The Faith of Yasuhiro Nightow

As Wolfwood Week continues on Beneath the Tangles, I felt it would be appropriate to discuss the mangaka responsible for creating this multi-faceted character – the creator of Trigun, Yasuhiro Nightow.  While Nicholas Wolfwood obviously has many connections to Christian spirituality, as demonstrated through the posts this week, Trigun itself is full of themes and ideas that could also be called “Christian.”  Perhaps this is because Nightow is generally known as one of the few successful mangaka who believes in Christ.  He is Catholic.

Or is he?

It’s long been considered general knowledge that Nightow is Catholic.  Wikipedia once referenced that he grew up Buddhist, but studied Catholicism and converted to it, while retaining Buddhist principals.  However, that reference to his faith was removed when the citation for it, which was to his U.S. website, became a dead link.

Unfortunately, since I don’t read Japanese, and couldn’t scour Japanese interviews with Nightow.  Regarding interviews in English, it’s been said that he has never publicly stated his religion in the U.S. (I’ll visit the essay mentioning this on Saturday’s post).  However, while promoting the trailer for the Trigun: Badlands Rumble film at Anime Expo in 2009, he was asked this question:

Trigun contains a lot of moral themes.  Are any of them based on Nightow’s personal / religious views?

He (and his interpreter’s) response?

Nightow doesn’t follow a religion.  “Maybe I’m just a great person.”

Nightow’s response is a bit ambiguous.  Has he given up on Christ?  Does he remain a follower of Christ, but given up on organized religion?  Or is there some other reason?  Nightow doesn’t seem to want us to know – and that’s fine – one’s faith is a private matter.  Regardless, Christianity certainly seemed to influence the mangaka when he created Trigun, to the extent that I list it as one of my recommendations for Christian viewers.


15 thoughts on “The Faith of Yasuhiro Nightow

  1. Interesting post on authors potentially hiding their religious belief.

    On an unrelated thought, I would love to see your post on Madoka’s ending. I believe it is the best gift one could hope for on Easter Friday, but hearing other Christian’s perspective would be fascinating.

    1. Really? Gosh, now I wish I had watched Madoka while it was airing. I barely started watching Madoka recently, and am only through episode three. It’s been amazing so far.

  2. “Maybe I’m just a great person.” I’ll admit, that made me laugh. 😀

    I was always vaguely aware that Nightow had some kind of religious belief, so these latest remarks of his were quite interesting to me.

    1. I first watched Trigun almost 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until a week or two ago that I realized he was (possibly, maybe, at one time) Catholic.

      Thanks for the comment – awesome to see you here commenting in addition to getting linked to!

  3. Its kkind of sad, really. I have always heard that he was Catholic, and to hear that he is not is a little heartbreaking. I hope he didn’t give up because of a liberal fanbase. Oh well, all I can do is pray for him.

    1. Yeah, I wonder why he left his faith, if that’s what happened. Perhaps he’ll share one day, though he’s apparently never been one to talk much about his beliefs.

  4. Eh, the Japanese approach to religion is very different from that in the West. They don’t consider themselves very religious or even really identify with a religion when asked like we would. For example, it’s possible he still is technically Catholic, but may still visit temples and shrines as needed for other aspects of Japanese life. In addition, blurring between religions is very common, so even if a Japanese person converts to Christianity, they may simply add a crucifix or other Christian symbol to the family altar rather than completely dropping previous beliefs.

    /Japanese major word vomit

    1. Yeah, that’s certainly all possible. A very recent study pegged the Japanese as easily the least religious country out of a couple dozen studied. And I’ve heard from Japanese missionaries that a major obstacle in their work is how Jesus becomes an add-on for “converts,” which presents a problem since Christianity is a monotheistic religion!

      What perplexes me is Nightow’s apparent previous self-identification as a Catholic and his refusal to follow religion now. I say “apparent,” because for years this was an accepted idea in the U.S. otaku community, though I can’t find any evidence for it on the Internet now.

      Anyway, I think all this is worth mentioning as even today, I see new forum posts and other responses referring to Nightow as Catholic, when he no longer does so himself.

  5. Its also probably worth noting that he seems to really enjoy avoiding straight answers.
    When asked about the black cat in trigun he claimed there is no cat in it and had some odd responses for what Wolfwoods middle name is.

    1. He is an interesting one…I can’t remember where I saw an interview with him (perhaps as an extra on the Trigun movie DVD?), but in that video he was avoiding direct answers as well. We definitely should keep that in mind when interpreting anything related to Nightow!

  6. I understand one would think Nightow is christian due to the amounts of christian reference in Trigun. However, I don’t think this has nothing to do with at all. Christianity, even more catholiscism, is not that big in Japan, but it is in the west, and we know how western comic books had a heavy impact on Nightow has, specially super hero ones.

    Works like Spawn (which by looking at his artstyle seems to be a heavy inspiration for him) and Daredevil have christianity as a very important theme, so I believe it’s from there where he got the exposition to it.

    As far as why choose christianity for his work, if you want to talk about faith and morality in a setting inspired by old west, what better way than portraing it through the religion with one of the biggest quantity of followers in the west. Even those who do not believe in it have been so exposed to it to be familiar with it.

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