Question: "How should a Christian view anime?"
Answer: The term anime—the Japanese word for “animation”—generally refers to animation that comes from Japan. Strictly speaking, anime is just another medium used to convey a story or artistic idea. While the actual art style in the form of angles and shading, etc., is morally neutral, there are some more ambiguous points to be addressed regarding anime. The same goes for anime’s printed counterpart, manga.
To begin with, Japanese culture is very different from Western culture. While Western culture has historically sprung from monotheistic roots and embraced a Christian moral code, Far Eastern cultures such as exist in Japan lean toward mystical superstition and polytheism. Specific to Japan is Shintoism, a religion that deems the Japanese islands and people divine. According to Shintoism, the Japanese people are direct descendants of the many gods and spirits (kami) living throughout the islands.
Shrines to the different gods or spirits are common in Japan, and the themes of Shintoism are also very common in anime and manga. Some anime thrives on the topic of religion, using Japanese culture as a setting for fantasy adventures in which the spirit world and humanity mingle, either pleasantly or unpleasantly. Given the mystical foundation of Eastern culture, anime also tends to employ elements of the occult such as tarot cards, incantations, and more. Personal honor and success are also common themes in anime. But a focus on personal honor and personal success can lead to pride, which clouds our need for God (Psalm 10:4).
Another thing to consider is anime’s reputation for permeating violence and sexual content. While not every anime movie is extremely sexual or extremely violent, most examples of anime do come with varying levels of salacious and/or violent content, ranging from light innuendo and slapstick violence to full-on porn (though this is its own subcategory, called hentai) and gore-fests.
As Christians, we’re supposed to dwell on “whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute” (Philippians 4:8). Additionally, Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” For the Christian, guarding what comes and stays in our minds is very important. We are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
While there can be a lot of questionable things in anime, there are strong Christians who enjoy the medium. They appreciate the style, the futuristic settings, and the imaginative storytelling in anime. And they might see and be encouraged by some biblically approved themes present in anime such as self-sacrifice, kindness, loyalty, endurance, and courage.
Other Christians, however, might decide that something with so many lurid landmines is not worth the time required to navigate it safely. Or they’ve been convicted against placing themselves in positions to be exposed to something that could hurt their spiritual walk.
How should a Christian view anime? Carefully. What might be beneficial for one person could be devastating for another person (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 10:24–29). Be aware of what the Holy Spirit might be saying. If He’s saying to stay away, then stay away (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). But if you have no conviction against anime, and you’ve thoroughly searched your heart and motives, then approach with caution and bear in mind that you are called to, “whether . . . you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).