Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: An Examination of Clergy in Anime

As we’ve pointed out here several times, anime has a hard time portraying Western religion, and it can range from incorrect to just plain weird. For this week, I’m going to talk about two specific clergymen in anime that exemplify the concept that trusting the clergy is not the best idea.

Spoilers for Soul Eater and D. Gray Man ahead.

Our first subject is Justin Law from Soul Eater. Justin Law is one of Lord Death’s weapons. Justin is dressed like your typical clergyman, except everything is Lord Death themed. Now, if you’ve only watched the anime, you are going to be confused from this point on and you should probably stop reading right now. In the manga, Justin Law turns out to be a traitor and defects to Asura. When that happens, all of Justin’s Lord Death-themed attire turns Asura themed. Usually, I wouldn’t think much of a character defecting to the bad guys’ side. Thinking about it, it happens in almost every anime at one point or another. But I think there is something to be said when the only blatant traitor turns out to be the guy dressed as a priest. When it could have been anyone, having the priest switch sides makes it seem like they are not to be trusted.

And when you pair Justin Law with Apocryphos from D.Gray-Man, we have a theme of betrayal. Oh sure, he looks like a really nice guy in the photo to the left, but not so much when he shows his true form, aka that creepy looking guy to the right. Right now, Apocryphos is trying to hunt down and absorb Allen Walker. At first he appeared as the guy on the left, reassuring Allen that he wouldn’t be executed. Then, he turned around and said “let me absorb you”. Why?  I honestly have no idea. I think it’s something to do with protecting the heart of innocence, which is Apocryphos’ job. But let’s be real here: would you trust the guy on the right? I’m personally scared of him. If you think he’s trustworthy, go knock yourself out and be his BFF. I’ll let you do it.

I’m sure there are a gazillion more examples of clergyman acting like crazy people and therefore being people you can’t trust, but those were the two most prominent people I could think of who embodied the point that I was trying to make: don’t trust the clergy because they will betray you.

12 thoughts on “Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: An Examination of Clergy in Anime

  1. My favorite clergymen in anime are Abel Nightroad of Trinity Blood, Father Anderson from Hellsing, and Nicolas D. Wolfwood of Trigun. The first and last are rather trustworthy, but I wouldn’t want to touch Father Anderson with a twenty foot pole. 🙂

    I think that anime goes all through the spectrum when it comes to characters in the clergy. Concerning the priests turning traitor in your examples, it just makes for a much more heinous betrayal. The only thing worse than a clergyman going bad is a mother or father betraying their child, which makes either matter great for creating a dark atmosphere in the writer’s story.

    • I have not read Trinity Blood (bad me), only read parts of Hellsing (still bad me) and totally forgot about Wolfwood (even worse me). I agree with your point. Most people naturally trust priests, so it hurts a lot more when they betray your trust.

  2. Medieval Otaku already mentioned him, but the first character I would think of is Nicholas Wolfwood. Again, he’s presented as someone quite unclergy-like, wielding guns out of life-sized cross and having no issue with killing others. We do find out a lot more about him later, and in the anime, he actually has a powerful scene having to do with grace, forgiveness, the cross, and all that.

    • Stupid me, I totally forgot about him. Also, it has been approximately 10 years since I’ve watched Trigun and my memory on it is a little fuzzy. All I remember right now is that I thought he was fab. A more in depth analysis might have been more than my 7th grade brain could handle.

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  4. I know in the Anime, at least, Allen Walker (and I suppose by extension all the other exorcists, which makes sense since exorcists are almost always ordained) calls himself a clergyman on at least two occasions. Father Remmington of Chrono Crusade is very trustworthy and moral, and so is Father Fujimoto of Blue Exorcist (in Blue Exorcist there are examples of corrupt ones though too). There’s a lot of others I could mention so I’ll be selective. There’s a priest in Witch Hunter Robin who isn’t necessarily corrupt but is portrayed neutrally at first and negatively later.

    Chrono Crusade actually portrays the Western Church quite accurately, in comparison with other Anime and Manga (and I don’t mean to say that it’s perfect of course).

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  7. In Japan the very existence of non Catholic Christians is virtually unheard of. The kinds of negative depictions you see of Clergy in Japanese don’t seem to me to be much different then what a Western Atheist or Protestant/Evangelical would write. If there is an Anime Evil priest who can compete with Eugene Sue’s Father Rodin I’d like to meet him.

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