Friday, September 12, 2014

Rewind: Skip Beat!

Last week, I wrote about "pushover" characters and what we can learn from them. Even as I wrote that post, I thought about Kyoko from Skip Beat!. She didn't qualify for last week's post for multiple reasons. First, she stops being a pushover after the first episode. Second, her character development is more complex, so I'd like to spend more than a paragraph on her story.

Before I dive into Kyoko's character, let's cover the anime itself.

I watched Skip Beat! at least four years ago—even before I watched Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower). I think, at the time, I thought the male characters were attractive, in the 2D kind of way. I laughed at the the manifestations of Kyoko's feelings—like the phantoms. Looking back, I'm not a fan of the art style—those bishies don't look so pretty anymore, and the dramatic visual effects don't move me the same way. Still, I must agree with my past self: this is a fun show.

In fact, I just finished the Taiwanese drama of Skip Beat!, which followed pretty much the same plot as the anime, though they changed some details. I'm not exactly a drama fan, but I enjoyed this production. It retained anime/manga physics and effects, like Kyoko's crazy cycling speed and those little Kyoko-phantoms, so I felt right at home.

The manifestations of Kyoko's grudge can physically harm people.
Kinda cool anime logic. In this scene, she's just found out that Sho is
just using her, and she's gone nuts (ep 1).

But I digress. Back to the anime.

Kyoko has built her life around Sho—childhood friend, rising idol, and narcissistic jerk. He asked her to move with him to Tokyo right after middle school, so he could escape his family's plans for him and become an idol, like he's always dreamed. Of course, she accepted, even though it meant giving up high school (which is not compulsory in Japan). She works two jobs to pay rent at their expensive apartment, and she buys almost nothing for herself... except his CDs, posters, etc. (which he really should be getting her for free). He's rarely at the apartment, and when he is, he's rude--but she brushes it off, blaming his work schedule for his grumpiness.

Sho, on the other hand, thinks he's entitled to treat her as his maid. After all, it's always been that way. She's lived at his family's inn since childhood, always following and adoring him, working hard to get his and his family's approval. She thinks of him as her prince. She's in rags now, like fairytale princesses, but she'll always be together with him... Sho thinks of himself as a prince, too. But that's the only part they really agree on.

By the end of the first episode, Kyoko knows the truth and moves on. But, up to that point, this is an abusive relationship. What separates Kyoko from the selfless characters I talked about last week? Why does she seem more pitiable than admirable? Where did she go wrong? I don't have the time or expertise to fully explore these questions, but I want to take at least a few moments to consider them.

First, her identity is built around one human being. She idolized him long before he became a pop idol, and she continues to worship him. Her time, talents, energy, worship—every ounce of it goes to Sho. This is never healthy. Even if he were everything she wanted him to be, it wouldn't be good.

So, what would be a better situation? Our culture might suggest she learn to love and respect herself, and pursue her own happiness... but she'd still be building her life around one person—herself. It sounds like a healthy option, but it's not. Alternatively, we could suggest she expand her perspective, and spend her time building other relationships and giving to multiple people. The characters I mentioned last week certainly do that. And yet, it's still not the complete picture.

I believe that our service and love should be primarily oriented toward God, not toward other people or ourselves. That is the key to living well. God commands us to be selfless and loving. So serving others is built into serving him. But we don't have to depend on the people we serve for acceptance, praise, or love. Nor is our worth measured by how much we please others.

Imagine if Kyoko knew all this. I suspect the story would be very different—first, she might not have gone to Tokyo at all. She wouldn't let Sho drain her resources. Instead, she'd bless more people with her friendship. She wouldn't fear abandonment from Sho as much. And when she found out the truth about his jerkiness, she wouldn't be consumed by vengeance. She'd feel sad and betrayed, yes, but she'd also know that her hope for salvation and love was always in the Lord God, not in her childhood friend.

This topic deserves more attention, but this is all I can give it tonight. Since I can't think much more before I fall asleep, I'd love to read your thoughts on this topic!

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