In January, I read through the Beneath the Tangles Fall Anime review like many of our readers/staff. In it, I read through Japesland’s review of Nobunaga no Shinobi (Ninja Girl and Samurai Master). I already enjoyed anime shorts, (I mean – I’m constantly plugging The Nameko Families to anyone who will listen), so the idea of a silly short steeped in Japanese history intrigued me! So, I jumped in and devoured the series. Now, I look forward to the new 3 minute episode each week and it inspired me to write here on the topic.
I have a few friends who scoff at short form anime. They tell me things like, “You should be watching more full length shows – take the time to do so.” Well, I do watch a few full length shows, but shorts are fun, can be engaging, and as a busy engineer/Dad of 4 kids, shorts are easier to follow and find time for than full length shows. Frankly, who cares – because I enjoy them.
Part of what unites us on this website is that all of us enjoy anime, manga, and other Japanese cultural items. It’s that shared interest in something we all enjoy that brought us together in the first place. We enjoy and find happiness in these things. Not permanent, long-term joy – but there is happiness to be found in enjoyment of media you consume.
We find various things in life that make us happy. People in our lives. Television series. Books. Comics. Anime. Manga. Video games. A nice hug. A refreshing breeze. A warm day. A cool day. A glass of ice cold Mountain Dew. There are all manner of things in life that can make us happy. But, you may be thinking, what about Jesus in all this? Does this diminish the joy Christians get from God? First, man – I’m good at guessing your thoughts. Second, no.
Staff writer Annalyn wrote about her experiences watching My Neighbor Totoro and spending time with her nephew. In doing so, she reminds us about enjoyment and happiness; also where this happiness comes from. She wrote:
…Delighting in God, his creation, and what he’s given us is part of truly knowing him. David was a great example, both in his actions (like dancing in front of the Ark) and his songs. And Paul instructs us to rejoice in the Lord. I think that, with God’s help, we can cultivate joyful hearts predisposed to delight. It comes from habitually seeking out and celebrating the good—and to do so on its terms. I’ve noticed that I’m the most joyful when I’ve been regularly studying God’s Word, memorizing it, and applying it. When I read Psalms of praise and use them to prompt my own praise, I’m more likely to notice things about God and his creation that make me excited.
Second, all truly good things are gifts from God. You don’t have to hyper-spiritualize the way you delight in them in order to glorify him and please him. Sometimes, a simple “thank you” will suffice. Think about it this way: if I spent the entire time watching My Neighbor Totoro talking about Miyazaki and praising his directing skills, I’m pretty sure he’d be displeased. And I’d be very annoyed if someone ate one of my cookies and immediately started talking about my skills as a baker (or worse, the nutritional value of it). If they want to learn about the ingredients or want more, fine, but I want them to enjoy the cookie for the cookie’s sake first, without thinking much, if at all, about me. Otherwise they’re going to miss out. That’s why baking cookies for men and children tends to be more satisfying, I think: they don’t skip the enthusiastic “yummy” step of delight. I suspect God has a similar stance, and I strongly suspect he loves childlike delight for the same reason. Enjoy nature. Enjoy people and the way their God-given creativity manifests. If you’re truly delighting in it, you should naturally want to know more about the Creator. But don’t skip steps or undervalue delight just because you think that’s what a good Christian should do. And don’t feel guilty about enjoying non-spiritual things like anime, chocolate, or the feeling of a good run. Just don’t forget where these all ultimately come from, or who gave you the senses to enjoy them.
God is the Creator and the author of all creation. He is the source of all delight. He wants us to take delight in the world He created for us. That said, our enjoyment of the created does not diminish Him unless we allow it to do so.
When we put creation above Creator, we worship it and in so doing we diminish God. However, when we are merely enjoying something there is nothing inherently sinful about it. Media and art is not inherently sinful just as it is not inherently altruistic or holy. How you respond both internally and externally is what we need to consider. If we make these Earthly, temporary things our true heart’s desire and the center of our life, that becomes a problem. I am reminded of the people in Warau Salesman NEW (The Laughing Salesman) who each created an idol for themselves and focused so much on that one thing. In so doing, this one thing led to their own personal destruction. That said, enjoyment is not the same as worship.
Purely enjoying something, taking pleasure in a situation or a piece of art isn’t evil. It isn’t problematic. It isn’t going to inherently separate you from others or God. You make the decision to let it do so. So, enjoy what you want to enjoy and if someone else doesn’t or doesn’t get why you like it? Forget it. Don’t let them ruin your bliss…
Ninja Girl and Samurai Master (Nobunaga no Shinobi) can be streamed legally at Crunchyroll.
The Nameko Families (Nameko-ke no Ichizoku) can (and SHOULD) be streamed legally at Crunchyroll.