Possibly one of the most controversial aspects of human society for as long as it has been around, religion and religious concepts govern much of what the vast majority of people do. Seen as the source of many moral and ethical beliefs and practices, people exercise their right to practise whatever religion they please – so naturally, some of our favourite anime characters do too! We’re not looking at religious representation in anime, but rather anime-exclusive religions that have had profound effects in characters’ lives, or were simply too interesting NOT to discuss, so let’s hurry up and get to the top 10 fictional religions in anime!
Beware, there may be some spoilers ahead!
10. Zentopia – Fairy Tail
- Episodes: 175 (2009 – 2013), 102 (2014)
- Aired: October 2009 – March 2013; April 2014 – March 2016
In the Kingdom of Fiore, specifically in the capital city Magnolia, exist a multitude of magical guilds where groups of wizards come together and form alliances and take on various jobs given to them by various clients. It is 17-year-old Lucy’s dream to join Fairy Tail, a highly decorated yet notorious guild with powerful wizards in its ranks. She comes to Magnolia and as luck would have it, she runs into Natsu Dragneel, a powerful Fairy Tail wizard who then introduces her to the rest of the guild’s eccentric but friendly members. As a member of Fairy Tail, adventure and danger await – but what could be more exciting?!
In a filler arc of the first installation of the Fairy Tail anime, a mysterious artefact known as the Infinity Clock is the centrepiece of an arc surrounding a terrifying magic known as Real Nightmare. This magic is capable of distorting people’s very perception of time and as a result, the Zentopia Church dismantled the Infinity Clock and scattered the six pieces. On the surface; however, Zentopia was the main religious body in the Kingdom of Fiore and the church’s doctrine is the most influential religion in Fiore. It is seemingly fashioned upon the Catholic Church in real life. As a result of their possession of the Infinity Clock, the Zentopia Church was attacked by Oracion Seis in an attempt to once again unleash the devastating power of Real Nightmare.
9. Ishvala – Fullmetal Alchemist
- Episodes: 51; 64 (Brotherhood)
- Aired: October 2003 – October 2004
The most important law of alchemy is that of Equivalent Exchange: in order for something to be obtained, something of equal value must be sacrificed. As a result of this basic law, alchemy’s one taboo is human transmutation, a severe transgression the ramifications of which the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, experienced first-hand when they tried to transmute their dead mother. As a result, Edward lost his right arm and Alphonse his entire body; his soul subsequently being affixed to a suit of armour at the cost of Edward’s left leg. Three years later, the two work for the Kingdom of Amestris as State Alchemists, while searching for a way to return their bodies to their original states. Their search leads them to use of the Philosopher’s Stone, an artefact capable of letting its user forgo the law of equivalent exchange when performing alchemy, but mysterious links binding the stone and the dark past of their country make their journey a lot more complicated than they could have ever expected.
The Kingdom of Amestris is a land guilty of genocide. Prior to the events of the series, a war broke out between Amestris and the Ishvalans, a tribe of people indigenous to a region in the south-eastern area of greater Amestris. They are characterised by brown skin, white/silver hair and red eyes. Their culture is heavily embedded in their religion, where they worship Ishvala, the Earth God and their creator deity. Ishvala supposedly forbade alchemy and any Ishvalans caught practising alchemy were subsequently exiled and given a mark of shame for their heresy. Harsh!
8. Jyashin – Naruto: Shippuuden
- Episodes: 500
- Aired: February 2007 – March 2017
When the legendary demon, the Nine-Tailed Fox attacks Konohagakure, the Hidden Leaf Village, a group of ninja lay their lives on the line to defend the village. However, in order to seal away the beast, the village leader, the Fourth Hokage, sacrificed his life and trapped the beast in the newborn Uzumaki Naruto. Years later, the troublemaker that is Naruto has the lofty ambition of one day becoming the Hokage and his journey leads him through times of triumph and turmoil. Two years after leaving the village to embark on intense training, the mysterious criminal organisation known as Akatsuki are making significant strides in their master plan which threatens the safety of the world. Can Naruto achieve his goal of becoming the number one ninja in Konohagakure and protect his friends from the multitude of foes who await?
Among the ranks of Akatsuki is a man named Hidan, a defector from the Yugakure village. Hidan’s village lost its edge as a shinobi village and turned into something akin to a tourist destination, a sad decline which saw him furious with how things turned out. Believing that the ninja who lived there were born to kill, Hidan slaughtered his neighbours, left the village and joined the cult-like faith of Jashin. The main teachings of this religion were steeped in violence and destruction and it appears that anything that is not outright destruction is regarded sinful.
7. Omekata Cult (Sacred Eye) – Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2011 – April 2012
14-year-old loner Amano Yukiteru spends his days recording the events that occur around him every day in a diary on his cell phone while having long conversations with his imaginary friend, Deus Ex Machina, the God of Time. When it turns out that Deus is a real entity, he grants Yukiteru a Random Diary, capable of listing events before they even occur. Yukiteru is then thrown into a twelve-way death game involving other people in possession of similar diaries, the winner of which will become the new God of Time.
Kasugano Tsubaki was a young girl who suffered from poor eyesight and therefore never left her home. the Omekata Temple. Her parents became leaders of a cult which was based in the temple; however, a high-ranking official within the Omekata Cult plotted the assassination of Tsubaki’s parents, leaving him as the only logical leader of the organisation. Using Tsubaki as the cult’s figurehead, the official turned the cult into an excuse for rape, forcing Tsubaki to endure years of mind shattering sexual abuse, which led her to harbouring intense bitterness and anger.
6. Adai Village Gunmen Worship – Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
- Episodes: 27
- Aired: April 2007 – September 2007
Simon and Kamina grew up in the underground Jeeha village, where stories of the world aboveground were just that – stories. However, the loose-cannon that is Kamina wishes to make a name for himself somehow. One day while digging, Simon finds the ignition key to an ancient war relic, a mecha he and Kamina call Lagann. With the help of Yoko Littner, a surface-dweller, Simon and Kamina use Lagann to stave off an attack from the surface. After the battle, the entire village sees the sky for the first time – the stories of the surface were true! However, the surface is besieged by the Beastmen, humanoid creatures that pilot giant robots called Gunmen and terrorise the remnants of humanity. Meeting new friends along the way, Yoko, Simon and Kamina step into the fight to reclaim the surface.
After leaving Jeeha Village, the three soon stumble upon yet another underground village, the conservative Adai Village. Small and cramped, the people live in dire conditions but make do, and get through each day worshipping the ancient war relic which stands tall above them, trapped in a subterranean environment just like them. Sound familiar? The Adai Village worships an old Gunmen that presumably arrived at that spot many years ago during conflict. However, their view of the Gunmen as an object of worship is soon questioned when Yoko, Kamina and Simon enter the fray…
5. The Vodarac – Eureka Seven
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: April 2005 – April 2006
14-year-old Renton Thurston craves a more exciting life away from his boring hometown of Belforest. He spends his days riding on the trapar waves present in the air in a sport that greatly resembles surfing, as well as following the day-to-day lives of his favourite rebel group, Gekkostate. His life instantly changes when a giant mecha, or Light Finding Operation, crashes into his house. From it, emerged Eureka, a beautiful young pilot and member of Gekkostate. Her LFO, the Nirvash TypeZERO is in need of a tune-up. Thus begins Renton’s journey as a member of Gekkostate, as the co-pilot of the Nirvash alongside Eureka.
The Vodarac were a highly prominent organisation throughout the series. A group of peaceful monks, the Vodarac believed that the land was a sentient force and that true peace could only be achieved through a connection to the land. However, the experienced vicious discrimination and were almost completely eliminated by the military and were subject to a brutal Antibody Coralian attack led by Dewey Novak.
4. Kira Worship – Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 – June 2007
When high schooler Light Yagami finds a mysterious notebook at school one day, he takes it home. Upon opening it, he is greeted by a set of rules and the ominous text that reads, “Any human whose name is written in this notebook will die”. Keen to test its authenticity, Light writes the name of a heinous criminal in the book and he subsequently dies. It turns out that the notebook, called a Death Note, is a sacred item carried by Shinigami, or gods of death. Upon using the Death Note, Light is put in audience with once such Shinigami, a mysterious entity named Ryuk. Having experienced its power, Light takes it upon himself to use the Death Note to purge the world of evil and usher in a new world – the world of Kira.
After several unexplained deaths, panic sweeps the nation and escalates into full-scale pandemonium when Kira’s killing methods are revealed. In order to gain good favour in the eyes of Kira, a group of individuals began to revere and worship him the way one would a god. Not knowing that Light Yagami, a regular human just like them, was behind all the killings drove the fear that he needed in order to shock the world into the new utopia he dreamed of.
3. The Witch Cult – Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re: Starting Life in Another Life)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2016 – September 2016
Natsuki Subaru, a high schooler who spends most of his time playing games, had the shock of his life when he exited a convenience store and found himself in the market of a fantasy world. Unfortunately, crime is not a foreign concept in Subaru’s new environment and he is attacked by a group of thugs, but he is saved by Satella, a silver-haired elven beauty who is looking for a valuable item which belongs to her family. Grateful to her, Subaru decides to help her find it, but upon locating it, they are both brutally murdered. Subaru finds himself in the same market yet again after being killed, with the events of that day all happening again, history repeating itself.
Satella, the Jealous Witch in the Re:Zero universe is an enigmatic figure for the simple reason that her identity is unknown. However, she is the subject of much fear and hatred, but for some, the witch is to be revered. These individuals, collectively forming the Witch Cult, are violent, unstable devout followers of the witch and commit some of the most heinous atrocities in her name.
2. The Church of the Walls – Shingeki no Kyojin
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: July 2013 – September 2013
100 years ago the emergence of the titans, giant humanoid creatures with an appetite for human flesh, brought humanity to the brink of extinction. The widespread destruction prompted humanity to erect a concentric circle of high walls to keep the titans at bay. However, in the year 845, a colossal titan appeared and tore a large hole in the outermost wall, reigniting humanity’s fight for survival. Young Eren Jaeger experiences the true devastation brought on by the titans when he witnesses his mother falling victim to the creatures. Fuelled by grief and anger, he enlists into the military and, alongside his adoptive sister Mikasa and best friend Armin, he vows to end their Hellish existence.
Due to the sheer protection that they give the human race, a certain sect has deemed it appropriate to worship the walls keeping them safe from the titans. The walls, Maria, Rose and Sheena, are considered sacred by members of the church, who’d go as far as to sacrifice their own lives for the church. Some members of the church actually possess vast knowledge about the Walls that is kept away from the general public.
1. Kakko Warai (LOL) – Mob Psycho 100
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2016 – September 2016
Kageyama “Mob” Shigeo is a teenage ESPer with incredible psychic powers. At first glance, his frail body and monotonous, stoic demeanour lead people to believe that there isn’t much to him, but when exposed to significant emotional distress, Mob loses control and becomes a relentless force of psychic energy. In order to control his powers, Mob decided to work under the mentorship of one Reigen Arataka, a phony but very charismatic spirit medium. Mob Psycho 100 takes us into the perfectly mundane, perfectly incredible life of Kageyama Shigeo and his journey to learning how to truly have control over his psychic powers.
Throughout his days, Mob meets a plethora of different characters and non-human entities who shape his reality. When news spread about a cult which managed to recruit several dozen members in less than a month, eventually Mob had an encounter with the faction. Brought to a meeting by a member of (LOL), Mob ended up revealing the identity of the cult leader to be an evil spirit named Dimple. Dimple seeks to be worshipped by all humanity and as such, his cult was a brilliant step in achieving his long-term goal.
Regardless of all the incendiary things that seem to have become part and parcel of the very concept of religion these days, one can agree that religion is a force capable of bringing people together. Yet another powerful force in uniting the masses is of course anime, the best of which we try to recommend every single day. Did we commit heresy and leave out one of your favourite anime religions? Drop a comment below and tell us why we should convert – maybe we’ll consider it!