Red Data Girl is an anime heavily influenced by Japanese Shinto culture. It is a coming-of-age tale featuring a Shinto shrine maiden, but not all is as it seems…
*Spoiler Warning: Minor Spoilers*
Red Data Girl is a Japanese animated series that tells the story of Izumiko Suzuhara, a young girl who has been raised at the Tamakura Shinto shrine. Growing up in near-seclusion, Izumiko is a shy and timid girl. She is a miko, or Shinto shrine maiden, and the Tamakura shrine is based on the real-life Tamaki mountain shrine. Alienating her from the others even further is that whenever she comes into contact with electronic devices such as phones or computers, the equipment malfunctions or is destroyed, making her unable to use these forms of communication. However, this problem is merely a side-effect of her apparent latent spiritual powers which are revealed later in the story.
The various aspects of Shinto, the ancient indigenous religion of Japan, abound throughout the tale. Spiritual themes are heavily woven into the story, highlighting various Shinto beliefs and practices. It is revealed that Izumiko is a yorishiro, or someone possesses the power to channel a himegami, a female goddess. In Japanese mythology, these gods and goddesses are called kami, but lesser spirits and other phenomena found throughout nature also share this title. A himegami is a particularly powerful kami, and Izumiko’s ability to serve as a vessel for the goddess leads the other characters to call her the titular “Red Data Girl,” roughly the human equivalent of a rare World Heritage Site.
The series starts with Izumiko studying at the Houjou Academy, a school for spiritually-gifted children. Here, the students work to be recognized by the World Heritage Collection. Those at the school are mostly Shintoist and Buddhist, and the series reflects heavily on this. At the academy, she meets a young mountain monk, or yamabushi, named Miyuki Sagara. Although he is abrasive towards her at first, it is later discovered that Miyuki has been chosen to be her protector. Many of the famous Japanese warrior-monks were yamabushi and were seen as guardians of the Shinto and Buddhist faiths.
Red Data Girl is a coming-of-age story with many unique twists heavily rooted in the history and religious culture of Japanese Shinto. The series is abundant with Shinto imagery, dress, shrines, mythology, and chants. Many of the mantras performed by the characters in the show are in fact real-life Shinto prayers. The series also contains many twists and characters with deep secrets, often related to the mythological themes presented in the anime, such as one character who is secretly a tengu, or supernatural being associated with the yamabushi. By combining contemporary Japanese animation with ancient Shinto religious themes, Red Data Girl presents a fascinating blend of Japanese culture both old and new.