Lately I’ve been following Mark’s Anime and Video Game blog, and particularly this young man’s journey through Toradora, which is my all-time favorite anime series. I’ve had a lot of social media friends and followers watch the show (or my recommendation or otherwise), and it’s brought me a lot of joy to see them enjoying it.
I love all the characters in the series, from complicated Minori to, well, complicated Yusaku to, you got it, complicated Ami. The least complex characters in the show, really, are our two leads – Ryuuji and Taiga. While the supporting roles have depth in their quirks, that’s (perhaps) less true with the leads, though today, I’ll make the argument that their approaches to cleanliness – on opposite ends of the spectrum – perhaps do have some meaning, if not for character motivations, at least for us.
One of our first glimpses of Ryuuji is in his apartment, cleaning. We learn right away that he’s a neat freak, seeing cleaning as a sort of mission or better yet, as warfare against the vile germs, mold, and mildew that infest bathrooms and kitchens.
Taiga is the opposite of Ryuuji in this respect. The first time we see her in her apartment, we discover that she’s slothful toward cleaning, leaving a mess so horrific in her sinks that the animators jokingly blur it out. Ryuuji, of course, takes up the challenge and cleans up the huge mess in her otherwise lonely apartment.
In series like Toradora and Attack on Titan, where the brusque Levi demonstrates a peculiar obsessions with sanitation, this quirk is played for laughs. But in each of these series I mention, there’s something more underlying the guys’ tidiness – it’s reflective of something deeper in both their personalities – a caring that is intrinsic to their natures.
Ryuuji’s greatest characteristic is his selflessness. Without thought, he frequently puts others ahead of himself. He helps Taiga ultimately not because he wants to get close to Minori or because he has feelings for her – he makes the decision, clearly shown by his reaction to her musings about Yusaku, because he wants to see her happy. He cares for her. Cleaning up Taiga’s apartment seems superfluous, but it’s a sign of who Ryuuji is and what he wants to do for Taiga – he’s there to help clean up her life.
Levi is similar, too. Though much gruffer on the exterior, and prone to be the type that is results-oriented no matter the cost, Levi actually has a very strong attachment to the soldiers under him. When he loses Petra and others in his elite squad, he honors and thinks about them in his own way; the series even shows that he retrieves keepsakes from his fallen underlings. When he takes control of a new group, consisting of graduates of the 104th training corps, Levi gives them seemingly mundane cleaning tasks in addition to training ones. But there’s some purpose here, some preparation – he is metaphorically cleaning out their old habits and preparing them for the tasks ahead, the violent and deadly fights they’re about the face. He wants them to survive.
God has the same concern for us and, strange as it may sound, similar habits to Ryuuji and Levi. He is a God of order. The first chapter of Genesis tells of a formless universe that God brought to order. Chaos was not good – order was.
And as God brings order to the universe, setting scientific laws in place, and as He embraces order on earth (and will bring it one day again), He also brings order to our lives. The chaos of sin, self-destructive behavior, and restless seeking is straightened up as He makes our paths straight. He cleans out the wrong-doing of our hearts and makes them sparkling new. Giving up all the dirt to God results in this – a cleaner life in which we can become more than we are, a new creation, something beautiful as David clamored for:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
– Psalms 51:10
Scripture, it seems, as well as Ryuuji and Levi, prove this old adage true: indeed, cleanliness is next to godliness.