This piece was originally written on March 1, with a scheduled release date of March 16 (to reference the double-entendre of "3:16" as relevant to the subject matter). It has been delayed because of the recent events related to the major earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan, in order to avoid the kind of "God hates Japan" comments that have inevitably come out of ... well should anyone really be surprised at this point?
I saw a somewhat interesting series of pieces on Religion and Anime recently, from a source I probably wouldn't normally see myself reading if not for a helpful link from The Otaku Journalist. Religion, particularly religion in English speaking markets like the various flavors of Christianity, has always been something that I saw as "at odds" with anime for two reasons:
The first reason is more of my generalized interpretation of specific behaviors of the kind of demographics that usually make up anime Otaku in the USA. It's mostly made up of segments that tend to lean towards non-believers. Anime fandom concentrates the non-believers together and helps to make their position stronger in that respect, while at the same time featuring depictions of religious practices and/or super-natural elements that are specifically at odds with dominant Abrahamic principles, repelling the devout believers and causing the kids to be whisked away to special Jesus-camp when mom finds that evil ungodly manga under the bed (yes this really happened).
Reason number two is a combination of incidents I specifically experienced firsthand. I was reminded about a little piece of hate mail that Anime Crash once received around 1998. Apparently, some church group had a website that "warned" parents that anime was more or less pure Satan-juice and your kids are going to hell if they even fucking look at Pikachu. The letter was hilarious, and we actually framed it and put it on display for a while. The 15 minutes of Christian outrage visited upon Anime Crash would continue with some (what appeared to be) students from out of town wandering in, and being genuinely offended that there was a Chinese religious display in a glass case in the store. Knowing Crash, we probably would have sold the thing at the first offer, so it wasn’t like it was particularly holy. But simply the fact that it existed was enough to set them off, and it didn't take them long to start laying into everything from the Chibi Gundams to the ungodliness of Martial Arts.
Finally, I should mention that the home media business has never really had a great relationship with the kind of American Christianity that this survey seems to be a part of, much as it would not like to be. The questions seem a bit of the Chick-Tract line of thinking, which is a conclusion more a result of my own superimposition of experience rather than objective reality, so take that as you may.
The survey results cover a variety of questions, but the meat of the matter is here:
The entire survey is over at Beneath the Tangles, and it was the subject of five posts spanning an in-depth look at the subject. Reading through them, it’s kind of sad when you see what the results have done to the guy over there. The info-graphics, including this one above were made by Otaku Journalist. I am going to assume they won't mind me using them here with those citations.
After looking at the findings, the high proportion of atheist and agnostics is a result, not of anime actually increasing the number of non-believers in English speaking markets (it's not taking religious people and making them into godless atheists). But it most certainly attracts non-believers disproportionally to the average religious makeup of the U.S. This is probably due to the previously mentioned fact that the content, artwork, and subject matter are attractive to younger people in general (who tend to be less religious), and also attract those with the higher scientific literacy it requires to fully understand things like Ghost in the Shell and the more scientifically literate you are, the less likely you are to believe as fact that the earth and rest of the universe popped into existence 6,000 years ago complete with a rib-woman being tricked into eating a magical fruit by a talking snake. Additionally, some content might be a bit repellent to someone who might feel uncomfortable watching Evangelion or reading Saint Young Men (which is awesome by the way). Atheists can take the gamut of just about any anime title out there, while religious types have to be picky for fear of having their personality called into question, because if religion is taken out of the daily lives of these people, there’s not much left to them as a person.
Like I said, I feel just a tiny bit sorry for the poor schlub over at Beneath The Tangles, because it’s really a losing battle over there. He seems like a nice guy, open-minded and all that, and that's the problem isn't it?; Unless that guy is willing to kill me for Jesus, he's just an Ethical Humanist with an identity crisis.
From the hate-mail that Anime Crash received way back when (it's long gone, so I can't scan it in here), to Fanime Con getting ruined by Jesus freaks, it’s clear that anime fandom and most theocratic and currently practiced religion is just incompatible. Since anime/manga is one of the few commercial entertainment productions made for an atheist populace (Japan), there are 2 ways that Christianity deals with it. #1 is to take a negative view of anime productions because they endemically lack any kind of affirming of Jesusness-ness, or #2; proceed with a kind of superimposing of some sort of expansionist Christian philosophy on top of it, cherry-picking bits and pieces of anime titles as well as biblicalities to help make themselves feel better about liking anime. Ignoring the fact that eating shrimp tempura and tako-yaki is just as bad as anything else that biblically verboten (like teh ghey secks). It’s disingenuous at best. Case in point; the painful Anime and Christianity panel of actor Vic Mignogna sadly shows not only how much shoehorning it takes these people to even bring the two together, but also how astonishingly ignorant Vic is about things Japanese (history, culture, commerce) ...remember kids, he's really just an actor.
That being said, I feel it necessary to state that I come from a far removed perspective in terms of having religion playing almost no role in any of my activities past or present, (I did not have a religious upbringing), and this makes it very hard to understand what it may be like for an anime fan in a place like Georgia-Bama-Ssippi. This kind of superimposed rationalization of bible thumping on top of manga or anime, might be the only shield that younger fans have against the general fundie population and the kind of social terrorism they have been known to engage in (yeah, remember her?).
The only thing is, that I am glad this future of a doomed America is buying anime with their money... otherwise they would be sending it to a sickening campaign to make DOMA a constitutional amendment, or tickets for the creation museum. Yes this is a sweeping generalization, ...oh no, there goes my Pulitzer.
The comments here are moderated, but it’s only to prevent the high volumes of spam (seen in this previous post) that come here. So real comments, regardless of different opinions will be published as soon as I can pick them out of the spam ocean.