Greetings! Welcome to another entry of Christianity v. Anime. Today we will be discussing a little bit of the background of the anime Shigofumi, and how it takes some inspirations from the Bible. There are spoilers, so you have been warned. Now, let’s dive in!
Why Christianity v. Anime?
For anyone who missed my previous Christianity v. Anime post, which I encourage you to check out if you enjoy reading this article, 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. The subject today is Shigofumi, an anime that a lot would say underrated. Much of its premise takes inspiration from both Biblical and Japanese stories, but that is not what I will be discussing. What I do want to talk about is an interesting naming choice that is a lot more significant than one might realize. If you have not seen this anime, I have provided a plot summary below, and you can also check out our review of Shigofumi HERE.
Summary: When someone dies, what should their final words be? Words that couldn’t be said while still alive—of love, hate, hope, regret, or perhaps words without any importance. These words are sent through letters called “shigofumi” from the recently deceased to the living. Fumika is a mail carrier of these shigofumi, delivering them alongside staff and her partner Kanaka. However, there must be something more behind Fumika’s silent exterior; shigofumi mail carriers are deceased humans with the same appearance they had just before death. Despite this, Fumika is still aging… -MyAnimeList
Within the anime, the management and delivery of shigofumi is directed by the Gospel Department. The name of this department is extremely odd, and to find why, we will explore the literary genres of the Bible. Within the books of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, a wide variety of genres and types of literature are represented. For this discussion, we will be focusing on the genres of gospel and epistle.
The term “gospel” within Christianity typically refers to the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The word is derived from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “good news” or “glad tidings.” This is why the story of Jesus and His sacrifice is referred to as the Good News. In a broader sense, the genre of gospel is generally regarded as a type of ancient biography, though the intentions of the writer greatly affect how the writing should be interpreted. Obviously, the genre of gospel would not apply to the shigofumi. They are not always bearing good news, and are not always biographical in presentation. Instead, they serve to communicate a person’s feelings or position on a particular topic in regards to their death.
Since shigofumi are written and delivered as letters, they are much closer to the Biblical genre of epistle. An epistle is a type of letter sent to a particular person or group of people that is highly formal in construct, and are often highly rigid in structure. Epistles were common throughout the ancient world, so are not exclusive to the Bible, but Bible provides some more familiar examples of them. Epistles in the Bible comprise much of the New Testament, with some examples being the books of Romans and Ephesians. A brief review of the structure will include the statement of the reason for writing and a clear indication of the writer before continuing the main topic of discussion. Shigofumi often do the same thing, though the indication of authorship may be carried out through the delivery person rather than by the letter itself. Regardless, the name of Gospel Department does not fit with the purpose or genre of the shigofumi, and thus incorrectly named.
I am curious to hear what you think about the naming error I pointed out. What are your thoughts? Could naming it the “Gospel Department” have been actually on purpose? Be sure to comment below and let me know what you think! If you have any questions for me about this post or Christianity in general, please do leave them below. I would be happy to try an answer/discuss them with you. Below are also some links to previous Anime v. Christianity posts if you want to check out more posts like this one. Thank you for reading!