Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Yuyushiki, Ep. 1: The Joy of Watching Anime

I had said in my introductory post how, as a Christian, I watch anime looking out for God’s truths hidden in these otherwise definitively non-Christian shows. However, that is really only half of why Christians can watch anime (or any other form of secular entertainment) and still glorify God. As for the other half, I was reminded of that after watching the first episode of one of this season’s new shows, Yuyushiki.
From left to right: Yukari, Yuzuko, and Yui. Would have been called Yuyuyushiki, except the producers could never say the name right.
Now, I know this will sound odd, but I consider Yuyushiki to have the best first episode of this season, with pretty much nothing being able to come close. Why? What about more “serious” shows like Attack on Titan or Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet which are more “meaningful” and “interesting” shows?
Well, the answer to me is simple. Yuyushiki is the only show to put a smile on my face for 24 consecutive minutes.

About The Show
Yuyushiki comes from the same genre of works initially popularized by Azumanga Daioh and later by shows like Lucky Star, K-ON!Hidamari Sketch, and Yuruyuri (be careful not to confuse the latter with this show!). It features a cast of three cute, quirky girls who at first just go about their daily lives, talking about and doing all sorts of silly stuff. The cast features Yuzuko, a mischievous girl that likes to tease her friends, Yukari, who is very likely related to Osaka from Azumanga Daioh in how her head’s perpetually in the clouds, and Yui, the straight (wo)man who has to put up with the two; it’s a pretty classic format for this type of show.  Like Azumanga Daioh, its original format was a 4-koma manga, which is a four-panel comic strip not unlike what you can find in American newspapers (though arranged vertically instead of horizontally). The format allows for lots of quick gags in succession.
Eventually, the girls end up in the “Data Processing Club”, which, at least in this episode, might as well be called the “Look Up Random Stuff On Wikipedia Club”. They decide to research information about the sun, which results in some amusing tangents (such as how the Earth’s mass relative to the Solar System is approximately equal to a strand of hair… and what happens when said strand of hair gets pulled out).
She's got the whole world in her hands--or rather, between her fingers.
An acquired taste of a show? Definitely, but for me, it’s a show that is highly amusing and entertaining, and even a bit educational. And like I said, it’s a show that had me smiling throughout.
A Show That Makes Me Smile
I treasure these laid-back, smile-inducing shows, and feel that a season of anime is incomplete without one. (Examples of such shows in past seasons include Yuruyuri in Summer 2012, Hidamari Sketch in Fall 2012, and Tamako Market and GJ-Club in Winter 2013.) Most anime in a given season are dramatic to various degrees, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. However, it also means that over the course of a week, you see a number of deaths (here’s an exercise: how many people died in the first episode of every show this season?), other people brought to varying degrees of depression or injury, and just a lot of, well, bad stuff. And after seeing that for so many shows, sometimes you just want to watch a show where you know nothing really bad happens.
Unless you count tripping over a randomly-protruding brick "really bad".
Some may call this “escapism”. I don’t necessarily deny that. It is an escape, to a place of refuge to recuperate before going back out to the world of drama once again. But I say it is more than just “escapism”; the word implies that all the show is good for is this kind of recuperative effect, when really, there is much more to a show like this.
I think that Christianity sometimes has this misconception, perhaps even a false teaching, that happiness is somehow inconsequential to our faith, or even bad for it. This is despite how, in Philippians 4:4, Paul says to “rejoice in the Lord always”, and feels the point so important so as to say “again, I will say, rejoice”. This isn’t a suggestion; it’s a command!
Of course, the key words here are to rejoice “in the Lord”. In my experience, trying to find joy in anything, including anime, is ultimately worthless apart from the Lord. God wants us to be happy, but He wants to be the source of that happiness.
“In God’s name we play…”
What role, then, does entertainment like anime, especially those specially designed to bring a smile to my face, have? The answer lies in the words of a friend of mine, who in closing a pre-meal prayer during a gathering, made a funny yet profound slip of the tongue and said, “In God’s name we play, amen.”
How often do Christians play in God’s name? Are we sometimes guilty of separating our recreational time from our “spiritual time”? While we shouldn’t only be entertaining ourselves without reaching out to serve others, entertainment can still serve a holy purpose in being a channel through which we can praise the Lord.
Just like how it is in God’s name that I watch anime, so that it is in God’s name that I enjoy anime. When something comes up in a show that makes me smile or laugh, that is a moment when I can praise God, for making me a person that can enjoy things like this, and for creating the people that can create those things for me to enjoy.
Things like using the Maunder Minimum as a finishing move.
I have already had plenty of these moments in the first episodes of this season already, and Yuyushiki has been filled with those moments. In particular, I love the moment when, after doing their research on the sun, they conclude by declaring that “the sun is awesome!” I couldn’t help but think during that, “The Son is awesome!” (The sun is awesome, too, and God is awesome for creating it.) For a show as enjoyable as this, that is the least praise I can give.
From right to left: The sun is amazing. Incredible, too. Maunder Minimum. Death to the opponent.
To other Christian anime fans, I encourage you to find those shows that you can watch for how enjoyable they are, and let that be just another form of worship. It doesn’t have to be Yuyushiki; that show is admittedly an acquired taste that has come from seeing a lot of similar shows. But if you’re watching anime and you can’t find reason to worship the Lord for it, it’s at least worth looking into why.

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