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Outreach Anime by Japanese for Japanese

In every culture, the power of storytelling echoes profoundly in the cavern of the human experience. Stories work their way into our hearts, and the truth they contain can be bolder, sweeter, and more transforming when delivered in a way that captures our imagination. Understanding this, Jesus himself taught in parables. That’s why, when Encompass Global Worker Ralph Justiniano asked, “Lord, help me reach the Japanese people with the gospel,” he was not surprised that storytelling was a part of the answer he received.

One morning, Ralph was studying Mark 2:1–12, which tells of four men who brought their paralytic friend to Jesus by cutting a hole through the roof. The house where Jesus was teaching was packed with people, and the only way their friend could get in and be healed was with a creative solution. Their idea worked; Jesus saw the faith of the men and healed their friend. Reflecting on this story, Ralph asked God to help him bring his Japanese friends to Jesus by any means.

Ralph felt the heaviness of that by any means.

It was as if God was saying, “Are you sure you would do anything?” Despite his hesitance, Ralph faithfully prepared himself for what would come. After praying and fasting, the answer came and he knew it was from God. Even though Ralph possessed no experience with the Japanese art, in that moment, he believed God was calling him to reach the Japanese people through Anime.

Japanese Anime is the mainstream style of animation unique to Japan. It is known for its powerful storytelling style, wildly imaginative artwork, and vivid emotional candidness. Across Japan, children, teenagers, and young adults alike are greatly impacted by its creative themes.

Before taking any action, Ralph sketched out his idea and shared it with a colleague. Together, they prayed for God’s confirmation and guidance. The nearly impossible first step to making this dream a reality was to find a Japanese Christian illustrator willing to take on the project. In a country with only one percent of its population who claim Christ, this was no simple task.

Then Ralph met Daichi Takahashi.

Daichi is a contract illustrator by profession whom Ralph had discipled for a while. When Ralph told him about the anime project, Daichi was so excited that he put all of his other work on hold so that he could devote himself fully to it. Daichi officially became the Anime Production Director and the first member of the Christian Japanese anime team.

Ralph and his wife Joan help facilitate the project. College students Sabrina, Airi, and Naoya have joined the team, offering unique talents and perspectives to the group. Other Japanese friends of the Justinianos, Eita and his wife Kasuga, have signed on as the Anime Producer and PR Director. Both have experience in the industry and are very excited for the outreach potential of the project.

After the group’s first meeting together, the Justinianos were amazed at the team’s input and willingness to take ownership of the project. In their time together, the team laid out two motivations for creating Christian anime: first, to creatively show the love of Jesus to the Japanese, and second, to make a readily-available resource for other Christians to use evangelistically. The team unanimously agreed to name the project Life of Love.

Ideally, the episodes will be two minutes in length and available on YouTube.

The team will also develop a website to host all the episodes and additional resources for those who want to know more. Each episode will be a short story with explicitly Christian themes displaying the love of Christ in everyday situations. The target audience is the young secular Japanese community.

Ralph and the rest of the team believe the Japanese will be more inclined to hear the gospel message through the creative media of their own culture. Like Jesus’ use of parables, they hope Life of Love anime will convey the life-changing truth of God’s love in a form that reaches the heart.

Japan has the potential to become one of the world’s most influential sending nations for Global Missions. Creative innovations like the Life of Love project may be at the forefront in reaching the Japanese people and, by extension, the world.