Christian Panels, Hentai, and a Deeper Love at Aki Con

We all have needs, and souls that just crave “more.”

In times past, anime conventions have always been a high of excitement and pure joy. However, with Aki Con, I was quite the ball of nerves and fear. For an otaku, an anime convention is like the equivalent of Disneyland for the preschoolers I teach gymnastics to. It’s a place where one can find acceptance for their strangeness, and friendship at every panel. I adore conventions when all I have to show others is my extreme love of anime, but this time around, I was going to take the next step and share some other parts of myself that could easily be rejected.

I struggle with leadership and getting people to do things that I ask of them because I’m introverted and anxious. But for some reason, I decided to start an anime club on campus with the intention of going to anime conventions to share the gospel. I led a team of five college students four hours up the Pacific Northwest dressed in wigs and weird clothing to go make friends with whomever we could find!

22552449_2008087249428778_1203152443319757420_n

Jonathan (Kousei) and I (Kaori)

The first convention was poorly funded, and that was a struggle for the perfectionist in me, especially since I was leading this team where for most, it was their first time at a convention. I wanted my team to have an unforgettable time! But I soon discovered that even if the convention wasn’t as big as other ones, it didn’t matter because everyone there is just as weird as we were! You really can’t buy a good time with money; it’s all about what you make of it. I think everyone on the team made at least one new friend. I caught two of the other girls on the team sitting around in a circle with some other cosplayers, and Kousei and I met two middle school girls who were playing Your Lie in April songs on the piano!

There was a masquerade ball on Saturday Night. I didn’t have a mask, but I was told that makeup would suffice. I painted myself as zombie Kaori and my cosplay partner and friend, dressed as Tadashi, went to go make origami masks. During the dance, a cosplayer dressed as masked Kaneki asked me to dance. And dance we did! And he was quite talented! It felt like a weird sort of dream, an anime Downton Abbey! One dead human and one Ghoul dancing under the soft lights of the ballroom… And then the dance was over and somehow my friends and I started a giant game of ring-around-the-rosy with everyone at the ball.

As marvelous as the dance was, I still had to stand firm on my personal convictions and boundaries. I understand that anime has a reputation of featuring sexual content, though I am a strong advocate of “not all anime is porn” and “try and find God in everything,” going into the convention I knew there were going to be elements of the sexual side of anime that would be encouraged and celebrated. However, I was quite disappointed by the degree of its existence. I struggled with my desire to protect my brothers in Christ from inappropriate art being sold in the main hall and the sheer amount of cussing and alcohol that was distributed during the panels in front of minors with my desire to share with the otaku that I wasn’t here to judge. I don’t have any authority in terms of telling anyone outside the church that they are sinning. I wanted to share God’s love!

While what I found at the convention did not cause me to struggle with sin, I feared it might cause my team to. How was I supposed to be present at this convention wanting to make friends and share the love of God when in the back of my head I also knew that I was responsible for my team? It was thoughts like these, balancing my boundaries and desire to engage in the convention, that brought quite the confusion upon me. So I proceeded to ask God what to do.

Something interesting about human nature is the fact that we were created with powerful desires. We crave intimacy, relationships, and the need to be understood and accepted. Humans can also get pretty creative in the way that we look for our desires to be met.

In the anime community, I see the desire for different types of love being met online through twitter friends and chat rooms. This kind of love has been significantly special to me in the last few years as I grew deeper into God and learned how to be an adult. Still, we all know that love can be sought for in a more erotic way through anime porn. And hentai was being sold up front at the convention!

Offended, I stepped back and frowned, deciding to just go somewhere else in the art hall. It wasn’t until I started rewriting this article and thinking back to that experience that it dawned on me that people are extremely complex, and their motives much of the time unknowable. At the root of all human behavior is the desire for love. We are creatures who were made to experience love, through friends, stories (anime for folk like us), and love from God.

Something deep inside of us longs to be wanted, and in many ways will never be met until we can be in the physical presence of God after death. Hentai is just a representation of human desire for something more, something that isn’t being met in normal every day life. In a lot of ways, watching anime for me fills a hole in my heart that isn’t being filled by my social life (#introvert). Anime has a way of helping us cope with the harshness of this fallen world. I can ride the emotions of my anime heroes while at the same time trying to categorize mine. Anime is indeed a powerful tool for finding all sorts of definitions for the word “love.”

What is the lesson to be found here? People really aren’t that different from each other. We all have needs, and souls that just crave “more.” My job going to the convention was to show people how God can meet those wants and desires in ways they’ve never known before.

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 4.17.08 PM

Making friends at the convention!

I didn’t understand this, even when I was sitting in the middle of my two guy friends giving a presentation on “Spirituality in Anime” at Aki Con. Getting ready for this panel was basically just a hot mess. We didn’t go over the material until an hour before the presentation. I was frantically looking up articles on this blog to give my comrades some idea of how there are Christian themes in Death Note. As we started speaking, I realized that the core of each of our messages could be boiled down to the same concept: love! Why was it that the concept of love was what God brought to our minds? Through speaking on love and shouting quite a bit about how Naruto is a Christ figure because of his self-sacrificing nature, God enlightened me to see how every person he created desperately needs love. Humans needing love is like Ghouls needing flesh. But the type of love that will leave us fulfilled at the end of the day is the kind of love that we can only find in God.

While I can’t justify hentai or ever say that it’s ok with me, I can look to the root of the issue and find a sense of understanding and empathy. Sometimes I feel something is missing in my life. Sometimes I crave connection, and I realize that a connection to God is so meaningful and fulfilling. And in that I remember, I am loved. I am wanted. I am enough.

9 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • Samuru
    13 November 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I enjoyed reading about all the activities that happened during your time at AkiCon! I hope you take your team to more, keep on sharing the gospel through those panels and be bold! The world is a crazy place, outside of the church (or Christian environment for that matter). I personally love being in those kinds of situations because it reminds me that not everyone loves God, prays, reads their bible, etc. etc. It’s a reminder to me that not everyone knows God (obviously), and everyone needs a supernatural encounter with our Heavenly Father. His Kingdom to Earth, that’s what we are doing when we step out and be a light in a dark place, just like you were at that con.

    God bless

    Leave a Reply
    • vintageinmyveins
      13 November 2017 at 8:22 pm

      Thank you! It was an exciting event, I hope more Christians will find boldness to speak up and do panels like you and I have done. The Otaku culture is a forgotten people group in my opinion!

      Leave a Reply
      • Samuru
        14 November 2017 at 7:41 am

        Yeah few people venture out into a con and share the gospel. I believe there are several reasons for that, enough to write a post about 🙂

        Basically, few Christians even know what a con is, and less have the idea to go and evangelize there. Second, how do you even do that?!? Aside from just walking up to people and talking to them, there has to be more productive ways. Panels and booths are the best so far, since we are interacting with the con naturally and people will approach you without hesitation.

        Leave a Reply
        • vintageinmyveins
          17 November 2017 at 10:15 am

          Maybe we should write something together! Haha. I would love to get a booth in the future, an art booth and sell subtle religious art that we can share the symbolism behind with customers and fans!

          Leave a Reply
          • Samuru
            17 November 2017 at 10:17 am

            That would be cool! For both ideas :). I want to go back and do a panel again, maybe one on anime completely. Then offer prayer at the end or something

  • projectedrealities
    13 November 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you so much for approaching this issue with a heart of empathy and compassion.

    Leave a Reply
    • vintageinmyveins
      13 November 2017 at 11:46 pm

      Thank you for appreciating my effort! 🙂 God bless!

      Leave a Reply
  • MarzocchiZ1
    17 November 2017 at 6:22 am

    An inspiring sharing. From where I’m from, one will most likely be denied or arrested for sharing the Gospel in a secular event. I’m sure your works have borne fruit in some way or another. Hoping you and your team will keep the fire burning in an area which desperately needs outspoken witnesses for Christ =)

    Leave a Reply
    • vintageinmyveins
      17 November 2017 at 10:13 am

      We’ll go where we are called to go, and if that means going somewhere where we’ll get arrested, then I know I would do it! Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂

      Leave a Reply
    Get Social!
    Facebook By Weblizar Powered By Weblizar
    Recent Comments
    %d bloggers like this: