Note: Due to changes in the direction of this blog, this will be my last post under the (admittedly short-lived) StarStruck column. Don’t worry; this is not the last of my posts by any means! I will continue to regularly publish posts, just without a column name; the nature of those posts will remain the same. For now though, have one last StarStruck post…
Today, as a bit of a change of pace, I will be diving into the world of Japanese mobile games. While mostly known for their salty seas of gacha-induced tears, these games do sometime offer up a decent story or two. With that, let’s take a look at THE iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage, the rhythm game based on the franchise that also inspired the 2015 anime that I have written about a lot here.
Specifically, I will be looking at the game story of one of my favorite girls among the 183 unique girls in the game: Arisu Tachibana. She is a rather serious-minded 12-year-old girl who likes mysteries and games of strategy, dislikes her given name because it makes her seem childish (“Arisu” is pronounced like “Alice”), and became an idol to pursue her interest in music. Despite wanting and trying to be more adult-like, she sometimes shows a more childlike side to her.
Note: Special thanks go out to Arche Afable, Vacxy, and HikoP for the translation for this story. You can view the story and its translation on the “Idolm@ster Subs” YouTube channel here. Spoilers for the story will follow. (The entire episode is only about 20 minutes long so if you have the time go ahead and watch it; turn on closed captions for English subs.)
Her story chapter has her set to perform her solo song, in fact, live, and serves as her first major solo performance as an idol. Like many other such solo performances in this game’s stories, she has help from a couple of supporting girls, including Kaoru and Nina, two fellow child idols, Yumi, a flower-loving college student whom Arisu had worked with before, and Shin, who can be best described as a hyper high school girl trapped in a 26-year-old’s body.
More importantly, Arisu is allowed to reserve seats for guests of her choice, so the Producer asks her to ask if her parents can attend. Arisu mentions how her parents do very important jobs, and are busy most of the time, so she cannot guarantee they will be available. In separate scenes, we see Arisu at home after work, with her parents working until very late, so she is usually alone until she goes to sleep. She puts up a strong face out of respect for what her parents do, as well as naturally out of her own responsible nature. However, when her support team starts talking about who they’re inviting and ask her about it, she acts strangely bothered about it, which causes the older members to suspect something and ask the Producer to do something. In response, the Producer arranges to have Arisu’s mother visit her in person.
When her mother is late for their appointment, and Arisu goes to her lesson, when the others ask if she’s okay, Arisu says that she knows that her parents do important jobs so she doesn’t feel lonely when they’re not around. However, Nina, whose parents are also oftentimes too busy to be around her, admits that she still feels lonely without her parents around, and admires Arisu for her supposed strength. Yumi and Shin then tell Arisu that she does not have to hold it in when she feels lonely, as it is natural for a child to feel that when away from her parents.
The moment when Arisu’s mother finally arrives, Arisu finally cannot contain her emotions anymore.
Afterwards, we learn that Arisu’s parents had, to their own admission, gotten too reliant on their daughter’s reliable nature and figured she would be okay on her own. Arisu, for her part, realized how important it was to be honest about her needs, and after her live, asks her parents to be around just a bit more often.
While definitely far from perfect, Arisu’s family thankfully is nowhere near dysfunctional, as they only really had a bit of a miscommunication issue to deal with. As nice as it would be for all mothers and fathers to always be available for their children, sometimes life circumstances make that difficult, if not impossible. In those circumstances, though, perhaps something reasonable can be worked out if children are honest about how much time they can—and cannot—handle being away from parents, and the parents do their best to listen to them. Then again, as I’m not well-versed in parenthood myself, that is probably something actual parents among this blog’s writers/readers can comment on better.
What I can say, though, is that, no matter our age or our relationships, being honest with our needs is not a bad thing. Certainly, problems can arise when we go about the wrong way of getting those needs fulfilled, or when we confuse things we actually need for our physical/mental/emotional health with things we just want to make life easier/more pleasant. However, in and of itself, trying to get our needs met is not a bad thing; if anything, it is important for making sure we are in the best condition to serve others.
Unfortunately, the common call to be “selfless” and to “deny ourselves” oftentimes gets misinterpreted as denying our own needs. It sounds godly to give up fulfilling our needs to help others, but given our call to “love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength”, if any of those are lacking because of neglecting our needs, we are ultimately crippling our own ability to serve God. (Or, if you want a fun logic bomb argument, if fulfilling our needs is sinful, then by sacrificing our needs to help others’ needs get fulfilled, are we not ultimately making them sin because they are fulfilling their own needs?)
There are many reasons why God designed us to have needs we cannot fulfill without asking others for help. Among them, He wants us to learn humility, realizing how there are many things we simply cannot do by ourselves. This is something we should learn naturally as children, who need their parents to take care of them and will feel lonely without them. For various reasons, sometimes we forget what it means to need someone, or never learn it properly due to family issues. Sometimes we can get too self-reliant, like Arisu, perhaps out of not wanting to burden others. Our sense of responsibility, whether intentionally or not, becomes a point of pride. Our needs, though, remind us how much we need God and others. And just as Arisu’s story episode title says, we need to be honest with ourselves about our needs and express them properly to those that can help us meet them.
As a final note, I would like to thank my own mother for all she has done for me over the years, including making sure I was not lacking in love or affection growing up.