Saint ☆ Young Men (聖☆おにいさん) by Hikaru Nakamura is a seinen, comedy, slice-of-life manga series published by Kodansha (Kodansha USA in North America) about Jesus Christ and Siddhārtha Gautama, or Gautama Buddha, as they go on vacation from their divinely duties to travel among humans in the lovely country of Japan. They acquire a small apartment together and promptly begin their holy-hilarity trek to theme parks, Asakusa, festivals, and the beauty of blogging. This review shall centre on the first volume.
Saint ☆ Young Men is gloriously hilarious. The last time that I laughed this much (imagine Mount Fuji) while reading a manga was the very first time that I sat down and read through the Skip Beat! manga, approximately six to seven years ago. There have been some titles that were funny, but nothing that had me revelling in amusement consistently from page-to-page. It was brilliantly fantastic.
A huge chunk of my enjoyment comes from the knowledge that I have about who these individuals are in their respective religions, especially Gautama Buddha, being a Buddhist myself. My housemate is a Christian Pastor, so I’ve been learning a lot about Christianity and the Bible. The manga is jam-packed with tiny references to their individual histories that is then used to create this delightfully immersive aura of cheer and mirth. For example, when Jesus drags Buddha onto a roller coaster and explains that the scariness is part of the ride’s charm, and the best way to experience it is to scream loudly, Buddha begins to recite Sutras (equivalent to praying, essentially) due to his discomfort. While this probably doesn’t sound all that great in this review, trust me, in context it was fabulous. There is another scene in the manga where Buddha and Jesus are trying to decide who has better luck at winning a raffle competition, and they briefly compare how they died. It may seem morbid, but it was done tastefully and expressed in a vague enough manner to be a sanguine source of satire.
Saint ☆ Young Men also doesn’t degrade the characters of Jesus and Buddha by having them participate in anything that would be construed as blasphemous in their relative faiths. There’re no sexual encounters. They don’t leer at women (or other gendered people) with wanton desire. Jesus drinks beer and wine, which usually happens when he’s so happy he begins to perform miracles causing his water to turn to wine, or his crown to blossom with roses. There is no cursing or vulgarity of any type. Yes, the manga does use religious bits to create a bouquet of laughter and wholesome, light-hearted anecdotes, but nothing is judged or used in a negative and accusatory manner. It’s radiantly respectful in its ludicrous mischief.
The illustrations further contribute to the manga’s overarching feeling of joviality. It’s simple and akin to four-panel manga that utilises a minimalistic approach with caricature-type drawings and very limited use of dark and heavy details. That doesn’t mean that the drawings aren’t thorough because they very much are. Yet, most of the work consists of soft grey or white spaces that are aesthetically pleasing, as well as a superb balance to the comedy that’s taking shape.
On the whole, Saint ☆ Young Men is a frolicking good-time through faith and culture told via the lens of Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha as they make the most of their much-needed vacation from omnipresent obligations. There is so much fun and vigour to the series that I cannot wait to add it to my personal collection. If you’re a reader of slice-of-life manga and you don’t mind satirical works, particularly ones where you can have a spot of honest and warm-hearted entertainment with religious figures, then I highly recommend that you read Saint ☆ Young Men.
5 snow cones outta 5!
I received a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Kodansha USA & NetGalley.