← This was a round-robin by lelangir, Lbrevis, ghostlightning and usagijen. In it, we start by discussing Christmas (we started a while ago heh…) and how it’s turned into such a commercial enterprise. We use Kannagi and Lucky Star as vehicles for our discussion.
This round robin took place in the form of a chain letter. I wrote a short remark, and emailed to the next participant. I hoped that this would develop a linear dialogue, although that’s only part true.
Round 1. See Round 2 Here
lelangir: So, in relation to Christmas and religion, one interesting case is in Kannagi, specifically Zange (which wiki tells me means “penitence” or “confession” in Japanese). In essence, Zange chooses her host, a Christian nun, because it is a more popular religion, and so all the faith she receives is what nourishes her existence. Nagi, on the other hand, comes from an ancient religion, which is not so monolithic in itself, “Shintoism” being an agglomerative representation of many tribal religions. This is also shown in Natsume Yuujin-chou 02, where a god continuously shrinks until he vanishes because his only worshipper and source of faith, an elderly lady, dies. People have mentioned how Kannagi is social commentary on religion and cultural idolatry. And this is supported by, literally, the idolization of Nagi, manifested quite clearly in the OP.
Lbrevis: I think it all comes down to the fact that generally speaking the Japanese are not religious, at least not in the way the West is. Just the other day I saw a bumper sticker that said “Keep Christ in Christmas.” The driver would undoubtedly be horrified to know that in Japan Christmas is a commercial event where the Christmas cake is far more important than a baby in a manger.
So getting back to shrine maidens, it’s not surprising that Kannagi mixes pop culture with religion in a way that would be sacrilegious to everyone else… in America! (thank you, Bandit Keith). It may be, for better or for worse, that Nagi has really hit on something here and this is the only way to make an ancient religion like Shintoism relevant.
ghostlightning: The Philippines is the largest Christian (Catholic) country in Asia, and over here, the Christmas season begins in… September! So imagine the eerie juxtapositions of Santa Clause and Jack o’ Lanterns during Halloween. Here however, despite the overt colonization into Christianity, we appropriated Catholicism right back – in very animistic ways. Patron saints bless locales the same way Nagi the patron goddess of her area.
You’ll really see oddities, such as the Black Jesus in the heart of Manila (Quiapo district).
The people, the worshippers, by appropriating religion to fit within their own understanding and comfort levels, perpetuate religion. I’m pretty sure Jesus isn’t black, and neither are Filipinos, but the Catholic church didn’t/couldn’t declare this sacrilegious. Nagi may be on to something.
usagijen: I recently thought about how Japanese can’t say the pun-ny line ‘Christ puts “Christ” in Christmas’ because of how they represented Christmas in their language — クリスマス — simply KURISUMASU, with no Christ in sight, and I guess that would make more sense when you take into account what Lbrevis said. They could’ve opted for the Chinese equivalent, 聖誕節, if they really wanted to show its religious roots, but they didn’t, as though they just adapted Christmas for the sake of its “modern-day rituals”. In the words of ghostlightning, it’s like they simply appropriated Christmas to fit their own understanding, in the same way religion works, or pop culture for that matter.
There’s a reason why idols, both in religion and pop culture, are called as such. And when you see the incredible feats my fellow countrymen — the Filipino devotees — go through just to touch their beloved Nazarene idol each year (illustrated in the pic provided by ghostlightning), no less than the die-hard fans of, say, Michael Jackson or Miley Cyrus (or other phenomenal craze), who cry, faint, and fall head over heels for their beloved pop star idol, the intersection between the two becomes even more vague. Do we call the religious devotees’ act sacrilegious, or simply an admirable display of faith and devotion? How about the overzealous act of fans? The thin line that separates them is the sanctity aspect of religion, which is quite ambiguous in and of itself. Religion is a mainstream pop culture, after all. Now if my confusion serves to affirm the social commentary present in Kannagi, then all I can say is, Nagi may be on to something indeed.
Concluding questions for the reader
1. Are you a religious person in any way? Does your anime watching conflict with or support your beliefs?
2. Are you comfortable with how religion is portrayed in anime? If so, does it make the show interesting? entertaining?
3. If you were to draw a line, what is/should be taboo?