As a Christian, I’ve found that one of the hardest things to explain to non-Christians is about the seriousness of sin. Without comprehending this, the gospel story makes little sense and thus there’s little to compel one to be open to the religion. One of the roadblocks in trying to help others understand the gravity of sin is that we’ve grown up with varied definitions of the phrase, and it’s become perhaps defined best in our culture as “doing something bad,” rather than as rebelling against God. Add to that other cultures’ and religions’ uses of the word, as expressed in Noragami and other anime, and it becomes a word that’s loaded with meaning that isn’t necessarily Christian, and becomes a confusing path to explore.
Another roadblock is in understanding that sin doesn’t have to be something we physically commit. This comes into play with Yukine and Yato in Noragami. Even though Yato warns his shinki that even when Yukine simply thinks sinful thoughts, Yato suffers, Yukine continues to do so. Perhaps he just wants to cause Yato displeasure – no surprise for an adolescent with a holder as annoying as Yato. Or maybe Yukine just can’t accept the fact that he could sin by simply coveting. After all, Yukine resists stealing items on a couple of occasions, as if trying to stop himself from crossing that boundary. Moving from thinking to doing is, apparently to Yukine, the bridge between sin and not.
For Yato, there is no difference. Coveting and giving into mindful temptation is the same as physically giving in – they both cause Yato harm in the form of a blight that eventually consumes most of the kami’s body, particularly taking over once Yukine indulges completely in sinful desire. And so, not only is thinking sinfully considered a sin, but it becomes a root desire that helps beget the physical detrimental actions.
These ideas are very much in line with Christianity. From the Old Testament, the Bible makes it clear that God is concerned with our heart and mind, even above physical actions:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
- I Samuel 16:7
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.
Guest Post: The Helix Fossil, Bird Jesus & the False Prophet: The Newfound Triviality of Christianity
Today’s article is from Tommy, a great friend of the blog and a long time aniblogger. He runs Anime Bowl, where he blogs about the latest episodes airing on Toonami, anime conventions, and Green Bay Packers football.
Only a few hours after America lapsed into the month of March, the worldwide phenomenon known as “Twitch Plays Pokémon” came to a conclusion, as the Aussies and whoever was left awake in the U.S. pushed Red past the Elite Four and Blue to a Pokémon League championship. After 16 days of democracy, anarchy and random button-mashing, the journey was complete1.
In case you’re not aware, “Twitch Plays Pokémon” was a “social experiment” conducted by an Australian who programmed a Game Boy emulation of Pokémon Red into the streaming service Twitch, making it so that anyone could type a command into the chat, and have the game respond to it. Thus “up” made the character go up, “Start” made the Start menu come up, and so on.
Of course, with the entire world able to play the game, chaos ensued. The main character Red would do bizarre things over and over again as tens of thousands of people (and bots) typed in commands. Progress in the game was made very slowly, if at all, because of the long list of commands coming through, not to mention the lag the video had with the chat. To tell the story of how the game was actually beaten would be far too long. This YouTube channel tells the story through video, while this Google document gives the facts in a different fashion.
But what made “Twitch Plays Pokémon” more than just a video game was its “religion” of sorts that its players created out of the events of the game. It began through the fact that Red kept on checking the Helix Fossil by mistake. This led to a joke that the Helix Fossil was a “god,” and the religious references spiraled out from there. Eventually it led to a full-blown narrative where nearly every major figure in Christianity was being referenced by the game players. Omanyte was “God,” Pidgeot was “Bird Jesus,” Zapdos was “Battery Jesus,” Gastly was the “Holy Spirit,” even Flareon was the “False Prophet.”
This isn’t a condemnation of those who came up with these ideas. Many of them were clever, and certainly quite a few of them brought quite a chuckle out of me (although of all the memes that “Twitch Plays Pokémon” produced, my favorite was the constant plea that “we need to beat Misty,” no matter how far in the game Red was).
The question I pose is quite different: has Christianity become this trivial in today’s society? We all remember how a small cartoon of Muhammad and a bomb caused such an uproar amongst Muslims, so much that even a book written all about the cartoon failed to include the actual cartoon itself, presumably due to the writer’s fear of backlash.
Valentine’s Day, a day considered by many to be the most romantic day of the year. But while this day may be a day of romantic love, perhaps it is more interesting to consider an even greater love. Of course I, as a Christian, believe God’s love to be the greatest love in existence; however, merely making such claims is a rather overused approach. Even though so many Christians preach it, it is something incredibly difficult to truly explain. Praising God’s love will only go so far before common sense leads us to wonder how God could possibly love us with so many apparent inconsistencies. Instead, I’d like to make a comparison, one sometimes made in jest but rarely in seriousness. That is God’s love and love of a yandere.
Let me begin by saying if you have never gone outside the manga/anime mediums, you most likely have a very skewed image of what a yandere truly entails. Sure, there have been characters who display a few yandere characteristics, and there are a few examples of more accurate yandere making their way into anime. Perhaps Yuno or Kanade come to mind, or maybe one very infamous nice boat. However, the truth is the really hardcore yandere do not exist in anime, most likely because what they do can’t actually be shown on TV. The visual novel medium, on the other hand, has its share of legitimate yandere. Not that I have read many as I tend to shy away from them myself, but I have heard some tales and they are quite extreme. Regardless, while a yandere may be incomparable to God at a literal level, the love that it holds might just be something more similar to God’s than at first glance.
And today, again, I thought about the anime when I was home with my family. I had put the children to bed after a tough day, one in which I was harder with my children than I should been. I immediately regretted how mean my words had been to them, as I was short on patience and self-control.
That reminded me of Tumblr, where many of those who follow me seem to think I’m a great father. Someone sent me a message saying I was a “cool dad.” I wanted to say, “No! You’ve got it all wrong! I want to be a good dad, but I fail time and time again – too many times to count!”
Luckily, my children are so much more innocent, loving, and kind than I am. Often when I lose my temper and admonish them, I’ll go back later and apologize, telling them that I shouldn’t have been so harsh. And without fail, the vocal response I get back is this:
I forgive you.
There are perhaps no stronger words in our language than these, with denote mercy and love. It’s a kind of love that’s difficult for most to give, though in children, we find the opposite to be true. In Clannad, Ushio pushes aside years of neglect and general grumpiness directed toward her to shower her full love upon Tomoya, in effect offering forgiveness to her father both readily and continually. She doesn’t even need to think about forgiving – it just is. Tomoya is her dad, and she loves him no matter what.
The Problem of Evil is an important aspect of philosophy in regard to theism, especially Christianity, and one that shows up often in innumerable anime. Below are two revised articles regarding A Certain Magical Index’s depiction of The Problem of Evil originally posted to my personal blog, edited into one more complete article. Warning, spoilers abound.
The newest chapter of Attack on Titan leaves off where the last one ended, with the aftermath of the great battle that occurred. Mikasa is taken away with broken ribs and Erwin, with one less appendage, is attended to. And while physical clean-up is occurring, humanity’s military leaders are also cleaning up behind the scenes, figuring out what all the discoveries point to.
The most important of these revelations is uncovered through poor Connie. His experience in his hometown, combined with other evidence, suggests that the titans (perhaps all titans) were once human. While the manga readers have supposed this from early on in the series, this disclosure is apparently new to Levi, Erwin, and Hanji.
All three react with pain and discomfort. The moody Levi, in a rare state, vocalizes the inference that he’s become a master murderer. Erwin seems half-crazed, and more out of character than any of the rest. And Hanji…well, Hanji’s reaction might be most interesting of all.
The story of the Israelites, or the entire Old Testament really, can be seen as man’s constant fleeing from God toward idolatry, both inward and out. Instead of worshipping their God, they turned away and worshipped others, including those they made with their own hands. They were easily turned to that which they could physically see and away from what they must have seen as a harsh God, rather than a just one.
Turning away from the comparison of Yaya to a hand-carved “God,” I see an allegory of man and God between the master and doll in Unbreakable Machine-Doll, one of this season’s new anime. But instead of Yaya, the subordinate, representing man and Raishin, the puppeteer, representing God, I find it to be more aligned historically and with real life experience the other way around.
And that’s troubling.
Annalyn explores the loneliness of being a Christian aniblogger. [Annalyn's Thoughts]
Frank tackles how two series, Sunday Without God and The World God Only Knows, deal with the “God” mentioned in their titles and how that imagery compares to the Christian God. [A Series of Miracles]
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.
The last few weeks have seen the wrap-up of the 2013 summer anime season, and with it, a number of pleasant surprises… as well as a number of letdowns. Sunday Without God, a creative series that showed a lot of promise in its early episodes, unfortunately, can be counted as one of the latter. Now while I could get into the many technical flaws of the series (and believe me, there are many), the main area I would like to focus on here, and the area most relevant to the general theme of Beneath the Tangles, is Sunday Without God‘s disappointing lack of God.
I am always skeptical, but still interested in anime that attempts to incorporate some form of the Christian religion or Christian theology (anime such as Chrono Crusade and A Certain Magical Index, as well as many others, continue to prove to me that the Japanese truly do not understand Christianity and simply treat it as nothing more than an institution with a colorful mythology). As such, I began Sunday Without God with an inquisitive, if somewhat cynical attitude. However, episode one introduced a premise by which I simply could not helped but be intrigued: God created, then abandoned the world, and thus caused many consequential repercussions.