Blog Archives

Something More: Owari no Family, Humble Vegeta, and Job of Angel Beats’

There are weeks on Something More where I need to dig and prod to find articles for linking.  This is not, however, one of those weeks, as the blogosphere has produced almost a dozen wonderful articles about anime and religion/spirituality.

Eugene Woodbury discusses Japanese Buddhism from a pop cultural perspective, referencing Gingitsune among other anime series. [Eugene Woodbury]

He does the same with Shinto, mentioning Noragami, Kamichu!, and other shows. [2]

It is any surprise that the actions of one of most known and best priest characters in anime, Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Trigun), would teach us theology? [Cajun Samurai]

Owari no Seraph speaks to the value of the family, ironic in a series that looks at family unconventionally and perhaps at sex in a faulty way. [Medieval Otaku]

Dragonball Z’s Vegeta may be the poster child for ego, but his actions often speak to the opposite: humility. [Geeks Under Grace]

One piece of proverbial wisdom is to seek advice from many advisers; but if your advisers are unwise, well, you get the absurd consequences of episode 3 of Plastic Memories. [2]

Dig a little into Gurren Lagann, and you might find an interpretation of Plato’s allegory of the cave and a case for divine illogic. [Taylor Ramage’s Blog]

Is God fair? Yuki of Angel Beats! doesn’t think so, but perhaps her backstory (and the story of Job) can teach us a little about the concept of fairness. [Old Line Elephant]

The vital importance of forgiveness – both to give and receive – is a heavy theme in Koe no Katachi. [Famous Rose]

More wisdom from Proverbs this week, as Rob tells us Hikigaya’s methods in OreGairu are ungodly and unwise. [Christian Anime Review]

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.

Wolfwood and Vash: A Contrast in Faith

There’s a distinction between a Christian in name only and one in practice.  You don’t have to proclaim yourself a Christian to know as much – those outside the faith can see the actions of, say, the Westboro Baptist Church and without much knowledge still firmly state that these folks are not practicing the faith as Jesus taught it.  It’s only a skip and a beat to Christian characters in anime, who aren’t there to preach the gospel to a nation that’s 99% non-Christian, but rather to color a series by bringing in a background that might provide for interesting storytelling.  And so when you see a priest character, like Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun, you understand as a viewer that this character is probably developed as a Christian in name, not in spirit.

What’s interesting about Trigun, though, is that Wolfwood is saved spiritually in part through the words of an unbelieving plant.  And even more surprising is this – that “plant,” Vash the Stampede, is a better example of faith than his seemingly spiritual counterpart.

Vash and Wolfwood

Reprinted with permission [http://bit.ly/1FQJW89]

As we delve into the topic of faith, it’s probably a good idea to get a good definition of it.  The writer of Hebrews defines it as such:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

– Hebrews 11:1

This definition is significant in a variety of ways.  Since many might focus on the idea that we “do not see” when it comes to faith, one could easily make the assumption that having “faith,” in a Christian sense, means that you believe blindly.  That’s an easy conclusion to make, but it would be a wrong one.  Not being able to see doesn’t mean making irrational jumps based on emotion and upbringing and whatever else leads one blindly to religion – it means trusting in one’s belief even if you can’t see it right now.  Even when the road is difficult and you’re in despair, a strong faith will lead you to lean on your belief even when you can’t see it played out in action.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Crucifixion in Anime, Wolfwood’s Tithing, and Religion in Pokemon

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.

Anime’s Common Grace

Note: This article was originally intended for publication elsewhere.  Read The Life and Death of an Anime Article on an Evangelical Website for the whole story.  This post contains spoilers for Haibane Renmei, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Trigun, and Death Note.

InceptionBlack SwanThe Matrix. These Hollywood hits have a common thread—each was heavily influenced by Japanese animation, aka anime.

Anime has settled in as a permanent part of American entertainment. Besides serving as inspiration for filmmakers, some anime movies—particularly those by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, The Secret World of Arrietty, and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away)—have found a Western audience. Still, it would a stretch to say that Americans have embraced anime. It remains an oddity—a medium filled with large-eyed characters and unfamiliar cultural references.

As with many adults, when I first watched anime as a child, I didn’t know about its Japanese origins. Dubbed versions of Speed Racer and Voltron stood side-by-side with Disney, Looney Tunes, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons as favorites. Years later, in college, I rediscovered anime and became gripped by the medium’s mature themes, fanciful artwork, and yes, the foreignness of it all. Younger Americans, meanwhile, have grown up with anime, from kiddie fare like Pokemon to action series like Naruto.

Many viewers are drawn toward anime’s storylines, which are far different from those in typical American animation. Despite a growing trend to the contrary, American toons are still typically aimed at children. In Japan, animation is produced for both children and adults. Anime films are routinely among Japan’s highest grossing and most adored movies, while most anime TV programming airs during primetime or late at night. Because it is often made for older audiences, the animation, storylines, and dialogue are typically more mature than in western counterparts, often including heavy doses of violence and fanservice (a term usually used to describe the animation of scantily dressed characters). In America, there’s a certain shock value to seeing something like the hyperviolent anime sequence in Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1, because it remains an exception.

Anime also frequently portrays Shinto and Buddhist practices, reflecting the habits of the majority of Japan, where only 1-2 percent identify as Christian. Not unlike American media, it’s more typical to find a vampire-hunting priest or an irreligious Catholic schoolgirl in a show than a Christian character simply living out his or her faith.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Shinto Anime Everywhere, 2-D Love for Christians, and the Warrior Priests of Anime

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted this column.  My negligence A busy holiday schedule is to blame!

And without further to do, here are some of my favorite religion/spirituality-themed anime articles from this week (and from the past month!):

Emily describes the charm of Noragami‘s first episode, while also commenting on the nature of the Shinto gods and their relationship with “believers.” [Atelier Emily]

Charles Dunbar talks Sasami-san@ganbaranai, The Eccentric Family, and Gingitsune in describing 2013 as “a wonderful year for the people who take the time to familiarize themselves with Japanese beliefs, customs, and legends.” [Study of Anime]

In what I think is a very important article for many Christian otakus, D.M. Dutcher answers the question “Can 2-D be better than 3-D for a Christian?”  As he states, the answer is surprisingly complex. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Medieval Otaku does a remarkable job in describing Arpeggio of Blue Steel as a “Christian fairytale.” [Medieval Otaku]

Lady Saika cites Trigun, Hellsing, and Fullmetal Alchemist as she explores that ironic idea of warrior priests and priestly armies. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]

Jonathan enjoyed Gingitsune, particularly how the show approached religion. [FunBlog]

Annalyn continues to pursue a number of goals, which has become a theme of her aniblog this past year. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

Aniblogger Tommy vents about Christmas and what it’s become. [Anime Bowl]

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: Madoka v. Jesus, Kirino Acts Like a Christian, and Christ the Stampede

It was quite a week for spiritual and religion tinged articles in the anime blogosphere, headlined by Alexander’s still on-going series entitled, Madoka > Jesus.  Here are his posts thus far:

Nick Calibey responded to Alexander’s post with his own article. [A Rather Silly Blog]

Stardf29 reviews episode 3 of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and makes connections between the importance of “thank you” and life lived less legalistically. [A Series of Miracles]

D.M. Dutcher compares Kirino’s treatment of her otakuness in Oreimo to how Christians often treat their faith. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

In another post, he makes some great comparisons between the humorous hero, Vash the Stampede, and Christ, as well as to scenes in Trigun: Badlands Rumble and the “problem of pain. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Dutcher also advises Christians in his reviews of Aoi Sekai No Chuusin De and season one of Oreimo.

Japes, who guest-blogged for us earlier this week, is off and running on his own aniblog, beginning with an introduction of his theology. [Japesland]

Japes also brings his faith into a defense of Vocaloid as an artistic expression. [Japesland]

Medieval Otaku points out Christian theology and themes in his review of several manga, including Superior and Vinland Saga. [Medieval Otaku]

So…the Jesus and Buddha characters of Saint Young Men are now being used to market fashion merchandise.  Interesting. [Anime News Network]

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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: Medieval Maoyuu Maou Yuusha Church, The Last Temptation of Madoka, and Samurai Deeper Christ

Nami dives into the themes of redemption and Christ symbolism in Trigun. [The Budding Philosopher]

Medieval Otaku compares Demon Eyes Kyo to Christ and examines some Christian themes and symbols in Samurai Deeper Kyo. [Medieval Otaku]

D.M. Dutcher of the Cacao, put down the shovel blog continues “A Christian’s Guide to Anime and Manga,” posts providing information and recommendations, with a series of articles detailing:

  • specific anime-related definitions [Part 2]
  • the definitions and warnings for “moe” and “lolicon” [Part 3]
  • how Christians should consider approaching anime and manga [Part 4]

JoeAnimated compares monasticism and the Middle Ages to the church guarding knowledge in episode 3 of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.  [Anime Audiolog]

Usny also mentions the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages in relation to Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, and in an aside, gives thoughts about the rise of fall of the Church’s influence [Desu ex Machina]

Jay notes a scene reminiscent of the temptation of Christ in his review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. [Jay’s Tee Vee]

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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. 

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Wisdom of Heartseed, Ghibli in Catholic Magazine, and Christianity in Evangelion, Trigun, and FMA: Brotherhood

Draggle continues to examine Kokoro Connect with Christian language, finding the kids caught up in a battle between flesh and Spirit, and Heartseed as similar to Ecclesiastes’ teacher. [Draggle’s Anime Blog]

Sarah Greydanus, the teenage daughter of reviewer Steven D. Greydanus, reviews Whisper of the Heart. [National Catholic Register]

After finally finishing Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sweetpea provides her overview of the series, including some commentary on the use of religion in the show. [Going in Blindly]

Rocklobster review a classic, Trigun, and includes examination of Vash as a stand-in for Christ and of Wolfwood’s portrayal as a priest. [Lobster Quadrille]

Annalyn is rewatching FMA: Brotherhood, and notes some commentary about religion in the show. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

On a more somber note, Annalyn also reflects on the death of a young man she knew. [Annalyn’s Thoughts]

A Year Ago on Beneath the Tangles

Trigun

Art by 梅田いるか

A year ago…we celebrated passion week with a series on everyone’s favorite cross-gun-wielding priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, examining his role versus Vash’s, diving into a terrific fanfic exploring his faith, and pondering about Yasuhiro Nightow’s personal faith.

A year ago…guest writers graciously continued to contribute to the Aniblogger Testimony project, including a blogger whose personal belief involves ghost worship, Buddhism, and science

…a manga reviewer who is an Orthodox Christian

…a Christian who has suffered through many personal struggles

…and an atheist.

Chihiro and Haku

Art by hitsu

A year agoPuella Magi Madoka Magica came to its conclusion, and we linked to the plethora of posts mentioning the spiritual elements of the finale and to 2DT’s in particular.  I also wrote about Christian connections in the show, specifically in episode 7 and the final one.

A year ago…I interviewed a graduate student in Harvard who has written extensively on spirituality in Miyazaki films

…and also a pastor whose anime review site has become an imminent one on the Internet.

A year ago…a frequent contributor (now co-blogger) posted one of his best writings, a piece on Saint Seiya

…and I posted one of our most popular ones, on AnoHana.

AnoHana Menma

Art by のぞみ

“A Year Ago” is a regular series on Beneath the Tangles which links to posts from the site written around this date last year.

Fruits of the Spirit: The Kindness of Vash the Stampede

It’s your kindness, Lord
That leads us to repentance
Your favor Lord, is our desire
It’s your beauty, Lord
That makes us stand in silence
Your love
Your love
Is better than life

“Kindness” (Chris Tomlin)

As we continue with our Fruits of the Spirit series, this week I get to ruminate on what is perhaps the most easily understood fruit – kindness.  We’re all intimate with this action, through our demonstration of it, through reception of it, and sometimes through lack of experiencing it.

When we act in kindness, we’re showing love to another.  But the word carries an additional connotation; it seems to be intertwined with the idea of grace.  Kindness is loving another, whether or not they deserve it.  In fact, kindness is so moving, sometimes, because it’s unexpected.

There are many anime characters that demonstrate kindness, but one stands above the rest.  In a harsh world whose violence resembles the wild west as much as the garb of it’s citizens, lives one who is unnaturally kind.  The man in red, Vash the Stampede, first appeals to us through his goofy humor and superhuman abilities.  But as Trigun wears on, we come to love the show’s hero because, without fail, he always tries to act for the good of others.

Trigun

Art by syuku@ツイッタ自重しる

Vash’s kindness is unusually strong.  This defining characteristic becomes ingrained in him because of a model in his youth.  Rem, the older sister figure in his young life, taught him by example to love without borders, without regard for how others treat you, and in fact, to show kindness in all circumstances – even in the face of death. Read the rest of this entry

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