What is is that most of us live for? It certainly varies from person to person, but if we dig down and analyze our habits, thoughts, and actions, a few items might arise – family, job, faith, money, comfort, and entertainment. For otaku, entertainment may be at or near the top of the list. We don’t just enjoy anime – we revel in it.
For Christians, this can be especially problematic. A conservative approach to anime would deem the entire form as something evil and immoral. Rob of Christian Anime Review recently tweeted me the video below, in which a pastor discusses various nerdy entertainment, including anime, and how these forms influence us. I don’t disagree with all he has to say.
Of course, the viewpoint of the writers on this blog is that there are a lot of fundamental truths that we can mine out of anime – ideas that capture the most significant tenets of Christian faith and impress them in such a way that might move us, encourage us to explore, and even transform us. And on simpler level, we approach anime simply as fans watching an art form, while hopefully using sound judgment as to what we should avoid.
Still, it’s not that simple. Anime is a medium developed in a very non-Christian country, inherently presenting challenges to Christian viewers. Among them are how the characters are drawn and depicted. For me, the one of the two most uncomfortable questions you could ask me (because they perhaps point out my hypocrisy!) is “Are you okay with how anime depicts minors?”*
I would hazard to say that most anime fans would agree with me when I say it’s despicable and harmful to present very young characters in sexual situations (though anime loves to get around this by presenting age-old characters in kids’ bodies**). But what of teenagers and pre-adolescents? They’re underage, too, after all, and they are frequently depicted in fanservice-y ways, sometimes for comic relief, but often for the viewer’s pleasure in less virtuous ways.
This week, Japan finally succumbed to pressure and outlawed possession of child pornography. No kudos to the country for taking so long in doing so, though perhaps this will help change the culture a bit in a positive direction. But of note is that anime, manga, and light novels can still operate as they are. I’m sure many an anime fan breathed a sigh of relief at this exception.
But what should Christians think? And not just of this development, but how we respond to the depiction of underage individuals in anime? Do we believe in the whole 2D is 2D and 3D is 3D, and the earlier cannot harm the latter? Certainly that’s among the questions that have been asked and will continue to be.
There are other questions to ponder upon as well:
- Should we avoid series that show any semblance of sexualized fanservice, or just those that press beyond a certain precipice?
- Should we know our own boundaries and follow them, or is that opening a can of worms that might lead us down a slippery slope of rationalization and temptation?
- Is there even a clear cut answer?
I don’t have a good answer for these questions. What I do suggest is that we all really think about this topic with a clear mind and that we take time praying about it and diving into scripture. The answers might be to our liking – or they may not be. Either way, if we commit our lives to Christ, we need to let him give us guidance and do our best to abide in him. Even when it comes to anime.
* The other question causing me discomfort is “Do you watch all your anime legally?”
** I immediately thought of Dance of the Vampire Bund and Monogatari, but a much earlier child-adult-vampire character was found in western media through Kirsten Dunst’s role in Interview with the Vampire