Does Your Faith Affect Your Viewing Habits?

A couple of months back, The Otaku HQ release a terrific post entitled, “Religion in the Anime Community.”  The blog’s editor, Jordan, put together excerpts from three interviews, with Nafi (Muslim), Canne (Buddhism and ghost worship), and myself (Christian), investigating how our faiths affect our viewing of anime (or how they don’t). For some, faith might effect habits profoundly.  I feel strange doing this, but allow me to quote myself (ha!):

I think, most of all, [my faith] holds me accountable to watch what I consume. Maybe I’m just easily swayed, but for me that old idiom, ‘trash in, trash out’ really applies. And we all know there’s a lot of trash in anime – not just poor quality productions, but also themes and imagery that I believe influence us to sin. In this regard, [blogging] helps me, because I know I’ll be writing about what I watch and I don’t want to be ashamed of it, before men or God.

For others, like Canne, there’s significantly less of a connection:

Buddhism affects the way I live as a whole person but not specifically as an anime fan, though sometime it makes me understand some of the ceremonies in anime more easily.

But what about you?

Does your faith (or lack of one) affect your viewing habits?

Do you avoid some anime or specifically watch others because of your faith?  Do you turn off an anime when some scenes perhaps run counter to your religion?

We’d love for you to share!  As always, let’s try to respect each other comments and discuss in a thoughtful and open manner.

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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 04.16.2012, in Anime, Religion. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Nope.

    There are scenes which I can’t watch, but I think that has more to do with me not liking it (excessive gore or incest) than it has to do with my faith. It comes down to our moral code and how flimsy it is, I guess.

    • Hey, Trazor!

      I like that you brought up the idea of a “moral code,” which is connected to religion. Even for people who are atheist or otherwise don’t identify strongly with a faith, their morals are still informed by religion, whether in some hereditary or social fashion or in a more immediate manner.

      I’m also reminded of that common complaint about Christians, that we focus too much on sexuality in media and too little on violence. Honestly, I don’t like gore, but I have to admit I’m less likely to turn that off than excessive fan service, which I think it’s pretty hypocritical.

      • Ah Charles. You’ve made the classic religious blunder of saying that atheist morality is informed by religion. The bottom line is that no moral guidelines are informed by religion. Religion merely claims to be the source of morality but if you research it in depth you realize that the source of morality is rooted deeply in biology. I don’t have time to go into all the details and evidence for it here (nor would it be appropriate), but long story short, morality evolves with animals and societies as new challenges arrive that they must face (that’s why morality is relative). Only the most robust moral systems survive to this day after a long process of becoming more and more moral from the time we first started making civilizations tens of thousands of years ago. It doesn’t take very long to realize that less than 20% of modern morality is biblical (really it’s probably closer to less than 1%, but I’m simplifying by pointing to the only two of the ten commandments that are actually laws).

        Getting back on topic, as an atheist/humanist, because I keep my mind open to new ideas about exploring sociological phenomenon I don’t limit myself to any content in anime as intrinsically being amoral. I love having my views challenged by things that make me uncomfortable and trying to understand the responses people have for opportunities both good and evil that may arise when we least expect it. So in short, I don’t turn off anime that is morally questionable. I turn off anime that’s boring, and morally questionable anime are rarely boring.

        • Thanks for the insightful comments, as always. I hardly think I could debate you, especially when it comes to biology – whenever I do so, I feel I’m coming across as just reciting things I’ve read without really understanding the issue. R86 (one of co-bloggers), on the other hand, is a science professor at a university and would be more helpful!

          However, I do think we’re talking about two different things. I’m not discussing how morals have changed over the years – I’m speaking on a more personal level, based on one’s society and cultures (whether home, religious, family, racial, institutional, etc.). Certainly, one’s upbringing has a major impact on morals. Basically, my comment above had to do with exposure to religion.

          As for how you approach anime…I think we’re actually quite the same (to an extent). I’ll give most anything a chance, though I will admit there is a line.

  2. Not really.

    Most of the time I just get turned off by excessive violence or things I don’t find funny, excessive fanservice and the like. As TRazor said, the moral code is flimsy. It depends on how much I can tolerate watching, which really is subjective.

    Although there are times that I am slightly offended. For example, the dick jokes at the final ep of Yondemasu Yo! Azazel-san was not that funny. If used once, it was okay. But used more than once, I’m like, can’t you come up with something else?! Hehehe. Maybe you should watch it to know what I mean.

    • -_-’

      Offensive because of the content or offensive because it wasn’t humorous? :P

      Why don’t you like excessive fanservice?

      • Hmm, I can’t quite explain it but somehow felt disrespectful. Though I’m not sure if that’s the correct word.

        I don’t like excessive fanservice because I know who it’s for–like pantyshots in every ep (if not every minute). It doesn’t do anything for me, it just annoys me.

        • I gotcha. Sometimes I get that reaction – I feel suddenly offended, but I don’t really know what for (and I often don’t think any further about it). We all have certain values that are deep within us, I think, that affect us in subconscious ways.

  3. I don’t think my beliefs particularly affect my choice of anime, but I think they have shaped the way I react to what I watch.

    I think in my rare better moments my faith produces a bit of critical distance: if I’m called to be a friendly foreigner in this world, then I should maintain that stance towards this world’s entertainment, including anime. But I think it can also produce a tendency towards redemptive interpretation: although one part of my mind has a rather Calvinist suspicion about most things humans have made, I also like to believe that, by grace, there’re often good things and half-dissipated echoes of the Good in odd and unexpected places. (Though I wouldn’t subscribe to the depth metaphor employed in your blog’s title.)

    • What place does anime have in your life when it comes to the separation between the things of this world and the idea that this is not our home? For instance, how do you feel, for instance, when you see a very violent or graphic act in portrayed for enjoyment? Do you chalk it up to that medium and go along for the ride, do you tune it out, or do you view it in some other manner?

  4. My answer to this has changed after coming across some truly abhorrent things in my media. Yes, I there are things I will avoid because I feel they’re morally wrong, such as shows that glamorize the sexualization of women (Eiken comes to mind here), or try to pass off things that are morally repugnant as funny or acceptable (DearS because of the subjugation of women and how it makes slavery ‘romantic’, or the manga Phantom Dream for passing off abuse in relationhips as normal).

    It’s a little different from avoiding simply because there’s fanservice or violence – it’s when it’s excessive to the point of sexism that I start having a problem. I love TTGL, which has a lot of fanservice, but it never renders the women into objects of lust.

    • Those are good points. There most definitely seems to be a line – a point at which something becomes morally wrong to an individual.

      I think a thoughtful reader or viewer is more apt to make a decision to close a browser window or put down a manga when a line is crossed. For instance, I’m more thoughtful in how I view media now, certainly, than I was ten years ago, when I might have watched DearS all the way through without even thinking about the themes you mentioned.

      • I admit that occasionally, I’ll go ahead and watch or read things that I know beforehand have objectionable material- usually because I know that there’s a certain portion of the fandom that thinks it’s sweet or romantic (DearS, for instance, seems to be fairly popular among guys for whatever reason), and I want to know the material in order to construct an argument against why they shouldn’t support the licensor and shouldn’t watch it.

        Phantom Dream I can across accidentally, and I had to force myself to finish the first volume and refuse to read more. But DearS seems to be one I’ll be returning to because of its popularity. Sometimes you gotta deal with the garbage in order to prevent it.

        • In my case, I’ll watch material that I find objectionable because its popular, as sad as that sounds. I want to connect with and engage readers, and sometimes that means watching series that I don’t necessarily enjoy.

          On the other hand, as you’ll know by reading my blog, I think one can find something redeemable in all but the smelliest of garbage.

  5. When I noticed a shift in my faith I didn’t notice any similar shift in how I viewed entertainment (which didn’t include anime at the same but I guess that would have applied to anime as well)

    I don’t think I’d view anime any differently if I was still believing as much as I did, I mean, anime is entertainment and while it may influence some people to sin as you said, it may also influence people to do good.
    As for me, I do seem to accept more things in anime than I’d accept in movies or series, for example I love gore anime but I absolutely hate gore movies, I won’t turn away from one if I see one because I’m curious but I won’t go seeking it out.
    Actually it seems like it all comes down to that, I’m more curious about things than put off. There are things I won’t like and/or find morally wrong but I’ll still watch it.

    On the other hand I think my religious background and general knowledge of religions do affect how I understand anime, a bit like Canne actually, it makes it all the more interesting to see religious themes in anime, especially in how our westerns religions are perceived by Japanese.

    On the topic, and now I think about it, there’s often a “sister” character in a lot of anime. Does it usually put you off?

    • Would you mind sharing why you experienced this “shift” in your faith?

      I agree that it’s interesting in seeing how the Japanese interpret or use western faiths. There’s sometime an opposite correlation – often the more Christian and Catholic symbolism is used, the less it seems the animators know or care about a faith. Oftentimes when symbols are significant, the director or writer seems to portray a subtle depth of understanding.

      As for the “sister” character…yes, it puts me off when that character is presented as a possible “option” for the protagonist. Nisemonogatari is the latest example of this that I can think of, and despite my love of Bakemonogatari, I eventually dropped the sequel series.

      • The first shift happened after a tragic event of my life that made me become really religious, the second, well, I don’t really why it happened, I have been thinking about it a lot but still can’t find an explanation.

        I have to agree that often the more the link is apparent the less knowledgeable it appears (case in hands Ao no Exorcist) while some anime that don’t seem to have a link with these faiths at all do it much better. (Code Geass I think did it better in naming alone)

        To be honest, Nisemonogatari was hard to bear for me as well, no matter how open to fetishes I try to be and how hard it is to reach my own limit in pervertness

        • I gave Nisemonogatari a free pass for almost the entire season. Then, the toothbrush got to me. Grrr…

          And thanks for sharing – if you ever feel like chatting about religion in more specifics, I’d love to talk. :)

  6. My faith definitely affects my viewing habits. My rule tends to be: if it dirties my mind or callouses me to what should still shock me, I shouldn’t watch it. I don’t always follow this rule very well, but I try.

    It’s harder with anime (or any TV show online) than with movies. With movies, I can look at the back. If it’s rated PG-13 for sensual/sexual scenes or for too much language, I won’t pick it up. With anime, it’s more of a guessing game. Sites don’t list why the anime is rated TV-14 or TV-MA – and they might not even show the ratings (or show really inaccurate ratings). Then, once I start watching an anime, I might think, “okay, maybe it was just that one scene. Maybe it will only happen one more time.”

    I don’t mind anime violence or even gore very much – blood is a fact of life, and violence doesn’t bother or influence me. If it’s too much gore, I can turn it away for the scene.

    Fanservice doesn’t usually dirty my mind. I’m, obviously, a girl, and the objects of fanservice are usually girls. But it does annoy me because of my beliefs. So if it’s excessive, my face with wrinkle with disgust and I’ll turn it off.

    I’ve made a number of mistakes since I started watching anime. For example: Yes, Berserk is only meant for mature audiences, and not just because of gore. No, it isn’t just a scene or too. No, it doesn’t get better. The last episode is the worst of all. I really, really, really regret that one. I’m becoming better at judging anime, but I can’t unwatch my past mistakes.

    • It’s funny how some series or shows leave images with us that stay there. It’s annoying or even troubling when those images are of things we’d rather not see.

      I made it through, mmm…eight episodes of Elfen Lie, for instance. To this day, a lot of imagery from the series is carved into my mind more vividly than even the best moments of some of my favorite shows. Elfen Lied is my most hated anime. Grrr…

      Thanks for the information about Berserk, by the way. I’ve read a lot of good things about the series (in addition to some negative about the graphic violence in the show), so it’s good to hear your account of it as well.

  7. Mine certainly doesn’t affect me in the way it affects you (“there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” yada yada) but it does affect what I enjoy. My fascination with religion has definitely led me to appreciate shows like Simoun, Mouryou no Hako and Mawaru Penguindrum more, and to see much of what I watch in a different light.

    In a way, I think dark and gritty and dirty shows with sinful themes have the power to bring us closer to God than happier shows do. These shows are able to reveal to us the terrible powers of this world and show what love truly means in the face of the fear of death, rather than “appropriate” shows which typically is a euphemism for resorting to a fantasy land where carrying the cross is easy and everything is sunshine and rainbows. The light shines brightest in the darkness.

    So anyway, I think Christians should watch more shows with sex and violence. Not gratuitous violence, to be clear, or gratuitous sex (although that is more out of good taste than a moral imperative), but I think we should confront the evils of this world rather than hiding from them.

    Also see this relevant post from the same guy I linked to you before, who is fast becoming my favorite blogger http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2012/04/holiness-of-f-word.html

    • I’m glad you responded – as you know, I especially enjoy the posts you write which involve religion (and I learn quite a bit from them as well!).

      I think our views on consuming entertainment are pretty similar. Your words remind me of what Caitlin Glass (VA of Winry, among other roles) said to me when I interviewed her – basically, we’re missing the point if we’re trying to watch things are incredibly sanitized. For instance, how can one understand the concept of grace without being exposed to the depths of sin?

      I often point at the Bible when discussing this – if you’re looking for some clean, fairytale, the Bible it ain’t.

      Oh, and thanks for the post – I was sure I had subscribed to his feed, but I hadn’t. I now will. :P

  8. Really, there have only been two anime that would be a “faith matter.” One was Evangelion. For a long time, I didnt want to watch it because it is highly anti-Christian. But when it was on Adult Swim, I decided to give it a try. Although I don’t think it’s the greatest anime ever, I did enjoy it a lot, in spite of the misgivings I initially had.
    The other anime is more positive: Chrono Crusade. As a Catholic, I really enjoyed this series. I was really impressed at its nearly authentic portrayal of Catholicism and Christianity. I liked the fact that Rosette was willing to sacrifice herself for her brother, which is exactly what Christ would require of each of us if it came to that. True, the story took some liberties (we wouldn’t be so friendly towards demons, for instance), but for the most part, it was actually pretty accurate.
    But for the most part, I put my religion aside when I watch anime. I know that I can’t expect the Japanese to be kind to Christianity, much less portray it, given the history.

    • Evangelion!! I actually discussed this in a podcast I guested on a while ago. There was a time in my life where I really felt negatively toward the show’s portrayal of God. In fact, I sold my Evangelion collection for a very cheap price just to get it out (I did the same with Serial Experiments Lain).

      The way I view media has changed much over the years and as such, I view the series much different. I now again own it, as well as the second film of the reboot.

      As for Chrono Crusade, I never finished it (I wish I could’ve gotten to the ending, which I’ve heard is excellent, but I just didn’t like the series). I agree with you, though, that the series is actually very accurate in many scenes that depict Catholicism (as much as I know) and in how they interpret scripture. I was pretty taken aback at the care the creators (I guess probably the original mangaka?) made in plotting the series.

  9. I would say my faith effects how I view anime. Sometimes, something in an anime makes me think of something spiritual, which can be a good thing. On the other hand, some anime I will avoid due to content that I do not agree with. It’d have to be A REALLY GOOD STORY for it to redeem certain content that I either 1) can’t handle, or 2) is against my values. Sometimes it’s both. I love anime, however, because it portrays various emotions, and in some ways, shows the human condition. Some people are strong in faith, others are really messed up. I love how it shows character developement, and gives backstory as to why. That is the most redeeming part of anime is it’s characters, and how they overcome obstacles. It makes me think of the walk of life, and can you withstand so much crap, yet still keep moving forward? Anyway, my 2 cents. Not sure if it makes sense, but….yeah ^.^

    • No, it totally makes sense. Oftentimes (and usually?), the best part of an anime is the character development. It’s awesome to see these characters, who are sometimes deeply flawed, mature and become better…characters. :P

      There’s often a sense of redemption here, and I don’t think it’s any mistake that anime often reflects this theme, since I think our souls long for the same kind of redemption, though one more all-encompassing.

  10. hm, I don’t think religion influences what I watch per se. I watched and enjoyed things like trinity blood and devil may cry and i suppose there’s so much anime out there that glorifies demons and such that I don’t bat an eyelid anymore. On the other hand, I think religion has influenced my upbringing a great deal, which would explain my reaction. I try to stir clear of fanservice (although that may be because i’m a girl) and I don’t particulary like extreme violence as well.

    The one example that really comes to mind about how religion and anime intersect for me, was when I watched Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, the lateset movie by Makoto Shinkai. I was struck, how as a Christian I don’t have to worry about the afterlife. Because the movie dealt so much with death and trying to bring people back to life, it just seemed really pointless from my perspective.

    But yea, my two cents worth.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I feel similar to you in some respects in that I’ve watched so much anime involving demons, spirits, kami, etc., that their presence doesn’t elicit any sort of response in my anymore. And as for fanservice and graphic violence, perhaps you’re right in that they are more a question of upbringing than faith.

      That’s also an interesting take on Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo. I watched it as well, and even though I was stirred by the lengths at which the main characters go, I didn’t think of it in association with their views on death versus a Christian’s. Very interesting thought…

  11. I’ve a feeling that others may call me out on this (after my previous declaration that I’m a muslim) but no, it doesn’t affect my viewing habits. I think it’s probably because I’m just not as religious as others (for example, I don’t wear the Hijab). I watch whatever I want to watch (to some extent) if I find it enjoyable.

    • I think your answer is right on cue with most everyone else’s here – religion plays little or no role in anime viewing. It’s an interesting result and one I’ll think on more.

      Also, I don’t think anyone will call you out. The people who comment here have really helped to create a community that’s pretty open and kind.

  12. Hmm…

    In short: no.

    In not as short: I’m more likely to be turned off certain shows if I sport any pet peeves (e.g.: lazy characterisation/ mere ‘types’, banal dialogue, slooow plot, etc.), though this is probably because (fortunately) I’ve yet to see a show that has had any clearly blasphemous material in it. Though, I do avoid NSFW stuff in general (even shows with a fair amount of fan-service and any ecchi elements I’d also avoid, though mainly because they just don’t interest me).

    I guess, being primarily a shoujo, josei, drama and mystery lover, I wouldn’t come across anything I’d find obviously offensive… I think I’m more likely to be offended by shockingly mediocre (or should that be terribad?!) storytelling, haha!

    • What would it take, do you think, for an anime to insult you when it comes to your faith? For me, for instance, I think the line is obviously crossed when someone demeans Jesus; that gets right to my heart. I can only remember one instance of that happening in an anime piece I saw, and I don’t know from what show it even was.

      • Yes, that demeaning (of the Quran and/ or any of God’s prophets) would do it for me, too. I don’t mind being questioned or challenged re: my faith, but that is, of course, very different to being deliberately insulted for no other purpose than to cause hurt and to spread intolerance and hatred. As I said, thankfully, I can’t see it happening (much) in anime, as opposed to (sadly) in the wider media sometimes. Re: the anime piece that you saw, if it’s any consolation, it was probably a terrible anime anyway; such hurtful and lazy demeaning attacks are no doubt inseparable from lazy storytelling as a whole.

        • I’m pretty sure that any attacks against any religion would bring up controversy as someone would be getting hurt in the end. Animes like that are few though otherwise it’d be considered a terrible anime as Hana said.

          • Definitely – people are gonna get hurt. Like Hana says, I think there’s a difference between legitimate discussion (even if it offends people) and just plain being intolerant.

        • Thanks for the reply – yeah, I think we’re totally on the same wavelength. I think there’s a difference b/w discussion and being challenged and just demeaning faith for superficial reasons.

  13. My religion doesn’t sway my viewing habits much, although there are themes I’m more aversive towards than others (e.g. incest, excess gore, torture). I don’t really have much of a guiding principle behind my viewership beyond personal tastes and the context of themes within the show in question.

    • I was really more a viewer in your vein until I started blogging. At that point, I became more purposeful in my viewing habits and more careful about what I watched – in my case, this was a good thing, as I felt that I probably should’ve been doing this all along!

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