Annalyn’s Corner: Why Critical Thinking is Vital for Anime Fans

Yes, you read the title correctly. I’m invading your sacred sphere of entertainment and imploring you to think critically about what you watch. I advocate critical thinking for Christian...
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is packed with both action and philosophical content. If you watch just for the action and awesome characters, you're missing a big part of it (ep 62).

Yes, you read the title correctly. I’m invading your sacred sphere of entertainment and imploring you to think critically about what you watch. I advocate critical thinking for Christian fans especially, because I’m more familiar with the Christian perspective. But I think everyone, regardless of their beliefs, can benefit from some level of analysis when they watch anime. Note that “critical thinking” does not necessarily imply focusing on the negative, as when you criticize. Instead, it’s related to the critical reading skills tested on SATs: when you think critically about an anime, you pay attention to details, notice and analyze themes, and consider the work’s merits on artistic, philosophical, and/or moral levels.

Last week, I emphasized humility’s importance in our responses to anime. We don’t have to like everything; negative opinions can still be valid. But it’s important to set aside disdain and honestly consider the show’s strengths and weaknesses, especially if we’re sharing our opinions with others. A little respect for the creators and for the show’s fans can go a long way, even if you end up giving the show an overall negative review.

But there are other reasons to think critically about what we watch—or read, or even listen to. Here are a few:

  1. You’re writing a review to help others decide whether to spend their time (and sometimes money) on a given show, movie, etc. You may focus on the title’s technical achievements, from visual affects to plot structure. Depending on your audience, you may note the philosophical value or include a content card.
  2. You want to grasp the story’s main theme. You don’t want to miss anything the writers/artists/etc. are trying to share with you.
  3. It’s an academic or philosophical exercise. Your professor is actually grading your written response.
  4. It’s an academic or philosophical exercise. You are an unapologetic nerd, and you analyze stuff for fun.
  5. You understand that stories have a powerful influence on us, and you want to be careful what influences you and how.
  6. Every story, regardless of its medium, can teach us something about the world, yourself, storytelling, or at least the consumers’ whims.

I bolded the fifth and sixth reasons because they’re my focus today.

Naruto is inspiring in so many ways. (Shippuden ep 294)

Naruto is inspiring in so many ways. (Shippuden ep 294)

Anime influences and teaches us, whether or not we expect it to. Yes, here at Beneath the Tangles, we often notice learning opportunities in the anime we watch. I suspect most of us can’t help it anymore. We know truths about God and his creation are often mirrored in anime (albeit imperfectly), and we’re in the habit of finding those parallels. But even if we don’t expect anime to impact our lives, it often does. For example, sports anime has inspired some otaku to set athletic goals, or at least exercise more. Last year, on Otaku Journalist, Lauren wrote about how sports anime inspired her to run a set of 5K races. I’ve been similarly inspired, both by sports anime and shounen like Naruto. If Naruto is driven enough to master the Rasengan, and if Ei-chan can aim for nationals after two years of tennis training, then surely I can stop procrastinating and run three miles.

Motivation and athletic inspiration are fairly surface-level influences. But every mangaka, writer, director, and artist comes to their work with a different worldview: a set of beliefs, assumptions, and experiences that form the lens through which they see the world. Sometimes, they consciously promote their beliefs in their work. Often, their perspective naturally flows into it. For example, anime like My Neighbor TotoroPrincess Mononoke, and Origins: Spirits of the Past come from worldviews that value nature. There are other themes in these movies, but the environmentalist bent is undeniable (especially in Princess Mononoke and Origins). I’ve watched Totoro four times. Each time, I’m more inclined to appreciate the little flowers and creatures I pass.

Environmentalism is compatible with many types of worldviews. But some anime contain life philosophies that contradict a Biblical worldview, and Christians need to be aware of that. We’d like to believe that entertainment is neutral ground unless it offends us with TV-MA content, but it’s not. Fullmetal Alchemist, for example, is very humanist: it emphasizes humans’ ability to improve, save, and occasionally sabotage themselves, ungoverned by an omniscient and omnipotent God. Yes, there are themes of love and redemption, but it’s human-centered and human-powered. In fact, all superhuman or deity-like characters are either defeated by the protagonists’ crew or learn a lesson from them and come to their side.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is packed with both action and philosophical content. If you watch just for the action and awesome characters, you're missing a big part of it (ep 62).

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is packed with both action and philosophical content. If you watch just for the action and awesome characters, you’re missing a big part of it (ep 62).

Other anime aren’t as adamantly humanist as FMA, but they are rarely written from a Christian perspective. Many do, at least, acknowledge the supernatural. Buddhism and Shintoism strongly influence anime like Hunter x HunterInuYashaNoragami, and Natsume Yuujinchou. But they still promote messages based on faulty assumptions about God and the world. Sometimes, the resulting messages seem to line up with Christian beliefs. Sometimes, they sound good coming from the protagonists’ mouths, but on closer look, they’re incomplete—I mentioned once such message from Baby Steps a few weeks ago. If we hear these untruths repeatedly, without ever stopping to compare them against the reality of experience and the Bible, they can undermine our grasp on truth and good.

I wrote earlier in this post that the mangaka, directors, etc. work from their own worldviews. But we, the viewers, also come with a worldview. Two things happen with our perspective as we watch anime: First, our worldview influences how we interpret what we see. So Westerners like me don’t always interpret details in anime correctly, because we don’t understand the Japanese culture as well as the intended audience does. Second, what we see impacts our worldview. This could be a relatively innocent impact—as I watch more anime and Google words like “senpai,” I gain very a basic understanding of the senpai-kohai relationship, which enhances how I view seniority in my own relationships. But anime and other entertainment can influence us on deeper levels, too—take a minute to think about how entertainment, both Japanese and Western, has influenced your perspective on gender roles, self-confidence, the origins of life, moral standards, God, and more.

Feminist writers don’t usually use “worldview” to talk about beliefs. But they seem to understand that entertainment can impact how we understand femininity and gender roles. They write about Disney princesses who can’t do anything but wait in their tower for a prince to save them, and how that promotes helplessness, etc. Or they write about how Disney princesses effect our perception of beauty. And recently, there was that big stink about 50 Shades of Grey (one book/movie that most liberal feminists and traditional conservatives actually agree on). Feminists, regardless of their religion (remember, conservatives, there is such a thing as a Christian feminist), recognize that entertainment can have a big impact on how we see ourselves and our world. Christians need to recognize the same, and to be alert, for our own sake and for the sake of those we talk with. Because once we notice the implicit and explicit messages in our anime and other media, we can consciously choose how it influences us:

  • We can accept the message and assimilate it into our understanding of the world.
  • We can reject the message immediately.
  • We can give the message proper consideration, even if we disagree at first. We might search the Bible for what it says on the topic, ask someone wise what they think, pray, and consider all sides. This is especially appropriate when something challenges a basic worldview assumption about God, sexual or gender identity, etc.
  • We can notice a message that reinforces something we already believe—perhaps about love, forgiveness, or friendship—and consider whether or not we truly believe and act on it.

For some of you, this blog post might be frustrating. Five years ago, it would have annoyed me: I just want to watch anime and have fun! I watch this stuff to escape from my busy mind, because I already overthink too much in life. I’m a firm Christian. I don’t need to worry about this undermining my beliefs! I’ll just avoid anything rated TV-MA for sexual content and stop watching demon-related things if they make me too uncomfortable, okay?

Last year, I wrote a related post on Annalyn’s Thoughts, questioning whether or not it’s okay to use anime as an escape. I won’t replicate it here. Instead, I’ll just say that, as you get better at thinking critically about anime, it becomes easier, and it really enriches your experience. It doesn’t just help protect you from false beliefs; it gives you a chance to learn more about yourself, about the world, and about the cultures around you.

A few last tips:

  • Recognize that you can’t really separate your otakudom, etc. from your religious being.
  • Know yourself, know what you believe, and know the Bible.
  • Be humble. Realize that your beliefs and interpretations may be wrong. If anime challenges one of your beliefs, examine it.

Thinking critically about anime might be hard, but trust me: it’s worth it.

Annalyn, known as Alexis to the outside world, is a lifelong lover of fiction. Growing up, books kept her attention, but anime stole center stage halfway through high school. If she isn’t consuming, writing, analyzing, or thinking about some form of story… she’s probably distracted. But she might be running, editing, or hanging out with family.
33 Comments on this post.

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  • When Faith gives Reason a Backrub
    1 June 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Great point, “But it’s important to set aside disdain and honestly consider the show’s merits and and weaknesses, especially if we’re sharing our opinions with others. A little respect for the creators and for the show’s fans can go a long way, even if you end up giving the show an overall negative review.” Humility is so easy to forget but so important. I am reminded of the important theologian John Calvin who (if I remember correctly) said, the most important traits of the Christian is “humility, humility, humility.”

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  • Sam
    1 June 2015 at 5:15 pm

    “Recognize that you can’t really separate your otakudom, etc. from your religious being.”

    That, I believe, is the crux of the matter. So often it’s so easy to try to push Christianity on one side of our lives, and have the rest of our hobbies on the other side. I know it’s happened in my life. Lately, I’ve been reading through Ecclesiastes in my personal devotion, and the book doesn’t hold back when it tells you that God is our ultimate source of fulfillment and satisfaction. And since He is, we shouldn’t want to separate Him from any part of our lives. In fact, we should welcome Him in! It’s hard to get out of that “compartmentalized” mindset though; I’ve had to remind myself constantly to look at entertainment choices from more than a “it’s-not-bad” point of view. But it is possible, and we’re blessed when we do, and it opens up our hobbies and entertainment to new perspectives and different ways of thought, and ends up being even more beneficial than before. 🙂

    Thanks for the article. It’s really an encouragement to *think* a lot about my media choices.

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      1 June 2015 at 8:09 pm

      I wanted to connect that part about otakudom and one’s religious being to a quote from TS Eliot’s essay “Religion and Literature.” My wording was influenced by his wording. He emphasized that our literary being and religious being can’t be separated, and that when we read, we’re affected as a whole, whether we realize it or not, and whether the author intended it or not. There were actually a lot of quotes from that essay that I wanted to include, but I didn’t have the time to find a good place for them.

      Thank you for sharing what you’ve been learning from Ecclesiastes! I love that connection—”God is our ultimate source of fulfillment and satisfaction. And since He is, we shouldn’t want to separate Him from any part of our lives. In fact, we should welcome Him in!” Well said!

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  • Jo-Shu
    1 June 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Generally, I draw a sharp divide between faith and entertainment, though I realize you can never totally separate the two, and even if I’m not trying to formulate a “Christian perspective” on everything, I still want to think critically about media. Not only is it a good intellectual (and perhaps spiritual) exercise, it makes it more fun.

    On a side note, it’s cool how anime influenced that journalist to fun 5K races. Similarly, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell has influenced me get in shape. I want to do cool acrobatic things like Sam Fisher (the old Sam, not the new one — the new one’s ridiculous, no one can move like that).

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  • Lady_HannahBeth
    1 June 2015 at 7:42 pm

    I loved reading this post! Wonderful analysis!

    Every story has a message or it wouldn’t have been told! We need to understand what that message is and whether or not we agree with it. Content in any television show has the power to change our worldview for better or worse, but we have control over what shows we allow change us. Looking specifically for God’s truth’s in any entertainment helps me deduce where I stand on a show, and the best way to do that is to break it down and think critically like you would a book for english class. No matter what medium, they’re all stories and they all can be deciphered the same way. Being able to identify if a show’s message is in alignment with your moral code allows us to be stronger in our beliefs. Then, we can have to courage to try new things and be confident that we can say “no” if we need to.

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    • Annalyn
      1 June 2015 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you for your wonderful comment!

      The parallel between analyzing TV shows and books for school is spot-on. I can’t tell you how much my aniblogging experience has helped my essay writing and vice-versa.

      And thanks for pointing out that “Being able to identify if a show’s message is in alignment with your moral code allows us to be stronger in our beliefs.” Just the process of thinking through an anime’s message and comparing it to my beliefs helps me solidify and articulate what I believe. It’s very rewarding!

      Leave a Reply
  • Lauren Orsini
    1 June 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks for the link, and great post! It’s so important to realize we are not mindless vessels, and that only we can choose what we take away from an anime. For example, Yowamushi Pedal inspired me to be more athletic, but that doesn’t mean I choose to emulate EVERY character I like from anime—imagine if I did that with Light from Death Note! And I agree that watching anime with varying themes, not just those that align with your beliefs, does not make you a bad Christian, feminist, democrat, or etc. If anything, it’s a great way to reinforce whether we want to continue identifying with these messages and why!

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      1 June 2015 at 11:47 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Lauren!

      I am now imagining you with a death note and a maniacal laugh—you’re right, Onoda is a much better inspiration.

      Leave a Reply
  • Tommy Phillips (@CrazyPackersFan)
    1 June 2015 at 10:56 pm

    I’ll play devil’s advocate, since that’s the only thing I’m good at. Sometimes a show is just a show, and the most we can take from it is either a thrill ride of adventure or a mixture of emotions. Obviously there are shows that make you think deeper – Death Note, for example – but other times it’s just a form of entertainment that holds no bigger meaning. Evangelion is the prime example here – all its religious imagery made many Christians shy away from it for fear that it was mocking Christianity. But the imagery wasn’t there to make Christians wince, it was just there because that’s what the creator chose to use.

    I do admit that I have a different perspective in watching shows because of my collegiate training. My film professor told us that he would ruin all of television and film for us by removing the curtain, and he was right. Now when I view things, I see it through the lens of a film producer or writer, not as an uninformed viewer. So you’ll have to excuse me.

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    • Jo-Shu
      2 June 2015 at 1:40 am

      I tend to agree. In Evangelion’s case, I don’t think you can strip-mine it for spiritual messages; on the contrary, I think it says more about Hidaeki Anno (especially his depression) than it does about anything else. Even for something like Black Lagoon, which had some light philosophic undertones, I think it is mostly about the Rei Hiroe’s love for Tarantino-style action cinema, not the philosophy of blue vs. white collar or anything like that. (The nuns in that show, by the way, are awesome. Nuns with guns, gotta love ’em.)

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      • Annalyn
        2 June 2015 at 1:44 am

        Someday, I need to track down Evangelion and watch it, so I can participate in these discussions. That anime keeps coming up, especially on sites like this one, where we talk about both anime and religion.

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    • Annalyn
      2 June 2015 at 1:41 am

      Warning: I love responding to devil’s advocate (and playing it)… especially when said advocate has collegiate training. It’s fun, and I’m stubborn.

      To some extent, I agree with you: some shows are just meant as “a form of entertainment that holds no bigger meaning.” But even those are written and directed by people with worldviews, and those worldviews often show in the type of humor and off-handed comments, etc.—whether or not they realize it. Such shows still have some power, however small, to influence us, to encourage us, to tear us down, to promote social mores…

      And sometimes, an anime/movie/book teaches us more about culture and the fans who love it than about anything else. For example, I’ll watch some of the more shallow reverse harem anime and wonder, “Why do so many girls like this? Why have *I* loved similar anime in the past?” One answer I’ve found: we girls like the idea of being admired and pursued (and if the pursuers in the fantasy are charming bishounen, we’re unlikely to complain). Even the most shallow shoujo romcom can feed that fantasy for some. Such anime are especially appealing when you don’t know Jesus as the ultimate source of love.

      I took History of Film from a professor I respect very much, and who’s led discussions about entertainment and philosophy. As much as I respect him, I still argued against him, saying that there is value in reading/watching the Twilight series, since it allows us to engage in conversation with Twilight fans, speak their language, and understand them a little better. I feel the same way about anime. That doesn’t mean I personally watch everything that crosses my path, just to learn about various fans and subcultures. But I see sociological/anthropological/missional value in it—and I do watch through the lens of a writer (my creative writing studies have included screenplay writing, short story writing, literary criticism, and lots of essays about fiction).

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    • DataportDoll
      2 June 2015 at 9:35 am

      I would say that even if it’s just “brainless action flick”, you can still glean important truths from it. You might not actually learn jack squat about BDSM or relationships from 50 Shades of Grey, but you can learn a lot about our culture. That the idea was latched onto so strongly, that when the film came along it was still seen as “not respectable” to hold to the smut of the original, that they were going to turn it into “art”, That’s incredibly cynical, but there you have it xD

      Even Eva has its own message. Sure, the creator just USED Christian metaphysical imagery for a lot of the conflict, but why? He could have chosen anything, he could have made up his own terminology, but didn’t. Aren’t they bad things? Why would someone think that? It would have no change to call them “fluffy kitten rain”, but that it would be farcical, why is the biblical motif not farcical? Is it possible to SEE angels as enemies if we come from a certain point of view? Even if it is not a direct commentary, it still holds an interesting message about how human symbolism works.

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      • Annalyn
        3 June 2015 at 5:09 am

        As far as 50 Shades of Grey goes, I’ll stick to learning about culture from articles about it. And that has been quite interesting.

        Once again, it’s clear I need to watch Evangelion. Eventually.

        Leave a Reply
        • FlawedIntellect
          19 July 2015 at 1:33 pm

          Evangelion is a rather pretentious anime. It presents itself as being more self-important than anything. I’d recommend watching the JesuOtaku review on Evangelion to cover the flaws in Evangelion’s philosophy, and I’d recommend watching a few youtube videos on Evangelion Explained.

          It turns out that all of the references to Judao-Christianity are really just fluff to hide that the show is really just a bizarre science fiction work. End of Evangelion was an awesome movie because it actually took all the absurdity of Evangelion’s philosophy and ran with it as a plot point, which contrasts heavily with what the TV series ending and the Death and Rebirth film did, in trying to shove a self-defeating philosophy down the viewer’s throat with a drawn out lecture and low-budget animation.

          The enemy “angels” aren’t really Biblical angels so much as just aliens.

          All in all, it’s a stand-out show in that it raised the bar for TV animation quality, albeit as a consequence it had to take extreme measures to pad out the budget (such as covering mouths to save money by avoiding having to animate mouth flaps, and padding out certain still images for scenes that really just dragged on for too long.

          It’s quite plain to see that the animation studio, and even Hideaki Anno /knew/ that they were overspending on the animation budget for the fight scenes, and yet they did it anyway! To be fair though, Evangelion has some of the best animated fight scenes of all time.)

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  • nlnrose
    2 June 2015 at 1:50 am

    This is the main reason I blog. I like to think about this kind of stuff, and it helps to get things out there for other people to read.

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  • kiddtic
    3 June 2015 at 1:20 am

    I have shared this everywhere I can. Great article.

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      3 June 2015 at 5:10 am

      Thank you, kiddtic! It means a lot to hear that you consider this worth sharing. ^_^

      Leave a Reply
  • stardf29
    3 June 2015 at 3:19 am

    Great post! I especially like how you mentioned how Buddhist and Shinto beliefs influence many anime. I’m a big fan of a lot of Shinto-themed anime, because they’re one of the few cases an entertainment medium willingly explores the role of religion in people’s lives–something most Western media avoids with a ten-foot pole. And in my experience, I find that I can take some things from those shows and apply them to Christianity… but not everything. In some cases, understanding where Christianity and Shinto/Buddhism differ is just as good of a thought exercise as finding the similarities, though, so there’s that potential value to those shows.

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  • Samuru
    3 June 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Great stuff here Annalyn 🙂 Shared it as well, I hope people are more open to what they consume as media. Everything we watch, listen to, etc. affects us in one way or another.

    Anime has for me as well, been a motivation to do several things, and am thankful for that. It opens my mind to learn more about Japan and to Japanese culture, and to just have a love for Asia in general for one.

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  • JekoJeko
    4 June 2015 at 7:55 am

    I was wondering why I liked this site so much, and this article basically sums it all up.

    It often pains me to see so many people being ‘critical’ on the internet without actually being critical; there’s too much consideration of hype and post-hype and not enough about what shows actually do. Anime, for me, is a gold mine for raising important questions to which the Christian can give an answer that helps them deepen their relationship with the Lord. By separating ‘entertainment’ and ‘enlightenment’, you end up getting less of both, but if you prioritise finding, and finding the answers to, the questions that a work of art raises, you often find the lasting expedience to be more enriching in every way overall.

    So yeah, great article. Something I’ll link back to if I ever need to raise a similar point. 🙂

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      4 June 2015 at 11:13 pm

      Thank you, JekoJeko! It’s amazing how God can use anime in his relationship with us. Often, my blog posts and my journal entries have some similar content, because he used anime to remind me about something important. The result is definitely more lasting and enriching. ^_^

      Leave a Reply
  • LGrey
    4 June 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Learning how something is made can also help one to appraise it more accurately, out of better understanding.

    One may gain “fresh perspective” on Hollywood movies after watching Entourage. 😀

    As for anime’s Entourage, Shirobako can be a good start. It shows the journey of creating anime – both the joy & hardship. But compared to Entourage, people in Shirobako are really, really nice. So fear not, you won’t find Ari Gold’s bleeped out neurotic curses here:D

    If one’s mature enough, and murder mystery + Castlevania is their thing, one might get tremendous lesson from Umineko Naku Koro Ni. This monstrous Light Novel – has word count level about the same as all seven Harry Potter books combined – is basically a gigantic case study of how a work of fiction is born, presented, twisted, dissected, thrashed, forgotten, and what to do with whatever truth’s left over in the end. I won’t elaborate; saying more would be spoiler-ish.

    Just sprinkling some spices for this corner, I think. 🙂

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      4 June 2015 at 11:31 pm

      I haven’t seen Entourage, but I really like Shirobako. Learning more about how anime is made definitely gives me a wider perspective as I watch anime. I respect the entire production and animation teams more than ever.

      I think it’s important to remember that there are real people behind the shows we watch. I admit, I sometimes forget. Sure, I’m not critiquing their work to their face—or even in their first language!—but I need to remember and respect them anyway.

      I haven’t read Umineko Naku Koro Ni, but it sounds interesting! I don’t suppose any American companies have picked it up…?

      Thank you for “sprinkling some spices” in my corner. You’ve pointed out another important facet to critiquing, one I hadn’t thought to mention in this post. ^_^

      Leave a Reply
      • Kaze
        5 June 2015 at 12:04 am

        I feel the need to point out that Umineko is in fact on our visual novel recommendations list. More than just about fiction, it also delves greatly into arguments for and against the existence of the supernatural, which makes it incredibly relevant to Christians, I think. Legnth-wise, though, it is indeed a monstrosity. It probably took me about 120 hours to read in total, and I’m definitely not a slow reader. No one has picked it up for official localization yet, but Higurashi (written before Umineko by the same guy) is in progress, so I’d say it’s quite possible for Umineko to eventually follow.

        Leave a Reply
        • Annalyn
          5 June 2015 at 12:17 am

          And I’ve visited the visual novel recommendations list a few times… I often have a hard time remembering Japanese titles. -_-;; I forgot that I wanted to try the shorter VN you recommend for newbies (Narcissu 2nd Side, was it? I’ll remember for sure when I see the list again)… I need to put a sticky note about it on my summer reading pile. Umineko would be further down my list of priorities, but I’m doubly interested after your comment.

          Leave a Reply
          • LGrey
            5 June 2015 at 10:25 am

            Ok, down the rabbit hole:
            http://witch-hunt.com/stage.html

            (The end link of the Japanese download seems to be down, but the English patch is still up. So you can work your way creating a fully English patched from … umm … you know, “the usual sources”, if you don’t mind going that route. There’s even pre-patched ones floating out there, some are patched even further with updated graphics from PS3 version & FULLY VOICED. Just pay the developer later when the DL link back up.)

            Off you go princess 😀

  • Otaku Links: A few good writers
    11 March 2016 at 8:00 am

    […] Why critical thinking is vital for anime fans. Annalyn explores how every anime we watch can teach us something about ourselves; we just have to look for it. […]

    Leave a Reply
  • Tony Yao
    11 March 2016 at 6:10 pm

    There have been people inspired by DBZ to train hard as well. AND THANK YOU for mentioning humility and wisdom. I feel that’s lacking in so many areas that are filled with bias, not just anime fandom.

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      12 March 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Tony! I haven’t seen DBZ, but from what I know of it, I can definitely see how it would inspire dedicated training. And my pleasure. I’ve struggled with humility enough to know it needs to be mentioned. It’s too easy for me to disregard an opinion (or sheesh, a whole anime) without giving it the attention it deserves.

      Leave a Reply
  • deartotheheart
    6 July 2016 at 3:38 am
  • Gaheret
    2 March 2017 at 7:41 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with your post, especially with the numbered reasons and tips at the beginning and the end. They are truly useful. A critical mind which searchs for the good can increase our delight and deepen our enjoyment, as we learn to appreciate what we watch and read better and to relate it to our own life. Beauty is a way to truth, and therefore what we watch and appreciate builts us (in a way), deepening and expanding our feelings and references and the way we see life. Moreover, this discernment of the good is an integral aspect of the Christian attitude, like Joseph and Mary pondered in their hearts (enthymēthèntos) how to react to the Angel or to take their decisions.

    This is specially true in stories, as we follow the characters and identify with them. Erased helped me to understand vocation, for example. I was deeply moved by Kayo´s suffering and Kenya and Satoru´s attitude towards it, and that week, in my prayer, I finally decided to dedicate to Criminal Law and not Contract Law, which I also find fascinating (I though: “that is it. I want to be near those who suffer, be them victims or convicted criminals”). It´s approach of making the difference and helping everyone you can (“I want to be a superhero!”) was also truly inspiring when related to the impotency of being a child and the need for others emphasized in the show. Could´nt do that if I was not separating in my heart as I watch what can I endorse and what I cannot.

    Nichijou also helped me in a especially absurd time of my life: I´m more than a little bit clueless and forgetful, and I tend to cause all sorts of small and big disasters, so I really needed to think about God sense of humor, and how He could look to me in this crazy situations with kindness and joy, as I look Yuko´s. There is an aspect of wonder and miracle in everything, even there, when we sense that look… And Sakamichi no Apollon helped be in understanding romance, family troubles and friendship, I think (and perhaps some Catholic girls I know, too).

    I would like to add something about FMA: Brotherhood. I watch this sort of anime as if they were Greek tragedy, so their gods and “rules of nature” are inhuman, but mythical, philosophical or beatiful in a sense, and also unreachable. I understand there is a conflict between them and the human heart who longs for love, goodness, forgiveness for its wrongs and ultimate justice. For example, the Orestyad is a fight between the demands of two “eternal laws of (vengeful) justice” and the heart of Orestes, who is trapped in between and would like to be happy and free. I think that when the Greek gods “play” with someone´s dreams -the same as FMA´s “god” do-, is its own self-deception which does, reflected in a myth. The tragedy can only be avoided if one rejects the idea of being “godly”, and accepts his or her human, limited condition.

    The wise Pagans travel thorugh desires, delusion and pain and reach some sort of disenchantment and serene resignation which helps them live without denying the goodness of the world. I think that the show portraits this aspect deeply (all their characters, SPOILER!, become crippled at the end in some way or another, except perhaps for Alphonse: I find that´s the opposite of an humanist outcome, where the main characters build their own artificial utopia or “salvation”, as in the works of Ayn Rand, for example). Here the “god” remains neutral, but all the “demon characters” are defeated by their own evil. I always found such works helpful to prepare for Christianity: unlike “gods”, our God is Love, and comes for us when we connot reach Him, and fights for us, and truly cares for us, and that resignation which looks to the good can be the ground for Christian hope. I get the same feeling watching Mushi-Shi, for example.

    T.S. Eliot it´s my fauvorite poet, by the way.
    Thank you for this article!

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      4 March 2017 at 2:38 am

      Thanks for your comment, Gaharet! I’m glad you appreciated this post, and I found it interesting to hear how anime has impacted you.

      You have an interesting take on FMAB. While there are aspects of FMA and similar works that can help us consider Christian ideas more deeply, I stand by my assessment that humanism is a key part of the story. The outcome doesn’t have to be ideal for humanist ideas to prevail—there’s still a focus on human-centered solutions.

      I, too, enjoy T.S. Eliot, though I wouldn’t call him my favorite poet. It makes me happy that you can identify him beyond simply “oh yeah, my English teacher/professor had us read a poem or two of his.” So thanks for noting that. I should return to a few of his poems, now that I think of it.

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