Is Netflix's Upcoming Anime Record of Ragnarok Inviting Religious Criticism?

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By L.B. Bryant | More Articles Anime Editor Just a person who enjoys writing about anime.
April 05, 2021  05:49 PM

 
 

Originally a seinen manga series created by the trio of Shinya Umemura, Takumi Fukui, and Ajichika, Record of Ragnarok is a hype tournament battle series that has gained quite a few fans over the years. In the four years that it’s been published, the series has been placed on multiple “Best Of” lists in Japan including the "Nationwide Bookstore Employees' Recommended Comics of 2018” then it earned a spot in the annual Kono Manga ga Sugoi! ranking in 2019, before returning to the "Nationwide Bookstore Employees' Recommended Comics of 2020”. However, not everyone is wild about this series or sees it in a positive light. 

In the series, the story opens with the Gods’ Council convening after 1000 years to determine the fate of life on Earth. After seven million years of existence on the planet, the gods determine that it’s time to pull the plug on humans and make them go extinct. Before the gods can flip the switch, however, the Valkyrie Brunhild suggests that humanity be given one final opportunity to prove their worth in a tournament that pits thirteen above average humans against thirteen different gods. All the humans have to do is obtain seven victories over their godly opponents… and therein lies the problem.

In this series, there are many gods represented from various pantheons around the world and cultures, including the Greeks, the Norse, and the Hindus. The latter of which still has plenty of worshippers and practitioners around the world who are not overly appreciative of their deities being depicted in this fashion. 

In this case, Record of Ragnarok depicts the Hindu God of Destruction, Shiva, in a major role throughout the series. It seems that the biggest problem is that Shiva is seen in a potentially negative light throughout the series which might make people see Hinduism in a less than positive way or just get the wrong idea about one of its major figures and this hasn’t escaped the notice of certain religious leaders including the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed. 

In a statement released in October 2020, Zed commented on this series in a statement addressed to Coamix (the Japanese publisher of the series) asking the company "not to trivialize Lord Shiva and other highly revered Hindu gods and goddesses in its manga publications."

This isn’t the first time that Zed has commented on negative religious depictions in Japanese media. In 2016, he also sent out a statement regarding what he considered the “denigration” of the god Krishna in the video game Shin Megami Tensei IV: Final. In that statement, Zed commented on the character being dressed in a way that associated him with gangsters while also being represented in a way that goes against the teachings of Hinduism. 

Anime has a kind of shaky history with representing religions from outside Japan, though it does at least raise some interesting questions at times (Chrono Crusade and Maria the Virgin Witch are fantastic examples of this). With any luck, however, people will see the character Shiva in this series as a fictional depiction and will seek more information to get the proper story behind this important figure within the Hindu religion. 

Related: "Record of Ragnarok" Anime Adaptation Confirmed For Netflix Release

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L.B. Bryant