Welcome to 2014, readers, and also to the return of
nobody’s everybody’s favorite column, Anime Today!
With the new year comes new years resolutions, precious time off from school and work, delicious food (at least for some of us), time with friends and family, perhaps a new outlook on life, a chance to start over, and plenty of year-end clearance sales, but most importantly, a new season of anime! I don’t know about you, but I am particularly excited this season, as there are quite a number of shows airing this winter that I have been looking forward to. These are, namely: the continuation of Golden Time, Nagi no Asukara, season two of Silver Spoon, Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions!, and the brand new Tonari no Seki-kun, The Pilot’s Love Song, Engaged to the Unidentified, Witch Craft Works, and Pupa. Oh, and I’m also watching Kill la Kill still, but we’ll pretend I’m not. All in all, it’s looking to be an enjoyable season!
Despite all this, though, I found myself struggling to come up with material for today’s entry in Anime Today. Sure, as of writing we have already had the first entries into Tonari no Seki-kun, a very cute little comedy, and The Pilot’s Love Song, a prequel to one of my favorite movies, The Princess and the Pilot, as well as a great OVA follow-up to the pantheism-inspired Mushi-shi. However, despite some solid material, I still found myself scratching my head as to how to connect all of this to the theme of Beneath the Tangles: exploring the connections between anime and Christianity. That is, until I realized that I was looking far too closely for something that was already apparent around me!
Today, I would like to briefly discuss the topic of passion. I think it is rather obvious from my previous entries in Anime Today, as well as the sheer amount of anime that I watch, that there is definitely at least one thing I am passionate about: anime. Anime consumes my thoughts, my free time, and many of my bookshelves! I discuss it with friends, I drag my family into it, heck I even write about it here on Beneath the Tangles!
At this point, many would probably think, “Well here’s a guy I now know to avoid” (although, if you are reading this, I assume you can sympathize with me to an extent). This is particularly true in the Christian community. As a student at a rather conservative Christian university, I am fully aware of the social implications of being an unashamed otaku among Christians. This “passion” of mine that I was just describing can be misconstrued as many things, including (from personal experience): weird, pedophilic, gay, obsessive (which I shall address below), unhealthy, and a number of others.
Before I take that on directly, though, I would like to remind everyone of a few people with whom you might be familiar, whose passions could be interpreted as a near-obsessive part or goal of their respective lives: Joseph, the passionate dream interpreter and leader of Egypt, David, the passionate king of Israel, Elijah, the passionate prophet of God, John, the passionate baptizer, Paul, the passionate apostle, and Jesus, the passionate savior. I’m sure you’ve noticed my point here. In the context of Christianity, passion is something that every influential figure has held and used. Although this passion was all directed in the same direction, God and bringing people to Him, it is important to note that not a single one of these people utilized his passion in quite the same way as anyone else. In the same way, as I stated last year in a guest post, once again in the Christian context, watching anime has the potential to be absolutely a godly way to express one’s passion (and, obviously, I am not equating watching anime to be as constructive a passion as any of those in the aforementioned list of names, for they are on entirely different levels, as much as I am just making a not of the different contexts of the term and meaning of “passion”).
All of this simply forms a defense for why being passionate, particularly about anime, is not an immoral, or “un-Christian”, thing to do. But after defending why one should not not be so, what reasons are there for being so passionate about anime? Besides the practical positives that Christians and non-Christians can agree on, the Bible is chock full of advice on pursuing what you do wholeheartedly. Colossians 3:23 pushes people to work with all their heart. Revelation 3:16 encourages people to be fully committed, either hot or cold, as opposed to “lukewarm” (although perhaps applying this to anime is a bit of a stretch).
If the only thing that people were “allowed” to be passionate about was praying and reading the Bible (don’t get me wrong, both of those are great things), where would we be? I find it difficult to believe that Paul, a tent-maker during his time of ministry in the New Testament, spent absolutely all of his time preaching and meditating. If that was all he did, all he was passionate about, his tent-making would have suffered, thus he would created inferior tents, bad for both business and following the mandate previously mentioned in Colossians 3:23. Of course, he did not neglect these things in his tent-making I’m sure (they can be reconciled, as one can pray while making a tent), but I am sure that he made sure not to limit his own actions.
Anime is chock full of characters with passion. Although the season is still young, The Pilot’s Love Song makes it clear that the main character, Carl La Hire, has a passion that will be explored through the season. Even a silly, plotless series like Tonari no Seki-kun portrays Seki as an extremely passionate individual (albeit in a humorous way). The ongoing shows of Nagi no Asukara, Golden Time, Silver Spoon, and even Kill la Kill are absolutely filled to the brim with this theme as well.
Being passionate about anime is not bad, and it is most definitely not a sin, and it is actually something great!
However, that statement comes with a metaphorical asterisk (although since this is written, I supposed I could have just written in an asterisk there…). There is such a thing as going “overboard.” Although, as I mentioned before, I am not convinced that obsession is a bad thing. Obsession stemming from passion has bred so much good in our world, from developments in science in medicine to amazing music and art (one could even say that the most revered biblical figures were obsessed with God). However, passion and obsession can, if not controlled, lead to something that we in the Christian world like to refer to as “idolatry”, or placing something first in priority above other more necessary needs.
This is not just a Christian concept, although it might seem so because the need that is often in question when discussed by Christians is time with God. In the secular world, though, it is still applicable. Perhaps the most relatable and most telling example is the depiction of the “overboard” otaku who lives with his parents while middle-aged, has no job or income, has no back-up plan, is unhealthily obese, and has no social outlet (an oft-overlooked but necessary need due to out nature as social creatures). Without bringing a “need for God” even into the picture whatsoever, this person has ignored societal needs and obligations, health needs, social needs, and likely many more. At this (extreme) point, passion has been transformed from something harmless and helpful into something entirely different. Something harmful, in fact.
Despite that negative picture, I hope this works as an encouragement to anyone, Christian or not, who feels looked down upon by others for being invested in and passionate about something that others are not. Passion and even obsession can serve as wonderful human functions no matter your faith or interests! As I continue on this season, and writing for Anime Today, I thank God for the gift of human creativity and the anime that has come out of that.
And I continue to be passionate about anime.