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.
5 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Digi-Destined”
Digimon was an unexpectedly formative show for me, growing up. For instance, the amount of thought and effort I put into one episode I tried to see over and over but kept missing far outclassed what actually happened, by the end. It could never even hope to be as grand and meaningful as I made it. XD It was one of those rare kids’ shows where the fighting they were involved in had actual, horrific consequences for the real world. I was ten and I saw a hostile occupation on television. Rather sanitized, maybe, but the implications were clear-cut.
In high school, I had my very first life-changing set of friendships with a group of five people. One remains my best friend, and probably always will be my best friend. We were chuunibyou as all get out, but there’s still one thing that happened back then that remains— that can’t be explained away by the fervent idiocy of youth. He is with me still.
And beyond that…your friendships can become your foundation, if you allow yourself to drop your guard. If you let yourself believe in others. If you let go of your selfishness for others. Other people will let you down over and over again, yeah. You will fail more times than you succeed to get close to someone. But it’s still one of the only things that makes life worth living.
Friendships are a real learning experience – they teach us our own shortcomings in how we love others, should be humble enough to receive that message; they demonstrate the power of love to change our lives, as I mentioned in the piece; and they show us that because we’re human, and so are wont to frequently fall short, that our foundation is slippery if placed in people, even in ourselves. And yet, they’re also the most visible way, other than family, that we experience and give love, and so are so very important.
Also, yes, Digimon…”the amount of thought and effort I put into one episode I tried to see over and over but kept missing far outclassed what actually happened…” <– precisely!
Digimon Tri reflects so much of this. I can relate, as many of my high school friendships were only skin-deep as you said. It’s unfortunate, but most of them moved on with their own lives like yours and “life” happened. Whether it’s moving away, or just not associating with me because of my faith in Christ, it’s been a learning experience. Nowadays, I want my relationships to be stronger, not just to be about what show we are watching or a video game.
God help me to grow relationships that matter, where iron sharpens iron, and we are there for each other like a true friend should be.
It’s definitely a challenge – I’ve learned that even as Christians, whose very mission it is to love each other, this kind of depth can be hard to attain, and that I often struggle with sacrificially loving others as well.
I agree, it can be tough. It is a struggle for sure