Bullies, Bystanders, and the Cost of Love for Hina Kawamoto

As March Comes in Like a Lion progresses, so does Rei, who is growing through his pains and insecurities due to direct and constant exposure to two elements: shogi and the Kawamoto family. The first has been challenging him, through its players and the game itself, to think about who he is, what he values, what he’s passionate about, and how he can become stronger, better, and kinder, even. The latter very visibly supports and loves him, showering him with the sincere and faithful affection he’s been lacking for so long. The Kawamotos also sometimes help Rei grow by modeling love for him, as was the case with Hina and her approach to bullying.

In episode 26 of the series, Hina comes home crying after a group of girls steal and dispose of her shoes. Though she is understandably fearful, the tears are from more than the incident she endured that day; they’re the signs of a longer journey, through which Hina stood up for a friend over and over again, loving her even as others remained bystanders, and is now becoming the victim as a result of her action. Despite the appearance from her tears, Hina is so strong, so much fiercer and kinder than I was at her age. In middle school, I was sometimes bullied, but surprisingly enough, I was often the bully myself. And with that kind of character, you can believe I would never stand up for anyone else being assaulted; I didn’t have the character to be any more than a bystander, and worse, I had the aggression and pride to be the perpetrator.

Looking back, I would have of course done things differently. But it’s hard for me to say that even at my best, I would be someone better than a guy who ignores the situation, like so many of Hina’s classmates did. When you’re a bystander, there’s no immediate affect on you (and if there is, it’s sometimes positive); when you insert yourself and do what’s right for a victim, it costs you something. And as Hina is finding, it can cost you a lot. The question then becomes, is it worth it? For those like me, who chose to do nothing, the answer is no. But for Hina, it is.

And I think that’s what love is. It’s what I was trying to get to when I asked the question about defining love in regard to episode five of the new Kino’s Journey. Love is transactional, and sacrifice is involved always. It’s easy to see this if we look at our own lives, at times when we demonstrated love to those around us or when our parents worked diligently to care for us. It’s also ultimately modeled in the example of the cross, when one life was traded for us all.

And just as with Christ’s sacrifice, I think it’s interesting to note that Hina’s affects far more than what’s immediately seen. I think part of what troubles her so much is that all her efforts seemed to amount to nothing, as her friend eventually chose to move away, while the perpetrators won (though Hina did get a few good punches in!). What she doesn’t realize is how important her example is. By choosing to do right in the face of great adversity, Hina touches someone even more important to her than her friend—she touches Rei.

Rei has been revisiting his youth in his mind lately, remembering the bullying he himself endured, and how it resulted in his running away (or as the series shows it, floating in the open ocean while holding on) to the shogi board. In the clip above, Rei tells Hina that she saved him; despite his bullying having effectively ended years ago, he is still suffering today because of it, so, in a sense, it’s still on-going. Hina’s actions, meant to help someone else, become salvation for him, just as if Hina was trying to aid him all along.

What we do, too—the love we show—also affects people we aren’t necessarily thinking of in ways we might not understand. Just living our lives puts us in positions to model for others. As a parent, I’m acutely aware that my kids are watching me, even when I don’t realize it, but the truth is also that everyone is watching. We may not follow those around us blindly like we may have as children, but when good happens, especially a sacrificial good, doing right in the face of an obstacle, it can encourage others to choose love in their own lives.

None of this happens—affecting others, encouraging with love, making change—if we don’t do. And while love will cost us in all sorts of ways (emotionally, physically, financially, etc.), the impact may be more profound than we can imagine. But that end result can never come if we don’t act, and we’ll act when we decide it’s worth it, and if it is, we can stand up to the pain, difficulties, and burdens, shouting like Hina with integrity and ferocity and love: “I don’t regret anything at all! I can’t! What I did was definitely not wrong!”

hina kawamoto crying

hina kawamoto crying

Stream March Comes in Like a Lion on Crunchyroll.


10 thoughts on “Bullies, Bystanders, and the Cost of Love for Hina Kawamoto

  1. Thank you TWWK for this article!
    Sangatsu no Lion has been painful to watch lately for me.
    I was also bullied in middle school and I believe that God helped me through those hard times. It’s true that no one helped me, there was no Hina to stand up for me.
    But looking back on it, I believe that God used the bullies to make me a better person, a stronger and kinder person. I agree that we should love others even when it costs us, after all it’s the right thing to do…

    1. Also, I think it’s funny that the first OP of Sangatsu no Lion is called “Sayonara Bystander” meaning Goodbye Bystander. It was like a symbolic song predicting that Hina (and Rei) would no longer be a bystander.

      1. Ooooh, I like that symbolism. I wonder if—and of course, there might not be any real deeper meaning at all—the “bystander” is Rei, a bystander in his own life, as he waves his old self goodbye and becomes more the person he was meant to be. I’d have to read the lyrics to confirm, but that seems poetic and just about right in my book, haha.

  2. I recently met a bully again after twelve years: he was the only one who consistently targeted me as a kid, now an aspiring priest. I´d been praying for him over since then, so it was a very pleasant surprise. Funny, too: he was the sterotypical Crabbe/Goyle type, now he resembles Fullmetal´s Van Hohenheim. He didn´t remember, but stated he was insufferable as a kid. Other bullies always targeted my friends, never me, which I found revolting and didn´t know how to deal with. They would be nice to me and avoid confrontation, then bully some friend of mine behind my back, or gossip cowardly, or ostracize him. I hated them then, but they didn´t hate me: I would see the good in them, and be conflicted. I tried to stand up for my friend, and they would retreat and find another way. Sometimes I would not discern well jokes from abuse, or the bullied would play along as jester, or l´d react late then bitterly regret it. At school, at the summer camp, at university, always the same. As there was no cost for me: unlike Hina, it was no big deal. But once. At 14, I was the leader of a group. Four friends of mine started to bully the fifth and newest, then tried to make me dump him by “majority vote”: I refused and they all were so indignant and sad, and they told me with straight faces how hurt they were, then dumped me. One of them was my friend since early childhood. I hated them so much I truly wanted to kill them all, and I hurt myself fantasizing about that. When I learned how to separate the bullying and the bullied, and the sin and the sinner more generally, that was a huge liberation for me: now I can hate such injustices with all I have, fight them, yet love those involved. I started to pray for them too. I think that´s why I studied Law, and also why I like Erased so much, or Fullmetal, where Ed is stubbornly just. Integrity and ferocity and love! That sounds great. I need to give this show a try.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal account. Man, childhood is just really, really hard, and also so impacting on the rest of our lives.

  3. Hina was so amazing where she declared that she couldn’t regret it because she hadn’t done anything wrong. It was such a strong statement and one most of us probably couldn’t make because we just aren’t strong enough to hold true to what we believe is right in the face of such loss. Really amazing episode.

  4. I think that love costs you something, yes. But also hatred and indifference cost you something. Nothing comes from nothing in this universe. When something happens energy is consumed, elements interact, consequences take place. Virtue is the only good, and even if we don’t always have the courage to act justly, we have to be present to the next moment to do it. We can’t be lions all the time, but until our last breath, we have the chance to try.

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