In this part, we finally get around to recommending anime to watch. I’m going to do this in a different way. I’m going to recommend anime by comfort level of the individual Christian when it comes to dealing with cultural works, and that means splitting them up by ranking. I’ll base it on the MPAA rating system for movies. Keep in mind that this is just for classification. One type of Christian isn’t better than another. Also, these ratings are loose; they can vary in the same way movies of the same rating can.
Note: these aren’t actual AGE ratings. These are labels for content, based on what I usually see in secular works. There’s a whole other argument about whether PG-13 is actually for 13 year olds and up, and I’m not getting into that.
A G-Rated Christian believes in strict purity and wholesomeness in the cultural works they watch. G-rated Christians will generally not be comfortable with anything but mild cartoon violence to others, and moderate violence to inanimate objects. Any depiction of sexuality in any form more than a kiss will be seen as suspect, as well as jokes about the same. At the hard end, any fantastic trope that violates Biblical teachings, like the neutral use of magic, may be prohibited. Mature situations will not be present due to the need for wholesomeness, or they will seem greatly neutered or unrealistic due to it.
You can still watch anime as a G-rated Christian, but there’s a bit of a paradox here. To be able to navigate anime and find the G-rated titles will probably disrupt you as much as watching them. This is because there’s really no third party who can shield you from finding out what is in anime. You may not watch it, but you become aware of it.
My suggestions for the G-Rated Christian interested in it is to stick to the slice-of-life and shoujo genres. Slice-of-life anime tend to be about people just enjoying everyday life, and shoujo can be more about relationship and feeling than action.
Recommendations for the G-rated Christian:
Yotsuba&!: Wonderful, wonderful slice-of-life tale about a positive, slightly odd young girl and her family and friends as they live day to day. It’s completely unobjectionable, and probably one of the best comics on the market today, let alone manga.
Whisper of the Heart: From the acclaimed Studio Ghibli, this tale is about a young girl growing up and befriending a young boy. All of Ghibli’s works in my opinion are must-see’s, but this is the one that has the least amount of elements that might spook a G-rated Christian. No magic, and no violence.
The Cat Returns: Also from Studio Ghibli, and a spin-off from Whispers of the Heart. If you are a G-rated Christian who doesn’t mind some very whimsical magic and talking cats, you’ll like this one too.
Angelic Layer: Misaki has grown up without knowing her mom. One day she sees a demonstration of the latest craze, Angelic layer. It’s a fighting game where tiny toys battle it out in nationwide competition. Misaki is entranced, and begins her steps into the game, and reconciling with her mother. Done by the famous mangaka CLAMP, it’s surprisingly good.
Hikaru no Go: One of the freedoms of manga is the ability to write on things you’d never think of. Hikaru no Go is about a boy who falls in love with the game Go-a chesslike game of immense complexity-due to the interaction of a friendly ghost. Very good manga which deals with themes of excelling, hard work, and potential. It manages to make an arcane board game fascinating.
A PG rated Christian is a little more flexible. While they’ll be okay with some realistic violence towards people, and some serious carnage to inanimate objects, they won’t really like that violence to be too realistic. While two spies might fight each other, if they draw blood or break necks, the PG-rated Christian will wince and consider not watching the film. PG-rated Christians still have the dislike of any sexual situations, but are able to deal with non-sexual nudity (such as furo scenes-bath scenes) and very mild jokes.
Mature situations can be present. The worry of the PG-rated Christian is that violence ramps up too quickly, or they toss gratuitous nudity into an otherwise fine film.
Recommendations for the PG-Rated Christian:
My Neighbor Totoro: This would be G save for a single scene where the young children bathe with their father. There’s also fairly heavy use of magic in the form of nature spirits, but otherwise this is a masterpiece of a film. The nudity itself is non-sexual, but American versus Japanese mores about bathing differ enough for me to bump this up as an example. But seriously, watch it. This is the one film most people think of when they think of Studio Ghibli, and Totoro himself can be found in Toy Story 3 in a cameo or two.
Dual Parallel Trouble Adventure: It’s a good mecha anime with slight tie-ins to the Tenchi Muyo Universe, and is also a comedic parody of the more famous series Neon Genesis Evangelion. The comedy keeps the edginess and violence down, yet it’s still good without being saccharine. Fan service is kept down too, except for the last OVA episode.
Clannad and Clannad: After Story: One of anime’s best kept secrets, this pair of linked stories tell a funny, and often heartbreakingly sad tale about Tomoya, the girl he falls in love with, and their life together both in school and as a married couple. This anime is a tearjerker, but surprisingly affects MALE fans as much as women, mostly because there are deep themes about being a man, about reconciling with your father and loving your wife, and more.
Origin: Spirits of the Past: Good science fiction anime in the style of Studio Ghibli. It’s a good example of the Christian PG idea because its violence doesn’t really draw blood yet still is realistic, and no fan service exists.
I’d also generally put any anime series that makes it to any non-Cartoon Network TV as PG, even if its for kids. Viewing standards are different in Japan than the USA, and even with editing, there’s often a fair level of violence to even kid’s shows.
A PG-13 Christian is comfortable with fairly heavy levels of realistic violence. Generally the keyword here is realistic; if you are causing heads to explode and people are beating each other up with their insides, you’re over the line. Sexuality is still restricted; a PG-13 Christian may tolerate fan service panty flashing, or the occasional bare bottom or clothing explosion, but explicit nudity, especially uncensored, and true explicit banter won’t fly.
The danger of a PG-13 Christian is that they get used to violence. If you think about it, movies are tremendously casual with people killing or hurting other people, to the point where violence can be used for laughs. Violence is often a cheap and flashy way to add illusionary weight to a story, and it helps to always be aware of how it’s being used in film.
Recommendations for a PG-13 Christian:
Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind. Between this and My Neighbor Totoro would be my choices for the best films Hayao Miyazaki has ever made. The violence in the tale isn’t thrown in, but is a by-product of a mature story about human nature. This film is a seminal work of animation, and has influenced so many things that it is staggering. No other post-apocalyptic film comes close to it.
Angel Beats!: It uses violence for comedy due to the fact that everyone can’t die in its world, but the laughs are there to help with a touching and often sad story about teens who were unable to enjoy their youth, and are given a second chance to after they die.
C for Control: Unusual anime that tells a story about…economics. A young man is introduced into a weird battle game in a place called The Financial District. Here, your potential is your life, and you risk money to make more, or die. It’s unusual in that it talks about money and the proper uses of it by using a fantastic story, and surprisingly it has many good points. Plus, for American audiences, seeing anime-style special movies named after economic ideas is unexpected comedy.
Last Exile: Studio Gonzo is known for one thing in their anime: showing their love of flight. Last Exile is probably one of the best series which introduces you to Gonzo’s particular style.
The Girl who Leapt through Time: This could probably be PG, but due to one reference about masturbation (and the weight Christians put on sexual sins,) I upped it. Have you always wanted to go back in time and change your mistakes? A girl can, but she soon finds out sometimes she can lose more than she gains.
Tokyo Godfathers: Satoshi Kon is an absolutely amazing director who manages to create some powerful movies that blur the lines between illusion and reality. Tokyo Godfathers is his most accessible film, and it feels like an anime version of a John Hughes movie.
I’d also point out that many of the “big” anime are PG-13. Ones like Bleach or One Piece usually have a lot of violence but only some sexual innuendo. Most shonen anime and manga in general can hover between PG-13 and R.
In the next post, I’ll talk about R and even NC-17 Christians. Christians who tend to approach the arts with a high degree of tolerance, and have their own pitfalls. I’ll put recommendations for them, and probably add a few personal ones of my own. Also, please by all means add your suggestions and ideas for good anime under these guidelines!