Around the end of 2015, I decided that I wanted to do a panel at a con. I wanted to talk about Christian themes in Anime. I’ve dedicated my past time to watching anime, analyzing it and writing about it. But of course you already know this. I am a writer, that is one specific gift from God that I know he wants me to use in my life to glorify him. As a writer, I love stories – they way all stories connect with each other through similar themes, hero figures, and trials. I see how these concepts really originated with our God, and have been twisted and changed over time to become the story structure we use in this day and age. I decided that I wanted to share where I found similarities in stories between the anime I love so much and the Jesus that defines me. I wanted to explain how Jesus is the hero of the world by comparing him to popular hero figures that otaku were already familiar with. I applied for a panel at Kawaii Kon and had a little drama, but eventually it went through.
Kawaii Kon was in Honolulu Hawaii, a couple islands away from mine. If you’re even in Hawaii, you should know that the islands are all very different from each other. I was surprised how much Oahu felt like the mainland, but I was in a BIG city where there was a mall and a freeway. There is no mall in the town I live in and many of my friends have never driven on a freeway. When my mom and I went to check into our hotel, there were many cosplayers in the lobby area. I stood in line and silently bounced up and down in excitement. These were my people! I was squealing and probably disturbing my mom at the same time. I tried to explain to her that they way she feels about doing running races or triathlons is the way I feel about going to conventions.
Being alone at the convention for a little while was interesting for me, because I have some social anxiety when it comes to being alone in public. However when I was around the cosplayers, and other geeky folk, I felt so much at home. I felt like I belonged, because we were all connected by our common love for anime. This is really funny to me, because this is not how I feel around other Christians much of the time. I don’t quite feel that connection with my own brothers and sisters in Christ that I do with random strangers at the con. Some Christians have pushed me away because I don’t fit into their little cliques. People at conventions (and the internet) can understand that deep nerdy part of me that makes up a lot of who I am. I’ve struggled to find a community of Christians that help me feel wanted, and I think I’ve achieved that through my Christian school. Still, I’m want to point out when I can how wrong it seams that strangers at a convention can be more accepting then Church.
This con was especially fun for me because the Hawaiian culture was very present. I don’t really identify as a Hawaiian, but over the year, the people have become special to me. They’ve helped me define myself more then I even though possible. This con was an anime con, so I felt very connected to everyone already, but since it was in Hawaii, and there were so many Hawaiians cosplaying and just having fun, it felt even more like home. Having that culture influenced into the con made it such a special and unique place.
I spend my morning getting my cosplay on, made a quick run to the mall next door to buy the right kind of eyeliner, and then made my way to the convention. I spend way too much time looking at the fan art and merchandise. I bought so many stickers… The new thing on the island is to put a bunch of stickers on your hydroflask, this kind of water bottles that are popular in Hawaii. I have finally become cool!
I went to some panels to get an idea of what I should expect. The Funimation panel showed some trailers for upcoming releases of shows on DVD. It was fun to watch my mom’s reaction to how diverse anime is. I tried to get her into Free! Since she is a swimmer, but she just couldn’t quite understand it. That’s alright. She’s and one of her daughters are athletes, but three of her daughters are nerds.
When it was time for my panel, I made my way to the room, connected my computer to the projector and watched people come into the room. I sat there nervously. These people were coming to listen to something I had to say… this was my first hour length speech… hey, this was the first time I even used a microphone!
Before I started I took a deep breath and just told God to work through me. I had a rough skeleton of what I was going to present, and I had practiced one time before at school, but there were many different ways I could decide to present this. I wasn’t sure what the tone of this presentation would be until I started. Like my friends suggested, I decided to present everything like a story. This allowed me to really get into it. “The pain Yato endured for Yukine is like how Jesus suffered on the cross for humanity!” “God wants to have a bond with us the way Naruto wants to have a bond with Sauske” “L like Jesus is the only one who can save man by defeating death…” Those were some of thing things I talked about.
I knew I needed to have fun myself so I could present my ideas in the proper light. I get really extroverted when I’m having fun, and the holy spirit was with me having fun the whole time. What was special to me was how I got to explain the relationship God has with humanity, by comparing it to anime characters, and then being able to say how that is true in my life. This was honestly the first time I’d even explained the gospel. One guy told me that what I did was very gutsy. He was surprised that something like this was approved. But he was very kind. He also asked me why I decided to do this, and I just explained how the holy spirit led me.
Afterwards, some people came up to me and we hugged, took pictures, and exchanged information. Many of them wanted to know where they could find other anime loving Christians. I laughed and told them the internet. But I was lucky enough to have found some of those people at school. My Biology teacher loves anime, and we talk about it a lot. He was actually my biggest cheerleader for this panel. When I came back to school, he made me sit in the “hot seat” (the stool at the front of the room) and I told my class how much fun I had!
I was surprised how many people encouraged me as I prepared for this. My teachers, and friends were so loving towards me. Friends on the internet encouraged me. I had so much prayer flowing over this panel and I didn’t even ask! God sure knows what you need. I feel so confident that I did what God wanted me to do. There is no feeling like telling people how they are loved and full of worth. I’m kind of addicted now… I want to go back and hug more people and tell them about God’s love and grace.
I don’t have to wait very long for that actually. In June, my classmates and Sensei and I are going to Tokyo, Japan. I’m such a crazy emotional person that I get verklempt when I think about getting to talk about God to people who don’t know him.
I know that I want to do another panel, something even better! I have my eye on another convention, but I’ll have to see what God is planning for me. This has been such an amazing experience for me. I’ve learned so much, and I can’t believe God gave me a chance to do this.