Beyond the obvious gore and sexualization that is prevalent in much anime, there is probably one anime fundamental that bothers most Christians who are fearful of exposing their children to thoughts that might undermine their Christian faith: Eastern philosophy.
While modern Western thinking is arguably based in post-Enlightenment secularism as much as it is in the Judeo-Christian ethics that preceded it, the question of what to do and what to think about a medium based in something so incredibly foreign persists. However, while a strong argument can be made about expanding one’s horizons by exposing oneself to different thoughts in order to understand them, not necessarily agree to them, I’d like to bring you, our delightful readers, to one persistent Buddhist concept: living in the moment.
As an enormous fan of anime works that explore traditional Japanese culture, I’ve also come to realize the intrinsic link that a culture’s entertainment has with the spiritual thinking that has groomed it. Mushishi, which takes place in a fictionalized version of late 1800s Japan, departs from historical reality while simultaneously reflecting many of Japan’s religious ideals. Rurouni Kenshin, following a slightly more historically accurate Japan (none of those pesky fantasy “mushi” to muddle things up) is not just subtly influenced by its creator’s background, but is steeped in it. Examples of these entries go on and on, nearly never-ending.
Some Buddhist concepts go beyond the media expressly attempting to demonstrate them. The idea of living in the moment (or #yolo as the Millennial generation would say) is one of these. Whether you are watching a shounen manga, harem comedy, or a fantasy drama, you are more likely than not to be exposed to this idea. In fact, many Japanese creators have been expressly confirmed as to having been influenced by Buddhism, exhibited seriously in works like 1976’s Unico by Osamu Tezuka. The idea that life is in a(n) (near) endless cycle of reincarnation naturally leads to the conclusion that it would be irresponsible to not make the most of the time provided in the present incarnation (please note that this is an oversimplification, and I realize that the Buddhist and Hindu principles of reincarnation do not play out in the same way).
To the educated Christian, at first glance, this principle appears to be terribly hedonist, doesn’t it? I’m dying anyway, so I might as well enjoy life while I’m here. Yolo, yo! While there is definitely some truth to the irresponsibility of this thinking, I’d like to direct you to something that author Robert Velarde had to say:
Christianity is an adventure, although we probably don’t always think of it as such. It is, of course, a spiritual journey, and it may not take us to some distant and exotic land (although it might). But there is much about being a Christian that has affinities with the concept of adventure. In Acts 9:2 we learn that Christianity was also known as “the Way.” Derived from the Greek word hodos, “the Way” literally referred to a road or path-a way of getting from point A to point B. In broader terms, Christianity as “the Way” is about the Christian life as a whole.
While Christians are endowed with a sense of responsibility with which to carry the bodies they have been given in the world we’ve all been entrusted to steward, we’re also not just here to wait around until we get “whisked away to Heaven” (don’t even get me started on that misconception). Like Velarde said, part of the Christian faith is the adventure of living life as a Christian! In other words, enjoy the ride!
Robert Velarde, The Wisdom of Pixar: An Animated Look at Virtue (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2010), p. 104.