Death= Redemption.

I got the idea from this from a comment conversation I had under my last post. I have been thinking about writing it for a while, so let’s talk tropes.

Although this trope is not exclusive to anime, as I’m sure all of us have seen it in movies and shows, anime uses it a lot.

Correction: anime pretends its going to use it a lot.

All us weaboos know the annoyance of animes that pretend they’ll kill everyone all the time, and then never kill anyone…except that one person you were kind of rooting for to make it. (sniff, Pyrrha.)

Then there’s Death Note where everyone dies.. (I don’t watch it.)

Well, I don’t care if nobody dies, I just hate being lied to and faked out so many times.

Naruto is almost sadistic about killing characters, it will inform you a character died a whole two or three seasons in advance, and then bring in the character later for a side arc, or flashbacks, and show them being cute and lovable and ready to actually be happy…and then they show your them dying, alone…(I’m still salty about The Bubble Guy Utaeka, I think.)

But, sometimes villains die, and they might stay dead, and then you have the redemption arc.

Anime accomplishes the arc part usually with flashbacks, while American media tends to either show you the villains in the beginning of the film and hint at a possible redemption, or maybe drop small hints throughout the movie or show, and then they have the death be a surprise.

Anime rarely makes it a surprise, by the  time they’ve actually died you’ve been watching for like, three episodes, or seen half a dozen flashbacks dragging it out.

Anyway, before I get into the meaning of it, I wanted to point out that not every redemption death is for a villain. Sometimes it’s a good character who left the fight, screwed up royally, or never committed to actually helping until that point. They aren’t a villain, sometimes they are a chaotic neutral, if you will, but they choose to sacrifice themselves and end up a hero.

The most infamous example of this in America may be Darth Vader from Star Wars, everyone loves that redemption moment of self sacrifice.

Often in kids media, its common that the character not actually die. In The Little Mermaid, Arial’s father sacrifices himself without dying exactly, (but I always found it much more horrifying to be turned into a worm-thing than just straight-up dying.) Or they will appear to die, but end up being okay.

Anyway, the kinds of characters you’ll see get a redemption death are usually villains who were shown to have a human side, maybe a person they still loved, even more likely if the person is the hero, take Thor and Loki’s back and forth relationship in the Avenger movies; another common one is bad parents who couldn’t seem to get it up until then, but show they love their kids by dying for them (Darth Vader); also the mentors or sage characters who failed to stop the villain make a sacrifice to give the heroes more time to figure it out. That’s even in The Lego Movie.

MHA has used this trope in a slightly different way, equating losing your powers with dying, for a hero, in a way. Thereby adding a weight to their fights that actually has a longer lasting impact on the show itself, not just the characters, because it means they can no longer use that character as a fail safe.

So why is this so  common?

The simple answer is that it’s easier to use death to create sympathy for the character and often it just doesn’t seem practical for a villain to survive, they would just go to prison or die anyway, why not let it be a blaze of glory instead?

But mechanics aside, I think there’s a deeper reason this is used so often.

The thing about tropes is, people mock them, but the reason they are so common is because they reflect meanings about real life that people feel to be true. Romantic tropes mirror what happens in real life, Chosen One tropes mirror the feeling of purpose we all want to have, and fallen Hero tropes mirror the knowledge we have of our own human weakness.

The Death=Redemption Trope is no different, it mirrors a feeling human beings have that death is somehow the only thing that can make up for our sins.

The Bible says “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” For thousands of years that meant animal blood, so that people could be pardoned. After Jesus came and died, His blood was enough to cover all men throughout time.

Fiction has felt this truth, whether the authors admit it or not, and that is why villains die so often to redeem themselves. somehow death seems to be the only way to blot out the memory of their evil.

Anime is interesting here, because as I pointed out in my last post, it has many bad guys who end up living. And without fail, those bad guys feel they must atone for their sins.

See, when the death part does not happen, the good guys are faced with the much more complicated problem of still remembering what the bad guys did and having that reminder in front of them. Even if the bad guys are sorry, the good guys may have a hard time seeing past that, sometimes they do not want to. Like Katara with Zuko on Avatar.

If the villain is dead, you can’t punish them anymore anyway. Only rarely will a character obsess over not getting to kill the villain.

Plus, dying for someone is just so hardcore noble, that it can challenge the heroes to think maybe the villain was never as evil as they thought. a lot of shows choose to later reveal that the villain did some good things along the way, often that they even help the heroes by leaving clues as to how to solve future problems.

Naruto did this with Itachi Uchiha…I hated it…

Now that I’ve discussed why this is so common, the better question is, does it work?

IS it good to send this message?

The answer is yes and no.

While death=redemption can be a beautiful way to symbolically show how we need to die to our sin, and how “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (-Jesus) there is one problem I see with it.

The whole point of fiction is to be symbolic. Sometimes when shows try to break down too much if death really equal redemption, then you have to start being more realistic.

The discussion then becomes “Should you have to kill yourself in order to be redeemed? Isn’t there a better way than that?”

Fairy Tail did this over and over again, and nearly always concluded on the side of life. But one time, at the end, they had Irene, the mother of Erza, kill herself because she did not trust herself and wanted to prevent herself from falling to the temptation to use Erza or her friends again.

When this happens it’s similar to Jesus telling us that if our right eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. If you really jsut cannot control yourself, then it’s better to lose an eye.

The bible is not saying self mutilation is a good idea. It’s saying that if we view sin that seriously, then we will put that kind of effort into getting free of it.

But we do not have to die fro our sins.

In the real world, this questions is also prevalent in our legal system. Should we just imprison people? Or should we kill them? Can’t anyone be redeemed? The real thought behind the more merciful system in America is that men can turn their lives around. But some men don’t, so we still need the Death Sentence.

Of course, Christians know that men on the verge of death for their sins have been saved, the thief on the cross is the most famous example. It happens nowadays too, in prisons and hospitals alike. But they still die.

The Bible does not seem overly concerned with whether men die in the body or not, as long as they are alive spiritually. That is, it is pro-life, but holds biological life as second in importance, if you follow God. And if you die immediately after accepting Christ, you are not the loser by any means.

Basically, with God, no one has to die for their sins, but some people still will because men cannot know for certain when there’s a change of heart, but that death is just of the body and not seen as a punishment to the christian anymore.

That said, you could say Death=Redemption really hangs on how well the villain understood why they were changing. You have to feel that, had they lived, they would have kept changing, not that they died out of some unhealthy, spur-of-the -moment, self hatred.

Dying for love is the preferred reason. And the one that reflects the most what Jesus did for us.

Though nonchristians may deny that, I don’t know anyone who hates this trope. It seems to be written into our psyches to see meaning in self-sacrifice. I know a YouTube reviewer who will give a movie a win every time there is a self-sacrifice in it.

Death is a tricky subject in fiction where death can be undone. Or prevented in ways we in the real world can only dream of.

Did they have to die? Does their death truly atone for their sins?

Death is all that can atone for sins, but yet, if they keep on living, can they live free?

Most often the answer is, they have to learn to love, to be a good person, to change.

Christianity ties these two things together by having a way to die before you die, to die to your sinful self, and to live in Christ.

As crazy as that sounds, the proof is in the pudding, more people become good because of Christianity than any other reason I know of. Throughout history, the bad kids, the rebels, the slaveholders, the cruel, the arrogant, have made 180 degree turns because of Christianity. Whole countries have changed over it. They still are.

In closing, there was one time Naruto did something with this idea that I thought was profound. When Gaara, a former murder/demon possessed person tried to learn about love, he later got kidnapped and killed in order to steal his power. He lost the demon (thank goodness)but also his life. But then a woman who had stuck him with the demon to begin with gave her life in order to resurrect him, with a little help from Naruto himself. Gaara is essentially given a new life, someone else’s life, and able to live free from then on. No longer needing to worry about losing control.

Easily one of the best examples I’ve seen, up there with Frozen.

Until next time–Natasha.

 

 

 

Anime Bondage: Fairy Tail

It’s been awhile…hey. 😁

Well, I think anime fans, sorry, weaboos, might laugh at me for using Fairy Tail as an example in this series.

I’ll admit Fairy Tail is on the lighter-hearted side, this is more about an anime trope that fairy tail introduced me to, but I’ve since realized is common.

It’s really pretty sad how common it is, and unquestioned.

For lack of a better term, I dub this trope the “I am too much of a sinner to be happy.”

In Fairy Tail, the character who fell under this trope was Jellal, who also happened to be criminally underused, and the other half of one of the better ships.

Saltiness aside, I was a bit surprised.

As someone who’s grown up on American media, and English Fairytales, I expect happy endings, pure and noble characters, and positive messages.

While anime features characters so relentlessly good they’d almost meet George MacDonald’s standard of the “common good uncommonly developed” it is a lot darker as a rule than our stories. Happy endings are hard come by and can feel rushed and incomplete compared to the rest of the story.

I started to like anime because it showed very real problems and made love and goodness the answer to them.

But I started to get frustrated the more I realized anime is incomplete also.

Here’s the skinny on Jellal if you don’t know:

Jellal is a villain in season 1, but he’s being controlled by another character. he began as a very brave, kind, and noble boy of around 8, and in a moment of weakness to hatred, was possessed by dark magic from a different villain looking for a victim.

Jellal goes on to try to kill all his old friends, and resurrect the Black wizard Zeref, causing a lot of pain and suffering along the way.

Later he survives being blown up (like you do on anime) and loses his memory. he meets his love interested again and tries to prevent a catastrophe. Then gets arrested and imprisoned. About 6 years later (time skip) he gets out and forms a group of former villains turned good guys to try to atone for their sins.

At this point he meets up with his love interest, Erza, again, and turns down her offer of a relationship and forgiveness. Telling  his new friends that for someone like him, love is out of the question. Love and happiness.

He then spends most of the show running from just that, and treating his own life as negligible. At the end he is told he should try to live to make Erza happy. We’re given a hint that he intends to do this, but it’s not shown.

Now, I’m happy it worked out in the end…but the pattern went on for a long time. It’s gone on longer on other animes. Including freaking Naruto (almost done with that finally.)

The reason I would call this attitude of self-inflicted punishment bondage is because it does not even work, even if it were acceptable.

No one ever changed themselves by punishing themselves.

I’m more concerned with how unchallenged the idea goes on anime then that it appears in the first place.

It’s even on my favorite MHA when Iida chooses to leave his hand injured until he can deserve healing.

It’s a very real struggle people have. My dad is one of them. In the past I’ve wondered about it myself, if I need to punish myself for things.

I remember it was humorously explored in one of the Anne of Green Gables books, the 7th one, Rainbow Valley. Where four children elect to bring themselves up by implementing rather creative punishments whenever they do something wrong. It does not work.

Interestingly, the Bible has strong words to say about people harming themselves, and treats the idea of self punishment as rather abhorrent.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body.”

Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.”

In 1 Kings it says of the prophets of  Baal “And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.”

This worship practice is not something you’ll find God telling His people to do.

Now, we are sometimes told to repent in physical ways, dust, ashes, sackcloth, fasting, but there is no health damage in any of this.

The same applies to emotional damage. Making ourselves miserable is discouraged by the Bible.

In speaking of guilt, Paul says “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Cor 7:10).

After repenting initially, we are supposed to receive God’s forgiveness, and give up thinking about our sins.

We no longer need to be haunted by regrets.

The reason for this is that God takes even our mistakes and uses them, once we’ve repented, to bring us into more freedom. We have to take sin seriously in order to want to be free of it, true repentance is not wallowing in guilt, but acknowledging how serious sin is, then trusting that God can deliver you from it.

There are many christians haunted by regrets, but that is not biblical. Some churches have taught it because they misinterpreted the teaching of the bible…or ignored it.

In my experience, actually, it’s not the chruches fault. A christian chooses to live in regrets.

I have had, since becoming a christian, been mostly free of regrets. Early on I embraced the idea that I do not need to beat myself up anymore about my past.

Probably because I watched my dad live that way for years, and saw how little good it did, and then had to deal with him imposing that on me because we treat others how we treat ourselves.

I let my past go, I only wished he’d do the same. I still do.

And so, when it comes to the self-punishment thing, I just can’t get on board.

From a logical standpoint, nothing is really accomplished by choosing to keep yourself either injured, or emotionally empty.

One might say ” I do not deserve love.” But welcome to the human race. None of us do.

Love is not about what you deserve, it’s about what you need to be a full person.

Jellal never has much success atoning for his sins while he is doing it out of guilt, the few times he does it out of love are when it ends up working out. Contrast it to Erza, who learns earlier to start forgiving herself and living out of love, and has success after success against impossible odds because love’s power fuels her.

The bondage of guilt is one any honest human being has to face, but we do not have to stay in it. God’s forgiveness sets us free if we just ask it.

And human forgiveness is good too. Honestly, more people need to learn to accept each other’s forgiveness and quit worrying about it.

Perhaps I leaned more on the christian side for this, but I can’t separate my idea of forgiveness from my faith.

Christianity is a very free religion in that way. The only one I know of that says guilt can be completely gone, that you can no longer require punishment, and can live free and happy no matter what your past is.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Pure, Abundant, and Long Suffering Love–More we can learn from Gray and Juvia.

The other day I wrote a post about one of my favorite ships and I touched on some subjects I thought it would be nice to expand on.

Here’s an excerpt from the post Stand By You that contains what I wanted to talk about more:

“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.

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.”

What I mentioned here was that Juvia and Gray are not really experts at love.

That gives me hope at least, because I am far from an expert at love.

I write about it a lot, I talk about it, I can give theories and examples, but at the end of the day, love is what you practice, not what you preach.

I’d like to talk about a couple different aspects of love this ship made me think of, and that I’ve also noticed in my own life.

First, Love is Pure.

Love has to be pure, first and foremost, or it will be hollow.

In my own life, I have a parent who is great about saying he loves me, giving me all kinds of praise, and verbal affirmation.

And he would berate me for not being satisfied with that.

Red flag, by the way, to anyone who does this with someone they know. If you are criticizing someone for not receiving your praise…that’s part of the reason they don’t receive your praise. It’s a bit of an oxymoronic thing to do.

The reason I didn’t like my father’s praise was that there was nothing behind it. He might call me good things, but he didn’t know any of the good things I really was. He didn’t often ask me about my life, and when he did, if I told him, he’d make the conversation about something he wanted to talk about.

He didn’t know what I liked, or what I hated. He didn’t know who my friends were, for the most part.

And, he wouldn’t do anything to back up those words.

My father’s love was not pure because it was not honest, it was based on an idea of himself and me that wasn’t accurate. And if I did not line up, I would be punished with coldness or criticism.

I find this is too common in human beings. We tend to want things on our terms when we give love. We’ll go so far, and no further. If it’s not received well, we pull back.

Juvia, on the other hand, is never daunted by how well she is received. To the point where you might almost call her inconsiderate. But not really. If you look more closely you’ll notice Juvia does not ever put more on Gray than Gray can handle, even if it makes him feel a little awkward, he’s not mortified. If he shows it bothers him, she’ll pull back a bit (in most cases, as I mentioned, the show uses it for humor.)

Second, Love is Abundant

Juvia pours her whole self into loving in the wonky way she does. It’s not always graceful or subtle, it’s extravagant, open, and overwhelming.

But, deep down, doesn’t every person want to be loved that way?

The truth is, if you don’t like being loved like that, it’s certain you have issues.

I don’t say that to judge, since it’s one of my own problems to not receive love as well as I wish.

We were made for extravagant love. In fact, as the Bible describes it, there is no such thing as love that is not like an ocean, an all consuming passion. The Bible doesn’t call a fleeting fancy love.

Love may not be a feeling always, but even the action of love is a full on commitment. Whether you feel the warm, fuzzy stuff, you are supposed to pour yourself out however you can.

Paul wrote of his ministry “I am being poured out like a drink offering.” (2 Timothy 4:6)

David also said “I am poured out like water” in Psalm 22:14, which is a prophecy of how Jesus would pour himself out on the cross, the highest act of love.

Fitting that Juvia’s power is literally being water.

It is daring to love in this manner.

People are broken, many more so than Gray, and they rarely know how to accept love, let alone how to return it.

And that leads to the third thing: Love is long-suffering.

Juvia waits a very long time to get what she wants, at least when you’re in love, it feels like a long time, doesn’t it? And yet, it also doesn’t.

In Genesis, one of my favorite Bible love stories is how Jacob worked 14 years for his wife Rachael, and the writer tells us that his love for her made it seem like a short time.

How valued must Rachael have felt, right?

Wrong, actually. Rachael had insecurities she took out on Jacob even after such devotion. She wasn’t satisfied with human love.

It’s just a part of life, that the people we love cannot be happy solely on our love, even if it makes them happier.

Jacob continued to love Rachael till the day she died, and treasured the sons he had with her more than his other children. In the end, he told her to take her problem to God, not him.

A wise thing to say.

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our loved ones is to stand by them and let them go to God. Something my family has implemented with my dad lately.

Juvia also does this for Gray. She wishes to be able to help him at all times, but sometimes she has to trust him and do her part in other places.

If you’ve noticed I’ve used only Juvia for an example here, well, she’s my favorite.

But Gray does bring something worth mentioning to the table also:

Gray, like many men, and many women, does not really understand Juvia all that well at first and makes plenty of errors on that account. He also does not know how to respond to her love, and often tries to push it away.

But the thing Gray does right, that is beautiful in its humility, is stick around for it.

Instead of avoiding Juvia, Gray spends time around her and gradually learns to be more receptive. He is uncomfortable without being dismissive entirely.

And the thing is, as flawed humans, if we’re totally honest with ourselves, sometimes our most loving act is simply to hold still and let ourselves be loved.

Most especially with God, but I’ve hurt people by pulling away from their embraces, and I know I’ve been hurt by people rejecting my efforts at loving them.

I know that sometimes I really do have to force myself not to run, sometimes all I can do is sit there and just not run. I may not even be able to ask for what I need, but I can stay, and give someone the chance to help me.

Gray screws up a lot, and he feels ashamed… but in the end, he lets himself be comforted and adored. He probably can’t express how grateful he is, but he accepts it as much as he can.

A little tip to guys, if you have a decent girlfriend or wife, than the most kind thing you can do for her sometimes is just let her take care of you. It’s like magic in a woman, we feel better when we do that. Even if you don’t feel like you need it, let her do it.

I’m guessing some men feel the same way. (Obviously I don’t mean being condescended to, I think most people can tell the difference on their own.)

There is so much more to say, but I don’t want to make this too long.

I think I covered the central part anyway.

Something I apply to myself, I want to keep on loving even if I’m not requited. Even if the kind of love I feel has to change with the situation, the point is never to stop loving.

I may talk about that more another time, but for now, stay honest–Natasha.

Stand by You: Gray x Juvia Tribute

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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Why I got into Anime (not just fangirl-ing, promise.)

I wrote my last post on Sunday, and the blog site says it was Monday, my sister asked if I learned time travel…

Yeah, no, maybe it’s a zoning thing?

I think maybe a more lighthearted post after all the serious stuff would be nice, so I thought I’d talk about why I got into anime.

Contrary to the norm, I only got into anime in the last year, and the last 6 months or so of that year is when I got into watching more than a select few.

I have friends who like it who encouraged me to check out more after I got into RWBY, and my sister eventually talked me into watching My Hero Academia, and since that blew my mind, I tried Cells at Work, The Great Passage, The Quintessential Quintuplets, Toradora, Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, Konosuba (not recommending that one), Tsuredure Children (cute one), The Rising of the Shield Hero (really good), Naruto, and now Fairy Tail, I’m still working on the last two. I prefer Fairy Tail, but both are good in a different way.

I also finally watched Avatar on my other sister’s persuasion, and enjoyed that, though I liked RWBY more, but avatar is really well-paced.

My absolute favorite is still MHA, I don’t think that will change unless the unthinkable horror of the show drastically changing its tone happens in the future. I mean, I know season 4 will be dark, but I know plenty of light and funny things that are also going to happen. And best boy Bakugo will be part of them.

Don’t fight me if you watch it and prefer Todoroki, he’s my second favorite. And really, I almost couldn’t choose. If you asked me which I’d rather see in an arc, I’d quote that vine where the girl says in Spanish “Why can’t I have both?”

And best girl Momo too, still waiting for the three of them to all work together, and if you think it’d be boring, watch the Jump-fest OVA, and it’ll blow your mind.

But, hey, if you don’t watch anime, that’s fine. I refused– well to be accurate, I just didn’t know it was a big thing–for years.

I watched Ponyo back in gradeschool, and one episode of Dragon Ball (Z, I think) without really getting it. Maybe Yugio once too. I’m not sure what it was.

See, my mom wouldn’t let me watch TV unless it was at someone else’s house, or unless it was the wholesome kids channels. I don’t have any hate for that, since if I had watched anime as a kid it would have been way too intense for me. I think now is the perfect time in my life to appreciate it.

Anyone who thinks anime is for kids has not watched any of the popular ones, Naruto is supposedly a kid’s show, though maybe the fans wouldn’t say so, and I’m two seasons in, I would not show this to a kid under 12 at least.

I’m not going to shame people for not liking anime, the format is weird. I find it charmingly weird, now that I’m used to it, but it took at least the first season of mha for me to get used to it. And MHA is a little lighter on the tropes than other ones, because it’s supposed to appeal to more people, I think.

Also the pacing in many anime is strange, even if you’re fine with the yelling. The humor is just as much visual as verbal. I have never liked visual humor all that much. In all honesty, I don’t laugh a lot at most of it. And sometimes an arc can take, no joke, 8-10 episodes to set up, and 2 episodes to finish. The movies are better for that.

All this is reason enough to frustrate some people, I couldn’t blame them.

But I also understand why it’s such a huge craze now.

I’ve spent most of my life frustrated by the messages TV and movies in America send to kids and adults alike.

I don’t like how idiocy is portrayed as funny, cruelty is portrayed as funny, and often as not, a show has no real point besides cheap gags, and character stereotypes that the writers seem to assume are funny to the masses.

I guess it works. From what I hear with the people around me, they pick which shows they will ignore the bad stuff with, and which shoes they will criticize, based on a few superficial differences.

You like vampires? Then you ignore how stupid the movies and shows are. You like zombies? Ditto. You like both, then sure, but if the same problems show up on a show with normal teenagers, then you can hate on that.

Anime still has its problems with stereotypes. People who have been watching it for years find it more annoying than me because it’s all still a novelty to me, I’m already sick of harems, the pervy characters, the fan service, and…well dragging out romances and never just letting it happen.

But to the accusation that all anime is light porn, or hentai, if you’re into the lingo, I would respond that shows in america show people having sex on camera, stabbing each other, and being creepy, and it’s not animated, it’s real people, and often teenagers.

The amount of anime that actually show sex or anything coming of the innuendos are very few compared to the ones that just tease it.

I don’t mean that I think it’s right, but I at least don’t get as bothered by it as I do by seeing real people do it like it’s nothing.

You have to pick and choose too.

What outweighs the negative stuff, in my opinion, is that anime do not hesitate to tackle moral issues, and often heavy ones.

Contrary to America, the favorite message, form rom-com anime to shonen (action) anime is that hatred is bad for you, and that you have to be willing to forgive, and to forgive yourself.

Anime combines this with an holy respect for sometimes needing to deal severely with the person who hurt you. Or to have your friends help you deal with it.

And the message usually concludes with the need to move forward, and letting love back into your life.

Anime is as full of lonely characters as most media is, and they are often  stereotypes. But the stereotype includes good qualities. Cold characters learn to care, rougher characters can have a heart of gold, meek characters learn courage, and the protagonists are often extremely noble and kind.

The villains are quite awful, even in the non-shonen type ones, but often they are redeemed even so.

Friendship and love are often the answer, the overwhelming power, even on the lighthearted shows.

And no matter how lighthearted it is, I’ve yet to see an anime that did not tackle the deep things in life.

You can’t go 4 episodes into most of them without it, you can go whole seasons of our shows without any significant change in tone or characters.

Say what you will about people just watching it for the action, action without conviction is empty and boring and wouldn’t be any different form watching sports. People get hyped over the anime battles where the hero confronts their demons and wins.

Basically, it’s the kind of stuff I’ve always wished existed, and I only just now found out it did.

Admittedly, I watch it probably more than I should—said every fan ever–yet, I actually don’t feel guilty, because it’s just that good. It encourages me to face the real world bravely.

Not because I think it’s real, but because I think it’s right. Real or no, the messages of overcoming your problems and not letting the darkness get to you and helping your friends, those are important things. No matter who’s saying it.

In fact, Fairy Tail goes even further with that idea, by making slightly pervy, crazy, or dumb characters often be the ones to spout the deepest truths. The idea being that even with our besetting sins, we are still capable of understand profound things, and everyone has something to offer, even if most of the time they are a jerk.

(Sadly, that means I can’t count Mineta out yet, MHA fans, sorry, but with this writer…you know it’ll happen.)

Anyway, so that’s, in a nutshell, why I’ve come to appreciate this genre. and why I’ve turned into a weeabo, or maybe an otaku, or maybe both…whatever I am, learning all the Japanese words is fun for a language buff like me, so

Arigato, until next time–Natasha.