One question Christian anime fans frequently ask is, “Is there a such thing as a Christian anime?” As I mention in the FAQ, besides Tezuka Osamu’s collaboration with the Vatican, The Flying House, and a few other exceptions here or there, the answer is no.
But, that doesn’t mean that “Christian anime” is an oxymoron.
It’s not unusual to see Christian symbolism in anime. Many series even place a central focus on these symbols, though some (like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Toaru Majutsu no Index) controversially depict these elements. But I instead encourage you to view anime through a Christian lens. Although the series may not refer directly to the Christian God or to Jesus, important themes in Christianity are ever-present in anime, including grace, sacrificial love, being just, seeking to do what is right, turning the other cheek, and finding that there may be a higher being in the universe. Below are eight shows that contain such qualities, or which espouse other themes related to Christian spirituality. This list will expand as I watch shows which I think are befitting of it. The newest additions are Puella Magi Madoka Magica (4.28.2011) and Ookiku Furikabutte (5.31.2011).
Eden of the East
Though the title may indicate a religious anime, the series is more of a mystery, romance, and action story, which touches of comedy. This intelligent show follows a young man, Takizawa, who has lost his memory and is caught up in a game to become the “Savior” of Japan. Vocabulary related to religion, particularly Christianity, abounds in the story. One can also find strong symbolism regarding some of the characters. Eden of the East contains some violence, foul language, and brief nudity.
Finding the Invisible God in…Eden of the East (Part 1)
Finding the Invisible God in…Eden of the East (Part 2)
Finding the Invisible God in…Eden of the East (Part 3)
Finding the Invisible God in…Eden of the East (Part 4)
Review: Eden of the East – The King of Eden
Review: Eden of the East – Paradise Lost
Perhaps the most overtly Christian series on the list (for as much as that means), this series focuses on angel-like entities known as haibane, who are born into a world where they work and live among human townsfolk. This beautiful work can easily be viewed as a Catholic vision of the afterlife and features heavy emphasis on the ideas of sin, grace, forgiveness, and love. It’s a powerful work that I believe should be at the top of a Christian otaku’s viewing list – indeed, it’s a become a classic for any fan of anime.
Orphans That Never Knew Their Names: Haibane Renmei and the Power of Names
Interview with Daniel Cronquist, Writer of Set Apart
Review: Set Apart by Daniel Cronquist
A Guide (No, Two!) for Jumping into
Kure-nai, Haibane Renmei,and the Weight of Sin
Anime episodes are often self-contained, and this is especially true of Kino’s Journey. The fable-like story follows the title character as she travels from country to country in an unknown world. The show is wonderful at expressing the human condition in all it’s sin and depravity, but it also reveals the beauty of the world and of people. There is also a particularly powerful moment involving a Christlike sacrifice that plays a very important role in the series. The show contains a lot of violence, though little (or none) of it is graphic.
A baseball anime? Oh, it’s much more than that. One of the best series in the genre of sports anime, Oofuri is chock full of themes that are ripe for application in the Christian life. The show explores ideas such as courage, character, friendship, strength, transformation, and selflessness.
Pitch to Contact! Teammates and Character Transformation in Ookiku Furikabutte
Swing With All Your Might! Courage, Loss, and Renewal in Ookiku Furikabutte
“Please Rely on Me!” The Break and Unmaking of Promises in Ookiku Furikabutte
Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica
What starts out as a slightly atypical magical girl show becomes one the most inventive, daring, and powerful anime in recent memory. This intense journey into the consequences our choices bring is heavy on violence and death and contains foul language. But nothing is gratuitous and the show is purposeful, emphasizing the themes of friendship, sacrifice, and hope.
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Madoka Madness
Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica 07: From Adam to Jesus
Puella Shoujo Madoka Magica 12: The Hope We Find
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Fashion, Madoka, and Redemption
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Buddha and Madoka
Madoka, Homura, and Yuri Embrace of Grace
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Apples, Magical Girls, and Eden
Madoka Surgical Girl and Pre-Op Usagi Drop
Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Volume 1 (DVD)
This long-running series is about a ronin named Himura Kenshin who was once the “Battousai,” a manslayer, but has now resolved to live a life of peace. The idea of living a life of peace and doing what is right, even if it means sacrificing oneself, is a vital theme of the series. The television show works particularly well in contrast of the first two OVAs, which brutally and violently portray Kenshin’s earlier life. One may want to avoid the third arc of the show, however, which not only is poorly executed, but which portrays Christianity in a negative life and in which Kenshin supports a view of Christianity as just another religion rather than as “the truth, the way, and the light.”
Rurouni Kenshin to Finally Be Completed?
Christ Meets Kenshin: Apostle’s Sword, Chapter 1
Christ Meets Kenshin: Apostle’s Sword, Chapter 2
Christ Meets Kenshin: Apostle’s Sword, Chapter 3
Christ Meets Kenshin: Apostle’s Sword, Chapter 4
This critically acclaimed work follows two swordsmen as they accompany a young woman on her search for a mysterious “samurai who smells of sunflowers.” Full of substance and stylistically unique, Samurai Champloo is a powerful series from the creator of another classic, Cowboy Bebop. Christian characters play a major role late in the show, and themes of forgiveness and justice are heavily present. Not all Christians in the story are “good people,” with many being flawed and others outright hypocrites, though I feel the series treats them fairly. You may want to avoid Samurai Champloo if bothered by foul language and extensive violence.
Vash the Stampede is the hero of Trigun, a man wanted for enormous destruction (of entire towns…and of part of the moon!). Starting out in a slapsick manner, the series becomes more and more serious as it goes along. Vash is pacifist who will not kill; his foil and frequent partner, Wolfwood, calls himself a priest, though he is more than willing to take lives. Their interaction and their beliefs are ripe for discussion, as the series asks tough questions for such a fun show. Every episode features gunplay and violence, and there is foul language in the series.
Nicholas D. Wolfwood/Rez Week on Beneath the Tangles
Nothing Like God: Redeeming Nicholas D. Wolfwood
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: The Gospel According to Wolfwood
While I Was Yet Lost: Wolfwood Meets Grace
The Faith of Yasuhiro Nightow
Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Violence, Grace, and Redemption in Trigun
The Invisible God in…Trigun
Review of Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Fruits of the Spirit: The Kindness of Vash the Stampede