Author Archives: TWWK

Holy Week: The Book of Hiyori

One thing that struck me immediately about Noragami is that there were so many connections that could made in the series to Christianity.  Joseph of Medieval Otaku (who’s now on Twitter, by the way), thought the same:

The most surprising thing about Noragami is how many of its themes one can tie into Christianity despite its Shinto background.  As a minor example, we have the fact that Yato only takes 5 yen coins for his services.  Spiritual gifts are priceless.  Since they cannot be equated in any way with material goods, money given to religious institutions are rather tokens of good will than amount tendered for particular services.  All the money in the world would not be the equivalent of a single drop of holy water.

I recommend you check out Joe’s article, as he goes on to make more interesting connections, particularly to Catholicism.

Of course, I’ve charged into this week seeing many links as well, mostly New Testament in nature, but episode nine added an even more ancient flavor through a pivotal plot point that played like an allegory.

Leading up to this episode, Yukine has slowly been turning toward sin, almost right from the start.  Fed by fear and sadness, he continues down this path, turning fully toward it in episode eight.  And as he sins more and more, Yato pays the price through a growing blight – one that grows out of control, to the point where only an ablution, a dangerous ceremony, can heal him.

As Yato lays dying because of Yukine’s sinful actions, three shinki must come together for the ablution to take place.  Two are found, but a third is hard to come by.  Desperate, Hiyori turns to a very threatening place – the Temple of Bishamon, the home of the god who most wants to see Yato destroyed, for assistance.  But here also dwells Kazuma, a shiki of Bishamon who admires Yato and owes him for some unknown event in the past.

Hiyori Iki

Art by .PEN. (Pixiv ID 42857071)

With much trepidation, and understanding that her life is at stake, Hiyori screams and yells as the temple entrance to plead for Kazuma to come along, knowing that if Bishamon would come out instead, she, Yato, and Yukine would all perish.

In the Bible, a similar set of circumstances occurs in one of my favorite books, EstherRead the rest of this entry

Holy Week: Noragami and Treating God as a Genie, Part 2

I mentioned yesterday that at first, even our (generally) level-headed heroine in Noragami, Hiyori Iki, treats Yato with little respect.  Further, she looks to him to fulfill her own needs.  This is no surprise, of course, as she’s in a very unusual and confusing situation, and Yato has agreed to take her case, even taking payment from her.  Thus her communication with Yato early in the series is mostly focused on her desire for him to fix her troubling situation.  Hiyori’s focus is on her needs.

When we communicate with God, through prayer, we also often focus on our needs.  I imagine that many of us spend the bulk of, or all of prayer time, on our own concerns.  Instead of spending time in adoration, confession, and thanksgiving, we may put 80% of our prayer time (and an even higher percentage of our heart and desire) toward supplication.

Yato and Hiyori

Art by オットン (Pixiv ID 41664341)

How should we pray then?  While the answer to that question is multi-faceted, there’s one simple change that many of us can make, and one that I think we can see through how Hiyori changes as Noragami progresses.  She progresses her relationship with Yato, changing how she interacts with him.  Surely, some of this comes from learning a bit more about his fearsome past actions, but a lot of it comes with Hiyori learning more about Yato and his heart.  There’s fear there, but concern as well.  She begins to think more about Yato, forgetting her own needs and attending to the kami because she cares for him.

Instead of the static, person-to-object type relationship I mentioned yesterday, Hiyori’s relationship with Yato becomes dynamic and moving.  And that’s what we should aim for as well.  Even if we don’t have God speaking to us audibly, we do have responses from Him in His words, actions, and through circumstances, other people, and a variety of other conduits.  He is responding to us, but we have to have enough faith to trust Him as being there and listening to us.  If we have that, we perhaps wouldn’t speak to God as if reciting off a to-do list – after all, we’d never do that with the friends we see physically before us.

I encourage you during this week, especially, to try to focus on having a relationship with God that’s similar to Hiyori’s with Yato’s – moving, real, and developing.  And there’s no better place to start than by opening communication – and that, by prayer.

 

Holy Week: Noragami and Treating God as a Genie, Part 1

Near the end of the Noragami series, an anime-only antagonist is introduced.  Like Yato, Rabo is a god of calamity, and the series does it’s best to make him seem a match for our laid-back (but occasionally awesome) hero.

Apparently, Rabo has returned after centuries of absence, but in just a short time, he has made his presence felt among the general populace.  One of Hiyori’s friends, Yamashita, mentions that invoking his name in attempt to off somebody is a fad, I guess akin to writing down someone’s name in a Death Note notebook you purchased on eBay.

In this same discussion, the girls have a quick, but meaningful discussion characterizing the gods.  Yamashita tells of all her wishes to the kami, to which Hiyori chastises that she shouldn’t burden the gods with too many wishes.  Yamashita responds, “But that’s what gods are for!”

Yato and Rabo

Art by mime6 (Pixiv ID 41703179)

Although it’s played for comedy, Yamashita’s words reveal how many of us treat God in deeds, if not also in words.  Our head knowledge might know God to be a living spirit who is dynamic and loving and full of life.  But our words indicate that he’s static and idol-like, something to go to when we’re in need.

Read the rest of this entry

Holy Week is Noragami Week on Beneath the Tangles

The Holy Week, the days leading up Easter beginning with Palm Sunday, is upon us.  On Beneath the Tangles, each year we go topical during this week, discussing one character, series, or theme.  This year, we’ll be posting an article a day leading up to Easter Sunday about last season’s popular anime series, Noragami.  As rich in Christian spiritual truths as it was in Shinto imagery, Noragami was a favorite series for a number of us on staff, including myself.

Art by Mimi N (Pixiv ID 41251088)

Art by Mimi N (Pixiv ID 41251088)

So please join with us during the upcoming days as we dig into the show and glean out tidbits of Christian principles.

In the meantime, check out our previous couple of years’ series on Nicholas D. Wolfwood and Loving You For Who You Are, respectively.

Something More: Catholicism in Noragami, Wolf Children of God, and Bye, Bye, Animekritik!

D.M. Dutcher reviews Wolf Children and finds a parallel to the idea of Christians being “in the world, but not of it.” [Speculative Faith]

Rob continues his Christian reviews, closing out series like Golden Time [1] and Nobunagun [2], while reviewing new shows like Captain Earth [3].

Medieval Otaku gives his thoughts on Witch Craft Works and Noragami, including some Catholic connections in each. [Medieval Otaku]

Additionally, Medieval Otaku, who has guested here and whom we frequently feature in this column, is celebrating the two-year anniversary of his blog.  Go congratulate him! [Medieval Otaku]

Unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, animekritik is closing his blog [Kritik der Animationskraft].

We’ve included links to a number of his excellent articles in the past – including some of the following favorites:

Spring 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions, Including Haikyuu, Black Bullet, and Captain Earth

Who says this season won’t be any good?

After a lackluster winter season (though Japes and Goldy found some bright spots in it), the spring is offering some really enjoyable series of it’s own.  Usually, I’m able to cull out all but 3-4 series immediately, focusing on just those, but this season promises to make it hard on me to decide which shows to watch!

Captain Earth

Earth Engine Impacter

Art by 狐憑き (Pixiv ID 42730014)

Well, I have to say – my curiosity is definitely piqued.  The first episode of this sci-fi series from BONES (and the creators of Star Driver) was thick with content, so much so that I swore I was watching something an hour long.  And yet, the episode never lost me.  I was almost beside myself with how much this series seemed to rely on excellent ones from the past, like Eureka 7 and RahXephon, but by the time it ended, Captain Earth had taken a host of familiar elements and offered something compelling – the feelings of adventure, which I find so rare in anime.

Verdict: I’m in!

Isshuukan Friends

One Week Friends

Art by coma (Pixiv ID 42777163)

Boy tries to make friends with girl.  Girl says no.  Boy works hard to become friends.  Girl befriends boy.  Girl forgets boy.  On Mondays, repeat.

With a storyline similar to 50 First Dates, Isshuukan Friends looks like it’s going to be a very emotional series.  It’s the only one I was really looking forward to this semester, and based on the first episode, I don’t expect to be disappointed.  I really enjoyed the art style, the characters, and the way the series is already hitting the right emotional notes.  I can’t wait to see episode two!

Verdict: I’m in!

Baby Steps

Eiichirō Maruo

Art by アガハリ (Pixiv ID 30281964)

Sports anime.  Check.  Romantic element.  Check.  Relateable protagonist.  Check.

Baby Steps starts us a year after the events of the series, showing our hero playing well in a tennis match.  Then the episodes moves back in time to show him as the overachiever who does his best at school without passion or meaning, only with discipline.  But meeting a beautiful girl and trying out her passion, tennis, is seemingly going to change him.  The first episode was a lot of fun – it hit all the right strokes (har har) without going overboard in any of the ways that would turn me off (see my discussion of the steely bodies in Haikyuu!!).

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Black Bullet

Enju Aihara

Art by ジョン (Pixiv ID 42804916)

The opening episode of this futuristic action-thriller was almost jarring as it jumped between an almost epic story to a silly romcom.  But it all kind of worked together well, matching the demeanor of the main character, who seems to be trying to develop in his own right, out of bitterness toward a more normal life.  That normal life, of course, includes an underage girl whom he protects (and who is in love with him).  This is anime, after all…

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Haikyuu!!

Art by 豚カツ (Pixiv ID 29958530)

Art by 豚カツ (Pixiv ID 29958530)

I did not expect a whole lot lot from this series, but found myself really enjoying the opening episode.  I haven’t watched more than maybe half a dozen sports series, so I don’t have a great feel for the conventions of such shows, but it looks like they’re in full force here, with volleyball taking the place of baseball.  The twist at the end of the episode feels Cross Game-ish (not to worry – it’s not that twist), and the main character is similar to Mihashi, but with far more confidence (and a little more gas).  Also, there was a really lovely montage showing our protagonist training and gaining his teammates.  I don’t like how the characters go crashing all over the court and rise like they’re DBZ characters, but otherwise, color me intrigued.

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Read the rest of this entry

Untangled: Christian Panel at an Anime Con

One of my favorite parts of administering this blog is occasionally receiving emails from our readers.  A week or two ago, we received a request from Michael.  Here’s how he began:

Hi, I am so blessed to have found your blog, and here’s why. To keep it short, I am a Christian in Miami, FL and just went to my first anime con (Animate! Miami) in January and felt from Holy Spirit to bring Gods Kingdom to our otaku/video game culture[...]I submitted to do a panel at the biggest con in FL, Supercon. I want to do a panel about spirituality and anime but focusing totally on our Father God and Christ, and the impact God has on anime in general…

A lot of times, I don’t have a good answer for our readers.  But thankfully, I now have a little insight into this request after recently conducting a panel at IKKiCON, the anime convention in my local Austin community.

Michael went on to write the following:

I am making my presentation and wanted to get your much needed advice. I want to connect with the Christian otaku community and get ideas as to how to make this presentation great and an opportunity to bring souls to Christ.  Any advice or suggestions as to which amines I should focus on, or maybe just topics I should stick to? I have to present for an hour, and will throw in some games too to keep it interesting.

Michael, thanks for coming to us with your question – I’ll help you as best I can!

I think you first need to consider who your audience is, if you haven’t already.  It seems like you may be wanting to focus on Christian otaku.  In that case, you might consider that your audience will be unique – you may have a mix of those of different religious backgrounds who attend, not only within the Christian tradition, but possibly others who have an interest in religion.  I also found that a number of young people, attending with parents, came to my panel.

If you intend to make the panel evangelistic in nature, aimed at non-Christians, I would definitely think about what it is I can offer my audience in terms of my topic.  As with Paul and his teaching on being everything to everyone, your panel should appeal to anime fans, offering them something about anime that they can learn from and/or be entertained by.  Otherwise, they may feel they’re getting the old bait and switch, which might accomplish the opposite of what you intend.  Even if you carefully weave a gospel presentation into your panel, some will be offended and most may not be open to it.  In that case, I might suggest passing them to another resource they could consult, whether it’s your own or another, when they get home from the con and think back on your panel.

And I’ll mention one more consideration – this one on a more general level.  Others who visit our blog (and even a couple of other writers) have more to offer in the way of tips, but I’ll offer just this one – time flies when you’re doing your panel, so if you’ve packed your 60 minutes to the brim, you probably won’t be able to cover all that you’ve wanted.  Adjust accordingly.

Good luck on your panel, and please let us know how it goes!  And for all those reading this post, what advice might you also offer Michael?

If you have a question for us, please click on the “Ask the Staff” button on the top menu of our blog.

Something More: The Trinity in Lagrange and Season End Reviews

With the anime season coming to an end, it’s the usual time for wrap-up posts on the series we’ve been watching the last three months.  Most of our links this week are to reviews of full series or of recent episodes:

Jonathan provides his usual insightful commentary as he reviews Noragami, including some notes on Shinto religion. [FunBlog]

D.M. Dutcher watches Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, and is surprised to find “even minor Christian themes in what looked to be a disposable robot anime.” [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Rob continues his anime reviews from a Christian focus, with posts on recent episodes of Engaged to the Unidentified [Christian Anime Review], Chuu2 [Christian], and The Pilot’s Love Song [Christian].

Manga Hero put together a good list of links to help discerning viewers decide whether or not to watch the new Noah film. [Manga Hero]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included. 

 

Nisekoi, Episode 11: Of Maybachs and Love Languages

Although I was less than thrilled by the the unoriginality of Nisekoi near the season’s beginning, that was mostly because I’ve so enjoyed the show that I want it to be more than it is.  And as it progresses, I’m liking it all the more.

In episode 11, the main characters finally get to know a little bit of what we as the audience have known for a long time – that either Onodera and Chitoge may be Raku’s promised girl (or, a la Love Hina style, I’m guessing they both are).  Onodera reveals that she may be during her date with Raku as the two look for a birthday gift for Chitoge.  The birthday girl starts to reveal as much at her actually birthday.  So while the birthday could have been the centerpiece of this episode, it’s the reveals that take center stage.

That’s not say, though, that the birthday isn’t played up for laughs.

Art by 山吹色 (Pixiv ID 36738768)

Art by 山吹色 (Pixiv ID 36738768)

The invitees and other adore the yakuza heir with birthday gifts, the most notable ones being a Chitoge-like gorilla from Raku and a Maybach from Claude.  The earlier is accepted warmly by the Chitoge, while the Maybach is rejected because, in her words, “I can’t even drive.”

Claude is deflated.  I know the feeling.  In fact, lots and lots and lots of guys know the feeling.  Just as many guys (maybe a smaller percentage of otaku than the general populace) try to help their beloveds by attempting to fix their problems, they also try to make their significant others happy by doting on them with gifts.  Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t – at least not with the gusto that the guy would expect.

I’m guilty of this, too.  When my then-girlfriend used to get down, I would try to solve thing by buying a gift.  And not always with a super expensive one, like Claude’s – I would sometimes sacrifice, whether it meant by going well out of my way or having to use creative muscles I didn’t think I had – to buy or make something that would uplift the soul.  And though I wasn’t outright rejected like Claude, the bright smile I hoped to see wasn’t always (or usually) forthcoming.

I later realized that a lot of this had to do because her love language and mine weren’t the same.  The concept of “love languages” is central to the teachings of a Christian counselor, Gary Chapman.  He identifies five:

  • gifts
  • quality time
  • words of affirmation
  • acts of service
  • physical touch

While we can feel love through all these avenues, we typically feel most loved by one or two.  And chances are that your loved one and you have different love languages.  So if yours’ is “acts of service” and you try to serve your girlfriend, whose love language is quality time, you might not be “filling her love tank.”

It’s a simple idea, but one that my experience, and those of many of my friends’, has rung true.  And it’s a deeply meaningful and powerful idea to demonstrate in a relationship, because not only does it help the one you love be happier, it also helps you demonstrate love by sacrificing to shower the other with the affections they would like, even if that style doesn’t come naturally to you.

Read the rest of this entry

Something More: Cain and Abel in Shiki, Anime in the Christian Life, and 7 Unholy Priests

I didn’t post a column last week, and what a week to skip – there were a number of provocative articles regarding anime and spirituality.  But that just means that this column, I’m including twice as much goodness!

Frank tells how Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha paints a picture of the Christian relationship with God, despite it being structured in a Shinto world. [A Series of Miracles]

Medieval Otaku explores the Cain and Abel story as given in Shiki. [Medieval Otaku]

Jay gives his thoughts on the e-book, “Teenager Today – Anime Fanaticism: Is it Spiritually Harmful?” [Deremoe]

Rob talks about conforming to the things of the world (especially anime), and gives advice about conforming to thing above. [Christian Anime Review]

Last week, Lynzee Lamb gave “7 Unholy Priests” in her column, “The List.”  Was there anyone you would have included that Lynzee did not? [Anime News Network]

Katie reviews Neon Genesis Evangelion from a Christian perspective. [Breaking Metal Windows]

I don’t know if this counts as “spiritual,” but it is fun: D.M. Dutcher counts down the five best moments from anime apocalypses. [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included.