The inclusion of gods in anime offers a lot of thematic flexibility for our favorite shows. Because the interpretation of deities varies greatly from culture to culture, be it the imperfect, human-like deities from Greek mythology, the multi-faceted gods from Eastern religions, or gods created whole cloth for a specific show, their superhuman nature guarantees the viewer an even more epic viewing experience. With that in mind, here are our Top 10 Anime God.
10. Izanagi – Persona 4 The Animation
Persona 4 The Animation is set in the sleepy Japanese town of Inaba, which houses a terrible secret linked to an increasingly bizarre series of murders. Main character Yu Narukami is a transfer student sent to live with his uncle, police chief Ryotaro Dojima, when his parents move abroad for work. After being sucked into a monster-filled world inside of the mysterious Midnight Channel, Yu awakens an ability to access his hidden power, Persona, and draw on the strength of the god Izanagi.
Izanagi is a trench-coat wearing, katana-wielding swordsman that utilizes the power of lightning. While stylistically different, he is named after one-half of the Japanese creation myth, which states that he and his sister Izanami created the islands of Japan, as well as the myriad deities that dwell there.
9. Beerus – Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods
In a series known for its protagonists and antagonists’ godlike abilities, it takes a lot to stand out. Enter Beerus, the purple, cat-like being reminiscent of Egyptian deities. In the Dragon Ball universe, Beerus is a god of destruction who is responsible for the annihilation of planets in order to bring balance to the universe.
Beerus has two passions: gourmet food, and epic fights. He travels to Earth seeking both, after hearing of the powerful Saiyan, Goku, who defeated Freeza, and crashing a birthday party taking place. The rude manners of the attendees leave him irritated, and he decides to destroy the planet as a result. It’ll take everything the defenders of Earth can muster, and more, to try to keep Beerus from fulfilling his godly duties.
8. Great Forest Spirit – Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is the beloved Studio Ghibli film that tells the story of the small Japanese village, Emishi, in the Muromachi period. One day, the village is attacked by a raging boar demon, who is a corrupted god that is vanquished through the valiant efforts of the village’s prince, Ashitaka. Ashitaka is subject to the demons’ corruption, which he learns is spreading throughout the land, and only with the power of the benevolent god, the Great Forest Spirit, can the evil curse be defeated.
The Forest Spirit has two forms, one of which is based off of the mythical Japanese creature (and namesake to a very popular beverage company) Kirin, an antlered beast said to bring good fortune. While much of the film is spent in search of the Forest Spirit, the power he wields is more than worth the wait, and the sacrifice he makes in the name of the greater good really drives home the theme of conservation of nature, which is at the heart of the film.
7. Holo – Spice and Wolf
Holo is a pagan wolf deity from the region of Yoitsu, tasked with bringing bountiful harvests to the town of Pasloe. While she diligently fulfills her duties year after year, for centuries, the townspeople eventually lose reference for her influence, and take their good fortune for granted. Enter traveling merchant Lawrence, who stops by the village to peddle his wares and ends up leaving with much more than he bargained for, since Holo joins him on his travels.
While Holo’s true form is a giant wolf, she chooses to present herself as a teenage girl, although she keeps her ears and luxurious tail, which is her biggest point of pride. She can be quite haughty and demanding from her years of isolation, but is good at heart. She proves this throughout the series by slowly developing feelings for Lawrence, despite her knowledge of the significant differences in the nature of their existences means he’ll be gone in what feels like the blink of an eye.
6. Saori Kido – Saint Seiya
Pegasus Seiya is an orphaned boy sent to Greece to train to be a Saint, a mighty warrior that dons cloth blessed by the Goddess Athena, which bestows him with super strength and enhances his natural combat abilities, in order to battle in her defense. When he returns home, he finds his beloved sister is missing, he agrees to participate in a tournament set up by Saori, with the ultimate goal to find her.
Throughout the course of the story, it is revealed that Saori is more than she seems. She is actually the reincarnation of the Goddess of War, Athena, and is reborn every 250 years in order to protect mankind from evil deities with the help of her brave warriors, the Saints. She possesses powers appropriate of her station, and uses them in defense of humanity time and time again, even going so far as to sacrifice herself when necessary to defeat the forces of evil.
5. Verethragna – Campione!
Campione! tells the story of a young man named Godou Kusanagi, who has a fateful encounter with a busty swordswoman named Erica Blandelli after being tasked by his grandfather to return a stone tablet to an old acquaintance. Everything changes for Kusanagi when he’s forced to do battle with Verethragna, a rampaging god.
Verethragna is based off a Persian god of victory. While Verethragna is the first god encounter, and is summarily defeated by Kusanagi, his defeat is the true legacy of the show. Not only does it bestow Kusanagi with the title of Campione, as well as the golden sword that accompanies the title, but it gives him the ability to master the skills necessary to continue his journey by utilizing Verethragna’s ten forms, and thwart the rampaging gods on his journey.
4. Belldandy – Oh My Goddess!
When Keiichi Morisato accidentally dials the Goddess Help Line, he thinks that the subsequent appearance of the goddess Belldandy is a practical joke. He learns all too soon that it isn’t the case, when his tongue in cheek wish for Belldandy to stay with him forever is granted, and he has to deal with the consequences, the first of which is being kicked out of his dorm, only to find shelter at a temple.
Belldandy is a benevolent deity; almost unflinchingly patient, and kind to everyone, not only her charge, Keiichi. Her gentle exterior shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness, however. She is a first-class goddess with powers so dangerous that she’s required to wear a magical earring that denies her access to the full pool of her strength. She has a plethora of powers both practical and magical, from teleportation and the ability to speak to animals and machines, to knowing her way around the kitchen, and bring anyone to tears with her beautiful singing. She is one half of the emotional core of the show, and a perfect embodiment of the “magical girl” archetype in anime.
3. Ryuk – Death Note
Ryuk is the perfect example of the consequences of unchecked power combined with boredom. Looking for entertainment, the Shinigami dropped a powerful notebook, the titular Death Note, into the human world. When it falls into the hands of young, sociopathic genius Light Yagami, he finds out that it offers the power to kill indiscriminately any name written in the notebook, and puts him in cahoots with Ryuk in his misguided attempt to create a perfect world devoid of sin.
Ryuk is a strange looking fellow with more charisma than meets the eye. He manages to steal a second Death Note from the Shinigami King, which allows him to drop it into the human world to create mischief. As his nature as a death god would imply, he’s also cunning and callous in regard to human suffering. He follows Light around and spends equal time antagonizing and assisting him in his journey, and understands that in the end, he’ll be responsible for writing Light’s name in the Death Note.
2. Yato – Noragami
Yato is an errant god of calamity and war who has given up his penchant for violence, and hopes to establish a shrine of his own, where he will be worshipped by many. To this end, he offers his services to the living for the mere cost of a donation at other temples, ¥5. For that meager price, he’ll assist in accomplishing any task.
Despite his best intentions, Yato is an insecure deity, and his desires to help others, while sincere, also stem from his fear of being forgotten. When he is saved by Hiyori, a young girl with the unintended ability to let her soul slip from her body, he feels like he has finally met someone who sees him as more than just a means to an end. Their relationship is the true heart of the show, and seeing the way they support each other through thick and thin ensures the audience will stick along for the entire ride.
1. Shen Long – Dragon Ball
It’s easy to forget that in its earlier iteration, the Dragon Ball series wasn’t about godlike super humans in increasingly intense wars, battling for supremacy leaving destroyed planets in their wake. Originally it was about the journey of a mischievous, strong young man with a monkey tail, and a spunky young woman named Bulma, who both wanted to hunt down seven powerful dragon balls in order to summon a god and be granted a single wish.
That god is Shen Long, the Eternal Dragon. Shen Long’s one purpose is to grant the desires of the individuals that manage to collect all seven of the dragon balls and summon him, regardless of whether or not their intentions are good or evil. However, there are balances to his near limitless power. Once a wish has been granted, the balls are blasted across the furthest reaches of the planet, and turn to useless stone for a year. Furthermore, an individual can only be brought back to life once, and only if they died of unnatural causes. Regardless of how powerful adversaries get throughout the series, the dragon balls are the physical and thematic connection from plot arc to plot arc, and truly represent the raw power of human desire.
There we have it; our Top 10 Anime God. It’s definitely interesting contemplating the different roles they can have in our favorite shows. Regardless of whether they’re a main character, a background force that drives protagonists or villains, or merely an idea represented in the actions of the characters in a series, their roles are definitely integral to telling a great story. What do you think of the selections? Are there any gods that didn’t make the list, who you worship on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments section!