St. Pius V Corner: In Defense Of The Anime Avi

Now what can be more monstrous than to maintain that by losing all good they have become better? If, then, they are deprived of all good, they will cease to exist. So long as they are, therefore, they are good. Therefore, whatsoever is, is good.

St. Augustine, Confessions (Book 7, Chapter 12)

There is a rather cognitively dissonant reaction towards anime online. A popular saying which goes: someone who has anime as an avi (a.k.a profile picture) is automatically labeled as a degenerate and their opinion is to be automatically discarded. Some conservative Vatican II diehards, and even a few Traditionalist Catholics, fall into this trap, proudly proclaiming this as fact. Usually this incurs the wrath of said individuals who, unfortunately, respond back with scorpions to throw, furthering the divide.

First of all, I’m not going to deny it: the anime community can be home to some petty individuals who are known for their non-Christian lifestyles; I’ve personally seen some of it myself. However, the same can be said of any fandom, most infamously being professional sports (Don’t believe me? Take a look at what Canadian hockey fans do, especially in Montreal and Vancouver, when their team wins or loses in the Stanley Cup Finals). Second of all: is it me, or do I find it ironic that Vatican II diehards complain about the anime community’s degeneracy, yet their own Robber Council also exalts:

  • embracing other cultural motifs into Christianity (while not heretical, it is cited in Ad Gentes, ch. 1, para. 9 and Sacrosanctum Concilium, ch. 1 sec. D)
  • that God is irrelevant in the public life (Dignitatis Humanae, para. 15)
  • that Catholic dogma doesn’t matter (Unitatis Redintegratio, ch. 3, para. 4 and all of Nostra Aetate + Lumen Gentium combined)
  • that everyone is implicitly going to Heaven (Gaudium et Spes, para. 22)

Let me be clear: if you don’t like anime avis and are Catholic, fine by me. This will in no way hinder your salvation, provided you live based on Catholic principles and have a good spirituality in place (such as reading spiritual books at least once each week). But to say that there is something bad about using them is flat-out wrong; thus, here is an explanation of why there is nothing inherently wrong with the use of anime avis, based on Catholic principles.

DEFINING “GOOD” AND “EVIL”, FROM A CATHOLIC POINT OF VIEW

The question that needs to be answered thus is: what makes something good or evil? According to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, they both recognize that anything which exists is, by its own nature, good – since the primary cause of them is God, who Himself is entirely good, and cannot generate anything that is contrary to His nature (although he may, for whatever reason, permit evil to happen for some reason beyond our understanding). Consequently, any object that exists, whether it be of God’s creation or of human work, is to be seen as possessing that quality of good.

Objection 1. It seems that goodness differs really from being. For Boethius says (De Hebdom.): “I perceive that in nature the fact that things are good is one thing: that they are is another.” Therefore goodness and being really differ.

I answer that, Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea; which is clear from the following argument. The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable… Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual, as is clear from the foregoing (I:3:4; I:4:1). Hence it is clear that goodness and being are the same really.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Part 1, Question 5, Article 1)

When it comes to the question of evil, both take the common definition of it (that which is opposed to good) a step further and state that something is evil if it has a deficiency of good within it. Evil is neither something that has been created, since God cannot be the author of such (since He is perfect), nor is it to be regarded as simply a state of being; but rather, evil comes about by means of circumstances, actions, and through the primary intention of the agent that wills it. Therefore, while it is correct to say that something can be used to conduce evil, it would be wrong to say that whatever was used to perpetrate that evil is as such too; as St. Augustine notes,

Thus the good in created things can be diminished and augmented. For good to be diminished is evil; still, however much it is diminished, something must remain of its original nature as long as it exists at all. For no matter what kind or however insignificant a thing may be, the good which is its “nature” cannot be destroyed without the thing itself being destroyed. There is good reason, therefore, to praise an uncorrupted thing, and if it were indeed an incorruptible thing which could not be destroyed, it would doubtless be all the more worthy of praise. When, however, a thing is corrupted, its corruption is an evil because it is, by just so much, a privation of the good. Where there is no privation of the good, there is no evil.

St. Augustine, Enchridion (Chapter 4)

Both philosophers recognized it was one thing to castigate the immoral use of things (as all Traditionalist Catholics should do), but are careful to avoid labelling anything as evil from the get-go, so as to not contradict themselves as saying existing things can be simultaneously good and evil. Therefore, we understand that this led to them seeing evil as a corruption, rather than a state of being, of something – irrespective of the negative response others have towards it. By viewing evil as merely a diminution of whatever good it attacks, in effect comes an easily distinguishable, logical and coherent explanation of good as a property of existence, with evil as a side effect contrary to it.

How can we apply this understanding and apply it to our understanding of anime avis? It’s simple: by the mere notion of existing, the concept of anime avis themselves are merely good, and its goodness remains untainted by whatever evil they may have been used for, any more than a painting or a marble bust of someone. Yet, there are some objections to their use, and in the next sections I present my responses to some of them.

Objection #1: Anime avis are rooted in evil/degeneracy

Digimon Adventure (Anime) - TV Tropes
“Anime is degenerate”
Digimon Adventure: “Hold my Digivice”

Something is inherently evil if it is always wrong to do, or steeped in evil, no matter the circumstances. Hence, the act of theft, sacrilege, domestic abuse, or fornication would fall into these categories. Can we say the same thing about avis which are rooted in anime? In a word: no. Anime can be used to make morally beneficial shows such as, but not limited to Digimon Adventure, Cardcaptor Sakura, or Neon Genesis Evangelion; and then you have things like hentai of which the inherent immorality of such is obvious, it warrants no further explanation. Where there presents an opportunity for this medium to be used in a decent and uplifting manner, it cannot be deemed as inherently evil. Therefore, the claim that anime as a whole is inherently evil/degenerate stands as wrong.

Further proof lies in the instruction of the Church when it comes to theatrical entertainments (of which can also be applied to anime), as approached by all Catholic moral theologians pre-Vatican II. Some examples include:

The question of theatre-going is settled on similar grounds. There are all sorts of theatres and all sorts of plays represented in them, and all sorts of actors and actresses. To go and listen to a bad and suggestive play arouses the passions, leads to sin, and encourages evil in many ways. It will, then, as a rule, be grievously sinful to go to the theatre to see such a play…. In other cases, unless the play or the theatre is known to be bad, there will be no strict obligation to refrain from going.

Fr. Thomas Slater SJ, Moral Theology, 1925 (pg. 134)

The same principles (regarding cooperation in scandal – or incentives to sin) are applicable to a matter of scenic plays and shows of all sorts. It is a sin to take part in, encourage, or to be present at seriously improper plays… To go to any play, however innocuous in itself, for the purpose of arousing evil desires or gratifying the animal passions, is a sin.

Fr. Henry Davis SJ, Moral and Pastoral Theology, 1943 (pg. 337)

If these were inherently wrong as a whole, it would mean that they would have collectively erred in teaching that the faithful have no obligation to avoid all instances of such; the only way this would be possible is if the Catholic Church had defected, by licensing people to sin, which we know, by the grace of God, is an absolute impossibility. The fact they used language that did not indicate such means that a practice of self-control is to be applied towards these entertainments says something about the strong links to the Thomistic/Augustinian metaphysical principles stated above.

Objection #2: Use of anime avis lead to degeneracy

This claim is retarded on both a religious and secular platform. Having determined that anime is neither something that is not intrinsically evil, it would be false to use anime avis as a measure of degeneracy, any more than it makes sense to assume that parking lots lead to increased car accidents, or that those working in the computer field are nerds. Just because something like anime can be associated with degeneracy, does not mean that it alone leads to such; rather the misuse of them ought to be lamented. One of my favorite quotes from a Catholic saint comes from that of St. Maximus the Confessor, a 7th-century theologian from Constantinople, who explains in his book Four Hundred Chapters On Love:

It is not food which is evil, but gluttony; not the begetting of children, but fornication; not possessions but greed; not reputation, but vainglory. Indeed, there is nothing evil in existing things, but only their misuse, which stems from the mind’s negligence in its natural cultivation.

St. Maximus The Confessor, Four Hundred Chapters On Love (Chapter 3, Article 4)

Like St. Augustine before him, St. Maximus also recognizes that things in and of themselves cannot be regarded as evil based on what nefarious purposes they have been used for in the past. As long as if it is around and indifferent, he prompts ordinate use of them, whether it is for our everyday use or enjoyment; but warns against excess on them. This use must come with moderation; we cannot let it become our “meaning of life”, by which we cannot exist without (that alone should be due to God), and have an obsession with; likewise, we cannot degrade it and render it useless based on our own personal convictions, and enforce this as dogma.

Objection #3: Having an anime avi makes you a degenerate by association

Konata Izumi | Anime Express
Go and take your anime avis along with you; and be assured that your opinion is as good as other users

False. The anime community is not solely rooted in degeneracy, as is the case with furries, criminal groups or pedophiles; it’s rooted simply in people enjoying a form of a non-intrinsically evil form of entertainment. Thus, whatever negative thing comes out of it should be seen as separate from such. To say that implementing an anime avi will pool you into the same batch as other degenerates cannot be held up as true. As a matter of fact, by extension, since you are human: considering the fact that humanity has been responsible for various genocides and a myriad of wicked endeavors, do you still wish to consider yourself human? If your answer is yes, then the same logic ought to be applied to members of the anime community – to separate the bad from the good.

I refer you, once again, to St. Thomas Aquinas, who writes regarding this topic:

Objection 1. It would seem that evil corrupts the whole good. For one contrary is wholly corrupted by another. But good and evil are contraries. Therefore, evil corrupts the whole good.

I answer that, Evil cannot wholly consume good. To prove this we must consider that good is threefold. One kind of good is wholly destroyed by evil, and this is the good opposed to evil, as light is wholly destroyed by darkness, and sight by blindness. Another kind of good is neither wholly destroyed nor diminished by evil, and that is the good which is the subject of evil; for by darkness the substance of the air is not injured. And there is also a kind of good which is diminished by evil, but is not wholly taken away; and this good is the aptitude of a subject to some actuality.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Part 1, Question 48, Article 4)

Objection #4: Your opinion doesn’t matter if you use an anime avi

In a court of law or debate, one does not seek to tear down an opponent based on their appearance, but rather by the measure of their arguments; so pointing out one’s perceived online anonymity is irrelevant to the argument; also, one may have some valid grounds for choosing to remain anonymous, such as to protect their livelihood, family, or friends from attack by those who do not agree with their positions, and wish to bring evil on them. With the advent of things like “cancel culture” or doxxing, this is an all-too real predicament. Last but not least, who the person is does not matter in the sight of God; be they rich or poor, student or professor, labourer or CEO, all that will not matter, but the way they conducted themselves is of prime importance.

Therefore this argument cannot be used, and I would question the mental capability of someone who seriously throws this claim. At worst, this argument displays a lack of reasonable mental ability to approach an argument, thus ironically invalidating the person’s argument who uses this tactic, and is a likely sign of a desperate attempt to form an ill-configured rebuttal on their part; at best, it’s a poor and desperate attempt at an ad hominem.

CONCLUSION

To summarize: Based on Catholic metaphysical principles, we know that something is good just merely by its existence, while evil, on the other hand, cannot be applied to a state of being but stems from the action or circumstances which lead to the privation of the good in something. In light of this, to say that anime, or any use associated to it, or its existence is inherently degenerate, is simply incompatible with the Catholic understanding of good/evil existing in things. Conclusively, anime avis are fine to use, provided there isn’t anything inappropriate within them.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that if you’re going to use them, be sure to disassociate your behavior from others who may behave in a lesser manner than you; regulate yourself to act in a manner that’s expected of a true Christian, as St. Paul teaches: “These things proposing to the brethren, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished up in the words of faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast attained unto. But avoid foolish and old wives’ fables: and exercise thyself unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:6-7).

For those well-meaning Traditionalist Catholics who still find the need to complain about anime avis, let me redirect you to even bigger, impactful issues you should be going up against: abortion, societal secularization, heretical takes on Catholic teaching (“Fr.” James Martin SJ comes to mind), and the mass retardation of Catholic Faith and morals since Vatican II.

LOLOLOLOL

20 thoughts on “St. Pius V Corner: In Defense Of The Anime Avi

  1. I honestly had no clue that some may see anime avatars as immoral. I have similar rebuttals against internet debates that seem petty. It sometimes seems that the whole « cancel-culture » ordeal revolves about arguments that don’t really matter.

    Great article, Traditional Catholic Weeb! I really enjoyed reading it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Luna! 😃 Glad you enjoyed my post.

      You have no idea how crazy the anti-anime avi group can be. Every once in a while (as recently as a few days ago) someone will make a comment denouncing anime avis, and then a firestorm follows on their thread. A few months ago, I’ve actually used the “Vatican II” argument on one of those perskns, and when I provided them with proof, they were unable to provide a rebuttal to my claim!

      Yes, spot on with “cancel culture”: it’s a pointless game which leads to ruination, doesn’t help anyone succeed in life, and is nothing but a meaningless “participation award” for stroking one’s ego. I long for the days when this wasn’t a thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a subject that’s near to my heart. My avatar here and on Twitter isn’t from an anime, but an anime-styled game series, so probably close enough for most of those complainers to take issue with, and I’m certainly friends with and follow some anime avatar users. It always annoys me when I see people smugly talking about “all these anime avatars in my responses” as if these users are a bunch of insects or something.

    Well, it must make it easier to deal with strong arguments against your own position if you can just dismiss them without a second thought based on the 100×100 pixel jpeg their proponents are using. I absolutely agree that this is a lazy and intellectually dishonest approach. But then, maybe such people aren’t capable of putting together a coherent argument anyway. It seems like they have trouble making arguments against anime or anything else when they’re not just knocking down straw men.

    I can’t comment on the Catholic or generally the Christian approach to these matters, but I like the quote from St. Maximus — evil definitely comes about when people take normally good qualities too far; for example, a healthy love for something can be warped into an obsession if it hurts or takes away other aspects of life. There are certainly anime fans who take things too far, but you’re right in saying that anime is no different in that sense from any other hobby. Especially confusing to me are the efforts I’ve seen to politicize the use of anime avatars, as if watching anime automatically puts you into a political camp. Makes no sense at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly AK. I too am familiar with anime avis myself, and quite frankly it bothers me when someone points out their avi as bothersome, even though I don’t use one myself. You make me wonder if people who use this argument do it in bad faith or just to get a rise out of others. It makes no sense.

      I’m glad you found St. Maximus’ quote edifying, because it’s so true! The Christian approach to these things have always been to use them in moderation. As long as if the genre isn’t steeped in intrinsic evil then one must be careful with what they allow themselves to watch. It’s one thing to dislike anime because they’re not interested in it (as I once did) but it’s another to label it as inherently degenerate by its own nature.

      When the day comes when someone comes with proof that anime is inherently degenerate and disproves Aquinas/Augustine’s principles, I will believe, of all things, that the Earth is flat 😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lol 🤣 This is definitely a topic worth discussing. I see this silliness all over twitter, people trying to make anime into a sin when it is just a medium. I’m guilty of hating on anime, mostly because of some gross fetishizations I have seen but it is definitely not true of all of it. You see the same thing with video games, or hair colour etc. Big issue is when ppl try to force their personal opinion into church teaching. I have a whole post about exclusive skirt wearing and even I know I can’t start condemning pant-wearers to hell 😆 Anime avis are truly the most persecuted race 🤧

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Weebs are the most persecuted race” Lolol true on that Cathy! 😂😂 Twitter can be a cesspool when it comes to this. Over the past 6 months, I’ve seen my share of Twitter posts going like “anime avis are bad” and it’s quite baffling how the same juvenile arguments I used to justify my dislike of anime 10 years ago (I started watching anime in my 2nd year of university), can end up as the biggest source of clout!

      Again, fine with me if you don’t like anime, but would it hurt for you to use a bit of logic to make a sensible argument now and then to prove the universality of your claim… 😓

      Your attitude is a logical one w.r.t modesty. I too don’t think it’s a sin for women to wear pants either, and moreover it’s not wise to make up sins where the Church has not spoken expressly on such matter. Instead, best to recall the words of Pope Benedict XV’s first encyclical: “As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline – in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See – there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline.” I believe his words to be true especially when discussing the topics you mentioned.

      Like

  4. While I knew that some folks claim a moral objection to anime (and cartoons), I had no idea that using an anime avatar stirred anyone up. I’ve used a pic of Jin (from Samurai Champloo) for my avatar on 918thefan.com for just about a decade, now. Seems like a silly thing to waste time worrying about, period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree David 😎 After all there are more pressing matters to worry about and anime avis should be the last thing on the bucket (assuming it was a problem). Sometimes I wonder if some of the online Catholics just make this comment to gain imaginary Internet points among their peers.

      On a side note I don’t typically use anime avis myself, having had mine (Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster of Milan) for about six months now, but in the past I have used an Evangelion (Asuka+Shinji) and Nichijou character (Mai) as my avi.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I did not expect to see the old debate format adapted for a modern anime post!

    Maybe you should write the Summa Anime-logica?

    Like David Boone and others, I had no idea this kind of thing was problematic for folks. I thought your arguments were pretty well presented!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol! I’m far from another Aquinas or a theologian/canonist, just a simple guy who likes to blog about anime things from a Traditionalist Catholic perspective, so I highly doubt I can replicate another work on his level…. but thank you for the kind words Terrance! 🙂

      Even though Twitter can be a cesspool when it comes to the “anime avi controversy”, it’s shticks like these that can spur up these kind of posts on my blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t know this was an actual controversy, but that is insane. Of all the things going on in the world, people are fussy about avis being somehow sinful is so shallow. I really don’t get why this is worthy of outrage at all. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who has criticized Scarlett Johansson being Motoko Kusanagi in the live action GITS remake, bashed the Malian movie Faraw! for excusing the heroine’s very abusive actions to her daughter, or vehemently excoriated all the plagiarism, cultural appropriation, and racist crap The Lion King is responsible for! You made great arguments about this shallow “moralizing” (I use this term sarcastically) which is awesome. This is something I didn’t know needed to be called out, but thank you for your blogging duties in this matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Osprey, I’m glad you found this post worthwhile! 🤩 Indeed, it’s quite a ridiculous thing to blather about, and I find it fits well with my blog’s purpose: to discuss anime and related themes from a Traditionalist Catholic perspective.

      And yeah, I remember the controversy with Scarlett Johansson being casted in Ghost In The Shell, it took me back another time when *vomits* Shyamalan’s abomination that is “The Last Airbender” did the same thing. Spooky 😨

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. It is such a ludicrous thing to even assume having an avi would be some kind of sin. I can see how the subject matter is perfect for your blog though.

        Yeah, that was something I just facepalmed when I found out about that story. Black Widow had no business playing that character. Couldn’t they get a Japanese actress or another Asian actress like Lucy Liu or Maggie Q who could’ve been believable as the Major? Oof, while I’ve never seen anything related to Avatar, I heard about Shymalan’s horrific live action remake.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I totally feel you. Even if these weren’t done in the name of racism, I can still see how it could be an imprudent casting decision. Like painting an orange red and calling it an apple, it just doesn’t feel right. I haven’t seen the film (or the anime series in general), but I know the film did try to balance it by casting some Japanese names like Takeshi Kitano (who I remember from a hilarious 90s game show aptly called Takeshi’s Castle).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for understanding. It certainly is imprudent at best and insensitive at worst. That is a good simile with the situation. I heard that Takeshi Kitano was in that version which made me facepalm because I know he’s better than this. I never saw Takeshi’s Castle. The thing I’m most familiar with of his filmography is being the sadistic teacher Kitano-sensei in the Original Hunger Games…I mean, battle Royale. The inclusion of Kitano in that version of GITS just feels like race buffering in hindsight to me in regards to the casting decision like the studio execs were saying “We’re not racist! We have a Japanese guy in this movie.” which is a strawman argument and I’m going to resist repeating one of my examples on where that logic still applies when it comes to casting choices.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. No worries, Hollywood cinema can be a bit sus at times with their choices so I can understand. 😁

        Yeah I was surprised to know of his appearance in the film too, considering how he seemed to only be a Japan-centric individual in terms of filns. Outside of GITS, the only other place I am familiar of with him was an episode of the Japanese “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, which saw him flunk out on the final question only to follow up with him flunking on the penultimate question with three opportunities to phone his friends.

        I’m surprised to know of his role in Battle Royale! Though I feel it’s a bit too gory and yes, you appropriately titled it, sadistic for me 😣

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Gotcha. Thanks for seeing where I was coming from.

        I know, right? He’s a big deal as both an actor and as a director for decades in the Japanese film scene. I wasn’t aware of him being a part of that game show! Haha!

        Yup! He was the main bad guy in that movie. Kitano did play that role well with him being a very sadistic teacher who also happens to have a disturbing sense of apathy towards human life. I understand if you thought that movie was too gory since I know it does get to ultraviolence levels. To be fair, at least there’s a legitimate plot and satire, but I get it’s not for everyone. Weirdly enough, I think it’s strange that I know some fans of Attack on Titan who are scared of the movie, book, and/or manga.

        Liked by 1 person

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