I really enjoy the anime series Nameko Families. This puts me in a slim minority of people as it currently has a 6.6 rating at MAL and a 2 star rating at Anime Planet. But what is it about this series that many malign? Let me tell you – it’s about family.
Nameko Families (Nameko-ke no Ichizoku), is a short-form series about an anthropomorphic mushroom family with no dialogue. “But, Matt,” you say, “you already talked not that long ago about how weird anime is. Why didn’t you bring this up then?” I know, I know. But, that’s not the topic for today. The topic for today…is family.
The Bible speaks at length about family. It mentions how the Lord established the family as the most basic “governing” structure in the world: a man, a wife, and children. It speaks to children respecting their parents. Parents are loving, cherishing, and training up their children in wisdom. About family members providing for one another. It speaks to how husbands are to love their wives sacrificially and how wives are to love their husbands while accepting his leadership. Love is to be at the center of the family and with that love comes reflection of the Lord. What it does not always discuss is what we actually see in reality – imperfection.
Due to our own failings as human beings, we are not perfect reflections of God or good displays of the loving family we see described in the Bible. We fight. We argue. We disagree. We get jealous of each other. Nameko Families puts on display the realistic nature of family. All the foibles we see in our own families. We see arguments over broken dishes with blame being tossed around unjustly at the wrong person. We see examples of gluttonous family members who take everyone else’s snacks. We see parents getting busy with an outdoor event and losing track of their own child. We see quickness to anger at the end of a long day. But, we also see something else. We see love.
When love is at the center of the Nameko Family, we can see Christ’s reflection. We see it in Bad Nameko as he sacrificially loves his friends, family, and neighbors. We see it from Rock Nameko, as he loves his wife even though she was in the wrong. We see it when the entire family stops everything they are doing to protect their “lost lamb.” We see it when Long Nameko (the mother) realizes her mistake and seeks reconciliation with her husband Rock Nameko. We see it in the romantic relationship between the Nameko Grandparents. What we see is love; unfiltered, unedited, realistic familial love.
Despite our own weaknesses, when we unite as a family, we see the love we are supposed to be displaying. We definitely fall short. I know I do. I am not always as loving and understanding toward my wife as I should be. When I’m tired, I find myself snapping occasionally at my children. My discipline may be harsher than the crime from time to time. I know my kids don’t always show respect toward me. We’re an imperfect family, all of us are. But, I still find that at our family’s center is love. I love my wife and my children completely, striving to be a better father every day. We see it in every hug from my wife and children. We see it when my children want to give each other toys. We see it when my older children look out for and try to protect their twin toddling sisters. We see it when one twin will occasionally try to get a second snack to bring for the other. Nameko Families provides us with a great reminder of the centrality of love in family as we see them loving on one another, growing together, and living their normal, imperfect life.
It’s funny – I never expected a series about a family of anthropomorphic mushrooms with no dialogue to be so…real. Yet, here I am.