Otaku: A person with an avid, consuming interest in some form or technology, or pop culture, such as manga or anime.
Christian: A believer and follower in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Over the years, I have not only tried to find devotional material that doesn’t sound like the same old free devotional you can find with church handouts. I’m not criticizing these by any means, and have even contributed three times to the Upper Room.
However, as much as many Christians lament their youth being obsessed with more “worldly things” including pop culture, we all need our healthy fandoms. Pop culture is all around us, and it can either be a detractor from Christian values or it can be a stepping-stone to help people better their own faith.
Enter Laura Grace and Moriah Jane, a pair of anime and manga crazy authors, who found a way to do just that with the devotional Finding God in Anime: A Devotional for Otakus.
Discovering the Devotional
When I first learned of this book a couple of weeks ago, I knew it was one I wanted primarily for my college-aged daughter, who has not only read the entire Bible cover to cover, but who knows everything there is about Demon Slayer, Jujustu Kaisen, Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia and way too many more to even list. This book just seemed custom made for her, so I hit Amazon and ordered a copy. I then promptly decided to try and hijack it from my daughter so I can read it myself.
This is not the first pop culture centric devotional I’ve purchased and studied, but it is the first one I have seen devoted to the fast-rising popularity of manga, and it is simply excellent. Grace and Jane, and the contributing authors of this book, are not only comfortable in their love of God, but they are avid, genuine, anime lovers.
Grace has written motivational books, poetry and has her own faith-based manga in the works. Jane has written several fiction works, including the recent Vampire Red vampire hunter series, and the book Rogue. She is also an artist, and contributed her illustrations to her samurai-focused novella Souji.
I have read devotionals with themes ranging from Star Wars to The Matrix, and when you follow a certain fandom you tend to get a little picky about the details, facts and, dare I say it, “cannon” of a story.
This is one of the things that makes Finding God in Anime so refreshing. All the writers know of which they speak, and the devotions come from the heart. They have found a way to balance their zeal for the well-crafted stories of popular anime series such as Naruto, My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, The Promised Neverland, Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Violet Evergarden, Nausicaä, Cowboy BeBop and others with their goal of making sure Christians know how to find and keep their love of God gracefully in everything they do. A couple of these topics include finding our God’s strength in our weakness, loving our enemy, trusting in God, and being able to embrace the unique person He made us to be.
Each devotional entry is short, precise and straightforward, definitely easy for both young readers and adults alike to comprehend and enjoy. There are plenty of Biblical examples to correspond with each theme.
One that resonated with me was the entry, “Be Weird, Be True,” by contributor E.N. Chaffin using Princess Jellyfish character Tsukimi as starting point. We shouldn’t abandon our lives and interests, just because others find them weird, but even more so we shouldn’t abandon our love of Christ just because it isn’t always popular. Embrace your quirkiness, as well as your faith.
“(We) cannot deny our love for Christ, just as Tsukimi cannot deny her otaku lifestyle,” Chaffin writes. “Instead, we need to harness what we are given, nerdy hobbies and all, and show the world that we are weird and we are loved by God.”
The authors also realize, as Christians in today’s world, opening up a conversation about one’s faith is not easy. It is much easier to share one’s enthusiasm for a particular fandom than for their love of God.
In this day in age, if you want to help someone find a path to a relationship with God, you have to let them know you care about their own passions as well, and not just in a rudimentary way.
Although the book is already available to purchase, including in both paperback and Kindle form from Amazon, the authors wanted to give this still new publication a special launch party via the Finding God in Anime Instagram starting tomorrow, June 22, and running through June 25.
This will give the various contributors to this devotional a chance to shine, as they will each share games, commentary, trivia, coloring pages and possibly host a giveaway.
If you have an anime fan in your life, or if you are one yourself, this is a caringly curated, lovingly researched, and beautifully presented collection of devotions, uplifting God in our lives as well as celebrating the wonder, fantasy and storytelling excellence of anime.
As contributor A.D. Sheehan said in a chapter based on My Hero Academia, we can’t do better than a close walk with God, and we’re not meant to.
“Open that secret place to Him,” Sheehan says. “Release your own, ideas, even your own passions, and watch Him transform you into someone much greater than you could’ve been on your own. Go beyond Plus Ultra.”
This book should inspire everyone to do just that.