Pick Six: Viewing Anime Through a Christian Lens

From dangerous Shinto film to beautiful redemptive work

While searching on the web, I found a very interesting question and response (edit: now available here).  The question was, “So how well does anime sit in the conservative Christian culture and is it important to conservative Christian anime and mange lovers that the two be reconciled?”   The response was basically that the Christian culture is wide and vast, as is the response of Christians toward anime.

I would encourage Christians and non-Christians alike to read the article.  For Christians, it may help us understand better where we fall in the spectrum and why other believers believe the way they do.  For non-Christians, I think it will help you understand that some of us carry the burden of what others believe, though we don’t share those beliefs.

For those unwilling to read the lengthy response, here are some of the vital points:

  • Christian responses to anime parallel responses to video games and other forms of popular culture.
  • Responses can be broken down in six broad categories, which are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive.
  • Separatists are on the extreme end.  If you’re thinking Harry Potter haters, they may fit into this category.  They are generally vehemently anti-anime.
  • Moralistic responses are not quite as strong.  Leaning toward parents who are concerned about their childrens’ viewing habits, moralists worry about violence, sex, and religious connotation in anime.
  • Discernment responses focus on the theological and philosophical ideas presented in popular culture.  This is an intellectual, largely critical, and growing view.
  • Creative responses focus on the message presented in media, not categorizing any media as either good or bad.  P. Scott Price, in his reply, used the example of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as creative media giving a message that fits in the Christian worldview.  Price also notes that those with this view will often shun works that aren’t explicitly Christian.
  • Redemptive responses are the next step from creative ones, looking for redemptive themes within art forms.  The critique of this view is that a movie, for instance, could contain elements that are thorougly un-Christian, but may be accepted because of redemptive qualities.
  • Embracing responses may be the category where most anime-viewing Christians fall into.  These viewers enjoy anime for it’s own sake, and while they may be concerned with content, it doesn’t necessarily affect their viewing habits.
  • The writer concludes with the idea that anime has just come onto the “screens” of many Christians; after all, it’s only starting moving away from being a fringe part of American culture.  Balancing viewpoints will emerge.
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About TWWK

TWWK, known to outlaws and lawmen alike as Charles, lives deep in the heart of Texas, where he drives cattle and boot scoots (not really - though he does sport a pair of rattlesnake boots). Somehow in this frontier, he also finds time for his wife, children, and church. Oh, and anime, too.

Posted on 09.20.2010, in Anime, Christianity, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Have a friend that had a very strong christian moral family, his father didn’t really seem to care but his mum often question why was he watching Chinese cartoons. I even got a wall scroll out of it as his mum oppose the idea of him hanging it, but he asked for it back and is now hanging in his room so I am assuming his mum has chilled.

    • I’m glad to hear that maybe your friend isn’t having as much of an issue with his mom. There’s always been a generation gap between parents and kids. In our generation, anime is certainly something that most parents don’t understand.

  2. I’m a Christian anime viewer. I also read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books. I realise that the worlds created in works of fiction are just that: fictional. I don’t expect them to mirror Christian theology, to have redemptive themes, or to be free of profanity or risque themes.

    At the same time, I try to be discerning in the anime content I consume, just like I do with websites and American TV. While I can sit down and enjoy a show like NHK ni Youkouso! or OreImo, I’ll do my best to steer clear of shows like Panty Stocking and Garter Belt or Yosuga no Sora.

    For me, there’s a qualitative line to be drawn between shows like Yosuga no Sora or Kiss X Sis and shows like Koi Kaze. The former two cater lewdly to our own depravity; the latter is a well-crafted and authentic-feeling tale of inner conflict. They’re all topically about incest, but one of them is one of my 10s (along with Clannad After Story, btw).

    • I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I’m probably a little more conservative in my viewing habits, though. As Paul says, paraphrasing, you can eat anything, but not everything’s good for you. With me, there are certain things I won’t watch (generally) just cause I don’t want to consume. But how one show effects me doesn’t mean it’ll affect any other person the same way.

      As for redemptive themes…I don’t generally select shows looking for theses, but I feel a sense of fulfillment and of greater enjoyment if I can find parallels to Christian spirituality – hence, my blog. :P

      Thanks for the great comments and awesome insight!

      • I understand where you’re coming from. Even a mature Christian can be … misdirected. We operate in freedom, but the hubris born of ignorance can still be dangerous. At the end of the day, what you choose to expose yourself to is an individual matter: guided by your conscience, the Spirit, or sinful desire. Unfortunately, sinful desire is always out to get you, and your conscience is distinctly malleable.

        I actually got into anime watching as a way of spending time with my pre-teen daughter. She was maybe 8 years old when we started watching anime (I think her first was Kurau: Phantom Memory, and it still is special to her). Many of the shows that I’ve watched have been to vet them for her consumption, and I find I enjoy most shoujo titles. There’s actually a fairly strong overlap between seinen shows and shoujo in the moe/slice of life segment. Titles like Hanamaru Kindergarden, Kimi ni Todoke, and Azumanga Daioh hit the right buttons for both of us. Plus there are shows with wider appeal like Lucky Star, School Rumble, and Toradora! that are good for pretty much anybody.

        I also like to introduce her to appropriate shows that wouldn’t normally be on her radar, like Asatte no Houkou or Dennou Coil (or Kurau, though we watched that together the first time through). Sometimes watching a show with her without having vetted it first can backfire (er, Mitsudomoe). Other times we watch something together and what hit me as awesome storytelling was simply too much for her to handle (eg the stadium scene in Code Geass).

        Nowadays she tends to focus on romance titles. There’s such a dearth of that content on American TV. Her standards for “romance” are much lower than my own, though. She knows to stay away from certain tags (ecchi, nudity, shoujo- and shounen-ai, excessive fanservice, not for kids, etc). And while I keep her away from shoujo-ai, I find that I’ve really enjoyed the ones that I’ve watched (Candy Boy, Maria-sama ga Miteru, Sasameki Koto) so long as they don’t descend into yuri. Most of my initial misapprehensions about shoujo-ai were largely unfounded. At the same time, it’s not something I want to expose my daughter to. While MariMite is more about friendship and thinking your senpai is awesome, and Candy Boy is about a close fondness between twins (and both of these fall clearly on the “appropriate” side of the line), Sasameki Koto (and the similar Aoi Hana) feature homosexual protagonists: girls that are looking for girlfriends. And while that’s a character trait that I can handle, it’s not something I want my daughter vicariously identifying with.

        I realise I went kind of off track here =)

        • Thanks for the great comments! You’ve given me a lot of food for thought. My kids are still very young, so I haven’t shown them any anime, and haven’t even thought about what anime I would show them and at what age. Actually, scratch that – we’ve already watched a bit of Miyazaki, though at their young ages they prefer Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder. :P

          Note on a couple of anime you mentioned – Azumanga Daioh is a wonderful show, I think, to show kids across a wide spectrum of ages. It’s really great that such a cute, funny, clean show exists. There are others like it, but it stands out as being high-quality.

          As for the stadium scene in Code Geass, I’ve actually blogged about that. That was very distasteful to me, much less thinking of how it might affect my children.

          Thanks again for the comments!

  3. Wow, this is an amazingly helpful blog — especially for me, a Christian teacher living in Japan who knows nothing about anime culture. Thanks, and keep it up! I’ll definitely be back!

    • Great! I hope you’ll continue to find it helpful! I enjoyed reading your posts as well, and I’ll keep up with your blog. :)

  4. I was looking forward to reading this article but the link doesn’t seem to be working anymore. Oh well.

    I wish that the Christians that I knew were as open minded (and thoughtful) about anime as you and some of the people here seem to be.

    • Bah, and that website hasn’t been updated in a long time, so I wonder if the post is gone forever. Rats. I wish I woulda preserved it.

      Well thanks, Joe. I try to be. At the very least, I think I and some of the guest bloggers and commenters here are open to people and open to the culture.

  5. M11xStryker

    HAYO!
    This post is a bit old, but I managed to recover the link:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20080527004505/http://www.evangelicalresources.org/blog/?p=66

    The WayBackMachine is quite useful for recovering old/dead links.

    On Topic:
    Quite an interesting question. Still thinking about it on my end.

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