ANIME REVIEW | Good Tidings And Cuteness From "Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence"
As a Christian, it can get tiring seeing how my faith is portrayed in the media. The worst part: said portrayal has been created by those who spend their life jamming religion down the throats of those they claim to be “nonbelievers”. So it’s a nice breath of fresh air when one sees Christianity not just in a positive light, but one that’s showcased with a good dose of normalcy. Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence, the latest anime from Doga Kobo (Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, My Senpai is Annoying), does this by showcasing the two leads as what they truly are: human.
Our titular Saint Cecilia (Hime Sawada) and Pastor Lawrence (Kaito Ishikawa) spend their time living in a church near a small village. Many villagers look to Saint Cecilia for advice and guidance, which she does as best as she can. However, when the villagers aren’t looking, Saint Cecilia reverts to a lazy girl, with Pastor Lawrence picking up much of her slack. Despite their differences in characteristics, Cecilia and Lawrence get along well, with even the Saint having strong feelings for the man of the cloth. The problem: even with his smarts, Lawrence is a tad daft when it comes to the matters of the heart.
It’s up to those around Cecilia and Lawrence to help the pastor put two and two together, a task that winds up being a lot more work than it should be. Friends Abel (Haruki Ishiya) and Haiselita (Kanna Nakamura) attempt to assist the Saint with showing her feelings, but almost always cause more trouble than good. Even some of the villagers try their best to beautify Cecilia so Lawrence can see her in a different light, but all it does is embarrass the Saint a bit more. Thankfully, as time goes by, the courage to express her feelings to Lawrence grows bigger in the heart of Saint Cecilia.
One of the things that Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence does right is avoid the path of preachiness. Although the two main leads work to serve God, their faith isn’t all that roams through their minds and daily routines. In fact, it’s actually surprising how little time is spent on their duties for the church, as much of the anime is spent on the growing friendship (and hopefully budding romance) between Cecilia and Lawrence. Thankfully, many of these moments are showcased with a great dose of heart and hilarity.
I love how Cecilia can quickly go between saint mode and normal human mode with a snap of one’s fingers. One second, she is spouting words of guidance to a faithful villager; the next second, she’s lying in a pew, completely tired out from her work. She’s no Himouto! Umaru-chan, but one wouldn’t be too shocked to see Cecilia get along with the hamster-hooded gremlin, even if slothness is considered a big no-no. It also helps that she has someone like Lawrence in her corner, who makes sure the Saint is taking care of to the nth degree.
Although saints are considered holy deities, many forget that they are also human beings. (After all, saints are humans who’ve been given the title after performing certain miracles of God.) This forgetfulness is showcased through the back story of Haiselita, who has fond memories of Saint Frederica (Reina Ueda) from her youth. Sadly, these memories are overshadowed by the tragedy of Saint Frederica’s death from an illness. The worst part: it was curable, but the people outright refused to help her because “it’s God’s will”.
The fact that Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of faith goes to show how one’s religion can be practiced improperly. It doesn’t go to the extremes like how modern-day “religious figures” use their faith to do horrible things, but it does a good job showing how faith can blind someone from a fact that’s right in front of their face. This is what keeps Haiselita close to Saint Cecilia, as she doesn’t want what happened to Saint Frederica to happen to her. Thankfully, Cecilia has the right people surrounded by her at all times, most importantly Pastor Lawrence.
Where the fun of the show lies in is when we see what happens when the saints, pastors, and believers let their hair down. To put it bluntly: just about everyone in the crew is a dork in some fashion. Whether it’s Cecilia getting excited for Lawrence’s cooking or Abel’s inability to do his godly duties due to laziness, these characters deliver a solid dose of sweetness and silliness when not in work mode. It’s this side that brings out the delightfulness in everyone, showing that no matter what faith we are, we are all flawed humans just doing our best to get through life.
Regarding the rom-com angle, it can feel weird seeing a series try to pair up a saint with a pastor. However, seeing as it’s clear that their denomination isn’t one that bans priests from getting married, said weirdness vanishes pretty quickly. It’s not the main focus of the story being told, but it does serve as a good backbone to the relationship that grows between Lawrence and Cecilia. (Plus, it never gets old seeing how many people in their circle are pushing the saint to spill out her feelings, even if such a task is easier said than done!)
It’s sort of funny seeing Doga Kobo reverting back to a cuter animation style. After their tour de force with Oshi no Ko, it feels like a step backwards for the renowned studio. But for the kind of story that Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence tells, it’s definitely the right look. While it can be a little imperfect at times, the animation does shine when either a beautiful scenery is on display or — from another side — when the characters go into full-blown goofy mode.
For her debut role, Hime Sawada plays Saint Cecilia with adorable gracefulness. Switching between deity and lovesick girl, Sawada goes through every emotion to showcase the sweet and silly sides of Cecilia with perfection. Ishikawa brings a levelheadedness to Pastor Lawrence, with his voice delivering the right amount of kindness and sternness that’s required for a role like this. Ishiya’s Abel takes a more carefree route, whereas Nakamura flip-flops between seriousness and fluffiness as Haiselita.
Ruka Kawada (School Babysitters, Kin-Iro Mosaic) takes a more slice-of-life route with her soundtrack, using more simple melodies that mesh well with the laid-back attitude of the anime. ClariS delivers a sweet and fun-filled opening theme via “Koi Sekai”, a song that’s certainly one of the J-POP duo’s best works. End theme “Toko Siesta” by sasanomaly is a cool and calming track, one that matches with the sleepy side of the titular saint.
Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence is a fun and relaxing anime, one that will entertain anyone no matter what their faith is. With the way they showcase the characters as people, the latest from Doga Kobo is able to tell a story that’s not just about one’s religion, but also how the matters of the heart are far powerful than anything else. Christian-based entertainment should be taking cues from what Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence accomplishes, as its good-natured spirit and solid humor are what's desperately needed in that specific medium. The more we steer clear from stuff like God’s Not Dead or whatever heaping garbage Kirk Cameron is currently making, the better!
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
Saint Cecilia and Pastor Lawrence can be viewed on Crunchyroll, and has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-10 were observed for the review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.