggest Trend is Still a Trend

It’s been just over 1 year since the release of Kantai Collection, or Kancolle, a browser game centered on moe anthropomorphisms of historical World War II ships. For those who still aren’t aware, it’s a simple game based largely on rng and micromanagement, leveling cute ship girls as you progress through maps. At the time of release, this game planned for a small player base – no more than few ten thousand. It was just meant to be an addition to the website’s other games. However, it didn’t take long for the servers to over-flood with new players, quickly surpassing its expected maximum and beyond. Registration had to be controlled through lottery admissions as new servers were opened one at a time (in fact, after some 9 months, new players still must pass through a lottery to play). Fan art exploded, official merchandise began to be created; manga and anime were started. It invaded everything: events, crossovers, collaborations, and more, and is often compared to Touhou, a fanbase which took years to establish. In this short year, KanColle has proven to be the most explosive fandom in otaku culture history.

Art by 墨洲

Art by 墨洲

But the question is whether all this popularity is just a remarkably popular fad or actually the birth of a new fanbase here to stay. No one can really say either way, and the game developers are surely going to be playing a large role in that as one big mistake can ruin everything. Personally, I don’t see it ending for awhile, but I also don’t think it will have the longevity that Touhou has proven itself to have. As one of the many people trapped in its addictive gameplay, I must say one of its best features is the ability to play with constant breaks. Between waiting for your resources to naturally regenerate, ships being repaired from damage, or ships recovering from being “tired,” it makes breaks almost a requirement. Granted, if you are really hardcore, there are ways to get around it to still play 24/7, but you can still make significant progress without investing constant attention.

On a less technical side, its vast popularity no doubt truly stems from all the different ship girls. With over 100 girls, the art, personalities, and voices have enough variety that at least one will probably appeal to you. And with the marriage system in place, you can be sure all otaku are quite glad to marry their favorite girl(s) (yes, harem is possible too). Coupled with the fact the game is free for the most part, it is only going to get more popular for the time being. Regardless, in the end, it is a trend, and no matter how long or short it takes to die off, it will eventually lose popularity.

The idea of fads applies to religion, too.  Of the many things said against Christianity, one of them is that Christianity was just a trend. Read the rest of this entry

An Anime Easter

Easter is the most holy day for Christians – one that’s more meaningful than even Christmas, even if it’s eclipsed by that holiday.  As such, it’s a good opportunity for Christians to reflect on Christ and even for non-Christians to explore the holidays.

Don’t know exactly what it’s all about?  Why not take a look at the short below, done in anime-style by a studio in Japan, and demonstrating the meaning of Easter through a unique lens:

Happy Easter!

Holy Week: Yukine’s Sin and Comprehending Holiness

Noragami grew on me week by week through the winter season, but it took one specific episode to win me over.  At the end of episode eight, Yato has collapsed from the blight brought on by Yukine’s sins.  And in the next episode, Yato’s, on death’s door (for kami can die), endures of pain and an almost-imminent demise, all because he believes in a young boy who is to prideful to admit that he is the cause of Yato’s pain.  And in the kami’s actions, we also get a glimpse of the love of God.

Up until this point, the Noragami has been careful to develop Yukine as a character.  There’s a balance here for the audience’s reaction to the pre-teen; we alternately consider him a brat and a sympathetic figure.  We understand his immaturity, since he’s still a kid and he’s in an overwhelming situation. But the audience also resents him, a sentiment that builds as we see Yato getting more and more hurt, while patiently enduring for the sake of his shinki.

Yukine’s juvenile acts are serious – so serious that Yato is not only hurt by the blight taking over his body, he’s dying from it.  The god Tenjin remarks that he has no idea what Yukine has done to let this get so out of hand, and that Yato should simply kill him and be done with it.

Even as Yato lays dying, Yukine is stubborn and resistant.  Even though he knows he’s guilty, Yukine’s pride and his pain weight more heavily upon him than does the possibility of losing Yato.  And while Yukine is different from the other shinki is his stubborness, he’s actually much closer to a typical person (ironically) than any other character in the series.  We’re all at least a little like Yukine – wrapped up in self-worth, selfishness, and self-love.  All these are sins before a holy God for a simple reason – they say that we’d rather worship ourselves than worship God.

Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine

Art by ハザノ (Pixiv ID 42262190)

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Holy Week: Yukine and Matters of the Heart

As a Christian, I’ve found that one of the hardest things to explain to non-Christians is about the seriousness of sin.  Without comprehending this, the gospel story makes little sense and thus there’s little to compel one to be open to the religion.  One of the roadblocks in trying to help others understand the gravity of sin is that we’ve grown up with varied definitions of the phrase, and it’s become perhaps defined best in our culture as “doing something bad,” rather than as rebelling against God.  Add to that other cultures’ and religions’ uses of the word, as expressed in Noragami and other anime, and it becomes a word that’s loaded with meaning that isn’t necessarily Christian, and becomes a confusing path to explore.

Another roadblock is in understanding that sin doesn’t have to be something we physically commit.  This comes into play with Yukine and Yato in Noragami.  Even though Yato warns his shinki that even when Yukine simply thinks sinful thoughts, Yato suffers, Yukine continues to do so.  Perhaps he just wants to cause Yato displeasure – no surprise for an adolescent with a holder as annoying as Yato.  Or maybe Yukine just can’t accept the fact that he could sin by simply coveting.  After all, Yukine resists stealing items on a couple of occasions, as if trying to stop himself from crossing that boundary.  Moving from thinking to doing is, apparently to Yukine, the bridge between sin and not.

For Yato, there is no difference.  Coveting and giving into mindful temptation is the same as physically giving in – they both cause Yato harm in the form of a blight that eventually consumes most of the kami’s body, particularly taking over once Yukine indulges completely in sinful desire.  And so, not only is thinking sinfully considered a sin, but it becomes a root desire that helps beget the physical detrimental actions.

Yukine Noragami

Art by 謖 (Pixiv ID 41940946)

These ideas are very much in line with Christianity.  From the Old Testament, the Bible makes it clear that God is concerned with our heart and mind, even above physical actions:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

- I Samuel 16:7

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Sword Art Online, Shingu, and Second Halves

Although I start each season watching about a dozen series, I ultimately end up completing only two or three.  This season, I’m watching Golden Time, Noragami and Nisekoi.  Three is about the most I can keep up with, even though I’d like to watch more.  So you can imagine how aggravated I feel when a series I’m enjoying ends up having a terrible second half.  I feel like I wasted a precious slot that I could have used for another series!

Even worse is when a series starts out so good that you think you may have found a new favorite.  This happened to me with Shingu.  I was totally charmed by the character design, tone, and music from the series, that I was almost ready to go purchase it.  Then the show devolved into a boring, generic sci-fi series.

shingu secret of the stellar wars

Oh, what might have been! (Art by ちゃん☆みり/Pixiv ID 2820537)

Another such show for me was Sword Art Online – and maybe it’s the best recent example for many.  I absolutely loved the first half.  Despite its issues, I was totally gripped.  But the second cour stunk to high heaven.  It did almost everything wrong.

Our lives are the same way.  The start doesn’t matter as much as the ending.  Even if we have a wonderful childhood, adolescence, and college experience, it’s all for naught if we ultimately end up living selfish, rotten lives.  What good was the start if our finish was so weak?

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Guest Post: The Helix Fossil, Bird Jesus & the False Prophet: The Newfound Triviality of Christianity

Today’s article is from Tommy, a great friend of the blog and a long time aniblogger.  He runs Anime Bowl, where he blogs about the latest episodes airing on Toonami, anime conventions, and Green Bay Packers football.

Only a few hours after America lapsed into the month of March, the worldwide phenomenon known as “Twitch Plays Pokémon” came to a conclusion, as the Aussies and whoever was left awake in the U.S. pushed Red past the Elite Four and Blue to a Pokémon League championship. After 16 days of democracy, anarchy and random button-mashing, the journey was complete1.

In case you’re not aware, “Twitch Plays Pokémon” was a “social experiment” conducted by an Australian who programmed a Game Boy emulation of Pokémon Red into the streaming service Twitch, making it so that anyone could type a command into the chat, and have the game respond to it. Thus “up” made the character go up, “Start” made the Start menu come up, and so on.

Of course, with the entire world able to play the game, chaos ensued. The main character Red would do bizarre things over and over again as tens of thousands of people (and bots) typed in commands. Progress in the game was made very slowly, if at all, because of the long list of commands coming through, not to mention the lag the video had with the chat. To tell the story of how the game was actually beaten would be far too long. This YouTube channel tells the story through video, while this Google document gives the facts in a different fashion.

But what made “Twitch Plays Pokémon” more than just a video game was its “religion” of sorts that its players created out of the events of the game. It began through the fact that Red kept on checking the Helix Fossil by mistake. This led to a joke that the Helix Fossil was a “god,” and the religious references spiraled out from there. Eventually it led to a full-blown narrative where nearly every major figure in Christianity was being referenced by the game players. Omanyte was “God,” Pidgeot was “Bird Jesus,” Zapdos was “Battery Jesus,” Gastly was the “Holy Spirit,” even Flareon was the “False Prophet.”

Twitch Plays Pokemon

Art by PurpleKecleon (Pixiv ID 41900018)

This isn’t a condemnation of those who came up with these ideas. Many of them were clever, and certainly quite a few of them brought quite a chuckle out of me (although of all the memes that “Twitch Plays Pokémon” produced, my favorite was the constant plea that “we need to beat Misty,” no matter how far in the game Red was).

The question I pose is quite different: has Christianity become this trivial in today’s society? We all remember how a small cartoon of Muhammad and a bomb caused such an uproar amongst Muslims, so much that even a book written all about the cartoon failed to include the actual cartoon itself, presumably due to the writer’s fear of backlash.

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