Image Source: KADOKAWAanime on YouTube
“I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling priests!”
Based on a series of novels written by Rin Fujiki and illustrated by THORES Shibamoto, the Vatican Miracle Examiner (Vatican Kiseki Chōsakan) anime had the premiere of its first two episodes last Tuesday.
Vatican Miracle Examiner revolves around servants of God Kō Josef Hiraga—an American of Japanese descent—and Robert Nicholas—an Italian man. Both are priests, and despite their fantasy-like robes, this anime takes place in the present day. The catholic priests aren’t just any normal religious men. They’re miracle examiners for the Vatican, investigating so-called miracles around the world and proving them false in order to solve cases.
In the first episode, we are introduced to the first caper. People living at a Catholic boarding school in the United States are mysteriously being afflicted with the “stigma,” in this case, stigma meaning bloody holes in a person’s hands resembling the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. One of the people affected was one of the sisters, who—according to her—has been impregnated by God as a virgin, similar to Mary in the Bible. Strangely enough, she is indeed twelve weeks pregnant, but her hymen is in tact. In addition, a series of gruesome murders begins occurring at the school, and seemingly reacting to this tragedy, the statue of Mary in the church begins crying actual tears—something one of the school’s priests deems a “miracle.”
Now, Hiraga and Robert might seem kind of like anti-Catholic party poopers for trying to disprove miracles in the world, but what’s most interesting about their work is that they’re debunking these occurrences in order to protect their faith. For example, because having more than one child of God would break down the foundation of the religion as a whole, both Hiraga and Robert are determined to find out what exactly happened to her. By proving miracles as false, it makes possible real miracles more meaningful. Hiraga and Robert want to believe in real miracles—especially Hiraga, whose younger brother is ill and wheelchair-bound.
Because this is the present day, the two use modern methods to complete their missions. They fly on airplanes to reach their mission destinations, and Hiraga is constantly using a laptop to send emails to his confidante at the Vatican, Lauren (who is a dude), for information. And speaking of technology, man, is the Vatican itself decked out in high-tech gadgets! Not only does the facility have an eye-scanner lock like you would see in spy movies, but once you go behind the high-security doors, there’s an entire “Vatican Information Bureau” filled with tech-savvy priests in robes searching for supposed miracles happening around the world on their computers. The combination of the rustic Vatican mixed with the advanced technology of the present is an interesting one.
Image Source: TVアニメ「バチカン奇跡調査官」公式 on Twitter
In the production value department, Vatican Miracle Examiner is a pleasure to experience. The music is made up of Catholic-inspired melodies and rearrangements of hymns, including those like Ave Maria. While most of the music is fairly somber, it noticeably uses a more jazzy tune in some scenes to sound more “mystery”-like, giving it a more of a Clue or Scooby Doo vibe overall.
But what cannot be ignored in this series is its backgrounds. From the grand Catholic structures to the gloomy, mysterious European landscapes, each background is made with love and detail. The premiere screening, which did not have the opening sequence complete in time, was instead a reedited version of the director’s research footage from Italy that he took when preparing for the work. When seeing the real life footage put side-by-side with the backgrounds, it’s obvious how much work was put into them.
Each volume of the original Vatican Miracle Examiner light novel sends the priests to new locations like Africa, Britain, Norway, and Mexico in order to solve mysteries surrounding so-called miracles. It’s hard to tell at the pace the show is going if it will cover more than just the first volume’s serial murder case, but it would be interesting to see how the visuals and possibly music would change if they got that far.
Overall, Vatican Miracle Examiner packs a powerful mystery with intriguing themes and elements that will keep me watching past the first episode. Even as someone of not strong faith, the connections between religion and the mortal world have my attention.
Vatican Miracle Examiner will premiere in Japan on July 7. Streaming is planned for the United States through Amazon’s Anime Strike service.