The new anime season is just around the corner! And one that stands above the rest for fans of a certain generation. Running for two consecutive cours and premiering July 7th, the new Rurouni Kenshin anime is the latest classic series from c. 2000 to receive a reboot. The original was a precious show to me (as was the original manga), which made it all the harder when I decided that I wouldn’t be tuning in. Neither will Beneath the Tangles be generating any content related to the series beyond this letter as we seek to best live out the principles we espouse and encourage you to deeply consider the entertainment you consume.
But before I explain further, let me take you back to 2002. Though I’d grown up in the church and in a Christian family, I’d only recently come to understand the weight of what Christ did for me on the cross and how truly amazing his grace is. I was learning about Christ as the living Savior and not just the wonderful teacher I’d grown up reading about. He had come alive to me.
I was reading the Bible voraciously, but I was also learning about Christ from others, namely, writers like Philip Yancey, C.S. Lewis, and John Piper. And though I didn’t realize until I started Beneath the Tangles, I was also forming my conception of Christ from non-Christian media that helped illustrate biblical principles in ways that were imaginative and unexpected. Two characters from anime illuminated Christlike actions to me in particular. Yep, you guessed it—they were from the two recent reboots, Vash the Stampede (Trigun) and Kenshin Himura (Rurouni Kenshin).
In Kenshin, I saw a man who would walk an unswerving path of pursuing justice through non-violent means, turning the hearts of his enemies by the unsharpened side of his sword. He was scarred and beaten as he sought to save those he loved.
I also saw the differences between Christ and Kenshin. The latter was an assassin who turned over a new leaf, more like a believer who repented, and he was trying to atone for his actions rather than living under the grace that born-again believers do.
It all spoke deeply into my heart and helped my faith come even more alive. It didn’t hurt that the series was well-written, filled with suspense, and packed to the brim with breathtaking action.
You’d think I’d be pumped for the new series, then, especially considering that it might even conclude the manga run instead of ending flatly and incompletely as the original series did. But something happened between the original anime airing and the recent various Kenshin projects, including this new series. Something awful.
in 2017, Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of Kenshin and once a beloved mangaka, was found to have in his possession about a hundred DVDs featuring child pornography, much of it displaying children in their early adolescence. His new arc of Rurouni Kenshin was put on hiatus and Watsuki was brought to court. There, in early 2018, he received his sentence: a fine of 200,000 yen, or approximately $1,500.
In June 2018, around six months after it was paused, Rurouni Kenshin: The Hokkaido Arc resumed.
I’m not sure what the appropriate sentence for Watsuki should have been. I don’t know at what point “justice has been served” and the victims receive a measure of recompense that is minimally fair. But I do know that a tiny fine, half a year of lost work on his manga, and short-lived public humiliation is not enough of a price to pay for participating in the sexual abuse of children in such a boundless way.
Even if Watsuki had been given a more severe penalty, we may not have covered the new series for the harm he brought to the most vulnerable among us. Children were hurt, crushed, and forever scarred in horrible ways, and Watsuki helped to promulgate it. And by watching his series, I’m lining his pockets, feeding into the royalties he collects for each new iteration of his work.
Watsuki can continue making a good living, and an even greater living than he had been. But the children will grow into adults impacted by the evil perpetrated against them.
We are made in the image of Christ. Our value as humans, thus, is immense—so much so that God himself came to us and died so that we may live. And the smallest among us, the children, were especially valued by God—“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
The wrongs in Japan go beyond one man (in the United States, a first-time offender is sentenced to fines and a minimum of 15 to 30 years in prison), but at the very least, what our site can do is not aid someone who admitted, “I was interested in little girls’ nudity” and “I liked girls in the higher grades of elementary school to the second grade of junior high” and paid nary a price for his illegal activities and enthusiastic exploitation of children.
And thus, you won’t be seeing coverage of the new Rurouni Kenshin series here on Beneath the Tangles.
But what of you? Am I saying you should boycott the show as well? Is it a sin to watch it?
I think those are important questions to ask yourself before you view the new series. At the very least, I encourage you to think deeply about your media choices—what does it mean to watch such-and-such a series? Am I contributing to something evil? Does the good outweigh the bad? Am I watching something that will lead me into temptation?
Apply those questions to this specific anime, particularly the first two. And then let prayer and scripture be your guide—as they always should for the Christian.
We won’t get on your case if you post about Rurouni Kenshin. We won’t heap guilt onto your shoulders and I won’t go all self-righteous on you on Twitter. Let those outside pressures dissipate and meditate on the heart of the matter.
Dear friends, we need to take our media choices seriously. They’re not a break from our faith—they are forming how we live and think. So let our viewing habits be shaped by who we are in Christ, including those this coming summer anime season.
God bless you all,