A year ago, I wrote about how God’s love could be compared to that of a yandere. This year I’d like to make another kind of comparison on the topic of love, but instead of focusing on God, I want to focus on Christians and our love for God. Our love for God is, or at least should be, the greatest emotion we can possibly offer. It is a love which drives us to worship Him, follow Him, strive to be like Him, and serve Him. Anime loves to depict similarly idealistic characters – from the main character who always has to help others to the school idol who is loved by the entire school to the deredere archetype that is just helplessly in love with another. Anime, and people in general, love the idea of love.
But in real life, these ideals often fall apart. Especially in Japan, people who reflect even a fraction of such ideals are hard to come by. It is a sad irony in that although Japanese people can be so friendly on the surface, their hearts are so disconnected from each other. But while they may fail to emulate the type of godly, unconditional love which Christians (should) have, that doesn’t mean similarities don’t exist. And while rare, such a type of love is something which the Japanese are drawn to.
Nowhere have I seen this more than among the Nana Mizuki fandom. Perhaps my view is skewed since, well, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to any other fandom, and as a whole, the otaku culture in Japan has a fascinating difference in lifestyle compared to most other Japanese (but that’s a different topic for a similar phenomenon). In my short time in Japan, with moderate interaction with other Nana fans, I have come to feel that the love fans feel for Nana is similar to the love Christians have for God. Of course, I’d be the first to admit the numerous reasons why it’s an imperfect parallel, but compared to other Japanese people, and even compared to other fan bases, there is something here that reminds me of Christian love, and there is something about Nana that draws people to her in ways that remind me of how people are drawn to God.
If you asked a fan what he or she liked most about Nana, it would probably not be her singing. It might be her personality, but at a more basic and precise level, I think the answer is how she lives her life. It is not uncommon for fans to say “I want to live my life like Nana does.” They don’t mean being famous or talented or loved; no, they honestly mean they simply want to be a person who approaches life like her in the exact same meaning when Christians say we want to live our lives like Jesus. Nana has changed the way people view the world, not necessarily through her music, but through her existence as a person, and I can say I am one of those people. We are moved by what she says and that she follows through with her beliefs and claims. To challenge yourself on a regular basis, to not give up in even seemingly hopeless situations, and to not let others’ negativity change how you approach and live your life. After all these years, from changing from a nobody to the most popular voice actress singer in history, Nana herself has not forgotten these values, and she has remained humble and continuously thanks the people responsible for her success: her fans. It is because of this beautiful personality of hers that we are drawn toward her, love her, and strive to be better people like her.
The feelings of fans truly hold nothing but sincerity and honesty. Sure, there are “bad” fans, but much the same as there are bad examples in anything, Christianity included. Nana gives her fans strength and hope, inspiration and a model way of life, and cause for celebration and happiness. At her concerts, there is an amazing presence of unity and celebration. Reunion of old friends and creation of new ones through communal love for a single person. It is not just for Nana, but also with other fans that people so merrily celebrate the day that everyone can be in the presence of Nana. Her concerts are, dare I say, similar to a church worship service, but on a much larger scale. Last year, Nana had to cancel some of her concerts due to developing laryngitis. The first one was only cancelled after everyone was already at the venue. Naturally, everyone reacted by complaining about a wasted day. Just kidding, actually everyone got incredibly worried for her with no complaints to be heard. There were even people who thought it better to cancel more concerts just to be safe. That sort of natural inclination to love Nana as a person, not as a performer, is what I love about her fan base.
It is not uncommon for fans to say “Nana gives meaning to my life,” and such a line holds great weight. Japanese fans see something in Nana that makes them want to continue living; she is someone who is a light in the otherwise dark and depressing lifestyle and culture that is Japan (as an unfortunate reminder, Japan has some of the highest suicide rates in the world). I, too, feel Nana gives meaning to my life; maybe not as literally and dependently as Japanese fans, but certainly at a level where I can say she is a big reason why I’m enjoying life as much as I am. As such, I am reminded of the sense of fulfillment that God’s love can grant Christians. Nana is certainly not equal to God (despite how often I refer to her as a goddess), but her relationship to fans and the love and respect they give her, born from a sense of gratitude, is an interesting similarity. In this culture and country where there is so much underlying insecurity and a lack of purpose, Nana provides her fans a different and far more positive outlook in life. While it may still be a “misleading” direction, perhaps it is indicative of how much more the Japanese would respond to God’s love once they experience it for themselves.
Personally, the most amusing and simultaneously annoying similarity is how others view this relationship. I cannot count the number of times people have made snide remarks about how I only like her because of her looks, or that she would be reviled if she ever got married, or that she’s not anyone important compared to “real” singers (the most ignorant and easily proven wrong statement if you just look at the numbers), or the best one, that I’ve sinfully made her into a false god. Everything here I think can be summed up as statements that 1) discredit my personal feelings and 2) attempt to “correct” my way of thinking to their own. And this is very similar to how people denounce Christians (excluding the ones that actually deserve to be criticized): that we only “believe” to make ourselves feel better, that we are crazy, uneducated people, that we would be better off realizing the “truth” of atheism, etc. In fact, due to the nature of faith and Christianity, I’d argue that such statements hold more ground than the statements about Nana, but the point is this: that people are criticizing a group based on their own skewed way of thinking. While I think there is some logical basis for people viewing these communities in this way due to the existence of the aforementioned bad examples, in both cases, people couldn’t be more wrong. The relationship of Nana and her fans or the relationship of God and Christians, these are things which outsiders cannot fully comprehend without experiencing it themselves. And when you do, you just might come to agree that Christianity is not like other religions, or that Nana fans are not like other fan bases.
To wrap this up, I’ll concede that I understand why I get criticisms about making Nana into a false god. That’s definitely something to be on the watch for, and as a Christian, I’m thankful for the reminder. But at the same time, I see it as a criticism made from watching me but not listening to me or attempting to understand me. I said that Nana has changed the way I live – that is for the better, and that is because I view Nana as a blessing from God. My favorite and most inspirational quote from Nana is in her autobiography about a time in middle school when she was being bullied and mocked for wanting to be a singer:
It was then that I found the darkness in my heart, but I wanted to become a strong person who did not yield to such weakness.
To clarify, she refers not of yielding to others but of yielding to herself. It is a quote I now often fall back on when I struggle with temptations – to become a person who will not yield to the weakness of my own heart. These words have helped me keep to my Christian beliefs more so than any other famous Christian quotes, and sometimes even more than Bible verses. That I can be so graced by Nana’s existence and so inspired by her words is God telling me He can use whatever and whoever He wants to bless and guide me. To me, Nana is representative of God’s love for me in tangible form. And seeing Japanese fans has only further cemented this belief. That so many people are drawn to her, love her, respect her, and call her their goddess, is, in my view, God revealing just a hint of His love for them through very unconventional means. And although they don’t realize it, I believe the reason they love Nana so much is that deep down, they yearn for God’s love which they see reflected in Nana.