Monday, September 1, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 7-8: When Things Fall Apart

Things are not exactly going well for our yosakoi girls. Yaya has just learned that her band has failed her audition, and that's just the beginning of her troubles. Meanwhile, the group's first performance at a department store event draws closer... and the girls are gaining weight. Thankfully, a surprisingly positive message comes out of that last one.

Not all weight gain is bad weight gain. (Especially if it's muscle weight.)

However, things are getting serious for these girls. Take a look at what we can learn from them after the jump, but beware of some fairly major spoilers.




False Empathy and Empty Comfort vs. Unconditional Love

Yaya's band's audition failure is already a pretty hard blow to Yaya, but the worst is yet to come as her band announces that they are breaking up, as the other members are busy with other things and are just glad to have a good memory out of all of this. Yaya, however, has still put a lot of her identity in the band, and its breakup has now caused her to get lost. Moreover, she now feels jealous and resentful of Naru and the yosakoi club, as they now have found the very thing she just lost.

Naru and Hana, being the concerned friends they are, try to help her out, by telling her that they (Naru specifically) knows what she's going through and that she can find a new place with them. However, as well-meaning as they are, they only push Yaya away further, as she lashes out at them and says some rather hurtful things to them.

Yaya's type of personality can come up in the real world, as well, and Christians can find some unique challenges in trying to reach out to them. Whether it is trying to offer them God's salvation or just some general kindness, they will not be particularly receptive to it for various reasons. One reason is that we may be mistaken in the empathy we offer them. This is the mistake that Naru makes with Yaya, thinking that she knows that Yaya is going through, when Yaya's situation is actually different. The other mistake we can make is offering a sort of empty comfort, where we say they will feel better if they do such and such: they will be better off if they accept Jesus Christ, or, in this show's case, if Yaya does more with the yosakoi club. However, this kind of comfort can come off as trying to make a "salvation project" out of the other person, as if they will not be accepted if they do not do the thing you are asking.

At the end of episode 7, though, Naru and Hana finally get it right. They meet up with Yaya once more, but this time, instead of trying to give her some kind of advice, they simply tell her how much they love her and appreciate what she's done for them. And that is what ultimately gets Yaya to finally come around and fully devote herself to the yosakoi club: knowing that she will be with people that unconditionally love her, no matter what she is going through. For Christians, this is our best approach for dealing with similar people who reject our faith: rather than trying to convince them that they need Christ, just show them how much we love them whether they become Christians or not. It might not always work, but it is a necessary place to start from.

The Past Strikes Back

The past is a nasty thing. Just when we think we have left the past behind, it sneaks up and backstabs us. For new Christians, as well as for old Christians, our lives from before we became Christians in particular can be full of bad habits and thinking patterns that do not just disappear just because we accept Christ. And as much as we try to live changed lives, those past patterns will come up and try to throw us off.

In Naru's case, episode 8 shows that, when she was young, she slipped up and fell during a cheerleading performance, and the overwhelming scorn she felt from everyone watching left such an impression on her that it led to her state of not wanting to break out of her comfortable daily routine. Unfortunately for her, history repeats itself as during the group's performance at the department store, she ends up taking a fall again.

The episode cuts off at this point, so we will have to wait until next episode to see how she reacts to this. Nevertheless, this episode is a grim reminder that just because we've done some new things, doesn't mean that things have changed from how we were in the past. But it also doesn't mean things will be the same, either. Naru may be feeling the same sense of dread from thinking about the reactions of the audience to her fall, but this time, she is not alone; she has friends that she can lean on to pick her back up. Likewise, while events and patterns from the past might come up in our lives again, we do now have a God who can and will help us out in those times. Our past patterns might be the same, but our reaction to them does not have to be.

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While I am definitely anticipating how Naru reacts to the new trial in front of her, next episode promises something else that has been a long time coming: some proper focus on Machi! Episode 8 gave us a taste of this, revealing that she is Sally-sensei's younger sister, and that things aren't exactly going well between the two. I'm definitely looking forward to these new developments as this show continues to prove why it is one of the best of the season.

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