Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Catholic anime?

Okay. Christians making anime should = cool. But this is not the way to go about it...

I must confess: I am a wannabe anime nut. I've only just started getting into individual series - Full Metal Alchemist is the only one I like yet - but the style has always been beautiful to me. And I've always thought that Catholicism + Anime would be a dream come true, although I had to come to this crazy school ^_^ to find people who agree with me. If one searches for "Christian anime" on Google, tons of resources appear, but they are all evangelical. Observe: Anime Angels' Statement of Faith. "Catholic anime" doesn't turn up much. The only example of Catholic-made anime I can think of is the SuperPope short from Phatmass. Cool, but one little flash comic doesn't even scrape the surface of what could be. It's ironic that Protestants should be more into this image-centered business than Catholics. (Here's a page with a lot of evangelical webmanga on it.) Evangelical culture and theology have a huge impact on the anime they make, of course: there's a lot of technical skill and visual panache, but the way they incorporate their Christianity into the story is odd. The images and words are on the same page to be sure, but sometimes they seem weirdly severed. The words are your basic pop evangelical speak, but the images aren't that different from any other anime... right down to the scantily clad female characters. Ahem. Isn't there something just... wrong about this? This is a rather extreme example, but the other wallpapers on this site (called Sanctus Lux, oddly enough) share its schizoid character. Almost all of them have Bible quotes on them... which is fortunate, because most of the images don't have anything specifically Christian about them by themselves.

And this is utterly surreal...

Pentecostal anime?!

I guess it's no wonder that Catholics don't make anime. Anime in America is a subculture to begin with, and enthusiastic Catholics who are also anime fans have got to be rarer than rare. And yet...

A Catholic anime artist could have soooo much fun! All I can really do is doodle, but I've come up with a lot of interesting ideas which I can only dream of turning into art. One of my friends - the first Catholic anime fanatic I ever met - has a phenomenal series idea which we've worked on together, although we know it will probably never see the light of day. It's set around a sort of alternate-universe Constantinople, among these Eastern Catholic-type people and their enemies who make their sons into janissaries. We have all sorts of neat characters and involved plots thought out... there's Athanios, who is trying to find and retrieve his janissary brother Mentiros from the "Turkish" city, and then there's this nomad girl named Favi... I probably shouldn't give any more of it away, just in case my friend decides to make it someday.

I think that Catholic art has more in common with anime than most people would think - especially where there is an Eastern influence, as you might expect. The graceful, stylized look of icons; the elongated figures of El Greco... there are echoes of the anime style here.

Japanese-made anime often uses Catholic terms and imagery, in ways that range from the endearing to the surreal. Catholicism isn't well understood, but nonetheless it has a certain allure. And although anime metaphysics are usually hopelessly muddled, sometimes serious ideas turn up. In Full Metal Alchemist, for example - spoiler! spoiler! - there are seven villains named after the Deadly Sins, and they turn out to be "homunculi", the monstrous results of human attempts to seize immortality through a sort of necromancy. There is a treatment of the idea of making human/animal chimeras that would rattle the most devoted disciple of Peter Singer. On the positive side, there is a beautiful portayal of the family in the characters of Maes, Graecia, and their little daughter Elysia. And then the real fun begins when you start applying Thomist principles about form and matter and the human composite to the series and having crazy arguments... This is not to say that there isn't problematic stuff in the series, but it gives you a taste of what anime could do if its style of art and storytelling were wedded to a coherent metaphysic. For anime has a way of creating iconic images that cling tenaciously in your memory, which can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. What Steven Greydanus says of "Spirited Away" could be applied to a lot of anime: "The effortless visual virtuosity of [its] imagery can make even the strongest animation coming out of Disney or Pixar seem timid and uninspired by comparison. I love the quirky character design in Monsters, Inc., but the mythic power of the imagery in Spirited Away makes Monsters, Inc. look like child’s play."

So... any other anime fans out there? What do you think about this topic which has been so seldom discussed?

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