Twelve Days of Anime 1: The Best in Anime Crucifixion

As Christmas once again warms our hearts and drains our wallets, we should be mindful as always that Jesus is the reason for the season. And as we celebrate his birth, it’s difficult to not also think of the circumstances of his death. Crucifixion. A barbaric and tortuous method of execution, the cross has nonetheless become Christianity’s symbol of choice. But Christianity is old and blasé. Gloomy. Anime is the new religion. Compared to some other establishments of worship, it’s a newcomer, but it understands the importance of good branding, and therefore understands the strength and versatility of a good crucifix. Let’s look at a few examples from shows I’ve watched in the past year (and be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments!).

Cutie Honey (1973) [TSHS] episode 22 [79960367].mp4_snapshot_09.07_[2013.11.22_09.54.47]

Cutie Honey [1973]

When exactly did crucifixion made its anime debut? Scholars have long argued over this question, and while we still lack a definitive answer, most can agree that Cutie Honey was, if nothing else, one of the early adapters. The plain design of its crucifix reflects the early ’70s perspective, when audiences would have reacted to its mere presence with both shock and a strange delight. The cross is unadorned–two planks of wood nailed together–the classic look. Honey’s wrists are tied to the cross, eschewing the nails that we’re so used to with Christianity, but this trend of a more compassionate crucifixion will follow through to most later anime. The ropes around the waist provide extra support for the crucifee, again indicative of the modern concern with comfort, and her torn clothing can’t help but remind us of Jesus himself, whose robes were so violently torn from him. Overall, it’s a simple crucifixion, but an effective one, and it would lay the groundwork for many anime to come. Score: 7/10

ethics

Sailor Moon R [1993]

This screencap from the second season of Sailor Moon shows just how far anime had come in twenty years. By math alone, it’s obvious that anime crucifixion has stepped its game up–what was once one cross is now four. The crosses themselves have been redesigned from the ground-up too. Gone is the rough, unappealing wood; smooth and shiny crystals form the modern cross for the modern era. They line up together nicely, and the stray stalagmites at the base make for a pleasantly organic look. It’s no surprise that the scouts are having the time of their lives up there, and their proximity to one another means they can even chat during their crucifixion. Compassion, once more, is key. What is surprising is that, thanks to VIZ media’s new translation of the script, we now know Rubeus’ true intentions for putting the scouts up there. He wasn’t trying to destroy the scouts’ spirit, but rather put them on a pedestal, as it were, to show the whole world how important it is to have women’s voices be heard. It wasn’t about torture. It was about ethics in games journalism. Score: 9/10

[SMC] Sailor Moon S 123 (R1 DVD.H264.AC3) [05CD0C5E].mkv_snapshot_05.31_[2014.05.11_18.49.11]

[SMC] Sailor Moon S 123 (R1 DVD.H264.AC3) [05CD0C5E].mkv_snapshot_05.42_[2014.05.11_18.49.57]

Sailor Moon S [1994]

Nobody was shocked when Sailor Moon‘s third season also indulged in showing some crucifixion. If anything, it was a step down from Sailor Moon R (Only one cross? Puh-leeze). But here, Hotaru is aided by a torrent of helping hands poking earnestly out from the dark void beneath her. Their cheerful demeanor and slender visage counterbalance the otherwise gloomy scene, and Hotaru, obviously in need of a friend, accepts their companionship. In fact, she gets a little too greedy, calling out for Chibiusa to help her as well, when clearly she has all the help she needs. As an aside, if you look closely into the background, you can juuuust make out director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s left hand giving the thumbs-up. Score: 8/10

dvd_snapshot_01.04.12_[2014.09.06_10.54.42]

Tenchi Universe [1995]

Tenchi’s broadcast TV debut introduced new characters, new settings, and new crucifixion scenes. This one seems to be a deliberate reference to traditional depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion, including such recognizable figures as the girl praying behind the cross, the girl brandishing the sword in front of the cross, and the other girl running in front of the cross. As such, I find that it relies a bit too heavily on pre-established images and doesn’t let its own voice shine. It’s a competently composed scene, but where’s the inspiration? Even Ayeka isn’t putting her heart into it, dangling languidly from the cross, hardly excited to be there. Well, I’m hardly excited to look at this. Score: 5/10

ss (2014-12-12 at 12.38.28)

Witch Craft Works [2014]

Now this is more like it. An appealing mix of the old and new, Witch Craft Works‘ ED combines the classic simplicity of Cutie Honey with the audaciousness of Sailor Moon R (five crosses!) and a colorful irreverence that’s all its own. With a jaunty tilt of the head, the Tower Witches sing, not in spite of their crucifixion, but because of it. This is crucifixion not as torture, but as transcendence. The crosses rise high out of the dark woods and into the beckoning sky, for all to gaze upon in a beautiful, solemn awe. Witch activity, indeed. Score: 10/10

14-golgo5 15-XENOGEARS

Xenogears [1998]

Not technically an anime, but anime enough that I’m comfortable lumping it in with anime, Xenogears follows a long tradition of mecha crucifixion (recommended reading: Ghostlightning’s post partially on the subject). Of course, not one to be content with merely following tradition, the game surreptitiously slides in a giant-robot-sized pink plush talking animal as one of its crucified, further driving the severity of the scene’s tone. Who knows what strange amalgam of rebar and people’s organs probably constitutes those crosses, but their imposing design and towering proportions sure look cool. I also award Xenogears bonus points for having its robot crucifixion literally take place on a hill called “Golgotha,” which I’m sure was once a very nice community. Score: 11/10

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5 responses to “Twelve Days of Anime 1: The Best in Anime Crucifixion

  1. Pingback: Something More: Crucifixion in Anime, Wolfwood's Tithing, and Religion in Pokemon | Beneath the Tangles·

  2. Pingback: Something More: Crucifixion in Anime, Wolfwood’s Tithing, and Religion in Pokemon |·

  3. Pingback: Twelve Days of Anime 6: The Out-Of-This-World Fashion Synergy of Haruka and Michiru [Tailor Moon Part 2] | Isn't It Electrifying?·

  4. This post is worth its weight in gold. Thank you for passing along the holiday spirit (and by “holiday spirit” I mean “gratuitous anime crucifixions)

    Actually this had me thinking: you know what Kill la Kill needed? A proper anime crucifixion scene (and then I remembered the part where Satsuki spears Ragyo w/ her katana and chucks her onto a piece of performance art and I was like ooohhhhhh they already that that covered. Sneaky!)

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