A lot of anime fans have been waiting for Kids on the Slope, the new anime about jazz-loving Japanese high schoolers in the early 1960’s. The story takes an unusual tack by being set in a rural Japanese coast town. But it turns out it’s also a town with a fair population of Catholics. In fact, two of the main characters are part of the parish: Ritsuko, the kindly girl who’s class representative in their homeroom, and Sentaro the drummer, who’s a borderline juvenile delinquent.

Yes, this takes place in that small slice of time when Japanese women were wearing chapel veils instead of hats or full-blown Philippines mantillas or other Japanese headgear. (Which is why I’m posting about it here, as a present for everybody who remembers those days in the US, or whose parish resembles these remarks.)

You get Japanese Catholic four-petal “cross” flower stained glass, using a prouder, more open version of the Hidden Christian designs that hid crosses in plain sight from government persecutors and investigators. If you look closely at the church walls, you’ll also see the Stations; and later there’s a Japanese-style Lourdes grotto.

You get “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” translated into Japanese. (Yup, it’s still a popular Catholic hymn in Japan. They call it something like “Deep Goodness” or “Deep Mercy.” Strangely fitting for the ep to be shown in Divine Mercy week.)

We also get culture conflict between ways to wear the Rosary: old school Hispanic around the neck to get the indulgence, and the new school being taught by Belgian, Irish, and German priests (or Japanese priests from their seminaries, more likely) not to wear it that way.

As far as I can tell, it’s wonderfully redolent of the pre-Vatican II Catholic experience, as well as the typical Japanese Catholic experience of being both part of something ancient and radically new, both respectable and rejected by wider society. (There’s no open comparison to the African-American experience, but I think that comparison is present. More strongly, there’s a comparison between the things most people don’t get about Kaoru, the new kid in town, and the stuff people don’t understand about Ritsuko and Sentaro.) It seems clear from hints in this episode that the Catholic background will be showing up again in Sentaro’s story.

The Catholic content starts at 13 minutes into episode 2.

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