I didn’t expect to like Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. But, as I wrote in the season reviews, it turned out to be fairly enjoyable. In fact, I found it soothing, almost like something from the slice of life genre: a perfect wind-down show for the end of a busy day. I saw it as a kind of bedtime story.
There are just a few jarring chords in this lullaby of an MMORPG, mostly due to characters who disrupt not only my experience, but also the way the hunting party works together. I’d have liked things to run smoothly, and I was particularly eager to be rid of Ranta. But the main character, Haruhiro, takes a more thoughtful stance. He recognizes that misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and frustration are causing discord in their party. Instead of shifting the blame onto the obnoxious Ranta and the distant Mary, he takes the initiative to try to understand them and meet their needs.
Before we talk about what Haruhiro does right, though, let’s talk about everything that goes wrong:
(Spoiler warning, with an especially big spoiler from Episode 4)
Discordant Note #1: Ranta
Ranta fills the Obnoxious Pervy/Chauvinistic Friend role that anime often use for “comedic” relief. Except he’s not even a decent friend, and when confronted, he denies that he wants to be friends with the other members of his party.
He picks on Yume especially, often calling her “flat chested,” and much to my annoyance, he’s only given cursory scoldings, rather than the harangue he deserves.
Ranta shamelessly objectifies women. He shows no regard for anyone’s feelings. He claims that he doesn’t care about his party as friends, and that he only wants to fulfill his role in their group. He even claims not to care about their lives. He’s a jerk.
It’s amazing that no one moves to kick him out of their party, really.
At first, no one deals with Ranta in a satisfactory way. At most, he gets a cursory scolding or mild disagreement, and not the harangue he deserves. I’d have liked to see someone—preferably one of the girls, but one of the boys would have done just fine—explain to him that making remarks about a girl’s chest is sexual harassment and would not be tolerated in their party. And instead of mildly protesting and following “to stop him” when he went to peep on the girls, the other boys should have blocked his path and said, “No. This is not just what guys do. You’re disrespecting our party members and violating their sense of safety and trust.”
At that point, they tolerate Ranta, but they don’t accept him. They don’t ask why he’s a jerk. They don’t consider his feelings, needs, or the underlying hurts behind his caustic exterior. They don’t even move to protect each other from him.
Discordant Note #2: Death
Manato dies. He’s a “priest”—the one they rely on for healing magic—and their leader, so his death is extremely jarring. This is mainly relevant to this article because it disrupted my pleasant bedtime story for an episode and it leads to my next point. Also, after he dies, Haruhiro becomes the leader. His struggle to lead well is a central conflict, and it’s what motivated him to act in a way that led me to this article.
Discordant Note #3: Mary
Mary isn’t so much a “discordant note” as part of a different melody. After Manato dies, the party needs a new priest, and she’s it. There are immediately problems with the way they work together—and not just because the original members are still grieving.
She works very differently than Manato did. He would heal party members of every little wound during a battle, and he often fought on the front lines. She stays in the back and only treats serious wounds during battle—if they’re not serious enough by her estimation, she tells them to tough it out.
In addition, Mary shows no interest in getting to know the other party members. She walks a little separately and silently on their way to work, and she refuses invitations to share dinner with them. When Haruhiro first tries asking her about her fighting style, so they can better work together, she’s unwilling to say much.
The team is willing to accept her, but they’re already hurting about Manato. If she doesn’t care about being accepted, then why should they bother?
Haruhiro Steps Up
It’s tempting to just ignore the problems with Mary. But Haruhiro, as leader, recognizes his responsibility to try to understand her, for the sake of the team if nothing else.
He learns the reason that Mary comes across as callous and distant: she gave her old party her full and constant support, fighting on the front lines and healing their every wound. Then they faced a tough opponent, and she used her magic up too quickly, so she couldn’t heal the mortal wounds later in the battle. Three in her party died. So it’s not that she doesn’t care, but rather that she cares too much: if she babies her new teammates, she could be risking their lives. And she’s still hurting from the loss of her former comrades. It takes time and patience to get her to open up to her new party.
Ranta’s initial response to Mary’s story isn’t very compassionate. He’s mourning, too, after all. If Mary doesn’t try to become their friend, then why should he try?
It’s an ugly attitude to take, but before we judge Ranta too harshly, let’s be honest: it’s a tempting perspective at times. I’m sure I’ve thought similar things at times: “So, she’s hurting? Big whoop. I’m hurting too. I’m not going to put myself out there and risk rejection and more hurt until she does.” It’s easy to justify such thinking as logical self-preservation.
Thankfully, the others recognize that they need to take the initiative and reach out to Mary, even though it means risking rejection from her. After all, she’s alone as the new member of the group. She has more reason to fear rejection than they do.
Once they’ve decided to reach out to her, Ranta complains that they don’t understand him.
I’d be tempted to say, “Stop whining. If you want to be listened to, maybe you should try listening to us first. You show no respect for us, so why should we respect you?”
But Haruhiro doesn’t say that. Instead, he reaches out to Ranta repeatedly and tries to understand him.
Ranta doesn’t make it easy. He tries to use his different techniques and philosophy as a Dark Knight to justify his flippant attitude toward comrades, morals, and life itself:
I’m a Dark Knight. You got it? I serve the Dark God Skullhell. We believe that in death, all are equal. The vices that we value are the antithesis of what you call in your pretty little words ‘common sense’ and ‘morals.’ Antithesis. It’s an important concept, so I’ll say it again: Antithesis. Eventually, you’ll fall into death’s embrace anyway, so it’s stupid to be bound by useless ideals. We should be driven by things like our desires, instincts, and impulses. That’s how it should be. And at the end, we all die, just the same. Get it? (Ep 10)
No, Haruhiro doesn’t get it. He’s angry, and they’re close to fighting. If he didn’t feel the responsibility of being a leader, he wouldn’t even try to understand Ranta any better. Ranta seems content to say “Hey, our philosophies are different, and we can’t be friends. Let’s just kill monsters and earn money together and call it good.” He gives Haruhiro a way out of trying to understand and work with him, but Haruhiro doesn’t take it.
Then Ranta almost kills Haruhiro at the end of the episode and says “If you died, I’d just get an extra Vice.” Haruhiro struggles more than ever:
What the heck? Right, if I remember that this is just how he is, I won’t get angry. No, I am angry. I’m fuming. Will I be able to let it go?
No one wants to battle alongside someone who claims not to care about their life. But to his credit, he’s willing to keep trying.
Unlike with Mary, we never get to the bottom of Ranta’s attitude. It’s clear that he doesn’t fully believe what he says about “useless ideals.” After all, he’s willing to sacrifice himself for Haruhiro in Episode 11.
Haruhiro doesn’t seem motivated to understand Ranta by compassion. It’s more a matter of trying to lead the party well. He cares about Ranta’s life, and he’s loyal to him as a member of the party, but that’s all. It’s just about what’s best for the party, complemented by a sense of duty and the principle of protecting life.
How much more should Christians, who are commanded to love, seek to understand the obnoxious, callous, or distant people around us?
Discordant People in Real Life
Peace and smooth teamwork are great motivation to seek understanding—or at least a truce—between people with very different perspectives. It’s practical (and a lot more pleasant) to seek to understand differences instead of just getting fed up with each other.
But we’re called to more than that. We’re called to the kind of compassion the characters have toward Mary, not just the frustrated tolerance they muster up for Ranta.
Think of the folks that are the hardest for you to speak, think, or act compassionately toward. Some possible examples:
- That sibling who doesn’t respect your boundaries, who teases you, who constantly gets on your nerves and seems to have nothing in common with you except parents and home address.
- That older relative who makes disparaging comments about your clothes, your weight, and your political views… and thinks it’s funny. They might not mean to be cruel, but their sense of humor (or in other cases, sense of “appreciated advice”) hurts, and no one seems interested in correcting them.
- That coworker who’s always late and slacks off. You’re pretty sure he was smoking pot that one night shift when the manager wasn’t around.
- The classmate or hallmate in the dorms who has no sense of personal space and has an obnoxious sense of humor.
- The roommate who brings their SO over, leaves messes on your side of the room, or won’t respect your need for quiet hours.
- Those dang liberals/conservatives who fill the news with pointless protests and fill your Facebook feed with ignorant attacks and propaganda.
- Whoever the last obnoxious and/or morally loose person was you last
gossiped“vented” about to your trusted friend.
Loving these people doesn’t just mean “not attacking them” or “not wishing them dead.” It’s usually more active than that.
Oh, and before I go further: yes, this is a love issue. I’ve referenced Jesus’ words on the topic before, but it’s important, so I’ll quote him again:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:27-40, ESV)
This does not mean that these are the only two important commandments. Re-read that last verse: the other commandments and promises throughout the Bible all fall under the same umbrella. They tell how to love, both by God’s example and by command.
Loving does not mean tolerating or enabling. When the guys tolerated the way that Ranta harassed Yume, they weren’t being very loving toward either of them. Loving Yume, in this case, would mean protecting her. Loving Ranta would mean making sure he understood that he was wrong and needed to stop, but that they cared about him, too. If he kept hurting the others, love might even mean kicking him out of the party (or at least the house), but making it clear that he’s welcome back whenever he’s ready to treat the girls right.
Merely tolerating differences is one of the least compassionate things you can do. If you love someone, you want to understand them. You recognize their humanity and that they are precious in God’s sight, so they become precious in yours, too.
Lil Sis was a great training partner for dealing with different people. As kids, I found her extremely irritating at times. Our personalities were different, and it was easy to hurt each other without realizing it. But we matured, we better understood our different needs. Online anime fans helped me, too. Here, I met all sorts of people with very different beliefs and personalities. I heard their stories, including how some have been hurt in the name of Christianity. Soon, the atheists, agnostics, liberals, ecchi fans, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., I met online were no longer “those people” but “God’s beloved” and even “my people.” I can still feel a bit defensive when people suddenly disagree with me, but it’s easier to stop and consider their perspectives.
Like Ranta, people hold different philosophies of life. If they’re not based in the Bible, they’re wrong. I’m not budging on that. (Though I’m willing to budge if part of my philosophy turns out not to be as Biblical as I think.) But I can’t expect people who don’t know God to think about life in a godly manner.
There are so many reasons people act the way they do. Sometimes, it’s pain or misunderstanding. Sometimes, it’s a different worldview. Sometimes, it’s a brain struggle. For example, I know many people with hyperactive-type ADHD (especially undiagnosed) accidentally come off as rude, obnoxious, lazy, or any of a number of negative things, and even if they have the self-awareness to recognize what they’re doing wrong, they may be unable to change much without help. They need compassion. I use this example as someone with a different subtype of ADHD, and has loved ones diagnosed with the hyperactive subtype, but there are so many other examples of mental struggles—diagnosable or not, long term or temporary—that physically change what happens in our brains, but are invisible to those around us. So people assume certain behaviors can be improved with just a bit of willpower, when they actually need a lot more support than that.
Giving grace to others doesn’t come naturally. Often—especially when I deal with people offline–I have to pray for God to help me love others. (I also recommend praying for the people you’re struggling to love, and not just your enemies as instructed by Scripture–it helps you see and have compassion for their needs.)
Jesus meets people where they’re at. He initiates the relationship. That doesn’t mean he does everything. Relationships take work on both sides. He’s the light that comes into the darkness, and some people repeatedly choose the darkness. That’s on them. Since he doesn’t ask folks to change (or even want to change) before he reaches out to them, he’s rejected. But he keeps loving.
Biblical, compassionate love means we risk rejection. It hurts when people reject us and the God we love. Sometimes, when we’re hurting—whether from grief like the Grimgar characters for other reasons—it feels like we have no love left to give, and like we can’t take any more pain. But Christians serve the God of love. So I try to remember to cry out to him when I’m feeling that weakness. God’s love for me is sufficient, and I ask him to love others through me.
Like Haruhiro, we should seek to understand and care about the obnoxious, twisted, and callous people in our lives. That doesn’t mean enabling them, but it does mean humbly meeting them where they’re at and looking at things from their perspective. Instead of waiting for them to change, we love them as they are. How we love depends on the situation, and it requires wisdom. God has firm boundaries and consequences for crossing them. We can learn about love as much from his boundaries as much as his mercy.