Note: This page has been replaced by a reformatted and more up-to-date listing.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. 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. 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.
Mining Spirituality in Anime
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.
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.
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.
Espousing Christian Themes in Anime and Manga
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.
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. Since this recommendation was added, a new Kino’s Journey series aired, which likewise asks philosophical questions that pertinent to Christian viewers.
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.
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.
Christian Characters in Anime
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.
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.
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.