When I first started watching Shounen Maid, I confess I was really unsure about Madoka. I mean, in the first episode, he comes out of practically nowhere and takes Chihiro in like family… family who wasn’t aware of his existence until that day. He then proceeds to, by the beginning of episode 3, dress him up in a maid costume, call him “cute”, and follow him around—not to mention crawl into bed with him at night. Now, to me that set off my “may be a creeper” alerts. However, by the end of episode 3, my opinion had quickly changed… now, I actually really like Madoka’s character. Pretty big opinion change—but all with good reason. (WARNING: The rest of this article will contain spoilers for episode 3 of Shounen Maid—only keep reading if you’re okay with that.)
In episode 3 I saw a new side of Madoka. While the show starts with him being scolded by Chihiro for not cleaning up even his own room, his character is quickly redeemed in the following 20 minutes. In this episode, Chihiro, while joking about getting a “guard dog” to keep Madoka away, stumbles upon a stray in need of a home. Naturally, the stray ends up being hidden away in Chihiro’s room… just in time for Chihiro to find out Madoka is petrified of dogs. Vowing to find the dog a home, Chihiro keeps it in his closet. This works right up until Keiichirou discovers the dog. When forced to discuss the matter with Madoka, Chihiro worries that Madoka’s mad. To Chihirio’s surprise, Madoka agrees that Chihiro can keep the dog until he finds it a home. Chihiro does, but not before Madoka has to live for a while with his greatest fear under the same roof… which is when Chihiro realizes that, while he often has a weird way of showing it, Madoka really does care about him. After realizing this, Chihiro makes a point to thank Madoka later—and that’s more than enough for Madoka.
Now, through the first two episodes, Madoka and Chihiro have butted heads almost constantly… the thing is, it’s not like they suddenly instantly started caring about each other in episode 3 and *bing* they started playing nice. Not at all. Madoka has cared about Chihiro from the start, taking him in as if he were his own. Chihiro, however, didn’t really understand that. To Chihiro, Madoka was just some oversized kid who was lazy, had weird tastes (the maid outfit, for example), and couldn’t even clean his own room. That’s why episode 3 starts with him saying, “Seriously, what am I going to do about that guy?” By the end, however, Chihiro not only makes Madoka stay with him as he’s sick, but also thanks Madoka for letting him find a home for the dog. Madoka simply replies with an apology that Chihiro couldn’t keep it. Basically, the two finally reach an understanding.
Real life is often not far off from this. We all experience gaping holes in how we and another person communicate, and it often leads to both parties getting the wrong idea about each other. Just like how Chihiro found Madoka to be annoying, I often have trouble dealing with people who show they care about me by always wanting to be with me, or talking to me, or being near me. I’m an introvert, so I need my space once in a while. It used to really bother me when certain friends couldn’t seem to respect that… however, as I got to know them more, I’d realize, they weren’t trying to be annoying, or invade my space—that’s just how they showed they cared. My misunderstanding them was a lot like Chihiro’s (and my) misunderstanding Madoka. We just express how we care differently… very differently.
We all have people in our lives like that. Maybe you’re someone who’s got a 2-foot “personal space bubble”, and you have a family member who’s very “huggy”. Their hugging you every time you see them may drive you mad, but they’re just trying to remind you they love you. Or maybe you have a friend who never seems to want to spend time with you, but always buys you extravagant birthday and Christmas presents. Maybe it feels, to you, like they don’t care—to them, however, they think they’re expressing what they mean perfectly. Some of you, like me, may be the person who hates having to actually say “I care” or “I’m worried about you”—you instead express it by doing things like going out of your way to help them (be that by cleaning up so your mom doesn’t have to, or helping your friend out with homework).
There’s nothing wrong with expressing “I care” in different ways. Here’s the catch: how often do you misunderstand it and maybe miss the chance to reciprocate? Perhaps more often than you know. Just like how initially, Chihiro completely overlooked Madoka’s permission to find a home for the dog as his way of saying “I care, and I want you to be happy”, we often miss the ways people remind us that “I care, and I want you to be happy.”
So, how do we fix that? Simple—look less at what the person’s saying or doing, and more at the intent behind it. That’s much easier said than done, I know. We all tend to interpret things one way. It’s reflexive and often subconscious. Learning to overcome that, though, and push ourselves past our gut reaction can not only help us to be happier, as we understand the affection aimed at us far better, but can also help us make our friends and family happier, as we better learn to say “hey, I care, too” in return.
A lot of learning how to understand what someone is really saying, beyond just their words and actions on a surface level, comes down to just making an effort to get to know them. As you get to know someone better, you start understanding their personality better. It’s easier to see what “makes them tick”. Learning that helps you grasp how they not only show but also receive affection best (think “the five love languages” ideology). So, if you’ve got a friend or two that you think cares about you, but you’re still not totally sure, put in a little extra effort to get to know them a bit better.
Aside from just friends, I think this applies pretty well to God and how He’s viewed by both Christians and non-Christians. I grew up in the church, but never really accepted God until about four or five years ago. Before then, frankly, I disliked the idea of God. Why? “How can a good God let bad things happen to good people?” That question plagued me. Now that I have made my choice to actively follow Christ, however, it’s started to make more sense to me. Looking at the angle about how we bring about those “bad things” on ourselves would require a whole other post; I just want to touch on how we often misunderstand the way God shows His love for us, just like how Chihiro was misunderstanding Madoka, and how I, for a long time, misunderstood God.
See, for some reason, we like to think we always know what’s best for us and our lives. We don’t. I think if we acted in full autonomy with no outside interference, 90% of us would run ourselves into a dead end (or in circles). God knows what’s best for us. He wants what’s best for us. He knows that what’s best for us is to follow Him so we can live with Him eternally. So when He gives us commands (e.g. no idols, obey your parents, etc.), He does it because He LOVES us. He knows that us not sinning is gonna’ lead to a happier, better life for us – particularly in the long run. The fact that He loves us is also why He doesn’t FORCE us to follow Him. I know that many people dislike the idea of God because they think something like “He must be cruel to allow people to choose something other than Him and then punish them for it”. Well, no. He loves us enough to let us do what we want. This includes all the times when what we want (often involving sin, because by nature, we are fallen) breaks His heart. He always was, always is, and always will be putting us first. We just often misunderstand that as Him being some sort of detached, feeling-less being who made us all then left us to our own devices – like someone started up a Sims game then walked away and forgot to hit “pause”. ntent behind everything God does), however, it’s easier to remember that everything He does, He does out of love – even if we can’t see it that way at first.
Just like Chihiro learns that Madoka’s “annoying”, over-the-top and in-your-face, puppy-dog-reminiscent behaviour is his way of saying “I care”, Madoka has a chance to see that Chihiro cares, as well. Chihiro’s way of showing it, however, comes out in his constant nagging (like when, earlier in the episode, he forces Madoka to go get ready for his work event). While Chihiro originally thought Madoka was just trying to be a bother, he can now see the intent behind Madoka’s actions – he’s just trying to say “I care”. While Madoka originally thought Chihiro was angry and just trying to be a bossy nag, he can now see the intent behind Chihiro’s actions – he’s also just trying to say “I care”. Just like Chihiro and Madoka, we ought to take a deeper look at the intended message behind the actions of those around us. I think if we do, we’ll see that a lot more people care a lot more than we initially realized – we just haven’t been seeing it that way.