Friday, December 27, 2013

Rewind: The Wallflower

Last time I wrote about The Wallflower, almost three years ago, it resulted in a reflective post. I've had a few years to reflect on the same topics and add to my thoughts. Those years show in this post, so it's a little more in depth than past "Rewind" posts.

It’s been a while since I watched or read The Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge). But I’ve thought about it now and then, attempted to watch the dubbed version, and reread my old post on the series. It’s easy to remember the premise, and easier still to remember the appeal of it. I identified with the main character, Sunako. I wanted friends to reach out to me like the boys in The Wallflower reached out to her. I wanted to be special to a group of people, and perhaps especially special to a single young man, like Sunako was. I enjoyed the light romance, and the characters’ more charming moments made me giggle. The Wallflower gave me - and millions of other girls - a way to live a fantasy. Yes, it was unrealistic. Still, it addressed real needs: the need for acceptance, companionship, love, to be pursued. In its own way, The Wallflower addressed our need for salvation from ourselves and the darkness that encompasses us.

Sunako is a high school girl who loves horror. She spends her days hiding in her dark room, watching horror movies. When she must leave the safety of her room, she hides behind her long hair. She does not put care into her appearance. Her clothes are frumpy, and her skin could benefit from basic care. She carries the pain of rejection with her; two years ago, the boy she liked called her ugly. Even before that, she wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. Now, it’s yet another reason to stay in the shadows.
Her rich, traveling aunt wants to change her. She sends Sunako to live in her mansion with four stunningly handsome boys. In exchange for free rent, they are instructed to transform her into a beautiful lady. They don’t have much to work with. Sunako is not a willing subject, and if she looks directly at her housemates, she gets a nose bleed, as she does around all such “beautiful creatures.” She would prefer to stay in darkness with her horror movies and skulls. These habits have shaped her demeanor, so she actually scares the guys. Like her aunt, they'd much rather change her into something more "ladylike" than accept her for who she is, horror movies and all.

The young men, also students at her high school, are determined. At first, they try to draw her out of darkness because they want free rent. This turns into genuine care. They don’t all compete for her love. Unlike characters in certain recent reverse harem anime, these boys have somewhat varied tastes in women (and some sense of respect). But they become her friends and defenders. One of them becomes the key love interest.

One of the "ridiculous things" I'm referring
to. This particular adventure is in ep 3.
It’s a gradual process, and many ridiculous things happen along the way. I used anime and manga to escape reality much like Sunako used horror, so I enjoyed the unrealistic scenarios and the laughs they produced. This brand of shoujo romantic comedy held particular appeal at the time - by the end of 2010, I’d also watched Skip Beat, Fruits Basket, Kare Kano, Itazura na Kiss, and similar shows. They transported me to a different reality, a place where unlikely love bloomed between unlikely people in even more unlikely situations. I considered myself an extremely unlikely candidate for anything close to romance. I craved the kind of excitement and attention shoujo heroines experienced. I liked anime where the girl was stuck living with the guys, because she automatically got their notice and companionship. I escaped into the anime and lived through the characters, because by the end of 2010, my anxiety and depression were starting to suffocate me again. I wanted someone to notice, to save me from the downward spiral, to draw me into the light even if I resisted.

Of course, I’m not a shoujo heroine, so only my family, psychiatrist, and God seemed to realize my situation. Faced with that reality, I settled for watching Kyohei draw near to Sunako. I knew that wasn’t sufficient for me. Here’s an excerpt of what I posted on February 4, 2011:

“Why then do I forget Him? I read manga, watch anime, and dream of young gentlemen to fill a prince-shaped hole. Yet Jesus already came to fill that hole, and I already accepted Him for the divine Prince He is. Do I, deep down, not truly believe that He is enough? Does some part of me think I need to prove myself worthy of His love? Jesus’ radiance outshines that of any manga or anime character. I don’t get a bloody nose when I realize His presence, but I do get overwhelmed. He is far more than a hundred times as great as Kyohei, Tankenaga, or any other character in The Wallflower. In comparison, I feel like Sunako in her most diminutive form. Part of me wants to hide in my room, turn off the lights, and escape into an anime the way Sunako does with her horror movies. But the other part of me wants to venture into that brilliant light, brave my “bloody nose,” and find out more about the dazzling Prince who gave up everything for me, who pursues a relationship with scattered little me.”

I felt helpless at that point. I knew the truth of what I wrote - Jesus was sufficient. He loved me. I held onto those facts and tried not to let escape define every moment of my free time, tried not to ignore Him, tried to rely on Him. But it would be two more months before I reached my turning point, and several more months before the heavy-heartedness was gone.

I am grateful for my time in darkness. I’m glad it wasn’t worse, but I’m also glad it wasn’t easier. My obsessive attempts to use anime as an escape, my attempts to hide those wasted hours and late nights from my parents and those who I thought lived in light, my attempts to sort out my feelings and live more organized, more productive, more like the other, “healthy” kids - these showed me my helplessness, my brokenness, my weakness, my sinfulness.

By the time I graduated from high school, by the time I took a year off to heal, I was a little mroe humble. My relationship with Jesus had weathered the storms of teenage-hood, thanks to His faithfulness. I grasped Him desperately with my eyes squeezed shut, and He held me securely in His arms. And I came out of it with a better idea of how much I needed salvation, not just from eternal punishment, but from the weight of sin and brokenness everyday.

Sunako and the boys. I think we see their
comedic/diminuitive expressions more
often than their normal facial features.
I love watching anime characters pursue each other. In The Wallflower, Kyouhei and the others pursue Sunako, showing her that the light isn’t so bad. And when the shoe’s on the other foot, when Kyouhei is kidnapped or runs away, Sunako pursues him. I’ve discovered something pretty cool about reality, though: Jesus didn’t stop pursuing me when I became a Christian. He didn’t say, “okay, my work here is done. Time to pursue the next lost sheep.” When I stray, He comes and pulls me back to Him. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, to trust His passionate, pursuing love. I trust Him with my imperfections, trust Him to know those imperfections better than I do and still love me more than I can imagine. So I try not to hide from His light when I’m faced with my brokenness. He sees it anyway, and He’s able to heal me, to work with me, to use that brokenness for something beautiful. I’ve seen some of that already. He has filled every need that I felt addressed in The Wallflower, and He does so in a way that no one else can - not in real life, and certainly not in a fictional animated story. 

Now, I’m going to stop writing. “Rewind” posts are supposed to be short bits about shows I barely remember. Well, this post is about The Wallflower, but it’s also about things that have been on my mind in the three years since I first watched it. I could go on (in fact, I have), but I’ll save it for another post.

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