In a country famously known for its adherence to a combination of secular, Buddhist and Shinto values, a Christian newspaper in Japan has introduced a new comic strip to teach readers about Christian values.
According to Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku, the Japanese Christian newspaper "The Christ Weekly" introduced its new manga character, Pyuuri-tan (ピューリたん). He explained the significance behind the character's name in Japanese terms.
"In Japanese, the word for 'Puritan' is 'Pyuuritan' (ピューリタン). 'Tan' (たん) is also a slang for the informal name marker 'chan' (ちゃん) and is a nickname often given to anime girls that personify things (of course, some women also use it informally)," Ashcraft wrote. "So the schoolgirl character's name is actually 'Pyuuri,' and the added 'tan' makes this a Japanese wordplay."
Ashcraft added that an illustrator named Sono is behind the comic strip, known in Japan as manga. He noted that Japan had a tradition of putting religious figures into manga form.
"Japan has seen manga versions of religious figures, whether that's Jesus manga or Buddha manga," Ashcraft wrote. "Here, though, we have a Christian newspaper embracing anime girl tropes."
According to Ashcraft, people in Japan had mixed reactions to Pyuuri-tan's debut.
"Online, some people in Japan are saying everything from 'religious faith isn't something to poke fun at' to 'she's cute,'" Ashcraft wrote.
Casey Baseel of RocketNews24 reported that Pyuri-tan, who is portrayed as a junior high student, had a "sensible attire and modest hairstyle." She also has an older brother named "Protestant Reformist."
"Pyuri-tan's comic strip won't be featured in every edition of the paper, only the second and fourth volumes of each month," Baseel wrote. "Even when she's not around, though, there's still a bit of manga-style appeal, in the form of the logo to the series of clergy-penned essays titled Kyokaiger (from Kyokai Ranger, or 'Church Rangers')."
Baseel added that this manga was unique in that she's portrayed as "the literal embodiment of Puritan Christianity." He reported that the newspaper she will appear in, also known as "Christ Shimbum" in the Japanese language, has been published every Saturday for almost 70 years.
Ashcraft emphasized that Christians are a religious minority in Japan. However, that country hasn't always welcomed the presence of Christianity in its long history.
"During the 16th and 17th centuries, they were persecuted and put to death," Ashcraft wrote. "There were even instances of crucifixion."
However, Ashcraft noted that most people in Japan nowadays have taken a more relaxed view on organized religion. Christians have even risen to prominence in Japanese society too.
"There have been several Japanese Christians who have served as the country's prime minister," Ashcraft wrote. "That being said, the country is still less than 1 percent Christian, with the majority of Japanese practicing Buddhist and Shinto rituals-and, broadly speaking, being rather relaxed about organized religion, especially compared to other countries."