A Spiritual Observation of an Anime

What Storytelling 101 Taught Me About Watching Anime

It’s that time of the year again. Classes are in full swing, projects are beginning, and the excitement is far from waning —at least for now. If you don’t believe me, take a look at my classes. I have Intro to Animation, Computer Programming, Video Production, and Storytelling 101. The courses make for an interesting array of media and the content overlaps in the most fascinating of ways.
Take today in class for example. My storytelling professor was asking my classmates and I if we had ever sat in front of a narrative with no idea what was going on. A girl raised her hand. Another nodded. Then my teacher responded with something that shocked us all. “Was it anime?” She inquired, as if she were going somewhere with the thought. When no one replied, save for a couple snorts and chuckles, she clarified that her intention was not to make a slam on the medium. Rather she sought to enlighten us on how the art form differed vastly from that of the West.
The way we consume anime is important.

Now I am a bit knowledgable on the topic of Eastern Culture, so her offhanded comment didn’t seem too beneficial to me. This logic was of course proved wrong when my teacher soon ventured into exact differences between Asian and Western art. She lectured the class on how it is typical for us to read from left to right. I prepared myself for the standard follow-up, “Eastern media is often approached from the opposite direction.”

Contrary to my thinking, my instructor began to illustrate how hierarchy plays an important role in the Western world. Things such as size, color, placement, and species have their own weight and value according to presentation. In contrast, she informed my classmates and I that Asian art is about balance. Which, she said, is often why you’ll find objects coming from all different corners of a composition when watching anime.

I found this a fascinating tidbit of information and couldn’t wait to dive into the psychology behind. Meanwhile though, I was further enlightened on the sense of learning that comes with Asian art and watching anime for the very first time. For Westerners, it is not only an issue of adapting culturally. One must also more or less renounce everything he or she has ever known and thus begin afresh. Think of it as if someone suddenly switched the direction of a novel. You would then need to acquire the skill and insight it takes to skim contrary to what you’re used to. So it is with trying to understand anime. Viewing the medium according to an Easterner’s perspective is in a sense, “going against the flow,” of natural Western mindset.
Asian art is all about balance.

It was here when I realized that watching anime is a lot like following Christ. In Ephesians 4:22-23, Paul declares that to be a committed believer in Him is to first cast off one’s former self.  Once completed, the process makes it easier to embody a different mentality. This is what the writer meant when he spoke of taking “on an entirely new way of life.” The passage is also similar to a concept presented in Romans 12:2The Apostle Paul indicates the faithful are those bold enough to break their own established ways of thinkingThese individuals frequently detect “cultural differences” between the those who live in the world and those who live of it.

It is for this reason that I believe the consumption of Japanese media is a lot like Christianity. To get a feel for each, one must forget where he or she came from and let themselves be “transformed by the renewing of [their] mind.” I am excited to have gained this insight in my class and can’t wait to see what else Storytelling 101 has in store for me. In the mean time, don’t bother shying away from your typical anime and devotional routine. Just remember that your specific way of interpreting each is what will help to determine that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect in the eyes of God.

3 thoughts on “What Storytelling 101 Taught Me About Watching Anime

  1. Insightful! That makes sense from what I know of Western vs Eastern world, but I’d never heard it.

    This may also relate to anime, idk, but I was told that academic papers in the Western world are very linear – state the point then give the steps that back up that point, then restate the point. Japanese (maybe all eastern, but idk) academic papers are written more like a spiral – keep going around and around the point until the very end you land on what you’ve been talking about all long.

    Liked by 1 person

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