Mob Psycho 100 and the Limitations of Perspective

Mob Psycho 100 is perhaps most known for being written by the same author as One Punch Man. The second season started this January, and I was all ready for another season of senseless fun and action. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the season this time around seemed to be more interested in pushing actual serious topics more than the first season. In episode 3, Reigan and Mob are asked to exorcise an “evil” spirit. However, after confronting the spirits and talking to them, Mob finds that they are a peaceful family who are only trying to complete the regret of not being able to be a happy family together while they were still alive. As such, Mob does not think they need to be exorcised like the usual spirits he eliminates. However, the clients (who can’t hear or interact with the spirits) don’t care what they or Mob have to say. The mere concept of spirits is that of evil and fear, and so to them, it is necessary to exorcise them regardless of any other reasoning. In this way, Mob is confronted with two different sides: the human side and the spirit side. Although the problem is resolved peacefully, Reigen realizes that Mob is someone who interacts with spirits on such a regular basis, that there is nothing abnormal about spirits to him. Rather than being a “fearful unknown,” spirits are simply a natural part of everyday life. It is a perspective that only Mob understands because of his affiliation with the spiritual.

So the natural comparison to draw here is that as Christians, we perceive the spiritual in terms of morality, sin, and mercy in ways that others do not comprehend as instinctively as we do. But rather than focusing on a holier-than-thou approach, I really want to focus only on the part that Christians perceive and think about things differently, without assigning any implication of that perception being better or worse. One frustration I have with Christians is that we tend to leap to judgmental assumptions about people who don’t share the same values or sense or morals as we do. Morality is a very tricky and sensitive subject because it is by definition a topic of right or wrong, good or evil. So it is understandable that people, especially those who believe in an objective morality determined by an all-powerful God, are so insulted by those who disagree with their sense of morals. As such, Christians get so upset when they see or hear about people who are not following the morals of Christianity. There are two problems with this. The first is that just because people are not following Christian values does not mean they are bad people or intentionally breaking any sense of moral code. There are probably hundreds of millions of people who, by any reasonable standard, are “good” people despite not believing in Christianity’s morals. I personally know many wonderful people who I strongly disagree with on certain topics. But they still care for others and try to be understanding about others’ feelings and perspectives, such as my own. They may be perceiving morality differently, but they are still striving to be people of respectable morality. These people are very different than those who actually lack a sense of morality or actively break laws for their own gains. The second is problem is that we Christians should not even be getting so judgment in the first place. The entire crux of Christianity is that we are all sinners; there is not one infallible person among us. Yet somehow Christians who sin are more acceptable to us because they “repent.” If anything, I would imagine it to be the other way around; Christians are the ones who should know better than to sin.

Reigen recognizes how different Mob’s perspective is compared to others. It’s not a matter of being special or more knowledgeable. It is nothing more than a statement of fact. He sees the world differently, and as a result, has feelings regarding things that completely contradict how others feel. It is not necessarily a matter of being right or wrong. Certainly, one can argue that Mob was in the right because the spirits were determined to do no harm. Even when tempted into anger, the father ghost resists and would rather be exorcised than harm a person.  However, the real point of contention was not who was morally correct; it was the contradicting perspectives of the characters at no fault of any of them. Even if we are to assume Mob was morally correct; even if we are to assume Christians are morally superior, the lack of perspective of the other side makes it so that they are not choosing to be wrong. They are simply unable to even perceive the “right” choice as a potential option. Therefore, rather than judging and becoming “morally” angry at people who do not follow Christian morals, what we should be doing is conversing about our different perspectives, why we believe them beyond “because my pastor says so,” (and I could rant a whole lot about the differences between morals described in the Bible versus morals described by “Christian” leadership)  and broadening perspectives of both parties – because as much of a perspective as others may be missing out on compared to Christians, Christians are missing out on the perspectives of others.

Therefore, let’s flip this moral superiority assumption Christians love to talk about and listen to. What if Christians are the ones who are morally wrong? What if we are the ones who simply don’t understand the reality of the world? The only way to prove otherwise is to go out and learn everything about the perspectives of others and then still decide Christianity to be the most moral option. As long as Christians don’t understand the perspectives of other beliefs, then we can’t say we are choosing Christianity or Jesus –we have not considered any other options. The fact of the matter is Christians rarely argue in good faith. Whenever they debate other perspectives, they always enter with the belief they are right; to be fair, opposing parties tend to do the same. Regardless, the point I want to make is that Christians all too often fail to understand or even consider other perspectives. Even when they legitimately attempt to, they can’t help but let their beliefs dye their interpretation of other perspectives with bias. And no wonder this happens when we are indoctrinated with beliefs from before we know how to speak.

No matter how much we want to believe we are being open-minded, we cannot fully escape from beliefs that have been repeated by everyone we know for our entire childhood. It is so difficult to truly approach a new perspective with an unbiased point of view. Sure, this happens to everyone, but when your belief is that you are on the side of an all powerful God who has decided the moral objectivity and superiority of life, that’s a far more powerful influence than anything else. And so, we become like a normal human who believes spirits exist to terrorize the living and demands an exorcism of innocent and peaceful spirits. Christians are so bad at actually learning about other perspectives. Not only does this prevent us from successfully reaching out to other people, but it also hurts our own spirituality. Because if you haven’t gone out and learned about other beliefs and made a real, unbiased choice to be a Christian, then you never chose to be a believer; you only followed the path that your limited perspective allowed you to make.

Advertisements

Planet With: Sealing Away Those Who Stray From The Path of Love

In a season where everyone was talking about Hero Academia and Attack on Titan, the actual best anime of the season goes unnoticed by many. Planet With is an anime written by none other than Mizukami Satoshi, the author who penned the legendary manga Hoshi no Samidare.  Anyone who was around back then will remember the countless threads and memes about how we will never get a Samidare anime. Finally, after all these years, we have gotten the closest thing to a Samidare anime. Mizukami is one of the best mangaka of our time, with his stories being full of amazing action, whacky but loveable characters, powerful messages, and what is sorely lacking the most in manga: satisfying endings. Planet With has all of that in anime form, and it has only made me wish even more for his works to get an anime.

Like all Mizukami works, the fight scenes make for great entertainment, but it’s really the message of the story that sets the plot apart from others. In the universe of Planet With, humans have been marked as a species which is evolving too quickly and heading down a path of destruction. Since they are unlikely to choose the path of love, Nebula wishes to seal humanity away in dreams of happiness. However, one person (cat) in Nebula wishes to watch over humanity peacefully with the optimism that they will choose the path of love. He partners with the sole survivor of Sirius, a planet which chose destruction over love, to protect the Earth and show the potential of love that humans have.

For a 1 cour anime, its plot is difficult to summarize succinctly, and I have left out a lot of important details. Even so, I think the major point is conveyed – Planet With is a story about choosing love and forgiveness over hate and destruction and the trials that come with it. It is difficult to believe in the potential for love of those who are filled with hate, and it is even more difficult to forgive those who performed acts of hatred and violence. At what point should you draw the line and stop people from acting out their evil desires? If a group of people is consistently producing violence, is it justified to punish the entire group, including those who have yet to commit any faults? Nebula believes in stopping a species from evolving if they show signs of danger. In contrast, the protagonists want to keep believing that humanity will choose the path of love.

Oops we did.

Planet With’s story applies to Christians in the way we could view ourselves. Christians are capable of so much good, but it would be foolish to ignore all the evils we have committed and continue to commit in the name of God. Recently, I have become more and more disappointed with “Christians.” It was not long ago that I argued the ones atheists always complain about were the small minority who gave Christians a bad name. You could find recent blog posts I wrote only a few years ago that said that. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear to me that such hateful Christians are far from a minority. Maybe the ones who need to be sealed away are Christians…is what crossed my mind as I watched certain characters in the story think the same of their own species. But Planet With is a story of hope, love, and forgiveness. Despite so many characters wanting to seal away humanity, they eventually come together and hope for a better future. Even so, you cannot forgive others without first acknowledging the sins they commit. Like my own self only a few years ago, it’s clear that one of the biggest problems with Christianity now is not only those who corrupt its name but also all of us who passively let those around us continue evil and immoral acts. Even some of the most loving, respectable Christians I know will only acknowledge the Pharisees of today in closed circles and call for prayer that they see the error of their ways. However, this has only served to make the problem fester and the corruption of Christianity from the inside has blossomed thanks to all of us who tried to downplay the problems. I, too, am part of the problem.

I think you mean Christians

Today, the Republican “party of Christian values,” supported by millions of conservative Christians, have come out defending pedophilia, Nazis, murderers, rapists, concentration camps, calling the media the enemy of the people, and other horrors that Christians should be directly against; or, basically what every fascist dictatorship looks like in both fiction and reality. After a lot of thinking and reading about how this insanity came about, I think the biggest problem has been because Christians so rarely speak out against each other.  In Planet With, Nebula is the organization of those who chose the path of love. Yet, when one of their own performs his own idea of justice, they banish him. Christians are called to judge not those outside the Church but those inside the Church so that we are not corrupted from the inside out. We have absolutely failed in that regard.

Even the most liberal pastors I respect speak of the changes in society’s culture and the spread of immorality as reasons why people are fleeing Christianity. I think it is clear that the biggest issue is not the immorality of today’s society but the immorality of today’s Christianity. Christians around me are quick to pray for fellow Christians that they might see why they are wrong, but they aren’t willing to speak out against them, even in today’s climate. So while there are large numbers who actively support neo-Nazis, violence, and racist hatred, there are millions more who passively support it by “avoiding politics” because they either won’t confront those who do or they don’t even realize it is happening. Even worse are the ones who verbally disagree with what’s happening then go on to vote for “Christian” Republicans who will *intentionally* make the situation even worse. The culture of staying away from politics has resulted in millions of Christians who simple wonder how things are so bad when this is exactly what all those critical atheists have been trying to warn us about for decades. What’s happening is not new; it has been festering for years and years and been conveniently ignored under the guise of politics. We have developed a culture that doesn’t discuss politics because it so easily brings out the worst in us. Yet isn’t it because we are so reluctant to witness the worst in others that things like racism, murders, and terrorism can be supported by people we otherwise thought to be good Christians? If the debate of forcibly removing children from parents and locking them up in cages is a political issue, then what isn’t political? We’re now at the point where Christian leadership is no longer just hypocritical, but many leaders are outright lying with messages of hate and fear, and effectively building cults rather than communities for the sake of power and money.

As recent news has revealed, Christian churches and leadership, among many other organizations, have been targeted for infiltration and manipulation for nefarious purposes over the last several decades in what is likely the most sophisticated and coordinated propaganda attack modern society has experienced (and continues to experience). Through extremely slow but methodical influences, Christianity has been corrupted from the inside. What might have started as affirming disgruntled Christians regarding illegal immigration can, over the course of 30+ years of constant lies and fear-mongering, become a justification for concentration camps and eventually genocide. And throughout this time, Christians such as me have done little other than saying that such people are a tiny minority. But this is not just a few people who don’t misunderstand a couple tenants of Christianity; this is a deliberate, malicious, and extremely successful attack on Christianity that has come to fruition, and nobody seems to be able to accept this. Of course, I’m just being a paranoid alarmist here; I’m sure those who warned German citizens about Nazis were just alarmists too. What pains me most is when so many of my Christian friends call it a spiritual problem and pray for it but do nothing else. Yes, there is a spiritual aspect, but it is by and large a physical problem that can be countered by real actions. Prayer is great, but it is also the easy way out rather than confronting those who continue to make the problem worse. After all, what good is faith without works?

With the advent of the internet and social media, there is so much propaganda fanning the flames of hate or at best, frustration at “both sides,” among us, without Christians ever recognizing that it is an intentional, human act to sow discord, hatred, and perhaps even worse, apathy and exhaustion.  Republicans of today only care for power and are manipulating the country with massive amounts of propaganda and blatant lies to maintain that power, with a particular reliance on the Christian communities to remain ignorant, fearful, and uneducated, or at least, uninvolved in politics. The calls for fear and hatred of immigrants and “others” is exactly what you would see in every fascist’s rise to power. It is now, when so many Christians view so much of the world as enemies, that the story of the Good Samaritan and who are neighbors are is most poignant. If Christians do not speak out now, when we currently have calls for white supremacy nationalism and stochastic terrorism from many of the Republican leaders, who are supported by millions of “Christians,” then when will we speak out against such evils? To every person who still does not acknowledge this truth yet: you are exactly how things like the Holocaust happen without anyone stopping it – a lot of propaganda and refusal to admit things are as bad as they are until it’s too late.

How to forgive the one who murdered your entire species?

To tie all of this back into my original point: large portions of Christianity are on a clear path of immorality due to corruption from the inside. We are so busy looking to non-believers and spreading the Gospel to those who have never heard it, that we have neglected nurturing those who claim they have heard it but are now misguided in ways that cannot be rectified easily. I no longer have any words to refute those who think Christianity should be sealed away and removed from society because for better or worse, I am finally being exposed to just how hateful, cruel, and numerous so-called “Christians” can be while invoking God’s name and the countless others who turn a blind eye to it. But Planet With is a story of love and forgiveness. Rather than choosing hatred and revenge, the characters choose to forgive; however, that does not mean a lack of punishment. While the big bad villain is forgiven, he is also properly punished, and it is through facing a punishment that lacks hatred that he finds peace. It is an optimistically hopeful end that I’m sure many feel is too unrealistic to happen in today’s environment. Nonetheless, I want to continue hoping and believing in the best that people and Christianity have to offer. As tempting as it might be to seal away Christianity from society’s culture, I hope that people will mete out just punishment and go no further and keep believing in the potential of Christianity’s intended values and its path of love. But even then, I have no choice but to admit such a dream will be a long and arduous path.

On Christian Otaku Outreach

Subahibi has finally been announced for an August release (which isn’t July 20th, very disappointed). Considering its fame across the entire otaku community, I’ll be interested in seeing people’s reactions, even if I think it’s gotten a bit overrated over the years (also because Sakura no Uta ended up being even better). Even so, as a philosophical masterpiece that people have waited years for and with a translation project(s) that spawned numerous memes, this is one of those titles where I put on my elitist cap and wonder how you can call yourself an otaku if you’ve never even heard of this title before. I guess I should apologize in advance, but this post is going to be closer to a rant that a usual coherent post. This frustration I have with the otaku community – and mainly the Christian otaku community – also played a role in why I left Beneath the Tangles.

The more I interact with or listen to Christian otaku, the more I question how otaku they really are. This is a frustration that is admittedly in part elitism on my end, and I try to curb that as much as possible while phrasing my opinions in a more joking manner (i.e. bad anime is bad). But any elitism I may feel toward others’ interests and knowledge is often less about feeling superior and more about feeling disconnected. Because there is a big difference between “you don’t like what I like,” and “you have absolutely no idea what I like even is.” I’m sure this is a feeling that every anime fan can empathize with, so there is no reason to think that the same phenomenon cannot occur even within a fandom as large as this one is.

I should clarify I don’t intend to criticize Christian otaku who don’t have any interest in visual novels (the part of the fandom that personally relates to me, but there are numerous other fringe niches that exist and are ignored). You like what you like, and I like what I like. However, when it comes to the topic of ministry and outreach in this area which is very close to my heart, this disconnect brings about two related issues that I can’t ignore. The first is the general ignorance of what is out there and what it looks like. I remember reading about a Christian anime fan who was excited to attend Comiket because it’s a “Japanese anime convention.” Little did she know how much of the event was literally pornographic, and she was scarred, to say the least. Even people who are more aware about the culture than this will paint the industry with broad strokes without actually knowing any details about it.

Now, it’s basically a catch 22 to expect people who aren’t well informed about the industry to understand it. But I suppose what I want of people is awareness to some degree and to be more open about learning rather than trying to generalize something you know very little about. Especially when it comes to the former, it’s absurd to me how misinformed or ignorant self-proclaimed Christian otaku can be. Probably over 99% of them don’t even know what Subahibi is, even though it was one of the most praised titles in the community in the last several years (and this not limited to only VNs). I understand that this is caused by a mix of different interests, that the majority of anime fans talked about stuff like Madoka, SAO, and Shingeki instead, and most of all, that most fans are new fans who haven’t been engulfed in the fandom for decades, but again, that’s exactly why I’m trying to bring about awareness on the subject – and again, specifically when it comes to Christians. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to know about everything; the sub-communities are so large and expansive that it’s basically impossible. However, I wish there was some better awareness surrounding some of the biggest, most talked about things, and that these things exist and are loved by the fandom. If you are going to call yourself an otaku, then at least have the awareness to know there is some spectrum from 1-100 (to keep things simple) and you fall at the 20 or the 50 or maybe the 70, and that there are things beyond that into the 80s and 90s and 100. Honestly, I wouldn’t even put myself into the 80s on such a hypothetical scale.  I have my limits, but I’m well aware of what exists beyond that, and that’s what I’m asking of people who are attempting to do Christian outreach in this weird but attractive fandom.

Dies Irae is pretty good too

This leads into the second issue when Christian otaku actually start talking about and doing outreach work. If you are an anime fan reaching out to anime fans, then fine go do that; that’s great. But this means you are completely unequipped to deal with other people, who are further along the yes-overly-simplified-2D-spectrum I just mentioned. This in itself is again okay because that’s how things will always be in any field. However, while the first issue is fine in a vacuum, when you combine outreach with the previous issue of lack of awareness, it has the potential to go wrong in all kinds of ways. Especially in a part of the fandom that is almost inherently anti-Christian (i.e. porn games), for Christian otaku outreach to 1) not be able to relate to them, 2) not even be aware of some of the biggest titles, and 3) still imply you can understand them, that is going to exacerbate any disconnects that already exist. I mean, I feel that disconnect pretty strongly even as a Christian; how much worse will it be for people who are wary of Christian fans?  I don’t expect you to change your interests nor am I intending to set a bar of elitism that you must pass. However, I do wish that when someone mentions something as widely recognized as Subahibi, that you don’t give a blank stare of ignorance, or when someone starts talking about porn, that you at least know how to deal with the situation rather than being surprised that there are fans who glorify these things.

I think especially because there has been a recent growth in people trying to do Christian otaku outreach (no doubt related to the recent growth in anime fans), this is an important time when Christian otaku have kind of a blank slate to define themselves. Yes, there is a huge anti-anime voice in the Christian community, but there has never really been a large, strong voice of Christians not only supporting otaku but trying to claim we all share the same interests too. Moreover, VNs in particular are in a similar situation in the West, with localizations starting to flood the market on steam. Titles fans have only dreamed of getting localizations like Subahibi, Dies Irae, Clannad, etc. actually happened. There is not going to be a better time to start learning about VNs as a Christian and become a part of a community that is very different yet much related to anime, just as I wondered only a few years ago.

the crux of what I want to say is that this is about forming a collective social implication about what the term “Christian otaku” means and therefore how Christian outreach on both sides will be affected by this perception

Right now is the time when Christian fans are beginning to define what a “Christian otaku” even is, and whether or not that includes or excludes certain groups and fandoms. It could just be the biased VN fan in me, but I feel that the boundary of a Christian otaku will be defined within a few short years. I realize it may sound alarmist in some ways, but frankly, people vastly underestimate the speed of influence that internet culture has on our daily lives. If people don’t make efforts now (which is in part what I’m trying to do, but I’m just a lone fan), people on both sides will start to form more defined ideas of what a “Christian otaku” means, who that includes, and most importantly, who they are willing to reach out to. In other words, the crux of what I want to say is that this is about forming a collective social implication about what the term “Christian otaku” means and therefore how Christian outreach on both sides will be affected by this perception. As of now, people view it as a joke, but are simultaneously willing to listen and learn about it because “lol what in the world is this supposed to be?” That luxury of being a foreign existence will not exist for long. As such, I would really like to fully implore Christian otaku working in the field of outreach, be it Japan or the States, to really consider the scope of the otaku fandom and how to broaden outreach as far as possible before such boundaries are defined.

Coming back to Subahibi, I would really like to see every Christian otaku at least have an opinion on it. I mean, right now, most don’t even know what it is. But this is a title that’s been almost universally praised as a philosophical masterpiece. It has so much to say about happiness in a broken world, a topic that I believe is very relevant to Christians. It has some of the most infamous use of adult content in the industry. I don’t think the scenes can really be called pornographic, because they are most certainly not intended to instill sexual gratification but rather disgust. For example, the beastiality scene got removed from the R-18 release; it’s that bad. I’m not going to tell you to read the scenes (I pretty much just literally could not physically read them.  Not even the images, just the pure text was already too much for me), but I can still acknowledge how much meaning there is to them in the greater scope of the story. There’s also this one spoiler that I will probably write on later which was incredibly remindful of our relationship with God. When I consider just how knowledgeable Sca-ji is about Christianity (daily reminder that this guy understands Christian theology better than any other Japanese author in the industry and uses references in proper context), a part of me wonders if that was actually intentional. I guess I would call those the three major reasons Subahibi is a work that would make for very interesting discussion among the Christian otaku fandom, but sadly, almost no one even knows what it is. I’m not even asking people to read it, just be a bit more informed about it to form some kind of opinion for discussion with others. Because I guarantee you that while being ignorant about these things will generate disconnections, having some kind of informed opinion on a porn game can lead to quite some interesting discussions.

Why Every Japan Missionary Should Read Sakura no Uta

Is that title too sensational? Probably, but lately I have felt it to be true, so if you want to disagree, you’ll have to actually read the thing and tell me why I’m wrong. “Oh but it’s in Japanese.” Well, yeah, and I don’t really see an English translation doing justice to Sca-Ji’s genius prose, so you better read it in Japanese. If you can’t commit to learning the language, I’m not sure what you’re doing as a missionary in Japan. “Oh, but it has porn scenes.” Fine, then skip them. It’s not that hard, and it’s not like I’m telling you to read Subarashiki Hibi instead where the porn is actually important.  If a little porn is going to scare you away, then again, why are you in Japan of all countries? Walk into a conbini and you will see shelves of gravure every time. “Oh, but it’s so long.” Welcome to the world of visual novels. If you can’t invest a simple 50 hours into reading what is the most philosophically heavy story that has hit the otaku market in years, then I will take that to mean that you have zero interest or intention of ministering to the otaku subculture. And while that’s possibly true of a lot of missionaries on a surface level, you probably don’t realize how much that sub-population is growing in Japan. If you’re a missionary in Japan, chances are you’ve met some closet otaku. It’s too bad your impression of them is so wrong. Maybe if you actually read Sakura no Uta, you would have a better understanding of the people around you.

Okay, that’s enough patronizing for now. While I admit I intentionally used that tone to get a rise out of a certain audience, I will also say that the otaku side of me often gets very frustrated when Japan missionaries demonstrate an astonishingly low or even non-existent understanding of otaku. I mean, I guess it’s fine if you were a normal person living out a normal life, but if you’re intending to reach out to people and understand their culture and you still have the mindset that visual novel = eroge = porn game, then you’re going to have a hard time when you talk to otaku. Of course, even Japanese natives have this misconception, so as a fan, I can’t help but throw my hands up in the air and reiterate that you people have no idea what you’re talking about. But that’s okay, because Sakura no Uta exists.

There are two major reasons why I believe every Japan missionary should read this work. The first is because it’s, well, simply a masterpiece. In terms of story and writing, yes, but even more so in terms of themes and life lessons.  Sure, Rewrite, exists, and if you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of it because it was the most spiritually enriching piece of fiction I have ever read. I could praise it all day, but I will simultaneously admit it has its flaws. It’s no masterpiece. Sakura no Uta, well, okay, it has flaws, but they are so vastly overshadowed by everything else, I am still caling it a masterpiece. Every time I think about it, I am amazed that it can touch on so many ideas and yet have those all be encompassed together so perfectly as it poses the question “what does it mean to live out your life?” The story is heavy and painfully realistic at times; it pulls no punches in reminding you of how easily life can bring you down. Yet because of this, it brilliantly asks some very hard questions about how you as an individual choose to live out your life and what your decisions mean to others and to yourself.  I could get into more specifics, but I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible. Suffice to say; reading this novel ruined me for months as I was forced to completely re-evaluate everything about my perceptions of and choices in life. Personally, it was doubly powerful because I then had to reconcile those answers with my own Christian faith. Sakura no Uta demands introspection like nothing else, and so I cannot help but place it above every other story I’ve ever experienced. Therefore, it is my firm belief that giving an honest and unbiased reading of this story (that is, not going in with any intention to hate it) will be the best possible example of what visual novels and the otaku culture has to offer people. The medium of visual novels is not just “entertainment” or “sexual gratification,” (though both exist as real reasons) but there are also things on a far deeper and philosophical level than you would initially imagine. And if the story hits too close to home, you might find yourself re-evaluating things about your life that you never thought a “porn game” could make you do.

The second reason every Japan missionary should read this is because Sakura no Uta does something really, really ingenious. It starts off with incredibly clichéd romcom scenes with stereotypical characters that seemingly have very little depth to them. Sure, there’s the occasional suggestion of something on a deeper level. I mean, the opening itself has references to Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, Kenji Miyazawa, and more. Sca-Ji loves his classical literature, and he is truly a scholar to the point that I am sure he knows the Bible better than many Christians. But I digress. The story takes this incredibly anime-esque setting and turns it completely on its head. It uses those very things as the foundation with which to spur the aforementioned questions about life. Those questions can then be turned back around and asked about those very clichés and stereotypes within the anime culture. And when you understand the context of those questions, you will understand the entire otaku culture on a completely different level. Granted, most people are kind of already aware of these things. High school is considered a prime time of one’s life; it is that springtime of youth where things like first love can lead to happiness. The cliches of anime seek only to reflect the most glorified time of people’s lives. I hear things like this about Japan a lot. I’m sure you have too.

But Sakura no Uta has some very powerful things to say about these ideas. In the same way it forces individuals to re-evaluate their lives, it forces a re-evaluation of the industry itself and the stereotypes of the anime culture. Because in the end, the entertainment used as escapism and the individuals who are drawn to it are intrinsically tied together.  As a result, this all triples back onto the main audience of visual novels and eroge, i.e. the otaku population. It forces introspection on the reader due to the struggles of the protagonist, then on the state of the otaku market that got turned on its head within the story itself, and finally back on the reader as one who consumes those very things. It seems ridiculous that a single story can have so many layers to the introspection it demands of its readers, but like I said, this is a masterpiece.

A Christian missionary with superficial understanding of the anime culture may only be forced into a third of that introspection. However, that is perhaps enough of a start to begin a re-evaluation of your own understanding of otaku and the subculture and how these interact with the greater Japanese culture at large. Again, I don’t want to spoil unnecessarily, but this introspection of life that I keep referring to includes the struggles, regrets, valuations, and dreams of individuals. Thus, Sakura no Uta is a story that can completely change your understanding of everything about the Japanese population and even more when it comes to the otaku population. Even if you somehow legitimately have a strong, empathetic understanding already, at the very least, a “porn game” will have reaffirmed some heavy truths about Japan that you know to be true. How’s that for some food for thought?

Still, I doubt many Christians will read this. The majority of you will give up due to various reasons like length, boredom, porn, or a lack of time; well, the majority won’t even bother to try. I don’t really mind that though because then I’ll be able to constantly respond to everything regarding Christian outreach in Japan with “well, if actually read Sakura no Uta…”  I mean, seriously, please try to prove me wrong or something because I probably won’t stop saying that. This is my challenge to anyone who is serious about Christian ministry in Japan. It is truly the greatest piece of fiction I’ve ever read and will be something I constantly refer back to in life not because it has answers but because it poses hard, necessary questions about what it means to live out life.