7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity

Attack on Titan wallpaper.
Fun fact: Only 0.1% of Japan’s population practices Christianity… which makes anime’s fascination with messianic imagery (Evangelion), creepy-cool crosses (Death Note), and kick-butt clergy (Trigun) a bit of a head-scratcher. Though often used as symbolic short-hand or “occult” aesthetic, Christianity’s influence on anime characters sometimes runs deeper than wearing a cross or practicing a pseudo-fantasy variant of the real-world religion (that probably involves vampire-hunting). Looking beyond the obvious examples (such as Kirei Kotomine from Fate/Zero and Rosette Christopher from Chrono Crusade), here are seven anime and manga characters you didn’t know were directly influenced by Christianity during development (and beyond).

1. Mihael “Mello” Keehl, Death Note

Bearing a Slavic name synonymous with the archangel Michael’s, Mello decks out his attire (gun included) with crosses, wears a rosary, and keeps statues of Mary and Christ in his hideout (but only in the original manga, where his implied Catholic faith went uncensored). What truly sets Mello apart, however, is the stubborn distinction he makes between the “Almighty” Christian God and shinigami “gods” amidst a nihilistic narrative where most don’t believe his God exists. This insight deepens Mello’s characterization as a rebel determined to spite the ways of the world—far past the point of reason.

“I hardly need to remind the reader about the epic battle between the century’s greatest detective, L, and that grotesque murderer, Kira. Looking back, I can only surmise that the gods [shinigami] smiled on Kira for their own vain amusement. Perhaps these gods actually wanted a blood-soaked world of betrayal and false accusation. Perhaps the entire episode exists as a lesson to teach us the difference between the Almighty and the shinigami.” – Mello, in his self-authored light novel, Death Note: Another Note

2. Rin Tohsaka, Fate/Stay Night

At a glance, the cross on Rin’s shirt might seem like a superficial means to mystify her magus persona. Dive into the Nasuverse’s exhaustive (and Japanese-only) side-materials, though, and Rin is revealed to be a descendant of Japanese Kakure Kirishitans (“hidden Christians”) who went underground during the Edo period of persecution. While Rin, a practicing magician, doesn’t adhere to any religion, her Christian background explains her family’s powerful ties to the Holy Church, and subtly takes a stab at the notion that faith and “fantasy” can’t intermesh.

“Though traditionally the Tohsaka were a clan of secret Christians, one day a strange old man appeared out of nowhere and led them astray. With their contacts in the Holy Church and favorable treatment from the Association as disciples of a magician, they are in an enviable position.”Fate/Side Material

3. Captain Levi, Attack on Titan

Known as “humanity’s strongest soldier” who can drop 10-meter titans like flies, fan-favourite character, Levi, got his name from the child star of a Christian documentary. Given author Isayama’s knack for choosing culturally-relevant names for his characters, it’s likely that the name Levi (which is notoriously foreign to both Japanese readers and the Germanic culture of the storyline) influenced his implied Jewish heritage in the Attack on Titan universe.

“The origin of Captain Levi’s name came from this program called Jesus Camp, wherein a young boy, Levi, is aiming to be a proper Christian evangelical pastor. I thought it was a good name.” ~ Hajime Isayama

4. Doppo Kunikida, Bungo Stray Dogs

In the world of Bungo Stray Dogs, where characters are named and modeled after real-life (primarily Japanese) authors, Kunikida retains many of his historical counterpart’s characteristics—a tragic romance and a knack for naturalism among them. The real Doppo Kunikida is noted for converting to Japan’s recently-legalized Christian faith in 1892, which, coupled with the influence of Christian poet William Wordsworth, strongly defined his final writing style. Kunikida’s anime incarnation never quotes as much as a Bible verse, but his religious adherence to his notebook of “ideals” leaves little to the imagination.

“My notebook is omnipotent. It guides me as a principle, as a master, as a prophet. At times, it becomes a weapon and also a key.” ~ Doppo Kunikida

5. Klaus von Reinherz, Blood Blockade Battlefront

Klaus’ panache for cross-shaped armaments isn’t subtle, but he makes the cut because of his established ties to the Vatican in the Japanese-only pilot chapter of the Blood Blockade Battlefront manga. While Klaus’ original background as a warrior for the Church seems to have been scrapped in the anime canon, allusions to his Christian roots are plainly evident in his crucifix-adorned fighting gear and biblical mantras. The Japanese DVD box art even juxtaposes his beastly bulk alongside Luke 6:31. No doubt Klaus’ Christian connections can be credited to his creator, Yasuhiro Nightow, whose rumoured conversion to Catholicism has become something of an urban legend among otaku.

“We made the Lord of Despair a demon [Satan], and there are a lot of strongly religious themes in the series. As for why we named the enemy after despair, to Libra and to the humans, Hellsalem’s Lot is a terrible place and they could die at any time, so they have to keep on living in the middle of that situation. Klaus and the others are “hope” for those people.” ~ Rie Matsumoto

6. Zakuro Fujiwara (Renée Roberts), Tokyo Mew Mew

When Tokyo Mew Mew (renamed Mew Mew Power) aired in North America, many of the episodes were heavily censored, including references to Renee’s religion. Her cross-shaped necklace and weapon became rods, and her “church” became a “creepy old building.” As the only member of the Japanese Mew Mews implied to be a foreign-born American, Renee’s Christian faith re-emphasizes her over-arching feelings of isolation and becomes a means of self-expression whenever she is overwhelmed. Under censorship, Renee loses much of the “air of mystery” that made her so popular among Japanese audiences.

7. Link, The Legend of Zelda

Before you break out your Megaton Hammers, there’s a good reason we included a “video game character” on this list. Link’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, was set on becoming a manga artist before joining Nintendo, meaning Link might have become a shōnen star. (Even so, Link has had numerous manga spin-offs since.) Originally a Christian warrior who carried a Bible and magical cross in his inventory and prayed to Christ in church, Link echoed the religion of his homeland, Hyrule, where Medieval European culture thrived amidst the crumbling of the old gods. Upon localization of games 1-3, Link’s “prayers” became “wishes” and his ties to real-world religion were slashed for the sake of stemming any uproar from the demographically Christian Western market. Still, Link’s 8-bit, cross-emblazoned shield and messianic narrative linger as a remnant of his spiritual origins.

“By the time Link to the Past rolled around there was a religious schism in the game. [It] introduced the now-canon Goddesses’ in-game religion, leaving Christianity behind in further releases. Still, there’s no doubt about it; The Legend of Zelda began its life as the tale of a righteous Christian warrior who had his faith largely erased in the name of marketing.” ~ Jef Rouner

Casey Covel

Casey Covel

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
An INTJ and self-proclaimed connoisseur of chocolate, tea, and sushi, Casey spends her free time cosplaying, writing, gaming, philosophizing, editing articles for Geeks Under Grace, squinting at strange words, and watching Corgi videos on the internet.
Casey Covel