Anime and Christianity

While many don’t have issues viewing anime, some Christians may.  Christians parents, particularly, may find it difficult to give anime a chance, especially when it conveys ideas and plots that are both foreign and devoid of Christianity.  Further difficulties arise depending on one’s perspective when viewing media.  However, there are very definitive bridges that can be built between anime and Christian spirituality.  Today, Chelsea Machiela, whose work I’ve linked to before, delivers a guest post about bringing together the two.

Anime, over the years, has created quite a reputation for itself. As the brush is painted too wide, and lines blur between happy magic and dark witchcraft, many don’t know what to do about the oncoming wave of an anime-obsessed teen generation. For some, that wave is small and harmless, for others it’s a deadly tsunami.

Legalism also sneaks it’s way into the balance. Many of the things, it concludes, originates from something evil. One must not forget that God can redeem anything as His. Many people have fought a winning battle to prove this.

Although it can sometimes be overlooked, there are many Christian references in anime, if not a complete, blown out exhibit. Just like C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” series, there are some animes that use nearly the same representation.

Fruits Basket
Connections between Fruits Basket and Christianity are plentiful (Art by ゆや)

In Chrono Crusade, all the main characters are Christian. There are lots of Christian references in the plot.

At times, though, we have to identify it ourselves. (Like, when you think about it, Tohru from Fruits Basket, and Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club both were talking to their mothers, whom they identified were in Heaven.)

Like most stories, there is a constant battle between good and evil. It’s not anime, but even the famous Lord of the Rings demonstrates this.
Sometimes we can make light of the stories by relating them to Christianity.

  • An act of unconditional love or sacrifice can be related to what God has done for us.  (Like when the Third Hokage in Naruto sacrifices his soul to stop Orochimaru and save the village.)
  • Wanting to be a friend and role model to an outcast. (Like Tohru from Fruits Basket trying to be a friend to the short-tempered reject, Kyo.)
  • And, also, fighting against an inner demon to do the right thing. (Again, in Naruto. Despite his past and his demon, Naruto feels an overwhelming fire to protect those around him, even though they’ve hurt him.)

A good Christian OEL manga to read is Tomo, which is about a Japanese girl, Hana, who comes to America to live with her grandpa. Her grandfather, while teaching her martial arts and the like, also tells her about God. She decides she wants God in her heart as well.

I Was an Eighth Grade NinjaUnbeknownst to them, a secret world is suffering because of a King’s sin. The curse starts turning his subjects, as well as the King, into animals. The King’s attendant, who is evil, is misleading the King every step of the way, making matters worse. As that world starts to interfere with Hana’s, and the danger rises, Hana learns the true meaning of prayer. In a battle of truth and light, she fights to save the world using the sword of the spirit.

Though the story may not be Christian, there are many good lessons to draw from it. Many of these things can be found in the Bible. A word of wisdom from a monk, an undeserving act of love from a stranger….

Our chances to redeem anime have improved. A Bible comic book using the anime style was published a little while ago.

Through people like us, God can redeem Anime, and use it to help others. All we have to do is take the first step, and be an inspiration to others, especially the anime artists themselves. Through this, we can demonstrate how God can use something bad for good.

This guest post was written by Chelsea Machiela.  You can read more from her on ViewsHound.  Please also visit her DeviantArt page, from which I took the the illustration to the left.

10 thoughts on “Anime and Christianity

  1. Despite the often “colorful” history shared between Japan and Christianity, it cannot be denied how much of it intrigues modern Japan. While it is still a small, “glorified shinshukyo” to most of Japan, known more for social programs and ceremonies, the Japanese also have a great love for the imagery and general “foreign-ness” found within it as a whole.

    But at its core, a lot of the vales and ideals mentioned here also find themselves present in Buddhism, which has a bit more sway. Self-sacrifice, doing the right thing, ethical treatment, they are a very big part of the Japanese ethos, not because of some specific religious affiliation, but because they strengthen the community, and community is key to survival in Japanese society. More universal than anything else, loved for its compassion.

    And then there’s stuff like Trinity Blood…

    1. Thanks for all the information. What you’ve mentioned in one part of the reason that Christianity has had a tough time gaining a foothold in modern Japan…and it also had in keep a foothold during the persecutions some 500 years ago.

      1. I could give you a history lesson right here, but I think it would be too long for a comment.

        But yeah, any inroads Christianity has made in Japan has been recent, mostly post-war, because of international aid in the face of the bombings. It’s still viewed as “self-centered,” but also the fact is the religious CLIMATE of Japan has changed so much. They do not identify as a religious nation at all, but a more spiritual one.

  2. This is an interesting thought. One of my coworkers is leaving Japan to go to seminary in a few months. He says he used to be agnostic and found god while he was working in Japan. During that time he decided that anime didn’t fit with his Christian ideals and threw away his collection.

    While I disagree with many aspects of Christianity, one of the points that often makes me twinge is the flat rejection of ideas or types of media as having a, “corrupting influence,” or calling them the, “work of the devil,” and such nonsense. During the 50s lets not forget about Elvis, the growth of Rock and Roll and the influences Christianity had on that genre of music. Nowadays there are Christian rock bands.

    It shouldn’t surprise me that there are now manga-style Christian books. Nor should it surprise me that Christians are once again touting a new genre as works of evil (sorry if this sounds like I’m picking on just Christians; I’d apply these standards to anyone making what I see as illegitimate claims). But more than my dislike of religion, I have a desire to show the world that anime is a beautiful medium that can tell very powerful, moving stories. In order to do that, I will take any help I can get and support anyone whose goals mirror my own.

    I’m going to send my friend a link to this blog and see if he can reconcile anime with his faith, as I believe he should.

    1. I think with regard to media and religion, its always been an idea of “this is new. new is scary. reject what is scary (ergo, also new).” If rock can find acceptance in mainline Christianity, so can anything.

      I’ve always been surprised, though, at the reaction anime gets in that community. It’s not anti-religion, it’s not pro-devil. It’s just different. But at its core, it espouses some of the same ideals found in living a moral life, albeit asking the viewer to question their own beliefs more (not reject them, question them.)

  3. I have been raised as a Christian, a Catholic actually, though I’m now an atheist, but the concept of religion being averse to anime in particular is new to me (well, I figured it would exist though)
    Over there (in France) it’s more the likes of “it’s too violent for children” (since everyone is under the assumption that anime is for children)
    So I guess it depends on the area you live in and what part of Christianity you belong to.

    On the other hand I agree that a few aspects of most anime can be tied with the Bible. Take the Jump motto “effort, friendship, victory”.
    One man must exert efforts to be “good”, be friends to every other man and then he’ll be rewarded.

    1. Thanks for the comments.

      I think that it’s not entirely from France here in America, in regards to how anime is viewed. Animation is still generally viewed as primarily for children, and anime gets tagged with being seen as overly violent, perverted, and strange (not that one or a combination of these don’t sometimes apply to anime series/movies).

      Your examples from Jump is excellent – it’s exactly the type of connections I try to draw here on my site. Thanks for the wonderful example!

  4. May you please name a list of good and bad anime, and the reasons why I should and
    shouldn’t watch them

    1. Hi, Eve, you might want to consider visiting Christian Anime Alliance (just google search it). They have a catalog of reviewed from Christian reviewers.

      You could also visit our Recommendations page (top toolbar) for some of our personal picks, with reasons why.

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