Manga vs. Anime

"Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories."
-Hilary Mantel
I am very open about my opinions regarding books vs. movies. In fact, I did a whole post about it previously. Essentially, because books and movies are such different forms of art, I don't believe that they can translate effectively. That is to say, I think that books should not be made into movies, and movies should not be made into books. A story meant to be told in one cannot be effectively told in another. However, I've come to a roadblock when I reach manga and anime. Shouldn't the same philosophy carry over? Shouldn't I refrain from watching any anime that's based on a manga series? Not necessarily. In today's post, I'd like to go over manga vs. anime, and ask why this is a different discussion from books vs. movies.

The main similarity between the two discussions is that one side is in a literary format while the other is in a video format. And at first, this may seem to be the entire discussion. But when we look more closely at the reasoning behind the issue, we see that anime and manga are actually far more similar to eachother than movies and books are. Books on the teenage and adult level typically have no pictures. Juvenile fiction will have a few, and children's books will have many pictures, but the books that are made into movies are generally told with words alone. Contrast this with manga, which is comparable to a graphic novel. Already, this removes one of the major barriers between books and movies- narration. Movies, as opposed to books, rely on the visual to show what's going on. But manga does the same, making the stories more easily translatable.

Having seen how books and manga are different, let's next see how movies and anime are different. This one has to do with the time involved in telling a story. Movies often have to cut things out, change events, twist personalities, and make any number of other distortions in order to fit a book-length story into a movie-length format. But because anime is shown in an episodic format, this doesn't need to happen when translating this type of story. They have a much longer amount of time overall to tell the story. (If we assume twenty-minute episodes, two hours of story could be conveyed in six episodes. A short anime series is typically around twelve episodes, which already gives twice the amount of time that a long movies would have.)

We should also keep in mind the similarities between the art styles of manga and anime. Because both use actual images, and because both are animated instead of using live actors, characters in one can look exactly the same in either format. Because of this, one the two differences that I have found between manga and anime is diminished drastically. That difference is that the images move. But because the images in the two formats are essentially the same, the motion isn't a very important aspect. The pictures in the manga are often drawn in such a way that it makes it obvious how they would be moving if they were animated, and this can be directly mirrored in an anime.

The final difference that I've found is, obviously, the addition of sound. This is a bit larger of a difference. But sound effects are often drawn into manga to begin with, and mood music doesn't really take away anything from the story- it just adds another layer. The only thing that could be seen as a problem here is the voices. This is primarily a question of whether the voice acting is any good. However, because I watch subbed anime (and don't speak Japanese), even this difference is heavily diminished.

As a person, I generally tend to prefer manga over anime. But when deciding whether to read or watch a story, I often decide based on which one I saw or heard of first, rather than which one was made first. Because manga and anime are so similar, the stories will tend to match up very closely, and I don't have to worry about whether the adaption is accurate so much as whether the translation is. Of course, there are exceptions, like the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, which caught up with the manga as it was being published and went in an entirely different direction. For that, I obviously would lean towards reading the manga (or watching the remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood; for me personally, that choice went to the manga over the anime once again). But barring exceptions like this, they're so similar that any differences can be pointed out within one or the other and not really affect the story in the same way that books and movies do when translated into the other.
"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen."
-Leonardo da Vinci

A Christian's Fiction

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I've heard it said that you can tell what's important to a person by what they fight for and defend. If two things are in conflict and one of them has to go, which one do you toss out? And, while this can sometimes this apply to physical possessions, the most important things aren't the things that we can see with our eyes. (I could write a whole post about that by itself, but I don't think that very many people, if any, would disagree.) Recently, I've seen this coming into play in my life in a very specific way- that is, when encouraged to read, watch, or otherwise engage in fiction that opposes what I believe as a Christian.

The argument that I commonly hear regarding this topic is, "it's fiction, so it doesn't matter." This can be worded in any number of ways. For example, "yes, this story assumes that evolution is true, but just imagine that God doesn't exist for the sake of the story." Or, coming from another Christian, it might sound more like, "yes, God is real, but this story doesn't take place in our world, it takes place in a world where God doesn't exist." But this doesn't work; as a Christian, I believe that not only life, but the entire universe is impossible without God having created it. The common argument that I hear in response is, "but you accept all sorts of impossible things for the sake of fiction." True, but these are impossible in a different way.

I sometimes read stories that have talking dragons in them. Talking dragons do not exist in our world. In fact, no talking animals exist in our world. However, this is a law of reality, not a law of logic. There is no logical rule that says, "you have a planet, therefore it does not contain dragons," or even, "you have an animal, therefore this animal cannot talk." Of course, if you see a dog, you can deduce, quite logically, that it cannot talk. But not because of a rule of logic. When something is logically impossible, you will be able to show that logical impossibility even within the laws of a different universe, because logic must be true by definition. (This goes back to my post on the different levels of knowing, if you haven't seen it.)

Logic consists of such rules as, if A is equal to B and B is equal to C, then A is equal to C. Believe it or not, I have heard it claimed that this needn't be true in fiction! (And, to be honest, that was the point where I realized that the discussion as a whole may have been pointless.) If you write a story where A and C are both equal to B and yet are not equal to eachother, all you're doing is writing nonsense. The word "equal" has a specific definition. A simpler way of explaining this might be to have a story with a square circle. In such a case, I can draw a picture of a circle and ask, "is this the shape that you described in your story?" If they say yes, then it is not a square. If they say no, then it is not a circle. "But that's not true in my story!" Yes it is, you're just a bad writer. You are using real words with real definitions to describe your story, and therefore, must describe real concepts. You can combine previously existing concepts and rules, or you can tweak the way things work, but you must still be using basic logic for your story.

I believe that it is logical to believe in God. That is to say, if somebody says to me, "I don't believe in God," to me this is as silly as saying, "I believe that square circles can exist." After all, something cannot come from nothing- this is a rule of logic. (Atheists are sometimes quick to point out that something actually can come from nothing, but this is a distortion of the words and is not actually true according to the proper definition of nothing. Dr. William Craig gives a basic rebuttal to this claim in the link provided.) The universe has come into existence, and must have come from something. Therefore, God must exist. Because of this, any story which makes the assumption that God does not exist is, in my eyes, illogical. And, as with any other plot hole or illogical situation in a story that I otherwise enjoy, I must patch up that hole with headcanon.

However, what if a story is so opposed to the Bible that it can't be reconciled? For example, I've heard of a TV show called Lucifer, and from what I know of it, it is directly opposed to the Bible. In this case, we go back to what's important. Which is more important to me: God, or personal entertainment? This is where all those arguments from before go astray- they assume that I see God as simply an aspect of reality, no more, no less. That I have an impersonal relationship with Him similar to one that I might have with a tree. I believe that the tree exists, but it has no special meaning to me. But as a Christian, I don't believe that God is simply an aspect of logic to use at my whim. Logic fits with Him, but that's not all He is. I believe that He is my Creator and Savior. And if I have to choose, I pick Him. Some would say that because it's just fiction, I don't have to throw away my faith- just put it aside. But do you put aside your love for someone when it's convenient? If someone wrote a story that was entertaining and funny and dramatic, but they kept talking in the story about how much they hate your best friend, what would you do? Would you make the same argument? "I don't actually hate my friend, I'm just putting aside my love for them while I read this story." That's not something that I can do.

Stories are just that- stories. Fiction. They're not true, and don't have to fit with the laws of reality. But at the same time, we are in the real world, and stories therefore are required to interact with our world- through real words, through real definitions, through real storytellers, through real readers, through real time, and through real devotion. It makes me uncomfortable when I have to reconcile a story- when I have to imagine that such-and-such happened instead. When it gets to the point where that's impossible, I've already made my choice. Because even if it could be shown that a fictional world can function logically without God, it wouldn't make a difference. The entertainment isn't worth setting aside my Lord.
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
-A.W. Tozer

Dancing's Difficulty

"The existence of other people is essentially awkward."
-Lionel Shriver
The other day I went to a swing dance. I'm not great at swing dance; I've been to far more english country dances than swing dances. But it's fun anyway, so I went- after all, how different could it really be? As I soon discovered, very different. I felt like I was back in dancing kindergarten (which, admittedly, was only a few years ago for me). I remembered how difficult it can be to ask a girl to dance, and also remembered how little people seem to understand about why that is. Some guys are naturally social, and have no difficulty asking a girl to dance. Many girls don't seem to understand why a guy would go to a dance and then not ask anyone to dance with him. (However, whether man or woman, people do often seem to think that they understand, and offer encouragement that doesn't actually apply at all.) So in today's post, I would like to explain what goes through my head when I'm trying to ask a girl to dance, as well as going over the "encouragement" that always seems to be offered. Of course, while my particular concerns my not apply to every guy out there, I still think that it's good to get a more general understanding of the topic.

One of the most common things that I've heard is, "you're not asking her to marry you." These events aren't designed for romantic dancing, and it won't be seen as weird if you ask somebody to dance. For guys who are new to such events, it may seem odd to ask a girl to dance. Will she assume that you're interested in her in some romantic way? While this advice was helpful when I was new to dancing, it no longer applies to myself, or to people who are familiar with dances like this. The next assumption seems to be that maybe the guy just doesn't know where a girl is. It's common for somebody (often a parent) to walk over and say something along the lines of, "there are a few girls right over there." Yes, I can see them, but that's actually part of the issue.

One of the problems that I've found, which actually applies to both english country dancing and swing dancing, is that girls tend to group together. Not that that's a problem in and of itself, but if I know all of them or don't know all of them (as is usually the case) then which one do I ask to dance? In asking one girl, "may I have this dance?" I am indirectly saying to any other girl in the group, "I am not asking you to dance at this time." (While this could technically be considered to be true of any girl in the room, it's a different situation, because you aren't right there next to them.) This is a bigger issue at swing dances, because in english country dancing, everybody finds a partner at about the same time, because the dancing starts all at once. But the problem is there for socially awkward guys no matter what the setting is.

An issue that I've found in asking a stranger to dance is one of conversation. I'm bad at conversation, especially in dance, and it's easier to ask somebody that I know. In english country dancing, I've mostly gotten over this, but in swing dancing and waltzes it still applies with full force. On its own, conversation is a minor factor, but it's aggravated by dances that don't have a set end. English country dances have a specific set of moves that everybody performs at the same time, and the caller decides when the dance will begin or end. A swing dance doesn't have a set time to start or end it. How do you decide if it's been too long or too short? If a conversation gets awkward, I wait until they're not looking at me and sneak away. I can't do that in a dance.

Skill level is also something that I have to take into account. This doesn't apply as much at english country dances, partly because I'm generally good at those, and partly because everyone is doing the same thing. But in swing dance, I'm a mediocre dancer. I'm good enough that I could confuse somebody by trying the pretzel, but bad enough that I could easily bore a girl with my very limited moveset. If it's somebody that I know, I have a rough estimate of how much they match my abilities, but it's not perfect. With a stranger, I have no clue whatsoever.

To sum up the basics, if I don't ask a girl to dance, it isn't because I don't like dancing or want to avoid it, or because of any fault by the girls at the dance. It's because, as a highly awkward person, I don't want to cause offense, boredom, awkwardness, etc., which I as a person am very good at bringing about. Of course, I did dance at the dance that I went to. I didn't just stand in a corner feeling awkward. But it did take me a bit of time to figure it out. The reason I've chosen this topic is because, while encouragement is good, it doesn't make a difference if the encourager doesn't understand why there's an issue in the first place.
"I am an inexhaustible source of awkwardness."
-Milena Veen