So perhaps you’re reading this blog and wondering how I, a self-professing Christian, can claim both my faith and my love of anime without compromising either one of the two. The subject of Asian media in general is a pretty big point of contention in Christian circles, but I feel that most arguments both for and against it tend to touch more on stereotypes and misunderstandings than actual facts. Words like “new age”, “demonic”, and “inappropriate” tend to spring to mind when most entertainment snackers hear about anime, and even more so among Christians. Is there really good? Is there really bad? Let’s take a look, shall we?
The first point I want to address is that ALL media, Asian or not, should be subject to careful consideration on the part of the Christian. Paul warned Christians to think on good things (Philippians 4:8), and media choice especially has a great impact on the way we view and understand the world around us. Books, tv shows, games, music: all of it can and will affect you on some level. That being said, the country of origin of a piece of media does not automatically make it better or worse than a piece of media from another country. Origin does not determine quality, content does.
Were it not for anime, I’d never have experienced Steins;Gate: the most gripping sci-fi story I’ve seen.
The judgment that I see a lot of Asian media receive from Christians often stems from the fact that it is Asian, and not from any analysis of the material deeper than a surface-level glance. One needs only to look at the righteous rage of Christian leaders against Pokemon during the 90s in order to find proof that cursory knowledge does not a scholar make. I believe that a lot of potential misunderstanding could be avoided if the content of media was simply looked at for what it was, and not where it came from. I’m sure that a lot of parents who forbade Pokemon from their children were completely fine with allowing their kids to watch Spongebob; looking at them both today, which one has remained relatively kid-friendly?
I’m betting on Pokemon.
Art always reflects the artist, and culture is almost always reflected in the various forms that media and entertainment take. This doesn’t make the media inherently bad, but it does open the door for a deeper understanding of how other people think, and how it relates to one’s own culture and faith. Why do those people ring a bell and bow at that shrine? Why do they always bow before speaking to an elder? What are those weird ball-shaped things they’re eating off sticks? Questions like these naturally arise as you make your way through different forms of Asian entertainment, and the answers to those questions can serve as leaping off points into a better understanding of another culture and worldview.
That isn’t to say that Asian media is devoid of any kind of bad or immoral content. Stereotypes are often based off of facts, and there is a large amount of racy, gory, and profane content among the pantheon of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese entertainment, much in the same way as there is in the West. To dismiss the whole due to the wrongdoing of a part seems to me like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and just as there are good wholesome American movies and shows, there are good wholesome Asian shows as well.
Kill Me, Heal Me was my first Kdrama, and it’s still an amazing story that I love to watch.
While I can’t definitively say that one form of visual art is better than another, I can say that as a media enthusiast, it’s definitely unfair to judge a type of entertainment solely because of its country of origin. Think about your favorite books, shows, or music. Wouldn’t hearing that people in other countries enjoy the same media as you bring you joy? Don’t take that joy from other people, and don’t spread ideas that you’re not sure of. Take the good from the bad, and maybe learn something along the way. The world is open to us, let’s take advantage of our freedom to choose and simply enjoy it.