I loved my group of friends in high school. We bickered a lot, but we were also always cracking each other up. We were also a bunch of nerds, so we pushed each other to excel academically and had similar pop culture interests that we shared (The Matrix is the best movie everrrr adlkjalcjvaoeiw!). But one thing we rarely talked about was our personal lives. It was uncomfortable territory for us. And soon after college began, we drifted apart. These days, though I have a tendency to remember school with too much fondness, I realize that the friendships I had were only skin-deep and easily broken.
Anime, which I dived into during college, gave me idealized versions of friendship and love, even kiddy series – especially kiddy series – like Digimon. I became part of the fan fiction community for that series, where we took our love for the characters and created our own idealized stories of how intimate the Digi-destined became with one another. I later realized that a lot of what I was writing and reading was what I wanted in my own life, meaningful connections with interesting people who thought the same about me.
Genuine friendship is so attractive, I think, because of how it can help us grow as people. More than that, a good friend can change your entire life. My favorite friendship from the Bible is that of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. By any definition, Ruth is a true friend, sacrificing her potential for happiness, moving away from her people and religion to go to a place where she would be treated poorly and possibly die of starvation. Her love for Naomi led to a change in the older woman’s life, who went from calling herself Mara (bitter) to being celebrated as having a daughter-in-law who was better than “seven sons.” Think of that! In a patriarchal society, Naomi is told that Ruth is not only better than sons, but better than a symbolically complete number of sons, seven. And little did Naomi know how complete this proclamation was, as she would become, through Ruth, an ancestor of David and later, of Jesus.
In Digimon, the friendships among the Digi-destined are life-changing as well. I haven’t made my way through Tri, but the evidence in clear in just what I have seen of the movies and previous series. Jyou, for instance, changes from a weak-willed hypochondriac to a more assertive, brave individual, even sending a Valentine to Mimi at one point. And though he retreats in his shell once again during Tri, encouragement from Kari gives him to strength to fight.
I’m like Jyou – very much like him (a friend once told me as much without solicitation). My most important friendship, that with my wife, has changed me in so many ways for the better. But I don’t want it to stop there. I don’t want my other friendships to be “churchy” versions of what I had in high school. And though it sometimes hurts, and though it takes sacrifice, as with Ruth, I want to be that friend to others. And I know that when I do so, even if it’s not my goal, I’ll be receiving something as well – friendship that isn’t just surface-level, but that which is potentially transformational and brimming with love and grace, like those experienced (or sometimes just written about) by a group of kids from Odaiba.
The Digimon Adventure tri. movies can be streamed legally through Crunchyroll.