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Anime are basically stories about people. We see the protagonists struggling with something and starting a journey to get an objective. Sometimes they get it at the end, sometimes they don’t. But any story would be pretty plain without interesting surroundings. Some anime take us to historical settings so well reconstructed that it is almost like we went back in the past, while others imagine interesting new worlds out of the scratch.
Nevertheless, among the many types of built structures humankind has created, perhaps none of them are as important as the temples. Humans have always been amazed by the unexplained, thus we have created stories of the origin of everything before science was developed enough. We created Gods and Goddesses, and housed them in portentous constructions. Of course that anime has their share of interesting temples. Let’s see if we can remember some of them!
10. Tibetan Temple in Jojo no Kimyouna Bouken (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 6, 2012 to Apr 6, 2013
Jojo is a story about how blood ties and betrayal sometimes go hand in hand. A certain Dio is adopted into the Star family, but all that he wants is to become the head of the family himself. His adopted father and brother, George and Jonathan, aim to stop him. Nevertheless, Dio will keep pestering the Stars for a long time, even going against the fifth generation of the Stars, represented by Joseph.
The Stars have special powers that they have to learn to control. Thus, eventually we see a certain Tibetan Temple in the series, where a friend of them called William A. Zepelli learned to use a power called Ripple. This temple is small, surrounded by tall pillars that are useful for training body and mind control. It is hard to get to this place, but the serene beauty of the round building with red walls and golden ceilings is worth the trip. Plus, you can learn some impressive abilities here!
9. Sun God’s Temple in Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (The World is Still Beautiful)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 6 to Jun 29, 2014
This anime’s setting is based in a fictitious world. The Sun Kingdom has only heard about rain, as it never rains there. That changes when Princess Nike from the Rain Dukedom arrives at their door. With the power of making it rain with her voice, Princess Nike is instructed to marry the King Livius from the Sun Kingdom. Nevertheless, she will have to win the acceptance of the commoners and several people who yield the power there.
In the Sun kingdom, the church people are called Ministry of Priesthood. With so many buildings inspired on European classical architecture around, you can expect that the Sun God’s Temple is tall, proud and pretty dark. We are reminded of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome but without the decorations (a lot of white in here). And how about the catacombs? Pretty much inspired by those in Paris but without the creepy crypts. In short, the Sun God’s Temple is designed to be intimidating in the shadows but majestic and simple by daylight.
8. Rahxephon’s Temple in Rahxephon
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jan 21 to Sep 10, 2002
Ayato Kamina is a teenager who discovers that he has been living in a very limited reality. When a mysterious woman called Haruka offers to take him to see the real world, Ayato discovers the battles between humans and an alien race called Mu. Ayato will also encounter the legendary Dolem (a type of mecha) called Rahxephon. In order to protect and find his crush Reika, Ayato will pilot Rahxephon in hopes of understanding the true nature of the war.
This is the place where Rahxephon sleeps, awaiting Ayato. Here we have a temple inspired in the greek style with a giant floating egg in the middle. Add a circular cascade surrounding the egg and you have mystery. There are also small partially destroyed portions floating in the sky. So, despite the fact that the giant egg might look too heavy, there are enough floating elements to compensate that sensation.
7. Higurashi Shrine in InuYasha
- Episodes: 167
- Aired: Oct 16, 2000 to Sep 13, 2004
This story by the Goddess of Manga (Rumiko Takahashi) tells us the adventures of Kagome, a 15 year old girl who falls down a cursed well. The well transports her to the Sengoku era where, apparently, humans and demons were in contact with each other frequently. Here Kagome will meet the half demon dog Inuyasha, with whom Kagome will have a lot of adventures while trying to gather the magical Shikon pearl shards.
Kagome is the reincarnation of a Shrine priestess (Miko) from the Sengoku era, so it makes sense that her modern self was born and raised in a Shinto Shrine. Surrounded by a modern city and just a few trees, the Higurashi Shrine has several secret relics according to old Grandpa Higurashi. What we know for sure is that the Shrine’s well is a time travel device and that the sacred tree, the tallest and biggest tree around, was once the place where Inuyasha laid sealed and dormant. This shrine has everything a typical city Shinto Shrine has besides the magical features, so it definitely is worth paying a visit 🙂
6. Buddhist Temple in Gantz
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 13 to Jun 22, 2004
So, what happens when you die suddenly? According to Gantz, you go to limbo where you have to participate in a game where you kill aliens in a gory battle with futuristic weapons. Not peaceful at all, right? But that’s what our protagonist Kei Kurono has to do when he is run over a train.
There are two anime seasons for Gantz, where we see several fighting scenarios. But the one with a Buddhist temple was featured between Episode 15 and Episode 21 in the second season. It comprised of several aliens, which were incarnated in the statues at the entrance of the temple, all the way up to the Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) deity. Of course, the temple was drawn in great detail, including several outdoor venues with gardens and ample rooms inspired by Japanese Buddhist architecture. This is like a tourist’s dream combined with a survival game.
5. Silver Millennium’s Chapel in Sailor Moon Crystal.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jul 5, 2014 to Jul 18, 2015
Sailor Moon tells us the story of Usagi Tsukino, the reincarnation of the princess of the Moon. She is a rather clumsy teenage girl in modern day Tokyo, but once Usagi transforms, she becomes the powerful soldier Sailor Moon. Together with her friends and boyfriend, Usagi will confront the evil powers that menace the life in Earth. This was the anime that reinvented the shoujo genre back in the nineties, but it follows the manga version closer.
One of the additions of the new version was the detail of the ancient city of the Moon, the Silver Millennium. When we encounter it at first, everything is in ruins and transformed in stone. There used to be a chapel in the center of the Palace with a Silver Crystal Tower. Only members of the Silver Millennium can pray in that place. So, once Luna the cat and Usagi awaken the true power of the Moon, the chapel and its shiny tower are rebuilt. Actually the whole palace and its surroundings also revive, so that we can enjoy this neo classical inspired architecture combined with the Indian Taj Mahal and a hint of colorful art decó in the interiors.
4. Church at Former Maryami Territory in Arslan Senki
- Episodes: 33
- Aired: Apr 5, 2015 to August 21, 2016
Based on the Persian tales of Amir Arsalan and the epic Shahnameh, Arslan Senki tells us a tale of war and survival. Arslan is the crown prince from the fictional kingdom of Pars, whose family is driven away from the throne by the Lusitanians. The anime chronicles how, with a couple of loyal subjects, Arslan assembles an army to recover the throne. The second season depicts his constant fights to keep the throne while Arslan learns to attend to his subjects.
What is interesting about Arslan Senki is the architectural design based on the Persian culture. The enemies are mainly driven by a religion that worships the god Yaldaboth, in pretty much the same fashion as the medieval Christian knights. That is why when we see their church in the last episode of the series from outside, we see a typical Roman style: a long building with a cruiser, just like the shape of a cross. In the inside, we have semicircular arcs, some tall windows with colorful stained glass and mosaics in the walls and ceiling. We can see the fusion of the western style with the Persian decorations, which was very common whenever Christians conquered a territory with a strong cultural feature. And this all is well reflected on this church depicted in Arslan Senki.
3. Miyamizu Shrine in Kimi no Na wa (Your name)
- Episodes: 1 movie
- Aired: Aug 26, 2016
If you haven’t heard of this anime movie, what are you waiting for? Watch it! Kimi no Na wa has been the success of this year! The story is about Taki, a guy who lives in the city, and Mitsuha, a girl who lives in the countryside. One day, they find that they have swapped bodies, so they struggle to live the lives of each other. But as they get used to it, a comet destroys part of Mitsuha’s village…
And enough about the story! We are going to talk about the shrine owned by Mitsuha’s family. It was based on a real shrine called Hida Sannogu Hie Shrine in Gifu. If you liked the traditional shinto vibe in the movie, with all those ponds, gardens, stone lanterns, and bamboo constructions that lead us to the red lacquered and wooden buildings, you will love the real life counterpart, which is bigger. The Miyamizu Shrine was a true rendition of ancestry and family ties, all settled down in the mystery of a small forest up on a hill.
2. Athena’s Sanctuary in Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas
- Episodes: 13 OVAs
- Aired: Jun 24, 2009 to Apr 21, 2010
This is a prequel of the Saint Seiya saga that we all know. 243 years before, three children grow together in Europe: Sasha, her brother Alone, and Tenma. Sasha would eventually be revealed to be Athena’s reincarnation, while Alone is the reincarnation of Hades, her eternal enemy. The OVAs depict Tenma’s adventures while he becomes a Saint in order to protect humankind.
Who doesn’t recall the kilometric Athena’s sanctuary? Obviously inspired by Greek architecture, it sports several training and battle facilities (like the Colosseum). Its underground pays homage to the Gold Zodiac, the different temples defended by the Gold Saints. And finally, when we reach the highest part, we encounter a formidable and detailed statue of Athena herself. Once again, we have a temple that functions as battle arena.
1. St. George’s Cathedral in A Certain Magical Index
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 5, 2008 to Mar 19, 2009
This anime is an interesting take combining science fiction and magical religion. In a parallel world, people who study enough can acquire psychic powers. Touma Kamijou, is one such person. Touma decides to protect a girl who acquired special powers through magic. This girl’s name is Index, and she is a nun who possesses the dangerous power of thousands of forbidden books.
A Certain Magical Index is a dream come true for whoever is a fan of gothic religious architecture. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Canterbury Cathedral do special appearances in the series, as Index is a member of a secret group of the Anglican Church. Nevertheless, the temple that catches our attention the most is the head of the Anglican Church and the Church of the Necessary Evil: St. George’s Cathedral. This small building has an enchanting exterior with the best of the gothic architecture: narrow and pointed arches, multiple gables, finials, and paneled wooden doors. Once inside, the tall and slim windows with stained glass give a colorful contrast with the darkness of the building. Highly detailed and beautiful even during the action scenes, St. George is a feast to the eyes.
Architecture, especially that one consecrated to a greater being, will continue to fascinate humans for years to come. Here we recounted some of the best temples that we could find in the world of anime. Do you think we missed any? Let’s have an anime temple’s feast in the comments below! See you soon!