As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.
While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.
As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.
In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.
While I was in Japan, I had the opportunity to work through our team with a project called Hope Miyagi, which, among many other projects, provides monthly entertainment for these lonely souls. In the week I was there, we spent two days traveling to four different temporary housing locations where we sang, danced, quizzed, and then talked individually over tea with and for these people.* Some of them were in, frankly, depressing situations, yet many of them still were living, or at least trying to, in a positive light. I recall one of the women at the final location we visited even saying that she was so appreciative of all the help she had received from volunteers over the years that she attended events with other people from the temporary housing units in order to smile at and encourage the volunteers who were sacrificing their time and resources to come and visit.
So how does this connect with Wake Up, Girls!?
Well, to my surprise, in episode three one of the prime subjects was an Ishinomaki temporary housing unit and the elderly women living in it. This immediately caught my attention, as not only was I quite familiar with the temporary housing units of the area after the trip, but we actually traveled through Ishinomaki on the way to one of our volunteer locations.
In this episode, Minami is shown to be an absolutely sweet and caring girl, one who shows an apparent love for others. This is shown to be quite obvious in her interactions with the women of the Ishinomaki temporary housing unit in question. They all know each other well and it is implied that she has visited them many, many times. Between the ladies’ positive pushing of Minami and Minami’s reciprocal love and attention, their relationship is close. What makes this significant, though, and more so especially for me, is that so much of the nuance is lost without understanding the context of the entire situation. What is not mentioned outright is that Minami is sacrificing her personal time to spend it with a group of lonely women whose lives were practically ruined just a few years prior. The mutual affection is not that of a few simple grandmother characters and a young girl, but so much more.
Understanding all of this prior to watching this episode brought me so much more joy than it would have otherwise. Christians are called to show the love of Christ to all people, and all people absolutely need it because nobody, including Christians, actually deserves it. It is so easy to forget about this in the “Christian”-bred nation of the United States, where “Christians” often seem to be too busy harping on others to even have the capacity to love them.** Yet at the same time as all of this, a secular writer in a secular medium is showing a perfect example of how Christians are called to act.
This may seem like a bit of a silly sentiment, but I admire the Minami of Wake Up, Girls! and I hope that I can do a better job of emulating her in the future.
*Japanese old people are absolutely adorable, by the way.
**Notice the use of quotation marks.