In multitudes of anime series, the children largely have free reign, and often in very dangerous situations. One or both parents are nowhere to be seen – they’re either just not part of the script or one is deceased. TV Tropes calls it “parental abandonment.”
What’s rarer than deceased anime parents is finding those that are divorced or separated. In my list of anime I’ve watched, I could think of very few examples (some series I haven’t seen that include this storyline are Sailor Moon, Captain Tsubasa, Soul Eater and Mirai Nikki). And oftentimes, the split is either played for laughs (Marmalade Boy) or to create a dramatic, tragic story. Very few times is it played out, well, normally, as with Takeru and Yamato’s parents in Digimon and Kouki’s parents in Usagi Drop.
The divorce rate in Japan is much lower than than in the U.S., but it’s still significant at 27% – and it’s rising. There must be a variety of reasons for this lack of representation in anime, not least of all lack of entertainment value. But I also think the following also has to do with it:
There is still a stigma attached to divorce that can lead to a lifetime of hardship. Some elite private schools reject children from single-parent homes. Many employers try to avoid hiring divorced women if they can help it. But this has changed quite a bit in recent years as divorce has become more common.
– Facts and Details (Divorce in Japan)
Although this stigma is less strong in the U.S., and even less so in other western countries, it’s still there. And a lot of times, the feeling of guilt impressed upon divorced couples comes from Christians. Those who are supposed to be most loving are the ones who shame divorced men and women.
In the Bible, Jesus clearly presents ideas about divorce and marriage. But although He emphasizes that men and women were not meant to divorce, we often tend to forget the other side of the equation – that even if we do, Jesus is there with arms open wide, ready to receive that person in grace.
And though I think most of us wouldn’t purposely shun a man or woman who’s divorced, our lack of action (or careless words) can sometimes speak volumes. People who may already come into church feeling awkward because of their married status will only feel worse if they’re ignored or otherwise approached differently. Just like everyone else, they need love.
R86 once asked me why I liked Digimon – I refer to it often and it was really the first anime series I’d watched since being a small child. Although I didn’t think of this at the time, one part of Digimon I really liked what that the series, while a kids show, sometimes hit on some surprisingly deep and beautiful truths. Brothers Takeru and Yamato don’t easily gel – living apart, they have to learn to coexist with and care for each other. As is the theme of the show, friendship and love is key to overcoming difficulties.
And when it comes down to it, isn’t that almost always the right response? Love is the answer.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:37-40
To read a bit on anime, divorce, and the effects on children, check out these posts:
- Usagi Drop episode 3 and my ramblings on divorce [Kansatsu]
- 50% of Anime Marriages End in Divorce [Beneath the Tangles]