Christianime: Taking Every Ecchi Thought Captive

For the regular anime fan, fanservice and ecchi elements are often accepted as part of the package viewers sign up for. It may be a reason why some misinterpret anime as being a popular variety of porn, but it’s also something many find enjoyable or merely unobtrusive. But when you’re a Christian, it can be harder to get past the times the shows you love seem to scream nothing but sex. I’ve been concerned about this ever since I became hooked on anime, but over time the Lord has helped me come to understand how I should approach the problem of pornographic content – which extends beyond anime and into my similar love of literature – and what to do about temptation when it strikes.

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2: 22

Now granted, the verse above isn’t really about sexual ‘evil desires’. In context, it’s more directed at the rebellious spirit of youth that rejects the experience of older generations, the typical trap of thinking that you ‘know everything’. But even that context spills into the issue of how we respond to sexualization in what we watch. The thought that we have everything under control and won’t become slaves to sinful thoughts is exactly the kind of pride that stems from ‘youth’, and a dangerous step that can lead a Christian into sin. Not only is the lust that we can fall into an evil desire, but the idea that we are the masters of that potentiality for sin also. They are both things we need to flee from in order to maintain a steady walk with God.

But how do we distinguish where in anime these ‘evil desires’ could arise? If we’re counting any image that could stimulate the viewer towards sinful thoughts, that can go for pretty much anything. And really, that’s the stance we should take – the enemy can use anything to tempt us, so we have to always be on our guard. Still, we can avoid obvious sources of temptation, right?

I thought things were easy until I watched Kill La Kill.

For a long time my process had been simple when approaching a new show: check the genre, cover art and OP for any signs that the series was more directed at what’s beneath my waist (including the legs I might need to ‘flee’ from it). Then one day a non-Christian friend recommended Kill La Kill to me, after I’d already given it an instant pass for its ecchi tag. He explained that it was ‘not that kind of show’. I shrugged it off, however, and it was only weeks later that I found myself giving the series a try. In the end, it wasn’t a logical weighing up of pros and cons. I read a few reviews that praised various aspects of the show, but none of them celebrated the sexual content I’d been otherwise constantly concerned with. I got the feeling – and it was just a feeling – that I might have judged a book by its cover. And so I gave the show a chance. And boy, did it pay off.

The thing I immediately noticed about Kill La Kill was that its ecchi parts weren’t… ecchi. Not in the way I’d envisioned the genre. I felt that it was part of the purpose of the art style, making it harder to see the bared flesh as something to desire. Rather, the show makes you want to think about it expansively, becoming more and more self-conscious of the illustrations and accusations that it makes as a parody of other over-hyped action shows and over-sexualized fanservice flicks. For me, a lot of the series boils down to understanding that it’s not nudity that’s the problem – it’s how people view it. It’s how you view it as the person behind the screen. When Ryuko becomes unashamed of being almost naked in her armour in episode 3, she’s not inviting men to stare at what’s exposed. She’s rejecting their glares and embracing the fact that there are more important things to think about than sex and other people thinking about sex.

It struck a chord with me. Here I was trying to ‘flee evil desires’, and now a character’s journey in an ecchi-labelled show was directing me straight back to that verse, and to others. I realised I’d been dwelling on things of Earth and not of heaven (Colossians 3:2) in my worries about the show and in the other sexualized images and ideas that passed me every day. I wasn’t bringing things I thought were sinful before God, when that’s what I should have been doing for everything to stop those thoughts from leading me into sin.

When talking about a similar subject, my Church’s pastor explained his aptly-named ‘bounce’ method when dealing with the eye-catching sight of an under-dressed woman on the street or a potentially pornographic image in a movie – he would ‘bounce’ his eyes to look at something else. An instant, disciplined reaction. Kill La Kill led me to naturally construct a similar ‘bounce’ method; any sexualized image would ‘bounce’ my mind into thinking about the themes, questions and Biblical connotations of the show. I would hardly think about the fact a character is almost naked – indeed, Ryuko’s lack of armour in places becomes irrelevant and unnoticeable after a while, since it was hardly sexualized in the first place – and instead think about aspects of the show that would lead me to Scripture. This approach even led me to appreciate the famously uncomfortable and more sexually-charged ‘bath scene’ in episode 16; the breaking of multiple sexual taboos in that moment is disgusting, but with the right mindset it becomes integral to our understanding of Ragyou and the sinful and detestable existence she represents, which the viewer only wants to flee from regardless of spiritual belief.

Watching Kill La Kill helped me understand an important part of avoiding temptation: identifying the problem is only one part of the solution. There’s no point fleeing if you don’t have somewhere to flee to, and for me, that means engaging my mind with what I’m watching on an analytical level in order to line up those thoughts with the Word of God. Even with the stranger art style, some scenes in Kill La Kill have still threatened to lead me into sin; I know there’s something attractive about Nonon that sometimes makes my mind wander in the wrong ways. But we’re taught to take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) to make it obedient to Christ. So by stopping myself at simply admiring her (for whatever it is I’m admiring, I’m never quite sure what) and once again bringing her character in line with Scripture, I’m fleeing from the evil desire that can arise at times and instead turning to thoughts of what stands for righteousness, love, faith and peace – since, ultimately, God’s word is always useful for ‘training in righteousness’. I can do this while watching the show and actually enhance my enjoyment of it; I may lose a little bit of immersion, but it’s a small price to pay for having a mindset that avoids falling foul of temptation.

But wait – what was the context of that verse again? The problem with championing this mindset for myself while I watched Kill La Kill, while it worked for that show, was that I then thought I could apply it to something completely different. And so I ignored the countless warnings I got about the music video to Teddyloid’s ME!ME!ME!. And boy, was that a mistake.

The problem with ME!ME!ME! lies in the way it conveys its ‘message’ of the horror of a porn-obsessed hikikomori lifestyle; it uses pornography. It uses a very good depiction of the process of watching pornography itself. What starts as innocent, playful dancing becomes focused shots of fanservice, which then turns into swimwear, before the whole thing becomes a trance-like abyss of girls wearing nothing but sexualizing jewellery acting as erotic as they can manage. It wasn’t the intentionally disgusting spectacle that stunned me in stopping the video halfway through though; it was the fact that watching it had, despite all my prior ideas of lining the video up with Scripture, completely bypassed all my defences. I had been sucked into that pornographic world as the director had intended, and once I finished the video purely to be able to sterilise the images in my mind with analysis (which did, eventually, numb how arousing they were), I realised that, like Kill La Kill, I had been challenged as a viewer. I had been right inside the protagonist’s head, just as I had been empathising with Ryuko’s reluctance to allow her flesh to be shown. But in the video to ME!ME!ME!, unlike in Kill La Kill, there is little love or peace or righteousness. It’s a powerful accusation, and has a lot of artistic merit, but it isn’t something I would have wanted to watch as a Christian, as part of its artistry required me to sin. I can’t celebrate any art like that.

So why did things go well with Kill La Kill but not with Teddyloid’s video? The answer lies in the one thing I was missing – trust in the Lord. Once I’d gained an idea of how I could take captive a thought a make it obedient to Christ, I deceived myself into thinking that all sinful thoughts could be conquered in this way as long as something was artistically interesting enough. It was a feeling that had built on my studies of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, which fits the genre of erotica quite neatly. I was too prideful in my approach and I ignored what I now see, in hindsight, was a spiritual warning. I thought I could take my thoughts as I watched the ME!ME!ME! video captive, but I didn’t take my thoughts before watching it captive. And thus, the Lord used this failure as a lesson which comes back to me every day (especially since I unfortunately like Teddyloid’s music); my first thoughts when unsure about a show – really, my first thoughts when approaching any show no matter how I feel about it – should be to him, and not to my own intellect.

I’m not ashamed to admit these mistakes, as the Lord has forgiven me and is still using this today in my walk with him, since he works in all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. But I’d hate to see other Christians fall into any of the traps I’ve fallen into over time:

1) Nudity and sex in media is not ‘evil’. You have evil desires that can lead you to sin, but you also have God inside you, and you can work with him to make your thoughts about those things obedient to Christ. As parts of Kill La Kill suggest, a world without evil would be a world where everyone could be naked without the masses lusting and nosebleeding around them. If you have God in your life, you also have the armour of God that can put out the fiery arrows of the enemy and march onwards in the valley of the shadow of death, not being afraid of evil because the Lord is your rod. You should not be afraid of things created by man that invite you to sin; you can control that invitation and even turn it into one of worship for God.

2) That being said, you can’t do this on your own. A strong experience working with God can sometimes lead you into thinking you can do as well on your own – but the only way the Bible can be understood is if God is working with and within your meditation upon it. How then can you expect to line up tempting content in anime with Scripture if you start by rejecting the guidance of the Lord that you have already received? No matter how well-armoured the follower of Christ is, he does not go looking for temptation, and neither should you venture into areas where either Christians or God himself are telling you to back off. If there’s one main thing I’ve gained from watching ME!ME!ME!’s video, it’s that I will do anything I can to stop a fellow Christian from watching it if I can, just as I was spiritually warned not to watch the video in the first place.

Those are the two lessons I’ve taken from my experience with sexualized characters and themes in anime so far. I’m not sure whether I’d recommend Kill La Kill to a Christian friend or not; it would have to depend on how I understood that person’s spiritual walk and God’s own guidance on the matter. On the other hand, if you haven’t watched ME!ME!ME! yet, don’t. In many sexualized shows you can find something to please or glorify God with, but not in all of them, and I’m sure it’s not worth wading through the filth in some of them when you could simply watch something far more fulfilling that God isn’t trying to push you away from. Always take his guidance first, and the security in your own understanding last, until you have grown in the wisdom that would warn you away from the same things yourself. I pray that God will help me develop that wisdom, and grant it at the times I need it most, so that I can take every thought captive and enjoy what I watch as a Christian to the fullest without compromising my love and devotion to God.

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If you read through all of that, thank you! This feature will – God willing – run every Wednesday (GMT) from now on. I’ve started with one of the harder and more pertinent topics to my personal faith, so future articles might not as as long.

As always, don’t hesitate to like and subscribe, and comment below with any of your own thoughts on this issue or something else you’d like me to write about! Any suggestions for future articles will be awesome, since I’ll probably run out of ideas quite quickly. xD

Thanks again, and may God bless your enjoyment of anime.

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21 thoughts on “Christianime: Taking Every Ecchi Thought Captive”

  1. Kill la Kill is a bit complicated with the theme of nudity – Ragyou made for an effective antagonist because she exploited religious thought for her own goals, rather than spreading a peaceful message about the nuances of the human body. Satsuki and Ryuuko stand as her opposites, because through showing skin (and quite often), they want to show that the human body isn’t something to be ashamed of. The copious amounts of nudity found within the show symbolize the protagonists’ breaking away from an oppressive regime that took a very strict view of the Tree of Knowledge event as a means of exerting complete socio-economic authority on Japan. Of course, the Tree of Knowledge itself is allegorical of the “sin of rebellion against God;” as an agnostic, I’m not a follower of any particular faith, so I take Kill la Kill as an overarching examination of religious and social philosophies, and how easily they can be manipulated to fit one’s own agenda.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The danger of using religion for your own ends is definitely a powerful one for any Christian, and one of the main reasons why I’m non-denominational. Indeed, the Bible itself warns about the rituals and practices that religious leaders use to control their people as being just ‘rules taught by men’ that don’t get you closer to God.

      Christianity should ultimately be a faith about humility, but Ragyou symbolises the opposite of that. Ryuko was humble herself in a way, not boasting about her body but not trying to hide it either – she wanted the focus to be away from her and towards the power with which she was gifted.

      I definitely agree and love the fact that Kill La Kill can’t be pigeon-holed into simple messages about its use of nudity and other sexual elements (Gamagori’s Goku uniform…) – it’s a show that takes guts (and Guts) to explore, and you’re bound to find something in the show that means a lot to you, given the number of other themes the show deals with around its sexualized core.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  2. Hey there! I found this post from Beneath the tangles. I have to say that I really enjoyed your article. This is something I’ve had to find for myself in anime and manga especially the latter. For example I’m perfecctly fine with most of the nudity in Trigun maximum, but in a show like Kill la Kill I couldn’t handle it. Why may you ask? Because for me unlike you its not enough to simply bounce my mind, but i have to bounce my eyes and the video’s progress bar. This would result in missing most of the show in kill la kill.

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  3. >> “If there’s one main thing I’ve gained from watching ME!ME!ME!’s video, it’s that I will do anything I can to stop a fellow Christian from watching it…”

    Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but… I didn’t know about it before, so I checked it out precisely because you said not to. Don’t kill me, alright? :P

    With that said, here’s what I think: it’s not for everyone. Not everyone needs to see it, but for those who do, it’s an in-your-face accusation confronting them with their slothful, narcissistic, masturbatory dream world — in other words, confronting them with themselves. It’s the Law saying, “This is what you are.” And it’s not pretty at all. It’s terrifying. Absolutely terrifying, sickening, revolting, because it has to be.

    For that reason, I think there are Christians, especially some otakus among them, who ought to see it. They need to ask themselves, like the lyrics in the video, “What will you do with your life? What will you do for a living?” And begin to think: How are you going to live? What kind of person do want to be? Do you want to live well? Do you want to live virtuously? Or do you want to live in a self-created wasteland… at your parents’ expense? (There’s a good video on the YouTube Explained channel called “ME!ME!ME! EXPLAINED”. I rather enjoyed his take on it.)

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    1. It’s a tricky area; I agree that anyone who is suffering from the problems of ME!ME!ME!’s protagonist could benefit from accessing the meaning within the video, including Christians, but it’s still not something I’d recommend because, despite it’s criticism of pornographic culture, it is pornography itself. I would be putting a Christian into temptation if I told them to watch it, and even if something good can come from it, we are not supposed to sin so that grace may abound.

      The same message can be found in many places in the Bible, and I think it’s of more value to direct a Christian towards there. A Christian should not ask ‘what am I going to do with my life’, but ‘What does God want of my life?’.The danger of art like ME!ME!ME! is that it can encourage a Christian to try to examine their own heart, which will fail. All a Christian should do when faced with a challenging question from art is go to the Bible and ask God to examine their hearts, meditating on his Word and not the words or pictures or thoughts of men. ME!ME!ME! also encourages the viewer to dwell on humanity’s folly, which is not something a Christian should be part of either.

      So I disagree. Christians don’t need ME!ME!ME!; they need the Word of God that ME!ME!ME! would direct them towards. If you need them to watch porn in order to get them to the bible verses you want to talk about, I don’t think you’re doing them a good service. You should just go straight to the Word and then discuss it in the context of your own lives and not some fantasy.

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      1. Fair enough. We at least agree that it’s not for everyone, though we don’t agree that it’s not for anyone. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

        I will say this, though: I don’t think it counts as pornography per se. If we define pornography as “obscene material devoid of artistic merit” (a definition I hope we accept?), that’s a problem, since you yourself said, “[It] has a lot of artistic merit.” Obscene? Yes. Revolting? Yes. But pornographic? Not necessarily. It’s obscenity with a point. (And let it not be said that I endorse pornography. That would mean a betrayal of my vocation as artist.)

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        1. Pornography doesn’t have a strict definition – you just know it when you see it. With that in mind, and considering that part of the artistry of the video is to make you follow the route into pornography that the protagonist takes (cute girls! –> wearing less –> ooh curvy bits –> sex sex sex –> orgasm), the video will too likely be received by a Christian in a way that will lead them into sin as they will initially engage with it as anyone would with hentai; the project’s design promotes that initial reaction to later comment on it. In hindsight it’s meaningful obscenity, perhaps satirical erotica, but ‘in the moment’, the first third of the video is meant to be experienced as porn.

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          1. Well, I speak for myself in saying I didn’t experience it that way (possibly because I knew what to expect), but I can see how others would. Good conversation, glad we were able to talk about this.

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  4. Here’s my issue with stuff like me!me!me! Anyone who has an issue with the problem of porn isn’t going to see the message, they’re going to see the naked girls and not go any further. thus it’s going to be harder for them to get the message being given.

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    1. I think the bigger problem is that porn, through its own devices, creates the issue of not being able to see a message. Porn defocuses the brain on meaning and directs it towards a spiral of titillation and desire. Hence, erotica is high art; being able to use sex while continuing to enable your audience to see the forest for the trees is pretty advanced stuff, at least from what I’ve read around (and occasionally in) the subject.

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  5. Hi! I found this post from Beneath the Tangles, and I’m really glad I did! This article has inspired me to take a closer look at Kill la Kill too, as I passed over it for the same reasons you originally did. I feel similar about Black Rock Shooter, where the show didn’t use the lack of clothes of the main protagonist in a sexualized way, but in a way that expressed the openness of emotion, or at least that’s what I gained from it.

    Keep up the good work! :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      I haven’t heard much praise for Black Rock Shooter, but I might have to check it out if it can work as further fuel for this argument. It’s something I like bringing up around Christians who are sceptical about sexualization in anime; rather than avert their eyes to the cutesy boobless stuff, it’s better, imo, to embrace the danger zone and show them how some shows can use nudity in a way that can be of benefit to a Christian. So anyway, thanks for pointing me to that!

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  6. Great post that I feel many Christian anime fans need to read (or anyone who struggles/deals with sexual images in anime/cartoons in general).

    That video is bananas, I watched it through an article that had mentioned it and I regret having done so but ah well…like yourself, God has forgiven me and life goes on.

    We truly need to be careful with what we watch and how we use our body to glorify Him. This is our temple, and watching nonsense like the above mentioned video (even though it has an intended meaning, it’s still over the top) can side track us and lead to sin. It happens, we are all human, no one is immune.

    Thanks for writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I found your article while aimlessly searching the internet for Christian anime bloggers, and found this post from last year. This helped me so much, you don’t even understand the impact it has on me. I am a Christian whom has been struggling with pornography for four years. It is very difficult to compromise my love for anime, and my even greater love for God when picking a show to watch. This task is even more daunting for me, given that I too run a Christian anime blog. Your article really opened my eyes to the idea of changing your perspective on how you see sexual content into something for the Lord. I had this idea in my head, but your writing really cleared things up for me. Seriously, I’m saving this article, and will read it over and over again because the message hit me so powerfully like a semi truck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really great to hear that this testimony is helping Christians like yourself. If you haven’t already checked them out, beneaththetangles.com is one of the best places to read about Christian insights into anime. This blog only posts a Christian article every two weeks or so (the most recent one’s running late, thanks to my uni workload), but they’re far more frequent and far reaching in how they line up anime with Scripture.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

      1. Don’t worry, I already know all about Beneath The Tangles! In fact, I’m in the process of submitting a guest post onto their website. If you have any other sources for blogs like yours, I’d really appreciate it! Again, thank you for what you do for His kingdom, and know that it has an impact.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This was an absolutely fascinating read. I greatly appreciate the read, since it perfectly describes something I’ve also struggled with. A few friends and I recently started a blog back around Christmas that does reviews, and I am starting to write some post looking at link between Christianity and certain anime series. Unfortunately, I have only now started getting involved in the community here, especially the Christian anime fans. I recently met neighborhoodotaku, who commented above haha. Anyway, when I first started watching anime when I was 13, I watched way too many ecchi anime, but I have since moved on from that. Most overly ecchi stuff bothers me a lot now, but it nice to see how some people have dealt with the struggle. I have more or less tuned it out, which took practice and lots of prayer. So thank you for sharing your thoughts. Also, I appreciated the compare and contrast with Kill La Kill and Me!Me!Me!. Anyway, I’m off to read more of your posts.

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