Anime Recommendations for Christian Viewers

Note:  This page has been replaced by a reformatted and more up-to-date listing.

One question Christian anime fans frequently ask is, “Is there such a thing as a Christian anime?”  As I mentioned in the FAQ, besides Tezuka Osamu’s collaboration with the Vatican, The Flying House, and perhaps another exception 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.  Some series even place a central focus on these symbols, though some (like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Toaru Majutsu no Index) controversially depict these elements.  Instead, anime can be viewed 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 series that feature these qualities, press us to think further about faith, or feature Christian characters in a fair light.

This list will expand as I watch shows which I think are befitting of it.  The newest additions are Fruits Basket, Chrono Crusade, and Sakamichi no Apollon (added 5.8.12).

Mining Spirituality in Anime

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.

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Haibane Renmei

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.

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Puella Magi 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.  It’s a moving series, but be aware – it doesn’t shy away from some very dark themes.

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Espousing Christian Themes in Anime and Manga

Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket, though a manga aimed at adolescent girls, has touched the hearts of guys and gals of all ages.  Besides being a quality series (and one that was quite popular during it’s release in North America), the series features themes that speak right to the heart of Christianity, particularly humbleness, sacrifice, and love.  Several of the writers here at Beneath the Tangles have emphatically recommended the series.

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Kino’s Journey

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.

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Ookiku FurikabutteOokiku Furikabutte (Big Windup)

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, while emphasizing an ever-present theme in sports anime: the process of growth.

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Trigun

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.

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Christian Characters in Anime

Chrono Crusade

Although I didn’t particularly enjoy this series, Chrono Crusade does at least one thing right: it generally avoids the temptation that other series featuring the Catholic church succumb to, painting the institution as a good one and actually presenting some theologically appropriate ideas.  The main characters fight demons and the show emphasizes the power of love and sacrifice.

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Samurai Champloo

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.

Kids on the Slope

image courtesy of Anilinkz

Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope)

Sakamichi no Apollon immediately gathered a following because of it’s unique storyline featuring teenagers coming of age in the 1960s and bonding through jazz and the pedigree of its director (Shinichiro Watanabe, who also directed Samurai Champloo).  However, many viewers were surprised by an additional element – the Christian faith shared by two protagonists in the series.  The animators approach their faith is approached in a sensitive manner.

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  1. Nostalgic Chaos

    Thank you. Currently watching Eden of the East. So far I love it. I’ll get round to the other at some point also.

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  2. I was a little confused about Chrono Crusade’s commentary. Did you mean that many other anime depict it as corrupt, and so Chrono Crusade avoided that temptation by presenting it as good? I’m pretty sure that’s what you meant but I just wanted to make sure. I’m a huge Chrono Crusade advocate. To each his own of course, but I think you should have finished it. If you want to and find time it’s all on youtube for free. It really starts to pick up toward the end and has sooooo many awesome theological statements about a lot of topics… I’m planning to write Bible Study material on it one day.

    Blessings!

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    • Hmmm…yes, the wording is confusing. I’ll need to revise it. But yet, I think the series generally treats the faith in a very fair light. The first half contains a lot of wonderful reflections on Christianity, and it’s good to hear the same about the latter half.

      I should definitely go back to it someday. I got tired of the show in the middle and wasn’t motivated enough to finish, even though I’ve heard wonderful things about the ending.

      Thanks for the comments!

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    • To be honest, I haven’t seen the series, but the synopsis from here and elsewhere tells me enough: If you’ve got a demon running around trying to take out other demons, it’s without question not a very theologically sound premise. It simply doesn’t work that way in reality. Consider Matthew chapter 12 (centered around v.26) where Jesus says that if Satan drives out Satan, his kingdom is divided and will not stand. Sure, I realize it’s a fictional story, and not reality, but the average person is more likely to be deceived into untruth by a story like that than to draw nearer to the truth. Just sayin’.

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      • Thanks for the comments. Obviously, what you say makes sense. Anime, and really most other media (with the exception of perhaps Affirm films), is simply not Christian. The materials presented will never align fully with a Christian worldview, or even mostly.

        So on this site, we takes bits and pieces of anime that demonstrate Christian ideals. For instance, while the lead characters of Chrono Crusade aren’t reflective of the Catholic Church (even if they represent it in this series), there are pieces of dialogue – that about sin, prayer, etc. – that do reflect sound, Christian practice. Even more important, and this is true of all sorts of series, ideas like sacrifice, grace, and agape love are present. These are characteristics of our God and are the things that move us to repentance.

        A non-Christian viewer may not be willing to watch “Fireproof” or another heavily Christian piece of media, but they may watch Chrono Crusade. These ideas presented may touch them, and open an opportunity for them to think deeply about the love of God. The central tenants of Christianity – that we are sinners in need of grace and it is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we may be saved – make more sense when one understands the ideas of grace, sin, etc., and those terms can be demonstrated through anime.

        Knowledge of the Bible is significant, but becomes an accompaniment to understanding who we are in relation to God.

        On the other hand, a self-professed Christian who knows little about his or her faith may be somewhat led astray by a series like this – but I think that person needs instruction in analyzing any work (series, Bible, or anything else) and in learning about Christianity; I would argue that Chrono Crusade isn’t any more harmful to that person than anything else – then again, I’ve never completed the series, so I couldn’t give a firm opinion on that.

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        • Lol I certainly wasn’t trying to say the idea of a demon turning good and helping people was actually an orthodox Christian idea. As TWWK said, Anime is simply NOT Christian. I finished Blue Exorcist recently. Probably the only anime where you’ll find a person quoting some of the greatest verses in the Bible in just about 60% of the episodes. Son of Satan fighting for the Church? Oh, please. Buddhist craziness being harmonized in a weird way with Christianity? Yep, wrong. But still, a ton of great themes and excellent anime to analyze from a Christian worldview.

          Chrono Crusade has a lot of heresy but also a ton of truth. After watching it for the third time, I’ve realized that there is something pertinent to Christianity and Christian morality in nearly every episode, even the filler ones. It’s crazy!

          I was never bored with the series, but that I assume is because I’m new to anime and all the monster fights didn’t bore me. I can see how you would be bored, and that is why I would urge you to come back at some point because after you really delve into the story (I think it starts picking up after episode 13 or so, but it’s been a while so I don’t know).

          Another thing, if you ever read CAA’s review of Chrono Crusade, it is incredibly fundamentalist and narrow minded. They say things that have no real basis in the story (That it believes in buddhistic reincarnation, it is dualist, etc.) If you watch and actually try to understand it none of that is true. I feel like complaining to them and explaining why there assessment is wrong, but I’ll never find the time to. I also don’t want to explain it here because it might spoil!

          Anyway, thanks again, especially for your thoughtful response to eisbread in my absence.

          I do want to make sure once again that I’m not trying to say Chrono Crusade is a Christian anime. Those don’t really exist, but it is surprisingly close compared to other animes which actually explicitly use Christianity as a framework for the story.

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          • Thanks for all the clarification, John!

            Also, I agree with you about the truth you can find within the episodes. I pretty much felt the same way – there was a lot of meaty stuff through the entire half of the series I viewed, which really surprised me.

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  3. Well, Kids on the Slope is no longer airing. And the biggest disappointment is that the faith issue is mentioned and then completely ignored until the ending of the very last episode. Not that impressive, but then again it wasn’t supposed to be an exporation of Christianity. But they could have played it in a bit more.

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    • Yep, all done, and my comment is the same as yours – I wish there was more. Then again, that applies to almost every element in the series. I think most fans of the show would have liked it to have had a second cour, but it was still marvelous as it was.

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  4. Holy poop! I just finished Sakamichi no Apollon. That was amazing! I’m still freaking out about how good it was. I was thinking I wouldn’t llike it because I’m usually into anime where there’s a physical battle between good and evil, and this was about Jazz music which I could also care less about (but not after this show!)

    I’m almost at a loss for words. You’re right, they approach the Christianity aspect very respectfully and the small integrations they make are superb.

    SPOILER:

    I’m also proud to say I called the ending too. For some reason I had a hunch that he ran off and became a Roman Seminarian (and I’m Catholic, so I’m not using Roman as a pejorative, I just like saying it haha) and that’s exactly happened. This just made my day haha! Now to go study for exams.

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    • Thanks for the comments! Yeah, I’m totally with you – this was a WONDERFUL series. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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    • I just read the above comments and I do agree, I wish there was more, but it was still cool I thought, considering it wasn’t an exploration of Christianity. I also learned something, “What a friend we have in Jesus” is actually a fairly popular hymn in Japan (as much as that’s possible considering) and it’s used in a Visual novel series called Planetarium too.

      SPOILER AGAIN:
      I think you can see how Christianity affects the two Christians vaguely. They aren’t perfect people, but they do stay strong when faced with temptation (Ritsuko toward the end when Nishimi goes animalistic) and though we aren’t made to think ill of Yurika for what she did, she ran away with some older man and was willing to let him do what he willed with her! And that’s just one example that’s fresh on my mind because I just finished and that’s toward the end.

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      • I think the idea behind “and though we aren’t made to think ill of Yurika for what she did, she ran away with some older man and was willing to let him do what he willed with her” was that she was trying desperately to make him understand that she loved him when she said that she was willing to have sex with him. There is an underlying idea that sex = love, and that people who are in love want to have sex… even within Christianity, albeit within the bounds of marriage. If they had sex, no matter how her parents objected, they would have had to allow them to marry – they wouldn’t have been able to marry her off to someone of their own choosing. It might have been the only way they would have been allowed to marry (though later the option of running away comes up, but when this happens that’s the case).

        Yes, she ran away with him, but Western mentality has that love trumps familial duties when it comes to arranged marriages (so I fully sympathized. I do not care for the idea of arranged marriages, and she obviously was hating it). Back then that would have been hugely taboo within Japanese culture, but it translates into a majorly romantic story to today’s viewer.

        I think my favorite scenes in it were how Nishimi remembers his own past and how Christianity played into that. He’s obviously strongly affected by the priest and his mother’s wishes. I think a lot of Christian ideas can be read into how he reacts to what happens in his home.

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  5. I actually forgot about the arranged marriage. I’m still not for havin’ premairtal sex in rebellion, but I get it. I was still viewing it through my dogmatic Catholic moral lens, I understand now and could “sympathize” even if I don’t believe she was completely moral (of course we don’t even know if they had premarital sex, and Jun never did anything when they were in Kyushu except kiss her).

    Still, I think there is some connection between Ritsuko’s morality and the fact that she resisted till the end where some would have just given up (even if they were still scared and not completely comfortable), though this could be reading it in.

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    • We don’t really know the creator’s intent (much less so since the adaptation is apparently very condensed), but at the very least, I think we can take Ritsuko’s action (or inaction) as something to think about and apply to our own situations. This wasn’t an angle I’d thought much about – thanks for bringing it up, John!

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  6. Do you have more in-depth reviews of some of these anime? I’m looking for some new ones to watch, but I try not to watch anime without knowing, in particular, sexual content, so that I know how careful I should be w/ watching it around my little brother. :)

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    • I do not. Haibane Renmei and Ookiku are very clean when it comes to sexual content (and probably Fruits Basket as well, though I haven’t read the entire manga). Eden of the East and Samurai Champloo have quite a bit of violence and some sexual content, though. The others fall somewhere in between.

      Although Christian Anime Alliance has moved to a new review system and I don’t think they have nearly as many reviews as they once did, I would head over there for specific recommendations relating to how clean a series is. I’ve found the ratings given on DVDs often also reflect sexual content within a series.

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  7. I have an anime I would like to recommend to you! Please check out an anime called “Escaflowne” It has a good message in it and truth that Christians like myself would consider a truth. Watch it all the way through and you’ll know what I mean. I don’t want to spoil it for you!

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    • Escaflowne is a wonderful anime, and probably one of the best shoujo ones out there. Just be careful to avoid any 4kids versions; when they briefly brought it over to the states, they tried to recast it as a shonen anime! It didn’t work well.

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    • Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve watched Escaflowne and I really enjoyed it, and ironically enough, one of our writers here watched it recently for the first time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t such a critical viewer when I first saw it years ago, so it might be useful to watch again.

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  8. I also forgot to mention to caution you that “Escaflowne” is fairly violent and it contains tarot cards.

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  9. I like to watch all of my anime subbed whenever possible, most English dubs just don’t have the same feeling as the original Japanese versions.

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    • I preferred them all dubbed at first, and slowly turned into a subtitle person. I prefer subs now, but I’ll take a good dub, too! Voice acting has gotten so much better here in the states…generally.

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  10. I want to ask you all, if you look at anime that uses the cross symbol for things like pornography example. how you react. if you ask me, it is not ethical to use a symbol of a person’s beliefs to advance his personal interests to the things that are very insulting

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    • It can definitely be painful to see symbols that mean so much to us reduced to fashion or something even sinful. I guess most of the time, though, it’s done out of ignorance, which reminds me that we have a mission to tell others about that which they don’t know – the grace of Jesus Christ.

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  11. Hellsing/Ultimate is missing

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    • Thanks for the rec. As I understand, Hellsing contains a lot of pseudo-Christian elements – Christian ideas for the sake of creating a story without any particular deeper meaning. Please let us know, though, if there’s stuff beyond that – themes and ideas that can be drawn out beyond the more transparent elements.

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  12. Just completed Haibane-Renmei on your recommendation. In terms of its quality as an animation and a story, I was quite pleased. It was evident listening to the interview with the producer and writer that both are dedicated to making good art rather than vapid nonsense. It was also interesting to analyze the salvation dynamics of the series. Really, I found a lot of recollections from Madoka Magica resurfacing. Even if the writer said he didn’t write it from any particular spiritual tradition, Haibane-Renmei feels very Buddhist, perhaps more so than Madoka does. At least at first pass, it seemed the characters didn’t need a savior so much as they needed a guide to facilitate their saving themselves. In short, a bodhisattva was called for. That, at least, was my take on the series from first pass. It’s excellent as what it is, but Haibane-Renmei offers a “how” to the answer of humanity’s curse that a Christian cannot fully affirm.

    Thank you sir.

    -Ben

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed it – and I’m glad you watched the footage of the interviews, which provide a lot of insight into the story. Haibane Renmei certainly does include a lot of information from a variety of religions – it doesn’t fit neatly into any one, which I think makes for much better entertainment value.

      I can see your point about finding salvation through your own action. I do think that, ultimately, the main characters find salvation through others’ actions, though – Rakka because of the care (and probable sacrifice and death) of someone in her family and Reki because of Rakka’s grace and love.

      Take care, Ben!

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  13. hi, after watching the first 5 episodes of “Homeless Child Remy (1996)”, I can say that it’s a good anime for everyone, especially for christians. I also like the soundtracks

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  14. define brief nudity (eden of east) are we talking full nude body shot or are we talking hotsprings?

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    • “Brief nudity” is probably the wrong phrasing to use. It’s not your typical fanservice (or fanservice at all, really). Probably more accurate would be to say, “extended shots of streaking male backsides for humorous effect.” -_-‘

      The bigger issue with Eden of the East is probably the violence, some sexual content (particularly in one episode where a murderous female character lures men to the bedroom), and, if I remember right, language. The show is given a pretty restrictive rating.

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  15. Betty Collins

    Thank you for your research! Just what I was looking for, let me know if you find anything more Christian.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed this – we plan on continually adding to these recommendation pages. If you’re looking for material more explicitly Christian, there are original English-language manga that discuss the Bible (and even Japanese original ones, too). You can find those by google searching “Manga Bible” (I believe that edition is also sold through Family Christian and other Christian stores) and “Manga Hero.”

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