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Vatican Kiseki Chousakan – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「MYSTERIUM」 by SCREEN mode

「主の支えによりて我は目覚める」 (Omo no sasae ni yorite ga wa mezameru)
“Through God’s Succor, My Eyes Are Opened”

Christianity, Western supernaturalism, and anime. Any combination of two of these is already uncommon as is, but then comes along Vatican Kiseki Chousakan to truly claim the black swan award. This was one show I had my eye upon since researching it, it tickled all my fancies, had one too many similarities to Dan Brown’s work, and possessed a very competent staff. Obviously I expected great things, and thankfully, VKC looks set to fulfill them. Well, mostly.

Probably the first surprise when looking at VKC is how realistic it is. Most Christian-themed anime is rough when it comes to the mythology—at best—but VKC is remarkably adherent to its foundation. Specific biblical information, key anomalies (stigmata, virginal conception), basic Catholic Church structure, all are largely represented as they exist in real life. Even more shocking though is how loyal the show is to actual Roman Catholic miracle investigation. For all the archaic symbolism, the modern church is quite stringently scientific when it comes to miracles, and of late refuses to even consider the validity of one unless the scientific community cannot come up with a reasonable answer. This dichotomy is perfectly represented by Joseph (Okamoto Nobuhiko) and Roberto (Suwabe Junichi), who use blood tests and hypotheses of IVF alongside anachronistic counters all in the same breath. It’s a surprisingly strong base, particularly when noting the attention to detail in things like language or clothing. VKC’s setup certainly raises my hopes the later parts of this show won’t fly off the rails.

Where the risk comes here, however, is likely in story. For all VKC’s adherence to actuality, parts of this episode felt disjointed with noticeable rushing and some dubious balancing between fact and pretentiousness. With all the interest built up in the murdered priest and satanic cult for example, there’s also the (arguably) excessiveness in the blondie’s love of the divine, and Joseph’s clear joy in celebrating the will of God. Yes it’s a religiously themed show, but I quite like the Simoun approach where faith is a more subtle and low key, but no less powerful, affair. Also doesn’t help matters when the yaoi undertones are being teased like mad and a distinctively Mexican church features some very non-Latin named clergy and laity. To be fair though, some of these aspects could factor in later, especially when we have three (or four) potential miracles popping up simultaneously and a corrupt church clearly looking for fame and/or fortune. Simple satanic worship aside, Catholic sainthood is determined by miracle working, making it not unlikely a few opportunistic clergy got the bright idea for some popularity by conveniently manufacturing one. Just ask our sausage loving sister. She’s not sending a message at all, no definitely not.

While not the strongest of openers, VKC has laid the groundwork for potentially greater things to come. We have a surprisingly good foundation, a mystery plot with some teeth, and the likelihood of better things to come. Sure it could all spectacularly implode later on, but so long as VKC can match this basis with good execution, it’s got my full attention. Definitely sticking around to see what next week brings.

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「サクラメント」 (Sakuramento) by Nobuhiko Okamoto

End Card

July 7, 2017 at 11:30 pm
19 comments »
  • July 8, 2017 at 1:52 amAngelus

    Christianity, Western supernaturalism, and anime. Any combination of two of these is already uncommon as is

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re trying to say here, or maybe we just tend to watch different stuff, but I’d say Christianity and its belief systems in varying degrees are quite well represented in anime, or at least, far more than its current adherence rate of 1% of the Japanese population might suggest.

    When I say “well represented” I don’t of course mean it’s represented well, I suppose it’s no wonder that it’s usually completely misunderstood to the extent that you get mini-skirted teenage nuns and married priests who own their churches. And as for understanding the theology, well, most Christians and their ministers have enough problems with that already, let alone the Japanese with their animistic roots trying to get to grips with it.

    But just looking back to last season, we had Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai, based on the Roman Catholic notion of there being seven deadly sins, and Renai Boukun, with its Judeo-Christian-inspired angels, demons and single god. Renai Boukun even went as far as trying to depict a biblical eight-winged seraph, although admittedly there was also some ancient Roman belief thrown in for good measure.

    • July 8, 2017 at 10:33 amPancakes

      Woops forgot to fix that line, thanks for catching. You’ve largely summed up what I was trying to get at, there’s lots of Christian mythos featured in anime, but very few shows ever give it a serious treatment. It’s true many over here also fail properly representing it, but I think we tend to overlook it because being historically Christian there’s a sense of innate understanding (i.e. we just naturally know the nuances). VKC breaks the mold for me because it’s trying to represent Christianity seriously at face value, with minimal amounts of artistic liberties. At least so far.

      • July 8, 2017 at 11:02 amAngelus

        …it’s trying to represent Christianity seriously at face value, with minimal amounts of artistic liberties

        It’s trying to represent Roman Catholicism at face value, but there are many, many Christians in the world who regard Roman Catholicism as at best misguided and at worst an abhorrent cult. So I’d certainly not wish VKC to be someone’s first introduction to Christianity. Even Saint Young Men would be better!

      • July 8, 2017 at 1:58 pmArchiepiscopus

        @Angelus “…many Christians in the world who regard Roman Catholicism as at best misguided and at worst an abhorrent cult.”

        Yes, yes those horrible Catholics, with their funding and establishing over 50,000 schools/universities and hospitals all over the world, and doing that for over 800 years since the Middle Ages. Pure evil.

      • July 9, 2017 at 2:35 amAngelus

        Defensive, much, Your Excellency?

        But seriously, we’re not going to fix Christianity to either of our satisfactions in an anime blog. We both have no doubt sincerely-held beliefs, and what with me being an Antinomian High Calvinist I think it’s safe to say that we aren’t going to agree on anything much at all. So for everyone else’s sake I’m content to leave it at that if you are.

      • July 9, 2017 at 11:47 amArchiepiscopus

        If you call that being defensive, what do you say about someone who says that x is “an abhorrent cult”?

        I will end it by saying that I for one am glad that Japanese pop culture usually thinks of Catholicism as the only kind of Christianity in the world. You see, no sad, empty, lifeless Calvinist temple will EVER truly correspond with the human desire (channeled via Catholicism) to build something gorgeous, timeless and majestic in order to honor God.

      • July 9, 2017 at 1:50 pmAngelus

        And there I was thinking you’d be big enough and secure enough in your faith to accept my offer of a standoff. Still, I can’t let you go without commenting on one of your calumnies:

        what do you say about someone who says that x is “an abhorrent cult”?

        They are probably rather unpleasant people. I merely pointed out the fact that such people do exist, so please don’t imply that I am one of them.

      • August 11, 2017 at 4:48 amKarry

        Well, to be fair, all Christians are cultists, splintered out from Judaism, which is itself a cult of Fenician (i think) volcano demon of chaos (and immense ego).

  • July 8, 2017 at 2:20 amMastertool

    I’m honestly not sure what i should think. It wasn’t really a bad episode for what it is, but something about it bothered me. A lot. Maybe it’s just that i’m not too fond of religion in general but i had a hard time watching it. It’s even harder to put into words. The closest thing i could put together is: a parody of religion trying to be serious with tiny bits of yaoi undertones (the scene with the shower in the beginning, everyone who is around 20 being good looking like they sold their soul) but maybe the undertones are just me being weird. Another thing i somewhat thought after watching: Aren’t they trying a bit too hard? The first episode about the chruch, religion and supernatural stuff and what do we get? A virgin conception, bleeding body parts like being crucified, someone got his head smashed in as a demonic sacrifice and a crying statue. I’ll give the next episode a chance, but i already feel weird about this one. But people told me my tastes are shit for the most part, so there is that.

    • July 8, 2017 at 10:42 amPancakes

      You’re not wrong about the feeling, I enjoyed a lot of this episode because of the theme and its treatment, but parts definitely felt off or try hard. Personally I can overlook the yaoi bait given it’s unlikely to seriously swing in that direction, but the constant need to (over)emphasize miracles, faith, and one’s love of God is a little concerning. It’s a religiously-veiled show, we already know the inclinations of the protagonists, no need to mention it with every other breath. Hopefully just wait and see though, the show just needs to step off the gas a bit and let its setting speak for itself.

  • July 8, 2017 at 10:46 amAngelus

    A virgin conception, bleeding body parts like being crucified, someone got his head smashed in as a demonic sacrifice and a crying statue.

    Well, stigmata and crying/bleeding statues are pretty much standard things in Roman Catholicism. The statues are generally proven to be fakes, but the stigmata can be real.

  • July 8, 2017 at 5:14 pmlunascha

    I’m watching all the series this season that RandomC is posting except this one lol. I watched the first episode, but nothing about it interested me.

    • July 8, 2017 at 6:09 pmPancakes

      It’s definitely not for everyone, you’ve got to have an interest in or tolerance of religious trappings to likely get the most out of it, particularly given the show’s overt emphasis on it.

  • July 9, 2017 at 4:11 amusanotsuki

    this give me trinity blood vibe.. i wonder if it as good?

  • July 9, 2017 at 5:33 amchad28

    “Christianity, Western supernaturalism, and anime.Any combination of two of these is already uncommon as is”
    No, it’s not: Almost all the supernatural exorcist animes / mangas have Christianity elements and heavy influence in them. And vampires and zombies are western supernatural, there are tons of anime with vampires. And vampire animes normally have christian themes in them too.

    • August 11, 2017 at 4:51 amKarry

      Zombies are not western. Folklore on vampires is also radically different from now-common tropes. European kinds of undead are quite different. Go look it up, it’s fun.

  • July 9, 2017 at 9:18 amUrahara

    * people explaining things they know to other people who also know because they worked together at that exact place for a while now , just in case someone imaginary is listening in some other world and has no idea what’s going on *

  • July 9, 2017 at 10:50 amtheirs

    Actually intrigued by this because of the possibility that the miracle is a sham. No police allowed and incomprehensible source of money triggers some alarm bells.

    Though I can’t really relate with the two protagonists (personal belief that miracles should be scientifically plausible), I am interested in what they will uncover. Kinda feel like what I want to find out is the exact opposite of the two priests.

  • July 9, 2017 at 4:53 pmsealouse

    Pacing. There isn’t any.

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