Never turn your back on family, even when they hurt you.
Sakae’s final words in Summer Wars reminds the Jinnouchi clan of the importance of family. It’s a significant message, both in how most of us can connect to that idea and its complexity. The quote above, and the longer message it accompanies, instructs her clan to show grace, which is the primary instrument of family. Think about it: the bonds of family are strong enough to carry us through the intimacy that family entails, and all the hurt, scars, and pains that come with it. Though none shows it perfectly, family is an institution that carries the message of grace, which is I love you anyway.
Mamoru Hosoda, the creator of Summer Wars, emphasizes family in a number of his films. The sept at the center of Summer Wars is large and complex, and of the families at the center of his films, it’s the most traditional. But even here, there are hints that Hosoda is telling us that family is something more than blood by placing a non-Jinnouchi at the heart of the story and using him to show the family how they should act.
This idea is clearer in Hosoda’s other films. In Wolf Children, a single-family household takes center stage, and though the outcome of this film is very different from its predecessor, the same ideas that help encapsulate grace – understanding, love, sacrifice – inform the way Hana’s family operates. There’s even “family” in Hosoda’s earliest film, Digimon: The Movie, where the bond between digidestined and digimon becomes something mystical and powerful and as deep as in any typical family.
Mamoru’s 2015 film, The Boy and the Beast, maybe presses the question of what family means most emphatically. When the titular boy, Kyuta, decides to return to the real world to find Ichirohiko, he is stopped by Tatara and Hyakushuubou, a pair who have been around him since we was young. They don’t want to see the young man leave and possibly die, but Kyuta’s response is telling:
I’m not leaving because I want revenge. Ichirohiko and I are the same. I could easily have been the one swallowed by darkness today, but in the end I wasn’t because of the people I was lucky enough to have been raised by, including you. Both of you.
Once again, Hosoda shows us what family is. It is not blood bonds. It is not simply a group living in the same residence. It can be a human boy trained by magical beasts. It can be a mom struggling alone to raise children who are half-wolf. It can be kids connected to digital monsters. Whatever the connection is, conventional or otherwise, it has to do with love, grace, and sacrifice.
Like a porcelain plate that’s been chipped and cracked, grace is the glue that flows through it and strengthens it, bonding the pieces together and making it stronger. Some plates are dropped on the floor over and over until they are broken into many pieces, but careful gluing can still keep the plate as one – it might just take more care and time to repair.
While a picture perfect family is a wonderful thing, there’s also something amazing about one that’s not, maybe most of all because those of us who have experienced God’s grace know that we’re part of a most unconventional family. We are not naturally children of God, having broken our family plate ourselves. But God’s grace flows over us, showing us his love, and we are the orphans, like Kyuta, brought into his loving family.
Hosoda’s families, like God’s, and perhaps like yours, are unconventional. But when grace binds the broken pieces, that only serves to make the them all the more beautiful.