Unholy fathers or merely really cool ones

There are few things that cannot be incorporated and twisted around for fun purposes in anime. One used fairly often is western religion, mostly Catholicism. I can totally see why: the symbols, rituals and paraphernalia, the powerful but secretive organisation and not to mention the clothes: I mean, men in long flowing robes, funny hats, strange ornaments all that jazz. There are a lot of anime series with churchly elements, and I have only stumbled upon a few, but I like it a lot. And the priestly fathers I list here are hardly the meek and mild sort, more like seriously disturbing (or disturbed)…

Frau in 07-Ghost

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Frau in his bishop garb with the cute little hat and perky veil. 

You could watch this for the clothes alone, if there was a best-dressed award for anime this one would take the cake. Everything from the stylish black uniforms of the imperial army with their gold trimmings, shiny boots and long coats, to the bishops’ even more sweeping robes and tiny hats with little perky veils is lovely.

Other things that makes this a great watch is the bishops’ fighting with magic through their croziers (bacculus)! And there is even a bishop’s exam where you not just have to know the Holy Scripture by heart – it’s not just one book, more like a hundred – but also fight the evil with your bacculus.

07_Ghost__Frau_by_OmgItsKarinFrau fighting.

Then, you might be a bishop and get a pretty back piece tattoo of a churchly cross. There are evil priests, and good ones, and quite a lot of grim reapers (western style) and then there is bishop Frau, who is hiding porn magazines in the church library, drives an airborne bird-scooter like a bat out of hell, smokes, flirts and drinks. He’s of course one of the good guys, and more than he seems (almost everyone in the story is). The anime is only 25 episodes, sadly enough, but the manga goes on much longer (and is much funnier too). And almost everyone is too pretty, even the bad guys, who are cuter, cooler and prettier than most. But none as much as Frau, who stays number one in my book (the holy bishonen one).

Abel Nightroad in Trinity Blood

Abel Abel in his priestly and vampiric forms.

Father Abel Nightroad is not only a priest; he’s also a (Vatican-enabled) vampire-killing “super vampire”. And in the world of this anime he’ll never get out of work, since vampires have taken over more than half the countries. This is a perfect mix of steampunk and religion. And then there’s the pope, a somewhat oblivious little cute boy, and his sister, the cardinal Catharina Sforza (!), who is wearing fantastic hats. Yes, sister. The normal biases of Rome does not exist here, or maybe it’s just going back to the historical roots where popes had children and conflicts often were solved with poison. There is intrigue, politics, powerful vampires, quite a bit of blood and fighting. I like the both the background story and the premises.

 

Marian Cross in D.Gray-Man

CROSSMARIAN.

It took me two attempts to really get this one. And I’ve re-watched it a couple of times since. Still don’t like the monsters, they feel too simplistic and crude and could be more demonic, at least in the beginning. Later on, they are maybe a bit too destructive. But the premises are ok. It’s steampunky, with lots of Victoriana, machines and such. The exorcist organization the Black Order working under the Vatican or possibly running the church, Japan completely overrun by demons, and whatnot. The most charming and unholy of the holy exorcists are protagonist Allen Walker’s drinking and womanizing master, General Marian Cross. He often vanishes, leaving droves of charmed women in his wake and his apprentice (Allen) has to cover his considerable drinking tabs or gambling debts (Allen got better at it when he learned how to cheat at cards). Marian also has a tendency to throw Allen into fights against huge monsters without helping him. The story also has cool magic, called “innocence” and a quite complex background story. And lots and lots of adorable characters, not least the cute protagonist Allen Walker, surly samurai Kanda Yu, hammer-wielding Lavi and his boss Bookman, who fights using acupuncture needles and about one million others. The bad guys are the Noah family, yes that Noah. I do love this, does it show?

Alexander Anderson in Hellsing

17426-439583_anderson_in_flight_super_superThat’s not a very holy look, father.

It’s been a long time since I saw Hellsing, and I don’t really remember much except that I thought it was really cool. But I hadn’t seen much anime by that time. I did remember that the church is a big part of this one too, except the Vatican are the antagonists in this series, and the main protagonist is Alucard, a vampire, working for the Hellsing organization, led by a formidably cool woman. And Hellsing is of course named for the old Dr. van Helsing of Bram Stoker fame. Anyway, the main antagonist is Father Alexander Anderson, who throws out bible quotes and hates Alucard almost as much as he hates protestants.

Genjo Sanzo in Saiyuki

sanzoAnger management through gunfire.

I could write books about my love for Saiyuki, and I did actually write a little bit more here. But this is about Genjo Sanzo. He’s a highly ranked Buddhist monk, but I think he’s comes out as something of an atheist too during the series. He’s a highly irritable, chainsmoking, drinks constantly and has a dangerous habit of shooting bullets in all directions to make people shut up or listen. He’s a darling, of course, somewhere down under the abrasive (but oh so pretty) surface there is a heart of gold. But he might threaten to shoot you or possibly swallow his own tongue rather than admit it. Or if he really likes you he might hit you over the head with a paper fan or tell you to get him another can of beer. 

Kevin Cecil in Makai Ouji: Devils and realist

KevinAngelic face.

The realist in the story is young William Twining, and it takes place in a British public school for boys. Kevin works at William’s estate, managed by his uncle since he’s an orphan. He also a descendant of Solomon who had power over 72 demons. William now has to decide the next ruler of hell, since Lucifer is asleep. Different demons come to William and try to make him elect them, some of them even poses as students. William, the realist, doesn’t believe in demons, even after eating really delicious cake in Hell, made by Baphomet, the goat-headed butler of the charming demon lord Dantalion. Kevin Cecil is not a real priest, in fact he’s not even Kevin Cecil. But he poses as a school chaplain. And there is nothing unholy about him, since his real identity is Uriel, the archangel of repentance. Why is he on this list? The angels are not the good guys in this anime, far from it. Uriel has only one wing; the archangel Michael, who seems more like the villain than the demons, ripped the other off. Of course the demons are not so good either. And Kevin seems to have a good heart, but does some pretty shady things in the name of heaven (or by Michael’s orders). When I look at my anime collection I think there will be an angels and demons anime list soon.

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Anachronism as an art form – Saiyuki

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The story behind Saiyuki is a 16th century Chinese novel where a monk gets a mission from God, well Buddha, to go to India to find some sacred text. It’s been filmed and adapted in numerous versions, but this manga and anime is very loosely based on the original. The story is supposedly taking place in ancient times and starts with humans and demons living happily side by side, until something makes the demons lose their minds and attack the humans. Genjo Sanzo, a highly ranked Buddhist priest, receives a mission from the three aspects of Buddha to go to India and find out why. He is to take three companions with him on the journey.
The companions are three demons who aren’t affected by the general craze. Son Goku is a young boy, at least in appearance; in reality he’s an extremely powerful entity who has been captive in a mountain for more than 500 years for causing a disturbance in the heavens). But Sanzo set him free and has more or less adopted him. He’s always hungry, maybe since he didn’t eat for 500 years, but that’s a standing joke. The other two are Cho Hakkai, a mild-mannered scholar who was a human, but he slaughtered 1.000 demons when his lover was kidnapped and committed suicide, and turned into a demon himself. And then there is Sha Goyjo, half-demon, womanizer semi-professional gambler and all around bad boy. Wasn’t this ancient China? No, not really.

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The anachronisms start fairly right away. For example: the case of Cho Hakkai’s pet dragon who can turn into a jeep. Yes, a car.

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The bic and zippo lighters that Sanzo and Sha Goyjo use to light their cigarettes. Cigarette packs and cans of beer aside, there is Sanzo’s reading glasses and newspapers, not to mention the gun he wields and frequently fire bullets to make people shut up, when he’s irritated, at walls or at his companions. Not to mention the credit card he uses, presumably let to him by the three aspects of Buddha. This is one reason I love Saiyuki, it is so silly it’s wonderful. And Sanzo doesn’t just fight with a gun (filled with spiritual bullets), but when he’s really serious he’s using a holy text roll that otherwise hangs around his neck. Other than that it’s the usual fights, friendships, enemies becoming sort of friends and enemies that are too bad to even consider. Not to mention the backstory 500 years ago, taking place in heaven. I won’t spoil that, since it’s really one of the best parts of the whole thing.
It’s completely enjoyable, from beginning to end. There are four different parts: Saiyuki, Reload, Gunlock and Reload: Burial, with backstories of the four main characters. There is also a couple of OVA:s called Saiyuki Gaiden and two movies. Don’t miss the omakes called Urusai (shut up), they are completely silly and even more anachronistic than the real thing (answers to questions like “why didn’t the Sanzo gang go by airplane to India?” and other things like it).
Mangaka is Kazuya Minekura (I’ve seen her Bus Gamer or the fairly recent OVA Wild Adapter, a very bloody yakuza-yaoi mix.) Minekura’s drawing style is very distinctive and not everyone likes it. I’m not one of those. I can truly recommend the Saiuki art books too, with drawings of the characters in lots of different settings.