Anime Isn’t Satanic. It’s More Complex Than That.
Warning: Ideologically sensitive topics discussed in article.
“Is anime satanic?” is a perennial question asked by well-meaning parents the world over. It’s a good question to ask.
Anime is an expansive art form that comes from a culture that approaches animation differently from the way we in the West do, and it comes from a culture with an entirely different track of social development from the West.
Now, I generally try not to get wrapped up in what political pundits have to say, but I find myself in a position where I need to say something. I feel I have a reasonable qualification to speak, being a Christian with some investment in the world of visual arts and entertainment, and this question has been asked basically since we started importing anime into the English-speaking world.
In this clip, one Mr. Matt Walsh makes the comment that anime is satanic. He’s not making some deep argument, but what he’s putting out into the world isn’t a helpful unit of discussion.
“I think all anime is satanic,” and “Adults shouldn’t be watching cartoons,” are both statements that don’t seem altogether terribly helpful to toss out there, at least not without some level of nuance.
For context, Matt Walsh is a contributor to The Daily Wire, a conservative media outlet. He has a lot of things to say that I agree with and a lot of things to say that I also don’t agree with. He’s a popular person, and has a lot of influence as a consequence of his job. He’s also a professing Christian, and I unfortunately have come to have distaste for his attitude because of his lack of grace and how his politics have become his defining identity and not his faith.
Again, I too am a Christian. I believe that God created the earth, that Jesus is the son of God who came to earth and died for our sins, and that believing and obeying the commands of Christ are the only path to salvation. I believe what the Bible says about sex, gender, marriage, and justice. I also believe that Matt has lost his way as a Christian as a consequence of his horrid attitude that’s unbecoming of a Christian, especially one in the public sphere.
I’m not here to go to bat for the whole anime artform. Just in the same way that you can’t universally defend or condemn all animation in the west (Though the palette of good Western work seems to get smaller and smaller lately for a myriad of reasons), you can’t universally defend or condemn all animation produced in the east.
I’ve watched a few anime. I’ve watched a few I really appreciate, and I’ve watched a few that I really regret.
I have not watched all the anime there is to watch out there. It’s not what I’m interested in. But I know the field and the art form well enough to make informed statements about it.
A show coming from Japan doesn’t, by itself, make it satanic. What makes a piece of entertainment satanic is how much it glorifies, encourages, and/or advances the cause of Satan.
“Anime” is just the Japanese word for any kind of animation at all. The following four programs are, technically in a broad sense, anime:
- Family Guy is an anime
- Bluey is an anime
- Justice League is an anime
- Pokemon is an anime
- Which ones are satanic?
When we go to see a movie here in the United States, we don’t just go in willy-nilly. We do homework about it. What is the story? What is the theme? Is it written and directed by people who can be trusted to deliver an engaging, entertaining, and/or thoughtful story?
We use clear criteria to decide whether we want to give our money and time to a studio’s work when it comes to TV, Netflix, or the cinema. The same criteria can be applied to individual anime shows because their content, quality, and themes span just as widely as all live-action television.
Whether anime is satanic or not isn’t something you put to the judgment of a person or group with no interest or investment into the art form. Anime is a broad medium that requires the same level of categorical breakdown as the whole catalog of American broadcast television in order to be able to organize it.
To illustrate my point, let me talk about Fruits Basket. My wife and I are watching the 2018 reboot, and have made it through the first season. How do we know if Fruits Basket is satanic?
Here’s the gist of the premise.
- The main character is functionally homeless at the start of the series and comes to live in the home of a dysfunctional and literally cursed family.
- Within just the first season of the show, we see into the lives of everyone around the main character and the trauma and baggage therein.
- The main character and her late mother are the vehicle for much positive change in the lives of the supporting characters.
Here are some themes we explore in the show.
- To love someone is not contingent on their mistakes or baggage. It is contingent largely on the choice of the person who loves you.
- There are consequences to your choices, but redemption is in reach for anyone willing to repent and be better.
- Even if you lose your own family, whether because of death or because you have the misfortune of being born to people who can’t or don’t love you, there is still love out in the world for you.
- Love, friendship, and relationships at large are complex, sometimes difficult and costly, but sometimes that cost is worth it.
Here are some things that I don’t care for in the show, or might be questionable for Christian audiences.
- A character who talks just a little too much about humanity’s natural sexual desire.
- A character with psychic powers including hearing other peoples’ thoughts and the ability to injure someone with her mind.
- A curse that changes members of the supporting cast into animals, or in some cases grotesque and possibly violent monsters.
- A character has the ability to erase the memories of people who come in contact with the cursed family.
Despite some of the oddball things present in Fruits Basket as a consequence of it being from Japan, it explores themes that I find laudable, with uplifting and ennobling ideas about love, community, friendship, grief, and recovering from trauma. It’s probably not satanic.
I will grant that Fruits Basket is not a show for everyone. It’s a ”Shojo” story, which mean’s it’s generally written to appeal to girls and young women, but the story is still reasonably engaging and thoughtful. There are idiosyncrasies in the writing and presentation that tell you clearly that it comes from another culture with another sense of humor from ours in American and in the West.
Taking into account everything I know so far about the show from viewing and just informationally about my wife, I don’t think it’s fair to toss this show into the ”satanic” basket. It’s certainly not something I would recommend to an incredibly young viewer. It’s intended market is adolescent girls, and it deals with the kind of heavier themes that people start asking about and discussing from about the time they turn 12.
Not everyone is going to like Fruits Basket. Not everyone is going to feel entirely at ease watching it, whether as a consequence of the themes, the art style, or some of the presentation peculiarities that result from it being from a different culture.
Something being ”different” does not flatly make it ”evil”. This doesn’t mean ”one thing good, all thing good”, but this is the foundation of fair judgment.
Perhaps I’ve taken a two-sentence, one-off remark from a conservative political pundit too seriously. I’ll grant that sometimes I go too fast and too far on a subject.
All the same, I have a lot of issues with the polarization of the culture and excuses made on anyone’s part, conservative, liberal, or otherwise, to not understand people who come from a different world, with no room for nuance or thoughtfulness when it comes to the things happening in other peoples’ lives.
Going straight to ”all anime is satanic” is an easy way to abdicate the responsibility of critical thought and pin everyone who watches anime as weirdos who deserve no charity, love, or consideration.
Are there problems in anime as an art form? Absolutely. Are there people who need to adjust the position and priority of anime in their lives? Indeed. Are there flatly bad, questionable, and satanic things present in some of the anime that have been produced over time? Yes, just the same as film, western animation, literature, and comics. The mind that says all anime is satanic is the same category of mind that can say we shouldn’t read because there is occult and pornographic literature out there.
The people who watch anime and the people who make it aren’t second-class citizens. They’re looking for the same things as everyone else: love, fulfillment, acceptance, and everything else humanity is thirsting for, and it comes out in the kind of work they make and the kind of work they take in.
My last thought is to say that as a general rule I would honestly put a number of anime above most of what can be found in th library of Western work. More and more of the media in America, where I live, is becoming preachy, agenda-driven, and just not that great, and not that uplifting.
I don’t know about the entire library of all anime ever made, but most of it seems to be driven more by heartfelt themes grounded In things real people care about, over against agendas and rebellion. This isn’t true in every single case, but I would be more inclined, to further my already given example, to let a daughter of mine watch Fruits Basket than I would most of the programming put together by Disney right now.<< Back To Blog