SAINT☆ONIISAN – What is going on?

In my last post, I narrated my first time watching Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Oniisan. From the get go, I found it hard not to express my reasoning for interacting with this text in a certain way. However, I now have the freedom to acknowledge and accommodate my subjectivity, emotional response, and my overall influence on this text through further research (Ellis et al., 2010). For this post, I will address the epiphanies I had during this experience.

My first epiphany was that not ALL anime is for my demographic. Maybe not a huge shock, but I genuinely wasn’t familiar with the style of drawing used. I wasn’t aware that there were different drawing styles for different audiences. Saint Oniisan is respectively ‘seinen’. Directed at an older male audience, seinen is characterised by more sophisticated and mature nature such as story line and realistic character proportion. During my teenage years, I spent a lot of time watching a particular type of anime… *cough* shoujo *cough*. My lack of familiarity with the seinen genre was prompted by the fact that it isn’t particularly aimed at a young female audience. Seinen shares many similarities to shoujo with an emphasis on character and plot development. However, shoujo is centralised around romantic relationships.

Looking back at my post, the whole ‘I’m atheist, but these are my opinions on religion’ seemed like a contradiction I was trying to justify. In recent studies, over 60% of people in Japan identify as atheist. This statistic makes me wonder what percentage of atheists make up Saint Oniisan’s overall audience. Japan is also characterised by syncretism; meaning, most people practice more than one religion, sometimes even combining them. Therefore, Christianity and Buddhism’s relationship throughout Saint Oniisan reflects Japans secular society.


Christianity x Buddhism (Source)

Another point I found particularly interesting was the way characters interact with Christianity. Only a small percentage of Japanese people identify as Christian. However, many of its customs have become popular among the non-Christian population in modern-day Japan such as Christmas. Buddha even comments on how nobody in Japan really knows what Christmas is about.

Japanese Christmas Cake (x) Jesus’ Birthday Cake (x)

This knowledge comes with distinguishing religion from culture. In Saint Oniisans case, I believe that licensing it in some countries could be restricted, even without the language barrier. This is due to the contentiousness surrounding satirical texts based off religion. While the series plays light-heartedly on our affections towards the characters, fan culture can emphasise certain parts of the series. In this case, it is though the persistent, widespread phenomenon known as shipping.  Shipping knows no boundaries of age, demographic and gender. I am not new to the concept of ‘shipping’ or placing the label of ‘One True Pair’ (OTP) onto my favourite personas. With such lovable characters, fandoms sometimes have the tendency to overlook certain cultural sensitivities so I can understand why this was particularly heated. Even manga sites could help but highlight that these two were ‘like an old married couple’ or place them in hypothetical romantic relationships.


Saint Oniisan Fan Art (Source)

Fan culture can be wonderful because much like auto-ethnographers, they draw from their own experiences to understand different texts. I found this reflection by a fan on Saint Oniisans’ manga.

‘Two who have seen every possible form of human happiness and unhappiness in the world and have now gone beyond it, and now seeking vacation in this world… just there feeling what it means to be happy by living an ordinary human life’ – Cited in Prohl and Nelson (2012)

Within my narrated response, one of my major epiphanies was the materialism perpetuated in the modern world. Specifically, around religious pursuits. This quote provides a different perspective, which is surely due to their own experiences. They emphasise that the interactions of the characters are not so much not superficial but genuine to modern culture. This comment also touches on my opinions on the slice of life genre. Which I liked to blame for my sleepiness during my narration. This genre focuses on how the character is shaped by the world.

During this process of research, I couldn’t help but read other blogs and their narrative experience with the anime. I found it particularly interesting understanding the different perspectives or points they highlighted. Whether it be the cinematography traditions or specific tropes  which are explored. Auto-ethnography has allowed me to reflect on my own experiences in the context of others.

SANTOS, C (2010). “Little Twin Stars – Right Turn Only!!”. Anime News Network

COHEN, E. (2012) ‘Flooded: An Auto-Ethnography of the 2011 Bangkok Flood, ASEAS – Australian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 5(2), 316-334.

CHANG, H. (2007) Autoethnography as Method Subtitle: Raising Cultural Consciousness of Self and Others, in G Walford (ed.), Methodological developments in ethnography Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 207-221.

DENZIN, NK. (2003) Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically, The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 3, pp.257–278, DOI: 10.1080/10714410390225894.

ELLIS, C. ADAMS, T.E. BOCHNER, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1

EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG. (2017). Saint Young Men. [online]

JAPAN-GUIDE.COM.(2016). Christianity in Japan. [online]

KNOW YOUR MEME. (2017). Saint Young Men. [online]

PROHL,  I., NELSON, J.K. (2012) Religion and Manga, Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions. pp. 595 – 628. 

RELIGIONFACTS. (2016). Japan. [online]

SAINT YOUNG MEN. (2013). Japan: Kodansha.

TV TROPES. (2017). Saint Young Men (Manga) – TV Tropes. [online]

TV TROPES. (2017). Seinen – TV Tropes. [online]



One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s