Have you ever tried explaining anime to someone who really never watched any of it? I mean really tried to get into the nitty gritty explaining it to them? Anime is super weird and so is manga, at times, and it can be challenging to explain some of your favorite series to people. I’m going to explain a few series to you now.
Imagine a world where three teenage girls who go by the name of out of date Sega consoles dressed in school-girl uniforms themed after the consoles. The three girls are in a special school run by a rabbit who we only see in glimpses on a computer screen. The school sends them into old and new Sega games as some form of subtle advertising. This short-form series then follows them through their schooling ending with the three girls having to make a choice about their own or other’s happiness. It had a bittersweet ending that I enjoyed. What was this series? Hi-scoool! Seha Girls (or Sega Hard Girls) which you can watch at Crunchyroll.
A series I currently watch includes the following. This short-form anime series is also about three high school age girls who think they’re going to become pop idols. How? Well, somehow by working at an arcade. Also, in their free time they’re practicing crane game skills which they are told specifically relate back to the ability to be a pop idol. When they succeed, they are actually…saving the world from asteroids which are on track to destroy the entire world. Through some twist of plot bending fate, their actions winning at these crane games using specific wacky methods of collecting the toys are powering massive equipment which knocks the asteroids off-course and keeps the world safe. Only these three girls can save the day and so far, they cannot know the truth of their actions. This is the currently ongoing series Crane Game Girls. I’ve talked about how illogical the series is at my blog, but I think this description gives you a good understanding of it too.
That isn’t the end of it. Try explaining your love of a manga series about Satan’s son, but not the same Satan, but he’s trying to kill Satan through mastering the art of Exorcism from various teachers including his twin brother (Blue Exorcist). Or explaining to me exactly why Utena turned into a car at the end of the Adolescence of Utena?
The truth is much of the media we consume will seem weird to outsiders. It may seem weird to those who also like said media, but it’s doubly weird for those who never heard anything about it. The internet even turned it this phenomenon into a game called “Explain Anime Plots Badly.” When I first started watching anime in college, I told my girlfriend I was getting into it with some friends. Her first response was, “Isn’t that all cartoon porn?” I said no, of course not. I wasn’t looking at cartoon porn, I was watching cool science fiction stories or westerns or historical fiction pieces. There are misunderstandings everywhere and, frankly, it seems weird. When we’re honest with ourselves, though, we should recognize that they are right – anime is weird.
As a Christian of the Evangelical variety, I find myself in the same situation when I explain my faith. It seems weird to those on the outside.
“You’re one of those Baptist?”
“You really dunk people at your church?”
“You really think Jesus was also God?”
“Wait, you don’t drink cause your church happens to be dry even though in the Bible there’s no specific prohibition against alcohol?”
“Why won’t you come with me to the football game? Cause it will make you miss church, really?”
And so on. If my actions and some general understanding seems odd, imagine how crazy the specifics of faith may sound to those outside of the church. I have a Chinese co-worker who’s only lived in the United States through her college work. She had heard of Christmas and Easter, but really didn’t understand the basics of Christianity at all. She was a total blank slate. I imagine when I explained some of it to her, she must have been confused. Let’s take a step back for a moment and really look at the basic story of Christianity.
Christianity involves an omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the universe choosing to become a human. Not just any human, but a poor man born to a poor family living among a subjugated people with minimal to no fanfare in the middle of a census inside a barn. An animal trough was his first crib. This God we worship then dwells in human form living a life among humanity knowing full well these people are broken, flawed, and going to murder Him. He lives His life outside of most major cities, preaching about how wonderful He is, how we need to boldly reject evil in our lives and thoughts, and how only through this human incarnation can one get closer to God. He is betrayed by one of His closest followers and sentenced to death by the state. This is not merely a quick death, though, but a brutal one following a period of mockery and physical torture. This omnipotent creator of the universe bound inside of a meat sack then chooses death, choosing to serve as a sacrificial lamb at His own alter to free humanity from their own sins. In other words, God lets His own creation kill Him. After His death, our God in human form resurrects Himself on the third day. He then teaches His disciples one more time, commanding them to tell everyone about Him. The path to salvation, to Heaven, is paved in the blood of our God who was transformed into a man. Too long didn’t read? The blood of one dead peasant who lived in a long gone empire approximately 2000 years ago, taught about rejecting our own internal evil, and claimed to be God has the power to save us from the wrath of God and free us from our own sin.
As I explain this to my coworker as best as I can with her having no reference point, I have to wonder what she’s thinking. “Is this madness, this man is telling me?” She may have thought that and, frankly, the Bible predicts people will think that. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Paul lays out that the world is expected to react to Christ as though what He’s saying and who He is is nonsense. He refers to the Gospel as foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. He calls it foolishness to those who are perishing (i.e. those who are lost without Jesus). To them apart from the Holy Spirit, everything we say appears to be nonsense. But, the Bible also says that the “foolishness” of God is far superior to any “wisdom of man.” So while the world may find what we believe to be nonsense, they’re wrong. Their wisdom is based on assumptions from fleeting creatures which eventually die. Ours is based on a reality far greater, an infinite truth based on an almighty God.
So yea, the world does think this Jesus of ours is nonsense. Just like most people think anime is silly and weird nonsense. In both cases, I’d argue that these people are wrong.