What does it mean to be in the world but not of it as a creator (John 15:18-19) who focuses on spotlighting manga?
This is a question I have been deeply pondering as of late.
Recently on my personal social media profiles, I’ve gradually (or not so gradually) made a transition where I am almost exclusively focusing on what I define as “clean manga,” or series with no nudity, extreme language, and gore/graphic violence. This is a big switch from last year when I was almost exclusively focusing on novels and other non-manga titles I had been reading.
Why the change? What lead me to this?
I can only describe it as a “God nudge.”
As a former freelancer who coordinated online book tours, it was (and has been) hard to see how me sharing about manga makes a difference. Though interestingly enough, I would never say that Beneath the Tangles isn’t ministering to a variety of people with different spiritual backgrounds.
So what makes me sharing about manga any different?
Nothing I suppose, except all too often I forget what Beneath the Tangles remembers: God can use our passions for His glory.
I shouldn’t forget, but I often do. When I was listening to the radio recently, the hosts were talking about how when they asked Christian teens what they would define evangelism as, they said it was showing the love of Jesus through action.
The hosts continued on, saying it was an interesting answer and asking if action alone was enough to show Jesus. When should we use words? Do we need to use words?
While at the time I thought about what the radio hosts were saying, it wasn’t until I wrote the opening question for this blog post that I really considered my own actions and why I do what I do as a manga reviewer, writer, and mangatuber.
I wasn’t able to answer those questions in the moment, especially given occurring world events. The days that followed were a vicious cycle of wondering, worrying, and deep sadness. Was what I was doing in vain? Was my love for manga purely self-indulgent? Yet how could it fully be this when I really felt this passion was stirred in me for a purpose?
In an act of desperation on a day where my heart felt extremely heavy, I reached out to our leader here at Beneath the Tangles, Twwk, and shared with him that I was struggling on a personal level to see how my love for manga was making a difference.
While I will not go into full detail of what he shared, I will say I am very thankful that he oversees Beneath the Tangles because he helped me to see and realize that while I may love manga, sharing manga is not necessarily about me. It’s about other people.
When I’m sharing about the manga I am reading or have read on my social media platforms, I am subconsciously (and consciously) inviting other people into a conversation. I am opening myself up to them in hopes that they will identify and connect with what I am sharing. Or maybe they don’t necessarily connect with the words I’m saying, but they still want to have a conservation and share how they feel about the manga in question.
Either way, it still leads to forming a connection with someone else. That may not sound groundbreaking or transforming, but something that Beneath the Tangles has shown me time and time again is those small conversations about a shared common interest can lead to deep conversations about Christ.
Maybe those conversations don’t happen right away or even ones I may personally have with that person. That doesn’t change the fact that I should act in a way where I want to step through someone’s screen and get to know them outside of a “like” or a number.
Jesus was the ultimate example of meeting people where they were and connecting with them. It didn’t matter what the circumstances were or what was going on. It could have been at a dinner, on a lake in the middle of the storm, or at a well in the heat of the day. He saw people and reached out in a way they could be seen and understood.
I am in a similar position in that I have a chance to use my love for manga and follow the example of my Teacher, Jesus, by living out what He did, but in the otaku community. How?
Because reading manga and watching anime is that common interest. It’s a place where others like myself can meet other otaku where they are and join together over something we love.
Here very recently I attended a virtual live stream where a MangaTuber was randomly choosing different people at the live stream (who had submitted photos of their manga collections to him previously) to feature and share his thoughts on their collections.
One of the people he featured had almost an exclusive manga collection that was all translated in Polish. Many of us remarked in the comments how amazing that was because I know personally I had no idea that manga had been translated in Polish! It was absolutely incredible as a manga reader because while I know manga is usually translated from Japanese to English, here was another manga reader I could interact with, this despite their reading manga in another language.
I’ve also seen this among some of my personal manga reading friends that live in Europe. They will read manga translated in German, yet we still talk and share our thoughts on the same series.
Where am I going with all of this?
Manga and anime has this incredible way of bridging gaps between people. It can connect us with people of different ethnicities, languages, ages, cultures, and beliefs, all because we love and share a similar interest.
While I may have been struggling to see how this interest had value outside of myself, I no longer can or will deny that manga and anime really do have a place in our lives.
A meaningful place that, yes, is a fantastic source of entertainment, but also one that genuinely can form a connection with people and lead to conversations that might have not been started otherwise.
I think back onto a conversation I had with my oldest son thanks to us watching some of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba together. The topic of reincarnation came up and we talked about it in relation to our Christian faith and what we believe happens after we die, as well as what reincarnation is. As we continued talking, I was able to share with him that if reincarnation was real and people came back to a new and better life then their past life, it would still never compare to the joy of being in Heaven with Jesus forever.
It was only a ten to fifteen-minute conversation, but without having watched a few scenes of Demon Slayer together, we might have never talked about something like this. Yet anime “united” my son and I in a way where we could genuinely talk about something that was eye-opening and drew us both closer to Jesus.
Luffy once said, “No matter how hard or how impossible it is, never lose sight of your goal.”
As an otaku believer, I never want to lose sight of my ultimate goal: sharing Jesus with others. But in reference to my original question of what does it mean to be in the world but not of it as a creator who focuses on spotlighting manga, I can finally answer that with confidence.
If I keep my eyes on Jesus as I continue to dive into this incredible world of manga and anime, then I can have faith that my love for manga and anime can lead to conversations about Him. That I can show others He cares for them and loves them, but it starts with me opening myself up to other people. It starts with me inviting them into conversations and genuinely acting as someone who cares for them beyond a “like” on a social media post.
Yes, if I keep Jesus the forefront and “work unto Him,” as Colossians 3:23 shares, then I know with certainty that these passions have purpose, have value, because someone just might reach out and it could lead to a conversation about someone I love even more then manga and anime: Jesus.
That is my goal. To have those conversations and genuinely show Christ through this passion and interest in manga and anime.
I pray I never forget.