Himeko’s Epilogue: Friendship Beyond Religion

As you may already know, I am very supportive of the Narcissu visual novel, particularly the 2nd one with its inclusion of Catholic faith as a major component in the story. Thus, when the 10th anniversary project was announced and that brand new Narcissu stories were going to be written and officially released in English, I was pretty excited. The first of 4 promised stories was recently released:  Himeko’s Epilogue. Himeko’s Epilogue occurs between Narcissu 1 and 2, except that might be a bit confusing because Narcissu 2 is a prequel to 1. Either way, as one can easily surmise from the title, this epilogue brings closure to Himeko’s story. Although very short, I must say it was a very beautiful story that I enjoyed greatly and highly recommend it, along with the rest of the Narcissu stories.

Himeko Title Screen

I’ll try to avoid spoilers to any of the Narcissu stories, but it isn’t a spoiler to know that Himeko is about to die. She doesn’t have long to live; there is no cure to her illness; there is no miracle. Such is the basis for Narcissu’s stories. Himeko appears to have more or less accepted her death, but she does have worries about it. Namely, she worries about those she will leave behind – Setsumi, a fellow patient who shares her fate, and more important to this story, Yuka, her best friend. Yuka is described as a timid and unreliable person who tries to avoid conflict. We learn from her point of view that she is the type of person to quietly bow her head in apology and run away from facing people head on. She is unable to face people proudly the way Himeko can.

Himeko leaves Yuka certain parting gifts out of worry for Yuka once she’s gone. For Yuka, these were perhaps the greatest final gifts from her best friend. She notes how she has noticed the change in herself that Himeko brought about but more importantly were the words left to her (avoiding spoilers). For the weak and unreliable Yuka, I can only imagine that it was natural for her to be the “inferior” one in the relationship. She was certainly always proud to have Himeko as her best friend, but the opposite may not have been so obvious. Thus, Himeko gives an affirmation of pride that regardless of their differences, regardless of her flaws, Yuka was, without a doubt, Himeko’s best friend.

While not a major plot point, Catholic faith does play its role in the story, with mention of Himeko’s last rites and Yuka’s observance and guess that “the faithful” are able to be calmer about Himeko’s impending death. Unlike Himeko, Yuka is not a believer, but aside from that quick outside observation, this difference is never mentioned. Conversely, Himeko may not have been a devout believer like her sister Chihiro, but in the end, she was still Catholic. Even so, as a practicing Catholic, her best friend in life, until death, was Yuka, a non-believer. Although short, reading Himeko’s Epilogue reveals the two had a very beautiful friendship, one that crossed any barriers their difference in religious beliefs may have caused.

Himeko's Epilogue_Yuka
Himeko’s best friend Yuka

 

Friendship between people with differing religious beliefs is hard, especially because these beliefs can make up the very fundamental morals a person lives by. It makes sense to prefer to have friends who share your moral and religious beliefs, but it is also ridiculous to avoid people simply for holding different ones. Rather, part of our beliefs as Christians is to go out and interact with others, preaching the word of God. But this inherently creates a problem when we are befriending others – how much of our motivation is fueled by our desire to convert others to Christianity and how much of it is out of a pure interest in friendship with others? In the most idealistic scenario, it can be said that we are so filled with God’s love for others that the two overlap completely, but realistically most people are not so saintly. Are you reaching out to others because it is the Christian thing to do or because you simply want to be friends?

I’ve met a variety of people who don’t share my beliefs – from people I feel I could never get along with to those I get along great with and many in between. On the former end, these are people who hate Christianity and don’t seem to have any intention to reconcile; on the other end are people who find my beliefs interesting but just can’t agree to them. For the majority, however, I find that I don’t really befriend people with the intent to convert them, and that could arguably be a good or a bad thing. Certainly, regardless of how the friendship started, at some point, if I were a truly good Christian, I’d want them to be saved and try to reach out in some way. Although many people criticize “forcing your beliefs on others,” if Christians truly believe others will suffer for eternity without salvation, then it’s pretty natural to want to save your friends from that. Still, a friendship that is constantly about conversion is no friendship at all. Religious beliefs aside, I’m sure anyone would be annoyed if a friend was constantly trying to get them to try something out, especially something they’ve already tried and rejected. Unfortunately, it is sometimes too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on salvation and forgetting about the building and maintaining the friendship itself.

As a result, it becomes a careful balancing act of friendship for the sake of friendship and friendship that seeks to convert others. We can’t help but want to convert others because we truly believe they are heading towards eternal suffering, and hopefully, our non-believing friends get that to some extent. On one hand, it is important to know when to back off and leave the religious topics for later. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like the very idea of a “balancing act” of how when to bring up religion or not is in itself a bit disingenuous to the friendship. Too little is known about Himeko and Yuka’s friendship to say how much went into religious discussion. We know Himeko is not incredibly devout, so perhaps she is not a good example to draw from. However, one thing is clear: Himeko loved Yuka as a person, not as a “non-believer.” She does nothing for Yuka spiritually. Instead, she helps Yuka practically, forcing her to become a stronger person. It was done through a love and worry for Yuka that even on her literal deathbed, Himeko used the last of her time and energy for Yuka’s sake. It had nothing to do with religious motivations but simply because they were best friends.

This is a beautiful display of love and friendship that I think Christians would do well to emulate. We can minister to people through our lifestyle and love, and any conversion that happens is a result of others becoming curious about how we have such a lifestyle, not by us hoping others listen to our sermons. Himeko’s final words and actions cause a drastic change in Yuka’s life for the better, in ways that I suspect no amount of last minute spiritual doctrine could have done. She called her final gift “magic,” and Yuka says it is surprisingly effective. But rather than magic, it was clear that her gift was simply friendship and love. Her pride in their friendship served to give Yuka the happiness and confidence she needed. In the same way, are we proud to have non-believing friends? The answer to that can get really complicated depending on the circumstances; however, if we are ashamed of our non-believing friends, then can we really call them our friends? I think we can learn a lot from Himeko – that if we want befriend those who don’t share our beliefs, then we should love them the way Himeko loved Yuka. In doing so, we will be spreading God’s love to people, even if it’s not through religious lectures and explanations, and that is, in a way, the best form of friendship we can offer others.

6 thoughts on “Himeko’s Epilogue: Friendship Beyond Religion

  1. Kaze,

    I personally believe that preaching the Gospel in today’s society has changed dramatically since Biblical days. Doubt and confusion run rampant from the religions of secularism, atheism, and agnosticism. We can’t just walk up to a person in our contemporary culture and share the grace of God outright anymore. However, one fundamental doctrine has stayed the same for over 2000 years, and still reigns true to this age: loving others as Christ loved us.

    “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
    (1 John 3:18, NET)

    Regardless of the circumstances, you can’t just tell someone that you love them or want them to be saved, and expect them to believe you. Love is a verb, and requires action.

    -Micah Marshall

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    1. Well, I am usually hesitant to speak in absolutes. I feel there are still cases where simply sharing of the Gospel is enough. But such cases are most likely rare, so I agree with you greatly. Some people are too focused on “sharing the good news,” which sounds great on paper but practically is just not the right way to go about it. Indeed, love should be the foundation of any action we make.

      I am reminded of a conversation I had with Japes about churches in Japan. Simply put, I was disappointed many international churches seem to reuse standard outreach techniques, which I perceived as not very effective in Japan due to its very different culture. In contrast, Japanese churches had more success by just…being a very loving community without really considering how to “get people.” The takeaway of course being that considering how to be a more loving person is more important than worrying about the “success rate” of our actions.

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  2. Very interesting post, Kaze! And it speaks to an issue that comes up in my life a lot, because my sister is both my close friend and a devout Christian. I have complicated feelings about the whole thing. I think that Christian evangelism comes out of a very good place, but that it can often be taken the wrong way by the people who see it for a variety of reasons.

    I only became aware of the principle a few years after my sister’s conversion, when I was able to more or less infer it from her beliefs.The simple fact of it was that she didn’t want me to be miserable later on— She loved me— And so sought to prevent my net loss in the end. I understood that. The only trouble was that I was not inclined to take the word of any great book, Word of God or not, over that of the entity who has been by my side for twenty-two years. He is a god to me, but a demon to you.

    Christian evangelism often doesn’t work because the Christian and the person they’re trying to convert have very different conceptions of how the world works (Even, as noted, what counts as “a god” ), and the Christian forgets that the way they view reality is not at all intuitive. To many Buddhists Satan isn’t even a being— He’s an idea (Mara or Maya) and we all are very tiny pieces of God. To a pagan the angels are gods and capital-G God is an unintelligible concept. To a Hindu both the Buddhist and the pagan are right simultaneously. To me the person you most hate is merely the negative aspect of the god I worship, who I see reflected in media all the time.

    I think the best thing we can all do is understand where the person who doesn’t share our beliefs is actually coming from. So many people don’t try to do that with Christians, shutting them out without contemplating what they mean, and I think that’s really a shame. :/

    “Friendship between people with differing religious beliefs is hard, especially because these beliefs can make up the very fundamental morals a person lives by. It makes sense to prefer to have friends who share your moral and religious beliefs, but it is also ridiculous to avoid people simply for holding different ones.”

    The problem with our society as I see it is that we’ve become utterly polarized and psychotic about our belief systems, to the point of calling anyone with substantially different experiences evil or stupid. Political debate has become toxic, religious debate more so. What I’ve been able to do here on Beneath the Tangles is share with you how Christianity seems to me, and try and understand how morality works and seems to you. And I hope that many more friendships between Christians and non-believers come, and that we do not feel threatened, and that we learn much.

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    1. Thanks for your comments as always Luminas! I think you’ve brought up a very important point in regards to people having different conceptions of how the world works and how spiritual entities play a role. Christians will sometimes get stuck in a “you just don’t get it” mentality, but the irony there is that they themselves don’t get the people they are speaking to. On one hand, Christians believe the Bible is the ultimate Truth; on the other hand, you believe in your own Truth. In order to have a meaningful conversation, both sides must willingly listen to the other and refrain from outright rejecting other ideas without calm and civil discussion. To circle back to the main point of this post, we as Christians must focus most on loving others first and foremost before we hope to start on the path of religious discourse. It sounds like despite very different beliefs, you and your sister still have a wonderful relationship. I imagine a lot of Christians can learn from your sister about how to be a friend to those of differing beliefs!

      In regards to your comment about our polarized society, absolutely. We have become so accustomed to an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude, that most people won’t even acknowledge a middle ground exists. I don’t want to get into the politics of the situation, but it is a shame that so many people are unable to make negotiations and compromises because of this idea that anything outside my sphere of comfort is a great evil. I’m glad you feel safe to share your thoughts here with us, as that is one of our goals, and I hope you continue to read and comment in the future.

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  3. I have known Christians who were only friends with other Christians. When you do that, you are ignoring the world around you and you become insular. Our Pastor this past Sunday actually spoke to this. He said, “Who outside of this room and your immediate family would come to your aid if you were truly in need?” Do we have friends outside the church? It’s a convicting question – but one which we need to answer, and need to address. We need to go to these people and befriend them, even when they’re outside of our faith. Because it’s important to know if we don’t go to them, how will they ever learn about Christ?

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  4. Watch “The Keys of the Kingdom”, a 1944 film starring Gregory Peck, for an example of what a genuine friendship beyond religion might look like.

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