Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lessons from those Pushover Anime Characters

I'm categorizing this as a Swamped post. I probably have time to do a normal Rewind, but, as I sat in chapel today yesterday, I realized that this needed to be written instead.

Sometimes, anime girls are pushovers, or at least "unrealistically" selfless. I see characters like Moriyama Shiemi from Blue Exorcist, Ema from Brothers Conflict, or Honda Tohru from Fruits Basket, and I can't help but sigh. Seriously? I say, Why do they let their so-called-friends treat them like that? or Are they really going to continue pining for that jerk and making him lunch? or Girl, it's okay to think about yourself and ask for help every now and then! You don't always need to worry that you're inconveniencing someone!

Tohru is her usual thoughtful self in episode 4 of Fruits Basket. In
this scene, she gives onigiri to an obnoxious girl who, in pursuing
Kyo, wrecked the house.

In some cases, like Ema's, the character is in an abusive situation (even if the anime doesn't recognize it as abusive), and my annoyance is warranted. Letting your stepbrothers harass you is not kindness, and it's certainly not how you show any type of love. But, in many cases, I shouldn't be rolling my eyes. Instead, I should look at these characters as role models--flawed, naive role models, but admirable nonetheless. They, unlike me, habitually put others first, even when it gets in the way of their own health and goals.

As an American woman, I struggle with this kind of selflessness. Our culture tells me to worship my own health and pleasure. For example: I'm an introvert, so I'm entitled to my alone time, even when a friend needs to talk, or a coworker needs a sub. After my mental and physical health, my grades take priority, even if I feel the Spirit nudging me to watch all the dishes in the sink, and not just mine.

But I know better. Jesus set a radical example of selfless love (much more radical than waking up early to pack an extra bento box). And I've often wrestled with Paul's words on the topic, written to the Philippian church:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippans 2:3-8, ESV, emphasis mine)
My culture tells me that I'm the most significant person in my life. Biblically, I know that's a lie. Jesus is the most significant person in anyone's life, including his own--yet even he set aside the perks of Godhood and became one of us, complete with dirt, pain sensory, and taxes. He served us, sinners, in both life and death--and a very painful death at that. If you've seen third episode of Akame ga Kill, you might remember that crucifixion was briefly mentioned/shown as an example of the Empire's cruelty and perversion. It's one of the worst ways to die. And that is the kind of selflessness God calls me to imitate.

On a more lighthearted, but still convicting level, anime characters show me how to live out this selfless love in everyday life. Here are a few examples (and I'm expanding to male characters as well):

Kaori in One Week Friends spends hours in the kitchen, at the cost of her sleep, in order to find the perfect sweetness for Hase-kun's eggs. She measures the sugar down to the last gram--if that's not actively looking out for someone else's interests, I don't know what is.

Kuroko seeks no glory for himself in Kuroko's Basketball. In fact, he describes himself as the shadow to Kagami's light. He gets more attention as his high school career continues, but it's still all about the team. Wow. I should think about how I can incorporate this attitude into my schoolwork (I don't play sports), especially group presentations. Even my participation in class discussion could stand to be more about the class and what we're discussing and less about my interpretation of the text.

Honda Tohru in Fruits Basket is homeless, although her relatives think she's living with friends. She doesn't want to inconvenience anyone, especially since she knows they have their own problems (like an already-crowded house). So she lives in a tent at the beginning of the show, while everyone thinks she's in a proper home. Granted, this is an extreme example. But it's easy for me to think I have a right to get attention when I'm in an unideal situation. I let people know if I'm really hungry and forgot to bring a snack to school--even if I don't accept food for them, I want pity, or at least attention. And to what end? To make them feel bad? That's wrong. The world does not revolve around me. Sometimes, we should accept help--Tohru needs to learn that. But often, we need to shut up and care about someone else's problems, even their little problems--I need to learn that.

To reference another basketball anime: Aikawa from Dear Boys (aka Hoop Days) was captain of an his old high school basketball team before he transferred to Mizuho. He gives up leadership of a winning team of his own accord, and, as a result, saves the Mizuho basketball team in more ways than one. He cares about his new teammates both on and off the court, singlehandedly securing the anime's place in my memory (and I really do mean singlehandedly--this ain't KuroBas).

That's all I have for now, although I should revisit this topic in the future. Even if I don't blog about it again, I guarantee it will pop up in my devotions and journalling (although not as often as it should). Selflessness doesn't come as easily to me as it does to several of these characters... probably because I'm a real human being, fighting non-fictional sin. But I do have one thing that none of these characters have: a relationship with Jesus. Any improvements in my attitude are thanks to him, who can transform my heart, and not just my motions. I'm too naturally selfish to make much progress on my own.


  1. For the longest time, until I was about 16, I was a lot like Tohru. Not in the saying-I'm-sorry-for-everything-every-three-minutes kind of way, but the niave-to-a-fault too-selfless way.
    When I turned 14, I met someone who was utterly confused at my naivety and selflessness. Sadly, they kind of beat it out of me emotionally.
    I still miss the beauty of that kind of innocence and love...

    1. I'm sorry to hear that. It's sometimes easier to be selfless when you're naive (and naivety is normal for both selfless and selfish young teenagers). I was naive in other ways in my early teen years, and I miss it at times. And yet... there's a certain kind of compassion that's hard to come by unless you've tasted the harshness of the world. The key is not to harden your heart against the pain, but to soften it... and that's easier said than done (trusting my heart to Jesus has helped me).

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you can rediscover some of that innocence and love--without the naivety. The world will still look different than it did when you were younger, but the beauty is still there. <3

  2. Good stuff here, I do agree with the whole thing about certain anime characters being very selfless. As in, they will practically sacrifice their life for someone else, as if it's no big deal (it is, but they don't do it with a lot of hesitation).

    I think it's just part of their culture, and not ours. Japanese believe highly in honor, respect, and giving/helping others so it's not a "big deal" to see that often in anime/drama's etc. I personally think we can all learn from that, here in the West, to be a blessing to others however we can EVEN when WE KNOW we 1) Won't get anything in return 2) Might not get credit/recognition either for the help 3) Person might not even give a flip that we helped That's happened to me, but you know what, I just give all the glory to God. I don't let myself be taken advantage of, but I try to be a blessing however I can.

    Take care!

    1. Thanks, Michael. Gotta agree with everything you said there. ^_^ Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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