Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Outbreak Company: Moe Missionaries

Outbreak Company sounds like it should be the worst show ever. Take a full-blown moe otaku and send him to the fantasy world of Eldant with a cute elf-maid to serve him and a cute loli empress to watch over, and make his task to outright promote his otaku culture. Sounds like the perfect otaku-pandering show. And in the process, make him run headlong into issues of racism, class discrepancies, and terrorists attempting to overthrow the empress… wait, what?

This show manages to take its premise and execute it in a way that is actually rather interesting. Shinichi’s job of promoting otaku culture is no simple task, and he is forced to not only confront the social issues that stand in his way, but also accept that those issues are a part of Eldant culture, and that the values of equality found in the manga and anime of Japan are nothing short of a full-on invasion of their culture. Meanwhile, viewing things from the perspective of the people of Eldant, it’s interesting to note that the empress Petralka considers Shinichi an evangelist and missionary—one that preaches the “gospel” of moe and otaku culture, but a missionary nonetheless.

And there are lessons that Christian evangelists and missionaries can learn from all of this, too.

We probably won't get half-elf maids to attend to us, though. Art by


Love for Our Gospel

In episode 3, while Shinichi is reading a copyright-friendly version of Attack on Titan to Petralka (she hasn’t fully learned the Japanese language yet, but Shinichi has a translation ring that allows him to converse with her), Petralka mentions how Shinichi is different from other evangelists and missionaries that have visited her land. Those missionaries had ulterior motives, seeking out power or wealth under their guise of evangelism. What makes Shinichi different from those missionaries?

The first thing that Petralka notices is just how much Shinichi loves the otaku culture that he is evangelizing. Of course, it is natural to want to talk to others about things we love. We may have some reservations on when and where we share it—for example, we might be more likely to rave about our favorite anime on an online forum or blog than we are with friends who aren’t into anime—but the desire to bring others to love the things we love is definitely a part of human nature, and is easily understood by others even if they ultimately do not like what we are sharing with them.

For that reason, when we are evangelizing Christianity, we need to have a deep love for God and His Gospel that we are sharing. Of course, loving God—and by extension, loving His Word—is a fundamental part of Christianity, but it can be all too easy sometimes to just go through the motions, and nonbelievers can pick up on that and lose interest in our faith because of it. In some cases, especially for missionaries in foreign cultures, if those we are evangelizing to cannot tell that we ourselves deeply love the Gospel, even if we are doing “good things” for them, they will get suspicious and think we are only trying to curry favor in order to gain wealth or power. Showing how much we love the Gospel we are sharing won’t get rid of all suspicion or persecution, but it does go a long way in making people more receptive to hearing what we have to say.

Conviction for Our Beliefs, Love for Others

Shinichi isn’t sharing his world of manga and anime with the people of Eldant just because that is his job; he does it because he was moved by compassion for these people, especially the children, who have not been able to “have fun” due to the militaristic nature of their culture forcing them to train as soldiers instead. He also saw how Myucel, the maid who attends to him, reacts to a manga where a slave falls in love with her master, and feels compassion for how much she desires a world of equality.

Of course, loving the people we are evangelizing to is also important. Loving others is something that cannot be separated from loving God, and it is because we love the unsaved that we want to share with them the Gospel that can save them. Our love for them, though, should not be simply to the extent that we want to save them, but extend to caring about them as people, and everything that entails from their personal well-being to understanding their worries and desires, among other things.
This is especially important when the values of our faith run directly against the culture or the values of the people we are evangelizing to. Shinichi encounters this when he realizes how deep racism and the caste system is ingrained in Eldant culture; even Petralka looks down on Myucel, simply because that was the culture she was raised up in. Shinichi is not insensitive to this aspect of Eldant culture, but he still continues to evangelize his manga and the values of equality in them, as he believes that is what is right.

We do need to have conviction for our beliefs, as that is a sign of the love for our Gospel. We need to balance that and pair it with our love for people. Shinichi is realizing just how hard that is, and he will hopefully continue to learn more about how to reach the people of Eldant with his own, rather unusual gospel. For Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, as well as the guidance of mentors who are more experienced in evangelism, to lead us and help us when we mess up. The most important thing to remember is to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).

Expect Resistance

As important as all of this is, we still need to expect to encounter resistance when we evangelize, especially if we are missionaries. We may have to deal with an overly-patriotic terrorist group determined to not allow any foreign ideals to invade their ideas of how God designed the world; we may simply have to deal with a young brat who cannot accept that God has compassion for lower-class people. But if we remain true to our love of the Gospel, and do not lose our love for people, we can overcome the obstacles in our way.

It may be easier for some of us who are both Christians and anime fans to think of how our love for anime is and how we share that love with others than it is to think the same for the Gospel. In this case, we may simply need to reflect and amplify that love for anime onto our love for the Gospel. (Having a solid understanding of what the Gospel even is helps a lot, too!) Then, we too can bring the Gospel to the foreign lands around us, and start our own outbreak company. 


  1. Far too many people are taking one look at the synopsis and dropping the show without a single chance. I checked it out because I was interested in the premise even if it was going to end up pandering, but then I noticed immediately how honestly portrayed the protagonist's reactions to his new job and to the new world were: brief bursts of otaku enthusiasm tempered by knowledge that he's now dealing with reality in a position of great influence and responsibility. And Eldant may be a fantasy-themed world, but it is no paradisiacal otaku fantasy. I hope more people will read this and check out the show when this makes the rounds on Beneath the Tangles.

    Meanwhile, Shinichi's sincerity is pretty obvious, but I'm wondering if Mr. Motoba and the Japanese government have other plans. The "Outbreak Company" being focused on sharing Japanese otaku culture is still the most outlandish part of the premise, but it's tempting to wonder if the author took even that into account, and that the Japanese government might be harboring ulterior motives for this approach! Now that would be interesting!

  2. I've found myself becoming particularly fond of this show. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I'm not the only Christian to notice the parallels between Christianity and what Shinichi is doing. What is also nice is the fact that the show isn't used as fanservice pandering (for the most part). Yes, they do like making jokes about Minori's breasts, which I could live without, but overall this show could certainly be used for plenty of fanservice fodder that it, thankfully, avoids. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw with Outbreak Company, and I hope it continues in the vein that it is, and doesn't fall apart.