What if Jesus and Buddha were living on Earth in modern times? What if they shared an apartment in Japan? Saint Young Men is a humorous manga about the daily lives of Jesus and Buddha, with each chapter focusing on some element of modern life, such as Disneyland, rush hour on the train, Christmas, the public pool, carnivals, and more.
Number of Chapters Available: 25 [series ongoing] Score: 4.5 out of 5
[Eden of the East is an ongoing series showcasing the best from the Land of the East.]
In a nut shell
Religion can be funny. The best religious jokes, of course, are the ones that involve a Priest and a Rabbi walking into some place or another. Well, how about a comedy manga about Jesus and Buddha as best buds? Doesn’t sound too funny? Would your opinion change if I said they were living in an apartment together in modern day Japan? Boy, does the hilarity ensue.
So, what’s the hook? To be honest when I read the premise on OneManga, I thought it would probably make a good one-shot. You know, one volume maybe five chapters the end. I thought that would be good enough. It would be funny for one chapter and then I’d move on. I was so wrong. I am up to chapter 23 and it’s still funny. Nakamura Hikaru operates the humor on multiple levels. The first level is Japanese popular and regular culture. I grasp some of these jokes mainly thanks to translation notes. The next level is religious humor. This is usually satire on the lives of both Jesus and Buddha. However the funnier moments are when they make commentary on the established forms of their religions. These moments were probably the funniest. The last layer is Jesus’ and Buddha’s interaction with modern society norms. However, these moments usually involve Jesus like when he is thought to be a second generation Yakuza boss or when school girls think he is Johnny Depp. For Buddha, it’s people thinking he looks pretty close to Buddha (go figure) or mistake his hair for a hat or use his ears as straps on a subway.
Stand up job, Nakamura Hikaru. The style in Saint Young Men is very light and airy. This suites the manga’s slice of genre. Jesus’ character design relates more to the rock star personality he’s given. Buddha is depicted in his skinnier form and is drawn as a worrier. The Japan Nakamura depicts is pretty spot-on and I conversed with a friend for accuracy. While it’s not a photographic rendering of Japan, Nakamura Hikaru does a good job of giving you the slice of life in Japan feel.
Ok. It’s kind of hard to judge the characters here. I mean, this is Jesus and Buddha we are talking about. So it’s not like we are talking about terribly original characters. With that being said, I really like the way the two are portrayed. Jesus is the rock star of the duo and apparently the least recognizable at the same time. He has a number one blog on TV drama, where he uses the online handle of Jesse and constantly turns down Judas’ friend request. He is somewhat self-centered, which one has to wonder if that is a commentary on Christianity. And he has a tendency to spend his money frivolously. Buddha is the hard ass of the duo. Depicted as penny pinching and practical, Buddha is the more grounded of the pair. He is regularly recognized as someone who “looks like Buddha” and is always in some impractical situation. The funniest thing about him is the use of his many faces and “Buddha Smile” to get his way.
This series is pretty hilarious. The only slight issues are localization and the inside jokes. When I say inside jokes, some of the humor plays off of knowing about Buddhism or Christianity and other parts of the humor play off Japanese culture. To be honest, that is what is keeping the series from the perfect 5. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out. The light art style and humor is too great to pass up. Especially for scenes when people mistake Jesus as Johnny Depp.