Hello everyone! One of my favorite things to do as an anime blogger is to bring to light some less popular shows and talk about their good qualities, perhaps even encouraging others to check out some new shows. Hence, in this new column of mine, I will be looking at some of the themes and things we can learn from the various shows I have watched that might have flown under the radar.
As I mentioned in my review of the show, Castle Town Dandelion was one of my favorite shows of the last season. In addition to all of its other qualities, one of the reasons I loved this show so much was how its premise reminds me of how Christians, we belong to the royal family of God. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the second half of episode 11, which has one of the best (probably unintentional) representations of the Christian church I have seen in anime, despite not actually showing a Christian church.
Be warned that there are some minor spoilers ahead.
In the second half of Episode 11, the King and father of the nine Sakurada children strains his back and ends up bedridden. This comes at a time when he is expected to deal with many matters such as holding a banquet for foreign guests, finishing the paperwork for the yearly budget, being interviewed by local media, and visiting a remote town blocked off by a landslide. At this point, the Sakurada children decide together to take up their royal responsibility and take care of these matters in their father’s stead.
Now, before I go any further into how the Sakurada family is similar to the “royal family” of the Church, I must first note the one way they are not alike: God is not somehow “out of comission”, leaving His people to do all the work for Him. Even while His people are at work, He is also active and working in all things in His own way, guiding and directing both those in and outside of His church, among other things. If God wanted to, He could do all of the work of advancing His kingdom on Earth Himself and just let us pursue our own ambitions. However, He chooses instead to allow us to participate in His plan for the world and do His work alongside Him.
This is where the Church comes in, and where the comparisons to the Sakurada family start falling into place. The nine children all have unique powers and personalities, but as soon as they know what they have to do, they immediately work together and decide who takes care of what. Likewise, the work of the Church is varied and its members have unique gifts and personalities, and a healthy church will be able to work together to coordinate its members to serving in a variety of areas.
We can even find some similarities between the various tasks the Sakurada children take on and areas the Christian Church needs human hands to work on.
Foreign Guests and Outreach: One of the most important missions of the Church is reaching out to non-Christians in various evangelistic outreaches. If the Church is the kingdom of God, non-Christians can be seen as foreign guests. Notably, like foreign guests, they should be treated with respect, given that, though they may be unsaved, they are still ultimately God’s beloved creations.
Among the Sakurada siblings, Aoi, the oldest and most charismatic of the family, takes charge of this task. Likewise while all Christians can and should participate in outreach activities, there are definitely certain Christians with a particular gift in meeting with the unsaved, being able to establish friendly relations with them and witnessing in a way that effectively leads some of them to Christ.
Leading Within the Kingdom: This one is a bit trickier of a connection, but the interviews that Misaki does with the local media can represent the various formal leadership interactions Christians have with other members of the Church, such as preaching and other public relations. These interviews are a way for the leaders to express such things as the heart behind a country’s recent policies and actions they hope the citizens will take; likewise, a preacher has the job of explaining the heart behind the policies of the kingdom of God, as written in the Bible, and what actions the members should take accordingly. This can also include smaller-scale teaching, leading small groups, or running a blog on Christian themes in anime. Anything that involves leading within the Church is an important role in God’s plan for the kingdom.
Paperwork and Housework: Not all of the siblings engage in high-exposure activities; Aoi and Haruka take up the job of managing the budget paperwork, and Hikari and Shiori go back to their suburban home to do house chores. Their work certainly does not seem as glamorous as the work the other siblings do, and on the surface does not seem like the sort of thing that would be part of royal duties. However, they are every bit as necessary, because that paperwork is needed to run the country, and no country can be run from a dirty home, either.
Likewise, among the many places Christians are needed to serve are those that are low-exposure and seemingly not very exciting, but are still important for the greater work of the Church. The administrative workers who push all the necessary paperwork to keep a church building, the janitors who clean the church building, the people who set up and break down before and after church services, and other such servants of Christ are just as important as everyone taking care of matters outside. It is also worth mentioning that Aoi, Haruka, Hikari, and Shiori do not take these jobs just because they are “left over”; they volunteer for them, without caring for a moment that they will be working behind the scenes. (This is especially notable for Hikari, whose second life as an idol singer might suggest behavior oriented toward drawing attention.) These are jobs that have no room for personal pride or attention-seekers, but gladly welcome those who willingly humble themselves for the sake of the kingdom.
That said, this seems like the sort of job that Akane, the shy protagonist who hates public exposure, would most want to do, and yet this is not what she ends up doing…
Compassionate Activities: Whether it be within the Church or outside it, we are called to show compassion to those in difficult situations. If a town is having a hard time accessing resources because the only road in is blocked from a landslide, that is naturally a matter of concern for both fictional anime kingdoms and the real-life Church. In addition to disaster relief, compassionate activities can also include helping individuals who are struggling financially or have suffered a significant loss, or visiting and supporting Christians in prison, or any other activity that involves stepping outside the walls of a church building to help people in need.
The interesting thing to note here is that helping the remote village is what Akane decides to do, alongside Shuu and Teru. Shuu and Teru definitely fit the job, as the former’s teleportation ability makes it easy to bring resources to the town, and the latter’s super strength makes quick work of the landslide blockade. For Akane herself, though, this does not seem to fit her too well (although better than doing interviews or meeting foreign dignitaries), and is definitely a step outside of her comfort zone. However, as she starts helping out the distressed villagers by doing small favors and easing their nerves by simply being friendly with them, the whole experience leads to a significant moment of growth for her and her ability to overcome her inhibitions.
This is something very important for Christians in deciding how to help out the Church: it is not about where you feel most comfortable helping out in. It is not even always about where you can serve most effectively. Sometimes, it is important to serve in that one place that is just a bit beyond your comfort zone, because that is the place where you can grow. While it is important to allow each member to use their God-given gifts and strengths, it is also important to recognize those weaknesses in ourselves that are holding us back from serving God fully, and finding ways to overcome those weaknesses, and serving in those challenging places can be a great way to face your weaknesses head-on.
There are, of course, plenty of other ways Christians can serve the Church and do the work of the kingdom of God. The important thing is that we do the work, and we work together. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, individually, we are all different parts of the body with different gifts, but only when we work together as one body can we accomplish the work of God. But it is worth it, because what is great about being part of the family of God is not just belonging to a family, but also working with our family and God to run His kingdom.