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Book: Anime, Religion and Spirituality

Chapter: The New Life of Old Beliefs: Religious and Spiritual Concepts in Anime

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.25888


The religious and spiritual content of anime is one of its remarkable qualities, as in the West it is not common for popular cultural forms to be so saturated with the religious and the spiritual. This chapter has four distinct sections. First, it discusses the role and function of religion in Japanese society, and analyses the complex historical dynamic existing between Shinto and Buddhism, giving greater attention to Shinto as the religious tradition that has contributed most substantially to anime. Second, it considers the Western conceptual categories of animism and anthropomorphism as tools of analysis in the identification of religious and spiritual motifs in anime. The third section examines human to animal and animal to human metamorphosis in Japanese folklore, and the role of magical animals in general and their treatment in anime. The final section identifies supernatural themes and motifs in anime (for example types of spirit beings, animal transformations, and issues of life, death and afterlife) and traces their connections with Shinto, Buddhism, and to a lesser extent, the minority traditions of Christianity and new religions (shin shūkyō) in Japan.

Chapter Contributors

  • Katherine Buljan ( - kbuljan) 'Independent scholar'
  • Carole M Cusack ( - carolecusack) 'University of Sydney'