Anime Today: Trusting in an Invisible God

As a follower of Christ, one of my favorite things is seeing God in areas where you least expect Him. This is especially true in anime, and writing this column, “Anime Today,” has been wonderful practice in seeking out these appearances in modern form. Although many Christians make the mistake of believing God to only show His hand in exclusively “Christian” media (I use that term loosely), as an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God, throughout history He has proven Himself to use people from every walk of life to present His truth (just look at the interactions of ancient Israel with the gentile nations). With this in mind, Gingitsune has continued to prove itself a testament to both general biblical principles as well as specific teachings of Jesus Christ during his ministry.

As usual, some of the most edifying themes I identify in media such as anime are not overt, but the more subtle ones that can often be missed. This is the case with the topic of today: trusting in an invisible God.

One of the more intriguing, yet less central, characters of Gingitsune is Makoto’s father, Tatsuo. A kind, unassuming Shinto priest, Tatsuo carries out his duties diligently from episode to episode, all the while caring for his daughter and Satoru. In the midst of his day-to-day activities, however, exists an inspiring character from which a believer can gain much. In particular, I was finally struck in episode nine by something that is easy to miss: his loyal devotion to the heralds (and gods) he serves.

Tatsuo Saeki
Art by ちょびくま (Illustration ID 6849096)

Although Makoto and Satoru receive the majority of the show’s writing attention, Tatsuo continues to serve in the background with no complaints. This in itself could be a topic of discussion, but what is particularly striking about it is that he does all of this without the ability to even see the heralds he is even serving. Although his late wife could see them, and his daughter Makoto can now see them, Tatsuo has (assumingly) lived a life blind to the supernatural. However, this does not stop him from not only serving the supernatural, but also wholeheartedly believing in it.*

Stopping here provides an adequate presentation of what it means to follow a power that we cannot see, something that many Christians struggle with (myself included), but Gingitsune does not stop here. In fact, as I have seen throughout the series, Gingitsune follows through with some of its minor presentations by providing a more full picture of what the writers want to say.

At this point in the series, not only are we reminded of an undying devotion to an invisible (Shinto) power, but we are given the flip side of this faith: the perspective of the divine. Although not a god himself, Gin has his own views of Tatsuo and his faith. Despite being perhaps less focused than your average Shinto priest, Gin seems to give him great trust. In fact, this even extends to giving him more leeway than perhaps is normal for a herald-priest relationship (this is especially exemplified in Gin’s reaction to Haru’s dissatisfaction with Tatsuo).

This relationship reminds me greatly of many figures throughout the Old Testament. For instance, in the case of Abraham (Abram at first), on many occasions Abraham performed actions that were less than pleasing in God’s eyes. In one case, he lied to Pharaoh about his relationship with Sarah (Sarai at first) as his wife, saying that she was his sister (which wasn’t entirely a lie considering she was his half-sister, but I digress) in order to protect his own skin. Despite God’s displeasure with this sin, because of Abraham’s great faith in his God, God still delivered him from trouble by cursing Pharaoh. Another instance of this comes in the form of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba. Despite being a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), he still fell to the sin of adultery. However, due to his great faith and repentance, God forgave him and continued to work through him.

Unless something else is revealed later in the story past what has been released as of writing, Gin’s treatment of Tatsuo seems to parallel this attitude to an extent. Tatsuo shows great faith, faith that could even be considered greater than Makoto’s due to the difference in their ability to “see,” and this shows. This, then, causes Gin to act appropriately.

Christians can learn much from this image as, again, Gingitsune continues to reflect principles applicable to every believer.

Notes:

*The distinction here is important, as well as the order, for someone can “serve” the supernatural without actually believing it. In fact, this describes the majority of those who would be considered “culturally Christian,” or, more generally, “culturally religious” (as this can be attributed to any belief system that believes in the supernatural). Going to church and donating can still take place without an actual belief in anything beyond.

Editor’s Note: Though of a slightly different topic, note that we have a series of posts called The Invisible God in Anime and Manga.

6 thoughts on “Anime Today: Trusting in an Invisible God

    1. I looked it up and it definitely looks interesting! Thanks for the recommendation, and I’ll definitely try to get around to it (especially since it’s only 12 episodes), but I am currently marathoning through the rest of my accumulated backlog, so it may be a little while before I’m able to get to it.

      Thanks for reading!

  1. Eesh. Charles. I haven’t commented in a while, so I hate to just waltz back into your blog with something so negative, but I feel I need to speak my mind. You’re such a nice person, but you really shot yourself in the foot on this one. Let me walk you through as gently as I can.

    You started off talking about Tatsuo’s faith in a god he can’t see. But the key difference between Yahweh and Gin is that Tatsuo can actually perceive Gin’s works unfolding before his eyes–not directly, but through the tangible results of Gin’s power. There is no need for faith in this case. Gin and Yahweh are as different as theism and deism (a god that is active in our lives rather than a god that set things in motion and just observes without interacting with his/her creation).

    But the real problem with your argument comes when you start talking about Abraham. Your angle is one of forgiveness through faith. Abraham sins, but his ability to repent gets him back on Yahweh’s good side. Aside from the fact that it would have been far better in my opinion for Abraham to have not committed the sins in the first place (and thus have no need for redemption) you missed something key that blows a big gaping hole in the point you’re trying to make.

    It is simply that Abraham had a direct line to Yahweh. If Abraham needed help, Yahweh was there to bail him out. Abraham is not Tatsuo, Abraham is Makoto.

    The example you used of how Yahweh deals with the enemies of his followers also reveals how Gin has a better sense of morality than the god of the bible. The thought of Gin cursing someone at the behest of Makoto is frankly comical. But Christians the world over see no problem with Yahweh reaching down his mighty hand and hardening Pharaoh’s mortal heart. And the kicker is that Christianity teaches that this kind of god still performs works in the world today, but sees fit to hide himself from modern man where he saw no need to hide from Abraham.

    I could keep going, but I’ll leave it here. If I got a little hot under the collar, I apologize. But it’s these kinds of simple logical fallacies that made me realize that either Yahweh can’t possibly exist, or if he does exist I could never worship him.

      1. Thanks for checking the blog, Alex. It’s been a while!

        I’m sure there are holes in my arguments (there always are, and this column and this particular article are not meant to be as much as an apologetic, and so the points are made with the assumption that it is as such). I’ll do my best to reply with your points in turn.

        I would argue that Tatsuo’s ability to “see” Gin’s works is about as significant as the ability of current believers. Unless I’ve missed something in particular, rarely (if ever) does Gin actually do any specific interaction with Tatsuo. I’ve taken particular notice of this as I’ve taken a great interest in it. One instance of this is when Tatsuo brings offerings to Gin. Perhaps you can correct me if I’m wrong, but Gin never directly took the offerings, picked them up and ate them in front of him, or really did anything “tangible” in front of Tatsuo. As far as I can tell, Gin is believing in Gin’s existence through *indirect*ness more than anything (such as seeing the oranges gone later). Please let me know if there’s something I am missing there, though.

        I’ll admit that my comparison to Abraham is not strong, but I don’t believe that the specific problems you have with it are significant enough to drop it altogether. I’ll answer your points respectively. First, it *would* have been better for Abraham never to sin at all, but that ignores the human condition and the human inability not to sin. Second, that “direct” line depends on how you interpret Scripture. I am not a fundamentalist, by any means, and I am not knocking fundamentalism (for all I know, it could be right and I could be dead wrong), but I believe that much of Old Testament Scripture is, just like secular history, correct but generally exaggerated for theological effect (an example of this would be the creation story: I don’t believe in a young earth, but I believe that the concept of 6-day creation is an important and impactful one). Finally, it’s hard to say what a “better” morality is, so I won’t even bother getting into that argument, but I will say that Gingitsune makes it pretty clear that Gin is more fallible as a herald than an actual God, which is evidenced by his frequent outbursts with Makoto and Haru. Gin cursing someone on behest of Tatsuo is a comical thought in the context of Gingitsune, surely, but Tatsuo wanting to curse someone at all is even more so.

        As always, I’ll reflect what Charles says by saying that this blog is intended to be a safe place for discussion, so I welcome any further points you have to make. Thanks for reading despite your disagreement!

      2. I think that Japes did a great job of responding to your critique. I’ll ad a few more ideas that came up as I was reading your response:

        I haven’t watched a single episode of Gingitsune, so I’m not at all sure how he demonstrates his power as opposed to the way God does. But any Christian would tell you that it is clear that God does demonstrate his power in the world – that His characteristics are found in nature as well as scripture. This is what lead us to faith – faith is not blind, but it is a confidence based on what we’ve witnessed.

        I also thought more about your discussing regarding Abraham’s “direct line” to God. My reading of scripture leads me to believe that in the very least, there are some cases where Abraham is praying to an invisible God, rather than speaking with him “face to face (or back?).” It is not repentance that Abraham is most honored for, but FAITH. Despite the circumstances of his life, Abraham knew God to be good and that he would fulfill his promises to him.

        And faith means making that decision to trust. Faith is not easy and it bends with the wind, since we humans are so fallible. And because he don’t physically see God before us, it’s made all the harder, though our experiences through a variety of forums have led us to our decision. And we are blessed because we believe, even if God remains physically invisible to us (John 20:29).

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