I want to take a detour from talking about anime bondage (another part is coming soon, it’ll be interesting) to talk about one of my frequented subjects on this blog.
Well, you all know how much I love talking about love, and using fictional couples to illustrate it.
Today I want to highlight one that is certainly not an unknown one, if you’re knee deep in the anime world, you’ve probably seen ads for or watched Fairy Tail, I’ve mentioned it once or twice..
The show has plenty of cute ones that’ll fill up your romance tank if you’re a ship junkie, but there’s one in particular that for me went from cute to amazingly good, up there with the List of Great Ones I keep mentally.
And that is the Gray +Juvia ship.
Spoilers ahead if you care:
It’s a canon ship that has come to completion, so I’m not going to be speculating, there’s nothing to speculate about. I just want to talk about how well it was written.
So, Fairy Tail is a bit of a zanier show that occasionally has very serious moments that it brings home with a bang!
Gray and Juvia’s relationship could represent the best and worst of this show as a whole. It’s played off for humor 70% of the time, and is sometimes funny, often it’s a little uncomfortable.
The other 30% of the time it’s incredibly profound in its own simple way, which I will now elaborate on, enough build up.
Gray and Juvia meet on the battlefield, on opposing sides. Juvia falls in love on the spot. Gray doesn’t exactly get it, but he does feel some kind of connection. He wouldn’t call it romantic, but he later admits he sensed they could work well together with their abilities.
He also saves her life and is otherwise a gem in the course of their fight. Juvia falls head over heels by the end and later switches sides.
Juvia is by far the crazier of the two–outwardly. She initially stalks Gray, though she doesn’t do much besides watch him and send him gifts, finally she works up the nerve to approach and ask if she can join the guild he works in (Fairy Tail, naturally.)
Gray is down for that, though he doubts their master will be so willing, however, Juvia ends up helping them out with their current crisis, and gets in no problem.
From thereon out she begins the pattern of pursuing Gray, who seems consistently uncomfortable with her affections, but never acts like he dislikes her personally.
At first, we get the feeling Gray thinks she’s crazy but good hearted, and doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, so he puts up with it.
But over time, we get hints Gray actually does feels something more for Juvia, but is in deep denial. Unlike your average anime protagonist, he’s not oblivious, he’s simply…unwilling.
My sister and I speculated as to the reason for this, the show itself provides clues, but it was finally at the end of season 2 we got confirmation we were right.
So, what we figured out was this:
Early on, Gray was shown to have deep guilt issues. He’s one of those tragic backstory guys. He’s not as bad as some, (I mean, I’ve been watching Naruto, so talk about messed up origin stories.) He lost his parents to a demon, and later his teacher/mentor to the same demon.
Gray blames himself for going to seek the demon out in order to kill it, and having people always need to sacrifice themselves for him.
This gets reinforced later on when the daughter of his mentor makes a similar sacrifice for him and his friends.
It caps off when he long-dead father is reanimated by another villain, and forced to work for the evil people, but rebels and fights Gray in order to try to die for real and be able to be at peace.
Gray refuses to kill his father, and they have a heartfelt few minutes. But while this is going on, Gray’s father, Silver, speaks telepathically to Juvia, who is elsewhere, fighting the very person who is controlling him.
Silver asks Juvia to kill the Necromancer (that’s the villain) and let him die. Juvia does not want to do this to Gray’s father, but understands that if she doesn’t the world will be in jeopardy, and Gray also will not be in a good position.
Juvia succeeds, and Gray’s father thanks her and gets to go to heaven and be at peace, leaving Gray with a final gift of the power to defeat the demons.
Up till this point, the show had begun to use Juvia a bit more seriously. Early on, she was almost pure comic relief. No one took her feelings too seriously.
Her backstory is pretty sad in its own way, though it lacks the traumatic twist of most anime stories. She was unable to control her water magic very well, and it led to being depressed and isolated from people who couldn’t take how gloomy it was around her.
In a heartbreaking thought humorous shot, Juvia is shown making an army of Japanese Rain-Away dolls, which she always wears one of on her clothes.
Yeah…dark without being gritty, what a novel idea!
When Juvia falls for Gray, she is able to stop the rain for the first time and see blue sky. Light has entered her heart, if you follow the analogy.
In a later arc, Gray is shown to have deep shame in himself, that keeps him from expressing happier emotions or doing light hearted things like dance, or other displays of beauty or joy. It’s a weird episode, but managed to pack in an emotional punch amidst the silliness.
Juvia, in a still later episode, wants to do something nice for Gray to celebrate their anniversary of meeting (sort of) and knits him a scarf.
Unfortunately, this anniversary happens to be the same day his teacher/surrogate mother died.
Here the show got very profound very briefly, Erza, one of the wiser characters, comforts Juvia, after Juvia finds out and feels horrible for trying to be cheerful when Gray was feeling so sad, Erza tells her that she doesn’t need to feel bad. Every day is a good day for some people, a bad day for others, and what matters is what it is for her.
Gray also comes around to realizing it wasn’t Juvia’s fault, and also realizes her gesture reminds him of something his teacher did once. He finds a sort of comfort in it after all.
By the way, Snow is used to represent Gray’s sadness and shame. It’s always snowing when he feels that way. Like the rain for Juvia. (And yeah, it is a lot like Frozen. Writers love this metaphor.)
This culminates (well, for season 2) in a short but awesome scene at the end of the Tartaros Arc, the one she defeats the villain controlling his father in.
Gray is feeling sad again, and shame, because he couldn’t do as much as he wanted, and he couldn’t prevent his father dying. Though he knows his father wanted it that way, it still stings. It’s snowing.
Juvia comes up, feeling pretty bad over it, to confess what she did, and say she doesn’t have the right to love him anymore, because she killed his father( indirectly) who he loved, and she is sorry.
Gray seems angry at first, and is shocked also that is was her who did it.
But suddenly, he starts crying and says “Thank you…you freed me…I’m sorry…” He seems to be apologizing to no one in particular, or maybe to everyone he feels he failed.
This scene was powerful for me, in a simple way.
Juvia and Gray are not perfect, they actually are very human. Both can be shortsighted. Gray can be kind of a jerk, unintentionally. Juvia can be easily distracted by her emotions to the point where she neglects caution, and can be obsessive.
Juvia is also not free of emotional problems. Many anime ships have one messed up person and one stable person, but Juvia and Gray are neither wholly messed up, nor wholly stable in of themselves.
Juvia often feels she is unworthy also to be loved.
The show brilliantly shows us in this moment that Gray is the same way. He acts cold because he doesn’t feel he deserves to be adored. He’s just himself, and he always thinks he is too weak.
Why does he say Juvia freed him?
It’s simple, if Juvia hadn’t defeated the villain, Gray might have had to, and kill his own father. Something that would have haunted him his whole life.
Perhaps he even thought he had, since he didn’t see the fight and just saw his father disappear.
Juvia did something for Gray that he wasn’t able to do for himself.
It brings it full circle, in the past when Gray saved Juvia, she felt he had done something for her she could not do for herself. The rain had stopped.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ll try to keep this short:
I love this so much. To me, it doesn’t matter whether I like the show or not, if this was the only thing I got out of it, it’d be worth it.
It’s not even about romance. This goes further than that…or, I should say, it’s an aspect of romance not often explored.
But, think about it, in marriage, who wants to be with someone they cannot take their heart to? Who cannot be shown all the ugly parts of their past, and find them still lovable?
I certainly don’t want to marry a man I can’t tell this stuff too, he’s going to see me at my worst, after all, as well as my best. Why not learn why I am the way I am.
Juvia and Gray are a very realistic example, for an anime, of how a couple can help each other. Juvia often finds herself at a loss for words with Gray, she learns more about his past over time, but has nothing to say, it’s so different from her own, and she’s not very good at expressing herself anyway.
But Juvia acts out of her strong love for Gray and manages to convey a lot without knowing she’s doing it. She fights for him, and is always there whenever he does choose to open up. Sometimes it’s simply that she does the right thing by accident that seems to mean the most to Gray, because she wasn’t trying to make him see a point, she just honestly wanted to help.
And that, ladies and gents, is Real Love.
There’s a time to teach someone, but there is a time to just be there, and love them however you can.
And I like the additional message that love is messy and we aren’t smooth about it all the time, but our honest efforts rings the most true to people.
It’s beautiful. And its not something you have to be an expert on relationships to do, that’s the great part, you can start off knowing nothing, and still be able to do this.
Until Next Time–Natasha.
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