Idolization in Anime Culture: Seiyuu and Maintaining a Godly Life

“Thou shall have no other gods before me,” a simple and obvious rule to not just Christianity, but to any monotheistic religion. Today, it is accepted that the sin of idolatry can take many forms from material possessions, activities, and even to other humans. Be it the Hollywood stars of America, the K-pop singers of Korea, or the girl groups like AKB48 of Japan, idolatry of celebrities is a growing and arguably dangerous problem in today’s society. Within the realm of anime culture, too, the idolization of the seiyuu cannot be denied.

Mitsuketaa! She's only 37. I mean 17.
Mitsuketaa! She’s only 37. I mean 17.

Tamura Yukari, for example, is one of the most talented voices in the industry, truly a god-tiered seiyuu. The White Devil, the Strategist, the Courageous Yuusha, Yukarin has done such a wide array of voices, I cannot even begin to comprehend her talent. Thanks to that, in addition to her personality and having found the secret to eternal youth as a forever 17 year old, she has quite the strong and loyal fan base. Her talent is undeniable. Her fan base is…a bit extreme at times. The most hardcore of fans certainly revere her as a goddess, which I can’t say is unique to her fans. The Japanese voice acting industry is brimming with talent and popularity with names like Sugita, Yui Horie, Sakamoto, and an endless list that I cannot even begin to do justice. Then you have the type-casted voices like KugiRie and Hanakana who rarely show any deviation in their voice acting yet have such large fan bases due to that single, specific voice that for some inexplicable reason everyone loves. If you aren’t a fan, you know how tiring it can be to hear that voice over and over.

I am quite the fan of a handful seiyuu as well. I don’t think I will ever actually grow tired of hearing Shizuka Itou’s voice (it’s a shame she’s actually a terrible person in real life). I just fall in love in Hayami Saori’s unrivaled kind and gentle and soft voice and voicing Azuki Miho and Haqua is a win as far as I’m concerned. I was always a fan of Saito Chiwa’s voice, but her performance as Kotori Kanbe was simply amazing. I have never been so impressed with a single voice acting role, and her Engrish is the best. Speaking of Rewrite, KitaEri’s Senri Akane, what can I say? Too boob. I guess hearing her voice a (good) heroine in a lengthy VN really pushed me from liking her voice to loving it. For some reason Hanakana was in Rewrite, too, but apparently not even Romeo knew she was voicing Kagari until after multiple drafts of Kagari’s personality. That’s not even being typecasted anymore! Just goes to show how far a seiyuu can get on popularity alone.

Anyway, not one of these names is someone I would say I’m fanatic about. I like their voices. I’m impressed by their talent. I look forward to their roles. My appreciation for them doesn’t go beyond that. What do I possibly know about crazy yandere stalker fans? Actually, I know quite a bit since I am one of them myself.

Art by でーぜる
Nana? Feito? Both!
Art by でーぜる

Nana Mizuki. Most known for her role as Fate Testarossa in the Nanoha series, she rose from a not-so well received debut to the uncontested Queen of Anison of today. I have been following Nana since 2007. What started as a simple appreciation for her music quickly grew into fandom and the slippery slope to fanaticism and idolization soon followed. I can proudly call myself a Nanatard, a term us Nana fans have dubbed ourselves. Unfortunately, I can’t proudly say I am an ideal Christian. I read her blog religiously, yet I can’t manage to read my Bible daily. I throw money at her whenever she releases a CD or DVD, but I sure don’t throw money at the poor. I can’t go a day without listening to her music, yet some days I really don’t want to hear what God has to say. It’s quite obvious from this that I idolize her too much. She is without a doubt a hindrance to my spiritual growth, and I should just stop following her before I stop following God. Or at least, that’s the logical reaction.

I think most Christians will look at the problem of idolization and say there is some line you must not cross. “You can like them, but as soon as you do that, you need to stop.” The most common thing I hear is about how idols are things that take too much of your time. “You spend more time with that than with God.”  And of course, at the foundation of the fears, is the thought that you are putting your interest before God and thus, placing God second. All these concerns are logically sound. I think there is merit in all of them; however, as with so many things with God, it is so much more complex than that and yet so much simpler. In the end, if God tells me I’m in the wrong, then I’m wrong. If He doesn’t, and it’s not just me ignoring God, then I don’t see what the problem is. Christians should know full well the voice of the Holy Spirit, and that voice is all that matters. The challenge then becomes interpreting what God is really saying.

A couple years after I started following Nana, I realized my fanaticism was growing out of control, and I did in fact harbor worries about idolizing this woman and putting her before God. So I prayed. I asked God what to do. And he responded. I will never forget the response I got. “I made her with your happiness in mind, so go all out.” So I did. I think most people wouldn’t believe me. It sounds so unrealistic. Now, nearly four years later, after indulging in all things Nana, I have to say, she has been the most positive influence in my life, both emotionally and spiritually, and I am truly thankful for God for her.

Shin Ai: An Autobiography
Shin Ai: An Autobiography

Nana’s autobiography, Shin Ai, is what completely won me over. I won’t go into the details, but it is a story full of struggles and suffering. Show me a 13 year old who can say “I want to become a strong person who doesn’t yield to my own weakness” after being harassed and bullied for 3 years. Show me an 18 year old who says “Who cares? If no one has done it before, then I will be the first,” after being criticized and scorned at her debut. Show me a 31 year old who, after reaching the most prestigious stage in Japan, can still bow before a crowd of 40k people and with tears of gratitude in her eyes, say “arigatou.” Nana surpassed it all and is now by far the most accomplished Anison singer in history, and she still maintains such a humble personality. Yeah, I would not mind if I could become a fraction of the person Nana is.

I love Nana so much, I really do. Her voice, her personality, her beliefs, and of course, her music, all of it is something I can look at and proudly call myself her fan. I know far better than most Christians what it is like to idolize a seiyuu. From keeping track of her latest music releases to her newest anime roles, from reading her daily blog to listening to her weekly radio shows, from earnestly waiting for concert reports to creepily waiting for her newest magazine pictures to be scanned. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. I mean, I’ve had conversations with other fans that last for hours almost purely about Nana. But when it comes down to it, when I think of how much I enjoy everything about her, I remember what God told me, and all of my praise toward Nana turns into praise toward God. I love Nana, but I love God so much more. I don’t know what a “normal” relationship with God is supposed to be like, but I rave to God all the time about how much I love her, I hear Him say, “I made her; of course she’s awesome.” I don’t feel qualified to tell people how to talk to God, but when I talk to God about Nana, I legitimately feel like He’s really, really happy just listening to me. One of the foundations about Christianity is that God wants a relationship with you. If you share your interests with friends and family, is it really all that different from sharing your interests with God?

I admire Nana beyond anything or anyone I ever have or ever will. Idols are obviously a problem to be on the lookout for; it’s written in the Bible so plainly. But the idea of limiting yourself in terms of time or money is sometimes misplaced. There is no set rule about what makes something an idol in your life. For some, it may be a personal weakness that they need to be careful about, but that does not hold true for everyone. The reason I can admire Nana to the degree I do without it being a spiritual problem is because I involve God in it and continuously listen to what He says. As long as God never tells me I’m in the wrong, I never will stop but if at any time I do feel I’m in the wrong, then you can be sure I’ll stop and listen even more carefully to what God has to say. And guess what? In the end, no matter how much you idolize a seiyuu, God loves her more than you do.

Kaze

Kaze is a graduate from the University of Tokyo who currently works on developing gene therapies for genetic diseases. He is a Nanatard since 2009 and mostly spends his time reading VNs and studying Japanese. Strangely enough, also a devout Christian.

5 thoughts on “Idolization in Anime Culture: Seiyuu and Maintaining a Godly Life

  1. Wow!!!! I think we are going to get along really well. Though I know little about seiyuu, I deal with the same issues in sci-fi and mecha anime.

  2. Congrats on first post.

    While I’m often astonished by the level of their talent, I don’t really have a tendency towards idolizing seiyuu. It’s exactly because I admire them as professionals that I believe they earn themselves the right not to be scrutinized off hours. Stacking expectations regarding looks, personality and the like won’t make it easier to look for good voice talent, which is what the profession should ultimately be about.

    I agree with your allusion to the problem of diving between religious practice and everyday life. It is odd that such a division should exist in the mind of a true believer. It is the unique characteristic of belief that it does not compete with, but dwells within all other aspects of our existence.

    Keep up the good work :).

  3. What a great first post! I think you really hit the nail on the head when it comes to deciding what’s okay and what’s not okay to do in life as a Christian. So many people try to find out what other people say about it, when really, it’s sometimes a whole lot easier just to ask God.
    I’m not really one to idolize seiyuu, as I have more of a tendency to do that with fictional characters. I do like Nana Mizuki, though. I really loved her performance as Utau in Shugo Chara 🙂

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