When life presents you with a moral dilemma, ask yourself, “What would Mewtwo do?”

Out of the many, many Pocket Monsters that make up the non-human cast of the Pokémon franchise, few are more memorable than Mewtwo. Not only is the bio-engineered creature a powerful combatant, Mewtwo served as the antagonist in the very first Pokémon theatrical feature, displaying a surprisingly complex psychology along the way.

Whereas the character arc of most Pokémon consists of “be caught” and “fight other Pokémon,“ Mewtwo actually goes through quite a few changes during the story. After being used as a weapon, Mewtwo rebels against his creators, later expanding his aggression into an attempt to take revenge on all mankind.

Ultimately, however, Mewtwo’s malicious rage is washed away when it sees human protagonist Ash (or Satoshi, in the original Japanese version of the film) use his body as a shield to protect human-allied Pokémon which are under attack from Mewtwo. Ash is petrified in the process, but the young Pokémon trainer’s willing self-sacrifice so touches Mewtwo that he abandons his quest for vengeance.

While many young viewers saw these developments as just another happy ending for Ash and his pals, the Church of England’s Theology Secretary at the time, Anne Richards, saw a parallel to Christian values of redemption and salvation. Ash’s sacrifice (another core value of Christianity) prompts Mewtwo to renounce his wrathful ways, which could also be seen as the character experiencing salvation from a life of sin. As such, Mewtwo was dubbed a good example of what a proper Christian should ultimately do: resist  and renounce the temptations of evil.

While the movie in question is well over a decade old, in largely secular Japan there’s been renewed interest among Pokémon fans in Mewtwo’s approving nod from the English religious institution. Recent reactions on the Japanese Internet have included:

“Wait, the Church of England watched a Pokémon movie?”

“The old Pokémon movies had some pretty deep stuff going on thematically.”

“It’s not like she’s necessarily wrong.”

“They should say the same thing about Puella Magi Madoka Magica. When she becomes a goddess, I can’t help but think she’s acting like Christ or Amitabha in Buddhism.”

Others pointed out ways that different anime had caused them to rethink their treatment of their fellow human beings. One fan mentioned that late director Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, which follows three homeless people looking after an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve, caused him to rethink his attitudes about Japan’s homeless population.

So while whether Mewtwo’s tale is uniquely Christian or not is a matter for religious scholars to debate, there seems to be little argument that anime, being a form of art, has the potential to influence the minds of viewers in positive ways.

Source: Yurukuyaru via Jin