Although picking up a new anime series may be an easy task for any regular person, the task is daunting and difficult for Christians. Since nearly all of the companies that make anime are from Japan, many shows are saturated in morals and ideas rooted in Buddhism, Secularism, and Atheism, which makes searching for the “perfect” anime to be very hard. I, for one, have had difficulty in achieving this task, and have had to rely on the opinions of my otaku friends. Aimlessly searching Google for the answers that you need can be tedious, and there are not many Christians who dare to recommend such a “taboo” practice.
I may have watched anime for only two years, and although I’m not the best qualified person for the job, I wanted to share some anime that I have either heard extremely good things about or that I have personally watched that will help propel your faith if watched with the right mindset. These are the kind of shows that will not only keep you engaged with an amazing plot, dynamic characters, and amazing action animation, but also allow you as the audience to learn something new about human nature. These are wholesome shows that I have and would watch myself. Ultimately, the takeaway from all of these anime should be something that leads you to see that there is an overwhelming need for Christ.
These shows automatically have almost to no fan service in them whatsoever (if you want to find out why, check out my testimony here), but still have secular elements such as violence, blood, and swearing. Keep this in mind while you read these recommendations.
1). Angel Beats!
Our protagonist Otonashi mysteriously wakes up with amnesia in a place that he has never seen before, and is informed by school girl Yuri that he has entered the afterlife. Those who die in the real world are sent to an in-between realm where their souls are still alive. It is impossible to die in this new place unless you are “obliterated”. The world of Angel Beats! appears and looks like a normal high school except that its rules are controlled by a girl named Angel. All students attending the institution are merely puppets, bending to her will, that appear to be normal people and are referred to as NPCs. The only people in this world who realize the truth are Yuri and a group of students known as SSS. Otonashi, confused with his new surroundings, immediately joins the “The Not Dead Yet Battlefront” organization, an elite rebellious force that fights against Angel. Taking each day as it comes, Otonashi fights with Yuri and her friends, hoping to discover the secrets of his past.
I have watched every episode of Angel Beats! and spent about thirty hours writing about the series, and I can say with confidence that this is exactly what every Christian should be looking for. Angel Beats! has just about everything that almost any otaku would enjoy, going from romance and comedy to music and action. It’s almost like the show has three different structures that it switches between over the course of its run, making it feel like you are seeing a new series every time you watch it. Each individual episode focuses on a different character, even giving some of the less important secondary characters a time to shine on stage, and reveal their motivations for their actions. Their pasts are discussed in great detail through powerful flashbacks, and the regrets that they have still weigh down on them in their present.
Be aware that the female cast does tend to wear low skirts throughout the course of the show, but nothing sensitive is revealed. From what I can recall, this and one small scene in episode five is all that you really have to worry about in terms of fan service. There is violence in the series, but it is not a highlighted feature. Blood does occasionally show itself in this show, but only when it needs to.
Through my personal reviews of Angel Beats! on this website, I have been able to pull out dozens of meanings and Biblical teachings that can be relatable to people no matter where they are in their walk with God. Overall, Angel Beats! would be my number one choice for a “Christian” anime that would be great for almost anyone to watch!
2). Fullmetal Alchemist
Edward and Alphonse Elric are two young boys living together with their mother in a Victorian-era time at a beautiful country side called Resembool, far away from the busyness of every day life. This world of theirs contains a science known as alchemy, the act of creating something from something else. Due to the sudden disappearance of their alchemist father when they were very young, the two boys become devoted to the field, spending every second they have learning more and constantly becoming better. Only when their mother passes away from a deadly plague does Edward and Alphonse take their alchemy to the next level. In a desperate attempt to save their mother, the two boys gather the ingredients composing a human being, using their own blood as the cost to complete the transfiguration. Basically, they try to bring their dead mother back from the dead. However, no price that they could ever give would be enough to measure to a human soul, and they pay a painful price because of their actions. Edward loses an arm and a leg, while his younger brother Alphonse loses his entire body, having his soul bonded to a suit of armor before he passes to the next life. Now, the two boys travel across the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, trying to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, so that they can heal their bodies.
Now you may have initially thought, “Well FMA just absolutely has to be on the top of his list for Christian anime! I mean, look at his WordPress profile picture and website banner!” Although the choice was difficult for me, I had to allow Fullmetal Alchemist to take second place for some pivital reasons, the most important being that Edward Elric is actually agnostic. What really brings this series so high as a recommendation for Christians is that is reminds all of us when we were lost. Through Edward and Alphonse’s struggles, you will remember the pain and sorrow that you went through before you met Jesus. You will empathize with them if you have not experienced tragedy and you will cry with them when they cry. The flaws of characters are brought under heavy light, and shows how people we thought were very strong are actually hurting deep inside. This show is heavy on emotions, and truly shows who these two boys are: people with broken pasts. The definition of true human nature is defined in this series, and I think that this makes this show relatable and close to real life. Most importantly, the absolute need for a savior is highlighted, as Edward realizes that he cannot save his brokenness by himself.
If you ever do watch Fullmetal Alchemist, keep in mind that their are many dark themes similar to Death Note. Deaths are unfair and indiscriminate, entire races of people are slaughtered without a second thought, and military corruption runs rampant in this world. Blood and gore rule the direction of the paths of each character. Pain, suffering, and trail are the core of this show, and can really make you feel emotional. The fan service is very light, but should be noted that one secondary character does wear a somewhat revealing outfit (nothing major if you have the right mindset).
Although I have not done any personal reviews on Fullmetal Alchemist yet, I do feel that this show deserves some praise as one of the most accurate anime to real life, and should be recommended to Christians that can, in a sense, relive their broken pasts through the eyes of two teenage boys wanting to fix their problems.
After the sudden death of companion Meiko “Menma” Honma, a close group of young middle schoolers drift away from friendship, overtaken by their loss and sorrow. After many years have passed, the older spirit of Menma returns to high schooler Jinta Yadomi, explaining that she can not pass into the afterlife until her wish is granted. He is the only one that can see her ghost in this world, and actually thinks that he is haluscinating. To make matters worse, Menma doesn’t actually remember what her wish is, desperately begging him for help. Despite these doubts, Jinta gathers his old friends together in their old nostalgic club house like they used to, believing that they are the key to the answer. They are all apprehensive about meeting each other again, living their own lives apart for so long, and even accuse him of bringing them together because he himself cannot let go of the past. However, through the progression of the series, it is learned that each member of the group has their own pieces of Menma’s death that they still hold on to, and blame themselves for her passing.
Now most people would think that a show of this kind of sadness couldn’t be included in a collection of “Christian” anime, but I beg to differ. I would personally recommend Anohana to Christians because of the strong connections that we get to the characters. Every protagonist is treated as a person rather than a character to advance the plot, and their personal flaws are an open book to the audience. Similar to Fullmetal Alchemist, the way in which this show operates is very synonomous to real life, and really makes you think. More than anything, this anime demonstrates the power that death can have on humanity, and how to overcome those anxieties. This show really speaks volumes to those who still allow their pasts to affect their present, and I think that many people can relate to the characters of Anohana.
Thankfully, there is not much to be said about the secular elements of Anohana, but some minor details should be mentioned. The series tends to treat Menma like the typical cliché lolita, creating some unneeded moments of fan service sprinkled throughout. Like most anime, almost the entire female cast wears short skirts, which is to be expected.
Anohana is one of those shows that will catch you off-guard if you let it. It truly is the best example of a tear-jerker, and for very good reason. It may have been over a year since I have actually watched the anime, but I do still vividly remember moments that really impacted me. This series will cut deep into your heart, and allow you to feel for the characters in ways that you would have never imagined possible. Overall, Anohana is a great option for a Christian otaku who is seeking to find a safe anime option and wants to be impacted spiritually.
On the way to explore new planets through the different galaxies many years ago, spaceships from earth crash-landed on the mysterious alien planet Gunsmoke, creating civilizations and making it their new home. Trigun follows the adventures of six billion double dollar convict “Vash The Stampede” through the post-apocalyptic world, and follows his thirst to save lives. Although he himself is highly against murder, he travels the world with two Bernardelli insurance workers (they limit the amount of destruction that he causes) and traveling priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood as they face many foes, and overcome them with their combat skills. Throughout the progression of the story, Vash’s unknown past as to how he obtained the bounty on his head (he has amnesia and cannot remember his reasons) as well as the motivations of Nicholas are explored in great detail.
Now this is one of those series that I have wanted to watch for some time now, and that I just haven’t been able to get to. So for now I will speak with what I have heard from other Christians about this show. Trigun is an anime that can be appealing to Christians of almost every denomination because of its deep Biblical symbolism, whether apparent or not. Most notably is the friendship between Vash and Nicholas, which is reflected very well by the relationship that Jesus and Peter have in the New Testament (if you want to find out more about this in detail, please look at Beneath The Tangle’s article about the subject here). Another interesting thing to mention about Trigun that can be relatable to Christians is that the characterization tends to lean towards a “two sides to the coin”; each person is not as they seem. For instance, in the first episode alone, Vash is seen as the greatest gunslinger that has ever lived, holding a darker persona than most. He has an air to him that takes people aback, and even frightens others. It quickly becomes clear that this isn’t always the case, especially when the comedy of the show shines its brightest. In fact, Vash is actually quite a klutz, pacifist gunslinger who enjoys a good laugh and eating boxes of donuts. And although this example is rather extreme, it can allow Christians to discover the dangers of living a double life, as you will never know who you really are inside.
As can be implied by the title Trigun, expect a lot of gunfights from this show. Fan service is nonexistent and blood/gore are brought down to a minimum, as the actual fights and characters are highlighted much more. This show should not be shown to young children, especially during the flashbacks of Vash and Nicholas’s pasts, since they are very dark in nature.
From what I have researched about this series, Trigun is an old classic that will appeal to almost every anime fan, and has many Christian implications. It’s a fast pace, action-adventure show that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and craving for more!