Anime Catholicism

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The Vatican never looked so cool.

So you are watching an anime and here comes a little kid in some interesting, religious-looking robes and...wait, this pre-teen is supposed to be a Catholic priest? But, little kids can't be priests! That isn't typical Catholic priestly attire, either, that thing looks like it's made of 100% pure Rule of Cool, and... oh look, he's pulling out guns and shooting up a bar. And there's a nun sidekick casting magic spells. What's she doing out of her cloister, anyway?

Well, there really is no explanation other than you've just seen a case of Anime Catholicism.

If you know anything remotely about Catholicism, or western religions in general, then when this trope shows up, you'll know it. Suddenly every priest will be a vampire hunter, the clergy will be completely populated by hot, young bishounen and everything about the structure, hierarchy, history or religious beliefs will obviously be completely wrong to even people who aren't Catholic and are only peripherally aware of what the Catholic Church is about.

Japan (and other manga producing countries, such as Korea and China), not having a large population of Christians (well, not counting Korea), neither especially know, or care about the accuracy of depiction of The Church or Church-based organizations in their writing. When it shows up, the Church is predominantly there to provide a sense of foreignness and implying a fantastical setting or backdrop to the story, with the importance of correctness being secondary at best, and more likely not even to factor into their priorities. The same is true of Crystal Dragon Jesus Fantasy versions that are meant to be highly reminiscent of Catholicism, and while it's true that Fantasy Counterpart Culture versions have more leeway in terms of accuracy, it doesn't really excuse a lot of the other common elements in their depictions.

Basically the bottom line is if the Rule of Cool or the Rule of Sexy seems to be in effect, then there's a good bet it's this trope. Keep in mind most of this is also applicable to Crystal Dragon Jesus versions in Anime and Manga. This Trope has nothing directly to do with Kirisuto-kyō sects but may intersect it.

Compare Christianity Is Catholic, Crystal Dragon Jesus and Nuns Are Mikos. Also compare Fantastic Catholicism, which is the western version of this trope. See also Japanese Christian.

Tropes that are very common to Anime Catholicism include:
  • Artistic License Religion: Actual aspects of the religion and their beliefs will probably not be mentioned much and if it is, it will be vaguely, generally, or just incorrectly.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys and girls: Everyone is especially good-looking and sporting Anime Hair. No homely people here.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The religion is extremely Catholic-esque to the point that actual Bible verses may be quoted, but is referred to as 'The Church', and not expressly stated to be Catholic. It may be implied that it is the only church in this world, and there aren't denominations such as the myriad that split from the Church and followed different trends of the Protestant Reformation (the "Mainline Protestant" groups: not to mention the 29,984 that have formed since then and continue to schism at an exponential rate to the present day).
  • Church Militant: If characters typically whip out swords, guns, magic or staffs or other weapons, then it's probably a done deal. Same if they all seem to know Kung Fu.
  • Gender Is No Object: Women and men are not segregated in their roles, there may even be female priests or a female pope.[1]
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Priests are seen wearing armor or extremely unlikely wardrobes. For example, even more elaborate than an actual priest would wear, in a cute, stylish or sexy cut that is completely at odds with the strict oaths of modesty that clergy (especially nuns) have, or just reminiscent of a different culture, for instance a kimono or Buddhist monk's robes.
  • Improbable Age: The members of the clergy are uncharacteristically young, in their early twenties or teens, and there might even be a child pope. Anyone older than thirty will be the minority and definitely won't be the main character, unless they are actually immortal, which is also very common.
  • Japanese Media Tropes: Will feature Japanese tropes, obviously, which might look strange to some people who aren't used to seeing the Church with a distinctly animesque bent. And will definitely seem strange when all the western priests seem to be weirdly familiar with Japanese culture.
  • Jesus Taboo: Jesus's crucifixion mostly won't be mentioned, or he might even be replaced with another figure entirely. If for some reason the story needs to mention an actual religious figure, Mary is a good candidate, or Jesus as a baby in the manger.
  • Naughty Nuns and Nun-Too-Holy: Clergy have romantic relationships with each other and no one seems to notice or care that it's against their vows. Possibly because in this world it's not a requirement. Actually chastity and modesty might not necessarily seem to be a requirement at all, considering the actions of the characters.[2]
  • Nuns Are Mikos: Is stated to be Catholicism but has clergy perform rites or other actions or tasks that are characteristic of other religions or non-western cultures, such as a Catholic priest (in a western setting) sitting under a waterfall and meditating as if that's what all priests do.
  • Played for Laughs: The whole series may be a comedy, with a large percentage of the clergy portrayed as incompetent, ditzy or air-headed, especially if they are in-training junior nuns or priests. Even if the story is a drama, there will usually be a hand full of idiot acolytes who act as Comic Relief. This is very uncharacteristic, if not nonexistent in the west.
  • Religion Is Magic: Very often priests are endowed with some kind of magical powers.
  • The Empire, The Government, The Order, or some other kind of organization: The Church is portrayed as having some kind of mission or authority other than just religious, as in they are a task-force, or protectors against supernatural forces, or just the ultimate authority in the world, more like an empire.
  • Walking the Earth: Priests or Nuns are seen traveling a lot from place to place, usually on missions, but sometimes for no apparent reason.
Examples of Anime Catholicism include:

Anime and Manga

  • Blue Exorcist lives and breathes this trope. Shounen + Religious Horror + Exorcists usually results in this...
  • Chrono Crusade features the Order of Saint Magdalene, a demon-fighting church organization full of gun-toting, spell-casting teenage nuns.
  • D.Gray-man ticks off half the list, including crazy wardrobes, unrealistically young and good looking priests, priests having magic, acting as a task force, and women sharing the same roles as men. Not to mention Noah is apparently a different race of human (or something?) and suddenly evil with almost no relation to the actual biblical figure other than in name.
    • It should be noted that the Black Order is employed by the church, not actually part of it. The exorcists aren't priests.
    • The crazy wardrobes are justified in-story. Since Allen Walker's the only person with the ability to spot hidden Akumza, the uniforms are deliberately designed to stand out as much as possible to prompt Akuma into attacking first.
  • Hellsing: Pretty mild as these things go for the most part, but we do have Yumie and Heinkel, Yumie being a nun who has a split personality, one of which is a Demon and wields a katana to slice up heathens, and Heinkel is female but is referred to as a priest (at least in the Crossfire continuity; Heinkel looks more androgynous when she/he shows up in the main continuity). The church has an entire organization, Iscariot Division 13, which solely hunts vampires, and whatever unbelievers they come across.
      • Actually, Heinkel is intersex, so being referred to as a "priest" is feasible.
    • The Church is also seen to have a number of other militant factions that can be mobilized in brief notice to invade a sovereign nation with no interference from the international community. Amusingly, Hellsing is apparently pretty popular manga in Italy, since it's frankly hilarious to see your church depicted in such badass crazy light.
    • And yet Hellsing of all things has an interesting subversion, in that the Protestant Reformation is not only actually acknowledged as happening, but the main characters are all working for the Anglican Church instead of the Roman Catholic Church, with a lot of the historical tension between English Protestants and Irish Catholics actually coming through. Might be a case of Accidentally Accurate, but it's still an interesting take compared to most of the others on this list.
  • Justin from Soul Eater.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Catholicism In Name Only, to the point where the licensed translation calls it "Orthodox" instead of "Catholic" (which simply changes the problem).
  • Trinity Blood has a female cardinal, a child pope, non-standard robes, hunts vampires, people have magic, most of the cast seems to be under the age of thirty, and about a fifth of them under the age of twenty.
    • Also the position of pope seems to be at least somewhat hereditary.
      • Trinity Blood instantly makes sense when you realize they wanted to make a Heian-era ghost-hunter story (presumably with Abe no Seimei, or the off-brand equivalent), but didn't want their audience to call them on any research errors. Every time they say "Pope", think "Mikado".
  • 07-Ghost is a Crystal Dragon Jesus version which is almost indistinguishable from Catholicism except that in addition to God they worship 7 'ghost/angel' things. Not only is every ridiculously young and good looking, and wear over-elaborate vestments, they do magic, wield weapons, act quite immorally and are involved in a huge conspiracy.
  • The author of Vassalord essentially took all her favourite B movie elements and lumped them together, resulting in a series about a Catholic gay cyborg vampire who hunts other vampires for the church.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Garterbelt is supposed to be a priest, however that doesn't stop him from being involved on S&M activities, being foulmouthed, using firearms, and showing some Rage Against the Heavens from time to time, also, He acts more as a commander officer for P&S, giving them their orders to neutralize the ghost.
    • As for Panty And Stocking themselves... well, let's just say they are less than virtuous in their duties as Angels.
  • Kaitou Saint Tail is a Catholic schoolgirl, her base of operations is a Catholic church, her informant is an "apprentice nun", and all the victims that she helps are also Catholic. Given that they're in a predominantly Shinto country, it's odd that no one seems to notice. Her informant is also blatantly breaking the rules of confidentiality regarding the confessional, which is something real clergy could get a lot of trouble for. And nuns have no access to confessional secrets, only male priests do and they can't even share them amongst themselves.
    • Though in a late volume of the manga the author does at least admit she found out too late that only nuns who have taken their vows may wear a habit.
  • Ghost Hunt includes a teenage Catholic priest who helps banish actual ghosts.
    • Averted, somewhat, when Monk specifically states in Vol. 10 that John must be disobeying the Church, as there is no way such a young priest would be allowed to roam Japan, exorcising whatever he pleases. It's implied that John must have a personal, secret reason for facing ex-communication.
  • Sailor Moon has something of a subtle example in the episode of the anime where Diana turns up. While the nun everyone believes Artemis is "having an affair with" recites a standard Catholic prayer and seems to be saying things that a real Catholic nun would say, no one bats an eyelash at the idea that a nun would break her vows of chastity to have an affair with anyone — let alone a talking cat. (Though this is more an error on the characters' parts - the nun herself brings up the vows while protesting Tigers' Eye's advances).
  • The Maxwell Church in Gundam Wing Episode Zero, where Duo lived for a period of time (after his Street Urchin gang got caught stealing food.) The other kids were all adopted out, but Duo kept being brought back because the would-be parents couldn't handle him. Fr. Maxwell and Sr. Helen acted as parents for Duo (and indeed Sr. Helen seems more like a Miko than a Catholic nun.) Apart from the Nuns Are Mikos aspect, though, it seemed fairly realistic.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, in addition to the faux-Christian title, throws elements of Catholic mythology at the screen more or less completely at random, often getting the context hilariously wrong. The most egregious examples probably lie in the names of the obligatory giant mech suit analogues, but honorable mention should go to "the spear of Longinus" assembling Voltron-style with the main character's mech to form a giant cross-shaped kamikaze superweapon thing, which makes about as much sense in terms of Catholicism as it does in context of the story (so... none whatsoever).
  • Berserk, they don't call it Catholic and they replaced the crucifix with bird/cross but it's pretty clear it's Catholicism.
  • Averted in Samurai Champloo. Set during the Edo period, the show accurately portrays the view of the Japanese on Christianity as complete heresy. A Christian village is hidden from the outside world to avoid persecution, and the Sunflower Samurai, Fuu's dad, left his family to protect them from persecution as well. In another episode, a European warns Fuu to never show her skull pendant to strangers, as the cross symbol inside would give her away.


Visual Novels

  • In Nasuverse, the Roman Catholic Church wields powerful magecraft on par with the Mage's Association... though it's really only effective if you believe in the faith. Not only that, there are some members of the church who engage in rather questionable behavior, like an Executor having a fetish for anal sex or a priest who attempts to summon all the evils in the world for his own amusement. There's also apparently no rule against priests marrying or having children.
    • To be fair, both examples cited follow the Eighth Sacrament, which permits those so consecrated to stray away from the rules of their religion as long as one thing, the name of the Almighty, is protected. Everyone else follows the regular laws.
  • Subverted in Assassin's Creed. Sister Teodora is a nun... who wears a low-cut black dress, and is also a prostitute, a member of the Assassin Order, and the owner of a whorehouse. However, it's made clear this is not normal behavior for a sister, and she has a very well-thought-out argument for her unique combination of profession and beliefs.
  1. May be Justified in certain cases when it is not readily apparent that the denomination in question is Catholicism since the Anglican Church - which has similar traditions and iconography to Catholicism, although they are not identical - allows female priests. In addition, female popes may be based off of certain Catholic legends, such as Pope Joan.
  2. May be Justified for priests if there is no vow of celibacy in that world, since Catholic priests were not always sworn to celibacy, and to this day Orthodox priests are permitted to be married. It is never, however, justified for nuns, because the entire point of consecrating a nun is celibacy.