The new season of anime has brought another idol anime (think less heathen idols and more American Idol): specifically, another anime based on the iDOLM@STER franchise of idol-based video games. Cinderella Girls focuses on a new group of 14 girls, in particular focusing on the three newest members of the “Cinderella Project” group at 346 Productions: Uzuki, Rin, and Mio. Shortly after they are brought on board the project, they are put on the fast track to stardom as they are assigned roles as backup dancers for an established idol, and soon after that (in the most recent episode 5) are chosen to have their CD debut (along with two other members, Minami and Anastasia). This is all very exciting for these three, but not everyone is entirely happy with their success.
Miku is probably the most vocally displeased with how these three girls have gotten to have their idol debut already, when she has been with the project longer than they have. She challenges the girls to various games to try to take their place, tries to persuade the producer with her own debut proposal, and when all else fails, she “goes on strike” to make her case (and by “goes on strike”, she means blockading the company’s cafeteria). Her actions may be comical, but her frustration is very understandable: not only has she been practicing for a long time with no sign of her debut coming, but now she sees these three girls enter the project after her and get their debut before her–of course that would be disheartening.
Christians might also encounter a situation like what Miku goes through. They pray to God and seek after Him for something, whether that be a spouse, a promotion, or a special ministry opportunity, but God seems to remain silent about their request. This is discouraging enough as it is, but it only gets worse when they see their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who have been in the faith shorter than they have, get married, promoted, or enter ministry before they do. They know they should be happy for them, but instead they start to feel resentful toward their fellow Christians or toward God. Their faith starts to waver as they wonder, “When will my time come?”
One of Jesus’s parables touches on the seeming unfairness that Christians can encounter. The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is probably one of the hardest parables to understand and accept. The parable describes the kingdom of God as a vineyard, whose master goes out early in the morning to hire some workers and pay them a typical day’s wage for their work. They agree and start working, and then throughout the day, the master goes out and hires more workers, right up until an hour before he closes. At the end of the day, he starts paying the various workers their wages, starting with those who started working later… and to the consternation of those who started working at the beginning of the day, he pays everyone a full day’s wage, even those who only worked one hour. When they complain, though, the master chastises them for being ungrateful and for complaining about getting exactly what they signed up for; after all, the master has every right to do what he wants to do with his money.
There’s a lot to unpack from this parable, but there’s an overall theme here that, when it comes to following God, there is a danger in comparing ourselves to our fellow Christians. Certainly, by getting a full day’s wage, the workers who started later were getting more than they deserve, but God’s grace is far greater than any of us deserve, so we really have no right to complain there. In particular, we should not begrudge those who have not been Christians as long as we have if they seem to be blessed by God before we have. Nor should we be worried about whether we are working hard enough or not. God does not hand out His blessings by whoever’s been working longer or harder as a Christian; that would be a works-based distribution of blessings, and “works-based” goes against the very definition of God’s grace.
Jesus brings up this matter again after His resurrection, in a conversation with Simon Peter, who is to be the “rock” on which the Church will be built. Peter, after being asked to follow Jesus and told that he will end up martyred for his faith, sees “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (a.k.a. John), and asks about him. Jesus’s response is very simple:
“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22, ESV)
Jesus’s point is easy to figure out here: our own walk of faith should not be determined by what others’ walks of faith are. The most important thing is not how others are following Christ; it is how we ourselves are following Christ. God does have good plans for our lives, and they will come in due time; in the meantime, being faithful in the here and now is our main priority.
Sometimes, it is just a matter of being aware of a bigger picture that we cannot see all of. The producer eventually tells Miku and the other girls that he is planning on giving all the girls their debut, with Uzuki’s group and the Minami/Anastasia duo being the first wave, and the other girls following in later waves. However, as this plan was not official yet, he could not speak too openly about it. Nevertheless, the news does give Miku and the others some hope to go on in the moment, allowing them to focus on what is most important for them at that moment: continue practicing to be an idol.
Likewise, God is working on something bigger that we cannot fully see, and He knows when is the best timing for giving us certain blessings of His. If we can trust His timing and just follow Him in the meantime, we will someday receive those blessings that will be best suited for what God wants for our lives–even if they might not be the blessings we originally wanted. Rest assured, though, that those blessings are worth waiting for.
(Edit: Just want to add this in to avoid confusion: I am not likening the producer to God in this comparison. The producer is very much human and his way of handling the situation might not have been the best way to go about it. The focus here is simply on Miku and the other girls’ situation and the bigger picture that they are unaware of.)
If you are feeling discouraged because you have been waiting on God and He seems to be silent, I hope you can take encouragement from this show and this post to keep having faith in Him. Treasure your relationship with God, because that really is the greatest blessing we could have. Whether we started working in the vineyard early in the day or close to closing, God has offered His Son on the cross to have a relationship with us, and that is a payment far greater than what any of us deserve. At the same time, keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking–the door that opens might not be the door you are knocking on, but a door will open eventually. And if you see brothers or sisters in Christ who are newer to the faith go ahead of you, you can encourage them as they explore exciting new paths of life, but there is no reason to look at them for too long; they have their walk of faith, and you have our own.
If you want to watch The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, it is streaming for free on Daisuki.
5 thoughts on “The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: When Will My Time Come?”
This seems like a weird parallel to make, since the situation in this episode is largely the producer’s fault and the result of his shortcomings. Miku might not exactly be mature and patient, but that is to be expected – she is still a kid. The producer, on the other hand, is an adult and professional who himself took responsibility over the idols by selecting them for the project. His inability to reassure one of his idols at a time when she was clearly communicating her worries to him is the fruit of his overly reticent nature, and something he must learn to overcome if he is to become a truly successful producer. (The growth of the producer as a character was an important theme in the first series, too, so this comes as no surprise.)
So, if we go along with the parallel, we can say that:
– a lot of the trouble in our lives can be attributed to God’s faulty guidance: in the same way the producer hides behind ambiguous and empty phrases (“under consideration” etc.), God’s words in the Bible are also ambiguous and often lead to misunderstandings and harm rather than good
– God might /know/ what is best for us and have all the best intentions, but often fails in picking the right moment or means of telling His believers, and thus causes unnecessary grief and trouble
I’m with you on both those points, but then again, I’m not Christian… and those are not points you are trying to make.
When there is a crucial divergence point between the elements of a parallel (in this case, the difference in the natures of the human producer and the divine God), it is imperative that you note that difference and analyze how it affects the parallel and what you are trying to say. Forgo this, and you risk losing control of the messages your analysis is making. You did remember about this point in your osananajimi post, so I am sure you realize this, though.
Btw, I remember commenting on that osananajimi post back when you posted it a whole two years ago. Time sure flies fast, huh? I am looking forward to your further contributions to the Tangles, so keep up the good work!
Thank you for your comments.
I would have to disagree, though, that the situation was the producer’s fault. In the business world, there’s a certain danger in talking about plans that are not yet set in stone–the whole “counting your chickens before they hatch” idiom and all–because there’s always the chance that those plans can change or fall through, which would cause even more damage if the producer had gotten the girls’ hopes up. Not saying he handled this the best way (he is very human throughout the show so far), but putting most of the blame on him, when there’s a lot of corporate red tape involved in things like this, is unfair, in my opinion.
You are right, though, that this is not a perfect parallel, and I probably should have mentioned that somewhere in the post. God isn’t held up by “red tape” or waiting for plans to be official (all His plans have been set in stone outside of time itself); instead, He chooses not to reveal certain things about His plan to us either to grow our faith and trust in Him, or simply because it just isn’t our time to know. I know this can seem like “faulty guidance” to non-Christians, but I believe that there’s a bigger picture in play that goes beyond having to know exactly what His plan is for me at any given time.
As for the producer, I do hope he grows from managing the girls as a businessman toward actually building a connection with them, like P-san of 765 Pro does. If that happens, that might be the subject of another post…
Thank you for your response.
The issue with the producer’s choices is that his tell or not tell dilemma is fake and stems from his lack of experience and people skills. By no means should he go around making uncertain promises – that is what caused friction on the Producer/Miki line in the original series. The reality of the situation is that there are no certain plans for Miku’s huge debut, and the producer’s job is not to bewitch or obscure that reality.
It is his job, however, to give his idols a clear idea of the present situation and help them deal with it properly. The crux of this episode’s problem is that what Miku needed was not a debut then and there (impossible, anyway), but the emotional reassurance that the producer was indeed making every effort possible for that debut to happen.
There are many things the producer could have told Miku, but the content is of secondary importance – they needed a one-on-one heart-to-heart. Miku communicated that need quite desperately, in fact. The producer was unable to provide that partly because of his awkward nature, but possibly also because he might be stuck in the right/wrong duality mentioned above. It is possible to make the “right” choices, and go the wrong way about executing them. Here the producer made the right choice, but forgot about the human factor, or compassion.
This is an important point of the parallel, because a reasonable stand can be made for the idea that God is always just/right, but not compassionate. He does kill people with stones and wild beasts whenever He feels it is the “right” thing to do. For Christians, it is a difficult but necessary claim that those are not only the right, but also the compassionate things to do.
The question of how a just and righteous God can also be compassionate is an interesting question, and one I wouldn’t mind visiting, if not in another post, then privately over e-mail or other means.
That said, I honestly did not intend to have the Producer as any significant part of this parallel, and certainly not as a God-figure; the focus of this post was on the situation Miku and the other girls were in and how Christians can respond when in similar situations. As such, to avoid confusion for future readers, I’ve added in an edit note to that effect.
Again, though, thanks for your comments, as I would have overlooked this issue otherwise.
“The question of how a just and righteous God can also be compassionate is an interesting question, and one I wouldn’t mind visiting, if not in another post, then privately over e-mail or other means.”
Well that’s kind of the eternal issue with Christianity, as religions go. Two issues: (1). The Problem of Evil, which oddly enough is easier to explain. (2). How a God who knows everything (And thus the real reasons behind our actions) can be both compassionate and righteous at the same time.
I would love to discuss this one more broadly on this blog, if we ever get the chance.