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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.

Anime Today: Idols in Ishinomaki

As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.

While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.

As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.

Wug Minami Katayama

Art by 馬の助 (Pixiv ID 40903644)

In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.

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EF: A Tale of Theology

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

As I watched through the Ef series (particularly A Tale of Melodies, the sequel to A Tale of Memories), I was immediately struck by how astoundingly deep it was. Whether looking at it from a pure artistic standpoint, a written standpoint, or a theological standpoint, Ef provides quite a lot of interesting material to chew on, especially for me. Because of this, Ef: A Tale of Melodies (the stronger of the two seasons of the series in my opinion) has easily become one of my favorite anime.

Now, because of my Christian faith and the emphasis on religion (particularly with the inclusion of the oft-seen church setting), I felt compelled to put together a short piece detailing my thoughts on the theology present through A Tale of Melodies (since it provides more of an emphasis on the spiritual and religious aspects of the drama).

CAUTION: There will be spoilers below.

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Anime Today: Love is a Fickle Beast, Indeed

Welcome back, Japes! We’ve all missed you! This month has been painful without you! I’m so happy to see you back in action and cannot wait to read all of your upcoming articles and their brilliance!

Aw shucks… thanks, Japes! I’m glad to be back, too! Japan was great and all, but there’s nothing quite like writing for Beneath the Tangles to itch both my theological and otaku scratches.

Okay, now that I’m done with my inner monologue and attempting to swell my head to a size even larger than it already is, I would like to announce that I have finally returned from my short-term missions trip to Japan! It was an amazing experience, but that explanation is best left for an article in and of itself, so I won’t bore you with it here. However, with that said, the last few days since my return have been crammed with simultaneously trying to get over jet lag, catching back up and getting ahead in my classes, and also getting back on schedule with my anime viewing (I missed something like 20 episodes over the course of the trip and also, and only God knows why, I picked up yet another series with plans to pick up yet a second one after that, bringing me up to I believe 16 this season). With much of my time spent doing all three of these things, I found this week’s topic for Anime Today to be a rather easy one to find… so easy, in fact, that it almost seemed glaringly obvious…

If there is one thing that anime has taught me over the years, it is that love is one of the most, if not the absolute most, irrational and inconsistent of human emotions. Catching back up with more than a dozen individual series in a mere day or two has pounded that into my head with the subtlety of a jackhammer. It seems as though the last two or so episodes of nearly every show I am currently following have featured more angst and romantic confusion than perhaps the rest of the season combined. Between the love triangle of Chuunibyou 2, several love triangles as well as complete irrationality in Golden Time, a rather unconventional love triangle in Nisekoi, the love triangle in Engaged to the Unidentified, what can best be described as a love pentagon with several triangles hanging onto it in Nagi no Asukara, an awkward couple in Silver Spoon 2, an unaccepted love in The Pilot’s Love Song, a somewhat one-sided love in Witch Craft Works, and even a bit of erroneously perceived romance in Tonari no Seki-kun, love has been a hot topic. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Yuta, Rikka, and Satone

Art by 栗原まお (Pixiv ID 42144708)

All of these varied shows featuring love as a primary piece of development, or even as a simple gag, have gone to show only one consistent fact: that love is anything but consistent. Characters fall in and out of love. Characters perform irreversible actions that they would never normally do. Characters succumb to jealousy that they would never normally feel. Quite frankly, in the name of love, everybody seems to take matters into their own hands in such a way that defies rationality in nearly every sense of the word. And all of this is due to love. Love. Love. Love.

Love.

Or so they would have you think.

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Staying Awake in Rozen Maiden

Many verses warn us to stay awake, sober-minded and otherwise alert. Consequences of falling asleep are often decay and weakness. Staying awake is very important to staying alive.

“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ..” 1 Peter 1:13

It’s important to stay awake but, for me, it’s not always easy. The temptation to return to a comatose state and fall into escapes and distractions is great as challenges arise in my faith. It is so easy to put God on the back burner when sin or growth comes up that I don’t want to deal with.

In Rozen Maiden, Jun and the main Rozen doll, Shinku, have a discussion about the long, deep hibernation period Rozen Maidens have periodically. Jun thinks that sounds nice. As someone who spent much of her life asleep, Shinku is passionately of the other opinion.

rm2

Shinku: We merely sleep for a bit when we are wound down, but if no one winds us up we may continue  to slumber and never awaken. That’s the kind of sleep it is.
Jun: That sounds sort of nice.
Shinku: Why?
Jun: There’d be no one who knew me by the time I woke up. I bet that would be refreshing. I almost wouldn’t mind never waking up.
Shinku: You think so? I think it’s better to wake up. Read the rest of this entry

(Real) Christianity in Anime

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

Several days ago I wrote a piece that I titled “(Superficial) Christianity in Anime“, but I realized after reading over it again that I seemed to come off with a rather negative view of Christian themes in anime. Now while I do believe the majority of depictions of Christianity in anime to be overall inaccurate, and even offensive (although when taken as a work of fiction and/or fantasy, I believe it to be less so), I felt that it was worth pointing of the positives that can be found in the medium. Now the title I’ve given to this post may prove to be somewhat misleading, as depictions of “Christianity” as it is often defined are not my focus, but rather depictions of spirituality (and even theology in a broader sense).

I would like to begin with some of the more obvious and move into the more subtle as we move along this (brief) post.

Rakka and RekiIf you read the aforementioned piece, then you are probably familiar with my positive take on the anime series, Haibane Renmei. Haibane Renmei is an amazing example of an anime that contains a number of Christian themes throughout it if one takes the time to analyze it. Disregarding the cherubic appearance of the haibane and instead focusing on the content of the story and dialogue, not only is a Christian faced with dealing with modern issues in Christian culture (something I find to be of less overall significance, but they are present nonetheless) such as the accepting church, but also the core doctrine of Christianity itself. “The circle of sin”, as The Communicator would say. The Haibane are trapped in their sinful states because they have done something wrong. When they accept this wrong (read: “sin”), they are inherently sinful, but when they declare themselves sinless, they are doing nothing but perpetuating the circle by sinning further. The only escape for this is to be forgiven by an external force.

SPOILERS

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Anime Today: Taking a Break with Seki-Kun

As with being a fan of any media, being an anime fanatic can be simultaneously an extremely fulfilling experience and also a very frustrating one. This season is no exception. Amid the fourteen anime I am watching this season*, for every moment I spend enjoying an anime, I spend perhaps an equal moment being conversely annoyed at it. Don’t get me wrong, if I wasn’t enjoying the experience of watching what I watch, then I would no longer be doing so (the collective enjoyment I gain from consuming all the media I consume outweighs what small frustrations might come along with it). Although I may have let slip my hatred distaste toward Kill la Kill two weeks ago, the knowledge I gain from watching it improves my contextual analysis of anime now and in the future to the point that the time I spend consuming it feels worth it (in terms of economics, my watching outweighs the opportunity cost of doing otherwise).

All of this has brought much of my attention to a little gem this season entitled Tonari no Seki-Kun. At about eight minutes per episode, the series contains about the depth of graham cracker… but that’s okay! In devoting the pure amount of time I must in order to stay up with anime while juggling university work as I have been, I have begun to appreciate more the shows that take little mental processing power but continue to provide adequate entertainment.

Rumi Yokoi

Art by クロブチ (Pixiv ID 26555461)

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Anime Today: Kill la Kill – Money is the root of all evil… right?

I will be blatantly honest. Kill la Kill is my least favorite anime to air in the past few years, and by quite a large margin as well. And yet, despite that, I continue to watch it. Blame its popularity, or blame my inability to drop a series (just ask Charles), but regardless of the “why,” I have been sticking through it. However, perhaps the underlying purpose of my watching this show despite it being what I consider to be an amalgam of mediocrity, has been to relate it to Anime Today. If that is so, then that purpose will be fulfilled today in this article.*

Normally, I would make some sort of statement claiming that I would do my best to stay unbiased and not to let my opinion of the show reflect my writing any further, but I think I’ve gone and jolly well proven that that is simply not going to be the case here. Regardless… I will do my best.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Money is the root of all evil.” Whether or not you actually believe that phrase, it is no question that society, or at least western society, both worships money while simultaneously reviling it in its idealism. Episode 15 of Kill la Kill attempts to do something rather interesting, or perhaps only interesting in comparison to what the rest of the series has had to offer thus far, and that is use that mindset as a framework for the combat skills of the newly-introduced character, Kaneo Takarada. Takarada, a ridiculously (and hilariously) wealthy and powerful figure in Osaka, centers all of his combat abilities around money. This ranges from literally using money as a physical weapon to using money in the more conventional sense as a bribery tool to cause others to do his bidding.

Kaneo Takarada

Art by 脱ぐ (Pixiv ID #41296798)

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(Superficial) Christianity in Anime

Japes, our Anime Today columnist, has written a number of articles about the intersection of Christianity and anime for his other blog, Japesland.  He is editing and resposting a number of these entries, including the one below, to Beneath the Tangles.

As an avid otaku, I found myself attending a handful of anime conventions over the duration of the past few years. These conventions provided an interesting experience, to be sure (an experience likely worth blogging about at another time), however one particular convention always stands out. At this one convention, I happened to notice in the itinerary a panel entitled “Christianity in Anime”. Being a Christian and a theological studies enthusiast (as well as, of course, an anime nut), I felt compelled to attend. However, this panel was not quite what I expected.

After listening to what the panelists had to say for nearly thirty minutes, I realized that those gentlemen had no interest in divulging Christian themes found in anime, but merely listing different series that utilized the Christian mythos. I found myself extremely disappointed in what I was hearing, for it was all things that I had heard or noticed before. “Notice the crosses used in Evangelion.” “Notice the nuns in Chrono Crusade.” “Notice how they talk about God in Ah! My Goddess.” Well, obviously! Who isn’t going to notice such obvious allusions to Christianity (although Ah! My Goddess takes much of its inspiration from other European religions in addition to Christianity)? (In their defense, they were not claiming to be doing any more than that, I just had different expectations for the presentation).

Art by 茶柱

Art by 茶柱

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Anime Today: Witchcraft Works – Reaction to the Overreaction

Speaking (or writing, rather) as someone who has both grown up an area of heavy Christian fundamentalism, and also currently resides in an area of Christian fundamentalism, I am absolutely no stranger to the distastes of the concept of witchcraft and magic. Dungeons and Dragons, Harry Potter, and Oujia boards were all equally condemned, though condemned in different contexts by different people.

The reason these topics have been brought to my mind, and consequently to paper, as of late comes in the form of the currently-airing series entitled, you guessed it, Witchcraft Works. Although it is still too early to tell what sort of quality the series will ultimately show itself to be, I have been constantly reminded of the “demonic” content that it includes that tends to drive Christians away from what is an otherwise entertaining romp in high school romance and fantasy. All of this culminates in this article today.

Ayaka Kagari

Art by 水薙竜 (Pixiv ID 31337502)

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