During class, we’ve been discussing how you can go beyond the surface level and really extract meaningful, Christian concepts from series. Even though most creators of media – and especially those who develop anime – don’t have Christianity in mind at all when crafting their works, that doesn’t mean we can’t find meaning by analyzing pieces from a faith-based perspective. And I would go further a posit that the reason we see so much about grace and sacrifice and other gospel-centered concepts that draw out emotions from viewers who may not live out those ideas in their everyday lives is that we, as humans, are always reaching for the invisible God. We are designed that way, whether we know it or not.
Not all anime are created equal, though, not in terms of content that encourages us to meditate on God and practice our faith. Beneath the Tangles, the website I founded and managed for years, has an excellent list of series (and titles from other Japanese media) that are ripe for analysis from a Christian perspective. Here are some more recent titles that are similarly worth a watch – both for their excellent content and the themes and other details which we can cull from them:
Your Lie in April
Arima Kousei was once a brilliant child pianist, but the death of his mother and her extreme tiger-style parenting left him with a bitter taste and pushed him away from his talent. A sudden spark arrives, though, the form of another genius, a young lady who plays the violin with a passion and style that incites response from all you see and hear her. And these two will change each other forever, especially as a heartbreaking secret becomes apparent.
After I watched the first episode of Your Lie in April, my heart was bursting – “this is all about grace!” Grace, of course, is the power to transform the wretched into saints, it’s the greatest love, a force that is as deep and wide as it is powerful. By the end of the two-cour series, my initial thoughts were confirmed; the show demonstrates to us exactly why there is no more potent agency on earth.
Aragoto is the second season of the Noragami series, following a Shinto god of war and calamity named Yato. The second season has two arcs – the first dealing with Bishamon, another god who has become a sworn enemy of Yato, and then with Yato himself, whose past catches up with him as his comrades, the human Hiyori and his summoned servant/weapon, Yukine.
The first arc of Noragami’s second season is dripping with the themes of guilt, jealousy, pain, sin, retribution, forgiveness, sacrifice, and mercy. As well as being a thrilling arc, the episodes reinforce ideas that are significant in the Christian faith. The second arc of the season also deals with many similar themes, and particularly with the idea that love has the ability to change individuals, whereas ungrace can destroy us.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
A group of six individuals, trapped in a fantasy/roleplaying world and unable to remember their “real” lives, form a team and try to make their way in a dangerous world, bonding with one another as they try to become stronger. A series that is part violent/action-packed and part sentimental/thoughtful, it pulls into another gear when an unexpected incident occurs that affects the group permanently.
You don’t have to go more than a stone’s throw to see how this series reflects ideas pertinent to the Christian faith. Although it doesn’t necessarily follow a pattern or outline the gospel message, as the earlier mentioned series may do, Grimgar does stir discussion about ideas like Christian transformation, the church as a body, mercy and grace, and self-sacrifice.
featured art by ハラダミユキ | republished w/permission