The past few weeks have been a whirlwind if activity in the world of otaku with the changing of seasons… and with the changing of seasons comes the changing of anime! I have been particularly excited about a number of anime that have started up (or continued) and the possibilities that they have opened up for “Anime Today!”
So far in the season, one particular anime has stuck out to me is Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods. What stands out about this series in relation to the rest of the season, as well as the past several seasons perhaps, is not what I would normally look for in an anime. In fact, considering my favorite this past season has been Monogatari, it might stun you to realize that the reason Gingitsune has stood out to me is quite simply because of its amazingly family friendly nature.
Now I would be the first to admit that, although I consider myself a follower of Christ, much of my taste (particularly on the anime side) is what many of my friends would consider as on the “liberal” end of the anime spectrum (I’ve already mentioned Monogatari). Quite frankly, I have a high tolerance for what some might view as “unsavory” content (in the proper context). With that said, very few anime that I consider masterpieces do I feel comfortable recommending to those of my Christian friends who have not seen anime before, or to friends who want something to watch with their small children (this is particularly true seeing as that tends to be more the role of American cartoons than the obsession of otaku). In fact, besides nineties shoujo (such as Cardcaptor Sakura) and Studio Ghibli’s many films, it is rare for me to see an anime that gives the impression of something for the entire family to watch. However, that is exactly what Gingitsune does.
Before going on any further, I must first mention that Gingitsune is based almost entirely on the Japanese Shinto worldview (I use the term worldview as opposed to religion because that is a more accurate representation of how it is viewed in Japan). This particular portrayal of Shinto centers around the main character, Saeki Makoto, a shrine maiden with the ability to see the invisible wolf herald of the shrine, Gintaro. As with any good fiction, though, this detracts neither from the wholesome nature of the series nor the biblical principles that can be drawn from it. If anything, it actually contributes to the educational nature of the show, as it teaches quite a bit about Japanese culture and worldview (even I have already learned a few things about the Japanese traditions involving local deities and shrines), and learning other cultures does not hinder spiritual growth, but actually strengthens it!
With this in mind, though, and the fictional storytelling devices being treated as such, one can move on to the true strength of the series, namely its teaching of morality. I feel so (surprisingly) strongly about how well Gingitsune acts as biblical-value anime that I had even planned to write an entire piece on episode two’s portrayal of the Christian teaching of conflict-resolution found in Matthew 18 (in this episode entitled “Learning to Compromise,” Saeki deals with the problems of not dealing directly with an offender and instead confiding in others who are not involved, at which point she is informed by Gintaro that she should deal more directly, which ties in nicely with the teachings of Matthew 18:15-17).
The main problem I am now faced with in explaining any more of the series at this point is, quite frankly, that the season is only two episodes in. At this point it is impossible to see how the quality of the series in all aspects (including both from a moral standpoint and from a production standpoint) will stand up in the episodes to come. While, in these two episodes, Gingitsune has failed to impress me with its creativity or production values, it has managed to gain my attention merely by pushing itself as something I would show to my (hypothetical) children. This is an oft-overlooked point in the world of anime, and one that seems to only be consistently answered by the works of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. However, despite being ignored, it is an important one that should merit positive attention by those of any belief.