Anime is great because it doesn’t shy away from subjects that are challenging, and that includes creating characters based on sacred cows from different cultures all over the world. While the term “saint” generally has a religious connotation, that isn’t necessarily the case with saint characters in anime. Sure, some of them may be inspired by important religious figures, but saints in anime come in all shapes in sizes, and are generally characters that are revered or respected for their extraordinary capabilities, be they martial, mental, or otherwise.
With that in mind, we’re bringing you a list of our Top 10 Anime Saints!
10. Saint from Nanako Kaitai Shinsho (Amazing Nurse Nanako)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: July 1999 – March 2000
Amazing Nurse Nanako tells the story of Nanako Shichigusa, a 16-year-old who works as a maid at the hospital of the head doctor, Kyouji Ogami. The show mostly focuses on the relationship between Nanako and Kyogi, which seesaws between antagonistic and supportive, and slowly reveals how intimately the two are connected. Eventually, a sinister plot between the government and the Vatican involving unbelievable experiments comes to light, and the supporting cast shares the limelight.
One such supporting character is the aptly-named Saint. He works for the Catholic church, specifically Bishop-Cross, a powerful member of the Vatican hierarchy who wishes to utilize the results of the Green Project experiments for financial gain. Their end goal is to resurrect Jesus by cloning him utilizing the DNA present in the blood stains on the religious artifact, the Shroud of Turin. However, unlike his namesake, when the going gets tough and their plans for wealth and power fall through, Saint abandons his allies, proving that unconquerable greed exists even in seemingly respectable men.
9. Rei Asaka from Oniisama e... (Brother, Dear Brother)
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: July 1991 – May 1992
An oldy but a goodie, Oniisama e, or “Brother, Dear Brother,” is a dramatic shoujo anime centered around school life. Nanako is starting her life at a new school, and must navigate the intricate social structures therein. She is invited into the school’s Sorority, which seems like great news from the outside, but because she comes from humble means, she is looked down on by many of her schoolmates, and is the subject of many cruel rumors. To keep herself sane and make her school life bearable, she decides to delve into the past of many of her esteemed classmates, and learns much about herself and love in the process.
Rei Asaka is a second-year student at Nanako’s school, and is known for her confidence, her androgynous beauty, and the warm, deep timbre of her voice. She is referred to by other students as “Saint Just-Sama,” an historical French woman referred to as the “Angel of Death” during the French Revolution. She earned the nickname because of the cold, far-off look in her eyes, and the tormented passion she carries around like one of her stylish leather jackets. The epitome of cool at Seiran, she is worshipped by younger classmates who don’t understand the demons she faces.
8. Comte de Saint-Germain from Le Chevalier D’Eon
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2006 – February 2007
Le Chevalier D’Eon is a historical fantasy anime that takes place in 18th century France. The story begins when Lia de Beaumont, a Versailles noble who serves King Louis XV, is found dead in the river Seine, floating inside a coffin marked with the word “Psalms.” Because she was poisoned by mercury, her body resisted decay, which meant that her soul would be unable to enter heaven, according to the teachings of the church. Her brother, D’Eon, works as a spy for the king and vows to get to the bottom of her murder. Things get stranger when he finds himself possessed by his sister, who is also out for vengeance.
Loosely based on a real historical figure, Comte de Saint-Germain is a poet who works for Duc D’Orleans and helps carry out his shadowy agenda. He carries a special journal that copies whatever he writes in it to the journals held by his followers and can utilize the mysterious powers of the Psalms. He attempts to murder the Queen, and although he is defeated, he escapes back to his stronghold. After being crushed to death by rocks, he transforms into a gargoyle. He is eventually defeated by D’Eon, but not before weaving a tapestry of deceit that nearly overwhelms the kingdom.
7. Saint George from Sekkou Boys
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2016 – March 2016
Sekkou Boys centers on Miki Ishimoto, a recent college graduate and aspiring talent manager. Eager to make her mark in the industry, she is incredibly happy when she’s put in charge of managing a new idol group on her very first day at Holbein Entertainment Co. Things aren’t quite what they seem, however, and it turns out that the boy band she’s put in charge of is comprised of… Greco-Roman sculptures. The titular Sekkou Boys, or “The Rockies,” is comprised of Saint George, Medici, Hermes, and Mars, and it’s up to Miki to help them get to the top of the charts.
The bust of Saint George is based on the historical figure, who was a Roman soldier who died as a Christian martyr and was elevated to sainthood, posthumously. In the show, he is the leader of the idol group and is considered the most handsome member. He brings a lot to the stage, as both a man of god and a warrior venerated for killing a dragon. Let’s hope his ego doesn’t get in the way of the group’s success!
6. Jesus and Gautama Buddha from Saint☆Oniisan (Saint☆Young Men)
- Episodes: 2
- Aired: December 2012 – August 2014
A premise so good the jokes almost write themselves, Saint Young Men is a slice of life comedy anime about Jesus and Gautama Buddha, the two titular young men, who just so happen to be deities of two major religions. They live together as roommates in an apartment in Tokyo while taking a break from the whole religion thing. They must keep their identities secret while they go about their day to day lives and attempt to understand the state of humanity, and modern Japanese society.
Unlike their depictions in religious literature, Jesus and Gautama are just two normal guys trying to make it in the world. Jesus is pretty laid back for God’s only son, and although Gautama is as mellow as you’d expect from someone who achieved enlightenment, neither is above the occasional hissy fit when they lose at video games or getting a little wilder when they’ve had too much to drink. Part of what makes the show so charming is how down-to-Earth both main characters are, and it’s reassuring to viewers that even deities might struggle when trying to navigate the ins and out of our modern lives.
5. Count Saint-Germi from Drifters
- Episodes: Currently Airing
- Aired: October 2016 – Present
Based off of a manga of the same name, the currently-airing (at the time of writing) Drifters is a historical fiction action anime that sees some of history’s most iconic characters battling it out in an otherworldly domain. It centers around Toyohisa Shimazu, a famous warrior from Japan’s Warring States period who is wounded at the Battle of Sekigahara. As he wanders away from the field, he finds himself transported into a corridor lined with countless doors. When a mysterious man sends him through a door into another world, filled with heroes just like him, Toyohisa becomes a member of a group of warriors known as the Drifters.
The saint so nice we included him twice, Drifters’ depiction of Count Saint-Germi is a far cry from Le Chevalier D’Eon. He is an effeminate, homosexual drag queen who owns a quarter in the otherworldly Empire, which he helped form by allying with Hitler. Because of his position in its formation, he can live however he desires, without criticism. What makes Saint-Germi so dangerous is his lack of scruples and loyalty. Whichever way the wind blows, Saint-Germi plans on coming out on top, even if it means abandoning his place in the Empire and joining up with the Drifters.
4. Meimi Haneoka from Kaitou Saint Tail (Mysterious Thief Saint Tail)
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: October 1995 – September 1996
Meimi Haneoka is a seemingly normal 14-year-old girl going about her daily life as a student by day. By night, she dons the mantle of Saint Tail, a modern-day Robin Hood who steals from thieves who have wronged others and returns the stolen possessions to their original owners. Her best friend, Seira Mori, is a nun-in-training and partner in crime, and one of the only people who knows her true identity. She is also pursued by her classmate, Daiki Asuka, who is the son of a detective and is on the case.
Meimi attends a private school, but she only excels at PE, which is evident in her capers as Saint Tail. A great thing about her Saint Tail persona, other than her role as a sort of folk hero, is her sheer ingenuity. Where other characters in shows fall literally into the “magical girl” trope, Meimi’s perceived magical ability is all the result of the illusions and sleight of hand that helps her accomplish her burglaries with pizzazz. Her relationship with Daiki is also quite charming as, despite the antagonism between them on opposite sides of the law, very real feelings develop.
3. Asmita Virgo from Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meiou Shinwa (Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: June 2009 – April 2010
The Lost Canvas is an entry in the popular Saint Seiya series, which centers on a war fought between Athena and Hades for the fate of Earth constantly over the course of two hundred years. This entry in the series is a prequel, and is set in 18th century Europe, and tells the story of three children; Tenma, Alone, and Sasha. Although they shared a happy childhood, things change when Tenma moves to the Sanctuary to become a Saint, and Sasha learns she is the reincarnation of Athena, while her brother Alone is chosen as the avatar of Hades.
Asmita Virgo is known as “The Blind Saint,” because of his inability to see. He is a practitioner of Buddhism and is quite introspective. While the lack of sight might seem like a handicap, Asmita packs a punch worthy of a warrior of the Sanctuary. Many of his techniques are based on Buddhism and Hinduism, such as the Six Paths of Transmigration, which allows him to send his enemies to the different phases of rebirth. His most powerful move is called The Treasures of Heaven, which levels the playing field for Asmita by destroying all five senses of his enemies.
2. Mathilde Saint-Omer from Shakugan no Shana
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2005 – March 2006
In Shakugan no Shana, the world has become a bloody slaughterhouse for humans, at the hands of the Crimson Denizens, evil creatures from a parallel universe who feed on human energy and devouring the souls of their victims. Warriors called Flame Hazes battle against the Crimson Denizens, and are humanity’s only hope in the one-sided war for survival. When high school student Yuuji is attacked by a Denizen, his life changes forever when he is rescued by a young girl with crimson hair.
That girl is the titular Shana, and while she is fantastic in her own right, her predecessor, Mathilde Saint-Omer, defined what it was to earn the title “Flame-Haired Burning-Eyed Hunter” and inhabit the role of the Flame Haze, humanity’s greatest hope. She was a peerless warrior able to summon flames to empower her weapons and decimate her enemies. She can summon a flaming horse named Alastor that she uses as transportation, and can summon an army of armored warriors to do her bidding, and even the odds on the battlefield. One thing is certain; Shana has some large shoes to fill.
1. Alone from Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meiou Shinwa (Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: June 2009 – April 2010
The final entry on the list is another character from the Saint Seiya prologue, The Lost Canvas. Alone is a young Italian orphan, and the sister of Sasha. He is a gifted painter and one of humanity’s purest souls; he believes that there is good in everyone and that violence is never the answer. Which makes it even crueler that he is chosen by Hades to be the vessel for his reincarnation.
Alone’s destiny changes drastically as time goes by, and his best friend Tenma and his sister Sasha realize their destinies. He sees much of what he has painted die, and the hopelessness he faces eventually trumps his benevolence and leads him to embrace his destiny as the saint of death, and ruler of the underworld. He begins painting the Earth on the Lost Canvas, and image that, once complete, will lead to the destruction of humanity. He isn’t beyond redemption, as he still burns with the sparks of kindness from his childhood, and his fate is ultimately a tragic one, as he is banished to another dimension, to paint alone on the Canvas for all eternity.
With that, our list of Top 10 Anime Saints comes to a close. With such a large bevy of characters worthy of the title, both good and evil, literal saints and figurative, there are plenty of characters that couldn’t make the list. With that in mind, are there any saints that would be on your personal list? Conversely, are there saints that you wouldn’t want to meet barring your way at the pearly gates to the afterlife? Sound off in the comments below, and let us know!