Okay weeboos, let’s do this.
If you’re not into anime, stick around, this should still be interesting.
You know the famous (and depressing) philosopher Nietzsche? The guy who reputedly said “God is Dead.” Or, that God never existed and the idea of Him is what is in fact dead.
I am starting to think almost every single writer in Japan is with Nietzsche on this one.
Since I got into anime about a year or two maybe ago, I’ve seen maybe 20, not nearly as many as die hard fans, but a fair amount, and I’ve heard the plot of other ones from reviewers and my sisters.
And I started noticing a really weird common thread in Shonen or sometimes Isekai anime.
Shonen anime is basically superhero/special power adventure type shows.
Isekai is AU, or other world based shows, where the premise usually starts with an ordinary guy or girl somehow being transported to another world, sometimes through reincarnation, sometimes a summoning, etc.
There’s a few anime that are kind of a combination of genres that also would fit what I’m about to describe.
Nearly every anime of this sort that I’ve seen ends in, or has some plot at some point, that involves defeating a character that is said to be either a god, or basically the equivalent of a god, or maybe even The God.
The character is typically a villain, of course, and usually cruel and power mad and ready to wipe out or enslave the human race.
An then the protagonist will either use paragon powers, or the power of friendship to do what everyone swore was impossible for the whole show, and kill this god character.
If you think I’m wrong…well…
Naruto, easily one of the most popular anime of all time, ends (SPOILER ALERT) with Naruto and his team effectively killing or defeating at least, a god and…maybe another god? It was unclear (honestly most of the fans agree it was bizarre).
Fairy Tail, another really popular and really lengthy anime, also ends with a character who had basically become a god (or was cursed by the gods) being killed. Two characters, actually. Along with a host of other very powerful, god like people. There were even “godslayers” in the show.
I recently started Katana Maidens, it ended the first half with defeating an evil goddess.
What’s funny is if the show doesn’t kill the god, they end up subduing it to the hero’es side. Like, the heroes will still beat it, it’ll just become their friend then.
Examples include Dragon Ball when it got to Beerus (weird but funny)
Probably Fruits Basket, so far it hasn’t concluded.
Freaking Boruto advertised the killing god ending in the first episode
Full Metal Alchemist, from what I hear.
Not to mention a crap ton of video games made in Japan also have you fight gods or fate, and defeat it.
Speaking of Fate, if we counted the amount of anime that have people declaring they’ll change or resist Fate, we could count a lot of Rom Com or slice of life or sci-fi anime also.
And it’s starting to trickle into American Media influenced by anime.
NetFlix’es She-Ra ends with a character who claimed to be like God dying.
The freaking Guardians of the Galaxy kill a god in their 2nd movie. Thanos gets killed in Endgame.
But those examples are a bit more shaky, Anime is what has the gods actually have followers, and a lot of power and they are almost always evil, or else stupid or lazy like Konosuba’s (I suppose that beats evil.)
Personally, I prefer anime that just stay off the subject, because once they introduce a god, the show always gets much, much darker.
Oh, yeah, that new BNA Netflix show also has a god battle in the end… I guess I won’t spoil what happens (I think the show really wasn’t that good but some people like it.)
I’m sure a hardcore weeaboo could name a bunch of stuff I’ve missed too. But I think you get the idea.
What the heck is with this trope? No one ever talks about it, but it’s everywhere.
And if we extend it to how many anime have a weird Catholic-garbed religious sect as the evil villains in at least one arc, then pretty much every shonen and isekai would now be on the list.
As a Christian, I find it pretty creepy when elements related to my religion are turned into some weird cult thing on a show. I hear that most people in Japan don’t even know much about the Church, they just think the outfits look cool, and the symbolism. Ever wonder why so many anime villains wear crosses? Yeah… I don’t get it.
Personally, I really think the writers could bother to look it up before using it, a lot of Christians watch this stuff. Why be insensitive?
Not that Christianity being villainized is anything to be surprised at.
As I noticed this trope, I began to wonder why it was so prevalent. My sister told me that in a video about Christianity in Japan, people admitted that it was rare, and that people there are often afraid of religion. They might acknowledge Buddhism a little, but they don’t have deep beliefs in it.
Kind of how many people treat yoga and other Eastern teachings and practices. Like a buffet you can pick and choose from.
I think that it’s interesting that anime comes from a culture of not very serious religion, and it itself often treats God as the problem, an obstacle in the way of harmony, peace, and our own human happiness.
It makes me kind of sad actually. God is so different to me.
Many people, even Christians, think of God as distant, angry, or cruel. Unwilling to help us. Thwarting our plans, etc.
God does do that.
But I don’t think most people stay away from God because they think He’s cruel.
I don’t think, at the heart of anime and possible Japan, if one could know that from its media, is truly the fear of a cruel God.
What the real fear seems to be is of the all consuming nature of God.
We, in general, are okay with dipping our toes into religion. Maybe trying church once in a while, maybe reading a little about it, maybe praying to God, maybe not any specific god.
Even Christians live distant from God. Many religions teach that God or the gods are distant on purpose, only a few enlightened people can get close to them, only a few should. The rest of us should just live ordinary, good lives.
Generally, only the best and brightest of us humans can approach the gods. See Greek Mythology, Egyptian Mythology, any mythology…
Christianity shocks people, and scares them, by bringing God too close. It slaps you in the face with it, and pins you down till you squirm.
We’re told that God searches the hearts of men.
David even prays for God to strike his enemies in the face, a very personal kind of blow compared to just “smite them”.
And the story of the Israelites at Mount Sinai, when they begged Moses to go speak to God for them, and they wouldn’t themselves, they were afraid they would die.
God’s might and power and holiness are what scare us the most about Him.
In my own life, I grew up knowing God was good, but the sheer greatness of Him frightened me. I thought God would control me in a way I would hate, and I could never escape it, so I hid from Him. (Sounds like an anime to me.)
Later I found out God doesn’t force us to do things in that way. Not when it comes to accepting Him.
God can be puzzling to people. Eastern religion tries to reconcile the good and evil in the world by saying there must be an equal amount for balance.
The God of the Bible can seem like a collection of contradictions. He is Just, He is Merciful. He is a still small voice, he is in a whirlwind. The list goes on. But always, He is Good.
It’s overwhelming all right.
I understand fearing God. But I don’t know how anyone could believe God was defeatable.
The arrogance of anime is astounding. Especially since it comes with a lot of very wimpy messages.
They go to great lengths to kill the god characters…and ironically, they kill their own moral standing.
If you think about it, if God is real, or the gods are real, and they are in control of the world…then if you kill them, you’ve kind of doomed us all.
I find many endings to promising animes unsatisfying. They can’t commit to a message. Naruto most infuriatingly ended the show still never answering Pain’s excellent question about how he intended to heal the world.
I think the writers must know deep down it’d be ludicrous to say one human could do all that, but they have cut off their only viable option, a Divine Being… so they are forced to just leave the question open ended.
Think about how many anime end with “basically everything went on the same way it always had” That’s not an ending. That’s… stalling.
Characters usually talk like this “I think maybe this…” or “I have hope that somehow…” Like, they never know anything. They never have logic, or an argument, or proof. Just blind hope in… nothing. They hope for hope’s sake.
It just doesn’t work for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy many shows, and I like the more pure characters and romances. Those can be done decently well.
But the moment any major statement about the world is made, it’s weak.
The reason is obvious. Without God, there is just no moral standard anyone can possible be made to conform to. Maybe you can just pick one out of thin air (I doubt it) but you have no right to complain if other people disagree with you. Meaning Unity is virtually impossible.
People complain about organized religion without realizing it is the only reason society can even exist. Religion decides morals, morals decide the justice system, and no society of 5 people, let alone 5 million, can survive without a justice system.
Without God, what gives our lives meaning? There’s a sadly high suicide rate in Asia, Japan is no exception.
A lot of anime try to encourage kids not to kill themselves over failed work or grades or goals, to keep trying.
As if trying ever cured depression.
I appreciate the effort, but it’s hopeless. It’ll never work.
The ones that say love is the reason to hang in there are much closer to the truth.
I’ve mentioned that I deal with depression, sometimes suicidal thoughts. Though, I more of mean, I wonder why I don’t give up. I wonder what keeps me going. When so many people take that way out, what gives me any reason to believe I won’t or can’t?
It’s weird, but my dad often got depressed over work and feeling useless, so anime can be very familiar to me. And it make me sad the same way my dad would make me sad. It causes me to wonder, what will my answer be to the same failures and disappointments? Will it be his, or will I have a better one.
Slowly, God is helping me answer that question.
The more I learn, the less I think the “Try harder” message will work.
And the less the “killing God” message seems like anything but emotional suicide to me.
I know I can’t assume Japanese people really think that way.
But, if they did, I would feel very sorry for them. It’s all about being strong enough yourself to face life, not needing anyone, not needing help. Definitely not needing God.
(The implied message often is, no one will be there to help you anyway.)
But what other foundation could someone find their worth in? God made you, God put you here for a reason.
In the end, trying to protect yourself from God is like trying not to breathe. It’s the very thing you need to live, and you can’t get away from it.
God can be like water. Try to block him out and the pressure will build up until something explodes. But accept Him, and it’s like going into a pool. At first it’s a shock, but then it’s a relief.
Anyway, that’s enough for now, maybe I’ll explore this more in the future. Until then, stay honest–Natasha.
12 thoughts on “Killing God With the Power of Friendship: an anime conundrum.”
That’s exactly it with the whole friendship thing. It’s clear from the eyes of a Christian that it’s just an attempt to find meaning in life, but unfortunately like so many other things people try to use to replace Jesus in their lives, it’ll be fruitless in the end.
To be honest, I don’t blame anyone for painting Catholicism in a villainous light. That’s exactly what the Catholic church is. A giant organized institution that is dead set on keeping people from actually being saved. There’s a reason they didn’t want the Bible to be translated from Latin, and they still act like they know better than God, constantly re-interpreting the Bible to fit their own agendas. The good news is that many Catholics end up getting saved thanks to the Bible and waking up to the Catholic lies, although many, many more are deceived I believe. If only Catholics would pick up their Bible and actually read it.
– “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14).
On the Asia suicide rate thing, obviously there are many factors, one of the largest being that the entire region for the most part rebels against God. Another reason is because Buddhism is basically a death cult. They believe that we are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation, that life is suffering, and their end goal is to escape the cycle and die permanently. Very basic take on it, but from the few people I’ve talked to here in Japan about it, that’s sort of how it is. A sad way to view the world and the life that God gave them.
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Wow, that’s so weird about Buddhism. I didn’t realize it was that dark. Usually it’s portrayed as being about inner peace and focus. Of course, I would find it dark not to believe in a merciful God.
It’s cool to get the perspective of someone actually in Japan, tbh, I never know if what I’m picking up on in these shows is real or not.
I wonder, what gives people hope then? What do they think makes life here worth living if the goal is to reincarnate later?
Yeah it’s always portrayed as this very peaceful, enlightening religion. And the goal isn’t to reincarnate, it’s to die forever. Buddhists don’t believe life is worth living, they believe life is suffering. But the reincarnation stuff probably does lead many to believe “well, I failed this time, guess I’ll die, reincarnate, and try again”.
That said, majority of Japan at least is basically atheist and only visit shrines and whatnot as part of cultural tradition as opposed to for religious reasons. But when there is someone who is asking questions about life, they may turn to Shinto-Buddhism which won’t give them the right answers.
Honestly, I don’t know what gives them hope. I can’t even fathom living without God in my life at this point, I don’t know how atheists do it, just believing that we are sacks of flesh and nothing more. I guess they just persist by distracting themselves like most people do.
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Actually Anime and Manga are almost entlirely grounded on Christianity and they are not local to one region (Japan) but are universal and have eternal significance, in this example, the whole theme of the power of friendship comes directly from the words of Jesus where he said “There is no Greater Love than this, to lay down one’s life for their Friends”, everything that Jesus said reflects reality in the most profound way because he created everything. Almost everything in anime and manga is heavily influenced by aspects of the common knowledge of the nature of God such as the objective morality, the immortal souls, the afterlife, angels and demons, and other knowledge that everyone has innately regardless where or when they are born, even if some choose to supress the knowledge which is a futile task.
Also the afterlife, the immortality of the souls, and Heaven and Hell and so on, are from the most essential aspects of anime and manga, almost all of them have an afterlife either similar or identical with Christianity and even the cases where they do not mention it they still have it as well by default, but it is just not that important to the main storyline to be mentioned. Since anime and manga manifest everything with the most perfected appearances and feelings they kind of reflect part of the nature of God and how humanity should look like in the resurrection.
Moreover Japan is a polytheistic country and its Shinto, it is neither atheist nor buddhist, but Christianity is increasing there as well, there are Churches in almost every city and the Gospel is spreading by the natives themselves. The Shinto religion is polytheistic and has similar afterlife with the other polytheistic religions. In fact atheism had peaked in 1970 regardless of what leftist media lie about, after the defeat of the atheist regimes such as Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China and so on which slaughtered hundreds of millions of innocent people, religion exploded in all those places that supressed it, and today almost the entire world is religious, and even the “non-religious” groups are mostly pagans, witchcraft, new agers and so on, Christianity is spreading all over Asia and China is soon going to be the world’s largest Christian nation. The atheists have always been a notorious minority of the angriest, most bitter and most miserable people in the world, with the lowest birth rates and highest suicide rates, it is impossible to find peace without God.
As a final note, I take issue with saying the afterlife in anime is anything like the one in Christianity. Having studied both, I sincerely disagree.
Also, having some similarities in spiritual truths is what you could say about any religion, really, and my post was intended to show what the more nuanced differences actually are.
My apologies for causing some confusion, i will try to clarify it a bit more clearly, just to note i do not really like the term ‘rebutalls” because this is not a debate or anything and i agree with what you said (i cringe when seeing these terms such as rebuttal and cross-examination). I never said that “because anime saves everything by the power of friendship it is christian”, the power of friendship is mostly used in shonen as a means for the main protagonist to overcome some hard situations, i said that almost everything in anime and manga is by default grounded in a Christian framework, especially the power of friendship, the point of the power of friendship is not the object that they face, but sacrificing yourself for the sake of others. God is of course the only source of objective morality which includes righteousness and that is the point, that everyone knows innately basic right and wrong because we are made in the Image of God and morality is ontologically grounded within the nature of God and this is also why the power of friendship and every other moral aspect such as love, honor, tenderness and so on which is commonly seen in anime, are all by default only possible from a Christian worldview so anime and manga are inevitable grounded on Christianity, the power of friendship specific reflects directly what Jesus said about sacrificing onesself for friends being the greatest love, he said something so profound yet others could not think of phrasing it in such a way, it originated with Jesus because he knows everything.
About the afterlife, the spiritual reality, the immortality of the souls and the afterlife is a core aspect of anime and manga and is almost always taken for granted, but it is not always important to the main storyline and usually one side is explored such as Heaven. Because Anime encompasses all kinds of concepts and thematics, the afterlice reflects every time the thematics of the specific anime in each case although Heaven and Hell are amost always the staple, for example in Dragon Ball, Date A Live and Re Zero, the Heaven and Hell realms reflecft the thematics of each anime world, there are countless other examples. Heaven and Hell are universal concepts and exist in pretty much every religion but they might bare different names and contain half-truths when they are not grounded on the Judeo-Christian worldview (for example Hell is called Naraka in Buddhism and Hindusim and is temporary instead of permanent, in polytheistic religions such as Greek Pantheon, Heaven and Hell are called Elysium and Hades while in Shinto they are called Takamagahara and Yomi-tsu-kun and although they are permanent places for the spirits, there is no mention of resurrection). There are some things about God and the afterlife that everyone knows innately by creation and concience regardless of where or when they are born, it is part of the general revelation of God (although some supress the knowledge but it is always there), and by sharing the Gospel they obtain the complete truth.
If you are referring to the New Heavens and the New Earth which is the ultimate hope of mankind after the resurrection, it seems not a stretch to say that the whole existense of anime and manga which manifest everything with such perfected appearances and feelings reflects the ultimate hope of how we should manifest in the renewed universe. About the religious part, i would prefer not to post links here but since you asked here is one of the articles and a journal publication about this subject (https://lifewayresearch.com/2020/06/10/10-encouraging-trends-of-global-christianity-in-2020/, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2396939319880074), although it is common knowledge that the world is now more religious than it has ever been and it only keeps growing since belief in the divine has always been the most basic aspect of being human, even babies see the world as designed and believe in angels without anyone telling them (Born Believers good resource) and although some might not be very active religiously, everyone inevitably lives by realities grounded in the nature of God such as purpose, morality, the laws of logic among other things, it all comes down to either supressing the knowledge in unreighousness or accepting the truth and submitting to our Creator.
I mean, good for you that you get that out of anime, but none of that really has to do with what I wrote about.
I find most of your points a huge stretch, because they all involve blending very different religions into one. I wouldn’t make the agruement that anime is grounded in Christianity just because all good values are at some level, Christian. While I agree with that, it seems to me that it gives too much leeway for problematic ideas, such as the one I wrote about in the post.
I was a little puzzled by your answer though, if you didn’t want to debate, why express disagreement? I’m not offended, or anything, I just assumed your whole goal was to present a different case. It’s more interesting to expound on my points though.
Something additional, Churches and Church organisations themselves are a very common feature in Anime and Manga, especially in the Isekai genre, and almost always they have a supporting role by assisting the protagonists and adventurers either by being a home base, healing, summoning guardian angels, guiding the souls to the afterlife and so on. It is actually very few times when the church is portrayed in a negative way and even in those times it is mostly because it has being controlled by an antagonist such as a demon lord and people were unaware of it, that way it serves as an interesting plot for a specific arc in the storyline which is normal thing to do, but the stereotype of critizising Catholicism is completely false as the overwhelming majority of the times where the Catholic Church or the Church in general appear in Anime and Manga they always have a supporting position.
I appreciate the feedback, and it’s interesting to hear another perspective on it. I did say this in the post:
“I know I can’t assume Japanese people really think that way.”
Just to clarify that this was the idea I got from anime, but I haven’t been able to visit Japan and prove it directly.
However, since you brought up some counterarguments, allow me to rebuttal:
1. I gave t least 6 specific examples to back up my claims, some from anime I have watched, others from reliable sources, and you have given me nothing specific to counter my point. I would think you’d be hard put to it to find a popular shonen that does not contain the elements I mentioned, but i did say it was not a universal rule, just a trend, and like any other there are exceptions.
2. While it’s great that you see Christian values in anime, my claim was never that they aren’t there, I was talking about one trope in particular that to me renders the rest of them null and void except as imperfect examples. I do get some things out of the anime, but I can’t take it all without a grain of salt, considering the source, because we disagree on this fundamental pint, that you can have righteousness without God. Which is the clear message of any of the ones I mentioned.
3. I also never claimed that Japan was primarily secular. It’s on the authority of people who have lived in Asia and told me what they’ve seen that I believe it’s mostly not very serious about religion, but of course, all those people are limited by their experience. I notice you have no specific examples here either, and empty statistics that say people claim to be religious, but don’t tell whether they practice it or not, don’t mean much to me.
4. The thing I am most concerned about in your comments was the claim that because anime saves everything by the power of friendship, it is Christian. “Greater Love hath no man than this” is talking about what true love is. Jesus is not stating that the love of men is enough to save your soul, or the world.
In fact, the Bible says not to trust in men, or fear men, but to fear God. Jesus Himself said the greatest commandment is to Love God. Anime completely bypasses that, and any need to be accountable to a higher power.
The power of friendship is substituted for divine power, and that is not a good thing, though I do believe human love can be powerful, it is not the same as God’s direct interference, and we shouldn’t credit it for miracles.
I’m sure there’s more I could comment on, but this seemed like the points I have to take issue with the most, as either you misunderstood my post, or we have a large doctrinal difference. But I enjoyed getting the feedback either way.
This is an interesting article, the Power of Friendship is pretty much a Christian concept (John 15:13) which is inevitably adopted by anime, but when they tend to fight a god in anime as mortals in order to overtake them with the power of friendship, it is mostly either a false god, a rebellious deity or someone who tries to become god and take over, which is essentialy a form of idolatry and it kind of makes sense to fight it, but when there is an actual all-powerful creator God it is almost always a neutral entity that has a passive role and does not cause harm or anything, while it interacts with the characters through other means such as servant spirits the yokai (examples being Kamisama Hajimemashita and Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi).
Well, you have a point about the god being evil a lot, but in the anime in question, they are not always false gods. Or there is no real god presented, so they might as well be it. Also, a neutral God, in my mind, is not actually any better. In fact, it’s part of the the problem, because it falls to man to solve everything, and that is not a biblical or Christian concept at all.
Lastly, the power of friendship is not a Christian Concept, that idea was brought up before in this thread, and I’m still confused as to why. Saying that friends can have great love for each other, is not the same as saying that their love can become powerful enough to defeat or even replace God.
I still stand by what I wrote, since the point I was making has still not actually been refuted, but I do enjoy all this feedback I’m getting, I never expected people to be so interested in it.