Wow, has the Spring 2014 anime season started off with a bang. I have already picked up 10 new shows that I plan to watch through to completion, in addition to the two I was already watching from last season (Nisekoi and Tonari no Seki-kun), and I have not been disappointed. While a number of what I have picked up so far will most likely be duds, the greatly hyped Mushi-shi sequel and Mekakucity Actors have both so far lived up to my expectations, and brand new ones like The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior and One Week Friends have thus far been quite promising.
The last of these mentions is the show I would like to focus on today, and while I would love to spend the rest of this article gushing about my feelings and opinions of what we are going to be seeing the next few months in the anime world, that is something to be left for another piece.
With that said, One Week Friends has really gotten me thinking over the past two weeks since it began airing. I’m always a bit nervous for this column, “Anime Today”, when a new season rolls around, lest I not have enough material within the first few episodes of each new series, but One Week Friends immediately struck me in terms of writing motivation.
If you are not yet familiar with it, One Week Friends (or Isshuukan Friends) is a middle school drama/romance that seems, in most ways, to play out akin to its many (many, many, many) slice of life brethren, with one major catch: the female interest, Kaori, of the male lead, Yuuki, has a memory problem that causes her to lose the memories of her close friends every Monday.
This is not a new concept. Simply looking at anime like Ef: A Tale of Memories, or even in the western world, a movie like 50 First Dates (something I think I saw at a friend’s house nearly a decade ago and have no intention of watching again), one will find many comparisons in existing media. However, the setup has not been out used. In fact, I would claim that it still comes across as something rather creative among its anime contemporaries, despite many past instances of this memory loss “trope”, mostly because it is being used as something less amnesiac, and more regular and constantly debilitating.
Even only two episodes in, the entire situation does a great job of pulling at your heart strings. I like to compare One Week Friends to a fantastic merging of two of my other favorite anime, Ef: A Tale of Memories (which I already mentioned) in its memory-loss driven romantic drama, and Usagi Drop in its general animation and writing style, as well as focus on wholesome relationships.
All of this culminates in a seriously captivating story of a boy and a girl trying to maintain a relationship that suffers strains unlike any other.
Apart from One Week Friend’s tugging of the emotions, the concept of needing to work to maintain a friendship, not in the normal sense (which is hard enough as it is), but at an even more difficult level in working through a complete reset each and every week, is something to be admired. It is something that has consumed my mind during the past week. I have found myself periodically dwelling on this idea, knowing that it somehow related to my life, but struggling to pinpoint where it was that I was feeling it. In some ways it reminded me of my own social problems, but somehow that didn’t quite feel right, so I continued to ponder. And I continued to feel that way until this afternoon, when I realized, despite my usual attempts to avoid writing on the topics that are over-emphasized in the evangelical Church of today, that it defined my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Obviously, when drawing analogies, and I have stated this many times before, they will always break down at some level (it’s not a matter of whether the analogy will break down, but where or when it will do so). Although Christians who claim to have a relationship with Jesus (as I would claim of myself) do not “lose” the knowledge of Jesus or how they felt about it him at some point, it is rare to come across a believer who has never once strayed from his beliefs in some way, shape, or form. As sinners, even as believers, it is a complete impossibility to never mess up (this is something I have learned in my own attempts to do so through a one-on-one accountability relationship).
Like Kaori, we have a “chronic” condition that prevents us from being able to constantly maintain that relationship we strive for like a person without that condition might be able to (i.e. someone without sin). It is a depressing, undeniable fact.
However. It is a fact that comes with an asterisk.
This is because, also like Kaori, people who have accepted a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are no longer alone in their debilitated state. They now have a friend who is not simply passively sitting by, having given up beyond the first instance of lost memories (or sin), but, rather, actively pursuing a friendship beyond mere words.*
The story continues, though, in that episode two revealed that the relationship was not a one-way street; Yuuki was not the only one, after the relationship was re-established, trying to make it work. At Yuuki’s request, Kaori began to write in a journal, keeping track of the progression of their friendship in order to help and preserve it past her condition. In this same way, although God wants all people to be in a relationship with him via Jesus Christ, the reason all people have not done so is that it is a free choice. And part of that free choice involves us taking responsibility to work towards a two-way relationship.
The way most similar to Kaori’s journaling in my thought process is reading God’s Word.** Now I will be honest, I tend to define inspiration and inerrancy differently from many Christians (or at least in my experience with the fundamentalist Christian world), and this leads to often many divergent interpretations of passages and imagery. However despite what many would call my “liberal” faith (in some regards, anyway), the Bible continues to be an anchor for me.*** God’s wisdom has been made available to us over the course of thousands of years through texts that have survived both the oppression of man and time together. By reading these texts and reflecting on them, we are giving ourselves the “reminder” we need to get over our “condition” and to no longer need to completely re-establish a relationship after every fall. We have someone who loves us enough to pursue us, and with our effort, what was once debilitating is now more of a frustration.
Humans have a problem, and one that cannot be avoided or ignored, but with a friend like Jesus Christ, that problem no longer has to ostracize us from God nor from others. That is something exciting beyond belief, and it makes Kaori seem oh-so-much-closer than we might think.
I hope this motivates you, despite your personal beliefs, to pick up One Week Friends. Its presentation has been stellar thus far and I cannot recommend it enough. Plus, I am excited to see what other interpretations people will make of it in the blog-o-sphere (knowing me, now that I have drawn all of these connections, the rest of the series will end up playing out completely differently…). Thanks for reading and I look forward to writing for you again in two weeks!
** 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:105, Matthew 4:4, and many more…
***Even for non-Christians or Jews, the Bible can still be a sort of “anchor” as one of the most well-preserved and elaborate pieces of ancient literature, complete with historical myths (in the good sense of the word) all the way to average day-to-day wisdom.