In the past decade, anime has taken the world by storm reuniting fans old and new for exciting new shows and experiences. This brings us to the most important question that gets asked – can Muslims watch anime? Of course! We believe that as long as the show does not go against any part of our Islamic beliefs it should be fine. While it can be misunderstood in the Muslim community, you CAN watch most anime based on their demographics depending on what your interests are.
The truth is, anime has been a part of our culture since the 60s when Astro Boy was first created and broadcasted in the States. Other shows like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon are what most of us grew up with and set the trend of watching anime now. While there are few Muslim anime (Altair A Record of Battles & The Journey to name a few) there aren’t any mainstream anime. There may be Muslim characters, but those come far and few in-between. While there are not many Muslims in anime, a lot of creators gather inspiration from spirituality despite their levels of religiosity or lack thereof. So, it’s up to us to really take the artistic medium and make the most out of it as art is the mirror of a culture and its worldview. In an article discussing Studio Ghibli films, Jolyon Thomas, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, had the following to say, “…it is left up to each of us as audience members to makes sense of these dissociated religious elements by translating them back to our own vernacular of faith.”
In our article Spirituality in Avatar the Last Airbender, we focus on the themes of good, evil, and the balance between. “All religions and philosophies have this concept of good and evil, and humans have the capacity to do both.” To quote from anime blog Beneath the Tangles, “[A]side from scripture itself, no piece of media Is pure and holy.” Just because you can’t see God in something, doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Religion, spirituality, and the arts are blended. They work hand in hand. In fact, one could even say one is emboldened by the other. In another quote, Thomas also mentions how “…entertainers can playfully use religious symbols to create an engaging story, and viewers can derive spiritual meaning from popular media, regardless of whether the creator intended them to do so.”
It’s easy to point out the negative and ugly sides of anime, but to look at the stories and the characterization within them – that is where you find the hidden gems and lessons to be learned. At Religiously Nerdy, our focus is to be a blog focusing on finding the bridge and appreciation of pop culture and deen showcasing our personal favorite shows and reads. We are determined to identify spirituality in anime, manga, and pop culture. Our goal is to further build this community through exciting conversations about Islam and pop culture via our blog and podcasts.