Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
I pray you are well.
Science fiction is not intrinsically impermissible, so if the content is clean then engaging with it would be permissible, especially if there is a practical benefit in doing so, such as your study of Japanese.
Animation, in general, and background music are matters on which there is a difference of scholarly opinion, so if you watch anime so then pick clean content which does not have inappropriate images, or depiction of immodest behavior and themes.
Many contemporary scholars have recognized that there is a valid difference of opinion regarding videos in general. The issue arises from the question of whether a number of legal bases can be applied here. One of them is the discussion of whether the hadiths on the impermissibility of drawing images can be applied here.
As such, it cannot be regarded as clearly impermissible according to many scholars. Therefore, there is scope in the matter, unless there are other additional factors, such as the portrayal of nudity and immorality. This would render the ruling of impermissibility to come into effect. [Usmani, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim]
Background music is also a matter which the jurists have differed upon. But, in general, as it is a secondary factor, it has its own ruling. The way of precaution is to avoid it when possible; however, many contemporary Syrian scholars have stated there there is leeway in the matter.
An important legal maxim states, “Matters which are not overlooked in primary concerns are overlooked in secondary concerns.” What we understand from this is that background music is not given the ruling of impermissibility, otherwise many permissible matters – such as entering a supermarket – would become impermissible. [Zarqa, Sharh al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyya]
Therefore, viewing something without the music being the primary objective – as would be the case in watching a music video – would be permissible, provided the content and background music is clean and not promoting of impermissible and immoral matters. This would apply to the anime and the documentaries. Allah knows best.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.