Since Valentine’s Day has only just recently passed, I figured I would talk this time about one of my favorite, overlooked romance anime, Engaged to the Unidentified (Japanese name: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei). Based on a 4-koma manga, this anime is a slice-of-life comedy with a significant romance element. What helps differentiate this show from other romantic comedies is how it is willing to shake up the status quo with some interesting twists, and how while it does use misunderstandings as a source of comedy, it generally never lets any misunderstanding overstay its welcome, allowing for the main couple to develop their relationship slowly but surely.
The main protagonist of this show is Kobeni Yonomori, an average high school girl who is good at housework and generally lives in the shadow of her good-at-everything older sister, Benio (who also dotes on her excessively). On her sixteenth birthday, though, she gets the surprise of her life when she finds out that she has a fiancée, Hakuya Mitsumine, arranged for her by her late grandfather, and that he and his younger sister Mashiro will be living with them. It’s worth mentioning that this “arranged marriage” is the open kind in which Kobeni can ultimately opt out of it if she chooses to. That said, Hakuya seems like a good enough guy, and Kobeni is willing to let things continue for the moment while she figures out just how she feels about him.
Making things more complicated is how Kobeni and Hakuya had met before as kids, but Kobeni does not really remember anything about it due to an accident in her past–an accident that, as it turns out, Hakuya had saved her life from. Hakuya, on his part, would rather not tell Kobeni about that so that she does not feel pressured to accept the engagement out of obligation. Nevertheless, the mystery of their childhood, as well as some hints that Hakuya and Mashiro might not be entirely normal, push Kobeni to try to find out more about her mysterious fiancée.
As a Christian anime viewer, one of the ways a romance can appeal to me is by reminding me of the love God has for us in some way or another. This show already has a slight advantage in that the main couple can be considered childhood friends, one of my favorite type of anime relationship starters, and one I have talked about previously regarding how such relationships are similar to that between God and a Christian who has grown up in the church. There are some differences in this particular case, given that Kobeni doesn’t remember much of her childhood and hasn’t really grown up with Hakuya, but her engagement to him and her discovery of her own feelings still has some things worth looking into.
Some people who have grown up in the church, like I did, can sometimes feel like they have been “betrothed” to God: They are told all the time about how much God loves them and how His son saved us and how to show love back to God, but it never quite feels like their faith is quite their own. It is just what we had been raised to believe as part of a Christian household, as opposed to, say, a Jewish/Buddhist/athiest/etc. household. For these people, there comes a time when they have to decide what their own, personal relationship with God is. Kind of like how Hakuya does not want Kobeni to feel obligated to marry him, God does not force any of us to ultimately choose to follow Him, even we had grown up being told to do so. And for some people, they ultimately choose to “annul their engagement” with God. Others might have some incredible emotional experience that makes them fall in love with God on their own, like someone who finds out that the partner they are betrothed to is actually really attractive.
And then, there are those who find themselves somewhere in the middle, like I did. During my “soul searching” years, I found no real reason to reject God. The logical bases for the Bible’s validity were sound enough, and while I wasn’t exactly deeply in love with God, I could at least feel something for Him, as well as just overall appreciate Him for being there for me in my life. I felt like Kobeni did, engaged to some mysterious being that was nice enough that I was willing to look into it more. In my case, through reading the Bible and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, serving in various ways, as well as talking with other Christians both in church groups and online, I slowly but surely started to fall in love with God.
For Kobeni, her attitude of wanting to know more about Hakuya, do more things with him and simply spend more time with him, is what slowly brings her heart closer to his. This show does a good job of allowing their relationship to progress naturally, even amidst the various shake-ups that happen every now and then. There is no sudden “falling in love” moment, just two people slowly building a relationship from a bit of a strange starting point, with plenty of antics from the rest of the cast to entertain viewers as well. While I will leave any further details out for those wanting to try the show out, do note that the romance between Kobeni and Hakuya never gets passionate; even something like kissing is well beyond what the slow build between these two could reach. Nevertheless, what their relationship does develop into is still something rather sweet.
Whether or not you grew up in the church, you might still find yourself not really feeling “in love” with God; you might have some affection for Him, but perhaps not that same passion you once had. In some cases, it might feel like you have fallen away from Him, to the point where it feels like just being “engaged” to Him. In these times, though, all you need is at least some desire to just draw a little bit closer to God, and some proactivity to act on that desire: read a bit of the Bible, meet up with other Christians, or serve others in some way. It might not seem like much, but a little bit at a time can be all you need to rebuild a relationship with God. One thing’s for sure, though: God is not going anywhere. He is still there, patiently showing just how much He loves you.
Engaged to the Unidentified can be streamed for free on Crunchyroll and Hulu. Aside from mild fanservice, the main thing Christian viewers might find objectionable is Benio’s obsessiveness over her younger sister and Mashiro.
Also, if you are already a fan of this show, then be sure to look forward to next season’s Sansha Sanyo, the anime adaptation of another manga by the same author, Cherry Arai.
Is there an anime you think is overlooked and needs more love? Post about it in the comments and I will consider watching it and writing about it in this column!