Classic 'JESUS' Film Now in Japanese Anime
And the Good News is … just nine minutes and fourteen seconds long?
With the average attention span among youth constantly shrinking, one ministry continues to capture the hearts and minds of the lost in a unique language most teens find hard to resist – Japanese animation.
Adopted from the original “JESUS” film created by The JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, “My Last Day” tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion through the eyes of the thief who hung next to him in a short anime format.
The film opens with soldiers brutally whipping Jesus amid an angry and approving crowd, while the jailed thief looks on out of his cell. Passing from regret to repentance and ultimately to redemption at the cross, his own guilt causes him to realize Jesus’ innocence.
“Remember me Jesus when you come as king,” utters the repentant thief who, although hanging on the cross, is comforted by the promise of paradise.
Giving audiences the opportunity to witness the personal transformation of the criminal when encountering the truth of Jesus Christ, the first-person narrative makes the story all the more relatable and real.
The end of the film displays a link to a website that answers the question “Who is Jesus” and presents the Gospel message, offered in several different languages. People are given the chance to repent and receive Christ through prayer.
“My Last Day” is part of the latest strategy of the ministry to create and translate media tools to communicate the story of Jesus in “heart languages of the world.”
“Heart language is a combination of two factors,” stated Greg Gregoire, senior associate for The JESUS Film Project, to The Christian Post. “The mother tongue of the person [and] the second factor is the communication style that people want to receive information.”
“We now have the JESUS film in over 1,100 languages … and today many people, both literate and non-literate prefer a story format.”
Recognizing that short films were a more receptive medium, Gregoire noted, “By using film we can tell the story [of Jesus] and it can be dubbed into other languages and accents and used by many people to retell the story.”
The classic “JESUS” film is over 31 years old and while still very effective in many contexts, the next generation – the millenials – and other media-sophisticated audiences needed a different way to connect to the story, said Gregoire.
With this new version of the original, which employs highly stylized animation techniques proven to be popular worldwide, the ministry hopes to effectively reach younger audiences.
“It won’t be their grandparents’ JESUS film. It won’t even be their parents’ The Passion of the Christ. It will be the story of Jesus told in their language,” expressed the film’s renowned writer Barry Cook, who also directed Disney’s “Mulan” and was the visual effects supervisor for “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Since anime appeals to media-heavy cultures, the potential impact of using anime for a Christian movie is staggering.”
“My Last Day” is the first professionally produced Christian movie ever done in a Japanese-style animation. STUDIO4°C, a leading Japanese animation studio in Tokyo founded by Eiko Tanaka, animated the film, lending to the graphic nature of the short.
Regarding whether the new film was too gory and violent for teens, with scenes showing blood dripping down Jesus’ body and nails painfully embedded into his hands and feet, Gregoire explained to CP, “The reality of anime is that it is a graphic medium. Young people are attracted to anime.”
“The reality of what Christ went through in his crucifixion is horrendous and cannot be properly told without being gory and graphic. Our live action films have not shied away from this fact and we have attempted to be both honest and accurate to the depiction of the crucifixion.”
With over a thousand hits in the first two days of the launch, the response so far has been positive. As the ministry translates the film into more languages, they hope to make a greater impact with this latest visual presentation of the Gospel.
“People love a story,” Gregoire concluded. “The Gospel is the greatest of stories.”
The JESUS Film Project continues to explore opportunities for additional anime films, as well as other media products, which will utilize the most up-to-date technologies.
The flagship movie, “JESUS” (1979), remains the most-translated and most-watched movie in history, with more than 6 billion viewings in 229 countries. The goal is to offer the film in every language spoken by people groups of 50,000 or more.
“My Last Day” premieres worldwide online April 21. It is currently available to stream on the Global Short Film Network.