Anime Today: Story, Story, Story!

If you read Kaze’s and my reviews of the spring anime season this year, it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that neither of us was impressed. In fact, the general mediocrity of it all left me in such a cynical mood that I commented on how low my hopes were for this (summer) season… only for me to be (several weeks in now) greatly and pleasantly surprised! Although I shouldn’t speak too soon, shows like Aldnoah Zero, Blue Spring Ride, and even Sword Art Online II have all far surpassed my original expectations, Free!, Glasslip, and Hanamayata have at least met them, and even the new Persona 4 anime has had me much more interested than its original counterpart (I’ve purposefully neglected to mention the several anime that have disappointed me).

Persona 4 Golden
Nice start!

And all of these pleasant surprises have assured me that there still exists a thing called “good storytelling” in the anime medium (hyperbole; obviously there has been and will continue to be good storytelling, I just like to be cynical). Something that can grip the reader and either ensnare him/her into the trap of “just one more episodes,” or otherwise threaten to put them into a state of withdrawal by withholding the next episode for next week. That is the feeling I had been hoping for last season, and felt that it had not been delivered.

Simply put, I want to feel invested in what I’m consuming.

This same concept carries through all mediums of “entertainment”, from books to film, from opera to anime. And, pardon this shamelessly “Christian-ese” segue, but it reminded me of the true intention of the authorship of the Bible.

Many of you reading this are likely already familiar with what I am about to write, so just humor me if you will. Modern Christianity has turned the Bible into something it never was, in many ways. Sure, writers of various books make reference to other books being Scripture, or even that what they are writing is to be considered revelation from God, and that has been retained over the course of millennia, but what has happened to its style as literature? In maintaining Scripture in languages modern compared to the original writing, yet still considered dead or nearly so for us (Latin and old English primarily, and though Greek is not a dead language my coming point will apply to it as well), people have mistakenly placed emphasis on a sort of elite-est prose that makes Scripture more difficult to understand and, more importantly, with which to relate.

Although there will always be problems balancing accuracy and readability (though I must say I greatly admire Eugene Peterson and his goal to make the Bible readable by modern, common person standards in The Message), that important thing we have lost is that the Bible was written for the common man (at least the New Testament; my knowledge of Hebrew and its historicity is fuzzy). Much of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, or common Greek, as opposed to its more aristocratic counterparts, used greatly in New Testament contemporaries’ high class writing in fields such as philosophy (to which the Bible is often now compared).

Today, people avoid the Bible like the plague because, quite honestly, it is so difficult to understand and, quite simply, read. Now some of this can be chalked up to the “state of the heart” if you will, but can we truly place all of the blame on someone’s willingness to read it when it has become so separate from its origin: a collection of gripping stories and lore that tells the story of God and his people. Were the Bible not so poorly executed in popular media and, thus forth, so widely and intensely ridiculed to the point of not being taken seriously (I don’t blame the people ridiculing the execution of Bible media, as I often do it as well, rather I blame the people who do not produce it well enough), it really would (or does) contain stories capable of standing side by side with modern science fiction and fantasy in terms of sheer scope and story (I actually quite liked the recent Noah for this reason).

Reading literature like the Bible really should feel like watching a good anime, only better! And because of that, it is a shame that modern culture often makes that difficult (though not impossible!).

Whether or not you believe in what Christianity holds to, or its interpretation of the Bible, I’d like to take a moment to urge you to consider the Bible as it was intended. Its divine or non-divine origins aside, it is an amazing piece of ancient literature, and one that ought to be something to get excited about!

11 thoughts on “Anime Today: Story, Story, Story!

  1. It’s a relatively widespread problem, where people create an artificial division between good literature and great literature.

    Good literature is a simple thing – something that people read and find engaging and moving or thought-provoking.

    Great literature is a weird social construct referring to those works that were highly influential and, for various reasons, have staying power.

    The latter can very often be good literature, and its usually thanks to its quality that it gains that influence and staying power. The issue is that with good literature, we can identify it because people like it. With great literature, the cause-effect relationship is perverted. People are expected to like and respect it /because/ it is great literature. This is extremely off-putting to anyone with a mind of their own. Worse yet, the snobbish following of those works will often insist they be kept difficult to read and appreciate, as well as feeding everyone a ready-made list of acceptable impressions and interpretations.

    A lot of people hate classics because school is just that good of killing those books as good, enjoyable and sometimes gripping literature. And the same applies to the Bible. I can’t imagine how many people can approach reading the Bible as fun and exciting when the Catholic world tells you reading it is a duty, not an experience.

    1. That was very insight-fully written! I always enjoy reading your comments!

      I may save your last paragraph in particular to share with others.

  2. Before the Old Testament was even a book, it was an ethnic memory of great intensity and staying power. A memory of the unbreakable link between the people of Judea and their God. Before the New Testament was a book, it was the emotionally intense, glorious memory of twelve men and how their Lord and friend put the weight of the most horrific pain on his blameless immortal soul.

    People who convert the Bible into a duty or a morality tract fail to understand the staying power and the sacred nature of stories. There’s a conception that something must be dour or unenjoyable in order to be sacred, and to think as much is to entirely miss the point.

    Things of great import must be felt in order to experience them as real. 🙂 Anime, of all mediums, still remembers this…and remembers the links between symbols, hero’s journeys. and Truth.

  3. I think it helps to not just read the Bible in and of itself, but also learn the historical background during which each book was written. (Various “study Bibles” help a lot with this.) Then, instead of just seeing some of the non-narrative chapters as just poems/instructions/whatnot, you can see them as parts of a larger narrative. For example, 2 Timothy becomes a lot more compelling of a read when you find out that Paul expected it to be his last letter before he was to be executed.

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