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Who is your Anime Husbando/Waifu?

In this month’s anime collaboration article, the Geeks Under Grace anime team explores the in’s and out’s of their favorite fictional heartthrobs. “Husbando’s” and “waifu’s” (each obviously being the phonetic, Japanese equivalents of “husbands” and “wives”) are a strange, but not uncommon topic for novice and veteran anime viewers alike, and one we plan on indulging right here.
Never thought about something like this before? Well, sit back and get ready to reap the opinions of those who have gone before you, because, as I’m sure you’ll notice, this is something we like to talk about. (Then, be sure to share your own husbando or waifu in the comments section below.)

Cooper D Barham

I go back and forth on how I feel about the word “waifu.” For as long as the Naruto series has been around, I’ve always had a particular fondness for soft-spoken heroine, Hinata Hyuga. In a sea of fantastic female anime characters, she has always stood out. Perhaps it is her kindness which drew me to her, maybe her sensitivity.
More likely, it is how her personality and emotions matured in a realistic manner as she got older. Even more than that, maybe it’s because I’ve always held a personal kinship with Naruto himself, and thought the two of them would form a cute, complimentary relationship. The longer I reflect on the reasons, the harder I’m pressed by alexithymia. I just can’t put my finger on it.
Hinata is not short on displays of fierce bravery. Most notable are her battles against Neji, a young prodigy who, at the time, harbored a thinly-veiled hatred for Hinata and her entire family; and Pain, one of the mightiest shinobi to ever exist. Hinata, a natural pacifist, faced both of these threats with an understanding that she might not make it out alive–and both times she believed what she was fighting for was worth such a risk.
Not to mention she’s a member of the Hyuga clan, which by default gives her an interesting physicality. Inhumanly pure-white eyes, which can see x-ray in all directions, with the ability to zoom-in? A specialized martial art which can shut people down internally with one or two precise blows? A martial art which she’d wield in my defense?
Sign me up.
(Honorable mentions go to Winry from Fullmetal Alchemist (because duh), and  Kari from Digimon–particularly the older version from Season 2. Kari was my first crush, and set an unhealthy standard which has been matched by remarkably few real people. Funny how that works, eh?)

Kate Gilleo

“I need a doctor! Is anyone here a doctor?” The shrieks of a panicked woman fill the air. “Help, somebody! My son is hurt!”
The blank-faced people offer no respite to the hysterical lady, but from the back of the room, a dark figure rises, and a hush falls over the crowd as he approaches the scene of the accident. Whipping out his trusty stethoscope (because what doctor travels without one?), the stranger looks at the boy. “What seems to be the problem?” he asks, his voice sultry and low.
“Little Timmy isn’t breathing! Do you know CPR?”
Naturally, the brooding yet undeniably attractive stranger does, indeed. He takes the unconscious boy in his arms and examines him before administering the lifesaving treatment. When Timmy’s eyes fly open and his gasping, wheezing breaths return, the room starts to cheer. But for whom they cheer is unclear; the handsome man has vanished.
We all know the movie moment: the mysterious, handsome stranger will never be seen again, and the grateful family will never be able to properly thank him for the gift of Little Timmy’s life. Not all heroes wear capes–some wear lab coats and hospital scrubs.
Of course, the handsome, brooding doctor is no new concept, but Osamu Tezuka weaves a clever tale as striking and evocative as any I’ve ever read. Kurō Hazama, otherwise known as ブラック・ジャック (Burakku Jakku) or simply Dr. Black Jack, is my husbando of many years. Tezuka’s masterful manga was one of the first I ever read beginning to end, and Black Jack was the first anime man I ever daydreamed about, wishing he were real and at my doorstep, come to whisk me away.
The appeal of Black Jack lies deeper than his crepuscular, yet strangely appealing pieced-together face, or charming black and white hair. His true virtue is in his deep heart; the Christ-like selflessness he displays transcends anything I’ve seen outside the Bible itself. Black Jack again and again refuses to take or abandon human life, no matter the cost. He assembles a body for a young woman who otherwise would not have seen the light of day. He serves justice to a wrongly-convicted man, and finds a way to give him a new lease on life. Every chapter is a new story of Black Jack’s rescue of yet another otherwise hopeless victim of medical horrors, and each patient reveals a deeper and deeper sense of love which Hazama pours out for each and every soul he saves.
(Sound familiar?)

Emma Hilborn

Kaneki, when life was okay.
Picking just *one* top anime husbando is NOT an easy task. There are many solid options out there. However, I’ll answer with the default to which I always return–Ken Kaneki, from Tokyo Ghoul. Yes, he’s half-ghoul, but ignore that for a second. This guy is just fantastic in so many ways. For one, he’s quiet and bookish. Immediate thumbs up right there. He’s introverted (one close friend, Hide, over a group). He desires genuine connections with others because of who they are as individuals and not because of shallow appearances (hence, his approaching Rize for a date because she’s reading the obscure author he also enjoys).
Kaneki, when life was…*not* okay.
Going beyond that, Kaneki has superb character development across both Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul √A. Through no fault of his own, he’s thrust into terrible circumstances he wants no part of, and yet, while hitting some shaky points, he remains true to himself.
From teaching Hinami how to read, to attempting to sacrifice himself for his (few) friends and seek a greater peace, Kaneki remains loyal, honest, and kind in the face of evil. I mean, honestly, how can you top that?
Honorable Mentions:
  • Kaoru Nishimi – Kids on the Slope – Introverted, brilliant, pianist, and more concerned with making others happy than himself.
  • Kyoya Ootori – Ouran High School Host Club – Smart, tsundere, glasses, and looks out for everyone in his own awkward way.
  • Takumi Usui – Kaichou wa Maid-Sama – Kind underneath a sassy exterior, tough, surprise glasses, and likes cats.
  • Tobio Kageyama – Haikyuu!!! – Smart, tsundere, and super nice beneath a slightly prickly exterior.
  • Tokiya Ichinose or Masato Hijirikawa – Uta no Prince-Sama – Both are cute, musically talented, and super romantic in their own awkward ways.
  • Toshizou Hijikata – Hakuouki – He will literally lay down his life for his “brother” and protect those who need protecting.
  • Yamato Kurosawa – Say “I Love You” – A whole new level of patient and understanding when it comes to working out insecurities, and loyal to a fault.
  • Zero Kiryuu – Vampire Knight – Always strives to improve himself.

Robert Miller

Writing this as a married man feels odd. I haven’t done the whole “waifu” thing in a long time, so I’ll be going back a few years for mine. At first, I thought about going with Kagome (InuYasha), as she was the first real “waifu” I remembered having, though I think that was before the concept of a “waifu” became common in anime fandom. In truth though, my OG waifu is Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury (Sailor Moon). So is that who I would choose? No, I decided to go with someone else. While these two are definitely honorable mentions, my choice for this article is a little more practical:
Mio Akiyama (K-On!)
Why Mio? Well, let’s start with the more shallow end of the spectrum. In general, I have two “types” of women that appeal to me: women with shorter haircuts (typically to the shoulder) and women with long, dark hair. Now, based on that alone, most of the K-On! cast would seem to be a possible choice, with the exception of Mugi (I’ve never really had a thing for blondes). Thankfully, there is more to my reasoning!
Mio is a musician—a bassist, to be exact. As an occasional guitarist myself, this obviously appeals to me because it gives us something in common. But wait! The whole cast is composed of musicians! Why not Yui, who also plays the guitar and has short hair, or why not Azusa, who plays the guitar and has long, dark hair? Well, now we can get into personalities…
Mio is a bit more humble than most of her friends. None of them are particularly proud people, but Mio tends to prefer the background, out of the spotlight. Yet, more often than not, she finds herself thrust into the spotlight anyway—and she’s good! This humility appeals to me because I consider humble talent the best talent. People who recognize their skills but don’t take an overblown sense of pride in them are generally easier to get along with, because they don’t have “big heads.” Also, while I don’t mind a burst of energy here and there (which Mio definitely has throughout the show), I am typically a more laid back person, so Mio’s more reserved personality fits with my lifestyle. Comparing her to the two other possibilities I mentioned earlier, Yui is far too hyperactive, and Azusa can be a bit too bossy, even seemingly elitist at times, which is why I didn’t choose either of them. Besides, Mio’s shyness is part of her charm. It’s cute without being annoying.
Going back to the music aspect of things: Mio tends to be the primary song writer for the band. While I can play the guitar, I can’t write music to save my life, so we would complement each other by bringing our individual skills to the table. There’s also the fact Mio seems to be somewhat knowledgeable about the guitar (she provides Yui with some instruction when Yui first begins playing), which means I’d also have someone to provide feedback about my skills, abilities, and progression. The fact she can sing is another bonus, as it is a skill I have often been told I’m good at, as well. In the K-On! media, Mio often does dual vocals with Yui, which is something that could carry over in this hypothetical relationship. Of course, Mio doesn’t particularly enjoy being in the spotlight, so I may be on my own in that regard, but that’s okay, too.
So, there you have it. I would choose Mio because her looks, personality, and primary hobby are all things which appeal to me, and while there are obviously many other factors to consider in a relationship, these three things at least make for a good jumping-off point.

Casey Covel

Picture a puppy. Not just any puppy, but a black, shaggy-furred puppy with an ear flopping over one of his bright blue eyes. Picture a puppy that cocks his head and blinks whenever he hears you use an unfamiliar word. Picture a puppy that falls for the “fake-out fetch” every single time and ends up chasing shadows into the thicket, only to come bounding out covered in nettles and proudly carrying a dead tree branch. Imagine that puppy growing into a more mature, but no less spirited, army dog, just like he always dreamed ever since he first saw his hero, Rin Tin Tin, on TV. Imagine that puppy-turned-dog heroically sacrificing himself in an open minefield to save his inexperienced and helpless human (and inspiring one of those children’s books that wins a Newberry Award by default).
Now anthropomorphize that puppy—give him a spiky haircut, an out-of-place edgy scar alongside his genuine grin, and a sword the size of a kayak—and you have instant Zack Fair.
My affection for Zack extends beyond my tendency to screech like a velociraptor and nearly total my car whenever I see a cute doggy on the sidewalk (a la Noctis). He holds the unique honor of being the first video game character to make my stoic face cry the equivalent of man tears—a feat impressive enough to promote Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core to favorite-game-in-the-franchise status. Most significantly, though, Zack (like every one of my favorite characters) shaped a part of my identity—namely, my understanding of the living and dying sacrifice of Christ-like love in John 15:13, and my perspective of dreams and eternity.
Understandably, I’m a bit of a fangirl. I own every figurine Square Enix has ever released of Zack, including the silver Trading Arts variant (yes, that’s my figurine and official entry you see on My Figure Collection). Ask me to commission character artwork at a Con, and you’re safe betting I’ll choose Zack Fair. Selling Zack Fair prints, keychains, buttons, or kitchen sinks? I’m pretty much Pavloved to respond with Gil in hand at this point.
At the heart of all things Zack is an understated development arc and concrete characterization that refuses all things angsty (and pleases my inner writer and critic). Zack matures from an attention-hog into a true hero, sacrifices his everything to save another, has an optimistic attitude about life, and is okay giving things up to make others happy.
Zack Fair in Final Fantasy VII: Last Order
In fact, Zack even lets go of his beloved girlfriend, Aerith–the gal he waited over four years to be reunited with–when he realizes she and Cloud truly love each other, and he does so with a smile—the same smile he dies with.
Zack is a big dorky, goofy, grinning, frisky, perky puppy… who just happens to be a hardcore 1st Class SOLDIER infused with Mako energy magic.
…And he totally counts because he was in an anime that one time.
Honorable Mentions:
Black Jack (Hazama Kuroo) – Black Jack
Already covered by Kate Gilleo with scalpel-like sharpness, perhaps the only thing I can add is my love of how Hazama’s brutual origin story shapes who he eventually becomes. This is also the part where I shamelessly plug my Young Black Jack cosplay… occasionally with the scar on the wrong side of the face (because bathroom mirrors are traitors).

Erwin Smith – Attack on Titan
He’s a man whose handsome exterior doesn’t mask an ugly heart, whose words are as powerful as his unblinking, fourth-wall-shattering stare. His grace and intelligence lead humanity to victory as often as his duel parrying blades and personal sacrifices. I could match wits and eyebrows alike with him, and I can definitely dig a guy whose crystal clear vision makes him willing to go out on a limb for his beliefs (see chapter 49). Humanly flawed, intriguingly written, and capable of wielding the storyline’s punchiest moments like a one-man powerhouse, Erwin puts the “win” in… well… you know
My affiliation with Commander Eyebrows of Freedom is renowned to the point that my Facebook Messenger blows up with various consolations and congratulations whenever he does anything worth mentioning in the manga.
I also got him on a “Which Attack on Titan Character would be your Husbando?” quiz once, so our relationship is pretty much legit at this point.
Klaus Von Reinherz – Kekkai Sensen
His mercy drips with the color of his own blood. His justice is swift, yet seared with sympathy for the sinner. Bearing a striking silhouette, the strength of a beast, the sophistication of a gentleman, and a saintly presence that can only be compared to a humanoid Aslan, Klaus Von Reinherz carries the weight of his Christ-archetypal cross quite literally.
That’s not just because he wields a crucifix-shaped brass knuckle and goes mono a mono with the incarnation of Satan. Even the devil himself is quick to notice similarities between the messianic leader of Libra and a certain carpenter’s Son who hung on a cross to bring mankind hope. Klaus offers salvation to the scummiest of traitors (often at the price of his own blood, which literally doubles as a weapon), extends membership into his peace-keeping society to any willing to carry his creed (regardless of their histories, ethnicities, and abnormalities), and acts as the mediator between humanity and the monstrous denizens of the underworld who have invaded New York City.
Just… watch Kekkai Sensen. It all makes sense. Mostly. Eventually.
Klaus personifies many traits that inspire and resonate with me. He’s someone who has experienced all that is evil in the world, yet doesn’t lose sight of the beauty nestled deep within its cavernous black holes. Something as simple as a train ride gets him giddier than a geek on game night—and Klaus is a huge geek. Threatening his family of houseplants is just about the only thing aside from grotesque injustice that will rile him into using his beast-like bulk for violent force (a sentiment I echo about my figurine collection). Klaus is a laidback guy whose down-to-earth nature makes him as comfortable in a 5-star restaurant as he is reaching in a greasy fast-food bag for the last French fry or doughnut. Nothing makes him happier than a hot cup of tea and a challenging video game—Prosfair (god-tier chess) being his game of mastery. “To thine own self be true” might well be his unspoken, Shakespearean mantra.
Klaus can go from teddy bear, to beast mode, to Christ archetype in less time than it took you to read this sentence.
Throw in sleek spectacles, a theme song straight out of Beethoven’s 9th, a name worth a crash course in etymology, that hair, and some sick dance moves… and you can consider me a goner.
And, ladies: he’s part vampire. (…That’s still a thing, right?)
L Lawliet – Death Note
I never considered L as a husbando until friends began to claim him as such on my behalf (perhaps because of my cosplay?). My fascination with L began with a mutual sweet tooth, and ended with an intellectually-stimulating plunge into his (and the rest of the Death Note series’) catacomb of Christian imagery and secular philosophy.
Another thing we have in common is our ability to look perfectly miserable, even while we’re eating our favorite dessert.
L’s many faces, names, and various media alterations make him a walking mass of moral complexes, but his few moments of genuine empathy for others—particularly enemies and estranged allies—reveal a soul as sweet as his sugar cravings (L: Change the World is the first novel to make me tear up in years). His intelligence is tempered with hard-earned (ha?) experience, and his depth as an individual only grows as you’re willing to probe past his slumped physique and bug-eyed, sickly face. L doesn’t give up his secrets easily, and that only makes the investigation into his reclusive identity all the more rewarding. (Believe me: I’ve been at it for the past 4 years.)
Needless to say, nowadays, I’m apt to walk around barefoot and take pride in abbreviating my middle name “Lynn” as “L.”
Vash the Stampede – Trigun
Vash is a culmination of two traits nearly universal to my husbando harem—meekness and Christ archetypal…ness. He’s a better “Christian” than his so-called preacher sidekick, acts and stands on his values, boasts a jarringly robust sense of humor, wears a trench coat, has a literal prosthetic firearm (it’s a pun—think about it), and survives on a steady diet of doughnuts without developing blood sugar problems—everything I could possibly want in an ageless, sort-of-human, natural disaster of a man.
Don’t get me wrong—Vash is far from perfect, even if much of his flirtatious nature and inclination toward (lots of) alcohol is just for show. Playacting aside, Vash struggles with deep-rooted psychological issues of worthlessness, guilt, and depression that are given painful meaning in the manga, especially, but I think these flaws make him more appealing and approachable. Most importantly, he proves his mettle—not so much in overcoming these setbacks, but in not allowing them to overcome him.
My figurine collection features a shelf entirely dedicated to all things Vash—including a signature by his English voice actor, Johnny Yong Bosch (read: bucket list). I just can’t get enough of Vash and the way he hones his beliefs and values by putting them to the test. He’s a character who cries, bleeds, and breaks along the way to salvation, making more mistakes than amends and intentionally spilling gallons of his own blood, lest he spill the blood of others.
“It’s not a phase, mom…”
Despite being equally blessed and burdened with god-like powers, Vash never abuses his abilities, even when faced with the stinging words of his enemies or the literal incarnations of sin. He’d rather play with children or eat salmon sandwiches than sling his gun. His meekness makes him a visionary with the power to drastically reshape the world through “love and peace,” without brute force. And, frankly, I admire Vash’s “ask-questions-first, shoot-later” approach as much as I envy his metabolism.

If you haven’t already, try putting some thought into who might be your husbando or waifu of choice. It’s not just an otaku right of passage, it’s also a fun thought experiment and discussion starter. Be sure to leave your conclusions in the comments section below!
Our next collaborative article topic is: “Support Characters in Anime Who Deserve Their Own Series.”
God bless and take care!
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Anime Community Articles

How Could Christian Stories Benefit From Anime Adaptation?

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Happy December, and welcome, everyone, to Geeks Under Grace’s first-ever anime collaboration article! We are incredibly excited to unroll this new, monthly series for our readers, and introduce you to our anime department staff. To kick things off, we decided it would be best if we chose a topic which synthesized our two greatest priorities on the site: proclaiming the message of Christ, and revealing our various shades of geek. In this case, specifically, our inner otaku.
This month’s question, laid out on the gauntlet of the Geeks Under Grace anime writers: “How Could Christian Stories Benefit From Anime Adaptation?”

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Cooper Barham

maxresdefaultMost of our audience is probably familiar with a couple of inconsequential, animated, Christian films which dropped in the late 90’s called The Prince of Egypt and Joseph: King of Dreams. Of course, by “inconsequential” I mean each of them won several awards, possessed fantastic soundtracks (the former being composed by the esteemed Hans Zimmer), wielded mind-blowing casts, and otherwise gave old, biblical tales a fresh relevance in modern media.
Debates on the lack of pinpoint, biblical accuracy aside, most people left these films with a generally good opinion of them, adults included. (Funny thing, too, since cartoons are traditionally children’s movies.) Why is that?
Because, like anime, the medium used to capture these tales was a dynamic and powerful one. Anime is an almost universally underestimated lens for crafting narratives, including in the States, but those of us versed in the medium typically have plenty of fantastic story- or character-centric series/movies which have stirred our souls or made us pump our fists. Certain visual ideals can only be captured through animation, and, unlike the trends of western animation which have been dipping further into computer-focused models and films (at the time of writing this article, Disney’s Moana is smashing the box office), eastern anime has only been borrowing pieces of computer animation to aid its rapidly-improving traditional style. People loved movies like The Prince of Egypt because of what they brought to the table: a contemporary, biblical experience with impact and aesthetics the cinema had not properly captured up to that point.
If the same care and treatment were to go into a biblical film, donned in anime style, as those movies mentioned above, I have no doubt it would attract as wide an audience. Anime is more culturally accepted now than ever, and can be found internationally. Its influence has punctured and seeped into video games, literature, comics, music, and every other flavor of art you can name. What’s more, we already know anime can do well across the world, as evidenced by the resounding success of Studio Ghibli’s films.
The pieces needed for greatness are all there, hibernating, just waiting for some talented tour-de-force to compile them and cultivate them into Christianity’s next significant breakthrough on the contemporary battlefield. The ground is ripe. Now it just needs to be farmed.

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Eric Perez

I think the main reason why anime would be a great medium to adapt any biblical story from is that anime is able to tackle very deep topics, while at the same time being inviting to those who don’t necessarily go out seeking stories which have serious messages embedded into them. It’s almost as if discussion of these deep topics, such as those relating to spirituality, can effectively “hide” behind anime’s fun and/or engaging feel, while still being able to explore various concepts which may open doors to ideas and issues the viewer may not have thought about before.
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That looks like a grandma who kicks back to some Attack on Titan.
Anime also has the potential to reach a very wide range of demographics–especially since anime generally caters to people of all ages. Another key factor is that anime includes all genres of storytelling, which is true of the Bible as well.
One more advantage anime has, specifically when looking at adaptation, is that the focus is generally on the story and characters, rather than the historical accuracy of the characters’ appearances. Anime characters generally have the same “look” and features across the board, except for a couple of characteristics which are used to separate them from each other (crazy hair, unique clothing, etc). This can help “suspend the audience’s disbelief” and keep the core focus exactly where it should be–on the story and characters, rather than on the accuracy of historical representation.
To conclude, I think the book of Acts would be one of the best stories in the Bible for anime adaptation. It has all the main elements which anime is strongest at portraying–a wide variety of interesting and important characters, adventure, huge character development arcs, visual potentiality, conflict, victory, and life lessons.

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Emma Hilborn

One of the first things which struck me when I started watching anime is one of the main reasons I think Christian stories could benefit from anime adaptations. In anime, it seems the viewer has a greater ability to accept the “weird,” “crazy,” or just downright “impossible,” simply because it’s anime. No one questions pre-teen girls gaining magical abilities and taking on strange monsters. The awkward, high school misfits, which suddenly have a bunch of people fawning over them, are considered an anime norm (even though, speaking as a high school misfit, that basically never happens in reality). No one bats an eye at characters who can throw fridges across roads (Shizuo), control reality with their mind (Haruhi), or learn to survive as a half-human, maybe-cannibalistic cross-species (Kaneki).
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Just wait until you get to the page where Jesus basically goes Super Saiyan.
In reading some Bible stories, you come across similar instances: Moses splitting the Red Sea, Jonah being eaten and spat back up by a whale, and, of course, Christ dying and being resurrected. If these stories were adapted into anime form, I think people would be far more likely to at least listen to the story without immediately dismissing it for “being ridiculous” or because “that could never really happen.” It would be really cool to see stories like these adapted into anime series (or shorts), either telling a direct version of the story, or just a loosely-based one with strong parallels which may get people interested or asking questions. Even if someone were to begin watching one of these biblical adaptations out of idle curiosity, they’d be hearing the truth, even if they weren’t actively believing it, and you never know how God may use that little bit of exposure.
As a side note, the Bible’s already seen benefits from being adapted into manga (Manga Messiah by NEXTmanga). People seem far more likely to want to take part in biblical stories when they are portrayed as a form of entertainment. While the end goal will always be to get people reading the Bible, if taking interest in the stories via manga or anime helps them take that first step, then that’s awesome! This may be something we get to see in practice soon, as Prince Adventuresan anime adaptation of the biblical story of humanity’s fall into sin and Satan’s attempt to usurp Creation from God–is in development to be released ASAP. While some of us at Geeks Under Grace, Beneath the Tangles, and elsewhere are already using secular anime to open up faith-based discussion with non-religious people, having faith-based anime to discuss would make the experience that much cooler.

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Robert Miller

The primary reason I believe Christian stories would benefit from anime adaptation is simply because anime would allow for a lot more freedom in storytelling. Let’s face it: movies and “other” forms of animation have become mainstream, meaning most Christians are already familiar with them. As a result, adaptations done in these formats would, by default, fall under Christian scrutiny. While the Bible itself may contain some rather graphic details, it seems a lot of Christians feel depictions of such things are inappropriate, so most forms of media which attempt to adapt these stories have to do so in a “safe,” white-washed manner to avoid offending their target audience. Anime, on the other hand, is still something of a niche genre among Christians, in my experience, meaning the pressure to cave to typical expectations would be reduced, if not eliminated, allowing the content creators the ability to tell the stories in a way which much more accurately depicts what actually happened in the Bible.
o-noahs-ark-facebookLet’s make one thing clear: I’m not suggesting we use anime as an excuse to put debauchery on display. The Bible contains some content we couldn’t realistically depict in all of its detail without turning said content into something perverse. Examples would include depictions of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, or Absalom sleeping with David’s concubines in order to assert his usurping of the throne. While these things did happen, I cannot think of a way to depict them in detail without basically creating pornography.
On the other hand, there are other events in the Bible which simply lose their impact if they are watered down. My favorite example is the story of “Noah’s Ark.” I didn’t grow up in church, so I don’t have childhood memories of Sunday school, but I’ve seen enough to know, in general, that the story of Noah’s ark tends to be simplified for children, to the point that it only focuses on Noah and the animals. It completely glosses over the fact that the entire human population was wiped out, save for Noah and his family. Essentially, the greater message is sacrificed in order to present kids with a happy little image of an old man and some animals. With an anime adaptation, the full impact of these events could easily be put on display, as anime is generally intended for older audiences to begin with, and, again, those who would expect the white-washing of the story are likely to not have any influence on the production of said adaptation.
From a more evangelical standpoint, anime adaptations would also create witnessing opportunities which may not otherwise be possible. Hand a random person at a convention a Bible, and they’re likely to throw it back in your face. Show them an anime adaptation of something from the Bible, and they may actually watch it. I believe My Last Day was even shown at Otakon in some capacity in the past. True, no one is going to be saved just by watching an anime, but doing so could open the door for that conversation to take place. At the very least, watching a biblically-inspired anime could build connections which we wouldn’t otherwise have between us and others, and this could eventually lead to greater witnessing opportunities. I am, of course, speaking hypothetically here, but having been part of the convention scene for over a decade, I believe I have a firm grasp of how convention goers would react to traditional evangelical methods. This is where the hyper-spiritual would probably tell me, “Well, I refuse to use the world to win the world!” Last I checked, all creativity ultimately comes from God. Anime, in and of itself, is just another form of creativity—another style of animation. If you have no problem using a “Christian” painting to spark a conversation with a nonbeliever, then you should have no problem with a “Christian” anime.

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Our next topic for January could help you introduce new friends into the otaku universe, as we discuss “The Best Gateway Anime.”  If you liked this piece, please keep your eye out next month for the next compilation.
Until then, God bless and thank you for reading.

Featured images credit to Rebekah Ann Kjetland. Find her photography work here and her Star Wars: The Musical work here.

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Anime Community Articles

Naruto: a Dedication to 15 Years

It’s been about a week since iconic manga smash-hit Naruto has drawn to a close, ending a fifteen-year era of shinobi and leaving a space in the hearts of its many readers/watchers.  There are several of us at Geeks Under Grace who would like to extend a gesture of thanks to Naruto and Masashi Kishimoto, relating our lives and Christian walks to the story and characters crafted within such a harrowing, and sometimes sobering, tale–the tale of a boy whose world was small, but whose dreams were massive: the tale of a ninja.

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JP FRANCO:

I remember the first time I was introduced to Naruto. It was 2003, and I went to hang out at a friend’s house. While I was there, I met my friend’s older brother who happened to be watching a subtitled episode of Naruto on his computer. I asked what he was watching.  He quickly got excited and said, “I have to show you this!” He pulled up a fight from the Chuunin Exams arc, and it was from that point on that I started my journey with Naruto.

For a literature class, I once had to do a research paper on the topic of folklore. One of the biggest takeaways from my research was that, often times, folklore is used to instill and encourage the beliefs, values, and practices of a person or group. After learning this purpose, I started analyzing the media I take in–the comics I read, the movies or shows I watched…  Was there a connection between the values I have and why I like certain characters or shows?

Naruto instills and encourages the beliefs and values that I have. Yes, even as a Christian, a ninja anime has the ability to remind me of God’s Truth (which shows just how great He is that He can use a cartoon to bring us closer to Him). For example, Naruto is one of the most sacrificial characters I’ve ever seen. I love that his devotion to his friends is mostly unconditional to the point that he would rather die fighting for them than give up. His sacrifice and devotion are two character qualities that I personally hold dear, and I find myself encouraged when I think about how consistently he displays these two qualities on his journeys.naruto-artbook-scan1

Aside from the main character, there are so many relatable characters that we can connect with in different seasons of our lives. Whether it’s Hinata’s growth from feeling she was only a burden to having self-confidence, Lee’s unwavering determination despite all odds, or Gaara’s journey from villain to hero, these evolving characters can serve as inspiration as we develop our own character.

Though the story is ending, I’m glad I’ve been able to grow up with it. I’m thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned and how much fun I had feeling like a Konoha ninja while journeying through all of it! Dattebayo!

Josh Mors:

I personally started watching Naruto when I was in 4th grade, and that was the year 2006. I remember it airing on Cartoon Network at the time. I really enjoyed watching it, and started watching more of the anime. Once I got caught up with the anime I started reading the weekly chapter that would go up every week depending on the day. Sometimes early chapter releases would go up on Tuesday, but the regularly scheduled one was always on Wednesday. Then, over the past couple weeks, some of the chapters got released on Thursday

Anyway, enough rambling on about that. Naruto has meant so much for me as a whole. It showed me to never give up on anything–to try to pursue your goal in life and the dreams that you want to accomplish. This has been helpful for me in my Christian walk because I’m never going to stop believing in Him despite the persecution that I may face in the future. Naruto overcame his enemies, and spoke such wise words from what he learned from his teachers. He also taught me to love and care for others despite what others may think of you. Naruto-naruto-shippuuden-17324234-2560-1838When Naruto was younger he had to deal with a lot of pain because he didn’t have any parents, and many people didn’t really accept him for who he was. Later on, however, he showed them what he was made of, and he started caring for others. His comrades realized that once he protected the village from being attacked, and also after the war. He also kept pursuing after his friend, Sasuke, who rebelled against his village, and he still wanted Sasuke to come back, despite all the pain he had caused. All the pain that Naruto faced shaped him to be a better person in the end. In our daily Christian walk, we will go through hurt, shame, or even pain, ourselves, but we know that God uses those things to help us become a better person. It can be hard in the moment when you’re experiencing trials, but you’ll be rewarded for what you’ve gone through in the end… just like Naruto.

Casey Covel:

It may seem unusual—or perhaps even psychologically unsound—to say that fictional characters are sitting among pastors, parents, teachers, Jesus Christ, Michael Jordan, Dietrich Bonoeffer, C.S. Lewis, and a host of other real persons on your list of inspirational people. But, with Naruto, this is most certainly the case for me.

0c0fa370bbf0b499c53131d02ebc95b0I found Naruto during a bit of a turbulent time in my life and never imaged that the show would provide me with role models who would inspire and better me as an individual.

Naruto is a franchise that breathes. The characters—fantastical and far-fetched as they are—have a pulsing humanity about them. As a fan of the show (that’s how I primarily enjoyed the series), I was exposed to struggles that I had never before seen presented through animated television—childhood abuse, the blunt futility of vengeance, the power of a love that longs for revenge but chooses to forgive, social stigmatization, survivor’s guilt, the power of a kind word, the ability of one person to change a life, and the dual nature of mankind and the way in which even the vilest among us have genuinely human tendencies and concerns. For the first time since I’d begun watching television, I was presented with an array of characters facing debilitating social, psychological, and physical barriers. Even more importantly, though, these characters overcame their setbacks in thoroughly poignant and believable ways that left an impact—not only on how I viewed myself—but also on how I began to view others.

A few of the characters that left an enormous impact on me:

  • Iruka changed a life by being the first teacher—and first person—to recognize and treat Naruto with kindness; this simple act of kindness sets off a chain of events that forever change the course of the ninja world.
  • Gaara transformed his hatred into love, becoming the savior of his village and the commander of the shinobi alliance.
  • Rock Lee overcame his learning disabilities with nothing but relentless hard work and the encouragement of his sensei.
  • Hinata transformed her greatest weakness—her gentleness—into her greatest strength, even finding the courage to do something a majority of characters never could: confess her love to another.
  • Tsunade pressed past her fear of blood and the loss of her brother and fiancé, dedicating her life to protecting the Hidden Leaf Village.
  • Kakashi found strength through loss at a young age—his father committed suicide and his best friend died before his eyes, among other tragedies—using his own sorrow and experience to empower others. He swears loyalty to his comrades and goes so far as to offer his life to preserve the village.
  • Naruto overcame the social isolation of an entire village, fought against a world’s worth of naysayers, overcame his weaknesses, learned the power of forgiveness and offered it to everyone who ever wronged him, defied a world that said “you can’t,” and became the savior of all shinobi and the ninja world at large.

As a Christian, I often saw the teachings of Christ presented through this show, which surprised me. As lessons of forgiving your enemies, sacrificing for your friends, and showing kindness, integrity, and virtue in your day-to-day life were delivered on an almost episodic basis, I found myself feeling empowered by the series.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANaruto is not a weak show. It doesn’t shy away from blood, pain, suffering, loss, and the harsh brutality of life. Characters see friends and family killed before their eyes. Some are put through psychological and physical torture. Others tell of horrendous atrocities that befall them—parents who wished them dead, villages who disowned them, horrific injuries that they endured… and yet for all that, whenever I walked away from an episode of Naruto, what I left with was not the cruelty, the violence, the blood, or the despicable evils that befell the characters. What I walked away with was the moment where one mortal enemy forgave another, where a character endured pain and suffering for the sake of a friend, where loyalty, sacrifice, kindness, and hope embodied truly breath-taking and realistic moments that made these virtues real in true, biblical fashion.

When I walk away from contemporary films, I often find myself with images of the film’s more dark and unsettling content in my mind. With Naruto, despite it possessing even more intense, unsettling content than a majority of western animated films (and even some live-action films), I only ever walked away with positive, wholesome thoughts on my mind. Very rarely did a negative, unsettling thought ever crowd in amidst the empowering ones. This, in practice, is very hard to achieve through film, especially considering Naruto’s unflinching adherence to reality in terms of painful physical, mental, and emotional wounds.

All that to say this: I would not be the person I am today without Naruto. It has easily been one of the most powerful, fictional influences on my life. The series coming to a close is a bittersweet reality. It’s a long-running series that has proudly and unashamedly marched through the anime/manga genre without faltering… for fifteen years. Not an easy feat, by any means. I look forward to what the future holds for Naruto and his friends, beginning with The Last: Naruto the Movie.

Allow me to leave you with this quote, oft-said by Kakashi Hatake:

“In the ninja world, those who break the rules are scum, that’s true, but those who abandon their friends are worse than scum.”

Cooper Barham:

There are so many things I could say, so many things I have learned, that I do not know how to start talking about Naruto.  I have been following this series since the tail-end of sixth grade, over eleven years ago.  When it started, I was almost exactly the same age as Naruto and his friends, so it was easy for me to relate and get absorbed into their world.  Having practically completed case-studies on this series, I could say with some confidence that I would be comfortable teaching entire courses on Naruto and all of the details therein.  On top of that, the sentiments and wisdom found within reflected back on my own life, encouraging my personality to develop in ways that it would not have otherwise.  Through Naruto, I have learned a little bit more about friends, family, patience, and even the nature of Christ, shown through these characters.

I’d thought about doing an entire series of articles fully realizing lessons and philosophies to be found in Naruto, complete with related stories from others and examples from personal experience.  Someday, I still might.  The series is so long, and so full of stories, characters, moral altercations, devastation, reconstruction, transformation, and redemption, that I am at odds with myself over the limited space I have to talk about everything.

It’s hard to start people on Naruto, especially with friends and acquaintances my age.  Like I said, it was easy when I was Naruto’s age, and I could connect seamlessly into their exciting, but lonely fiction.  Naruto has very childish roots, but those roots delve into a much more sophisticated and human fabric of storytelling.  There have been many criticisms of Naruto throughout the years, some admittedly more valid than others, but, overall, the series has made a home in many hearts and still exacts inspiration on our generation, as I expect it will for years to come.Naruto_and_Jiraiya

Naruto reinforced many ideals for me, in ways that I didn’t grasp until they were conveyed using characters I understood and appreciated: being happy for somebody in spite of your own efforts or feelings, knowing how to find value in losing and humility in victory, patiently accepting that you will be mocked for your convictions, loving and protecting those who would not do the same for you, sacrificing your entitlements and respect for the sake of people who will never understand your actions, never giving up on the goodness that can be found in the hearts of others, turning loneliness and anger into a weapon to forge yourself anew, standing up for the weak, never shouldering all the responsibility by yourself, forever and ever, etc.

Perhaps more than anything else though, there are two preeminent messages delivered in the Naruto narrative.  The first is an obvious, increasingly insurmountable tale of brotherhood.: brotherhood between Sasuke and his biological brother, Itachi, and brotherhood between Naruto and Sasuke, who are kin only by the mutual struggle they have shared.  The other message is a little more complicated, a little more Christ-like, and a little more powerful.  During some of the later arcs of the story, Naruto is tasked with finding the “cure to hatred” by a couple of people, including his master, Jiraiya.  Obviously, in a world so stricken by malcontent and conflict, this is a pretty daunting task.  However, through several sub-plots, the sacrifice of multiple characters, and some of the best storytelling the series has to offer, Naruto does finally find his answer, as does his friend and companion, Gaara.  A simple word, sometimes with exceedingly difficult applications: forgiveness.

Amidst a sea of character revelations and moral underpinnings, the author goes out of his way to make special mention of the power of unconditional, seemingly illogical forgiveness towards our fellow man, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean you get along well afterwards.  This is one of the quintessential messages of Christ, and is something I am extremely thankful to find in my favorite series ever.

So again, thank you, Naruto, for being a friend and inspiration in spite of the confines of fiction.  Thank you to the entire cast of characters forged by Kishimoto’s pen, mind, and heart.  Thank you for the music, thanks for the battles, thanks for building my mind and playing my heartstrings, and thank you for doing the same for millions of others as well.

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God bless you, Masashi Kishimoto, and best wishes on your next work.  We look forward to it.

(Featured image credited to “chopper-nx” on Deviantart. http://chopper-nx.deviantart.com/)

VERSE OF THE DAY: James 5:10-11
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

SONG OF THE DAY: “Heaven Shaking Event” – Naruto Shippuden OST