We’ve made it to the end of the aniblogger testimony project! This is the tenth and final in a series of Aniblogger Testimony posts, where select writers will discuss their personal faith. Today’s post is by Katie (Kokoro Hane) of Breaking Metal Windows and Kokoro no Uta. The previous posts in this series were written by Lauren Orisini, R86, Nikko, Arianna, Ed Sizemore, Canne, an anonymous blogger, Annalyn, and Zeroe4. Next Thursday, I’ll provide a wrap-up of this two-and-a-half month long series.
You can call me Katie, my real name, but my mangaka name is Kokoro Hane (“Heart Feather”). I remember coming up with that name. I’ve always wanted a really cool, pretty-sounding penname. My favorite Japanese word is “Kokoro” [heart] and I liked to use that as a nickname, but when I was figuring out a last name, all I could come up with was the Japanese word “Hane” [feather]. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but because I am a huge fan of CLAMP’s Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, the name “Kokoro Hane” would spell Tsubasa-otaku all over it! But it sounded so good together that I decided to go with it. Besides, “Heart Feather” does sound beautiful and mystic, even though the first thing that comes to mind might be Princess Sakura’s memory fragments. Currently, I am 18 going on 19. My faith is a Christian – Seventh Day Adventist. Some of my favorite manga and anime are Tsubasa Chronicles, Black Cat, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Kimi Ni Todoke, as well as Inkhana’s “Game Plan!” (which inspired me to make Christian manga). I am learning how to speak Japanese so one day I can reach them. I have two ongoing manga projects, as well as a collaboration. I love reviewing various anime and manga, not only ’cause it’s fun to state my opinion, but also to provide a “content guide” of each individual product to help readers decide if the particular medium would cause them to stumble mentally or spiritually. But wouldn’t it be nice if anime and manga existed with a Christian message? Something with a deep, powerful storyline that could touch someone’s heart and cause them to consider Christ? That’s why, as an aspiring mangaka, I live by this motto: mangaka on a mission. Maybe it’s not much of a “motto” than it is a “title”, but it’s what I live by.
For me, I always felt drawn closer to God through art. Especially with music. Music is, and always will be, my first love when it comes to art. It has the power to heal…or destroy. It should not be taken lightly. It can lift you up, it can bring you down. Seal your wounds, or slice them open. My favorite spiritual gift, as mentioned in the book of 1 Corinthians, is healing. However, I noticed that it’s never specific on that. It actually says the “gifts” of healing (notice how it’s plural?). And I think it’s because there are more ways than one to heal. The most common healing we think of is with medicine. But medicine can only really heal your physical ailments, what about everything else? I’ve personally seen the healing power of music. It may not literally seal up a wound, but it eases the spirit. I often volunteer with a group of others to sing at the hospital. Some play instruments while the rest of us sing hymns and worship songs. I’ve seen patients who have been literally brought to tears when we perform for them. And when your mind and spirit is uplifted, sometimes even the body itself can start healing much faster than if you’re in a depressed state.
I believe the same healing power can apply to stories. Let’s be honest…who doesn’t love a good story? Whether you love the creativity of the human imagination that can take you places beyond what is real or you love to hear an epic true story, a testimony of someone’s life, either way we all love a good story. But the key factor is, no matter which story you want to tell, you have to put all your heart into it. Anyone can tell a story, anyone can share a testimony, but without heart it’s empty. That’s why I love manga and anime so much. Not only is it a beautiful art form, but they emphasize alot on character development and emotion. Backstories are given, personalities are shown, relationships start to form…everything which only enriches the main storyline. You begin to feel for these characters, as if they were real. And sometimes…you may find yourself like one of those characters, you might find a story that makes you think of your own life. As a Christian who is a fan of this particular style, I’ve asked what others like me have been asking; “Does Christian anime and manga exist?”
The typical answer would be “not really”, as there have been some in the past and a few attempts, but generally there is none. But I would rather say, “Not yet….but you can make it happen!”
Now, you might ask me, “Why anime and manga? Why have you chosen to be this ‘mangaka on a mission’ “?
The truth is….I couldn’t draw. But I loved drawing. Though music was my passion, my brother and I always loved making these stick-figure comic books. They were weird and totally random (which made them hilarious), but they were extremely fun to make up as we went along. My brother began to get better and better at drawing, while I could never draw anything better than a stick character (and backgrounds are still a problem for me). But when we began drawing manga-style about two or three years ago, I found I was finally able to draw people. I was able to go beyond stick figures. It was a form of drawing I could actually do! I used to think I’d never be able to draw like my brother. But now, I’m drawing manga, and I improve the more and more I go. And I thank my brother for helping me and teaching me how to increase my skills. Seriously, without his advice, I probably would still be drawing stick figures. I already was a storyteller, and I got into writing Christian stories. And since manga became my drawing style and I love it so much, since the market lacks of Christian titles, why not use it for God’s glory?
I’ve always wanted to reach someone, but every time I try, I fail. Sometimes I wonder if God can even use me to help bring someone to Him. But maybe I’ve just never taken the right approach. Or perhaps it’s because I keep saying “I will reach someone” instead of “God will reach someone through me”. In order to truly bring someone to God, you have to set yourself aside, that the light that you have may attract those who dwell in the dark to it and that when they come in contact with you, they will ask “Where did you get that light? Can I have that light, too?”
And then, you can share the source. Remember that God is the one changing hearts, not you. But He can use you to bring people to Him, just always remember you are not the source of the light, but the light comes from God. The manga I create may never be noticed, may never become famous, may never even reach someone…but I have to try. Because if I don’t, what chances may I miss? Someone could be searching for a good read and wish to be taken away from all the strife in their lives, and the manga I could have created didn’t exist for them. I remember what a fellow Christian mangaka had shared. It was something she felt God said to her. She had read a professionally published American attempt at Christian manga and hated it, and it spoke to her, as if God was saying to her; “See? If you won’t do this, I’ll send someone else!”
That really made me think. And it’s best not to wait for someone else, because what if ‘someone else’ also chooses not to do it? If ‘someone else’ keeps saying the same thing, then who’s gonna make the manga? If you feel impressed to use the talents God gave you for ministry, go for it! I may never get a chance to meet the people who have read my stories, but my hope and my prayer is that it effected them in some way, that it spoke to their hearts, that they saw a glimpse of God. We try and we fail, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Your first manga might be a disaster, but if you DON’T even start it, you’ll never make GOOD manga. Practice makes perfect, ne?
In conclusion, can anime and Christianity go together? Yes, I believe so. Manga is neither good nor evil, it is a tool. Whether the tool is good or evil is determined by its wielder. When thinking about this, I always like to think of knives. Why a knife? You can’t really call a knife evil. It’s true a knife can be used for great harm, even kill, and cause torturous pain due to its sharpness, but let’s be honest, just go to your kitchen and you’ll find a knife. You don’t own a knife to hurt anyone, but to chop up things like fruits and vegetable to prepare a wonderful meal! And also, a knife can be used to save a life, like during surgery or if you’re caught on something and you need to cut lose. It’s the same with manga….it can lead you to or away from God, depending on how it’s used. If you can draw the style and wish Christian manga exists, don’t wait for someone else, why not add to the market which is lacking such? Pray about it and be sure that your heart is in the story, that it’s for God’s glory, not your own. So that way, if someone asks you if Christian manga exists, you can say “As a matter of fact, I’m working on it.”
May God bless and guide you with how to use your talents for Him!