Are there any anime fans out there? I used to be a huge fan! Like most people, I was first drawn to anime because my friends were watching it too. Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Free!, Maid Sama, and other anime series got me hooked. I enjoyed the friendships that the various anime portrayed, the action scenes, and the occasional romance. Anime was and still is a conversation starter for me among new friends — I like that we get to bond over our favourite characters or iconic anime scenes! However, you may have noticed the key phrase “I used to” — because I don’t watch anime as much as I did anymore.
Anime sometimes gets a bad reputation because it is seen as a highly sexualised genre. People associate anime with big-chested women, short skirts, and lustful men. But just like K-dramas or Hollywood films, anime can be classified into numerous genres, such as romance, comedy and so on. Just as you can’t say that all movies are bad, you can’t say that all anime is bad either. There are anime that contain great life lessons, tug at your heartstrings or get you laughing! Exciting action-filled anime and heart-warming series about friendship have brought me and many others a lot of joy, and as the anime-watching community expands, it also has the potential to be a place where some feel they truly belong.
THE DARK SIDE OF ANIME
For me though, while anime was a great source of simple enjoyment at first, it eventually showed its dark sides. While I started out watching anime innocently, I soon sunk into the ocean of anime fanservice, which refers to the practice of giving fans what they want. And more often than not, what the fans want is more sexually explicit content. When an anime could have shown a character with an eye-level shot, the popularity of fanservice would lead the anime makers to dress the character in a short skirt and present her with a low-level shot, effectively giving viewers a “panty-shot.” In other instances, steamy shower scenes, detailed scenes of a man or woman disrobing, or beach scenes with bikini-clad women galore would be included though they have little relevance to the plot. Sadly, my growing interest in fanservice of this nature led me into a pornography addiction that lasted nearly seven years.
WALKING IN THE LIGHT
Anime in and of itself is not pornography. But for me, the two became so closely linked. I knew I had to completely step away from anime because it was my gateway into sexual sin. I was always in the cycle of watching fanservice and pornography, peeling myself away, and running back to it over and over again. Being in church and hearing sermons about repentance and sin felt like God was convicting me to confess what was happening and to stop. Yet while my mind wanted to heed His call, my sinful heart refused, and I kept watching pornography and ignoring the Holy Spirit. The guilt in me kept growing. This season of actively sinning took a toll on my walk with God. As a church-going youth in a Christian family, I felt horrible about having two versions of myself. Here I was knowing what to do and say in church, but in secret, I was not living like Christ, and I knew it.
To make matters worse, I realised that anime and other sexual content were warping my view on relationships and friendships with guys. The anime I watched depicted women being sexually exploited and harassed. In action anime, women in authority were disrespected by men, and those who were superior in strength still ended up being undermined by men. In romance anime, girls who were not in a relationship were teased and put down, and a recurring theme was that the most attractive woman was always the most popular one, reinforcing the belief that I had to be physically attractive to be liked at all.
As the anime I watched affected my understanding of my value as a woman and how relationships should work, I started to misread situations with my male friends and overthink my connections with them. These were friendships that I treasured with guys in school and in church, and I knew that if I continued the way I was going, these relationships would only be strained further by my overthinking. All of this, coupled with the growing conviction of the Holy Spirit, led me to eventually leave pornography and anime behind me after seven long years.
When I decided to stop watching anime and pornography, I confessed my viewing habits to my mum for accountability. When it comes to sexual sins, it may feel like your hands are dirty, and it is difficult to tell anyone. But bringing sexual sin into the light takes the power of its secrecy away from the devil.
ANIME IN AND OF ITSELF IS NOT PORNOGRAPHY. BUT FOR ME, THE TWO BECAME SO CLOSELY LINKED.
STOP AND CHECK YOUR HEART
If you are feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit right now, then the next step after this is a simple one. As Christian women, we should be discerning with anime, just as we try to be wise about the other types of media that we consume.
The next time you watch anime, ask yourself these questions honestly: Are the values shown in anime in line with what the Bible says? Do the way the female characters dress make you want to dress like them too? Has romantic anime affected your understanding of how relationships between guys and girls work? These questions don’t just apply to anime but other types of shows as well. The answers to them may not come immediately, but answer honestly! We are called to guard what enters and stays in our mind, as “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). If you decide that you need to put some distance between you and harmful anime (or any other type of show), seek out people you can be accountable to. There is no one watching over your shoulder to stop you from going back to it, and simple self-control isn’t always enough. Ask God for strength — this isn’t a battle you need to fight on your own.
BRINGING SEXUAL SIN INTO THE LIGHT TAKES THE POWER OF ITS SECRECY AWAY FROM THE DEVIL.
For the avid anime viewer who doesn’t feel they have a problem, take a step back to assess the time you spend on anime, and think about whether they have started to warp your own sense of what reality should look like. Anime, like all forms of media, rakes in profits for successful creators, and anime makers will definitely continue to give the fans what they want, whether it is truly beneficial or not. Yes, it can be morally neutral, but it can be really harmful as well! Just as you would with anything else, put it before the Lord and be frank about whether it can lead you to sin or to stumble in your walk with Him.
Finally, remember the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8 — “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”