Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hanayamata, Episodes 3 & 4: No Regrets for Those Chosen

Hanayamata continues to impress me with how well it is working in character development into what would normally be just another cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. Though it is also plenty cute, for anyone who likes that (like me).

Cute even when in boy's clothes.
This post will be focused more on episode 4 than 3, since episode 4 has more of the connections with Christianity than episode 3 does. Episode 3 was still a great episode, though, as it continues to look into Yaya's jealousy as this time, she gets to interact more with Hana and understand things from her end. Meanwhile, episode 4 explores the relationship Naru has with Tami, a childhood friend of hers whom she looks up to as a big sister and someone like a princess (given Tami's high-class upbringing). I probably don't need to say this anymore at this point, but expect some spoilers after the jump.

Limited Time on Earth

In episode 3, Hana mentions how she wants to make the most of her time on Earth by only doing fun things, so she can live life without regrets. Whether or not that is a good philosophy to live life by, she nevertheless highlights an important truth about life: we only have a limited amount of time on this Earth, and once that time passes, we don't get it back. For that reason, many people feel the pressure of making the most of their lives, either by trying to leave behind some kind of legacy or by having as much fun as possible.

Of course, for Christians, our lives are not over once our time on Earth is up, as we have Heaven to look forward to, with the promise of a new Earth on top of that. But we should value our limited time on this Earth all the same; after all, part of the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s will be done “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. Looking forward to Heaven is not a reason to be apathetic about what happens on Earth; it is a reason to make Earth as much of a taste of Heaven as we can, so that we can draw more people into the kingdom of God.

Bringing Heaven to Earth entails a lot of things: reaching out to unbelievers, building relationships with God and fellow Christians, and doing good, honest work to help people and otherwise build a better Earth. And yes, it also includes having fun—or more specifically, finding joy in God and His creation, thus giving glory to Him. Of course, if all we are focused on is having fun, at the expense of our other tasks, that is no good, so some moderation is necessary. In that sense, if there is one thing we can take from Hana’s outlook on life, it is that having fun is best when it can be done with others, sharing the joy of God with unbelievers or letting quality time strengthen our bonds with each other.

In the end, though, we should be finding joy in everything we do for God; in that way, our time on Earth really is too valuable to be spent doing anything that does not bring joy. (This does not include temporary suffering endured in the hope of greater joy in the future, which itself is a special kind of joy.) Of course, I would be the first to admit that I have "wasted" plenty of time in my life, and I am sure others feel the same way, but that's what God's grace is for, reminding us that no matter how much time we waste, He still loves us and wants us to help Him carry out His will on Earth, starting from now. Speaking of which...

It Has To Be You

In episode 4, Naru and Hana try to get Tami to join their Yosakoi club. When Tami wonders if she is good enough to join, Hana even says to her that it has to be her. While Tami's ballet background is definitely a factor, the reason Hana gives has less to do with that and more to do with wanting to get to know her better. This echoes Hana's reaching out to Naru in the first episode, when she tells Naru that she wants Naru to join not because of her skill, but because she had fun dancing with her and wanted to be with her more. Bottom line is, while Hana is certainly looking for people to join the Yosakoi club, when it comes to Naru and Tami, she chose them specifically and especially wants them to join, not for the numbers but for building relationships with them.

The idea that Christians are specifically chosen by God to be His children is something of a controversial topic in Christianity. The idea is at the core of Calvinism, famous for their "predestination" stance, where God has already determined who will become His followers beforehand, and has a bit of a tumultuous place in Arminianism, which emphasizes "free will" more and suggests that those that God has "chosen" might not necessarily choose Him back. This post, however, will not go into the Calvinism-Arminianism debate or the whole predestination vs. free will paradox.

Fact of the matter is, we Christians are, one way or another, chosen by God. And not just in some arbitrary way, either; God has chosen us individually and specifically, and would not be satisfied with having someone else take our spot. This should be a source of comfort for us, as it tells us how much God loves us and pursues us even when we are hesitant to respond to Him. Also, while God does take into account our skills when determining where we fit into His plan, God does not choose us for our abilities; He chooses us because He wants a personal relationship with each one of us. As such, we can take comfort that God's love is not dependent on performing well for Him.

Push It Forward

The best moment yet in this show came at the end of the fourth episode. Naru has always relied on Big Sis Tami and looked up to her as a princess; however, after taking up yosakoi, Tami has noticed that Naru is changing and growing. Eventually, as Tami realizes that she had gotten so caught up in trying to please her father that she no longer knew what to do with herself, she starts to break down, which Naru notices. Realizing that Tami is in the same place of brokenness that she once was, she tells Tami how Hana had given her a little push in the right direction when she was down, and that now, she wants to be the one to give Tami a push. It is a beautiful moment of role reversal that really highlights how Naru has grown, even as a beginner in yosakoi.

One of the greatest blessings that we as Christians have is the opportunity to take the love we receive from God and show that same love to other people, especially those outside our faith. With God's love, we can even reach out to the same people that we once had to rely on. Moreover, this is not something that we have to be experienced Christians to do; even beginner Christians have likely had that encounter with God's love (chances are, it was what drew them to Christ in the first place), which they can share if they recognize someone who's been in the same boat they were once in. Just as Naru was able to take Hana's kindness and give it to Tami, so we can take God's love and pay it forward to others who need that love.


With Tami presumably ready to join the club and Yaya inevitably to be roped into it, there are now enough members to officially form the Yosakoi club. Of course, we still have to get the Ma in HaNaYaMaTa (that is, Machi, the student council president and Tami's friend) involved, and the girls are still overall a long way from being able to put on a performance, but this journey is well underway, and I am definitely looking forward to where things go from here.

In the meantime, Hanayamata continues to provide encouragement to anyone starting a journey of any sort, especially for new Christians. Of course, the messages in this show apply just as well for more experienced Christians, too! Whether we are looking to encourage newcomers to the faith or we are at a point where we feel like a newcomer once again, the journey of discovery in Hanayamata is one I think can resonate with many people.

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