Saturday, July 12, 2014

YamaHanaBara: Stages in the Walk of Faith

This Summer 2014 season, we are blessed with a trio of shows that not only should be an absolute joy for slice-of-life iyashikei fans, but also provide nice--and rather complementary--parallels on the Christian life. These three shows are Yama no Susume (Encouragement of Climb) Second Season, Hanayamata, and Barakamon. Taking the first two characters of each title and putting them together, I have come up with YamaHanaBara to refer to the three of them collectively. (The order isn't really significant, so I may randomly refer to it as BaraYamaHana or some other order sometimes.)

Yama no Susume, I already introduced in my last post as a story of a girl, Aoi, who, despite her fear of heights, starts getting into mountain climbing along with her friend Hinata. As the second season starts, she's already climbed a smaller mountain and is looking forward to challenging some taller peaks.

Hanayamata features a girl, Naru Sekiya, who's convinced that she's an average girl with no special talents. She spends a lot of time reading fairy tales and hoping that one day a fairy will come and whisk her away to a new world. She then encounters Hana, a transfer student from America who is passionate about Yosakoi dance, and through a series of events, ends up joining her Yosakoi dance club.

Barakamon is a bit of an odd duck in that, instead of being about a high school girl, it is actually about a 23-year-old man. Seishuu Handa is an aspiring calligrapher who, after an incident where he punches an important figure in the calligraphy world, is forced to live on an island for some time to cool his head, and perhaps learn to understand why his "textbook" calligraphy is considered dull. In the process, he gets acquainted with the locals, including the resident rascal, a young, rambunctious girl called Naru. (Try not to confuse her with the Naru from Hanayamata.)

Each of these three shows are great in and of themselves, but what makes them great together is that they can each represent a different part of a Christian's walk of faith.

Naru Sekiya of Hanayamata can represent the new Christian, who for one reason or another has just entered the faith and is unsure of how her life will change. Just like how Naru hesitantly enters the world of yosakoi, so a new Christian may be cautiously taking her first steps into her walk of faith. She may be dealing with insecurities and a tendency to not want to break out of her comfortable daily routine, but one way or another, she has started her walk, nervously anticipating what happens next.

By virtue of her show's being a sequel, Aoi of Yama no Susume Second Season is further along in her walk than she was when the first season started. She hasn't climbed anything higher than 600 meters yet, but she is enthusiastic about challenging higher peaks. As such, she can represent a Christian who is still relatively new to the faith, but after having spent some time on her walk and taking in some spiritual "milk", she is ready to move on to some solid food. The trials that await her will be harder than what she faced before, but with the help of her friends, she is ready to take them on.

Seishuu of Barakamon, being the oldest and most experienced, can represent a Christian who has been a part of the faith for a long time, but has for one reason or another come to a standstill in his walk. Like how Seishuu finds himself stuck (physically) on an island and (mentally) with his "textbook" calligraphy, the experienced but stagnated Christian has gotten a bit too much into a certain religious routine, and does not know where he can go from there. In some cases, he may have even committed a major sin, like Seishuu did when he punched the calligraphy director--for Christians, this can include things like adultery, violence, or drug abuse. One way or another, though, he is stuck... but perhaps, where he is stuck, he can find the support to move onwards.

Christians can probably identify with at least one of these three stages in their current walk of faith, and even if you are not at one of those stages right now, it is still good to understand all the stages, as we could get to know people that are in other stages. (Also, Seishuu's stage is one we can and will run into in our walk... multiple times, even.)

In upcoming posts, I will look at the opening episodes of each of these shows and look at what they say about that show's particular stage of faith. Throughout the season, I will revisit these shows for anything else they have to say about the walk of faith. It will be quite the endeavor, but I believe these three shows are definitely worth the time--and your time, if you decide to watch them.


Hanayamata and Yama no Susume (i.e. Encouragement of Climb) are available on Crunchyroll. Barakamon is licensed by Funimation and should be available on their streaming site sooner or later...

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