Thursday, July 17, 2014

Barakamon, Episodes 1-2: Traps for Old Christians

If I wrote more in my introductory YamaHanaBara post about Barakamon than the other two shows, it's because this show is a bit more complex in both its own premise and how that premise ties in with Christianity. Seishuu Handa, the lead character, is no youthful high schooler entering a new world. He is already an established calligrapher, having won an award for one of his works. As far as he was concerned, he had nothing more to learn, even when a high-ranking calligraphy director called his award-winning work "dull". In anger, he punches the director in the face--clearly not a good idea--which results in his being sent to live on an island to give him time to cool his head.

It's a premise that, as far as parallels to the Christian life goes, is less about a "new Christian learning what it means to follow Christ" and more about an "old Christian learning that what he thought he knew about following Christ might be wrong". In this post, I will be looking at what the first two episodes of this show have to say about some of the traps experienced Christians can fall into. (As usual, there are minor spoilers after the jump.)

Rambunctious young girls might or might not be one of those challenges. (Source: Pixiv)

The Wall of Conventionality

When criticizing Seishuu's work, the director talks about how his calligraphy is textbook and for the sole purpose of winning awards, and that there is no life in his writing, and challenges him to overcome the "wall of conventionality". At first, Seishuu cannot understand his criticism, but after arriving on the island, when Naru comes along and "compliments" his work by saying that it looks just like her teacher's calligraphy, it hits him that he really is stuck behind a wall.

An easy trap for an experienced Christian to fall into is to get too stuck in following the "rules" of Christianity--which frequently are not actual rules in the Bible, but simply conventions that various Christian sub-groups have adopted--in an attempt to earn favor with either the church or with God (remember, God's favor cannot be earned). Jesus himself criticized the Pharisees for this, about how they follow so many rules (many of which are man-made) but let their own hearts grow corrupt. (The Pharisees's ultimate reply was less of a punch in the face and more of an outright crucifixion...)

Whenever a Christian resorts to simply following rules and conventions, he will ultimately find himself stuck. Either his faith loses any impact on the world around him, or he himself grows so disillusioned with the faith that he loses interest or ends up committing a major sin (akin to punching a calligraphy director in the face). How to overcome that "wall of conventionality" for stuck Christians will vary from person to person, but overcoming that wall is an important step for an experienced but immature Christian to finally mature.

For Seishuu, he takes his first step over the wall when he climbs an actual wall and sees the beauty of the sunset atop that wall with Naru. (For some Christians, an experience with God's beauty in nature will help them get un-stuck.) After that, and after seeing the other residents of the island come to help him move in (more on that later), he finally gets a moment of special inspiration to do one wild and very unconventional work of calligraphy.

Will it win an award? Probably not. Is it full of life? Oh yes.
Take a Break (or a Sabbath)

Another trap for experienced Christians to fall into is simply trying to do too much for God all the time. In Seishuu's case, in episode 2, he overworks and ends up collapsing in sickness. An overworked Christian may end up collapsing physically, or he might collapse mentally in a state of total burnout.

Looks like he'll be sent to the last Pokémon Center he visited.

In these cases, it is important to remember why God put in the fourth of the ten commandments, the Sabbath. He knew that if His people continued to exert themselves all the time, they would not be able to hold up--plus, they would start trusting their own hard work over putting trust in God. Thus, just like God Himself rested on the seventh day of Creation, so He declared that every seventh day was to be a day of rest for His people.

Now, the Sabbath can and has fallen under the same curse of conventionality that can lead to the situation mentioned in the previous section; the key thing is that it is important sometimes to take a break, whether that be one day a week or an extended sabbatical for a number of months. These breaks take the pressure off us, give our bodies time to rest up, and remind us that God is ultimately in control. And frequently, after that break, we are able to start serving in a greater capacity than before.

The People Around You

The third trap that experienced Christians fall into is trying to do as much of their faith as possible alone. God never intended the Christian walk to be done alone; if a Christian comes to think that all he needs is God and he doesn't need other people, he will eventually get stuck with the physical and emotional burdens of loneliness.

Seishuu has a breakthrough in both of the first two episodes of Barakamon, and each of those breakthroughs comes in part after he realizes that he is not alone and that there are others in the village that care about him. In the first episode, he sees the villagers come to help him move in, even though no one asked him to; in the second episode, he realizes how much the villagers care about him when they visit him while he is hospitalized.

When a "lone ranger" Christian stops and opens his eyes to the people around him that all care about him, he will find new life in his walk of faith. Even if we are not outright lone rangers, it is all too easy to want to try to deal with a problem by ourselves, and not realize that others around us want to help. (I know I, for one, am guilty of that.) Shows like Barakamon (as well as Hanayamata and Yama no Susume) can help remind us that we really should not be trying to do things alone.


With this, I have finished covering two episodes of yet another amazing show from this season. Now if only Funimation would actually put this show up for streaming on their site soon...


  1. I really agree with the whole "lone ranger" Christian concept. I struggle with that myself, as I've had issues with my church and it's leadership. So yeah, still praying that God connect me with the right people who can help me get out of that lone ranger mode. Thanks for writing.

  2. I think that is a good point about the Sabbath.