Greeting to all you readers out there! This is RishRaff once again, back for another anime and Christianity discussion. Today I desire to focus on Blue Exorcist, an anime with very heavy Christian influence. As per the nature of the article, the will be very heavy SPOILERS, so I advise you go watch it before reading this. Now with that being said, let us jump in.
Why Christianity v. Anime?
For anyone who missed my first Christianity v. Anime post, which focused on Angel Beats, here is a quick catch up to why I am writing this. Japan is one of the most secular countries in the world, yet a lot of traditions and attitudes are rooted in religion. Christianity has an interesting backstory in Japan (which I encourage you to look up), and does have a presence, albeit minor, in the modern day Japan. As such, anime provides a useful tool for examining the attitudes of the Japanese towards Christianity. I desire to search out these insights, and see what I can glean from various anime that deal with Christian elements. Blue Exorcist is an excellent anime for such a search, and there are far more things I could cover than I have time for. The anime contains tons of reference to Christianity, both Biblical and from Christian folklore. The themes of the anime deal heavily with redemption, a key point in the doctrine of Christianity. Now while both of these would be easy enough to tackle as their own posts, I want to take on something a little deeper. Blue Exorcist provides an example of Christianity interacting with other religions, and the apparent superiority seen through the lenses of fear. A brief summary is provided below for those unfamiliar with the series is provided below, but I do highly recommend checking it out. For more on the themes of this anime, here is the review of Blue Exorcist.
Now without further ado, let us continue.
Summary: Humans live in the world of Assiah, demons in Gehenna. The two dimensions are not meant to interfere with each other, but demons still possess creatures in Assiah in spite of this. The humans who can fight these demons are known as exorcists. Rin Okumura is a boy who bears the curse of being Satan’s illegitimate son. His foster father sacrificed himself to save him from demons. To avenge his foster father’s death as well as to prove himself, Rin decides to follow the path of an exorcist. -AnimeNewsNetwork
Reactions to Fear by Characters as a Religion Comparison
Fear is one of those basic reactions felt by every animal. Regardless of how much one may deny it, every person has felt fear at some point in their life. As such a powerful motivating force, it is also cemented in tradition as a sign of weakness. There are two basic responses to fear: fight back or flee. Blue Exorcist takes this idea and shows how people of different faiths react when faced with a situation that forces fear out of them. Now there are three primary religions represented in Blue Exorcist: Shinto, Buddhism, and Christianity. Each of the religions have characters who follow these, and provide the basis for the comparisons. As a generalization, Rin will represent Christianity, as he was raised in the Catholic church. Shinto is represented by Izumo, and Buddhism primarily by Ryuji.
Christianity teaches that fear is something that one should not possess, not because it is cowardly, but because God is with a true believer and can protect them from whatever they fear. This idea is expressed numerous times in the Bible, some examples being Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5-6. Rin is fearless in many, if not all, his confrontations with entities many characters are terrified of. However, the fearlessness taught by Christianity should not be confused for recklessness, something Rin does express. I had trouble finding anything concrete regarding fear in Shinto teachings. However, based on the fact Shinto is a singularly Japanese religion, and the Japanese despise fear based on the fact that soldiers would rather commit suicide than run away from an unbeatable foe in ancient times, it can be assumed fear is generally looked down upon and that one should not have fear. Buddhism teaches that achieving nirvana, the highest state of mind and ultimate goal of Buddhism, is essentially a state of fearlessness. Additionally, fear is considered to be the very root of ego and samsara, or the idea of reincarnation. So obviously fear is considered something that one should attempt to free themselves from.
The contrast between Christianity and Shinto is shown during the test for Exwires in episode 7. During the scene Izumo (again representing Shinto) attempts to bathe alongside her friend Paku. However, they are attacked by a demon known as a ghoul. Initially, Izumo is strong in her resolve and summons the demon White Foxes to fight, but she becomes scared and demons turn on her when she sees the harm coming . Rin then breaks in and battles the ghoul without the slightest hint of fear. The Christian clears shows a stronger resolve, not even hesitating in his attack. However, Rin’s lack of fearlessness as a Christian is shown better in a different, which we will discuss shortly. Izumo’s hesitation and fear shows how Shinto does not offer a strong defense against fear. Now the contrast of Christianity and Buddhism is strongest seen in episode 5, during the training with the demons called reapers. Fearing them prompts them to attack, as they can sense the fear in one’s eyes in the canon of the anime. Despite training to be both an exorcism and being raised Buddhist, Ryuji is still scared of the reapers. This prompts them to attack him, forcing Rin to jump in and save him. Rin actually gets bitten and hurt, but yet does no fear is in Rin’s eyes. Here again, Buddhism shown to lack the conviction for one to not feel fear, to the point that the practitioner is in danger. In conclusion, the Christian has not felt fear in either situation where the believers of other faiths faltered. In this way the writer is suggesting a superiority of Christianity over these other religion, at least with regards to fear.
Critiquing the Church
While Blue Exorcist does promote the beliefs of Christianity in a variety of ways, it also gives a critique of the church. Note that I said church, and not Christianity as a whole. The Christian church has its founding in Jesus Christ, as noted by Jesus’s declaration in Matthew 16:18. However, as it is a human managed entity in its current incarnation, it is subject to corruption by the sins and fallen nature of man. There are a couple ways in which the church is critique, but most notable is the church’s hesitancy to accept Rin. Now, within the context of the anime, they are hesitating to accept Rin as a weapon and exorcist, not a Christian. Yet, there is a clear parallel here between the hesitancy of Christians and the church to accept some people because of there apparent “greater sinfulness” than others. This is quite the hypocrisy and bad behavior for a church or Christian due to the fact that the church is decreed to teach all to “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain, they are retained.”(John 20:23). There are few other examples such as the church acting while disregarding the Bible, something the series warns not only the church about, but all humans, religious or otherwise.
Warning Against Secularism
Blue Exorcist warns against secularism in a heavy way by showing what happens when the church ignores the warning of the Bible. Secularism itself generally follows the idea of ignoring any kind of religious belief and states that you create your own worth, essentially putting humans on pedestal. In doing this, it also asserts that humans have power over the supernatural, regardless of belief in it. In Blue Exorcist, the church directly ignores Biblical commands, specifically the warning against messing with demons and the supernatural. A good verse to look to as a warning is Acts 19: 13-16. Despite this, the conflict of the series comes when the church does this very thing, thinking it can handle the power of summoning/creating a Gehanna Gate and destroying the demon world. However, it quickly goes astray as Satan takes advantage of the situation to cause massive destruction. Things get fixed eventually, but still it acts as a powerful statement of the dangers of ignoring the teaching of religion. This may be a call by the writer for readers to consider religion once again, instead of ignoring it to do as they please. It also warns Christians to be wary of falling into the temptation of the world and to consider what is right and wrong. As the example in Blue Exorcist shows, the church had good intentions of what they were doing, but it ended in disaster with no real success to show for it. It is the embodiment of the saying, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this article! Hope it gave you something to think about, and that you will continue to enjoy the content Rishraff Reviews puts out. If there anything I spoke incorrectly about, please feel free to correct me in the comments. I also want to encourage if you have questions regarding Christianity or have something you would like to discuss to also feel free to comment. I do enjoy reading them! Thank you again!