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Holy Week: Noragami and a Saving Grace

The world of Noragami reflects the pantheon of kami in Japanese religion.  There’s an unraveling uniqueness to Yato, but from the beginning, Noragami also emphasizes the truth of Shintoism, that he is just one of many gods.  And without a shrine, Yato is a minor one at that.

The presence of many kami in Shinto religion is just one of many differences between that system and Christianity.  Yet, Noragami demonstrates to us a very Christian idea through Yato, one god who offers a similar gift as the One God.

Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine

Art by 砂糖イルノ (Pixiv ID 42444617)

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Holy Week: Yukine and Matters of the Heart

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.

Yukine Noragami

Art by 謖 (Pixiv ID 41940946)

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

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Golden Time, Episode 22: It’s About Time

This is what I’ve waited almost two full seasons for.

With a pedigree promising something more fulfilling than the typical romantic comedy, I’ve been waiting 21 episodes for something really amazing to happen in Golden Time.  And all the while – at least for the past dozen episodes – I’ve been disappointed.  There were hints of something really good in the story, but it’s remained hidden beneath false starts and fuzzy focus.  But now things are becoming suddenly clearer as relationships become more complex.

Tada Banri and Koko Kaga

Art by 倖野めあ (Pixiv ID 40895676)

There’s so much to talk about in episode 22 (and 21, too, in fact), but I’ll simply share three spiritually-related ideas that came to me as I watched:

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Gin no Saji and Accepting Grace

A while ago, I decided to finish watching Silver Spoon, which I had watched during the summer, but hadn’t finished because I’d already been following the manga for several months. I already knew what was going to happen, and while the anime adaptation of Silver Spoon is good, it isn’t really any better than the manga. But there is something to be said for going over a story twice, and because circumstances change, I found that there were quite a few things that I saw differently the second time around.

Yūgo Hachiken

Art by 茶漉し (Pixiv ID 41064116)

In episode 8, something struck me in particular. Jachiken spent his summer working on the Mikages’ farm. All through the one month he had free from his intense work at Yezo Agricultural High School, he works equally as hard, and the Mikages appreciate his efforts. But when the summer starts to come to a close, and everything seems to be going so well, Hachiken forgets to connect a crucial tube that funnels fresh milk into a bulk cooler. Without anyone being around to notice it, the milk spills everywhere, spraying out by the litre and tumbling down the drain. When Hachiken realises just how much money he wasted, he’s understandably filled with guilt.

The Mikages would have every right to be angry with him, but instead they treat him graciously, telling him that what was done was done, and there was nothing he could do. One would think Hachiken would be a little relieved at this, but instead he only seems troubled further, and when they present him with his paycheck, he tries to refuse it.

I think sometimes rejection is our gut reaction when we’re offered something we don’t deserve, whether it’s forgiveness for a single mistake from another human or forgiveness for a multitude of mistakes from God. It’s like we think that by holding on to our guilt, we’re showing responsibility for our actions, or making amends in some way. But as natural as this is, it’s not a very reasonable response. None of us is really gain anything by holding on to our guilt, and trying to punish ourselves does nothing towards healing a wrong. The Mikages see this, and gently convince Hachiken to accept the money. He goes on to use it carefully, not taking their kindness for granted, which shows how we should respond to any kind of grace: by treasuring it. Because grace and forgiveness are worth far too much to be forsaken by our misguided guilt.

Nisekoi, Episode 03: Facades

Only naive teenagers would think that their front of being in a romantic relationship could be kept up strictly outside of school.  Of course, Kirisaki and Ichijou, the leads of Nisekoi, are just that – a couple of adolescnets.  Their secret fake relationship has already been leaked out and they are mobbed upon their arrival at class.  The faux relationship has already gotten away from the two.

But what’s further naive about the couple is that they ever thought they had control of the situation.  Even before coming to school, their facade was beginning to break, in a different way.  The less-than-intelligent gangsters in both families were skeptical (and obsessive Claude remains highly suspicious), and by the end of this week’s episode, Onodera knows a touch of the truth as well.  Less than 24 hours from their first date and they’ve already lost almost complete control!

Kirisaki and Onodera

Art by 刃天 (Pixiv ID 41010291

Most of us put up facades to some extent as well.  We might display carefully constructed versions of ourselves before others or we might simply be hiding embarrassing or painful secrets.  But as with Kirisaki and Ichijou, we don’t have as much control over our image as we might think.

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Reader Response: Kyokai no Kanata and the Role of Guilt

In this week’s Kyokai no Kanata, we only saw a few glimpses of our main male character, Akihito Kanbara.  He was absent in the lives of the other characters as well as in the show, skipping school, likely because he was unable to concentrate after losing control the previous night and almost killing a number of people, including some he holds dear.

akihito x mirai

Art by ととぱ (Pixiv ID 39426861)

Super demonic powers aside, I can certainly understand what it feels like after losing control.  I’m an impatient man, and all too often I snap at my family members, who rarely, if ever, deserve it.  And almost immediately, I feel guilty about my actions.

Guilt is a powerful thing – as with shame, it can lead to positive change as well as to pain and self-destruction.  It’s also often associated with religion.  While Christians should feel a sense of guilt after they sin, I hope that these feelings don’t act as a driving force in our lives.  Instead, I hope that guilt is a reminder of grace – the penalty we were once under and the freedom we now have.

I want to hear your thoughts about guilt and how it intermixes both with religion and with your personal life.

What are your thoughts about the role guilt plays in the life of a believer, or more personally, in your own life?  Is your life plagued by guilt?  Has guilt driven you to do certain actions, bad or good?  Has guilt had a very negative impact in your life?  Have you overcome feelings of guilt?

Saya no Uta: A Reminder of Sinful Nature

Lately everyone seems to be talking about Urobuchi Gen and his recent works: Madoka, Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, and most recently, Gargantia. He has become a popular name ever since Madoka. But honestly, as amazing as Madoka was with its religious themes and correlations, I consider it very overrated even though I enjoyed it greatly. I was not impressed with either Psycho Pass, despite its homage to Kara no Shoujo, or Gargantia. Fate/Zero was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but being a prequel, a lot of the material was a foregone conclusion so it’d be misleading to attribute everything to him. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the rarely mentioned Phantom which aired not even 2 years prior to Madoka; even if it deviated from his original work, he has said he approved of the changes. However, if there is one work most often called his masterpiece, it is the very short VN Saya no Uta. While it may not be the best of the best, it is iconic in its own unique way and an interesting, albeit disturbing, read. Although it has some very questionable content, the themes Urobuchi explores with this is really fascinating.

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta by Nitro+

Saya no Uta is easily the most…disturbing, disgusting, and immoral thing I’ve ever read, so as a forewarning, I will be mentioning things that readers may not feel comfortable with. Granted, it is an eroge, so some of it was inevitable, but even so, it certainly made me think, “should I really keep reading this?” at certain scenes and I probably would have stopped if not for the fast forward button. The premise of the story is that the protagonist Fuminori was recently in an accident and when he wakes up in the hospital, he finds the world appears completely different. To put it succinctly, his five senses detect everything as decaying, rotting flesh. From the walls of the hospital to the bodies and voices of everyone around him to the smell and taste of his food, everything is something straight out of a horror film. One thing I really liked about the initial set up was that Fuminori, being a medical student, was quickly able to determine that everything wrong with the world was only his perception, and as horrific as it was, he mentally recognized that the problem was with his senses. Nevertheless, the situation greatly affects his mental and physical health as he tries to continue his daily life while keeping his condition a secret. Then the heroine appears before him, a beautiful, innocent-looking girl named Saya who looks completely normal, the first human he has seen since his accident. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here: since Fuminori’s senses have been reversed, Saya is the real monster.

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How The Swan Princess Demonstrates that Lies are the Foundation of Evil

Last week, I accidentally posted the bio for Medieval Otaku, a wonderful blogger and friend to our site, in anticipation of his post this week.  Rather than an error on my part, please consider it tease for this guest post! :D

Medieval Otaku is run by a bookworm inflamed with a desire for learning and for God.  The study of foreign cultures, literature, and history eventually led to him discovering anime, which hooked him with the remarkable richness and beauty of its stories and is likely to remain a strong hobby of his for decades to come.

This morning, I took a rather pleasant break from Japanimation and a stroll down memory lane in watching The Swan Princess and The Secret of NIMH.  Anime stands as my favorite medium for cartoons, but Americans have produced some truly wonderful full length feature films.  The different ethos presented by the above movies was refreshing to see—in the similar way that I found serious anime refreshing in that they channeled an ethos reminiscent of ancient Rome.  Watching these two films caused me to realize that I missed seeing this ethos played out in story and that I  had perhaps recently started to lavish the most praise on anime bearing a more Western character.

The Swan Princess 1

At any rate, I should like to point out what The Swan Princess has to say about the nature of evil and ask a few questions about what the Japanese reveal about the topic.  The Swan Princess saliently brings home the point that evil is built upon lies.  We see this most clearly in the character of Rothbart, the evil enchanter and shape-shifter who attempted to usurp Odette’s kingdom while she was still a baby.  Rothbart fails in his attempt, Odette’s father banishes him, and, when Odette turns 20, kills her father and abducts her.

The Swan Princess 2

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Guest Post: Whatever You Do, Whatever You Watch

I recently connected with Japes, a commenter on our blog and a new aniblogger, through our new Facebook account.   I asked Japes to write a piece for us, a task which he graciously took on.  The result is below.  I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Japes is a full-time computer science major and follower of Christ at Liberty University. On the side, he arranges and records saxophone covers of anime/Vocaloid music through his Youtube account.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

- Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

I’ve been thinking the past few days about how people can have vastly different interests and can often be judged for how they spend their time. Many times I feel as though I am a member of that group “being judged” for having the amount of interest I have in Japanese culture, and particularly Japanese anime. However, through my personal devotions, Bible classes, and random theological discussions with friends, I believe I have reached a point in my life where I can truly appreciate ALL that I do in the name of God.

One particular thought that dawned on me was the idea of physical existence. Many religions in the world deny the physical, or regard it as “evil” (look at Hinduism and Buddhism, for instance), and many Christians do the same. Earlier in Colossians 3, Paul says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…”, but I believe that many Christians take that to the extent of denying the physical itself. If such thinking were true, then why would God have called Creation “very good” before the existence of sin? Wasn’t the world physical??

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Attack on Titan, Episode 01: Breaking Down Walls

I’ve enjoyed a number of the opening episodes to this season’s new series, but perhaps none more so than Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin).  The opening episode, and particularly the attack by the titans, was exciting, unsettling, and frightening.  It’s every bit as compelling as Goldy mentioned it might be.

Episode one was filled with concepts that are ripe for analogizing, as the haughty and hiding villagers hid behind a wall of fall security, believing they were safe from the horrible dangers beyond.  And though I’m aware that one analogy has to do with the ancient church keeping it’s people in the dark, the idea that stuck out most to me had to do with sin.  As such, this post is a little bit “gloom and doom,” but hey, what would you expect after a tense episode like that?

Shingeki no Kyojin

Art by taka

When someone becomes a Christian, they are given a new heart, but that doesn’t mean they no longer struggle with sin.  Indeed, we see the sin in our lives more obviously now and should take active steps to stop it.  But sometimes, oftentimes, the reaction of a Christian might be to simply ignore personal sins.  After all, it’s easier to pretend some vice isn’t there than to deal with it, particularly if it’s an addiction or something that might cause us embarrassment if revealed in the open.

I’m reminded of the villagers of Shingeki no Kyojin.  Although warned by the “heretics,” they mostly feel secure within the walls and even ridicule the brave soldiers who do recon beyond it.  After all, why worry with what’s out there, when everything’s fine in here?

Except, everything is not fine.  Read the rest of this entry