A long-running project of mine is to get my wife to become an anime fan. It started when we were dating and I got her to fall in love with Studio Ghibli. Over the years, I’ve shown her a number of series, too, and they’ve been a hit (mostly): Clannad, Kids on the Slope,
Attack on Titan (I went for the jugular and FAIL), Kimi ni Todoke, and now, Honey and Clover.
Each character in Honey and Clover is wonderful, but my very favorite is Ayumi Yamada. For whatever reason, I connected with her best, and felt as much empathy for her struggles as with any of the others. Also, clay. Ayumi’s talent is my favorite among the cast’s.
There’s something soothing and beautiful about pottery making, isn’t there? The idea of a sole person turning a block of clay into something smooth and beautiful and useful with just hands and wheel is idyllic. The same imagery wasn’t lost on the Bible writers, who made frequent comparison of God to the potter:
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
The comparisons between God and a potter are plentiful:
- God cares. As the potter must carefully and skillfully manipulate the clay to stay from ruining it, God is gentle with us. His patient and grace are abundant with a people that are far more stubborn than clay.
- God is creator. The potter and clay metaphor brings to mind the creation story. As clay comes from the earth, Genesis explains that humans, too, come from the dust of the earth. God breaths life into humanity, as the pottery shapes life into pottery.
- God shapes us. Ten potters can be handed the same size and type of clay, and each create some wholly different piece. But the similarity is that the potter guides the entire process to make the clay into something more than it was.
And it’s that last point that most presses upon me. Today, I was reminded what a sinner I am, how vicious I can be, and how inhuman (or perhaps how very human) I am at my worst. At my lowest, I turn to God, because who else can I turn to? Friends and family don’t have the power to change me, and I’ve found that I don’t have the power within to transform myself. But the Holy Spirit can empower us to change and to become far more than we are – nearer to image of Christ.
And in that sense, when we feel like clay – something buried in the earth, lower even than dirt – we know that we are being shaped, molded into the image of Christ. And in that sense, there’s nothing else better to be.
Created and developed far from Europe and the Americas, and conceived in a country where less than 1% of the populace is Christian, manga could hardly be called out for inaccurately portraying Christianity. It would be silly for calling out mangaka for getting the story of Christ wrong or for presenting the Bible as “just another religion.” Still, manga is full of religious references to God and gods, which presents a great opportunity to discuss matters of spirituality. And that’s the idea behind this new series of posts, Fact Check, in which I’ll investigate some of the claims of anime and manga characters and weigh them against the truth of scripture.
Today’s claim comes from that PTSD suffering soul from Aldnoah.Zero, Lt. Marito. When speaking to Dr. Yagarai, and thinking about his past military exploits, he says the following:
Sins you’ve committed cling to your soul and haunt you forever and sins that have gone unpunished aren’t forgiven until you die.
The claim then is two-fold, about how sins affect us both now and forevermore.
Let’s look at the first part of the claim, that sins “cling to your soul” and, like a specter, haunt those who’ve committed them. I think perhaps few would dispute this portion. Those who’ve done wrong often can’t shake their deeds, with the memories of such sin affecting their mind and even their actions. From literature, the great example is Lady Macbeth and her descent into madness after her role in regicide. But we might also be able to look within at our sins and how they’ve guilted us and maybe in the worst case, caused us to detach from others and become something less than what we once were.
In Aldnoah.Zero, Koichiro Marito reflects his own words. He is a shell of himself physically, unable to pilot a Terran mecha when a Kataphrakt attacks in episode five. And though he isn’t drinking by this time, it is insinuated that Marito is an alcoholic, and probably because of his past “sins,” however he would define them.
Boundaries play a role in all relationships. Depending on the closeness between two people, and each person’s ease with intimacy, walls between people can be high and near uncrossable, low to the point where one can simply step over them, or somewhere between. Boundaries can even disappear altogether. Episode four of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) explores this them in the boundaries established between pairings in our group of main characters.
It’s tough going for the new leadership group at first. Kou and Futuba arrive late to the leadership camp, causing frustration and bitterness among their teammates and others. In this already dispirited mood, each person seems to let the worse of themselves show instead of the best, creative further unpleasantness. Conflict further ensues among the group, including a humorous one between Yuri and Toma involving a cupcake.
The other conflicts are more serious. Kou and Futuba continue to have their boundary issues as they try to figure out who they are to each other now. Kou thinks he has that answer figured out, with Futuba meaning nothing to him, though his actions speak otherwise. Futuba, on the other hand, is just plain confused, and throughout the episode wonders what Kou exactly means to her now. Time and events have erected a wall between the two, and they are each trying to figure out if and/or how they can cross it.
Most significant to me, though, is the wall between Shuko and Tanaka, which seems impenetrable. This episode hits us over the head with the reason that Shuko very unexpectedly joined the group; it’s because she is in love with Tanaka, her teacher (and Kou’s brother), though he is very clear and strong in warding off her advances. The wall between them is erected both by morals and by Tanaka himself. He won’t let Shuko into his space – he won’t let her cross his personal boundaries.
Can I just say, I’m absolutely loving Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride)?
Though it still contains some doom and gloom, episode three moves us largely past that tone and toward a more hopeful one as a new school year begins. The main cast is now all in the same classroom, with Futuba and Kou joined by Toma, Yuri, and Shuko. And by episode’s end, the characters have all volunteered to become either class or event representatives.
The closing scene in which the five main characters of Blue Spring Ride take their place in leadership, is more than a convenient plot development – it’s thematically important. For at least four of them, it seems (I’m not yet sure about Toma), it represents a moving forward from pasts that burdened them: Futuba from her playing at friends; Yuri from the hate that’s followed her; Shuko from a bitter school year; and Kou from family issues, though his, it seems, will be the most difficult transition.
It’s ironic, then, that Kou has now told Futuba several times that their past is irrelevant, when it seems that he’s the character who is most hanging on to it. While encouraging Futuba, in his own buttheaded way, to make change, he himself can’t rise above whatever issues have haunted him during the past several years. He’s quite the opposite of the former (and current?) object of his affection, who quite easily pursues change by making some brave gestures in leaving her “friends” behind and volunteering to be class president.
The truth of the matter is, the past is both relevant and it isn’t. For Futuba, she sees Kou’s point in starting anew. She thinks the following to herself:
If you lose it, just build it again.
Moving forward is like rebuilding a city following a flood. The damage of the past can be wiped away and a new city can rise.
But just the same, when the devastation is massive or whole, it’s not always easy to rebuild. It’s sometimes near impossible.
While Futuba embraces Kou’s words, her’s is a relatively easy past to overcome. Kou’s is more difficult, and the problem may be that instead of simply forgetting and moving forward, he needs to come to grips with his past before he can do so. For Kou, the past is very relevant. And without knowing how far he’s come, and seeing what the future can offer, Kou won’t be able to “build it again.”
From the very beginning, I intended this blog to be a place, a destination, a home, rather than simply a source about anime and our unique perspectives on it. As such, we welcome your thoughts and questions not only through the comments page, but through the Ask the Staff button on the top of the menu. And we’ve been blessed by some engaging questions submitted through that tab.
Last week, we received the following email (video and image added) from Zoe in regards to a post I wrote a couple of years back entitled, “Hourou Musuko and Loving the Sinner, But Hating the Sin”:
I recently watched ‘Wandering Son’ an anime that truly hit me in a number of ways. I’m a transgender woman so it was very relevant to me.
Lauren Orsini recommended that I read Beneath the Tangles posts on it as she found them very interesting. As she mention it less than hour ago I decided to hunt down the posts to read over the next few years. I like reading about different perspectives as it find it both interesting and insightful. I like to know how other people see a topic or issue, so I’m glad you’ve written on the series.
I’m on the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” post. I wanted to suggest watching a very good and interesting youtube video that my dear friend who is a Methodist minister suggested it to her friends on facebook. Just another perspective that while you very well my not agree with it, I think you’ll find the Minister Tony Campolo’s take on it. The video is just over 5 minutes long.
Take care and thank you for these very interesting post that let me see the subject from another perspective. As I mentioned, I so appreciate seeing things from the perspective of others. Read the rest of this entry
Something More: Redemption x Redemption, Freedom of Mardock Scramble, and Defective Christian Marionette J
The Medieval Otaku points to the character development of Rune Balot of Mardock Scramble as an example of how obligation can lead to freedom, particularly in biblical context. [Medieval Otaku]
He also tells us that as with Lime in Saber Marionette J, we have reason to rejoice in our defectiveness. [Medieval Otaku]
Annalyn investigates a heavy need for redemption in Hunter x Hunter. [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.
The world of Noragami reflects the pantheon of kami in Japanese religion. There’s an unraveling uniqueness to Yato, but from the beginning, Noragami also emphasizes the truth of Shintoism, that he is just one of many gods. And without a shrine, Yato is a minor one at that.
The presence of many kami in Shinto religion is just one of many differences between that system and Christianity. Yet, Noragami demonstrates to us a very Christian idea through Yato, one god who offers a similar gift as the One God.
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.
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
This is what I’ve waited almost two full seasons for.
With a pedigree promising something more fulfilling than the typical romantic comedy, I’ve been waiting 21 episodes for something really amazing to happen in Golden Time. And all the while – at least for the past dozen episodes – I’ve been disappointed. There were hints of something really good in the story, but it’s remained hidden beneath false starts and fuzzy focus. But now things are becoming suddenly clearer as relationships become more complex.
There’s so much to talk about in episode 22 (and 21, too, in fact), but I’ll simply share three spiritually-related ideas that came to me as I watched:
A while ago, I decided to finish watching Silver Spoon, which I had watched during the summer, but hadn’t finished because I’d already been following the manga for several months. I already knew what was going to happen, and while the anime adaptation of Silver Spoon is good, it isn’t really any better than the manga. But there is something to be said for going over a story twice, and because circumstances change, I found that there were quite a few things that I saw differently the second time around.
In episode 8, something struck me in particular. Jachiken spent his summer working on the Mikages’ farm. All through the one month he had free from his intense work at Yezo Agricultural High School, he works equally as hard, and the Mikages appreciate his efforts. But when the summer starts to come to a close, and everything seems to be going so well, Hachiken forgets to connect a crucial tube that funnels fresh milk into a bulk cooler. Without anyone being around to notice it, the milk spills everywhere, spraying out by the litre and tumbling down the drain. When Hachiken realises just how much money he wasted, he’s understandably filled with guilt.
The Mikages would have every right to be angry with him, but instead they treat him graciously, telling him that what was done was done, and there was nothing he could do. One would think Hachiken would be a little relieved at this, but instead he only seems troubled further, and when they present him with his paycheck, he tries to refuse it.
I think sometimes rejection is our gut reaction when we’re offered something we don’t deserve, whether it’s forgiveness for a single mistake from another human or forgiveness for a multitude of mistakes from God. It’s like we think that by holding on to our guilt, we’re showing responsibility for our actions, or making amends in some way. But as natural as this is, it’s not a very reasonable response. None of us is really gain anything by holding on to our guilt, and trying to punish ourselves does nothing towards healing a wrong. The Mikages see this, and gently convince Hachiken to accept the money. He goes on to use it carefully, not taking their kindness for granted, which shows how we should respond to any kind of grace: by treasuring it. Because grace and forgiveness are worth far too much to be forsaken by our misguided guilt.