Saint Young Men has the kind of premise that you just have to watch no matter what you’re a fan of. Jesus and Buddha are roomies, on vacation in the mystical world of modern Japan, and get into all kind of antics? This could either be really good or really bad.
Thankfully, Saint Young Men is a fun, silly, and in no way painful movie. When you think about Jesus and Buddha starring in a movie together, you instantly think low-brow humor. Religious figures in a comedy film tends to lead to derogatory and easy attacks on the characters, sometimes vitriolic rather than intelligent. Saint Young Menis the kind of comedy movie I’d let a four year old watch. The comedy is accessible to everyone, it has humorous but inoffensive takes on Jesus and Buddha, and it winds up having teachable moments.
The comedy itself ranges from person-in-a-strange-place humor to poking fun at certain stories of the duo. The idea that Jesus can’t swim leads to some hilarious references to Biblical events and I found Buddha’s chanting sutras during a scary theme park ride to be one of the highlights of the film. And as our heroes are assimilating to life in Japan, they encounter a variety of entertaining characters. Jesus winds up being mistaken for a Yakuza big wig in my favorite moment, while Buddha is constantly being picked on by a trio of kids who want to poke his forehead.
While this film is good-natured fun, it has a small problem in the fact it isn’t very cohesive. It’s a slice-of-life that doesn’t have a beginning, nor an end, and jumps about. So for those looking for plot, they’ll be let down. Regardless of whether it is glued together well or not, it’s a very small complaint compared to the amount of fun to be had.
The animation is unique and very pretty, giving off the feeling of being a moving manga. The music is also excellent.
What I really enjoyed were the characters of Buddha and Jesus. Both are very silly, caring, and in any other context I’d think they were homosexual considering how blushy and loving they are (which hasn’t stopped people from drawing yaoi of the two). But as caring figureheads of their respective religions, you get a sense of how much they love people and get along with everyone. What’s even cooler is how much you actually can learn from this film. There are actual teachings to be found here on top of giving an overview of different stories of Buddhism and Christianity.
I’m going to give a pretty high score to this film not only because it is fantastic fun, but also because I feel that it handled itself so well and respectfully. I’m not a religious man myself, but I love to see a movie that doesn’t take sides or exclude anyone. It tackles the subject matter with grace and produces one of the funniest anime movies I’ve ever seen.
Overall Score: 9/10
What I Liked: Great soundtrack fits the mood of the movie and is dramatic when needed. Consistent and colourful animation. The children, of all characters, are expanded upon and fleshed out. Interesting interpretations of religious figures. The dynamic between Jesus and Buddha is well done, it's fun watching them bounce off each other. Gen Hoshino and Mirai Moriyama are brilliant as the Enlightened One and the Son of God.
What I Didn't: The festival section drags its feet a little. Most of the "researched" religious jokes that make the manga brilliant are absent.
Final Verdict: Saint☆Young Men is a fluffy little buddy film about Buddha and Jesus taking a vacation to Japan's capital. A quirky (and possibly offensive) concept, sure, but the movie treats both religions with respect while treating the audience to some clever humour and heartwarming interactions between the two leads. On my Favourite Anime of All Time list.
Saint Young Men occupies a very special place in my heart. I watched the movie before I knew about the OVAs, and I'm actually glad I did. Saint Young Men is the type of film you might be skeptical about watching at first, but let me assure you, it is one of my all-time favorite movies, and its story and characters are delightful. Jesus and Buddha make a great pair of roommates, and they manage to get themselves into some truly inspired situations. At times Buddha comes off as a bit uptight and Jesus a little too childish, but for the most part these figures are portrayed (as far as I can tell) respectfully and generally true-to-life. As someone who attends a Catholic high school, I'd feel comfortable reccomending this to my religion teachers, but you can definitely enjoy Saint Young Men even if you aren't religious. It's a great slice-of-life examination of friendship, spirituality, and community. I've lost track of how many times I've watched this movie, and I've tried (unsuccessfully) to get most of my friends to check it out. Saint Young Men is heartfelt, hilarious, and just plain enjoyable. I implore you to watch this great film- whether it's at Christmastime, New Years, or an uneventful summer's day. Then, find me so we can talk about it, because it's just that good.
Pros: Jesus runs a blog
I also suggest reading the manga if only because it includes the line "Jesus is curious about theremins."