If you’re a Christian who enjoys watching anime—especially if you’ve discovered several series that keep your eyes glued to the screen until their final episodes—you’ve probably found yourself asking: Is watching anime a waste of time? Or does it add enough value to my life to make it worthwhile?
Is Watching Anime a Waste of Time?
Perhaps the biggest red flag that you may be spending too much time with something—anime or otherwise—is that it becomes the priority in your life. In Jesus’s words, “No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24) In context, this verse is talking about the love of money, but I think this wisdom is applicable to most anything this side of heaven, including anime. Back in the 1400s, the word “priority” was used in the singular to emphasize an object of sole greatest importance. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the plural form, “priorities,” became widely used—perhaps to reflect modern society’s irrational view that a multitude of things could be simultaneously seated on the throne of “most important.” Viewing the evolution of the word through Christ’s teachings, it’s plain to see that though we try to bend reality to our will, the fact remains: “No one can serve two masters.” The throne is only big enough for one, and we should ensure that only Someone truly worthy is seated upon it.
Here are some helpful tips for deciding whether anime is the priority in your life:
- Your focus and centering for the day is on anime.
- You find yourself working your schedule solely around watching anime.
- Your thoughts are constantly fixated on anime, to the point where you are unable to focus on other things.
- You have physical, emotional, or mental withdrawals—or become irritable and moody—if you skip anime for a day.
- You find your actions, speech, attitude, and outlook being negatively influenced by the anime you’re watching.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, then now might be a good time to reevaluate the reason why you’re watching anime in the first place. However, just because anime currently has an unbalanced focus in your life doesn’t mean you need to drop it entirely. Let’s look at some ways that anime, given a different role and emphasis, can actually enrich your life.
Is Anime Adding Value to my Life?
Being a fan of anime myself, I obviously believe there’s value to be taken from watching it. The key to whether or not my time spent watching anime is truly worthwhile is mainly determined by my mindset, goal, and what I choose to do with the experience itself.
With all that said, I believe that content does matter. If an anime you’re watching begins influencing your thoughts, words, and actions in an aggressive, detrimental, or unhelpful way—perhaps tempting you towards personal sins or distorting your focus on God—then its negative results override any potential for good things gained. Just because a certain series influences you in a certain way now doesn’t mean it always will. Wisdom and maturity often change our inclinations toward specific temptations. When in doubt, though, it’s best to step away for a time, pray for guidance, and allow for a period of rest so you can refocus on your motivations and rearrange your priorities if need be.
I think the most valuable way to approach anime is as a student desiring to learn. For example, you might learn more about life and the world around you by studying the cultures, religions, and philosophies presented in anime, analyzing the use of art and writing in the medium, and looking for the moral fibers that tie the story and characters together. What lessons can be learned from the anime you watch? How do the characters and plots challenge your beliefs and equip you with new perspectives of yourself, others, and the world around you? How does what you watch illustrate, perhaps in a very tangible way, the teachings of the Bible? What does anime have to say about sin, forgiveness, patience, courage, and a myriad of other biblical subjects?
I once read that stories in general are hugely beneficial for learning empathy toward others—especially those who hold different values, lifestyles, and perspectives than our own. Anime can also help us bridge gaps in context—giving us a common ground to connect and form deeper relationships with one another. Recently, a writer at Geeks Under Grace was able to connect with one of his students who was not interested in Christianity but loved anime. By sharing an article with her about Inuyasha and the concept of sin, he was able to communicate biblical ideas to her, and they were both able to comprehend each other’s perspectives. She was so intrigued by the discussion that, the following Sunday, she visited his church to learn more.
Stories are also valuable for their modeling qualities. If we are attentive watchers and active listeners, we are able to learn life lessons from anime through seeing characters play out situations of trial, error, and success in a safe, fictional setting ideal for real-world application. Anime, like many other mediums of storytelling, often portrays the consequences of certain actions and mindsets, expresses how to use words and deeds to tear others down or build them up, and poses the question of why you admire specific qualities modeled by its characters. The key is to be an active and smart student, not merely a passive viewer.
When I find an anime that I’m actively learning something from, I begin to enjoy it on a deeper level. One recent example is Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, which is—at face value—the biblical embodiment of laughter being good for the soul. In addition to its delightful comedy, Sakamoto’s namesake character is primarily what kept me watching the series, because I admired his defining values that surprisingly reminded me of Jesus’s teachings (an article for another time). I’ve also found many valuable perspectives and role models in Trigun’s Vash, who portrays Christ-like qualities, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood‘s themes of friendship.
The last way that anime can add value to your life is simply by helping you relax and decompress for a reasonable amount of time. The Bible puts as much emphasis on rest as it does work, showing the two as halves of a whole. If we spend too much time doggedly working or too much time lazing around, our energy, focus, and motivation begin to suffer, and we become poor stewards of our ultimate potential.
I think 1 John 5:21 summarizes my points best: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” All passions have the potential for becoming idols, but fortunately there’s a very simple resolution: Don’t be a slave to them. Anime can be a helpful tool in your God-centered life, but don’t let it control your thoughts, actions, or attitudes. Remember, the key question to ask yourself is: “How can I use this experience for good and God?”