I’m a Dad. Since I talked about watching anime with my kids last week, that was most likely the most obvious thing I’ve ever written. But, it deserve mentioning because quite honestly it’s one of the most important jobs I do in my life. I am an engineer by trade. I spent 6 years receiving my education for a Bachelor’s and a Masters degrees in engineering. I’m also licensed professionally as an engineer as well in the State of Maryland. But, in the end, being a Dad is the most important job I will be ever have. It is also a position I hold 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the rest of my life.
How is parenthood displayed in anime and manga? Well, parents are shown in many, many different ways – some good, some absolutely horrendous.
In the Fullmetal Alchemist series, the first time we really meet the Elric brothers’ father, it is a disappointment. Van Hohenheim reveals that he ran away when the going got tough; he also revealed his own inadequacy saying he did not know how to raise his own sons. It was heartbreaking and very real feeling. As a Dad myself, I feel inadequate at times, but you need to be present to be a parent. As a Christian I am called to provide for my family (1 Timothy 5:8). One needs to be present in order to do that! Van Hohenheim’s absence made this nearly impossible. By running away, he was shirking his parental responsibilities. Were there extenuating circumstances? Perhaps, but as a parent I say – I don’t care. His responsibility was first with his children and he should not have fled when the going got tough. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is an old cliche. That doesn’t mean they flee from their difficulties – it means they get started on getting things done.
In the film “The Anthem of the Heart,” our main character is a young girl Jun Naruse catches her father cheating on her mother when coming home from school one day. Her parents end up divorcing and she blames herself. Why? Because her philandering father boldly tells her that it’s her fault. She then focuses inward and believes herself to be muted due to a curse. The remainder of the story follows her as a teenager, but I want to go back to this father. He is a failure as a parent on two different levels. First, he failed as a husband. He violated the covenant he promised to uphold in his marriage by cheating. As a Christian, the Bible is clear to me that infidelity is sinful (Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:32). It’s wrong and it is damaging in such a huge way. We see it’s damage in this story specifically. But then we see him blaming his daughter for his own shortcomings. I am reminded of a passage in Ezekiel 18:14-20. In this passage, the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel reminds us of something important: Your sins are your sins, not your parents’ AND your parents’ sins are theirs, not yours. Meaning? Your actions are your own fault. Your parent’s actions are your parent’s fault. Yes, there are going to obviously be impacts to you and your children when you make mistakes, when you sin. Yet, in the end, we are all judged based not on our parents mistakes, but on our own. Your job will not promote you or fire you based on whether your parents were good people or bad people. Likewise, the Lord does not judge you based on your parents mistakes or honorable behavior. It was never Jun’s fault, it was her fathers. Him blaming her for the dissolution of their marriage was cowardice and awful, cruel parenting.
Doraemon (the family of which is in the header) gives us more sitcom-style parents. They’re not bad, per say as the two previously mentioned, they just can be absent minded at times. We see examples of Nobi’s Father dismantling his wife’s laundry line repair something around the house or Nobi’s mother’s over the top anger scaring away an alien. In each case they are more realistic, but exaggerated. It still doesn’t capture good or, more to what I am seeking, Biblical parenting.
As I am a Christian, I view all these things from a Biblical context. What I should do as a father will always come from that perspective. Biblically we have been provided with guidance on how we are supposed to act and treat our children. We are supposed to train up their children in the Lord, which Van Hohenheim fails to do (Proverbs 22:6). Parents are supposed to be loving and not actively provoking our children, as Nobi’s mother does (Psalms 103:13, Ephesians 6:4). As a father I also have additional guidance from Moses in Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Moses reminds us that we are to love the Lord our God above all else for our children’s and grandchildren’s sake, so they will know the Lord. These are important things to note, especially love of the Lord. A focus on God will lead to, as Christ reminds us (Matthew 22:37-40), love of neighbor and selflessness.
As a Christian, I need to look for the selfless and self-sacrificing fathers willing to truly give their all for their children. For that, I find myself in a surprising place of looking to Blue Exorcist.
In the first episode of Blue Exorcist we meet Father Fujimoto, a Catholic priest, and his two adopted children Yukio and Rin Okumura. Fujimoto loves them both completely. He trains them up in the church. He tries to get them to focus on their studies and encourages them when he can. At the end of the first episode, we see Satan entering into the picture in a literal fashion taking over the body of Father Fujimoto. In that moment, Fujimoto had a choice. He could let Satan win and perhaps save himself, or he could allow himself to die fighting Satan. If Satan won and took control, it would mean the life of his son. Fujimoto willingly gave his own life for his adopted son, to save him from Satan. This is a very literal picture of what the Lord does for us through Christ.
In Christ, we have our perfect Father in Heaven made into human form. We have the Creator dwelling among the created. We have Him willingly giving up His own life on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, to free us from the power of Satan. He is the perfect father we all strive to be. God knows what we have gone through as He lived as Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). He is ever present with us (Joshua 1:9, Psalms 23:4, Psalms 139:7-10) and dwells within those who have accepted Him as Lord (1 Corinthians 3:16). He knows all we needs and readily provides (Matthew 6:8, Matthew 6:26). He will be our Father, adopting us into His family when we accept Him through Christ Jesus.
In Luke 15:11-32, Christ tells a tale of a lost son. When you first read the story, I myself found myself drawn to the prodigal son. He is relatable and we know the struggle personally of being sinful man falling down, begging as we return home. We understand that we are like that son, rebellious and acting against our Father in Heaven’s wishes. Yet looking there alone we miss the important part of the story. We have a Father in Heaven who is ready to embrace us, who is ready to love us in spite of our past actions. He’s doing all the work. He’s coming to us and dwelt among us as Christ Jesus. He sacrificed Himself on the cross to save us. He did that because of His undying love for us.
Now that truly is a good father and one I hope to emulate. I wish we had more examples of such great, Biblical parenting instead of many warnings of what not to do.