Sword Art Online began airing in 2012 . I was really excited for the show, but I wasn’t quite ready to get my hopes up after I had been so excited for Guilty Crown, which though pretty, wasn’t very good. I started watching the first episode. It was a bit slow until the climax, but I was really excited about the potential. And ultimately, Sword Art Online was amazing. I was blown away at how good the story was. Then the second story arc started, and I almost didn’t watch the second season because of it.
Sword Art Online is an anime adaption of a light novel series (it is the same universe as Accel World). The anime is currently two seasons long, and each season has two story arcs. They are Sword Art Online (SAO,) Alfheim Online (ALO,) Gun Gale Online (GGO,) and then the fourth arc that doesn’t take place in a new world.
Spoilers to follow.
The first arc, SAO, is my favorite. Basically, the main character Kirito gets stuck inside a virtual reality game that can’t be exited and will kill you if you die in it. It is all about his struggle to beat the game and help everyone return to reality. In this arc we also get to meet Asuna, who becomes Kirito wife in the game.
The second arc takes place after Kirito and Asuna defeat SAO. Kirito is released from the game, but for some unknown reason, Asuna is not. Kirito finds out via different sources that a person who looks like Asuna is being held in a game called Alfheim Online. Kirito goes into it the despite trauma from SAO and tries to beat the game and rescue her. He also works with the police to find the culprit in the real world. This is the one arc that I really do hate.
Something More: Concrete Revolutio’s Moral Relativism, Evangelion’s Atheistic Approach, and SAO’s Virtually Christian Worldview
This past week, Sam, who recently started an aniblog after moving over from doing the same sort of blogging on Google+, wrote a series of articles about how the “family” in Gakkou Gurashi resembles the family of Christ. It reminded me of something that’s oft been on my mind these days – how believers are to take Christ on as a model for how we approach life:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’
– Matthew 16:24
We also imitate Christ’s relationships. As Christ is to the church, so should I be toward my wife; as Christ cares for his disciples, so should I look out for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; as God lovingly parents us, I should shower grace and love upon my children.
A newcomer to scripture, or many of those just unfamiliar with the text, expect to see a book full of rules and may question why the Bible doesn’t tell us how to approach certain situations in life, even those that are most common or critical. But as the Spirit leads, and as we spend more time in the word, we see how complex and dynamic scripture is, and how it does hold the keys to how we live life, no matter the situation, oftentimes expressed through how we see life modeled by the heroes of scripture, and most of all through Christ.
Sam’s article points out some of the ways in which we should act – sacrificially (Kurumi), faithfully (Rii), and joyfully (Yuki). All of these things, of course, come along we develop our relationships with Christ once we turn to him in faith and surrender.
Sam’s article are concise, excellent reads – I would suggest you take a look at his blog as a whole, and especially at this series of articles! Start with the first in the series:
And now, onto the multitude of excellent articles from across the blogosphere the last several weeks!
The opening song to Concrete Revolutio speaks to moral relativism and nihilism, approaches that are very much at odds with a Christian worldview. [Medieval Otaku]
Inuyashiki presents the idea that the “soul” is what makes us human, not the physical, which may present a problem to those who don’t believe in a God. [Ricochet]
The idea of the “hero’s journey” is found in many stories, including anime, and often contain a supernatural element (including those that can allude to the Bible), with InuYasha and Hunter x Hunter serving as examples. [Lady Teresa Christina]
The kindness that Anna finds in Marnie in When Marnie Was There is that which lonely and hurting Christians need from fellow believers, and that which they can find in God. 
Neon Genesis Evangelion is often ridiculed for lacking in true substance, but does it really set up a confrontation between scientific and religious mindsets? [The Artifice]
Episode 2 of Young Black Jack demonstrates a Christian idea of sacrifice in an un-Christian circumstance. [Christian Anime Review]
Princess Kudelia wants to experience what it’s like to be among the orphans in G-Tekketsu, analogous to Christ as man. 
Yuu continues to press forward, despite terrible circumstances, in the last episode of Charlotte – Christians, too, have reason (better reason!) to do the same. 
Speaking of Charlotte, perhaps another reason Yuu was able to do what he did was because of that universal need for redemption. [Unsheathed]
The virtual world of Sword Art Online, and how the characters react to it, perhaps mirror how Christians and non-Christians approach life. 
As part of the Something More series of posts, 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 to be included. Special thanks to Don of Zoopraxiscope Too for notifying me about the Inuyashiki post!
“If I was born to die, then what was my reason for existing in this world?” —Konno Yuuki, SAO II.
Sword Art Online II has many faults, and some folks can’t take it seriously as a result. That’s a shame, because SAO deals with big issues that warrant serious discussion. The characters’ conversations in the last episode, especially, demanded my attention, though I decided to wait until it aired on Toonami to write about it.
First, some background (and spoilers):
Konno Yuuki and her mother contracted HIV in the events surrounded her traumatic birth, thanks to an infected blood transfusion. Before they realized what had happened, her father and sister were infected, too. She was able to live normally at first, but in fourth grade, her immune system began to fail. By the time we meet her in SAO, she has lost her entire family to AIDS, and she herself has been hospitalized for years. Virtual reality equipment allows her to escape from her pain and her hospital bed, into ALfheim Online. She is the best swordsman around—partially because she pretty much lives in ALO, and she gets plenty of practice. She appears to be a cheerful, happy girl.
Asuna befriends Yuuki in the game, and they become close, although Yuuki tries to push her away at first. Eventually, Asuna helps Yuuki experience as much of the outside world as possible from her hospital bed. In return, Yuuki encourages her to have a candid talk with her mother.
Yet Yuuki is still dying. In the end, surrounded by her friends in virtual reality, she says this:
“If I was born to die, then what was my reason for existing in this world? Without creating anything, or giving anything to anyone. Wasting so much machinery and medicine, causing the people around me trouble. Suffering, worrying… and if I were just going to disappear in the end, it would be better to die right now. I thought that so many times. “Why am I alive?” I wondered for so long, but… but I finally feel like I’ve found the answer. Even if there’s no reason, it’s okay for me to be alive. Because my last moments are of such fulfillment. I can end my journey surrounded by so many people, in the arms of the person I love.”
So, it’s okay to be alive because… you’re loved and feel fulfilled? Sorry, I’m not satisfied with that. Read the rest of this entry
I’m always happy to link to aniblog posts that touch on spirituality, but sometimes this column is just chock full of amazing articles. I hope you’ll dig into the links below – they’re worth your read, starting with Matthew Newman’s post on Hare Kon and marriage.
For those unfamiliar (which included me until I read Matthew’s article), Hare Kon is a manga about a young lady who marries into a polygamous marriage. A really interesting concept, right? The post’s focus in on the marriage ceremony, in which the presiding pastor mentions the following with regret:
…God is weeping. Though God is lenient, He may not recognize this marriage…still times are changing…at least those of us who are here shall approve this.
This idea that the marriage occurring in the church in this manga is municipally-approved, but not necessarily God-approved, reminded me of the idea that Christians often fall into a hypocrisy they don’t realize, saying that God is the authority for all matters while forming a lifestyle that ultimately places a morality they’ve formed as a mix of culture, religion, family, etc. as the backbone of their lives. For instance, many will will protest about gay marriage, but I think for many that’s more a problem with their feelings of disgust toward homosexuality rather than reverence toward God’s word. After all, a state-mandated union is, well, mandated by the state; it doesn’t mean it’s a marriage in God’s eyes (and the same would certainly go for many – perhaps most – “traditional” marriages as well).
If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and is God is who he says he is and you’ve submitted to him as the ultimate king and authority in your life, let the Bible guide you. Dig into it. Treasure it. And study it – don’t let surface level readings determine your theology, but respect the word of God as something dynamic, deep, and multi-faceted that should humble you as you realize that it, and God, are far more complex than you had imagined.
Read Matthew’s thoughts on Hare Kon:
Here are other articles from around the blogosphere:
You’ve heard the theory that My Neighbor Totoro is about death, right? The writers at Lady Geek Girl investigate the claim in detail, looking at how this interpretation relates to the Shinto aspects of the story. [Lady Geek Girl]
We live like we play video games, seeking treasure to store here during our short time on earth. Maybe we should live like Sword Art Online’s Kirito, with a different treasure and different destination in mind. [UEM!]
If you’ll remember, when Pokemon was all the rage, many Christians pastors starting preaching against it as the work of the devil. However, Kelly Bornstedt, who very personally experienced such a sermon, instead finds a lot of Christ-affirming ideas in the franchise. [Geeks Under Grace]
Kiryu’s story in Classroom Crisis brings to mind that of Joseph, the boy with the many-colored coat who would become a commander over Egypt. 
Aniblogger Lazarinth replies to a blogger award with a rant on the silliness of faith (warning: contains foul language). [Fantasy and Anime]
Chagum puts his faith in Balsa to protect him in Moriboto, while we, too, have a guardian – but this once infallible and invincible. [Lady Teresa Christina]
Very initial planning for a “Christian Anime Con” is in the works. [Anime Revolution]
As part of the Something More series of posts, 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 to be included.
More and more, ministries are streaming their services online or making websites where Christians (or people of other faiths) can watch, donate or be a part of the community. Facebook and other social media networks have become the place where hundreds, even thousands, come to share their life, struggles and ask for prayer. Even here at Beneath The Tangles, though it’s not a church or ministry with a pastor, many people read our articles and learn more about our Creator. This may not sound like the typical way church is done*, but it’s a trend that is growing rapidly every year.
There are actually several anime that highlight this format, and the two (there are more!) that I would like to mention are .hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. Each one is about people who log on to a server where they play an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and build community with one another. Each player has an avatar that looks like a person, or sometimes part human and part animal that they can use to talk with each other, fight, and even romance. Each episode shows the dynamics of the game actually start to affect the characters emotions and spill out into the real world.
For example, Kirigaya Kazuto and Yūki Asuna, whose avatars are famously named Kirito and Asuna, fall in love through the playing of the game and become romantically involved in real life. Their digital life affected their real lives, which can be also said for people who were in comas or died because of the game in both series.
.hack//Sign main characters Subaru and Tsukasa deal with real life situations that are sometimes resolved online or vice-versa, plan strategies or literally hack servers to stop people from going into comas induced by the games headgear. They even become very close friends and talk about their IRL (In Real Life) problems and get advice on them as well, just like many of us do online. This not only makes you feel for the character and the player, but often times as you watch the anime you forget that the avatars are being controlled by people outside the game. This can happen to us on social media or games, where we might blend the two aspects together and forget that these are real people we are talking to, not just text.
Now, being part of a digital community of fellow believers isn’t a bad thing but there will always be that need to physically be a part of a group that share the same faith. Let’s face it, there are things that you would not share online nor are you accountable to anyone either. You can post lots of Christian posts, messages or verses but who is checking up on you when you are alone or going through life? Are you obliged to report to someone or at least have a one-on-one with an admin online?
Not at all. Read the rest of this entry
Christmas is just under a week away? In terms of aniblogging, that means lots and lots of reflective posts – and a good number of them involving religion. This is likely the last post in this column until next year, so enjoy your quota of terrific articles about anime and spirituality!
Trigun’s traveling preacher, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, provides us a lesson about tithing and the heart of giving. [Old Line Elephant]
Christmas Eve deaths in Log Horizon symbolize the dark before the dawn. [A Series of Miracles]
Check out the comments on a Reddit board discussion about anime and religion this past week. [TrueAnime]
The Pokemon games and religion go hand in hand – did you know? [Did You Know Gaming?]
Among the many symbols anime has adopted from Christianity is use of the cross, specifically in crucifixion scenes. In the mood for a review of such scenes? Be warned, you might find it offensive, or really funny, or both. [Isn’t It Electrifying?]
D.M. Dutcher is through with visual novel-based anime, in large part because of how Christians should view suffering as entertainment. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
Though explicitly mentioned religion seldomly, Angel Beats is full of theology from various religions. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
Kit ruminates on a number of titles for a series of reflective posts, including one on the Shinto-inspired Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. [Study of Anime]
Actions of the cast of the new arc of Sword Art Online resemble Christian thought of keeping the eyes on the prize. [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. Thanks to Seasons for pointing us toward the Reddit article and to Alexander for the Pokemon one.
While shows like Your Lie in April and Wolf Girl and Black Prince continue to give great material for spiritual discussion, it’s interesting that some series with big moves on the horizon – Naruto with a final movie upcoming and Digimon with a return of it’s season one characters – also provide opportunities to discuss religion in posts this past week.
Magi’s Mogamett is a complex character, not least of which because the love he demonstrates isn’t in line with an active, kind love, as discussed in Paul’s famous writing about the topic in I Corinthians 13. [Anime Monographia]
Buddhist principles of breaking cycles of suffering and power can be found in Kill la Kill. [Anime Commentary on the March]
Takayama Ukon, who was a Japanese general some 400 years ago (and who has been featured as a character in several anime), could be up for beatification next year. [Aliens in This World]
Kit reports that her Shinto panel at Nekocon went well, and that the inaugural issue of Kotoshiro, a Shinto journal, is accepting submissions. [Fox of Hearts]
The folks at Geeks Under Grace reflect upon Naruto, whose manga run just recently ended, and the Christian lessons it helped instill in them. [Geeks Under Grace]
Cooper finds scant religious content to expound upon in his review of Digimon Adventure, which “failed to meet some of [his] expectations but exceeded in others.” 
The reveal of Princess Serenity in Sailor Moon Crystal speaks of an individual’s awakening to their own sin in light of grace. 
Kousei’s faith in Kaori might mirror a Christian’s faith in Christ. 
Meanwhile, his lament about the piano in episode five of Your Lie in April reminds us of the importance of each gift we’re given. [Christian Anime Review]
Erika and Sata’s relationship in Wolf Girl and Black Prince brings to mind the Parable of the Sower. 
How does “honor your mother and father work” when they’ve stepped over some boundary, as with Asuna defying her mother in episode 19 of Sword Art Online 2? 
Christian disciplines, along with marathoning Daily Lives of High School Boys and Meganebu!, are among the things Annalyn does for refreshment. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]
In the Answerman column, Justin Sevakis rants about how many rally against voice actors, convention guests, and others, with Vic Mignogna (well known for his “conservative Christian” stances and thoughts) as the prime example. [Anime News Network]
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. Thanks to Medieval Otaku this week – it’s through his blog that I found the Kill la Kill article]