We have a special guest post today from Teresa Christina, a blogger we first met here a couple years back. Since then, she’s gotten to know some of our staff and become a strong voice in the aniblogging community. I’m delighted to present this piece about how anime has impacted her life.
It all started in high school… as most epic stories do. I was 17 and obsessed with martial arts. I went to the dojo almost every day of the week. There I met a friend who I bonded with over our martial art and Star Wars (my second nerd love, my first being Lord of the Rings). Then a crazy idea popped into my head. I asked her if she would go to a Star Wars convention with me in LA. I sewed our cosplay and together we choreographed a light saber routine to do flash mob style at the convention.
As we practiced our sword training in my back yard, my friend mentioned, “Hey, there is this anime that I really liked about swords. It’s called Sword Art Online.”
“I dunno,” I replied, “Anime is some scary stuff.”
“Oh come on, just try one episode.”
I remember watching SAO on the floor of my room avoiding home school and choosing to sew my Jedi costume instead. I also remember crying on the floor half way through the season.
When I saw her next I looked her in the eyes, “I WANT MORE!!!!!”
And so the obsession started.
As I got more into anime, I remember wondering if my parents were going to stop me. I sat down on the couch and googled, “Can Christians watch anime?” What popped up was a blog called “Beneath the Tangles.”
I did my research and came to the conclusion that I was not if fact a sinning sinner by diving into these strange foreign cartoons. I read a post by TWWK (Charles), the founder of Beneath the Tangles, a couple years ago where he talked about Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal. I looked up the anime and watched it all in one night. I finished it at like two in the morning. After a good cry I finally fell asleep.
The next day when I went to go run errands with my mom, I started crying all of a sudden when she stopped at the stoplight. She asked me what was wrong and I went on to explain the plot of Rurouni Kenshin. This is the part of my life where I realized that I had dived into a deep pit of emotion where my mother was never going to be able to follow or understand. Ah, the life of an otaku.
It wasn’t until a year later when I watched Kenshin for the third or fourth time that I made the Jesus connection.
* Spoilers for Rurouni Kenshin Trust and Betrayal ahead *
The anime centers around the worst of the worst criminals – an assassin named Kenshin. His killing means nothing to his heart. He doesn’t even ask why his victims need to die. He’s become hard on the outside, but on the inside he is slowly dying. His superiors can see how the blood on his hands are affecting his soul. His guilt is symbolized on his face in the form of a scar inflicted on him by one of his victims. Every time he remembers that kill, his wound starts to bleed.
Enter Tomoe, the fiancé of the man who gave Kenshin his scar. Kenshin takes her in to the establishment where he works. She gets a job there easily. She’s a quiet soul and a hard worker. As she works, she seems to be fascinated by Kenshin’s tragic manner. She can feel his bleeding heart.
Kenshin’s superior pulls Tomoe aside and asks her if she would be willing to be his sheath, his emotional protector. She accepts and in a flurry, runs away with Kenshin into hiding. She watches him kill a man and bravely proclaims to him that she accepts him as he is.
Kenshin and Tomoe pose at husband and wife. Their relationship blossoms like the sakura as they fall in love. Kenshin vows to protect Tomoe, but in the end he cannot. Kenshin finds out that Tomoe is the fiancé of one of his kills and is emotionally broken. He is soon flung into his last fight badly wounded from his travel to find his wife. Tomoe watches him fight. She then has a vision of her fiancé. It’s almost as if his ghost is giving her permission to show Kenshin her ultimate love.
Tomoe runs in between Kenshin and his opponent. She stabs the man as both he and Kenshin stab her. The adversary falls over dead, and Tomoe falls into Kenshin’s arms. She reaches her dagger up to Kenshin’s cheek and makes a second cut on his cheek to form a cross.
“Forgive me my love…”
This is her final act of love. Her love sets him free from his guilt of being a murderer and inspires him to start living a virtuous life.
Just like Jesus.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
– Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)
What hit me the hardest was the beauty of their marriage. (Even if they weren’t really married…) Tomoe’s love for Kenshin was so much more powerful then her hate of him killing her fiancé. God loves us deeply because we are his children, but he hates the sin in our lives. He not only hates it, but he can’t be around it! No one who has sinned can ever be in heaven with him because he is perfect beyond measure.
God’s love is too powerful to let our brokenness get in the way. As Christians we are called the bride of Christ.
Marriage is supposed to be a symbol of the relationship between the Church and God. Kenshin represents sinners. On our own, we are no better then murderers. Our hearts are bleeding out and dying more and more everyday. Our souls are rotten without God. But when Tomoe comes into our life, she accepts us where we’re at and brings the ultimate redemption into our lives. But to have this redemption, the redeemer has to die. And it can’t just be a quiet nice little murder; it has to be a giant bloody slaughter.
Tomoe is as innocent as a lamb. And only the purest of lambs can bring the sweetest of redemption. In the Old Testament, God taught his people that the only way to cover up their sins was to sacrifice a pure lamb to him. This was symbolic of the sacrifice that Jesus would make on the cross in a couple hundred years. Jesus was the lamb that WASHED AWAY our sins. All previous sacrifices only covered up the sin.
“For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.”
– Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)
Tomoe’s death was a heavy reminder of just how much sin costs. In order to be free from his sin and guilt, Kenshin had to watch his beloved die in his arms. I’ve never been married, but in my single life God is telling me to think of HIM as my husband. I watch Kenshin and imagine myself in Kenshin’s place and my husband Jesus dying in my arms. Not only is he dying for me, but he’s dying because of me. MY sin is what killed Jesus.
How dare I.
That’s all I can say. How dare I. What gives me the right to be the one receiving the redemption? I should be the one suffering for my wrongs.
But there is a thing called love that can defeat any enemy….
The difference between Tomoe and the Jesus story is that Jesus actually came back to life! Because he’s God and Tomoe is not. I get the privilege of having a personal relationship with Jesus. He will never be apart from me. When I die, I get to enter into his full presence in heaven and ask him all the questions like, “Did Adam and Eve have a belly button?”
Anime has brought me closer to God because it has taught me about themes of sacrifice, redemption, and love, that are VERY real things in my every day life – because Jesus! You can find connections to God in pretty much any story, but I’ve found that God is in anime more then any other form of story telling. Why? Because Japanese culture longs so dearly for Jesus but they don’t know they need him! This shows up everywhere in their stories.
If you are a Christian and you are wondering if you should watch anime or not, my advice is 1) talk to the Holy Spirit. He knows your heart, neither do I or anyone on Beneath the Tangles know what you should or shouldn’t watch. 2) I encourage you to try it while keeping your eyes open to Christian themes! The find someone to talk about it with! I am always up for a discussion and I’m sure everyone on Beneath the Tangles would love to have a chat with you too! (Find all the anime peeps on twitter) 3) And always be careful. Be prayerful in everything you watch. There are some anime that I just can’t watch because of personal convictions that many other Christian anime fans LOVE! Don’t be ashamed to say “No” to an anime. And don’t be afraid to say “yes” if you’ve prayed about it. Above all, watching anime should be a form of worship. For example, I worship God by using anime to share the gospel on my blog. Please, come and stop by sometimes!
How will watching anime draw you closer to God?
Teresa Christina has been a Christian anime blogger for two years. When she isn’t watching anime she is writing stories, drawing fan art and dancing in the halls. Check out her aniblog, Otaku in My Veins.